The story of the McCrohan clan
is rich in Irish history; the ancestors of our surname have been in
existence in Ireland for over 2800 years. Those who honestly have the
knowledge of what their ancestors had to endure to allow this name to
exist today hold the name with pride. Even though the McCrohans have
always been a small clan, they have made a huge impact on Irish
culture. Our ancestors have withstood over 800 years of suppression,
more recently famine in the 1840’s; and survival in the new world
during the 1860’s. What you are about to read has taken 10 years of
research to compile. As a McCrohan you will learn a few things about
yourself plus discover a few surprises. There is reason for why this
document has been written and you will understand the answer whilst
reading it. Once you have finished reading you may view the world
differently as a descendant of Clan MacCriomhthainn.
small pockets of Ireland where Irish is spoken as a traditional,
native language. These regions are known as the Gaeltacht. McCrohan
is an Irish Catholic surname that belongs to the Gaeltacht in the
County of Kerry (Contae Chorcaí in native Irish). County
Kerry, traditionally known as the 'Kingdom', is situated in the
extreme southwest of Ireland. The McCrohan clan belongs to the
mountainous south coast that includes the Beara, Iveragh and Dingle
peninsulas. Ireland (Eiré) is divided into 4 provinces that
hold the 32 Counties. County Kerry is one of the six counties from
the southern province of Munster. Most Irish surnames originate from
a couple of different counties; but the McCrohan name is unique as it
is exclusively a County Kerry name.
surname is not your average Irish name; it is one that comes from the
very few Irish-speaking regions left in Ireland. There are only a
small number of family names in Ireland that hail from these regions
that have lasted the test of time in retaining the true Irish culture
of the old world. The language is sometimes referred to in English as
Gaelic, or Irish Gaelic, but this has a derogatory ring, so it is
more generally referred to, both among linguists and in the
Constitution of Ireland, as the Irish language or simply Irish. The
map of Ireland above shows the Gaeltact regions in dark colour.
All those who are blessed with the McCrohan blood in their veins
should have an understanding or knowledge of the importance this
surname has in regards to maintaining Ireland’s culture and
heritage. Did you know that most of the ancestors of todays McCrohans
have only been speaking the English language for less than 200 years?
And did you know that to this very day that most of the McCrohans
that live in County Kerry speak Irish as their first language?
numerically and socially strongest Gaeltachtaí (plural for
Gaeltacht) are the McCrohan ancesteral lands of Iveragh and
Dingle Peninsula, in which a significant
proportion of residents today use Irish as a community language, in
fact children often speak the language among each other children.
Historians and the 1,570,894
speakers of Irish owe the McCrohan ancestors of County Kerry the
highest of praise in being able to retain the language after all
these years. The Irish (Gaeilge) language spoken in Ireland, Britain,
USA and Australia, is constitutionally recognised as the first
official language of the Republic of Ireland. Here in Australia,
Melbourne has two radio stations that broadcast weekly programmes in
Irish. There are also numerous language courses throughout the state.
There is also a yearly Summer School in learning the Irish language
in regional Victoria. There are also a number of Catholic churches
that hold mass in Gaeilge. Thanks to the McCrohans and the other few
families from the Gaeltacht, we have now been able to retain the
almost extinct native language of Ireland.
ancestor of ours is Tomás Ó Criomhthainn (Tomás
O'Crohan), who was a resident of the Great Blasket Isle, three miles
from the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Tomas wrote, with the
skill of the true storyteller, the book, "An
tOileánach" – "The Islandman" in his
native Irish that was published in the 1920's and later translated
into English by Robin Flower. At the time of the book being
published, the population of Irish speakers was at its all time low,
it was believed there was less than a thousand that could speak the
language. To this very day the book is used throughout the
Universities of the world as an insight to the way people truly lived
in the old world.
name is associated with the towns and areas on the southwest coast of
Kerry. Places such as Caherciveen, Iveragh,
Killorglin, Valentia (Valencia) Island, Blasket Island, Dunquin,
Ballyferriter, Dingle Peninsula, Beiginis and Reenard.
