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The Protestant Community of the Aran Islands -where happened to them?


Seán Mac Stiofán

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Joined
Jul 5, 2006
Messages
164
The Aran Islands off Co. Galway were lastly owned by Baron Ardilaun who had inherited them from his the sisters Elizabeth F. Digby and Henrietta Barfoot, through the latter's daughter. The Digby family of Landenstown, Co. Kildare had themselves first acquired the Islands in the early 18th century through their purchase from Sir Stephen Fox and John Richard Fitzpatrick and owned them for almost 200 years. The Digbys of Landenstown were a minor branch of this Warwickshire family that established themselves with Sir Robert Digby, the Earl of Bristol nephew and the first Baron Digby of Geashill, Kings County. While this family ultimately re-established themselves in Dorsetshire in the late 19th century, their cousins were rather prominent ecclesiastics in the Church of Ireland and a number of them were 18th and 19th century bishops.

According to Griffith's Valuation of the Aran Islands in 1837, there was a Church i.e. Protestant Church in Kilronan and a 'Roman Catholic Chapel' in Oghill. There were also two National Schools, in both Kilronan and Kilmurvy, respectively. A schoolhouse founded by the Church Education Society was also located in Kilmurvy. There were two Protestant clerics; Rev. Alexander Synge and Rev. Patrick Harlay and both were amongst the Islands' 272 occupiers i.e. tenants of either Barfoot & Digby or their immediate lessers. Clearly this would imply there was something of a Protestant community on Aran, or at least on the large island. It is an established fact that the Digbys attempted to introduce Protestantism to their tenants (hardly surprising as they were zealous Anglicans), but weren't highly regarded for so doing. This isn't unusual however: consider the Protestant Irish-speakers of Inishbiggle, the so-called 'jumpers' i.e. d'iompaigh siad...

Now, it is an established fact that Cromwellians soldiers occupied the Islands in the 1660s during the Confederate Catholic rebellions, part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The owners of the Islands were obliged to station 70 Government troops there (Arkin's Castle) at all times for some years to quell dissent and (some) of these soldiers supposedly settled there. Indeed, several families noted in Griffith's Valuation bear atypical names e.g.
  • Brabazon Margaret
    Dyer William
    Gloves Stephen
    Glynn Roger
    Henderson Jonathan
    Norton Andrew
    Ormsby Philip
    Rinn Edward
    Ryder Patrick
    Scofield James
    Vine Nicholas
    Wallace Henry
    Wallace John
    Wallace Margaret
    Wallace Patrick
    Wallace William
    Wiggins Maria
    Young John
I have been informed nobody on the Islands would today bear names like this, although one person told me that there was a person named Brabazon living on the large island perhaps over forty years ago. It is not uncommon for families to simply die out or move, though.

I have no idea as to the religion of those above.

What I would like to establish and would appreciate the help to those knowledgeable in doing so, is:
  • Where the names of those above typical of the supposed Cromwellian element on the Aran Islands?

    Or were they instead recent arrivals? It was not uncommon for people come and go rather than settle permanently.

    Throughout the 18th-19th centuries, Protestant landlords often introduced families from England and the UK onto their estates often for the purposes of land management as for other reasons i.e. colonization.

    What was their religion, those above?

    Evidently, there was some local Protestant population, whether the Cromwellians who doubtless would have retained their Puritan beliefs or recent arrivals, given that there were two Protestant clergymen and a Schoolhouse -perhaps one of the National Schools? I know that today their Church in Kilronan has been a derelict ruin for a long time. Therefore, where did they go?

    Where are the Digbys of Landenstown today?
Thanks to anyone that can help, I am very curious having visited there a number of times over the years. I'm sure it's has been a feature of local history in many parts of Ireland.
 

Seán Mac Stiofán

Active member
Joined
Jul 5, 2006
Messages
164
Well, I have already established that the Islands were the scene of sectarian and landed politics. The Land League and the National League were founded on the Islands in 1881 and 1886, respectively. Home Rules politics was a feature of Island life and many revolutionaries had briefly hid on the Island.

Seemingly, a troika of a certain Rev. Kilbride, an evangelical Schoolmaster and the Landlord's agent had attempted to persuade the locals to adopt Protestantism and this apparently caused tension with bitter boycotts and disputes. That seems to answer some of the questions...

