"A South Roscommon Parish In The Eighteenth Century"
by William Gacquin
The parish of Kiltoom and Cam covers some 25,649 acres in the Barony of Athlone, Co. Roscommon.
The principal source of information on the parish in the 18th century is the Synge Census of Elphin. In 1749 the Protestant Bishop of Elphin Dr. Synge took a census of the parishes in his diocese, which is now deposited in the National Archives, Four Courts, Dublin with a copy in the County Library, Roscommon.
In 1749 the two parishes were separate but they were united by the Catholic Church in 1771 when Rev. Fr. John Kelly was appointed Parish Priest of Kiltoom and Cam and by the Church of Ireland in 1774.
In the Synge census, the parish of Cam is called the parish of Grange. This is probably because Grange was the seat of one of the bigger landlords in the parish at the time i.e. Thomas Lyster whose family gave their name to one of the townlands in the parish; Lysterfield. However, the name Grange may have been used because of an association with the old monastery at Grange. The monastery was attached to the Cistercian Abbey at Boyle having been a gift from the O'Fallons to the monks at Boyle.
The census itself is laid out as follows:
a. Name of Parish.
b. Place of abode; some correspond to modern placenames but some are now lost.
c. Head of Household.
d. Religion; given as Protestant or Papist, in some parishes different Protestant groups are named.
f. Number of children; Under 14 and Over 14.
g. Number of servants; male and female, sometimes their religion is given.
The census shows that there were:
- 8 Protestant families (with 35 Protestants) and
- 154 Catholic families with 669 Catholics
- 4 Protestant families (with 13 Protestants) and
- 304 Papist or Catholic families (with 1325 Catholics).
The population of Cam parish has not changed much in the last 241 years while the population of Kiltoom parish has increased significantly however much of this increase has come about in the last 25 years.
An extract from the census for each parish is shown in Table 1 and Table 2, and Table 3 shows the place names from both parishes.
An examination of the surnames shows that there were over 100 distinct names in Cam and almost 100 in Kiltoom.
The more numerous names in 1749 are still the more numerous today with one exception.
- In Kiltoom the most numerous names were: Naughton (9), Fallon (7), Kelly (7), Connor (5), Feely (5), and Walsh (5).
- In Cam the more numerous names were: Fallon (19), Kelly (19), Gathely (16), Glinan aka Glennon (16), McDan'ell (16), Dowllan (14) and Doyle (11). The name Glennon or Glinan is no longer numerous in the parish of Cam.
Many of the people living in the parish today can trace their ancestors to the 1749 census.
Some of the names are old Gaelic names no longer found in the area e.g. Sumough'n, Morvemough, Dorcha, etc.
Many of the spellings are different from the modern spellings, but this can be accounted for as the enumerator probably spoke English while most of the people spoke Irish and continued to do so for the next 100 years and longer.
In some parts of the Cam parish area, there were native speakers of Irish up until the 1930s.
In 1749 there were still some of the old Gaelic Christian names being used but the majority of the names were the saints' names John, James, Thomas, Patrick, etc.
- Tables 4 and 5 show the names in each parish and the number of times they occur in the census.
The Penal Laws came into force at the end of the 17th Century and in 1697 all bishops and clergy of the Catholic Church were to be transported. These laws were stringently enforced at first and were still being enforced in 1749 but to a lesser extent.
Most priests remaining in the country managed to say Mass in secret. However, it was not until 1793 that the repeal of the Penal Laws was begun. Only one priest is recorded in the Synge census for the Kiltoom and Cam area, he was Fr. Patrick Coniffe, a friar who lived at Trien now part of Ballyline townland but still known locally at Trien. This means there may have been some kind of Masshouse in this part of the parish.
Some 45 years before the census was taken all the secular clergy had to register with the government if they wished to stay in the country. That was in 1704 and then there was a Fr. Daniel Concannon aged 48 living at Grange and a Fr. Bryan Doyle aged 55 living at Feamore. It is possible there was then a Masshouse at Feamore as there was later in the 18th Century. In a letter to the authorities in Dublin in 1715 from the Grand Jury of Roscommon, it was stated that both Frs. Concannon and Doyle were presumed dead.
