Michael O'Neill of Croaghrim (1810-1850) - Land Steward, Agriculturist, and Master of Gort Workhouse
We have no idea as to how old Michael O’Neill may have been, or where he was born. It should be noted however that it is very possible he may have been from Beagh. In 1826, it should be noted that a John O’Neil held 13 acres 2 roods in Croaghrinee (sic Croaghrim) [6 acres of which were 1st class quality, 5 acres 2nd class, 2 acres 3rd class]. As Michael too later resided in Croaghrim, could this be an indication of who Michael’s father may have been? It should also be noted that a John O’Neil also held land 10 acres of 2nd class quality land in Peak Roe (which I believe relates to present day Reek Hill, which is contained within Knockanagrough sub-townland [Laughil], bordering Croaghrim). A third reference was made to a John O’Neil who held 1 acre in Rendifin Hill. Similarly, Arthur O’Neil in Drumguane Village, who held just 1 acre. Given the geography, it appears more likely that Michael was the son of John O’Neil of Croaghrim.
Lough Cutra was the ninth Loretto Convent established in Ireland, and the first Loretto Convent established outside of Leinster. By the end of 1852, Lough Cutra was one of only 9 in the country, with Rathfarnham as the Parent House. Seven of the nine convents were under the immediate direction of Rev. Mother Teresa Ball. These seven convents contained 126 nuns, and 193 boarders.
I have recently been researching the Great Famine and how it impacted South Galway, and Beagh in particular. I am focusing specifically on the Gort Poor Law Union, an area practically co-extensive with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kilmacduagh. While doing such research I have identified a number of individuals I feel deserve a blog post, especially for their empathy with those in South Galway who suffered during the Great Famine. Edmund Lombard Hunt is the first of those individuals, and left behind a largely untold legacy to the people in South Galway.
While a large number of people were dancing at Tieernaloughan, Shanaglish, some nights ago (14 April 1940), a terrific explosion was heard outside, and some pieces of masonry fell through the roof of the dance hall. The lights were extinguished and although pieces of metal shattered part of the roof and the wall, no one was injured, and the dance continued for some minutes until the guards investigated. Outside it was found that a crude bomb had been placed under the roof and wedged into the downpipe. When this exploded it raised part of the corrugated roof of the dance hall and left a hole in the concrete wall, as well as shattering part of the downpipe. Pieces of metal were found embedded in the floor of the dance hall, and at the time the explosion occurred – about 11.30pm – the dance hall was full of people. How all escaped is a miracle.
On Monday evening, 18 August 1811, a ‘truly wanton and barbarous murder was perpetrated in the vicinity of Gort’ on a man named Flin, of Thomond Gate, Limerick, who had been engaged as a stone cutter on Colonel Vereker’s new buildings at Tierlohan (sic Tiraloughan). The man, ‘a stranger in this part of the country’ had been in his new employment looked upon as a marked object of ‘invidious jealousy’ and having sought ‘opportunity to forward a fatal purpose, he was, on his return from the fair of Gort on that evening, way laid by some inhuman monsters, who committed this horrid deed in the presence of his distracted wife, who, after witnessing the dreadful transaction, was treated with such violent abuse, that she was yesterday morning (Wednesday) scarcely recovered enough’ to see his remains conveyed to Limerick.
During the years of the Great Famine, an agricultural society existed in Gort. It was somewhat short-lived, and although no records for the Society seem to survive, we have some detailed descriptions from newspaper reports of meetings of the Society. The first mention of Gort Union Agricultural Society was made in March 1845, while a month later the Society placed an advertisement for an ‘Agriculturalist’. The first Society exhibition occurred in late September 1845, followed by meetings and exhibitions in February, April and September 1846. This information does not correspond with the 1979 article regarding Gort Agricultural Society I located in the Connacht Tribune, so I have decided to publish this blog post as I believe it compliments my current extensive research on the Great Famine in South County Galway. No further reference in newspaper articles regarding the Society could be located, but it is worth noting that the Society remained listed in Thom’s Irish Almanac until 1850 in the section entitled ‘Local Farming societies in Connexion with the Central Society’. In 1846, C Christison was listed as the Secretary of the Gort Union Farming Society. By 1847, E.L. Hunt Esq was listed as the Secretary, a position he still occupied in 1848 1849 and 1850. It should also be noted that Lord Gort, an instrumental figure in the Society, served on the 1846-1847 General Committee for the Royal Agricultural Improvement Society of Ireland , and served on the Council for that Society in 1848. This Society is particularly interesting because the detailed speeches covered by the newspaper journalists give us extraordinary insight into the current thinking of the landed gentry in South Galway, including Lord Gort, Robert Gregory and Captain Francis Manly Shawe Taylor.
