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

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

    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.

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    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.

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    Politics.ie Member shutuplaura's Avatar
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    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.

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    Politics.ie Member ArtyQueing's Avatar
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    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.
    "You Popish rogue" 'ní leomhaid a labhairt sinn
    acht "Cromwellian dog" is focal faire againn
    nó "cia súd thall" go eann gan eagla
    "Mise Tadhg" géadh teinn an t-agallamh

    Bodaigh an Cháise táid go hatuireach
    ag filleadh ar a gcéird gach spéice smeartha aca
    gan ghunna, gan chloidheamh gan pinnse chleachtadar
    d'imthigh a mbrígh is tá an cridhe dá ghreada aca.

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    On the Aran Islands they speak Irish, Irish is the main language -- I wonder if Protestant residents spoke Irish?

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    Politics.ie Member shutuplaura's Avatar
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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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ceilteach View Post
    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?

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    Politics.ie Member diy01's Avatar
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    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.

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    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.

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    Politics.ie Member Lord Talbot's Avatar
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    Default The Protestant Community of the Aran Islands -where happened to them?

    Chased off the islands with hurleys?
    1914-1918 Lest We Forget

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