“In Memory of Valentine Ryan, Born in Co. Kilkenny, Ireland, Feb. 23, 1810, Died Feb. 22, 1881. Erected by his son Patrick Ryan”: Irish Roots of Ryan Family, Grant County, Arkansas (4)

Inset of County Kilkenny Map, Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland
Map for County Kilkenny, Samuel Lewis, Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (London: S. Lewis & Co., 1837) — close-up of southwest County Kilkenny

As my previous posting tells you, though Valentine Ryan and Bridget Tobin married in Mullinavat in 1836, then settled there and raised their family (in the area called Buckstown), Valentine’s roots lie in the Catholic parish immediately adjacent to Kilbeacon parish in Mullinavat on its west side — in the parish of Templeorum and the town of Piltown. Templeorum is in southwestern County Kilkenny in Iverk Barony, bordering on both Counties Tipperary and Waterford.

After I had discovered Valentine and Bridget’s marriage record in 1995 due to the kindness and assiduous work of John Ryan in Piltown, and had gone to Ireland in June 1998 to visit John and his wife Maura and to drive to Mullinavat with them to see the records of that parish church, Rothe House sent me information in October 1999 about the baptismal records of two Valentine Ryans, both born to parents John Ryan and Margaret Oates of Templeorum Parish. One of these Valentines was born in 1805 and the other in 1811. John had continued his trips to the Kilkenny Archaeological Society at Rothe House in Kilkenny on my behalf, and these two baptismal records, which had appeared in the Rothe House index to the parish records of Templeorum, popped up when Rothe House did a new search of its indexed records.

The first Valentine was baptized 6 May 1805, with his baptismal record indicating that his parents were John Ryan and Margaret Othes of Loughreagh, and his baptismal sponsors were Thomas Leahy and Mary Murphy. Because the same parents had another son named Valentine baptized in the same parish in 1811, it appears the first Valentine died between his baptism in 1805 and the birth of the second Valentine in 1811, and the couple gave that name again to their next-born son.

Valentine Ryan Baptism, Templeorum Parish, 6 May 1805

The second Valentine was baptized 3 October 1811, with the baptismal record showing his parents as John Ryan and Margaret Oathes, and the sponsors as James Kelly and Biddy Ready. This record shows the parents residing (or having their son baptized) at Milltown. I’ll say more in a moment about these place names — Piltown, Loughreagh, Milltown, and other places in the vicinity of Piltown mentioned in records of this Ryan family.

Valentine Ryan Baptism, 3 October 1811, Templeorum Parish.

For a variety of reasons, it seems certain that the second Valentine is the man who later married Bridget Tobin in Mullinavat in 1836, that is, in the next parish east of Templeorum, and who then settled at Mullinavat. The date of birth given on the tombstone of that Valentine Ryan in Orion cemetery, Grant County, Arkansas, does not, however, correspond precisely to the baptismal record of this second son named Valentine born to John Ryan and Margaret Oates (the more usual spelling of her surname).  As we’ve seen (a photo of the tombstone is here), the tombstone of the Valentine Ryan who came to Arkansas with wife Bridget and their children Margaret, Patrick, and Catherine in the late 1850s states that he was born 23 February 1810 in County Kilkenny, Ireland.

It’s possible, of course, that a child born in February 1810 would not have been baptized until October 1811. This is not likely, however, since the common practice among Catholic families in Ireland in this period was to have their children baptized either on the day of the child’s birth or shortly afterwards. It’s more likely that the tombstone simply has the date of birth wrong — a deduction that seems more compelling when we notice that the day of Valentine’s death was 22 February 1881, one day prior to 23 February when the tombstone has him born in 1810. The date of birth could well have been devised — perhaps in the absence of more specific information about Valentine’s precise date of birth — to fit what his family knew with certainty about Valentine’s age when he died: that he was 70 years old.

