Home Limerick People Interviews Last in line of famous Vanderkiste family visits Limerick

Last in line of famous Vanderkiste family visits Limerick

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It is always a joy to welcome visitors to Limerick but on certain occasions those we welcome can turn out to have far more of a connection to the city than one may initially have imagined. This week I was delighted to meet with Sheila and Peter Finch. Sheila and Peter knocked on the door of Number 2 Pery Square hoping to see the house. It didn’t take long to realise that these were no ordinary visitors.
Sheila and Peter are based in Devon in South of England. Their visit to Limerick has particular significance for Sheila as she is the very last in the long line of the well-known Vanderkiste family. In fact it was her ancestor who was to inherit the famous No.2 Pery Square in the Pery Tontine sweepstake.
“I have always wanted to come to Limerick because I knew my father was born here”, Sheila told us. “It was only over the past few years during which I was researching my family’s history that I realised the significance No.2 Pery Square has for my family. My father was born just around the corner in No.13 Barrington St. When I researched my family tree I started to get some understanding of my father’s lineage”. 
Sheila and Peter spent some time living in Cyprus and had a very good friend there who originated from Ennis. She had started the process of researching her own family history. During a visit to Ireland this friend took some time to visit Limerick on our behalf. “She discovered what was then known the Georgian House museum”, Sheila says. “During her visit she noticed the name Vanderkiste and knew there must be some association with my family and the house”.
Sheila’s father had told her he had been born in Limerick but that was really all Sheila knew about his background. “He didn’t tell me there was such a rich history connected with my family name. I did know there was a Vanderkiste tomb or memorial located in the grounds of St Mary’s Cathedral”, she says.
“My father had been in the Royal Air Force. He had joined up as a pilot during the Second World War. He had a long Air Force career. His career choice brushed off on me and just after leaving school I also joined the Air Force. I spent a number of years working there and eventually left to bring up my family”.
“My father was a Wing Commander in the Royal Air Force And flew Sunderland flying boats out of Northern Ireland and Scotland during the war. His name Robert Edgar Guy Van der Kiste appears as the fourth son of Freegift Willliam (the first) on the family tree”.
We gave Sheila a tour of Culture House, the former home of Sophia Vanderkiste, as well as taking her around what is now No.1 Pery  Boutique Hotel where one of the bedrooms has been christened the ‘Vanderkiste Room’.
The VanDerKiste memorial located in grounds of St Mary’s Cathedral

Many thanks also to Sharon Slater from Limerick City Archives who gave Sheila and Peter some historical background to the Vanderkiste family and a tour so some key sites relating to the family history.
Here is some very interesting information on the Pery Square Tontine with thanks to Limerick City Archives.
The Pery Tontine sweepstake has a very interesting history.  In order to provide sufficient finance for the build of the houses overlooking Pery Square, a so-called ‘charter-party’ was formed, which became known as the Pery Square Tontine Company. The ‘company was established on 11 August 1840 and the articles of agreement by which it was set up, signed by twenty- three men. They included Edmond Sexton Pery and members of the Barrington Family.
The Larger Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘tontine’ as ‘A financial scheme by which the subscribers to a loan, or common fund, receive each an annuity during his life, which increases as their number is diminished by death, until the last survivor enjoys the whole income; it is also applied to the share or right of each subscriber’.
When the Pery Tontine sweepstake began in 1840 the Vanderkiste family were rank outsiders. They were tenants of the company, not shareholders. The records show that a John Vanderkiste shared the house at 1 Pery Square with Daniel Barrington. These two men were related by marriage. Daniel Barrington died in 1843 and John Vanderkiste took over his role as Land Agent to the Earl of Limerick. Years later, following the death of Alderman Henry Watson in 1860, he was asked by the shareholders to take over the day to day administration of the Pery Square Tontine Company. John Vanderkiste took up residence at 6 Pery Square in 1870 and remained there until his death in 1892.
During his lifetime, he and his brother William began to buy shares in the Pery Tontine. By 1883 they had acquired 23 shares in the company. John Vanderkiste died without children and his shares were passed to his borther William who died in 1908. He left all his shares to his widow, Sophia Vanderkiste. It proved to be a lucky inheritance.
Sheila outside Vanderkiste suite at One Pery Hotel
Ironically the founder of the Vanderkiste family in Ireland was named ‘Freegift’ William Vanderkiste in a marriage certificate dated 1813 in Cork. His unusual forename was a happy portent for his descendants. William Vanderkiste moved with his wife and family to Limerick in the 1820’s to take up an appointment as Comptroller of the Port of Limerick. One hundred years after his wedding day, his daughter Sophia Vanderkiste was given the title deeds to the houses of 1, 2 and 3 Pery Square, as part of her Tontine ‘winnings’ in 1913. 
Sophia Vanderkiste ended up as the biggest winner in the Pery Tontine lottery. She held three of the six remaining shares in the company.
She might have ended up with four shares. One of her four nominees, Joseph Thomas Barrington, died early in 1913, aged 79 years. The nominees of the other three remaining shares were also at an advanced age. Sarah Keating, was aged 86 years, Caroline Grubb was aged 75 and HRH Princess Augusta was aged 91 years.
The gamble on the longevity of the nominees puts the ethics and morality of Tontine schemes into sharp focus. At least the nominees of the Pery Square Tontine shareholders died of natural causes.
The last report of Sophia Vanderkiste in Limerick was in January 1919 when she sold 2 Pery Square to Stephen and Mina McCarthy. She would have been aged 83 years.

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