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(A Glimpse into 19th century life in Termonfeckin)

(by Donald Murphy)

(First published in our Review 2007 journal)

Click here to view the Flanagan family tree in a separate webpage

It is only on very rare occasions that one gets an opportunity to look back into the past and see what life was really like for the former inhabitants and families of Termonfeckin. Just such an opportunity arises with the amazing survival of an archive of material belonging to Peter and Mary Flanagan of Tobertoby, an archive which includes Farm Account Books dating from 1773 to 1894, Diaries which span the period 1888 to 1905 and Letters which date from 1864 to 1900. The letters are particularly significant in that the correspondence exists in both directions. Not only do the letters received in Tobertoby survive, but amazingly the letters written from Tobertoby to other parts of the world were also kept and returned to Tobertoby along with one of the emigrants at the end of the 19th century. The archive also includes numerous receipts, indentures, wills and hundreds of photographs, many of which will unfortunately never be identified. From an analysis of this material we get a unique insight into 19th century life in Termonfeckin for a family who witnessed the Famine and its ultimate effects which led to mass emigration.


The Flanagans ultimately derived from a Roscommon sept who held the hereditary post of steward to the Kings of Connaught since the 13th century and whose domain stretched from Mantua to Elphin. The earliest reference we have to the name in south County Louth is to a family living in a small hamlet called Mullaughmapis 1 which was situated in Garrolagh townland near Walshestown. Other families followed at Galroostown and Newtownstalaban and eventually at Ganderpark where the family became heavily involved in the linen industry. It was here that Richard Flanagan was born in 17332. It is clear from the first farm account book that he had at least 3 brothers and 2 sisters, Mary being one. Richard took over the running of the linen industry from his father Patrick before 1766, married Alice Bellew and together they raised a family in the house in Ganderpark. Four of their children died young; John shortly after his confirmation in 1780 aged 10 and Michael in 1789 at the age of 17. The other two children are not identified. Richard and Alice had three more girls in Ganderpark, Anne, Catherine and Mary who married into the Donnelly, Ward and McKone families respectively. The earliest surviving farm account book was started in 1773 and one of the earliest entries mentions cash which was left in Richards hands for the use of his sisters and brother John. John is mentioned several times throughout the account book and it is clear that he assisted Richard in the linen business. The brothers had to travel great distances to purchase the yarn. In 1774 he was purchasing his yarn in Ballymahon, Mullingar and Lanesborough getting 145 tons for £213, and then paying £18 to have it bleached. By 1775 he was getting his yarn in Trim and Athboy and he hired journeymen who travelled to purchase the yarn and sell the linen at the markets, and loom workers and servants for the house in Ganderpark. In 1776 he even hired an apprentice Pat Carpenter to serve for four years. The bleaching of the yarn was nearly always carried out by Nicholas Flanagan, another brother of Richards.



In 1777 Tobertoby is mentioned for the first time in the Account books and there is a complete record of the cost of the building of the house, some £44, 19s and 9d, which incidentally included the labour. Along with his own family, Richard also brought his brother John to Tobertoby and he continued to help out with the linen. The yarn was sent back to Ganderpark to Nicholas for bleaching for the first year but in 1778 Richard built his own bleach in Tobertoby at a cost of £14, 5s and 8d. Richards father Patrick died in 1779 and the account book records his estate with the simple words Patt Flanagans Worldly Substance Aug 17 1779 £48.17.6. Richard and Alices last child Patrick was the first to be born in Tobertoby in 1780 and was obviously named after his grandfather who had recently died. Catherine was the last to live in the house in Ganderpark and she died in 1800, after which the familys connection with Ganderpark faded. There are several reasons why Richard may have moved to Tobertoby during 1777. The main reason was that there was a river passing through the land which was essential for the manufacture and bleaching of the linen. In addition the road to Clogherhead along the coast had only been completed the previous year. There was also a natural well (Tobys Well; hence the name Tobar Toby) close to where the house was constructed and there may have been pressure in Ganderpark where the Randles family were also involved in linen manufacture.


Richard appears to have done quite well in the linen business in Tobertoby. In the first farm account book is recorded his custom for 1779, December the 5th. I had the making of 40 pieces of cloth and £40 in cash is due to me, my rent paid, my servants paid, my years provision, thanks be God. Business picked up for Richard and by 1781, it had almost doubled December the 25th. I had the making of 74 pieces of cloth and £20 in cash is due to me, my rent paid, my servants paid, my years provision, thanks be God. The year that Richard moved to Tobertoby saw the start of farming on a small scale. The site in Canonstown where the bleach used to be was now being ploughed as well as some land which he had in Newtown. Farming gradually began to become more important with the renting of some land in Beltichburne in 1801 but even by 1796 Richard regarded himself as a farmer as is indicated on a bill to Laurence McKeown of Baggotstown for the just sum of £400 to be paid unto Richard Flanagan of Tobertoby, farmer and linen manufacturer. That same year he had to pay £12 1s 0d in respect of half a years rent for his holding in Tobertoby (Duffsfarm townland) to Alexander McClintock, then owner of Newtown House and Estate. The amount of time that Richard devoted to the linen business started to wane after the Linen Halls took off in a big way in urban areas. The Linen Hall in Dominick Street in Drogheda for instance was built in 1774.