A boycott of one of the four National Schools on the largest island by order of the Parish Priest
The Commissioners of National Education inform me that Grants to the amount of £316 were sanctioned during the eight years ended the 31st March, 1914, towards the enlargement and improvement of four schoolhouses under the management of the parish priest of Aran Islands, all of which are vested in trustees. The Commissioners have no information available as to the alleged closing of any school for several months by order of the parish priest. The Oat-quarter Boys' National School on Inishmore Island had no pupils in attendance for a prolonged period from January, 1911, owing to the existence of a local boycott of the school, and the Commissioners were in consequence obliged to withdraw Grants from it from the 30th June, 1911. The pupils having resumed attendance in September, 1912, when a new teacher was appointed, the Commissioners restored their Grants to the school from the 18th of that month. The former teacher, having voluntarily retired, was granted a pension. The Commissioners do not see that any reason exists for taking further action regarding this school, which is at present in operation. The local contribution towards the works for the enlargement and improvement of the four schools above referred to was £17 2s. The number of Protestant children on the Inishmore Island is very small, and they have the opportunity of attending the national schools on the island, which are open to children of all denominations. Safeguards as to religious instruction in the schools are provided in the rules of the Commissioners.
 

shutuplaura

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Nov 1, 2008
Messages
2,043
Hmm, Stones of Aran and its sister book by Tim (?) Robinson would be the place to go for an answer. I vageuly remember reading something about the local protestant landlord in one of them. I know the ruined church outside Kilronan was the protestant one. I'm guessing they sold up and were happy to get the money during one of the land acts, I can't imaging them recieving much by way of rents from the island.
 

ArtyQueing

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Joined
Jun 2, 2008
Messages
302
It would not be long before the Cromwellians would have been absorbed into the native culture due to lack of numbers . I recall reading somewhere that Rodgers is a Cromwellian name. In short the Protestants died out due to the laws of binary mathematics.
 

Ceilteach

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Oct 1, 2008
Messages
23
On the Aran Islands they speak Irish, Irish is the main language -- I wonder if Protestant residents spoke Irish?
 

shutuplaura

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Nov 1, 2008
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Thinking bout it some more - according to stones of Aran (which i've decided to buy a copy of by the way now you've got me interested) the author mentions that the entire island was owned by one (absentee) family in the 19th Century. I guess planters had either intermarried or sold to each other and somehow it was consolidated into one holding.
 

Seán Mac Stiofán

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Joined
Jul 5, 2006
Messages
164
On the Aran Islands they speak Irish, Irish is the main language -- I wonder if Protestant residents spoke Irish?
Highly likely, have you ever heard of the Irish-speaking Protestant community of Inishbiggle, still extant?

The Islands were entirely owned by the Digby family (of Kildare) until the end of the 19th century when it had passed, jointly, to the St Lawrence and Guinness families, Earls of Howth and Barons Ardilaun, respectively.

I was trying to ascertain whether there was much of Protestant population there, beyond whichever Church of Ireland Clergyman, Agent and constables that happened to reside there at any one time? Did the absentee landlords import people of their own religion onto the Islands or was there already a Protestant Cromwellian element residing there since the late 17th? As I noted above, surnames such as those already mentioned appear to have disappeared entirely, whilst names common now were just so then e.g. Millane, Derrane, Flaherty, Conneely, Mullen etc. So, what happened to them?
 

diy01

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Dec 10, 2006
Messages
3,027
After spending a few days on Inis Méain, I concluded that every other islander has Ó Conghaile (or Ní Conghaile) for a surname.

Interestingly, one of the local history books noted how Ó Briain (O'Brien) had once been very common on all three islands as they had controlled it. Eventually the islands fell into the hands of the Ó Flaithbheartaigh and over time, there ceased to be any residents of the name.
 

Landon

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Jan 8, 2017
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1
The last Church of Ireland Rector on the Aran Islands
was Rev. Landen Thomas Newstead Lennon, born in Kilrush, Co. Clare.
He received his B.A. in TCD.
His parish was St. Thomas.
A young American girl visited Aran in 1901- she was Catherine Philpot Curran,
doing the Grand Tour of Europe with her nephew. She was defended from the famous
Irish advocate John Philpot Curran. She met the young rector. Her visit was short,
be she corresponded with the Rev. Lennon for 13 years.
She returned to Ireland and they were married in St. Nicholas Church, Galway.
After 11 blissful years in Aran, St. Thomas Church was closed. The Protestant
population had gradually died out.

