Arthur Reginald 5th Baron Defreyne 1879-1915

Photo part of The George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Arthur Reginald, or Reggie as he was known, had a testing childhood what with his mother Laura Octavia dying shortly after his birth and his father, Arthur French of Frenchpark House, subsequently remarrying. Reggie was presently sent to boarding school in England and here he found the regimental lifestyle so much to his liking that at the age of 20 he joined the military. Within 2 years he was a Lieutenant with the Royal Fusiliers at Hythe Barracks in Kent but before long would be wed in a union that greatly shocked his family. His new wife, a divorcee named Annabelle Angus, had come from modest stock – her father was a publican, and she herself was working as a barmaid when Reggie first encountered her at Banffshire Scotland. She also came into the marriage with a child from a previous relationship – a son that came to be remembered as Roland True, the convicted murderer who spent the majority of his life in Broadmoor Hospital – a facility for the criminally insane.

While the marriage was never legally dissolved the couple soon parted ways as Reggie, realising his blunder, left his regiment and sailed to the States in 1905. He travelled with the notion of joining the Northwest Mounted Police while a visit to his trailblazing uncle William French on the New Mexico frontier must also have seemed appealing to the young traveller. When he vanished shortly after his arrival into the States foul play was immediately suspected and a country wide hunt involving the British Consulate and American police was initiated, happily reported by the scandal hungry paparazzi. He was eventually discovered at an American military barracks in New York having registered as a private a week after arriving in the States. The nonplussed Reggie declared that he liked his new job and he proposed to stay in the army for the foreseeable future. Furthermore he vowed to never return to England.

His regiment subsequently transferred to South America and Reggie went with it disappearing from public life for a number of year only sending home occasional letters to his father, one of which tellingly referred to terminating his wife’s allowance. Upon his father’s death in 1913 Reggie bought his way out of the American draft and returned home as the 5th Baron Defreyne but alas he would not be home for long. The following year the Great War broke out and Reggie like many others of his age enlisted to fight for the cause. Unfortunately he would be killed on 9th May 1915 in Flanders alongside with his half-brother George Phillip French who fell in the same action. They were both laid to rest in the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery at Souchez, Pas-de-Calais in Northern France.

Reggie was succeeded as Baron Defreyne by his half-brother Francis Charles but in the following years the French family began to have less and less association with the village of Frenchpark. By now the French family lived primarily in London and the old residence slowly became more dilapidated as family finances and societal principles changed. The final furniture and fitting effects of the house were auctioned off on 4th November 1953 and the interior was dismantled. Despite objections by the President of the National Trust of Ireland and regional proposals to form an agricultural college for the locality Frenchpark House, which had housed the French family since the mid-17th century, was razed leaving the present day ruins that remind of past greatness.

Fr Michael O’Flanagan – the Republican Priest


Born in 1876 to farming stock at Kilkeevan Castlerea, Michael as a boy attended the National School at Cloonbonniffe where his intellect brought him to the fore. He was duly sent to the diocesan college of Summerhill in Sligo and then to Maynooth college, after which he was ordained in Sligo Cathedral in 1900. He returned to teach at Summerhill for a number of years but in 1904 in an attempt to pay off the rising debts at Loughglynn Church and Convent, Fr O’Flanagan was sent on a fund-raising mission to the States by his bishop, John Joseph Clancy. While here his philanthropic activities brought him to the attention of prominent republican Irish-Americans and these contacts proved to be of great benefit on his return to Ireland and in future years.

