The Ones that Stayed Behind

Once Michael Fay departed  for America in 1854, it opened that  same door for his other siblings. We know from records in the U.S. that Thomas, Margaret, Patrick, Lawrence and Peter  later  joined Michael.  Most of them  made the trip by the time the the Civil War ended. Peter was the last to depart in 1871.

Meanwhile, back at home, their father William continued to farm in Rathcogue. True to the pattern described as the “stem family system”, the final male left at home, in this case William II, would inherit the lease and eventually take over the farm. But there were still his two sisters, Catherine and Maria, living at home as well.

Maria was the first to marry.  On Jan. 14, 1876 , at the age of 26, Maria,  who apparently was a dressmaker, married Thomas Mallin. Thomas was from Ballymahon, Longford, the next town over the county line from Moyvore.  They were married in the Forgney Church half way between Ballymahon and Moyvore, Westmeath. The witnesses were Matthew Kelly and Mary Lyons, Maria’s cousin.

Forgney RC Church

Maria and Thomas had two children that we know of.  James was baptised  on Jan. 7, 1877 , followed by Laurence on July 29, 1879.

The following year , on July 27, 1880 Catherine Fay got married. She was 33 at the time, and married Edward Moran, who stated he was ten years older than her. They too were married at the Forgney church. The witnesses were John Moran, (Edward’s brother?),  and Bridget Ballasty. Edward Moran was from Clontymullen , a couple of miles east of Legan town in Longford. Legan was about 11 miles from Rathcogue and was also, as you might recall, the likely hometown of our relatives the McDermotts. Edward made his living as a cooper.

                                                                                  The Family of Edward Moran

                                                                                          (Click on Image to Enlarge)

Catherine and Edward had three children that we know of. Catherine (Katie) Moran was baptized on July 9, 1881 in Legan Parish. Their first son William, named after Catherine’s father, was baptized on May 1, 1883. Unfortunately William  died of scarlet fever when he was only ten years old. Their second son James was born on March 28, 1886 in Clontymullen.

Their daughter Katie later married John Hunt , of Clontymullen, on August 8 of 1900. The Civil marriage records list her as a domestic servant, and him as a farmer.They had four children.  Margaret was born in Clontymullen on March 12, 1901.Then they must have moved down the road towards Legan, to Aghnavealoge townland . Their other three children were born there – John in 1902, Kate in 1904 and Patrick in 1906.

James Moran , the second son of Catherine and Edward,  married Mary Clyne, and was living in Newport, a mile down the road from Aghnavealoge when their daughter Mary Kate was born in 1910.

We haven’t found a death record for Catherine Fay Moran, but her spouse Edward lived until 1934. His Civil death record stated he was a widower of 89 years (b. 1845) and died of senility. However Edward’s marriage records said he was born in 1835 – so he might really have been 99 years old! Apparently his grand daughter Mary Kate (above) was with him at his death.

William Fay II , Catherine and Maria’s older brother, was married on Feb. 8, 1880 to Mary Kiernan (Kearnan) in the Edgeworthstown Parish in Longford. Edgeworthtown is nearly fourteen miles due north of Rathcogue  – quite a hike even in 1880. One has to wonder how they met and courted at such a great distance.  Mary was the daughter of Matthew and Mary Kerinan (sp.), and was a year older than William, baptized on Feb. 17, 1843. The witnesses at their wedding were John Lyons and Kate McGloughlin.

John Lyons was William’s older cousin, as far as I can determine. William’s mother, Elizabeth Lyons, had a younger  brother Patrick  (b. 1812), who married Mary Evars, and whose son, John, was born in 1836. John would have been 8 years older than William at the time of his wedding, and a likely choice for best man, given that all of William’s brothers had already emigrated.

The newlyweds set up housekeeping with Williams parents in Rathcogue. On March 15 of 1882 their first daughter, Elizabeth , was born. But according to the Civil records, when William’s second  daughter, Mary, was born in February of 1884, they were living in Ballinacurra. Ballinacurra, as you might recall, was where the Moyvore Catholic church was located, just a few miles down the road from Rathcogue. William was listed as a laborer, probably finding employment on the surrounding farms.

