County Monaghan Towns

This Ulster county contains the towns of Monaghan, Ballybay , Carrickmacross, Castleblaney, Clones. Parish descriptions from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837 - other towns architecture and history.

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 Gallowglass, 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 "spalpeen" 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

Some history books on Monaghan;

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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