A man born in October 1811 would have been not far short of 70 when he died on 23 February 1881. Since, as I’ve shared with you previously, only two Ryan men with the name Valentine are found in the entire county on Griffith’s Valuation, and since we can document that one of those two married in a parish immediately adjacent to Templeorum in 1836 and settled with his wife in that parish, I think we can safely conclude that the Valentine Ryan born to John Ryan and Margaret Oates in October 1811 is the man who married Bridget Tobin in Mullinavat in 1836. Note that this couple named their oldest daughter Margaret, the name of Valentine Ryan’s mother.

The letter Rothe House sent me in October 1999 telling me about the two Valentines of Templeorum parish who were sons of John Ryan and Margaret Oates also told me that John and Margaret had the following additional children baptized in that parish: Judith, Mary, and Daniel. Since John Ryan lived in Piltown at this time — that is, in Templeorum parish — when Rothe House communicated this information to us, John kindly went through the original register of Templeorum parish, and sent me a letter telling me that he had found no marriages listed there for Valentine or his brother Daniel. Both sons clearly married in some other parish — in Mullinavat, where both settled after marrying, as it turns out.

The Templeorum parish register shows John Ryan and Margaret Oates of Templeorum parish having the following children, then — the dates are their baptism dates:

Valentine, 6 May 1805 (see above for the original record).

Judith, 3 August 1806 (parents’ names given as John Ryan and Margt. Oats, residence Piltown, baptismal sponsors Watt Dalton and Mary Manning).

Judith Ryan Baptism, Templeorum, 3 August 1806

Valentine, 3 October 1811 (see above for the original record).

Mary, 8 May 1814 (parents’ names given as Jno. Ryan and Margt. Othes, residence Harristown, sponsors John Ki[—-?]* and Bridget Hanrahan).

Mary Ryan Baptism, Templeorum, 8 May 1814

Daniel, 11 December 1815 (parents’ names given as John Ryan and Margaret Oats, residence Harristown, sponsors Michael Connelly and Eleanor Ke[—–?]).** (Insert baptismal record.)

Daniel Ryan Baptism, Templeorum, 11 Dec 1815

Loughreagh, the place mentioned as the residence of John Ryan and Margaret Oates when their first son Valentine was baptized in 1805, is part of the present-day town of Piltown. If the places given in Templeorum records for John and Margaret Oates Ryan as their children were baptized from 1805 to 1815 are places of residence and not simply where these children were baptized, then it appears John and Margaret moved from Loughreagh (and Piltown, where Judith’s baptismal record places them in 1806 — as we’lll see, Loughreagh is part of Piltown), to Milltown at the time of the second Valentine’s baptism in 1811, and then to Harristown, where the baptisms of Mary and Daniel note the family living or having those children baptized in 1814-5.

There is a certain pattern to these moves — if, indeed, the Ryan family was moving from place to place in these years: the places in which the family lived tended to be places associated with the Ponsonby family, the major landholders of Piltown who owned a large landed estate, Bessborough, right in the area of Piltown in which we first find John and Margaret Oates Ryan residing (if the baptismal record does point to their residence) when their first son was born: in the townland of Belline and Rogerstown in Fiddown civil parish. Loughreagh was in this townland, and the townland is part of Piltown.

Owen O’Kelly’s The Place-Names of the County of Kilkenny tells us that Belline and Rodgerstown (as he spells the name, archaically) is a townland in Templeorum Catholic parish of the diocese of Ossory and Fiddown civil parish in Iverk Barony (in Carrick-on-Suir poor law union in the province of Leinster). Belline is a subdivision of the townland in which Belline House, the former residence of the agents of the Bessborough estate at Piltown, is situated. The Loughreagh mentioned as the Ryan family’s residence when their first son Valentine was born in 1805, whose name O’Kelly spells as Logriach, was in the southern portion of the townland of Belline and Rogerstown, where that townland verges on the Pill River. O’Kelly says that the Irish name Log riach mean’s “the gray hollow,” citing William Carrigan’s History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory.[1]

Loughreagh/Logriach is a now defunct name for a bit of land that most Piltown residents today would be hard pressed to identify, and would likely have never heard of. When we first catch sight of John and Margaret Ryan in Templeorum parish records, they are living on a spot that is associated with the Bessborough estate of the Ponsonby family, the major landholders in their area, and the other places to which they seem to move in the next decade or at which they have their children baptized are largely associated with this same family.