For centuries our family have been fishermen and farmers upon these
parts of the world and to this very day the McCrohan name is strong
in these locations of the West Kerry Gaeltacht.
families in southwest of Kerry are the O’Sullivan, McCarthy,
O’Donoghue, O'Mahonie, Moriarty,
O’Connell, and O’Shea.
Clan MacCriomhthainn Eiré
is the correct spelling of our McCrohan surname in its Gaelic form.
The surname is strongly associated with the remote
seaside town of Cahirciveen on the Iveragh
peninsula in County Kerry. Our Irish Catholic clan has farmed the
lands and fished the waters around the town of Cahirciveen for well
over 1000 years. Cahirciveen was once so inaccessible from the rest
of Ireland that it was quicker to send newspapers and mail from
Dublin via New York! Today most of the McCrohans reside at a small
Gaelic community town called Reenard. It is located between
Cahirciveen and Valentia Island.
MacCriomhthainn had their seat at the Castle of
Leiter (Letter or Lettur), south west of
Caherciveen. Our ancestral home Lettur Castle had stood for
over 500 years and has been through many wars. The castle was a
medium sized fort, which was the home base of our ancient Clan. Our
surname has history way back to the deep medieval times in the 11th
century. One historian reports the origin and migration of the
original MacCriomhthainn from the county of Tipperary, roughly the
south central area of Ireland, to the county of Kerry, which is of
course in the far southwest of Ireland. During this time the
MacCriomhthainn clan were a branch of the Ó Súilleabháin
The Ó Súilleabháin
clan descended from the followers of Milesius who were the first
Celts or Celtic tribes to colonize Ireland, their "island of
destiny". They had migrated from an area of the northwest coast
of Spain, which is now known as the province of Galicia. There they
had founded a city they called Brigantia. They had remained there for
several generations before embarking on the last leg of their
odyssey. They arrived in southern Ireland or Munster in approximately
the year 800 B.C. They assimilated with the ancient tribes that had
already been in Ireland for over 2000 years, the Firbolg and the
Tuatha de Dannan.
Today the majority of the Irish
from the southwest region of Ireland tend to have a physical
appearance to the Spanish. They tend to have dark brown hair as
opposed to the ginger or red coloured hair that most associate the
Irish with. This is because they are descendants of the first Celts
who arrived from Spain as mentioned. A couple of hundred years later
the Celts from central Europe arrived, they were known for their fair
skin and ginger red hair. Although the gingery or red hair is found
all over Ireland, only 7% of the Irish are true red heads. Scotland
has a higher percentage of red heads.
Originally the O’Sullivans
were settled around Knockrafann in Tipperary with the other Eoganacht
(Eugenian) families of MacCarthy and O’Donoghue. The reason why the
first name of Eugene is such a common name within our family is
because the MacCriomhthainn clan were an Eoganacht family. Eugene has
been in the past one of the most common first names for the McCrohan
The Norman Invasion of Ireland
in the 11th century drove the Eoganacht families west and
so they migrated and then occupied the regions of Cork and Kerry. The
Normans were descendants of Danes (Norsemen) that settled in France
in what is now Normandy. In 1066 they invaded and conquered England.
In 1169 they launched their first military campaign in Ireland that
has now resulted in 800 years of struggles for the Irish.
On arriving in Kerry and Cork
the O’Sullivan clan divided into two branches – one branch of the
O’Sullivans settled in County Cork and made their home near
Castletown. They were known afterwards as O’Sullivan Beare. The
Beare suffix came from the Beare peninsula that was named for the
Spanish princess Bera, the wife of the first King of Munster.
The other branch settled in
Kerry and made their home near the town of Kenmare. The family seat
was Dunlderron Castle. They were known as O’Sullivan Mor. One
branch of the O’Sullivan Mor settled at the base of the mountains
near the sea, they were the clan MacCriomhthainn.
The Gaelic clans of
MacCriomhthainn and Ó Súilleabháin Mor continued
to be harassed by the Normans and so allied themselves with the other
Gaelic clans McCarthys and O'Donoghues. The clans defeated the
Normans in 1261 at the battle of Caisglin near Kilgarvan just north
of Kenmare in County Kerry. They were again victorious the following
year. These two battles settled the boundaries between the Normans of
north Kerry (the FitzGeralds) and the Gaelic families of south Kerry
and west Cork. These boundaries were in effect for the next 300
years. Those that have surnames that start with Fitz are Norman
families. For example Fitzpatrick, Fitzsimmons, Fitzmaurice and
Fitzgibbon to name a few. Some other common Norman surnames in
Ireland are Burke, Power, Harold, Nugent and Fleming.
