Turtle Bunbury

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The following tale represents ongoing research inspired by the story of George Halpin, the engineering father and son who built so much of the Dublin Docklands. For much of this information I am indebted to the work and contacts of family historian Bill Webster.

George Halpin Senior (1776– 1854)

George Halpin, Senior, was one of the most competent civil engineers operating in Ireland during the 19th century. He was an administrator of exceptional ability, praised in equal measure for the number of works he carried out and the intense perfectionism applied in each case. Following the death of Francis Tunstall in 1800, Dublin Corporation sought a new Inspector of Works to the Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin (commonly called the Ballast Board). On 26th September 1800, 21-year-old George Halpin emerged to take up the challenge.


We do not yet know where George was born or who his parents were. Family historian Bill Webster believes he is probably a brother of James and Margaret Halpin of Wicklow, and that he may have had a slightly older brother called William. There is a record of a Sergeant George Halpin who was born in Wicklow in about 1776 and who served in the Loyal Dublin Regiment of Yeomen Infantry at the time of the 1798 Rebellion.

In September 1799, after serving for one year and seven months, George banjaxed his hand and was discharged. According to the certificate of William Swan, Surgeon, George "received a wound in the right hand when drawing the charge from his Carbine it accidentally went off and the ball passed thro two of his fingers, which has deprived of the use of them, he is thereby rendered incapable of of earning his Bread at his trade and whereby he is rendered incapable of further Service, and a fit Object of his Majesty's Royal Bounty of Kilmainham Hospital." At tht time of this accident, which took place on 28th September 1799, George stood at 5' 10 1/2. He was 22 years old, his stated trade was 'Stone Cutter' and he gave his place of birth as Wicklow, County Wicklow. [1] By stone-cutter, it is implied that his role was reducing the large stones received from the quarries to sizes required there by Gandon's masons and carvers. This may have been something he learned at Emo Court (see below). The Loyal Dublins were a Militia Regiment raised in 1798 by its Captain Commandant, John Claudius Beresford, son of 'Commissioner Beresford' who lured James Gandon to Ireland to build the Custom House. The regiment had a reputation as one who 'acted with more vigour than justice or humanity; suspect rebels were flogged in the family riding school to encourage them to give information'. [2] It is curious to note that during the 1798 Rebellion, JC Beresford also raised a 'troop of cavalry' who, armed with sabres and pistols, 'formed chiefly of the principal persons connected with the Customhouse, of which his father, a man of different class and character, had been Chief Commissioner.' [2a]


The Halpin family certainly had Wicklow roots by the 1770s. Bill Webster believes he has found the baptism records for George’s siblings, James and Margaret, in the Church of Ireland in Wicklow. Perhaps most pertinently, he notes they were actually baptised as children of John and Elizabeth Halfpenny, in 1780 and 1782. A researcher who examined the Vestry Books noted that, in the minutes, signatures written as Halfpenny before 1800 became Halpin in the early 1800s. Elizabeth Halfpenny was in her late 30s and 40 when these children were born which, as Bill says, allows for the possiblity of 'an unknown number of earlier siblings'. There are also suggestions that their father, now known to be John, may have been a mariner (or even a RN officer), which would have taken the family to a larger sea-going town (even England).'

It may be that the family's origins go back to Portarlington, Co. Laoise, where Nicholas Halpin, born about 1735, was a school headmaster (and possible proprietor) in about 1760. His wife was Anne du Bois and almost certainly hailed from Portarlington’s Huguenot community.[3] Of potential relevance to this tale is that Emo Court, the stately home of the Earls of Portarlington, was built by James Gandon in 1790. Gandon had by then built most of the Custom House and was closely connected to J.C. Beresford's father. All work at Emo Court ceased abruptly in 1798 on the death of John Dawson, 2nd Viscount Carlow and 1st Earl of Portarlington. It is possible that Halpin had been employed at Emo prior to the Earl's death and that he subsequently moved to Dublin to work for Gandon.

George Halpin Senior's younger brother James Halpin was baptised on 22nd October 1780. His wife was Anne Halbert, daughter of James Halbert and Mary Revell. They had thirteen children, including Dr. Stopford William Halpin (who trained under, and for a time shared a practice in Cavan with, Dr Charles Halpin, grandson of Nicholas Halpin of Portarlington), Captain Thomas Halpin of Monastery House, Enniskerry, and, most famously, Captain Robert Charles Halpin who laid the Atlantic Cable.[4] James and Anne were married in Wicklow Town in 1815 and ran the Bridge Hotel or Inn which supplied accommodation in Wicklow Town. James died on 4th October 1847, the height of the Great Famine, aged about 67. His widow died just under two years later, aged 52, on 7 August 1849.

Their nephew Captain Frederick Halpin (George Halpin senior’s son, see below) would later aquire the inn. In James’ family burial plot at Wicklow COI are commemorated “Louisa Halpin daughter of George Halpin of Dublin | who died March 18th 1831 aged 21 years” and “Captain Frederick Halpin nephew | of the above named James Halpin who departed | this life on the 26th of February 1859 aged 36 years”. He was buried in Wicklow on 1st March 1859, with the ceremony performed by Henry Rooke, assisted by his cousin, the Rev. Robert Crawford Halpin.


