In 1836, the Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette (Saturday 5th November), published a List of Cess (Rate) Payers in the Boyle area, including one John Duke of Clogher. John Duke and his wife, Mira (née Irwin), lived in Clogher House (now Moylurg House) for the next 16 years, during the worst years of the Great Irish Famine.

In 1837, Clogher is recorded as “the seat” of John Duke* (b. 1800), a “Gentleman tenant” of Viscount Lorton and a Magistrate for County Sligo, who lived there with his wife, Mira.  (Limerick Chronicle, Wednesday 22nd March 1837).

* Lewis erroneously recorded Clogher as the seat of J. Dick, Esq. instead of J. Duke Esq.

John Duke was the third of five sons born to Robert King Duke (1770–1836) – a Justice of the Peace, High Sheriff of Sligo (1801) and Deputy Governor of Sligo – who resided at Newpark House, Drumfin, Ballymote, in County Sligo, with his wife Anne (b. 1775). Anne was the daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Parke of Doonally House, Sligo. Lt-Col. Parke held 2,105 acres in Sligo in 1876 valued at £550 [roughly £62,200 in 2020]. 

The Duke family was descended from an earlier John Duke, who had arrived in County Sligo with Oliver Cromwell and was granted land at Kilcreevin in 1662. In 1837, Lewis records Kilcreevin House as being the seat of Jemmet Duke, John Duke of Moylurg’s brother. 

John Duke’s wife, Mira (1808–92), was the third daughter of John Irwin (1762–1842) of Camlin House, Ballinameen, County Roscommon. Her mother was his second wife, Elizabeth O'Malley (1770-1840), a direct descendent of the legendary Irish pirate queen, Grace O'Malley (1530–1603). 

In 1839, Tithe Applotment Records for Clogher House confirmed John Duke as occupier and valued the tithe payable by his house at £31 [around £3,200 in 2020]. The tithe was an unpopular tax – generally one-tenth of earnings – demanded from each occupier of land, regardless of his religion, to support the Protestant Church of Ireland clergy.

John Duke sat on the Boyle Union Board of Guardians before and during the Great Irish Famine, alongside his neighbour, Guy Lloyd of Croghan House. 

In 1841, immediately before the Great Irish Famine, records show that there were 11 labourers’ cottages on Clogher townland, housing 13 families; comprising 39 males and 41 females. Most would have been leasing parcels of land from John Duke (who, in turn, was leasing it from the Rockingham Estate) and some would undoubtedly have been employed as farm workers, gardeners, stables and household staff. 

Moylurg School had been constructed c.1820 [most probably by Lord Lorton] for the children of the estate’s workers and this small building still stands, overlooking Clogher Lough, but is now a private residence.

On 28th May 1842, Mira Duke’s father, John Irwin of Fern Hill House and Camlin House, died aged 84. After a well-attended funeral, he was buried in the family vault at Eastersnow Church. (Source: Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette)

In July 1843, John Duke of Moylurg and Captain John Duckworth of Mount Erris were the Magistrates at Boyle Petty Sessions in the case of Minchin v Brennan, which “excited a considerable degree of interest among all classes” in the neighbourhood and led to the court being full to bursting at an early hour. Minchin was married to the sister of Lord Lorton’s under-Agent and the case involved the alleged theft of a cow. 

John Duke, J.P., was the Chairman of Boyle Board of Guardians in 1843, when an infamous case involving “Memorialists” was reported in returns from Boyle Union to the House of Commons. Also present were Captain John Duckworth, John Law Hackett, Captain Caleb Robertson and a Mr Frazer.

On Saturday 5th August 1843, the Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette carried an open letter from Lord Lorton’s tenants in Boyle and on the Rockingham estates in support of the peer, “in consequence of the calumnious attacks made on Lord Lorton”, who had been “maliciously defamed” as a “cruel” and “tyrannical landlord” in some quarters. One of the signatories was John Duke of Moylurg.

In 1844, the Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette (22nd June) reported the theft of three sheep and two pigs from Moylurg. It is not known if the “robbers” – potentially some starving people – were ever caught, despite John Duke offering a generous reward of £5 for information [roughly £625 in 2020].

