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
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.