The Baronies of Mayo (after Almquist)

Mayo is directly west of Sligo

 

wholethesis

 

In another paper, about Newport, Co. Mayo, Ireland, and the ancient Baronies.

Peter Mullowney wrote a a paper on the Co. Mayo landowners (after Almquist) and the decline of the  O’DONEL ESTATE NEWPORT, COUNTY MAYO 1785-1852

 

Peter_Mullowney_20140708143128

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1
LIST OF ABRREVIATIONS…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….2
INTRODUCTION………………………………………….1………………………………………………………………………………….3
CHAPTER 1 “THE REMAINDER TO IN TAIL MALE” THE INHERITANCE OF THE O’DONEL
ESTATE……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..11
CHAPTER 2 THE O’DONEL ESTATE THE LAND AND ECONOMY OF THE ESTATE 45
CHAPTER 3 “A LITTLE THING WILL HELP A POOR MAN” THE O’DONEL
ESTATELANDLORD TENANT RELATIONS………………………………………………………………………………… 85
CONCLUSION………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..135
BIBLIOGRAPHY………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 140
APPENDIX 1 ACCOUNT OF DEBT CHARGES AFFECTING THE O’DONEL ESTATE 1831
SUBMITTED TO THE COURT OF CHANCERY BY ALEXANDER CLENDENNING. 3
JANUARY 1832……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 151
APPENDIX 2 LANDS OF THE O’DONEL ESTATE SOLD IN ENCUMBERED ESTATES
COURT 1852 -1856………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..153
TABLE OF FIGURES
F ig u r e 1 T h e o w n e r s h ip o f t h e t o w n l a n d s i n t h e p a r is h o f B u r r is h o o l e ……………………………………………..4 8
F ig u r e 2 Pe r c e n t a g e o f l a n d o w n e d i n t h e P a r is h o f B u r r is h o o l e b y t h e f o u r m a j o r
LANDLORDS………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 4 9
F ig u r e 3 Pe r c e n t a g e o f t e n a n t s r e n t i n g f r o m t h e f o u r m a j o r l a n d l o r d s in t h e p a r is h o f
B u r r is h o o l e 1 8 5 1 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….4 9
F ig u r e 4 C a l c u l a t io n s o f t h e M e a n , M o d e , M i n , M a x , a n d St a n d a r d V a r i a t i o n f o r s e v e r a l
VARIABLES ASSOCIATED WITH DIFFERENT TOWNLANDS IN THE PARISH OF BURRISHOOLE OWNED BY
S ir R ic h a r d O ’D o n e l ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….5 0
F ig u r e 5 T h e g r o w e r s o f f l a x t h a t w e r e i n a r r e a r s O ’D o n e l e s t a t e in 1 8 2 2 ……………………………………5 9
F i g u r e 6 G r a in e x p o r t f r o m p o r t o f N e w p o r t 1 7 4 9 – 1 7 9 0 ……… 6 8
F ig u r e 7 S c h e d u l e o f t h e T o l l s a n d C u s t o m s a n d C r a n a g e l e v i e d w i t h i n t h e M a n o r o f
N e w p o r t 1 8 1 8 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 7 5
F ig u r e 8 P o p u l a t io n E s t im a t e s C o u n t y M a y o 1 7 0 6 – 1 8 4 1 …………………………………………………………………………….81
F ig u r e 9 Pe r c e n t a g e o f P o p u l a t io n i n P a r is h b y L a n d l o r d ……………………………………………………………………….124
F ig u r e 10 D e c r e a s e i n p o p u l a t io n b y L a n d l o r d ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 125
F ig u r e 11 C o m p a r is o n o f L a n d l o r d s , G r if f it h s V a l u e p e r a c r e a n d d e c r e a s e p o p u l a t io n 1841 –
1 8 5 1 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..126
F ig u r e 12 C o m p a r is o n o f L a n d l o r d s , A c r e s p e r p e r s o n a n d d e c r e a s e p o p u l a t io n 1841 -1 8 5 1 127
TABLE OF MAPS
M a p I : I r e l a n d , P r o v in c e s , M a j o r C i t i e s , a n d C o u n t y M a y o ( a f t e r A l m q u i s t ) …………………………………4
M a p 2: C o u n t y M a y o .( a f t e r A lm q u is t )……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….5
M a p 3 : T h e B a r o n ie s o f M a y o ( a f t e r A l m q u i s t ) …………………………………………………………………….. 6
Acknowledgements
I wish to acknowledge the assistance of the staff of the National Library,
National Archives, Registry of Deeds, Representative Church Body Library
and National University of Ireland, Maynooth Library. I would especially
like to thank Ivor Hamrock of the local history section of Mayo County
Library, Castlebar for continual advice.
I would like to thank Joe McDermott and Mark Garevan for advising me
to enrol for this course and for constant encouragement during it. The
enthusiasm of Dr. Raymond Gillespie, the course director during the
lectures made them even more enjoyable and the guidance he gave me in
preparing this thesis was most valuable. My classmates made the whole
course more enjoyable even when the going got tough. My thanks to Una,
my wife and Eoin, my son for reading the final draft of this thesis and
making helpful suggestions and to all my family for putting up with the
demands that the course made on my time.

 

