Fermanagh Folk Tales. By EAMON ANDERSON. THE LAND WAR IN GLAN.
Some few months ago I wrote in those columns about the wild range of mountains which lies to the west of us, here in Kinawley. This wild range is called the Cuilcagh range and is more than 40 square miles in extent, an uninhabited wilderness of mountain, bogs, rocks and cliffs and hanging precipices, including the Hanging Rock and the great cliff of Benaghlin and the mare immense cliffs of Cuilcagh also that famous Fermanagh beauty spot, the Marble Arches. The highest point of this .range is the Moat of Cuilcagh, 2,168 feet above sea level. It is the highest point in Fermanagh and commands a view of 17 counties. Walk a half mile west from the Moat across the great flat stony top of Cuilcagh and you look down the precipices into a wide and romantic valley. This is the valley of Glangevlin, where rises the Shannon, Ireland’s greatest river. This wild glen is surrounded on all sides by mountains 2,000 feet high. On the south side the only entrance to it is the Gap of Glan, which the great topographer John O’Donovan, described as the wildest place he had seen in all Ireland. On the north and north-west sides other gaps in the mountains open out to Blacklion and Dowra. In later articles I will describe the scenery of these wild regions—every square perch of which I have travelled in my time. Half of these wild regions lies in Fermanagh and the other half, including the valley of Glangevlin lies in West Cavan. Glangevlin takes its name from Gabhlin (Gevlin), the famous smith of the Tuatha De Dannaens, who flourished about 35 centuries ago. According to tradition here Gabhlin, the smith, dug out the iron ore from Slieve-an-Iarainn (the Mountain of Iron) that long range which closes in the west side of Glangevlin. The site of his forge is still pointed out along the infant Shannon, and even the gorge in the mountain, where he dug out his iron. But for the present I am going to leave the more ancient tales of Glangevlin and also the description of its wild and romantic scenery for a future date and go on to the Land War, which was fought more fiercely there than in any other district in Ireland. Glangevlin or Glan as it is more generally called is a parish in itself closed in from the outer world by the mighty ranges of Cuilcagh and Slieve an Iarainn and inhabited by about 300 families, descendants of Fermanagh Maguires, MacManuses, MacCaffreys and Cassidys, Cavan O’Reillys and MacGoverns, and Leitrim Dolans, and other clans further away who took refuge from Saxon extermination in this remote and barren valley during the last couple of centuries. Every time I go in through Glan Gap and enter the valley I think of Cromwell’s sentence on the Irish race: “To Hell or Connaught.” It is said that in Cromwell’s time the barony of Burren, in Co. Clare, to which the first batch of the Munster Irish were driven, contained neither water enough to drown a man; wood enough to hang, a man, or soil enough to bury him. There you have the description of Glan in a nutshell. The townland of Derrylahan (which contains the Shannon pot – a deep pool from which the infant Shannon flows), and several townlands around, are inhabited by the descendants of refugees from Macken, Co. Fermanagh; who went “on their banishment’ into this wild place to escape arrest and transportation after the terrible affair known as “Macken Fight,” which took place on the 13th of July, 1829. Although generations of hard toilers have reclaimed many little green fields among the heather and rocks, one of the descendants, of the Macken refugees told me the following story a few years ago—on one of the occasions when I went to visit the Shannon Pot—which will show how hopelessly barren the place was when they settled on it in1829. Here is the tale he told me:— ‘‘The first spring my grandfather was here he began to think of putting in a little crop. He had a little horse and he put two creels on the horse’s back and filled them with manure and started out with the manure through the wilderness around him to look for a spot where he might set a few ridges of potatoes. He went from place to place and from spot to spot, high and low driving his horse before him. He searched every square perch of two or three hundred acres around his cabin without finding one spot where a ridge of potatoes could be set. At the end of a long spring day he drove the horse back again and took his graip and emptied the two creels of manure out on the little, manure heap again.” The heathery barren pastures of the valley afford scanty herbage for a hardy breed of little mountain, cattle. On the vast mountain ranges above them on all sides hundreds of sheep are kept, and only for the sheep no one could exist in Glan. By dent of liming the heather and of tremendous labour with pick and crow bar little fields have been reclaimed for tillage. These fields are fenced with stone ditches and tilled with the loy (i.e., laide—a Gaelic name for a peculiar kind of spade). Not a tree is to be seen in Glan, not a whitethorn hedge or bush—even the hardy alder only grows a few feet high. Yet barren as the valley is, in the landlord days, for every acre of it a rack-rent had to be paid to the Earl of Annesley, a rack-rent that would hardly be expected to-day off the most fertile acres of Meath or Roscommon. The revolt of the Glan, people against landlordism and oppression shall live on in history and tradition, to the end of time. Their peculiar position walled in by the giant mountains gave them great help in the dozen years war which they waged against all the forces which the tyrant could bring against them. In the year 1879 when Michael Davitt started the Land League, a great local leader arose in Glan called Thady Dolan or Thady-Pheadar-Thadgh (pronounced Thady-Flather-Haig) as he was locally called in Gaelic—according to the custom of the district a man’s fathers and grandfathers Christian name is added on to him own to distinguish him from other people of the same name. And the Irish language has lived on in Glan to the present day and people still only middle-aged can remember a hundred of the old generation in that remote glen, who could not speak a single word of English. So Thady Dolan with the help of the parish priest and curate of the valley organised the people and started his plan of campaign. First of all—the more thoroughly to unite the people, he prevailed on them to give up all secret societies, such as Molly Maguireism and even Fenianism.
