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Short Study of a Transplanted Family in the Seventeenth Century
by Edward MacLysaght

Patrick the Transplanted (1613-1672)

We now come to Patrick the Transplanted[43] (1613-1672)

The Ireland of his youth and of his father and grandfather, Sheriffs Patrick and William, was as different from the picture of eighteenth and nineteenth century Ireland, so familiar in almost everybody’s mind, as it was from the old sixteenth century order which had passed quickly away. The cottiers or labouring class, of course, remained more or less unchanged, living as they did in conditions approaching serfdom and of great poverty - a “permanent substratum of Irish society” as they have been called - their hours long, their pay small and their cabins mere temporary shelters. But the country was under-populated and we meet few references to the swarms of beggars who afterwards became so numerous. The labourers always seem to have been hardworking; among others, Vincent Gookin has a special word of praise for the husbandmen of the time,[44] and the accusations of the idleness subsequently made against Irish workmen are seldom met with in the seventeenth century. Trade had revived especially under Wentworth, who avowedly encouraged Irish industry with the sole object of providing Charles I with the wherewithal to be independent of Parliament, and the only real idlers were the younger sons of the gentry or such of the dispossessed landowners as had not emigrated to the Continent; these young fellows were in fact a feature of the time, moving about as they did from place to place and staying more or less self-invited at one house after another, together with their greyhounds and their hangers on. Another type which, looking back, we are inclined to favour was then regarded as composed of idlers, at least by the governing classes, for Sir Henry Bourgchier tells us that at christenings, marriages, funerals and so forth “are never absent certain routs of idle and loose rogues, by them termed bards, carought, rhynners, Irish harpers, pipers and others of their kind.[45] Rapparees or tories, the successors of Spenser’s woodkernes and the forerunners of Capt. Rock, were numerous, especially in places where the dispossessed Irish had neither emigrated nor settled down as tenants, and where woods, mountains and bogs afforded them shelter and hiding.

Side by side with the discontented elements of the population there was a growing body favourable to peace and settled conditions. The Tudors were the first of the English to take Ireland in hand seriously. Their land policy - that of “Surrender and Regrant - “was comparatively fair to the Irish and did not introduce the characteristic and callous injustice which marked the land policy of the Stuart reigns. The land regranted to the clans: in some cases to the chief, which resulted in reducing the free clansmen to the position of tenants; in others, where the chief was only allotted the demesne lands, the clansmen became freeholders. The latter plan was adopted in most of Connacht and Clare, with the result that in 1641 and the war years that followed, that part of Ireland was the least inclined to rise out, though it was undoubtedly a fact that the threatened confiscation in Connacht was one of the immediate causes of the outbreak of the Rebellion. If this wise policy of the Tudors had been unaccompanied by any attempt to force the Protestant religion on the country and if the Stuarts had continued it, the history of Ireland would have been very different from what it has been. The outcome of Elizabeth’s reign was that the bulk of the land remained in Irish and Anglo-Irish hands. Legal changes in ownership had not succeeded in changing customary rights, for the relationship of superior and inferior owners was universally regulated by old Irish customs down to 1600. Under Sir John Davies (James I) all this was changed. Old grants, dating from the first invasion, were raked up to show that the Crown was entitled to immense areas, chiefly in Leinster, either as heirs of the Mortimers or by other equally far-fetched claims. Though some arguments have recently been adduced to acquit Wentworth of being quite so indifferent to the rights of the native Irish as traditionally suppressed, his own letters make his attitude quite clear.[46]

We have not the advantage, which many English and French, and a few leading Irish, families have, of being able to look at ancestral portraits, as far back as the seventeenth century, and so to visualize with something like accuracy those bygone people whose blood flows in our veins and whom we would so much like to recreate with a true touch. In the case of this Patrick we at least have a good deal of information to go on, not only to understand his character but also to imagine his personal appearance. As to the latter, to the black hair and middle height given in the Transplanter’s Certificate, you can fairly safely add an aquiline type of features, and already a picture begins to form in the mind. In the fateful year 1641 he was just twenty-eight, not yet married but spending all the time he had available from the Limerick business, which his father had now handed over to him, in the country at their place near Bruff.

In that very month, October 1641, when the war broke out, only a few days before Hugh McMahon and Lord Maguire were taken and the plan to seize Dublin Castle forestalled by Owen O’Connolly’s treachery in betraying the secret he had been told in confidence by his friend, only a few days before the momentous events which began on October 23rd, Patrick made the journey to Dublin - a matter of three or four days then, or considerably more if undertaken in a leisurely way. A couple of years before he had been outlawed [47] not for anything so interesting as “Sedition” but on account of an “exigent” for £200, and it was with the object of getting this reversed that he rode to Dublin, having spent some time in Limerick gaol.[48] He was successful[49] - had he travelled a few days later it is probable that things would have gone less favourably for him. I would like to digress here to consider the nature of the road and the route he travelled, but this and a description of the Dublin of the time I must leave over for my larger book.