After some time spent in Rome, Fr O’Flanagan eventually returned to the country of his birth and in 1914 he was appointed the curate of Cliffoney, in northern Sligo. Here he witnessed the injustices endured by locals as authorities, alongside the Congested District Board, imposed sanctions on turf cutting under the guise of the wartime emergency restrictions. He began a long communication with the Board but the return of turbary rights to the locals was not forthcoming, leaving them worried for the coming cold winter months. Not accepting this defeat on the 29th June 1915 he stood before a gathering outside his church beseeching “what I advise the people to do is for every man who wants a turf bank and can work a turf spade to go to the waste bog tomorrow and cut plenty of turf”

The following morning over 150 people marched with Fr O’Flanagan to the bog. They proceeded to cut their turf every day until mid August, at which time the Board had secured an injunction against them. By now however the turf had been saved and piled up across the road from the Cliffoney RIC barracks with a cover defiantly bearing the Irish words “Ár Móin Féin” meaning “Our Own Turf.” The following year turbary rights were restored but the whole incident, dubbed “The Cloonerco Bog Fight” by local reporters, had seen O’Flanagan go against not only the authorities but his own bishop, Dr Bernard Coyne.

For this latest act of rebelliousness Coyne duly transferred him to Crossna parish, in Roscommon, with a warning to curtail his ideals. However in 1917 O’Flanagan was once again thrust to the forefront of Republicanism in the country. In the very first parliamentary victory for Sinn Féin in the country, he played a leading role in ensuring their candidate, Count Plunkett, romped home in the North Roscommon by-election. Bishop Coyne and the Catholic hierarchy had by now truly wearied of the troublesome priest and revoked his clerical duties forbidding him also from making any public lectures. Nonetheless at the first sitting of the newly proclaimed Dáil Eireann in January 1919, it fell to Fr O’Flanagan to recite the invocation with him additionally being appointed as chaplain to the House.

Retaliation to the formation of this revolutionary parliament was inevitable. Arrests and intimidation of members of this first Dáil by the British forces in Ireland intensified as the country entered the War of Independence. With De Valera absent from the country in the United States, and Griffiths imprisoned, O’Flanagan as vice-president and de facto leader of Sinn Féin, began discourse to bring an end to the fighting. In the early 20’s O’Flanagan informally met with leading members of the Unionist movement to discuss ways of reaching an agreement. Later in London he met with the Prime Minister of England Lloyd George, with a similar objective, but these moves for some went too far. The impression back in the Irish Republic was that with these unsanctioned meetings the Irish cause was considerably weakened and consequently bargaining power reduced in future discussions. It is certainly thought that those ministers pressing for more militant action in Ireland began to have more influence with Lloyd George and the perceived lack of, or disjointed, leadership of the Irish encouraged this viewpoint. Perhaps in an effort to remove him from the front line he was sent by Dáil Eireann on a special mission to the United States and for several years campaigned for the republican movement there, albeit with a brief sojourn in Australia.

In 1925 following a request by De Valera, O’Flanagan returned to what was now the Irish Free State and the following March he attended the Sinn Féin Ard Feis. At this De Valera’s proposal to enter the Oireachtas, once the Oath of Allegiance were removed, was defeated with O’Flanagan siding with the small majority. With this setback De Valera left to found Fianna Fáil. This new party would overshadow Sinn Féin at the June 1927 election as the bulk of it’s members, along with public opinion, shifted to Fianna Fail making it now the leading Republican party in the country. Sinn Fein without the American financial backing that came with De Valera as it’s leader struggled to make a serious impact in Irish politics until 1957 when they once again contested elections in the Republic.

In this time Fr O’Flanagan served as leader of Sinn Féin from 1933-35 although he was still expelled from the party for participating in a Radio Eireann broadcast in early 1936. Sinn Féin had at the time a policy of abstentionism and frowned on the participation of O’Flanagan alongside other political parties, in a show commemorating the First Dáil of 1919.

