My Family History

Trace your ancestors and then immortalise them!

                              THE   ROUGHANS

This history would not have been possible without the work that Kathleen Roughan's grandson Eugene Godden has carried out at Genes Reunited. His valuable research gave me the foothold that I needed in order to proceed further. In March, 2012, this history received a huge boost, when Eileen Roughan's daughter, Helen Holbrook, came across the website. Helen's valuable information and recollections have added considerably to each section. So, considerable thanks to Eugene and Helen for their telling contributions.

Roughan is very much a County Clare name. You will find Roughans in every corner of the world, partly due to the emigration from Clare during the mid-19th Century potato famine. Many of these were young females who set sail for Australia and America and married when they got there. Hence the name changed but not the Roughan blood. Many young men also left Clare,before and around the turn of the century,to seek employment. Martin Roughan was such a man and his story you will meet in these pages. Another Clare man,from nearby Ennis, Abe Grady, left in the 1860s and married a freed African-American slave. Their son also married an African-American, and one of the daughters of that union was Odessa Lee Grady, who married Cassius Clay Sr. Their son, of course,  was Cassius Marcellus Clay who became Muhammed Ali.

The name Roughan is of early medieval Irish origin, and is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "O'Ruadhachain, O'Ruadhain", descendant of Ruadh(ach)ain. "Ruadh" means red and was originally given to one with red hair or a ruddy complexion.
The County Clare Roughans were an ecclesiastical family connected with monasteries as far afield as Swords and Lismore. Felix O'Ruadhain was of the Ui Fiachrach or Ui Maine, ancient population groups in Connacht. Seven members of this sept were bishops of Connacht dioceses in medieval times. Petty's 1659 "census" of all Ireland gives O'Roughane as a principal name in the barony of Bunratty, East Clare and Roughane in the barony of East Carbery, Cork.

Before I discovered the Clare connection, I had always thought the Roughans came from Cork. In fact the actual spelling of the name indicates which county the person is from. Rohan or Rohane is Cork and Kerry. Ruane is Kerry. Rowan is from all provinces but mainly Galway. Roughan,itself, is Clare and Limerick. Whatever the spelling, it is a West of Ireland name. Elinor Roughan’s marriage to John Launders in Limerick in 1765 is the first recording of the exact spelling ‘Roughan’. Felix O'Ruadhain, Archbishop of Tuam, County Galway in 1215 is the first recording of the original name.

An interesting account of a siege that took place in 1641 which mentions the Roughans:
“The castle of Inchicronan in County Clare was besieged, the 13th of March, by Gilladuff O’Shaughnessy and the O’Gradys, and some Connaughtmen that were returning home; whereupon Anthony Heathcot sent a letter to the Earl of Thomond, promising him a rick of wheat if he would please to relieve him. The Earl, accompanied by Dermot O’Brien, and John MacNamara, repaired to Inchicronan, with his own troop, and fifty Englishmen in arms, but finding the besiegers had decamped, he killed two or three rogues whom he found remaining in the bushes.
He then returned home. The besieged, thinking all was safe, ventured forth to obtain provisions, but the O’Gradys and Roughans falling upon them, killed nine, suffering only one, Newman, to return with news. Now Gilladuff and the rest came against the castle again, and compelled Heathcot to throw it open and pay him twenty pounds. Heathcot, with his adherents, retired to Ballyallia and Clare castle, in a state of utter destitution.”

There is a townland in County Armagh called Roughan, near Newmills and Dungannon, in which lies the historic Roughan Castle. It was built about 1618 by Sir Andrew Stewart,overlooking Roughan Lough. It is a small square castle, three storeys high with a central tower 20 feet square, flanked by thick rounded towers at each corner. It was once the refuge of Phelim O’Neill, leader of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 in Ulster.He was captured there in 1653 and taken to Dublin, where he was hanged for treason.
So we start our adventure with the man who introduced me to the name back in the early 50s. My birth certificate said Williams and my name was never officially changed to Roughan. I was just registered at school,college and work as Roughan because mum and dad were Roughan. Obtaining my first passport in 1989 was not easy and without a letter from Bernard, I’m not sure where I stood.
My real paternal ancestry is American and what stories and people that might bring, I’ll never know. Bernard’s ancestry is rich enough to compensate, and as it is the one I grew up with, I regard it as my own and am delighted to present it here.



                 THE ROUGHANS OF PONTYPRIDD


Bernard Roughan  1919-2003

Bernard Roughan was born on the 11th of March 1919 in the Pontypridd area of Wales. He was one of nine children born to Martin Roughan and Christina Maher, who had emigrated to Wales from Ireland at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Bernard was their seventh child and had a twin sister called Patricia. At the age of three, he followed his older siblings to school in the Rhondda Valley and was allowed to stay. His father placed great emphasis on education, and was probably delighted to see his youngest son so eager to learn!


Bernard left school at fourteen and became a tailor’s assistant. He joined the army at the outbreak of World War Two and amongst other places, served in Italy. He had a hard war, like so many others, and carried a few scars into his post-war civilian life. His father Martin died in 1948 which precipitated his mother’s move to London where her married daughters Eileen and May were already living. Bernard continued to live at 22, Parkhurst Road with his mother and sister Pat until his marriage in 1952.

I recall him telling me about following both Arsenal and Tottenham despite their intense rivalry. One week, Highbury, the next week White Hart Lane. I took the Higbury route, and my sister Sharon has taught at Tottenham College for decades. Bernard went into Psychiatric Nursing and worked at the Friern Hospital in New Southgate. I recall watching him play cricket there in the early 50s. His sister May was a deputy matron there, and lived inside the grounds at East Lodge with her husband Reg, who was farm bailiff.