Perhaps he was already courting his neighbour Margaret Browne, of Camus. He married this girl, who was fifteen years old in 1641, not long afterwards. The Brownes were an old and stalwart Catholic family connected for a long time with that part of Co. Limerick, and this marriage brought part of the valuable Camus property into our family, though I am not yet quite clear how much: the point, however, is not of very great importance since it was all confiscated a few years later under the Cromwellian Settlement. Among the aristocracy of the time boy and girl marriages were the rule rather than the exception, but the practice does not seem to have been so common among the ordinary small gentry, such as our people now were, as in the highest strata of society. This girl Margaret, though I know nothing positive about her beyond her age and the fact that she was of “middle stature” and had brown hair, is for me a most romantic figure. I can imagine her brought up in a country house under conditions which would then have been considered as of modern comfort, for north County Limerick was one of the first districts outside the Pale to abandon the mediaeval mode of life which subsisted long after in more remote parts. Of the actual house I am unfortunately not in a position to give any description in this essay. It must have been large to accommodate two families. Her childhood was passed in a period of profound peace. To her that fine open country known as the Golden Vein was home. Patrick’s early memories were of the Golden Vein too, but with him that scene, the splendid Galtees and the wide stretches of rich pasture land carrying abundant stocks of big cattle, and here and there on the higher ground great flocks of sheep[50] was inextricably interwoven with his mental picture of the Limerick streets and, no doubt, of the Jesuit school he attended there. The Camus property, which the Brownes still held in spite of their constant armed adhesion to the Desmond cause, lies near Bruff, on the Croom side, and adjoins Ballynanty and Tullybracky. The countryside there, as I have said, was open, not thickly wooded as so much of Ireland was until the new owners after 1654, uncertain how long they would retain the confiscated properties, completed the reckless felling of forests begun by the Earl of Cork for his iron works and by others whose only interest in the woods was to make a quick profit out of them. In such a place the arts of agriculture were more advanced than elsewhere, though even here it is possible that they may still have ploughed with six garrons abreast attached by their tails to the plough, with a boy to each horse.

If her childhood was passed in an atmosphere of peace Margaret grew to womanhood at a time when wars and rumours of wars were on every side and she lived long enough to pass right through the second peace period of the century and to see the beginning of that degradation we associate with the eighteenth century. The actual date of her death is uncertain, but she survived her husband by at least twenty-five years, for we have a record of her acting as surety in one of the innumerable transactions of her son William as late as 1669.[51] It is unlikely that she came into contact with actual warfare in her youth, but she would have been familiar with the sight of troops marching by on their way from Limerick to an area of fighting farther south; Rinnuccini passed near the house in 1645 and for all we know may have stopped to take a meal there; and no doubt Camus often provided hospitality to some fugitive or messenger who sought a night’s shelter there.

In due course the Brownes were transplanted, or remained behind or sank in the social scale. There was a certain David Browne, who in 1673 was reduced to living in a cabin at Ballinagard only a few miles from Camus, being in fact steward to John Croker, a prominent Limerick corn merchant who acquired that property after the Cromwellian confiscation. As this David’s only claim to fame is that “he voided a flattish worme of above twenty and four feet long[52] there is no great incentive to prove relationship. In pre-Cromwell days Ballingard belonged to the Bourkes, with whom the McLysaghts were intimate and related by marriage.

Though Co. Limerick was not properly a seat of war at any time from 1641-’52, as most other parts of Ireland were, there were few of the Catholic gentry of the county who were not involved in the war to a greater or less extent. I visualize our Patrick as a man who exemplified what seems to me to have been the laissez-faire character of our family - not one, indeed, of which one can be unduly proud: he had a respect for tradition in race and religion, coupled with a disinclination (which may have arisen either from laziness, cowardice or an instinct for knowing on which side his bread was buttered) to take any active part in helping the side he instinctively believed in; and, at the same time, his sentiments, coupled with his loyalty to his friends, were quite strong enough to prevent him from espousing the winning cause, when it became apparent which way the cat would jump. Yet, even so, it is remarkable that Patrick did actually remain aloof, was indeed one of the few men adjudged by the Commissioners as an “innocent Papist”, seeing that not only the Brownes, one of whom he married during the war period, but also his own cousins of Adare and Croom with whom he was on terms of close intimacy, saw active service - two of them, John and James, took part in the siege of Askeaton Castle which surrendered to the Confederates in 1642.[53] The terms given to the garrison were remarkable for their leniency in a time when, no matter which side you belonged to, surrender was often tantamount to death. They would have pleased Patrick had he been there. There was, of course, no reason why he should have actually participated in that siege - most of the names given, apart from some who came from Clare and elsewhere to act as officers, are of men living in parts of Co. Limerick within comparatively easy reach of Askeaton, and do not include people like the Brownes, McLysaghts, etc. from as far away as Bruff. But that does not account for Patrick’s non-participation throughout.