George's eldest brothe William Halpin was born in Co. Wicklow circa 1777 and was a soldier who put four sons through Trinity College Dublin (Richard, William, John and Robert Crawford). Bill Webster mentions a theory that William and James, brothers, were Dublin brewers and distillers who were involved with Robert Emmet’s ill-fated rising. In 1807, 30-year-old William Halpin secured the post of Paymaster with the 1st Light Dragoons, King's German Legion, then in Ireland, of which the Duke of Cambridge was Colonel-in-chief. He served with the 1st Dragoons during the Duke of Wellington’s subsequent campaigns. William had at least five sons, all of whom attended Trinity College and joined the army - three joined the East India Company. In 1821, the Duke of Cambridge, Colonel of the KGL, provided a recommendation for William’s son William to get an East India Company cadetship. Others who may have secured such a cadetship include William’s son John and, most relevantly, George Halpin’s second son Oswald.

Having abandoned a military career, William's youngest son Robert Crawford Halpin went on to become military chaplain at Arbour Hill Barracks in Dublin. He ended up as Chaplain to the Forces and personal chaplain to the (next) Duke of Cambridge, living in Belsize Square London. He also travelled from Dublin on at least two occasions to officiate at Wicklow parish church in ceremonies for members of the George and James families, his uncles. Most tellingly, he co-officiated with local clergyman Rev Henry Rooke in the burial in Wicklow of James and George’s sister Margaret Halpin on 17 April 1862 aged 80 years.The Rev R.C. Halpin was the only one of William's sons known to have married but it seems this branch of the Halpins died eventually without issue. His son did marry and, like George, became an engineer. He and his wife are last heard of going to Buenos Aires and so far have disappeared without trace.

This may have been the William Halpin who had an address at Castle Forbes, North Wall, Dublin in 1840. This address was given when Captain Richard Halpin, 49th Regiment, died in a boating accident at Dinapore in Bengal, India, in 1839. The captain was born in 1801, and probate was granted to his father, ie: William Halpin of Castle Forbes. Located in the Dublin Docklands, Castle Forbes was one street away from where George senior lived and close to where George was a significant property developer around Seville, Oriel and Sheriff Streets. The 1848 Dublin directory also refers to “William Halpin, Ballast Office North Wall” which may presumably have been this man in his 71st year. All of them, including father William, eventually ended up in London. In the English censuses all except Robert Crawford distinctly proclaim not that they were born in Ireland but that they were born in Co Wicklow, Ireland.


Shortly after his discharge from the army, 23-year-old George somehow managed to become their Inspector of Works. Presuamably he had some knowledge of engineering at this time and was trained how to build bridges to ford rivers and such like. The report of the Commission of Inquiry into the municipal corporations of Ireland (1835) defined him as 'not an Engineer in the professional sense but was brought up as a builder'. In other words, he was a trained mason, a builder by trade. He never attained any academic engineering qualifications. And yet he was responsible for the design, construction, and maintenance of all civil and mechanical works within Dublin Port, from Sutton on the north side of Dublin Bay to Bullock Harbour on the south. This included he management and containment of the River Liffey from Islandbridge and the lower reaches of the rivers Tolka and Dodder. He also oversaw the building of at least 53 lighthouses, as well as the modernisation and re-equipping of the previously existing lighthouses. This was in addition to supervising the construction of new docks, bridges and other projects for the expanding Dublin port.

The Perfectionist

Halpin was a perfectionist who exacted the highest standards, often going beyond the call of duty. In 1849, Sir William Cubitt praised his work to the Ballast Board, saying ‘it makes me feel as it were more a work of supererogation rather than necessity that I should report’ on his proposals and work. The scale of his activity in Dublin may be gauged from a typical annual report made in 1823 that enumerated the 13 items to be dealt with that year at a total cost of £13,600. During Halpin's period the Corporation's statutory functions were financially controlled and managed as three separate departments; the Port Department, the Anne Liffey Department, and the Lighthouse Department. Halpin's input into the management of all three departments was such that he received a salary from each. When the government accused them of paying Halpin lavishly, they pointed out that the house where he lived – which formed part of his income – was ‘in the store-yard at the point of the North Wall, where his residence makes a store-keeper unnecessary’. Halpin was the Public face of the Lighthouse Department, and its chief liaison officer with Trinity House and other bodies. In 1802, the Ballast Board granted George £10 to buy a horse.


George Halpin's first wife was Isabella, surname and date of marriage unknown. They had four known children - George junior (baptised Jan 20th 1808), Oswald (baptised Jan 20th 1810), Isabella (baptised Jan 25th 1812) and Louisa. George junior would go on to become his assistant in about 1830.

Isabella Halpin died in about 1813, possibly while giving birth to Louisa. Four years later, on 17th August 1817, George was married secondly to Elizabeth Bowen (or Bowyn, or Bourne). They had at least five children - Captain Frederick Halpin (baptised 25th Oct 1818, see below), Arthur (baptised 5th Jul 1820), Charlotte (baptised 13th Jan 1822), John (baptised 15th or 22nd June 1823) and Sidney (baptised 12th Sept 1824).

