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Jameson and Guinness
Jameson and Guinness


by: John Jameson, with considerable help from Rupert Jameson and Marjorie (Gibbon) Jameson


It's not just at your local tavern or pub where both Jamesons and Guinnesses have come together, but also in marriage, such as at St. George's Church in Dublin in 1844, when William Jameson, grandson of John Jameson, founder of the Irish Whiskey company that bears his name, married Elizabeth Guinness, granddaughter of Arthur Guinness, the founder of the Guinness brewing dynasty, which also began in the mid-1700s.

William Jameson was born in Dublin, the second day of February in 1811. He was the fourth child born to John and Isabella Jameson and part of the second generation from this Scottish family of Jamesons to be living in Ireland, although he was one of the first generation actually born there.

William grew up in what was a privileged and well educated family with access to everything Dublin had to offer, including friends in the highest places. His was an influential family of that time, although based in industry, not that of royalty or peerage. His youth would have been with both a large immediate and extended Dublin family. He would have spent most of his younger days in and around his family home on Prussia Street, not far from the Jameson Distillery works, in what is now an historic district of Dublin, on the north side of the River Liffey. William attended Trinity College, in Dublin, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1832 and a Master of Arts in 1836. Eventually joining the ministry of the Church of Ireland.

We don't exactly know how he met his wife, Elizabeth Guinness, although it would be safe to say that his family and the Guinness family would have likely mingled in similar social and economic environments, as well as in the same physical area of Dublin.

She was the fifth daughter and eighth child of Arthur Hart and Anna (Lee) Guinness, of the famous Guinness Dublin Brewers. Her family was from the Beaumont area of Dublin, a little farther north and east of William's Jameson family, but given the two families similar circumstances of that time, it is not difficult to see how there would have been ample opportunities for them to have known each other.

The merger in marriage of these two famous families, however, became somewhat of an ironic paradox when neither William Jameson, born to the Jameson family of whiskey distillers, and Elizabeth Guinness, his wife, who was born into the Guinness family of beer brewers, both bearing their respective iconic surnames, were never, by their own choice of conscious, actually involved with or any part of their respective family businesses. Nor, for that matter, were any of their four children, or apparently any of their descendants, ever again connected to that which had made their names so famous.

There was a significant temperance movement in Ireland during the 1830s, a time when both William and Elizabeth became of age. Turns out William and Elizabeth were part of this temperance movement. We don't know when that began, but probably sometime around the time William decided to join the church, maybe earlier when he was at University. Perhaps that involvement helped lead to his decision to join the church, or maybe it was the other way around. However, by the time William and Elizabeth were married they made the decision that they would not be involved with either of their family businesses and relinquished all income and any future profits from those businesses. Probably not an easy thing to do, when your surnames are so closely associated with something you consciously and morally oppose.

Typically, one would assume this was most likely an embarrassment within both families and must have made for uncomfortable family gatherings and other functions. However, that doesn't seem to have been entirely the case with this family. Although they obviously did not share in the benefits of wealth and the status or access that might bring, family connections, apparently, remained strong and there are many stories of friendship and relationships that endured for generations. In fact, it was sometimes said that family connections were so big that most of the parties and dances were peopled almost entirely by Jameson and Guinness cousins.

However different William and Elizabeth's lives may have been, compared to either of their other respective families, they seemed to do just fine, although certainly lacking the opulence or opportunities of their siblings and cousins. 

William and Elizabeth first lived at their comparatively modest estate, on the road to Drumcondra, in Hollybank, just north of that area of Dublin where William grew up. It was here that their children were all born. William was the Chaplin at Mount Joy Prison, the Women's Penitentiary, at Crowley Place, Dublin, as well as functioning in various other capacities as clergy in the Church of Ireland.

After dame school, their two sons were sent away, to Blackheath Proprietary School, in England and William and Elizabeth, with their two daughters moved to Biarritz, France where William was the Chaplin at the English Church, the boys traveling there from London, on school holidays.

The family returned to Ireland, in the 1870's, settling near Milltown, living in a house on the Donnybrook to Stillorgan Road, on the southside of Dublin, close to St. Phillip's Church where William became the Rector. They remained in that area, although moving into a smaller house in Roebuck Grove, after the children moved out on their own. William died in 1886 while in England. Elizabeth died, in 1897, when she was at her daughter, Isabella's home in Clonskeagh Castle, Milltown. 

So, if you ever have the occasion to indulge in the pleasures of either (or both) of the efforts these famous families created, you may want to stop for a moment and reflect upon how William and Elizabeth changed their lives and sacrificed so much because of their own convictions on the very subject their respective surnames iconically provoked. There were others who followed, notably those missionary Guinness families of the latter nineteenth century, who also chose to abandon their family's fortunes, but it was William and Elizabeth, because of their connection to both the Jameson and Guinness families, who stand out as so profound, and so ironic.

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