My Grandmother's 1907 Romance

Connie and Richard 14 08 1907 Metcalfe Ontario Canada

Constance Sainsbury (aged 27) was a governess to the children of a priest in Belfast.

There she met Richard Torrens (aged 30) who was a curate for the same priest.

He may or may not have already been there when she arrived. Either way, their attraction for one another was considered inappropriate by their employers and very possibly Constance's parents.

So, it was arranged that she would go to Canada, presumably as a governess to another family.

However, this did nothing to dampen the couple's feelings, and once she arrived in Canada, Constance found a position for Richard so he could join her there.

Richard left Belfast in January 1907 and was given this book of Irish Verse as a gift by the parishioners.

They were married in Canada, in August 1907. Three of their five children were born in Canada, Brian, Jack and Michael.

They returned to live in England from 1916, where Richard worked until he retired in 1948.

Richard died in 1952 (aged 72) at his son’s vicarage in surrey. Constance died at Upper Tooting Vicarage (south London) in 1969 (aged 88).

About the Book:

Songs of the Glens of Antrim
by     Moira O'Neill

Cover Songs of the Glens of Antrim

Moira’s real name was Agnes and she was Irish-Canadian hence her trans-atlantic outlook. Moira O'Neill was the pseudonym of Agnes Shakespeare Higginson (1864–1955), a popular Irish-Canadian poet who wrote ballads and other verse inspired by County Antrim, where she lived at Cushendun. In 1895, she and her husband Walter Skrine lived on a 16,500-acre ranch in Alberta.

The verses take us back to an Ireland of the time with strong links to the New World and ends with verses on Canadian Rockies and on coming “Back to Ireland”.

Back to Ireland by Moira o’Neill [extract]

Oh tell me, will I ever win to Ireland again,
Astore! From the far North-West?
On a dim an’ shiny mornin’ the ship she comes to land,
Early, oh early in the morning’,
The silver wathers o’ the Foyle go slidin’ to the strand,
Whisperin’, “Ye’re welcome in the mornin’”
There’s darkness on the holy hills I know are close aroun’,
But the stars are shinin up the sky, the start are shinin down,
They make a golden cross above, they make a golden crown,
An’ meself could tell ye why, - in the mornin’.
Sure and’ this is Ireland,
Thank God for Ireland!
I’m comin’ back to Ireland the morning.
               Moira O'Neill

Grandpas’s Book of Verse

When I read my grandpa’s book I travelled back in time
I felt that bit of Irish genes laugh and cry with him
Just like my mother said I did when I was only three.
David Torrens (Born 1949)

Enscription in the Book