1
List of Abrreviations
JGAHS Journal o f the Galwav Archaeological and Historical Society
N.A. National Archives
NLI National Library o f Ireland
NA National Archives
PC Unindexed packing case National Library o f Ireland
RD Registry o f Deeds
2
Introduction
This thesis examines the history of the O’Donel estate in West Mayo, from the
purchase of the estate by Sir Neal O’Donel in the late eighteenth century to the sale of
most of the estate, in the 1850s in the Encumbered Estates Court, by his grandson Sir
Richard Annesley O’Donel. The estate was purchased from John Thomas Medlicott and
Thomas John Medlicott for £33,589 19s 4d, which was equal to nineteen years and a
half purchase of the rental income minus the head rent amounting to £1722 11s 3d per
year. 1 The O’Donels owned land in three baronies of Mayo, the Tarmon estate in the
barony of Erris, the Cong estate in the barony of Kilmaine and the Newport estate in the
barony of Burrishoole. Included in the sale of lands by the Medlicotts was also land in
Counties Tipperary, Kilkenny and Waterford but this was probably disposed of almost
immediately as the only reference to it in the O’Donel papers is in the deed of sale of 17
July 1774.2
The Burrishoole estate, centred on the town of Newport, was made up of 70,000
acres. The land is generally poor consisting in a large part of mountain grazing. The part
of the property that was arable, consisted of acidic peaty soils. Crops that grew there
were buffeted by winds coming in from the Atlantic Ocean. The soil and climate were
ideal however for the cultivation of potatoes and linen. The success of these two crops
led to the rapid increase in the population of the estate and its subsequent drastic decline
1 NLI, PC 264 {2)122 D ocum ent from Court o f K ings bench marking agreem ent betw een Sir N eal
O ’D on el and John Thom as M edlicott and Thom as John M edlicott where in exchange for the Newport
estate described therein John Thom as M edlicott w as given £33 ,5 8 9 19s 4d and Thom as John M edlicott
one sparrow hawk.
2 NLI, P C 2 6 3 (l)/5 0 Indenture o f Estate 1774 ‘Signed sealed and delivered by the within named Thos
John M edlycott, John Thom as M edlycott, Frances Phillipa Elizabeth and Susan M edlycott, John Earl o f
A ltam ont and John T hew les, Jane Brown and Jam es Shiel in the presence o f … ’
3
during the Great Famine of the 1840s, when the population on the estate decreased by
46 per cent between 1841 and 1851.
Maps 1 to 3 show the location in Ireland of County Mayo and where in Mayo
Newport and the Barony of Burrishoole are located.
Map 1: Ireland. Provinces. Major Cities, and County Mayo (after Almquisf)
4
SUQO
CO. SLIGO
Crosomollna,
Newport
C u H tb a r CLEW
BAY
Woo w o rt
L ouitlw rgh
*y
Bollinrob#
0 «
I. ? 1 *
M IM
C O . GALWAY
Map 2: County Mayo.(after Almquist)
5
Map 3: The Baronies of Mayo (after Almquist)
The O’Donels were originally from Donegal but had come to Mayo in the
seventeenth century. They had initially settled in Ballycroy, later in Achill and finally
appeared in Newport in 1760. The first of the O’Donels to own the Burrishoole estate
was Neal, later Sir Neal. He was the son of Hugh, who owned a farm in Melcomb,
Newport where the O ’Donels built the first of their big houses. Sir Neal was already a
large landholder in the parish of Burrishoole prior to the purchase from the Medlicotts.
It has been suggested that he may have made his money smuggling wine and tobacco
from Spain. It is interesting to speculate that if this is true his contacts in Spain may
have been his distant cousins, descendants of the exiled Red Hugh. Sir Neal had four
6
sons, Hugh, James Moore, Connel and Sir Neal the younger who eventually succeeded
him. Sir Neal in turn was succeeded by his son, Hugh James Moore, who died the
following year in a shooting accident to be succeeded by his brother Richard.
The O’Don els moved in the social circles of the landed Anglo-Irish aristocracy both
in Mayo and in Dublin. They owned several houses in Dublin at different times. In his
will dated 1810 Sir Neal O ’Donel left to his wife Lady O’Donel his interest in the house
and furniture of No 15 Merrion Square North and in 1811 Sir Neal O ’Donel the younger
had a residence in Mountjoy Square, Dublin.3 The estate was not as isolated from the
social world of Dublin as one would imagine. Leaving Dublin at 7 p.m. by mail coach
one would arrive in Westport at 4 the following afternoon.4
Little has been written specifically on the O ’Donel estate. A previous thesis was
written by Joe McDermott on the Burrishoole estate when the Medlicotts owned it and
run successfully by their land agent James Moore from 1720 until his death in 1765.5
However there is a substantial literature available on pre-famine Mayo.6
3 NLI, PC265(1) Will of Sir Neal O’Donel; PC263(1) Letter from W Johns to Sir Neal O’Donel 22 Mar
1811
4 The Treble almanack for the year 1830 containing John Wilson Stewart’s Almanack . the English Court
Registry . Wilson’s Dublin Directory with a new Correct Plan of the City. (Dublin, 1830)
5 J.P. McDermott, ‘An examination of the Accounts of James Moore Esq. Land agent and collector of
Port Fees at Newport Pratt, Co. Mayo 1742 -65 , Including an account of the development of Newport
Pratt from the early eighteenth century until 1776’ M. A. Thesis, NUI Maynooth,1994.
6 Padraig G Lane, ‘Currane Mountain , Mayo and the 1850s : a socio-economic study’ in Cathair na Mart
xii (1992),75; Padraig G Lane, ‘The Gonne-Bell Estate at Streamstown Co. Mayo : a record of property
vicissitudes’ in Cathair na Mart xiii (1993),82; Padraig G Lane, ‘Landed encumbrances ; a record of the
Dillon-Browne estate’ in Cathair na Mart xiv (1994),69; Padraig G Lane, ‘The Lambert Brookhill Estate
: a record of Mayo property 1694-1946’ in Cathair na Mart xvi (1996),45; Padraig G Lane, ‘Rents and
leases in eighteenth century Mayo: an observation of the Lambert estate ’ Cathair na Mart xviii (1998),57;
Padraig G Lane, ‘The consideration of Mayo property in the 1830s and 1840s’ in Cathair na Mart xix
(1999), 101; Padraig G Lane, ‘The general impact of the Encumbered Estates Act of 1849 on Counties
Galway and Mayo’ in JGAHS xxxiii (1972), 44 ; Padraig G Lane, ‘The impact of the Encumbered
Estates Court upon the landlords of Galway and Mayo .’ in JGAHS xxxviii (1981), 45 ; Padraig G Lane,
‘Purchases of land in Counties Galway and Mayo in Encumbered Estates Court 1849 -1858 .’ in JGAHS
xxxxiiii,(1991), 95 ; Padraig G Lane, ‘Some Galway and Mayo Landlords of the mid nineteenth century
.’ in JGAHS xxxxv, (1993), 70 ; Desmond McCabe, ‘Social order and the ghost of moral economy in
Pre-Famine Mayo’ in R Gillespie and G Moran (eds), ‘A various country’ essays in Mavo history 1500 –
1900 (Westport, 1987) p. 91; W. H. Crawford, ‘Development of the County Mayo economy, 1700 –
1850’ in R. Gillespie and G. Moran (eds), ‘A various country’ essays in Mavo history 1500 – 1900
(Westport ,1987) p.67.
7
Padraig Lane published ten articles on the Encumbered Estates Court between 1972
and 1999, which evaluated the impact of the court upon the agrarian scene.
Desmond McCabe examines the interactions between landlord and tenant in Mayo in
the years leading up to the famine. 7 and W H Crawford examines the developing
commercial interaction in the county which improved with the development of roads
which gave rise to a larger number of fairs and markets and the gradual closer contact
with a wider world through improved communications. 8
All these sources looked at the landlord in eighteenth and nineteenth century
Mayo but nobody has looked at one landlord family and their estate and the financial
difficulties they got into during the period prior to and during the Famine. This thesis
attempts that task.
The evidence that this thesis is based on consists mainly of the unindexed
O’Donel papers in the National Library of Ireland. These had been preserved by the
local historian and county councillor Padraig O Domhnaill who rescued the documents
when they were being disposed of following the sale of Newport House by the last of
the O’Donel family. His widow subsequently passed them on to the National Library.
There are some gaps in this material and there is nothing present on some parts of the
estate, particularly the Tarmon estate and land in Counties Kilkenny, Tipperary and
Waterford that was included in the deed of 1774. Rent rolls are not available for every
year and some are more detailed than others. The material consists mainly of leases, rent
rolls, details of indentures and court cases and papers relating to the sale in the
Encumbered Estates Court. Other primary sources in the National Library consulted
7 Desmond McCabe, ‘Social order and the ghost of moral economy in Pre-Famine Mayo’ in R Gillespie
and G Moran (eds), ‘A various country’ essays in Mavo history 1500 – 1900 (Westport, 1987), p. 91
8 W. H. Crawford, ‘Development of the County Mayo economy, 1700 – 1850’ in R. Gillespie and G.
Moran (eds), ‘A various country’ essays in Mavo history 1500 – 1900 (Westport ,1987), p. 67
include minutes of the Westport and Newport Poor Law Union and correspondence of
Jonathan Pim, one of the secretaries of the Central Relief Committee. 9
Other primary sources include abstracts of wills and correspondence with and
from the Central Relief Committee and reports of the extent of the Famine available in
the National Archives. Several deeds involved in the estate were examined in the
Registry of Deeds and details of clergymen active in the parish and church registers
from St. Catherine’s Church of Ireland church were consulted at the Representative
Church Body Library.
There are three main themes in the thesis, the landlord and their world of debt,
the tenants world and problems in that area and landlord-tenant relations. The main
factors in the decline of the estate were financial involving extensive borrowing and
settlements made on marriages of daughters and to younger sons of the family. This was
not matched by a corresponding growth in income over time. The decline in agricultural
prices following the ending of the Napoleonic wars and the concomitant decline of the
linen industry in the parish made the payment of rent by the tenants more difficult and
contributed to financial difficulty resulting in the family having to sell most of the
estate. These difficulties were massively accentuated by the occurrence of the Great
Famine in 1847. The relationship between the O’Donel family and the tenants during
the Famine and how the tenants of the O’Donel estate fared in comparison with those of
other landlords is also looked at. Co-operation with various relief agencies, particularly
the Central Relief Committee organised by the Society of Friends or Quakers, was very
important in alleviating distress at this time. The workings of the two Poor Law Unions
9 NLI, MS 14309 Minutes of the Westport Union Board of Guardians 1840 ; NLI, MS 5739 Minutes of
Newport Union ; NLI, MS 8669; Pim correspondence. Sir Richard O’Donel Newport April 25 1847 to
C.R.C.
9
active in the area, initially the Westport Union and later the Newport Union, and Sir
Richard O’Donel’s involvement in them is also examined. The impact of the Famine on
landlord tenant relations is examined. The change in land leasing patterns from multiple
tenants to single tenants and the role of evictions in population dynamics are also
considered.
This thesis will examine the factors that gave rise to the expansion of the
O ’Donel estate and its subsequent decline. It will also look at how these factors
influenced the lives of the tenants and their relationship with the landlord.
10
“THE REMAINDER TO IN TAIL MALE”
THE INHERITANCE OF THE O’DONEL ESTATE
Chapter 1
This first chapter concentrates on the O’Donel family and their change in fortunes
over time. The decline in agricultural prices following the ending of the Napoleonic
wars and the concomitant decline of the linen industry in the parish of Burrishoole made
the payment of rent by the tenants more difficult. This decrease in income was further
complicated by increased debts due to annuities and marriage settlements. Annuities
were paid to widows of landlords or potential landlords and over the period of sixtyseven
years covered by this study annuities were paid to five widows and to two
daughters of deceased heirs. A large number of deeds were executed to secure these
annuities and this further added to the burden of debt. Wills were often used to disburse
the wealth of the estate rather than consolidate it and place it in a more financially
viable position for the inheritor of the estate.
The amount of land the landlord owned was associated with status. Land was a
necessary attribute of a gentry family. Their perception was that the more land that they
owned the better their status. Even when the family was in dire financial straits they did
not think of selling land. Also associated with status was the honour system. It was vital
for the aristocracy to uphold personal and family honour in the eighteenth and early
nineteenth century. This resulted in three members of the O ’Donel family fighting in
duels. The result of these duels was that two of the family, James Moore O’Donel and
Hugh O ’Donel were seriously wounded, James Moore subsequently dying from his
11
wounds. His story illustrates some of the perils of political life in Connacht at the end of
the eighteenth century. A dispute occurred during an election campaign in Castlebar in
1790 between the rival sides in the election the supporters of the Binghams and those
who supported the Brownes. The Binghams were the main landlord family in Castlebar
of which Lord Lucan was a member and the Brownes included Lord Altamont of
Westport, to whom the O ’Donels were related. The sheriff intervened and called in the
army and the consequence was a riot, in which a number of people including James
Moore O’Donel were severely beaten. 10
I
The O’Donels were the lineal descendants of Niall Garbh O ’Donel, cousin of Red
Hugh O ’Donel, who regarded Tir Chonaill as his inheritance and was bitterly
disappointed when the crown bestowed it upon earl Rory. The Cromwellian campaign
resulted in wholesale clearances of the native population in Donegal and following the
defeat of the Irish outside Letterkenny in June, 1650,it is believed that Manus’s son
‘Rory of Lifford’, and many others, were transplanted to the Ballycroy district of Mayo,
around 1654. 11 The great grandson of Rory, Neal O’Donel, held title to Kildavnet and
Achill Beg in 1776. In 1781 he purchased the fine estate of Cong and four years later he
was able to purchase the Burrishoole estate from John Thomas Medlicott for £33,589 in
opposition to John, third earl of Altamont, afterwards first marquis of Sligo.
The Medlicotts’ estate was run successfully by their land agent James Moore. 12
James Moore died in 1765 and this probably contributed to the decision of the
Medlicotts to sell the estate. Following his death the estate was not run as well and in
10 NLI, MS 5619, p.203
11 R.S.O Cochlain, ‘The O’Donnells of Mayo’ in North Mavo Historical Journal iii,( 1990) p. 67
12
1774, the Medlicotts were in severe financial difficulty and applied for a loan to John
late earl of Altamont who accordingly agreed to lend them £16,333 6s 8d at 6 per cent
interest. As there were many annuities and other debts affixed to the Medlicotts’ estate
it was agreed that as security for this loan they would convey to the earl of Altamont
most of the estate for ever. In exchange the earl agreed to make a lease for lives
renewable for ever of the estate to the Medlicotts their heirs and assigns at a rent of
£980 that was the interest of the sum of £16,333 6s 8d. One condition of this was that
the Medlicotts would procure surrender of the undertenants leases within seven years.
The other smaller part of the estate was also assigned to the earl to protect him from
other debts due from the Medlicott estate particularly an annuity due to William
Osborne. The Medlicotts regularly paid the earl of Altamont the head rent of £980 a
year until the year 1785 when Sir Neal O’Donel purchased the estate. Following his
purchase Sir Neal was not able to persuade the undertenants to surrender their leases.
However all the debts affecting the premises were paid off except the annuity to
Osbome. 13
Sir Neal O’Donel had received a baronetcy in 1780. 14 This was associated with his
change to the Protestant faith in 1763. 15 He had four sons, the eldest Hugh had married
Alice Hutchinson and as he was expected to inherit the estate there were several
settlements made on their marriage. 16 Hugh, who predeceased his father, had been
12 J.P. McDermott, ‘An examination of the Accounts of James Moore Esq. Land agent and collector of
Port Fees at Newport P ratt, Co. Mayo 1742 -65 , Including an Account of the Development of Newport
Pratt from the early eighteenth century until 1776’ M. A. Thesis, NUI Maynooth,1994.
13 NLI, PC263 (2)/60 Chancery 17 April 1832, John O’Hara and Dame O’Hara (widow of Hugh James
Moore O’Donel) otherwise O’Donel Plaintiffs. Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel Baronet and others
Defendants
14 Debrett’s baronetage with knightage illustrated (1877) p.347.
15 P. O Morain, AnnSla beaga phardiste Bhuir&s Umhaill. A short account of the history of Burrishoole
parish (Westport, 1957) p. 95
16 NLI, PC265 (3)/22 Marriage Settlement Hugh O’Donel and Alice Hutchinson.
13
educated at Glasgow University and was living at Tralee at the time of his death in
1799. 17 After his death his widow Alice gave birth to a daughter who was christened
Alice Hugh Massey ODonel and several court cases arose from her claim to part of her
father’s estate not being paid. 18
The second son was James Moore O ’Donel who died without issue but a settlement
was made on 8 November 1793 prior to his marriage to Deborah Camac. In this
settlement lands in Kilmactigue in the County of Sligo and the lands of Tarmon and
Knocks in the half barony of Erris and County of Mayo leased by Sir Neal O’Donel
under the see of Killala were assigned to James Moore O’Donel. Following his death
trustees were appointed to manage these lands and his widow was entitled to an annuity
of £400 during her lifetime. In his will Sir Neal left these lands to his son Connel
O’Donel on condition that the annuity would continue to be paid. He also bequeathed to
his daughter in law Deborah O’Donel, the widow of James Moore O ’Donel, £50 to
purchase a ring as a mark of his regard for her. 19
The third son the second Sir Neal married Catherine Annesley and there were
several settlements on this marriage. The fourth son was Connel.
Neil Beg or Sir Neal the younger succeeded his father Sir Neal. His son Hugh
James Moore O’Donel succeeded him in turn. Sir Hugh James Moore O’Donel in a
17 Edith Mary Johnston- Liik, History of the Irish Parliament 1692 – 1800. (6 vols., Belfast, 2002) v
p.387.
18 NLI, PC264(2)/8 Order in Court of Chancery 20 July 1806 re: Alice O’Donnell daughter of Hugh
O’Donnell letters of guardianship due sum of £10000 from the estate of her father Hugh O’Donel ;
PC265(3)/22 Marriage Settlement Hugh O’Donel and Alice Hutchins
19 NLI, PC263 (3)/62 Indenture 1854 between Sir Richard Annesley O’D onel, George Clendenning
O’D onel, Mary O’Donel otherwise Clendenning wife of Sir Richard Annesley O’D onel, Michael
Murphy of Mountrath Street in City of Dublin Sir Neal O’Donel left an annuity of £2000 a year to his
wife Mary Coane if she should survive him . Will of Sir Neal O’Donel of 9 March 1810 left £14000 to his
younger children Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel wished to settle a jointure of £1000 on his wife Mary
Clendenning if she should survive him
14
marriage settlement, dated 24 May 1828, specified that the remainder of his estate
should pass to the offspring of his second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh sons.
This was tempting fate in a family where two out of the four previous inheritors or
potential inheritors of the estate had died without male issue, and he died four months
later, in a shooting accident at Newport House, his only offspring a posthumous
daughter, Arabella.
Female offspring could not inherit the estate, although this was changed later in
the nineteenth century when it appeared that the family was dying out and the estate
would go with it. Millicent Agnes O ’Donel the only child of Richard Alen O ’Donel was
allowed to inherit the estate on condition her husband changed his name to O’Donel and
any of her children also had the name O ’Donel.
Sir Hugh James Moore was succeeded by his brother Richard who became Sir
Richard. Sir Richard married Mary, the daughter of George Clendenning. Her father had
been the agent for the marquis of Sligo and her brother, Alexander Clendenning, later
became agent for Sir Richard and subsequently was appointed Receiver when the estate
was declared bankrupt by the Court of Chancery.
In 1752 the Medlicott estate yielded only £1700 but in 1800 Sir Neal’s income was
£8000 a year. Part of the source of his wealth was derived from the honourable
occupation of smuggling, then prevalent on the West Coast of Ireland.21 Sir Neal was a
shipowner and traded as far south as Cadiz, Spain. Revenue officials seized several
hogsheads of wine from his Melcomb premises in 1790. He retaliated by suing the
crown for trespass and the breaking open of doors, etc. After protracted court
20 NLI, PC263 (2)/60 Chancery 17 April 1832, John O’Hara and Dame O’Hara (widow of Hugh James
Moore O’Donel) otherwise O’Donel Plaintiffs. Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel Baronet and others
Defendants
21 J. McDermott, ‘Newport – The 18th Century’ in the Journal of the Newport Historical Society i
(1996), p.38
15
proceedings he was awarded £1,500 damages and costs. A letter from Lord Sligo to
Sir Neal O’Donel the younger, informing him of the forcible landing of tobacco near
Newport and that the authorities in Dublin have been notified, might infer that the
involvement of the O’Donel family in smuggling could be common knowledge in the
2 3
area.
An outside income that ceased due to increased surveillance would help to
explain why the estate became unviable. The answer more probably lies in the fact that
due to an unfortunate set of circumstances: five heads of the ODonel family or potential
heads died in a period of twenty-nine years. 24
Two of the O’Donels were killed. An article in the Dublin Chronicle of 11 May
1790 states :
In the duelling line th e C o u n ty of M ayo has taken the lead, during th e present G en eral
Election no less than three private contests h ave been fought th ere in the w eek before
last. T h a t b etw een the Hon D enis Brow ne, one of the cand idates, and M r Bingham
term inated w ithout an y d is ag re eab le con sequ en ces. But in th e duel b etw een M r Hugh
O ’D onel son of Sir N eal O ’D onel Bart and an o ther of th e M r B ingham s w e are sorry to
add that the fo rm er w as m ost d an gero usly w ounded being shot through the n e c k .25
Eleven years later in September 1801, James Moore O’Donel was not so lucky and was
killed in a duel, by Major Denis Bingham at Killanley Glebe near Enniscrone in County
Sligo. A tradition says that he was lame and had the sight of only one eye and is
22 R.S.O Cochlain, ‘The O’Donnells of Mayo’ in North Mayo Historical Journal v,(1990), p. 67
22 NLI, PC265(l)/67 Letter from Lord Sligo to Sir Neal O’Donel the younger informing him of the
forcible landing of tobacco near Newport and that the authorities in Dublin have been notified
24 P. Mullowney and J. Geraty, ‘The O’Donels of Newport’ in Back the Road Journal of the Newport
Historical Society i, (1996), p.12 ; NLI, MS 112 p.107 Genealogical Office, Pedigree of O Donel of
Newport Co. Mayo c 1730 – 1806
25 Dublin Chronicle. 11 May 1790.
22
16
supposed to have been placed with his back to the sea, so that he was silhouetted against
the horizon. The same source alleges that his opponent had been instructed by his
second to fire before word was given, which he did scoring a direct hit to the heart.
26 Bingham himself was unhurt.
The inscription on the memorial tablet to James Moore O ’Donel in Newport
Church of Ireland church reads ‘In arduous times he proved his loyalty to his King, in
corrupt times he supported the independence of his country and as he lived a Man of
Honours so he died a Man of Courage in the 36th year of his age.’
Further loss of an O ’Donel heir could have taken place in 1828 when a duel took place
on an island near the town of Newport between Richard O ’Donel and J Stewart Esqs.
The duel was reported in the Mayo Constitution :
T h e fo rm e r attended by Lieut. H yland of the R oyal N a vy and th e latter by Lieut.
O ’H alloran of the 6 9 th R egim ent. A fter an exch an g e of shots w ithout effect, the parties
w ere ag ain h an ded their pistols w hen M r S tew art fired a second tim e w e are happy to
sa y w ithout effect. M r O ’D onel w ho reserved his shot then discharged his pistol into the
sea, w hereup on th e m atter term inated.
T h e ab o ve m eeting took p lace in co n sequ en ce of th e strenuous exertions of M r
Richard O ’D onel to prevent such dem onstrations of public feeling as m ight and probably
w ould lead to the excitem en t of the P arty Spirit following th e election of Daniel
O ’C onnell. His en d ea vo u r to p reserve th e p eace and tranquillity of the town and
neighbourhood undisturbed w as not seco n ded by the Local Authorities, in the w ay that
m ight have b een e x p e c te d .27
The lifestyle of the O ’Donels would not be unlike that of other gentry in the
parish an example of which was Reverend George Graydon, the Church of Ireland
26 R. S.O Cochlain, ‘The O’Donnells of Mayo’ in North Mayo Historical Journal v. (1990), p. 67.; NLI,
MS 5619: O’Malleys in the 18th Century by Sir Owen O’Malley, p.203
27 Mavo Constitution 14 July 1828
17
rector of the Burrishoole parish up until his death in 1805. 28 His wife Elizabeth had set
up a straw bonnet manufactory in the parish, which gave considerable employment.
They lived in a house in Carrickahowley called Wilford Lodge about five miles west of
Newport. An account of the expenses arising from the funeral and winding up of the
affairs of Reverend Gray don showed he enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. As well as
having the house in Mayo he also had a residence in Merrion Street in Dublin. He had
several servants working for him, a maid servant was paid £2 17s for her wages in full
while John Grimes was owed £20 for wages and John Gannon £35. Other servants in
Wilford Lodge were paid £14 4s, the gardener was paid £2 10s for two months work
and labourers were paid £1 4s 2d for work done the previous year. Workmen were paid
6s 6d for cutting mearing fences and 8s for carrying two stacks of turf back from the
bog to Reverend Graydon’s house. Quarrymen were paid £6 16s 6d for quarrying stones
and building four cabins and a messenger was paid 6s 6d for taking two calves to the
fair. These may have been the same two calves that were sold at Crossmolina for £3 6s.
A cow was sold for £7 19s 3d and two more cows sold in Ballyheane fair for £10 9s.
Both Crossmolina and Ballyheane fairs would be over twenty miles from Wilford and it
would be a long hard days work for the servant to walk the cattle to the fair sell them
and return home the following day. Some black cattle were sold on two occasions at
Newport fair which would only be about five miles away for £17 10s and £6 6s. A total
of seven horses were sold and these were of differing quality. Two bay horses were sold
for £28 8s 6d whereas two lesser horse sold for £4 17s. A bay horse, two cars, two
saddles and bridles were sold for £9 12s 9d. During the period of Reverend Graydon’s
terminal illness and after his death the horses had to be placed in livery and this resulted
28 NLI, MS 16964 Accounts of the administration of the estate of Rev George Graydon Newport Co.
Mayo 1805 – 7 ; Patrick N Wyse Jackson and Ezio Vaccari, ‘Volcanoes and straw bonnets : the Graydons
of Burrishoole’ in Cathair na M art, xiii (1993), p. 90
18
in expenditure of £56 15s. During this period one of the horses was sick and £2 3s 7d
was spent on medicine for it. Income arising to Reverend Graydon from tithes in the
parish of Burrishoole, from Christchurch in Dublin and the Canonry of Kildare
amounted to £502. The sale of his belongings realised a sum of £776. His paintings and
books were taken to Dublin to be sold where the paintings realised £228 and the books
£83. All the furniture from the house was sold to Sir Samuel O’Malley the resident
landlord in the neighbouring parish of Kilmeena for £304. Glass, china and other small
articles sold for £10 5s, £15 was received for some silver spoons, £5 for a gun and £2 3s
for a case of pistols. The household linen was sold for £18 6s, but the most interesting
item in the sale was the Reverend Graydon’s collection of minerals which he had spent
a lifetime collecting and was sold to the Geology Department in Trinity College for
£100. As one would expect the funeral of a noted clergyman involved considerable
9Q expense and the family spent a total of £96 on these arrangements.
II
At least part of the reason for the growing debts of the O’Donels were several
marriage settlements in the O’Donel family, wills leaving large amounts of money to
younger children, (two of which were unborn at the time of their fathers’ deaths) and
jointures to widows that survived their husbands often by over twenty years. These
amounts led to a severe encumbrance on the O ’Donel estate, which combined with the
decline in agricultural prices in the 1830s and the Great Famine of 1845-7 ended in the
inevitable sale of the estate by Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel.
The first of these incumbrances was that due to the Medlicotts being in financial
difficulty in 1774, they needed to borrow a large amount of money which they obtained
in exchange for a head rent to be given to the earl of Altamont. This head rent was
29 NLI, MS 16964 Account of the Administratorship of Elizabeth Graydon April 23 1803
19
commenced on the 15 July 1774. The Medlicotts conveyed for ever the fee simple and
inheritance of most of the Burrishoole estate to John, earl of Altamont for £16,333 6s
8 d .30 In exchange for this the earl agreed to execute a lease for three lives renewable for
ever subject to the clear yearly rent of £980 sterling. This head rent was secured by
selling the major portion of the estate to James Browne and James Shiel and the
survivor of them and the heirs of such survivors for ever. Part of this settlement
involved John, earl of Altamont assigning a lease for three lives with a covenant for the
perpetual renewal of all the lands mentioned in the sale.
Sir Neal O ’Donel had purchased the Cong estate in 1781. In order to purchase
this estate he borrowed the sum of £13,700 from Sir Rowland Hill of Hawkestown in
the County of Salop in Great Britain Bart. To secure this loan deeds of lease and release
were made on 29 and 30 August 1781. Sir Neal O ’Donel the Elder conveyed to
Rowland Hill and his heirs the Cong Estate subject to redemption on payment of the
principal sum of £13700 sterling with interest for the same at the rate of £6 per cent per
annum. Thomas Browne was included as a guarantor for this loan. When Sir Rowland
Hill died Sir Richard Hill and Rowland Wingfield Esq. were appointed his executors
and they obtained judgement of £14,000 against Sir Neal O ’Donel in his Majesty’s
Court of King’s Bench in Ireland in Hilary Term 1787 for non repayment of this loan. A
further sum of £7188 Is lOd was awarded to the Reverend William Browne and Charles
de Laet executors of Thomas Browne. William Browne Esq., heir at law of Reverend
William Browne and sole executor, revived this cause in 1822 and obtained a final
decree of £17,633 4s Od sterling for principal and interest due upon the mortgage debt.
30 NLI, P C 263(l)/50 Indenture o f Estate 1774 ‘Signed sealed and delivered by the within named Thos
John M edlycott, John Thom as M edlycott, Frances Phillipa Elizabeth and Susan M edlycott, John Earl of
A ltam ont and John Thew les, Jane Brown and Jam es Shiel in the presence o f … ’
2 0
A further indenture was made by Sir Neal O’Donel the younger on 7 April 1825
with William Browne and Edmund Foster Coulson of Hull in the County of York and
John Robinson Robinson of Lissoglassick in the County of Longford. By this time the
principal sum was reduced to £16,700 and all interest paid off. Edward Foster Coulson
and John Robinson Robinson paid £16,700 to William Browne and Sir Neal granted to
Edward Foster Coulson and John R Robinson and their heirs the Cong Estate. A further
deed was made on the same day, between Foster Coulson and John R Robinson of the
one part and John Harewood Jessop and Frances Jessop his wife of the other part. This
declared the trusts respecting the sum of £16,700 to be for the sole and separate use of
Frances Jessop. This deed was subsequently assigned to Robert Flood of Farmley,
County Kilkenny and John Robinson junior of Lissoglassick , County Longford. 31
As well as annuities that were arranged to assist in servicing the debts that arose
from the estate there were also several court cases in which judgements were assigned
against different members of the O ’Donel family. Sir Neal O ’Donel the elder on 16 July
1785 in the Court of Kings Bench was found to owe Elizabeth Medlicott of the City of
Dublin a total of £4550. This was made up of the principal sum of £2275 with interest at
six per cent per annum. When Elizabeth Medlicott died, Cornelius Sullivan Esquire was
appointed her executor and on 23 September 1824 he obtained a further £2100.
In the same court of Kings Bench Sir Neal was found to owe Susanna Medlicott
of the City of Dublin a total of £4550 made up of the principal sum of £2275 with
interest at six per cent per annum. He managed to reduce the amount owed to £400.
Cornelius Sullivan was again appointed her executor and was owed a further £2000 on
this account. In the same court of Kings Bench Sir Neal was found to owe Francis
31 NLI, PC263 (2)/60 Chancery 17 April 1832, John O ’H ara and D am e O ’H ara (widow of Hugh James
M oore O ’Donel) otherw ise O ’D onel Plaintiffs. Sir Richard A nnesley O ’Donel Baronet and others
Defendants
21
Phillipa Medlicott of the City of Dublin a total of £4550 made up of the principal sum
of £2275 with interest at six per cent per annum. By two separate payments he was able
to reduce the principal to £2100. Again Cornelius Sullivan was appointed her executor
and became entitled to the judgement debt and interest thereon. By a deed of 29 May
1827 Cornelius Sullivan assigned the Judgement Debt to Robert Barry.
Sir Neal O ’Donel the elder was also found in the court of King’s Bench on 14
January 1785 to owe to General Manus O’Donel of Newcastle in the County of Mayo
£1000 made up of the principal sum of £500 with interest at six per cent per annum.
This last mentioned judgement debt was paid off by Sir Neal O’Donel the elder
in his lifetime. He then assigned it to Dodwell Browne of Rahins in the County of Mayo
Esquire his son in law in trust for his, Sir Neal O ’Donel’s own use. The judgement was
then vested in Peter Digges La Touche and Mary Anne La Touche otherwise Browne
his wife, Mary Anne having acted as administrator for her father Dodwell Browne after
his death.32
On 16 August 1785 in the Court of Exchequer Sir Neal O’Donel was found to
owe John Thomas Medlicott of Bannfield in the County of Dublin esquire a total of
£6174 made up of the principal sum of £3084 with interest at six per cent per annum.
John Thomas Medlicott assigned this judgement on 16 August 1786 to William Smyth
of Granby Row in the County of Dublin Esq.. This debt was subsequently assigned to
Arthur Guinness who was the executor of William Smyth and he took proceedings in
court in 1815 to establish his claim to this judgement. However it was stated that the
debt had long since been paid off. Arthur Guinness took a further case in 5 October
32 NLI, PC263 (2)/60 C hancery 17 April 1832, John O ’H ara and D am e O ’H ara (widow o f Hugh Jam es
M oore O ’Donel) otherw ise O ’D onel Plaintiffs. Sir Richard A nnesley O ’Donel Baronet and others
D efendants
22
1831 against Sir Richard O’Donel who again insisted that the debt was long since paid
off and satisfied.
Sir Neal O’Donel the elder in the Court of Exchequer on 6 June 1789 was found
to owe to the Revd Moone Johnston of Kilpipe in the County of Wicklow £3600 made
up of the principal sum of £1800 with interest at six per cent per annum. This last
mentioned judgement debt was paid off by Sir Neal O’Donel the elder in his lifetime.
He then assigned it to Dodwell Browne of Rahins in the County of Mayo Esquire his
son in law in trust for his, Sir Neal O’Donel’s own use. The judgement was then vested
in Peter Digges La Touche and Mary Anne La Touche otherwise Browne his wife,
Mary Anne having acted as administrator for her father Dodwell Browne after his death.
Sir Neal O’Donel the elder in the Court of Exchequer on 2 December 1777 was
found to owe to James McDonnell of Cantin Valley, Mayo £892 19s Od made up of
£446 9s 6d principal with interest at six per cent per annum. This judgement was
afterwards assigned to Mary Anne Browne and following her marriage to Peter Digges
La Touche it was further assigned to James Digges La Touche and Arthur Hutchins.33
As already mentioned the one remaining incumbrance on the Medlicott estate was
the annuity to William Osborne. In May 1804 Hannah Osborne and the executors of
William took a court case to recover the arrears of the annuity which at that time
amounted to £7614 13s 5d. Sir Neal hearing that Osborne was willing to dispose of this
annuity for £5000 made an offer to her, which she agreed to take. However after Mr
Medlicott informed Sir Neal that he meant to impeach the annuity Sir Neal decided not
33 NLI, PC263 (2)/60 Chancery 17 April 1832, John O ’H ara and D am e O ’H ara (widow of Hugh James
M oore O ’D onel) otherw ise O ’D onel Plaintiffs. Sir Richard A nnesley O ’Donel Baronet and others
Defendants
23
to purchase. In the meantime Denis Browne, brother of the marquis of Sligo, purchased
the annuity from Hannah Osborne for £4500.34
Other incumbrances on the estate included the marriage settlement of Sir Neal
O’Donel. James Moore, the former agent of John Thomas Medlicott, by his last will
made in 1765 bequeathed to his grand daughter Mary O ’Donel otherwise Coane then
wife of Neal O’Donel Esq. later Sir Neal ODonel, baronet, the sum of £1000. As Sir
Neal had not made any settlement on his wife at the time of his marriage, the following
year he drew up a deed with James Moore, William Coane and Roger Shiel Esq. stating
that he had received a marriage portion with his wife of £1300. This £1300 in fact
included the £1000 bequeathed by James Moore to his granddaughter. To secure this
settlement he assigned his real and personal estate to William Coane and Roger Shiel so
that they should immediately after the death of Sir Neal pay £1000 to his wife Mary if
she was then alive. The other £1600 was to go to his children in whatever proportions
he should specify in his will. If Dame Mary should die before Sir Neal then the whole
£2600 should be divided among the children.35 In 1798 at the time of the marriage of
their son Hugh a further jointure was settled on Dame Mary in case she survived Sir
Neal of £3000 per annum. This was meant to be in lieu and bar of dower and thirds and
be in lieu and in satisfaction of all and every provision or provisions therefore made for
her. The settlement also reserved to Sir Neal a power to charge his estates with £14000
as and for younger children and grandchildren. Counsel John Kirwan giving his opinion
of whether Lady O’Donel would be entitled to the £1000 mentioned in this settlement,
in addition to the £3000 a year felt she would not. He was of the opinion however that
34 NLI, PC 263 (2) Judgement stating Denis Browne has purchased annuity from Hannah Osborne and
can Sir Neal O’Donel force him to sell him the annuity from Counsel John Kirwan for case of Opinion
35 NLI, PC263 (2)/60 Chancery 17 April 1832, John O’Hara and Dame O’Hara (widow of Hugh James
Moore O’Donel) otherwise O’Donel Plaintiffs. Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel Baronet and others
Defendants
24
the provision of £14000 for children and grandchildren in the deed of 1798 would not
deprive them of the £1600 secured to them by the settlement of 1766.36
