In 1857, Ryefield was recorded as a valuable 178-acre townland that had its own RC chapel and priest’s house “Ryefield Hut”. It can be found just north of Elphin (within a mile and a half of the town). ‘Ryefield’ is a direct translation of the townland’s original name ‘Runnateggal’. (Rinn a’ tSeagail = division/ field of the Rye
RYEFIELD HOUSE, ELPHIN
Ryefield became the seat of the Comyn (Ó Coimín aka Cummins) family as part of Cromwell’s resettlement of Catholics c.1650. During Penal times, the only legal means whereby a Catholic could obtain basic civil rights, was to take the Oath of Allegiance to the King and renounce their religion for that of the established Church of Ireland. In 1778, Andrew & Nicholas Comyn, Catholic farmers, residing at Ryefield, took the Oath. However, this was only after an Act was passed in 1774, permitting the King’s subjects, of any religion, to take the oath. By 1786, Andrew Comyn of Ryefield had become an absentee landord (when he married into a much larger estate in Ballinderry, Co. Galway). In 1808, he also had an address in Stafford St., Dublin.
Ryefield House and Demesne shared a boundary with the stately demesne of Lissadorn. “Demesnes” historically were the part of the manorial estate retained for its owner’s own use. Lissadorn was the seat of Lord Crofton, who also owned Canbo Castle. Ryefield Demense was once part of Lissadorn Demense. Throughout the early 19th Century, Ryefield House & Demesne was advertised ‘to let’ on numerous occasions. It wasn’t until the Dowds came in, circa 1852/3, that any other Catholic family name enjoyed an enduring association with the place.
In January 1808, the house, offices and demesne at Ryefield, with 60 acres of “best quality land, for feeding and meadow” with a lease “negotiable in terms of years or lives” was advertised to let by Andrew Comyn Esq. In 1825, it was advertised to let again “well planted and otherwise improved, with Turbary (for turf) annexed” by his son, Nicholas Comyn Esq (1787–1843). Ryefield also accommodated 10 small-holders in herd’s houses. [TA 1824]
From 1828 to 1831, Ryefield was rented by Thomas Wills Esq. In 1835 and 1836, “the house, offices and garden of Ryefield, with 60 acres of land of superior quality” was advertised 6 times, over the course of 12 months. Ryefield was described as a “desirable country residence” in an excellent neighbourhood and “a good sporting country” close to Elphin, Boyle and Strokestown “all Market and Post towns”. Nicholas had no luck finding a tenant, as by 1838[OS] it was occupied by his agent, John Cummins.
At the time of the Ordnance Survey of 1839 [FB], Ryefield House (valued at £15) was occupied by Joshua O’Reilly, who sat on the Grand Jury for Frenchpark until 1841[RJ]. Michael Butler also occupied a ‘house’ (value £4 18s) in Ryefield (see Butler of Tournareigh, Elphin).
During the famine, Ryefield’s small population of 59, seemed to sustain itself (growing to 62 by 1851). What we can see is that some major changes occurred; none of the family names on record there in 1824[TA] endured after the famine. From 1842 and through the Great Famine, Ryefield House was leased by landholder Christopher Kelly Taffe, Esq. of Foxborough. [Dublin Weekly Nation 17 Nov 1849] In October 1852, Taafe died, age 45, and it was around this time that John Dowd of Croghan (1791–1868) came in to Ryefield. By 1857[GV] Ryefield was shared by John Dowd and John Butler (with 2 Finnerans, and a Costello sub-letting cottages). The Rev. Thos Walker was subletting Butler’s house (value £4:10s). Butler had a herd’s house, suggesting he was living elsewhere.
In 1857 John Dowd was confirmed as the leaseholder of Ryefield House (valued at £17) and 99 acres (over half the townland, with no sub-tenants). John Butler was leasing the other half and sub-letting to the Finerans. Shortly after that, Dowd increased his holding to all of Ryefield (178 acres). His landlord was Andrew Nugent Cummins, JP (1831-1917) of Ballinderry, Co. Galway.