Durrow
September 15, 2019 Genealogy Research No Comments

Small Sources 66: This list contains 126 servants employed by the Flower estate at  Durrow, Co. Laois  (previously Queen’s County) from 1720 to 1748.     The records are on loose-leaf pages within the Flower Estate papers  in the National Library  of Ireland  (NLI Ms 11,461).    It can be presumed that there were also farm-hands employed but these are not included.  Durrow is an ancient town first recorded in 546AD.   At the time of this record the surrounding area was part of the estate of William Flower Esq. who started to build a residence called Castle Durrow in 1712 and completed it in 1716. He married in 1717 and had 2 daughters and 2 sons. Note the employment of nursery maids and children’s maids in the list below. The family were regarded as benevolent landlords and, as owners of the town, were major local employers. A son of William Flower was created Viscount Ashbrook in 1751.

The Flower family retained ownership of the estate until 1922, when the banks finally foreclosed. The Land Commission took over the arable portion of the property and divided it among local farmers; while the Forestry Department (now the State-owned company Coillte) took over the woodland. In 1929 the Catholic Parish of Durrow acquired the house from the bank and transformed it into a school, St. Fintan’s College. However, in the 1990s it was bought by private owners who conducted major renovations on the house. It is now run as a luxury hotel and is a major venue for weddings.

The records were compiled by James Loghlin (a variant of Loughlin) whose role was the Estate Agent for the Flower Estate, which effectively meant that he managed both the staff employed,  but also the collection of rent from the tenants.   The other roles mentioned in the document are mainly recognisable (Butler, Cook, Footman etc) but also include:

  • Postillions:    the persons who sat on one of the team of horses pulling a coach, to guide them.
  • Woodrangers, Woodreeve, Keeper of Woods:  staff involved in managing woodlands.   ‘Woodreeve’ is incorrectly spelled as  ‘Woodriff’ in the document.
  • Bailiff or Land-Bailiff:  staff dealing with tenants on the estate and reporting to the Estate Agent
  • Sportsmen, Huntsmen, Fowlers:  staff involved in managing the wildlife on the estate for the benefit of hunters and provision of game for the table.

The documents include receipts from the servants  for their annual wages (see Figure 1) and it clear from these records that many are illiterate.  However, it is noteworthy that James Loughlin seems not to have been too concerned about accuracy in the spelling of their names. For instance, Bridget Plunkett was literate and signed for her wages as ‘Plunkett’ (see below), whereas he consistently inserted her name in the register as Plunkit.  Similarly another servant signed himself as John Donphy but is listed as Dunphy, and Charles Magauran is listed as McGauran. There are also a range of variants used for other names Dun/Dunn; Hanrihan/Hanrahan; Dullany/Delany etc. In short, it would be unwise to rely on the name spellings used.   An interesting phenomenon is the apparent rise of some staff within the ranks.  Miles Henshaw starts as a groom in 1740, is listed as Butler in 1745, and is then demoted to Footman in 1747. The most spectacular success is Simon Watters who starts as a Groom in 1724; rises to Butler in 1726 and ends up as the personal man-servant of Hon. Mr. Flower.

The wages are hugely variable. As was detailed in a previous blog on the Domville household,  house-servants are paid more than kitchen staff. Bottom of the ladder are poultry-maids and kitchen-maids at around £1.10 shillings per year; chambermaids receive £3; footmen around £4; while cooks get up to £7, and butlers £10.  External staff such as Grooms (£5) and coachmen (£7) are also relatively well-paid. It would also appear that there was poor job-security within the household and few of the household staff survive the 20 year period of the records. By contrast, a high proportion of the ‘out-door’ staff, bailiffs, park-keepers, fowlers etc are employed for most of the period.

Figure 1:  Example of the ‘signatures’ of servants receiving payments in 1731. Most were illiterate and signed using a “mark”.  Those on the right were literate and signed their names.

A note on some of the places referenced:

Knockatrina was one of the properties of the Flower family. A house was built on the property in mid 1800s which became home to a later lord Ashbrook. It now a popular walking and running area.

Capponellan woods is SW of Durrow and was originally established to provide game cover and grow beech, Scots pine, Norway spruce and Sitka spruce intermixed with occasional oak, ash, birch, sally and hazel for various estate uses. It is still a working woodland, now owned and managed by Coillte the government-owned forestry authority.

Knockbane or Knockbaun.        A townland in Dysartgallen Civil Parish (NE of Durrow)

Tullamane.  This is almost certainly the townland of Tullamaine (Ashbrook) in the Barony of Shillelogher, Kilkenny.   This is quite a distance from Durrow and how it came into family ownership is not clear.

Ballynaslee:  A townland directly south of Durrow in the neighbouring county of Kilkenny.