Halpin & the River Liffey

George Halpin completely rebuilt the walls of the Liffey on both sides of the river from O’Connell Bridge to Rory O’More Bridge, as well as the quay walls downstream at Eden Quay and Burgh Quay. He repaired Mellowes Bridge and remodeled the centre span of Grattan Bridge and the approaches to the Halfpenny Bridge. He oversaw the design and construction of Father Matthew Bridge and O’Donovan Rossa Bridge, becoming involved in architectural controversy with the designer James Savage about details of their elevations. From 1838, he pressed for the construction of a new bridge to replace Carlisle Bridge, and in 1839 proposed that a competition be held for the new design. He was critical of Gandon’s bridge saying, in 1852, that ‘many think it heavy and it is certainly not in accordance with the new idea held in bridge architecture at the present day. This may be said with every respect for the eminent architect who planned it, but whose practice lay in a different walk’. It was on Halpin’s proposal that the parapet of Inns Quay was formed with a balustrade rather than a solid wall, but he failed to have this repeated, as he wished, along Merchant Quay. His duties for the Ballast Board also included design, supervision of construction, and maintenance of all the existing buildings and engineering works controlled by the Board.

In 1852-3 he sought funds to clean the riverbed through the city to remove its ‘unpleasant smell’ and he noted with regret that ‘the Liffey is still the great main drain into which the sewerage of Dublin opens’. He was required also to deal with minor social irritations. Hence, in 1818, he reported angrily ‘there is a number of people fishing from the Balustrades on Richmond Bridge to the great annoyance of the public and injury of the bridge’; and in 1826 he had to urge the Board to curb the activities of disorderly fruit-sellers on several of the bridges.

Halpin, the Port and the Estuary

His work on both port and estuary was remarkably extensive. To ensure he had absolute mastery of the latest techniques in port organization and marine building, he made several visits to England and Wales. In 1810, for instance, he spent more than a month in London and the south of England studying dock design, lighthouse equipment and the latest techniques in stream dredging and tunneling. It was after this visit that he remarked how he ‘would rather have 2 Irish than 3 English labourers’ and how he had dismissed a lantern maker in London as ‘the most trifling and unsatisfactory kind of man I ever had any dealings with’. In 1814, he introduced stream dredging techniques to the Dublin estuary.

Halpin & the North Bull

Halpin was asked to carry out a new survey of the outer harbour at Dublin and of a proposed northern breakwater, the North Bull Wall, in order to make Dublin a deepwater port. As research, he went to study the breakwater at Plymouth but found little to assist him. He duly recommended Francis Giles be commissioned to survey the harbour and bar.

According to 'The Island Imagined by the Sea: A History of Bull Island', by Kieran McNally (The Liffey Press, 2014), p. 17-18:

"The North Bull Wall was a vast engineering project, as impressive as any in Europe at that time...and numerous engineers were actually involved. Their various roles are tangled and complex. At one level, the construction of the North Wall took place under Inspector of Works George Halpin alongside the contributions of Francis Giles and build engineer Captain Daniel Corneill. At another level, engineering communications from multiple authors had been flying across the city in various forms from 1801 to 1805. So there were various consultations with other contemporaries such as Captain Whidbey and Thomas Telford.

...In 1814, the Ballast Board surveyed the site, and drew up plans and estimates that found their way via government to the Board of Inland Navigation. Halpin notes visits to the construction site by the 'directors general of inland navigation', such as John Rennie, Thomas Hyde Page and Captain Bligh, or 'the most eminent scientific and practical men of that day'. Halpin refers to Bligh as a talented officer who acquired a thorough knowledge of the bay.'

Giles commenced this survey in June 1818, aided by Halpin, and their joint report was submitted to the Board in May 1819. The design for the breakwater was based on earlier proposals from 1786 by William Chapman (see De Courcy, 1996) and by two members of the Ballast Board, Maquay and Crosthwaite, in 1801. (Corry, G., 1970, 'The Dublin Bar: The Obstacle to the Improvement of the Port of Dublin', Dublin Historical Record, 23 (4) pp. 137 - 152.)

When built, the north and south breakwaters enclosed a large volume of water and this was employed on the ebb tide to scour the sand deposits from the bar, thus allowing Dublin to develop as a deepwater port.


In 1816, while preparing to construct the Bull Wall, Halpin also oversaw the creation of a new channel for the River Tolka from Clontarf Island across Brown’s Patch to the Liffey. Among the other major and manifold projects he was involved with were: raising part of the South Wall east of the Half Moon Battery to its present height; strengthening the base of the Poolbeg lighthouse; conferring with Charles Blacker Vignoles on the extension of the Kingstown railway on a causeway across the old Dun Laoghaire harbour; consultations with Thomas Telford and Sir William Cubitt about the deep-water berths at North Wall Quay; constructing the large new berthing-pool in the earth-banked basin of East Wall (known as Halpin’s Pond and later incorporated into the Alexandra Basin) and steering the first graving dock projects through to the appointment of William Dargan as contractor. In 1846, he helped ward off a proposal by the Tidal Harbours Commissioners to divert the Dodder through Irishtown and form a new basin by the South Bull. He designed the structure for the first patent slip to be built in the port. In 1839, he proposed a bascule or swivel bridge where the Talbot Memorial Bridge would be built 140 years later.