A marriage settlement was made prior to the impending marriage of Hugh O’Donel
with Alice Hutchinson on 10 October 1798. Hugh as the eldest son was expected to
inherit the estate on the death of his father Sir Neal, so the settlement was extremely
generous. Dominick Jeffrey Browne of Castle McGarrett in the County of Mayo
Esquire and Peter Locke of Gloucester Street, in the City of Dublin guaranteed the
settlement, made between Sir Neal and Lady Mary O’Donel and Hugh O’Donel and
Alice Hutchinson. Other guarantors were Connolly Coane of the City of Dublin
Esquire, the brother of Lady Mary O’Donel, Arthur Herbert of Tralee in the County of
Kerry Esquire, Arthur and Emmanuel Hutchinson of Ballylackey in the County of Cork
Esquires, Patrick Lynch of Clogher in the County of Mayo Esquire and Lewis O’Donel
of Old Castle in the County of Mayo Esquire.
It stated that immediately after the marriage the lands of the Cong estate were to be
assigned to the use of Emmanuel Hutchinson and Patrick Lynch their heirs or executors
administrators and assigns for the term of ninety nine years in trust. This was to insure
that Hugh O’Donel and his assigns should receive yearly during the joint lives of Sir
Neal O’Donel and Hugh O’Donel a sum of £2000 a year payable half yearly and that in
case Sir Neal O’Donel should survive Hugh then each of Hugh’s sons should receive
yearly during the life time of Sir Neal an annuity of £2000 a year payable half yearly.
After the death of Sir Neal O’Donel, if his wife survived him she should receive £3000
per annum. Dominick Jeffrey Browne and Peter Locke were to ensure the terms of the
settlement were carried out during the lifetime of Hugh O’Donel. After the death of
36 NLI, PC263(2)/60 Judgement stating James Moore left £1000 to his granddaughter Mary O’Donel
otherwise Coane wife of Sir Neal O’Donel from Counsel John Kirwan for case of Opinion
25
Hugh O’Donel, Connolly Coane and Arthur Herbert their executors administrators and
assigns were to be responsible for the term of five hundred years. This was to be done to
ensure payment was made to the first and other sons of Hugh O’Donel by Alice
Hutchinson and the male heirs of first and other sons, successively according to their
priority of birth. If there were no sons of this marriage the inheritance was to pass to the
second son of Sir Neal O’Donel, James Moore O’Donel, who as stated previously, died
in the lifetime of his father without any issue. The inheritance then passed to Neal
O’Donel, the third son of Sir Neal O’Donel and with an ultimate remainder to the right
heirs of the said Sir Neal O’Donel deceased entail male.
Sir Neal ODonel’s will was made on 19 March 1810. In it he stated that under the
terms of the settlement of 10 October 1798 and deed of 8 December 1798 he was
entitled to charge a sum of £14000 on the lands and premises of the estate. He left to his
son Neal O’Donel now Sir Neal O’Donel the sum of £10, to his fourth son Connel
O’Donel £3000, to his daughter Margaret Lady Molyneux the wife of Sir Capel
Molyneux Baronet the sum of £10. To his grandchildren, who were children of his
daughter Maria, who died following a fall from a horse in the grounds of her estate in
Rehins, Castlebar Co. Mayo in 1809,and her husband Dodwell Browne he left the
following amounts.
To Hugh Henry Browne he left £990, to Neal O’Donel Browne £1990, to Matilda
Browne £1000,to Louisa Browne £1000, to Maria Browne £1000 and to Mary Anne
Browne £5000. Mary Anne later married Peter Digges la Touche and was afterwards a
plaintiff in a suit in Chancery against Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel.37
37 NLI, PC263 (2)/60 Chancery 17 April 1832, John O ’H ara and D am e O ’H ara (widow of Hugh James
M oore O ’Donel) otherw ise O ’D onel Plaintiffs. Sir Richard A nnesley O ’Donel Baronet and others
Defendants
26
In the marriage settlement of Sir Neal the younger, Francis Charles Annesley agreed
to advance to Connel O’Donel the £3000 left him in his father’s w ill.38
The marriage settlement of Hugh James Moore O’Donel consists of two parts.
The first dated 24 May 1828 settles the Cong estate and that part of the Burrishoole
estate held freehold on Thomas Towers of Bushy Park in County Tipperary and Henry
O’Hara of the Middle Temple London Esq.. They were required to sell off enough of
this property for the payment of all arrears of interest and costs due not to exceed £500.
The second part of the settlement made on the 30 May 1828 with William
Francis Hart, Josias Dunn of Kildare Street in the City of Dublin Esq. and Alexander
Richey of Bagot Street in the City of Dublin was for the purpose of barring all quasi
estates tail and remainder in those parts of lands of Burrishoole held under covenant
from the earl of Altamont. This settlement was to be guaranteed by Sir John Blake and
Edward Price of Kilroot in County Antrim esq., Connel O’Donel of Seamount in the
County of Mayo Esq. and Peter Digges La Touche of Pembroke Street in the City of
Dublin Esq.. The purpose of this settlement was to make provision by way of jointure
for Dame Arabella O’Donel. It granted to Josias Dunn and Alexander Richey all lands
that were unsold after the first settlement was completed with the remainder to the use
of Sir Hugh James Moore O’Donel for life. If Dame Arabella O’Donel should survive
Sir Hugh she should receive an annuity of £1000 per annum. A portion or portions of
£10000 for a younger child or children should also be secured. A court case in regard to
this settlement was finalised with an award of £10000 to daughter Arabella and £1000
38 NLI, PC263 (l)/84 Indenture 22 June 1813 between Connel O’D onel, Sir Neal O’Donel and Francis
Charles Annesley stating that Francis Charles Annesley has paid Connel O’Donel £3000 owed to him
from the will of his father Sir Neal O’Donel the elder.
27
per annum to Dame Arabella for a total of eleven years amounting to £21,000 in total
settlement.39
Arrears were already starting to build up on the estate before the death of Hugh
James Moore O’Donel. When he died on 28 July 1828 there was then due to him in rent
£1994 19s 6d from the Newport estate and £1283 3s Id from the Cong estate. A
Receiver was appointed in 1829 and received £1222 5s 1 Id from the Newport and £780
19s 3d from the Cong estate making together £2003 5s 2d leaving a balance of £1274
17s 5d which the receiver stated to be insolvent. Also when Hugh James Moore
O’Donel died there was an arrear of head rent due to the marquis of Sligo amounting to
£6000, £1470 of this had accrued from the time when Sir Hugh inherited the estate from
his father. 40
The marriage settlement of Richard Annesley O’Donel was made on 15 April
1831 with George Clendenning of Westport in County Mayo Esq. and Mary
Clendenning spinster third daughter of George Clendenning. Sir Richard, who was
ignorant of the contents of the marriage settlement of his brother Hugh James Moore
O’Donel of May 1828 as he had not been shown them, wished to provide a jointure for
his future wife and secure portions for his younger children. He wished to provide Mary
Clendenning a jointure of £600 during her life if she should survive him with power to
increase this to £1000. He also wished to secure a portion or portions for younger
children when it should be ascertained that he had power so to do either under the
settlement of 1798 or that of 1828. He agreed with George Clendenning that in
consideration of the £5000 he had received as a marriage portion if he had power under
39 NLI, PC263 (2)/60 Chancery 17 April 1832, John O’Hara and Dame O’Hara (widow of Hugh James
Moore O’Donel) otherwise O’Donel Plaintiffs. Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel Baronet and others
Defendants
28
these two settlements he would charge his estates with a jointure for his wife Mary of
not less than £600 but not exceeding £1000. He would also convey the estate to trustees
to be named by George Clendenning for a term not to exceed 99 years to better secure
the estate to provide a portion or portions for the younger child or children daughter or
daughters of the intended marriage.
Apart from the legal proceedings concerned with deeds and encumbrances
several cases were taken against Sir Neal O’Donel. 41 A simple loan of £900, which was
to be repaid by annuity of £120, for the life of the first Sir Neal, resulted in a large
amount of correspondence. Legal proceedings and fees and further settlements followed
the death of some of the principals involved in the annuity or the sale of their share in it.
Charles Jacob Bannister in a case taken in 1805 received an award against Sir Neal of
£1680, which had been paid off by 1813. 42
The drawing up of these wills, indentures and settlements and subsequent court
cases resulted in some sizeable bills from solicitors and barristers. In 1807 £436 6s 7d
40 NLI, PC263 (2)/60 Chancery 17 April 1832, John O’Hara and Dame O’Hara (widow of Hugh James
Moore O’Donel) otherwise O’Donel Plaintiffs. Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel Baronet and others
Defendants
41 NLI, PC263 (l)/77 Details of legal fees in several cases taken against Sir Neal O’Donel. ; PC263 (l)/80
Plaintiff Robert Fitzgerald Ormsby 1815. ; PC263 (1)/81 Plaintiff John Langston 1815. ; PC263 (l)/82
Plaintiff Charles Keane 1815. ; PC263 (l)/83 Plaintiff Richard Acton 1815. ; PC263 (1 )/78 Plaintiff Mary
McDonnell 1817. ; PC263 (l)/79 Plaintiff Joseph Manus O’Donel 1817.
42 NLI, PC264 (l)/37 1805 Court of Annates Sir Neal O’Donel to Chas. Jacob Barrister £1600. ;
PC263(2)/76 Indented deed of 30 August 1805 Neal O’Donel eldest son of Sir Neal O’Donel John
Claudius Beresford and Charles Jacob Bannister nominated and appointed on behalf of Charles Jacob
Bannister agreed annuity of £120 so paid to Neal O’Donel out of lands at Cong.; PC263(2)/100 1805
Agreement between Sir Neal O’Donel and John Claudius Beresford to pay an annual annuity to Charles
Jacob Bannister of £120 ; PC264(2)/19 Memorial of an Indenture of assignment 2 June 1808 between
Charles Jacob Bannister and Henry Doughty £840 transfer to Henry Doughty annuity of £120 to Charles
Jacob Bannister for Neal O’Donel of 30 Aug 1805 . ; PC265 (l)/70 Correspondence to Sir Neal O’Donel
1811 re: non-payment of annuity of £120 to Henry Doughty. ; PC263 (2)/96 Indenture 29 May 1812
Henry Doughty annuity for £120 a year in return for £900 lump sum. ; PC264 (l)/49 30 August 45th year
of reign of George third Neal O’Donel eldest son of Sir Neal O’Donel John Claudius Beresford Charles
Jacob Bannister Philip Henry Roper sum of £840 in exchange for a yearly annuity of £120 for the life of
Neal O’D onel.; PC263 (2)/58 Debt of £1680 by Neal O’Donel to Chas Jacob Bannister for costs from
Court of Exchequer 1813.
29
was paid 43 and in 1812 £62 Os 8d. 44 The effect of all of these court cases and various
marriage settlements and widows’ jointures placed a severe drain on the estate. This
combined with a decline in agricultural prices, and therefore rental income, resulted in
the O’Donel estate being placed in receivership under the control of the Court of
Chancery in 1829. Alexander and George Clendenning, brothers in law of Sir Richard
who had previously been his land agents, had been appointed Receivers. The amounts
that Alexander Clendenning found to be still owing from the estate in 1832 are listed
below (Appendix 1). 45 The Famine and the accumulated incumbrances had put the
estate under a further severe financial burden. In 1849 Sir Richard O’Donel owed the
Bank of Ireland £20,000. 46
There had been a dispute between the Clendennings about the amount of money
that they had collected from the estate which caused court proceedings to be initiated
and the Clendennings were eventually declared bankrupt. As part of the settlement of
the court case between the Clendennings and Sir Richard the flax and Com Mills situate
at the town of Newport were to be made over to a Mr Ritchie an assignee of the
43 NLI, PC265 (l)/80 Legal costs of Sir Neal O’Donel 1807 amounting to £436 6s 7d.; PC265(2)/9 1809
Legal bill for services carried out by solicitor over a number of years .
44 NLI, PC265(3)/28 Accounts from Josias Dunn solicitor to Sir Neal O’Donel for legal work 1812 £62
0s 8d
45 NLI, PC264 (2)/14 1829 Alexander Clendenning receiver. ; PC263 (2)/101 Attested copy of Accounts
of the Receiver Alexander Clendenning from the estate of Sir Richard O’Donel used as evidence in the
three court cases taken against Sir Richard O’Donel by Arthur Guinness, Peter Digges La Touche and
John O’Hara. Amount of rents received in 1843. Newport Estate £6879 12s lOd Cong Estate £2500 17s
3d Clogher Estate £459 8s 7d. ; PC264 (2)/28 Affidavit of Alexander Clendenning in case of John O Hara
and wife vs. Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel 1844. ; PC263 (2)/70 Court of Chancery Alexander
Clendenning receiver lands Ballycroy and Achill. ; PC263 (2)/74 Memorandum of agreement made
between Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel and Henry B rett, Francis Burke and Michael Murphy assignees
of Alexander Clendenning and George Clendenning bankrupts . Whereas said Alexander Clendenning
and George Clendenning acted for several years as land agents for Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel
receiving rents and claiming large sums spent on improvement of estate which Sir Richard Annesley
O’Donel disputes make final settlement of all claims of Clendennings and Alexander Lambert against Sir
Richard Annesley O’Donel.
46 NLI, PC263 (2)/66 Memorandum between Sir R A O’D and Alexander and George Clendenning land
agents.
30
Clendennings. Sir Richard would also endeavour to get the assignees paid out of the
funds produced by the sale of his estates in the Incumbered Estates Court.
Sir Richard would also give a lease for ever of the land where George
Clendenning built a premises known as the Dispensary. He would also agree to pay to
Alexander and George Clendenning £4000, owed to them. Sir Richard also agreed to
limit his wife’s jointure to £600 and the settlement for his younger children to £3000.
He should then sign over all his estate except his personal property to Michael Murphy
of Rathmines in the County of Dublin Esq., the official assignee appointed in the
bankruptcy of George and Alexander Clendenning. No proceedings should be taken
against Lady Arabella O’Donel in relation to her jointure without the written consent of
Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel. The Mansion House and Demesne of Newport and
lands adjacent should be left in the possession of Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel and his
family until all other portions of his estate had been sold. 47 As Sir Richard wished to
repurchase some of his estate from the Incumbered Estates Court, it was agreed that
Michael Murphy should divide the estate into parcels to be sold that would enable Sir
Richard to purchase those parts that he desired. The estate was sold in the Incumbered
Estates Court on several different days as it was broken into several different portions
and lots. These are outlined in Appendix 2.
The Incumbered Estates Act was passed in 1849. Under its terms, a tribunal
known as the Incumbered Estates’ Commission was established. Any estates to be sold
had to be incumbered, and could only be sold without the consent of the owner if the
level of debt was greater than half its annual income, or the estate was in receivership.
The sale of estates in fee, leaseholds in perpetuity, and viable leases of which at least
sixty years were unexpired, all came within the Commission’s remit. But the most
47 NLI, PC263(2)/66 Memorandum between Sir R A O’D and Alexander and George Clendenning land
agents.
attractive feature of this legislation was the fact that it conferred on the purchaser a
parliamentary or indefeasible title. Proceedings taken before the Commission were also
48 very much quicker than comparable procedures taken in the Court of Chancery.
Various charges were made on the land of the estate in the 1840s. Church tithes
were levied on property with a value of greater than £4 and were paid by the tenant. The
county cess was also paid by the tenant except that portion that was chargeable on
wasteland that had not been leased by the landlord and in that case the landlord was
responsible for its payment. This amounted in 1843 to £9 15s 5d on the Burrishoole
estate. Another charge on the estate was quit rent, which in 1843 amounted to £29 2s.
Poor rates were a charge that was levied on the landlord but he usually included this as
part of the rent. Problems arose however when the rent was in default and the landlord
still owed the poor rate. In 1843 the poor rate amounted to £101 8s 8d on the Newport
estate and £15 3s 5d on the Cong estate.
H i
The O’Donels regarded themselves as a great Mayo family. Some married into
other great Mayo families but most of them went outside the county to find brides. Not
only did marriages create bonds between the O’Donels and other families but also they
often provided an injection of much needed capital into the estate. During the period of
this study, it does not appear that any land was acquired as part of a marriage settlement
but George Clendenning O’Donel, son of Richard Annesley O’Donel and Mary
Clendenning, inherited from his father-in-law, Euseby Stratford Kirwan, his estate in
County Longford in 1870.
Sir Neal married Mary, daughter of William Coane of Ballyshannon. The
O’Donel family were therefore maintaining their links with Donegal. James Shiel who
48 Mary Cecelia Lyons, Illustrated Incumbered Estates Ireland 1850 – 1905 (Whitegate, 1993) p.46
32
was also from Ballyshannon was one of the guarantors of the Indenture between the
Medlicotts and Sir Neal O’Donel.
Sir Neal’s son Hugh married Alice Hutchinson of Ballylickey Co. Cork. Hugh, was
lieutenant colonel of the South Mayo Militia who were stationed in Dunmanway in
County Cork in January 1795 under his command. 49 This is probably where he met
Alice Hutchinson. She was regarded as a great heiress that brought a marriage
settlement with her of £20000, which was most welcome in the financially strapped
O’Donel estate. 50 However it has been stated that she was the illegitimate daughter of
Massey Hutchinson of Mount Massey, County Cork. 51
Sir Neal’s son James Moore married Deborah Camac. And his third son Neal
married Catherine Annesley the third daughter of Lord Richard Annesley one of his
majesties Privy Counsel of Annesley Lodge in the County of Dublin. His fourth son
Connel married Mary and died in 1840. 53
Sir Neal the younger’s son Hugh James Moore married Arabella Blake daughter
of John Blake of Menlo Castle, Galway. Menlo Castle was the scene of much high
living in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Sir John Blake the twelfth
baronet is said to have been made an MP to give him immunity from his creditors.
According to the story, when he had been duly elected, his constituents came in a body
49John Mayock , ‘South Mayo Militia’ in Cathair na Mart ,xiv, (1994) ,p. 11
50 NLI, MS 5619 O’Malleys in the 18th Century by Sir Owen O’Malley
51 Edith Mary Johnston- Liik, History of the Irish Parliament 1692 – 1800. (6 vols., Belfast, 2002) v
p.387.
52 NLI, PC264(l)/38 1809 Settlement of Marriage of Sir Neal O’Donel and Catherine Annesley
53 NLI, MS 14309 Minutes of Westport Poor Law Union Guardians 18/11/1840
33
to Menlo and called him ashore from the boat in which he was sitting in order to avoid
two process servers who were waiting for him on the riverbank.54
Sir Neal the younger’s son Richard Annesley married Mary Clendenning of
Westport, the daughter of George Clendenning, the agent for Lord Sligo. She fixed her
dowry as her weight in gold, which she improved by concealing two smoothing irons in
her dress when she was weighed. 55
Settlements may also have gone out of the estate at the time of marriage of
daughters and several deeds specify the amount to be provided to a daughter on her
marriage. In his will Sir Neal the elder specified that his four granddaughters should
receive £1000 each. The interest on this amount should be used for their education and
on their marriage or attaining the age of twenty-one they should receive the principal
amount. 56
Sir Neal the elder had four daughters. Maria married Dodwell Browne of
Rehins. He belonged to a branch of the Browne family of Mayo, which also included
Lord Altamont of Westport, the Brownes of Breaffy, Castlebar, and the Browne family
of Castlemagarret among whom was the MP Dominick Browne. Margaret married Sir
Capel Molyneux also an MP who lived at Castle Dillon Co Armagh. The other
54 Mark Bence-Jones A guide to Irish country houses (London, 1988) p 204.
55 P Mullowney, and J Geraty, ‘The O’Donels of Newport’ in. Back the Road. Journal of the Newport
Historical Society i (1996), p. 12
56 NLI, PC263 (3)/62 Indenture 1854 between Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel, George Clendenning
O’D onel, Mary O’Donel otherwise Clendenning wife of Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel, Michael
Murphy of Mountrath Street in City of Dublin Sir Neal O’Donel left an annuity of £2000 a year to his
wife Mary Coane if she should survive him . Will of Sir Neal O’Donel of 9 March 1810 left £14000 to his
younger children Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel wished to settle a jointure of £1000 on his wife Mary
Clendenning if she should survive him
34
daughters were Catherine and Isabella. He also had a third son Neal O’Donel who was
placed in a lunatic asylum in 1843.57
IV
Part of the prestige associated with being a great landowner was building for one
self a great house and this too imposed costs on the estate. The O’Donels improved their
environment by building not one but two houses for themselves. The first house that
they lived in was about a mile outside the town of Newport in Melcomb. The house was
originally known as Seamount and was added to considerably over the time that the
O’Donels lived in it. The first to live in it was Sir Neal’s father Hugh. In one of the
58 O’Donel rent rolls Samuel O’Donel is listed as living at Seamount. In 1781 a lease for
ever of Seamount House was made to Connolly Coane brother of Sir Neal’s wife Mary.
59 In 1798 a lease was made to James Moore O’Donel, second son of Sir Neal of
Seamount House and eight acres of land. 60 When Sir Neal the younger and later Sir
Richard inherited Newport House, Sir Neal the younger’s brother Connel lived at
Seamount. 61 In his last will of 13 October 1840 Connel O’Donel left all his property
after the decease of his wife Mary to Sir Richard. In 1846 Captain John Nugent of the
62 Revenue Police is listed as living in Seamount in Slater’s Directory . In 1860 George
Clendenning O’Donel was living in Seamount House. 63
57 NLI, PC263(2)/85 Instructions to enter caveat in the Court of Probate to prevent Rev Mr Young
obtaining probate on the will of the late Mr Neal Connel O’Donel who was placed in a lunatic asylum in
1843
58 NLI, MS 5744 Memorandum of leases on Sir Richard O’Donel Estates 1773 -1842
59 NLI, PC 265 (1)
60 NLI, PC265(1)/19
61 Samuel Lewis, A topographical dictionary of Ireland ( 3 vols., London, 1837) i, p. 233
62 Slater’s Directory 1846
63 NLI, PC 264 (2)
35
After a few years in residence, the O’Donels decided to build a larger house for
themselves in the town of Newport. The house was described by Mark Bence-Jones as:
A two story house of different periods of Georgian; with a front of five bays
between 2 three sided bows and a higher wing at right angles which has an elevation of
four bays and a shallow curved bow. Handsome staircase hall with wide arches and
plasterwork of 1820s; stairs of wood, with balustrade of plain slender uprights; curving
gallery.64
The O’Donels spent large amounts of money in the upkeep of their houses and also
repairs to tenants houses. In 1843 £43 was spent on repairs to William Bland’s house in
Clogher, £265 on repairs to Melcomb House and £80 on the demesne wall and nursery
of Newport House. Improvements were also made to the wool store, Newport Hotel, the
wall retaining the Shramore river and drainage was carried out on Nurse Joyce’s
holding and in the townland of Kiltarnet. Improvements and maintenance of the Gate
House cost £54. In this year the amount of rents received was £6879 12s lOd from the
Newport Estate, £2500 17s 3d from the Cong Estate and £459 8s 7d from the Clogher
Estate. 65
Not only did the O’Donel’s improve their own houses they also considerably
improved the town. Lewis in 1837 states
The pier was erected at the expense of Sir R. A. O’Donel and some of the merchants of
the town; the quays are extensive and commodious, and accessible to vessels of 200
tons’ burden, which can be moored in safety alongside and take in or deliver their
cargoes at all times of the tide, and within a few hundred yards may lie at anchor In
perfect security. The channel is safe, and the harbour very commodious: the entrance
into the bay, which is called Clew, Newport, or Westport bay, is spacious and direct;
64 Mark Bence-Jones A guide to Irish country houses (London, 1988) p 225.
65 NLI, PC263 (2)/101 Attested copy of Accounts of the Receiver Alexander Clendenning from the estate
of Sir Richard O’Donel used as evidence in the three court cases taken against Sir Richard O’Donel by
Arthur Guinness, Peter Digges La Touche and John O’Hara . Amount of rents received in 1843. Newport
Estate £6879 12s lOd Cong Estate £2500 17s 3d Clogher Estate £459 8s 7d
36
and within it are numerous islets and rocks, between which, on each side, are several
good roadsteads, capable of accommodating large vessels, with good anchorage in
from two to six fathoms.66
and Mr and Mrs Hall writing in 1840
a few years back Newport was little better than a collection of hovels , and a modem
traveller In 1839 complains bitterly that he was domiciled in an ugly mean-looking
pothouse, redolent of sour beer and effete whiskey punch , the bed chamber of which
was small frouze and unclean . He adds however that Newport was intended to be a
better town and a better town it Is now. The hotel Is neat and comfortable, the cars are
good, several pretty houses have been built along the quay and some large
storehouses 1 in progress’ indicate increasing prosperity. At the quay a vessel of four or
five hundred tons may unload. The town and a vast district to the west of it, including
nearly the whole of the island of Achill are the property of Sir Richard O’Donnel.67
V
The O’Donel family being among the resident gentry were almost all appointed to
positions either as Justices of the Peace or High Sheriffs. Before the purchase of the
estate by the O’Donels, James Moore had been appointed local deputy for affairs of the
Admiralty. 69 In 1815 Connel O’Donel was the High Constable of the Barony of
Burrishoole. 70 There was a certain amount of negotiation between the resident gentry
66 Lewis, A topographical dictionary of Ireland ii, p. 430
67 Mr and Mrs Hall’s Tour of Ireland 1840 edited by Michael Scott (London, 1984). p 394
68 NLI, PC265 (3)/19 Sir Neal O’Donel made Justice of Peace; PC264 (l)/34 Appointment Justice Peace
Sir R O’D nineteenth year reign Victoria.; PC265 (l)/26 4th year of reign of William 4th (born 1765,
ruled 1830-37) Sir R O’D appointed High Sheriff of Mayo.
69 NLI, PC265(3)/23 Appointment of James Moore as local deputy for affairs of the Admiralty
70 NLI, PC263(l)/59 Connell O’Donel High Constable for barony and Patk Gibbons Deputy High
Constable 1815
37
for nominations to these positions and there is a letter from Lord Sligo to Sir Richard
O’Donel requesting his permission to nominate a certain person for sub sheriff for the
county of M ayo.71
Involvement in the military and in politics were ways in which landed families
could increase their status and prestige in society. Several of the O’Donels were
members of the South Mayo Militia. Sir Neal’s eldest son, Hugh, was lieutenant colonel
of the South Mayo Militia and Colonel of the 100th Regiment of the Line. The South
Mayo Militia were stationed in Dunmanway in County Cork in January 1795 under the
command of Lieutenant Colonel Hugh O’Donel. His fellow officers were Lieutenant
John Browne, Lieutenant Dennis Browne and Second Master John Browne. There were
also fifty enlisted men in the contingent. In 1798 the numbers in the militia had
increased, there were 110 men under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hugh
O’Donel during the month of April 1798, for which he was paid £23 17s 6d. There was
also a larger contingent of 120 under the command of Colonel D G Browne for which
he was paid £33 15s Od for the month of April. 72 Within twelve months Hugh O’Donel
had been dismissed from the militia for his anti – Union views. Following the landing
of the French in Killala in 1798, a contingent of the French troops was stationed for a
while in Newport under Captain Boudet but neither Sir Neal ODonel nor his sons were
in Newport at this time. Sir Neal ODonel was at Athlone and his four sons were serving
with their regiments.
A Court-martial was held at Castlebar on charges made by the Reverend John
Benton, protestant chaplain to the South Mayo Militia and others against Captain James
71 NLI, PC265(l)/60 Letter from Lord Sligo to Sir Richard O’Donel requesting his permission to
nominate GM for sub sheriff for the county of Mayo
72 John Mayock, ‘South Mayo Militia’ in Cathair na Mart xiv, (1994) ,11
38
Moore O’Donel and his brother Lieutenant Connel O’Donel. Evidence was given that
Captain James Moore O’Donel stepped forward at Castlebar as advocate to two known
rebels, Crump and Gibbons and also backed another rebel Denis McGuire and that
several known rebels were serving as members of the Newport Cavalry and Infantry.
Another rebel, James Kelly, had encouraged support for the United Irishmen but still
remained a member of the Infantry Corps. Lieutenant Connel ODonel was asked to
ensure that Kelly would appear before the local court on charges of sedition but in the
meanwhile Kelly absconded. The court met at Castlebar on Monday 1 December 1800
and members of the court were Major Wetherington of the 9th Dragoons, Major
Graham of the Royal Meath Militia and Major Frazer of the Frazer Fencibles.
Reverend Benton stated that in 1798 Newport Pratt was considered to be the
sink of rebellion but it appeared that neither Captain O’Donel, who was a magistrate
and a yeoman officer nor any of his family came forward as loyal men or prosecuted to
conviction one rebel leader. The Tree of Liberty was planted in the town by a yeoman
of the name of Gibbons who was convicted on the clearest testimony but escaped from
prison. Captain O’Donel found in the house of Gibbons a hat decorated with a profusion
of green ribbon, the emblem of disloyalty and found among his papers sufficient
evidence to hang him but did not produce this at the trial of Gibbons or give evidence
himself.
Captain O’Donel met the lord lieutenant in Athlone and told him that the French
were in possession of the town of Tuam knowing this not to be true. This delayed the
progress of the king’s troops for one whole day. Another charge against Captain
O’Donel was that a rebel called James Gordon was heard to say by John Wallis and
Richard Davis that Captain O’Donel had spent the six weeks before the French landed at
73 Edith Mary Johnston- Liik, History of the Irish Parliament 1692 – 1800. (6 vols., Belfast, 2002) v
p.387.
39
Killala going from one corps of United Irishmen to the next telling them that they would
soon be relieved. Joseph Kenning of Newport, a yeoman and an Orangeman, was sent
for by Sir Neal ODonel and asked was he an Orangeman. Anthony Wilkes swore that
Lieutenant Connel ODonel called the yeoman off parade into the market house and
asked them to separately swear they were not Orangemen, which Kenning refused to do.
Lieutenant ODonel had rushed at James Wilks with a drawn sword for playing ’ The
Protestant Boys ’ and swore the tune should never be played in Newport.
The court also heard that Lieutenant ODonel frequently on parade read letters
from Captain James Moore ODonel MP wherein the Captain boasted that in parliament
he was pulling down the Orange badges. The court decided after hearing the evidence
that Dr Benton had failed to prove the allegations and that Captain James Moore
ODonel and Lieutenant Connel ODonel had fully exculpated themselves from any
imputation of disloyalty or want of zeal in their duty as magistrates and officers. 74
After the defeat of the 98 insurgents, James Moore ODonel who had been
educated at Lincoln’s Inns and was called to the Irish Bar in 1789, 75 arrested scores of
rebels and then when they came up for trial went to extraordinary lengths to defend
them from the gallows. In Oct 1799 when Colonel Hugh ODonel died he had been
offered an earldom (earl of Achill) and a large sum of money for his support of the
Union but he died as he had lived – an Irish gentleman. 76
Politics played a significant part in the life of the landed gentry. Colonel Hugh
ODonel and Captain James Moore ODonel were both MPs in Grattan’s Parliament.
Hugh was Burgess for Donegal Borough and James Moore for Rathoath Borough,
74 Padraic O’Domhnaill, County Councillor Mayo News 17 July 1930
75 Edith Mary Johnston- Liik, History of the Irish Parliament 1692 – 1800. (6 vols., Belfast, 2002) v
p.387.
40
County Meath. The ODonels were the first members of their family to seek
parliamentary honours and entered parliament with the set purpose of offering a
persistent and determined opposition to the forcing the Act of Union through
Parliament.
In the debate on union at the opening session of parliament in 1799 Colonel
Hugh O’Donel stated
There is no person in or out of this House who can be more anxious for supporting the
closest connection between England and Ireland than I have been or ever shall. I have
fought to preserve it from being interrupted by external and internal foes; but should the
legislative independence of Ireland be voted away by a Parliament which is not
competent therewith I shall hold myself discharged of my allegiance and I will join the
people in preserving their rights. I will oppose the rebels in rich clothes as I have ever
done the rebels in rags .If my opposition to it in this house shall not be successful I will
oppose it in the field .77
Both Hugh O’Donel and James Moore O’Donel voted against the Union in
1799, but Hugh was dead before the vote was taken in 1800 when James Moore again
voted against but he himself was also dead the following year. 78 He was vehemently
opposed to the Union and in one of the wilder anti-Union speeches declared that: ‘if the
Parliament of Ireland should be mean enough to vote away the legislative independence
of Ireland, the people of Ireland would not be mean enough to submit to it, they would
assert their rights, die as freemen rather than live as slaves. I have made up my mind
what my conduct shall be – I shall either live free or fall by cut six of some Hessian
76 Padraic O’Domhnaill, County Councillor in Mayo News July 17 1930
77 P. Mullowney and J. Geraty, ‘The O’Donels of Newport’ in Back the Road Journal of the Newport
Historical Society i.( 19961. p. 12
78 Edith Mary Johnston- Liik, History of the Irish Parliament 1692 – 1800. (6 vols., Belfast, 2002) v
p.387.
41
sabre or other foreign mercenary.’ On 6 June 1800, he moved the Union Bill instead of
being engrossed should be burnt. 79
Dominick Browne MP was particularly friendly with Sir Richard O’Donel and
there is a large amount of correspondence in the O’Donel papers between them both
politically and socially. Browne wrote to Sir Richard about Repeal of the Act of Union,
with details of his speech in the Mayo Constitution. 80 He also wrote as to how the
Mayo landlords should vote, as to extending voting rights to Catholics, with mention of
Daniel O Connell. 81 Lord Sligo who was also an MP wrote to Sir Richard O’Donel
refusing Sir Richard’s request to nominate Daniel O Connel to a committee of the
R9 * House of Commons. Dominick Browne wrote to Sir Richard O’Donel on a more
personal note, from the House of Commons in 1830, congratulating him on his
83 impending marriage to Mary Clendenning. He also wrote to Sir Richard inviting him
to bring his sisters to visit Castlemagarret, Dominick Browne’s home outside
Claremorris. It is interesting to speculate if one of them subsequently married Dominick
Browne.
VI
Religion played a big part in the life of the O’Donel family. Sir Neal the elder
and his father Hugh had converted to the Protestant faith in 1763. During the greater
19 Edith Mary Johnston- Liik, History of the Irish Parliament 1692 – 1800. (6 vols., Belfast, 2002) v
p.387.
80 NLI, PC265(1)/61 Letter from Dominick Browne MP to Sir Richard O’Donel re Repeal of the Act of
Union and Daniel O Connel with details of his speech in the Mayo Constitution .
81 NLI, PC265(1)/71 Letter from Dominick Browne MP Castlemagarret to Sir Richard O’Donel as to
how the Mayo landlords should vote as to extending voting rights to Catholics with mention of Daniel O
Connell 1829
82 NLI, PC265(l)/74 Letter from Lord Sligo to Sir Richard O’Donel refusing Sir Richard’s request to
nominate Daniel O Connel to a committee of the House of Commons 1831
83 NLI, PC265(l)/72 Letter from Dominick Browne MP Castlemagarret from House of Commons to Sir
Richard O’Donel congratulating him on his impending marriage to Mary Clendenning 1830
42
part of the eighteenth century the influence of the penal laws were a constant menace to
Catholics. Their influence was felt particularly strongly in Connacht because there were
more Catholic freeholders there than anywhere else. The result was that a large
proportion of the Catholic land-owning families changed their allegiance at some time
or other during the century. The names and dates were recorded in the official convert
rolls, and show that many families remained Catholic until the second half of the
century. There was a steady drain, which gradually undermined the Catholic position
and left a much reduced but still appreciable number of Catholic land-owning families
that still kept the old faith by the end of the century. There were various reasons for
individual changes, but most of them were connected with property rather than religious
conviction. Probably the chief reason was the wish to keep the estate together instead of
allowing it to be divided among a number of children. If the eldest son turned Protestant
he could inherit the entire estate, and many of the converts were eldest sons. A French
traveller in Connacht at the end of the century formed the opinion that many of those
who had conformed had done so in case a relative should turn Protestant and claim the
84-
estate while others had conformed in order to become members of parliament.
In the parish of Burrishoole there were congregations of Church of Ireland,
Roman Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian. Sir Richard O’Donel became a member
of a sect similar to the Plymouth Brethren called the Darbyites and a conventicle was set
up in Newport. 85 John Wesley visited Newport every other year between 1756 and
84 J.G.Simms, ‘Connacht in the eighteenth century’ in Irish Historical Studies xi, (1958), p. 116.
85 P. Mullowney and J. Geraty, ‘The O’Donels of Newport’ in Back the Road Journal of the Newport
Historical Society i.( 1996), p. 12
43
1767 in the hope of setting up a congregation but did not return after 1767 when one
had not been set up.
VII
Between the middle of the eighteenth and the middle of the nineteenth century
the O’Donel family fortune collapsed in the face of accumulating debts. Because credit
came so easily to landowners many of the Irish gentry mortgaged their estates to the hilt
in order to impress others with their ability to afford not only the necessities but also the
luxuries of the social season. By means of loans scattered among various creditors,
some of whom were relatives and others professional money lenders, owners could
continue to maintain a privileged lifestyle long after their rental income had ceased to
pay the bigger bills. When crop failures or depressions occurred, landowners who had
mortgaged their properties to the legal limit found it well nigh impossible to pay their
87 interest instalments due twice a year.
This chapter has shown the decline in fortunes over time of the O’Donel family.
As L.P. Curtis jr. states
Solvency is the product of a constant interplay between annual rental income and the
myriad expenses of running an estate and maintaining the lifestyle appropriate to a landed
gentleman. Landlords receiving an annual remittance or profit from their estates of at least
