1954 January to June.

National Events.

The Flags and Emblems Act in Northern Ireland (6 April) bans interference with the Union Jack and effectively prohibits the public or private display of the tricolour
Michael Manning (aged 25) becomes the last man to be executed by the state in the Republic of Ireland: he is hanged on 20 April at Mountjoy jail, Dublin, for the murder of a nurse
General election in the Republic (18 May): a second coalition government takes office on 2 June with John A. Costello as Taoiseach
The IRA raids Gough military barracks, Armagh (12 June)
Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow opens at the Pike Theatre, Dublin (19 November)
A four-month bank dispute commences in the Republic (4 December)
The last issue of The Bell appears
Christy Brown’s My Left Foot is published
A record 84,856 people watch Cork beat Wexford in the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park


Jimmy Barry Murphy (hurler and Gaelic footballer) in Cork (22/8)
Ollie Campbell (rugby player) in Dublin (3/3)
Maud Cotter (stained-glass artist)
Síle de Valera (Fianna Fáil politician) in Dublin
Bob Geldof (rock musician, charity organizer) in Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin (5/10)
Richard Kearney (philosopher and writer) in Cork
Ger Loughnane (Clare hurler and manager)
Thomas McCarthy (poet) in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford
Kevin Moran (Dublin Gaelic footballer; Manchester United, Sporting Gijon, Blackburn Rovers and Republic of Ireland footballer) in Dublin (29/4)
Brian Mullins (Dublin Gaelic footballer) in Dublin (27/9)
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne (writer and lecturer) in Dublin
Julie O’Callaghan (poet) in Chicago
Mary O’Donnell (writer and broadcaster) in Monaghan
Dennis O’Driscoll (poet) in Thurles, Co. Tipperary
Bobby Sands (IRA member and hunger striker) in Belfast
Mikey Sheehy (Kerry Gaelic footballer) in Co. Kerry (28/7)


John Collins
Margaret Cousins
James Green Douglas
Denis Fahey
Henry Harrison
Elinor Price
Robert Smyllie.

Local Events.

2-1-54 Enniskillen new Fire Station, now completed, will be opened shortly. The brigade consists of 20 members under section leader Robert McCutcheon.

2-1-54 There is no need for alarm in Fermanagh says Dr. Brian Moore, Chief Medical Officer for the County, speaking about the four cases of infantile paralysis reported in Fermanagh in the past month.

2-1-54 A youth named Patrick Barron of Derryrona, Leggs PO, Belleek is in Fermanagh County Hospital suffering from head injuries suffered on Christmas Day while riding a motor cycle.

2-1-54 A Donegal youth, Johnston Morrow of Derrybrick, Clonelly was sentenced to one month imprisonment for driving a tractor while disqualified and without insurance or licence and also for obtaining a license while disqualified. He had been employed by David George Noble of Derrybrick.

9-1-54  St. Mary’s Hall, Devenish, was packed for “The Message of Fatima,” Pageant by the local school children. An enthralled audience drawn from four counties saw unfold scene by scene the wonderful miracle which shook the world only thirty six years ago. I take of my hat to Fr. Marron and his brilliant galaxy of juvenile stars and I think it only fair to hand a special bouquet to little Nuala Gilbride of Rosinver, who played the part of Our Lady of Fatima in a manner worthy of the highest commendation. The parts of the children to whom the apparition appeared were played by Bridie Neilan, Agnes Burns and M. J. Flanagan.

16-1-54 Irvinestown’s unbelievable plight to end soon. For years past they have had the water turned on for only two hours per day and only one hour in the Summer. In January they are to join up to the huge Lough Braden water network.

16-1-54 An application to have the Ballinamallard – Mossfield – Sydare closed for the annual “Enniskillen 100” motor cycle race this year was granted by Fermanagh County Council. Owing to a late application last year there was no race – the first occasion this happened since the war.

16-1-54  Lawyer and cattle dealer summonsed at Belleek as a result of accidents at a bad bend at Keenaghan, Belleek within five days of each other. The defendants were cattle dealer Maurice Leonard, Pettigo and Thomas T. Montague, LLB, Irvinestown. Leonard’s cattle lorry demolished a length of stone wall and had the front axle torn from the vehicle was fined £1 for driving without due care and 10s for not producing his insurance within five days. Evidence was given that the front tyres of the lorry were smooth. In his own defence Montague said that there was no evidence that he was driving without due care and that the skid marks and damage to the wall were just as likely to have been those caused by the lorry. Case dismissed for insufficient evidence.

16-1-54 In a sequel to a row over admission to a dance hall at Brollagh, Frederick Brock was fined £1 and bound over for a year on his own bail of £5. Sydney Brock who was trying to take his brother from the police was fined £3 for obstruction, £3 for disorderly behaviour and bound over for a year for £5. John Dolan was fined £3 for disorderly behaviour and £1 for obstruction and also bound over and Thomas Murphy was fined £1.

16-1-54 It was with regret that his many friends heard of the death of Mr. Patrick Eves, Kesh, one of the oldest and most respected residents of Kesh. Until he retired from business due to failing health he had carried on a long and successful business as a spirit merchant and farmer and had earned a fine reputation as a man of sound judgment, a good counselor and neighbour and the respect of men of all creeds.

23-1-54  Mrs Mary Mc Garrity, (49) wife of John Mc Garrity, tenant of apartments in the old Workhouse, Townhill, Irvinestown, gave her life on Friday night in an effort to save her two daughters, Josie (24) and Veronica (19) who were returning from the cinema at 11.00 when they became entangled in a live electricity cable in the darkness of an enclosed yard in front of their dwelling place. The wire had been broken in the storm. Hearing their screams their parents rushed down to help them and were aided by Samuel Gillespie, an electrician, who helped the father and two daughters get clear. Unfortunately Mrs Mc Garrity was fatally shocked and died on her way to hospital.

23-1-54  Garda William Melly, Dublin Metropolitan Police has retired after 39 year’s service from 1st January 1954. He was stationed all his time in Dublin and was attached to the Dublin District Courts for over 30 years. He served through all the troubled years in the city during his service. He was a native of Castle Caldwell, County Fermanagh.

23-1-54  It was with regret that the people of Devenish heard of the death of Mrs Ellen Feely on January 5th. She had been a member of the Total Abstinence Association since 1911.

6-2-54  Mr. S. Hernon, Secretary of Devenish GAA Club said in his report that last year was not an outstanding success although the Minor team had got to the County final only to be defeated by a very good Lisnaskea team.

13-2-54 The Annual Fermanagh County GAA Convention was held in Enniskillen on the last Sunday in January with 74 delegates present, the greatest ever number. Not counted were Mr. Denis Hogan and Denis Leonard of the newly formed Knocks club who were not allowed to vote since their team did not compete in the last championship in 1953. All three nominees for chairman were unwilling to put their names forward but this was not accepted and Mr. Thomas Campbell, Belleek, was retained in office for a fourth time. The most far-reaching motion to be decided was to reduce the number of players on Senior teams from 15 to 13. This probably suits most Fermanagh pitches better and should lead to a more open brand of football.

