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Intriguing Farm Histories
January 22, 2018 | ELEMENT: life | article | long form read

Our curiosity with the provenance of our barley is profound. But it also extends beyond how and where a crop is grown today.

The farms themselves provide points of intrigue and colour that stretch long into the past. Families, the growers who care for the land, have often worked on the same fields for many generations. The histories associated with their location – both exact and nearby – often yield unusual stories, many of which are of national and international significance.
We have set out below many of the historical details that are associated with each of our farmers’ families, the farms themselves and their villages.

In this way, we are able to build an even greater picture of the land on which our barley is grown, and believe that there is merit in cataloguing this in addition to our scientific data.

 

DAVID KELLY
BALLYBAR, CO. CARLOW

Ballybar – or Baile Uí Bhairr, meaning the townland above – was home to the Ballybar Races, one of the most significant events on the Irish racing calendar from at least the 1760s through until the early 20th century. After the Great Southern and Western Railway arrived in 1846, special trains were laid on to carry both spectators and horses to the racecourse. The Castle Field is named after a castle and enclosure once owned by Peter Carew, Baron of Idrone, of which there are still some archaeological remains. Peter Carew’s cousin, George Carew, was captain of Henry VIII’s ill-fated war-ship, the Mary Rose.

DAVID POWER
TINY PARK, CO. CARLOW

Tiny Park was the venue for the first polo match ever played in Ireland, in which County Carlow thrashed the 8th Hussars by seven goals to nil. The young Duke of Clarence, one-time heir to the British throne, played polo at Tiny Park in September 1891 – but he died of influenza four months later.

 

 

EVAN McDONNELL
MORTARSTOWN, CO. CARLOW

Mortarstown’s name reflects its proximity to the stately River Barrow. In Irish it is ‘Baile Mhoirtéil’, the townland of soft, yielding earth. Among its past owners was Jack Bunbury, the reputed inspiration for ‘Bunbury’ in Oscar Wilde’s play, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’ Cloughgrenan Castle was built by the Butler family, Earls of Ormonds, during the 15th century, ‘to defend a pass between the river and an extensive wood called Grenan.’ The last Baron Cloughgrenan succeeded as de jure Duke of Ormonde when his older brother was stripped of his titles for supporting the Jacobites in 1715.

 

 

JIMMY WALSHE
PARK HOUSE, CO. CARLOW

Park House was home to the Keogh family who also owned Orchard, near Leighlin. The house was once home to Tom Keogh whose brother Myles knew both the house and land well. Myles Keogh was Colonel Custer’s second-in-command at the battle of Little Big Horn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand. Popular legend holds that Myles’ horse Comanche was the sole survivor of the 7th Cavalry Regiment when Sitting Bill’s forces left the field of battle. Myles is among the Keogh family members recalled on a stained-glass window in nearby Tinryland Church.

COLONEL CUSTER & MYLES KEOGH

JOHN SMITH
BALLINABOLEY, CARLOW

Ballinaboley, or ‘Baile na Buaile’ in Irish, means the townland of the cattle-fold, or summer-pasture, and it is hard not to imagine the clan chieftain’s highly prized cattle grazing here in the distant days when the ancient Royal Court at nearby Maudlin was in its ascendance. The Smith family are thought to have moved to the area in 1866 and bought the farm at Ballinaboley from Samuel Haughton, a celebrated science fiction writer. Samuel’s father, James Haughton, was an active philanthropist, vegetarian and vocal opponent of slavery.

BRIAN KENNY
KILLERAGH, BANAGHER, CO. GALWAY

The Kennys of Killeragh have been familiar faces at the Banagher Fair since at least the 1870s when Thomas Kenny of ‘Kelleragh’ held almost 200 acres. Famed for their cattle, ewes and wethers, the Kenny farm backs onto Kilnaborris Bog, a natural heritage area which has been harvested for peat by locals for many long millennia. The farm lies along the Beara-Briefne Way, along which Donal O’Sullivan Beara lead a thousand of his followers in 1603.