In August 1781, Catherine and Mary, Richards youngest daughters were confirmed in Termonfeckin Chapel which was located at the top of Thunder Hill. This chapel would only have been recently opened or built at that stage. His youngest son Patrick, born in 1780 in Tobertoby was confirmed in the chapel of Fieldstown in 1788 which had been built one year previous, by the Right Revd. Dr. Richard Reilly, Bishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. This same Patrick married on the 18th January 1801 a daughter of the prosperous farmer Nicholas Kirwan of Ballinreask. Patrick and Judiths first son Richard was born in 1802. He was later to study as a priest in Maynooth and serve in Termonfeckin parish as curate for more than forty years. He was followed by a second son Nicholas in 1804, John in 1805 and Patrick on the 4th February 1807. Patricks father Richard died on St Fechins feastday the 20th of January 1808 and was interred in Termonfeckin cemetery. His memorial stone has an ornate depiction of the Last Judgement and was obviously carved by one of the better monumental sculptors of the time. Upon Richards death a formal lease was drawn up between Patrick and Newtown Estate for 17 acres, three roods and 30 perches for 21 years/life in respect of a yearly rent of £53 16s 3d.


House of Industry

Patrick's wife Judith took ill early in 1812 and was "sent to the house of Industry Brunswick St Dublin, Tuesday 25th. of Feby". Patrick records "God Almighty send her home safe and well Amen". Houses of Industry had been started in the 1780s with houses established in Dublin, Limerick, Coleraine, Cork, Lisburn and Belfast3. They were founded primarily to deal with the problems of vagrancy and mendicity but necessity however forced them to deal with the sick and the helpless poor. Vagrants were swept into the houses and kept for terms of hard labour4 and lunatics were also accommodated in special cells. Over 230 lunatics could be housed between Cork, Dublin, Waterford and Limerick in 1804.

The Dublin House of Industry had assumed the character of a national establishment and since 1777 it received an annual parliamentary grant. In 1816 as the house was overcrowded, pensioners and beggars were excluded and the institution became reserved for the aged and infirm, lunatics and orphans. In the early nineteenth century three hospitals were founded in association with the House of Industry in Dublin, the Hardwicke Fever Hospital (1803), the Richmond Surgical Hospital (1811), and the Whitworth Chronic Hospital (1818). In 1838 the House of Industry became the north Dublin Union workhouse. An account of the house written in 1804 describes it thus:

Next day I inspected the house of industry not far from the Phoenix Park. It seems a very ill-regulated institution and is a horrid scene of filth, profaneness and obscenity. The only playground for the children is the great court where these poor little beings mingle with all the thieves, vagabonds and prost­itutes who choose to take refuge in the asylum; for it is open to all who please to make it their home, however long or short be the time they may choose to spend in it; and however freque­ntly they may set out upon adventures and return after want of success. Nor is this the worst; for a cart is continually em­ployed in picking up the vagabonds and beggars from the streets and collecting them in this sink of iniquity. No work is exacted of the people thus brought and their sole employment is to wrangle, swear and corrupt the young. In a word I must consider the house of industry as a great seminary of prostitutes, thieves, plunderers and rebels.5
We are not told what the nature of Judiths illness was or why Pat felt compelled to send her to the House of Industry but it was probably on advice from medics. Neither are we told how long she spent in Dublin. All we do know is that she had obviously returned home by 1815 when there is a note of the death of Patrick and Judiths daughter Mary on the 28th November when she was only 21 weeks old. Judith could easily have had to return to Dublin after this, for we have no mention of her afterwards and her name is not recorded on the tombstone in Termonfeckin or in the Parish Registers. In all probability Judith died in Dublin before 1820 but no records survive which can substantiate this.

                                       The old house at Tobertoby c.1891
                (Photo courtesy of Donald Murphy/Peter and Mary Flanagan)


Granny Campbell

Sometime around 1820-24 Mary Campbell (nee Flanagan), Patricks aunt, came to stay at Tobertoby. Mary, born in 1739 in Ganderpark had married a James Campbell of Newtown, Termonfeckin in 1773. It is doubtful whether or not they had a family for no descendants can be traced in that area. The Campbells that are mentioned in the earliest land records in Newtown would most likely be nephews and not sons to Mary and James. James himself was in all probability a nephew of Andrew Campbell, Bishop of Kilmore 1753-1769 who was also known as the Piper Bishop. This is reinforced by the fact that the Campbells of Newtown are buried in Port Cemetery as is the Bishop and his family. Since James cannot be traced in any of the Parishes records it is probable that he died sometime prior to 1800 when the records start. Mary was the only living relative in the area apart from Patrick's sisters who were already married with families of their own. According to tradition Mary Campbell brought with her when she came a large grandfather clock. This has since come to be known as the Granny Campbell clock and can still be seen in Tobertoby today. The clock itself has been dated by its Irish mahogany case to the period 1760-1800. Mary Campbell though a grand-aunt of Patrick's children soon came to be known as the Granny Campbell. Mary herself died on the 27th of April 1829 aged 90 years. In the account book Patrick records the sundries got from Mrs. Spring for the wake on the 28th and expenses at the funeral in Clogher on the 29th. It would seem from the latter that she is buried in the little cemetery on the hill in Clogherhead where probably her husband was buried also.



