A Mullaghmore Cromwellian
Burns/Byrne of Mullaghmore/North Sligo
Chased with knives
Some years ago, in an attempt to find out where my Burns ancestors came from, I researched a memoir that my great grandfather had written. Patrick, who in 1847 had migrated from Easky, Co. Sligo, to America, wrote that our progenitor was a Jacobite soldier from Co. Wicklow who in 1691 fled north to Sligo after the defeat at Aughrim. The soldier came to a hut near Killanley in Castleconnor parish where “three strange looking women dwelt” and asked for directions. Seeing his military garb, the women chased him with knives, and one hurled a knife that wounded him in the leg.
That tale had a certain ring of authenticity, but I wondered about the timing. It seems unlikely that a Jacobite refugee would go to Sligo, a county that had been distributed among Oliver Cromwell’s troops just 50 years earlier. Perhaps the soldier was Cromwellian rather than Jacobite? Catholic Ireland was a bastion of support for James II (Jacobites). As soon as he had come to the throne he had made reforms in Ireland favorable to the Catholics who had lost almost all of their rights and properties after the Cromwell's conquests of 1650. He had appointed Catholic deputies and as soon as he was deposed in England, Ireland declared support for him.
In the mid-1600s, Sir Richard Coote’s Regiment of Horse was disbanded in Sligo, and its officers received extensive land grants in that county. Many of their surnames are prominent even today, e.g., Coote, King, Jones, Ormsby, Cooper, Wood, Parke, and Colles. Among those that disappeared from history was that of James Byrne, quartermaster in Major John King’s troop, and in 1653 recipient of grants in Leyny, Tireragh, and Carbury totaling over 1200 acres. What was a Catholic Irish name like Byrne doing in the Protestant army of Oliver Cromwell, and could he have been the progenitor of my Burns family?
Byrne of Mullaghmore
James Byrne (also spelled Beirn or Birne in wills and deeds), settled in
Mullaghmore, which he apparently had been granted along with the nearby townland of Creevymore. James (I) had a son also named James (II), and the latter had sons Bryan and James (III). Land deeds show that among the townlands that Bryan owned was Cregg, just north of Sligo town, to which he apparently moved. James (III), the junior son, left Sligo for parts unknown.
Bryan Byrne fathered William, Dorcus, and Philip. William became a captain in the British army and died unmarried while en route to the East Indies. His brother Philip then inherited the family estates, and he also made his home in Cregg. Philip’s first wife was Margaret, the daughter of Edmond Soden of Grange, and his second was Jane, the daughter of Owen Wynne of Hazelwood. Shortly before he died in 1794, he conveyed to Jane control of his properties of Chaffpool, Cregg, Creevymore, Silverhill, the mills of Barnaderg and Bunduff, Cloontyprocklis, Blackpark, Mulcane, Dernish Island, and houses on Castle and Quay Streets in Sligo town.
1791 rent roll showing the OBerne/Byrne/O Beirne holding rentals of substantial properties from Lord Palmerston in North Sligo. William is in considerable arrears (right column) and in danger of ejectment.
Intermarriage with Sligo landlords
Philip’s will and other documents showed intermarriage between his Byrne family and other prominent landowners such as Ormsby, Griffith, Folliott, Jones, O’Beirne, Colles, Soden, Wynne, Irwin, and Dodwell. But Philip had no legitimate children and was the last of his Sligo Byrne line. His will left his properties to his wife’s father, presumably for her care, and to an assortment of cousins and nephews. His sister Dorcus had previously been cared for via a dowry of three townlands in Sligo and five in Wexford. Dorcus first married Dudley Colles of Collesford and later George Dodwell, who was left Chaffpool and Carrowkeel in Philip’s will.
Philip died in 1794. In 1823, a British army officer named Francis Henry Byrne asked Sir William Betham, Chief Herald of Ulster, for help in tracing his ancestry. Francis thought he was descendant from some O’Byrne family of Leinster, but Betham soon discovered that Francis descended from the James Byrne III who had left Co. Sligo in the late 17th century when older brother Bryan inherited the family lands. James III was Francis Henry’s great grandfather. This branch apparently had moved to Durham, England, because in 1794 Francis’s father Philip Henry had joined the Durham Fencibles and was stationed in Clonmel, Ireland, when Francis was born in 1798. Philip Henry had married Fanny Balfour of the well-known Scottish family, and he was a captain in the 25th Dragoons when he died in India.