27-2-54 Lack Farmer, 54 year old, Francis Mc Cusker, Largy, Lack, was killed while loading trees on to a lorry from an embankment on his farm. A verdict of accidental death was returned at the inquest. He was a brother of Nurse McCusker, Ederney.

27-2-54 Regret has been occasioned by the death of Mrs F. Campbell, wife of Mr. Francis Campbell, Aghoo, Devenish, after a long illness.

6-3-54 A fine of £3 was imposed on Bernard Mc Kenna, Ardees, Roscor, Belleek for stealing an Exide battery from a motor cycle parked at Mahoo. District Inspector Wolseley said that the defendant had previously been convicted of stealing cattle.

6-3-54 The Belleek V Enniskillen Gaels football match was abandoned at half time due to snow with the score Belleek 0-4, Enniskillen 0-1.

6-3-54  Death of Leitrim-Born Christian Brother, founder of Australia’s Boy’s Town. Regret is felt in Kiltyclogher and district by the death of Rev. Bro. Paul Francis Keaney, which occurred suddenly at his Christian Brothers College, Perth, Australia last Friday, 28th February. Known all over the great Australian Continent as the founder of Australia’s Boy’s Town and beloved for his charity and kindness towards the flotsam and jetsam of humanity with whom his social activities brought him into contact. His death is mourned by hundreds of orphaned and abandoned boys who owing to Br Paul’s noble work are today happy and prosperous citizens.  He was born on a small farm at Corraleskin, Kiltyclogher in 1888 he was one of a family of nine of whom seven still survive. He joined the RIC in 1909 and served two years before emigrating. He received the OBE in the Coronation honours list. When he decided recently to return to Ireland after an absence of 42 years he was presented with a cheque for £1,500 by the Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, on behalf of a group of businessmen as a tribute to his services. However his return to Ireland was not to be. (Another view from the Internet)

Brother Kearney, of Bindoon notoriety, was a saint to the Catholic Church and a monster to the boys placed in his “care”. The Catholic Church erected a huge statue of him at Bindoon. In a case of typical Aussie larrikinism, former boys at the Home knocked its head off one day. Reports indicate that they were observed attempting to use it as a football.

One of the six Royal Commissioners, former Senator for Western Australia, Andrew Murray, once described Kearney as “a sadist who indulged in criminal assault and who knowingly protected rings of predatory Brothers engaged in systemic, long-term sexual assault on defenceless children (Hansard 2001, p.27275 – Matter of Public Interest). Presumably, Mr. Murray will be eager to revisit the matter during the course of the Royal Commission.

Former inmates of Bindoon also pull no punches with regard to “The Orphans’ Friend” (as the plaque on his statue reads) Kearney, an abuser who stood 6ft. tall and weighed 17 stone. Laurie Humphreys says that “I guess you could call him a sadist”. John Hennessy, also from Bindoon, speaks with a stutter which he says is a legacy of being stripped naked and publicly flogged by Kearney. He notes that “At Bindoon, the threat of violence was ever present. The Brothers carried a strap consisting of leather stitched together and a metal weight.”

In a glowing tribute to Kearney, even the Christian Brothers had to acknowledge that “Conversely, some former inmates remember him as a brutal disciplinarian with an ungovernable temper, who neglected their education, exploited their labour and turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of them by other members of the staff.” Note the use of “some” rather than “all” in that statement. The paragraph concludes, for some reason, with the statement that “An enthusiast, Keaney was easily depressed by criticism.”

The 2001 Australian Senate Community Affairs and References Committee Report, titled “Lost Innocents: Righting the Record – Report on Child Migration”, detailed evidence which revealed the “depraved, violent and abusive nature” of Brother Keaney and his role in the “systematic abuse of children under his care”. In submissions to the Committee report, individuals who had been abused by Keaney described his brutality; “I lost my teeth at Bindoon – my face kicked repeatedly by Brother Keaney”. Similarly – “Br. Keaney was a very sadistic, perverted and deviant paedophile. He abused many of the boys… in his care. Tragically, there was just no one that we victims could go to for help. Who would have believed us anyway?”

Another former Bindoon resident stated that “The Christian Brothers used to walk around with a thick 18in leather strap hanging from the waist of their long, black outfits, and they’d give you a wallop at the slightest opportunity. They’d hit you wherever they could – be it on the backside or sole of the foot – and boy, did it hurt. Once I was on the receiving end of a real hiding from one of them. He was giving a younger lad a hard time and I must have said something under my breath. He lashed out with his strap and put in his boot. I ended up cowering under my bed, trying to escape him, and was left covered in bruises.”

Yet another noted that “He liked to prod us with a walking stick, and was one of the cruelest people I’ve ever met.”

A secret church report about Christian Brothers’ institutions such as Bindoon in Western Australia from the mid-30s right up to the mid-60s refers to:

  • brothers who were “odd or mentally unstable”,
  • of a “sex underworld”
  • of brothers who “shared boys” for sexual purposes
  • and that often the church hierarchy knew of the abuse and did nothing about it.

Kearney’s Bindoon was billed as an educational institution, but as one former resident claimed, “There was no teaching at Bindoon, and I know of several former inmates who still cannot read or write.” Another reported that “there wasn’t much in the way of schooling. I’d always been good at school in England but it pretty much ended overnight. A lot of the boys at Bindoon never learnt how to read or write.”

A CBS Television documentary aired in the U.S. claimed that, at Bindoon, “The priority was construction. Brother Francis Keaney, an imposing, white-haired Irishman who ran the place, was obsessed with building the largest Catholic institution in Western Australia. He used his charges as labor. From sunrise to sunset, the boys built Brother Keaney’s shrine, with no shoes, and no questions asked.”

When the Christian Brothers arrived in 1939 with the first group of seven boy labourers, the only building on the property was a mud-brick homestead which became their home. After the work of a generation of boys, the facility is grandiose and has been listed by the West Australian Government as a heritage-listed property.  The “Statement of Significance” refers to “The design, use of local materials, use of child labour, relationships of the buildings, and period during which they were constructed, make the places exceptionally significant, both individually and in their precinct setting. The place has an exceptional ‘sense of place’ for the ‘boys’, and their families.”

When Kearney arrived in 1940, with another eight boys, foundations were dug and one wing of the first building, the dormitory block now known as Edmund House, was officially opened by 1941. Most of the building work was completed by 1953. During construction, two boys died in accidents and a third died from an undefined cause. They are buried in simple graves on the site, while Br. Kearney’s grave has a large marble headstone, and, of course, a (headless) statue.

Not only did Kearney use forced child labour to build his edifice, he treated the boys badly in ways other than sexual abuse and violence. One of his slaves remembered that, on arrival, “We were immediately put to work. I learnt how to milk a cow within a week, and then we began constructing a new building. By the time I was 14, I was driving a truck. We’d work, sleep and eat. That was it.”