30 per cent of the rents received after the agent had paid all the bills and costs of
incumbrances, should be considered solvent. Any amount less than this would have made it
difficult for a gentleman dependent on rental income to keep himself and his family in the
manner appropriate to his social standing.88
86 W.H. Crawford , ‘Development of the County Mayo economy, 1700 – 1850’ in R. Gillespie and G.
Moran (eds), ‘A Various country’ essays in Mayo history 1500 – 1900 (Westport, 1987) p. 67
87 L.P. Curtis jr, ‘Incumbered wealth : landed indebtedness in post-Famine Ireland’ in American
Historical Review li (1980), p. 332
88 L.P. Curtis jr, ‘Incumbered wealth : landed indebtedness in post-Famine Ireland’ in American
Historical Review li (1980), p. 332
44
THE O’DONEL ESTATE
THE LAND AND ECONOMY OF THE ESTATE
The first chapter has examined the origin growth and decline of the O’Donel
estate from the purchase of the estate in 1788 to the sale in 1852. The main factors in
the decline were financial involving extensive borrowing and settlements made on
marriages of daughters and to younger sons of the family. This was not matched by a
corresponding growth in income over time. This increased indebtedness led finally to
the sale of most of the estate in the Incumbered Estates Court. The economy of the
estate as its capacity to yield income was therefore crucial to the history of the O’Donel
estate in the nineteenth century. This chapter examines how the decrease in agricultural
prices following the ending of the Napoleonic War, the subsequent decline in the local
linen industry and the inability of the tenants to pay their rents all contributed to the
financial difficulties of the estate.
This chapter will look at the change in the economy of the estate over time
concentrating on the Newport estate in Burrishoole. The rural economy was based on
livestock and three crops, corn, potatoes and flax. Statistics are available for livestock
numbers in the parish in 1851, but whether these were greatly decreased from those
before the Famine is not known. Potatoes were grown as in many other parts of the
West of Ireland for subsistence and with this readily available form of nutrition and the
two cash crops com and flax producing an adequate income for the tenants, the
Chapter 2
4 5
population in Mayo rose dramatically from 293,112 in 1821 to 388,887 in 1841 an
increase of 32.7 per cent. 89
The economy of the Newport estate was not based solely on the rural areas and
agricultural production. Captain Pratt, the first land agent of the Medlicotts, had
founded the town of Newport Pratt which was named after him. Following the purchase
of the estate by Sir Neal O’Donel the town was further developed and acted as the
centre of administration of the estate. The O’Donels had built themselves a large
landlord house in keeping with their status in the community and there were several
churches established in the town. The town having been built on a river, a port had been
established and subsequent to this fairs and markets. This brought money into the town
from the tolls and customs of the fairs and also from the money received for exports of
corn through the port. The town was also a centre of government administration in the
locality having a courthouse and military and police barracks. Although a large amount
of the spinning and weaving of linen took place in the rural parts of the parish, there
were also a large number of weavers living in the town and a street was subsequently
called Weavers Row. Leases were issued to encourage trades people to settle in the
town. As well as the linen based industries, there was a straw-hat manufactory set up.
I
An examination of the rural economy of the estate starts by looking at how the
estate was divided and rented out to tenants. There were 125 townlands in the parish of
Burrishoole, County Mayo in 1841. Sir Richard O’Donel was by far the biggest
landlord in the parish. He owned sixty-nine townlands. The other major landlords in the
parish were the marquis of Sligo, who lived in Westport seven miles from Newport and
Sir William Palmer who lived for part of the year in Kenure Park, Rush, County Dublin
89 1821 Census of Ireland p.354; 1841 Census p. 400
46
and the remainder of the year on his estates in England. They each owned fifteen
townlands in the parish. Colonel Gore lived in Beleek Manor, Ballina, County Mayo
and owned twelve townlands.
The townland because of its size, association with family and with home place
remains the most intimate and enduring of the land divisions in Ireland. Through
repeated usage in land surveys and property transactions from the seventeenth century
onwards, the townland gradually replaced all earlier units and in the nineteenth century
was chosen by government as the basic administrative unit for the purpose of land
valuation and census of population.90 In the parish of Burrishoole all townlands were
only owned by one head landlord, although there were some cases of middlemen
subletting. The ownership of the townlands in the parish is shown in Fig. 1.
The acreage of land held by individual landowners again showed O’Donel to be
the major landholder with 29,787 acres in the parish of Burrishoole in 1841. The
marquis of Sligo had 8135 acres, Colonel Gore 5496 and Sir William Palmer 1914
acres. Sir Richard O’Donel also had the majority of tenants with 6,413 with 1,637
paying rent to the marquis of Sligo and 1,585 to Colonel Gore. Sir William Palmer had
695 tenants. The percentage of population in the parish by landlord is shown in Fig. 2
and the percentage of land owned in the parish of Burrishoole by the four major
landlords in Fig.3.
90 Paul Connel, Denis Cronin, and Brian O Dalaigh (eds.), Irish townlands studies in local history
(Dublin, 1998) p. 9.
47
Glenlara D e rry b ro c k
Glennamong
Teevalougban
Teantaur
S k e rd a g h U p p e r
Uettermagbera North Treanbeg
Gleodahutk
TavJnagi
Dooghill
Gtennamaddoo, S k e rd a g h
lunnahowna
O g h ille e s io ck m o y l
m a g h e rà
;arheenbtad
le rry c o o ld rim
O o o o tru s k
M eenadoghfinny Rosturk
Mallaranny :rrytOughan
\ a n North
R osgallW
Cushlecka
m u l r a n y 1 1 8 ip e fry lo u g 1
Dooghbeg
nockeera*
Leca r row
Roisânrubble
12 Srahacorick
13 Newfield
16 Knockmanus
17 Drumfurban
20 Knockbrega
21 Roskeen North
22 Knockloughra
23 Sandhill
25 Carrowbeg North
26 Rockfleet
27 Raigh
30 Carrowsallagh
31 Carrowbeg (Fergus)
38 Knockglass
39 Keelogues
40 Knockalegan
41 Inishtubbrid
42 Wilford
43 Rossyvera
44 Rusheens
45 Knockboy
46 Ardagh
47 Corraunboy
48 Rosgibbileen
55 Tawnmartola
56 Callowbrack
57 Cloonfoher
58 Derrygarve
59 Inishower
60 Shanvallyhugh
61 Fauleens
62 Carrowkeel
63 Kiltarnaght
64 Derrintaggart
65 Aughadoey Glebe
66 Drumbrastle West
67 Cahergal
68 Derryloughanmore
69 Ros mo re
70 Lisduff
71 Drumbrastle East
72 Derryloughanbeg
73 Caulicaun
74 Knocknageeha
75 Barrackhill
76 Milcum
77Teevemore
79 Knockaveely Glebe
80 Sandymount
81 Carrowmore
82 Mullaun
83 Inishturlin
85 Kilbride
86 Rosbarnagh
88 Carrowbeg South
90 Creevaghaun
92 Corragaun
101 Derryhillagh
102Tawnawoggaun
103 Carrowbaun
104Camcloon More
105 Derrykill West
106 Derrykill East
109Camcloon Beg
110 Bleachyard
111 Drummannaglieve
112Tawnanmeeltogue
113 Derrycleetagh
114 Drumlong
115 Knockatinnyweel
116 Clooneshil
117 Derrycoontort West
118 Derrycoontort East
120 Carrickaneady
122 Cuilmore
123 Cullentragh
124 Roslynagh
125 Furnace
Townlands in the Parish of Burrishoole County Mayo
Townlands in the O’Donel Estate
Glenthomas
MILES
Percentage of land owned in Parish of Burrishoole 1851
Colonel Gore
? Sir Richard
O’Donel
? Sir William Palmer
? Marquis of Sligo
? Other
Figure 2 Percentage of land owned in the Parish of Burrishoole by the four major landlords. 91
Percentage of tenants in Parish of Burrishoole 1851
? C olonel G ore
? S ir Richard
O ’Donel
? S ir W illiam P alm er
? M arquis of Sligo
? O ther
Figure 3 Percentage of tenants renting from the four major landlords in the parish of Burrishoole
1851. 92
91 Griffiths Valuation of Tenements for the Union of Newport. County Mavo 1857
92 Griffiths Valuation of Tenements for the Union of Newport. County Mavo 1857. 1851 Census of
Ireland.
49
Min Max Count Mean Std Dev Mode
Griffiths 1857 IR£4.65 IR£202.45 69 IR£55.51 IR£36.57 IR£45.50
Total Population 1841 11 271 69 92.94 61.73 83
Total population 1851 0 217 69 46.78 45.43 35
Per cent decline -13.04% 100.00% 69 48.05%
Acres 39 4453 69 431.70 769.75 164
Value pence per acre 2.09 542.00 69 90.52 85.76 79.64
1851 population per
acre
0.00 0.81 69 0.26 0.20 0.2
1851 value per
population in pence
0.00 824.45 69 222.51 176.42 215.25
Number of Leases 0 10 69 1.59 2.27 1
Per cent of Leases with
non native names
0.00% 100.00% 69 0.00%
Per cent of Leases with
more than one name
0.00% 100.00% 69 0.00%
1841 population per
acre
0.00 1.70 69 0.57 0.38 0.57
1841 value per
population in pence
49.48 1413.91 69 208.76 241.68 136.06
Arrears 1805 0.00% 100.00% 47 0.00%
Arrears 1816 0.00% 299.20% 49 40.29%
Arrears 1823 0.00% 320.23% 46 85.13%
Arrears 1824 0 .00% 420.23% 47 103.19%
1816 Rent for townland
as a percentage of 1805
0 .00% 998.37% 47 100.41%
1823 Rent for townland
as a percentage of 1805
0.00% 827.57% 47 100.41%
1816 Surnames still in
townland as a
percentage of 1805
0.00% 100.00% 39 87.00%
1823 Surnames still in
townland as a
percentage of 1805
0.00% 100.00% 39 66.00%
1857 Surnames still in
townland as a
percentage of 1805
0.00% 100.00% 43 66.00%
Figure 4 Calculations of the Mean. Mode . Min, Max. and Standard Variation
for several variables associated with different townlands in the Parish Of Burrishoole
owned by Sir Richard O’Donel
50
93 rolls and arrears from 1774 to 1844 during the period under study. There were also a
total of 216 leases issued by the O’Donel family for the parish of Burrishoole. 94
Population for the different townlands for 1841 and 1851 was obtained from the
respective censuses 95 and acreage and valuation from Griffiths Valuation. 96 The
population was higher in the smaller more valuable townlands. Carrowkeel consisted of
eighty-seven acres and had a population in 1841 of 173, Corraunboy had a population of
129 on seventy-six acres and Camcloon had a population of 125 on eighty-three acres.
This was contrasted with Oghilees having a population of six on 842 acres, Derrybrock
with nine on 1309 acres and Glennamong with twenty-two on 4453 acres. The higher
concentration of population was associated with much better soil quality in these areas.
The size of a townland is usually associated with the richness of the soil. The land in the
three largest townlands in the parish is also the poorest. Oghilees had a valuation of 1.2p
per acre, Derrybrock 2.6p per acre and Glennamong 0.4p per acre. While the more
heavily populated townlands of Carrowkeel, Corraunboy and Camcloon had a valuation
of 38p, 40p and 22p per acre. After the famine extensive grazing farms were established
for example a whole townland, Glenamadoo, of 2,045 acres was let to one tenant Henry
J Smith. 97
Material available in the O’Donel papers in the National Library included rent
93 Rent rolls for 1805, 1811, 1812, 1813, 1814, 1815, 1816, 1818, 1819, 1823, 1824, 1838, and 1844 NLI,
PC263(1), PC263(2), PC263(3), PC264(1), PC264(2), PC265(1), PC265(2), PC265(3); MS 5736
Rentals and Tithes Applotments 1774-1830 ; MS 5744 Memorandum of leases on Sir Richard O’Donel
Estates 1773 -1842 ; MS 5821 Rent Roll 1774-1814 ; MS 5745 Sept 1826-Sept 1831 Rental ; MS 5742
Accounts O’Donel Estate and Relief Funds 1837-40 ;
94 National Library of Ireland, Manuscripts Collection, O’Donel Papers unindexed Collection.
PC263(1) – PC265(3)
95 1841 Census. 1851 Census
96 Griffiths Valuation of Tenements for the Union of Newport, County Mayo 1857
97 Griffiths Valuation of Tenements for the Union of Newport, Countv Mayo 1857, p66
51
Examination of the leases and rent rolls in the O’Donel papers gives a picture of
the way land was rented in the estate. A large percentage of the leases were made out to
a single leasee and entries in the rent rolls were to single name leasees in many of the
townlands. However this does not preclude the possibility that the immediate lessor
might have sublet the land, although in some of the later leases a penalty clause was
inserted to prevent this. In some townlands land was not rented in severalty as a farm
held by individuals but to a group of tenants. Unlike other areas of Ireland, Mayo had
been relatively untouched by the enclosure of common fields. Land allocation among
villagers was accomplished by a complex system of usufruct rights, which tended to
produce a fragmented and subdivided pattern of land use. As with partible inheritance
systems, Mayo’s rundale (runrig) tenure allowed most individuals to have access to
some land, no matter how limited in acreage. Such a system was predisposed to
9 8 absorbing an increasingly pauperised tenantry in the context of demographic growth.
Land rented by rundale was usually entered in the rent roll as ‘& Co’. Those who rented
together were mostly interrelated and lived in tightly huddled groups of houses called
clachans. Each clachan appointed a head man. De Tocqueville on his visit to Newport in
1835 remarked ‘The parish has 11,000 inhabitants living in 100 hamlets.’ 99 Apart from
1,285 living in the town of Newport the majority of the remainder of the occupants
lived in these hamlets or clachans. 100 The land involved was an open field system
(infield/outfield). Each family might have as many as thirty fragmented lots depending
on the quality and location of arable and grazing land. The plots were unfenced but were
marked by stones or by making a small ridge known as a caolog. The unique feature of
98 Eric L. Almquist, ‘Mayo and beyond: land domestic industry, and rural transformation in the Irish
west.’ Ph. D. thesis Boston University 1977 p.123
99 Emmet Larkin (ed.) Alexis de Tocqueville’s journey in Ireland July-August ,1835 (Dublin, 1990)
p. 129
52
the system was that ownership was rotated among the families every three years.101 The
outfield, which consisted of large expanses of blanket peat bog and mountain
102 ‘wasteland’, was generally grazed in common by village co-tenants. The head man
held the lease from the landlord and was therefore responsible for the collection and
payment of all rents. He also acted as a mediator in disputes. The land was not divided
equally among all the occupants of the clachan however. Those with the most capital
got a larger proportion of land and usually the more desirable portions. 103 The unit of
measurement was based not on area but on grazing capacity, the grazing for a cow was
known as a collop. The amount of cattle a tenant was allowed to graze on the mountain
pasture was linked to the size of his tillage area. On Clare Island in the nineteenth
century eight dry sheep were deemed equivalent of a cow in grazing terms. 104 The
tillage collop was not measured by area but by fertility of the soil and was supposed to
be capable of supporting one family by its produce.105
In identifying the townlands where rundale was practised note was made of all
entries where Co’ was entered but joint tenancies with just two names were not
included. In some cases entries with ‘& Co’ were made in townlands which also had a
large amount of individual leases. This was probably not true rundale but a group of
tenants renting collectively. There were forty-four townlands in the O’Donel estate in
100 Lewis, A topographical dictionary of Ireland ii, p. 430
101 Michael J. O’Malley, ‘Local relief during the Great Irish Famine 1845- 1850 the case of county Mayo’
Ph. D Thesis. Loyola University Chicago. 2000.
102 E. Estyn Evans, The personality of Ireland (Dublin, 1992) p. 55.
103 Desmond McCabe, ‘Social order and the ghost of moral economy in Pre-Famine Mayo’ in R Gillespie
and G Moran (eds), ‘A Various country’ essays in Mavo history 1500 – 1900 (Westport, 1987). p.91
104 C. Mac Cartaigh, ‘Clare Island Folklife’ in New survey of Clare Island Vol. 1: History and Cultural
Landscape. (Dublin, 1999) p. 43
105 P. Knight, Erris in the Irish highlands and the Atlantic railway (Dublin 1836) p. 46.
53
the parish where rundale renting took place in 1839. 106 In most cases the head man
decided who in the clachan paid the rent on which portion of infield and not all portions
allocated were of the same size. Likewise with the outfield, the number of animals that
could be put on the common grazing by each of the tenants renting in common would
be decided by the portion of the rent they were paying.
In 1824 an assignation of the grazing for the townland o f Glendahurk which
consisted of 1455 acres of mostly mountainy land showed that the rent for a calf s
grazing for the year was 2 shillings. A quarter which was the grazing for a cow was 3
shillings. There were several shares that were not made up of multiples of these
amounts, for example Martin Grady had a share of 5s 4d and Pat Cusack 9s 4d. This is
probably due to the grazing for a sheep being 8d, in which case Grady would have the
grazing for eight sheep and Cusack for fourteen. Some of the tenants who had grazed
animals in Glendahurk had come quite a distance, Cusack coming from the townland of
Cloggemagh in the neighbouring parish o f Addergoole. In 1805 Mr Dodwell Browne
had been renting the whole townland at an annual rent of £92 but when he fell into
arrears the lease reverted to Sir Richard O’Donel. 107
County Mayo was the only county in Ireland where rundale remained the
predominant form of tenure in 1845. In the poor law unions of Ballina, Swinford and
Westport alone, 364,603 acres were held in common or joint tenancy. Similarly the
greater part of the union of Castlebar union was held in common. Nearly 40 per cent of
the rental income of Newport landlord Sir Richard O’Donel’s estate in Achill Island and
Burrishoole came from such tenants. Such a high concentration of heavily populated
settlements meant that Mayo was particularly vulnerable to crop failure in 1845. The
106 NLI, MS 5742 Accounts O ’Donel estate and Relief Funds 1837-40
107 NLI, PC263(2)/1
54
lower classes also included landless agricultural labourers who held small plots of
potato ground or conacre from a farmer at fixed rent, payable in work. Labourers earned
no money and relied exclusively on the potato for food.108
The 1851 census has details of the agricultural holdings in the Barony of
Burrishoole. 63 per cent of holdings were less than fifteen acres. There were a total of
3,445 holdings in the barony and 700 of these were under five acres. Only nine per cent
were greater than thirty acres. There were a total of 1197 horses and the majority of
these were kept on farms of between five and thirty acres. There were also twenty five
mules and 718 donkeys. It was more than likely that a farm over thirty acres had a horse
while those over two hundred acres probably had two. On the five to fifteen acre farms
where almost sixty percent of the donkeys were owned there was only thirty percent of
farmers owned a donkey. There were a total of 10,906 cattle and again the majority of
these were on the five to thirty acre holdings which made up 62 percent of total
holdings, but 1834 cattle were on farms between 100 and 500 acres that only made up
2.7 per cent of the holdings. Farmers with five acres or less would only have one cow
while the farmer with a hundred acres had ten cows and the seventeen landholders
having more than five hundred acres had on average forty eight cattle. There were 7165
sheep and 52 per cent of these were on farms between fifteen and one hundred acres.
There were 1611 pigs and 45 per cent of these were kept on farms between five and
fifteen acres. Other animals kept were 785 goats, 21,232 chickens almost 9000 of these
were kept on the five to fifteen acre holdings which made up 43 per cent of total
holdings. A farmer on a holding of one acre or less was likely to have just four hens,
while those having fifteen acres or more would have eight. 109
108 Michael J. O’Malley, ‘Local relief during the Great Irish Famine 1845- 1850 the case of county Mayo’
Ph. D Thesis. Loyola University Chicago. 2000.
109 1851 Census
55
A lease in 19 Oct 1706 by Sir Henry Bingham of Castlebar to Owen O Malley
of Burrishoole of the four quarters of Bumshoole, specified that the lessee and his
undertenants had to grind their com and grain at Ballyvaughan mills, and to thicken
their cloth at Ballyvaughan tuck mill, under penalty of 2s 6d for each default, and to do
suit at the manor of Bumshoole lordship. 110 The lessees of the mill are also described
in seven leases and there is also a considerable correspondence with McAdam and
Carroll the manufacturers of the mill equipment. 111 The mill was rented by Richard
Lendrum from the Medlicotts in 1777 at a rent of £25 13s 6d. 112 The possibility of a
rival mill being set up in the parish is mentioned in a lease of land from John Arbuthnot
to Lieutenant Colonel Wilford in 1792. John Arbuthnot had been an Inspector for the
Irish Linen Board and he must have felt in his retirement that he would like to establish
a linen mill on his property in West Mayo. Included in the lease of the land of
Carrowsallagh to Wilford was a clause specifying he had a right to quarry enough
stones from a quarry on the leased land to build two houses and a mill. It was also
agreed that no weir or other impediment should be fixed on the stream, which would
interrupt the free passage of the fish or current of the water. The fishing rights on the
stream were granted to Lieutenant Colonel Wilford. 113 There is no evidence however
that this mill was eventually built and John Arbuthnot died in 1797. 114
110 J. Ainsworth, ‘O Malley Papers’, in Analecta Hibemica xxv,(1967) p i87 .
111 NLI, PC265(l)/42 1846 Correspondence 15 letters re: building scutch mill and corn mill for Sir
Richard O’Donel with Messrs McAdam, Carrol and Co Belfast
112 J. McDermott, ‘An examination of the Accounts of James Moore Esq. Land agent and collector of Port
Fees at Newport P ratt, Co. Mayo 1742 -65 , Including an account of the development of Newport Pratt
from the early eighteenth century until 1776’, MA, NUI Maynooth, 1994
113 NLI, PC 263 (3) 1792 lease John Arbuthnot to Lieut. Colonel Richard Wilford of eighth of Kings
Regiment eighth Dragoons Carrowsallagh part of Carigahowley
114 Knockavelly Glebe, headstone inscriptions, Back the Road, Journal of Newport Historical Society, i,
(1996), 21.
II
56
In 1798 George Lendrum, miller, who was probably Richard’s son, claimed for
damages to the Commissioners for inquiring into the losses sustained by such of his
Majesty’s loyal subjects as have suffered in their property by the rebellion. 115 James
McParland mentioned the mill in 1802 in his Statistical survey of County Mayo when
he says that there is one good oat mill in the barony. 116 George Lendrum was still
renting the Mills in 1805 117 but in 1811 William Ivers was renting them. 118 In 1838 Sir
Richard O’Donel leased the mill together with the right of water to them to Jonas
Swain. The lease, which was for 41 years, specified that Jonas Swain should within
five years of taking up the lease spend £500 on renovation of the mill. If this were done
there would be a twenty pound abatement of the first years rent of £32 12s. If repairs
were not carried out the lease would only run for 31 years. 119
In April 1845 Mary Wilks aged 22 was married to John McNab of Westport
who worked as a slator. Mary was a daughter of Thomas Wilks, a weaver, whose
residence was the mill. Linen was also being processed at the mill at this stage and
Thomas was weaving the yam that was produced. Two daughters of Charles Naylor,
who also gave his address as the Mill Newport, were married in 1846. Charles gave his
occupation as farmer so he probably lived in one of the mills cottages, where he worked
part time as well as spending the rest of his time looking after his cattle and maybe
120 cultivating a few fields of flax.
115 J.F. Quinn . History of Mavo vol.3 (Ballina, 1993) p.120
116 James McParland .Statistical Survey of County Mavo (Dublin, 1802) p. 112
117 NLI, PC 263(1) O’Donel Estate 1805 Rent Roll
118 NLI, PC 263(2) O’Donel Estate 1811 Rent Roll
119 NLI, PC 263 (3) 1838 Lease of mill to Jonas Swain.
120 Representative Church Body Library , Church of Ireland Marriage Register Parish of Burrishoole.
57
dramatically. Wheat yields fell by over two-thirds, oats by a little under three-fifths, and
barley by about a third. This reflects the post-Famine shrinkage in population, and
subsequent redeployment of land to animal husbandry. That is why mills, which were
profitable in the 1830s and 1840s, had become surplus to requirement by the close of
121 the nineteenth century.
i n
The form of agriculture practised in the barony was considerably altered by the
Famine. Prior to this flax was extensively cultivated in the parish of Burrishoole as can
be seen by some of the placenames such as Bleachyard and Weavers Row. James Hack
Tuke had remarked in 1847, that the soil and climate of Connaught were particularly
suitable for the growing of flax. 122 A list of persons paid premiums for sowing flax in
1796, in a scheme run by the Linen Board, to increase the supply of flax includes
several people in the Newport area. 123 Those listed include Sir Neal O’Donel, who was
provided with a loom. Four spinning wheels were provided to Connor Deveir, Denis
Duffey, Michael Duffey, Michael Geraughty, Thomas Lunskin, Mary Malley, James
McDonagh, Manus McManamon, Edmond Mylett, Claud Nixon, James Nixon, Edmond
Nolan, Dominick O’Donnell, James M. O’Donnell, Owen O’Donnell, Widow
O’Donnell, Owen O’Mally and James Walsh. 124 An account of the arrears of flaxseed
Between 1851 and the late 1870s, the area under grain in Ireland contracted
121 Mary Cecelia Lyons, Illustrated Incumbered Estates Ireland 1850 – 1905 (Whitegate, 1993) p.73
19? J.H. Tuke, A visit to Connaught in the autumn of 1847. (London, 1847)p. 8
123 Linen Board premiums for persons growing flax: 1796 a list of persons paid premiums for sowing flax
in a scheme run by the Linen Board to increase the supply of flax. It provides the name and parish of
residence of over 2,000 persons in Mayo. It is available in several archives in book or microfiche form.
NLI Call Number Ir:633411 i7
124 John M ayock, ‘County of Mayo , a list of persons to whom premiums for sowing flax-seed in the year
1796 have been adjudged by the trustees of the linen manufacture’ .in Cathair na M art, xi ,(1991),93
58
also gives names of those involved in the cultivation of flax. 125 They may have had to
return to Sir Richard O’Donel the same amount of seed at the end of the growing season
that they were given at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately this is only a partial list
and of a total of 727 gallons in arrears 285 are carried forward from a previous missing
page. Those growers that were not in arrears would also not be included in this list. The
growers of flax that were in arrears are shown in figure 5.
Townland Growers in Arrears
Barrack Hill John and Pat Cain
Bleachyard John Hester, Edward Killey, Anthony McFadin
Burrishoole Mark Dugan and Austin Gallagher
Callowbrack John Quinn
Comploon Pat Loughnan
Curranboy Mark Dugan
Derrygarrif Pat Duffy, James Murphy and Thomas Garrevan
Derry hi 11 Bryan Golden and John O’Malley
Derry hillagh John Brice
Derry] ahan Pat Berry, Manus Brice, John Cunniff, John Cusack, Edward, Pat, Peter and Thomas
Lavelle, Mathew, James and Widow McGuane, Cormick and James Nolan, William
O’Malley, Edward Quinn, Hugh and Widow Sheridan
Fauleens Joseph Clark and Pat Gallagher jr. and Pat Gallagher snr.
Kiltarnaught Dominick Heveran and James Limerick jr. and James Limerick snr. and Anthony
McGann
Knockalegan John Bourke and James Cunny
Knockbrega Michael, Pat and Thady Kerrigan as well as John O’Donel
Knockaneel Myles Costello
Knocknagee Hugh Cleary, Samuel Gorry, Alick Sweeney and Mrs Daniel Sweeney.
Knockroe Francis Cavanagh, Pat and William Garrevan and Brian McGuire
Raugh Frank Gallagher, Pat McManamon and Daniel Sweeney
Rossgiblin Pat Greavan and John Scuffield
Rossmore Peter Cunnane, Peter Lavelle and Rodger Sweeney
Shanballyhugh John and Michael Lavelle
Shrafarna Michael Mullowny and John Corrigan
Tawnawoggaun Henry Garrevan, Widow Gibbons and Michael Quinn
Figure 5 The growers of flax that were in arrears O’Donel estate in 1822
A large amount of flax was grown in the townland of Derryloughan. In
Knocknagee Hugh Cleary was in arrears for 3 gallons and the largest amount of arrears
in this list of 63 gallons was Samuel Gorry. This would have been enough seed to sow
125 NLI, PC263(l)/68 An account of the arrears of flaxseed contained in the North Division of the
Newport Estate
59
five acres. Also in this townland was Alick Sweeney owing 31 gallons and Mrs Daniel
Sweeney.
Orla Dempsey in her thesis in 1987 on ‘Quaker Contribution to Relief in
Ballina Co. Mayo during the Great Famine 1845-50’ 126 states that
Previous to this the Friends in an attempt to diversify employment (seen as the only way
of returning the country to economic prosperity) promoted the growth of flax, cultivating
almost 75 acres themselves on their model farms. This was purchased by Bernard and
Kock of Newport. The latter obviously sufficiently impressed with the end result,
approached the Central Relief Committee with a project that proposed to establish a
factory for the steeping and preparing of flax in Ballina to be “conducted ” by the Hay
Brothers and Co. After the usual consideration was given, the Committee agreed to aid
them and advanced a loan of £500. Knox Gore was now himself involved in the
cultivation of flax put forward a proposal to build a flax-scutching mill to complement
Bernard and Kocks rettery.
Bernard and Kock, two Swiss gentlemen, were involved in the linen industry at
the time of the Famine with a substantial rettery in Newport. This not only handled the
crop that was grown around Newport but also flax harvested around Ballina a distance
of thirty miles from Newport was transported in order to be retted. Mayo was
particularly suited to growing flax, as the plant thrives in moderate to cool climates with
moist summers. The seeds were sown thickly to minimise effects of weeds in shallow
drills in March or later if the winter had been hard. When 70-100mm high the crop was
carefully weeded. The flax was pulled, not cut, in late summer or early autumn, when
the seeds turned yellow from green indicating ripeness. After harvesting the plants were
laid out in neat rows on the grass to dry for up to 2 weeks. The seed was then separated
126 Orla Dempsey , ‘Quaker Contribution to Relief in Ballina Co. Mayo during the Great Famine 1845-
50‘ , MA, NUI Maynooth, 1997 p. 49
60
from the stalk in a process called rippling. Next, the outer part of the stalks must be
allowed to decay in order that it might be easily separated from the fibre. This retting
process which was carried out partly by exposure to damp grass and partially by
steeping for about ten days in pools, required delicate judgement; even a small mistake
would mean a serious loss in the value of the flax. After retting the flax was spread on
the grass to further the separation process and then scutched where sheaves of flax were
beaten by a mallet and then by a flat wooden knife until the fibres resemble threads. The
next process was hackling where the fibres were drawn through the hands and then
though a wire brush. Spinning then took place after which the yam was then bleached
by steeping in dye and boiling. 127
The linen industry in Mayo got a welcome boost when John Arbuthnott who
bought property in Carrigahowley, about four miles west of Newport was offered the
post of Inspector-General to the Irish Linen Trade in 17S2 and he did much to promote
1 98 the linen industry in Connaught. It is curious that so much flax growing should take
place in Connaught, far away from the centres of weaving and from the Dublin market.
In all probability the peasants in this region turned to flax cultivation because they
found it more difficult to supply either cereals or dairy produce which were staple goods
1 2 9 in the midland and southern counties.
By the year 1800 the linen trade was flourishing. Flax was extensively grown in
the barony of Burrishoole. Spinning wheels and looms were in every cabin – in some
cabins there were two looms – where they spun and wove pieces of linen for the regular
linen markets at Castlebar and Westport. Towards Westport, in the barony of Murrisk, it
127 Conrad Gill, The rise of the Irish Linen Industry (Oxford, 1964) p 36
128 Conrad Gill, The rise of the Irish Linen Industry (Oxford, 1964) p 288
129 Conrad Gill, The rise of the Irish Linen Industry (Oxford, 1964) p 36
61
was greatly encouraged by the earl of Altamont, who established two bleach greens in
the neighbourhood. Around Castlebar the local landowner, Lord Lucan, established
three bleach greens as well as setting up a linen hall there where the linen market was
held on Saturday and £500 spent. Rural industry was favoured by landowners seeking to
diversify the incomes of their tenants and to improve their own profits. The trade
brought cash into rural households, which allowed increases in both land rents (which
obtained only before 1810) and rural population density. In the context of population
growth after 1750, economic survival for smallholders increasingly depended upon
labour intensive production of linen yam and potatoes.130
De Tocqueville in his tour of Ireland was under the opinion that Lord Altamont
had introduced the linen industry into West Mayo. He found it to consist principally in
spinning flax, which was sent out of the country. There was very little weaving in West
Mayo at this time except for local use of the resulting cloth. In order to establish the
weaving industry Lord Altamont built good houses in the town of Westport, and let
them upon very favourable terms to weavers, gave them looms, and lent them money to
buy yarn. In order to secure them from manufacturing goods, which they should not be
able readily to sell, he constantly bought all they could not sell, which for some years
was all they made. As the manufacture arose, buyers came in, so that he did not need to
buy any great quantity. The first year 1772, he bought as much as cost him £200; the
next year 1773, £700; the next 1774, as much as £2000; and in 1775, above £4,000
worth; and in 1776, the number of buyers having much increased he did not need to lay
out any more than £4,000, the same as the previous year. 131
130 James McParland .Statistical survey of County Mayo (Dublin, 1802) p. 113
131 Emmet Larkin (ed.) Alexis de Tocqueville’s journey in Ireland Julv-August .1835 (Dublin, 1990)
p. 129
62
Asenath Nicholson who visited the Newport area in the time of the famine
observed
Sir Richard O ’D onel prom oted the cultivation of flax in the parish and m any of
his ten an ts w ere on this in the su m m er and autum n of 18 47 . A m ong the thousands
w hich w ere happily at w ork w e re m any w om en, and their cheerful responses testified
how th ey prized the boon to be allow ed to labour, w hen th ey could earn but a few pence
a day. T h e following ye ar th ere ap p ea red to be a decline in this w ork, and with it m any
of the poor w ere left hopeless, and probably before another spring opened they w ere,
sent out into the storm by the driver of Sir R ichard. 132
IV
To fertilise their arable crops the tenants commonly used seaweed as can be seen
from a lease made in 1805 by Sir Neal O’Donel to his son Connel O’Donel of the farm
and lands of Burrishoole and Rosgibbleen. These lands with the dwelling house, salt
works and out offices known as Owen O’Malley’s Burrishoole were bounded on the
East by the river of Burrishoole on the west by the sea and on the north by the lands of
Knockelayne and Derrada and on the south by the Burrishoole River and the sea. The
lease included the kelp shores and manure weed for a rent of one hundred pounds for
three lives. 133
The long indented coastline around Clew Bay afforded potato growers unusually
good facilities for heavily fertilising their crops with kelp and sea sand. Kelp burning
was also an important adjunct to the economic life of many west coast communities in
the nineteenth century. 134 In 1774 Neal O’Donel had rented the kelp shores of Newport
132 Asenath Nicholson, Annals of the Famine in Ireland (Dublin, 1998) p.l 17
133 NLI, PC263(3)/14 Lease 3 May 1805 Sir Neal O’Donel to Connel O’Donel
134 Kenneth McNally, Achill (Newton Abbot, 1973) p. 172
63
and Achill from John Thomas Medlicott for £100 135 and in 1814 after he bought the
estate from the Medlicotts he had rented the Newport Kelp Shores alone for £237 to
twenty-three leasees. 136 He had lowered the rent to £130 by 1819. 137 Richard Pococke
believed that by harvesting the seaweed for manure and kelp burning that the fishing
declined as the fish spawned on the seaweed. 138
Houses were heated by the use of turf, as the lease from Sir Neal O’Donel to his
son Connel states that the lessee had a right to full and free liberty of entering securing
and carrying away yearly and every year during the term hereby granted a sufficiency of
turf on the best and most convenient part of the boggs of Doontrusk and Derrada which
said premises lay. 139 The lease from John Arbuthnott Esq. specifies that Lieutenant
Colonel Wilford has liberty to cut turf for the use of his house, on the most convenient
part of the boggs used by the said John Arbuthnott Esq.. This is provided that it is cut in
straight lines and not promiscuously in holes as a mangled bog. 140 Reverend Mr Coney,
parish priest of the neighbouring parish of Kilmeena stated to the Commissioners on
Poor Laws in Ireland in 1836 that the universal fuel of the barony is turf and bogwood
which is in most places sufficiently accessible to the tenants but often of very poor
quality as the portions of bog assigned to the different villages have been worked out.
John Kenny a small ordinary farmer testified to the same Commission that it took him
about a fortnight to cut as much turf as his family required for a year, about 14 days
135 NLI, MS 5736 Rentals and Tithes Applotments Medlicott and O’Donel estate 1774-1830
136 NLI, PC263(3)/37 Arrears for Burrishoole 1814
137 NLI, PC263(3)/39 1819 Rent Roll
138 Richard Pococke, Richard Pococke’s Irish tours , (Dublin, 1995) p. 83
139 NLI, PC263(3)/14 Lease 3 May 1805 Sir Neal O’Donel to Connel O’Donel
140 NLI, PC263 (3)/18 1792 lease John Arbuthnot to Lieut. Colonel Richard Wilford of eighth of Kings
Regiment eighth Dragoons Carrowsallagh part of Carigahowley
64
more would be spent in drying and bringing it home. Altogether he reckoned that firing
cost him 10s a year counting his own labour. Sir Samuel O’Malley, the chief landlord in
the parish of Kilmeena stated that woods were never robbed for fuel but they sometimes
were for other purposes such as flail handles. There was no instance known of a
landlord depriving a tenant of fuel as a punishment.141
Houses were not only heated with turf; they were also built with it. James
McParland in 1802 wrote of habitations in the parish of Burrishoole ‘Some very poor,
made of turf sods, badly roofed and thatched, and full of smoke and dirt, as they have
neither chimneys nor offices, except a very few’. 142
V
The centre of the Burrishoole estate lay at O’Donel’s residence at Newport. The
Frenchman, Coquebert on touring Connacht in 1791 remarked ‘ These two small places,
Newport and Westport, share the poor trade of Clew Bay. Newport being the more
advantageously situated since its river can take ships of 500 tons.’ On the day of
Coquebert’s arrival there were two ships there, while not a single vessel had been seen
in Westport. On that day also a fair or market was being held for which booths had been
erected. He further observes ‘At a mile and a half from the town are the meagre ruins of
Burrishoe Abbey giving its name to the barony i.e. Bur is Uall Locus Territori
Pomorum. Newport has fallen into decline because the owner lacks both intelligence
and fortune.’ 143 Lewis remarked ‘the pier was erected at the expense of Sir R. A.
O’Donel and some of the merchants of the town; the quays were extensive and
commodious, and accessible to vessels of 200 tons’ burden, which could be moored in
141 Report from Commissioners on Poor Laws in Ireland voi XXXII (1836) Appendix (E)
142 James McParland .Statistical survey of County Mayo (Dublin, 1802) p. 87
143 Sile Ni Chinneide, ‘A Frenchman’s Tour of Connacht in 1791’ in JGAHS xxxv (1976), p52.
65

