A Small Piece of Ireland’s History

Ireland from public-domain-image dot com
Ireland from public-domain-image dot com

Ireland’s history is huge.  From the early stone age settlements through the formation of the provinces, the establishment of rulers and their inevitable overthrow, to the coming of the various races from overseas which brought new cultures, trade and genetic material, through the famous Viking era … so much happened there.

My favourite Irish history is ‘A History of Ireland’ by Eleanor Hull.  An abbreviated version is available from the Library Ireland website and is a very good read.  She has a dry manner of speech and the first page feels a bit stiff but you soon get into her style.  In that dry, almost formal tone she covers a whole lot of bloodshed, betrayal and destruction, just carrying on with the events one after another.

Ireland was once deeply forested but one of the main strategies in Irish combat for millenia was to raze the forests and destroy the fields of one’s enemies.  After a thousand years or so, the trees just stopped growing.  There are places in Ireland, described in old books, where one can dig down and find the fossilized remains of felled trees, still just as they were when it happened.  It really gets cold in Ireland and without the trees the wind can whip in and freeze any remnants of warmth.

Ireland stones from public-domain-image dot com.
Ireland stones from public-domain-image dot com.

Ireland had a closer relationship with it’s neighbours than I had realised before I read the history books.  At times it was at war with Scotland, but most of the time there was a lot of coming and going between the two places.  France, too, had a great interchange of population with Ireland.

It was due to France’s good relations with Ireland that England knew they had to step in and take control of the place.  They tried for centuries.  Then came the 1500s when England went through so much upheaval – Henry VIII to Edward VII to to  Lady Jane Grey to Mary Queen of Scots to Queen Elizabeth I to James I to Charles I to Charles II.  England went from Catholicism to Protestantism back to Catholicism then to Protestantism, with an increasingly powerful parliament run by very clever men with their own ideas, jumping in every so often.  It’s confusing to read about now, and was even more confusing at the time.  For Englishmen in Ireland it was quite deadly.  Sent over to enact the wishes of one monarch, they might be beheaded for their actions if the rule had changed and they had not been informed.  This happened on occasion.  It seems quite unfair by today’s standards.

The Irish people experienced many policy changes from the English.  Some they could ignore, some affected them greatly.

Irish tower from public-domain-image dot com.
Irish tower from public-domain-image dot com.

Immigration of various sorts had always happened in Ireland.  The borders were pretty much open.  Many newcomers were friendly and mingled in with existing culture.  Henry VIII had the brilliant plan of sending in forces, confiscating land from the Irish and giving that land to English noblemen and respectable freemen who needed their own space – Protestants who would out breed the Irish Catholics.   It was the beginning of centuries of conflict which involved whole families.  The English took land, routed people from their homeland and who knows what else.  The Irish retaliated.  Women and children died in their homes.  Most of the English settlers took off back to England.  A few years later, more English noblemen came to settle.  It happened again and again.  Each time just a few more Englishmen remained, usually marrying into the Irish population to the great displeasure of the English monarchy.

It reached a point of crisis with the Great Irish Rebellion of 1641 when many English planters were ousted from their homes and robbed of their belongings.  There were murders and pillages.  Numbers of dead were reported in England to be as high as 100,000.  Each side liked to embellish the tale.  The official English figure sat at 30,000.  Modern scholars believe 4,000 dead is more likely with another 10,000 dying of cold and starvation later on.  That’s an awful lot of carnage.  Irish history of absolutely full of this.

In this time period in Ireland, I have some ancestors.

Another Irish building from public-domain-image dot com.
Another Irish building from public-domain-image dot com.

I’m not too sure when they arrived, but after the 1641 Rebellion, depositions were taken from thousands of victims and can now be found online.

Affected by the 1641 rebellion were William Hodder, Ralph Woodley, Thomas Wallis and Richard Vowell.  I haven’t searched all the dispositions yet but I have found these four.  I don’t know much about their personalities so I don’t know if they are ancestors to be proud of or not.  They were part of the landed gentry of Ireland from the 1600s through to the 1900s and those families became quite closely entwined through the centuries, but they were not all gentry when they first arrived.

Back in early 1642 when the depositions were taken, they were neighbours but not yet family.  But it was one of those solidarity-building events.

William Hodder of Glanturke in the Barony of Duhalla within the Countie of Corke, Tanner deposeth and saieth that about Christmas last hee lost and hath beene robbed and forcably despoiled by the Rebbells of the said countie … of Cowes and Horses to the value of one hundred and twenty pounds …. he was dispossessed of a farme parte of the lands of Kenlucke wherein he had a lease of forty years to come ….. He lost by means of this Rebellion the debt due from Gabriel Manchopp of Glanturke aforesaid shoemaker, William Thomas of Boottevant shoemaker, John ffrowde of Tullyhoo Limerick shoemaker … 

(excerpt from the deposition of William Hodder TCD, 1641 Depositions Project, online transcript January 1970
[http://1641.tcd.ie/deposition.php?depID<?php echo 822048r045?>] accessed Thursday 15 January 2015 01:21 PM)

Genealogical treasure.  A glimpse into the life of a long lost ancestor living in a distant time and how he conducted his business as a tanner, clearly supplying leather to those shoemakers.  William Hodder’s great granddaughter, Elizabeth Hodder, married Francis Woodley of Macroom,Cork in 1760.   Their great grandson was Henry Harrison Peard born 1812 in Cork.  Henry Harrison Peard married – we believe – Jane Selby and their great grandchild was Dulcie Myra Peard born 1913 in New South Wales.

Dulcie’s great grandchildren are my own children.  That is a whole lot of generations between William Hodder and our living family.

It’s amazing how new records keep coming out of the woodwork like this, to keep the family historian interested.

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