The Digbys - former owners of the Aran Islands still live in UK.
Their rather infamous daughter Pamela, married Randoph Churchill, and 3-4 others,
before being appointed as the American Ambassador to France by Bill Clinton in 1993 under the then married name Pamela Harriman. She died in 1997.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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mredfellow
On the Aran Islands they speak Irish, Irish is the main language -- I wonder if Protestant residents spoke Irish?
Why would they not? Consider the parallels in Presbyterian congregations in the West of Scotland and — sotto voce — as close to home as Dublin.

Then there's analogies in Compton Mackenzie's 1947 frolic about the two-mile marine, religious and linguistic divide between Great and Little Todday.

 

Eoin Coir

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Jun 16, 2012
Messages
16,632
On the Aran Islands they speak Irish, Irish is the main language -- I wonder if Protestant residents spoke Irish?
You can be sure they did, as they did on the Blaskets-Peig Sayers etc who was of Protestant extraction. In fact some people say Protestants helped to keep the language and Irish music alive in Gaeltacht areas as they had the ability to record and write it down. There was a rector in Dingle who left a treasure trove of such after he died, much of it discovered years later, some sadly destroyed.

On broader level, I suppose Protestants suffered the same fate on the Islands as they did in many places. Some left after Independence here, Ne Temere played a big part in their demise also.
 

Glenshane4

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Sep 5, 2012
Messages
9,639
You can be sure they did, as they did on the Blaskets-Peig Sayers etc who was of Protestant extraction. In fact some people say Protestants helped to keep the language and Irish music alive in Gaeltacht areas as they had the ability to record and write it down. There was a rector in Dingle who left a treasure trove of such after he died, much of it discovered years later, some sadly destroyed.

On broader level, I suppose Protestants suffered the same fate on the Islands as they did in many places. Some left after Independence here, Ne Temere played a big part in their demise also.
Please tell the truth. Many Protestants can live among Catholics only when they can boss the Catholics.
 

Eoin Coir

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Highly likely, have you ever heard of the Irish-speaking Protestant community of Inishbiggle, still extant?
?

No Protestants left on Innisbiggle now, the last one James Gallagher died a few short years ago.I assume there was some Irish spoken on Innisbiggle, but none now, about 26 inhabitants left there, and dwindling.
 

Eoin Coir

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Please tell the truth. Many Protestants can live among Catholics only when they can boss the Catholics.
really, how come isolated pockets of Protestants live here and there in the so called Free State?
 

diaspora-mick

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Oct 19, 2011
Messages
4,795
The Aran Islands off Co. Galway were lastly owned by Baron Ardilaun who had inherited them from his the sisters Elizabeth F. Digby and Henrietta Barfoot, through the latter's daughter. The Digby family of Landenstown, Co. Kildare had themselves first acquired the Islands in the early 18th century through their purchase from Sir Stephen Fox and John Richard Fitzpatrick and owned them for almost 200 years. The Digbys of Landenstown were a minor branch of this Warwickshire family that established themselves with Sir Robert Digby, the Earl of Bristol nephew and the first Baron Digby of Geashill, Kings County. While this family ultimately re-established themselves in Dorsetshire in the late 19th century, their cousins were rather prominent ecclesiastics in the Church of Ireland and a number of them were 18th and 19th century bishops.

According to Griffith's Valuation of the Aran Islands in 1837, there was a Church i.e. Protestant Church in Kilronan and a 'Roman Catholic Chapel' in Oghill. There were also two National Schools, in both Kilronan and Kilmurvy, respectively. A schoolhouse founded by the Church Education Society was also located in Kilmurvy. There were two Protestant clerics; Rev. Alexander Synge and Rev. Patrick Harlay and both were amongst the Islands' 272 occupiers i.e. tenants of either Barfoot & Digby or their immediate lessers. Clearly this would imply there was something of a Protestant community on Aran, or at least on the large island. It is an established fact that the Digbys attempted to introduce Protestantism to their tenants (hardly surprising as they were zealous Anglicans), but weren't highly regarded for so doing. This isn't unusual however: consider the Protestant Irish-speakers of Inishbiggle, the so-called 'jumpers' i.e. d'iompaigh siad...

