Dame Vera Lynn—British icon who had Irish roots

Dame Vera Lynn, who died in June at the grand old age of 103, had Irish roots as explained in a recent Irish examiner article.

Thought of as a British icon, Dame Vera Lynn was christened the Force’s Sweetheart after what she did during the Second World War—singing inspiring songs such as The White Cliffs of Dover and We’ll Meet Again, making morale-boosting trips to the front line. Her radio programme, ‘Sincerely Yours’, broadcast messages to British troops serving abroad.

The Irish Examiner article touched on a letter to Ireland’s Own magazine written by Ronnie Farrelly. He’d once heard Dame Vera Lynn talk on the Gay Byrne Radio Show about visiting Ireland after the war.


On the show, Mr Farrelly heard Dame Vera refer to Glasnevin by its old name, Glaswegian. The Irish Examiner’s writer, Con McGrath found the story intriguing. He wrote to Dame Vera to ask if she had Irish blood. Dame Vera wrote back, saying she had connections to Dublin on her mother’s side. Her grandfather hailed from the city—Simon Martin, originally from the Glaswegian area.

Intrigued, Mr McGrath contacted Dame Vera again and asked what she remembered about her visit to her Irish relatives. In a letter dated 2012, Dame Vera told him she’d only met them the once many years ago. She recalled visiting a little house and having tea with them. She believed them to have been in the dairy business.

Dame Vera did not know why her grandfather Simon had left Dublin, other than that she thought he had moved countries around about the time of the Irish potato famine.

Grandfather from Dublin

Dame Vera Lynn was born in March 1917 to Annie Martin, a dressmaker, who had married Bertram Welch in 1913. Mr McGrath’s research found reference to Annie Martin on the census forms for 1901, which also listed Annie’s father Simon, listed as born in Dublin. He married a Liverpudlian.

Mr McGrath investigated further on Ancestry.com, turning up documentation relating to the Port of Registry, Liverpool in 1884, when Simon Martin, aged 25, arrived in England. He also found Simon’s marriage certificate to Margaret Lynn. (Dame Vera later adopted her maternal grandmother’s maiden name as her stage name when she was 11 years old.)

Further digging led to Simon Martin’s baptismal record in the parish of North Anne at St Michan’s Roman Catholic Church, Dublin, dated 1858, his birthday given as 29 January 1858. His parents were recorded as a James Martin and Anny Lynn—interesting, given that Simon went on to marry a Margaret Lynn when he moved to Liverpool. They married in 1856.

Mr McGrath also spoke with Margaret Martin, who’d carried out detailed research on Dame Vera’s family tree. She’d found the parents of James Martin to be Joseph Martin and Frances Dunn. James Martin was baptised in 1837; his parents were recorded as marrying in 1842.

To mark her 103rd birthday, Dame Vera recorded a new voiceover for “We’ll Meet Again”, specifically for the family members and friends separated by the constraints of lockdown.

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