 

 

 

 

safety alongside and take in or deliver their cargoes at all times of the tide, and within a
few hundred yards may lie at anchor in perfect security. The channel was safe, and the
harbour very commodious: the entrance into the bay was spacious and direct; and within
it were numerous islets and rocks, between which, on each side, were several good
roadsteads, capable of accommodating large vessels, with good anchorage in from two
to six fathoms.’144
The port of Newport was the major port of Mayo in the eighteenth century and not
only was the produce of the Linen trade exported through it but also a large amount of
barley and oats. No exports of grain were recorded prior to 1749 but after 1785 when
prices rose considerably exports were regular. 145 In 1838 Lewis stated that the
increasing demand for grain, chiefly oats for Liverpool, aided by the establishment of
cornbuyers in the sea-ports had given rise to a considerable export trade, for which
Killala, Ballina, Newport and Westport were the chief marts. 146 However the regional
port of Newport came under threat in the early nineteenth century. As the trade in
Newport declined that in Westport was on the increase. From Newport roads to
Castlebar and Westport were inadequate and this accelerated the decline of Newport, as
it was safer to bring com to Westport by road rather than by the dangerous sea. 147 In
1826 the amount of oats sold in the two towns was roughly equal 1283 tons for Newport
and 1300 for Westport. In 1835 15,720 tons were sold in Westport but only 1,000 tons
in Newport, demonstrating the expansion of Westport as a market town for the area at
144 Lewis, Topographical dictionary ii, p. 430
145 Donald E Jordan, Land and popular politics in Ireland. (Cambridge, 1994) p. 48
146 Lewis, Topographical dictionary i, p. 356
147 T.W. Freeman, Pre Famine Ireland: a study in historical geography (Manchester, 1957) pp. 110-3 , p.
263
66
the expense of Newport. 148 That year the value of exports and imports from Westport
was £87,805 and £28,517 respectively while exports from Newport were £2269 while
there were no imports. 149 By 1843 the decline of the port of Newport was complete, no
vessels entered it all year while 77 used the port of Westport and 106 Galway. Postal
returns of Mayo towns show that the post office was established in Newport in 1784. In
1831, when the town had a population of 1,235, it had only an eighth of the revenue of
the post office in Westport, which had a greater turnover than both Ballina and
Castlebar, which were larger towns. 150
148 Parliamentary gazetteer of Ireland (3 vols., London, 1844-6) ii, p.749.
149 James Fraser, Guide through Ireland hand book for travellers in Ireland : descriptive of its scenery,
towns, seats, antiquities, etc. (1854) p.134
150 W. H. Crawford, ‘Development of the County Mayo economy, 1700 – 1850’ in R. Gillespie and G.
Moran (eds), ‘A Various country’ essays in Mavo History 1500 – 1900 (Westport ,1987)p.67 ; Nineteenth
report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the collection of the revenue arising in Ireland and Great
Britain , HC 1829 (353), xii, appendix 87 ; Report from the Select Committee on the post
communications with Ireland: with the minutes of evidence and appendix. HC 1831-2 (716), xvii,
appendix 21.
67
Grain Export from the Port of
Newport 1749-1790
2250
2000
1750
1500
1250
1000
750
500
250
0
2 5 0 0
f
n , i 1 ,
1
n n n 1 I n D L n i nil I
? Oats quarters
? Barley quarters
? Wheat quarters
? Oat flour barrels
V V V ASource:
House o f Commons Journals, Ireland ,XI1 (1786-8) Appendix cccliii; XIV (1790-1) appendix ccxcii
Figure 6 Grain export from port of Newport 1749 -1790
The second important element in the urban economy was linen. The first textile
village in Mayo may have been Newport, where Captain Pratt settled a colony of
Quakers about 1720.151 In the north of the county the linens were sold unbleached in the
market of Ballina because there was no convenient bleach green. Some of the flax was
sold as yam and may have been woven in Ulster. By the 1750s the industry had grown
to a sizeable one, with markets spread throughout the county and exports leaving
151 K. Carroll, ’Quaker weavers at Newport 1720 – 1740’ in Friends Historical Journal (1976) pp 15 – 27.
68
principally from Newport and Sligo. Much of the flax in the northern half of the county
still went northwards for spinning. With the natural gravitation towards Castlebar of
much of the rest of the linen yarn, it was a natural business opportunity for the local
landlord Lord Lucan to pursue. In 1763 Sir Charles Bingham (later Lord Lucan)
obtained permission to establish a ‘premium’ linen market in Castlebar. The finest and
therefore most expensive grades of linen were now available in commercial
commodities in Castlebar. The opening of the linen hall on September 5th 1790 helped
further to establish Castlebar as the dominant player in the western linen industry. This
involved more people in the production of flax and increased the value of Lucan’s land
and led to more prosperity in the environs of Castlebar. Lucan also of course as the
dominant businessman earned a percentage of all business done. Once established, the
linen hall and its main business was leased to the Belfast based Northern Linen
Company, hardly surprising as the business was now extensive and the Lucan of the
152 time was to all intents and purposes an absentee landlord.
The growth of the industry did however put a strain on the locally available
linen weavers. During the latter half of the century a steady stream of migrants from
Ulster, elevated this somewhat. The sectarian aftermath of the Battle of the Diamond
turned this stream into a flow, and these new migrants many of who were professional
weavers were a godsend to the expanding industry. A market gradually developed and
linen provided an adequate and constant source of income. In 1776 a traveller to
Castlebar noted that ‘8 or 9 years ago there were no linens here but now 300 pieces are
sold in a week, 200 looms are employed in the town and neighbourhood, yet great
quantities of yam are sent off.’ 153 The linen hall gave much greater control to the local
152 Seamus Devaney, ‘The Linen Industry in Castlebar’ Essay for Certificate in Local History, GMIT,
Castlebar Co. Mayo, May 2000.
Arthur Young, A tour in Ireland, ed. Constantia Maxwell (Cambridge, 1925), 81 153
69
market, kept prices stable and was to act as the hub of the local industry. Castlebar
began to draw much business from all linen producing areas, to the detriment of markets
such as Newport, Westport and Ballina. 154
Asenath Nicholson on her visit to the Newport area in the time of the famine
observed
Mr Gildea, the Church of Ireland clergyman, too, had a fine establishment for spinning
and weaving which employed about seven hundred, mostly women, spinning and handskutching
and their earnings were three shillings and three shillings and sixpence per week. The
yarn was spun by hand, and woven by a spring shuttle. The table linen and sheeting would
compete with any manufactory in any country. Yet this valuable establishment was doing its last
work for want of encouragement, want of funds; and machinery is doing the work faster and
selling cheaper, though the material is not so durable. What can the poor labourer do willing to
work at any price, and begging to do so, yet cannot be allowed the privilege. Mr Gildea kept a
number employed, and employed to a good purpose, many of whom may at last starve for
food.155
Manufacture of garments and sheets from the linen cloth also took place. In
1842 Patrick Cosgrave supplied linen sheets at 4/1IV2 lb., men’s shirts at 1/9 each, boys
shirts at 1/5 each and women’s shifts at 1/5 each to the Westport Union workhouse. 156
Bleaching of linen took place in the townland of Bleachyard. Whether this bleach
green was in operation after the famine is not clear, as there were advertisements in the
local Press for bleach greens in Belclare and Turlough. The Belclare Bleach green had
154 Seamus Devaney, Castlebar pers. comm. May 2000.
155 Asenath Nicholson, Annals of the Famine in Ireland (Dublin, 1998) p. 117
156 NLI, MS 14309 Minutes of the Westport Union Board of Guardians 1840
70
been active for a considerable period of time as the French travel writer De Coquebert
visited it in 1791. 157
Having descended the mountain the travellers return to Westport by carriage. On the
way back, at two and a half miles from the town, they arrive at a bleaching house
belonging to Mr McDonnell, brother in law of Mr Dominick Martin to whom they are
already indebted. This Mr McDonnell is the chief purchaser of linen cloth in the district,
the type called sheetings, which he sells for about £800 a year. From McDonnell they
leam that the expansion of the linen industry has greatly reduced the amount of yam
sold since Arthur Young’s time.
James McParland observed that ‘at Ballyclare is a very extensive manufactory of
1 c o
linens, unions, diapers and sheetings’. The Turlough Bleach Green was advertised in
the Mayo Constitution in 1838.
William Malley proprietor begs leave to inform the public that his Bleaching Mills are
now in full work and he pledges himself that such persons may please to favour him
with their orders shall have their linens well and expeditiously bleached at most
reasonable terms and he gratefully acknowledges the preference he has been hitherto
received and hopes for a continuation of it. He will receive linens for the above green at
the following places Edward Malley, Newport. Also at Ballina, Tuam, Swinford,
Castlebar, Westport, Crossmolina and at the green under the direction of Peter Vallely.
159
The heyday of the linen industry in west Mayo was in the 1820s and after this
period decay set in, due to the fact that the industrial revolution produced machine-made
157 Sile Ni Chinneide, ‘A Frenchman’s Tour of Connacht in 1791’ in JGAHS xxxv (1976), p52.
158 James McParland .Statistical Survey of County Mayo (Dublin, 1802) p. 108
159 Mayo Constitution 8 May 1838
71
goods against which the hand spun materials could not compete. With this industry on
the decline pressure on the land increased, as the industry was the source of all extras
beyond the bare necessities of life. 160 In the 1830s, as machine production of linen yarn
transformed Ulster’s textile industry, the market for handspun yarn declined rapidly in
Mayo. This left the county all the more susceptible to demographic crisis. Such a crisis
occurred in 1846-50 when the harvests of potatoes, the staple food of most
smallholders, failed in the wake of an epidemic of potato fungus. 161
Another industry that prospered in Newport was a factory producing straw hats.
James McParland noted in 1802 that
A manufacture of straw-plat for hats and bonnets was introduced and encouraged
here by Mrs Graydon ; there are now in Newport and its neighbourhood a great number
of girls employed , whose manufacture is sold at from 4s to 26s the hat or bonnet; very
small girls earn from six pence to fifteen pence per day ; the most fashionable ladies of
this and the adjacent counties buy and wear them , not for charity , but for their fineness
and excellence . I believe the number of employees to be upwards of a hundred
children most of whom maintain themselves and their families by the straw
manufacture. 162
The sale of the agricultural products from the rural hinterland took place in the
various fairs and markets. A monthly fair was held in Newport and Mulranny and a
weekly fair in Newport. 163 By 1750 fairs were held on 29 May and 31 October. After
160 H. D Inglis, A Journey throughout Ireland during Spring. Summer and Autumn of 1834 (2 vols.
London ,1834) i i , 94 – 107.
161 Eric L. Almquist, ‘Mayo and beyond: land domestic industry, and rural transformation in the Irish
west.’ Ph. D. thesis Boston University 1977, p 84
162 James McParland .Statistical survey of County Mavo (Dublin, 1802)
163 NLI, PC265 (1 )/52 1797 Grant of fairs to Sir N O’D. ; PC264 (2)/17 Granting of 2 extra fairs in
Newport 1781 One on first day of August and the other on 20 Dec rent of £8 6s.
72
the calendar change dates were 8 June and 11 November. A 1787 patent to Sir Neal
O’Donel added 1 August and 20 December. The patent stated that if the fair day should
fall on a Sunday then the fair should be on the following Monday. It also specified that
no damage hurt or prejudice should be done to any of his majesties subjects who held
fairs in the neighbourhood of the said town and lands of Newport Pratt. The rent for the
fairs due to the Crown was eight pounds and six shillings forever together with a Court
of Pie Powder together with all Tolls Customs Privileges and Immunity to the said fairs
and courts. 164 A market house had been built by 1798 for the administration of the
market and collection of tolls as Anthony Wilkes swore at the Court Martial of Connel
ODonel that Lieutenant Connel O’Donel called the yeomen off parade into the market
house and asked them to separately swear they were not Orangemen. 165 By 1852 it had
a Tuesday market with no patent. 166
At these fairs tolls were charged. In 1777 Patrick Gallagher paid £12 10s for the
Customs of fairs and Markets and in 1808 Hugh McDonagh received a lease for one life
of the Customs of fairs and Markets for £56 17s 6d. 167 The fair or market was a major
social occasion which the men dressed up for, being ashamed to be seen without
stockings or shoes, the women were generally without either but the children were
always so. 168
164 NLI, PC264(2)/17 Granting of 2 extra fairs in Newport 1781 One on first day of August and the other
on 20 Dec rent of £8 6s
165 Peter Mullowney and Jack Geraty, ‘O’Donels and their family tree’ in Back the Road. Journal of
Newport Historical Society (1996) i. pl2.
166 W. H. Crawford, ‘Development of the County Mayo Economy, 1700 – 1850’ in R. Gillespie and G.
Moran ‘A Various country’ Essays in Mayo History 1500- 1900 (Westport ,1987) p. 67
167 NLI, MS 5737 James Moore’s Accounts ; NLI PC 263 (1) Indenture Sir N O’D Hugh McDonagh
Tolls Customs and usages of fairs 1808. PC263 (2)/55 Schedule of Toll and Customs and Cranage levies
within the manor of Newport.; PC263 (2)/94 List of tolls and customs 1818.
168 Report from Comm, on Poor Laws in Ireland HC 1836 [38], xxxi, 70 Appendix (E)
73
Dr Pococke in his tour of Ireland in 1752 visited Newport, which he described as
a much older town than Westport. Newport had a market in frieze, yam, stockings, com
and meat. Wine was imported and there was a trade in mussels. 169 James McParland
who gave details of the four fairs held in Newport in 1802 was rather disparaging about
Newport saying that the only right that they can claim to the name town was merely
being the place where fairs are held. Whereas in an advertisement for the sale of a farm
of land in Gortawarla in 1852, Newport and Westport were both described as excellent
170 market and seaport towns.
Prices in the market and items for sale were not that different than in the
competing market town of Westport where the following prices were obtained in
December 1827, oats cwt 5s 4d to 5s 6d, wheat cwt 8s 8d to 9s 2d, barley cwt 5s 6d to
5s 8d, oatmeal cwt 11s to 12s, potatoes per stone Id to 1 Vz d, first flour per cwt 16s, 2nd
13s, 3rd 10s. Bran was sold for 4s cwt, beef per lb. 2d to 3d, mutton per lb. 2 Vz to 3 Vz d,
pork per lb. 3d, hides per stone 4s 8d to 5s, tallow per stone 4s to 5s, salt butter per lb. 5
Vz d to 6d, fresh butter 8d to 9d, Hay made Is per cwt, straw per cwt lOd to Is, linen per
yard 7d to 9d, yam per hank 5d to 6d, whiskey per old gallon 5s 6d to 6s, wool per stone
12s to 12s 6d and salmon per pound 7d to 8d. Freight to Liverpool or the Clyde was 18s
to 20s per ton.171
169 Richard Pococke, Richard Pococke’s Irish tours (Dublin, 1995) p.83
170 James McParland .Statistical survey of County Mayo (Dublin, 1802)
p 85 ; Mayo Constitution 11 January 1828.
171 Mayo Constitution 8 January 1852.
7 4
M arkets Fairs
Flour per bag 6d A milch cow and calf 6d
Oatmeal per cwt 3 ‘Ad Beeves or dry cows each 5d
Potatoes per load 2d Horses each 5d
W heat per cwt 2d Salt per load 2d
Barley per cwt 1 ‘Ad Sheep and lamb 2d
Bere per cwt 1 ‘A d Goat each Id
Oats per cwt Id Calves each 2d
Beef per carcass , hide and tallow the tongue 4d Cabbins each 12d
M utton do 2d Butchers stall 6d
Pork do 3d Each carload of hay or straw 4d
Veal do Id Each horse load of hay or straw 2d
Fish per load Id Large covered standings each 12d
Large fish per dozen 2d Small covered standings each 4d
Kelp per cwt cranage Id A car load of any commodity 8d
Oil per barrel 4d Every pack o f wool 12d
Flannels per 20 yds 5d Every 201b weight of pound or tow yam 2d
Frize per 20 yds. 5d
Country hides for cranage and customs 2d
C alf skins per dozen 6d
Large covered standings each 3d
Small covered standings each 2d
Stockings per dozen 3d
Butter per crock 401b weight 3d
Butter per crock 601b weight 4 ‘Ad
Rabbit skins per doz. 3d
A car load of any commodity 4d
A small bushel or bag with any commodity Id
Figure 7 Schedule of the Tolls and Customs and Cranage levied within the
Manor of Newport 1818
75
For the economy to operate effectively a transport system was required and also
a system of local administration had to regulate economic activity. In 1855 John F
Bourke of Westport was barony cess collector for Burrishoole South and Claudius
Nixon of Newport for Burrishoole North. 172 The county cess among other things was
used to fund road building in the county and in 1854 Sir Richard O’Donel was the
foreman of the grand jury, which had responsibility for allocating this money. Twenty
eight thousand seven hundred perches of roadworks were to be carried out and for this a
rate of 8 14 d in the pound was struck. £164 2s 6d was due on the barony of Burrishoole
and there was a total arrears for the county of £5,027. As well as roads, at the spring
meeting of the grand jury Sir Richard O’Donel stated that a petition was laid before him
for presentation to both houses of parliament praying that the Grand Junction Railway
Bill would receive approval. The grand jury unanimously agreed to support the
petition.173
Roadworks and other construction were carried out in the barony under the direction
of the grand jury for the barony that also appointed high constables and sub-constables.
174 A very considerable road network had been created in the late eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries in Mayo linking many settlements and allowing the market
economy to penetrate the region. 175 The sub-constable was responsible for ensuring that
this work was carried out in his area and sometimes he was not reimbursed. Another
172 Thoms Directory 1855.
173 Mavo Constitution 7 February 1854.
174 Proceedings of the Grand Jury for County Mayo 1720 -1780. Castlebar Library. ; NLI, PC263 (2)/62
Improvements at Newport 31/3/43 to 31/1/1844.; PC263 (3)/40 Diary of days worked by labourers on
construction of Castlebar to Glenisland road with number of horses used etc.
175 W. H. Crawford, ‘Development of the County Mayo Economy, 1700 – 1850’ in R. Gillespie and G.
Moran ‘A Various country’ Essays in Mavo History 1500 – 1900 (Westport ,1987) p. 67
VI
7 6
function of the subconstable, who in 1815 was Patrick Gibbons, who collected the
Spring County Cess for the barony, which amounted to £1434, part of which, was to be
used to pay for these roadworks. The cost of road repairs averaged 6s per perch and
Cess was only payable by the more substantial landholders whose valuation was greater
than £4. Patrick Gibbons as well as being the subconstable was also a merchant and had
supplied Connel O’Donel, the brother of Sir Neal the younger, who was the High
constable of the Barony with hay and port wine. When Patrick Gibbons failed to deliver
to him all the County Cess that he had collected Connel O’Donel deducted this amount
from his provisions bill. 176
Newport as the seat of the major landlord in the barony of Burrishoole was also
where the military and police barracks were located. The report from the commissioners
on poor laws in Ireland had stated that there was some disturbance in the area of
Newport in the early 1830s associated with increases in rent. 177 The marquis of Sligo
writing to O’Donel in 1832 informs him that thirty soldiers will be sent to Newport to a
half billet station. This arose from an attack on Nowlan’s house in Rockfleet and there
was also a threatening letter from ‘Captain North’, a nom de plume for local rebels,
about Clendenning. The marquis was suspicious that the Catholic parish priest Father
Hughes was encouraging the unrest as he had heard that the priest had told one of the
process servers never to serve a process without telling him about it. By January 1833
the situation had disimproved and Sir Richard, who was sheriff of the county at the
time, wrote to the lord lieutenant advising him not to order the sheriff to levy directly
for church cess in Ballycroy as it would bring the whole district already much disturbed
into a state near to rebellion. The marquis of Sligo however felt that the military should
176 NLI, PC263(l)/72 Money owed to Pat Gibbons by Connel O’Donel for repair to roads 1825
177 Report from Commissioners on Poor Laws in Ireland HC (1836) xxxii supplement to Appendix p. 19
77
be used to enforce the collection and the lord lieutenant agreed with the marquis. Later
that month an attack occurred on the house of one of Sir Richard’s tenants Martin
Limerick and four men were arrested. Limerick had been a waterguardsman for seven
years and a position in the admiralty was obtained for him so as he could leave Newport
with his family. 178 The duties of the military were maintaining law and order. This
often involved assisting officers of excise in seizure of illicit stills. This was vigorously
pursued between 1813 and 1816 when fifty-five troops were stationed in Newport
consisting of one captain, one subaltern, three sergeants and fifty enlisted men. This
complement was only exceeded in Mayo by Ballina, where there were fifty two enlisted
men. The troops stationed in Newport were generally part of a regiment that had been
sent to Mayo and was stationed in Castlebar, Westport, Newport, Foxford, Ballina,
Dunmore, Ballaghdereen, Ballycastle, Claremorris, Crossmolina and Killala. 179 In 1828
following the election of Daniel O’Connell in Clare disturbances took place in the town
of Newport between the troops and the local population, under the guidance of the
parish priest Father Hughes, celebrating the election. The following Saturday the
commander of the troops, Lieut. O’Halloran of the 69th Regiment, acted as second to J
Stewart Esq. in a duel with Richard O’Donel who was assisted by Lieut. Hyland of the
Royal Navy. The duel, which took place on an island in Clew Bay, arose from an
argument about the election. Luckily neither combatant was injured. There was large
amount of lawlessness in the county at the time and in the Spring Assizes in 1828 the
following prisoners were tried, seven for cattle stealing, twelve for murder, six for rape,
178 NLI, PC 265(1 )/5 8 letter from Sir R O ’D on el requesting troops to be sent to N ewport 1832; PC
2 6 5 (l)/5 9 letter from Lord S ligo to Sir R O ’D on el stating that 30 troops to be sent to Newport 1832;
P C 2 6 5 (l)/6 2 Letter from Sir Richard O ’D onel 1833 to the Lord Lieutenant advising not to be too severe
in trying to collect county cess in B allycroy as this could lead to disturbance in the area; P C 2 6 5 (l)/6 3
Letters from Sir Richard O ’D onel to E G Stanley and his reply as to an attack on the house o f Martin
Lim erick and possibility o f obtaining for him a position in the Admiralty.
179 M avo Constitution March 31 1828
78
twenty one for larceny, six for highway robbery, and seven for sheep stealing. Also
charged were four for passing base coin, one for assaulting a post boy with intention of
robbing the mail, four for burglary and robbery, one for infanticide, one for shooting at
with intent to kill and one for forging the names of two magistrates to a certain
document. One of those tried for sheep stealing was Anthony Reilly who was indicted
for feloniously stealing three sheep the property of Captain Stuart of Newport and he
was found not guilty. In some cases the forces of law and order came off second best
and a case was reported where three policemen that had gone to make an arrest under a
magistrates warrant were viciously attacked by the neighbours of the man intended to be
arrested. 181 There are several letters among the correspondence requesting extra troops
for the area. 182 A letter from Pat Gibbons requesting that troops that have been
withdrawn from the town should be rebilleted in a premises belonging to him and
184 there is also a reference made to a murder in Ballycroy.
Customs and Excise in the Newport area were involved in preventing smuggling
and illegal importation of arms. During the Famine they investigated three incidents of
plundering of cargoes of com, two of which were destined for the Achill Missionary
settlement of Reverend Edward Nangle. The Revenue Officers in 1845 were under the
command of Captain John Nugent who lived in Seamount, Newport and Lieutenant
John Newcombe.
180 M ayo Constitution 6 M arch 1828
181 M ayo Constitution 28 April 1828
182 NLI, P C 2 6 5 (l)/5 8 R equest for 30 troops to be stationed in N ewport 1833 ; P C 2 6 5 (l)/5 9 Letter from
Lord Sligo to Sir Richard O ’D onel stating that 30 troops to be sent to Newport 1832.; P C 2 6 5 (l)/6 6
Letter from Lord Sligo to Sir Richard O ’D onel Jan 2 8 th 1859 arranging m eeting to request more troops
for the area.
183 NLI, P C 2 6 3 (l)/7 0 Letter from Pat Gibbons to M ajor General Sir John Buchan requesting that troops
return to N ewport and be rebilleted in the prem ises belonging to Pat Gibbons 1783
184 NLI, P C 2 6 5 (l)/7 5 N ov 1831 letter from Lord Sligo to Sir Richard O ’D onel re: B allycroy murder
79
18^ They both reported on the extent of the potato famine in the region. ‘
Outbreaks of Cholera in Newport are mentioned in two letters, one in 1832 186
and one in 1837. 187 Patrick McGreal had been providing medical care in Newport in
1831 and was living in Weavers Row, with his family which included two sons Myles
and Jeremiah, in a house previously occupied by the Church of Ireland Rector, Rev
188 Josiah Hern. He was paying a rent of £6 a year on a lease made in 1821. But by 1832
he had moved his residence to Castlebar to take up a position as Surgeon and
apothecary. 189 Sir Richard O’Donel contributed to the medical dispensaries in his
estate. In 1844 he contributed £25 to the Newport dispensary, £10 10s to the Achill
dispensary and £3 3s each to the Cong and Fairhill dispensaries. Others contributing to
the Newport dispensary were Messrs Boileau Druggists, Marquis of Sligo who
contributed five guineas, James T S Stuart and Rev Geo. R Gildea £3 12s 6d each,
Connel O’Donel three guineas, Alex Clendenning, Col Knox , John Knox Esq., Neal
Davis and William Gillespie two guineas each. Also contributing were Mr Hoyte, Mr
Ivers and Sir Richard Palmer £2 each, and John Quinn, Geo. Clendenning Sr., Geo.
Clendenning Jr., Dominick McLoughlin, Edward Malley, Mr Farrell, Rev Charles
185 N A , Custom s and E xcise 1081 2/2 5 M ay 1840 Custom H ouse London to W estport com m ending
action o f W estport in inform ing the Lord Lieutenant o f the illegal importation o f arms into N ew port from
the “Paragon” ; 1081 5/1 5 January 1849 Custom H ouse London to W estp o rt. Report that two vessels
from K eel carrying Indian Corn etc. for the M issionary Settlem ent at A chill Island had been plundered o f
their cargo ; 1081 5/2 10 January 1849 Custom H ouse London to W estport reply to W estport re
plundering o f Indian Corn etc. and measures to be taken .; 1081 5/3 14 February 1849 Custom H ouse
London to W estport D etails o f prosecution to be carried out against tw o vessels believed to have
plundered a cargo o f m eal in R ossm inna Sound. ; 1081 14/39 3 0 March 1850 Custom H ouse London to
W estport Table o f alterations to be m ade in the C oast Guard force in the W estport d istrict.
186 NLI, P C 2 6 3 (l)/7 4 Letter to Dr M cG real from his nephew concerning Cholera in N ew port 1832
187 NLI, P C 263(3)/57 Letter from B abs O ’D onel Galway to Patt Gibbons re outbreak o f Cholera 1837
188 NLI, P C 265(1)/17 L ease to Patrick M cGreal for three lives 3rd April 1821
80
Wilson, William Nixon, James Hillis, Mr. T William, Mr. Swain and Rev Mr. Carman
gave one guinea each. 190
Figure 8 Population Estimates County Mayo 1706 – 1841.
189 NLI, P C 263(2)/23 L ease 2 2 Septem ber 1832 betw een Patrick M cGreal o f Castlebar Surgeon and
apothecary and A lexander C lendenning o f B allinrobe
190 NLI, M S 5742
81
The population in the county had increased markedly in the years leading up to
the Famine as shown by Jordan leading to stresses within the economic system. 191
During the last half of the eighteenth century the landlords farmers and cottiers of
County Mayo endured unpredictable weather, frequent credit crises and the vicissitudes
of the Irish, British and Colonial markets to develop gradually a market oriented cash
based economy that was remarkably vibrant by the end of the century. This was
reflected in growing arrears of rent. For forty-six of the townlands where sufficient data
was available the average arrears in rent increased from 0 per cent in 1805 to 40 per
cent in 1816, 85 per cent in 1823 and 103 per cent in 1824. The amount of arrears varied
between townlands and there were some townlands where the arrears were 299 per cent
in 1816, 320 per cent in 1823 and 420 per cent in 1824. During this period when a
decreasing amount of rent was making its way to the landlord’s pocket the rents did not
increase significantly. The combined rent of thirty townlands on the O’Donel estate
edged upwards by just over 0.3 percent per annum between 1777 and 1788 but the
combined rent of thirty five townlands rose 2.7 percent per annum during the period
1788 to 1805. A further increase of 3.5 percent per annum on sixty-eight townlands
together took place between 1805 and 1814.192 The average rent of the forty-six
townlands for 1816 and 1823 was 101 per cent of what it was in 1805 but there were a
few townlands where rent increased considerably.
Periods of food shortage had occurred in the years before the Famine and the
French traveller Alexis de Toqueville, in the journal of his tour around Ireland in 1835
tells of his visit to a priest in Newport. ‘The priest’s house was surrounded by starving
191
D onald E Jordan, Land and Popular Politics in Ireland. (Cambridge, 1994) p. 47
192 D esm ond M cC abe, ‘Social order and the ghost o f moral econom y in Pre-Famine M ayo’ in R G illespie
and G Moran (eds), ‘A various country’ essays in M ayo history 1500 – 1900 (W estport, 1987), p. 91
peasants awaiting the distribution of corn, which he had secured for their survival’.
The historian James S. Donnelly jr. writes of the west of Ireland ‘there the appalling
degree of destitution and the extremely small size of holdings combined in a doubly
destructive assault on landlord incomes. This combination was at its worst in County
Mayo ‘.194 The loss of rents was devastating, in some cases tenants were two or three
years in arrears and also as 75 per cent of leased land was valued at under £4 this meant
that the poor rates on these lands fell to the landlords to pay. 195 The decline of the linen
industry in the 1830s and the fall in crop prices, resulted in Mayo having a much higher
share than average of insolvent proprietors whose estates were encumbered or bankrupt.
196 The marquis of Sligo depicted the state of insolvency when writing to the Chief
Secretary for Ireland E G Stanley in January 1831:
All the gentry of Mayo are beggars, a state in which I fancy with few exceptions,
are placed a great majority of my imprudent countrymen in this province. I
happen to know that the estates of the gentry in this county are mortgaged or
engaged for one million and a half of money. 197
193
193 Em m et Larkin fed.) A lexis de T occiueville’s journey in Ireland July-August ,1835 (Dublin, 1990)
p p l3 0 – 131.
194 James S, D onnelly Jr.: ‘Landlords and tenants’ in W . E. Vaughan ( e d .) A N ew History o f Ireland.
Ireland under the U nion .1 8 0 1 -1 8 7 0 (Oxford, 1989) v, p .336
195 Sean P M cM anam on, ‘Landlords and evictions during the Great F am ine.’ in Cathair na M a rt, xviii
(1998) p l2 5
196 Cormac O Grada. ‘Poverty, population and agriculture 1 8 0 1 -1 8 4 5 ’ in W .E. Vaughan (ed) A N ew
H istory o f Ireland. Ireland under the U nion .1801-1870 (Oxford, 1989) v, p. 108 – 36
197 Lord Sligo to E.G. Stanley Jan. 1831, N .A ., S.P.O., O fficial Papers, 1831, 973/81 cited in D esm ond
M cCabe, ‘Social order and the ghost o f moral econom y in Pre-Fam ine M ayo’ in R G illespie and G Moran
(eds), ‘A various country’ essays in M avo history 1500 – 1900 (W estport, 1987), p. 109
83

 

 

