Sunday 29 October 2023

 A Shared Ancestry

The Knox & Kirkwood 

Family's Forgotten Heritage

Myself David Hicks with Dennis Regan at Rappa Castle Demesne, once home to the Knox family

In 2016, I wrote a lengthy and extensively researched piece on my blog about the Kirkwood family of Bartragh Island found in Killala Bay, Co. Mayo. Little did I know at the time that I would uncover a forgotten story of a forbidden marriage associated with the Island dwelling family and find a long-lost cousin of my own. This month, Dennis Regan and his wife Andrea travelled to Mayo to explore the townlands once associated with the Knox and Kirkwood families. Dennis’s great, great grandmother was Emma Louisa Knox of Rappa Castle, a sister of my great, great grandfather Captain Annesley Arthur Knox.

Rappa Castle, once home to the
Emma Lousia Knox and her brother Captain Annesley Arthur Knox

In September 1864, Charles Knox Kirkwood of Bartragh Island, late of the Royal Artillery and eldest son of Captain Charles Kirkwood, married the third daughter of Annesley Knox of Rappa Castle. The marriage took place at the nearby, but now derelict, Ballysakeery Parish Church found in Mullafarry. Charles had his brother John as best man and the bride was given away by her brother, Annesley Arthur Knox. After the ceremony the whole group left for further celebrations at Rappa Castle located nearby in Ardagh in Crossmolina. The marriage produced a number of children including Norah Blanche Kirkwood who was born on Bartragh Island in 1875 however her mother died two years later in 1877. Emma Louisa is buried near her former home, Rappa Castle near Ardagh, Crossmolina . In later years Norah's father would not countenance her marriage to a local man, William Knox. Norah's father thought William was of a lower station and a Catholic. A marriage of this nature was not socially acceptable at the time, as Norah was a Protestant. William was born in 1871, the son of John Knox and Margaret Cunningham of Cooneal. In the 1890's, Norah disobeyed her father’s wishes, left Bartragh Island, married William and emigrated to New Haven Connecticut never to return to Bartragh.

Norah Blanche ( nee Kirkwood) and William Knox
together with the house on Bartragh Island

Captain Charles Knox Kirkwood died on Bartragh in 1926 and is buried on the island having never seen his daughter again. Norah and William made a happy life in the US where William became a mounted policeman and had a successful career. William died in 1944 and Norah in 1958. Norah kept in touch with her sister Maud in Ireland who visited her in the US in later years. In 2017, because of my blog post Dennis Regan from Connecticut contacted me and told me this amazing story about his great grandmother. Over the years we have exchanged research and during his recent visit to the area, I was delighted to show him buildings and places associated with ancestors which included Moyne Abbey, the Rappa Castle Demesne, the town of Killala and a number of churchyards where Kirkwood ancestors are buried. I was delighted to facilitate Dennis in this regard, who was an enthusiastic explorer joined by his wife Andrea and their friend Tom from Co. Clare. Dennis, who has impaired vision was accompanied by his wonderful guide dog Myles. A memorable day for all, when a shared ancestry helped make friends on either side of the Atlantic.

Please find a link to my 2016 article on Bartragh Island below:

Dennis Regan, his wife wife Andrea and Myles the dog together with myself, David Hicks in Moyne Abbey,
near Killala, Co. Mayo. This Abbey has a long association with the Knox Family and was once
the childhood playground of Norah Blanche Kirkwood

Saturday 8 July 2023

A Shared History

The Monuments of Ballina, Co. Mayo
Image Copyright ICHC

This year marks 125 years since two public memorials were planned for the town of Ballina in Co. Mayo. In this West of Ireland town, in the year of 1898, these monuments represented two different communities that co-existed in the town, Protestant and Catholic. Ireland in the 19th century was governed by a British Administration from Dublin Castle while rural towns, like Ballina, were policed by the Royal Irish Constabulary.  The 1798 Centenary Memorial, also known as the Humbert Memorial, was intended to mark the centenary of an uprising against British dominance of Ireland. It was mainly supported by those of a Catholic and nationalist background. However, in April of the same year, the tragic death of a local Protestant landlord instigated the construction of another memorial to commemorate his life, the Vaughan Jackson font. Now in a small town in the West of Ireland, two communities from different sides of the religious divide were planning and raising funds for memorials that represented different aspects of the town’s past.  It is an interesting dichotomy of the public attitudes to these memorials at this time. The 1798 Centenary Memorial was elaborate in design, but the committee had trouble raising funds despite money being collected in the wider area outside of Ballina. The Vaughan Jackson Memorial was a more measured affair and appeared to have no problem raising funds among the landed classes around Ballina alone. There appears to have been apathy to the 1798 centenary memorial, as it was often damaged and neglected in the years that followed its construction. The completion of the monument missed the commemoration date of the centenary and was not complete until 1899, a fact that is often overlooked.