Course  A townland directly NW of Durrow. Several staff are noted as ‘keepers’ of this area, which suggests it may have been used for hunting.

The images herein were created by Ancestor Network and reproduced with permission of the National Library  of Ireland.   Ancestor Network will offer 1 free hour of research by a professional genealogist to conduct further research on these individuals or others in these estate papers. Click here and quote ‘Laois SS66’ in the subject line.   Flyleaf Press, a division of Ancestor Network,  also publish a series of guides to Irish family research, including ‘Sources for Irish Family History‘ see above, which lists publications on Irish families.

Servant Surname and first name    /   Position held or work done  /   year first recorded /  (author comments) 

Atchison/Atchisen, Mrs.      Children’s maid  1748
Bergin,  Margaret                  ..working scouring etc./ Washing, carding flax etc     1724
?  Bolton,                                  Footman??        1735
Bourke, Margaret                 Chambermaid  1741
Bourke, Ellin                          Kitchenmaid   1744
Breen, Dennis                        Woodranger    1720
Brenan, Denis                        Bailiff at Knockbane  1741                                                (Knockbawn – see above)

Figure 2: An abstract of the accounts of servant’s wage for 1740.  Note that payment of wages is on an annual basis.

Brien, Joane                 Kitchenmaid 1727
Brophy, Honor           Chambermaid 1730
Brophy, Anne              Chambermaid 1741
Budd, William             Gardner 1720
Burke, Mary                no position cited      1736
Butler, Annastace      .. for 12 mons washing servants sheets and table linen     1745
Butler, Richard           Cowherd (1720), Cowherd in Durrow        1720
Butler, Richard           Woodrive at Caponelin    1726      (should be spelled woodreeve, which is a forest overseer)
Butler, Catherine          …for washing 1745
Byrne, Bridget              Housekeeper /Cook in 1740              1738
Byrne, Margaret           Chambermaid            1722
Byrne, Katherin/Catherine           Kitchenmaid         1727
Byrne, Honor              Kitchenmaid    1724
Byrne, James              Butler 1740
Cassidy, Andrew        Groom 1722
Connill (Cornil?), Agnis           Chambermaid 1728
Connor, Mary            Dairymaid 1725
Dawson, Bridget       Poultrymaid 1722
Delany, Cornelius     Groom 1729
Delany, Catherine     Kitchenmaid 1728
Delany, Hugh            Woodriff 1730            (this should be spelled woodreeve, which is a forest overseer)
Delany, Margaret     Kitchenmaid 1726
Delany,  Edmond      Shepherd  1720         (also spelled Dullany  – Delaney is the accepted spelling)
Dempsy, Ally            Kitchenmaid 1735
Donnell, Mrs.           no position cited      1748
Donnell, Margaret   Chambermaid 1748
Doogin (=Duigin?), Tim /Finn?           Groom 1720                                          (usually spelled Doogan)
Dun, James               Footman /Groom 1740
Dun /Dunn, Joane /Joan           Poultrymaid 1735
Dun /Dunn, William      Keeper of Knockihiana 1724                                (now called Knockatrina – see above) 
Dunphy, John           Cowherd,  woodranger, Woodrive 1722     (should be spelled woodreeve,  a forest overseer)
Dunphy, John           Park-keeper/ Keeper 1735
Dunphy, Edmond     Park-keeper 1747
Eats ?, Margaret       Chambermaid 1728
Evans, ?                       Footman 1735
Fahy, Elizabeth         Kitchenmaid 1748
Fahy?, Margaret       Chambermaid 1735    (chambermaid ‘in Dublin’ i.e. the Flower residence in the city)
Fitzpatrick, Mary      ..for 4 months spinning flax      1723
Flanagan, William     Coachman 1746
Flood, Margaret         Cooksmaid 1727
Garrotty, Darby         Coachman 1726        (probably Geraghty)
Goggin (Gogin), Robbort           Groom 1726
Graham, Ann              Chambermaid 1726
Grant, Joane          Chambermaid /Dairymaid/Cooksmaid 1731
Griffith, Grace           Waitering maid 1720
Hanrahan, James       Footman 1726
Hanrahan/Hourahan, Honora           Kitchenmaid 1726
Hanrihan, James         Groom 1722
Hanrihane, James        Postillion 1720
Hartstongue, David    Butler 1724
Hely ?, Charles           Footman 1722
Henesy, Bryan           Sportsman / Huntsman /Brewer    1720     (usually Hennessy)
Henshaw, Mary           Dairymaid   1740                                                                    (wife of Miles below)
Henshaw, Miles           Groom /Butler in 1745 /Footman in 1747                     (husband of Mary above)
Horsman, Charles       Footman 1745
Horsman, Catherin      no position cited                 1747
Hoyne, Mary                Kitchenmaid 1729