In later years he retired to Dublin where he worked on historical manuscripts including John O’Donovan’s archaeological survey of Ireland and subsequently undertook a project to edit a vast compilation of the history of the 32 counties. Priestly duties had by now been restored, after over a dozen years, allowing him once again to celebrate mass and this he did at the Convalescing Home of the Sisters of Charity at Kilternan, and the Carmalite Convents at Kilmacud and Roebuck. Fr Michael O’Flanagan died 7 August 1942 just shy of his 66th birthday, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery beside Austin Stark, another Irish revolutionary. The throngs of mourners who lined the streets of Dublin as the funeral cortège passed a testament to the ‘staunchest priest who ever lived in Ireland’. (Cathal Brugha)

Anvil Keystone Patrick Street Castlerea

An anvil motif carved on the keystone is found on top on the laneway arch indicating that a smith was resident and working from this location sometime in the past. A ‘smithy’ is depicted here in the ordinance survey of c1895 on the road that was called in those days New Line. The name and road were comparatively new additions to the town when the map was drawn up signalling that the smithy and his family could have arrived within their own generation, as urbanisation occurred.
The closest census returns for this period, that of 1901, list a couple of possibilities including a Francis Hayden and a John McCormack who were both working as smiths on this road and may have been the resident worker on this site.

Fr Augustine Plunkett memorial

In the town land of Drishaghaun lies an ancient roughly cut flag of limestone that commemorates Fr Augustine Plunkett, “Fryer of Bellahaunes” who died in 1723. He was born in about 1670 probably in the Plunkett Castle that would lend it’s name to the village of Castleplunkett. Like many nobly born young men he joined the friars of St Augustine in Ballyhaunis where he devoted himself to the order for a time.
Unfortunately, for Plunkett, the relative religious stability in this country came to an abrupt end as Queen Anne came to the throne in England, bringing her intense devotion to the Anglican church with her. This devotion came with a great hatred of Roman Catholicism and saw a reign of persecution hit the churches and monasteries across the land. The abbey at Ballyhaunis was ravaged and Plunkett and his fellow friars were forced to flee. Refuge was sought in his home district where he set up a hospice in Rathmoyle for the sick and destitute.
The stone at Drishaghaun is said to mark the spot where he secretly administered to the faith of locals under the shade of a whitethorn tree, long gone but from which the local name for the monument arises – Crann a Leachta meaning A Tree of the Monument.
While there is no definitive evidence to suggest where Fr Augustine Plunkett is buried it is thought that he was laid to rest in Toberelva graveyard – a short distance from the family castle, where a number of Plunkett head stones from the early 18th century are visible.

Sir William Wilde

Born in Castlerea in 1815 to Dr Thomas Wilde, an eminent provincial physician, William was educated at Elphin before entering the profession like his father. His career that followed was remarkable as he became the leading eye and ear surgeon in Europe revolutionising the practice of treating infections in particular. His first clinic in Dublin treated the blind poor for free and he also taught aural surgery techniques in probably the most respected teaching hospital in the country.
In addition to his surgical work Wilde was hugely involved with the mid-19th century census returns being tasked with analysing mortality rates at the time of the Great Famine in Ireland. For this pioneering work he received a knighthood in 1864.
Wilde was an accomplished contributor to medical journals throughout his life but he also wrote papers of historical and archaeological significance and published articles relating to folklore and legends.
For all that is praiseworthy about the man and his career though some aspects of his life were of a less laudable nature. His reputation was severely tarnished late on in his career when a long-term patient, and apparent mistress, brought a libel case against his wife alleging that Wilde had raped her in previous years. Wilde’s previous infidelities were no secret – even before his marriage, which produced Oscar, he had fathered one son, who Wilde trained as a doctor, and two daughters who tragically died. This case however was different and Victorian Dublin was shocked as sordid details of the proceedings unfolded especially when costs were awarded against the Wilde’s.
After the court case, and the ill feeling that it caused, William became reclusive retreating back to the west of the country and his beloved ‘Moytura’ overlooking River Corrib. In 1876, just as his son Oscar was beginning his literary life, Sir William Wilde passed away. He was buried in St Jerome’s cemetery in Dublin.