He also reported that “We slept on open verandas all-year round – and when a wind blew up, it got pretty cold. Foodwise, we’d get crushed wheat or porridge for breakfast, followed by bread in dripping (cow fat). The rest of the meals were similarly plain: we seemed to subsist on a diet of swedes and turnips.”

For his efforts, Kearney received Imperial Honours awards, known as an MBE and ISO. Despite all of the evidence of his unworthiness for such prestigious awards, attempts by many people to have the awards rescinded have, so far, been unsuccessful.

6-3-54 A Chemist Shop is now open at Mill Street, Pettigo under the management of M. T. Egan, M.P.S.I.

13-3-54 During the weekend telephone engineers started to erect telephone poles from Pettigo village to Tievemore Post Office where a Post Office telephone is being installed.

27-3-54 The Belleek Erne Drainage Strike over the sacking of a fitter who complained about their conditions of employment especially at the Marion crane at which he worked.

27-3-54 Devenish Pioneer Social on Sunday last in St. Mary’s Hall was a great success. The Sligo Pantomime Players provided the entertainment. Rev. Fr. Brennan, C.C., Pettigo was the guest of honour and was welcomed by Rev. Canon Coyle, a member of the Association for 33 years. The Association was first set up in the parish in 1945 and three Councils were established at Cashel, Toura and Devenish. The parish now has 242 Pioneers and 105 probationers and the juvenile section is being especially catered for in the schools.

27-3-54 The residents of Pettigo village and district deeply regret the transfer of Sergeant M. J. Mc Donagh, Garda Siochana, from Pettigo to Newtowncunningham during the week. Sergeant Mc Donagh was a very popular member of the Garda and for his brief stay in Pettigo village had endeared himself to everyone. Of a retiring disposition he was genial and had a most efficient manner in the discharge of his various duties. During his term as Sergeant in charge of Pettigo Garda Station lawlessness had completely disappeared in the area.

27-3-54 During blasting operations in a quarry at Cashelinney a small piece of rock from the quarry travelled 500 yards landing on the roof of Lettercran School and broke a few slates.

3-4-54 The opening of the Adelphi Cinema, Irvinestown on April 5th with the first film “Ivanhoe” with Robert and Elizabeth Taylor. Telephone Irvinestown 242.

3-4-54  Donegal defeat Fermanagh at Glenties. The ex-Fermanagh player Matt Regan (Belleek) was in sparkling form against his old colleagues. Many strange decisions by the referee almost led to the Fermanagh team leaving the field on several occasions in the second half. Sean Gonigle (Belleek) was the best player on the Fermanagh team.

17-4-54 Garrison man, Thomas Murphy, of Knockaraven, was fined £2 for assaulting another youth, Walter George Carson on March 14th. Murphy had caught hold of Carson’s bicycle by the carrier and bounced it up and down several times.

17-4-54 Very Rev. E. Canon Coyle, PP, Devenish paid tribute to the Anti-Partition League after an anti-Partition film show, concert and meeting in St., Mary’s Hall, Devenish on Sunday night. After thanking the speakers, Mr. Cahir Healy and P. J. O’Hare he said, “No other movement is doing anything only talking.”

24-4-54 Junior Football League – Holywell 2-11 – Devenish 1-7.

24-4-54 Garrison Publican, Patrick Casey, of Casey’s Hotel, was fined £1 for allowing the consumption of intoxicating drink on his licensed premises and his wife Margaret was fined £1 for aiding and abetting. Four persons found on the premises were each found 8 shillings. They had drink on the counter in front of them when the police entered at 10.00 p.m.

24-4-54 The O’Donnell Rally opens in Ballyshannon with glorious weather for a memorable occasion. It was attended by Mr. Aiken, Minister of External Affairs, Count O’Donnell and The O’Donnell.

24-4-54 Ballyshannon Notes. The town was gaily decorated with flags and bunting during the Easter weekend. This was to celebrate the opening of An Tostal and the O’Donnell Clan Rally. The Power House was illuminated with bright yellow lights, and viewed from the bridge, was an inspiring sight.

1-5-54 On Friday morning when travelling to her place of employment at Waterfoot, Pettigo, Miss Maggie Mc Caffrey, Mullinagoad, heard a fox barking and on investigation found a young fox which she promptly killed with a stick from the roadside.

1-5-54 Tievemore Post Office was on Thursday officially opened as a telephone call office.

1-5-54 The cuckoo was heard for the first time in the Pettigo area during the weekend, and also the corncrake, which is late compared with previous years.

1-5-54 The “Robe” at the Regal Cinema, Enniskillen. Enniskillen is this week enjoying its most stupendous cinematic treat. And when I say “stupendous” I know I am employing one of the superlatives that Hollywood blurbs have largely made meaningless. But using it with a due sense of proportion, one can only say of the magnificent drama, “The Robe” brought to the Regal, Enniskillen this week, in the new screen medium, cinemascope, that it is a stupendous achievement. Many feel that a wonderful religious performance like “The Robe” should finish only with a suitable religious air at the conclusion. There are three performances daily – Balcony 2/-, stalls 1/-.

1-5-54 In the Junior League Derrygonnelly defeated Devenish by 3-3 to 1-2. Devenish had a grand full back in J. Mulrone, who gave a sound display while others to impress were P. Keown, R, Mc Dermott and J. Treacy.

8-5-54 Enniskillen Unionist majority on the Town Improvements Committee which has Council powers in the allocation of houses voted to give four new Council houses in Derrychara to Protestants. This makes a total of 77 houses let at Derrychara, all to Protestants. There are 18 left to be let.

8-5-54 On Wednesday morning the wedding took place at St. Patrick’s Church Belleek of Mr. George Johnston, Pettigo and Miss Molly Monaghan, daughter of Mr and Mrs Edward Monaghan, Aghafoy, Pettigo. Mr. Edward Monaghan, brother of the bride was best man and Miss Mona Flood, “The Hotel” Pettigo was bridesmaid. Afterwards the happy couple set off for Bundoran for their honeymoon.

8-5-54 The wedding took place of Mr. John J. McGurl, Farrancassidy and Miss Maureen Doogan, Corry, Belleek.

8-5-54 The death is reported of Mr. John Dolan, Drumnasrene who was one of the most respected residents of Devenish Parish.

15-5-54 Ballyshannon’s new GAA Park opens with a Donegal win over Armagh in a challenge game.

5-6-54  The death is announced of Mr. James Maguire, Seemuldoon, building contractor, responsible for the erection (and of the design) of many fine schools, halls, churches and buildings. He had erected the curates house and Ederney Hall in his own parish.