If you have read my previous posting, you will perhaps recall that I told you in that posting that I suspect Valentine Ryan’s father John Ryan may well have been a skilled artisan: I think, in fact, that he may have worked for the Ponsonbys on their Bessborough estate. Since I think that Valentine Ryan carved the tombstones of his daughter Margaret and wife Bridget, something I have previously mentioned, I’m inclined to think that John Ryan may well have been a skilled stonemason who passed that skill on to his son Valentine, and may have been moving about with his family in the early 1800s doing work for the Ponsonbys in villages connected to them. I’ll explain in my next posting, summing up what I think I know of John Ryan beyond the entries for his children’s baptisms in Templeorum parish records, why I think I know this, and why I think that these suppositions are not mere conjecture spun out of thin air.

Carrigan’s History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory tells us that “Logreeach,” as he spells the nam in the section of the study dealing with Piltown, was the site of a battle in 1462 between the Earls of Ormond and Desmond, beginning at the tower of Rogerstown, and continuing through Logreeach over an old roadway crossing the Pill River into Ardclone. He also notes that the castle of Ardclone stood in Bolliaheece beside the Pill, and that in former centuries, a road passed from Tybroughney through Logreeach and thence by a bridge over the Pill into Bolliaheece and on to Piltown chapel.[2] The importance of Tybroughney to our discussion of John Ryan and Margaret Oates will be apparent in my next posting: Margaret’s mother is buried there. It is just to the west of Piltown now within a townland sometimes spelled Tybroughney and at other times Tibberaghny, which borders on the Suir River.

Tybroughney Castle was built on the Suir at the borders of Munster and Leinster (that is, on the Kilkenny-Tipperary border) due west of Piltown. The river was formerly fordable at Tybroughney. Mary O’Shea’s history of Piltown district at the website of Templeorum parish notes that Tybroughney Castle belonged to the Mountgarret Butlers of Ormonde in the 17th century, who handed it over to the Cromwellian soldier Sir Algernon May in 1653. It was occupied in the 18th century by the Briscoes, who are part of the Ponsonby family tree, and in the 19thcentury by the Rivers family. There is a tradition of a battle having been fought at Tybroughney around 1185 when Donald O’Brien, King of Limerick, led his Dalcassians to Tybroughney, with great slaughter ensuing when they met Prince John’s army.[3]

Tybroughney Castle, Tybroughney Castle - Bastion of Romans and saints and now restored by the Dowleys
Tybroughney Castle, from “Tybroughney Castle – Bastion of Romans and saints and now restored by the Dowleys“; photo on right is by Joe Cashin.

According to Carrigan, in ancient times Tybroughney was “a town well inhabited and in high repute, particularly on the arrival of the English” (i.e., the Anglo-Normans). The settlement had grown around a monastery. Kathleen Laffan refers to Tybroughney’s reputation as a prosperous place in her History of Kilmacow, as she cites a local saying in Kilmacow parish: “We can’t all be born in Tybroughney” — meaning, “We can’t all be well off.”[4]

Carrigan notes that Belline House (he spells the name Balline) was built by Peter Walsh about 1800, though a history of Piltown on the Ireland Byways website indicates that Peter Walsh had Belline House built about 1775,  and then sold it to Frederick Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough, after which it was occupied by successive agents of the Bessborough estate. Rogerstown castle belonged to the Strong family, Carrigan indicates. The Strongs forfeited the lands of Rogerstown, Balline, and Brenar to Cromwell’s troops in 1653.[5]

Here’s Mary O’Shea’s account of how the Ponsonbys acquired and organized their landholdings in the vicinity of Piltown:

In 1662 under the Act of Settlement [i.e., following Cromwell’s invasion and the subjugation of the Irish] two grants of land were confirmed to Sir John Ponsonby, the Dalton and Walsh estates. Colonel William Ponsonby, son of Sir John and Elizabeth Ffliott acquired in 1668 a further 1,200 acres in Iverk from forfeited estates. Sir John Ponsonby renamed Kildalton estate Bessborough after his second wife Elizabeth or Bess Ffliott.  In 1744 he had built Bessborough House, whose design is attributed to the renowned architect Francis Blindon who also designed Woodstock House at Inistioge in the County of Kilkenny.

