County Monaghan History

"This Ulster county contains the towns of Monaghan, Clones, and Castleblaney in the Diocese of Clogher. See some Reading Resources*

In the old Gaelic system of land division, Monaghan was part of the Kingdom of Oriel. lt was also known as McMahon's country after the dominant family of the area. The McMahons and their allies, the McKennas and O'Connollys, maintained effective domination of the county even after the arrival of the - Normans in the twelfth century. The county boundaries were not established by the English administration until the late sixteenth century.

After the defeat of the rebellion of O'Neil and the Ulster chieftains in 1603, the county was not planted like the other counties of Ulster. The lands were instead left in the hands of the native chieftains. In 1641 the McMahons and their allies joined the general rebellion of Irish Catholics, and following their defeat there was some plantation of the county with Scottish and English families.

Analysis of the Hearth Money Rolls of 1663 shows that the commonest names in the county at the time (in descending order) were McMahon, McKenna, O'Duffy, O'Connolly, McCabe, McWard, McArdle, McIlmartin, O'Byrne, O'Callan, McCallan, O'Kelly, O'Murphy, McNancy, McTreanor, O'Gowan or McGowan, O'Boylan, McIlcollin, O'Finnegan, O'Cassidy, and McPhilip.

The McCabes were a gallowglas, or mercenary, family probably brought into the county by the McMahons following the Norman invasion. The O'Byrnes, who are relatively numerous in the county, are probably descendants of the Kildare or Wicklow O'Byrnes. This family was driven from it's Kildare territories by the Normans in the late twelfth century. lt is suggested that part of this clan may have migrated into Monaghan.

The major settlers in the county were Scottish farmers brought over from the area of Strathclyde. Common names among these settlers were McAndrew, Mackay, Sinclair, Stewart, Buchanan, McKenzie, Davidson, Ferguson, Blackshaw, McCraig, Walker, Cameron, Gordon, Patterson, and McCutcheon.

A general indication of the proportion of the population of Irish or Norman extraction, or of English or Scottish descent, can be derived from the statistics on religious persuasions of the inhabitants. These groups were, respectively, predominantly Catholic, Church of Ireland, or Presbyterian. In 1861, when the census first determined religion, the respective proportions were 73, 14, and 12 percent."
From Pat Traynor, in California's Gold Rush country

1659 Census: In the census of 1659, the total population of Monaghan was recorded as 4083 - 3649 Irish and 434 English. In the section called Annie there were 11 persons. [perhaps a Floody relative?]

from Lewis Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. pub. 1837

Famine: The direct impact of the famine was almost entirely confined to the cottier classes. They hired land on conacre (for eleven months) on which they grew their potatoes. Generally they lived in a cabin constructed of sods, or mud, erected on waste ground or on the roadside. Their children married young as the only capital required to start a family was a spade and a baket of seed potatoes. The husband would spend the summer working as a "basket" or migratory farm labourer. The wife and children often took to the road begging. This was possible because potatoes were a low maintenance crop, not requiring much attendance after planting. It was necessary because by that time the last years crop would have been gone, so the critical period was the months before the new crop was ready.

The famine hit hardest in the west where the land was poorest, the population hightest, and alternative sources of employment were lacking. It can also be associated with economic changes, Irish agriculture was moving away from tillage, which was labour intensive, towards livestock farming which was not. The flax industry would have provided employment and an alternative source of income for many, but there would still have been a significant number of cottiers who depended totally on the potato on Aughnamullen.

The name Aughnamullen is an anglicization of the Gaelic Achadh an Mullen, meaning the field of the mills.
From Kevin Sweeney in County Cavan, Ireland
History books and journals from and about County Monaghan

*Monaghan County Library online has a history and genealogy page: Monaghan History. On this page they have a .pdf file Tracing Your Ancestors.

The Clogher Record, published annually in the first quarter of the year. Clogher Historical Society. Greatest resource for history of the area and their publications.

Beyond the Big Bridge: Paula McGeough Coleman
This book has been republished.

A local history study on Oram, a townland area three miles east of Castleblayney in Co Monaghan. It contains graveyard inscriptions (with maps) from 5 cemeteries both Protestant and Catholic. It includes writings from children from many local schools in 1938 , cures , a list of all families names and their origins in this broad area ( approx 100), local customs, Flax, corn threshing, recreational games of long ago, football teams,other sporting activities, poetry and local verse.

Paula McGeough Coleman
Oram, Castleblayney
Co. Monaghan, Ireland
Cost 25 Euros plus p/p. Email for full cost

Old Books

Thanks to an Irish correspondent, I have found and ordered several books by William Carleton and by Patrick Kavanaugh. The web site, now Amazon, has many member bookstores with great resources.

