From North Irish Roots, Journal of the North of Ireland Family History Society Vol. 8 No 2, 1997. Published four times yearly.


By Martin Gray, Member number B 0552

It is wonderful the things that can turn up when you have an interest in genealogy.

I was reading in the Sunday Times on the 5th October 1996 about His Holiness the Pope. The article said that the Pope was to beatify Edmund Rice the founder of the Christian Brothers Schools. Rice, 1762-1844, a wealthy businessman, was long dead and a requirement, before Rice could be considered for such beatification, was the production of proof that he had been responsible for at least one miracle.

A report on a miracle was put forward by the Christian Brothers, accepted by the Vatican and ratified by the Pope. It concerned the illness and miraculous cure of a young nineteen year old man who was at death's door in 1976. He had been taken to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry with severe stomach problems. He was so weak that he was only 4 stones in weight. When the surgeons opened him up the whole of his colon was gangrenous and not even an inch could be saved. Four specialists worked with him for hours then closed the opening. There was nothing they could do to save him. The surgeons informed the family that they expected death within a few hours.

A Christian Brother brought a relict of Edmund Rice (a small bone) and prayed for intercession on behalf of the doomed teenager. The family and very many others prayed all night and continuously for Edmund Rice to intercede. The lad did not die that night, nor next day, nor by the end of the week. He was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and progressed well over a week and the surgeons considered operating again. They found to everyone's amazement that there was now over two feet of the colon free of all disease. They cut out all the lengths affected by gangrene and joined up the rest. The patient lived and is alive to this day. The newspaper gave his name as Kevin Ellison aged 39. It said he was fit and well with a wife and three children and that he worked as a health and safety officer to Armagh Council.

Having read that far I thought of Willie Ellison, my second cousin once removed who lives in Newry and is a civil engineer like myself. We used to see each other once or twice a year at Civil Engineer functions but have not met since we both retired. I wondered if there could be a connection and looked up my family history charts to find that Willie had a son called Kevin who would be about the right age.

My mother was an Ellison and the great-great-grand-daughter of William Ellison, c1751, of Tullywest, near Saintfield, County Down. The Ellisons were Presbyterians and many are buried in the graveyard at First Saintfield Presbyterian Church. Willie's father is buried there. His mother was Roman Catholic and the family was brought up in their mother's faith.

I telephoned Willie who confirmed the story in the newspaper. He told me that it was his son Kevin who was involved and that Kevin and family were out in Rome for the beatification ceremony for Edmund Rice. Willie gave me all the details he could about what had occurred back in 1976 and the many statements from medical people of all religions that had testified to what had happened.

As a result of the above, I now know that I have a second cousin twice removed whose recovery in 1976 was the first officially credited Roman Catholic miracle in Ireland.