If this were true the debt would have exceeded the rental of the county by 300 per
cent.198
Even without the onset of potato blight a disaster was waiting to happen in the
area. The population had increased dramatically in the previous fifty years in response
to an improvement in the economy, the expansion of the linen industry and a greater
demand and therefore higher prices for agricultural produce because of the Napoleonic
Wars. A sudden downturn in the economy due to the ending of the war, the decline of
the linen industry, due to increased industrialisation in the textile industry in England
and the north eastern counties of Ireland, left a large population without the land
resources to feed itself. The landlords because of their encumbered financial
circumstances were unable to come to the assistance of their tenantry.
198 D esm ond M cCabe, ‘S ocial order and the ghost o f moral econom y in Pre-Famine M ayo’ in R G illespie
and G Moran (eds), ‘A various country’ essays in M avo history 1500 – 1900 (W estport, 1987), p. 91
84
Chapter 3
“a little thing will help a poor man”
THE O’DONEL ESTATE
LANDLORD TENANT RELATIONS
The first chapter has examined the origin growth and decline of the O’Donel
estate from the purchase of the estate in 1788. The main factors in the decline were
financial involving extensive borrowing and settlements made on marriages of
daughters and to younger sons of the family. This was not matched by a corresponding
growth in income over time. The second chapter concentrated on the various factors at
work in the Newport estate, and specifically that part in the parish of Burrishoole, which
limited the growth in income resulting in the family having to sell most of the estate.
This chapter examines the relationships between the O’Donel family and the tenants. As
the Great Famine occurred towards the end of the O’Donel’s tenure as a major landlord
and undoubtedly contributed to their eventual impossible financial position, this chapter
also uses the Famine as a case study of what happens when relations between landlord
and tenant were placed under stress. How the tenants of the O’Donel estate fared in
comparison with those of other landlords is also looked at. Included in this is an
examination of the increase of arrears of rent and the eventual outcome of those tenants
in severe arrears. Also the decline in population is compared with that of tenants of
other landlords in the locality. Co-operation with various relief agencies, particularly the
Central Relief Committee organised by the Society of Friends or Quakers, was very
85
important in alleviating distress at this time. The workings of the two Poor Law Unions
active in the area, initially the Westport Union and later the Newport Union, and Sir
Richard O’Donel’s involvement in them is also examined. The impact of the Famine on
landlord tenant relations is looked at and what tenants had power during this period. The
change in land leasing patterns from multiple tenants to single tenants is also examined.
The role of evictions in population dynamics is also considered.
I
A total of 171 leases were issued during the period of this study. There were
sixty eight leases in the town, 100 for the rural areas of the estate and three covering
both town and rural areas. It is possible that there may have been other leases issued that
are no longer present in the O’Donel papers. These were examined to see if there was
any trend in shortening the length of leases, the townlands they were issued in and the
possible religious affiliation of the lessees.
A lot can be learnt from these leases as to where different people lived in the
town of Newport and surrounding areas, previous occupants of those premises and
relationships to other inhabitants from the lives given in the leases. In comparing the
leases with rent rolls it will be noted that a higher proportion of non-native Irish
surnames occur in the leases. Leases were often granted to encourage tradesmen and
shopkeepers to settle in the town of Newport and this is reflected in the large number of
leases in Weavers Row and Market Street. 199 Charges by solicitors acting for the
O’Donel family in drawing up these leases were quite costly 200 and most of the land on
the estate was therefore let without leases on a year to year basis. The concentration of
leases is greater in some parts of the town and some townlands. A good picture of the
199 W . H. Crawford, ‘D evelopm ent o f the County M ayo E conom y, 1700 – 1850’ in R. G illespie and G.
Moran ‘A Various country’ E ssays in M ayo History 1500 – 1900 (W estport ,1987) p. 67
200 NLI, P C 263(2)/87 Lawyers costs for several deeds for Sir N eal O ’D onel 1812
8 6
changing land and property ownership can be seen for the townland of
Melcomb/Seamount where five leases are recorded and Weavers Row where there are
fourteen leases.
Some tenants names did not appear on the leases as the land was let in common
under the rundale system described in the previous chapter. There were none of these
joint leases made after 1820 although of the total of 171 leases, fifty eight were made
after 1820. There were thirty two leases in common made in different townlands
including Carrickaneady, Carrowbeg, Derryclydagh, Derrykell East, Derrylahan,
Derrylohan, Doontrusk, Graffy, Kilbride, Knockbreaga, Knockmeel, Letterkeen,
Letterlough, Roigh, Rostrunk, Shrafamagh and Yellow wire. There were two leases in
common in Comploon, Derrygarrif, Rossinrubble, Shanballyhue and Shraughmore and
five in Rnockatinaweel. Of these thirty-two leases in common, 56 per cent were for one
life, 7 per cent for two lives and 37 per cent for three lives. After 1800 the lease was
more likely to be for one life than for three. This contrasts with the urban leases where 7
per cent were for one life, 4 per cent for two lives, 40 per cent for three lives, 25 per
cent for ever and 24 per cent for a specified number of years. There were sixteen leases
in the town before 1800, seven of these were for ever, whereas of the fifty two made
after 1800, twenty seven were for three lives and only ten for ever. The rural leases to
one tenant only were 35 per cent for one life, 8.5 per cent for two lives, 25 per cent for
three lives, 11 per cent for ever and 20 per cent for a term of years. There were more
leases for three lives after 1800 than before in the rural area of the estate.
As would be expected evictions do not figure highly in the O’Donel papers.
There are only two evictions mentioned one in 1788 201 of McNamara a tenant of Sir
201 NLI, PC265(3)/21 1788 ejectment McNamara
87
Neal O’Donel and the second in 1853 of Bernard McCarroll of Newport Pratt a tenant
of Mary Clynes of Belmullet. 202 Sir Neal O’Donel in retaining material in his records
seems more concerned with the effect evictions had on his income. In 1793 when he
brought ejectment proceedings for non-payment of rent on the Cong estate and was
ordered by the court to reinstate the tenants who still did not pay rent but for which he
was liable for tithes. 203 There were also several decrees for non-payment of rent, which
did not necessarily result in eviction. 204 There was a decree for non-payment of rent by
Jeremiah Canning and others of Comploon in 1830. In 1837 there was no sign of any
Canning in Comploon. The tenants in Comploon were Lunn, Roarke, Rooney,
O’Donnel and Moran and an entry in the rent roll showed the tenant in Comploon
Canning to be James Lunn. 205 As we have seen before payments of £20 14s 9d were
made to the solicitor Neil Davis in 1843 by Sir Richard O’Donel for decrees, ejectments
and dismiss. 206 Other payments totalling £44 2s were made to other solicitors and to
witnesses’ expenses at the Quarter sessions. 207 He also paid a further £6 10s 9d for
miscellaneous expenses for labourers assisting the sheriff in evictions in Mulranny and
Ballycroy, paying for valuation of land after evictions, transport of prisoners to
Castlebar, printing notices to quit and serving Chancery notices. He also employed
202 NLI, PC264(l)/45 1853 Notice to quit Bernard McCarroll of Newport Pratt from Mary Clynes of
Belmullet
203 NLI, PC265(3)/24 1793 Sir Neal O’Donel brought ejectment for non-payment of rent on Cong estate
and was ordered by court to reinstate tenants but they still don’t pay rent and he is liable for tithes .
Seeking John Kirwan counsels advice as to his course of action
204 NLI, PC263(2)/56 Decree for non-payment of rent 1830 Comploon Jeremiah Canning and others ;
PC263(l)/60 Civil Bill for rent due taken by Sir Richard A O’Donel against Peter Gibbons, Patt
Gibbons jr , James Monaghan , Neal McManamon and Ann Morris houses and tenements on east side of
Market St and parks on Barrack Hill.
205 NLI, MS 5742 Accounts O’Donel Estate and Relief Funds 1837-40
206 NLI, PC264(2)/28 Accounts of Sir Richard O’Donel for 1843- 1844 Affidavit of Alexander
Clendenning in case of John O Hara and wife vs. Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel 1844
keepers to watch tenants stock that owed rent so that they would not sell their stock and
crops and emigrate without settling their debts. In 1844 Sir Richard must have given up
hope of ever making the estate profitable as he had paid a surveyor a years salary of £52
to survey the estate. 208 On 23 June 1838 at Castlebar Quarter Sessions decrees were
obtained for £122 5s 1 Id against thirty-one tenants for default of rent with £10 17s Od in
expenses. On October 25 1838 a further £98 13s 8d with £9 9s expenses was obtained
against a further twenty-seven tenants. 209 Arrears of rent had been occurring since but
became more marked after 1820. In 1824 £8,524.11 was owed as arrears but only £5105
received as rent. Among the tenants owing the largest amount were Dodwell Browne in
Glendahurk owing 420 per cent of his rent of £93 5s, Edmond Lavelle owing 332 percent
of his rent of £56 18s 5d in Shandrim and 254 per cent of his rent of £68 14s in
Derrylahan, David Bourke owing 406 per cent of his rent of £35 5s in Lecarrow,
Charles McEvilly owing 310 per cent of his rent of £42 14s in Kiltyroe, Patrick Cain
owing 291 per cent of his rent of £44 17s in Shandrim. There were also two rents in
common, Thomas Bourke and Co in Carragaun East owing 406 per cent of their rent of
£35 5s lOd and Owen O Donel and Co of Rossclave owing 257 per cent of their rent of
£49 12s. 210
The combined rent of thirty townlands on the O’Donel estate edged upwards by
just over 0.3 per cent per annum between 1777 and 1788 but the combined rent of thirty
five townlands rose 2.7 per cent per annum during the period 1788 to 1805. A further
207 NLI, PC264(2)/28 Accounts of Sir Richard O’Donel for 1843- 1844 Affidavit of Alexander
Clendenning in case of John O Hara and wife vs. Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel 1844
208 NLI, PC264(2)/28 Accounts of Sir Richard O’Donel for 1843- 1844 Affidavit of Alexander
Clendenning in case of John O Hara and wife vs. Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel 1844
209 NLI, MS 5742, Schedule of decrees obtained at Castlebar Quarter Sessions 23rd June 1838
210 NLI, PC263(3)/38 Rental of Newport Estate for 1823.
89
increase of 3.5 per cent per annum on sixty-eight townlands together took place between
1805 and 1814.211
II
The tenant community on the O’Donel estate was a diverse body as regards their
relationship with the landlords. We can reconstruct something of the lives of the better
off among them by examining the lives of some of the leaseholders. An example of one
of the leases from the barony of Burrishoole that are available in the O’Donel archive is
20th January 1796 Mrs Margaret Davis of town of Ballinrobe relict of Samuel Davis late of
Newport Pratt and Sir Neal O’Donel one acre of land from the old mill and mill race towards the
old Barracks twenty three perches and nine links from the old Mill towards the river the benefit
of as much water as out of the old mill race as shall be sufficient for the use of the Tanyard. Five
acres on the north side of the hill where the old barracks formerly stood with one acre of bog,
one plott in Weavers Row and one house and garden near the salmon box with one acre of bog
formerly in the possession of William Webster. Twenty one acres of Camcloone
Knockcarrowbeg bounded on the east with Derrykell on the south with the river on the west with
Catherine Reilly’s hill and in the north side with the Drum belonging to Camcloone with a piece
of ground thirty feet at the front and fifty feet deep over the rock by the old ditch at the back of
the spott where the old mansion house formerly stood in the south side of the river in Newport
for lives of John Davis son of Samuel Davis and said Margaret Davis Henry Davis of town of
Newport Pratt and Joseph Lambert of Brookhill in said county or 17 Vz years £37.212
Further information about the Davis family was found on examination of the
leases and other documents in the O’Donel papers. The tanyard, where the hides that
had been obtained from dead animals and animals slaughtered for meat were tanned to
make leather, had been in the possession of the Davis family since at least 1730 when
211 Desmond McCabe, ‘Social order and the ghost of moral economy in Pre-Famine Mayo’ in R Gillespie
and G Moran (eds), ‘A various country’ essays in Mayo history 1500 – 1900 (Westport, 1987), p. 91
212 NLI, PC265(3)/9
90
Thomas Medlicott made a lease with John Davis of Newport, tanner for ‘one acre from
the Old Mill Race board of the Barracks twenty three foot and nine links from the Old
Mill Race towards the river, the benefit of as much water out of the Mill Race as shall
be sufficient for use of the tan yard.* 213 Twenty years later Thomas Medlicott’s son,
Thomas John made a lease of the same piece of land to Samuel Davis of Newport, son
of John Davis, who was now described as a merchant. At this time Samuel Davis was
building a new house on this piece of land and his brother Henry was one of the three
lives specified in the lease as also was William Davis son of Stephen Davis of Newport,
who may have been another brother. 214 Stephen had made a lease in 1756 with Thomas
215 John Medlicott for two plots in Medlicott Street and seventy two acres in Mullaun.
His son John had taken out a further lease on the same land in 1790 at an annual rent of
£9 2s 1 Id for two lives that of his two sons, John and W illiam.216 William died between
1790 and 1801 when the lease was remade for the same rent with the substitution with
another son of John Davis called Stephen. 217 The Davis family were increasing in
stature in the parish and in 1788 were renting the Newport fishery for fifteen guineas
per annum, 218 but were finding it hard to pay their debts in the early part of the
nineteenth century and in 1814,Mr John Davis of Mullaun owed £19 in arrears of Cess
219 or Money due Patk Gibbons for Summer Cess in Burrishoole Parish.
213 Registry of Deeds, Book 71 Page 135 Deed 49535
214 Registry of Deeds, Book 146 Page 515 Deed 98610
215 NLI, PC263(l)/8
216 NLI, PC263(l)/9
217 NLI, MS 5738 Rent Roll of O’Donel Estate.
218 NLI, MS 5736 Rent Roll of O’Donel Estate
219 NLI, PC263(l)/62 Arrears of Cess due Patk Gibbons for Summer Cess 1814 Burrishoole Parish
91
From the first lease mentioned we know that Samuel’s widow was Margaret and
she had moved to Ballinrobe and her son also named John had taken over the running of
the tanyard. By 1823 the Davis family had got out of the tannery business and a lease
was made to Anthony O’Donel of the Tanyard House for £15 for three lives, one of
which was George Davis son of Richard Davis revenue officer. 220 This Richard who
was living in Kilbride 221 and was a son of Stephen’s had been a member of the
yeomanry in 1798 and had been compensated £20 for his horse having been stolen in
Castlebar. His brother Hugh also had his horse stolen but it was not as valuable and he
only received £11 7s 6d in compensation. 222 Richard Davis was a witness for the
prosecution in the court martial of Captain James Moore ODonel after 1798. He
testified that a rebel called James Gordon said that Captain O’Donel had spent the six
weeks before the French landed at Killala going from one corps of United Irishmen to
the next telling them that they would soon be relieved. 223
The family decided that there were easier ways of making a living than taking
skins off dead animals and tanning them, a most unpleasant process and decided to
advance in the world by educating their children. Neal became a solicitor and James a
doctor. Between 1839 and 1841 Neal Davis had subscribed two guineas each year
towards the running of the Newport Dispensary. Sir Richard O’Donel had paid him £2
15s 6d on January 28 1839 for notices to quit and a further £2 8s 6d on the same date
220 NLI, PC263(l)/25
221 NLI, MS 5738 Rent Roll of O’Donel Estate
222 Rev E Dean MacHale, ‘List of persons who have suffered losses in their property in the County of
Mayo, and who has given in their claims on or before the 6th April 1799 , to the Commissioners for
inquiring into the losses sustained by such of his Majesty’s loyal subjects as have suffered in their
property by the rebellion.’ in North Mavo Historical Journal ii,(1988)p. 21
223 P Mullowney & J Geraty, ‘O’Donels & family tree.’ in Back the Road. Journal of Newport Historical
Society i. (1996) p 12.
92
for ejectments 224 and in 1843 he was paid a total of £20 14s 9d by Sir Richard for
decrees ejectments and dismiss. 225 He was also a witness along with Rev George
Robert Gildea and J Flanagan to the will of Connel O’Donel, brother of Sir Neal the
elder published in 1840 and along with Matilda Ivers to a codicil to the same w ill.226
Neil was not the first member of the Davis family to enter the legal profession.
William Davis had drawn up the rent roll for John McLaughlin’s estate in the parish of
Burrishoole in 1777 227 and in 1802 he was acting as solicitor for Sir Neal O’Donel
from his office at 41 Bride Street, Dublin. 228
James Davis became a doctor and was appointed to the Newport Dispensary. He
was paid £30 on August 5 1839, £15 12s of this came from receipts of sales from the
dispensary. This was probably a twice-yearly payment as the doctor in the workhouse in
Westport was paid an annual salary of £50 in 1846. At a meeting of the Poor Law
Union Guardians of the Westport Union on 18 November 1840 Dr Davis was appointed
Medical officer of the Union for Newport under the Act to extend the practice of
vaccination against smallpox. He was paid Is per head for each successful vaccination
up to 200 then 6d per head. 229 In 1859 he was Dispensary doctor for Ballycroy,
Newport and the workhouse 230 and was renting land in Carrabaun. 231 Other members
224 NLI, MS 5742 Accounts O’Donel Estate and Relief Funds 1837-40
225 NLI, PC264(2)/28 Accounts of Sir Richard O’Donel for 1843- 1844 Affidavit of Alexander
Clendenning in case of John O Hara and wife vs. Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel 1844
226 NA, LEC 1622 ff 143 T 19815 Plain copy Will and Codicil of Connel O’Donel of Seamount County
Mayo Esq. last signed 13 Oct 1840.
227 NLI, MS 5821 Rent Roll of Medlicott Estate.
228 NLI, PC263(2)/60 Judgement stating James Moore left £1000 to his granddaughter Mary O’Donel
otherwise Coane wife of Sir Neal O’Donel
229 NLI, MS 14309 Minutes of the Westport Union Board of Guardians 1840
230 J.F. Quinn, ‘Members of Newport Poor Law Union 1859’ in J.F. Quinn, History Of Mayo. (4 vols.,
Ballina, 1993), ii, p. 108.; Slaters Directory 1846 cited in J.F. Quinn, History Of Mavo. (4 vols., Ballina,
1993), ii, p. 109.
93
of the family did not enter the professions, William Davis was working for the
O’Donel’s and was paid a weekly salary of 5s and an allowance of 2s 6d, a very large
sum at the time. He was also paid 15s for repair of his boots. 232 In 1839 John Davis
received £2 12s 6d and £4 17s 8d for road making.233
A second example of upward mobility was that of John Nixon. His lease of 1797
stipulated that
in consideration of five shillings, the new dwelling house situate in Market Street,
Newport, bounded in the east by a garden now in the possession of James Carman, on west by
Market Street, on the north by James Carman’s holding and on the south by houses now
tenanted by James Naylor, Thomas Kelly and John Loughnan. With full and free liberty now
and at all times thereafter of passing and repassing to the rear or yard through the present
passage thereto between the said Loughnan’s and John McGuire’s houses. All that the two new
houses in Weavers Row now tenanted by the said Kelly and Loughnan bounded on the East by
the aforementioned passage, on the west by said Naylor’s house on the north by the aforesaid
yard and offices and on the south by the Weavers Row together with the garden or plott of land
to the said dwelling house belonging bounded on the east by Reverend Josiah Hern’s house on
the west by the aforementioned James Carman’s garden and Hugh McGuire’s house on the
North by Nathaniel O’Donel’s garden and on the south by Weavers Row aforesaid at £8 annual
rent for ever. 234
A year later John Nixon had deserted from the Newport cavalry at the time of
the rebellion but the following year had returned to duty as was said in evidence at the
Court martial of James Moore O’Donel. At about the same time there were three other
231 NLI, MS 5740 Rent Roll of O’Donel Estate.
232 NLI, MS 5742 Accounts O’Donel Estate and Relief Funds 1837-40
233 NLI, MS 5742 Accounts O’Donel Estate and Relief Funds 1837-40
234 NLI, PC264(l)/25
94
Nixon families in the parish. In 1777 James Nixon was renting land in Inishower at £4
235 and William Nixon, his brother was renting a house in Weavers Row for £2 5s 6d. In
1800 William Nixon made over to Connel O’Donel his lease in Weavers Row. The rent
of this property, which was adjoining a house already owned by Connel O’Donel,
increased from the £2 5s 6d that Nixon was paying to Medlicott to £12 10s 3d due to the
fact that William Nixon had built a house on it.
In 1788 James Nixon was renting land in Burrishoole for £2 2s and in 1805 his
rent in Burrishoole and Kiltarnet was £9 2s. In 1789 Claud Nixon was renting land in
Inishower at £6 and was still renting this in 1805 . 236 Claud and James both grew flax on
their land. 237 John Nixon was paying £15 a year rent for his house in Market Street,
now Main Street in 1807 238 and two years previously had started renting land in
Carrowbaun for £37 13s 6d. By 1811 John Nixon was also renting land in Comploon at
£11 7s 6d and two plots in Market Street at a combined rent of £23. William Nixon was
renting land near the new bridge at a rent of £3 8s 3d and a plot and a house on Weavers
Row at a combined rent of £5 13s 9d. 239 but was finding it hard to pay his debts as he
owed Patrick Gibbons £1 in arrears of Cess or Money due for Summer Cess in
Burrishoole parish in 1814. 240 By 1816 arrears of rent were beginning to show up in
the rent rolls. John owed 29 per cent of his rent, Claud 42 per cent, James 100 per cent
241 and William had not paid any rent for three years on his property in Weavers Row.
235 NLI, MS 5737 James Moore’s Accounts.
236 NLI, O’Donel Unindexed Papers 1805 rent roll
237 NLI, PC263(l)/68 An account of the arrears of flaxseed contained in the North Division of the
Newport Estate
238 NLI, MS 5744 Rental of Newport Estate
239 NLI, O’Donel Unindexed Papers 1811 rent roll
240 NLI, PC263(l)/62 Arrears of Cess due Patk Gibbons for Summer Cess 1814 Burrishoole Parish
241 NLI, O’Donel Unindexed Papers 1816 rent roll
95
All four owed a half years rent in 1818 and this practice known as the ‘hanging gale’
seemed to have gained acceptability in the estate which would have further added to the
242 O’Donel’s financial problems. In 1819 another member of the family Thomas, who
was a son of William, had entered the rent rolls and was renting more land in Kiltarnet
at a rent of £4 the lease of which he had taken over from a family called Dira. 243 By
1824 John Nixon was having problems paying his rent and owed a total of £72 17s
6d.244
There were five Nixons listed in the tithes applotments for the parish of
Burrishoole, Huston in Barrackhill and Knocknadornogue, a Mr Nixon in Inishower,
Thomas in Rosgibbleen and William in Kiltarnet. 245 It is possible that the two entries
for Huston Nixon were two different people as in two marriages of daughters of a
Huston Nixon in one he is described as a shopkeeper and in the other as of Inishower
Island. On 18 November 1847 Catherine Maria Nixon, daughter of Huston Nixon,
shopkeeper was married to Francis O’Donnell a clerk from Knockmore in St
Catherine’s Church of Ireland Church. Among the witnesses were William Nixon and
Claudius Nixon. On 22 January 1848 Elizabeth Nixon, daughter of Huston Nixon of
Inishower Island married Henry Rose in the same church and Huston Nixon was a
witness. Claudius Nixon may have been a clerk in the church as he was a witness to two
other marriages the same year. 246 Between 1839 and 1841 William Nixon subscribed £1
242 NLI, O’Donel Unindexed Papers 1818 rent roll
243 NLI, O’Donel Unindexed Papers 1819 rent roll
244 NLI, O’Donel Unindexed Papers 1824 rent roll
245 NA, Tithes Applotment, Parish of Burrishoole.
246 Representative Church Body Library, Marriage Register Newport parish of Burrishoole (I) Aughaval
Union, Westport Co. Mayo Diocese of Tuam 1845 -1932.
9 6
Is each year to Newport Dispensary and he was elected a Guardian for the Newport
area of the Westport Poor Law Guardians for the year ending 25 March 1844 and was
also re-elected the following year. Huston Nixon was elected as a Guardian for the
94R Achill area. The Nixon family was closely associated with the O’Donels and
following the death of Sir Neal O’Donel, the younger, his widow Lady Catherine
O’Donel retired to Bath when her son Sir Richard succeeded to the estate. She was
accompanied there by her maidservant Jane Nixon, who when Lady Catherine died in
1830 wrote to Lord Annesley, Lady Catherine’s brother stating that Sir Richard had not
paid off his mother’s debts as promised.249
James Nixon was a surgeon and apothecary and a contemporary of Dr James
Davis. 250 In 1839 he was one of the Newport subscribers to Mathew Archdeacon’s
Legends of Connaught. 251 In 1849 Thomas Nixon was appointed Relieving Officer of
the Newport poor Law Union for the Electoral Divisions of Achill, Dooega, Slievemore,
and Currane, Achill at a salary of £50 per annum. 252 In 1858 when Sir Richard
Annesley O’Donel was deputy lieutenant for Mayo and magistrate, Claudius Nixon of
Newport was Barony Cess collector for Burrishoole North. 253
947
247 NLI, MS 5742 Accounts O’Donel Estate and Relief Funds 1837-40
248 NLI, MS 14309 Minute Book of the Westport Union
249 NLI, PC265(l)/76 Letter from Jane Nixon to Lord Annesley and from Lord Annesley to Sir Richard
O’Donel that the jointure to Lady Catherine Annesley O’Donel then resident in Bath had not been paid
for two years
250 Slaters Directory 1846 cited in J.F. Quinn, History Of Mayo. (4 vols., Ballina, 1993), ii, p. 109.
251 J.F. Quinn, ‘Subscribers to Mathew Archdeacon’s “Legends of Connaught”’, in J.F. Quinn, History Of
Mayo. (4 vols., Ballina, 1993), i, p. 12.
252 NLI, Newport Poor Law Union Minute Book, 15 October 1859-27 April 1850.
253 Thom’s Directory 1858
97
In 1855 Huston Nixon was renting two properties in the town of Newport one at
a rent of 5s and the other at £1 Is. 254 In 1857 in Griffith’s Valuation there were five
Nixons in the parish, William Nixon in Inishower, there was also a William having a
house in Georges Street in Newport but this might be the same man. Claudius held land
in Kilbride, Huston in Castlebar Road in the town of Newport and Anne in Kiltamet.
Anne Nixon was renting two small cottages valued at 5s each to Anne Burke and
__ 9 SS Catherine Murray and two acres of land and a house to Thomas McDonnell. By 1858
the Nixons had moved out of Kiltamet. Sir Richard O’Donel drew up a lease for twenty
one years with John Bole of Castlebar for all the land of ‘Kiltamaght’ that had been
occupied by Francis Nixon widower containing in total 29 acres for £16. 256
i l l
However not all the tenants on the O’Donel estate were as well off as the Davis
and Nixon families. The lived a precarious existence and had to put up with crop failure
and famine in many years prior to 1847. The Report from the Commissioners on Poor
Laws in Ireland tells of the conditions present in West Mayo in 1836. In the parishes of
Kilmina and Kilmaclasser, which had a total population of 12,444 the parish priest
Myles Sheridan reported that cottages were generally let by persons having small
holdings from the head landlord at a rent of ten shillings for a cabin without land. A
cabin with half an acre cost from 30s to 40s depending on the quality of land. Rent was
always paid in cash as distinct from in exchange for labour. Beds were made of straw
and placed on poles supported at head and foot by stones to raise them from the damp of
the floor, which was often wet due to the roof leaking because it was badly thatched.
254 NLI, MS 5740 Rental of Newport Estate March and Sept 1855
255 Griffiths Valuation of Tenements for the Union of Newport. County Mayo 1857, p66
256 NLI, PC263(2)/6
98
The economy of the parish had deteriorated markedly in the previous ten years. The
linen trade and the herring fishery had both declined. One portion of these parishes on
the sea coast and islands became victims to the failure of the fishery and the interior and
eastern parts carrying on the weaving business suffered by the failure of the other. The
condition of the people was generally peaceable except that in the winter of 1831 when
tenants were calling for a reduction in rent. There were no public houses although there
may have been a sheebeen as Father Sheridan when stating that there were no public
houses elucidated by saying he meant there were no licensed houses in the parish. Illicit
distillation did not occur but there was a certain amount of illicit spirits sold.
Theobald Burke who was a J.P. testified as to the situation in the parish of
Islandeady with a population of 8564. Here the usual rent of a cabin without land was
from 10s to £1 and if there was land attached the charge could be as high as £2 per acre.
Rent is paid in many cases in labour and in others in cash. The cabins were built of
loose stones sometimes dashed and furniture consisted of two or three chairs and a large
form upon which they ate. The bedding was very bad. Usually only one family lived in
a cabin but there were three or four instances where more than one family resided in the
cabin. During the Napoleonic wars the condition of the poor was prosperous, as the
parish was an agricultural one. Since the end of the war their condition has deteriorated
considerably, the population was increasing to a vast extent and the habit of subdividing
their holdings with their grown families was the principal cause of their poverty. There
had been little disturbance in the parish in the previous three years. There were about six
public houses in this parish and illicit distilling had increased there for the previous four
years due to the cheapness of grain.
Rev Charles Hargrove gave evidence on the parish of Kilmina with a population
of 9,000. Poor people in this parish might have had a second cabin on their little farm or
99
set a small plot to build on for about £1 per cabin without ground and more if a small
potato patch was also rented. Most of these cabins were most miserably furnished
seldom with bedding and often without chair or table. The rent was chiefly paid in cash
and seldom in exchange for labour. In the previous four years the condition of the poor
was deteriorating every year and the population increasing rapidly. There were no
licensed premises in this parish but there were several shebeens selling illegal spirits but
these spirits were not made in the parish.
The standard of clothing in the barony was not good. One of the testators to the
commission, Michael Luddane stated that he had borrowed the coat and breeches that he
was wearing from a neighbour, as he was ashamed of his own old rags. The annual
expenditure for clothes in the tenant families did not exceed £1. An entire suit was
purchased for about £2 and with patching the coat was made to last at least four or five
years. When at home the man was clothed in rags and was generally without shoes.
New clothes were seldom bought for children who were clothed with their parents cast
offs. On holydays and when attending fairs or markets the men were rarely without
shoes and stockings, the women were generally without either but the children were
always so. The men’s coats were made of frieze woven by local weavers from yam spun
by women of the neighbourhood. The women wore cloaks of cloth made of the same
material. For other articles of dress they made use of cotton goods. Many people did not
have sufficient warm clothes to enable them to leave their cabins in winter. Most cabins
did not have a bed and the occupants slept on straw on the floor, which was often damp
and rapidly became bad and unwholesome. There were a great many cabins where the
only furniture was a large chest, two or three stools and an iron pot to boil potatoes.
When there was only one bed in the house it was occupied by the married couple and
the younger children. If there was only one room in the cabin, the remainder of the
1 0 0
family male and female lay together on straw strewn on the clay floor. If there were two
rooms, the females slept together in the inner room where the married couple laid.
Sometimes when a man’s son had got married and there was not a separate bit of land to
give him or else that he could not afford all at once to build another cabin, the young
couple and the old couple together with their grown up brothers and sisters had
continued to all sleep together in the one room for a year and a half. Along the sea coast
where the population was already crowded the cabins were of a very miserable
description, frequently consisting of just one room of from twelve to eighteen feet long
by about twelve broad, built of loose stones with a thatching of straw or potato stalks.
To resist the violence of the westerly winds the inhabitants found it necessary to bind
down the thatch with ropes composed of reeds and other materials. If these were not
available large flagstones were used to hold down the roof. Inside the rafters were
exposed and there was no other ceiling. The thatch was often so imperfect as not to
exclude the rain which falling onto the floor always of clay contributed to the dirt and
wretchedness of the inmates. Stone chimneys were seldom seen in these cabins and a
hole was left in the roof to allow out the smoke from the fire. This hole was covered
with a wickerwork basket as a partial guide to the smoke or else a stone was laid flat on
the hole in the roof and the smoke exited through the door. When the cabins were built
windows were usually installed, but when they were broken the glass was often not
replaced and the gap closed with mud or stones. The use of privies was quite unknown
even to the more comfortable occupiers of the mountains, the filth of the house was
received and treasured in an excavation before the door which served the purpose of a
dung pit. There were no sheds for fuel, probably because the way turf was stacked
secured it against the atmosphere. The majority of the houses in the country had pigsties
101
but the pigs were not always confined to them, as it was deemed injudicious to exclude
257 them from the warmth of the cabin.
The people could all build their own cabins. Many raised the necessary wood
out of the bogs. Others had to pay 5s or 6s for the door posts and rafters such was the
price at which Lord Sligo’s steward sold timber to Lord Sligo’s tenants. Straw for the
roof came to about 10s and a man thatched it in two days at Is a day. One of the
witnesses to the commission offered to build any number of ordinary cabins at £2 15s a
piece. Mr Ellis, an architect, says he could not build one under £3. In some places
people were charged from 10s to 15s a year for the liberty to erect a cabin. Where a
rood of ground was attached to a cabin the rent was seldom if ever less than £1 to £1 5s.
The landlord never built the cabin. The cabins of the occupiers of land were for the most
part collected in villages situated towards the centre of the farm held in common
without reference to the quality of land. The location of the village was originally
determined by a spring or stream of water or with a view to being near a county road.
These villages consisted of from three to twenty wretched cabins inhabited by petty
tenants and their subtenants. There was no reason to suppose that the inhabitants of
them of them were either better or worse conducted than those whose cabins were
placed alone. 258
The tenants stock was often seized for rent, and most of them compounded with
the pound keeper and paid him I s a year. Persons who paid this sum were not liable for
any further demand from the pound keeper (who was generally also the driver) no
matter what number of cattle should be driven. The expenses of the bailiffs are certain
fixed sums and often quite disproportionate to the value of the property seized. The
257 Report from Commissioners on Poor Laws in Ireland HC 1836 xxxii, Appendix (E), p. 40
258 Report from Commissioners on Poor Laws in Ireland HC 1836 xxxii, Appendix (E), p. 41
102
tenants used turf and bogwood for fuel. John Kenny a small ordinary farmer testifying
before the Poor Law Commission estimated that it took him about a fortnight to cut as
much turf as his family required for a year, about fourteen days more was spent in
drying and bringing it home. Woods were never robbed for fuel but they sometimes
were for other purposes such as flail handles. There was no instance known of a
landlord depriving a tenant of fuel as a punishment. 259
In the years leading up to the Famine Father James Hughes was the parish priest
of Newport. When he died in 1852 the Mayo Constitution which was the local
conservative journal described him as ‘an ornament to his church, a living bulwark of
liberty and a devoted and self devoting friend of the poor’. On leaving Newport he had
been promoted to president of the deanery of Claremorris and parish priest of
Kilcolman. The Evening Freeman in announcing his death commented ‘Many men have
filled more conspicuous positions and been consequently more in the public eye to
whom the title of ‘distinguished ‘ may therefore more fitly apply but if to labour
sincerely and orderly and indefatigably in the cause of religion and charity and county
in a province which long recognised his virtues and now mourns his loss confer
distinction then is our lamented friend eminently well entitled to that character.’ 260
Alexis de Tocqueville on his tour round Ireland in 1835 had met Father Hughes
in Newport. He described him as being a man of about fifty with an open and energetic
face, a little stout with a strong accent. A little common and dressed in black with riding
boots. He lived in a small white one story house facing the quay with three windows in
front and covered with large white slates. A little stone peristyle was attached to the
house and there was a small meadow at the side. When de Tocqueville and his
259 Report from Commissioners on Poor Laws in Ireland HC 1836 xxxii, Appendix (E), p. 41
260 Mavo Constitution 30 March 1852; Evening Freeman 25 March 1852.
103
companion arrived the priest was absent but there were fifty individuals seated around
his door appearing to be waiting for him. The room where the travellers met Father
Hughes was furnished with old but comfortable furniture and the walls were covered
with coloured engravings of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Pope and one or two religious
scenes. Among all these pictures were tacked political caricatures and on the table were
several newspapers. Father Hughes was very active politically and had entered into
several public debates with the protestant rector of Castlebar Rev William Baker
Stoney. He also contributed widely to the letters columns of both local and national
newspapers. 261 De Tocqueville had read letters Father Hughes had submitted to the
newspapers and had come to ascertain for himself that conditions were as bad as the
priest had stated. Following the publication of the letters donations of £340 had been
sent and the crowd waiting outside the door were hoping to receive some of this. 262
A large supply of oatmeal had been purchased and a committee was set up of
three Catholics and three protestants, to distribute this under the supervision of the
priest. Most of the people waiting for the priest had not eaten since the previous day
when they got their supply of oatmeal. Most of them were small farmers paying a rent.
A partial failure of the potato harvest in 1834 resulted in a scarcity since March and
those who had cows, sheep, and pigs have sold them in order to live and when they no
longer had anything left to sell and were looking for relief. The committee had decided
that the oatmeal should be sold at half cost price and then more bought rather than
giving it away but they would not let those starve who had no means of purchasing.
Because some members of the committee were not present in town the supplies could
not be distributed until they returned. The priest when he addressed his congregation
261 Freemans Journal (Dublin) 8,14,21,22,25,28 and 31 July 1835.
262 Emmet Larkin (ed.), Alexis de Tocqueville’s journey in Ireland July-August .1835 (Dublin, 1990)
p .129
104
outside his house spoke in a loud and animated voice and had a passionate interest for
the people, but at the same time an air of firmness and command. Father Hughes who
was accompanied by two priests from neighbouring parishes said that the state of
society was intolerable and could not last.263
The main form of institutional relief in such periods of crisis was the poor Law
system which had been established in 1836. When the Poor Law Unions were set up the
whole of the Barony of Burrishoole and Ballycroy were included in the Poor Law
Union of Westport. At the first meeting of the Board of Guardians on 20 August 1840
Joseph Burke Esq., Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, was present to help set up the
Union. Among the Guardians elected were George Clendenning Esq., the marquis of
Sligo, Sir Richard O’Donel Bart., Connel O’Donel Esq., Joseph A McDonnell Esq., Mr
Patrick Gibbons and Dominick McLoughlin Esq. All of these had connections with
Newport. Wardens appointed were Mr Thomas Garvan for Kilmeena, Mr John
O’Donnell for Kilmaclasser, Mr Austin Hoban for Newport Mr Anthony Lavell for
Achill and Mr Joseph Lenaghan for Ballycroy. At the next meeting on 18 November
1840 Medical Officers of the Union were appointed to extend the practice of
vaccination against smallpox. Doctor Davis for Newport, Doctor Adams for Achill and
Mr Durkin for Louisburgh. There was nobody appointed for Westport as Doctor
Kearins the Medical Attendant at Westport Dispensary refused the terms offered. Sir
Richard O’Donel, although elected as a Guardian was a very poor attendee at the
meetings in the early years of the Union. 264
263 Emmet Larkin (ed.), Alexis de Tocqueville’s journey in Ireland July-August .1835 (Dublin, 1990)
p. 129
264 NLI, MS 12705 Westport Union ledgers Oct 1840 – Sept 1847
105
On 26 November 1840, the poor law commissioners, JGS Lefevre, GC Lewis
and George Nichols informed the guardians of the Westport union that a workhouse
should be built within the union of Westport for the reception employment and relief of
1300 destitute poor persons men women and children properly classified. Initially the
workhouse was to be built to accommodate 1000 inmates but it was never extended for
its full complement of 1300. The commissioners estimated the cost of building and
fitting out the workhouse would amount to £9800. The poor law commissioners directed
the guardians of Westport to raise that amount as a poor rate on the rateable property in
the union or to borrow the amount and pay off the principal and interest of the loan from
the poor rate. William Thomas was appointed clerk of works to superintend the erection
of the union workhouse at a salary of £2 2s Od per week and Mr James Hearton was
appointed to value all the rateable property in the union at a fee of £540 for eighteen
months work. The board of guardians decided to raise this by requesting a loan from the
exchequer loan commissioners for £10,000 to cover the costs of purchasing the site,
building the workhouse, purchasing additional buildings, paying the clerk of works and
other contingencies.
On Wednesday August 4 1841, George John, earl of Altamont attended by his
brother James Browne, Colonel Charles Knox, and Joseph Burke Esq., Assistant Poor
Law Commissioner laid the first stone of the workhouse. The following members of the
board of guardians, Geo. Clendenning Esq. Major O O’Malley, J C Garvey, Capt. R M
Haugh, Capt. J T S Stuart, Charles F Hynes, William Levingston, William Graham,
Francis Woodhouse, Charles McDonnell and Dominick McLoughlin were also present.
Sir Richard O’Donel may not have been a guardian at that time as the minutes announce
he was elected the following May along with William Gillespie for Achill, Edward
Malley and Dominick McLoughlin for Newport and John Currigan for Ballycroy. At the
106
same meeting that the results of the election were announced James Kean was appointed
warden for Newport, Anthony Lavelle for Achill and Joseph Lenaghan for Ballycroy.
At the meeting of 29 June 1842, Mr T H Burke was appointed medical attendant to the
workhouse at an allowance of £50 year, Mr Henry Roe as master at an annual salary of
£50, Mrs Julia O’Malley as matron at £25 a year and James Scott as porter at £10 a
year. Mr Thomas resigned as clerk of works and was replaced by Mr James Davidson.
_ o z : c
By August 26 John Gibbons was supplying furniture for the workhouse for £227.
After Mr Hearton had completed the valuation of the rateable property in the
Union, it was decided at the guardians meeting on 28 September to impose a rate of ten
pence in the pound on the electoral division number three comprising the parishes of
Kilmaclasser Newport Achill and Ballycroy. However the county cess collectors
declined the collection of rates and advertisements were made for competent persons for
the collection of rent throughout the Union. Six pence in the pound was to be allowed
for collecting the rate. On 10 October a letter was received from the poor law
commissioners requesting the Westport board of guardians to appoint a number of
justices of the peace as guardians. Among these was Captain James T S Stuart of
Ardagh, Newport. Peter McGuire was appointed as rate collector for district number
three. 266
At this stage the workhouse was almost ready for the reception of paupers and
the following items of clothing and bedding were purchased. William Woods supplied
blankets at Is 9d lb., frieze jackets at 4s 6d, frieze trousers 3s lOd, frieze waistcoats
lined at back with calico and flannel 3s lOd, worsted caps for men Is and worsted caps
for boys at lOd. Patrick Cosgrove supplied linen sheets at 4s llVid per pair, bannegan
265 NLI, MS 12705 Westport Union ledgers Oct 1840 – Sept 1847
266 NLI, MS 12705 Westport Union ledgers Oct 1840 – Sept 1847
107
trousers at 3s 21/zd per pair lined all through with twilled swans down cotton, corduroy
jackets and trousers 4s 9d, men’s shoes at Is 9d, boy’s shoes at Is 5d, linen shifts at Is
5d, flannel petticoats, cotton bedgowns , girls frocks and women’s caps all at Is lOd.
John Lavelle supplied rugs or coverlets at 2s and linsey woolsey petticoats 2s 2d. James
Henry supplied bed ticks at 3s 9d and bolsters at Is. Thomas McManamon supplied
men’s shoes at 4s 9d and boys for 3s 5d. Finally on November 16 1842 a letter was
received from the poor law commissioners stating that the workhouse was fit for
reception of paupers. But in such a poverty stricken area, the guardians were unable to
collect the poor rate, in spite of enlisting the aid of the constabulary and even troops in
their efforts, so the workhouse remained shut until the issue of a writ of mandamus
compelled its opening in November 1845. 268
On March 1 1843 Sir Richard A O’Donel was appointed chairman of the board
of guardians. JTS Stuart of Ardagh, Newport was among the ex officio officers.
Guardians elected were Edward Malley, Dominick McLoughlin, William Nixon and
Austin Hoban for Newport, Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel and William Gillespie for
Achill and William Lundy for Ballycroy. Peter McGuire had been reasonably successful
in collecting rates, returning £29 2s 6d in December 1842, £66 10s in January 1843, £67
10s in March, £85 7s 6d. in April and £159 17s 6d in May. Even with this amount there
was still £339 remaining uncollected. The following year the marquis of Sligo was
again Chairman and Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel vice chairman. James Keane was
appointed warden for Newport, Anthony Lavelle for Achill and John Currigan for
Ballycroy. In 1844 Sir Richard was now elected for Newport rather than Achill. His
fellow guardians in Newport were Edward Malley, Austin Hoban and William Nixon
267 NLI, MS 12705 Westport Union ledgers Oct 1840 – Sept 1847
268 John O’Connor, The workhouses of Ireland. (Dublin , 1995) p. 122.
108
while William Gillespie and Huston Nixon represented Achill. William Lundy was the
269 guardian for Ballycroy.
Newport Poor Law union was separated from the Westport Poor Law Union in
1849 when work on the construction of the workhouse costing £5965 and having
accommodation for five hundred inmates was commenced. 270 It had a valuation of
£8159 and was divided into ten electoral divisions but it was not until 1852 however
that the workhouse was opened. The electoral divisions were represented by ten elected
and eight ex officio guardians who met weekly at 11 a.m. on Mondays in the
courthouse. Collection of poor rates was to be divided into three areas and
advertisements were made in the local press for people to tender for the positions and
271 stating the rate at which they would collect the new rates in the Union. The three
areas the poor law union was divided into and the rates assigned for this purpose were
Achill consisting of the district electoral divisions of Achill and Curraun at 2s lid in
the £ and Dooega and Slievemore at is lOVid in the £. Ballycroy was made up of
Ballycroy north at lOVki in the £ and Ballycroy south and Newport west at 2s 1 Id in the
£. Newport consisted of Newport east at 2s 6d in the £, Derrylohan at Is OVkl in the £
and Shramore at 5d in the £.
The chairman of the Newport board of guardians in 1851 was the marquis of
Sligo. Other guardians included Sir Richard A O’Donel and James Hillis Esq. Persons
desirous of becoming clerk of the Union had been asked to attend but as there were no
applicants for the situation of clerk in attendance, Dodwell Browne was appointed to act
temporarily as Clerk, at a salary of one pound per week. Advertisements were inserted
269 NLI, MS 12705 Westport Union ledgers Oct 1840 – Sept 1847
270 John O’Connor, The workhouses of Ireland. (Dublin , 1995) p. 262.; NLI, MS 5739 Minutes of
Newport Union
271 Mayo Constitution 14 May 1852
109
in the local newspapers the Connacht Telegraph and the Mayo Constitution stating that
applications for the appointment of Clerk would be considered at the courthouse at
Newport on Monday 29 October 1851. Applications were to be accompanied by
testaments of character and letters from two solvent persons stating their willingness to
become sureties in a joint bond for the sum of £100. Salary was to be £50. Thomas
Clarkson was appointed relieving officer for the electoral divisions of Newport East,
Shramore, Derryloughan, and Newport West at a salary of £50 per annum. Thomas
Nixon was appointed relieving officer of the electoral divisions of Achill, Dooega,
Slievemore, and Currane, Achill at a salary of £50 and John Currigan was appointed
relieving officer of the electoral divisions of Ballycroy North and Ballycroy South at a
salary of £40.
John Bole was appointed distributor of provisions to the recipients of outdoor
relief in Achill electoral division, Dooega electoral division, Slievemore electoral
division and Curraun Achill electoral division at a remuneration of 5s per £10 of relief
given. John Currigan was appointed distributor for Ballycroy north electoral division
and Ballycroy south electoral division and William Walsh for Newport east electoral
division, Shramore electoral division, Derryloughan electoral division and Newport
west electoral division. The master of the Westport workhouse was asked to give a
weekly census of each class of paupers from the Newport Poor Law union in the
Westport workhouse. William Levingston agreed to supply one ton of rye meal at
Westport Quay at the rate of £6 10s Od per ton and Pat Grehan was to be paid 15s a ton
to deliver this to Ballycroy. By June 1852 the board was advertising for suppliers to
tender for the supply by the following September of upper shoe leather at per lb., sole
110
leather at per lb. and shoemakers findings by the cwt. They also wished to appoint a
shoemaker to instruct the boys at the workhouse. 272
In October a reporter of the Mayo Constitution was refused admission to a
meeting of the Newport guardians. He was there to present tenders for advertisements as
well as report but was made to wait outside for hours. He reported that the meeting of
the guardians was the only one in the province that the press could not attend and would
like to know the real supplier of milk to the workhouse who got 4d a gallon for skim
milk and 2%d for buttermilk. The latter being the price for new milk in Castlebar
workhouse. 273 Reading between the lines he seemed to be implying that one of the
guardians was producing the milk but using someone else’s name on the tender to
supply it. It was decided at a meeting in October that it would be necessary to appoint
an assistant matron. She was to be paid a salary of £8 per annum with apartment and
rations of bread and milk and an allowance of four pounds per annum in lieu of meat tea
and sugar. 274
Even though Mr James Hearton had valued all the property in the Newport
Union in 1842, when it had been part of the Westport Union, the guardians decided to
revalue the property and advertised for a valuator at a fee of £20. He would have to
sustain his valuation against all cases of appeal made and the revision must be
completed within one month from the date of appointment. He would also need a
number of solvent persons to give surety for him in a bond of the sum of £100. 275
Following the valuation the rates were also increased. Dooega increased from Is
10 Vzd to 8s 6d in the £, Curraun from to 8s 8d in the £, Ballycroy North from 10 Vid to
272 Mavo Constitution 25 June 1852
273 Mavo Constitution 29 October 1852
274 Mavo Constitution 26 October 1852
111