Castle LetirmacCriomhthainn 1300 A.D.
It was sometime during the next
300 years that the MacCriomhthainn clan built their castle known as
LetirmacCriomhthainn or Letter. The
castle of the MacCriomhthainns is located near Reenard in County
Kerry, on the
lower South slopes of Bentee Mountain.
Reenard is a small town and today a lot of our relatives are still
live there, the town is located between Valentia Island and
Cahersiveen. Today, apart from its enclosing earthwork, there are no
visible remains of this castle besides the
foundations and defensive ditch that are still visible.
It has been recorded that Cnogher MacCriomhthainn occupied the castle
in 1656, during this time the castle was apparently destroyed
and levelled by the English army commanded by Oliver Cromwell. The
were then run off their lands, the area was then confiscated
and granted to Alexander Eagers in 1667. No trace of the castle
survived in 1841, and Delap recorded that it had been demolished to
build adjoining farmhouses.
The surviving remains at the
site of the castle consist of a low rectangular platform, 30m
North-South x 32m East-West internally, which is defined by a bank
and 2.25m in width. Here the fosse, which is U-shaped in profile,
averages 7m in width and 1.35m in depth. At East and West the bank
and fosse are less well-defined. A low causeway, 5.5m wide,
interrupts the fosse midway along the slightly curving East side and
may indicate the location of the entrance to the earthwork. A deeply
channelled stream skirts this feature at East, and may have been
bridged at this point. Slight traces of a channel which may have
served to direct water from the stream into the fosse are visible
extending from the latter’s midpoint at North.
The interior of the site is
uneven and is raised slightly above external ground level. A slight
hollow of sub-rectangular shape, 18m North-South x 16m East-West,
occurs in the North West quadrant and is enclosed by a low back, 3m
in average width. In the South East quadrant is a large, sod-covered
sub-rectangular mound, 13.3m East – West x 12.7m North – South,
which may represent the location of the castle. Raised 1.4m above
internal ground level, its flat upper surface measures 8m East –
West x 7.2.m North South.
Although the MacCriomhthainn
castle location was a small area near Cahirciveen, our lands ran all
along the south shore of Valencia Harbour, from Cahirciveen to
Reencarragh Point. We were also associated with the Dingle Peninsula
and the Blasket Islands. The family also possessed a small district
The region of southwest Kerry
where the MacCriomhthainn clan existed for 1000 years is a relatively
isolated location. This remoteness is possibly the reason why there
is such a high concentration of early Christian monastic sites in the
area. To this very day there are over a 100 monastic sites with a
variety of remains such as oratories, cross slabs, holy wells,
beehive huts, shrines, burials, sun dials, and enclosing features.
The remains have been practically untouched since they were deserted
some time in the 12th century. It was from such sites of education,
from the 6th century on, that Irish monks travelled throughout Europe
converting Christians to the monastic life. It is from this period
that the finest art works were produced, such as the Book of Kells
and the Ardagh Chalice, among others. Many ring forts still survive
from this period and are associated with habitation for both animals
These sites had a major
influence on the clan MacCriomhthainn who had lived along side them
for a thousand years. Other major influences upon our family were two
Saints, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland; and St. Brendan,
known also as Brendan the Voyager.
The person who was to become St.
Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Wales about AD 385.
Far from being a saint, until he was 16, he considered himself a
pagan. At that age, he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish
marauders that raided his village. During his captivity, he became
closer to God. He escaped from slavery after six years and went to
Gaul where he studied in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of
Auxerre for a period of twelve years. During his training he became
aware that his calling was to convert the pagans to Christianity.