The 1798 Centenary Memorial shown today and in the early 1900's

The 1798 Centenary Memorial once dominated the entrance to Knox Street from the lower end of the town of Ballina. This memorial recalled the failed rebellion of 1798 when the United Irishmen, with military support from the French, led by General Humbert, tried to overthrow the British establishment in Ireland. French Forces landed in Killala Bay in August 1798, which was seen as the date that would be used to celebrate the centenary. Today, while still an important piece of the town’s architectural and social heritage, the Humbert Memorial has now been side-lined near a carpark, sandwiched between two supermarkets in the town. From its inception, it appears that the monument suffered a number of setbacks, from design changes, to disagreements over location and its construction. A memorial of this nature was essentially an act of defiance against those who ruled from Dublin Castle, as it celebrated a previous attempt to overthrow the British occupation of Ireland. The story of the 1798 Centenary Memorial begins in October 1897, with a meeting of the Ballina ’98 Centenary Committee held in the town hall. Subscriptions were already donated, amounting to £5, which were handed in at this time. A site for the monument and what form it should take would be discussed at a later meeting. At the end of October, another meeting took place in Arthur Muffeny’s Hall where Muffeny was appointed to the chair, which was greeted with loud applause from those present. Arthur Muffeny was a Ballina business man who was one of the driving forces behind the construction of the 1798 Centenary Memorial. He was a contemporary of Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt, sharing many of their values in terms of the political and social environment of the time. He was a vocal opponent of the cruel landlord Harriet Gardiner and served two terms in prison for his opposition of landlordism and their evictions. He had a number of shops in the town of Ballina as well as a large car and coach factory on the Killala Rd. which is said to have employed 30 people. He also established a saw mills off Pearse St., built a number of houses in the town and established the Town Hall.  In December 1897, the Ballina ‘98 Centenary Committee held a meeting in the Town Hall, chaired by Arthur Muffeny. During this meeting, they discussed the possibility of inviting Maud Gonne to deliver a lecture on 1798 in Ballina to mark the centenary the following year.  

Maud Gonne painted by Sarah Purser in 1890
Image Copyright The Hugh Lane Gallery

The 1798 Centenary Memorial in Ballina was closely associated with Maud Gonne, a well-known female figure in early 20th century Irish History. She appears to have been closely involved at various stages of the memorial’s inception and development. Gonne played a public role in the struggle for Irish Independence and was a vocal figure in the fields of politics and civil rights. She was born in 1866, British by birth, born at Tongham Manor, Surrey. Her father was a captain in the army and the family resided in Ireland during her childhood. Maud was later educated in France, where she encountered a French politician who had anti-British leanings and encouraged the young woman’s hostility to the British domination of Ireland. She became one of the most prominent activists and conducted tours of Europe and the US promoting Irish Independence. It was after a tour of the US in 1897, that she threw herself in to the centenary commemorations for 1798 in Ireland. Also at this time she became aware of the plight of the poor tenants in the West of Ireland and used public events to attack the British establishment for their lack of action. Therefore Gonne’s encouragement of the construction of the memorial, in my opinion was a contradiction. For Gonne to encourage the expenditure of funds in this manner, in a small West of Ireland town was particularly insensitive to those that lived in poverty in close proximity.  Maud was a wealthy woman and a renowned beauty, when W.B. Yeats met her in 1889, he was entranced and remained close over the years. In late December 1897, Maud Gonne sailed from New York on the White Star Liner, Majestic, to be present at Frenchhill, three miles outside of Castlebar in Co. Mayo. The gathering at this site, in January 1898, was to prepare for the celebration of the centenary of 1798 during the summer. This site was chosen as it was the spot where French soldiers, aided by the Irish, routed out the English battalions. Ten thousand people from all over Mayo attended this event. It was here that Mr. T.B. Kelly, the honorary secretary of the Ballina 1798 Centenary committee, approached Maud Gonne. At this gathering, it was agreed that Gonne would pay a visit to Ballina in early March, to deliver a lecture in the town hall about the history of 1798.

An Advertisment for Maud Gonne's lecture in Ballina in March 1898

In Ballina in early March 1898, during a meeting of the 1798 Centenary committee, plans were finalised for the forthcoming visit of Maud Gonne. Now the time had come to choose a site for the monument, firstly an area around the centre of Knox’s Street was initially suggested but was dismissed due to there not being adequate space. At this time, it was thought that the memorial would only be 12 to 14 foot in height, which hints that the design for the monument became more elaborate as plans progressed. The committee would liaise with William Patterson Orchard, the county surveyor, in relation to a proposed site. Another area suggested was in front of the ‘’pig market’’ and that the monument should be positioned in the Market Square. The site of the monument eventually chosen was at Lower Knox Street and the entrance to Brook Street. It is said that the original site on which the monument stood was granted by the Grand Jury, owing to the eloquence of Mr. Coolican, a member of the committee. Later it was often argued if the Grand Jury had the right to grant the permission for the possession of the site in the first place. Funding for the statue was collected by public subscription by the 1798 Centenary Memorial Committee in Ballina and the wider area.

