John Morrison Torrens

1877.3.11 to 1944.02.11 - A biography

Known to his friends as Jack, this, his biography is initially given in the form of a list of (most of) the documents in my possession together with some extracts from Jack's diaries. This is the easiest way to form the skeleton of a person's biography and it can be fleshed out in time.

The diary (or, rather, such extracts from it that I possess) are transcribed elsewhere as the John Morrison Torrens Diary Extracts.

I have a number of photographs of JMT, and ones taken by JMT. Some of these are available in the photo gallery.

As will become clear, my grandfather was a remarkable man. Pharmacist, chemist, dentist, microscopist, photographer, lecturer, lighting technician, violinist, organ builder, diarist, philanthropist, motorist and member of the Independent Order of Good Templars - he also acted as a father to his younger siblings after being left orphaned at age 18.

In 1897, at age 20, he took possession of the chemist's shop in Youghal which he ran until the family was expelled from Ireland by the IRA in 1922. Initially the shop was at 102 North Main Street. Later he moved to 85 Main Street.

Mother: Elizabeth (Jenny) Long (died 25th February 1895)

Father: Robert Jameson Torrens (10 February 1853 to 7 August 1896)

85 North Main Street

Place of birth. According to his birth certificate, John Morrison Torrens was born at George Street, Sligo on 11th March 1877. A separate page details what is known of his father, Robert Jameson Torrens.

6th June 1894.
JMT was apprenticed, for the sum of 50 pounds, to Richard Sunner of the Chemist's shop in Youghal to learn the profession of Pharmaceutical and Dispensing Chemist. The Indenture certificate is signed by JMT himself, his mother, Elizabeth Torrens, and by Richard Sunner. JMT was only 17. I have the Indenture document. It makes no mention of JMT's father, Robert Jameson.

There is a codicil on the bottom of this indenture, dated June 14th 1899, signed by Richard Sunner. It states

31 Patrick Street

I hereby certify that John Morrison Torrens has faithfully served his apprenticeship to my full satisfaction.

5th October 1894
A Certificate from the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland. JMT has passed the Preliminary examinations.

26th February 1895
6.0 a.m. JMT's mother, Jenny, dies. JMT is only 18. He has younger siblings:_

Elizabeth Martha (Lil) Torrensage 15(b. 8th Jan 1880)
Robert Gordon Torrensage 14(b. 18th July 1881)
Alice Eveline Mary (May) Torrensage 13(b. 27th November 1882
Hugh Merrick Torrensage 9(b. 3rd July 1886)

It has been reported that JMT acted as a father to his younger siblings.

3rd October 1897
A diary entry says 'Took possession of shop at 102 North Main Street'.

13th April 1898
Jno. M Torrens of Knockavenny, Youghal, Co. Cork was admitted as a member of Ireland Independent order of Good Templars.

4th June 1901
JMT Married Sarah Emma Devine in Youghal. JMT's father's profession was listed as 'Bank Officer' - which implies to me that the family did not yet know he was dead. Emma's father was George Devine 'Navy'. Witnesses george Devine and Lillie Devine (Elizabeth Emma World), Emma's mother.

24th April 1906
A diary entry says 'Removed to 85' - JMT's first shop was 102 N. Main St. 85 was a better location.

1st January 1907
An agreement made between the JMT and Hy. Long, cabinet maker and Richard W Long of NY. JMT leased to HL

All that portion of the house No 85 North Main Street Youghal formerly used as a Post Office but now in the possession of said JMT consisting of the furniture warehouse, workshops and stores as now used by said H L in connection with his business as Furniture Dealer

17th Jan 1907
£200 lent by JMT to pay off Mr Green's mortgage on old Post Office.

16th Sept 1907
Certificate to state that JMT is the proprietor of 3 shares of £1 each in The Youghal and Blackwater Tourist Steamer Company Ltd.

6th April 1909
A framed certificated declares that John Morrison Torrens has been made a Freeman of Youghal by reason of Birthright.

16th December 1920
A letter, signed J J Carroll, Capt from Co. Inspector's office thanked JMT for kindness to wounded officers on two recent occasions, on behalf of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

15th November 1922
Owner's Permit for Motor Vehicle, type New Hudson Cy 2½, Reg No WI 75.

14th December 1922 John Morrison Torrens received a notice from the IRA which said:

Notice to quit Ireland within 7 days or die

We hereby give you solemn
notice, to leave this country
within 7 days or forfeit your
life so take your choice
it's up to yourself, beware
for this is no idle threat

Signed J.K.A.

To add insult to this - JMT had to pay excess postage on the letter. [See Robert G Torrens notes on this affair]

18th July 1923
Driving permit no 300. JMT Age 46, Height 5-7½, Build: Slight, Hair: Light. A photograph is attached.

18th July 1923
Owner's Permit for Motor Vehicle. Type: Humber. Regd. No IF 527.

14th April 1925
Letter from freemasons. 'I am sorry to hear you are severing your connection with Chapter 68. etc.'

24th November 1931
A letter from Freemasons: regrets JMT's decision to leave Ireland and go to Bournemouth.

4th December 1931
Solicitor's bill from John L Keane and son: costs totalling £18/8/0 re sale of 85 North Main St to Westbury

4th April 1934
Agreement between Harold Maurice Soffe and JMT (of Glenthorne, Dudsbury Avenue, Ferndown, Dorset), Dentist, re lease of Glendower, Victoria Rd, Ferndown.

18th October 1934
Death certificate, Sarah Emma Torrens
Cause of death given as 'Shock, multiple injuries and burns as a result of a collision between motor cars.' The accident occurred at Cadnam in the New Forest and there are some photographs of the vehicle in the papers. Em died at Royal South Hants and Southampton Hospital. More details are Sarah Emma (Divine) Torrens notes.

11th November 1943 Richard John Torrens (author of this www site, and grandson to John Morrison Torrens) was born.

22nd February 1944
John Morrison Torrens died.
An obituary note written my father (JMT's son) Robert George Torrens states:

John Morrison Torrens

On Sunday 20th February 1944, we picked JMT up at Ferndown Crossroads and took him to Hampreston for the Christening of his grandson Richard John. After the ceremony we all returned to 85 Wimborne Road. About 5.30 JMT and I left to see a dental case of particular interest. On the way, he complained of the cold and a tight feeling in his chest, and said that he was feeling tired. After traversing the long corridor of the Hospital he complained of shortness of breath, and had to sit down on the way out. Leaving him at his house, I suggested that he should see his doctor on the morrow, and he returned home. On Monday he saw a number of patients and appeared quite fit, although he remarked to one of them that he was feeling tired and would like a holiday, but there was no indication that anything was wrong. On Tuesday morning at 4.30 a.m. Dr Courtin phoned me from Glendower, and informed me that JMT had called his housekeeper and giving her the phone number, had asked her to call him. He arrived there about 4.15 and father passed away a short while afterwards.

That day, of course, I had very little time for anything except seeing people and arranging necessary details.

On Thursday, his remains were brought to St. Mary's Church, Ferndown for the service at 11.30, and were afterwards interred at Boscombe cemetery in his wife's grave. The Rector, Mr. Peverelle, paid an eloquent and appreciative tribute during the service. He would have reached his 68th birthday in three weeks time. Needless to say, the sudden and unexpected nature of his departure has been an immense shock to us all

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Page's Author: Richard John Torrens
Page first published 2001.
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