 

8s 4d in the £, Ballycroy South from 2s lid to 7s 4d in the £ and Newport East from 2s 6d to 9s 8d in the £. Shramore increased from 5d to 9s 9d in the £, Derrylohan from Is 0 to 9s 4d in the £, Newport West from 2s 1 Id to 9s 4d in the £, Achill from to 9s 9d in the £ and Slievemore from Is 10 Vnd to 9s 2d in the £. 276 The workhouse porter must have vacated his position in February 1854 as the guardians advertised for an applicant to fill the vacant position at a salary of £8 per 977 annum with apartments and rations. An annual notice to tender to supply the workhouse was issued in September 1854 and articles required included whole flour at per ton, second flour at per ton, oatmeal at per ton, Indian meal at per ton, white bread at per 41b loaf. Other supplies required included candles per lb., beef and mutton per lb., soap per cwt., turnips per cwt., cabbages per score and onions per stone. Items of clothing included calico white and grey per yard, check per yard, frieze per yard, shambray per yard and lindsey woolsey per yard. Straw per ton was also requested. This was probably used for bedding and lime per barrel might have been used for disinfection or if it was quicklime for burying the dead paupers that might have died of infectious diseases. Sweet oil per gallon was also required as well as turf per ton to be supplied from the following July. The guardians also slipped into their tender application wine per bottle. This may have been for their own entertainment at the weekly board meetings or for a night-cap for the master and the two matrons of the i 978 workhouse. Tenders were to be accompanied by samples where practicable. In 1855 the guardians were chairman Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel, vice chair Peter Denis Browne, Treenlaur, Newport. George C O’Donel of Newport House who 275 Mavo Constitution 16 November 1852 276 Mavo Constitution 10 January 1854 277 Mavo Constitution 7 February 1854

112

was nephew of Sir Richard was deputy vice chair. Dodwell Browne was still the returning officer. Patrick Gibbons had been appointed master of the workhouse and the matron was Jane Sharply. The two chaplains were Rev George Robert Gildea for the established church and Rev Mathew Flannelly for the Catholic church. The medical officer for the workhouse was James Davis who also covered the Newport Dispensary area. Samuel Laird was responsible for the Achill dispensary and the position in 279 Ballycroy was vacant. In 1858 Sir Richard was still chairman William Pike had replaced Peter Denis Browne as vice chair and George C O’Donel, who was now known by the appellation of Sir George C O’Donel and lived at Melcomb House Newport was still deputy vice chairman. IV However though institutional relief was geared to deal with limited subsistence crises and the effect on relations between landlord and tenants, it was not in a position to deal with the sort of widespread shortage of food which occurred in 1847. The events of that year expose many of the weaknesses of the rural world of the landlord in response to the crisis. James Hack Tuke a Quaker from York made a six-week tour of Ireland in 1847 and published a summary of his findings. 280 This gave a good indication of the state of hardship and deprivation of the peasantry in West Mayo during the Famine. Some disparaging remarks were made about Sir Richard O’Donel which resulted in extensive correspondence between Sir Richard and the Central Relief Committee and probably 278 Mavo Constitution 1 September 1854 279 Thoms Directory (Dublin 1855)

113

would have resulted in legal proceedings being taken except for the intervention of Jonathan Pim one of the secretaries of the committee. Tuke commented on the fact that the cultivated land in Connaught was so minutely divided that out of 46,000 farms, 44,000 were under fifteen acres and held by men too poor to employ any hired labourers. This would have been similar in the Barony of Burrishoole where 63 per cent of holdings were under fifteen acres in 1851. It must be remembered that the large amount of mountain grazing in this area resulted in holdings being larger than they were in east Mayo but the production per acre would be lower. 281 Tuke stated that the division of land in many parts of Ireland had been promoted by the landlords to increase their own political influence, the more tenants they had, the more votes they had to control in poor law and government elections. The soil and climate of Connaught were ideally suited to growing flax and there had been a marked increase in the area grown in 1847, two thousand four hundred and ninety nine acres were grown in Mayo. Half of this had been grown in the neighbourhood of Newport an increase from fifty acres in 1844. At the time of Tuke’s visit to Newport, nearly 1,000 workers mainly women, were engaged by Sir Richard O’Donel, in harvesting the crops, the women earned 4d a day and the men 8d. He commented that this was a miserable wage but the workers were cheerful and industrious. Nearly half of the flax grown around Newport was in Sir Richard O’Donel’s own hands, and he was purchasing the remainder from his tenants at the rate of £5 to £7 and in some cases £9 per acre. The seed cost about 25s and the two diggings and other expenses which are required cost a further 28s, to which must be added the cost of the extra quantity of manure after so exhausting a crop as flax. After 280 James H Tuke, Visit to Connaught in the autumn of 1847 a letter addressed to the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends Dublin. Second edition with notes of a subsequent visit to Erris (London, 1848)

114

these outlays there could be little left for the tenant to live upon. He felt that O’Donel was making a substantial personal profit from the flax grown by his tenants. This was one of the two accusations that O’Donel felt most aggrieved about, and in the second edition of his letter Tuke seems to make a partial apology stating that since the publication of the first edition Sir Richard O’Donel had informed him through a neutral friend, probably Jonathan Pirn, that the flax grown upon his estate was sown too late in the season to produce an average crop. Also in the growth and purchase he was merely acting on behalf of a firm in Manchester with whom he had contracted to grow the crop. He was however unwilling to agree that the rent charged to O’Donel’s tenants was as low as he stated. Another improvement by Sir Richard was the building of a flour and scutching mill at Newport. However mechanisation of the process where labour is so superabundant would seem counterproductive and better quality linen was produced in Belgium by hand rather than machine. Reverend George Robert Gildea had established a small linen manufactory, which employed a considerable number of handloom weavers and nearly seven hundred women were engaged in hand scutching and spinning flax earning from 3s to 3s 6d a week. The Quakers were very strongly against gratuitous relief and instead gave the people a means to provide an income for themselves. This could be by providing vegetable seeds for which they could sell a crop and repay the cost of the seed or provision of clothing to the fishermen in Achill which could be repaid from the sale of their catch. The normal practice for tenants of west Mayo estates was to grow a cash crop, usually com, to pay the rent and a potato patch to provide subsistence. When the potato crop failed the tenants did not want to part with the com crop, as it might be their only means of subsistence. The landlords fearing they would not receive their rent and 281 1851 c e n s u s

115

 

arrears unless the tenant sold the cash crop employed the driver or bailiff to ‘cant’ the small patches of oats or potatoes or placed keepers over the crop. The charge of guarding the crop was added to the tenants rent. Even the produce of seed, distributed by benevolent associations such as the Central Relief Committee had been totally used to pay the rent and these guarding charges and nothing was left to help sustain the landholder. At a time when the charity of the whole world had been turned towards the relief of this starving peasantry, Tuke found it unbelievable that the landlords would then evict these same tenants if they did not obtain their rent. He was particularly concerned when on his visit to Achill, he saw at what he described as ‘the wretched fishing village of Kiel, belonging to Sir Richard O’Donel’ an example of this where a few days previous a total of forty families had been ejected. On this second point of contention O’Donel was most annoyed with Tuke. In the second edition Tuke makes a retraction stating that he had been informed that O’Donel was only the nominal owner, this part of his property having been under the control of the Court of Chancery for many years. Tuke describes in harrowing detail the result of this eviction; A crowd of these miserable ejected creatures collected around us, bewailing with bitter lamentations their hard fate. One old grey haired man came tottering up to us bearing in his arms his bedridden wife; and putting her down at our feet, pointed in silent agony to her, and then to his roofless dwelling, the charred timbers of which were scattered in all directions around. This man said he owed little more than one years rent, and had lived in the village, which had been the home of his forefathers all his life. Another man with five motherless children had been expelled and their boiling pot sold for 3s 6d. Another family consisting of a widow and four young children, had their only possession ‘ a little sheep’ seized and sold for 5s 6d. 116 One hundred and fifty tenants who had been evicted owing from half a years to a year and half’s rent were faced with a walk of nearly forty miles to the workhouse of the Union in Westport. Some indeed would never reach their destination, death would 2g9 release them from their sufferings and the landlord from his burden. Following the publication of James Tuke’s account, Sir Richard O’Donel wrote to Pirn complaining about the remarks made about him. Pirn wrote to Tuke that when Tuke first proposed mentioning what he had seen on Sir R O’Donel’s property that he had objected to it, though he did not push his objections as strongly as he felt and wished he had done. He felt that ‘it was very undesirable when writing about a class to mention individual names and especially in Ireland when it was so hard ascertain the true facts and we must judge a man in reference to the circumstances in which he is placed and the character of those by whom he is surrounded.’ Pirn said that he believed Sir R O’Donnell to be a good rather than a bad specimen of the landed class in the West of Ireland, energetic, economical in his private expenditure, strictly moral in his habits. He also believed him to be conscientious in his conduct towards his equals and his dependants though at the same time with a conscience much less enlightened than he would probably possess if he lived in Yorkshire or Wexford. He was also at that time under circumstances of strong temptation due to his financial position and the great depreciation in the value of his estates. Under these circumstances to see him given as an example of a bad landlord must have surprised all those acquainted with the county of Mayo.283 282 James H Tuke, Visit to Connaught in the autumn of 1847 a letter addressed to the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends Dublin. Second edition with notes of a subsequent visit to Erris (London, 1848) p. 11 283 NLI, MS 8669 Pim correspondence. Letter from Jonathan Pirn to James Tuke 20 Jan 1848 117 The barony of Burrishoole consisted of the parishes of Achill, Burrishoole, Islandeady, Kilmaclasser and Kilmeena. The relief commission papers give details of the severity of the Famine in these parishes. From the parish of Achill Edward Grainger constable reported that in 1844 there were 455 acres of potatoes planted and the same amount in 1845 and 1846. No land was let in conacre for the planting of potatoes.284 In the Curraun part of the Achill parish Constable Robert Stretton reported from Mulranny that in 1844 there were 156 acres of potatoes planted 161 in 1845 and 143 in 1846. Rape was sown in place of potatoes. Robert Stretton also reported from the Mulranny end of the Burrishoole parish that 362 acres of potatoes were planted in 1844, 376 in 1845 and 308 in 1846. There were ten acres planted in conacre in 1844 fifteen acres in 1845 and seven acres in 1846. Oats or rye was sown in the place of potatoes. From the Newport end of Burrishoole parish Head constable Monkton Creagh reported that in 1844 there were 1,402 acres of potatoes planted with seventy three acres in conacre, in 1845 1,456 with eighty eight acres in conacre and in 1846 1,116 with thirty four acres planted in conacre. In place of potatoes oats barley flax and turnips were sown. Peter Keary constable reported that in the Glenisland part of the parish of Islandeady in 1844 there were 693 acres of potatoes planted with seven acres in conacre, in 1845 672 with eight acres in conacre, in 1846 573 with six acres planted in conacre. Barley and flax were sown in place of potatoes. In the other part of the Islandeady parish Denis Walsh sub Inspector reported that in 1844 there were 410 acres of potatoes planted with seventy nine in conacre, in 1845 418 acres and the amount planted in conacre was not known and in 1846 408 acres with twenty two acres planted in conacre. The people in this parish were not able to sow any crop in place of potatoes and the land was left 284 National Archives, Relief Commission Papers RLFC 4/211 118 waste for want of seeds or means to set it. In one part of the parish of Kilmaclasser in 1844 there were 423 acres of potatoes planted, in 1845 421 acres and in 1846 312 acres. There was no conacre planted in this parish and oats, barley and flax were sown in place of potatoes. In the other part of the parish in 1844 there were 407 acres of potatoes planted with sixty five acres in conacre, in 1845 413 acres and in 1846 four hundred and twenty acres, the amount planted with potatoes had actually increased although there were only eight acres planted in conacre. In part of the parish of Kilmeena in 1844 there were 239 acres of potatoes planted with eight acres in conacre, in 1845 249 acres with nine and a half in conacre and in 1846 201 with four acres in conacre and oats barley and flax was sown in the place of potatoes. In the other part of the parish in 1844 there were 1,106 acres of potatoes planted with 106 acres in conacre. In 1845 1,141 acres were planted with potatoes and in 1846 1,075 acres with forty four acres planted in conacre. In this parish when the seed failed in the ground many persons for want of means to replant left the land waste. Prior to the Famine Sir Richard had been encouraging the improvement of agriculture in his estate and had allowed premiums of £10 5s 2d to his tenants and £35 16s 4d for drainage grants. He had also subscribed £10 to the Ballinrobe Agricultural Society and had encouraged his better tenants to exhibit their produce there. After the famine drainage schemes were carried out in the estate at Cuilmore, Mullaun and 285 Tawnawoggaun. The Society of Friends or ‘Quakers’ as they were commonly known set up the Central Relief Committee on 13 November 1846 and a large amount of their work was 285 NLI, O’Donel Papers PC 263(2)/62 Accounts for payments of workers for 1843/1844; NA, Class Chancery Sub Class Drainage Awards enrolments 7 31, 7 33, 7 41. 119 carried out in Mayo. 286 Relief to Mayo during the period of the Famine consisted of 696 tons of food, twenty nine food boilers, £2309 in money, sixty one clothing grants and 54,172 lbs. of seeds, the majority of which were turnips. 287 The Central Relief Committee had in early 1847 sent a grant of provisions for the poor of Newport district. Sir Richard thanking them for their generous donation called to their attention the neglected state of cultivation of the lands around Newport and unless prompt action were taken he feared a repeat of the previous years calamity. It was too late to sow oats but there was still time to put in a flax crop. Flax seed, both Riga and American, was freely available in Westport and if a loan of £250 could be made he would hope to purchase one hundred lbs. of flaxseed and induce his tenants to sow a large crop of flax which was likely to be very remunerative. He was willing to contribute £50 himself and stated he would willingly give the entire amount if it was in his power to do so. 288 William Todhunter replied requesting more details and these were supplied a week later. Five thousand acres in the parish of Burrishoole were suitable for the growth of flax. All unfortunately were lying waste and about fourteen men would be employed in the cultivation of each acre. The return would be about sixty cwt of straw per Irish acre out of which there would be sixty stone of flax. An acre of good average flax on the foot was worth £12 and costs included seed per acre £1 15s Od, labour 12s, harrowing 3s, weeding and pulling 15s. In 1845 Sir Richard developed an interest in promoting the growth of flax but could only purchase about three tons of flax in the markets of Westport and Newport. In the year 1846 it increased to 21 tons 8 cwt. 0 qr. 13 lb. for which he paid £1047 4s 6 Vi d. In the year 1847 he had bought up to the 286 Transactions of the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends during the Famine in Ireland (Dublin, 1996) 287 Rob Goodbody, A suitable channel. Quaker relief in the Great Famine. (Dublin ,1995) p 89 288 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Sir Richard O’Donel Newport April 25 1847 to C.R.C. 120 beginning of May 94 tons 13 cwt. 0 qr. 62 lb. at a cost of £3755 18s 4d which was sold for export through Pinkerton and Thompson in Westport. Sir Richard in his closing statement to Todhunter said ‘a little thing will help a poor man and I do believe that a few quarts of flax seed would help many a poor creature from ruin but let us not forget 289 that not one moment should be lost.’ Jonathan Pirn, one of the secretaries of the Central Relief Committee and a successful textile manufacturer, decided, rather than delaying the grant by having it go before various subcommittees, to advance the money from his own personal funds. He however stipulated that seed which is expected to procure a valuable crop should not be given away but the recipients should give an undertaking that they would repay its cost from the sale of the resulting crop. He did not ask Sir Richard to be personally responsible for these debts but did suggest that the repayment of the loan for the flax seed should take precedence over Sir Richard’s own rents. The committee was aware of the destitute condition of the district and was very willing to afford further assistance to provide the inhabitants with food. 290 Sir Richard replied the following day thanking Jonathan Pirn for acceding to his request to provide funds for the purchase of flaxseed. He also agreed that although he was against gratuitous relief and felt that the parties receiving the seed should give the best security they could procure for its repayment in the present circumstances this would be very difficult. He was owed £4000 for seed, oats, guano, and green crop seeds given out on loan to the people in 1846. He said he would only purchase the flax seed conditionally until he heard from Pirn if the security was 289 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Sir Richard O’Donel Newport May 1 1847 to William Todhunter 290 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Jonathan Pim to Sir Richard O’Donel May 1 1847 121 absolutely conditional on the grant being made. 291 Pim replied three days later stating ‘If anything is repaid it is well if not we cannot help it. I wish it to be fully understood that I do not hold thee in any respect accountable.’ 292 Pim wrote again on May 13, requesting more information about the condition of the people around Newport, the proportion of the ground cultivated in 1846 that had been tilled in 1847 and what sort of crops have been put in. What hopes were there for the people being able to support themselves by their own labour and how far the relief afforded by the new act would improve the situation. Pim also asked to be informed on the amount of seed and acreage sown with flax as this was the only grant made by the Central Relief Committee in 1847 for seed. 293 William Todhunter in correspondence with Jonathan Pim felt that the £250 advanced by Jonathan Pim would be returned by O’Donel although he felt that he did not use it as wisely as he might have ‘doing mischief in blindly following his hobbies’, whereas he had put it to better use than money advanced to Reverend Nangle in Achill, who had completely wasted it. 294 Sir Richard had little influence and no legal power in Achill, which had been at that time nineteen years under the Court of Chancery. The driver who was responsible for the evictions was in the pay of the Court authorities. In fact it was not a legal eviction at all but a forcible turning out of squatters or conacre tenants by the legal tenants holding leases in which forcible legal evictions they were assisted by the driver of the Receiver of the Court of Chancery. As regards the land used for growing flax in 291 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Sir Richard O’Donel Newport May 2 1847 to Pim. 292 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Pim. To Sir Richard O’Donel Newport May 5 1847. 293 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Pim. To Sir Richard O’Donel Newport May 13 1847. 294 NLI, MS 8669 Pim correspondence. Letter from William Todhunter to Jonathan Pim Galway 22/10/1847 122 Newport, Sir Richard O’Donel stated that the ground on which the flax was grown had been under corn the previous year. It would not bring another crop without manure and would therefore have remained idle or have been unprofitably tilled had not the flax been grown. The rate of rent for this grant would have averaged 5s per acre instead of 30s . 295 As well as requesting aid from the Central Relief Committee Sir Richard O’Donel in 1847 also organised the shipment of a cargo of Indian com shipped from Glasgow on the vessel “Margauds” and consisting of about 60 tons Prince White American Indian Corn and 120 tons Prince Zillawado. This cost £18 a ton delivered at the Quay at Newport. 296 One would expect on an estate of seventy thousand acres that there were a large number of employees. A partial list exists for 1843 and this might cover also the portion of the estate in Cong as several of the names do not appear anywhere else in the Burrishoole documents. Sir Richard O’Donel farmed a large part of his estate himself and there are several references in the O’Donel papers to ‘my agriculturalist’. This would be the farm overseer. There would also be bailiffs employed, farm managers, labourers, gardeners and house servants. Anthony Lavelle was the bailiff of the Achill estate and was paid an annual salary of £16 16s 4d and John Corrigan was the bailiff of Ballycroy estate being paid a salary of £10. Laurence Boyle was paid £31 10s, Anthony Kim £20, William Ferris £10 10s, John Elwoood, J Heathley and Peter Lavelle £10 each, Joseph Huddy £8, Gallagher and Moran £6 each, Anthony Keane £4, F McManamon was paid £2 2s, Stephen McManamon, Francis Sweeney and J Dogherty 295 NLI, MS 8669 Pim correspondence. Letter from Jonathan Pirn to James Tuke 20 Jan 1848 296 NLI, O’Donel papers PC 265(l)/43 Correspondence from James Barrett Belfast 13 Mar 1847 123 £2 each, Conor Patten £1 10s, John Ruddy £1 and Boy Keeher 5s. Apart from Lavelle and Corrigan the account does not state what the duties of each individual were. The population of Mayo decreased from 388,887 to 246,030 between 1841 and 1871, a decline of 37 per cent. This was even more marked in the Barony of Burrishoole where it decreased from 39,853 to 20,601, a decrease of 48 per cent. P e rc e n ta g e of population in Parish 70.00% 60.00% 50.00% 40.00% – 30.00% – 2 0 . 0 0 % – 1 0 .0 0 % 0 . 0 0 % – Sir Richard M arquis of Colonel G o re Sir William O’Donel Sligo Palmer Figure 9 Percentage of Population in Parish by Landlord . NLI, O’Donel Papers PC 263(2)/62 Accounts for payments of workers for 1843/1844. 124 D e cre a se in Population 1841 -1851 52.00% 50.00% 48.00% 46.00% 44.00% 42.00% 40.00% 38.00% Sir Richard Marquis of Colonel Sir William O’Donel Sligo Gore Palmer n Figure 10 Decrease in population by Landlord. 100.00% 80.00% 60.00% 40.00% 20.00% 0 .00% Compcrison of Lcndlords, Griffiths V du ep er acre end decrease populcfion 1841 -1851 120.0 0 % Figure 11 Comparison of Landlords, Griffiths Value per acre and decrease population 1841 -1851 <£0.2per

 

