The Meharry family
The doctor's family from Belfast





Other sources

  1. Correspondence with Kate and Joanna Harrison, daughter and granddaughter of Eve Wilson

Family trees

Meharry family tree
Family trees of the Meharry and Parr families


Other information

Dr William Meharry biography
Dr. William Meharry, extract from Directory of Ulster Doctors qualified before 1901

Courtesy of Donald Alexander

Isaac Meharry
Isaac Houston Meharry

Photo (ca. 1910) courtesy of Kate Harrison

Edith and Sandy Wilson
Edith and Sandy Wilson

Photo (1911?) courtesy of Kate Harrison

Bertie, Edith and Janie Meharry
Bertie, Edith and Janie Meharry

Photo (ca. 1930s) courtesy of Kate Harrison

Meharry family 1900s
The Meharry family, 1900s

Adults L to R: William J. Meharry, Edith Meharry, NN (possibly a cousin from the Parr family), Alberta Meharry, Isaac Meharry

The three children are possibly also from the Parr family

Photo courtesy of Joanna Harrison

The family of Dr. William J. Meharry and his five children is perhaps typical of Ulster families in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. They had their roots in farming, managed to gain a place in a profession (medicine), and later three of them left Ireland for England and New Zealand. There is a certain similarity to the family of Dr. George Tyrrell of Banbridge, Co. Down - see the page on the Chamier family.

Research on the Meharrys, as with other families from Ireland, is not easy, but has been made easier through the generous help of two descendants of Edith Meharry: Kate Harrison and her daughter Joanna have provided lots of fascinating inside information and photos: thanks to both.

Dr. Meharry

Dr. William John Meharry was born in Crawfordsburn, Co. Down, the son of William Meharry (snr.), a farmer (see map of Ireland - north for locations). As the biography (below left) sets out, he studied medicine at Queen's College Belfast (QCB) from 1879, where he perhaps met his future son-in-law Dr. James McConnell, who started there four years later. The two were however very different in age: by the time he started his degree, William was already married with four children; James was only 17.

William's wife Mary Ellen Parr was from Liverpool, where her father and brother were cabinet makers (see Family Tree, left). As the birthplaces of William's children indicate, the growing family moved back and forth between Ireland and England - William worked for a time as a policeman in south London, perhaps while saving money for his medical degree. After obtaining various qualifications in London, Dublin and Edinburgh, he set up practice in Belfast (Shankhill Road, then Duncairn Gardens). He died there aged 69; Mary Ellen outlived him by 20 years, dying in 1933.


It seems none of William's children followed him into the medical profession (except possibly his second son William - see below). The photo of the doctor with some of his family is possibly from the late 1900s, but the details still need to be sorted out.


Eldest son James emigrated to New Zealand, where he worked as a farmer, and died (probably unmarried) in Christchurch in 1931.


Alberta ('Bertie') also didn't marry: she lived in south London with her sister Janie for a time before returning to Belfast, where she lived on the Antrim Road. (Donald Alexander, a cousin of Bertie's by marriage, met her, and inherited two of her chairs.)

Janie McConnell, née Meharry
Janie McConnell, née Meharry, with grandson Peter at his christening, 1934

Photo in possession of our family


Janie, like Bertie, was born in south London and probably moved around Britain and Ireland with her parents, settling in Belfast around 1890. She possibly met Dr. James McConnell on the Belfast medical circuit - he qualified from the Royal Ulster Infirmary in 1889. They married nine years later in east London and lived on Battersea Rise (between Battersea, Wandsworth and Clapham), where James started his practice. Their two children Agnes ('Inez') and William Samuel were born there. As described on the page for Dr. James McConnell, James retired in 1928 and went to live in a hotel in Richmond, before (probably) moving to Holland Park, dying three years later in Camberwell. Whether Janie was living with him in these places is not yet clear.

After her son William ('Mac') married Olive Stannard in 1932, Olive's widowed mother Anne Stannard (née Penketh) became part of the family, and she and Janie formed a bond. They were both living with Olive and her two young children at the time of the [September] 1939 Register, and the story goes that the two grannies later lived near each other on the south coast (see the page on the Penketh family). Later Janie came to live in an old people's home in Putney, near Mac and Olive.


The doctor's second son William sadly died young. He had been a student, possibly at QCB, but succumbed to tuberculosis (given on the burial register as 'consumption') at age 19. It is not known what he had been studying.


Not much is known about the third son of Dr. Meharry. He was christened Isaac Houston Meharry, possibly named after his father's friend, Isaac Houston, who died in 1896 and whose executor Dr. Meharry was. (A similar case was Charles Edward Ducat Pennycuick, named after his father's friend Charles Ducat.) Isaac worked as an actor,i and probably travelled to New York in 1895, returning at some stage to Belfast, where he died, also of tuberculosis, at age 33.

Meharry family 1940s
The Meharry family, late 1920s

Adults (L to R): Janie McConnell (née Meharry), Mary Ellen Meharry (née Parr), Edith Wilson (née Meharry)

Children: Hilda and Tony Wilson

Photo courtesy of Joanna Harrison


The doctor's youngest daughter, born after he'd settled in Belfast, married Alexander Joseph Wilson in 1911. This caused a certain stir in the family, as Alexander ('Sandy') worked in a bar. He and Edith had six children, all but one born in Co. Antrim.

Most of the family drifted over to England after the war: Sandy worked in hotels in Sunderland and then Harrogate. His children lived all over the world in various occupations - the Cooper family for example (descendants of Eve) includes several dancers, musicians and photographers.