According to local tradition, there was a priest in the townland of Coolagarry in the early part of the 18th Century, he was known as "Pádraig a' Bráthair". He erected a headstone to his parents in Dysart cemetery in 1761, where his name is recorded as Fr. Patrick Gately. His name is not in the 1749 census as he may have been in hiding or may have been ministering somewhere else at the time. If he were not in favour with the authorities at that time he could still be arrested under the Penal Laws.
There are two headstones inside the ruined Church at Cam which give the names of three other priests from the 18th century.
- One records the death of Rev. James Glennon a Carmelite priest who died on 3rd Jan. 1773.
- The other was erected by Rev. Laughlin Kelly in memory of Rev. Marcus Kelly who died on 3rd May 1772.
None of these men are mentioned in the census but they may have ministered in the locality in the second half of the 18th century.
The first parish priest of the United parish was Rev. John Kelly 1771 to 1783 and the second was Rev. John Glennon 1783 to 1810.
An Act passed in 1709 forbade Catholic schoolmasters to teach in private houses so they took to the hedges. While no teachers are recorded in the census it can be assumed that there were some, in all probability the man whose occupation is given as a dancer; Patrick Madden of Little Berries was a dancing teacher.
When the National Schools were being built in 1832 it is recorded that there were no less than eleven hedge schools in the parish no doubt this tradition had built up over a number of years.
CATHOLIC PLACES OF WORSHIP
The old churches at Kiltoom and Cam had ceased to be used in the 17th century and the present churches were not built until after Catholic Emancipation. Mass was said in secret at various locations in the early part of the 18th century.
- The best known of these is Log na bPéist in Cam townland.
- Later in the century, Masshouses or Chapels were erected in Curraghboy, Famore and Brideswell, by this time the population was increasing rapidly.
One of the most interesting features of the 1749 census is the information it gives us on the occupations of the people at the time. (See Table 6). It shows that there was a very self-sufficient community at the time with almost every need catered for by the tradesmen in the area.
- The most numerous group were labourers these would have a small amount of land and would also work with farmers and on the large estates or travel to other parts to work on a seasonal basis.
- Tenants and cottiers (aka cottagers) form the next largest group, they would have a lease from a Landlord of a large farm.
- Farmers had larger farms which they probably owned themselves. It is interesting to note that in this group there are some old Gaelic stock like the Fallens in Coolagarry (now Sallygrove) and Cornalee and some new settlers like Knight and Hamilton in Moyvannion.
- Gentlemen these were the highest rung on the social ladder of the time. There were three such in Cam; Thomas Lyster at Grange, another Thomas Lyster at Lysterfield (the family gave their name to this place), and a Hugh Kelly at Lismoyle. In Kiltoom one Anthony Lyster was described as a gentleman at Newpark. Both gentlemen and farmers had a considerable number of servants.
- Carman; an interesting feature of the census is that there were no less than 10 Carmen in Cam parIsh and surprisingly none in Kiltoom. A Carmen had a horse and cart and was the only freight service of his time. Most of these people brought grain to Dublin by cart. In fact, it was the goods they brought back on the return journey that eventually put many of the local craftsmen out of business.
- There were also a number of shepherds in both parishes.
- There were seven weavers in Cam and five in Kiltoom, so there was no shortage of cloth. This also indicates that a lot of sheep were kept at the time in the area as today.
- There were also a number of tailors and hatters in the two parishes.
- Cam parish had three ale-sellers; Hugh Rush, Currantober; John Fallon, Iskeebane; and Robert Bleak aka Blake, Cornalee. Kiltoom parish had two ale-sellers; Peter Flynn, Milltown Pass; and Patrick Lyons, Beggarstown. There was a master at Lystefield and he probably supplied some of the beer used at the time.