He had the same opinion as that great Irishwoman, still alive, Madam Gonne MacBride, that a straight and open fight against either tyrants or invaders is a hundred times better than trying to fight by secret methods, and also does away with the danger of spies and informers such as were to be found in all secret societies. Then he and the Glan people started Parnell and Davitt’s ”No Rent Manifesto” with a vengeance.. “Pay no rent until the landlord agrees to have a fair rent fixed.” This might mean of course—the .eviction of the whole people of the valley—but even so an outsider would hardly come in to take their barren lands, and even if he did, he would not be allowed to live long in this world! In these days a stranger even a tourist, entering Glan would be met at the Gap by Thady’s men, and unless he could show proofs that he was a real true man, he would not be allowed to enter the valley, and in addition he would get a few wallops of an ash-plant, that might leave him in hospital for a month. Not a single tenant in Glim paid a single penny of rent for eleven long years. Time after time every few months the agent sheriff and bailiffs with large forces of police and arrays of Red-Coats, marched in through the Gap to evict the people and in later times to seize cattle, sheep or other property yet every time the evictions and seizures were a farce and a failure. For Thady and his people had a hundred plans. A pair of sentinels were posted every day on the heights above the Gap. Every time the tyrants were coming—with their protecting army of police and military, the sentinels could see them coming on the road six or seven miles away. Then they would blow a mighty blasts on a cow’s horn which,
when heard back down the valley, would be taken up by other horns and then the chapel bell would be rang as a signal for every man and woman in the valley to gather with all the weapons they could lay hands on and prepare to meet the tyrant even if it meant the loss of their lives. Signals would be sent on into the neighbouring parishes of Ballinagleragh and Killinagh (or Blacklion) and armies of men armed with pikes, and pitchforks and scythe-blades fitted on to stout ash handles, would come trooping over the giant hilltops to help the Glan people. In return the Glan people would often be called out to help neighbouring parishes when necessary. The minute the chapel bell was rung as a signal every man in Glan, by order of the dauntless captain, Thady, had to stop whatever work he was at no matter how busy he was and gather up for the mobilisation. And woe to any Glan man who did not
promptly obey the signal! The last time I was in Glan a man, not too old either for the Land War in Glan was carried on well into the 1890’s, told me this tale: “My brother-in-law (giving his name) was as strong and as manly a man as there was in the parish, and was afraid of no man living. One day he put six bags of corn on six asses’ backs (that is the way they have to haul loads in these mountain places) and got a neighbour gossoon to help him to drive the asses I down to the mill at Dernatuan along the Shannon. The mill was only a short mile from his house, and he was half-way down his own lane to the road when suddenly the horns began to blow away up towards the Gap and then the Chapel bell began to ring—the signal for the men of Glan to gather up—the evictors were coming to throw out, if they could, a few of the more helpless families. As he was so far on his way to the mill he said to himself ‘Och, I’ll go on to the mill with the corn and take it off and the gossoon can bring back the asses; and I can be out with the gathering as soon as any of them. He was about a quarter mile from the mill when he met Thady Dolan on the road and about 50 men along-with him. Down every mountain lane in sight the people were hurrying to join the throng. “Did you mot hear the signal,” said Thady. “I did,” said the man, “but I was on my way to the mill and I’ll be with you in ten minutes.” “You will and a damn sight sooner,” said Thady, taking a sharp knife out of his pocket and ripping the six bags of corn from top to bottom and spilling all out on the road. “Get into the ranks, he thundered.’ ‘That will learn you and every other Glan man to get out the minute the signal, is given no matter what they are doing. ”When the military and police would be coming through the Gap huge masses of rock, several tons weight, previously loosened with crowbars, would come hurtling down the cliffs on both sides of the narrow, pass, cutting lanes in their ranks—often breaking bones and always forcing them to fly back for their lives. If they reformed and came on again at great risk and got on to the houses which were to be evicted for that day they would find the houses surrounded by a dense crowd of angry men and women armed with every conceivable rude weapon, each and every one of them ready to die rather than let the family be evicted. It seems that at this time the military had no legal power to fire on the crowd else there would often have been serious bloodshed on both sides. Strange to say the whole eleven years of open warfare passed with very few evictions, very few wounded and no loss of life.
