Mile End and the McNulty Sisters


Mile End Memories would like to thank Vicky Robinson, granddaughter of Marcella McNulty. We could not have uncovered the story of this Irish family of the neighbourhood without her invaluable collaboration.

The 1911-1912 edition of Lovell’s Directory contains an unusual listing. On the ground floor of a triplex newly constructed on Park Avenue a bit north of Bernard Street, on the east side, was the home of the “McNulty Misses”. Usually, when the head of the family – the only person recorded in Lovell’s – was not a man, the typical listing would indicate that it was a widow. Here, not only was none of the young lady residents a widow, but previously, when they had lived around the corner, on Hutchison north of Saint-Viateur, it was a man—William McNulty—who was identified as the family head.

The parents of the Misses McNulty, Thomas and Elizabeth, arrived from Ireland during the 1860s. Thomas became a policeman for the City of Montreal in 1879, and they had nine children. Seven survived, including one son, William. Elizabeth died as a result of influenza at the end of April 1901. Barely five days later, her husband was found dead on railway tracks, crushed by a train. The family, worried when he did not come home the night before, had alerted his fellow policemen.

«The McNulty Misses». Quatre des sœurs McNulty, devant leur logement du 2567 avenue du Parc, vers 1911-1915. Marcella se trouve à l’extrême-gauche et Babe, à l’extrême-droite. Charles Fox se trouve au milieu, à la gauche de sa femme, Annie. La quatrième sœur, Louise, se trouve à la droite de Marcella. Collection Vicky Robinson.

The McNulty Misses. Four of the McNulty sisters, in front of their flat at 2567 Park Avenue, circa 1911-1915. Marcella is at the far left and Babe, at the far right. Charles Fox is in the centre, to the left of his wife, Annie. The fourth sister, Louise, is to the right of Marcella. Vicky Robinson Collection.

The Gazette wrote that he had probably committed suicide, because of grief caused by the loss of his wife.1 Annie, the oldest, unmarried at 26, took on the role of head of the family. But the customs of the time obliged the Lovell’s researcher to identify younger brother, William, then 20, as the head. His sisters later said that he dreamt of becoming a physician, but after the death of his parents, he was obliged to find a job immediately. He first became a machinist, then an electrician, while Annie was a telephone operator.

At the time of their parents’ death, the two youngest sisters, Marcella and Jemina (the latter always called Babe), were 18 and 16. They had a reputation for being willful and hotheaded; according to their later reminiscences, the oldest ruled the home with an iron hand and was very strict. In fact, by the time of her death, in 1936, Annie McNulty had become the assistant warden of Montreal’s prison for women. In 1909, the entire family left their old home on Cadieux Street (now de Bullion) to move into a brand-new triplex on the Outremont side of Hutchison Street.

 

Le triplex de l'avenue du Parc, au nord de Bernard, aujourd'hui disparu. Les  soeurs McNulty y emménagent en 1911. Collection Vicky Robinson.

The Park Avenue triplex, north of Bernard, later demolished. The McNulty sisters moved there in 1911. Vicky Robinson Collection.

Le chien des McNulty, vers 1910. On aperçoit le côté ouest de la rue Hutchison et la rue Durocher, ainsi que le mont Royal, en arrière-plan. Les photos de triplex en construction, pendant cette période, sont très rares. Collection Vicky Robinson.

The McNulty family dog, circa 1910. The west side of Hutchison Street, with Durocher Street and Mount-Royal in the background. Photos of triplexes under construction at that time are very rare. Vicky Robinson Collection.

Marcella and Babe found their freedom the following year, when their eldest sister married a widower 20 years older than she. This was Charles James Fox, advertising manager for The Gazette. They were both Anglicans, and it is possible they met as parishioners of the nearby Church of the Ascension, which had opened five years previously, on Park Avenue, just south of Saint-Viateur Street. After the wedding, Charles and Annie moved nearby, on Saint-Joseph Blvd, while Marcella and Babe left the Hutchison Street home to their brother William, who also married in 1910. They found a new home in another newly constructed triplex at 2567 Park Avenue (which would be 5887 in today’s numbering system). At the time Marcella and Babe were both stenographers, one for a lawyer, the other for a merchant. The Robinson brothers, John and Garnett, lived on the ground floor of the adjacent triplex. After a courtship of a few years, each successfully charmed one of the sisters. After their weddings in September 1915, the two families followed the typical life path of Montreal renters, moving several times, seeking cheaper or larger dwellings. The following generation moved to Rosemont after the Second World Ward. Following the death of Marcella in 1978, her granddaughter, Vicky, found old negatives forgotten in a safe belonging to her. This discovery has given us rare photographic memories, both of the life of a Mile End Irish family, and what the streets looked like at the beginning of the 20th century.

 

Marcella McNulty, sur le trottoir situé du côté ouest de la rue Hutchison, probablement devant le triplex où réside alors la famille, vers 1910. L'église de l'Ascension, avenue du Parc, est en arrière-plan. Collection Vicky Robinson.

Marcella McNulty, on the sidewalk on the west side of Hutchison, probably in front of the triplex where the family lived at the time, circa 1910. The Church of the Ascension, Park Avenue, is visible in the background. Vicky Robinson Collection.

Babe McNulty, sur le balcon arrière du logement de l’avenue du Parc, vers 1911-1915. Collection Vicky Robinson.

Babe McNulty, on the rear balcony of the Park Avenue flat, circa 1911-1915.

Notes:

  1. “Constable McNulty Killed by a Freight Train. Death of His Wife, and Recent Illness, It Is Thought, Might Have Preyed on Him”, The Gazette,May 6, 1901.