His wishes were to return to
Ireland, to convert the native pagans to Christianity. But his
superiors instead appointed St. Palladius. But two years later,
Palladius transferred to Scotland. Patrick, having adopted that
Christian name earlier, was then appointed as second bishop to
Ireland. Patrick was quite successful at winning converts. And this
fact upset the Celtic Druids. Patrick was arrested several times, but
escaped each time. He travelled throughout Ireland, establishing
monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches
that would aid him in his conversion of the pagan Irish country to
His mission in Ireland lasted
for thirty years. After that time, Patrick retired to County Down. He
died on March 17 in AD 461. That day has been commemorated as St.
Patrick's Day ever since. One traditional icon of the day is the
shamrock. And this stems from a more bona fide Irish tale that tells
how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. He
used it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity.
His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast
St. Brendan, known also as
Brendan the Voyager, was born in Ciarraighe Luachra, near the present
city of Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland, in 484; he died at Enachduin,
now Annaghdown, in 577. He was baptized at Tubrid, near Ardfert, by
Bishop Erc. For five years he was educated under St. Ita, "the
Brigid of Munster", and he completed his studies under St. Erc,
who ordained him priest in 512. Between the years 512 and 530 St.
Brendan built monastic cells at Ardfert, and at Shanakeel or
Baalynevinoorach, at the foot of Brandon Hill. It was from here that
he set out on his famous voyage for the Land of Delight. The old
Irish Calendars assigned a special feast for the "Egressio
familiae S. Brendani", on 22 March; and St Aengus the Culdee, in
his Litany, at the close of the eighth century, invokes "the
sixty who accompanied St. Brendan in his quest of the Land of
Promise". Naturally, the story of the seven years' voyage was
carried about, and, soon, crowds of pilgrims and students flocked to
Ardfert. Thus, in a few years, many religious houses were formed at
Gallerus, Kilmalchedor, Brandon Hill, and the Blasket Islands, in
order to meet the wants of those who came for spiritual guidance to
St. Brendan. Many landmarks of Western Ireland are named after the
saint, including Mount Brandon in Co. Kerry.
Daily life for the
Daily life for the
MacCriomhthainn clan has not changed that much in Kerry from the time
they arrived in the 11th to up until the 20th
century. Each branch of the MacCriomhthainn families survived mainly
on fishing, a few ridges of potatoes, and a patch of oats or rye.
Some of them had a cow or two; others who had none would depend on a
drop of milk from the neighbour who had. The land was poor and sandy
around the houses and their own plots were scattered here and there.
A year's supply of manure would not go far on the smallest of
holdings, and the dung had to be supplemented by material from the
beach – mussel shells and seaweed; sometimes even the soot from the
chimney was spread as fertilizer. The mountains were held in common
by all the MacCriomhthainn families in the area, with turbary rights
and a right to hunt rabbits.
Although seafood was a part of
the MacCriomhthainn diet, they did not use boats
for fishing until later on during the 19th century. Fish
has always been in great abundance, however, our ancestors satisfied
their needs with fish caught on hand lines from the rocks. With the
introduction of the seine boat they were able to undertake fishing as
a livelihood. Horse-mackerel was their main catch until the 1870s
when it was displaced by pilchard. Then came their great sea harvest,
the big Spring mackerel. Around that time the changeover occurred
from the seine boat to the "naomhóg", or canoe.
The naomhóg was an easier
craft to handle and to manoeuvre than the seine-boat. A three-man
crew could manage it at their ease whereas the seine boat took a crew
of eight and also required a back-up boat, called a "foilár.
It was a cumbersome, awkward craft to beach. The naomhóg was
much handier and more manageable in many ways. It could take a sail
when the wind was right; it was easier to turn and manoeuvre; and,
when needed, it could be taken closer to the rocks. It also widened
the range of work and variety of catches. Henceforth, they could
trawl their lines, set trammel-nets and troll for pollock. The
naomhóg's only major drawback was that it was difficult to
transport an animal in it. They caught all their large coarse fish
with trawl lines – ling, halibut, cod, large halibut, eel,
dog-fish, etc. Wrasse, red sea bream, and the like were fished with
change of daily life for the MacCriomhthainn
during the 19th was the discovery that other species of
fish never before fished, lobsters and crayfish were also of value.
