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County Leitrim - Native Irish and Landed Gentry

County Leitrim - Native Irish and Landed Gentry

Posted: 5 Jul 2000 12:00PM GMT
Classification: Biography
Edited: 22 Jun 2001 5:38PM GMT
Surnames: Maguire, Duke, Slacke, Hyde, Crofton, Lawder, Gore, Wilkinson
In Leitrim, all the landed gentry, such as the Slackes of Annadale lived in some style. Captain William Slacke acquired the property that once belonged to the Church in the townland and parish of Kiltubrid in 1699. Here on the monastic site, the main branch of the Slacke family was to reside for a many years. It encompassed the townlands of Kiltubrid, Drumhubrid, Corglass, Leitrim, Aughrim, and part of Drumcong. At one time it was approximately 500 acres in size, bordered by the Slieve an Iarainn mountain one side and the beautiful Lough Scur on the other; while mostly poor-quality land it was ideal for hunting and fishing. It is believed that Captain Slacke lived in a section of the old, well-built monastery and that Kiltubrid House was probably built in the early 1760s as a home for William Slacke, his grandson, and his young bride Angel Anna Slacke.

Captain William Slacke had married Susanna Crofton of Mohill and they had five children: Randal, Ebenzer, William, Susanna and Anne. Captain Slack died in 1729. It appears that his daughter, Susanna, and her husband, Lancelot Lawder, lived on the Kiltubrid property until the latter died circa 1754. They had no children. In 1763, Randal willed the property to his nephew Robert, son of his brother, William. But Robert died while still a child and so his sister, Angel Anna, inherited the property. She married her first cousin, William Slacke, in 1764, when she was just 16 years old and Kiltubrid House was renamed "Annadale" in her honour.

Angel Anna Slacke kept a diary at irregular intervals between 1785 and 1796, and some of her letters have survived. Her father died when she was seven so she spent much of her childhood with her cousin, the Countess of Roscommon, or with her uncle, James Wilkinson, who lived near Swords in Co. Dublin. She used her uncle's extensive library to educate herself and to develop a taste for the more serious authors. When in Dublin, she enjoyed the high life and the theaters. Over the years Annadale welcomed many visitors including William Gore, member of parliament for Leitrim who normally lived in Torkington in Wales but used Annadale as his base whenever he came to the county to canvass before election time.

The 1790s were difficult years for all the landed gentry of the county. Ireland was extremely disturbed, with the native Irish living in severe poverty and burdened with having to pay rent to the landlords, dues to priests and tithes to an Established Church to which they did not belong. As well, in 1793 it was widely believed that men would be torn away from their homes and families, forced to join the new militia and be transported to the Continent to fight England's wars. People were desperate and the "Defenders" was formed. The big houses were their first target and were raided regularly for arms. Poverty made them bold, and Mrs. Slacke wrote in her diary, "They gather in multitudes around us every night, with pipes and fifes they parade from our avenue to Lanty Slacke's bridge; their place of consultation is the Mass house. What they mean is yet a secret." She wrote, "I have heard the strokes of the hatchet from ten till two at night felling some of my husband's timber, some of which grew near the house, of which they formed handles for spears, pikes and forks.

Annadale House was raided several times for weapons. Years later, Angel Anna Slacke's granddaughter would write in her memoirs of those times, "Although flowers were beautiful and unusually plentiful, food was scarce, few crops had been put down in the spring and the poor misguided, ignorant people were in many places starving."

The poverty in Co. Leitrim worsened during the 1800s, mainly because of the alarming increase in the population. It is estimated that there were under 4,000 people in the parish of Kiltubrid in 1800, but by 1846 this had doubled, and in 1828 the parish priest, John Maguire, wrote to the Daniel O'Connell-lead Catholic Association pleading that the "people of this poor parish" were unable to pay the Catholic Rent.