5-6-54 A 22 mile dash by Enniskillen fire brigade saved the world-famous Belleek Pottery from possible destruction on Sunday. They reached Belleek in a record time of half an hour. Workmen and others, including police under Sergeant John Mc Michael, formed a bucket chain which confined the flames to a limited area of the kiln polishing room where the outbreak started. Fire fighting units from Ballyshannon also attended the blaze and Customs formalities were waived as they crossed the Border.

12-6-54 By attaching a wooden frame behind his motorbike, Mr. John O’Connor, Mulleek, was able to “top” two acres of potato drills in a few hours. When done by hand this usually took several days. Miss Rita Dolan, a nurse, of Killybig, Garison, was fined £2 for allowing a juvenile to drive her car without being properly licensed, and covered by the insurance, and she was disqualified for driving for a year. The RM suggested an early application be made to the court for the removal of the disqualification on Miss Dolan.

19-6-54  Daring Raid on Armagh military barracks. Fifteen khaki-clad men seize 700 guns from the Armory. Officers held up at pistol point.

19-6-54 For the second time in a fortnight the River Erne between Belleek and Roscor will be drained of all water.

19-6-54  Juvenile Football League. Ederney’s Grand Win over Gaels by 4-13 to 1-1. Ederney proved to be far too good for Gaels Juveniles. It was a pleasure to watch the Ederney team and especially their grand nippy forwards with their well-worked and constructive moves, and their beautiful finishing. Practice, training and constructive coaching were apparent in every movement. All were splendid but M. Maguire, Joe Turner, J. Moohan and especially A. Mc Grath, a grand little player with a great “pick-up” and a delightful body swerve merit special mention. J Wylie, N. McClurg, H. Herbert, V. Henderson and Nolan in goals were best for Gaels.

19-6-54  Mr E. Thompson, Castle Caldwell had a narrow escape from injury when, swerving to avoid an auto-cyclist, his car mounted a ditch and overturned. After treatment for injuries he was able to resume his journey in a friend’s car.

19-6-54 Senior Football Championship. Enniskillen Gaels qualified for the Divisional Final with a narrow victory over Ederney by 4-2 to 3-4. Best for Ederney were Jim Eves, B. Sheridan, B. Mc Hugh and the McKervey brothers. The stewards had the excellent idea of clearing the goal lines before the game started, thus leaving the two umpires at each goals free to carry out their duties more efficiently. Referee Mr. Bill Thompson.

26-6-54 In the league Irvinestown 1-4, Belleek 1-4. Best for the home team were O’Hanlon, Charlton, McGrory, Lennon (Joe who played for Down) Mahon, Maguire and Hegarty. The visitors were well served by McCann, Gonigle, Rooney, and Tinney. The match was refereed by Fr. Tom Marron, Ederney.

26-6-54  On next Sunday, June 27th, Pettigo village will be en fete for the annual Memorial celebrations which it is hoped will be a success. There will be a fancy dress parade led by Ederney and Irvinestown Bands to the new Memorial Park, where many football teams will compete for the Memorial Cup.

26-6-54 Irvinestown mid-week Tournament, 13-a-side for wristlet watches valued at £120 at St., Molaise Park, Irvinestown. Fixtures include Pettigo V Derrygonnelly Thursday 24th June and Trillick V Ederney Thursday 22nd July.

1845 – The Famine etc from the Ballyshannon Herald.

The Ballyshannon Herald. 1845-1850. John B. Cunningham.

The student of local history is often drawn to local newspapers in his search for historical material. This search, however, is more often than not rather unrewarding as the nature of local newspapers in the past was very different from today. Nowadays a local newspaper concerns itself with the events of the newspaper’s circulation area and rarely does a national issue get much coverage and still less an international issue or event, unless it has some local involvement. In the middle of the nineteenth century the local newspaper had a completely different concept of its role. The vast majority of what the newspaper printed concerned national and international issues; accounts of wars in remote parts of the world, disasters on land or sea, famous murders, murder trials and executions and social events and royal visits. Around 90% of the newspaper was taken up in this fashion and local events had to creep into little two or three inch columns and were seldom given a heading. It follows therefore that searching for snippets of local history in this type of newspaper is a very time-consuming, laborious process, involving great concentration and patience and inevitable eyestrain. However, the temptation is always too much for the nuggets of information that can be procured are invariably worth the effort.

This article is an account of the local information obtained from the Ballyshannon Herald between 1845 and 1850 and it was undertaken principally to garner information on the effects of the Great Famine in the counties and towns adjacent to Ballyshannon in this period. Other newsworthy items were also included, however, and what follows is a cross-section of the life and times of this area while the Great Famine raged through the land.

The Ballyshannon Herald was published and printed in Ballyshannon between 1831 and 1884 while in the ownership of the Trimble family. It sold at the sizeable price of four pence per issue, sixteen shillings per annum and at this price could only be afforded by the wealthy. This readership obviously influenced the editorial policy and the paper in present day parlance would be described as rigidly Establishment-orientated. It is through its eyes that we see this period. While absorbing the facts it reports we don’t necessarily have to embrace its conclusions.

1845. We begin with the issue of January 3rd. 1845 which carried an account of a kidnap attempt upon a girl of fourteen in Ballyshannon. She had been seized by two men who struck a plaster over her face and tried to abduct her, but however failed to carry her away. It was alleged that the men were trying to “Burke” her, i.e. after the notorious Burke and Hare, suppliers of corpses to aspiring surgeons. The town was in uproar and a man who lived near the Abbey graveyard said that he had heard muffled cartwheels going past in the night. He didn’t investigate as he thought that it was the “dead cart” going past carrying spirits from one house to another and so he blessed himself and remained indoors. There were rumours of graves at the Abbey being disturbed. The same issue noted the arrival in the port of Ballyshannon of the Dispatch and Sarah from Liverpool and the Steward from Bangor. Men from Irvinestown were in town selling hens and eggs to be exported to England (a very early reference to a practice which continued until recent times). The March 21st issue tells of Margaret Eves sentenced to six months hard labour at Enniskillen Assizes for stealing oats. This is one of the many major sentences which we will see for trivial offences. (Ed. an Eves relative of my own)

March 28th tells of Garrison Races and of a “Common Play” on Tullan Strand; (The word “Common” is an anglecised form of camán, meaning the Irish game of hurling). There were nearly 300 players on each side and some 2,000 spectators. The paper thought it worthwhile to write down that no riot occurred and that the strand was cleared by 6.00 p.m. This same issue has an account of a major drowning tragedy when a sailing cot was upset on Lough Erne and six people perished. The men were on their way with a load of turf to an island to do some illicit distilling and were named as William Beaty, John Burnside, Thomas Horan, Christopher Foster, John Foster and William Farrell. They were travelling in a Lough Erne cot when their boat struck a rock.