In next week’s article I will give a further instalment on the Land War in Glan, also a song -“The Lament for Thady Dolan,” composed the day he went to his grave.
The landlord of Glangevlin was Earl Annesley, of Castlewellan in the County of Down. It is a title in the Peerage of Ireland. It was created on 17 August 1789 for Francis Annesley, 2nd Viscount Glerawly, with special remainder to his younger brother the Honourable Richard Annesley. He had previously represented Downpatrick in the Irish House of Commons. The titles of Baron Annesley, of Castlewellan in the County of Down, and Viscount Glerawly, in the County of Fermanagh, were created in the Peerage of Ireland on 20 September 1758 and 14 November 1766 respectively for his father William Annesley, who sat as Member of the Irish Parliament for Midleton. Annesley was the sixth son of the Honourable Francis Annesley, fourth son of Francis Annesley, 1st Viscount Valentia.
The first Earl Annesley had several illegitimate children but no legitimate issue. He was succeeded (in the earldom according to the special remainder) by his younger brother, the second Earl. He had earlier represented seven different constituencies in the Irish Parliament and served as a Commissioner of Customs for Ireland. His eldest son, the third Earl, sat in the British House of Commons as the representative for Downpatrick. On his death the titles passed to his eldest son, the fourth Earl. He sat as Conservative Member of Parliament for Great Grimsby and was an Irish Representative Peer in the House of Lords from 1857–74.
He never married and was succeeded by his younger brother, the fifth Earl. He was a soldier and also represented County Cavan in Parliament as a Conservative. Between 1877 and 1908 he sat in the House of Lords as an Irish Representative Peer. His line of the family failed on the death of his only son, the sixth Earl, who was killed during the First World War. The late Earl was succeeded by his first cousin, the seventh Earl. He was the son of the Hon. William Octavius Beresford Annesley, sixth son of the third Earl. This line of the family failed in 1957 on the death of his son, the eighth Earl. He was succeeded by his third cousin once removed, the ninth Earl. He was the great-great-grandson of the Hon. Robert Annesley, second son of the second Earl. As of 2014 the titles are held by the ninth Earl’s third son, the twelfth Earl, who succeeded his elder brother in 2011. As a descendant of the first Viscount Valentia, Lord Annesley is also in remainder to this peerage and its subsidiary titles. The family seat was Castlewellan Castle, Castlewellan, County Down.
May 16th 1942. FERMANAGH FOLK TALES by EAMON ANDERSON. It is safe to say that the greater part of the military and police who were sent by the Government of the day into Glan and hundreds of other places in Ireland during the Land War, to help the tyrannical landlords to overawe the people, thoroughly detested the dirty work they were forced to perform. The following tale will help to bear out the truth of this. An old man named MacManus, who lived in this Kinawley district, told it to me some years ago. On a certain summer’s day in the 1880’s a large force of British military, tired and wearied with the long march, were returning to Enniskillen after one of the periodical raids on Glan. It is twenty miles from Enniskillen to Glan Gap, via Swanlinbar and Dernacrieve Cross and then up the mountain road from that. It is 8 miles more from the Gap down the valley to the Shannon Pot, and Glan extends some distance beyond that to where it meets the parish of Killinagh. The soldiers—foot-sore weary and thirsty— were passing through the Kinawley district on their way back to barracks at Enniskillen. Passing a spring on the roadside near a house, the captain stopped his battalion to let them and himself, have a drink of the spring water. He called at the neighbouring house for a mug or porringer and entered into conversation with the owner, telling him where they had been that day, and their errand. This English captain was horrified at the idea that any human beings should be expected to pay rent for the wild district he had seen that day. “Instead of being forced to pay rent for it, they should be paid, and paid well, for living in it,” he said.