In 1844, John Duke, a doctor based in Mohill, reported to the Devon Commission on the plight of the people: "They are not able to pay their rents, and they are lying naked and in such a state that it would hardly be believed. They have no bedstead, they are lying on a small quantity of straw, sometimes rushes; they have no covering over them, or one blanket among six. But I generally see one bed for the old couple and the rest of the family generally lie on the ground. It is lamentable to see their state, to which, above all other things, I attribute to the fever that prevails to a frightening extent. With respect to food it is never better than potatoes and milk in the summer, and in winter they have not the milk. Sometimes they get a herring and stirabout but latterly they have not been able to get that." Many families were driven from their homes.

Years earlier, in an after-Mass meeting in Annadale in 1795, one of the "Defenders" had told the people gathered there, "We have lived long enough on potatoes and salt, it is our turn now to eat beef and mutton," but 50 years later they were worse off than ever. In 1847, the Famine struck with full force. The potato crop of 1846 had failed due to blight. The people starved, many dying from hunger, typhus, fever and other diseases associated with malnutrition. Some went to the workhouses; others, who could, emigrated. The ambitious program to build a canal linking the Shannon and the Erne began in June, 1846, Lough Scur was to be the high point of the canal with water flowing in both directions from it. During the Famine, this project served as relief work, but many were too weak to work.

Indeed, there were those of the landed gentry who were distressed by the poverty around them and tried to help. Randal Thomas Slacke of Annadale, who had studied law, advised and represented his tenants and neighbors at the court sessions in Carrick-on-Shannon, Mohill, and Ballinamore and was generally sensitive to the plight of his tenants. Despite the fact that he was respected and had a good standing in the community, however, he did receive a letter from the suffering threatening him with the fate of Lord Leitrim if he didn't "dale fair" with them. (Lord Leitrim, one of the most notorious of the landlords, had been assassinated two years earlier and Randal Slacke gave five pounds at that time towards a reward for the conviction of his killers).

Randal Slacke and his wife Susan did play a full part in the life of the county. Mrs. Slacke donated produce for the Harvest Thanksgiving in Drumshanbo, attended meetings of the Orphan Society and helped at sales of work in Ballinamore, and her husband contributed to the memorial fund for Reverend A. Hyde, grandfather of Douglas Hyde. In July, 1883, Randal Slacke died and his wife outlived him by 20 years.

By the late 1880s, most of the big houses in the Kiltubrid area were vacant and their lands leased. Landlordism was on the decline but members of the Slacke family remained with an easy relationship with most of their tenants and neighbors and still enjoyed a good social and recreational life.

Re: County Leitrim - Native Irish and Landed Gentry

Posted: 20 Feb 2002 5:22PM GMT
Classification: Query
Jean: Where ever did you get this information on the landlords? here and elsewhere. Amazing. So good to hear a positive story on them. Thanks Jane

Re: County Leitrim - Native Irish and Landed Gentry

Posted: 20 Feb 2002 5:22PM GMT
Classification: Query
Surnames: leitrim landlors/slackes
Jean: Where ever did you get this information on the landlords? here and elsewhere. Amazing. So good to hear a positive story on them. Thanks Jane

Re: County Leitrim - Native Irish and Landed Gentry

Posted: 20 Feb 2002 8:46PM GMT
Classification: Query
Edited: 7 May 2002 8:51AM GMT
Hi Jane,

Excerpts mostly from Leland Lewis Duncan's, "The Face of Time, Photographs of County Leitrim, 1862-1923," text by Liam Kelly and foreword by author John McGahern, first published in 1995 by the Lilliput Press, Dublin (ISBN 1 874675 59 7), and what I have gleaned from issues of the yearly "Leitrim Guardian."

Leland Lewis Duncan was born in Lewisham, Kent, England, in 1862. His father was a civil servant. Duncan and his two younger sisters enjoyed a secure middle-class Victorian upbringing, and in 1882 he entered the War Office and rose through the ranks to be awarded an MVO and an OBE. He remained unmarried and became a keen amateur historian and photographer with close links to Ireland. His sister Carrie married an Irish first cousin, James Slacke, of Annadale, Co. Leitrim, and during the 1880s and 1890s Duncan spent many of his summer holidays there listening to stories and collecting folklore from the servants and tenants. He took a great many photographs between 1889 and 1894, and kept a scrapbook of notes. His subjects ranged from the big house (Annadale) to the interior of a mud cabin, from the well-dressed landlord's daughter to the impoverished peasant.