Richard Flanagan, eldest son of Patrick and Judith left Tobertoby to study for the priesthood in Maynooth sometime during the year 1824. He was still there in 1830 and from the farm account books it seems clear that he received regular sums of money from the family at home. Following his ordination he served as curate in Dunleer until his appointment as curate in Termonfeckin in 1843. In 1829 John Flanagan married Anne Maguire and their first child Richard was born the following year. It seems evident that Patrick never turned the management of the farm over to him despite his marriage and it was not until his father died that John eventually got control and by then he was at such an advanced age that all he could do was to divide it between his sons. Richard was the eldest child of what was to be a very large family. He was followed by Patrick in 1834, Thomas in 1836, John in 1838, Michael in 1839, Nicholas in 1842, Peter in 1844, Judith in 1846, Mary in 1848 and Catherine in 1850. Thomas went to Dublin on the 25th of August 1850 and apparently was never heard from again. John died in May of 1854 and another son born that same year was named after him. On the 31st of October 1851 Richard John Flanagan the eldest son entered Maynooth College. In June of 1856 he went to London where his uncle Patrick had been since 1843. Patrick had first sailed on the Isabella from Drogheda to Quebec in April 1834 but returned home after just six months. He subsequently went to London where he secured a post as customs and excise officer in the Civil Service. By 1856 Richard had joined him there and he began work as clerk in the Customhouse by August of that year.

FRIDAY 10th JULY 1857 - Paid Patrick and Michael going to Australia £14. Patrick and Michael Flanagan left home on Friday the 10th of July 1857 and sailed from Liverpool on Wednesday the 15th of July 1857 for Melbourne Australia. In thy divine loving may God Almighty grant them a prosperous voyage and a happy landing more in virtue and less in sin.

So writes their grandfather Patrick in the account book upon their leaving Tobertoby in July of 1857. Patrick who was 23 years of age had seen his older brother Richard emigrate but a year previous and probably realised that his own prospects at home were very bleak. Thomas who was next eldest in the family had already gone to Dublin and John who was the fourth eldest had died. Michael was the fifth eldest and only 17 in 1857 but seized the opportunity to emigrate with his older brother.

We do not know very much about their exploits in Australia before 1864 when the first letters were written but we do know that when they arrived there they both went their separate ways. In Australia they both became involved in gold prospecting and before 1864 Patrick had been to the diggings in Westport, New Zealand and Michael had already seen Victoria. They both kept in touch with events at home usually through letters to their “uncle priest”  Fr Richard or their brother Richard in London who kept abreast of developments at home through contact with his uncle Pat who was also working in the civil service in London. Pat travelled fairly regularly between Tobertoby and London. By August of 1864 Patrick was at the diggings near Brisbane in Queensland and as the diggings were good, he wrote to Michael in Melbourne to come up. Michael travelled by sea to Sydney where he stayed a few days to see the city. He travelled onward to Brisbane and thence to Rockhampton. He stayed a night in Rockhampton before setting out with six Germans on "shank's pony" by road for the diggings some 300 miles away. The journey took 13 days and nights and though the Germans were strangers he was glad of the company. He was over a week at the diggings before he met Patrick: “One day I was winding my way amongst the bark and slabs which compose the township and I saw advancing towards me a curious looking bushman and as I came closer and got a nearer view I found I saw the face before but not until he put out his hand and started laughing did I fully recognise the man I was in search of. Pat was a good deal changed since I saw him before. His appearance would nearly put one in mind of a Maori”.

Patrick was with two friends from Clogher one of which was Pat Kirk who had come out with Dick Sheridan who was now in New Zealand. Patrick and Michael did not stay long at the diggings here and they both came down to Brisbane where they got a contract a few miles from the city. They subsequently travelled to Charleston on the West coast of Nelson, New Zealand where they were in August of 1867. Patrick left Michael here and moved to Coramandle by September and Grahamstown by December. He wrote to Michael from here as he was in dire financial straits. He was contemplating moving to California and hoped that Michael would come also. It was probably here in Grahamstown that Patrick met Kate O’Brien, a native of Clare.

The Fenian rising erupted in 1867 in Ireland and support for them came from as far away as Australia. In a letter to Michael and Patrick, Richard in London advised them not to get involved with the Fenian sympathisers in Australia. According to Richard they brought "misery and misfortune on themselves and all who have had anything to do with them and injury on their unfortunate country”. Patrick was still in Grahamstown in October of 1869. By December of that year he was making arrangements with Kate O’Brien to leave for California. He thought it might be better if he went to the U.S.A. alone and for Kate to follow later on.



