Ann Watson has sent me a message saying, “There’s a story in my family that’s been passed down. My great, great grandfather Patrick Summers said that he fought in Rome and there was a medal for him. According to the story he was in the British Army and deserted. He changed his name and joined the Irish who went to protect the pope in recent times. I’ve found some evidence of this but can’t link him or confirm if he deserted the army. I know this was not unusual for the Irish at that time. Anyway, I’ve attached some copies of newspapers confirming some of what he said. He came from Arran off the Galloway coast and that’s been confirmed with mother’s dna. I’ve got his mother and father’s names too.”
In terms of the only Patrick Summers I could find connected anytime to Blantyre is the following:
Patrick Summers was born in Ireland in 1837 and married Ann who was 4 years younger. The couple had several children. Amongst them, John, Bridget, Joseph, Martin and Mary Margaret. This was a coal mining family, Patrick and his sons employed by coalmasters within Blantyre during the 1880’s.
He should not be confused with another Patrick Summers of Dundee who was in frequent trouble with the law in the 1880’s.
In 1891, at the age of 54 the Blantyre ‘Patrick’ was living at 27 Bairds Rows at Low Blantyre and by 1905 had moved to Fore Row in the Village, Blantyre.
Patrick is recorded as passing away on 3rd July 1911 at 7 Forrest Street, aged 70, but his age may have slightly been out.
Now I did find a story of a Patrick Summers in trouble with the British Army, but that was in 1848, so couldn’t have been the man outlined above. In terms of proving the story about him fighting for the Irish after leaving the British Army, I couldn’t find anything but this may have been because the story is he changed his name during those times. This would need proper military research, for desertions would certainly have been recorded.
In 1860, Irish volunteers went to defend the pope from Garibaldi, hero of British and Irish Protestants. Irish people followed events in Italy. Newspapers were cheaper and more numerous after the 1850s. Telegraphs facilitated faster news transmission while the new railways enabled wider distribution. Getting to Italy was easy. They travelled by rail and cross-channel steamers to Britain, Belgium and France and onwards by rail/boat to Italy. The cost was a little over £13. The trip was a great experience, as many had never ventured far from their own localities.
Whilst I cannot confirm if Patrick Summers did go to Italy then came back to Scotland, there is a lack of him being in census and valuation records during that time. His eldest children were born in the 1870s in England and in Motherwell, some years after the events in Italy, suggesting his whereabouts prior to coming to Blantyre.
The mystery continues (for now)