Lower Knox St. soon after the construction of the Humbert Memorial in 1899
Copyright The National Library of Ireland

Tragic events in 1898 would now bring about the construction of another public memorial for the town of Ballina.  On the night of the 8th April 1898, George James Vaughan Jackson was returning home from Ballina where he had been doing business during the fair day. As he turned his horse and trap off the main road at Rehins, he encountered  'a light from a travelling caravan' which was drawn up near the side of the road close to the railway bridge. As he drew closer it appeared to be an ' encampment of peddlers' who had a cart piled high with baskets, beside which they had lit a fire. As his horse was a young animal, George alighted from the trap and intended to remove the horse from the shafts to lead it past the obstruction in the road. The horse bolted, broke its reins resulting in the shafts of the trap breaking free and striking George on the side of his body, knocking him to the ground. Once he regained his feet and being unable to find his horse, he walked the two miles to his home, Carramore House. There he was met by his sister, whom he assured that nothing serious had happened to him but the following morning he was feeling extremely unwell. The local doctor was sent for and it was found that George had serious internal injuries from which he would die the next day. It is said that he passed away after ' bidding a most affectionate farewell to his mother and sisters'. His large funeral cortege extended to over 140 horse drawn vehicles which left Carramore House and made their way to the family burial plot in the Crossmolina Church yard.

One month after the passing of George, it was proposed that a memorial would be erected in his honour. In May of 1898, a meeting was held in the Moy Hotel in Ballina town, where there was gathered ' the friends and admirers of the deceased'. It was the members of the North Mayo Hunt who first intended to erect a memorial. However due to the volume of support from the people of Ballina for the project, the subscription for the memorial was opened to the public. Several donations came from the landed classes, with contributions from numerous persons including members of the Knox Family, such as Miss Knox-Gore, Major Saunders Knox-Gore, the Perry-Knox Gore’s, Captain Kirkwood, together with Jacob Beckett, R.W. Orme, W. Fetherstonhaugh of Glenmore, R.L. Petrie, Dean Skipton, Archdeacon Jackson, the managers of a number of banks in Ballina, and Arthur Muffeny donated five shillings.  Firstly it was proposed that a monument would be erected over his grave, however it was then considered that as ' he was buried in a remote place....that very few of his friends could have an opportunity to see it'. Then it was suggested that the memorial should be placed in St. Michael's Church in Ardnaree, Ballina, however there were a number of objections to that proposal. Eventually it was decided that a water fountain would be erected in the town and that the fountain should be of benefit to both people as well as horses. It was proposed that the fountain should have a statue or the likeness of George placed upon it, however it was agreed that until funds were accumulated, the design of the fountain could not be decided upon. As an illustration for the enthusiasm for the project, by the end of this initial meeting in May 1898, £67 12s had already been accumulated. This was in contrast to the 1798 Centenary Memorial which appeared to be struggling to gather funds.

An sketch of the moment prior to construction 

As planning for the construction of the 1798 Centenary memorial proceeded apace, Thomas Dennany, of Glasnevin, a sculptor and monument builder, was chosen. He would design the memorial and also supervise its construction.  An initial ambitious design was prepared and put before the committee which was approved. However, by May 1898, the committee met again and considered another design received from Mr. Dennany.  It appears that Dennany had concerns in relation to the cost of the monument and had simplified the design to reflect this. Arthur Muffeny was at a loss, as the changes to the design were not requested. It was agreed that the original design was unanimously approved and would be the choice to proceed with.  This did nothing to allay the concerns about cost, which now began to plague the project. This concern prompted the decision that local committees would be set up to collect money towards the monument in surrounding towns in Mayo and Sligo. Collections would be made in Foxford, Swinford, Ballycastle, Enniscrone, Easkey, Dromore West, Ballyhaunis, Castlebar and Westport.  By July 1898, the order was placed with Mr. Dennany by the committee to proceed with the proposed design, despite concerns about the mounting costs. In the following months, the funds for the completion of the monument were still lacking. Therefore, it was agreed by the committee to publish a list of subscriptions of those who had contributed to the monument, in the hope it might encourage those that had not contributed. At the time, it was noted that there was still a deficit of £49 which included money owed to the sculptor. The outlay on the monument included £140 to Mr Dennany for constructing the monument and £27 for foundations.  In today’s terms, the monument was incurring costs amounting to nearly £20,000. Despite the best efforts, the monument would not be complete by the end of 1898 and therefore the committee had missed the celebration of the important date.