November 16th 1869 saw the wilful murder of Patrick Kirk in Charleston by some other Irish emigrants. Patrick had moved with the two Flanagans to Charleston in 1867 and his death came as a big shock to the two. It was the sad duty of Michael to inform his family in Clogherhead by post. Patrick was buried in the Catholic cemetery in Charleston on the 17th of November and on the 23rd four Irish men, McLaughlin, O’Brien, O’Sullivan and Moloney were committed for manslaughter. In May 1870 Michael received a letter from Bridget Kirk of Clogherhead requesting his help to get monies owed by her son's creditors. Bridget writes: “Little I thought the day he left Clogherhead that I would never see him again”.

By August of 1870 Patrick Flanagan had gone to California leaving Michael on his own in Charleston. Michael moved to California in June of 1871 where he met up with Patrick and they both moved to Napa.


Back home the next eldest brother Nicholas was also thinking about emigrating. He had for some time been in a state of discontentment with his manner of life and prospects at home and had his mind set on going away. Richard in London advised him to be patient and that when things would improve in Australia he would help Nicholas to go join Patrick and Michael. Since the Christmas of 1864 Nicholas had been talking about leaving more often than usual which agitated his mother greatly. Then on Sunday the 12th of March the family awoke in Tobertoby to find that Nicholas had disappeared, no-one knew where. The key of the grandfather's desk was missing and upon it being broken open, it was found that all the money which had been in it previously was now gone. The fact now became apparent that Nicholas had "bolted".  The grandfather declined to say how much was in it but he did say that it was enough to get him to Australia. Nothing was heard until St. Patrick's Day when a letter arrived stating that he was about to embark on board the Damascus Canadian Mail Steamer for Portland, State of Maine, U.S.A. In a letter to Michael in Australia, Richard in London says that hopefully he will "make his way to one of his uncles". Captain P. Maguire had been in America for some time and it does seem apparent that Nicholas made his way to him. Captain Maguire died in Cleveland on September 2nd 1868. Nicholas was 22 years of age when he left Tobertoby. Richard says: “I am not sorry he is gone - you yourselves know what kind of life he was likely to have at home - you know what it was like in your time and it has not much improved - the grandfather becomes more close as he gets older and the position of a young man under the circumstances comparing his lot with that of his equals must have been galling to him”.

It would seem that the grandfather was in total control of the finances even though he was 85 years of age. He never seems to have passed control of the farm over to his son even though he was married and had a family. When John eventually did get the farm upon his father's death on February 20th 1866 at the advanced age of 86, it is no wonder he did not keep any accounts. John was 60 when his father died and we have no evidence to suggest that he ever wrote. The lack of detailed accounts after 1864 however is more than made up for by the letters which were written from Tobertoby to America and back. These letters were kept on both sides and Michael brought his home when he eventually returned thus giving us a complete picture of the lives that they led on both sides of the Atlantic. By 1868 Nicholas was in Cardington, Morrow County, Ohio where he was working on the railways with Daniel Lynch. It was through his friendship with Daniel that Nicholas met and fell in love with his sister Mary. He was by this stage planning on becoming a farmer but he wanted to wait until he got $1000 before he made the move. He corresponded quite regularly with Richard in London who seemed to have been something of a mentor to him. Nicholas was obviously very happy in America as conveyed in a letter to Michael in Australia.


Nicholas and Mary Lynch finally got married in 1869. In a letter to Richard in London he merely says: “I was married on the 12th of last month. I don't know what you will all think of it”. Richard was disgusted with him for the lack of information. He tells Mike in Australia that he didn't even give him his wife's name. In August of 1870 Nicholas wrote to Richard informing him that he might go and join Patrick who had just arrived in California from Australia. He did go down and they were all settled in Napa by June of 1872. Patrick had met Kate O’Brien off the ship from Australia from where they immediately went to Old St Mary's church and were married. It would seem that all three brothers had shares in the farm that Michael had leased from John Presbury. In a letter to John at home in Tobertoby Michael tells of the different farming methods that they employed in California.: “I often thought that if some of the old farmers at home saw how the harvest was made up here, they would scratch their heads”.

By September 1873 they had bought land in Napa from John Stanley for $5,633 which was named "Rincon de los Carneros". The brothers worked well together for a while but in 1874 Nicholas moved 150 miles northward to Olimpo, Colusa, California where the land was cheaper and he eventually got involved with grapes and wine. By May 1875 Mike was managing a ranch for Judge John Stanley at Riverdale near Napa. John A. Stanley was a native of Newbern, North Carolina. He studied law at an early age in North Carolina and he practiced there until after the Civil War. He was married with one daughter. About 1867 he moved to a new residence at 1221 Jackson Street Oakland and by 1875 Michael was managing his ranch at Riverdale. Judge Stanley was for many years a member of the well known San Francisco law firm of Stanley, Stoney and Hayes. He was appointed County judge of San Francisco by Governor Hought. Michael Flanagan finally became a citizen of the United States on the 3rd of September 1887.