Halpin & the Lighthouses

In 1810 the Ballast Board was made responsible for all lighthouses, beacons and seamarks around the coast of Ireland. The Board extended Halpin’s responsibilities by appointing the 31-year-old Superintendant of Lighthouses as well as Inspector of Works. At the time there were only 14 lighthouses around the Irish Coast, many of them in what Halpin described as deplorable condition, badly maintained and baldy managed. By 1867, when responsibility was transferred to the Commissioners of Irish Lights, there were 72 lighthouses. Over the next four and a half decades, Halpin oversaw the construction and establishment of 53 new lighthouses and the modernisation or rebuilding of 15 others, in addition to the establishment of numerous minor aids to navigation - buoys, beacons, and perches.

Some other lighthouses were subsequently discontinued because their location proved ineffective. In other words, he designed and built a new lighthouse every fifteen months. Most of the construction was by direct labour. These included the Bailey (1813) at the entrance to Dublin Bay, the Tuskar Rock (1815) guarding the approach to Rosslare Harbour, as well as Inishtrahull (1813), Wiclow (1816), Skelling Michael (1826), Tory Island (1832) and Fastnet (1854). Arguably his greatest achievement was the Haulbowline Lighthouse, built on a dangerous semi-submerged rock at the entrance to Carlingford Lough. Strong tidal conditions of up to five knots added to the danger and technical difficulties but the lighthouse was successfully completed in 1824. Halpin also oversaw the repair and re-equipping of the previously existing lighthouses, effectively rebuilding the Poolbeg lighthouse (1819-20).

Under his direction the Ballast Board established an effective management structure for the design, construction, and maintenance of the Lighthouse Service, initiated a vital program of inspection and regularized the employment of construction and quarry personnel, lighthouse keepers, tenders, tender crews, and stores personnel. Gradually during the early nineteenth century a proper marine aids to navigation infrastructure was put in place.

Private Work

Somehow Halpin also found time to engage in some private architectural work. It seems likely he was involved with the new Corn Exchange on Bugh Quay.

Sudden Death

George’s second wife Elizabeth died in July 1850 and was buried at Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin. Four years later, George Halpin collapsed and died suddenly while carrying out a lighthouse inspection in July 1854. He was buried in Mount Jerome, where his headstone gives his age at the time of death as 75 years. Remarkably he outlived both his wives and all but two of his children.


An 1855 memorandum of transactions upon George senior’s death in 1854 quotes a sort of will in which George devolves affairs upon “....his said son George and his son Frederick being his only children then living.” Frederick later purchased the Bridge Tavern in Wicklow, which formerly belonged to his his uncle and aunt James and Anna Halpin, as well as the rest of James and Anne's properties. He purchased these under the terms of the Encumbered Estates Acts which facilitated the sale of Irish estates whose owners were unable to meet their obligations on account of the Great Famine. Research has shown that 'an Encumbered Estates Court was set up with authority to sell estates on the application of the owner or a person who had a claim on the estate. After the sale, the court distributed the money among the creditors and granted clear title to the new owners. The existing tenants were unprotected by the legislation. So it appears the estate of Anne Halpin was unable to meet its obligations. John Wesley appears to be one of the persons with a claim against the estate and Frederick Halpin bought the estate from the Court for £1,500. The sale took place at the Registry of Deeds, Henrietta Street, Dublin.' He became a Master Mariner, a ship’s captain, but does not appear to have married and died in Wicklow on on 26 February 1859 aged only 41. In the end, two of James and Anne’s daughters inherited from Frederick’s will, Fanny and Louisa, both then unmarried.

George Halpin Junior (1804–1869)

George Halpin, Junior, was a qualified civil engineer employed by the Board as assistant Inspector of Works and assistant Inspector of Lighthouses from June 1830. As such, he shared a good deal of his fathers' workload.

Between 1834 and 1840, the younger George was greatly involved in deepening the channels and building new quay walls east of the Custom House. During this time, he met Julia Villiers (1815–1889), who begat him nine children, two of whom died young. The couple did not marry straightway and, for unclear reasons, all the children were baptised Villiers. They only took the name Halpin at an ailing George junior’s request in the 1860s, when he and Julia are reported in a legal document to have formally married in 1865.

George and Julia's 9 children were:

1) Isabella Julia Halpin, named 'Isabella' after George's mother, and 'Julia' after his wife. She married Thomas Thorpe and had 7 children.

2) Mary Halpin, who married Patrick Byrne / Burns. Their only daughter Annie Isabella Burns was born in Melbourne in 1868, two years before her father Patrick Burns died of consumption. Patrick was buried by a Catholic priest in Melbourne. Mary was married secondly in 1872 to Samuel Dawson but died in Melbourne on 3rd Sept 1876 aged 40, also from consumption. The late Dick Corrigan recalled how Annie came back from Australia as an orphan and later married James Cassells, the postmaster in Tullow. She married him as a Church of Ireland, from the bosom of the Halpin family at Foxrock, and was given away by her uncle W O Halpin. She had 5 children, 2 girls and 2 boys surviving to have families.

3) Margaret Halpin (who died in Ireland aged10 months).

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Above: Louisa 'Louie' Halpin (1856 - 1934), pictured at
The Laurels. She was a sister of William Oswald Halpin.
With thanks to Heather Tennant.