T.H. Dennany, markers mark on the monument 

It was decided that the laying of the foundation stone for the 1798 memorial would placate the naysayers and would be completed in August 1898. Maud Gonne wrote to the committee asking to be informed of arrangements for the centenary gathering in Ballina, in August, for the laying of the stone. She requested details so she could invite a French delegation to mark the occasion and cement the bond between the two countries. By September 1898, £118 had been collected and it was noted that it was still £20 short of Mr. Dennany’s contract alone. It was also discussed that the concrete foundations and proposed railings would add an extra £50 to the overall cost. Due to the deficit in funds, plans for the incorporation of a drinking fountain, lighting and railings were abandoned. At this time, Maud Gonne had given an additional £5, bringing her total donations to £8 7s 6d. The list of subscriptions to the 1798 memorial makes interesting reading, there are several anonymous donations, such as ‘’A Nationalist Friend’’, ‘’ A ’98 Man Claremorris’’ and ‘’An Admirer of Maud Gonne’ ’together with several Parish priests’.  The foundation Stone was laid on Sunday 23rd August 1898 at Lower Knox Street, Ballina by Maud Gonne. She and a French delegation had arrived at Ballina Train Station the day before and stayed at the Moy Hotel. Nationalists from Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon packed the town to see Maud Gonne and French delegates arriving by train. The welcoming party at the station was headed by Mr. Arthur Muffeny, Chairman of the Centenary Committee. The following day a large crowd was present, as the distinguished group made their way from the Moy Hotel to the site of the 1798 Monument. The foundation stone was placed in position and Arthur Muffeny presented Miss Gonne with a silver trowel to apply mortar to bed the stone. After this was complete, Miss Gonne struck the stone with three taps of a wooden mallet and declared it laid. In the evening a banquet was held in the Moy Hotel at which Maud Gonne, the French delegation and over 100 people were present. The site of the monument had been squared and raised to five feet, composed of concrete with a substantial foundation which extended to six feet below the road surface. It was later reported that Mr. Arthur Muffeny came in for criticism because the base of the monument was laid in concrete instead of cut stone, which deteriorated in later years. It would be May 1899, before Maud Gonne would return to Ballina to assist at the unveiling of the completed 1798 centenary memorial. The monument has some similarities to the statue erected in Sligo town between the junction of Market Street and Castle Street. However, the Sligo statue was substantially smaller in scale but was surrounded by railings and lighting, something that was never completed for the Ballina Memorial. The Ballina memorial had missed the deadline of the centenary of 1798 and a result of grandiose plans, not enough money had been collected to allow for it to be completed as originally intended. In 1901, two years after the completion of the monument it was reported that a concert had taken place to clear the debt accumulated during its construction.

The 1798 Monument in Sligo with railings and lighting

The completed 1798 Centenary monument, made of limestone, is composed of a plinth on a stepped base. The plinth is inscribed on four sides in Irish and English commerating the events and people of 1798. From this plinth extends a polished pink granite column, either side of which are two draped flags carved in stone. Atop the whole confection stands a female figure, the Maid of Erin, representing Ireland with an Irish wolfhound by her side. She holds a sword in one hand and a shield in the other, emblazoned with a harp and shamrocks. She stands atop a pedestal which rests on two joined hands (like a Claddagh ring) above which are inscribed the words ‘’United We Stand’’.  A plaque on the monument informs the passerby that the memorial was ‘’Erected by the Voluntary Subscriptions of The Priests and People of Mayo and Sligo’’. The Maid of Erin Figure has a striking resemblance to the figure atop, The Manchester Martyrs’ Monument, in Ennis Co. Clare, designed by Patrick J. O’Neill of Dublin. This monument was erected in 1881 to honour the controversial hanging of three men in Manchester in 1867.  In terms of the Humbert memorial in Ballina, it is incredible to think, that at the time of the unveiling of the 1798 memorial, some of the sons and daughters of those who took part in the rebellion were still living in the community.

The Vaughan Jackson Memorial Font
Copyright ICHC

By March 1899, the Jackson Vaughan memorial committee met again and discussed a design for the memorial fountain, proposed by Harrison & Co., Great Brunswick St., Dublin which was to be made of limestone. The committee had earlier contemplated a design made of metal but due to budget implications it was rejected. At this meeting it was proposed that as well as having a trough for horses, that a trough should also be integrated for use by dogs. I had thought that this was something that wasn't included in the final design, but if you look at the fountain today you will see the lower troughs for the use of dogs are found nearer the ground under the main troughs. By June of 1901, a decision had been made on the final design of the Vaughan Jackson memorial fountain.  Mr. E.E. Atkinson wrote on behalf of the Jackson Memorial Committee requesting the permission of the Urban Council to erect the memorial, which was given. 

Decorative elements of the Jackson Vaughan Font
Copyright ICHC

In August 1901, the fountain was completed by the contractors opposite 'Baxter's Corner' in the town of Ballina. It was made of Aberdeen granite, cost £184.00 and stood on a hexagonal concrete foundation. It was made by Scott & Rae, Bothwell St., Glasgow and was erected in Ballina under the supervision of their very capable representative, Mr. Robert Taylor. The company of Scott and Rae were established in Glasgow in 1881, it appears they had completed a number of public drinking fountains in their native Scotland and usually worked in pink granite. The fountain is composed of three large drinking troughs for either ' cattle or horses', and rising from the centre is a red and grey granite column diagonally carved and topped by a grey granite ball. Above one of the troughs is a bronze shield having an engraving of a horse. Above another trough was a tablet with the inscription:

'To the memory of

George James Vaughan Jackson

Carramore, Ballina,

Who died on the 10th day of April 1898'

On either side of this main plaque were smaller tablets with the inscriptions ' Erected by public subscription' and 'He passed from among us in the prime of life, respected and beloved by all'. However the fountain wasn't fully completed at this time as the Memorial Committee did not have the funds to undertake a number of works themselves. The entire cost for the project came to £184 (which would be about €25,000 in today's money) but the fund had only raised £179, however the contractors in an act of generosity remitted the difference. Now that the fountain was in place, it was still necessary that guard stones should be erected around the monument to protect it from damage from cart wheels for which the committee had not the funds.  Therefore the committee asked the Urban Council if they would be in a position to complete these works and in early photographs of the memorial we can see that these were indeed put in place.

The 1798 Centenary Memorial soon after its construction
showing the damage to the base.

In June 1903, the Humbert memorial monument was damaged when a number of men threw rocks at it. The memorial at this time was still in the care of the committee who erected it and it had not been vested in the Urban Council. The handle or shaft of the sword of the statue that stood atop the memorial had been damaged and its repair amounted to £65. £200 had been spent building the memorial but no railing had been put around the base as originally planned. The railing surrounding the monument was still an issue in 1924, the plinth of the memorial was being damaged by children and again the idea of putting railing around it was discussed to give the memorial a more ‘finished appearance’. In 1931, it appears if the public reverence for the monument was waning as it was reported that several of the foundation stones for the monument had been broken and required repair. Also, someone had hung an old tyre from the statue which also needed to be removed. By 1942, it was reported that the monument looked dirty due to nearby building work and should be cleaned, again the suggestion of erecting a protective railing was mooted but never acted upon. Now the location of the monument was beginning to cause issues in terms of traffic, however relocating it at this time was dismissed due to cost.

The 1798 Memorial showing damage that occurred to the
sword in 1903
Copyright The National Library of Ireland

As the town of Ballina changed around both monuments, it became necessary to relocate them. In 1968, it became necessary to move the Vaughan Jackson monument 12 feet further back from the edge of the road. The font was moved again in 1983 to its current location. The Humbert Memorial was also relocated in 1986, it was seen to be a hazard to traffic entering the town. After it was relocated to its existing position within the town, the monument was rededicated by Sean MacBride S.C. in August 1987, over eighty years after his mother had unveiled it.  His mother, Maud Gonne had married an Irish Soldier and Republican, John MacBride in 1903. She converted to Catholicism in order to marry Mac Bride, however the marriage was not a long one. Sean was born soon after, however Maud and John ended their marriage after his birth and divorced. After following in his mother’s footsteps, unveiling the monument in Ballina, Sean would pass away a few months later in September 1988.


Thursday 9 March 2023

   Belgarriff House

Belgarrow, Foxford,

Co. Mayo

The saying is often bandied about ‘’ hiding in plain sight’’, but Belgarriff House near Foxford in Co. Mayo is a fine example of this adage. A house whose inhabitants once dominated Foxford town now lies forgotten and shrouded by trees and ivy.  Now a ruin, this once fine house was obliterated by the bureaucracy of the Land Commission over seventy years ago. Still referred to in the locality as Knox’s, it is another empty shell to add to the long list of properties occupied by this once dominant family. The man most associated with this house, John A. Knox, was driven by his social ambitions and lived in several fine houses during his lifetime. Some survive today but unfortunately his last home, Belgarriff in Foxford, is an ivy clad ruin with few distinguishable features. The social ambitions of John A. Knox meant that he and his young family moved numerous times between the 1870’s and 1890’s before settling in Foxford. The question must be asked, was it his choice of wife and her exclusion by the Killala branch of the Knox family that led to their choice of Belgarriff in Foxford as their eventual home? It is also possible that this exclusion led to an estrangement between John and his wife in later years. Furthermore, in the 1930’s Belgarriff was rocked by scandal, as the once lofty position of the Knox Family did little to shield them from the letter of the law when a family member, who was a clergyman, was jailed.

An earlier house on the site, Dove Hall shown on the 1829 to 1841 Map
Copyright OSI

The story of Belgarriff House, situated in the townland of Belgarrow, begins in the early 18th century when the Evans family settled in Ballinrobe, in Co. Mayo. In the 1830’s, the Evans' estate in Mayo was centred on the parish of Killasser, in the barony of Gallen. These lands may have come into the possession of the family following the marriage of Francis Evans to a daughter of John Gardiner of Farmhill.  They owned lands in the townland of Belgarrow where a predecessor of Belgarriff House stood, a house known as Dove Hall. This house situated here was leased to a Mr Strogen in the early 19th century, Dove Hall was known to be the home of Captain Strogen who was a member of the North Mayo Militia. After 1867, Dove Hall became known as Belgarriff, the then home of John Locke Evans. He was in residence in Belgarriff from July 1865 and a member of the Grand Panel of the Mayo Assizes, by July 1868 Belgarriff is the home of John Ogle Evans. It is said that a new house was built on the site in 1870, but I wonder if it is around 1867 that the new house was developed and the name of the property changed with the ownership of John Ogle Evans. This house is labelled Dove Hall on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map, however, a larger house named Belgarrow or Belgarriff House, is shown on the 25-inch edition of the 1890’s map. The house was found at the end of a long avenue that is quarter of a mile long. However, this was never meant to be a private avenue and once continued past, Belgarriff and linked in with another road. 