In those times an old gent named Moore, who was Lord Annesley’s agent for Glan, lived in a comfortable house called Glan Lodge, about a half-mile outside the Gap. It would not be very healthy or safe for a man of his calibre to live inside the Gap, as anyone who has read last week’s article can guess! And even at the Lodge, where he lived, he did not consider himself safe for a moment for he had a large force of police in and around his house to protect him. night and day during the whole dozen years of the Land War in Glan. And he never ventured out of doors without this force of police around him and often a good part of Queen Victoria’s army as well. This old man, before the Land War started, and before the people were thoroughly organised, had evicted a number of the Glan people and tossed their houses. When he died, a year or two after the Land War was over and won, a local poet made a song on him. According to the song, old Moore, when he died, went to a certain place, we shall not mention! The climate of that place not being agreeable to him, he began to entreat the gentlemen (or devils) who were in charge of him to let him out and back to Glan, and he would atone for his past misdeeds by being kind to the people for ever:-—
Then out spoke old More, “If yiz let me back to Glan,
I’ll build for them fine houses and reinstate them in their land!”
The older generation of the Glan people tell the following story about his treachery, which happened at the very end of the Land War. The fight in Glan had been going on for a great number of years without the landlord and his henchmen gaining anything, or being able to collect a penny of rent, despite the great forces at their back. They were heartily sick arid tired of it, and perhaps the Glan people were a bit tired of it too, for no matter how warlike people are, it is not easy living in a constant state of vigilance and warfare for a dozen years. So the 300 odd tenants in Glan, with, Thady Dolan at their head, held a consultation, and decided that they would ask Father McGauran, the curate, to go out with an offer to the agent. This offer was nothing more or less than one third of the rack-rent they had been formerly paying, with all the arrears of the long years of the Land War wiped out completely. Father MacGauran walked out through the Gap and down to Moore’s, a distance of 4 Irish, miles from the Glan Chapel and priest’s house, and old Moore had a great welcome for him. “I have come, said the priest, “with an offer from the Glan people. If you agree to this offer (naming the figure—a reduction, of about 60 per cent.), we are agreeable to meet you at any time and place you appoint and sign, all papers.” ‘‘Can you make no better offer than that?” says old Moore. “No,” said the priest, “these are our final terms. If you do not agree to that the fight must go on.” Old Moore thought for, a long time, and then said: “Well, if you can do no better than that, I suppose we will have to take it and try to live on it:” He then made arrangements with the priest to meet the Glan people at the little village in the Centre of the, valley and come to final terms. The priest walked back through the Gap and down the valley, spreading the news as he went, sending word up every mountain lane to the people to come out that evening to sign the settlement. For the first time in a dozen years the vigilance of the Glan people relaxed and the sentinels left the mountain tops—and that was just what the treacherous old agent wanted. Father MacGauran was just finishing his dinner that afternoon when a breathless messenger rushed in crying: “The army is coming; the redcoats, the. redcoats! They are in through the Gap and coming down here as quick as they can march.” It was true. It seems that this was one of the days that the Redcoats were coming anyway. So old Moore in his deceitful mind, had seemingly agreed to the offer brought by the priest, so that he would put Thady Dolan and “the conquering heroes of Glan” off their guard for once and get, the people evicted, or their cattle seized, without giving them time to send out the signals and gather to oppose the invaders. Father MacGauran rushed out in great anger, at the way the agent had deceived him and, like Moses and Joshua of old, he held up his hands to Heaven and beseeched the Almighty to stop the tyrants and despoilers and their, army and save his people. Away up the road towards the Gap, in full view of him, a half-mile of’ the road was covered with marching troops. The nearest of them were over a mile away yet, the moment the priest held up his hands, the tyrant Moore and his protecting army stopped suddenly, as if struck powerless by an avenging angel. Not a step further could any of them come. After a long time in this position old Moore shouted to some of the Glan people nearby to go down and tell Father MacGovern to come up that he wanted to speak to him for a minute.
“No,” said the priest, “go back and tell him to tell the army to turn about and march out of Glan again, and then, maybe, he’d get power to come down here to me himself.” This was done, and when the last of the soldiers had disappeared through the Gap, old Moore came down, shamefacedly enough, to where the priest was still standing on the road. So he was glad to meet the Glan people and come to terms at last. A whole generation of the Glan people, many of them still alive, were eye-witnesses to the happening I have just narrated. Some modern sceptics may shake their heads at this story and say “Impossible.” But if you open the Bible you will find both the Old and New Testaments full of similar miracles. Open the Lives of the Saints and you will find the same. And there is the same God of Miracles in the 19th and 20th centuries that there was in the bible times and in the centuries of the saints. And who will deny that He can work miracles when necessary for the sake of His oppressed people in modern times as well as in ancient times.
A process-server had hard times in most parts of Ireland during the Land War. But no process-server ever dared to enter Glan. Outside the Gap in the neighbouring parish of Curlough—also very Mountainous—a process-server once started with a great sheaf of “prosses” to serve them on the people. A number of men with blackened faces met him and took the “prosses” from him. Owing to hurry for post, I must leave the “Lament for Trady Dolan” over till next week,