Mary Ellen McKinley and William Thompson

Back to Hugh McKinley and Jane Thompson

Carol (McVitty) Fleetwood daughter of David and Doris (Thompson) McVitty and granddaughter of William and Mary Ellen (McKinley) Thompson is the author of this page.


Mary Ellen McKinley was born on June 5th 1867 in the old McKinley homestead at Dromoske, Parish of Drumholm, Ballintra, Co. Donegal, Ireland. Mary Ellen was the eldest daughter of Hugh McKinley and Jane (Thompson) McKinley, and sister of John McKinley. They were Methodists. She went to school in Lacklum, just down the road from her home. According to her diary, her last day at school was 28th April 1885. In common with the young people of her day, she immigrated to America, to Boston, Massachusetts. Once again, from her diary: ‘What changes since I wrote last in this book. I am now in America over a month. Grandma and I started from home on the 20th April 1892 & sailed on the 21st in SS Prussian, Allan Line. Arrived in Boston on Wed mng. (sic) 4th May 1892. According to records, a Mary Thompson travelled with her Grandmother, Jane (Thompson) McKinley’s mother. Mary Ellen kept her diary of her time in Boston, where she took great delight in sightseeing and participating in activities with other members of her family who were there. Eventually, Mary met William Thompson son of William and Mary Thompson of Drumholm. It sounds as though William was a friend of Johnny’s. From her Diary: ‘Johnny came to spend Xmas with us which was Monday and W.Thompson gave me a present – a gold watch – & we had an understanding about our future which was giving matters a serious turn’ They were married on December 20th 1894 in Boston. William was also from Drumholm Parish, and it is very possible that they knew each other before emigrating. William played the trumpet in a Temperance Band in Boston. He was a very strong Methodist. Diary: ‘The previous Thursday we arranged to get married on 20th December. We were married in Dr. Bates parlour (276 Meridian St. E Boston) on 20th December 1894 about 4.30 pm. My sister Lizzie and brother Johnny drove with us to the Minister’s house. Dr. Bates is the Pastor of the Bromfield St. Church which I joined in Boston. Came up to Woburn on the next train to 73 Elm Street where I have been living ever since.’

Their first born, a little girl, Mary Jane died at birth February 27th 1896 and was buried April 11th 1896. On April 11th 1899. Their second child, Chester William McKinley Thompson was born in Woburn, Mass. Shortly after Chester was born, the family returned to Ireland, to Drumholm. There they built a fine house, begun in March 1900 which they called New Orchard. William took up farming. That would not have been so alien to him, as farming would have been in his blood. They went on to have 3 more children:

Eva Mary born July 13th 1903
Howard Edwin born August 24th 1905
Doris Elizabeth Maud born May 24th 1910.

Chester joined the Forces at the end of WW1 where he became a Pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, later to become the Royal Air Force. Although short, his flying career is well documented. He became an ‘Ace’ Pilot. Unfortunately he was shot down and taken prisoner over Germany on September 29 1918. His wounds were slight and he survived and was released after the Armistice. Later he graduated as an engineer from Queens University, Belfast and re – joined the RAF. He flew Spitfires at the start of WW2 then was assigned to Bomber Command in Scotland and attained the rank of Squadron Leader. Chester married Frances Porter from Londonderry and had one daughter, Mary. Sadly he was killed in a plane crash on September 15th 1940 in the Scottish Highlands and is buried at Kinross Abbey, Scotland. This happened the day after his father died.

Eva became a nurse in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. She married Dr. Roy Andrew Galey Hamilton and had two children John and Mary. The lived in England.

Howard immigrated to New York where her married Lillian and had one son William Fredrick (known as Freddie)

Doris stayed at home, where she attended the school in Ballintra. She would ride her donkey to the village school every day and stable him with her Aunts Frances and Susan McKinley who lived in Ballintra. After spending the War years in London where she worked for the Ministry of Defence she returned to Ireland and looked after her Aunt Susan in Ballintra until she died in 1946. Being alone, she was about to join her brother Howard in USA when she caught the eye of local farmer David McVitty. They were married in Kilbarron Church, Ballyshannon, Co.Donegal on 3rd September 1948. Doris’s cousin and great friend Bertha McKinley was her bridesmaid. Doris and David had two daughters, Caroline and Hilda. Doris died April 15th 1987 age 76 and David on October 2nd 1984 age 93. They are buried in Drumholm graveyard.

Mary Ellen died December 10th 1929 and William Thompson died 14th September 1940. They too are buried in Drumholm graveyard.

Family Photos

3 thoughts on “Mary Ellen McKinley and William Thompson

  1. My mother, Jean Madden Goss, has Uncle Chester’ s RAF wings given to her by him in London in 1937, when she was visiting the family with her mother, (my grandmother) Florence Graham Madden.
    When I was a twenty-year-old college student, I had dinner with Dr. Roy and Aunt Eva Hamilton at their lovely home in Hillingdon, a western suburb of London in the summer of 1972. I am the great-grandson of Andrew Graham and Rebecca Thompson Graham of Drumholm Parish, Donegal. They arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1909 and 1912 respectively, and lived in Everett, Mass., just north of Boston.

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