Text Mary Kyne, Hyperlinks Antoinette Lydon
Letterkeeghaun is in the civil parish of Kilcummin. The civil Parish corresponds with the following Church of Ireland parish of Kilcummin, Galway West. In general, the civil parish and the Church of Ireland parish are the same as is the case in the Kilcummin Oughterard area.
The Irish name for Letterkeeghaun is Leitir Caocháin
Translated “Keeghan’s hillside”.
The land in Letterkeeghaun is very poor, on the side of a mountain – 433 acres about 50 acres of arable land, the reminder is mountain bog.
Other forms of name.
Letterkeeghane (Boundary Surveyor& Barony Cess Book)
Letterkeeghaun – Local interpretation
Letterkeehane ( Rector of Kilcummin)
O’Donavan’s Field Name Books.
Knockbrack: Cnoc Breac – the Speckled Hill known locally as Cruckbrack – a very high hill west of Letterfore Hill in the townland of Letterkeighan (Letterkeeghaun)
Keeraunngeeragh – Caorán na gCaorach – bog of the sheep. It is known locally as Caoraunnacaoragh – Hillor hillock of the sheep. It is a very high hill south east of Derroura Hilll in the townland of Letterkeigharne.
Letterkeeghaun borders the following other townlands:
- Curraun Hill to the north
- Derroura to the north
- Letterfore to the south
- Tawnaghbeg to the west
- Tullaghaboy to the west
- Tullaghmore to the west
Landlords; Thomas B. Martin of Ballynahinch Castle
- Martin (Ross) – The Martin family were established beside Ross Lake in the barony of Moycullen, county Galway, from the late 16th century, where they purchased land from the O’Flahertys. They were Royalist supporters and were dispossessed of their property in the city of Galway by the Cromwellians. Robert Martin received a grant of 2,909 acres in the barony of Moycullen, by patent dated 21 Aug 1677. Jasper Martin of Ross, who died in 1700, had two sons Jasper and Richard, from whom descend the two branches of the family settled at Ross and Ballynahinch. Nicholas Martin, who died in 1811, married Elizabeth O’Hara, daughter of Robert O’Hara of Lenaboy, and according to Burke’s ”Landed Gentry”, a grandniece of James O’Hara, 2nd Baron Tyrawley. Their grandson, James Martin of Ross, had sixteen children from his two marriages. His daughter, Maud, married H. Callwell and they were the parents of the author, J. M. Callwell. The youngest daughter of James Martin was Violet Florence Martin of the well known literary team Somerville and Ross. The Martins of Ross owned 5,767 acres in county Galway in the 1870s. They advertised the sale of their estate in the Landed Estates’ Court in May 1885.
- Martin (Ballynahinch) – A branch of the Anglo Norman family of Martin, one of the Tribes of Galway, was granted the O’Flaherty lands in the Connemara region in the mid 17th century. This family were a junior branch of the Martins of Ross and under the Acts of Settlement were granted vast estates in counties Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Clare and Sligo. By a patent dated 1698 they were confirmed in the possession of their Connemara estate known as the Manor of Claremount by King William. The Westport Estate Papers document the sale of over 27,000 acres in the baronies of Moycullen and Ballynahinch by the trustees for the sale of Colonel John Browne’s estate to John Edwards for Richard Martin in 1699. The early generations of Martins lived at Birch Hall and Dangan, in the townland of Oranhill, parish of Rahoon, near Galway city. Richard Martin, better known as ‘Humanity Dick’, was the first member of the family to be reared as a Protestant. He was a famous duellist and founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Ballynahinch Castle was built in the centre of his estate. His son Thomas Martin died in 1847 during the Famine and Thomas’s only daughter and heir, Mary Laetita, inherited a heavily encumbered estate. She married her cousin, Arthur Gonne Bell, and died in New York in 1850. The Martin estates were offered for sale in two sections in 1849. Their property close to Galway town included Dangan, Corcullen, Bushypark and Killeen. Their Connemara estate was acquired by the Law Life Assurance Society in 1852, to whom it was heavily mortgaged. In 1853 the estate of almost 200,000 acres was surveyed by Thomas Colville Scott for a prospective buyer. Richard Martin, second son of Richard ‘Humanity Dick’ Martin of Ballynahinch, is recorded as holding five townlands in the parish of Killannin, barony of Moycullen, county Galway, at the time of Griffith’s Valuation although he emigrated to Canada in 1833. He was also recorded as the occupier of Clareville, a Martin home in the village of Oughterard. Many of his descendants still reside in Canada. http://www.martinhistory.net/
Information from the Down Survey Website:
The Down Survey is a mapped survey. Using the Civil Survey as a guide, teams of surveyors, mainly former soldiers, were sent out under Petty’s direction to measure every townland to be forfeited to soldiers and adventurers. The resulting maps, made at a scale of 40 perches to one inch (the modern equivalent of 1:50,000), were the first systematic mapping of a large area on such a scale attempted anywhere. The primary purpose of these maps was to record the boundaries of each townland and to calculate their areas with great precision. The maps are also rich in other detail showing churches, roads, rivers, castles, houses and fortifications. Most towns are represented pictorially and the cartouches, the decorative titles, of each map in many cases reflect a specific characteristic of each barony. (http://downsurvey.tcd.ie)
Townland of LETTERKEEGHAUN
Down Survey Name: Littercrew
1641 Owner(s): O’Flahartye, Daniell McMurragh (Catholic)
1670 Owner(s): Martin, Richard (Catholic)
Unprofitable land: 17 plantation acres
Profitable land: 17 plantation acres
Forfeited: 17 plantation acres
The Down Survey website will tell you who owned this townland in 1641 (pre Cromwell) and in 1671 (post Cromwell).