June 27th:— A new R.C. Church was being built at Ballintra and a large stack of turf was on the site with which to burn lime. A man called Travers was set to guard the stack (as turf was being stolen in the night) and a man called Magee was found in the act, but however, escaped. The following day  Travers went to apprehend Magee and had his arm severed when Magee resisted with a scythe. The countryside rose in pursuit of Magee. During the pursuit a man called Stafford who was “weakminded”, took a gun from Mr. Colville’s house. Colville pursued Stafford who turned and fired at him and fortunately the gun missed fire and Stafford continued to run. Sergeant Jeffers of Ballintra saw this occurrence and he began a pursuit of Stafford who turned again and fired wounding the Sergeant in the thigh. The policeman however caught his man and held him until help arrived, but shortly afterwards the sergeant died. The sergeant left a wife and eight children. Travers’s life was also being despaired of and Magee was still at large.

The old fortifications at Belleek (Belleek Fort) were being investigated by Col. C.B. Lewis of the Royal Engineers and his staff with a view to restoring them so that they could once again hold troops. The paper said this was because of the great amount of civilian disturbance in Fermanagh.

July 4th:— The 38th Regiment of Foot is stationed in Ballyshannon in the Old Artillery Fort on the Rock and it is hoped that a new barracks will soon be built. The present barracks can only hold one hundred and fifty men. The famous Mr. Robert Stephenson, of railway construction fame, had just finished his map and estimate for a railway from Ballyshannon to Belleek. (This is a mention of a very long running saga of canal versus railway to connect the Erne river system to the sea. Canal proposals had begun as early as the latter half of the eighteenth century and some sections had even begun. Now the railway was competing for the task of circumventing the last four miles of the Erne, which because they could not be navigated, deprived the Erne of direct sea communication). Unrest was spreading in the locality and nightly meetings of the peasantry were reported in the vicinity of the town, i.e. Ballyshannon and a large picquet of soldiers nightly scoured the countryside for some miles around. Following on from the events of the previous issue Sergeant Jeffers was buried and Magee, the fugitive, was arrested by Sergeant Maglade of Ballintra. Hundreds of people crowded into Ballintra to see the arrested man in “disgraceful scenes of triumph at the arrest”, and despite the doubts, the injured Travers was mending.

July 11th reports the arrival of a detachment of the 5th Fusiliers in Belleek under Captain Spencer and Lieutenant Hamilton and the soldiers were billeted in the Market House and in Rose Isle House. (This latter building has now vanished under the foundations of the present Belleek Pottery and had been built circa 1750 for the Dowager Lady Caldwell).

August 15th saw the publication of the prospectus of the rival railway companies, the Lough Erne and Ballyshannon Junction Railway and the Dublin and Enniskillen Railway. August 29th issue had notice of a reward of £1000 for any information regarding Molly Maguires or Ribbonmen subversives in Fermanagh. Information could be given to any Resident Magistrate. September 12th reported on ships arriving at Ballyshannon and also gave the cargoes and ships’ masters. These are all ships that have arrived and since they can hardly have come all at the one time it must be a record of ships over the previous month or more.

Ship                                              Master                               Cargo

The Gote Bothe                          George Matzy                      Timber

The Victory                                  David George                      Slates

The Venerable of Barmouth        James Jones                        Slates

The Ardent of Whitby                 Zachariah Fletcher        Coal and grindstones.

The Henry Volant of Ballyshannon                    Scotch bar iron, coal, castings.

The Jessey                                John Morrison    Oak staves, coarse and salt butter.

The Sarah of Ramsey              William McKinnon General cargo, plates, glass,

tarpitch, oakum and cordage.

Ships expected were – The Birman                                 James Cann       Deal, battens.

The Tafvale                                                           Bar iron, tin plate.

The Fearnot                          Mahogany, firebrick and windows, glass, salt and butter.


September 26th gives the first mention of blight when it tells its readers of reported potato crop failure in England. Locally it comments upon the abundance of herring this year and that prospects for the harvest look good, although some, the paper said, did complain of a partial disease. This minor notice heralded the beginnings of the famine in the Ballyshannon area and it was soon to be followed on November 7th by a report which regretted that a great rot had set in among the potatoes, even those that had been carefully stored. Unrest in the area was still prevalent and £100 reward was being offered for the assassin who had made an attempt upon the life of Mr. F. W. Barton J.P., who had been on his way home to Clonelly near Pettigo when he had been shot and wounded. More is to follow this story in the New Year and much more on the famine now poised to strike.

From the Broads to the Lakelands – English Plantation in Fermanagh in the early 17th century..

From the Broads to the Lakelands – English Plantation in Fermanagh.

 To give a very simplified mental picture of the Plantation of Fermanagh one has to visualise Fermanagh as a rectangle with Lough Erne running from east to west through the centre of the county. South of this east west line are three of the seven Baronies of Fermanagh with the most easterly and the most westerly namely Knockninny and Magheraboy were  granted to Scottish settlers and the central one partly to Irish and partly to English. On the northern side of the Erne the two Baronies on either end of Fermanagh were granted to English settlers and the two central largely to Irish natives other than around Enniskillen which was to be the new centre of the county of Fermanagh.

The south eastern barony originally granted to Scots from around the Edinburgh collapsed with the first ten years of the Plantation so that of the 9000 acres granted to them Sir Stephen Butler, an Englishman from Bedfordshire had purchased 8000 of these acres rendering this Barony therefore English rather than Scottish nearly straight away. So now the English had almost four of the seven Baronies of Fermanagh and had them in the most strategic places in the county – in the west next to the sea at Ballyshannon, in the centre about Enniskillen and in the east close to the entrance to the Upper Erne.

Most of the English who arrived in Fermanagh came from the area of East Anglia generally as Undertakers – those who undertook to carry our various conditions such as the building of a castle and bawn enclosure and the building of a church. To do this they had to have a certain high level of income (self assessed but) to build and to attract with them from England sufficient quality settlers to labour and farm and occupy the territory granted. Most of the servitors who got land in Fermanagh were also English. In Clinawley Barony, Sir John Davies, Attorney General 1,500 in the rich wheat bearing district around Lisgoole Abbey and reaching towards Enniskillen. Samuel Harrison, English 500 acres and Peter Mostyn, from Flintshire 246 acres.

The Barony of Coole and Tirkeneda Barony contained 116,006 acres almost entirely occupied by 9 undertakers, four of whom were servitors. These were Sir Henry Ffolliott, Baron Folliott of Ballyshannon, 1,500 acres, Roger Attkinson, 1,000 acres,  William Cole, reputedly from Devon 1,000 acres, and Paul Goore, son of a merchant-tailor of London, who had 1348 acres called the Manor of Inishmore.

In this short talk I am trying to explore why these English people were coming to Ireland when at the same time their neighbours, particularly in East Anglia were making America their plantation destination choice. Why Fermanagh rather than Jamestown in America, named after King James 1st? Most of the inhabitants of America’s first permanent English settlement came from Norfolk, England, including Samuel Lincoln, a forefather of President Abraham Lincoln. These are very fully documented in contrast to plantation and migration to Ireland e.g. from the Jamestown Original Settlers and Occupations – May 13, 1607 we even have the labourers recorded John Laydon, William Cassen, George Cassen, Thomas Cassen, William Rods, William White, Ould Edward, Henry Tavin, George Golding, John Dods, William Johnson, William Unger.