4) William Oswald Halpin (see below).

5) George Halpin (see below).

6) Annie Caroline Halpin (who married Arthur Henry Thompson and had three girls).

7) Robert Halpin (who married Mettie in England and had two children, Maud and George Alfred).

8) Alfred Halpin, who died aged four in Ireland.

9) Louisa Halpin was born in 1856 and died unmarried in 1934.

Like his father, George also went to England to converse with the likes of Telford, Giles and Cubitt. In later life, he carried out the design of the single-span metal arched Rory O’More Bridge. He designed several lighthouses, including that at Aranmore in Donegal, completed in 1865. In 1847, he was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland (to which body his father never belonged), and served as a member of its council from 1848 to 1851. Two months after George Halpin senior died in 1854, George Halpin junior was promoted to the posts of Inspector of Works and Superintendent of Lighthouses. However, by 1859, George was dogged by ill-health, probably due to 'the burden imposed on him by reason of his necessary attendance on new lighthouses or those being renovated in various parts of the country'. The Ballast Board decided to reduce his duties in respect of the Port and leave him to focus on lighthouses. His duties at the Port were carried out by Bindon Blood Stoney who had been his assistant since 1856.

He also appears to have being involved in a dispute with William Dargan and Cubitt over works at the Dublin graving dock around the mid 1850s.


By 1861, 33-year-old Stoney was acting as executive engineer. A rift soon emerged between Halpin and Stoney. Halpin was frequently out of Dublin on lighthouse duties. The travel and long absences did his health no good. While away, his ambitious assistant submitted a proposal to the Port and Dock Board advocating the extension of the North Wall Quay by using 350 ton super-blocks, to be put in position by means of a special floating crane and diving bell. Halpin was furious Stoney had gone to the Board without first consulting him. He argued that the size of the proposed blocks was unfeasible. Stoney begged to differ, pointing out that blocks of that size had been successfully used in the port of London for many years and were also being used at Southampton. The Board were eager to act on Stoney’s cost-effective proposals but did not wish to offend Halpin. As it happened, George Halpin saved their embarrassment when he retired in March 1862. Stoney was appointed the new Inspector of Works and, in 1868, became the first chief engineer of the newly constituted Dublin Port and Docks Board. George Halpin Junior died in Dublin in 1869.

LT. OSWALD HALPIN (1810- 1834)

George Jr's younger brother Oswald Halpin was baptised at St Thomas’s Dublin on 10th January 1810; the register lists his parents as George and Isabella, and gives his father’s profession as “Civil Engineer, Irish Government, lives at Dublin”. He received (brief) education at the “University of Dublin” and was registered as 'Pen (Mr Baillie), July 4, 1825' in the Alumni Dublinenses, 1846. (He is described as the son 'of George, Generosus'). In July 1826, a Colonel McDonald recommended the 16-year-old to the East India Company Bombay army and he was nominated by EIC director George Smith. He sailed to Bombay on a French ship “Anna Maria” which left from Bordeaux. However, the Calcutta Christian Observer 1834 (p. 536) notes the death on August 14th of Lieutenant Oswald Halpin, 7th Regiment Bombay NI, aged 25 years.

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Above left: William Oswald Halpin Senior, as photographed by Alfred Werner of 39 Grafton Street, Dublin, courtesy of Heather Tennant and Graeme Donald. Above right: His wife, Anna Maria Burgess of Tobinstown.


George Halpin Junior's eldest son was William Oswald Halpin, born on 14th March 1840. In 1869, he purchased a grave plot at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin. William's sister Louisa (1856 - 1934) was buried there on 29th October 1934. William appears in Thom's Dublin directories from about 1880 to at least 1900 and lived at The Laurels, Torquay Road, Foxrock, now a very wooded, upmakret area between the golf course and Leopardstown racecourse.

On 2nd August 1881, he married Anna Maria Burgess of 25 Holles Street, Dublin, daughter of William Burgess, farmer, of Tobinstown, Co. Carlow, by his wife (believed to be Maria Piggott). Anna Maria was born at Ballacormac, Bagenalstown, on 10th June 1848. (In 1852 her parents moved to Tobinstown, Co. Carlow, where they rented a farm from Captain William McClintock Bunbury of Lisnavagh). The marriage between William Oswald and Anna Maria took place at the Church of St Stephen (Parish of St Peter's) and the witness was William Malone.

It is assumed that Mr. Malone was a nephew of Joseph Malone, miller, of Rathmore, Co. Carlow. [Joseph's daughter Mary Watters was the mother of Annie Watters who married William Oswald Halpin's younger son George and was father of Eve Halpin who married Alfred Ruddall. To further complicate things, Anna Maria's sister Susanna Burgess later married Annie Halpin's older brother, John Watters (ie: uncle to Eva Ruddall), at St Mary's Church in Rathvilly in December 1867. (Witnesses to this wedding included Joseph Kidd and Susanna's aunt Elizabeth Burgess who married George Kidd). It was formerly thought that these Malones were kinsmen of John Malone, agent of Lisnavagh (1847-1861) but this connection is under doubt as of 31 March 2015.

