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Some Laois farmers in 1821 and a tale of a hound

Laois Local Studies > Articles > Some Laois farmers in 1821 and a tale of a hound

by James G Ryan

Estate papers are an intriguing mix of the myriad documents generated by a family and their staff in the management of their estate, often over several generations.   The contents typically comprise rentals, deeds, letters, staff records, maps and wills.  Within this mix of trivia, a document can occasionally be found that illustrates some aspect of the Irish experience.  This article deals with such a document.

The National Library of Ireland holds the estate papers of the Hutchinson family of Timoney, Co. Tipperary … 1791 – c. 1850[i].  Among them is a list of 19 farmers from the townland of Clonmore, in the Parish of Rathdowney.  It is interesting because it illustrates two useful points for those with an interest in Irish history and family records.   These are (a) the extraordinary power of Irish landlords and (b) why many land occupiers do not appear in the records of land-holders.

(a)  The power of the landlords.   The apparent background to this document is that two ‘hounds’ owned by local landlord William Hutchinson (1786-1832) had been killed by persons unknown. The document is an affidavit ‘signed’ by 19 local farmers in 1821 swearing that they knew nothing about the death of these dogs. All of them are illiterate, and sign their statements with an X.  Establishing the perpetrators of a crime, even the killing of a dog, would nowadays require evidence and due process.  However, in Ireland of 1821, the landlord could force his tenants to go before a Justice of the Peace and be made to swear an oath that they were not involved, and that they had no knowledge of the persons who were. The concept of innocence until proven guilty was not a consideration for Mr. Hutchinson. Although there were benevolent landlords who treated their tenants fairly, some landlords used the law to their own ends.  This  was a common grievance of  tenants, and was commented upon by independent commentators:     A Canadian visitor to Ireland several decades later noted that “To fix the rent, to collect the rent, to make rules as whim or cupidity dictates, to enforce them, in many instances with great brutality, is the sole business of the landlord; and the whole power of the Executive of England is at his back.[ii]  Tenants’ dependence on landlords for their income and housing made them wary of incurring landlord displeasure. In later decades this power gradually crumbled in the face of several economic and social factors, including the Land League, and the Catholic Association.   However, in 1821, the landlord was still empowered.

(b) The ‘gaps’ in our records.   The document also gives an insight into why some land records do not list all land occupiers. It names 19 farmers in the townland of Clonmore, in Rathdowney Civil Parish, close to the Tipperary border. It is not uncommon for those researching their ancestry to know (from letters or family lore) that their ancestor lived in a particular place.  A researcher wishing to validate that an ancestor lived in Clonmore townland would be likely to consult the Tithe Applotment returns[iii] which were compiled from 1823 to 1837.  This is the only comprehensive list of land-holders available in this area until the Griffith Valuation was conducted in 1850-51.  However, only 3 of the 19 farmers are listed in the Clonmore Tithe records.    The three who are on both records are Patrick Creary (8 acres), Pierce Landers (8 acres) and Timothee Fahee (12 acres).  The value of the list of 19 farmers is that it is an accurate statement of their residence in this townland because they have been identified by the local landlord.  So where are the remaining 16 and why are they not listed?

An abstract from the list of land-holders in the Tithe records is shown in Figure 2. Note that several of the tenant names are followed by ‘& Co.’.  This indicates that the named tenant is the nominee for a consortium of other tenants. The named head tenant would deal with the landlord (or tithe collector) and collect the rent or tithe from his partners in the consortium.   This arrangement suited the landlord as it reduced the administration which would be involved in a large number of very small tenants.  The missing 16 farmers are almost certainly members of one or other of these consortia. They were occupants of the land and blissfully ignorant that their tenancy arrangements might cause difficulties for their curious descendants.

Their individual holdings would have been very small, but this was also very common at the time.  Note that the acreage of the holdings stated in the tithes record is in ‘Irish Acres‘  which are 1.6 times the size of a  statute acres so the holdings are somewhat bigger than they appear,  but still small.  This practice of using head tenants has resulted in records which omit many land occupiers. In some rentals the under-tenants can be identified as they may be listed as paying part of the rent.   Look out for ‘& Co.’ in the records if you are wondering why your ancestor is not listed where you expect to find them.

The full text of the affidavit document (see also Figure 1) is as follows:

By .. his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for Queen’s County.

Patrick Creary Senr.    

Patrick Creary Junr.

Thomas Creary

John Creary

James Fogerty

Thomas Fogerty

Darby Fogerty

Pearce Landers      

James Landers

Thomas Fahee

Laurence Fitzpatrick

John Meagher

Cornelius Meagher

Timothy Fahee        

Michael Fahee

Timothy Maher

All of Clonmore Ossory in said county farmers came this day before me and made oath on the holy evangelists that they neither killed nor have any knowledge of any person or persons killing the hound belonging to William Hutchinson Esq. of Timooney in the County of Tipperary which they heard was found dead on the seventh day of April instant on the lands of Clonmore aforesaid, or the hound which was formerly found dead on said lands belonging to said William Hutchinson Esq. or the hare which was hunted on said lands by his son Mr John Hutchinson on Thursday last. Sworn respectively before me this 12th day of April 1821.  (Signature of Justice is illegible)

At the base of the page all of the names are listed and each has marked X to indicate their swearing.   

Fig 1. Extract from the affidavit document  – NLI, Ms. 8917 (3)

The Hutchinson family home was  Timoney Park [iv],  which is close to Clonmore but just across the border in Tipperary.  The original Hutchinson settler in Ireland was a Cromwellian soldier whose son John inherited the Timoney estate. William Hutchinson occupied Timoney Park from approximately 1791 until 1833.  In the 1870s the family owned 2,576 acres in county Tipperary and 2,442 acres in Queen’s County.  Mr. Hutchinson’s reputation as a landlord lived on in the area.  In 1937-38 the Irish Folklore Commission asked schoolchildren to collect local folklore in their areas.  Among this collection is a contribution from a 15-year old girl Eilish Collier[v].  She writes that Captain Hutchinson .. “lived in Timony House, he was a big landlord. He was very hard on the tenants, and any time his tenants failed to pay their rents, he put them on foot …. “.

Fig 2. Extract from the Tithe Applotment returns showing the list of land occupiers in Clonmore in the period 1823-37. Note the ‘& Co.’ after some names.


[i]         Documents relating to the estates of the Hutchinson family of Timoney, Co. Tipperary, including charges against Martin Tracy, Capalshy, for burning the ground and mid-19th century rentals and ejectment orders, 1791 – c. 1850.  Ms. 8917 (3)

[ii]      The letters of “Norah” on her tour through Ireland, being a series of letters to the Montreal “Witness” as special correspondent to Ireland. Norah. Montreal, 1882. Available on

[iii]       Tithe applotment records are available on-line at

[iv]        Landed Estates Database entry on Hutchinson of Timoney is at

[v]        National Folklore Collection: The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0826, Page 259. Available at