Richard Luke Concanen, O.P. The First bishop of New York (1747-1810)

Richard Concanen was born in Kilbegnet in 1727 and from his youth knew that he was destined for the priesthood with a particular devotion to St. Dominic and his order. Unfortunately for Richard he was born into an age when religious oppression and penal laws forced Irish scholars preparing for the priesthood to seek education outside of the country.
The order itself had also suffered persecution with demolition of its monasteries, firstly by the Cromwellian invasion of the mid 1600’s followed by Queen Anne who extended the oppression into the 18th century. As a consequence the order relocated to the continent and to cities more welcoming to their teachings. Lisbon in Portugal, Rome in Italy and Louvain in Belgium all housed Dominican cloisters that were eminent centres of education. It was the Holy Cross in Louvain that Richard settled and here he received his religious habit in about 1765. At this time he also took the name Luke to add to that which he received at the time of his baptism.
Such was the promise shown that he was sent by his superiors to the Dominican House of Studies in Minerva and then on to San Clamente in Rome where he completed a four year study in Theology. Here he studied under many learned men including Fr. Thomas Troy, later Bishop of Ossory and Archbishop of Dublin.
He progressed through his studies rapidly and quickly made a name for himself amongst his contemporaries in the order but also amongst his congregations who eagerly gathered to hear the pulpit orator preaching fervently in their own tongue. He could now speak a number of language including English, Italian, Latin, French, German and coming from Galway the native tongue of his countrymen in Ireland.
Over the course of the following three decades, as his influence developed, Concanen was elevated to various prominent roles within the Dominican Order in Rome. Perhaps the most significant though occurred in about 1776 when his old mentor, Bishop Troy, appointed Concanen to act as his agent in Rome. Observing how effectively he took up this new role prelates from across Ireland, England and America followed suit and selected Concanen to also act on their capacity. This inevitably brought him to the forefront of Roman politics and into intimate contact with the Holy Father and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the committee responsible for the spread of the faith in non-Catholic countries.
He became a favourite of Pope Pius VI who duly appointed him Bishop of Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, a position that Concanen was forced to refuse due to ill health and religious modesty.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic the first Catholic Bishop of the newly independent United States (later Archbishop of Baltimore), John Carroll, implored the Holy See in Rome for help in administering to the growing followers. Pope Pius VII’s solution in 1808 was to create several new dioceses in the country including that of New York and, on the advice of Archbishop Troy of Dublin, the bishopric was offered to Concanen. The position on this occasion was accepted.
He had for many years harboured a desire for a missionary role in the Americas but his duties in Rome had prevented this. Now as his health deteriorated a move away from the Gallic influences in Rome into the warm climate appealed greatly to the man. Regrettably Concanen never stepped foot on the American continent. Embargoes on Atlantic travel were in force due to the Napoleonic Wars and Concanen himself was detained in Naples while seeking passage to America. Bishop Concanen died of a fever in 1810 awaiting release and was buried in the Church of San Domenico, in this city.

Leitrim Townland tenant map 1895


1 – Pat Higgins (minor)                                          41 – John Breslin (late Dominick Donlon)

2 – James Forde (Rep. Michael)                            42 – Thomas Connor

3 – Frank Forde                                                     43 – William Higgins

4 – Tom Browne                                                     44 – John Vesey

5 – Mary McDermott                                            45 – Martin McGarry

6 – Thomas Oates                                                   46 – John Peyton (Andrew)

8 – Peter McGarry                                                 47 – Ellen & John Higgins

9 – Thomas Owens                                                 48 – Catherine Higgins

10 – John McGarry (Cleggernagh)                        49 – James Keenan

11 – Bernard McGarry (Cleggernagh)                  50 – John Grady & Pat

12 – John Dyer (Rep. James)                                51 – John Killeen

13 – James Callaghan                                           52 – Thomas Keigher

14 – Catherine Oates (Deceased)                         52a – Peter Flanagan (subtenant)

