Downs, Catherine

Also known as: Downs, Kathleen


Collection date: Oct 1908

Area: London

Kathleen (Catherine) Downs at Marylebone workhouse: Sharp collected 2 songs (FT1977, 1995) from a Kathleen Downs in Oct 1908 and returned to the workhouse in Apr 1909 to collect a further song (FT2116) from Catherine Downs. It is likely that they are in fact one singer. Sharp said she was aged 78 but this seems an understatement (see below):

Catherine Downs was admitted to the Marylebone workhouse in Dec 1897 and her age was recorded as 73 (presumed birth date 1824). She was described as 'destitute' with no occupation. In the 1901 workhouse census p18 she was listed as age 77 and 'married'. In the 1911 workhouse census p77 it says ‘age 87, married 64 years 9 children (4 surviving, 5 dead), occupation milk carrier, b Limerick'. This detail of her previous job makes her song 'Pretty maid milking her cow' (Roud3139) somewhat poignant.

At the moment her husband cannot be found either in the workhouse or in the community after 1891. He is presumed to be John Downs, agricultural labourer. John and Catherine are listed in the 1861, 1871 and 1891 censuses living in the Greenwich area of London. In each census her birthplace of Limerick is mentioned.

Details of her birth, her maiden name and date of death are yet to be traced.

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