Workers on the Butler estate, Castlecrine, Co. Clare 1842 – 49.

Small Sources No. 58A.  This is a list of 71 workers on the Butler estate in Castlecrine in the Civil Parish of Kilfinaghta, County Clare from 1842-49.  It is compiled from  pages of a series of weekly accounts of workers’ pay and duties (see example in Figure 1).  Some workers appear every week while others are listed only occasionally. The original documents are among the Butler Estate papers in the National Library of Ireland.  The Butler of Castlecrine Papers include rentals, account books & workmen’s accounts (1775-1925) and the collection is in the National Library of Ireland   (manuscripts no. 5403-5439).  The manuscript referenced here is NLI Ms 5424,  so there may well be more information on the individuals listed in other manuscripts within the collection.   The detailed accounts list the workers employed during each week, the  duties of each worker on each day and the payment due. As the daily duties changed frequently, the tasks stated below are only examples of the wide range of tasks set.  The diverse range of tasks is also shown by Figure 1.   A  ‘haggard‘ (noted in the list below)  is a term used in Ireland for the  area of a farmyard where hay, straw and other crops are stored.   Note also that some workers are defined by trades (Carpenter, Mason or Herd), while others are noted as having a horse. It was not uncommon for a man and a horse to be hired as a unit.  See our blog on workers in Laois for more examples.  Others are specified as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’. In a few cases no task is specified.

The Butlers bought Castlecrine in the early 1700s and it remained in the family until 1951 when it was sold. In the mid-19th century the main part of the estate was in the parishes of Inchicronan and Quin, barony of Bunratty Upper, but they also held land in the baronies of Bunratty Lower, Tulla Upper and Lower and Inchiquin. In the 1870s they owned 11,389 acres in county Clare.

Figure 1.  Extract from Workmens’ accounts showing daily format and notes on how each worker is employed.  Faggots are sticks used for firing or for garden purposes.

It would appear that there were close relations between the Butler family and at least some of their workers. Note that the duty of Thomas Ryan, a mason,  is  listed as ‘with Miss Debby‘.   Miss Deborah is one of the daughters of the household.   Several of the workers listed are also beneficiaries in the will of Anna Butler, proved in 1865  (Will of Anna Butler; National Archives of Ireland; Limerick Will Books 1858-1875: Item 1; Folio 463-467). This will is also available on The will states that £50 had been left by her husband (in 1852) for distribution among 15 named persons (see illustration below), but that she was unable to pay this amount at the time of her husband’s death. Her executors are asked to fulfil the payments.

Almost all of the names are very common in Clare, e.g.  McNamara, Molony, Fitzgerald etc. Exceptions include Bleak, which is rare but almost are Irish occurrences are in Clare; Hickman is also uncommon but of the 448 references to Hickman in Griffith’s valuation  358 are in Clare. Note also the first name Norry, which is an abbreviation of Honor, often Nora or Noreen.  Because some names are very common,  the register differentiates between them by referring to relative’s names.  Thus it lists ‘Norry Hickey, Miles’ and ‘Norry Hickey, Pat’,  indicating that these girls were daughters or wives of Miles Hickey and Pat Hickey. Both of these men were mentioned in the will of Anna Butler and were therefore close to the family.    If you are interested in information on specific families,  our e-book title ‘Sources for Irish Family History 2021  lists 6,500  books and articles on over 2,500  Irish families.  The sources listed contain a wealth of information in the form of articles and books. The full details are described in our blog.

 We also offer our blog readers 1 free hour of research by a professional family historian to conduct further study on the individuals below, or on other tenants of the estate. We can also obtain images of the original documents. Click here and quote ‘Cork72’ in the subject line of a message.   Click here and quote ‘Clare SS58A’ in the subject line.

Name                                Example of duties                Trade etc           Mentioned in 1852 will ?  (see below)

Andy O’Halloran                In quarry
Bridget Gleeson                In the house
Bridget McNamara           Boiling turnips
Danl. Bleak                         Making plough                         Carpenter
Daniel Halloran                 In Limerick                                Herd
Denis Carroll                     In the garden                            boy
Dens. McNamara              In garden                                                                      Yes
Jas. Gleeson                       Thrashing oats
James Molony                   Ploughing                                 + horse (i.e. a man hired with a horse)
John Maloney Senr.          In haggard
John Cullinan                     Carting water
John Fitzgerald Tom         Shovelling oats
John Hickman                                                                       +horse
John Hickman                    In Limerick                                +horse
John Mackey                                                                          Carpenter
John McNamara               with sheep                                 boy
John Moloney Jun.            levelling sandpit
John Mullins                      Collecting leaves
John Neenan                     In the stable
John Ryan                                                                              +horse
John Ryan                           Building wall                            mason                             Yes
Larry Coleman                  making barrows                     carpenter
Martin Barry                       collecting leaves                      boy
Martin Byrne                      Clipping hedges
Martin Morgan                  In sandpit
Mary Gleeson                    Sweeping                                  girl
Mary McNamara               in laundry                                girl
Mary Molony                      in laundry                                girl
Mary Mullins                      Sweeping                                 girl
Mary Neenan
Mat McNamara                   Clipping hedges                                                        Yes
Michael McNamara            reaping oats
Mrs McNamara Michael    Stooking oats
Michl. Byrne                        levelling sandpit
Michl. Keating                     levelling sandpit                                                         Yes?
Michl. Reddin                      Carting sand
Miles Hickey                         felling timber                                                             Yes
Nancy Moroney                   in Kitchen                             girl
Nancy McNamara               in Garden                             girl
Nancy Halloran
Ned Ryan                              levelling ditches
Norry Morony                       in the house                        girl
Norry Hickey, Miles
Norry Hickey, Patt
Pat Carroll                             in stable
Pat Conley Curley?               levelling sandpit
Pat Gleeson                           in garden
Pat McMahon                       ploughing
Pat Ryan Thomas                 Shovelling oats
Patt Hickey                            herding                                                                         Yes
Patt Hickman                        messaging                           boy
Patt Mack
Patt McMahon                      Carting turf
Patrick McNamara                Sweeping walks
Connor McNamara               Sweeping walks
Patt Moloney                         in the haggard
Teady McNerney                  Carting sand                       +horse
Thady Carroll                        Digging potatoes
Thomas Cullenan                 Carting turnips                                                            Yes
Thomas McInerney               Ploughing                           +horse
Thomas McNamara              Herding cattle
Thomas Morony                    Planting trees                                                              Yes
Thos. Cullin                                                                         +horse
Thos. Fitzgerald                     in house                                                                         Yes
Thos. Maloney                       levelling sandpit                                                          Yes
Thos. Ryan                              with Miss Debby                mason                              Yes
Thos. Ryane                                                                        +horse
Tim ? McNamara
Tim Keough                           in garden
Tim McNamara
Widow Ryan Thomas

Figure 2:   Will of Anna Butler, proved in 1865, listing some of the workers as beneficiaries.  The will notes  that the bequests had originally been made in the will of her husband who died in 1852,  but she was then unable to pay them.


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