It wasn’t long before the MacCriomhthainns
were as skilled as any at lobster fishing.
thousand years of living on the coast of Kerry, the MacCriomhthainns
lived in a variety of shelters as time progressed. From small mud
huts in the 11th century to two-storey
stone houses built in the 19th
century by the Congested Districts Board. Some of the houses built in
the 18th century faced either north or south with the
uppermost gable (the hearth wall) bedded into a hillside for shelter.
during the 18th century all the houses had a large
kitchen, with enough room to dance a set or to wake a corpse, an
adjoining "lower room", and in some cases an "upper
room" behind the hearth wall. The kitchen had to be large enough
to accommodate animals at night or during bad weather. There was a
loft above the lower room, in some houses a makeshift bed was placed
there, and a narrow loft above the fire for storing nets, fishing
lines, trawl lines and other goods.
The houses on
the Islands usually had one door only, unlike mainland houses, which
had two doors at the front and back, one kept open and the other
closed. In the 18th century the houses were usually roofed
with rushes and some houses were once thatched with straw. The
naomhóg, which has a tarred felt covering, gave our ancestors
another idea. Felt was an ideal roofing material and in most cases it
replaced the rush thatch in both houses and outhouses. The two-storey
houses built by the Congested Districts Board had slate roofs. The
walls were built of stone and mortar, with earth floors inside; a
couple of flat flagstones in front of the fire comprised the
fireplace. The earth floors were constantly damp and to keep them dry
they spread sand from the beach on them a couple of times a day.
The McCrohans had their own
methods for smoking and homecuring food; they hung cured fish above
the mantlepiece to dry, and bacon that was smoked.
The following account of the
McCrohan surname is taken from Milltown local history, Milltown is
located across the bay on the Dingle peninsula near Dunquin:
"About 1000 A.D. a small
peaceful clan acquired land in Kilcolman, Miltown, through purchase.
They were the MacCriomhthainns from Renard near Valentia Island."
The land acquired was then heavy, wet, rush-covered territory, but it
suited their needs for they were flax growers and linen
manufacturers. There are stepping-stones across a little stream just
below the modern village of Milltown. This crossing was known to the
MacCriomhthainn as ‘ath Solais’, meaning the Ford of Clear Water.
In that stream the MacCriomhthainn’s steeped their flax. Round
about Ath Solais they had buildings where carding, spinning, weaving
and dyeing of linen were carried on. They made fine linen which they
exported to Spain in their own ships in Valencia. They grew woad and
madder locally that produced red and blue dyes for their cloths. It
is pleasing to learn that some of this linen graced Continental
Alters and was valued highly by the senoritas in Spain. The weaving
sheds of the MacCriomhthainn’s at Ath Solais were to grow and
develop and so give the future township of Milltown a location, a
purpose and a name. The English confiscations (commanded by Oliver
Cromwell 1650) swept the MacCriomhthainn’s into poverty and
obscurity. But some of them escaped to Spain and founded McCrohon
Laws that Isolated and Impoverished the
The Statutes of Kilkenny - 1366
successful was this cultural assimilation that two hundred years
after the first invaders arrived (the Normans in 1169) the English
crown was forced to take severe measures at a parliament which
assembled in Kilkenny, the heartland of Norman Ireland, in 1366. Its
purpose was to preserve the racial purity and cultural separateness
of the colonizers, thereby enabling the English crown to retain
control over them. It is a measure of the adaptability of both the
Irish and the Normans that the crown was faced with such a problem.
Not only were the Normans militarily superior, but also their
political, social and religious systems were different from those
adapted by the MacCriomhthainn and all the other native Irish.
Norman families favored central government, walled land cultivated
intensively, inheritance through the first-born male, and large
abbeys rather than small monastic settlements; and Norman French was
their language. They secured their land by building castles, which
functioned first as strong-points in the invasion and later as
centers of control and power. The Gaelic MacCriomhthainn clan seemed
to accept the new way of life as something they could, and had to,
live with. Fortunately for the MacCriomhthainn, Gaelic culture
prevailed and although the Normans controlled about two-thirds of the
country in 1366, military might and political sophistication had not
been sufficiently powerful to obliterate the native way of life of
the Gaelic Irish.