William Oswald Halpin died on 22nd December 1908. In the 1911 Census of Ireland, his widow (who died 4th Feb 1933) was living at The Laurels with a servant and her son, William Oswald Halpin Jr. She is registered as 62 years of age, Church of Ireland, married for 30 years and mother of two sons, William and George. William and Anna Maria are buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

image titleimage title

Above left: Captain William Oswald Halpin jun., as photographed by Werner & Son of Dublin, with thanks to Heather Tennant and Graeme Donald. Above right: His grave at Villers Bretonneux CWG, France.

CAPTAIN WILLIAM OSWALD HALPIN , junior (C. 1887 - 1918)

Captain William Oswald Halpin, MD, RAMC, was most likely at school at the High School, then in Harcourt Street, but later removed to Rathgar, Dublin. He seems to have left there in 1900 aged 13 or 14 and then gone on to Trinity College Dublin aged 17 in 1904. In 1911, he was described as a 24 year old medical student. He obtained a BA from Trinity College Dublin.

He volunteered for service at the beginning of the war and received his commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps on 10 August 1914. In the same year the 4th (Queen's Own) Hussars were in Dublin as part of 3rd Cavalry Brigade in the Cavalry Division, and it moved to France on 6 September 1914, where he was attached to the No. 6 General Hospital. On completion of a year's service he was gazetted captain, and appointed medical officer with the 4th Hussars. The brigade transferred to Gough's Command on 13 September 1914 and renamed the 2nd Cavalry Division.

He recieved the Mons Medal or 1914 Star. He died aged 32 at the French military hospital of Drury of wounds received near Caix, France, on 10th August 1918. The previous day, an enemy aeroplane dropped a bomb on the 4th Hussars regimental headquarters where he was tending to a wounded man.

The 4th Hussar's War Diary for 9 August 1918 at Caix and Caylux states: 'At 1pm the Canadians were ordered to continue the attack closely supported by 3rd Canadian Battalion, objective, Chaulnes - Royne line. 4th Hussars and 5th Lancers in advance. 4th Hussars left, 9th Lancers in advance on our left. At 1.30pm, 'B' Squadon advanced. The advance began about 1.30pm and was delayed for a while until the infantry took Vrely. Enemy shelling rather heavy.'

It was at this time that Capt. Halpin was seriously wounded, together with 8 other officers wounded before 2.30pm, 5 other ranks were killed and 27 wounded. Ten days before he was killed, there was an epidemic of fever and the Divisional Commander congratulated the regiment on being in better health that any other regiment in the Division.

He is buried at the at the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery near Ameins in France. He is the only member of the 4th (Queen's Own) Hussars buried in this cemetery. His name is etched on the war memorial in the Tullow Church of Ireland on Brighton Road, Carrickmines, Co. Dublin.

Capt. Halpin's last Will and Testament was made in January 1918 while on duty in France and witnessed by two soldiers, one of whom was Pte. Kane of the 4th Hussars. He bequeathed £550 to his fiancée, Sybil Chamberlain of London, and the residue of his estate went to his brother, George. [ There is also a Dublin will administration record, granted 19 Nov 1918, admor George Halpin, M.D]. Had he survived the few more weeks to the end of the war he may have married Miss Chamberlain ... and that whole senior branch of the George Halpin family may not have died out.



William's brother George, a doctor based in Reading, England, married Antoinette Berthe Ermerins, of Dutch origin. Their son George Ermerins Halpin graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1938 but died in the service of the Royal Army Service Corps in 1942. He is buried in Egypt. George and Antointette also had a daughter, Elizabeth, or Libby Alexander, who was born in Swallowfield, near Reading, where her father was a GP. The last member of the William Oswald Halpin branch, Libby passed away aged 98 on 26th October 2011 at 5 rue de Varise, near le Tour Eiffel, in Paris. She was married George Alexander but they had no children.

* 1911 Census, Stillorgan DED, Galloping Green South Townland.

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Above: George Halpin III (1842–1910)
and his wife Annie Watters (1849–1927)
of Tinryland Co Carlow. They were the
parents of Eva Halpin who married Alfred
Rudall. Annie's mother Mary Malone
grew up at Rathmore on the Slaney,
between Rathvilly and Tullow.
With thanks to Bill Webster.


George Halpin Junior's second son, George Halpin III (1842–1910), an architect, is of personal interest on two accounts.

Firstly, his wife Annie Watters (1849–1927) was a daughter of a farmer, Bartholomew Watters and Mary Malone of Rathmore, a former Bunbury property in Co. Carlow. They were married in Staplestown, Co. Carlow, on 4th June 1868, in the presence of Thomas Thorpe (George's brother-in-law) and John Moran. [1]

Bartholomew Watters, is thought to have have been the son of John Watters and Mary Shirley, both farming families from Clogrennan in Cloydah Parish. The Shirley family had farms in 3 counties, Kilkenny, Carlow and Laois. His elder brother was John Shirley Watters, who was one of the witnesses at Rathvilly when Bartholomew married Mary Malone. His uncle Thomas Shirley - brother of Mary Shirley - married another Mary Shirley, probably a cousin, born at Kells in Co Kilkenny, and their daughter Mary Ann Shirley also married Bartholomew’s younger brother, Samuel Watters, at Cloydah, in 1845. Samuel, Mary Ann and 3 infant Watters children emigrated to Tasmania under the sponsorship of Jocelyn Thomas, whose father had been rector of Cloydah. John Watters, the eldest of those sons, moved on to New Zealand and had a large family in the Canterbury district, near Christchurch. There was no issue from the other two sons who died near Ballarat in Victoria, to where Samuel and Mary Watters had moved from Tasmania. (Thanks again to Bill Webster.)