 
8s 4d in the £, Ballycroy South from 2s lid to 7s 4d in the £ and Newport East from 2s
6d to 9s 8d in the £. Shramore increased from 5d to 9s 9d in the £, Derrylohan from Is 0
to 9s 4d in the £, Newport West from 2s 1 Id to 9s 4d in the £, Achill from to 9s 9d
in the £ and Slievemore from Is 10 Vnd to 9s 2d in the £. 276
The workhouse porter must have vacated his position in February 1854 as the
guardians advertised for an applicant to fill the vacant position at a salary of £8 per
977 annum with apartments and rations. An annual notice to tender to supply the
workhouse was issued in September 1854 and articles required included whole flour at
per ton, second flour at per ton, oatmeal at per ton, Indian meal at per ton, white bread at
per 41b loaf. Other supplies required included candles per lb., beef and mutton per lb.,
soap per cwt., turnips per cwt., cabbages per score and onions per stone. Items of
clothing included calico white and grey per yard, check per yard, frieze per yard,
shambray per yard and lindsey woolsey per yard. Straw per ton was also requested. This
was probably used for bedding and lime per barrel might have been used for
disinfection or if it was quicklime for burying the dead paupers that might have died of
infectious diseases. Sweet oil per gallon was also required as well as turf per ton to be
supplied from the following July. The guardians also slipped into their tender
application wine per bottle. This may have been for their own entertainment at the
weekly board meetings or for a night-cap for the master and the two matrons of the
i 978
workhouse. Tenders were to be accompanied by samples where practicable.
In 1855 the guardians were chairman Sir Richard Annesley O’Donel, vice chair
Peter Denis Browne, Treenlaur, Newport. George C O’Donel of Newport House who
275 Mavo Constitution 16 November 1852
276 Mavo Constitution 10 January 1854
277 Mavo Constitution 7 February 1854
112
was nephew of Sir Richard was deputy vice chair. Dodwell Browne was still the
returning officer. Patrick Gibbons had been appointed master of the workhouse and the
matron was Jane Sharply. The two chaplains were Rev George Robert Gildea for the
established church and Rev Mathew Flannelly for the Catholic church. The medical
officer for the workhouse was James Davis who also covered the Newport Dispensary
area. Samuel Laird was responsible for the Achill dispensary and the position in
279 Ballycroy was vacant.
In 1858 Sir Richard was still chairman William Pike had replaced Peter Denis
Browne as vice chair and George C O’Donel, who was now known by the appellation
of Sir George C O’Donel and lived at Melcomb House Newport was still deputy vice
chairman.
IV
However though institutional relief was geared to deal with limited subsistence
crises and the effect on relations between landlord and tenants, it was not in a position
to deal with the sort of widespread shortage of food which occurred in 1847. The events
of that year expose many of the weaknesses of the rural world of the landlord in
response to the crisis.
James Hack Tuke a Quaker from York made a six-week tour of Ireland in 1847
and published a summary of his findings. 280 This gave a good indication of the state of
hardship and deprivation of the peasantry in West Mayo during the Famine. Some
disparaging remarks were made about Sir Richard O’Donel which resulted in extensive
correspondence between Sir Richard and the Central Relief Committee and probably
278 Mavo Constitution 1 September 1854
279 Thoms Directory (Dublin 1855)
113
would have resulted in legal proceedings being taken except for the intervention of
Jonathan Pim one of the secretaries of the committee.
Tuke commented on the fact that the cultivated land in Connaught was so
minutely divided that out of 46,000 farms, 44,000 were under fifteen acres and held by
men too poor to employ any hired labourers. This would have been similar in the
Barony of Burrishoole where 63 per cent of holdings were under fifteen acres in 1851. It
must be remembered that the large amount of mountain grazing in this area resulted in
holdings being larger than they were in east Mayo but the production per acre would be
lower. 281 Tuke stated that the division of land in many parts of Ireland had been
promoted by the landlords to increase their own political influence, the more tenants
they had, the more votes they had to control in poor law and government elections.
The soil and climate of Connaught were ideally suited to growing flax and there
had been a marked increase in the area grown in 1847, two thousand four hundred and
ninety nine acres were grown in Mayo. Half of this had been grown in the
neighbourhood of Newport an increase from fifty acres in 1844.
At the time of Tuke’s visit to Newport, nearly 1,000 workers mainly women,
were engaged by Sir Richard O’Donel, in harvesting the crops, the women earned 4d a
day and the men 8d. He commented that this was a miserable wage but the workers
were cheerful and industrious. Nearly half of the flax grown around Newport was in Sir
Richard O’Donel’s own hands, and he was purchasing the remainder from his tenants at
the rate of £5 to £7 and in some cases £9 per acre. The seed cost about 25s and the two
diggings and other expenses which are required cost a further 28s, to which must be
added the cost of the extra quantity of manure after so exhausting a crop as flax. After
280 James H Tuke, Visit to Connaught in the autumn of 1847 a letter addressed to the Central Relief
Committee of the Society of Friends Dublin. Second edition with notes of a subsequent visit to Erris
(London, 1848)
114
these outlays there could be little left for the tenant to live upon. He felt that O’Donel
was making a substantial personal profit from the flax grown by his tenants. This was
one of the two accusations that O’Donel felt most aggrieved about, and in the second
edition of his letter Tuke seems to make a partial apology stating that since the
publication of the first edition Sir Richard O’Donel had informed him through a neutral
friend, probably Jonathan Pirn, that the flax grown upon his estate was sown too late in
the season to produce an average crop. Also in the growth and purchase he was merely
acting on behalf of a firm in Manchester with whom he had contracted to grow the crop.
He was however unwilling to agree that the rent charged to O’Donel’s tenants was as
low as he stated. Another improvement by Sir Richard was the building of a flour and
scutching mill at Newport. However mechanisation of the process where labour is so
superabundant would seem counterproductive and better quality linen was produced in
Belgium by hand rather than machine.
Reverend George Robert Gildea had established a small linen manufactory,
which employed a considerable number of handloom weavers and nearly seven hundred
women were engaged in hand scutching and spinning flax earning from 3s to 3s 6d a
week. The Quakers were very strongly against gratuitous relief and instead gave the
people a means to provide an income for themselves. This could be by providing
vegetable seeds for which they could sell a crop and repay the cost of the seed or
provision of clothing to the fishermen in Achill which could be repaid from the sale of
their catch. The normal practice for tenants of west Mayo estates was to grow a cash
crop, usually com, to pay the rent and a potato patch to provide subsistence. When the
potato crop failed the tenants did not want to part with the com crop, as it might be their
only means of subsistence. The landlords fearing they would not receive their rent and
281 1851 c e n s u s
115
arrears unless the tenant sold the cash crop employed the driver or bailiff to ‘cant’ the
small patches of oats or potatoes or placed keepers over the crop. The charge of
guarding the crop was added to the tenants rent. Even the produce of seed, distributed
by benevolent associations such as the Central Relief Committee had been totally used
to pay the rent and these guarding charges and nothing was left to help sustain the
landholder. At a time when the charity of the whole world had been turned towards the
relief of this starving peasantry, Tuke found it unbelievable that the landlords would
then evict these same tenants if they did not obtain their rent. He was particularly
concerned when on his visit to Achill, he saw at what he described as ‘the wretched
fishing village of Kiel, belonging to Sir Richard O’Donel’ an example of this where a
few days previous a total of forty families had been ejected. On this second point of
contention O’Donel was most annoyed with Tuke. In the second edition Tuke makes a
retraction stating that he had been informed that O’Donel was only the nominal owner,
this part of his property having been under the control of the Court of Chancery for
many years. Tuke describes in harrowing detail the result of this eviction;
A crowd of these miserable ejected creatures collected around us, bewailing with bitter
lamentations their hard fate. One old grey haired man came tottering up to us bearing in
his arms his bedridden wife; and putting her down at our feet, pointed in silent agony to
her, and then to his roofless dwelling, the charred timbers of which were scattered in all
directions around. This man said he owed little more than one years rent, and had lived
in the village, which had been the home of his forefathers all his life. Another man with
five motherless children had been expelled and their boiling pot sold for 3s 6d. Another
family consisting of a widow and four young children, had their only possession ‘ a little
sheep’ seized and sold for 5s 6d.
116
One hundred and fifty tenants who had been evicted owing from half a years to a
year and half’s rent were faced with a walk of nearly forty miles to the workhouse of the
Union in Westport. Some indeed would never reach their destination, death would
2g9
release them from their sufferings and the landlord from his burden.
Following the publication of James Tuke’s account, Sir Richard O’Donel wrote
to Pirn complaining about the remarks made about him. Pirn wrote to Tuke that when
Tuke first proposed mentioning what he had seen on Sir R O’Donel’s property that he
had objected to it, though he did not push his objections as strongly as he felt and
wished he had done. He felt that ‘it was very undesirable when writing about a class to
mention individual names and especially in Ireland when it was so hard ascertain the
true facts and we must judge a man in reference to the circumstances in which he is
placed and the character of those by whom he is surrounded.’ Pirn said that he believed
Sir R O’Donnell to be a good rather than a bad specimen of the landed class in the West
of Ireland, energetic, economical in his private expenditure, strictly moral in his habits.
He also believed him to be conscientious in his conduct towards his equals and his
dependants though at the same time with a conscience much less enlightened than he
would probably possess if he lived in Yorkshire or Wexford. He was also at that time
under circumstances of strong temptation due to his financial position and the great
depreciation in the value of his estates. Under these circumstances to see him given as
an example of a bad landlord must have surprised all those acquainted with the county
of Mayo.283
282 James H Tuke, Visit to Connaught in the autumn of 1847 a letter addressed to the Central Relief
Committee of the Society of Friends Dublin. Second edition with notes of a subsequent visit to Erris
(London, 1848) p. 11
283 NLI, MS 8669 Pim correspondence. Letter from Jonathan Pirn to James Tuke 20 Jan 1848
117
The barony of Burrishoole consisted of the parishes of Achill, Burrishoole,
Islandeady, Kilmaclasser and Kilmeena. The relief commission papers give details of
the severity of the Famine in these parishes. From the parish of Achill Edward Grainger
constable reported that in 1844 there were 455 acres of potatoes planted and the same
amount in 1845 and 1846. No land was let in conacre for the planting of potatoes.284 In
the Curraun part of the Achill parish Constable Robert Stretton reported from Mulranny
that in 1844 there were 156 acres of potatoes planted 161 in 1845 and 143 in 1846.
Rape was sown in place of potatoes. Robert Stretton also reported from the Mulranny
end of the Burrishoole parish that 362 acres of potatoes were planted in 1844, 376 in
1845 and 308 in 1846. There were ten acres planted in conacre in 1844 fifteen acres in
1845 and seven acres in 1846. Oats or rye was sown in the place of potatoes. From the
Newport end of Burrishoole parish Head constable Monkton Creagh reported that in
1844 there were 1,402 acres of potatoes planted with seventy three acres in conacre, in
1845 1,456 with eighty eight acres in conacre and in 1846 1,116 with thirty four acres
planted in conacre. In place of potatoes oats barley flax and turnips were sown. Peter
Keary constable reported that in the Glenisland part of the parish of Islandeady in 1844
there were 693 acres of potatoes planted with seven acres in conacre, in 1845 672 with
eight acres in conacre, in 1846 573 with six acres planted in conacre. Barley and flax
were sown in place of potatoes. In the other part of the Islandeady parish Denis Walsh
sub Inspector reported that in 1844 there were 410 acres of potatoes planted with
seventy nine in conacre, in 1845 418 acres and the amount planted in conacre was not
known and in 1846 408 acres with twenty two acres planted in conacre. The people in
this parish were not able to sow any crop in place of potatoes and the land was left
284 National Archives, Relief Commission Papers RLFC 4/211
118
waste for want of seeds or means to set it. In one part of the parish of Kilmaclasser in
1844 there were 423 acres of potatoes planted, in 1845 421 acres and in 1846 312 acres.
There was no conacre planted in this parish and oats, barley and flax were sown in place
of potatoes. In the other part of the parish in 1844 there were 407 acres of potatoes
planted with sixty five acres in conacre, in 1845 413 acres and in 1846 four hundred and
twenty acres, the amount planted with potatoes had actually increased although there
were only eight acres planted in conacre.
In part of the parish of Kilmeena in 1844 there were 239 acres of potatoes
planted with eight acres in conacre, in 1845 249 acres with nine and a half in conacre
and in 1846 201 with four acres in conacre and oats barley and flax was sown in the
place of potatoes. In the other part of the parish in 1844 there were 1,106 acres of
potatoes planted with 106 acres in conacre. In 1845 1,141 acres were planted with
potatoes and in 1846 1,075 acres with forty four acres planted in conacre. In this parish
when the seed failed in the ground many persons for want of means to replant left the
land waste.
Prior to the Famine Sir Richard had been encouraging the improvement of
agriculture in his estate and had allowed premiums of £10 5s 2d to his tenants and £35
16s 4d for drainage grants. He had also subscribed £10 to the Ballinrobe Agricultural
Society and had encouraged his better tenants to exhibit their produce there. After the
famine drainage schemes were carried out in the estate at Cuilmore, Mullaun and
285 Tawnawoggaun.
The Society of Friends or ‘Quakers’ as they were commonly known set up the
Central Relief Committee on 13 November 1846 and a large amount of their work was
285 NLI, O’Donel Papers PC 263(2)/62 Accounts for payments of workers for 1843/1844; NA, Class
Chancery Sub Class Drainage Awards enrolments 7 31, 7 33, 7 41.
119
carried out in Mayo. 286 Relief to Mayo during the period of the Famine consisted of
696 tons of food, twenty nine food boilers, £2309 in money, sixty one clothing grants
and 54,172 lbs. of seeds, the majority of which were turnips. 287
The Central Relief Committee had in early 1847 sent a grant of provisions for
the poor of Newport district. Sir Richard thanking them for their generous donation
called to their attention the neglected state of cultivation of the lands around Newport
and unless prompt action were taken he feared a repeat of the previous years calamity. It
was too late to sow oats but there was still time to put in a flax crop. Flax seed, both
Riga and American, was freely available in Westport and if a loan of £250 could be
made he would hope to purchase one hundred lbs. of flaxseed and induce his tenants to
sow a large crop of flax which was likely to be very remunerative. He was willing to
contribute £50 himself and stated he would willingly give the entire amount if it was in
his power to do so. 288 William Todhunter replied requesting more details and these
were supplied a week later. Five thousand acres in the parish of Burrishoole were
suitable for the growth of flax. All unfortunately were lying waste and about fourteen
men would be employed in the cultivation of each acre. The return would be about sixty
cwt of straw per Irish acre out of which there would be sixty stone of flax. An acre of
good average flax on the foot was worth £12 and costs included seed per acre £1 15s Od,
labour 12s, harrowing 3s, weeding and pulling 15s. In 1845 Sir Richard developed an
interest in promoting the growth of flax but could only purchase about three tons of flax
in the markets of Westport and Newport. In the year 1846 it increased to 21 tons 8 cwt.
0 qr. 13 lb. for which he paid £1047 4s 6 Vi d. In the year 1847 he had bought up to the
286 Transactions of the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends during the Famine in Ireland
(Dublin, 1996)
287 Rob Goodbody, A suitable channel. Quaker relief in the Great Famine. (Dublin ,1995) p 89
288 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Sir Richard O’Donel Newport April 25 1847 to C.R.C.
120
beginning of May 94 tons 13 cwt. 0 qr. 62 lb. at a cost of £3755 18s 4d which was sold
for export through Pinkerton and Thompson in Westport. Sir Richard in his closing
statement to Todhunter said ‘a little thing will help a poor man and I do believe that a
few quarts of flax seed would help many a poor creature from ruin but let us not forget
289 that not one moment should be lost.’
Jonathan Pirn, one of the secretaries of the Central Relief Committee and a
successful textile manufacturer, decided, rather than delaying the grant by having it go
before various subcommittees, to advance the money from his own personal funds. He
however stipulated that seed which is expected to procure a valuable crop should not be
given away but the recipients should give an undertaking that they would repay its cost
from the sale of the resulting crop. He did not ask Sir Richard to be personally
responsible for these debts but did suggest that the repayment of the loan for the flax
seed should take precedence over Sir Richard’s own rents. The committee was aware of
the destitute condition of the district and was very willing to afford further assistance to
provide the inhabitants with food. 290
Sir Richard replied the following day thanking Jonathan Pirn for
acceding to his request to provide funds for the purchase of flaxseed. He also agreed
that although he was against gratuitous relief and felt that the parties receiving the seed
should give the best security they could procure for its repayment in the present
circumstances this would be very difficult. He was owed £4000 for seed, oats, guano,
and green crop seeds given out on loan to the people in 1846. He said he would only
purchase the flax seed conditionally until he heard from Pirn if the security was
289 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Sir Richard O’Donel Newport May 1 1847 to William Todhunter
290 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Jonathan Pim to Sir Richard O’Donel May 1 1847
121
absolutely conditional on the grant being made. 291 Pim replied three days later stating
‘If anything is repaid it is well if not we cannot help it. I wish it to be fully understood
that I do not hold thee in any respect accountable.’ 292 Pim wrote again on May 13,
requesting more information about the condition of the people around Newport, the
proportion of the ground cultivated in 1846 that had been tilled in 1847 and what sort of
crops have been put in. What hopes were there for the people being able to support
themselves by their own labour and how far the relief afforded by the new act would
improve the situation. Pim also asked to be informed on the amount of seed and acreage
sown with flax as this was the only grant made by the Central Relief Committee in 1847
for seed. 293
William Todhunter in correspondence with Jonathan Pim felt that the £250
advanced by Jonathan Pim would be returned by O’Donel although he felt that he did
not use it as wisely as he might have ‘doing mischief in blindly following his hobbies’,
whereas he had put it to better use than money advanced to Reverend Nangle in Achill,
who had completely wasted it. 294
Sir Richard had little influence and no legal power in Achill, which had been at
that time nineteen years under the Court of Chancery. The driver who was responsible
for the evictions was in the pay of the Court authorities. In fact it was not a legal
eviction at all but a forcible turning out of squatters or conacre tenants by the legal
tenants holding leases in which forcible legal evictions they were assisted by the driver
of the Receiver of the Court of Chancery. As regards the land used for growing flax in
291 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Sir Richard O’Donel Newport May 2 1847 to Pim.
292 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Pim. To Sir Richard O’Donel Newport May 5 1847.
293 NLI, MS 8669, Pim correspondence. Pim. To Sir Richard O’Donel Newport May 13 1847.
294 NLI, MS 8669 Pim correspondence. Letter from William Todhunter to Jonathan Pim Galway
22/10/1847
122
Newport, Sir Richard O’Donel stated that the ground on which the flax was grown had
been under corn the previous year. It would not bring another crop without manure and
would therefore have remained idle or have been unprofitably tilled had not the flax
been grown. The rate of rent for this grant would have averaged 5s per acre instead of
30s . 295
As well as requesting aid from the Central Relief Committee Sir Richard
O’Donel in 1847 also organised the shipment of a cargo of Indian com shipped from
Glasgow on the vessel “Margauds” and consisting of about 60 tons Prince White
American Indian Corn and 120 tons Prince Zillawado. This cost £18 a ton delivered at
the Quay at Newport. 296
One would expect on an estate of seventy thousand acres that there were a large
number of employees. A partial list exists for 1843 and this might cover also the portion
of the estate in Cong as several of the names do not appear anywhere else in the
Burrishoole documents. Sir Richard O’Donel farmed a large part of his estate himself
and there are several references in the O’Donel papers to ‘my agriculturalist’. This
would be the farm overseer. There would also be bailiffs employed, farm managers,
labourers, gardeners and house servants. Anthony Lavelle was the bailiff of the Achill
estate and was paid an annual salary of £16 16s 4d and John Corrigan was the bailiff of
Ballycroy estate being paid a salary of £10. Laurence Boyle was paid £31 10s, Anthony
Kim £20, William Ferris £10 10s, John Elwoood, J Heathley and Peter Lavelle £10
each, Joseph Huddy £8, Gallagher and Moran £6 each, Anthony Keane £4, F
McManamon was paid £2 2s, Stephen McManamon, Francis Sweeney and J Dogherty
295 NLI, MS 8669 Pim correspondence. Letter from Jonathan Pirn to James Tuke 20 Jan 1848
296 NLI, O’Donel papers PC 265(l)/43 Correspondence from James Barrett Belfast 13 Mar 1847
123
£2 each, Conor Patten £1 10s, John Ruddy £1 and Boy Keeher 5s. Apart from Lavelle
and Corrigan the account does not state what the duties of each individual were.
The population of Mayo decreased from 388,887 to 246,030 between 1841 and
1871, a decline of 37 per cent. This was even more marked in the Barony of Burrishoole
where it decreased from 39,853 to 20,601, a decrease of 48 per cent.
P e rc e n ta g e of population in Parish
70.00%
60.00%
50.00%
40.00% –
30.00% –
2 0 . 0 0 % –
1 0 .0 0 %
0 . 0 0 % –
Sir Richard M arquis of Colonel G o re Sir William
O’Donel Sligo Palmer
Figure 9 Percentage of Population in Parish by Landlord .
NLI, O’Donel Papers PC 263(2)/62 Accounts for payments of workers for 1843/1844.
124
D e cre a se in Population 1841 -1851
52.00%
50.00%
48.00%
46.00%
44.00%
42.00%
40.00%
38.00%
Sir Richard Marquis of Colonel Sir William
O’Donel Sligo Gore Palmer
n
Figure 10 Decrease in population by Landlord.
100.00%
80.00%
60.00%
40.00%
20.00%
0 .00%
Compcrison of Lcndlords, Griffiths V du ep er acre end decrease
populcfion 1841 -1851
120.0 0 %
Figure 11 Comparison of Landlords, Griffiths Value per acre and decrease
population 1841 -1851
<£0.2per<xre Between£0,21 Bet\Aeen£0,41 Bet\Aeen£0,61 Betv\een£0.81 Q-ecrterthcnfil NoVdueentered
end £0.4 cnd£0.6 cnd£0.8 cnd£l
Value per acre
B G a e
? ODand
? Pdmer
? Sligo
126
120.00% –
100.00%
80.00%
60.00%
40.00%
20.00% –
0 . 00 % –
Comparison of Landlords, Acres per person and decrease
population 1841 -1851
B etween 0 and 1 B etween 1 and 2 Between 2 and 3 B etween 3 and 10 Between 10 and Greater than 100
100
Acres per person
B G ore
? O ’Donel
? P alm er
? S ligo
Figure 12 Comparison of Landlords. Acres per person and decrease population 1841 –
1851
Sir Richard O’Donel was by far the biggest landlord in the parish of
Burrishoole. He owned sixty nine townlands as compared to fifteen each for Sir
William Palmer and the marquis of Sligo. Colonel Gore owned twelve townlands. The
amount of land that was owned again showed O’Donel to be the major landholder with
29,787 acres in the parish of Burrishoole. The marquis of Sligo had 8135 acres, Colonel
Gore 5496 and Sir William Palmer 1914 acres. Sir Richard O’Donel also had the
majority of tenants with 6,413 with 1,637 paying rent to the marquis of Sligo and 1,585
to Colonel Gore. Sir William Palmer had 695 tenants.
127
The total decrease in the population of the parish between 1841 and 1851 was
45.78 per cent. This varied between the four major landlords from 43.17 per cent for Sir
William Palmer to 51.13 per cent for the marquis of Sligo with Colonel Gore at 46.69
per cent and Sir Richard O’Donel at 49.66 per cent in between.
When the decline is population was compared with the number of acres per
person it is found that the greatest decline occurred in the most heavily populated
townlands. This varied between the four landlords and all had the greatest decline in
townlands with less than one acre per person this varied from 63.68 per cent for Colonel
Gore to 72.49 per cent for Sir Richard O’Donel. A 100 per cent decline or total loss of
population occurred from two townlands owned by Sir William Palmer where there
were more than one hundred acres per person and in the same category in the estate of
Sir Richard O’Donel the population declined by 80.95 per cent between 1841 and 1851.
In areas where there was between two and ten acres per person the contrast between
landlords was more marked, an average decrease of just over 10 per cent taking place on
the estate of Sir William Palmer and greater than 50 per cent on that of the marquis of
Sligo.
When the decrease in population is compared with the value of land it is seen
with three out of the four landlords greater decreases occurred in the most valuable land,
according to the valuation put on it subsequently by Sir William Griffith in 1857. The
exception to this being Colonel Gore where the biggest decrease of 49.75 per cent was
in the second least valuable category of land valued at between £0.21 and £0.4 per acre.
This would suggest that the other three landlords, O’Donel, Palmer and Sligo were
clearing their most valuable land to make more profitable farms for future tenants. The
previous tenants, who may have been evicted could have been either forced into the
workhouse, emigrated or have died during the Famine.
128
In 1851 there were 1,035 occupants in Newport workhouse. It is possible that a
proportional greater number of tenants of the resident landlord and chairman of the Poor
Law Guardians of the Newport Workhouse were admitted than those of the other
landlords in the parish. To determine this the admission records for the workhouse
would need to be consulted and unfortunately these have not survived. 298
Asenath Nicholson visited Newport in 1847 and was told by the local
postmistress Mrs Arthur that she had fed a little boy, once a day, whose parents and
brothers and sisters were dead, with the exception of one little sister.
The boy was seven years old, the sister five. They were told they must make
application to the poorhouse, at Castlebar, which was ten Irish miles away.’ One cold
rainy day in November, this boy took his little sister by the hand, and faint with hunger
set off for Castlebar. And now, reader, if you will, follow these little bare-footed, bareheaded
Connaught orphans through a muddy road of ten miles, on a rainy day,
without food, and se e them at the work-house, late at night. The doors are closed. At
last, they succeed in being heard. The girl is received; the boy sent away no room for
him. He m ade his way back to Newport the next morning, and had lived by crawling
into any place he could at night, and once a day called at the door of my friend who
fed him.
When Mrs Arthur cleaned him up, dressed him in a new suit of clothes and was
about to bum his old rags he became upset. He explained this as he felt that no one
would believe he was in need if he was wearing fine clothes but Mrs Arthur fed and
paid for his education at the local school. 299
298 1 841 Census. 1851 Census. Griffiths Valuation.
299 Asenath Nicholson, Annals of the Famine in Ireland (Dublin ,1998) p. 82
129
Asenath Nicholson also commented that turnips were not an adequate substitute for
the potato. Even though they were easy to grow, and seed was distributed by many
relief agencies particularly the Central Relief Committee, they were not as nutritious as
potatoes and even when a larger amount was consumed at a meal than was normal with
potatoes hunger still remained. The stomachs of the peasants were so swollen,
especially children’s, that it was a pitiable sight to see them. Black bread was distributed
by the relief officers to those on outdoor relief schemes and also to the children in
school. The bread was quite indigestible and was thought to contain either turf mould or
some continental material for bread that the government had deposited in that region
some twenty- nine years before, which had become damaged, and then could not be
sold.
She further said ‘Whether the poor lived or whether they died on this bread, or by
this bread, I do not pretend to say, only that death was doing its work by hunger, fever
and dysentery continually.’ 300 The Famine and its accompanying hardship affected not
only the small cottagers around Newport. Nicholson further recounted ‘A former rector
by the name of Wilson died in the summer of 1847, leaving a widow and four children
on a pretty spot, where they had resided for years, and gathered the comforts of life
about them. I saw step by step all taken for taxes and rent; everything that had life out of
doors that could be sold at auction, was sold; then everything of furniture, till beds and
tables left the little cottage, and the mother was put in jail and is now looking through
its grates, while her children are struggling for bread.’ These were tenants of Sir Richard
O’Donel. Charles Wilson was the incumbent of Achill in 1847 .

301 A Rose Wilson died
301 T hom ’s Directory (1847) p.299
300 A s e n a th N ic h o ls o n , A n n a ls o f th e F a m in e in Ire la n d (D u b lin ,1 9 9 8 ) p. 112

 

130

 

 
n the rectory at Newport in 1873 at the age of seventy. She is buried in Newport
Churchyard. 302
As noted previously James Hack Tuke had received a rebuke for making allegations
about O’Donel ordering evictions. Nicholson also remarked on O ’Donel’s driver that
had been evicting tenants and her view was that ignorance was no defence and that
landlords were responsible for those that they employed.
But this fearless ’driver’ throws, or causes to be thrown down, cabin after cabin, and
sometimes whole villages, of which it is said the landlord was entirely ignorant; but the
pitiless storm heeded not that, and the poor starved exiles pleading that the cabin
might be left a little longer, have no pity, their pot and even the cloak, which is the
peasant woman’s all by night and by day, has often been torn from her emaciated
limbs and sold at auction. Perhaps in no instance does the oppression of the poor and
the sighing of the needy come before the mind so vividly as when going over the
places made desolate by the Famine; to see the tumbled cabins, with the poor
hapless inmates who had for years sat around their turf fire, and ate their potato
together, now lingering and oftentimes wailing in despair, their ragged barefooted little
ones clinging about them, one on the back of the weeping mother, and the father
looking in silent despair, while a part of them are scraping among the rubbish to
gather some little relic of mutual attachment (for the poor, reader, have their tender
remembrances); then, in a flock, take their solitary, their pathless way to seek some
rock or ditch to encamp supperless for the night, without either covering for the head
or the feet, with not the remnant of a blanket to spread over them in the ditch, where
they must crawl. Are these solitary cases? Happy would it be were it so, but village
upon village, and company after company have I seen; and one magistrate who was
travelling informed me that at nightfall the preceding day he found a company who
had gathered a few sticks and fastened them into the ditch, and spread over what
miserable rags they could collect (for the rain was fast pouring); and under these more
302 A s e n a th N ic h o ls o n , A n n a ls o f th e F a m in e in Ire la n d (D u b lin ,1 9 9 8 ) p. 115
131
than two hundred men, women and children were to crawl for the night. He alighted
from his car, and counted more than two hundred. They had all that day been driven
out, and not one pound of any kind of food was In the whole encampment!
She was told of an occurrence when during the funeral of a respectable young
woman, a young lad availed of the opportunity while the gate was open to carry in a
large sack on his back, which contained two brothers, one seventeen, the other a little
boy, who had died by starvation. In one comer he dug, with his own emaciated feeble
hands, a grave, and put them in, uncoffined, and covered them, while the clods were
303 falling upon the coffin of the respectable young woman.
V
The extent to which the landlords assisted their tenants in time of need is subject
to debate. De Tocqueville interviewing the three parish priests of Newport and the
surrounding parishes in 1835 remarked that they were all of the opinion that the two
main landlords in the area the marquis of Sligo and Sir Richard O’Donel had done
nothing to help relieve the distress. One of the reasons for this was that almost all the
great landlords were very financially embarrassed and also there was a profound hatred
between them and the population. All the great families of Mayo at the time were
Catholics who had become protestants to keep their property, or protestants who had
seized the property of Catholics. The population regarded them as apostates or as
conquerors and detested them. In return the landlords did not feel any sympathy for the
tenants. They let the farmers die before their eyes or evicted them from their miserable
dwellings on the slightest pretext. While such a large proportion of the population were
starving the marquis of Sligo had a thousand sheep on the surrounding grasslands and
303 A s e n a th N ic h o ls o n , A n n a ls o f th e F a m in e in Ire la n d (1 9 9 8 , D u b lin ), p 115
132
several of his granaries were full yet the population had no idea of seizing these means
of subsistence. They would sooner die than touch them partly due to religious virtue but
also from fear of hanging or transportation for stealing from the landlord. It was evident
that the priests, if they were not encouraging the people to revolt, would not be in the
least sorry if they did revolt, and their indignation against the upper classes was lively
and deep. The priest and the protestant minister were at open war, and they fought for
souls with a very great fervour. They attacked each other in the newspapers and in the
pulpit in very bitter style. The protestant minister had called the Catholic ‘a blood
thirsty priest. ’ And the epithets the priest used were hardly more complimentary.304
When the tenants on the estate were undergoing severe hardship Sir Richard
O’Donel was installing in his house the latest water closets which he ordered from
Patrick Ternan, plumber and water closet manufacturers, 13 Winetavem Street,
Dublin.305 Five years later the effects of the Famine had largely disappeared from the
parish when Mr James Caine was advertising his hotel in the Mayo Constitution. He
stated that he proposed conducting in the best possible styles and flatters himself that
from the accommodation that he can afford families wishing to frequent a western sea
port during the summer months will find it thus advantageous to call at his
establishment. Apartments would also be available for invalids who may wish to enjoy
pure air and picturesque scenery and every attention paid to their comforts. Well aired
beds, good attendance, comfort, cleanliness and moderate charges. Post chaise and cars
would be available on the shortest notice. 306 However severe damage had been done to
304 Em m et Larkin (ed.), A lexis de T ocq u eville’s journey in Ireland July-August .1835 (Dublin, 1990)
p .129
305 NLI, PC 2 6 3 (3 )/4 6 B ill plumber and water closet manufacturer.
306 M ayo Constitution M arch 3 0 1852
133
the finances of the O ’Donels during the preceding twenty years and they were forced to
sell their estate in the Encumbered Estates Court.
134
Conclusion
This thesis examined one landed estate in County Mayo in the late eighteenth
and early nineteenth centuries and how it became fragmented over time.
The first chapter examined the origin growth and decline of the O ’Donel estate
from the purchase of the estate in 1788. The main factors in the decline were financial
involving extensive borrowing and settlements made on marriages of daughters and to
younger sons of the family. This was not matched by a corresponding growth in income
over time. The amount of land the landlord owned was associated with status. Land was
a necessary attribute of a gentry family. Their perception was that the more land that
they owned the better their status. Even when the family was in dire financial straits
would not consider selling land. By 1832 debts totalling £75,499 had accumulated on
the estate. Also associated with status was the honour system. It was vital for the
aristocracy to uphold personal and family honour in the eighteenth and early nineteenth
century. This resulted in three members of the O ’Donel family fighting in duels. The
result of these duels was that two of the family, James Moore O ’Donel and Hugh
O’Donel were seriously wounded, James Moore subsequently dying from his wounds.
The O’Donels owned land in three baronies of Mayo, the Tarmon estate in the
barony of Erris, the Cong estate in the barony of Kilmaine and the Newport estate in the
barony of Burrishoole. The second chapter concentrated on the various economic
factors at work in the Newport estate, and specifically that part in the parish of
Burrishoole, that contributed to financial difficulty, resulting in the family having to sell
most of the estate. Mayo had a much higher share than average of insolvent proprietors
whose estates were encumbered or bankrupt.307 The marquis of Sligo depicted the state
307 Cormac Ô Grada. ‘Poverty, population and agriculture 1 8 0 1 -1 8 4 5 ’ in W .E. Vaughan (ed) A N ew
H istory o f Ireland. Ireland tinder the U nion .1801 -1 8 7 0 (Oxford, 1989) v, p. 108 – 36
135
of insolvency when writing to the Chief Secretary for Ireland E G Stanley in January
1831:
All the gentry of Mayo are beggars, a state In which I fancy with few exceptions, are
placed a great majority of my imprudent countrymen in this province. I happen to know
that the estates of the gentry in this county are mortgaged or engaged for one million
and a half of money. 308
If this were true the debt would have exceeded the rental of the county by 300 per cent.
309 Periods of food shortage had occurred in the years before the famine and the French
traveller Alexis de Tocqueville, in the journal of his tour around Ireland in 1835 tells of
his visit to a priest in Newport. ‘The priest’s house was surrounded by starving peasants
awaiting the distribution of corn, which he had secured for their survival’. 310 The
historian James S. Donnelly jr. writes of the west of Ireland ‘there the appalling degree
of destitution and the extremely small size of holdings combined in a doubly destructive
311 assault on landlord incomes. This combination was at its worst in County Mayo ‘.
The loss of rents was devastating, in some cases tenants were two or three years
in arrears and also as 75 per cent of leased land was valued at under £4 this meant that
the poor rates on these lands fell to the landlords to pay. 312 Even without the onset of
308 Lord Sligo to E.G. Stanley Jan. 1831, N .A .., O fficial Papers, 1831, 973/81 cited in D esm ond M cCabe,
‘Social order and the ghost o f moral econom y in Pre-Fam ine M ayo’ in R G illespie and G Moran (eds),
‘A various country’ essays in M ayo history 1500 – 1900 (W estport, 1987), p. 109
309 D esm ond M cCabe, ‘Social order and the ghost o f moral econom y in Pre-Famine M a y o ’ in R G illespie
and G Moran (eds), ‘A various country’ essays in M avo history 1500 – 1900 (W estport, 1987), p. 91
310 Em m et Larkin (ed.), A lex is de T ocq u eville’s Journey in Ireland July-August .1835 (Dublin, 1990)
pp. 1 3 0 – 131.
311 James S, D onnelly Jr., ‘Landlords and tenants’ in W . E. Vaughan (ed.) A new history o f Ireland.
Ireland under the U n io n .1 8 0 1 -1 8 7 0 (Oxford , 1989) p .336
136
potato blight a disaster was waiting to happen in the area. The population had increased
dramatically in the previous fifty years in response to an improvement in the economy,
the expansion of the linen industry and a greater demand and therefore higher prices for
agricultural produce because of the Napoleonic Wars. A sudden downturn in the
economy due to the ending of the war, the decline of the linen industry due to increased
industrialisation in the textile industry in England and the north eastern counties of
Ireland, left a large population without the land resources to feed itself. The landlords
because of their encumbered financial circumstances were unable to come to the
assistance of their tenantry.
The third chapter examined the relationships between the O’Donel family and
the tenants using the Famine as a case study of these relationships. Periods of distress
had occurred in the years proceeding the famine and de Tocqueville in 1835 had
obtained the opinion of two parish priests from the neighbouring parishes to Newport
that the two main landlords in the area the marquis of Sligo and Sir Richard O ’Donel
had done nothing to help relieve the distress. One of the reasons for this was that almost
all the great landlords were very financially embarrassed and also there was a profound
hatred between them and the population. Many of the great families of Mayo at the time
were Catholics who had become protestants to keep their property, or protestants who
had seized the property of Catholics. The population regarded them as apostates or as
conquerors and detested them. In return the landlords felt little sympathy for the tenants.
They let the farmers die before their eyes or evicted them from their miserable
dwellings on the slightest pretext. While such a large proportion of the population were
starving the marquis of Sligo had a thousand sheep on the surrounding grasslands and
several of his granaries were full yet the population had no idea of seizing these means
312 Sean P M cM anam on, ‘Landlords and evictions during the Great Fam ine’, in Cathair na M a rt, xviii,
(1998) p .125
137
of subsistence. They would sooner die than touch them partly due to religious virtue but
also from fear of hanging or transportation for stealing from the landlord. It was evident
that the priests, if they were not encouraging the people to revolt, would not be in the
least sorry if they did revolt, and their indignation against the upper classes was lively
and deep.313
As the Great Famine occurred towards the end of the O ’Donels’ tenure as the
major landlords in the parish and undoubtedly contributed to their eventual impossible
financial position, this chapter also examines the effect the policy that Sir Richard
O’Donel had towards his tenants during this period. How the tenants of the O’Donel
estate fared in comparison with those of other landlords is also examined. Included in
this is an examination of the increase of arrears of rent and the eventual outcome of
those tenants in severe arrears. Also the decline in population is compared with that of
tenants of other landlords in the parish. Co-operation with various relief agencies,
particularly the Central Relief Committee organised by the Society of Friends or
Quakers, was very important in alleviating distress at this time. The workings of the two
Poor Law Unions active in the area, initially the Westport Union and later the Newport
Union, and Sir Richard O ’Donel’s involvement in them is also examined. The impact of
the Famine on landlord tenant relations is looked at and what tenants had power during
this period. The change in land leasing patterns from multiple tenants to single tenants is
also examined.
The effect of maintaining a lifestyle appropriate to that of being a member of the
Anglo-Irish gentry took a heavy toll on the finances of the O’Donel estate. This
increased indebtedness over time led finally to the sale of most the estate in the
313 Em m et Larkin (ed.), A lex is de T ocq u eville’s journey in Ireland July-August .1835 (Dublin, 1990)
p. 129
138
Incumbered Estates Court. If the econom y o f the country and this part of Mayo had
continued to prosper the O ’Donels would have been able to meet their financial
obligations. Alternatively if they had modified their lifestyle they probably would also
have succeeded in staving off the sale o f the estate. However tightening the belt buckle
was not in keeping with being seen as an important member of the landed gentry in
W est Mayo.
139

 

South Sligo Ireland Genealogy Research