CIVIL WAR AT THE FARM

Chris Pa­ton un­cov­ered a ma­jor Ir­ish Civil War bat­tle fought on a fam­ily farm

Your Family History - - Contents - By Chris Pa­ton

Pa­ton tells us about the Ir­ish Civil War bat­tle fought on a fam­ily farm.

Over the last decade, I have spent a lot of time re­search­ing the fam­ily his­tory of my wife Claire’s an­ces­tral Pren­der­gast fam­ily from County Kilkenny, Ire­land. There have been many sur­prises along the way, but none has beaten the dis­cov­ery of an Ir­ish Civil War bat­tle fought on her fam­ily’s doorstep in 1922.

De­scended from an old Nor­man line, the Pren­der­gasts were based in the town­land of Kil­lon­erry from at least 1827, when Claire’s 3x great-grand­fa­ther, John Pren­der­gast, was recorded in the Tithe Ap­plot­ment Books (http :// tit heap plot ment books. nationalarchives.ie), hold­ing a lease of just 13 acres there. In the 1851 Grif­fith’s Valu­a­tion ( www.ask­aboutire­land.ie) it was noted that John’s son Thomas had suc­ceeded him, ex­pand­ing the farm to now take in over 119 acres. A sub­se­quent record found within the Registry of Deeds on Fam­i­lySearch ( https:// fam­i­lysearch.org/search/cat­a­log/ 185720? avail­abil­ity= Fam­ily %20 His­tory %20 Li­brary ), showed that in Au­gust 1892 Thomas’ widow, Brid­get O’Don­nell, had pur­chased the farm through the Court of the Ir­ish Land Com­mis­sion from the es­tate of the Earl of Bess­bor­ough, thanks to a loan of £2650, which was to be paid back with in­ter­est over 49 years.

Brid­get and Thomas had raised a fam­ily of five chil­dren at Kil­lon­erry, with their two sons Thomas and Pa­trick found to be still res­i­dent in the farm­house in the 1901 cen­sus ( http://cen­sus. nationalarchives.ie). They were both now mar­ried and had fam­i­lies. When Brid­get died in De­cem­ber 1904, the farm was sub­se­quently di­vided be­tween the brothers, with Thomas build­ing a sep­a­rate farm­house close to the old prop­erty. With his wife, Mary, Thomas raised a fam­ily of nine chil­dren at the new farm­house at Kil­lon­erry, in­clud­ing my wife’s grand­fa­ther Paul (born in 1895), whilst Pa­trick had five chil­dren of his own with his wife, An­nie Ho­gan, in the orig­i­nal farm­house. In the early part of the 20th cen­tury, the two brothers’ chil­dren grew up to­gether, as Ire­land’s re­la­tion­ship with the rest of the United King­dom was set to change for­ever.

ACOMNERTAICCATN

In Oc­to­ber 2005, I was con­tacted by an Amer­i­can­based woman called Ann – she was the daugh­ter of Michael Pren­der­gast, one of Pa­trick’s sons. Ann in­formed me that her fa­ther had joined the Third Tip­per­ary Brigade of the Ir­ish Repub­li­can Army, and had fought against Bri­tish forces in the War of In­de­pen­dence be­tween 1919 and 1921. Fol­low­ing the An­glo-Ir­ish Treaty, which con­firmed the Par­ti­tion of Ire­land and saw the cre­ation of the Ir­ish Free State, the ‘Old IRA’, as it has since be­come known, split into two. The largest fac­tion formed the Free State Army, whilst a mi­nor­ity formed the ‘an­tiTreaty’ fac­tion known as the ‘Ir­reg­u­lars’, which re­fused to ac­cept Par­ti­tion and the lack of a fully-fledged Ir­ish re­pub­lic. Michael con­tin­ued to fight with the Ir­reg­u­lars in the en­su­ing Ir­ish Civil War (1922–1923) against his for­mer Old IRA col­leagues. Fol­low­ing de­feat, he was forced to go on the run from Ire­land, trav­el­ling first to Canada, and then to the United States, where he mar­ried. He even­tu­ally re­turned to Ire­land in 1978, and passed away in his sleep some nine years later.

