Those searching for the next of kin of immigrant Irish twins who died within weeks of each other in London believe they have found a first cousin of the Cork brothers.
If confirmed as a living relative, Seán Kelly plans to repatriate the bodies of William and John Kelly, 77, to the Rebel County and bury the estranged brothers alongside their father Dennis Kelly in St. Finbarr’s cemetery in Cork city.
On January 29, William Kelly, more commonly known as Bill, from Turner’s Cross in the south of Cork City, died in Muswell Hill, north London. Following his death, his friends began the search for a living relative.
Bill’s friend Margaret Denney had never heard mention of his family in all their years of friendship but knew that his sister Mary had also died in London a few years ago.
Contacting the undertakers at Mary’s funeral, she discovered that not only did Bill have a brother, but a twin brother named John, who was long estranged and also living in London.
“They had a sister Mary who died about two years ago,” she told The Irish Post.
“We found out through the undertakers from her funeral that there was another brother called John and we got his address to let him know Bill had passed away.”
After consulting her local parish priest, Margaret decided to visit John Kelly at his home in Archway, leaving a message with a neighbor when she received no reply at his door.
The following morning, however, she received a call from the same neighbor explaining that her visit had caused him concern when realizing it was some time since he had seen John at his home.
“He rang me the next morning and said that he started to worry once I’d left about what happened to John,” she said.
“He told me he rang an ambulance and they couldn’t gain access to the house and then the police were called and they made their way inside and found that John had died too.”
The bodies of the brothers were left unclaimed, lying in two separate morgues in the English capital – John in the coroner’s office in Hornsey and Bill in the hospital mortuary in Whittington Hospital.
The Kelly brothers were Born on August 27, 1938 and moved to London with their mother and sister at 18 years of age, shortly after the death of their father, but they had been estranged for some years prior to their deaths.
Both have been described as reclusive and little was known about their early years in London or about any living family members who could be contacted to claim the bodies.
Eager to locate the twins’ family and save them from a burial in a pauper’s grave, the London Irish community undertook a campaign to find a living relative, spearheaded by London Irish newspaper The Irish Post.
With the help of the company Finders, an online campaign, and a GoFundMe page raising money to provide for a funeral, the newspaper succeeded in locating a first cousin of the twins living in Cork City.
Although unconfirmed as of yet, Seán Kelly believes the twins are sons of his uncle Dennis and that Bill had remained in contact with his own mother, writing her letters and mentioning John and their sister Mary.
“My uncle Dennis Kelly had three children, Jack [nicknamed John], Bill and Mary,” Seán told The Irish Post.
“He died in 1947 and the mother and kids went over to London soon after.”
The genealogy organization Finders confirmed that Dennis was the name of the twins’ father and that he was listed as a barman on Bill’s birth certificate, a fact their potential first cousin also noted.
“They ran a place called The Oval Bar on South Main Street in the city,” Seán said.
“I think it was shortly after my uncle died that his wife and the kids headed over to England.”
Seán also recalls a letter sent by Bill to his own mother (Bill’s aunt) in 1992 in which he wrote: “I was very happy to receive your letter.”
“Carmel was home in Fermoy, her father was having heart surgery. Thank you with all my heart for including Carmel and myself in the Friends of Knock Shrine.
“I know Our Lady will bless both of us. Both Jack and Mary are fine.”
If Finders verifies that Seán Kelly is the first cousin of Bill and John Kelly, Sean plans to return the bodies of his long-lost relatives to Ireland, laying them to rest alongside their father in St. Finbarr’s cemetery in Cork city.
“Dennis is buried in St Finbarr’s cemetery in the city here so if they are my cousins, we’ll bury them here with him,” he said.
“If we can’t do that, we’ll bury them in our own cemetery up the road.”
The funeral costs of the brothers will also be subsidized with the help of the donation page established by The Irish Post. With over $2,865 (£2,000) already collected, one London Irish company has promised to double that with a further $2,865 (£2,000) and the owner of The Irish Post, Elgin Loane, has donated a further $1,432 (£1,000).
H/T: The Irish Post