Belgarrow or Belgarriff House shown on the 1897 to 1913 Map
Copyright OSI

In February 1870, it is noted that Mr. John Durkan is retiring as the bailiff of the estate for Mr. Evans, the agent at this time was Mr. Mc Dermott. He had recently been appointed as the agent for the estate, he originated from Cloongee House, and his new employer was his father-in-law. By November 1871, the estate of John Ogle Evans appeared in the Landed Estates Court for sale, heavily indebted. It is possible that the construction of the new house of Belgarriff indebted John Ogle Evans to such a degree that it brought about the sale of the estate lands. Several lots were sold but the sale of the lands at Belgarrow was adjourned. In July 1873, it was advertised in the press that several lots of land belonging to John Ogle Evans would be offered for sale again, Lot 7 comprised of 475 acres in Belgarrow. In June 1874, an attempt was again made to sell lands of the Evans estate, including the lands of Belgarrow, again the sale was adjourned with the highest bid received being in the amount of £3,000. By the late 1890’s, the Evan’s family were still in residence in Belgarriff, by May 1896, an auction was held at Belgarriff House to auction furniture and the outdoor effects of Mrs. Evans. One year later, in February 1897, Eliza Evans of Belgarriff was charged with being drunk and disorderly. She was returning home from Miss Sheil’s public house in the town of Foxford when she stopped at a neighbour’s house to verbally abuse her. This drew the attention of a local member of the constabulary and led to a court appearance. Owen Devany, a servant in the employment of Mr. Evans, recalled that he had locked up the doors of the ‘’ big house at Belgarriff’’ on the evening in question. He came into town to show his employers the way home with a lantern. It is noted in this report that Eliza’s husband was John O’ Evans, who at the time was a feeble old gentleman. In another court appearance by Eliza in 1897, she stated that she had married her husband in 1891. This court case related to the seizure of a cow due to the non-payment of income tax. At this time Eliza confirmed that there was a mortgage on the estate and that there was a receiver ‘’over the property for the last four years’’. The cow was worth £18 but was seized over a debt of £3, the bailiff confirmed that it was the only thing of value on the estate. When Mr. Evans was served with the first notice for payment of the income tax, he said he could not afford to pay it. By the time of the receipt of the last notice, it was implied that the receiver would pay it. It was also noted during this court appearance that the house and the lawn were still in the possession of Evans himself, and not the Court of Chancery, however this was later disproven.  In May 1897, the demesne of John Ogle Evans known as Belgarriff was advertised for lease by J.M. Mills, The Receiver, Killala.

The possible entrance front of Belgarriff House, dating from 1867 to 1870
Copyright ICHC

Between 1897 and 1901, Belgarriff House came into the possession of John Anthony Knox. He was the son of John Knox, who died in Killala, Co. Mayo in 1874 aged 72. He is listed as being late of The Lodge in Killala, and his will was proved by his son John Anthony Knox, also of The Lodge, Killala.  John Knox was a brother of Henry A. Knox of Palmerstown and James A. Knox of Crosspatrick. He had resided for a time in a house known as Broadlands on the Killala Road, however he did not own it, it was rented from the Knox Gores. John’s son and future owner of Belgarriff, John Anthony Knox married Margaret Carroll from Ballysakeery, in Dublin in November 1875. She was the daughter of Francis Carroll who was a farmer. She was described as an ‘’excellent’ wife but due to the strict class distinction at the time, it was felt that John had married beneath him, therefore his wife was not received by local society. After initially living at The Lodge in Killala where their children were born, they moved to a nearby house, known as Ballybrooney. On the 20th of March 1876, James Annesley Knox was born, the son of John Anthony Knox and Margaret, the birth was registered in Killala. This was followed by another son on the 22nd of September 1877, when Godfrey Fitzroy Knox was born.  In October 1878, a daughter Harriett Adelaide Knox was born but unfortunately, she died in February 1884, at Ballybrooney. 