Bessborough estate stretched from Kilionerry and Whitechurch in the west, to Garrygaug and Listrolin in the east, to the north the estate extended to Ballygown and Newchurch, southwards to the Suir at Clonmore, Turkstown, Fiddown and Ardclone. The total area was 27,729 statute acres. Rents were paid twice yearly, May and November. Most people had a year to year lease, only a small number had long term leases. In agreement with the landlord each tenant had the right to cultivate the land but was not allowed to prune or lop trees on it. Neither had a tenant a right to repair new or existing fences or open drains or water-courses. Tenant farmers were forbidden to make or sell poteen. It was the land agent who granted permission for tenants to marry. He also had to be informed if a tenant was going to give lodging to a visitor even for one night. The latter rule was hardly strictly observed.

The landlord system which began in the late 1600s changed the landscape quite considerably, it spelled the end of commonly farmed land. Each field was now enclosed and parcels of land let out to tenant farmers. The labourers were pushed further to the margins. Labourers who were now known as cottiers rented a plot with a cabin on it from a tenant farmer, to whom he paid rent in money and labour. The demesne required workmen such as carpenters stonemasons, gamekeepers, and lodges were built for these employees. Within the Piltown area there are many of these lodges standing to this day.

On my two trips to Piltown to visit John and Maura Ryan, they told me that Piltown, which is on the Pill River, a tributary of the Suir in the fertile Suir River valley in a region renowned for its rich soil and called the Golden Vale, which stretches across several Irish counties, was a choice spot for the settlement of families associated with Cromwell’s invasion, due to the fecundity of its land. That drive into the uplands in which Mullinavat sits that I mentioned in my previous posting, which mentions the spectacular scenic views down into the river valley from the ridge that forms the beginning of the uplands: John and Maura told me that Cromwell had his soldiers stand on that ridge and point down into the valley and select their tracts of land. After which the land was taken from the Irish families living on it. . . .

After this time, as Kathleen Laffan notes, and as Piltown grew into a town, it became more or less entirely associated with the Ponsonby family as its large landholder, and was considered an “estate village” attached to the Ponsonbys’ Bessborough estate. Piltown, Mullinavat, and Fiddown began to be built as villages in the late 1700s, all being on then existing roads, with the roads being constructed, in part, to facilitate movement of traffic between the various Ponsonby “estate villages” in the area, which included, in addition to Piltown, Fiddown and Harristown, another of the places we find John and Margaret Oates Ryan residing or staying when their son Daniel was baptized in 1815.[6] Both Harristown and Milltown, also named in the Ryan children’s baptismal records, are just to the north of Mullinavat in Muckalee civil parish.[7]

On the inset map of County Kilkenny at the top of this posting, which is taken from this map (below) in Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837), Mullinavat does not yet appear, since the town had not developed to any great extent by that date. The name is given as Killahy, the ancient religious parish for which civil parish of Killahy came to be named. Harristown and Milltown are just to the north of Killahy, though they, too, do not appear on this map.

Kilkenny Map, Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland
Map for County Kilkenny, Samuel Lewis, Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (London: S. Lewis & Co., 1837)

According to Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, the Bessborough mansion in Piltown was situated in 1837 in a well-wooded park of more than 500 acres, with a house of hewn blue limestone measuring 100 feet in front by 80 feet in depth, and a great hall supported by four Ionic columns of Kilkenny marble, each of a single stone 10½ feet high.  The house was built in 1744, and was one of the principal seats of landed gentry in the county.[8]

