UK family appeals for help to track down Irish granny with Cork connections

UK family appeals for help to track down Irish granny with Cork connections
Picture via Sharon Burnell

A family in the UK has reached out on Irish radio to try to solve the mystery of their Cork-born grandmother's disappearance in the late 1950s.

Nora Manning, originally from Mallow and born in September 1936, moved to Lemington Spa in Britain in the 1950s.

Nora is the maternal grandmother of Sharon Burnell who spoke to Patricia Messinger on C103’s Cork Today Show in the hope of getting some information on Nora.

Sharon’s mother, Margaret, was born to Nora and William 'Tony' Anthony O’Donovan (all three pictured below) but they separated before Margaret's birth. Nora was about 19 when she met Tony. 

"They split up just before my mum was born (in 1955)," Sharon said.

"My mum’s mum (Nora) was actually in Lemington Spa (when she became pregnant) so she was taken from there back to Mallow to have my mum... She had my mum two and a half months early."

Nora returned to Lemington Spa, with Margaret, but the couple had already split up by then.

Sharon continues: "My mum never, ever, ever met her dad. And then Nora went back to Lemington to work and she just disappeared around about 1958. She’s never really been seen since. No one’s ever heard from her.

"My mum doesn’t know any of the O’Donovan (Tony's) side of the family whatsoever."

After a few years, Nora’s brother Rocky came and said Margaret had to return to Ireland for school and to live with their mother, Margaret's grandmother. That was the last time Margaret saw Nora. 

However, when Margaret's grandmother fell ill, she moved back to Lemington and was raised by Nora's siste, at which time Nora had already disappeared.

’Tony’ O’Donovan was originally from Cobh but died in London in 1967 and was buried in Cobh when Margaret was young.

When he died, 12-year-old Margaret attended his funeral, despite having never known her father, hoping that Nora might turn up, but she did not.

Margaret was once told by her grandmother (Nora’s mother) that Nora was in Canada, but Sharon said her family have no idea if it is true.

Nora would be 81 - if she is still alive - and has two siblings still alive, one in Lemington and another in Wales.

Sharon said the family took out ads in papers in England and Ireland at the time of her disappearance and have searched online and via insurance numbers to try and track her down, but with no luck.

Sharon hopes that by going public someone might come forward with information.

"If William (Tony) went on to have any more children, my mother could have some brothers and sisters. And if Nora had any children after my mom she’d have brothers and sisters on that side.

"We know most of the Mannings because they’re quite a tight-knit family, it’s just Nora that disappeared.

"If she found out William had died, she may well have got married again."

Sharon said the situation upsets her mother ’immensely’.

"It upsets her a lot and I’d love to find out some information for her, whether she (Nora) is here or not."

Below is the full email Sharon sent to Patricia Messinger’s Cork Today Show on C103.

"I’m trying to track down my mum’s mum, my grandma. Nora Manning, she was born on the 17th September 1936 and disappeared 57 years ago on a night between June and August 1959.

"Nora was from Mallow County Cork, 11 Connolly Avenue, originally but moved to Leamington spa in roughly 1957/58, she worked a Lockheed on Tatchbrook road before she vanished.

"Nora married a man called William Anthony O’Donovan (known as Tony) in February 1955, however they separated before my mum was born. Nora was the youngest of 7 brothers and sisters they were called Wacca (real name Paddy) Biddy, Kit, Joe, Johnny, Rocky and Mary, all of whom have died apart from Rocky and Mary.

"Nora disappeared on an evening between 6pm and midnight from Euston place in Leamington, when her sister Mary was working, she has never been seen since. Nora’s husband my mum’s dad William died when my mum was 12 years old, he was buried in Cobh in Ireland, my mum attended the funeral however she never knew him, and has never seen any of that side of the family since that day.

"My mum was christened Margaret Josephine Mary O’Donovan she was born on the 30th October 1955 in Mallow County Cork, she was raised by her nana Molly (Mary) Bridget in Mallow, till she moved to Leamington when she was almost 13, we are hoping that someone somewhere knows something, my mum is very close to the rest of her mothers family, this is our last chance to try and find her, the family have tried many times before but with no success.

"My mum was once told that Nora had moved to Canada, however we do not know if this is true. My mum has 2 children, myself and my brother, she also has 2 beautiful grandchildren.

"The photos are the only photos we have, Nora is holding my mum who is roughly 2 years old in the photo, the man is her father William. If anyone knows anything about either side of the family please get in touch."

More in this Section

'Any authoritative figure could pose a threat' - Call for pathway to residency for undocumented immigrants'Any authoritative figure could pose a threat' - Call for pathway to residency for undocumented immigrants

Man due in court in connection with robbery at Cork service stationMan due in court in connection with robbery at Cork service station

Man, 70s, dies in Co Cork crash Man, 70s, dies in Co Cork crash

Gerry Adams to appeal against prison escape convictions at UK Supreme CourtGerry Adams to appeal against prison escape convictions at UK Supreme Court


Tis the season for sequins and excess, but minimalists can stick to their style guns in the season’s next level neutrals. From low-key glitz that’s perfect for party wear to the wardrobe heroes with trans-seasonal appeal, slide into neutral for maximum style with minimal effort. Carolyn Moore reports.Low-key glitz for minimalists with this season's neutrals

How to plump, hydrate and get rid of spots fast before your Christmas party.Getting your quick fix for the festive party season

Irish photographer Seamus Murphy brought music star PJ Harvey to Afghanistan to film part of their documentary, writes Esther McCarthy.Headlong into the war zone in new documentary

Kya deLongchamps shows us how to champion our environmentWinter greens: How to champion our environment this season

More From The Irish Examiner