Firstly I think that at this stage in history the English had gained a lot of knowledge about this part of Ireland while relatively little was known of the Americas. Quite a few events of the Nine Years War had taken place in and around the Erne. In 1597 the English were defeated at Ballyshannon and then there had been a major siege of Enniskillen Castle in 1594. The island was captured by the English in 1607 and Ballyshannon had received a Royal Charter in 1613. So those who had served in the English army in Ireland and who as English Servitors wanted to be rewarded with Irish lands knew Fermanagh well and liked what they saw.

Sir John Davies, chief architect of the Plantation wrote after visiting Fermanagh, “ Have now finished in Fermanagh, which is so pleasant and fruitful a country that if he should make a full description thereof it would rather be taken for a poetical fiction, than for a true and serious narration. The fresh lake called Lough Erne being more than 40 miles in length, and abounding in fresh water fish of all kinds, and containing 100 dispersed islands, divides that county into two parts; the land on either side of the lough rising in little hills of 80 or 100 acres apiece, is the fattest and richest soil in all Ulster.

He goes on to suggest planting Dutch people in Fermanagh also led by a Dutch merchant called Maximilian van der Lever, who, by their industry the lake will be so full of boats and barks, that they will be a great strength to all the civil inhabitants round about.”

The Dutch interest in Fermanagh came to nought but it too had an origin in East Anglia. For centuries there had been huge commercial links between the Low Countries and this part of England. Dutch Protestant refugees fleeing Spanish Catholic persecution in their own country were getting refuge in East Anglia much to the annoyance of the Spanish. When the English upbraided the Spanish for giving refuge to the Irish Earls who fled there they responded in turn by pointing out England’s acceptance of Dutch refugees.

Such was the English interest in Fermanagh that they actually petitioned to plant the entire county themselves. The names of 40 gentlemen are recorded who offer to bestow £40,000 on the plantation of Fermanagh as they intend to have a market town on the south side thereof at Bellike, and from thence, three miles nearer the sea, to erect a strong corporation at Ballyshannon. They intended to erect 40 manors, if they are granted  60,000 acres, the Loughe, Islands therein, Fishings, and the sole command thereof and they with followers, not less than 1000 men well furnished for all kind of handiwork.”  Of those 40 listed 22 came from Norfolk and Suffolk and the rest from adjoining counties, London or were already in Ireland, presumably with contacts to the same area.

In the Precinct of Lurg and Coolemakarnan in northwest Fermanagh 9000 acres were allocated mainly to men of Norfolk and Suffolk. 1000 acres each to Thomas Flowerdewe, John Archdale, Suffolk, Edward Warde, Thomas Barton, Norfolk and Henry Honynge, Suffolk. John Archdale was related through marriage to the Honynge family having married Francis Hoynynge. The last two were portions of  2000 acres each to Thomas Blenerhassett, Esq., Norfolk and Sir Edward Blenerhassett of the same place. . The Blennerhassetts built what is now known as Crevenish Castle, near Kesh, which they called Castlehasset and established English workmen and tenants about them which they brought from their home near Norwich, in the county of Norfolk in the  East Anglia region of England.

Before becoming established in East Anglia the Blennerhassetts had lived in a village of the same name in Cumberland about twenty miles to the south-west of the city of Carlisle. The village of Blennerhassett today consists of a pub, post office and a village school with a small scattering of houses. So previous generations of the family who had lived on the Cumbrian coast just a short distance from Ulster also had a familiarity with Ireland which included the Blennerhassetts who had set themselves up in County Kerry area shortly before around Blennerville where they are still to be found today. These large of land had come from Queen Elizabeth 1 when the Earl of Desmond’s Estates were forfeited and so the family had a familiarity with the idea of Plantations before they ever came to Fermanagh.

Thomas Blennerhassett’s career before coming to Ireland included being Captain of Guernsey Castle. He was a literary man and wrote several books including, a book entitled, “Directions for the Plantation of Ulster.” He also issued a proclamation as a form of advertising to encourage others in the task of bringing “civilization” to Ireland. In part it reads,

“The County of Fermanagh, sometimes Maguire’s County rejoice. Many undertakers, all incorporated in mind as one, they, there with their followers, seek and are desirous to settle themselves. The islands of Lough Erne shall have habitations, a fortified corporation, market towns and many new erected manors, shall now so beautify her desolation that her inaccessible woods, with spaces made tractable, shall no longer nourish devourers, but by the sweet society of a loving neighbourhood, shall entertain humanity even in the best fashion. Go on worthy Gentlemen, fear not, the God of Heaven will assist and protect you.”

Thomas Blennerhassett has with him six persons, one a joiner, another a carpenter, and three other workmen with one tenant. He has built a boat, and has broken stones for lime and some burnt; and thirty trees felled; some squared and sawed; a fair large Irish house, with windows and rooms after the English manner, wherein is a new kitchen with a stone chimney and an oven. For cattle three horses, a mare and some thirteen head of other cattle.

There were two chief ways of generating wealth in Fermanagh in this early period of the Plantation; smelting low grade iron ore and the making of barrel staves. Both Blennerhassetts built iron works at Clonelly and Hassetts Fort which is now Castle Caldwell near Belleek while there was another nearby at Garrison. Boates indicates-woodcutters were needed, sawyers to saw, carpenters, masons, smiths, bellow makers, water leaders or water-course keepers to steer the water course, bucket makers to make containers for carrying ore and other materials, diggers of ore, carriers of ore, colliers to make charcoal, fillers to put ore and charcoal into the furnace, furnace keepers, firers and hammerers to look after the smelted iron and labourers to look after anything else:

“and for all this, the owners there of did greatly gain thereby, ordinarily not less than forty in the hundred per annum” ,” Iron works were a very profitable if highly destructive industry. Most of the Fermanagh produced iron being exported via Ballyshannon at £11 per ton and fetching £17 per ton in London.” In those days the favourite objects of solicitude were the manufacture of pipe-staves, and the development of the iron-works which were then supposed to be the true El Dorado of Irish enterprise—most people holding with Bacon that ‘Iron is a brave commodity where wood aboundeth.’ Both industries depended for their success upon the woods, which were accordingly drawn upon regardless of the consequences. From Munster whole shiploads of pipe-staves were exported, to the great profit of the proprietors and the great destruction of the woods; and Boate says, in his  Ireland’s Naturall History, “it is incredible what quantity of charcoal is consumed by one iron-work in a year.’’ These enterprises were carried on at a terrible price to the Irish landscape. This wholescale deforestation began the process which has resulted in Ireland being one of the least forested countries of Europe with only about 9% of the country covered in trees while for example France is about 40% afforested.