15 – Thomas Henaghan                                        53 – Luke Raftery (Rep. Wid. Anne)

16 – Catherine Madden                                       54 – Francis Browne

17 – Bernard Staunton                                        55 – John Peyton (Patrick)

18 – Mary Scally                                                  56 – John Kane

19 – Pat Dyer                                                       57 – Bernard Mullaney

20 – Thomas Kane                                                58 – John Higgins (Rep. Wid. Higgins)

21 – James Forde                                                  59 – Bernard Moffit

22 – Owen Peyton                                                60 – Willima Corcoran                  

     -William Beirne – subtenant                          60a – William Corcoran (late Michael Walsh)

23 – Roger Forde                                                  61 – Michael Beirne

24 – Thomas O’Brien                                            62 – Martin Flanagan

25 – Thomas Keigher                                            63 – Margaret Conor (Wid.)

26 – James Armstrong                                          64 – Bertley Mullaney

27 – Bridget Lavin                                               65 – Andrew Webb

28 – Michael Carroll (Rep.)                                  66 – Martin Beirne

29 – Mary Higgins                                                67 – Peter Gara

30 – James Fahey and William Owens               68 – John Kerrane

31 – Pat Connor                                                   69 – Pat Raftery (Rep. Bernard Raftery)

32 – Robert O’Connor                                         70 – Pat Higgins (Cloonfinglass)

33 – Robert Connor & Pat Connor                    71 – Lord DeFreyne – BOG

34 – James & Thomas Creaton

35 – John Peyton

36 – John Peyton

37 – Pat Kirrane

38 – Thomas Oates (Mullen)

– Thomas Towey present occupier

39 – John Breslin

40 – John Lee

(Sourced from the DeFreyne Estate Papers NLI)


Fr Edward J Flanagan of Ballymoe and Boys Town


Edward was born at Leabeg, outside Ballymoe, in 1886 to John and Honoria Flanagan, a couple of modest farmers with strong Catholic faith. His formative education was at the local Drimatemple national school before moving on to Summerhill College in Sligo where the Catholic teachings and ideology had a lasting impression on him. Upon leaving school and with a desire to enter the priesthood he made the decision to emigrate to America and to carry on his religious studies there. At the ave of 18 he arrived into New York where his education resumed before continuing in Italy and eventually Austria where he was ordained in 1912.
Returning home to the States he soon found himself serving in the parish of Omaha in Nebraska, where he was appalled by the destitution suffered by local young boys and felt he could help. In 1917 he founded his children home, on the outskirts of the town, where the care focused on treating the delinquencies of the boys with compassion instead of the usual prescribed corporal punishments. Through the work of the home young former at-risk boys who previously were inevitably caught in the loop of crime found they had a purpose in society. These revolutionary concepts were derided even by his superiors, but Fr Flanagan persevered with his ideals advocating a system of social preparation where the boys were taught to become responsible adults in addition to being given a trade.
Under his stewardship Boys Town, as it was soon named, grew steadily over the years to include all of the usual businesses and facilities that would be found in any town in America at the time. So much so that Boys Town was officially recognised as a village of the state of Nebraska in 1936
The innovative work of Fr Flanagan didn’t go unnoticed and in 1938 his life was celebrated in the Academy winning film ‘Boys Town’ starring Spencer Tracey with the script given the approval of Flanagan himself. Away from the silver screen his advice was sought for the foundation of many schemes similar to his across the globe and it was while attending one such event in Berlin that he died in 1948. He was returned to America and buried in his beloved Boys Town.
2001 saw a statue unveiled in Ballymoe commemorating Fr Flanagan and his achievements with an exact replica being placed in Boys Town, Nebraska a symbol of the two towns united in acclaiming their famous son.