 

TREVOR HARRIS
COOLTRIM, CO. KILDARE

Located in townland of Ballycanon, or Ballycannon, Cooltrim takes its name Cluain Troim from the Irish for meadow (cluain) and elderflowers (troim). This land formerly belonged to the Aylmers, one of the most prominent land-owning families in Ireland during the Tudor Age. Richard Aylmer was awarded the lucrative manor house of Donadea for his help in suppressing Silken Thomas Fitzgerald’s rebellion against Henry VIII.

 

SILKEN THOMAS FITZGERALD

 

KENNETH ASHMORE
KNOCKROE, CO. KILDARE

Knockroe is on the Bo Choill Road east of Maganey, running towards the old Norman town of Castledermot. The history of this area stretches back to the Bronze Age; a polygonal stone cist found at Maganey Lower contained the cremated bones of a mother and child. Private James Caulfield of Knockroe was among the young Irish soldiers who went to the Congo during the United Nations intervention in the Katanga conflict of 1960. The Irish experience in the Congo forms the basis of the award-winning 2016 Netflix film, ‘The Siege of Jadotville’, which has now been viewed by over 180 million people.

 

LEONARD ASHMORE
BLACKCASTLE, CO. KILDARE

Located on the eastern bank of the River Greese, Leonard Ashmore’s farm occupies land that has been farmed for many millennia, according to the evidence of crop archaeology around Blackcastle. The nearby church at Dunmanoge (Dún Mosheanóg) was an early monastic site, said to have been founded by Saint Finnian of Clonard on land granted by the King of Leinster. Although little remains of the church and its enclosure, archaeologists believe this was once an ecclesiastical centre of considerable scale and complexity. The Ashmores have farmed here since at least the 19th century.

 

GER BYRNE
FENNISCOURT, CO. CARLOW

The Byrnes have been farming at Fenniscourt since at least 1870, and also mastered the art of fishing locally. Prior to them, the property belonged to the Lyons family whose ranks included Bessie Lyons, the woman who paid for the construction of the Convent of St Brigid in Goresbridge in 1866. Bessie’s brother Lieutenant James Lyons served with the Fighting 69th (aka the 69th Regiment of the New York State Militia) in the Irish Brigade of the Union Army during the US Civil War but was taken ill and died on 26 April 1862. An earth and stone barrow at Fenniscourt boasts some particularly fine Bronze Age rock art.

 

MATTHEW BRADY, PHOTOGRAPH, DEPICTING FATHER THOMAS H. MOONEY, THE FIRST CHAPLAIN OF THE 69TH, PRESIDING OVER MASS AT FORT CORCORAN, WASHINGTON D.C. ON 1 JUNE 1861.
MATTHEW BRADY, PHOTOGRAPH, DEPICTING FATHER THOMAS H. MOONEY, THE FIRST CHAPLAIN OF THE 69TH, PRESIDING OVER MASS AT FORT CORCORAN, WASHINGTON D.C. ON 1 JUNE 1861.

 

PADDY TOBIN
MAIN STREET, CO KILKENNY

The Tobin farm lies in a village originally known as Cúirt an Phúca, meaning ‘Foulks Court’, referring to a 14th century castle built by Sir Fulk de la Freyne, a knight who served alongside Edward III when the English king captured Calais in 1347. An Augustinian monastery stood by the nearby Fertagh round tower and well. In the early 1700s the castle and church passed to the Hely family who laid out the village of Johnstown (or Baile Sheáin). Sir John Hely, who died in 1701, was Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas, and married the wealthy heiress, Meliora Gorges.

 

PHIL O’BRIEN
SHEESTOWN, CO. KILKENNY

Sheestown takes its name from the Shees, a family from Kerry who settled in Kilkenny during the 15th century and became loyal supporters of the House of Butler, earls of Ormonde. Sir Richard Shee was deputy to the Lord Treasurer of Ireland during Queen Elizabeth’s reign but his descendant, Marcus Shee, was outlawed as a Jacobite in 1691 and fled to France. One of Marcus Shee’s descendants was the charismatic Duke of Feltre, who served as Napoleon Bonaparte’s Minister of War.