In 1952, Bernard met Ina Hunter, a single mother, and they were married later that year. The reception was held at Parkhurst Road with the front two rooms being opened up into a large drawing room for the day. Sharon Julie Roughan was born in Hackney on the 10th May. The family moved to Colchester where Bernard became a Mental Welfare Officer at Severalls Hospital in the Mile End area. His sister Kathleen and her husband Don Godden were already living in Mill Road, which was probably how he came to work at Severalls. With the job came a house with a sizeable garden at 148, Mill Road. Bernard turned his hand to gardening, growing most of his own vegetables in our back garden which backed on to Severalls. Echoes of his grandfather Michael, who was a farmer in Clare, Ireland, and would also have grown a few potatos in his time. I think Michael,who died some fifteen years before Bernard was born, would have been proud of his grandson’s horticultural prowess. Bernard's wife, Ina, took up a position at Essex Hall Hospital, not far away, and this family vocation in Mental Welfare was to be followed by future generations.

Bernard was a very energetic man who enjoyed life to the full. Working at Severalls, there were many social opportunites and functions. He mainly worked night duty, but still found time during the day to work for Securicor, and as a delivery man for a Bakery. He liked a flutter on the horses. Although his step-son, he treated me as his own, and Christopher Williams had long since become Christopher Roughan.
His second daughter, Jane Elizabeth, was born on News Day. She just made it as a New Year’s Day baby by thirty minutes and thus got her picture into the Essex County Standard to the family’s great excitement.
Bernard took his children to London regularly to visit ‘Granny in London’ whom we were very fond of, and who had a lot of time for Ina. We always visited his sister May, who had a house within the grounds of Friern Hospital. Those visits to Auntie May and Uncle Reg meant a lot to us. We also regularly visited his sister Eileen at Arnos Grove, who, again, was very special to me.

As 1965 dawned, changes were afoot in our family. Mum was now working at the Jane Walker Hospital in Wissington, Suffolk and she had been offered a partnership in an Old Persons Home, about to be opened nearby, at Rushbanks House where formerly, nurses from the Hospital had lived. Bernard was excited about the move, and as far as I know, entered into the project wholheartedly. One of the partners was Matron Singleton, and the other was Frank Bates whose farm adjoined the property. What actually happened or went wrong I have never been sure of. Whether Bernard and Ina, after thirteen years together, had grown apart, I don’t know.  Both were excited about the move.


Within weeks of the move to Rushbanks in the July, Bernard had left and returned to Colchester, very upset. Each believed the other to have had exta-matrimonal affairs. It was the most acrimonious of splits possible and they never again spoke to each other. Bernard kept in touch with his children, and access was never a problem. Nearly forty years later, and after a successful second marriage, the scars were still there. He never  got over it.

1971 was a turning point in his life. Earlier that year, Ina’s father, Franz had passed away. Bernard and Franz had never got on, though Bernard did say to me, at the time, that he was sorry ‘the old man’ had gone ... words I was pleased to hear because both men were important to me in my life. Bernard’s mother died on the 19th March that year, and his sister May in the August. Bernard was now fifty-two with both parents passed on and four siblings too.


Into his life came Laura Frederick but known as Ann. She had two daughters from a previous marriage, Liz and Louise, and was twenty years younger. This was to be a lasting relationship and marriage up to his death in 2003. Ann had several siblings, and Bernard got on well with them all and their partners. He was always at ease in company, and there was plenty of that in a close-knit family. I also got on well with Ann's sisters and daughters.

Ann’s daughters went on to have families of their own, and Bernard became a much-loved figure in all their lives. I enjoyed my visits to 132, Mill Road, and was so pleased to see his contentment. He and Ann had no children of their own, but in many ways, Ann’s children and grandchildren became his children too. My relationship with Bernard took on a new dimension, and I enjoyed his company very much.

One of the things I learned about him was that he had psychic abilities, and he frequently saw ghosts, particularly on night duty at Severalls. He would describe vividly the Centurion who stood at the top of North Hill, Colchester. He didn’t make a big thing about his experiences, but rather, it was my own interest in the occult which drew such information from him. Bernard was a Pisces and also a Sheep Year ... his psychic abilities therefore came as no surprise to me.

Eventually, I moved to London, but kept up my visits to Mill Road, as well as to Great Horkesley where he and Ann moved to shortly afterwards. They made a lovely home there, and Bernard, once again, made the most of the garden land there, even buying a small plot adjoining, and extending his garden. He now focused on flowers rather than vegetables and was no less successful. Bernard undoubtedly had green fingers, which probably owed something to his Irish Heritage. My motor-bike journeys to Ramparts Close were replaced by train journeys as the 80s moved into the 90s. There was no better sight than seeing him, in his car, waiting at Colchester North Station ready to make the short journey to Great Horkesley. He and Ann were at my wedding in 1995 in London. He rarely came to London, a place he no longer felt comfortable in.

Bernard passed away in December 2003. His twin-sister Pat survived him by two weeks, and his brother Bill died in the February of the same year. I hadn’t seen Bernard for a couple of years. One of those things one can’t explain but live to regret.  However I was at his hospital bedside, hours before he died, and was able to say a quiet goodbye, although he was in a coma by then. His funeral showed how much he was loved, and how much he would be missed. He had packed a lot into his eighty-four years, and he was a clear-thinking, active man well into his eighties.