Hunt, Anne                   Chambermaid 1729
Joyce, James               Coachman 1720
Kelly, Wm.                   Footman 1735
Kelly, Mrs.                   Cook    1748
Kenedy, Cicily            Spinner 1729
Larcan, ..?                     Poultrymaid 1735
Lawlor, William          Cowherd also landbailiff in Ballynillee?/Bailiff & Herd 1720    (probably Ballynaslee – see above) 
Lawlor, Juggy             Spinnor / Also Nurserymaid          1722
Lawlor, Wm.               Landbailiff in Ballynislee/Herd …    1725       (probably Ballynaslee – see above) 
Lee, James                   no position cited      1736
Lee, Jonathan             Coachman      1748
Loghlin, James           Estate Agent  1720                           (this is the agent who compiled the records)
Lowry, John                …for attending Knock.. ? 1720                                  (now called Knockatrina – see above) 
Martin, James            Brewer 1720
McDaniel, Thomas         Groom 1732
McDaniel, Edmond        Woodriffe 1730              (should be spelled woodreeve, which is a forest overseer)
McDermud, Margaret   Kitchenmaid 1747                                                  (usually spelled McDermott now)
McDonald, Thomas        Groom 1735
McDonald, Matthew       Footman 1741
McDonald, Margaret      Dairymaid 1742
McGauran /Magauran, Charles      Footman  1731          (as noted above,  he signs his name Magauran)
McLaughlin, Thomas           Butler 1740
Meaugher, Anstace              Kitchenmaid 1726                    (usually spelled Meagher)
Miss Molly                   no position cited      1726
Moor, ?                            Woodriff 1735                   (should be spelled woodreeve, which is a forest overseer)
Moore, Ellinor           Dairymaid 1720
Mulloy,  ?                     Cook 1735
Murphy, Edmond     Herd at Knockbawn 1729                          (Knockbawn – see above)
Neale,    ?                      Keeper of the Course 1748
Neale, Patrick            Fowler 1735
Phelan, John               ..for attending the Course / Keeper of the Course 1720                (see above)
Phelan, Joane            Poultrymaid 1724
Plunkit /Plunkett, Bridget     Childrens maid 1722                         (see note on spelling above)
Purcell, Pierce             Bailiff at Tullamane 1748             (Tullamaine  – see above)
Rafforty or Reforty, Anne    Chambermaid 1731                (usually spelled Rafferty)
Raforty, Henry            Groom 1740
Range, Mary                  Kitchenmaid 1740
Range, Margaret           Kitchenmaid 1741
Rango (Range?), Wm.   Bailiff or Landbailiff 1720
Roules, Winifred           …helping to wash /Cooksmd in 1724 1720
Roules,  John                  Postillion / Groom 1746 /Footman 1747 1746
Roules, Mary                  ..for washing 1745
Roulet /Rowlett, David           Footman 1748
Ryan, Joane                     Kitchenmaid 1729
Salmon, Margaret          Dairymaid 1741
Shee, William                  Keeper of Caponolin Wood 1723
Sherrid, Sarah                 no position cited      1748
Shortill, Richard            Keeper of Caponolin Wood 1722
Sittred, Mary                  Housekeeper 1735
Stapleton, Edmond      Woodriffe 1747                  (should be spelled woodreeve, which is a forest overseer)
‘The Black’,  Peter          Footman 1748
Tinan, Grace                   Chambermaid 1726                                        (usually spelled Tynan)
Tinan, Mary                    ..for washing 1745
Travers /Traverse, Laurence     Keeper of Newtown Wood 1735    ( there are several local places of this name)
Tynan ? Tinan, John Tynan        Keeper of Knockitrina 1748                    (now called Knockatrina – see above) 
Waters, Simon                Groom 1724
Watters, Simon              Butler /Hon. Mr Flower’s Servant 1726
Welch, Thomas             Woodrive /Keeper of the Course 1740     (should be spelled woodreeve,   a forest overseer)                    
Welsh ?, Mary                Nursery Maid 1726
Whitil /Whitile, Frances   Housekeeper 1720
Williams, Richard           Postillion 1746


Some of the articles in our series on Irish Family History sources:

Written by Jim Ryan
Dr Jim Ryan is a writer and publisher who has been active in Irish genealogy for the past 35 years. His books include: Irish Records- sources of family and local history; Tracing your Dublin Ancestors (Flyleaf Press 2009); Irish Church Records (Flyleaf 2001); Sources for Irish Family History (Flyleaf 2001), and Tracing your Sligo Ancestors (Flyleaf 2012). He writes blogs and articles for Ancestor Network and Irish Roots, and previously for In-Depth Genealogist, and Irish America. He has lectured extensively to genealogy conference and societies.