American sisters search for grave of grandfather who survived Titantic sinking

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

The granddaughters of a former Nationalist journalist, who survived the sinking of the Titantic to build a new life in the US nearly 100 years ago, are searching for his grave near Clonmel so they can place the ashes of their beloved father there.

Patrica Swan and her sister Teresa Reiff ( both nee Condon) have issued an appeal for information on where the grave of their grandfather Patrick Sarsfield Condon is located at the old Powertown cemetery outside Clonmel.

Their grandfather, who died in Dublin at the end of January, 1929, worked as a journalist at The Nationalist in his youth and his father the prominent politician Mr Thomas J. Condon was involved in the founding of this newspaper.

Patricia and Teresa’s late father Emmet, who passed away last August, did a lot of research into their family’s strong connections to Clonmel and The Nationalist during his life.

They two sisters are now trying to complete his work and bring a part of him to the resting place of his father.

They visited Clonmel a few weeks ago to continue his research into their family’s Irish roots and visited old Powerstown cemetery where their grandfather is buried according to his obituary published in The Nationalist.

“Our father passed away last August at the age of 91 and we brought over some of his ashes to put them in the ground at the grave of his dad, who died when he was only ten years old,” said Patrica, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Teresa, who is based in Tampa, Florida said they were unable to locate his grave when they visited the cemetery in Powerstown.

“There are two cemeteries, one next to Powerstown Church, which is fairly well documented. We talked to the caretaker and he doesn’t remember any Condons being buried there although the Sullivans (their grandmother’s family) are buried there.

“But down a smaller road there is an unkempt older graveyard. We looked in there for a tombstone but didn’t find anything that said Condon.”

Patricia and Teresa’s family history is a fascinating story that would certainly merit a feature on the hit television genealogy programme “Who Do You Think You Are”.

Their great grandad was Thomas J Condon, one of Clonmel and Co. Tipperary’s most prominent political figures at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. He was the Nationalist MP for East Tipperary and a member of Clonmel Corporation for many years, serving as Mayor of Clonmel on nine occasions between 1889 and 1916.

Thomas J and his brother William were involved in founding The Nationalist in 1890 during the height of the Land War to represent the point of view of nationalists and two sons Patrick Sarsfield and Jerome later worked there as reporters.

Jerome went on to become Sports Editor of The Freeman’s Journal in Dublin while Patrick Sarsfield, who was popularly known as Sars emigrated to the US in 1912 at the age of 32, sailing from Queenstown (now Cobh) on the ill-fated Titantic.

He was one of the lucky survivors and forged a new life for himself in New York where he married Elizabeth Sullivan, a native of Barne near Clonmel, whose family ran a pub in Rathkeevan. The couple had two sons Emmet and Jerome and Patrick worked in the insurance business as a sales man and was also an inventor.

Tragically, when Emmet was just ten years old, his father became ill during a visit home to Ireland on business at the end of 1928 and died in Dublin at the end of January, 1929.

He was buried at old Powerstown cemetery on January 30, 1929 and among the chief mourners were his sister, a Mrs Wright, his uncle William Condon, Mr P. Condon, O’Connell St., Clonmel, Mr P Condon, Gladstone St., Mr David Condon, O’Connell Street; Mrs James Smyth, Mr F. Smith, Mr David Smith, Mr DL Smyth, Mrs Ryan, Mr John Ryan, Mr James Lonergan, Mr P Condon, Kickham St. (cousins); Mr Charles Dillon (brother-in-law). The obituary reported that his brother Jerome predeceased him and his fatherThomas J. Condon was unable to attend the funeral due to illness. Thomas J died in 1943 at the grand old age of 94.

Meanwhile, tragedy was to strike again for Patrick and Teresa’s dad and their uncle Jerome two years later when their mother Elizabeth passed away.

“Our father and Jerome ended up being little orphans. Fortunately they had relatives and they got passed around a bit among them. It wasn’t a nice existence for them,” said Patricia, who is named after her grandfather.

Both Emmet and his brother Jerome went on to forge successful careers with the famous Trans World Airline TWA and both fought in World War 11 with Emmet seeing action in the Pacific.

Patricia and Teresa, who have three other sisters, brought with them to Clonmel on their recent visit some of the documents their father collected during his years of research into his family history. They included a photocopy of the Titantic passenger list with their grandfather clearly listed on it as a passsenger.

The sisters said Emmet visited Clonmel in the 1970s and met some of his mothers relatives, the Sullivans and Queenie Condon, a surviving relative from his father’s side, who passed away in the 1980s.

They have visited Clonmel several times themselves and during their recent stay they dropped into The Nationalist to find out more information on their family’s connections to the newspaper and discovered an old photograph of the newspaper’s directors in the 1930s that included their grand uncle William.

Other stops on their tour were Clonmel Town Hall where a portrait of their great grandfather is hung, SS Peter & Pauls Church where they looked up the baptism and death records, the Main Gaurd and to Old St Mary’s Cemetery where their great grandmother Alice McGrath Condon is buried.

Patricia and Teresa said the family had recently found their grandmother Elizabeth’s grave in New York and said it would mean the world to them to be able to find their grandfather’s grave.

Anyone with information on the Patricia and Teresa’s local family connections and, in particular, the location of their grandfather’s grave at the old Powerstown cemetery should contact: