A Town and a Landlord Before the Famine and a Field Called Ballybeggarman

Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore grew up in a town called Ballygar, County Galway -- today a lovely place on the road from Roscommon to Galway. In the 1820s, the Landlord decided he would build a town because he had a large estate and much produce. This would produce more income and give him more control over the peasants. That town grew, and by 1844 it was a large Market town. The Landlord, Dennis Kelly, exercised complete control over it. Each month, he inspected it and gave out clean tickets awards to businesses who passed. At the end of the year, the business with the most tickets got the honor of going to Castle Kelly, having dinner with him, and receiving first prize of 20 shillings.

He was a politically powerful man.  He was the former M.P. for Roscommon in 1820-21 and the sheriff for Galway afterwards. A sister was married into the Strokestown Estate of Thomas Mahon.  His estate in 1844 was 10,000 acres, and he had 5,700 tenants on that estate. A complicated man, he was reported to have a library of 15,000 books (most of which are in Manchester Library now), and he loved the old Irish Language. He translated the "Tain Bo Cuaille" and had a great admiration for the classics. Catholicism was a hate, however, and Catholics at best were tolerated ... but never encouraged. When the great Daniel O'Connell came to Athlone for his monster meeting in 1843, the attendees on the stage included all parishes from surrounding areas all over North Galway, Roscommon, Westmeath and other counties. There is no record of a priest from Ballygar being at O'Connell's side that day.

He exercised the right of the lord "Droit du seigneur ," that is the right of the lord to have his way with the maidens who were ready for sexual relations. This practice was carried on around Ireland but not by all landlords. But Kelly it would seem or he would want us believe was a charitable man who believed that the Workhouse was necessary. After all some people had fallen on hard times and some need this refuge, but it should be made pay. The people in the workhouses should be given labor and thus the workhouse should generate a profit. His charity it would seem was boundless.  He didn't believe in turning the poor, tenant who was unable to pay onto the street and having them disappear into the distant memory. No, Dennis H. Kelly had another thought. He arranged for a field to be set up outside the town for these destitute people where they could rest while they decided what to do or moved on. That field of 20 acres, according to Kelly's own words, was called Ballybeggarman, or "Baile an Beggarman." Imagine the mental torture felt by the poor souls that were forced to stay in subhuman conditions, and imagine when Kelly did his monthly rounds to the businesses in Ballygar and possibly said to them, "Better clean up that place or you will end up in Baile an Beggarman."

And so, experts say, we are all products of our early environment and experiences that affect us into later life. It is easy to see how Gilmore was affected for evermore by Ballygar and those early memories.

Views: 910

Tags: An Gorta Mor, Famine, Galway, Gilmore, Roscommon, The Great Hunger


Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on January 27, 2015 at 7:56am

Our backgrounds shape us and make us what we are ; My grandmother as very fond of saying or ' show me your company and I will tell you what you are' . 

Many many years later I would have cause to acknowledge and understand the meaning of all of her adages when I studied for my Social Work Degree . All of her adages became very clear to me - and  I only wished taht she had have been alive for me to tell her this !! 

In hindsight we are all perfect ; another of her adages !!

Comment by Frank Scott on January 28, 2015 at 2:10pm

My father helped put Ballygar " on the map " in the early nintys as he produced a programme for " On the Land " in Ballygar. A local farmer Sonny Moore gave him a small cottage to buy as a holiday home and so as a 15yod I spent summers there. Later as an adult with a young family we moved to Ballygar as we needed to escape the big smoke ( Dublin ). We spent 10+ years in and around the town. My children know as Ballygar as the place where they grew up but were never taken as locals and now that we have left we do not miss the area. Dont get me wrong , there some lovely christian people there but, and its a big but, too many people that are not . It can be a small minded place that may grow up in the years to follow...and i hope it does...


Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on January 28, 2015 at 2:36pm

 I suspect that Ballygar like all small towns take a long,long time to accept outsiders as locals. I know from listening to my grand-mother - When she moved to Bray Co Wicklow in 1916 -  she was always referred to as 'the runner in' who married Andrew O'Rourke.

My mother Lolly O'Rourke was always asked if her mother was the 'runner in' O'Rourke !! ; as time went by and the Kavanagh family  [my siblings and I were always asked if we were Lolly O' Rourkes children [who was married to a 'runner in' from Dunlaoghaire . [my Daddy Patrick Kavanagh }

Only the Irish - what can I say !!! 

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