Just one year after the grandfather's death in Tobertoby, John's wife Anne Maguire took ill and died. This carne as a big shock to John and added to the many upsets he had received in his lifetime. In 1869 his daughter Judith got married to Patrick Garvey of Ballydonnell. This was to put a further strain on those in Tobertoby as by 1874 the setting value of the land had decreased and they had to be helped out financially. John wrote to Michael in America asking him to help out if he could. For a time they feared eviction and Judith was inconsolable. The winter of 1879-80 was particularly hard on Judith and the children in Ballydonnell. They were all sick with no sign of them getting better. In a letter to Michael in America6 John says that Judith “finds it very hard to get any nourishment for them and tis very hard to bring them round without it”. At the auction in April they managed to set out all the land and so were alright for another year though living very poorly. By 1888 the situation had improved somewhat when John wrote to Michael7 : “About 12 years ago the lease they held expired. The land changed hands by the death of Brabazon the landlord. The new landlord or landlords, I believe there are five of them demanded an increase of 15s per acre, the rent then being £2-12-6. After temporising for some time they rose it to £3 and at this rent he got the option either to take a lease or be evicted. The result of this was that in 5 years there was not a beast in the place and he had to let the land by auction. Through the new landbill he is now entitled to enter court to get a fair rent fixed. He has served notice but cannot tell when his case may come up. The landlord's solicitor has now judgement marked against him for a year's rent. Garvey has offered him all the land would make by auction less the taxes. This he has refused but I think will be glad to take it after a bit”.

Meanwhile, Richard who was living and working in London had got married. A report in the Drogheda Argus8 read: “On the 24th January at the church of St Scholastica, London Rd. Clapton, by the Rev. Raymond Stanfields Mr Richard Flanagan of No. 16 Spurstow Rd. Hackney, eldest son of Mr John Flanagan Termonfeckin Co. Louth, to Maria, eldest daughter of the late Mr Samuel Cutler of Burdett Rd. Limehouse and Millwall”. Richard had planned to pay a visit home in September 1873 with his wife but the birth of a daughter on the 7th of that month put it totally out of the question. In June of 1876 Patrick at home in Tobertoby received a letter from Maria Flanagan in London saying that Richard was in bad health. Soon afterwards he received another letter informing him that he was worse and a telegram arrived on the 6th July saying he was much worse and that there was no chance of recovery. In December 1877 Richard and Maria moved to a new home at 683 Commercial Road, East London in the hope that the change might do him good. He fell seriously ill again however in June of 1878 and finally died on the 8th of July. The following notice of his death appeared in the Democrat of the 20th July 1878: Flanagan - July 8, at his residence in London, Richard, eldest son of Mr John Flanagan of Termonfeckin, Co. Louth.

Richard's death resulted in total loss of contact between the Flanagans at home and in London and efforts to trace any descendants there has proved fruitless.



Early in 1872 Fr. Richard retired as curate in Termonfeckin and came home to Tobertoby to live. While there he celebrated mass every day though his health was failing all the while. In 1873 he transferred his estate to his brother Patrick who was also retired and living in Tobertoby. It would seem from all contemporary accounts that the farm was being managed by this time by Peter and John (jnr). On the 12th May 1874 their sister Mary met Patrick O’Rourke for the first time. By the 28th of June they were married. In a letter to Michael in California9 John (jnr) says: “Mary had no previous acquaintance with him but though she had not their short acquaintance was no barrier to their mutual understanding and I feel convinced Mary has a happy and (as Mr Rorke is very well off) a prosperous life before her”.

Kate, her sister was very fond of visiting her in her new home in Dunany. Kate remained single probably out of the duty she felt for her family who were without a woman in the house after the death of Anne Maguire in 1867 and Mary’s marriage in 1874. Early in 1876 Kate began complaining of pains in her stomach. Her brother John brought her to the doctor who gave her some medicine and she appeared to be better. She went to a mission in Dunany on the 30th of July, got a sudden pain at mass and died from severe vomiting afterwards. She was sorely missed in Tobertoby as there were now seven men living there together with only a young servant girl and boy to look after them. This situation was manageable for Peter (jnr) and John (jnr) but it was rather awkward for their father John and granduncles Fr. Richard, Nicholas, Peter and Patrick. John (jnr) in a letter to Michael10 says: “That it must be unsatisfactory you can easily see. Eight men living in the one house with no-one but a servant girl to look after their affairs cannot at best be very comfortable. For my own part I could manage very well but Uncle Priest or my father or any of the others must find it awkward”.

John (jnr)’s letters to Michael in America become our chief source of information for the period in Tobertoby up to 1890. We even get references in his letters to local events. In a letter to Michael in June of 1879 he refers to the building of the local Church of the Immaculate Conception: “Speaking of the new chapel I believe they intend commencing this summer. We have a new parish priest here now, Fr Segrave from Dunany, an active energetic man who will carry on the work without stoppage. It is in the yellow gap they intend building it on the hill between the two roads. The site is purchased and there are some stones on the ground so I believe it will certainly be built there”.