Through his camera lens he captured Mohill (said that the Croftons of Mohill and the Slackes were related), the Reverend Samuel Hoops with his long white beard who lived in Fenagh Rectory and had been a rector in Kiltubrid from 1869 to 1882, and his daughter, Miss Hoop's and her "smelly dog." There are two photographs of groups of workers (unnamed) drinking Guinness after the rick of hay was finished, the "straw-boy" dressed for the wedding party, an especially charming photo of old Mrs. Ward at her spinning wheel. Also captured were Ellen, Tom and John Ward, and the bare-footed postboy, Paddy Skinnion, Michael "Badger" Skinnion and his family (Michael worked on the building of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal between 1846 and 1859). .

There are marvelous photographs to include the blacksmith, Thomas Reilly, and his family, the Morans, the McManuses, the Duncans and Slackes and their guests F. Warrington and H. R. A. Robinson. Duncan took a photo of Ellen Egan, a "storehouse of folk-lore," John Greenan and his lovely daughters, photos Barney Whelan, Connor's pub at Drumcong, the interior of Foxfield church, the Arigna coalmine on the Roscommon/Leitrim border, the McCabes and Reynolds, the Ballinamore detachment of the Royal Irish Constabulary (1892), the tomb of the Peytons of Laheen, (another landed gentry family in the parish of Kiltubrid who are entombed at Fenagh Abbey), the narrow-gauge railroad which came so close to houses with thatched roofs that a spark from the steam engine occasionally started a fire!.

He mentions Father Tom Magauran (R.C. chapel, Ballinamore, 1892). Photos James Easterbrook and family, Thomas Conboy, Hughie Mahon, the herder's son. Shown are "an old retainer" Francis Mulvanerty (Bailie alias Blessington), Mikey Lynch and his sister Winnie who is wrapped in a blanket, and brother Johnny Lynch - what a wonderful image!

Duncan commented that he was shocked by the poverty around him, and said that when he attended the Church of Ireland parish church at Kiltubrid, built in 1785, "the service was alright except the singing was awful!"

He mentions that 50 years earlier the author Anthony Trollope arrived in Drumsna to try and improve local postal delivery services. Trollope wrote an autobiography, and while living in Drumsna in 1847, he began his first novel, "The Macdermots of Ballycloran," which he situated to the area.

Duncan's remarkable collection of over 100 photographs of both the gentry and their servants - the ruins and mud cabins, the Reynolds' castle, the home of the Winters family, "an Irish cottage of the best class" near Kiltubrid station, the old tools of the workmen, the interior of St. Bridgid's Church, Drumcong, Biddy Gallagher and her boys, Pat Beirne, the coachman at Annadale, Hugh Beirne and his horse (1892), the beautiful Moran children, the Kiltubrid parish rectory in Drumaweel built by aid of a loan of 530 pounds from the Board of First Fruits in 1825, little Michael McManus, William Knott, "an excellent horseman," a neighbour at Annadale, and Woods, the "village cobbler" - gives us a unique and intimate view of rural life in the northwest of Ireland during late-Victorian times.

Re: County Leitrim - Native Irish and Landed Gentry

Posted: 20 Feb 2002 9:19PM GMT
Classification: Query
Edited: 28 Apr 2002 1:22AM GMT
Surnames: Dolan
Thanks again. Soooo interesting. I read one on Manorhamilton. Found it in Boston Publ Library. Short but sweet. About the gentry also.

Re: County Leitrim - Native Irish and Landed Gentry

Posted: 25 Oct 2005 1:29PM GMT
Classification: Query
Surnames: Crofton, Slacke
Could you tell me who Susanna Crofton's father was?
I have several Susanna's but none who married into the Slacke Family. However, I do have a Randall Slacke who married Anne Crofton of Lakefield in 1754.
I also have George Crofton of Lakefield who married an Anne Slacke in 1731. George died in 1736 and they had one child named Mary Crofton.

