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Archive for May, 2011

Many areas of the world have historical stories about gangs of bandits and robbers. Depending on the evidence consulted, they can be ruthless killers or Robin Hood type folk heroes. Ireland is no different and there are many examples of Tories[1], highway men and rapparees[2]. One of the most well known bands of outlaws was the Kellymount gang. This group of men committed many robberies in the late 1730s before being captures in 1740.

In the fifth volume of his tome on Irish history, Ireland and Her People, Thomas W.H. Fitzgerald refers to the year 1740 as the year of the “Kellymount gang outrages”.[3] The leader of the gang was a man by the name of Brenan. This name is synonymous with the north Kilkenny area.[4] An unflattering account is given of him in Reilly’s Dublin Newsletter of 1740: “Brenan is said to be a man of very mean appearance, has a freehold of nine pounds per year, near the coal pits, but, renting one of the coal pits, and not succeeding, he started this gang”.[5] From 1738-1740 the gang was said to number about thirty men[6] and roamed areas of counties Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly and as far west as Galway[7].

A more sympathetic view of the gang is given in a 1902 anti-establishment publication: “Their head-quarters seem to have been Coolcullen Wood, about seven miles from Kilkenny……..They were so formidable that a strong military force had to be sent against them. This gang committed no murders, disdained to take anything but money, horses, and sheep; sometimes divided their plunder with the starving people; and had in the outset pledged their honour not to rob any of the gentlemen of the County Kilkenny.”[8]

While the gang members seem to have come from many areas of north Kilkenny, their association with Kellymount most likely comes from them frequenting the area. Just eight years after the demise of the gang a travel writer wrote about visiting an inn in Kellymount that the gang used to regularly frequent.[9] Later in the century, a traveler in Ireland reported in 1791 that he was shown a cave in Kellymount that the gang used as a meeting place.[10]

Eventually, Brenan, and other gang members were captured in Galway and this led to their demise. He was taken to a jail at Nenagh, Tipperary and then onto another jail at Clonmel, Tipperary. Here, in September 1740, he died of the wounds that he sustained during his capture.[11] Darcy, another gang member, was tried in Carlow and hanged with his head fixed on the courthouse.[12]



[1] From the Irish word tóraidhe. Generally meaning a man who is pursued, it was given to soldiers who fought for the Confederacy against Cromwell’s forces and then became outlaws and highwaymen.

[2] From the Irish word ropairí. They were originally Irishmen who fought in the Williamite Wars in the 1690s and were known for fighting with pikes. Subsequently, the term was used for highwaymen

[3] Fitzgerald, Thomas W.H. 1909. Ireland and her people; a library of Irish biography, together with a popular history of ancient and modern Erin, to which is added an appendix of copious notes and useful tables; supplemented with a dictionary of proper names in Irish mythology, geography, genealogy, etc. Volume 5. Chicago: Fitzgerald Book Company. p.786.

[4] MacLysaght, Edward. 1985. The Surnames of Ireland. Dublin: Irish Academic Press.

[5] Madden, Richard Robert. 1867. The History of Irish Periodical Literature form the end of the 17th Century to the middle of the 19th Century. London: T.C. Newby. p.277

[6] Connolly, Sean. 2008. Divided Kingdom: Ireland 1630-1800. Oxford: OUP. p.321.

[7] O’Rourke, John. 1902 (3rd ed, republished in 2008). The History of the Great Famine of 1847. Middlesex: The Echo Library, p.29

[8] Ibid.

[9] Chetwood, W. R., 1748. A Tour through Ireland in Several Entertaining Letters: Wherein the Present State of That Kingdom Is Consider’d … Interspersed with Observations on the Manners, Customs, Antiquities, Curiosities, and Natural History of That Country … London: Printed for J. Roberts

[10] Topham Bowden, Charles. 1791. A tour through Ireland. Dublin: W.Corbett

[11] Madden, Richard Robert. 1867. The History of Irish Periodical Literature from the end of the 17th Century to the middle of the 19th Century. London: T.C. Newby, p.279.

[12] Ibid., p.280

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A moment from the present, but one that will be a part of Paulstown history for years to come. Colm Dunne, who is a student at Paulstown (Scoil Bhride) National School, was selected as one of three children to meet President Barack Obama on his visit to Ireland on 23 May 2011.

After meeting with the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, President Obama was brought to plant a tree and see the ringing of the peace bell in the garden of Áras an Uachtaráin. The bell was installed in 2008 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Belfast agreement. There President Obama and his wife, Michelle, met with the three children, including Colm.