1962 All Ireland Finalist

Roscommon lost to Kerry 1-12 to 1-6 having conceded the fastest goal scored in the history of All-Ireland Senior Football Championships at 35 seconds.
Back Row – Ronan Craven, John Kelly, Bernie Kyne, Cyril Mahon, Aidan Brady, Eamonn Curley, Oliver Moran
Front Row – Tony Whyte, George Geraghty, Gerry Reilly, Gerry O’Malley (captain), John Joe Breslin, Don Feeley, Des Feeley, John Lynch.

Scarlet Fever in 19th century Ireland

Before the advent of antibiotics and hygienic practices in the home a serious concern existed for parents of young children who were especially susceptible to infectious diseases common in the Victorian era. Across major European cities poor sanitation and overcrowding meant illnesses like typhus, cholera, influenza and smallpox were greatly feared and in many cases reached epidemic proportions. In 1846 Ireland, as the Great Famine tightened its grip on the country, many sought refuge in places like Glasgow and Liverpool bringing with them a form of typhus, known as ‘The Irish Typhus’ thus adding to problems already facing the city dwellers. By 1847 a new virulent form of this had enveloped the British Isles killing 30,000 in that year alone.

Back in Ireland meanwhile concerns for another infectious disease, Scarlet Fever, was making people anxious. Also known as Scarlatina, this is an illness caused by the Streptococci bacteria which causes sore throat, high temperature and swollen glands but was known to have more serious consequences in the past. Delays in diagnosing the Fever, and lax treatment in the early stages often resulted in a rapid spread of the infection and children caught up in the 19th century epidemics were seen to succumb to it within 48 hours.

Historically, it is known that many infections came from ingesting unpasteurised milk that had been handled by an infected carrier, but more commonly the disease was contacted within the family home from a loved one. Small cramped living quarters allowed the bacterial infection to spread through human contact while it also became airborne through coughing and sneezing, all which unfortunately passed the disease from one child to another. The fatal consequences were that whole families were wiped out within a matter of weeks where had the original patient been isolated, containment of the disease would have prevented extended losses.

Initially presenting as a sore throat with fever and ‘strawberry tongue’ where the tongue appeared coated in a white film, the infection progressed rapidly. A rash covered the body and the glands became swollen along with the tongue which caused breathing difficulties. Severe headaches, nausea and abdominal pain were also common but for the many who were unable to fight off the contagion death swiftly followed.

Even those lucky enough to survive were often left with debilitating long term effects including liver and kidney damage, meningitis, rheumatic fever, and pneumonia as their damaged immune system proved unable to fight off a secondary infection.

Present-day antibiotics, such as penicillin, have reduced the harmful effects of this ailment but as recently as the late 1880’s it was the most common infectious diseases causing death among children in Europe. Some regions recording deaths attributed to the disease exceed 30% fatalities surpassing even that of measles, whooping cough and diphtheria.

In 1892 the Fever visited the family of Moffit of Cloonsheevers, between the towns of Castlerea and Frenchpark, and the result was devastating. In early May the youngest child, Patrick, had contracted the infection and was already displaying concerning symptoms. By the 4th of the month he had died aged just 4½. Two days later his older sister passed away aged 7½ followed the next day by her older brother Edward who died from the disease aged 12½. The following day their brother Thomas died of the infection at 14 years of age and became the last child to die from the disease in the house leaving behind just one brother, John Moffit. He would have been about 10 years old at the time. Sadly within two weeks there was another loss in the house, with the children’s maternal grandmother Mary Quinn passing away of old age debilities while staying at the family home. It is probable that the bacterial infection that was present in the building, though not listed as a causal factor in her death, hastened her passing or perhaps watching four of her grandchildren die within a matter of days was simply too much for her to bear.

On the 29 June the children’s father Patt Moffit travelled the short distance to Frenchpark and registered all of the deaths that had taken place the previous month in his house, including his four young children and his mother-in-law. The location of the resting places of the departed children is unknown but a family plot is present at Fairymount and is the closest cemetery to Cloonsheevers townland.


Civil Death Registers

Native Ireland