 

ANDREW BERGIN
GRATTANSBROOK, CO. KILDARE

 

Located just south of the market town of Athy, the Bergins have been farming the land at Grattansbrook for many generations. In 1931, they hosted the first national ploughing match in Ireland, the brainchild of Andrew’s grandfather, John James Bergin, and Denis Allen. JJ Bergin was a remarkable man: farmer, musician, playwright, boxer, balladeer, broadcaster and inventor. In 1955, he invented the ‘Farmerette Class’ under which women competed at the National Ploughing Championships for the title, ‘Queen of the Plough.’

 

 

 

DAVID WALSH-KEMMIS
BALLYKILCAVAN, STRADBALLY

Ballykilcavan, originally Balymcgylkewan, derives from the Irish ‘Baile Mhic Giolla Chaomháin’, meaning ‘the homestead of the son of the Servant of Chaomháin’. Given that Caomháin is Irish for Kevin, the townland is thus associated with St Kevin of Glendalough. David’s ancestors have been here since 1639 when Oliver Walsh acquired the lands from Robert Hartpole of Shrule Castle. Among those born and raised at Ballykilcavan were Mary Stratford (grandmother of the 1st Earl of Aldbrorough), General Hunt Walsh (who commanded the 28th Foot at the Siege of Quebec) and Sir Hunt Johnson-Walsh (who served in expeditions to Manipur, India, and Chin Hills, Burma, in the early 1890s).

 

JASON STANLEY
CASTLEFLEMING, CO. LAOIS

The Stanley’s lease of Castlefleming began in 1825. The family strenuously objected when the Great Southern and Western Railway began cutting through their farm in 1847, as the line was extended south to Templemore. When their objections became physical, they were obliged to stand trial. The farm is not without its dark past. In 1824, Richard Pearson, a Protestant from Castlefleming who worked for the Church of Ireland vicar at Rathdowney, was ‘most barbarously murdered’. In 1862 a row between John Stanley and his nephew ended badly when the latter hurled a stone with such force that he killed his uncle. Jason Stanley has been impressing people with his engineering skills since at least 1999 when, aged only seventeen, his mobile shearing trailer won second prize in the National Farm Equipment Awards at the Tullamore Show.

 

RICHARD CARTER
TIMOGUE, CO. LAOIS

Located on River Straid, the Carter farm at Timogue takes its name from Tigh Maodhóg, meaning the House of Saint Mogue, or Saint Máedóc, the miracle-wielding bishop of Ferns, County Wexford. While studying under St David in Wales as a boy, legend holds that young Mogue was carrying a jug of ale over to some fellow monks when he accidentally dropped it. Not missing a beat, he made the sign of the cross over the shattered jug which swiftly repaired itself. To the astonishment of onlookers, he then refilled it with ale and carried on as normal. The late Georgian house at Timogue was once the centrepiece of the 1000-acre Budds estate. The house was built in about 1820 by Thomas Budds, who was County Coroner for the Queen’s County (now Laois) until his premature death in 1852.

 

SAINT MÁEDÓC

 

JOHN KEHOE
CLONLEIGH, ENNISCORTHY

Clonleigh and nearby Palace (An Phailís) was the base of the hereditary learned class for southern Leinster between 1450 and 1600. At this time, it was the residence of the O’Doran’s, one of the Seven Septs of Laois, who were regarded as the greatest Brehon law family in Leinster. For many centuries, they were also custodians of one of the three manuscript copies of the ‘Tripartite Life of St Patrick.’

Palace was known as Phailís MacKeough, the fort of the MacKeoghs, after a family of well-known philosopher poets (filid). Both families were broken up by the Penal Laws and, by 1837, Clonleigh was home to a hedge school for just ten children.

 

FRANCIS KEHOE
LACKEN, CO. WEXFORD

During the United Irishmen’s rebellion of 1798, the land on which Francis Kehoe’s farm now stands served as a camp for the rebels. From the slopes of Lacken – or ‘An Leacain’, meaning hillside, in Irish – the survivors retreated to the Three Rocks near Wexford town.

 

SEAMUS DUGGAN
LAKEFIELD, CO. LAOIS

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