From the mountain to the sea: lands acquired by the Cromwellians in North Sligo
Emigrates to Australia
Philip and Fanny’s son Francis Henry Byrne also became an army officer and served from 1817 to 1829. He then migrated to Western Australia where he received a land grant of 13,000 acres. In 1837 he sold his holdings and return to England. Francis had six daughters and one known son, Philip, born in 1840.
Francis Henry Balfour Byrne, born in England in 1878, was living in Boston at the time of the 1901 US census. He died in New York City in the 1930s, never having married. Since his father was named Francis Henry, and his grandmother was a Balfour, I think it fair to assume that this immigrant was the grandson of former British army office Francis Henry Byrne, and thus was the last known male descendant of the original James Byrne of Mullaghmore.
Origins of James Byrne of Mullaghmore?
But, back to the original question, where did that James Byrne of Mullaghmore come from? Was he an O’Byrne from Leinster, a Scottish Burns, or possibly a Beirne from nearby Roscommon? My money is on the latter. Quartermaster James Byrne served under Major John King (later Lord Kingston) who was from the prominent King family of Boyle, Roscommon. When the King family joined Cromwell’s army, they presumably raised military detachments from their tenants and neighbors, and who better as a quartermaster than a local Irish speaker? Roscommon of course contained the O’Beirne sept, and many of that name lived around Boyle. If Francis Henry Balfour Byrne had married and produced a son, I believe a simple DNA test would confirm this. But both lines of the Mullaghmore family founded by Quartermaster James Byrne in the 1650s seem to have disappeared. On the other hand, is it possible that Francis Henry Balfour Byrne had a brother? Early on in my genealogical pursuit of this family I concluded that it had nothing to do with the Burns family of Easky.
The search goes on...
(Article by Paul Burns)
Several regiments were disbanded in Co. Sligo, and much land confiscated from Catholics was distributed among them. Sir Richard Coote's Regiment of Horse was one of them, and part of it was Sir John King's troop of cavalry. Coote later became Lord Collooney and King Lord Kingston. I spend much time trying to connect King's quartermaster James Byrne to my own Burns family, but I eventually concluded that it was not. For a summary of my research see Joe McGowan's www.sligoheritage.com.
The procedure for obtaining land is set out by Wood-Martin:
'The lands in Ireland were set out to the army by lot; as soon as the
lot was drawn, the person satisfied delivered up his debenture on the
spot, receiving in exchange a certificate declaring the amount of pay
due to him, and the number of acres to which he was entitled in
satisfaction thereof; his half- pay then ceased' (Vol. 2, p. 87).
Mary O'Dowd (1991) writes: 'The procedure by which the northern
baronies were divided among the soldiers is not clear, but by January
1654 a number of officers were authorised to divide the land and set
it out by lot. Most of the soldiers awarded land in Sligo had served
in Connacht during the war, mainly in the regiment of Sir Charles
Coote or in that of his brother Richard. They were a mixture of local
English landlords (largely from County Roscommon), men from families
who had lived in the province before 1641 as tenants rather than as
landlords, and English and Scottish men recruited in the north of
Ireland, Scotland and England to serve in the army.'
'Many of the soldiers were owed arrears for serving in Sir Charles
Coote's regiment since the summer of 1645. The land allotted in north
Sligo to these men did not by any means meet all the arrears due, and
in 1654 and 1655 the soldiers pressed for more land to be awarded to
them. For many of the officers who had served in Connacht during the
1640s the demand for land was complicated by the fact that most of
them wanted land in Connacht. This was understandable, as many of them
were already landlords in the province or came from families who were.
They requested that their new estates be as close as possible to the
existing landed possessions of their families. Their expectations of
having their requests granted were high because in the late 1640s the
parliament had already leased out, on a temporary basis, lands of
known rebels in Connacht. For example, the lands of Brian MacDonagh
and Patrick Plunkett were leased to serving soldiers in 1647. The
hopes of the soldiers for land in Connacht were further encouraged by
the statement of the general council of the army in Ireland in the
summer of 1653 that the soldiers should be `settled in those quarters
where they have served and are best acquainted'.
Power, politics and land: Early Modern Sligo 1568-1688 by Mary O?Dowd.
Published by The Institute of Irish Studies. The Queen?s University at
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