McCartney's Journeys

John McCartney 1897-1982


John Brown McCartney was born in Belfast, Ireland, on 17 July 1897 at 97 Bellevue Street. He was the oldest child of Margaret Jane (nee Brown) and Henry. John had two sisters, Mary and Ellen. Mary died when she was seven years old. John also had four brothers, Henry, who died in just before his third birthday, Henry 2nd, James and Robert. John died on Wednesday, 1 September 1982, at the age of 85.

According to John's birth certificate his paternal grandmother Mary acted as midwife during his birth. His father, Henry was, at that time, employed as an iron turner, which is the same as a machinist in the United States.

Jack, as he was known to his friends, was 17 years old when he came to the Unites States with his mother "Maggie" (37), sister Ellen (11), James (8), Henry (7) and Robert (1year, 6 months).

In 1917 war erupted in Europe. The United States had not entered the war in its early years so Jack, at age 20, went to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Army.

Photo of John in his Canadian Army uniform.

He served in the trenches of France where he received a wound in the left leg. Surgery was not as well advanced at that time so the doctors decided not to attempt removal of the bullet because of the possibility of losing the leg. Jack carried the bullet in his knee for the rest of his life.

He jokingly called the bullet his weather vane since any changes in the barometric pressure would cause it to bother him. He could tell two or three days in advance of when it would rain. In fact, I think he was more accurate than the meteorologists on television were when I was growing up.

While he was in France fighting under the Canadian flag, his father, Henry, became a U. S. citizen. Jack, his sister and his brothers were automatically granted U. S. citizenship because they had not yet attained legal age. After his military service ended, when Jack returned to Staten Island, he had his citizenship authenticated.

Jack worked in his father's machine shop for a while, but eventually returned to the profession he had been triained in. He went to work in a shipyard as a steam fitter. He was ultimately employed at Todd's Erie Basin in Brooklyn, NY. He commuted from Staten Island every day until his retirement in 1961 at age 65.

The commute entailed a train ride from his home, followed by a ferry ride to Manhatten and, finally, a subway ride to Brooklyn. The travel time each way was approximately one and one-half hours. Since his work hours started at 8:00 AM, Jack would arise at 5:00 and leave the house by 6:15. He would finish work at 4:00 PM and be home by 5:30; a 12.5 hour day.


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photo of Lillian taken around 1930

On 4 April 1924, Jack married Lillian who resided at 60 Simonson Avenue in the Mariners Harbor section of Staten Island. Jack was 27 years old and Lillian was 21. Jack and Lillian had four (?) children: a daughter Lillian Gertrude, and three sons, Henry, John Brown Jr. and George.

There is a reason for the question mark relating to the four children. On my birth certificate there is a statement that my mother bore four children previous to me and one had died. My sister, Lillian, who is the oldest of my siblings, does not know anything about a child having died. It is possible that the child was born and died before Lillian was born. It is also possible that the incident occurred while my sister was too young to remember such an event. In the early 1900's it was not common practice to talk of losing a child so it is likely that my mother never spoke of it. Another possibility, and the most probable one, is that it was merely a clerical error on my birth certificate.

Lillian was 67 years old when she died on Friday, 3 July 1970. Jack survived her by slightly over 12 years, dying on 3 September 1982, coincidentally also a Friday. Jack was one of those fortunate people who retain a full head of hair which remained naturally black. When Lillian passed on, Jack was 73 years old. Shortly after Lillian's death, Jack's hair started to show the first signs of gray.

Both John and Lillian are buried in Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island.