John (jnr) had intentions of emigrating himself and it was out of consideration for his father seeing how upset he was when Nicholas went that he decided not to go. By April 1880 he had put all doubts about emigrating behind him. He decided his duty was to stay at home and he seemed quite happy once he had made up his mind. That same month however Fr. Richard fell seriously ill and continued sinking daily until he finally "expired calmly and peacefully on the 11th of May". John (jnr) in a letter to Michael11 tells how he was “wreaked with a terrible cough and numerous other ailments and sores - he lived in an earthly purgatory”.

Fr Richard requested before his death that he be buried with Fr. McKone in Termonfeckin chapel and the intention was that he would be removed to the new church after a year. An account of his funeral appeared in the Democrat of the 29th May 1880 -

DEATH OF THE REV. RICHARD FLANAGAN C.C. The death of the above Clergyman took place at the residence of his brother Tubbertoby, Termonfeckin recently. Fr Flanagan was one of the oldest priests -if not the oldest - in the deanaries of Dundalk or Drogheda and the greater part of his long missionary life was spent in the parish of Dunleer and Termonfeckin. On Thursday his remains were removed to Termonfeckin chapel and placed on a Catafalque in front of the altar on which he had for so many years offered up the mass and from which he had delivered so many instructive sermons to the people of that parish. At eleven o clock the Requiem office commenced, the Rev. George Taaffe P.P. Collon and the Rev. Thomas Taaffe C.C. Dundalk officiating as chanters. At the conclusion of the office high mass was celebrated by the Rev. Thomas Mc Evoy C.C. St Peter's Drogheda; the Rev.d John Rock C.C. Tenure officiating as deacon; the Rev. H. Mc Sherry C.C. Clogherhead as sub-deacon and the Rev. John Segrave, P.P. Termonfeckin as master of ceremonies.

After the high mass a procession was formed and the coffin was carried on the shoulders of the people out of the chapel and along the road as far as the Petty sessions court. The procession then returned to the chapel and the coffin was lowered into the grave prepared for it at the Epistle side of the altar. There was an immense concourse of people present at the ceremonies to pay their last tribute of respect to the memory of the deceased and to offer up their prayers for the eternal and happy repose of his soul.

Fr. Richard’s remains were removed to the new church in May 1883 where a plaque under the epistle side of the altar indicates his final resting place. One of the stained glass windows in the left transept of the church reads - The presentation in the temple in memory of the Rev. Richard Flanagan C.C. Termonfeckin who died 11th May 1880 and his nephew Michael Flanagan who died 10th November 1904 aged 64 years.

Just one month after Fr. Richard's death, his brother Nicholas died very suddenly on the 25th of June. He had got a turn just before Christmas of 1879 and he had never fully recovered from it. John writes to Michael in America12 : “It is again my sad duty to have to inform you of another demise in the family. Poor Uncle Nicholas is no more”.

The old house in Tobertoby was never the same after Nicholas' and Fr. Richard's deaths. John in a letter to Michael13 writes “The old house since the deaths of Uncle Priest and Nick appears very lonesome, you could never go into the house then without having someone to speak to. Now you may go in and out without hearing a voice or having anyone to speak to from morning to night”.

During this period, Irish farmers had been campaigning to get ownership of the land they farmed. By 1880 things were looking up for them when John wrote to Michael14 

“The Land League claims the attention of the whole country and is doing its work grandly. A great number of the landlords have acceded to the demands of the people and accepted "Griffith's Valuation" but the majority seem determined to fight the battle out to the last..... The agitation throughout the country has not practically extended to our neighbourhood yet. I hope it will soon. If not the farmers of Louth will be in a very bad state”.

Land Courts were set up by the Land League in 1880 where farmers could bring their grievances against landlords. The situation in Louth did not seem as bad as some other regions of the country. In 1880 Michael wrote home: “Not having seen any application to the land court from any person in your part of the country I suppose the farmers are content with their rents and presumably Nicholas Halligan is a good landlord”. Halligan had got the land from Marianne Scully in 1877 at which time John Flanagan obtained a lease in perpetuity and got the rent reduced to £20 per annum. In a letter to Michael in 188715 John wrote: “He has met us fairly every time up to the present and as this recent act of parliament leaves us at liberty to get judicial rents fixed I think he will be inclined to deal more favourably with us now”.

Michael Flanagan after returning home from America, with Brigid Flanagan (nee Sheridan) and Nannie Harmon. Children, L to R: Patrick, Kate, John, Peg and Mary Flanagan. (Photo courtesy of Donald Murphy/Peter and Mary Flanagan)


In 1882 Peter (jnr) married Bridget Sheridan and on coming into the house in Tobertoby she had to look after five men. Tragedy struck in 1886 in Dunany with the death of Mary O’Rourke. She had been ill for some time but nobody thought fatally. The doctor advised her to take a holiday which she was about to when she died. Her husband Pat was very ill for about a week afterwards. It was not long before death took away another member of the family. Uncle Peter died at 11 o’clock on the 3rd of February 1887. His health had been failing gradually since a turn he received early in 1886. John in a letter to Michael16 writes “He had not much pleasure in his life and I hope he is gone to a better world”.