Annie Halpin is remembered as a 'wonderful woman' but family lore holds that George's mother Julia Halpin (nee Villiers) was apalled that George should marry such a commoner. Julia appears to have been a rather domineering woman - 'autocratic and headstrong' according to one descendent. 'That Annie, a farmer's daughter from Co. Carlow, was from a passably comfortable, small family, literate and by all accounts the loveliest of people was not sufficient. Julia was hyper-critical of conduct and dress and apparently a strong horsewoman. It is possible that she considered she had made an alliance beneath her station but had made her bed and had to lie in it.'

Secondly, their daughter Eva Halpin went to South Africa and married the ill-fated Alfred Rudall, nephew of my wife’s great-grandfather. The extraordinay Tale of Alfred and Eva may be found here.

George Halpin III was born in Dublin on 10th December 1842 when the family lived at 15 Williams Place, Dublin. He was baptised on 4th January 1843 at the now gone St Peter’s Church in Aungier Street as George Villiers. All the children were baptised Villiers and only took the name Halpin at an ailing George junior’s request in the 1860s, when George and Julia Villiers are reported in a legal document to have recently married.

[Missing text] in Tinryland, County Carlow, in 1843 or 1844. Why was he born in Carlow? Perhaps George senior or junior had acquired a small estate or interest in the county? Or did either of their wives perhaps have Carlow connections? At the time of his marriage, his address was given as 'Elmview Rathgar' and his profession as 'architect'. The Carlow connection must have still been strong. His Carlow-born wife Annie Watters would surely not have strayed far from her family farm or into very wide circles. Their marriage was witnessed by a John Moran.

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Above: Julia Halpin, sister of Eve Ruddal and daughter of
George Halpin II and his wife Annie.

With thanks to Bill Webster.

George and Annie had eleven children. George's death certificate of 1910 shows that there was one female and one male deceased when he died. The deceased girl, Francis, was born in New Jersey in 1871 indicating the young architect was on the move by then. Their other children were Mary, Annie, Eva, Louisa, Alfred (Alf), Julia, George Halpin IV, Alice and Ivy.

It seems as though George and Annie were born to travel. Or perhaps they were driven to it by George's headstrong mother. During the 1870s and 1880s, they lived variously in the USA, Canada, South Africa and, finally, Australia where they settled at Wollongong, New South Wales in about 1884. Wollongong was a boom town at this point with a new harbour under construction; the lighthouses at this harbour are said to be particularly beautiful. Their youngest son George was born two months after their arrival in Australia.

George Halpin III was badly wounded during a fall from a building site and died after a slow and painful illness on 7th May 1910.


[1] Registrar's District of Carlow. 1868 Marriage solemnized at Staplestown in the Parish of Staplestown in the Co. of Carlow.

Recognizance to Prosecute 1828. Joseph Malone maketh oath that he usually resides at Rathmore in the Parish of Rathvilly in the County of Carlow. ( signed ) Joseph Malone. Sworn before me at Tullow Petty Sessions this 3rd Day of May 1828. ( signed ) James Eustace. John Leonard. (PPP)

George Halpin IV

George Sydney Halpin was the youngest son of George Halpin III and Annie Watters. He was born in 1884, two months after his parents arrival in Australia, and given the name 'Sydney' for the city. His granddaughter Pamela tells me: 'He never worked for anyone and was an auctioneer in the Northern Rivers Region when it could only be reached by boat as there were no roads. [He] was very clever and he loved horses. His tragedy was that he stayed firmly in the horse and buggy days and drove a yellow sulky well into the sixties through the streets of Sydney to the amazement of bystanders. I often went with him'. He married an English girl, Lavinia Figtree. Her family were one of the leading families in colonial Wollongong. They were originally engineers and industrialists from Sheffield, but came to Australia and started the coking industry in Wollongong. As George's granddaughter advised me, 'it is possible that the Figtrees and the Halpins collaborated on various projects as the Figtrees built a railway from the coking works to the new inner harbour'. The marriage of George and Lavinia was both 'appropriate' and 'good' marriage. Moreover, 'they loved each other and had five girls'. Their third daughter, Joyce Halpin, is a ceramicist and sculptor, born in 1915. Joyce's daughter Pamela Griffith is a well known and celebrated Australian artist, as is her brother George Gittoes who has the Order of Australia and an honorary doctorate. Indicative that the Halpin genius for building is entirely genetic, Pamela's son Saul Griffith is an engineer and inventor of considerable renown. He got his doctorate at MIT in America on a scholarship that he received following his masters degree in Sydney University. Saul recently won the Macarthur Foundation 'Genius Grant' for the contribution he and his company Makani have already made to science and engineering. His work in America is the sort of thing that the Halpin lighthouse builders did when they modernised Ireland and the docks. Within two years he will be building generators and power stations.


