Who was Georgina Frost?
Georgina Frost was born in Sixmilebridge on 29 December 1879. She was one of five children born to Thomas Frost (1842-1938) and his wife Margaret Kett (died 1888). Her father was the Petty Sessions Clerk for Sixmilebridge and Newmarket-on-Fergus. The family lived at Garna House in the centre of Sixmilebridge village in County Clare.
From 1909, Georgina assisted her father in his duties. In 1915, her father retired, and local magistrates appointed her as her father’s successor. But the Lord Lieutenant would not give his assent to her appointment on the grounds of ‘decorum’ and blocked attempts on a temporary contract.
Georgina then appealed to the Chancery Division in Dublin, but the Chancery upheld the Lord Lieutenant’s ruling. The case was further appealed to the House of Lords. Events soon overtook the case. The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 had become law. It removed any legal bar to her taking up the position. Georgina Frost’s appointment as Clerk of Petty Sessions for Sixmilebridge and Newmarket-on-Fergus in April 1920, was the first time a woman in the United Kingdom held such a public office.
Her appointment came at the height of the Irish War of Independence. During that time the East Clare Brigade IRA were particularly active. She was “held up” at gunpoint by the IRA on one occasion while travelling between Newmarket-on-Fergus and Sixmilebridge. The courthouse in Newmarket-on-Fergus was destroyed during this time, while the RIC station near her house in Sixmilebridge was raided by the IRA.
We don’t know anything about Georgina’s political sympathies. But, while researching Cumann na mBan member Kathleen Griffin’s autograph book, we came across a reference to Georgina Frost attending the funeral of one of Kathleen’s friends, a Cumann na mBan comrade, in 1922.
Sadly, her position was abolished by the Irish Free State in 1923 and she was awarded a pension of £4 per month.
Georgina Frost never married. Although her father retired at the age of 73 in 1915, Georgina was his carer at Garna House until his death in 1938. Georgina herself died in December 1939.
In the mid-1990s, the contents of Garna House came up for auction and Mr Michael McNamara of Sixmilebridge purchased the collection associated with Georgina. This collection was acquired by Clare Museum with funding from the Decade of Centenaries fund during 2022.
Cataloguing the collection will give us a detailed description of what is in it. We already know though that it has albums of postcards sent from all over the world, newspaper cuttings, photographs and documents. These photographs and postcards relate to Georgina and her immediate or extended family. Some of the images of Georgina Frost’s grandparents date back to the 1860s, while others were taken in identifiable places in Sixmilebridge in the 1930s. The postcards come from all over Ireland, Britain and parts of Europe.
The photographs and the postcards will be of interest to social historians. They provide an insight into the life of a woman and her family in the late Victorian and Edwardian period through to the early years of the Irish Free State.
Watch out for updates on the collection on this website in the year ahead.