Sometime shortly after Peter's death John (jnr) married Margaret Moore from Ganderstown and left Tobertoby to go and live in Balfeddock. His father John had split the farm between himself and Peter and confirmed this arrangement in a will which he drafted at this time. In a letter to Michael17 John writes: “I did not mention the particulars of the settlement. The arrangement that has been made is Peter has Tubertoby and the half of Ballyfadock next Termonfeckin. I have the other half of Ballyfadock and Beltichbourne”.

John was very happy with the arrangement as is evident in the same letter to Michael: “It is in the old house of Martins you mention I am living. The house is small but there is a good stable and cattle shed. From this you will see Peter has something the best of the bargain as I have to pay £9 - 10 – 0 a year more for the same quantity of land. However I am quite satisfied as it is”.


Death knocked on the door at Tobertoby in a big way in February of 1890. Uncle Patrick had got a bad turn in 1888 and had not been well since. He suffered from kidney trouble as well as having odd attacks. He took influenza on Monday 17th and died on the following Friday. He was buried in Termonfeckin cemetery on Sunday 23rd February after High Mass in the local church. Being a member of the confraternity in the High Lane, Drogheda, he also had a high mass said for him there on the 27th. Patrick in anticipation of death had made a will in May 1888 leaving everything in equal measure to his nephews Peter and John. John, one of the beneficiaries of his will had also contracted influenza about the same time. He took to the bed for a few days and got up thinking he was alright but got a cold and took to the bed again. He didn't know it was serious until the Friday Uncle Patrick died. Peter went up to Balfeddock to tell them of his death and found John was worse. He sent for Dr. Kelly who attended him to the last but still could not bring him through. He had rheumatic fever a long time before and his chest constantly bothered him. He died on Monday the 24th February from inflammation of the lungs. He was buried in Termonfeckin cemetery after celebration of High mass in the local Church of the Immaculate Conception. A stained glass window in that church reads- The Nativity for John Flanagan, Ballyfaddock who died February 24th 1890. Peter in a letter to Michael18 writes: “Uncle Patt was a good age and it is but natural to expect death but poor Johnny to be taken away in the prime of life leaving his young wife and child. It is something sad indeed”.

This was Peter's last letter as he died less than two months later on the 3rd April. He had been ill a week and was buried on Good Friday. His last son John had just been born a week before he died. The priest was at his bedside until he passed away. Apparently he died from pneumonia which he caught when going to get his brother John's coffin. The situation was that there were now two young widows each with families in Tobertoby and Balfeddock. The father John was heart-broken and he was forced to amend his will to take account of these sad changes leaving the farm equally now between the two widows.


Michael’s return

After Peter's death, John (now 85) had a letter written to Michael in America on the 7th April 1890 asking him to come home: “Now that I have no person to look after the business but myself I would wish very much and I may also add it is the wish of Mrs Flanagan that you would if possible come home and live with us. If you cannot make up your mind to come and live with us at least until after my death I would wish very much to see you before I die. If I thought you were married or had a family to provide for I would not ask you to come home”.

In his reply (20th May 1890) Michael says: “I decided to go over to you at once but the business in which I am at present and have been for years engaged can not be left so easily. It is decided now that I will be able to get away from here about the first of June and it seems as if I may not be able to stay with you this year more than about two months… Instead however of the lad of seventeen years you saw last you will meet a grey old man of fifty”.

Michael finally got away on the third of June and though he had intended staying only a couple of months, he never returned. Even so he was constantly barraged by Judge Stanley: Appreciate situation - Come for vintage return December - My charge – Answer - Stanley.

Michael resisted all temptations from Judge Stanley to return even though in subsequent letters he virtually pleaded with him as he claimed the people now working for him were robbing him. Judge Stanley retired in 1898 owing to ill-health and he eventually died on Friday the 28th September 1899 at his residence in Oakland having been at his country home in Riverdale until he was taken ill.

Michael on his return to Tobertoby had a rocking chair made for him which is still there to the present day. He walked almost every day to Balfeddock after hearing mass where his uncle Fr Richard was buried beneath the altar. Mary Murphy (nee Flanagan), one of Peter and Bridget’s daughters, remembered Uncle Mike well and wrote in one of her diaries how she thought of him as a father having lost her own father so young. She lived in Tobertoby with him until he died when she was 21. She used make him punch every Sunday night and often shared a glass with him. Michael looked after the farm with the help of the Toners who lived nearby in Tobertoby. Patrick sent 100 dollars home from America in August 1890 and says: “You will be able to struggle along with that much till the grapes are picked”.

Michael continued writing letters to his brother's families in America. Aggie, a daughter of Patrick was writing to Michael by November of 1890. She stopped writing in 1894 and died the following year. Kate writes19 “Was not God very good to take my dear Aggie out of this miserable world so soon; it was what I hoped and prayed for, for her since she was born that if she was not to be a sister, she would be taken young. I so dreaded the trials of any other life for her. She intended to write you good-bye and thank you for all your kindness to her when she knew she was going but her hand got so shakey she couldn't hold the pen”.