In July 1844, a month after the sheep and pig rustling, the Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette (13th July) reported that John Duke of Moylurg attended the 4th Annual Meeting of the County of Roscommon Protestant Orphan Society in the Chapel of Ease, Boyle, set up “to maintain, clothe and educate 20 destitute Protestant orphans”. Founded in Dublin in 1828, the Protestant Orphan Society was meant to be “a social bridge that linked together, throughout the Church of Ireland, the humble poor and the wealthy and the great”. [Source: The Protestant Orphan Society and Its Social Significance in Ireland 1828-1940, by June Cooper]

John Duke of Moylurg was made one of the Managers and Trustees of Boyle Savings Bank in March 1845, along with several other members of the established local ‘Gentry’: Morgan Crofton* of Abbey View, Henry Fry Jnr of Frybrook, Caleb Robertson of Tangier, John Mulhall of Boyle, Guy Lloyd of Croghan, Owen Lloyd of Knockadoo, John Duckworth of Mount Erris and John Law Hackett** of Boyle. Lord Lorton was the Patron, President and Trustee of the bank – the only savings bank in the whole of Co. Roscommon at the time. The Trustees were responsible for managing the property and assets owned by the Trust for its beneficiaries. Many of the bank’s Trustees actually lived in properties leased from Lord Lorton’s estate.

In 1845, John Duke and Moylurg House merited a mention in the book, The History of Ireland, by the noted Irish historian John D’Alton: "At Moylurg, within the townland of Clogher, is the handsome seat of Mr Duke, one of Lord Lorton's tenants, adjoining which are discernible some massy traces of the stone ramparts and rounded angular towers of the ancient castle, once undoubtedly held by some members of the Mac Dermot sept; nature, however, has re-assumed her empire over the works of man,and the weed, and the sod, and the ivy, are thickly matted over the prostrate pile."

On Tuesday 27th January 1846, Saunders' Newsletter reported that a very large group of armed “Molly Maguires” had descended on the Boyle area. 

Moylurg was paid a visit by around 300 masked and armed Mollys one dark evening in January, which must have been a terrifying experience for the house's inhabitants:-

STATE OF THE COUNTRY [Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette – Saturday 24th January 1846]           

On Monday night last, upwards of 300 persons visited several farms in the vicinity of Croghan, (within or miles of this town) and turned such ground as they conceived should be given out as Con-acre. They turned a portion of a farm at Rusheens, held by F. Robertson, Esq., of this town, also part of the property of the following gentlemen; —John Duke, Esq., Moylurg; Charles Peyton, Esq., Keelogues; Arthur Irwin, Esq., Rushfield; Mr. James Shaw, and Mr. Acheson [of Cavetown], they fired several shots before their departure.

On 23rd May 1846, Arthur Irwin of Rushfield House, a neighbour of Moylurg House, was confronted by a gang of Molly Maguires as he was leaving Frenchpark Fair in his gig. Andrew Irwin and his neighbour, John Duke, who were travelling a little ahead of him in a separate gig, turned around and came to his aid. One of the attackers was reportedly drowned during the altercation. (Source: Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette)

In May 1849, Moylurg House was advertised for rent in the Irish and British press, along with 270 acres (Source: Norwich Mercury, Saturday 26th May 1849):-


For such terms as may be agreed on, the House, Offices and Garden, of Moylurg, beautifully and conveniently situated within three miles of Boyle, in the county of Roscommon, Ireland. Five of Carrick-on-Shannon and five of Elphin, all Market and Fair Towns. The house contains four Reception rooms, six Bedrooms, Closets, Servants’ Apartments, Store rooms, etc.

There is an excellent enclosed range of Offices attached; containing Stabling for several Horses, Cow House, Turf House, Barns and Lofting. The above to be Let, with any quantity of Ground, not exceeding 270 acres (Irish measure), being of the best fattening description, well-watered and divided. There are several beautiful Fishing Lakes immediately near. Address – Capt. Robertson, “Abbey View, Boyle, Ireland”.

John and Mira Duke left Moylurg for Dublin in 1852. The lease of Moylurg was acquired, following John Duke’s relinquishing of it, by the Boyle-based Methodist minister Rev. William Robinson.

On Tuesday 22nd June 1852, most of John Duke’s possessions from Moylurg, including “new, fashionable and elegantly kept furniture”, expensive Turkish and Belgian rugs, vehicles, horses, etc, were offered for public sale by James Ganly & Sons, Auctioneers.

John Duke died just two years later, on 26th April 1854, at his residence on Mespil Parade, Dublin, at the relatively young age of 54. He was buried at Mount Jerome Cemetery. Mira Duke survived her husband by 38 years. They had no children.

The inscription on their joint headstone reads:


To the Memory of  


of Moylurg, Co. Roscommon, Esq.

died 26th March 1854

aged 54

(illegible verse)

And of


His beloved Wife

Who departed this life

November 17th 1892 

“Looking unto Jesus”

Additional Information
Date of Birth 1st Jan 1800
Date of Death 26th Mar 1854
Associated Building (s) Moylurg House Croghan  
Spouse (First Name/s and Maiden/Surname) Mira (née Irwin)
Townland born Moylurg, Co. Roscommon, Esq

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