Brogan Family History

Parents of Vincent Brogan:

Vincent Brogan born 21st December 1912

Elizabeth Gorman born 6th September 1916

Our father was brought up on a small farm at Tirmurrity, near Lislap. He was the second eldest of 8 children, 4 boys and 4 girls. There was little money and less prospects. However the family had some drive and ambition. Three of the girls got educated, one becoming a nurse; the other two took their vows and went into a convent when they were in the 20s.

Jack went to the Brothers in Omagh and left to train as a motor mechanic. He was in the same year as Benedict Kiely, who went on to be a well known writer and broadcaster.

The two eldest boys were perhaps happiest leaving school to work on the farm and the eldest Anthony was able to do ploughing for neighbouring farmers. However for better or worse he decided to emigrate and to join his Uncle in New York, arriving at Easter 1930.

My father had planned to join him and went so far as to get the papers. There was a delay because their Uncle could only sponsor one person at a time. In the meantime his parents decided to build a replacement house and he was soon busy with this.

He brought stones from old buildings down from the mountain by horse and cart. They had access to sand, but he brought materials such as cement and timber by lorry the 6 miles from Omagh. He taught himself to drive a motor lorry. Tommy Kearney had a business in the area supplying goods to the farming community and had acquired a lorry. He used to tell about the lack of synchromesh and what a skill it took to change the gears. A local man was employed to do the building but our father assisted him.

He found a job as helper to a breadman in Omagh and initially used to cycle in and out each day. However this man also liked going to the dog races. He got the sack and my father asked for the job. The firm were Brewster’s with their bakery in Derry. They were initially reluctant to give the responsibility over to such a young man as it entailed a van, stock, and handing and accounting for cash. However he persuaded them to give him the job. This was in 1934 and it turned out to be his life time’s work. He found a place to park the bread lorry at night near Abbey Street, and went into lodgings at No 1, Ashfield Terrace opposite in a house owned by a widow, Mrs McAleer.

His run was mostly to private houses and small shops in the countryside around Omagh. One summer’s day, he was making his way as usual to deliver to Gallagher’s shop in Glen Upper between Mountfield and Loughmacrory. He saw one of the daughters of the Gallagher’s at the side of the road with another girl and he stopped to give them a lift to their home at the shop. The other girl was a cousin from Omagh, visiting her relatives for a few weeks holiday. My father remembered her wearing a light summer dress. There must have been some chemistry as the next week she was there again, this time alone, waiting for a lift. They got talking and arrangements were then made for them to meet when she was back in Omagh.

My mother was the youngest of 4 sisters, all born within the space of 5 years. Their parents had left it late to marry; doing so only after my grandfather’s mother had died as was the custom. Otherwise two women would have had to share a house.  They were born on a small farm near Mountfield but moved into Omagh when my mother was 9. My Grandfather and Grandmother both worked for the local landlord. Their name was MacMahon and they only used Mountfield as a summer holiday home. One of the family had been the Master of the Rolls in the mid 1800s whilst his son became Chief of the Police in Melbourne. My Grandfather was a gardener whilst my Grandmother was a companion and spent some time at their London house. There is a London studio photograph of her in a very fine dress. The family continued to receive letters at Christmas for many years after she left their employment.

My maternal grandparents were raised in Victorian times and had that period’s attitudes. But they valued education and all their daughters attended the Loreto Grammar school. It was the prime reason they moved to Omagh, to be close to the school, so that their daughters could live with them. One of her sisters, Kathleen, my Godmother, was offered a scholarship by the Tyrone County Education Committee to train to be a teacher. A rare event, especially for a Catholic. However when she went for a medical they found a murmur in her heart and it was withdrawn. She became an unqualified teacher, spending most of her time at the Loreto Grammar School in Omagh and died at the age of 84.

My mother had met my father before leaving school but the relationship was not approved off by her parents. They wanted her to study to become a nurse and she went reluctantly to a hospital in Birmingham. This may have been to put distance between them. However she became ill; perhaps because she had been sent away and had to return to Omagh within two years. Their relationship continued and there was a rift with her family. After what she went through she vowed never to interfere in her children’s relationships no matter if she thought them ill advised.

They decided to marry against the wishes of her parents (and her eldest sister, Kathleen, who was probably the boss in their later years). By this stage my father had built the house at 8, Brookmount Road. The marriage ceremony took place at 7am on 1st August 1938 with only her sister and his brother there as witnesses. They returned to the new house where my father’s eldest sister, Molly, had the breakfast ready. My father in later years, after the 10 children had reached adulthood, came across a piece in a (English) paper which said that legally marriages had to take place between 8am and 6pm. He put up the cutting on the notice board in the kitchen to remind my mother and us children of our legal status.

The first child was born in 1939. Relationships thawed a little with the in- laws and Grandfather Gorman used to quietly visit his grandchildren. However things were never totally normally. It even lasted down to my baptism when Kathleen agreed to be my Godmother. The story goes that when my godmother Kathleen was asked what my name was, she said Martin, instead of Vincent. When I later married in the same parish, my certificate records me as Martin Vincent Brogan which must have come from their baptismal records. I have the original state birth certificate when I was registered by my father and it records Vincent Martin Mary. The last 3 children, starting with me, were given Mary’s name in return for a safe birth. I understand that there may have been at least one miscarriage before me. I do try to play down the Mary name but Queens insisted on using it and it was read out as I was called forward to receive my degree in 1972.


My parents achieved over 50 years of what appeared to be a contented marriage, saw all their children married, remaining on good terms with them and each other, and produce over 30 grandchildren.