Duke of Clarence, son of Edward III, presided over the parliament
that passed the Statutes of Kilkenny. Their purpose was to prevent
further assimilation, by legal and religious penalties. The settlers
were forbidden to use the Irish language. They were also forbidden to
use Irish names, marry into Irish families, use the Irish mode of
dress, adopt any Irish laws and play the Irish game of hurling.
measures were a failure. Gaelicisation had gone
too far and by now the native population, having failed to beat the
invaders on the field of battle, was in league militarily with the
conquerors. By the end of the 15th century the English
crown ruled only a small area around Dublin.
the course of the 17th century the MacCriomhthainn clan
where almost eliminated. Armed MacCriomhthainn’s participated in
the battles of the Great O'Neil/O'Donnell rebellion, which ended in
the defeat at Kinsale in Cork in 1602. In this battle they were
recorded as providing forty 40 men for O'Sullivan's army in 1596.
Cromwell - 1640
his arrival in Dublin in 1649, Cromwell said: "By God's divine
providence" he and his troops would "carry on the great
work against the barbarous and bloodthirsty Irish..." After his
army laid siege to the town of Drogheda, and killed the entire
garrison, he wrote:
hath pleased God to bless our endeavors in Drogheda...The enemy were
about 3,000 strong in the town...I do not think 30 of the whole
number escaped with their lives. Those that did are in safe custody
for the Barbados...I wish that all honest hearts may give the glory
of this to God alone, to whom indeed the praise of this mercy
belongs." Cromwell proceeded to Wexford where he slaughtered
the rebellions in the 1650's and in the Cromwellian wars, other
MacCriomhthainns fought, and many fell in the numerous battles that
occurred in Munster, often indeed under the leadership of the famed
Chief of the Gaelic forces, Owen Roe O'Sullivan. Incidentally, it was
about this time that the spelling of most Irish surnames was forced
to change to suit the English, and also as a means to destroy the
Celtic culture of the Ireland. Our McCrohan castle of Letter was
apparently destroyed and leveled by Oliver Cromwell’s English
forces during the this period. Most of the McCrohan farms and boats
where destroyed and a great number of our family were killed
including women and children. Our Castle of Letter, unlike other
castles, was totally destroyed and today there is nothing standing to
even show that it existed. For some reason Oliver Cromwell really had
it in for our ancestors.
of the CROMWELLIAN SETTLEMENTS "
late as 1657 the McCrohans are included, in an English state paper of
the day, among the Munster families "Plotting for Trouble"
of our lands in 1657 due to Cromwell.
of Leitir. (Wet hillside) Land was given to Eager.
Mc Crohan of Reenard. Land was given to Eager.
Teig Mc Crohan of
Leitir. Land was given to Eager.
of Limerick - 1693
the end of the 17th century the last battles were lost, and the
infamous Treaty of Limerick signed in 1693. Many of the families in
Kerry lost their lands by licence under the articles of the Treaty of
Limerick. Along with the other ‘Wildgeese’, many McCrohans left
Ireland for service in the armies of Continental nations, especially
France, Spain and Austria, and many McCrohan families relocated en
toto to those parts, especially to Spain.
my grief - that Patrick Loughlin is not Earl in Irrul still.
that Brian Duff no longer rules as lord upon the hill
that Colonel Hugh MacGrady should be lying dead and low,
I sailing, sailing swiftly from the County of Mayo.’ - Tomás
Lavelle, the Irish poet from County Mayo, was not the only Gaelic
poet to regret the downfall of his over-lords as he accompanied them
into exile following the broken Treaty of Limerick. From many a port,
not least from those of Kerry, defeated and dispossessed, they
followed King James, most of them to France, "Wild Geese rising
on clamorous wing to follow the flight of an alien king."
But not all. The MacCrohans who
once ruled in their castle of Letter as "lords upon the hill"
left it to sail out of Valentia harbour for a refuge in Spain. Spain,
no doubt, they would have known from trading, perhaps smuggling
between Valentia and the many southern ports. In Spain they prospered
and their descendants are still to be found today.