Later in the day President Obama made his way to Moneygall, Co. Offaly, the home of his ancestor Falmouth Kearney who left Ireland for America in 1850.

Congratulations to Colm, his family and Paulstown National School. You can read more about the occasion and see a picture in an Irish Independent newspaper article here.

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The following report comes for a 1902 edition of the St. Louis Republic newspaper.[1] Two nuns at the Visitation Convent in St. Louis, Missouri celebrated their golden jubilee on the same day. One of the sisters, Mary Beninga Craden, was reported as having been born in Paulstown 75 years previously, in about 1827. When she was 19 years of age she went to the US, travelling to St. Louis. She stayed with relatives for a number of years before entering the sisterhood in 1850. After their coronation mass a reception was held in their honour.


[1] Author Unknown, Golden Jubliee of Two Sisters in The St. Louis Republic, 29 August 1902, p.14; Chronicling America http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov accessed 17 April 2011

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During the ravages of The Famine a man by the name of James Fraiser toured Ireland and produced a publication, A Hand Book for Travellers in Ireland.[1] He briefly mentions squalid and wretched poverty when travelling through Galway town[2] but that is the merest of mentions that is given to what was a desperate time to be touring Ireland. One of his journeys takes him from Dublin to Kilkenny, where he travels through Paulstown, calling it “the hamlet of Shankill”. As usual with these publications, the only people that are mentioned are the local gentry.


[1] Fraiser, James. 1849. A Hand Book for Travellers in Ireland. Dublin: James McGlashen.

[2] Ibid., p.366

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I have come across two obituaries in newspapers from the state of New York for people who were originally from Paulstown.

The first is for what looks like the name of Michael Fenelon. The page of the newspaper is very worn. He died on 1 September 1891 in Brooklyn, New York City.[1] His parents were James and Catherine Fenelon. He was about 56 years of age when he died and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn. An address of his last place of residence is given. Again, the page is quite worn here but it looks like 83 Amity St, which is in Brooklyn.

The second is for Catherine O’Haire who died on 3 May 1931 at the age of 92 in the town of Niagara, NY.[2] She was born in the parish of Paulstown about 1839 and came to the United States in 1863. Her husband was John O’Haire and the obituary says that he died 33 years previously. They had two daughters and three sons and she was buried in Riverdale Cemetery.


[1] Author Unknown, Died in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 2 September 1891, p.5 ; digital image, Fulton History, http://www.fultonhistory.com ; accessed 02 April 2011

[2] Author Unknown, Mrs. O’Haire -92- Dies at Niagara in Niagara Falls Gazette, 4 May 1931; digital image, Fulton History, http://www.fultonhistory.com ; accessed 02 April 2011

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There are a number of articles in various local Australian newspapers about the life of Thomas O’Rourke. He was born in Paulstown on 8 September 1844[1] and emigrated to Australia with his mother, father and sister about December 1867.[2] His three brothers had emigrated before the rest of the family. He lived until he was 95 years of age and died on 24 August 1940.[3]

Some of the articles refer to his life before he moved to Australia. He talked about how he worked as a farm labourer in Paulstown and that the wage of the time was 4d (pence). The landowner that he worked for used to feed his workers and they were given “stir about” to eat.[4] This was a dish of coarse meal that was well boiled and eaten with milk. They were given this three times a day and got potatoes now and then. O’Rourke only ate meat once in his life before moving to Australia, stating that “I only tasted meat on one occasion and that was when my father and I were in Paulstown one day – we had a chop between us”. [5]

O’Rourke even had links to people in Paulstown who were born in the late 1700s. He outlined in one interview that when he was a boy an 80 year old man used to visit their house and tell them “tales of the early days”.[6]


[1] Author Unknown, Mr. T O’Rourke Celebrates 94th Birthday in The Longreach Leader, 10 September 1938, p.19; digital image, National Library of Australia, http://trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 1 April 2011

[2] Author Unknown, A Race for Life in The Longreach Leader, 1 December 1937, p.16; digital image, National Library of Australia, http://trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 1 April 2011

[3] Author Unknown, Death of Mr. T O’Rourke at Longreach in Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, 26 August 1940, p.8; digital image, National Library of Australia, http://trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 1 April 2011

[4] Ibid.

[5] Author Unknown, Mr. Thomas O’Rourke Celebrated 95th Birthday in Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, 13 September 1939, p.9; digital image, National Library of Australia, http://trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 1 April 2011

[6] Author Unknown, Mr. T O’Rourke Celebrates 94th Birthday in The Longreach Leader, 10 September 1938, p.19; digital image, National Library of Australia, http://trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 1 April 2011

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