In summary therefore the vast majority of Fermanagh was planted by either English undertakers or servitors many of whom had an intimate knowledge of the area from their military experience or previous contact as planters in Ireland. They knew with plentiful forest they could make money from smelting iron or converting the forests into usable timber particularly barrel staves. They brought in numerous English settlers whose names are still found in the county, Barton, Archdale, Allingham, Cole, Chittick, Eves and there is even a solitary Blennerhassett. Fermanagh history needs to be rewritten to take account of this English aspect of its heritage.

I have been in East Anglia numerous times and in its libraries and public record offices and the amazing thing is that there is no record whatsoever of people from East Anglia coming to Fermanagh. There are ships lists of those going to Jamestown, down to the least commoner but a total amnesia about plantation families going to Ireland. Perhaps the overwhelming fame of America has totally eclipsed the memory of those who went to Ireland but this is a remarkable fact.

My particular interest in the plantation period concerns name of Eves, an East Anglian name from Old English meaning a dweller beside a forest. Three of that name came to Fermanagh with the Archdales as ploughmen. An Eleanor Eves is noted in the 1821 Census fragment for County Fermanagh as a lady’s maid to the wife of General Archdale. Unusually perhaps the Eves family remained Roman Catholic despite being closely allied and working for the landed Archdales who were Church of Ireland. It has been noted in the predominantly Protestant Kesh area that through the centuries the Eves could purchase any property in the locality despite their religion in a largely Protestant neighbourhood – presumably under the benevolent wing of the Archdales and they also were the operators of one of the first Post Offices in the village of Kesh. As one might say old family links from the Broads of East Anglia were maintained in the Lakelands of County Fermanagh.

JBC 7-11-2008.

Ballyshannon Herald 1847.



January 1st, 1847, This issue contains a classic tale of drama in this famine stricken countryside. On Christmas Eve a schooner lay at anchor just inside the Bar of Ballyshannon Harbour. The Bar is a high sandy ridge about four miles downstream of the town which constantly tries to block the river’s exit to the Atlantic. The ship was waiting here for a favourable tide or wind and was bound for Liverpool with a cargo of bacon and lard. She had been chartered by Mr, Edward Chism of Ballyshannon. (Food was being constantly exported from the country during the famine). A boat of Mr.Wade’s, carrying men who said they were salt-makers from the Ballyshannon salt works, pulled alongside. (Salt-workers would have been making their way out to the sea to fill barrels of salt water for evaporating on their salt-pans).


Some asked to come on board to light their pipes and then, suddenly, produced pistols. These pirates then stole a large quantity of bacon and lard from the ship after overpowering the crew, The men made off with as much as possible and no doubt an unexpectedly happy Christmas was had by many. The police and soldiers were alerted and found some of the booty buried in the sand dunes on the following day. Later three people were arrested and the newspaper says that scarce a night passes without a robbery in the town or vicinity.


January 8th, 1847, There is great distress in the Ballyshannon area. One man died just after being admitted to the Ballyshannon Workhouse. People will not look for aid until the last moment. The dead from the famine are not being buried properly in the Abbey Graveyard Ballyshannon as there is too little depth of clay, A man on his way from Ballyshannon to Donegal heard the sound of lamentation from a house and found a girl of sixteen dying there and her parents trying to keep her warm. In the tradition of the good Samaritan he gave money for food but it was too late and the girl died soon after.


January 22nd, 1847, From Fermanagh is is reported that the Rev Grey Porter of Lisbellaw has imported 150 tons of Indian meal on the ship ” Peru”, The grain had cost him £10-10s-6p per ton and inclusive of carriage to his tenants he hoped to sell it at a cost price of less than £12 per ton. This compared with current prices of £24- 10s-0 for Indian meal and £30 for oaten meal.


In a continuation of the saga of the Christmas Eve piracy on the Erne, James Currie, was tried for receiving a ham knowing it to be stolen. The ship’s name is now given as the “Confidence” and it’s master as Joseph Davidson. Nine bales of bacon had been stolen and several hogsheads of ham. Sub-Constable Davis had arrested Currie on Christmas day in Ballyshannon carrying the ham. Currie said that he had found it in a hole in the sand dunes. He was found guilty with a recommendation for mercy and was sentenced to 9 months hard labour.


April 30th, 1847. There is a great fever sweeping Fermanagh. It is most common in the countryside and arises largely from the people who have left or been sent out of the Workhouse. These have gone home and infected their friends or relations who have generously but fatally taken them in.


May 14th, 1847, The deaths around Clones Co., Monaghan are said to be “inconceivably great” and in Enniskillen the poor and starving had rushed the meeting of the Board of Guardians meeting and had to be admitted. Col., Connolly has given his tenants 8 tons of rice free and also given free turnip seed. William and John Tredenick have reduced their rents by between 40% and 50%. These were local landlords in the Belleek-Ballyshannon area.


In the Lowtherstown or Irvinestown Poor Law Area there are 9 Electoral Areas and 5,008 people receiving free rations and 407 persons paying for them.


September 17th, 1847, No rot can be seen in the potatoes so far this year but a great famine rages around Enniskillen.


October 1st, 1847, The forcible dissolution of the Lowtherstown [Irvinestown] Poor Law Union is reported. The immediate cause was the raising of the Roman Catholic chaplain’s salary. In the row that followed the Protestant Chaplain’s salary was also raised. Further rows caused the dismissal of the Master of the Workhouse and then the Board of Guardians of the Workhouse were themselves dismissed.

[ This is the newspaper version of the dismissal of the Irvinestown P.L.U. but in fact there were much more serious reasons why the Union was dissolved by the Government and a Commissioner appointed in their place. The Guardians failed to levy anywhere near a sufficient rate to enable the starving population of the area to survive. The famine here was therefore far more severe than it might have been and the Irvinestown Workhouse possibly the worst run in the country.An Inspector who visited the Lowtherstown Workhouse reported that he had found people almost naked, lying dying on the floor, in their own vomit and excrement. He said that it was the worst Workhouse that he had ever visited.]


April 7th, 1847. John Smith was elected Dispensary doctor for Pettigo and hundreds crowded into the town to congratulate him. A celebratory meeting was later held in Hazlett Hamilton’s Hotel [later Egan’s Cosy Bar]


December 8th, 1847, This tragic story concerns the freezing to death of two lost children on a mountain near Lettercran,about five miles from Pettigo. “On Friday last, James Mc Grath of Scraghv Mountain had gone to Pettigo with his daughter of fifteen and boy of twelve. Their father had to stay in Pettigo for the night and the children went home on their own across the mountain. A storm came and the children died of exposure. The boy had his shoes and socks off, possibly to walk more quickly. The children were found the next day with the girl’s heavy flannel petticoat wrapped around the boy’s feet and the girl lying with her arm around the boy’s head. It seems that the boy was overpowered first and the girl was trying to preserve him at the risk of her own life.”