Our direct line of McCrohan
ancestors decided to return to their home soil in Kerry after a short
stay in Spain. All of the McCrohans lost title to their lands on
returning home and were condemned to servitude as tenant farmers and
therefore had to pay rent to their new English landlords. Most of the
McCrohans remained homeless and wandered the Kerry countryside until
they found suitable living on Valentia Island and the Blasket
Islands. The 18th century was a hard time in general for all the
Irish folk, and we have no reason to doubt but that the McCrohans
The Penal Laws -1695
Penal Laws, dating from 1695, and not repealed in their entirety
until Catholic emancipation in 1829, aimed at the destruction of
Catholicism in Ireland by a series of ferocious enactments. The
English planned on using the Panel Laws as a way of destroying the
Catholic system in Ireland therefore the English would be able to
control the Irish. About 90 percent of the population of Ireland at
this time was Catholic, which included the McCrohans. For the
McCrohan families of County Kerry, the Catholic faith had been their
way of life and culture for over 1000 years.
broad outline, the new laws barred Catholics from the army and navy,
the law, commerce, and from every civic activity. No Catholic could
vote, hold any office under the Crown, or purchase land, and Catholic
estates were dismembered by an enactment directing that at the death
of a Catholic owner his land was to be divided among all his sons,
unless the eldest became a Protestant, when he would inherit the
whole. Education was made almost impossible, since Catholics might
not attend schools, nor keep schools, nor send their children to be
educated abroad. The practice of the Catholic faith was illegal; sin
forming was encouraged as 'an honorable service' and priest-hunting
treated as a sport.
were the main provisions of the Penal Code, described by Edmund Burke
as, “a machine as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment
and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human
nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of
material damage suffered by the McCrohans through the Penal Laws was
enormous; ruin was widespread, old McCrohan families disappeared and
old estates were broken up; but the most disastrous effects were
moral. The Penal Laws brought lawlessness, dissimulation and revenge
in their train, and the Irish character.
upper classes Catholics were able to leave the country and many
middle-class merchants contrived, with guile, to survive, but the
poor Catholic McCrohans, primarily peasant farmers, bore the full
hardship. Our religion made us outlaws on our own land, which we were
now leasing off the English. In the House of Commons the Catholic in
Ireland was described as 'the common enemy'.
was inflicted on our family we had to bear, for where could the
McCrohans and the other Catholics look for redress? To our landlord,
who was almost invariably an alien conqueror? To the law? Not when
every person connected with the law, from the jailer to the judge,
was a Protestant who regarded us as 'the common enemy'.
Lecky, a Protestant of British blood and ardent British sympathy,
says in his History of Ireland in the 18th Century that the
object of the Penal Laws was threefold:
1. To deprive the Irish
Catholics of all civil life
To reduce them to a condition of most extreme and brutal ignorance
To dissociate them from the soil He might, with absolute justice,
substituted Irish for Catholics-and added, to expirate (cause to
expire) the Race.
The Irish Catholic was
forbidden the exercise of his religion.
He was forbidden to receive
He was forbidden to enter a
He was forbidden to hold public
He was forbidden to engage in
trade or commerce.
He was forbidden to live in a
corporate town or within five miles thereof.
He was forbidden to own a horse
of greater value than five pounds.
He was forbidden to purchase
He was forbidden to lease land.
He was forbidden to accept a
mortgage on land in security for a loan.
He was forbidden to vote.
He was forbidden to keep any
arms for his protection.
He was forbidden to hold a life
He was forbidden to buy land
from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to receive a
gift of land from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to inherit
land from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to inherit
anything from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to rent any
land that was worth more than thirty shillings a year.
He was forbidden to reap from
his land any profit exceeding a third of the rent.
He could not be guardian to a
He could not, when dying, leave
his infant children under Catholic guardianship.
He could not attend Catholic
He was compelled by law to
attend Protestant worship.
He could not himself educate
He could not send his child to
a Catholic teacher.
He could not employ a Catholic
teacher to come to his child.
He could not send his child
abroad to receive education.
the 15th through the 19th centuries, successive English monarchies
and governments enacted laws designed to suppress and destroy Irish
manufacturing and trade. These repressive Acts, coupled with the
Penal Laws, reduced the Irish people to "nakedness and beggary"
in a very direct and purposeful way. The destitute Irish then stood
at the very brink of the bottomless pit.
Submitted by McCrohan.net member, Clinton McCrohan
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