Select Cassidy Miscellany

Here are some Cassidy stories and accounts over the years:


The ancestral home of the Cassidys is Ballycassidy, which lies slightly north of Enniskillen, the principal city of County Fermanagh.  Ballycassidy borders the eastern shores of Lower Lough Erne.

Today, it is a small rural community, consisting mainly of scattered homes, the Balcas sawmill and farm land along the Ballycassidy river.  There is no pub or grocery store.  In the fourteenth century, there was a church.  A nearby holy well is still marked on the map.

The Cassidys as Physicians

From the very early times the Irish physician was attached to a clan or a house of a chieftain.  The profession of a physician passed from father to son, just as did the arts and crafts professions in the country.

In this manner, the Cassidys were hereditary physicians to the Mac Uidhir (Maguires), the chieftains of Fermanagh between 1300 and 1600.  Various Cassidys appeared then in The Annals of Ireland as ullamh leighis or professors of medicine.  A manuscript written by An Giolla Glas O'Caiside between 1515 and 1527 still exists and is in the library of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.      

Later famous Cassidy physicians include Dr. Felix Cassidy, who served in the Jacobite court in France.  The Cassidy reputation stemmed in part from their long history as priests and scholars in the diocese of Clogher, especially during the suppression of the Catholic Church under the penal laws of the 18th century.  

A Case of Cassidy Retribution

John Cassidy was born in Drumbar in County Donegal in 1802.  He married and was a small tenant farmer at Clogher with ten acres of land.  This family story recounts a tale of retribution during the famine years.

"When one of John's sheep went missing during the first famine years in the early 1830's, he undertook an extensive search of the locality.  He eventually found the horns of the animal that had his markings at the rear of a cottage rented by a woman known as widow Kelly.

Mrs. Kelly had two sons who spent their time stealing from their neighbors.  When John Cassidy confronted them, they denied having any involvement in the disappearance of the animal.  Shortly afterwards, the Kelly family decided to emigrate to America.  The day before they were leaving, the Kelly brothers paid a visit to John Cassidy's home where they proceeded to give him a terrible beating that left him confined to bed for a number of weeks.

In the spring of 1838, John Cassidy's oldest son, also called John, boarded the Zephyr anchored at the Hassins in Donegal Bay and sailed to New Brunswick, Canada.  From there, he made his way to New York where the Kelly family were living.  One morning, as one of the Kelly brothers was standing on a railway station platform, he failed to notice his former neighbor standing behind him.  John Cassidy pushed him in front of the train.  He died instantly." 

William and Jane Cassidy at Cassidy Lake

The oldest of ten children, William was born in The Port near Donegal Town in 1797.  His wife Jane Milligan was also born there.   The story goes that they eloped in 1818 to Gretna Green in Scotland.  The village blacksmith performed the wedding ceremony over an anvil.  After the marriage, Jane, whose family were upper class land owners, was disowned by her family.

A year later, William and Jane went to Derry where they took a ship to Canada, landing at St. John's in New Brunswick.  In 1825, they moved to a 150 acre parcel of land on the north side of what is now known as Cassidy Lake.  William had to walk a distance of 100 miles to Fredericton, the capital of the province, to acquire the land.  He did this in the winter when the rivers and lakes were frozen so that he could cross them.  With only a primitive compass and a gun to protect him, he undertook the journey through the forests.

The lifestyle of William and Jane was typical of a farm family of that period.  Candles made of tallow, salvaged and remolded continually, supplied light for their home.  Cast iron pots hooked on iron cranes were used for cooking over the fire.  For bread, they grew and ground the wheat and baked the bread in a cast iron dish buried in the bed of coals at the bottom of the fireplace.  The family's clothing was made from homespun cloth woven on hand looms.  William was a master craftsman in the making of these hand looms. 

Cassidy Births in Brooklyn, 1840-1850

Records at St. Peter, Paul, and Our Lady of Pilar

Birth Date Given Name Parents
1840 Andrew Charles and Johanna
1843 Susanna Pat and Susanna
1844 Margaret John and Mary
1845 John Edward and Catherine
1845 Peter James and Mary
1845 William Pat and Susanna
1846 Mary John and Mary 
1849 William James and Mary 

Records at Assumption Roman Catholic Church

Birth Date
Given Name
1845 Ann Bernard and Ellen
1847 Marica Bernard and Ellen
1850 Hugh Bernard and Ellen

James Rice Cassidy

James Rice Cassidy left Scotland in the late 1880's and headed for England to pursue a career in the entertainment business.  In 1895, he married a twenty one year old Yorkshire lass at St. Anne's Church in Leeds.  On their marriage certificate he gave his occupation as "comedian."  His wife Lillian was an actress and together they formed their own theater company.  They were a double act and she most definitely was an equal partner in the business.

James and Lillian toured all over Britain performing their own productions.  Their careers seemed to be going from strength to strength.  He was the son of a poor Irish plasterer, making a name for himself in show business - the classic rags to riches story!

One of their biggest successes was The God of War by Charles Whitlock.  It was performed in theaters throughout Scotland and England from 1899 to 1909.  The play was a satirical piece about the Cuban insurrection and the Spanish American War of 1895.  His character was Dandy Donovan, an Irish American servant to Dolly Daly an American heiress, played of course by Lillian.  In the play he sings his own composition called "The British Hero."  The Glasgow Evening Times of April 7, 1901 called the play "a sensational Cuban American drama."

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