It soon became clear that Michael was not really comfortable in Ireland. Agnes (surname unknown) writing in March 1891 says: “I am sorry you do not feel at home in Ireland but I am not surprised when I  know of so many widows and old maids who are yearning for your return. Mary Mc Dermott says we all just can make up our minds to give up all hopes as you will have a Leinster lass home with you but we all will live in hope even if we do die in despair. I tell them that you have a sneaking regard for me”.

The 27th of December that year saw the death of John, Michael's father at the age of 86. He was buried in Termonfeckin cemetery beside his son Peter. In December of 1895 Patrick wrote to Michael: “I am not in good health. About a year ago dyspepsia began upon me. I was very poorly all winter but in March/April I improved a good deal...With the advance of the summer I got bad again, the stomach entirely refusing duty so that I have been starving slowly in a plentiful country. Besides that I have been in constant pain”.

On the 17th of January the following year he wrote a last letter to Michael:

“Dear brother Mike for a better brother you have been to me than I have been to you. I must now bid you a last farewell for the chances of any recovery on my part are nothing. The dyspepsia has turned to dropsy. The doctor has lanced me and taken out a large quantity of matter but I am afraid I was too weak by the time it was done that I have no chance of recovery. I hope that you will forgive me all the differences we ever had. I am not able to go on. Patt Flanagan”.

Patrick died on the 26th January 1896, only nine days after this letter was written. He passed away at about 5 o’clock on Sunday evening holding the crucifix in his hand with a happy look on his face which he retained in death. As Nicholas writes20: “His death was a great shock to me. I was under the impression he was the stoutest of the family that was left. May our blessed Lord have mercy on his soul”.  Kate followed on in a letter to Mike21 “It will be a great consolation to you to hear what a most peaceful and happy death Pat died. He went like a little infant without the slightest struggle, there was no death rattle or even heavy breathing”. After Patrick's death Kate wanted Mike to come back to the States seeing as “this ranch belongs to you as much as it does to us”.22  Even so Michael never returned.


Michael Flanagan eventually died on the 10th of November 1904 and was buried in Termonfeckin cemetery. Bridget Flanagan managed the farm until her son's Patrick and John were old enough to look after it. Patrick married Mary Ann (Cissie) Gillespie and they had one son Peter. He married Mary Duffy and they still live in Tobertoby. No descendants of Richard Flanagan in London have been traced but descendants of Patrick and Nicholas in America are plentiful. The old home in Tobertoby was demolished in 1973 and the first sod of the new house was cut by Paul Flanagan at 3 p.m. on the 15th December 1972. They moved in on the 17th of November 1973 and Fr. John Murphy O.M.I, officiated at the first mass and blessing on the 17th of December 1973.



I would like to thank Peter and Mary Flanagan for allowing this material to be put in the public domain and for their assistance in researching this article. I also wish to record the assistance of Fr. John Murphy OMI on whose previous research much of the article has drawn.


1.  "Gravestone Inscriptions in Mayne", Patrick Mallon and Noel Ross, in County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal, Vol. XX Part 4 (1984), 343.

2.      Gleaned from the Flanagan Headstone in Termonfeckin Cemetery. It reads “Corpori Mysterum. Arise ye dead and come to glory. Erected by Patrick Flanagan of Tobertoby in memory of his father Richard Flanagan who departed this life the 20th of Jan 1808 aged 75 years. Also for his mother Alice Flanagan alias Bellew who died the 29th of October 1803 aged 67 years. Also 4 of their children. Here lies the remains of the above Patrick Flanagan who departed this life on the 20th of February 1866 in the 86th year of his age. Nicholas Flanagan born May 14th 1804 died June 24th 1880 aged 76 years. Peter Flanagan born 7 Dec 1808 died Feb 3 1887 aged 79 years. Patk Flanagan born 4 Feb 1807 died 21st Feb 1890 aged 83 years. Mrs Anne Flanagan died 13 Nov 1867. Kate Flanagan died 24 June 1876 and John Flanagan died 27 Dec 1891.”

3.      Timothy P O Neill, “Public  Health in Pre-Famine Ireland” , Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Vol. 103 (1973).

4.      R.B. McDowell, Irish Administration 1801-1914.

5.      Seamus Grimes, Ireland in 1804.

6.      10th March 1880.

7.      March 1888.

8.      Drogheda Argus and Leinster Journal, Saturday the 18th February 1871.

9.      28th June 1874.

10.  11th March 1878.

11.  12th May 1880.

12.  29th June 1880.

13.  3rd December 1880.

14.  3rd December 1880.

15.  13th September 1887.

16.  10th February 1887.

17.  13th September 1887.

18.  28th February 1890.

19.  16th April 1895.

20.  January 1896.

21.  13th February 1896.

22.  8th July 1896.

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