1) Source: The Catalogue of The National Archives Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers Service Documents WO 97/1184/103.

2) The House of Commons, 1790-1820, Volume 1, by R. G. Thorne.

2a) 35 years after the 1798 rebellion, a lengthy article appeared in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol 35, pp221ff. In passing it mentions John Claudius Beresford, the Commandant of the Loyal Dublin Regiment of Yeoman Infantry, and it makes an interesting reference to the Customs House. 'During the Rebellion, he had commanded a troop of cavalry, formed chiefly of the principal persons connected with the Customhouse, of which his father, a man of different class and character, had been Chief Commissioner. The natural unpopularity attached to Customhouse officers had not been in the slightest degree palliated by seeing them decorated with sabres and pistols, and acting under the orders of a Beresford. The troop, who were violent in their politics, and, of course, fully aware of the popular opinion, returned it with sufficient reciprocity; and by their zeal in the seizure and punishment of supposed rebels, so rendered themselves conspicuous, and conspicuously hated by the people......During the rebellion, the riding-house of the troop had been, unluckily for their reputation, a chosen spot for flogging the suspected....(End excerpts.)'

3) It is to be noted that the Nicholas John Halpin, son of the Rev Nicholas John Halpin (who was himself grandson of Nicholas the Portarlington schoolteacher), also ended up at the Customs House.

The Rev. N. J. Halpin was father of Charles Graham Halpine (1829-1868) of Oldcastle, Co. Meath, became influential journalist in the USA during the Civil War, best known for his burlesque poems written under the pen name of 'Miles O'Reilly'. He appears to have overdosed on chloroform in New York in 1868. It is not clear why he speleld his name 'Halpine' rather than 'Halpin'.

The Rev. Nicholas Halpin's younger brother Frederick James Halpin (c. 1805-1890), a Cavan landowner, ran a preparatory school in Dublin with his wife Maria (nee Howse), whom he married in 1844 at Cullompton, Devon. Their school was firstly at Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire), and later at 23-4 Sandycove Road, Glasthule, near Dalkey. Maria died at Sandycove in 1890. (The Argus (Melbourne, Vic),Tuesday 23 December 1890, p. 1).

In 1866, while George Bernard Shaw's family were living at Torca Cottage, Dalkey Hill, the future scribe attended the Halpin's school on Sandycove Road. He returned there again for a stint in the winter of 1868/1869. [A Bernard Shaw Chronology, by Anthony Matthews Gibbs, p. 26/27). (Other sources suggest a school was run by run by William Halpin in Lawson's Terrace, Sandycove, but presumably this is an error).

An advertisement in the Irish Times in 1865 (about GB Shaw’s time) read, "This establishment is situated in a most healthy locality; has extensive accommodation in the schoolroom and dormitories, a bathroom and an excellent playground. The course of instruction includes - French (by a native), Classics and Mathematics. The Holy Scriptures are taught daily. The domestic arrangements, which are liberal, are under the superintendence of Mrs. Halpin, who is an English Lady; and the pupils are in every respect treated as members of the family."

Sandycove School:- Mr F Halpin, Principal, assisted by a graduate TCD. Mr Halpin receives a limited number of young gentlemen, who receive every care and attention, as well as a sound English education in all the usual branches. A separate class for Gentlemen preparing for any of the Public Examinations. Mr Halpin attends bathing and boating. Business will be resumed (D.V.) on the 6th August. - 3 Sandycove Avenue, East. - Irish Times, Sat. July 23, 1887.

All of Frederick and Maria Halpin's sons left Ireland. Walter and Arthur went to live in England, Henry and Herbert emigrated to Canada and Frederick Webster Halpin emigrated to Australia.

DEATH. Halpin - Aug 2 at Falkland Lodge, Torquay, Walter Charles Halpin IRCP and 8th (?) son of the late Frederick J Halpin of Sandycove. - Irish Times, Sat Aug 12th, 1916.

4) Capt Robert Charles Halpin was the youngest son, born 1836. His second eldest brother, also a Captain, Thomas J born 1821, died at Monastery House Enniskerry, Bray, on 2 June 1878 aged about 57.


'Australia, an artists journey through the landscape', Pamela Griffith (International Artist Publishing, 2003)

The Liffey in Dublin’, JW de Courcy (Gill and Macmillan, 1996)

'A History of The Port of Dublin' by H.A. Gilligan (published by Gill & Macmillen Ltd, Goldenbridge, Dublin 8; 1988; ISBN 0-7171-1578-X) gives an excellent overview of the achievements of the two George Halpins.

Founding Father of the Irish Lighthouse Service’ , Frank Pelly, BEAM (2004-2005 edition)

'A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland', A W Skempton (Thomas Telford, 2002). This biographical reference work looks specifically at the lives, works and careers of those individuals involved in civil engineering whose careers began before 1830. The background, training and achievements of engineers over 250 years are described by specialist authors.

With thanks to Bill Webster, Julia Moran, Linda Ralston, Eldrith Ward, Yvonne Russell, Pamela Griffith, Niamh Blake, Joan Gordon, Dick Corrigan, Edwin Burgess, Myles Dungan, Mike Shingleton, Kathryn Rountree and Bronwyn of Western Australia.



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