The Lodge, Killala,  where John A. Knox lived at the time of the death of his father
Copyright ICHC

She was aged only five and is recorded as being the daughter of a gentleman, she died due to diphtheria.  In February 1893, John A. Knox instructed Isaac Lenehan, Auctioneer, Ballina to dispose of his effects at his residence Ballybrooney House, Killala. It mentions in the advertisement that he is leaving ‘’this part of the country’’. John had decided that if local society would not accept his wife, he would move to Dublin and see if his social ambitions would have more success.  Unfortunately, his wife failed at charming the polite society of Dublin and became a pariah on the social circuit. Her husband’s temper ensured that he locked her out of their house on more than one occasion in disgust.  It is said that John Anthony or Johnny Knox, as he was known, was described in the Knox family as ‘not being right in the head’, which may account for his behaviour. When John A. Knox and his wife Margaret did not find Dublin society very amenable to them, they returned to Mayo and purchased Belgarriff House and estate near Foxford in Co. Mayo. As the Killala area in the 1870’s was dominated by the Knox Family, one wonders if it was John’s own family who would not accept Miss Carroll rather than those whom he described as ‘’society’’. This may have influenced his decision to move to Dublin and their eventual choice of Belgarriff in Foxford. While it was close enough to his family based near Killala, it was also far enough away.

Ballybrooney House, Killala where John A. Knox lived until 1892
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By the time of the 1901 census, John A. Knox is living in Belgarriff, aged 50, with his wife Margaret, aged 45, and their sons, James A., aged 24, and Godfrey F. aged 22. There are two female servants resident in the house, the head of the household is John A. who lists his profession as a Private Gentleman. The house is listed as having eight rooms, five windows on its entrance front and is owned by John Knox rather than being leased from the Evan’s estate. By 1903, the Knox Family were establishing themselves at Belgarriff as Mrs. Knox had placed an advertisement in the local press looking for a maid. In 1904, a herd of Hereford Cattle was commenced on the estate by John A. Knox.  The Hereford’s of Belgarriff House were known throughout the country and won numerous prizes at county shows. In 1916, it was reported in the ‘’Skibbereen Eagle’’ that John A. Knox was in possession of a very fertile cow. She produced her first calf in 1905, for the following six years she produced a calf each year, followed by four years producing twin calves, after which she produced one calf for the next three years. This amounted to 17 calves in 11 years, which John A. was proud to boast. By 1911, John and Margaret are still in residence in Belgarrow, however, their sons are no longer present. It is noted that they are married 35 years and that they had three children but only two are living. In October 1920, their son, James Annesley Knox of Belgarriff married Margaret Emily Glover of Foxford, in the Parish Church of Toomore, Co. Mayo. It is noted that he is the son of a gentleman, and she is the daughter of a Clerk of the Petty Sessions.

One of the many fireplaces of Belgarriff House
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In December 1937, John Anthony Knox died at Belgarriff with his eldest son, James, present. His death certificate lists his age as 89, but other records point to John A. being 87 at the time of his death. A headstone in nearby Craggagh Cemetery notes that John A. Knox of Belgarriff House, died 30th December 1937 aged 90. His headstone erected by his youngest son Godfrey F. Knox. John A. Knox was a widower at the time of his death, but no details are recorded for the earlier passing of his wife on this headstone. However, Margaret Knox, died in Carrowhubbuck in Enniscrone, Co. Sligo aged 78 in December 1932. Present at the time of her death was Bessie Greer, who owned Moy Salmon Lodge also known as Orme’s Lodge in Enniscrone. Margaret’s son Rev. Godfrey F. Knox was a clergyman in nearby Kilglass and this would explain his mother’s presence in a lodging house in Enniscrone. In Mullafarry Graveyard outside Killala, there is a headstone to Margaret however it states that her place of death was at her ‘’son’s residence, The Rectory, Enniscrone ‘’. One is under the impression that there was an estrangement in the family between John A. and Margaret considering that they are buried in different graveyards, miles apart. Margaret Knox, nee Carroll, obviously returned to be buried in Mullafarry as she was originally from nearby Ballsakeery. Godfrey was responsible for putting up headstones over the graves of his parents, but the wording on his mother’s memorial is more affectionate than that of his father’s. John Anthony Knox’s will was administered in London in 1938 to his son James Annesley. His estate in England amounted to £ 242.00 but was re-sworn in the amount of £ 3,485.00.

Some surviving features of the interior of Belgarriff House
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John A’s youngest son, Reverend Godfrey F. Knox of Kilglass Rectory was involved in unacceptable behaviour that would result in him being jailed for six months in 1933. One of the reasons given at the trial for his current mental state was the recent death of his mother. In 1934, it appears that Reverend Godfrey F. Knox travelled to the US after his release from prison. Two years later, Reverend Godfrey F. Knox arrived in Liverpool, England in February 1936 having departed from St. John New Brunswick in Canada. By 1939, he was living in Devon, but had adjusted the year of his birth from 1877 to 1884, however, he left the month and date the same as it appeared on his birth certificate,e which is the 22nd September. Godfrey Fitzroy Knox died in the Hotel Woodburn in Torquay in April 1957, despite being named as a clergyman, his profession is listed as a clerk. He left an estate of over £3,300 which was left to members of the Knox family at Palmerstown, Killala.

