William Fay (1806 – 1888)

           Griffith’s Valuations, which were conducted to determine the amount of Poor Tax owed for each parcel of land in Ireland, were published in 1854. Like the 1833 Tithe Applotments they showed both a William Fay and a James Fay still leasing land in Rathcogue. The exact parcels were referenced on an  Ordnance Survey Map, drawn up after that  survey was conducted in Westmeath in the late 1830s.


Note that the figures in the first column  give the Ordnance Map references. William Fay occupied (2a) and James Fay (3a). Here is a detail of  the original Ordnance  map showing Rathcogue .

     The Fay’s plots are found near the top center of this map. Land in Griffith’s Valuation was measured by statute acre, rood and perch. A statute acre contained 4840 square yards, a rood was ¼ of an acre of 1210 square yards and a perch was 1/40th of a rood containing 30 square yards. William Fay’s plot (2a) consisted of just over 8 ¼ acres and contained “House, offices and land”.  Offices, in this case, referred to any outbuildings – from a chicken coop to a barn. James Fay’s plot was  1 ¾ acres and had only a house.

     James Fay’s lease in 1854 had considerably less acreage than it did during the 1834 Tithe Applotments, in which he farmed over 8 acres. This leads me to believe that he was not actively farming. He was getting older at this point (60 years) and probably could not endure the hard labor required. And as far as we know he had no male children with which to share in the burden. After his death in 1869, the plot leased to James Fay was eventually relinquished  to James Hughes in 1872. 

        One thing of interest to note is the change in Landlord between 1834 ( the Tithe Applotments) and 1854 (Griffith’s Valuation).  In 1854 Rathcogue was now owned by William Longworth, who leased it to James Higgins, who in turn leased small tracts to the tenant farmers. The adjacent Relick Longworth townland was leased to John Higgins, who did the same. The Higgins family were known as middlemen, usually Protestants, who leased large estate tracts, which they then would subdivide and rent to tenant farmers, who typically lived at a subsistence level on less than ten acres. These Catholic farmers were usually considered tenants-at-will and could be evicted on short notice at the whim of the landlord, his agent, or middleman. Apparently the Fays were considered dependable and desirable tenants, however, because, as we shall see, they held the lease on this land in Rathcogue for close to a hundred years.

Glynwood House

     The Longworths, like the Meares landlords before them, were descendents of a Cromwellian soldier, Peter Longworth, who stayed in Ireland and reaped the benefits of the rise of the Protestant Ascendancy.  By the mid 1800’s the Longworths had accumulated thousands of acres of holdings in Galway, Kings, Roscommon and Westmeath. William was the son of  Francis Longworth of Creggan Castle, who in 1790 built their family seat at Glynwood, just outside of Athlone, Westmeath.

     When Willian Longworth died the Rathcogue holdings passed to a nephew, John Longworth.  And when John Longworth died in 1881 he was succeeded by his cousin, Francis Travers Dames-Longworth (1834-1898).


     As to our own Fay lineage, as we noted earlier, William Fay married Elizabeth Lyons in February of 1834 in Milltown Catholic Parish. It was typical then, as now, for a couple to be wed in the church of the bride’s family.

     There were two Elizabeth Lyons –  cousins –  living in Milltown Parish at this time. One, baptized Feb. 7, 1810, was the daughter of Laurence and Margaret Lyons.  Her cousin, baptized July 1, 1814, was the daughter of Patrick and Bridget Lyons. I believe it was the 1810 Elizabeth Lyons that had married William Fay, because nearly all of their children’s names could  be found in her immediate family.

     Elizabeth Lyons grew up in Irishtown, a townland  four  miles east of Rathcogue as the crow flies (see previous map).  Laurence Lyons & Co. appeared there in the Tithe Applotments of 1827, on about 42 acres of land. Thomas Lyons, probably his son or nephew was adjacent to him on 60 acres.

      Laurence and Margaret Lyons had six  children that we know of  – Judith (b.1807),  Thomas (b.1808), Elizabeth (b.1810), Patrick  (b. 1812), Peter (b.1817) and Laurence   (b. 1827). Elizabeth’s father, Laurence, died in either 1840 or 1845. I have found no record of the death of his wife Margaret Lyons.

     Elizabeth and William Fay settled in on their eight acre plot in Rathcogue in 1834. Their first son was baptized in the Moyvore church on August 10, 1836. He was named Michael, after his paternal grandfather. It is this Michael that later emigrated to Brooklyn and purchased the Fay family Bible. His sponsors were James Fay and Sean McCormick.

        Their second son, named Thomas, was baptized on October 15, 1838. His sponsors were John Ham and Catherine Too. Departing somewhat from traditional naming patterns he was named after both William and Elizabeth’s grandfathers.

     Their first daughter was born in 1839, but for some reason her baptism went unrecorded in the parish records. Her name was Margaret, undoubtedly named after Elizabeth’s mother, Margaret Lyons, as well as William’s mother Margaret Dogherty.

     The following year, on Oct. 11, 1840 Patrick Fay was baptized . His sponsors were Thomas Lyons (Elizabeth’s brother ) and Margaret Fay, William’s sister.

    The next to arrive was William Fay II, baptized on September 20, 1844. His sponsors were John Cormick and Margaret Lyons. Margaret Lyons was probably Elizabeth’s niece, the eldest daughter of her brother Patrick.

     We have no baptismal records for the next three children born to William and Elizabeth. Catherine was born in 1847, Lawrence in 1848, and Maria in 1850. Lawrence, of course, was named after  Elizabeth’s father.

    The last of this brood that we know about was Peter. He was baptized on Sept. 25, 1852 . His sponsors were Patrick Fay and Margaret Fay, two of William’s siblings.

     We now have nine known children of William and Elizabeth Fay. For five of them we have baptismal records, two others we have found through marriage records (Catherine and Maria) and two from associations in the U.S. (Margaret and Lawrence).  There could have been more.

     It is probably significant that three of the four missing baptisms occurred during the years of the Great Hunger in Ireland, which lasted from 1845 till 1852 . 

The Family of William Fay and Elizabeth Lyons