This was as­ton­ish­ing stuff, but was my wife’s own branch of the Pren­der­gast fam­ily caught up in the con­flict? The Ir­ish News­pa­per Ar­chives web­site(www. ir­ish news ar­chive. com) pro­vided some an­swers. A 1936 obit­u­ary in the Mun­ster Ex­press for Claire’s great­grand­fa­ther Thomas recorded that ‘his home was a cen­tre of much ac­tiv­ity dur­ing the An­glo-Ir­ish war in which him­self and his sons and daugh­ters took an ac­tive part’. An even more re­mark­able ar­ti­cle from 1934 noted a com­pen­sa­tion claim by one of Thomas’s neph­ews (Pa­trick’s son, also called Thomas) to

the Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment for dam­age caused to the orig­i­nal Kil­lon­erry farm­house by the Free State Army in Au­gust 1922. He ad­mit­ted to be­ing an ac­tive sym­pa­thiser of the pre-Par­ti­tion IRA, and later for the Ir­reg­u­lars, for whom he had worked as a driver.

The ar­ti­cle also noted that in one of the war’s big­gest bat­tles near the town of Car­rick-onSuir, the army had oc­cu­pied the orig­i­nal Kil­lon­erry farm­house for two days, to which sol­diers had caused sig­nif­i­cant dam­age, rip­ping up the floor­boards for fuel and tear­ing down the cur­tains. At the court hear­ing for the com­pen­sa­tion claim, my wife’s great-grand­fa­ther Thomas was also ques­tioned. He re­vealed that he had wit­nessed the army tak­ing his brother’s prop­erty, re­call­ing how the sol­diers had also slaugh­tered all of the cat­tle on his own ad­join­ing farm in the process, an ac­tion which had left him ‘a tee­to­tal wreck’.

Hooked now, I ob­tained a book called ‘Car­rick- on-Suir: Town and Dis­trict 1800–2000’ by Pa­trick C. Power, which gave more de­tail. In a bid to rid the area of Ir­reg­u­lar forces, the Free State Army had taken con­trol of Kil­lon­erry af­ter a bat­tle with the 8th Bat­tal­ion of the IRA’s 3rd Tip­per­ary Brigade. Two 18-pounder can­nons were brought to Kil­lon­erry, and from there the Free State forces bom­barded repub­li­can po­si­tions across the River Lin­gaun, as well as ma­chine gun­ning and mor­tar­ing their op­po­nents, un­til they re­treated.

I had one fi­nal dis­cov­ery still to make. When Ire­land’s Mil­i­tary Ar­chives ( www. mil­i­tar­yarchives.ie) up­loaded its Mil­i­tary Ser­vices (1916–1923) Pen­sion Col­lec­tion, to help com­mem­o­rate the cur­rent ‘Decade of Cen­te­nar­ies’, I searched the records for any con­fir­ma­tion of the Pren­der­gasts’ Old IRA mem­ber­ship. Sure enough, the files of the 8th Bat­tal­ion of the 3rd Tip­per­ary Brigade in­cluded a list­ing for mem­bers of “K Coy. (Kil­lon­erry)” in file MA/MSPC/ RO/152. Michael Pren­der­gast’s name was in­cluded – as was that of my wife’s grand­fa­ther Paul, and his brothers Thomas, Daniel and Pa­trick.

A reg­u­lar YFH writer, ge­neal­o­gist Chris Pa­ton is orig­i­nally from North­ern Ire­land but now lives in Scot­land. He is the au­thor of ‘ A Decade of Cen­te­nar­ies: Re­search­ing Ire­land 1912–1923’ (Un­lock the Past, 2016).

His obit­u­ary stated that ‘his home was a cen­tre of much ac­tiv­ity dur­ing the An­glo-Ir­ish war’

The farm­house at Kil­lon­erry

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