A news report from the time of Rev. Godfrey F. Knox sentencing 
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Tragedy would soon strike the remaining members of the family in Foxford, when the eldest son of John A, James Annesley Knox, died suddenly at Belgarriff House on 23rd December 1939, aged 63. James and his wife Margaret never had any children and Godfrey had never married, meaning there was no generation to take over the estate. In 1949, Belgarriff House and Demesne were advertised for sale by Mrs. Knox, James Annesley’s widow. The lands associated with the house extended to 89 acres. The house is described as having contained on the ground floor, a drawing room, dining room, breakfast room, hall, staircase, and back hall. On the floors above there were four principal bedrooms and three large attic rooms. In the rear return of the house there were storerooms, a pantry, kitchen with yard and out offices. It was noted that the house is of ‘’ fine architecture’’ and that the ground floor ceilings are 11ft high. It appears that the house did not sell so in 1951, The Minister for Lands informed the Dail that the Land Commission had instigated proceedings for the acquisition of lands in the possession of Mrs. Margaret Knox at Belgarriff, Foxford, formerly known as the Evans estate. Mrs. Knox objected to this acquisition, but her objection was disallowed, possibly because she had no one to take over what remained of the estate. Margaret Knox died on the 13th of January 1953 at Brookside, Foxford, the widow of James Annesley Knox of Belgarriff House, she was buried with him in nearby Craggagh Cemetery. The death of Margaret ,who had no direct descendants, ensured the end was nearing for Belgarriff. The contents of the house were auctioned in March 1953 which extended to a vast number of items including a baby grand piano and a half size billiard table. In February 1954, the trees that surrounded the house were sold on behalf of the Land Commission. Over 170 trees were offered for sale that would produce over 250 tons of timber. In January 1953, the Land Commission offered Belgarriff House, Foxford, for sale for demolition. In the sale advertisement, the house is simply described as a two storey, slated dwelling house with timber windows and doors etc. The out offices and even the sheds were also offered for demolition. One finds it hard to fathom the actions of the Land Commission and feels they were motivated by ignorance and vengeance. Belgarriff was a manageable size, when it was pulled down it was described as being in perfect condition. One gentleman wanted to purchase the house as a fishing lodge, but was thwarted by the Land Commission.

Advertisement for the sale of Belgarrriff House in 1949
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Today the ruin of Belgarriff endures, but one wonders for how long, as the destruction of the demolition sale is clear.  A local man told me, there was an abundance of staff that worked in the environs of the house, including a group of men who ensured Belgarriff was supplied with turf from a nearby bog. This was necessary as the house had ten fireplaces that required fuel, the house had no electricity prior to its demolition and was lit by oil lamps. It is my assertion that the new house, Belgarriff, that was built between 1867 and 1870 incorporated a portion of the original Dove Hall. The rear return appears to be older and does not have as fine stonework as the front section. The front block also had internal brick walls, some of which had twisting flues incorporated for the numerous fireplaces. The entrance front of the house is recorded as having five windows, the front door facing Nephin. There was a wide entrance hall which in turn led to a rear hall, where a dog leg staircase was illuminated by a curved headed window on the half landing. Rooms either side of the front hall included a drawing room, dining room and breakfast room, while on the first floor there were four bedrooms. From my investigations it appears that the ancillary area’s such as kitchens were accommodated in the rear return that was possibly part of the earlier house, Dove Hall.

This junction shows the different phases of construction of the house.
On the right we have the later 1867 block with the finer stonework, and
on the left, we have the rougher earlier stonework possibly of Dove Hall.
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Apart from the ruins of Belgarriff, there is one unique survivor from this house. A clock that once graced the drawing room of the Foxford mansion which remains in the possession of a local family. After the death of Margaret Knox, the clock passed to her sister, a member of the Glover Family. After her death in 1966, the contents of her home in Foxford were sold. Due to the poor state of the house at the time of the auction, only a few people could be accommodated for the sale of its contents due to the condition of the floor in the room. After the sale, the local man who had purchased the clock was approached by Major Aldridge of Mount Falcon, he wished to purchase the clock for multiples of the final bid of £2. His desire to have the clock was due to it having originated from the Knox House in Foxford known as Belgarriff. His offer was declined and today the clock is still extant. In the rear of the clock is recorded the date it was purchased, 13th August 1887 from Ganter Brothers in Dublin. This date would mean that the clock not only travelled to Belgarriff in Foxford with the Knox Family, but it also spent time in Ballybrooney House near Killala, between 1884 & 1892, before their time spent in Dublin.

A clock that originated from Belgarriff House
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To end this story, I am always amazed by the social ambitions of members of the Knox Family in Mayo in the late 19th and early 20th century.  John A. Knox was a member of a generation who thought their lifestyle and entitlement would last forever. John A. lived through a period of major change in the history of Ireland during which there was intense upheaval in the lives of the landed classes. The Land War, the Land Acts, Civil War, the foundation of the Irish State and the First World War ensured that people like John A. Knox were cast adrift in a changed nation. Gone were the days of the infallible landlord and their entitled families and no longer would the name of Knox hold sway over local politics. Like most houses of the Knox family, a few decades after John’s death, his home would be a ruin, his immediate family all dead and their way of life consigned to history.

The rear hall that accommodated the staircase of Belgarriff House
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