William Magrath

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William Magrath (1838-1918).

Irish-American watercolour painter, apparently named in the Chief Constable's Special Branch Register:[1]

  • "McGrath, William - suspicious Irishman at 57 Bedford Gardens"
  • "McGrath, William - said to be connected to Whitechapel murders".


William Magrath was born on 20 March 1838 at Cork,[2][3] and attended the Cork School of Art.[3] He emigrated to the United States in 1855, sailing from Liverpool on or about 4 July.[2] He appears to have lived in Albany, New York State,[4] and later had a studio in New York City from 1868.[5] He was a member of the American Society of Painters in Water Colors from 1868,[6] and was elected an Associate Member of the National Academy in 1873[5] and an Academician in 1876.[3]

In 1879 he moved to England.[3] At the time of the 1881 census he was living in the household of Georgina Harriet Wastell at 135 Gower Street, described as a widower,[7] and in 1883 his address was given as care of Charles Booth, 98 Gower Street.[8] He exhibited three works at the Cork Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition of 1883.[9] In the same year he returned to the U.S.A. and established a studio in Washington D.C.[3] He was naturalized as a citizen of the U.S.A. at Washington on 3 June 1886.[2]

Following another trip to Europe he returned from Liverpool to New York on the ship Britannic the following year, arriving on 28 October 1887.[10]

Having been commissioned to produce illustrations for a new edition of Samuel Lover's poem, "The Low-Back'd Car," he visited England and Ireland for six months in 1888.[11] Late in the year he was listed as one of a number of artists at 57 Bedford Gardens, Kensington.[12] He then sailed home from Liverpool to New York on the ship Egypt, arriving on 22 December.[13]

In 1889 he moved from Washington back to New York City,[5] but in June 1890 he again left the U.S.A., on the ship Arizona, arriving in Queenstown (now Cobh), county Cork, in July, and spending at least the next two years in England and Ireland. On 26 April 1892 he applied for a passport at the American Legation in London, describing himself as temporarily resident at 115 Gower Street, and saying that he intended to return to the U.S.A. within a year.[2] He was described as about to leave for America in November 1893.[14]

He was living at 11 East 14th Street, New York City, at least between 1908 and 1910.[15] He later moved to 168 Taylor Street, West New Brighton, New York, but was in England in 1915.[16] He died in London on 12 or 13 February 1918.[17]


  1. Lindsay Clutterbuck, An Accident of History? The Evolution of Counter Terrorism Methodology in the Metropolitan Police from 1829 to 1901, With Particular Reference to the Influence of Extreme Irish Nationalist Activity, p. 264 (University of Portsmouth, Ph. D. Thesis, 2002).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Passport application, 26 April 1892.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, eds, Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biography, vol. 4, p. 175 (1888), available at Google Books.
  4. David Bernard Dearinger, Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design: 1826-1925, p. 223 (2004), says that the Irish-American artist Edward Gay became part of a group of young Albany artists including Magrath, apparently in or around the late 1850s.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Peter Hastings Falk, ed., Who Was Who in American Art: Artists Active Between 1898-1947, p. 391 (1985).
  6. The First One Hundred Years Membership Roster of the American Watercolor Society, on the Society's website.
  7. RG 11/168, f. 8v; p 10.
  8. Institute of Painters in Water Colours, A Catalogue of the 65th Exhibition, p. 58 (1883), available at The Internet Archive.
  9. Cork Art History (1876-1900), on the website of The Crawford Art Gallery, Cork.
  10. Passenger list (Microfilm roll: M237_513; line: 47; list number: 1396).
  11. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, p. 25 (December 1889), available at Google Books.
  12. The Post Office London Directory for 1889, p. 177. It appears that the houses in Bedford Gardens have been renumbered, and that the old number 57 is now number 77. F. H. W. Sheppard, ed., The Survey of London, vol. 37, p. 80 (1973) (available at British History Online), says of this building, "Of the later houses, the most interesting is No. 77, which was built in 1882–3 by Perry and Company of Bow to the designs of R. Stark Wilkinson to contain ten studios, some with living quarters attached."
  13. Passenger list (Microfilm roll: M237_528; line: 47; list number: 1690).
  14. Cork Examiner, 24 November 1893, cited in Cork Art History (1876-1900), on the website of The Crawford Art Gallery, Cork. Magrath was exhibiting three works at the Crawford School of Art, where he had studied as a boy, and the exhibition was about to end because of his departure.
  15. Florence N. Levy, ed., American Art Annual, vol. 6, p. 381 (1908), available at Google Books; Who's who in New York City and State, p. 890 (4th edn, 1909), available at Google Books; Albert Nelson Marquis, ed., Who's Who In America, vol. 6, 1910-1911 (1910), available at Google Books.
  16. Florence N. Levy, ed., American Art Annual, vol. 14, p. 549 (1917), available at Google Books.
  17. Index entry for the death of William Magrath, aged 79 (March quarter 1918, Willesden, 3a 314); Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, series 2, vol. 24, pp. 45-47 (1918); Artists of the World Online database.