[Author’s Note: One considerable error in this essay requires to be corrected. On p. 29 [above] et seq. it is stated that Patrick MacLysaght was adjudged an Innocent Papist. This is not the case. Six years ago, when this little book was published, having then less experience in dealing with the records of the seventeenth century than I have now, I accepted without question an entirely inaccurate statement made by the late Archdeacon Begley (in his History of the Diocese of Limerick in the 16th and 17th Centuries, pp. 519 and 526), viz. that the letters I.P. designated “Innocent Papist”, whereas, as Mr. R. C. Simington has pointed out to me, they stand simply for “Irish Papist”. I have examined the official original copy of the Book of Survey and Distribution in the Quit Rent Office where, on p. 121 and elsewhere, Patrick is definitely returned as an “Irish Papist”. I may add in confirmation that the Index to the Decrees of Innocence (15th Annual Report, Irish Records Commission pp. 526 to 537) does not include any McLysaght or Lysaght or variant of the name. Patrick McLysaght was, in short, an ordinary “nocent” Papist and as such he was transplanted from Co. Limerick. How he succeeded in getting Ballymarkahan, etc., in Co. Clare substituted for some place in Co. Galway, to which he should (according to the regulations) have been banished, I do not know.]

For several months in 1651 the city of Limerick was besieged by Ireton, Cromwell’s brother-in-law and successor in Ireland. It was resolutely defended by Hugh O’Neill (a nephew of Eoin Ruadh) who at Clonmel had already proved himself the only remaining Irish leader undismayed by Cromwell’s ruthless methods. The surrender took place on October 27th. In this case the garrison were not slaughtered, Ireton contenting himself with the execution of some of the prominent leaders: their fate was shared by one Col. Fennell, whose treachery was responsible for the fall of the city. Ireton himself died soon after in a house which is still to be seen in Nicholas Street. He succumbed to the plague which at this time added much to the ordinary horrors of war.

[Author’s Note: Ireton’s house was demolished some years ago]

As it was almost impossible to enter or leave the city during those months, I presume Patrick spent them farming as best he could his depleted stock, at Ballynanty: one can only imagine the state of his business affairs in the city, as we have no record to help us.[54]

I am not yet able to say exactly what relationship existed between Patrick and John and James. I have assumed that they were second cousins, which is probable in the case of John, whose father and grandfather I have traced; but James may have even been a brother of Patrick’s for all I have found out about him yet. As the McLysaghts were originally a Clare family and only moved into Co. Limerick as they acquired property there in the sixteenth century, it is reasonably certain that those who remained in the county, in spite of Cromwellian confiscations and transplantations, were members of the same family and, therefore, were of the small gentry class, though of course the degradation of the native Irish, which was pursued as a continuous and deliberate policy by the Government for practically 200 years after Cromwell’s time, tended to depress all Irish Catholics east of the Shannon (and for that matter west of it too) to a common level of misfortune. It is an established fact that a great many Irish Catholics did succeed in eluding the provisions of the Cromwellian settlement, and while we know that both Patrick and James and John and another cousin, Nicholas, were all deprived of their lands and transplanted to Co. Clare and Connacht it is probable that some members of the family preferred to remain where their home was and became tenants to the new owners. Patrick being adjudged an “innocent Papist” had no temptation to do this: if he had been an old man perhaps he would have left a younger son or two behind him, but at the time he was transplanted he had only two young children, and his father (William the Sheriff) was not long dead.

We must not, however, make the rather obvious assumption that the McLysaghts of Ballingarry to-day derive their descent from those who were transplanted from the neighbourhood of Adare in the seventeenth century. In actual fact they are like the writer of this essay, direct descendents of William of the Lemons.[55]

It requires no very great effort of the imagination to picture the scenes which accompanied the great exodus of the Catholic gentry from their own homes: the reluctant packing up, the last sad look around the familiar scenes, the early morning start, the confusion among retainers and livestock who accompanied the lumbering springless open-sided family coach, the silent and tedious journey over rough roads to a strange place. Different families did not, of course, all move at the same time or even in the same year. The head of each household, having appeared on one or two occasions before the Commissioners at Loughrea or Athlone in due course received a certificate setting forth in considerable detail particulars of his family, servants, livestock, etc., and an order to remove himself and them to certain lands, specified in another document in Connacht or Clare before a given date. Patrick appeared before the Commissioners and received the certificate in December, 1653.