Circumstances changed, however, early in 1888. On January 26th William Fay  passed away at the age of 82, after six days of illness. He was unattended by a doctor, but his son William II was present at his death.  Two years later, on Sept. 15, 1890, Elizabeth (Lyons) Fay followed her husband. She had been ill for several years. Present at her death was Thomas Kally (Scally?) of Piercetown.

It was probably at this point that William II and his family took over the lease on the Rathcogue plot. The surrounding estate land was still owned by the Longworths of Glynwood , but it had been inherited by Francis Travers Dames-Longworth (1834-1898) in 1882 . It was leased to Patrick Keane in 1889, who in turn sub-leased the same eight acre portion to the Fays.

What was the Fay family farmstead like ? We can get a pretty clear picture based on information compiled in the 1901 and 1911 Irish Census records, the only ones currently available to the public. It was a small stone cottage with a thatched roof. It had three windows on the front face and three interior rooms. Undoubtedly it was heated by a turf fire,the standard for Irish cottages  at the time.Turf was certainly plentiful in the area. The Williamstown bog , just a few miles away, is still commercially farmed for turf today.

The Irish Cottage
Cutting Turf in the Bogland



 The Ordnance Survey map of the 1840’s showed several outbuildings on the Fay holding. By 1911 this had been greatly expanded . The Census form for Out-Offices and Farm-Steadings listed eight structures in addition to the dwelling.  They included a barn, a shed and a stable, a cow house, a calving house and a dairy house, as well as a piggery and a chicken house. This was a full fledged mini-farm. There was no doubt a large garden for supplying vegetables and root crops as well.

But running such an enterprise was not without its hazards. Records from the Irish Petty Court Sessions reveal that a number of times between 1873 and 1883 William Fay was fined for  “letting his pigs wander on the public road in Rathcougue”. He was fined one shilling and six pence plus a shilling for court costs.

.                                                                                                           (click to enlarge)

Fortunately William had help in rounding up his wandering livestock. A list of Dog Licence fees reveal that over the years he always kept a sheep dog at his side.

It seems unthinkable by today’s standards that the little Rathcogue homestead could have housed four successive generations of  Fays. During the famine years it had sheltered William I and his wife and at least nine children. That must have promoted a great tolerance for family members.  Of course it could have also promoted mass emigration.

We find a few other details in the 1911 Census regarding  the Fays that stayed behind. It was recorded that Mary Fay had had three children, two of whom were still living. However I can find no record of the child who died. Additionally in 1911, the older daughter, Elizabeth Fay, was no longer living with her parents. It turns out that she too had emigrated to the U.S. like her uncles. We will tell her story later.

Three decades after the Great Potato Famine,  starting in 1873, an economic depression had spread across Ireland and of course tenant farmers were the hardest hit. Rents were escalated,  leading to widespread evictions. Channeling their frustrations, homeless farmers organized into the Land League in 1879 and launched a mass movement calling  for land reform. Using violence, they threatened landlords and tenants who moved onto holdings cleared by evictions. Their tactics caught the British Prime Minister’s attention,  and to prevent more violence Parliament enacted a series of reforms. The Land Law Act of 1881 gave tenants the power to sue landlords over lease violations and over the next two decades further reform laws were put into effect.

In December 1902  the Chief Secretary for Ireland, George Wyndham,  gave his backing to a new scheme for tenant land purchase based on the government paying the difference between the price offered by tenants and that demanded by landlords.