This tragic story is preserved in the folklore of the Pettigo area, but not quite in the form, as the newspaper reports it. The local story is that the girl, Peggy Mc Grath, was seventeen years old and had a boyfriend. Her father strongly disapproved of him and had absolutely forbidden her to have anything to do with him or even pass his house. An old woman, Mrs Rose Haughey of Meenclogher, who lived near where the children perished and who died at the age of 106 on April 12th 1936 gave her account of the events in a newspaper article, later reprinted in the Irish Independent, May 22nd 1968. She would have been 18 years old when the tragedy occurred. She said that Peggy and her boyfriend had run away but had been brought back and that the two children and their father had been in “Gearg Fair” i.e.Castlederg fair and not in Pettigo.


The children coming home would have had to pass the boyfriend’s house or cross the mountain and unfortunately they chose this as a blizzard sprang up. They died quite close to the house of an old woman who heard their diminishing cries for help through the night but was too infirm to be able to assist them. The children were buried in Lettercran graveyard with a headstone with an incomplete inscription. It began,”In loving memory….” and their father who had tried to carve the stone was unable to complete it.

Sadly the stone was destroyed in recent renovations to the graveyard. A little green hollow on a heather covered hillside in Carrigaholten Townland is still pointed out as the deathbed of the children. It is a remarkable story and so widely known at one time that it was carried in a school textbook under the title of “The Tragedy of Termon Mount.” The Termon River flows nearby. From this a generation of schoolchildren all over Ireland were familiar with the story.


Ballyshannon Herald 1846.


January 9th – 1846, Two Fitzpatrick brothers have been lodged in Enniskillen Jail on suspicion of the shooting of Mr, Barton J,P, One of them, James Fitzpatrick is now dead of fever in jail and the other protesting their innocence. The newspaper believes that they had always been thought to be loyal Protestants and according to them they just happened to be on the road when the shooting happened, [Whether guilty or not-being jailed in those times could be the equivalent of a death sentence].


January 23, 1846. In reference to the Barton shooting, two men named Burnside and a husband and wife named Irvine, were now in jail in connection with the crime.


March 6th, 1846. The famine gets a brief mention but only to say that people are flocking to a certain priest in County Cavan to fill bottles at a holy well. It is believed, by these people, that sprinkling their potatoes with this water will stop them rotting. [Despite the dearth of information in the paper about the famine it is obvious that it is raging locally and confirmation appears in the shape of recipes for cooking Indian Meal in the next issue. [Maize meal or Indian meal was detested by the Irish even though they were starving. Constitutions used to dealing with vast quantities of potatoes could not easily absorb this alien type of food. Potatoes for breakfast, dinner and supper was the usual diet of the poor and a labourer might eat up to nine pounds of potatoes per day.]


May 28th, 1846. A major disturbance is reported in Enniskillen because of a forestaller “was buying up potatoes to take them into Cavan, The people objected to the potatoes being sold out of the area and the potato sacks were slashed,[a forestaller was a type of profiteer who bought up local food for sale elsewhere].


July 24th, 1846, The trial is reported of those accused of the attempted murder of Folliott W. Barton, the Pettigo J,P. Robert Burnside was accused of the shooting and James and Margaret Irvine of harbouring the accused. Barton had been coming on horseback towards his house at Clonelly and had been shot at Crummer’s gate near Pettigo, He was wounded in the right breast but rode on to the house of John Chute where he obtained assistance. A witness, James Armstrong, gave evidence of seeing Burnside with a gun and following him to Irvine’s house where he overheard him tell about the shooting. Despite the apparent strength of this evidence the jury retired for an hour and a half and returned a verdict of not guilty.


August 21st, 1846, Despite the famine the social chit chat continues with the news that Coburn’s Hotel Ballyshannon is doing very well this season and that Bundoran and Donegal are packed with visitors. The only indication that all is not well appears in a statement that there were many outrages reported and that many people were being beaten up and robbed especially on the road between Ballyshannon and Donegal.


August 28th, 1846, There are complaints of a very scarce season and many disturbances in the locality, Employees of Messers Bradshaw of Donegal were beaten up near Pettigo after leaving coal to the Waterfoot Barton’s estate, Their assailants rushed out of the bog with blackened faces.


September 4th, 1846, There are more and more outrages being reported and men have been beaten up on the Pettigo-Laghey road.A man named Jenkins only saved his life by leaving his horse and cart and running away.


September 11th, 1846. Finally the gross tragedy of the famine forces it’s way into the the Ballyshannon Herald and there is a two and a half column report of a meeting in Donegal courthouse concerning the plight of the poor, The meeting craves loans and grants from the government to employ the poor of the badly affected baronies of Tyrhugh, Bannagh and Boylagh. There is also an advertisement on behalf of the Ballyshannon Destitute Sick Society which seeks help in alleviating the situation locally.


September 25th, 1846, This paper which has taken little or no interest in the appaling situation suddendly discovers the famine, “The poor of this town and vicinity are in a wretched state of destitution . . . . . potatoes are too dear at 6 pence to 8 pence per stone and not a plateful sound ……     Indian meal is now 1 shilling and 5 pence a peck . , . , How are they to live.? …. People are not able to raise enough money from working as the price of food is so high , . , A family [obviously not suffering from the famine] bought a ton of Indian meal in Sligo last week for £12 and could now make £15 profit on it if they wished …. A poor honest tradesman with 12 children is applying for aid .., No one in his house has eaten for forty eight hours … Something must be done. [It is hard to imagine the mentality of the newspaper which, without comment, suddenly finds a crisis of this dimension all round it.] A procession of the starving poor is held through Ballyshannon—they follow a man carrying a loaf speared on top of a pole.



Ballyshannon Herald 1845.


March 21st,- 1845 Margaret Eves is sentenced to six months hard labour at Enniskillen Assizes for stealing oats. This is one of many huge sentences to be seen in the newspapers at this time for trivial offences. (And an ancestor of mine.)

A major drowning has occurred on Lough Erne and six people have perished. The men were from Boa Island. They were on their way-in a sailing cot with a load of turf,- to another island to engage in illegal distilling when their boat overturned after striking a rock . They were named as,-William Beaty; John Burnside,- Thomas Horan,- Christopher Foster,- John Foster and William Farrell. All of the islands of Lough Erne were famous for illicit distilling but every secluded glen and hill had it’s stillhouse in which poteen was made.

 September 26th,- 1845.This issue gives the first mention of potato blight . It reports widespread potato crop failure in England, Locally it comments on the abundance of herring this year and. reports that the prospects for the harvest appear good although some complain of a partial disease. This is the first minor notice the great Irish Famine of 1845-1850.

November 7th – 1845. A great rot has set in among the potatoes, – even those that have been carefully stored. Unrest was still prevalent in the area an £100 was be inn offered as a reward for the apprehension of the assassin who had made an attempt on the life of Mr, W. F. Barton J.P. who had been shot and wounded near Pettigo.