The Davis family

The first Davis ancestor recorded was Thomas Davis of Youghal. His son was James Davis, Captain of the 8th Royal Irish Dragoons, who married Margaret McDonagh, the daughter of James McDonagh of Longford and Elizabeth Armstrong of Moydoo, Co. Longford.

James and Margaret had five sons: Thomas, who married Jane Roddy of Longford in 1817; William Alexander Davis; Richard Davis, born 1805 in Coventry, England, and married Jane Wallace of Boyle; John Davis, born 1807 in Longford, married and went to Canada; and George Davis, born 1810 and died young. Their daughters were Margaret Anne Davis, who married her nephew Thomas Davis, a son of Thomas and Jane Roddy; Ellen Davis, who married Daniel S. Stacy in Fermoy, Co. Cork; and Elizabeth Davis, who died young.

William Alexander Davis, MD (1798-1877)

William, the second son of James and Margaret, was born in 1798 at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. After he qualified as a doctor he commenced practice in Newry in 1823. From as early as 1830 he was recorded as a surgeon and apothecary at 6 Sugar Island. When the Union Workhouse was built in 1841, he was appointed its medical attendant, and was able to keep mortality lower than any other establishment of a similar kind in Ireland. When he offered his resignation because of ill-health four months before his death, it was sympathetically declined by the Board of Guardians in the vain hope that he would be able to resume his duties in the future. He was well known as a determined foe of alcoholic stimulants in the cure of disease and this feature of his professional success was referred to in temperance literature as a precedent other medical men should follow.

William married Jemima McBride of Alistragh, Co. Armagh in 1834. They had four sons, all of whom became doctors, and four daughters: James; Alice Jane, who married Walter Scott of Newry; William Hancock, who married Sarah Beech of Tean, Staffordshire; Mary Margaret, who married Abraham Walker Sinclair; George McBride, Richard, Jemima and Fanny Matilda, all of whom were unmarried.

William was considered a reserved and somewhat distant man, but he was held in high esteem in Newry. He died in 1877 and was interred in the family vault at St. Patrick’s Churchyard, Newry, together with his wife Jemima, daughter Jemima, George McBride and Fanny. Their son Richard died of typhoid fever aged 32 years at Exminster. Devon, in 1880, and was buried there. A plaque recording these interments was also erected in St. Mary’s Church, Newry.

Surgeon-Major-General James Davis (1835-1903)

James was born in 1835 and studied at the College of Surgeons, Dublin. He entered the army in 1858 and posted as assistant surgeon to the 57th Regiment, which was in India at the time. When his ship was lying in Bombay harbour, he jumped into the sea and saved the life of a soldier, for which he was awarded the silver medal of the Royal Humane Society. He left India for New Zealand with the regiment and rose through the ranks of the Army Medical Service to become a Surgeon-Major-General in 1894. Whilst in India he created a remedy he called “camphorodyne”, which was introduced to all hospitals in India. He married Clara Agnes Elizabeth Nixon, daughter of Major Nixon of Wangami, New Zealand, and they had four children. He retired in 1895 and died in 1903 at Southsea.

Colonel George McBride Davis, CB, DSO (1846-1909)

George McBride was born in 1846 and spent most of his years in the army. From 1866 he was connected with the Indian Medical Service. He entered the Bengal Medical Service in 1869 and was promoted surgeon-colonel in 1897. He was selected as chief medical officer to the China Field Force during the Boxer Rising, and was principal medical officer for the Punjaub Field Force. He was present at a number of engagements and received the CB for participating in the march down the Bara, for which he was mentioned in despatches. He died in retirement in 1909 at the house of his nephew, Dr George Scott, in Wimbledon.


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The memorial to Dr. William Alexander Davis in St. Mary’s Church, Newry.

Colonel George McBride Davis, RAMC, photographed by John Blees in India.

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