The Ordnance Survey team headed by John O’Donovan and Eugene Curry, which mapped this area of Ireland in 1839, had interesting observations to make about it in letters the two wrote in that period. O’Donovan and Curry note that the parish of Fiddown had been “anciently a place of some respectability and note as a religious establishment,” though in 1839, nothing remained of its ancient ecclesiastical origins except a graveyard and a Protestant church to mark the site of the old church. O’Donovan and Curry describe Tybroughney as a ruin of great antiquity, its name deriving from “Tiobar,” “a well,” and “Eocha,” a given name formerly common among the Irish. According to them, the stately castle that stands in this place was thought by many locals to have been built by King John while he lived at Waterford, and by other accounts, considered to have belonged to the Walshes of the Walsh Mountains. This and the ruins of the ancient church of Tybroughney are on the northern bank of the Suir about two miles from Carrick-on-Suir only a few miles north of Waterford, across the Suir.[9]

The O’Donovan-Curry letters also note that the parish was separated from Waterford (which is about 16 miles south of Piltown) by the River Suir and from Tipperary by the Lingaune River, and that another possible meaning of the name Tybroughney was “Fachtna’s well.” The letters cite an account of Archdall, which states, “Tibrach, a town which was in antient times well inhabited and in high report, particularly on the arrival of the English, it is situated on the north side of the river Suir, about 2 miles east of Carric Mac Griffith (Carrickousnin) and a great stone is now standing there which is the boundary between the Counties of Kilkenny and Tipperary.”[10]

Here’s a portion of Taylor and Skinner’s historic map (1778) of the road from Waterford to Kilmacow, showing Bessborough estate, Tibroughney, Piltown, and their location in relation to each other. The map is not on north-south coordinates; Waterford (the left side of the map) is south and Tipperary (the right side of the map) is west.

Taylor & Skinner 1778 Ireland Road Map, 163:4, Waterford to Kilmacow (close up)

According to O’Kelly, Templeorum parish is named for St. Odhran, a Christian name used often by the Walshes of the Mountains. The ancient Templeorum church has long been in ruins, along with its ancient graveyard full of old monuments.[11] Carrigan thinks that Templeorum means “Church of the Fort or Rath.”[12]

In summary, this is what we know of the corner of County Kilkenny in which Valentine Ryan was born, raised, and married. The great marvel of this story: in the 1990s, I contacted a Ryan living in Piltown, John Ryan, who had been recommended to me as someone who might know something of Ryans in County Kilkenny, and asked if he had any advice for me about how to find my Ryan ancestors there. He graciously offered to help me, though he himself is a Wexford Ryan and not a Kilkenny Ryan. He then found my roots in County Kilkenny — which led almost precisely to the spot in Piltown at which he and his wife Maura lived, Kildalton, next to the Bessborough estate, whose old manor house is now used as an agricultural college, Kildalton College.

In my next posting, I’ll tell you what I think we may know about his parents John Ryan and Margaret Oates from sources other than the baptismal records of their children in the Templeorum parish register.

This posting is the fourth in a series of postings tracing the Irish roots of Valentine Ryan and Bridget Tobin. The third posting in this series is here.

[1]Owen O’Kelly, The Place-Names of the County of Kilkenny (Kilkenny: Boethius, 1985), p. 126.

[2]William Carrigan, History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory, vol. 4 (Dublin: Sealy, Bryers & Walker, 1905), pp. 223-4.

[3]Mary O’Shea, “The District of Piltown,” online at website of Templeorum Parish.

[4]Kathleen Laffan, The History of Kilmacow Parish (Kilmacow: GK Print, 2005), p. 401.

[5]Carrigan, History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory, vol. 4, pp. 223-4.

[6]Kathleen Laffan, History of Kilmacow Parish, p. 122.

[7]O’Kelly, Place Names of County of Kilkenny, p. 131.

[8]Samuel Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, vol. 1 (London: S. Lewis & Co., 1837), pp. 628-9.

[9]See Ordnance Survey Letters, Kilkenny, ed. Michael Herity (Dublin: Four Masters, 2003), vol. 2, pp. 202f.

[10]Ibid., citing Hooker, pp. 21-2.

[11]O’Kelly, Place Names of County of Kilkenny, p. 129.

[12]Carrigan, History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory, p. 230.

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