The Wyndham Act of 1903 produced a large increase in the number of tenant purchases, not only because it established much better terms for tenants , but also because it gave hefty bonuses to landlords who sold their estates.  Under this act landlords and tenants negotiated a sale price. Once the sale was arranged, the government paid the landlord in cash and advanced the tenant the cost of the land, with repayment to be in the form of an annual payments at 3.25% interest. Landlords received both a cash bonus upon completion of the sale and the right to sell their own demesne to the state and purchase it back under the same terms their tenants were receiving. This second provision permitted many landlords to exchange costly mortgages for lower cost state annuities.  The immediate effect of this arrangement was beneficial to most tenants: the purchase price was legally required to be such as to make the annuity payments between 10% and 30% below former fixed rents.

By early 1913 about 250,000 holdings,  comprising 8 million acres,  had been sold to former tenant farmers. We know from the Griffiths Valuation Revision books, the ongoing  updates of the original Griffith Valuations of 1854, that William Fay II took advantage of the Land Reform acts and was finally able to purchase the plot in Rathcogue that had been occupied by the Fays for close to a hundred years.

The L.A.P. stamp in the  Lessor column of the book indicates that the holding was purchased under the Land Purchase Act. This, as it was subsequently annotated, occurred in 1912.

On March 6, 1916, just a month before the Easter Rising in Dublin, William and Mary’s youngest daughter, Mary, wed John Brennan, a local farmer who lived in Lismacmurrogh, a townland in Longford County north of Ballymahon . They were married in the church in Balinnacurra. The witnesses were Patrick Brennan and Julia Ballinty.

                        The Family of William Fay II

With both of their daughters having moved out, William and Mary lived out their days on the Fay family farm. Mary died on June 8, 1923 after contracting bronchitis for four weeks. Her age at death was given as 76 years (b. 1847). Present at her death was John Brennan of Moyvore – her son-in-law.

William attained the ripe old age of 90 years, dying, according to Parish records, on May 29 of 1935. The Civil records say he was interred in Relick. This was at first confusing, because Relick,  just down the road from Rathcogue, was nothing but open farmland  –  no villages or churches existed there in 1935. I then checked the Ordnance Survey maps of the 1840’s  and discovered that indeed there had been a church and graveyard in Relick (center of map). (Click on image to enlarge)

                                                                                                 Relick Cemetery


To describe it’s history  I will turn once again to the reminicenses of the local folk , found in  “The Schools’ Collection”  of 1937.

“There was a catholic church in Piercetown  at one time. In the days of Cromwell it was pulled  down by the tyrant – and the lands adjoining it were given to the parson. The ruins of the church are still to be seen in the graveyard. “

– Mrs. Rogers, 76 years, Baltaken, Moyvore

“There are tombstones and monuments and wooden and iron crosses in Piercetown graveyard. The dates on some of the tombstones are 1790, 1800, 1845, 1754. There is one bishop and four priests buried in the graveyard.  Bishop McCormack  is buried in the ruins of the Church.

There are no disused graveyards in the  Parish of Moyvore. A wall was built around the graveyard some time ago. There was no walk or fence around it before the wall was built.

Families use certain graveyards that are not in the Parish”

– Story of Piercetown Church yard got from Patrick Fox, age 35, who got the story from his father  – now deceased – they lived beside the churchyard.

There is the ruin of an old church in Piercetown graveyard. There is an old stone on the end of one of the old walls with the following inscription on it –

Passenger as you pass by

As you are now, so once was I

As I am now, so shall you be

Prepare for death, and follow me.

Provided by Carmel Kelly, Moyvore, Co Westmeath

Today that  graveyard is overgrown and forgotten. But therein lies the remains of William Fay, who never left Rathcogue . It is likely that other Fays are buried there as well, being the closest graveyard to the family holding .

                                      Relick Cemetery


After the death of William Fay II, the Fay homestead was passed on to his daughter Mary and her husband John Brennan.  John  died in 1963, in Mullingar, at the age of 89. He too is buried in Relick graveyard.

In 1965 the farm was inherited by Thomas Brennan, their son. Thomas died on Sept 28 of 1995. The buildings on the Fay Family farm were demolished after 1997 when the land was sold, ending over one hundred and sixty years of continous occupation by our family.