Re: County Leitrim - Native Irish and Landed Gentry

Michael (View posts)
Posted: 27 Oct 2005 2:02AM GMT
Classification: Query
Hi;
I found some information on the name Crofton in Irish Pedigrees. It states;

John Crofton of Lisdurn, County Roscommon d. 16th Sept. 1637. He married Sarah daughter of Richard Maypowder, and had nine sons and five daughters:

1. Richard
2. William
3. John who married Mary daughter of Brent Moore
4. Colly, who married Maud, daughter of ____ Cadle of Cadlestown and had one son: James Crofton
5. Thomas
6. Edward
7. Joshua
8. Luke
9. Donald

The five daughters were:
1. Eliza
2. Margaret
3. Joan
4. Kath who married Joseph Ware
5. Sara

Richard, eldest son of John, married Anne, daughter of Sir Basil Brook and had two sons.
1. John
2. Richard

Then John Crofton, son of Richard.

There is some more information on Crofton's that may be of interest to you.

Michael

Re: County Leitrim - Native Irish and Landed Gentry

alexandra (View posts)
Posted: 27 Oct 2005 1:41PM GMT
Classification: Query
Surnames: Crofton
Thank you this is interesting. I had some of the information, but as you know alot of times there are missing links or in many cases, little is known of the women or other siblings other than the males or first born.
I am descended directly from the Lakefield Crofton's:
Richard Henry Crofton whom had a relationship with emily catherine brown and they had a child named "William Arthur Crofton-Atkins" Emily added the name "Atkins" as her mother's maiden name was "Atkins" William adopted this name affectionately.
William was born in England and was my ggGrandfather. I was raised in England until my early teens and then came to America. Everyone else returned to England with the exception of my uncle and his family.
Any and all information you have to offer is greatly appreciated.
Regards,
Alexandra Crofton-Atkins

Re: County Leitrim - Native Irish and Landed Gentry

Michael (View posts)
Posted: 28 Oct 2005 2:51AM GMT
Classification: Query
Hello Alexandra;
Where is Lakefield that your descendants come from?
I see some Croftons in Roscommon.
For example, the sister of Sarah Maypowder (who married John Crofton), Mary Maypowder married twice. Mary's second husband was a Crofton of Clonsillah, County Roscommon. It does not give his first name.

There is also a list of the members of the Irish Parliament of King James the Second in 1689. It lists a Henry Crofton, as a representative for the House of Commons from County Sligo.

Does this help fill in some information?

Sincerely
Michael Noonan

Re: County Leitrim - Native Irish and Landed Gentry

Jean Rice (View posts)
Posted: 28 Oct 2005 11:18PM GMT
Classification: Query
Surnames: Crofton
Evidently there is a Foxfield village by Ballinamore, in Co. Leitrim and there is a RC chapel there (per google search on Internet. There is an old photo of the interior of Foxfield church taken August 1892 by Leland Lewis Duncan of Lewisham, Kent, England, who had relatives in Co. Leitrim. His diary reads - In the afternoon we drdove to Foxfield and called on the priest who showed us the ancient bell of St. Caillin .. I photo'd the interior of the chapel. Father Skelly was very pleasant." This photo is only one of more than 100 in the excellent book "The Face of Time: Photographs of County Leitrim 1862-1923 by Leland Lewis Duncan, by Lilliput Press (1995), text by Liam Kelly, ISBN 1 874675 59 7.

By doing a Crofton Ireland "Google" search you get many good hits.

There is a Longford House in Co. Sligo which "has been home to the Crofton family for 400 years."

Apparently the blind harper Turlough O'Carolan composed a tune "Mrs. Crofton" for "Mrs. Crofton of Longford, name of her seat in the County of Sligo," per one. Another website said that the "Mrs. Crofton" in O'Carolan's tune was Elizabeth Robinson Crofton, wife of James Crofton, whose marriage took place circa 1732. You can actually hear this song at the website "Turlough O'Carolan - Music".

A "Sir Malby Crofton was garrisoned at Fort Oswego" and I failed to jot it down, but I believe he was the son of the couple mentioned above (?) He is mentioned in a website called "The Memoirs of Arthur O'Neill".



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