Now, it is an established fact that Cromwellians soldiers occupied the Islands in the 1660s during the Confederate Catholic rebellions, part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The owners of the Islands were obliged to station 70 Government troops there (Arkin's Castle) at all times for some years to quell dissent and (some) of these soldiers supposedly settled there. Indeed, several families noted in Griffith's Valuation bear atypical names e.g.
  • Brabazon Margaret
    Dyer William
    Gloves Stephen
    Glynn Roger
    Henderson Jonathan
    Norton Andrew
    Ormsby Philip
    Rinn Edward
    Ryder Patrick
    Scofield James
    Vine Nicholas
    Wallace Henry
    Wallace John
    Wallace Margaret
    Wallace Patrick
    Wallace William
    Wiggins Maria
    Young John
I have been informed nobody on the Islands would today bear names like this, although one person told me that there was a person named Brabazon living on the large island perhaps over forty years ago. It is not uncommon for families to simply die out or move, though.

I have no idea as to the religion of those above.

What I would like to establish and would appreciate the help to those knowledgeable in doing so, is:
  • Where the names of those above typical of the supposed Cromwellian element on the Aran Islands?

    Or were they instead recent arrivals? It was not uncommon for people come and go rather than settle permanently.

    Throughout the 18th-19th centuries, Protestant landlords often introduced families from England and the UK onto their estates often for the purposes of land management as for other reasons i.e. colonization.

    What was their religion, those above?

    Evidently, there was some local Protestant population, whether the Cromwellians who doubtless would have retained their Puritan beliefs or recent arrivals, given that there were two Protestant clergymen and a Schoolhouse -perhaps one of the National Schools? I know that today their Church in Kilronan has been a derelict ruin for a long time. Therefore, where did they go?

    Where are the Digbys of Landenstown today?
Thanks to anyone that can help, I am very curious having visited there a number of times over the years. I'm sure it's has been a feature of local history in many parts of Ireland.
You may be able to get some data on religious affiliation from the National Census records for 1901 and 1911.

For example, Inishmore entries can be found here:
National Archives: Census of Ireland 1901
National Archives: Census of Ireland 1911

Wallace seems to have been a fairly common name in the Galway area, often RC but not always.

Using the "advanced search" options you can search by religion.

For example, this link should return CoI members on Inishmore for the 1901 census:
National Archives: Census of Ireland

Most of them seem to have lived in Killeany.
 

Leinsterview

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Joined
Feb 4, 2014
Messages
740
Well, I have already established that the Islands were the scene of sectarian and landed politics. The Land League and the National League were founded on the Islands in 1881 and 1886, respectively. Home Rules politics was a feature of Island life and many revolutionaries had briefly hid on the Island.

Seemingly, a troika of a certain Rev. Kilbride, an evangelical Schoolmaster and the Landlord's agent had attempted to persuade the locals to adopt Protestantism and this apparently caused tension with bitter boycotts and disputes. That seems to answer some of the questions...

A boycott of one of the four National Schools on the largest island by order of the Parish Priest
They were wiped out in a genocide screaming out for a Harrisist exposé.
 
Last edited:

Ramon Mercadar

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May 31, 2006
Messages
15,207
They were wiped out in a genocide screaming out for a Harrisist expose.
Very likely slaughtered and eaten in a beach barbecue.

In 19th Century Connemara, pulled pork was code for eating Protestants.
 

Brenny

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Joined
Dec 8, 2008
Messages
1,223
What happened to the Protestants of the Aran Islands? What happened to the Protestants of Achill Island, Askeaton Co. Limerick, Dingle ect. In the 1820s, 30s and 40s there was a concerted effort to convert communities on the Atlantic fringe and there was initial success but these communities don't seem to have lasted. Kerby Miller has explored the whole subject of Protestant decline better than most scholars, he has studied letters written by Protestants who emigrated to North America in the nineteenth century. He contends that Protestants were simply far less inclined to accept worsening living conditions in Ireland and were particularly in demand in North America - push and pull did it.

There appears to be 10 Church of Irelanders on Inishmore in 1911, most don't appear to have been born there.
National Archives: Census of Ireland 1911
 
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