The 1st of May, 1654, was fixed as the latest date for moving after which any person who disobeyed the Transplantation order and was found still in his old home might be molested with legal impunity:[56] but in many cases the time was extended and that part of the law must have been a dead letter. At any rate Patrick’s final settlement and removal was not completed till June, 1657.[57]

Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland was surely very complete: such years as those passed by our people between 1653 and 1657 (still living in homes they knew they would be forced to give up to strangers and foreigners within a short time) must have been enough to drive any but quite hopeless people to desperate measures. The war did not break out again even sporadically, and tories and rapparees themselves were comparatively inactive, in spite of “To Hell or Connacht”, in spite of the memory of Drogheda and Wexford and in spite of such provocation as the wholesale shipping of Irish women and girls, as well as some prisoners of war, as slaves to the West Indies. The idea of slavery for civilised white men and women was no fairy tale - to Irish people at any rate. Our people would have been familiar with the harrowing tales brought home by travellers who had seen the almost incredible hardships endured by the Irish slaves in the West Indies;[58] they would have perhaps remembered the seizure by the authorities in Dublin of a deputation of dispossessed landholders from Wexford, who were similarly despatched to Virginia as slaves in 1620; and the sack of Baltimore by Algerian pirates in 1630, when the inhabitants of that town were carried off to slavery in Northern Africa in large numbers, was an event of so violent a nature as to be still vividly engraved in men’s memories.

It is true that the McLysaghts had less cause for sorrow, and even less actual physical discomfort to complain of, than many others. In the first place there was not quite the same rude break with tradition which had to be faced by so many others - as “innocent Papists” they had to go to Clare and so were at least returning to the county of their origin, a very different matter from being transplanted to Co. Galway which was the intended destination of Co. Limerick transplantees.[59] Even the journey itself was comparatively short; they were quite at home in Limerick city, where Patrick had business, in fact he is described in a Chancery Bill as actually living there in 1640,[60] though I think he did not pay the same close attention to the business as his father and grandfather did. And from Limerick city to their new home was little further than from Camus to Limerick city. There was a good road, too, as roads went in those days, from Bruff into Limerick and from that northwards to Ennis, passing near by Shandangan which was the point on their new lands where Patrick and his wife decided to live. They had left a fine place at Camus, but they were extremely lucky to get such a good property in Clare in exchange.[61] The lands allotted to Patrick comprised a great acreage, though less valuable of course, than the rich lands in Co. Limerick, of which he had been deprived.

I look forward to giving in my book not only an account of the fate of those MacNamaras and others who formerly owned or occupied the lands now assigned to our family, but also of how the new owners were received by the local people - peasants, labourers, etc. - who remained there. It is particularly interesting to note that the joint owner of Ballymarkham with the MacNamaras in 1641 was a Thomas Arthur.[62] The cases on record of interference with the transplantees are not as numerous as we might expect, but we must remember that “the County Clare was totally ruined and deserted of inhabitants” with “scarce a place to shelter in” except, to a certain extent in the barony of Bunratty.[63]

Patrick was lucky in having some resources other than those derived from the land. Even in Co. Limerick where the actual physical effects of the war were not specially severe, the stock on the farms was immensely reduced during the war years. There was nothing like the devastation which followed in the wake of the sixteenth century armies, who laid the country waste wholesale as part of their method of warfare; nor were the Camus people as badly hit as many, as can be seen by reference to Prendergast’s “Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland” where instances are given of farms left almost without stock.[64] Patrick of course had to buy cattle, etc., to stock his new lands in Co. Clare. What he actually had before the move can be seen from the Transplanter’s Certificate, copy of which I give in Appendix C.

Other McLysaghts besides Patrick were also transplanted, among them John of Kilkerrily and James of Killonurkane.[65] The Nicholas whom we find frequently closely associated with Patrick and his son in Clare later on, and who settled down as a merchant in Sixmilebridge, was one of the Fanningstown McLysaghts; but up to the present I have not succeeded in completely elucidating the complications of the relationship between these various McLysaghts from Adare and thereabouts. Like Patrick, both Thomas and Stephen the brother of James, and also Nicholas, were transplanted to Clare and not to Connacht proper, though John was a “nocent.” James apparently was less fortunate and he appears to have been banished to Co. Galway or beyond it.

One Thomas remained undisturbed[66] for he was a merchant at Pallasgreen, in the north-eastern part of the county, in 1679, and the copy of his will[67] includes the familiar names of Arthur and White and that of Thomas Harold, the Limerick alderman, which appears so frequently in our papers, but no other person of those families who actually connects him up with ours. We may suppose he was the ancestor of the family now resident at Doon, Co. Limerick. It is very probable that a perusal of the Arthur MSS. will clear up a number of doubtful points about this Thomas, as well as the Adare people.

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