Monday September 23rd saw Ashbourne Historical Society together with the ASH2020 Board host a reception in the GAA club for Juanita Carroll(nee Bourne), and her husband Mick. Juanita is a direct descendent of Ashbourne’s founder Frederick G. Bourn.
Juanita and Mick were by their own account overwhelmed with the generosity they encountered in Ashbourne, with Juanita telling this writer that her experience here far surpassed what she had encountered elsewhere on her trip. Juanita was also presented with a gift of a painting from the Ashbourne Historical Society, depicting a mail-coach making its way down Frederick Street, Ashbourne as it would have looked in our Town’s early days.
It was the transport business that led to Ashbourne being founded in 1820 by Juanita’s Great-Great Grandfather Frederick Bourne. The area had previously been known as Killeglandand was owned by a Cromwellian family called Carter. This family once held high political office in 18th century Ireland. However, by the early 19th century their fortunes had declined, giving the Carters reason to dispose of the land to Fredrick.
Bourne was an entrepreneur whose family business was coaches, transport, and road building. The government at the time was open to such improvements in infrastructure, and so Frederick was able to open an inn and other services to support the coaching trade. He built and operated the toll road to Drogheda and Slane, with toll booths at Coolquay, Ashbourne and Kilmoon.
The Bourne family enjoyed the bounties of Frederick’s labour for some time, but by the mid-1800s, trains began to surpass coaches as a preferred means of travel.
The Great Famine too had a negative impact on the village. Frederick’s son Richard inherited the land and town, and built himself what is now known as The Ashbourne House. His eldest son, Thomas, would be the last Landlord of Ashbourne, selling the land to local tenants, and heading off for a new life in Kent, England in 1899.
“My father, William Bourne, he was the son of Thomas Bourne. Thomas went to live in England after he married my grandmother…they had a son whom they called Richard…as an adult he preferred to be called Dick, he answered to that name. Then five years later they had my father, but Thomas passed away before my father was born. So that left the widow, the new-baby and Dick. So when my father was six months old, he was on a ship going to Australia…”
Thomas and Dick would grow up with a step-father they regarded as their own, but in the 1930s, William required a birth-cert, which led him to learn more about the Bourne family line. This in turn led to William being handed a suit-case full of letters, mementos, photographs and such that had belonged to his mother. William passed these items onto his daughter Juanita, thus piquing her interest in her family line.
Juanita’s uncle Dick had been killed in action in Belgium in the First World War, and it had always been Juanita’s wish to pay homage to her fallen uncle at Messines in Belgium. Taking the opportunity to visit both the land of her forebears, Ireland while visiting where her uncle tragically fell, Juanita made contact with the Ashbourne Historical Society.
Juanita was overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality shown by the members of the Society when she arrived, having been met at the airport and later shown around the town her ancestor Frederick had founded near-on 200 years ago.
“It’s just magic to come here…this has become The Big Thing…I said to my daughter (by phone) ‘I feel like I’m going home’….And I am as comfortable her as I have been anywhere in my life.”
Indeed, it appears that some magical coincidence had been at play, as Juanita’s trip to Europe and Ireland coincided with the eve of our Town’s 2020 bi-centenary celebrations. Juanita had not initially caught on to that, and so now hopes that perhaps she could come next year on the actual anniversary with her daughter in tow this time.
Welcome Home Juanita, and please do come again for 2020!