Ring Dial:
The Ring-dial was the hedge schoolmaster's next best substitute for a watch. As it is possible that a great number of our readers may never have heard of, much less seen one, we shall in a word or two describe it - nothing could indeed be more simple. It was a bright brass ring, about three quarters of an inch broad, and two and a healf in diameter. There was a small hole in it, which when held opposite the sun admitted the light against the insode of the ring behind. On this was marked the hours and the quarters, and the time was known b y observing the number of the quarter on whcih the slender ray that came in from the hole in front fell.
from William Carleton's _Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry_

William Carleton was born in Tyrone and schooled in Monaghan. He wrote about these areas in the mid 1800's. Patrick Kavanaugh was born in Co. Monaghan and wrote about the area in _The Green Fool_ an autobiographical novel circa 1920'ties. Poetry was his forte and he is honored with a sculpture in Dublin. The purchases were made at a cost less than the shipping from Ireland.

_At the Ford of the Birches_ , by James H. and Peadar Murnane. Ballybay, Tullycorbet, and surrounding areas. Published Sept 1999. Cost 30 or $50 including p.& p.

Order from Peadar Murnane, 7 Main St., Ballybay, Co. Monaghan, Ireland.

Some of the following may be available in larger local libraries around the world.

Clogher Record, published annually since 1953. See Clogher Historical Society

The History of the County of Monaghan by E.P. Shirley 1879 (no ISBN); A reprint has been made. It would also be available at major libraries across the world.

History of Monaghan for Two Hundred years 1660-1860
by Denis Carolan Rushe
Clogher Historical Society Monaghan 1996
ISBN 0 949012 90 4 R. & S. Printers Monaghan

Republished in 1996 and available from CHS for softback 25 plus p.& p.

  • The Monaghan Story, by Pedar Livingstone
    Peadar Historical Society Enniskillen 1980
    ISBN 0 9501047 4 4 Watergate Press December 1980
    Reprinted! Available from the above CHS - 25 plus p.& p.

  • Another great resource book is Landscapes of South Ulster, An Atlas of Clogher Diocese", by P. J. Duffy, ISBN 085389 500 7, covering Monaghan, Fermanagh, and parts of Tyrone. Great maps and histories of the townlands with anecdotal material from the Ordnance Survey, O'Donovan's Letters of 1835-38 and the The Folklore Collection Scheme, 1 Jul 1937 - 31 Dec 1938. This is published by the Institute of Irish Studies in association with the Clogher Historical Society. Approx: $70 US. "Out of Print" is the proper statement here. Pity!

    Many new books of historical interest in the planning stages. See book list at Clogher Historical Society

    CARRICKMACROSS ------ A description from the year 1837 -----

    This place derives it's name from it's situation on a rock, and from one of its early proprietors, and is the only town in the barony. The castle of the Earl of Essex, part of the walls of which are still standing in the garden of W. Daniel; Esq., was leased by the Earl to Mr. Barton, whose wife and children were burnt with the castle by the insurgents of 1641 while he was attending to his parliamentary duties in Dublin, as representative of Co. Monaghan. The town is situated on the mail coach road from Dublin to Londonderry, and consists of one principal street, with some smaller sts. Branching from it, and contains some 56O houses, many of which are of a respectable appearance. A respectable retail trade is carried on with the surrounding country, and soap, candles, brouges, and coarse hats are manufactured in the town, in which there are also a tannery, a brewery employing 1OO men, and a distillery. Distillation was carried on here to a considerable extent for the Union for 2O yrs., after which it very much declined, but in 1823 a large distillery was erected which makes 200,000 gals of spirits annually, consuming in the manufacture, about 25,OOO barrels of grain, including malt, which is made in the town. The general market is held on Thurs., and one for corn on Wed. and Sat. The number of pigs exposed for sale in the market during season is very great. They are principally by dealers from Dundaulk, Newry, and Belfast for exportation. fairs are held on May 27, Jul. 1O, and Sept. 27, Nov. 9, and Dec. 1Oth. The latter, which is for fat cattle, are the largest.

    The market house is in the center of the Main St. It was built out of the ruins of the castle. Penny market sessions are held every alternate week, and here are a constabulary police station and a county pridewell on a small scale, which contain the necessary accommodations for the separation of prisoners.

    In the vicinity of the town are several lime kilns, and the land has been greatly improved by the extensive use of lime as a manure. Mr. Shirley supplies his tenants at about half the usual price from his kilns, in which about 2OOO bbls. were burnt in 1835. The principal lakes are loch Mac-na-ree, Listrontirk, Corvally, and Shantonagh Loch, only part of which is in this parish. The parish is called Magheross. Coal exists but is not presently worked. Good limestone and freestone are quarried for building."
    From: Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. pub. 1837

    In 1793 the government forced the Irish Parliment to grant practically all full civil rights to Catholics. They still could not be members of Parliment. It took another century before any effect was realized in Monaghan however since the lands were still held by the large estate land owners.
    "The Monaghan Story"

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