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Irish twin brothers will be buried in pauper’s graves unless next of kin is found

Our lady of Muswell Church where Mr Kelly was a regular at Mass
Our Lady of Muswell Roman Catholic Church where Mr William Kelly was a regular at Mass

THE IRISH community in North London is attempting to trace the next of kin for twin brothers from Cork, Ireland who died within weeks of each other.

The bodies of William and John Kelly, 77, are currently lying unclaimed in two separate morgues in the city.

William, known as Bill, from Turner’s Cross in the south of Cork City, died on January 29 in Muswell Hill, north London.

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It was only when his friend Margaret Deeney went in search of a relative that is was discovered that his estranged twin brother John, who lived in Archway, had also passed away.

“They had a sister Mary who died about two years ago,” Mrs Deeney explained. “We found out through the undertakers from her funeral that there was another brother called John and we got his address to let him know Bill had passed away.”

Mrs Deeney, after consulting the priest at her local church, Our Lady of Muswell, went to Archway to inform John about his brother’s death.

When she got no answer, she called to a neighbour to ask him to let John Kelly know she had called.

“He rang me the next morning and said that he started to worry once I’d left about what happened to John,” she said explaining how the neighbour realised it had been some time since he’d seen the Irishman.

“He told me he rang an ambulance and they couldn’t gain access to the house and then the police were called and they made their way inside and found that John had died too.”

His body is now lying in the coroner’s office in Hornsey, also awaiting a next of kin to come forward.

The twins were estranged for a number of years before their deaths.

Born on August 27, 1938, the Kellys came to London around the age of 18.

Both men are described as quite reclusive, so little is known about their early years in the English capital.

Scroll down to find out more about The Irish Post’s fundraiser for the Kelly Twins…

The Kelly twins came from Cork City to London. Picture via Ireland's Content Pool
The Kelly twins came from Cork City to London. Picture via Ireland’s Content Pool

“William suffered from mental health issues for a number of years,” his social worker Elizabeth Blanch told The Irish Post.

“He worked in Marks and Spencer as a porter but left work because of his health problems. He was living in his current flat for 10 years, he told me, and I never remember seeing any personal items in it.”

Bill moved into sheltered accommodation at Cranley Dene Court in Muswell Hill in 2006.

With his pension, he enjoyed a pint and occasionally betting on horses – and Mrs Deeney remembered him as a very honest man.

“If he borrowed a fiver for a drink he would come straight back to you with it once his pension came in,” she said.

Bill was also a devout Catholic – rarely missing Mass in Our Lady of Muswell Catholic Church.

But despite years of Mrs Deeney and the other members of the Irish community in the area being friends with him, he never spoke about his personal life.

Mrs Deeney and her fellow parishioners in Muswell Hill are hoping a family member of the Kelly twins comes forward, before the brothers are buried in pauper’s graves.

As it stands, Bill’s remains are being held at the hospital mortuary in Whittington Hospital; while John’s are believed to be in Hornsey Coroner’s Office.

“The hope is of course to find someone belonging to them,” Mrs Deeney told The Irish Post.

“But if not, we’d like to bury them together in the one funeral.”

A spokesperson for Whittington Hospital, where Bill’s remains lie, said: We are in the process of using a company called Finders, to see if they can locate any family for Mr Kelly

“If this is unsuccessful or no one wishes to claim the body, then we will arrange a burial.”

If you have information that could help please get on touch or 020 8900 4354.

For more information or to contribute to our GoFundMe page click here

UPDATE: Read our updated story about the Kelly twins here


James Mulhall

James Mulhall is a reporter with The Irish Post. Follow him on Twitter @JamzMulhall

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14 comments on “Irish twin brothers will be buried in pauper’s graves unless next of kin is found”

  1. Patricia O'Sullivan

    Very sad that these brothers died estranged and living so close to each other. Many Irish emigrants have ended up like they did - alone, lost and isolated in a big city. They were a common sight in Kilburn and Cricklewood in the 80s - zigzagging back to their bedsits from the pubs. Remnants of a time past when shy, Irish countrymen sought a living on "the buildings" in London where they were mostly despised and shunned. The UK is not an easy country to fit into even if you are well equipped with social graces. But why the shame of a "pauper's grave"?! Is that not a derogatory term that should remain in the ashes of "Holy Catholic Ireland"? I want to be cremated in a box, without ceremony, in protest against such snobbery.

    • Tim Kelly

      What a very jaundiced view, Patricia. Many of my family worked on the building sites as far back as the 50s and 60's. They did not flit from bedsit to pub as you suggest, nor were they looked down upon, shunned or despised. In fact, they and many others settled in the UK with English neighbours with whom they developed rich and life long friendships and lived dignified and productive lives with both groups cross-fertilising eachothers' cultures. No country is easy to fit into when mental health is impaired, not just the UK. I fail to see how your preferred cremation will serve any purpose, except to feed your own ego which will of course also be extinct.

  2. Fiona O'Sullivan

    Shared on Facebook in the Cork area , I have family from Turners Cross who are also sharing

    • Thea

      I am from Turners Cross too and have copied it to my family who are sharing. RIP.

  3. Aine Ni Nualláin

    What an awful article I have just read. I lived in London (South) for 40 years and cannot believe that the Irish community has changed so much so as to not 'muck in and help. I see they attended the Catholic Church in Muswell and surely was known to the parish priest there - has he been contacted? ( Our priest in South London knew everyone attending the church where we attended ) Its an awful thing to read that ' a person - a recluse or not ' would be buried in a pauper's grave ( I thought that phrase was all in the past). I hope there are some relatives or people out there so that the brothers can have a decent burial in the church they obviously loved so much.

  4. Gerry Molumby

    As a housing support worker in London and Nottingham I have organised funerals for older Irish men with no known next of kin and was the only person alongside the priest at two of these funerals. My understanding is that so called paupers graves are just graves with more than one person in there i.e opened and when full to the designated number is then closed. Council paid funerals are the same as any other person's , a hearse , pallbearers etc. The person's last resting place is fully recorded for posterity but without a headstone.

  5. Gerry Molumby

    As a housing support worker in London and Nottingham I have organised funerals for older Irish men with (after searching ) no known next of kin. Along with the priest I was the only other person at two of these funerals. Council paid funerals are the same as any other person's funeral with a hearse ,pall bearers etc. My understanding of a paupers grave is that it contains a designated number of coffins and then filled in. The person's last resting place is recorded for posterity but without a headstone .

  6. Anne

    God Bless them both.....lets hope they can be re-united in burial as was in birth xxx Deo Gratias

  7. HeirHunter UK

    We've decided to have a look at this on our night shift tonight.

    John J Kelly & William F Kelly, their mothers maiden was Murphy.

  8. Mary Hackett

    Their mother's maiden name was Murphy, in case this will help anybody to locate the family.

  9. Leslie Lawson

    There are a number of Forensic Genealogists in Ireland. You might approach them for help.

  10. Maria

    Sharing in Cork city

  11. P.F.McDonogh

    If the brothers grew up in Turners Cross the could have been Baptised in Christ King Church Turners Cross
    If age at death 77 then born 1939 / 1940. A search for Kelly's in the Baptism records for this period (should not take too long) at Christ King might come up with the brothers
    If they grew up in Turners Cross they very likely went to Christ King school(s) first with nuns and then the boys school next door. If not try South Monastery or even Sullivan's Quay. CA search of the records could help

  12. Cathy Allgood

    Does it really matter where they are buried. Their spirits have left their bodies and their bodies are now just empty shells


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