- There were three millers in the parishes, we must remember that the people had not yet become totally dependent on potatoes as was the case one hundred years later.
- There were blacksmiths also, six in Cam but this is not surprising given the number of carmen.
- There was one wigmaker in each parish, making wigs for men at that time as all gentlemen or aspiring gentlemen wore wigs in the 18th century.
Among other occupations listed were
- Manager associates, with the large estates at Lysterfield and Coolargarry.
- Two feathermongers at Ballyline, Cam parish, this was considered a very good occupation at the time.
- There was one mason, one constable, one pound-keeper, one dealer all in the parish of Cam.
One might expect to find more masons in the census but the majority of people probably lived in very simple houses, these would have mud walls and there may have been some use of timber and almost all houses had thatched roofs.
Except for the building of houses for the gentlemen and large farmers, there was not much need for stonemasons.
- The Lyster house at Grange was probably built towards the end of the 17th century by Thomas Lyster (1663-1726). This house was demolished about 1800 when the family sold Grange.
- The houses at Lysterfield and Newpark were built about 1720, Lysterfield House is now demolished but the house at Newpark is restored as a hotel.
When the family size is examined in the census returns it is interesting to note that the majority of the families had between one and three children. There were always families in Ireland and these were often followed by disease leading to a high infant mortality rate.
The diaries of Charles O'Connor of Ballinagare, Co. Roscommon tell us of a severe frost in 1740 which prevented the crops from being sown until June of that year, this triggered a series of famines the worst of which occurred in 1745 killed a greater proportion of the population than the disastrous famine of 1846-7 (see Table 7).
While the 18th century was free from war it had its share of difficulties for the people; religious persecution continued, famine was an ever-present problem, and land ownership had become the privilege of a small number of people.
Table 1 GRANGE
Thomas Lyster Prot. Gentleman
James Glinan Papist. Labourer
Gill Glinan aka Glennon Carman
Mathew Dolan Labourer
Redmond Staunton Labourer
Owen Moran Labourer
Patt Birn aka Beirne Labourer
Richard Staunton Smith
Edmond Kelly Labourer
Edmond Concarly Carman
Roger Fallon Carman
Thady Hoverty Smith
Martin McDonnell Labourer
William Geraghty Shepherd
Thomas McDonnel Carman
Table 2 LITTLE BERRIES
James Conor Papist Labourer
Roger Henry Labourer
Darby Gill Labourer
James Maloney Labourer
Patr. Maden Dancer
John Russell Labourer
Denis Naughton Labourer
Darby Henegan Labourer
Patrick Coniff Labourer
Patrick Duffy Labourer
William Long Prot. Labourer
Dennis Hennigan Papist Labourer
Pat Naughton Labourer
Michael Naughton Labourer
Table 3 PLACENAMES 1749
Parish of Cam
Grange, Lysterfield, Trine, Ballilion Lissmoile Corclea, Caltraughbeg, Polleher, Corrowduff Cooigarry, Cornnelee Garinford Cornagee ArdMullon Corroughboy Killcar Cam Iskerbane CurrantoberLisscom Carrick Fereny-Kelly Lissflin Killerny Inchroc
Parish of Kilteem aka Kiltoom
Bigg Berries, Little Berries, Attiogh, Boginfin Beggarstown, Capalishin, Curramore, Corromoragh, Corrowderry, Ardmullan (part of), Carrowkenny, Cornasee, Mivanon, Milltown Pass, Kiltoom, Carrowkenny, Cornasee, Mivanon, Milltown Pass, Kiltoom,
I wish to acknowledge the permission of the Director of the National Archives to use the Synge Census for this article and the Librarian and staff of the County Library, Roscommon for their help.
Synge Census 1749 – National Archives
The Irish Priests in Penal Times 1660-1760 – William T. Burke
Burgess Papers – Athlone Library
Memorial of an Ancient House - Rev. H. L. Lyster Denny
Diaries of Charles O'Connor - Galvia Vol. 1 1954 Vol. IV 1957