Although the scale of the population changes in and around the Great Famine are well known and have been written about extensively, the magnitude of this enormous demographic event are even more startling when brought to a local level. The Gort Poor Law Union suffered greatly during the Famine, and within the Poor Law Union, some parishes suffered greater than others. This blog post will deal specifically with Beagh Civil Parish, and the townlands within. The objective of this blog post is to give some idea of the distribution of population within Beagh. Beagh is unique in that two extremely detailed and interesting local histories of the parish have been written, but statistical analysis of the impact of the Famine in our parish escapes both of these books, something I hope to address here.
To write any blog post on the declining population of Beagh is a difficult task for two reasons in particular, and these two factors affect any hypothesis drawn from the figures discussed below.
Firstly, as noted in earlier blog posts, Beagh Civil parish is shared across two District Electoral Divisions (D.E.D.), namely that of Ardamullivan, and that of Beagh. A D.E.D. is a former name given to a low-level territorial division in Ireland, which, in 1994, were renamed as Electoral Divisions. Essentially, these administrative districts are used both for means of measuring the population in census records, and population votes during elections. The difficulty here is that some townlands not within Beagh civil parish (e.g. in Gort Civil Parish and Kilbeacanty Civil Parish) are included in these DEDs, and the public information on which this article is based does not allow a breakdown of the figures by townland - the DED is the smallest division you can analyze on the CSO (Central Statistics Office) website. As such, this should be remembered when reading this article, as both DEDs have been combined in order to evaluate population decline in the parish. It should also be remembered that the town of Gort borders the northern half of the parish, which no doubt has a big influence on the figures (particularly in more recent times as the town of Gort has expanded further South and encroaches Beagh).
The second difficulty in this blog post is the lack of accurate data detailing the devastating consequences of the Great Famine in the parish. The Roman Catholic church records begin too late (about 1855) to be of use when examining the Great Famine era in the parish, and civil registration in the country (for Roman Catholics at least) did not begin until 1864, almost 20 years after the Famine. We instead have to rely on statistics compiled from the 1841 and 1851 Census records (the original census records were pulped during a paper shortage in the UK during WWI), but this too has its limitations. With the Famine beginning about 1845, the population loss was undoubtedly higher than the official figures below reflect - we have no way of knowing what the actual population of the parish was when the Great Hunger hit the West coast.
During my research of all things in Beagh, I noticed that there is some confusion regarding what townlands are part of Beagh Civil Parish, and what townlands are not.
According to an article written by Paddy Cooke in 2006, Cloonahaha, Rindifin and Lavally townlands became part of Gort Roman Catholic parish in the late 1890s when the church decided to add part of Beagh parish to the combined parishes of Kilmacdaugh and Kiltartan (which had been united in 1854) to form a larger Gort parish.
According to the Beagh Book 'before the beginning of this century (20thh century), the parish covered a much larger area extending into the town of Gort and encompassed 58 townlands, but now currently has 54 townlands. A portion of the parish from Ceannahowna in Laughthyshaughnessy to the bridge at the convent was annexed to the parish of Gort circa 1907. This area included the townlands of Cloonahaha, Cloughnaceava, Rindifin and part of Lavally.
Beagh civil parish is unique in that considering it's relatively small size, there is a high proportion of properties / residences of landed gentry in the area (a total of 11). In this blog post I will examine each of these properties and follow each property from the earliest references I could find, up to present day. I have also included OSI maps of each of the properties as well as photographs of the remains / ruins of each house as they stand today. As with all of my blog posts, I would encourage anybody with extra information on any of the properties to reach out to me so I can add to this blog in the future.
The majority of the landholders lived in the parish of Beagh in 1854, or in close proximity to the parish. Lord Gort lived in Lough Cutra Castle, Francis Butler in Cregg House, William Butler in Bunnahow House, and Daniel McNevin lived in Ashfield for a short period. A total of 900 tenants farmed the 12,331 acres, which was owned by a mere 14 landholders.
List of Landlords during Griffith's Primary Valuation (in order of land held)
My name is Eamon Healy and I work as a professional genealogist. I enjoy researching all things local history, and have a particular interest in Beagh, primarily because I can trace my family history to the parish back to the late 1780s. I hope to share my findings here in my blog posts