Griffiths Valuation 1850’s
In Griffith’s Valuation the area is 433 acres 12 perches with a land value of £15 0s 0d. Value of Buildings is £1 10s 0d, and the total value is £16 10s 0d.
Occupiers of the Land: Thomas Mc Donagh, Winifred Mc Donagh and John Mellott.
Ownership of Land and Property
Thomas, Winifred and John owned a house, out office and land
The total annual valuation of rateable property in Letterkeeghaun came to £16 10s 0d.
Thomas, Winifred and John were rated at £5 each for land and 10s for buildings.
Immediate lessor Directors’ of Law Life Assurance Company.
Out Offices and Land
The out office was a farm building, a cow house, piggery or barn. The land was very poor and sterile and people were always poverty-stricken. At this time most tenants were trying to eke out a living on 5acres or less and a farmers needed at least 15.3 acres to survive.
The Irish is ‘Clochán’. The houses in Letterkeeghaun formed a Clachan. A clachan was a small traditional settlement common in Ireland until the middle of the 20th century. They usually lacked a church, post office or other formal building. The origin is unknown but it is likely that they are of ancient root most likely dating to medieval times.
The Letterkeeghaun clachan was a cluster of small single storey farmers’ cottages built on poor land. They were related to the rundale system of farming. According to David Lloyd, The Great Famine 1845–1849 caused such disruption to the social system that the clachans virtually disappeared.
People living in Clachans had the support of a tight knit community.
In some cases, the clachans have evolved into holiday villages or one or two houses have been taken over turning smaller houses into agricultural outhouses.
Poor Law Union Ireland
In Ireland the Poor Relief Act of 1838 divided into districts or “unions” in which the local taxable inhabitants were to be financially responsible for all paupers in the area. In 1898 the Poor Law Union was adopted as the basic administrative division in place of the civil parish and barony. Further subdivision into 828 registration districts and 3,751 district electoral divisions followed. Townlands were not arranged according to these divisions with parish and barony retained as a means to make comparisons with records gathered before 1898.
The 1838 Act
The main provisions of the 1838 Act were:
- The extension of the existing Poor Law Commissioners’ powers to Ireland, with the appointment of Assistant Commissioners who were to implement the Act in Ireland.
- The division of the country into Poor Law Unions based on Irish electoral divisions which were themselves made up from townlands.
- The creation of a Board of Guardians for each Union, two-thirds of whom were to be elected, the other third to be appointed ex officio.
- The setting up of a workhouse in each Union.
- The collection of a local poor-rate to finance the system.
- Assistance for emigration.
Initially, 130 Unions were created, based upon 2,049 electoral divisions. The divisions were composed of townlands, a peculiarly Irish unit, traditionally of 120 Irish acres in area. (Between 1848 and 1850, an additional 33 Unions were created by subdividing and reorganizing the boundaries of some existing Unions, particularly in the west of the country.
Boards of Guardians were elected annually on 25th March. Only rate-payers were eligible for election, which effectively disenfranchised most of the native Irish who were usually tenants at this time. Rate-payers were allowed between one and six votes depending on the size of a valuation of their property.
A town land is one of the smallest land divisions in Ireland. They range in size from a few acres to thousands of acres. Many are Gaelic in origin, but some came into existence after the Norman invasion 1169. Letterkeeghaun is a townland and other place names in or near this townland are:
Population & Census Information
People who lived here:
You can retrieve a list of people who lived in this townland from 1827 to 1911. This list is compiled from the following resources.
- The Tithe Applotment Books
- Griffith’s Valuation
- 1901 Census
- 1911 Census
1901 Census Letterkeeghaun
This is a return of the members of the family, their Visitors, Boarders, Servants who slept or abode in their house on the night of Sunday March 31st 1901 in Letterkeeghaun.
There were 2 houses listed in the Townland of Letterkeeghaun. The people were all Roman Catholics and they were born in County Galway. There were 6 in total of farm buildings and out offices which included, a stable, 2 cow houses, a piggery, and 2 calf houses house.
Class of House: The class of house depended on the materials used in the roof, walls, number of rooms and number of front windows. A 1st class house was considered the highest standard.
Walls of the houses: The walls were of stone, brick, concrete or of mud, wood or other perishable material. The houses in Letterkeeghaun were built of stone, brick or concrete. There were no mud cabins.
Roofs Landholder of the property unless otherwise stated. Roofs were of slate, iron, tiles, thatch, wood or other perishable material. The roofs of houses were of thatch, wood or perishable material. Most likely they were thatched as there was ample reeds for thatching in the lakes.
House Occupancy: The 2 houses were occupied by one family.
The people listed as Head of the Family were also listed as the lawful Landholder of the property.
House & Building Return
Out Office & Farm Steadings
House 1: Barbra Mc Donagh a widow aged 65 was head of the family. Her son Thomas aged 25 and single lived with her. They couldn’t read or write but they spoke Irish and English. They lived in a Class 3 house with 1 front window. It was a private dwelling and they had a cow house, calf house and piggery. 2 persons occupied 2 available rooms.
House 2: John Mc Donagh aged 53, a farmer and head of the family Lived with his wife Mary aged 48 and their children Mary 21, Michael 19, Anne 17, Patrick 15 all listed as farmer’s sons and daughters while the other children – John 14, Thomas 14, Matthew 12, Margaret 10, Barbra 8, Martin 6, Dudley 4, James 3 and Bridget 1 were listed as scholars – (13 children) lived with them. They all could read and write except Mary but the family spoke Irish and English. The children were all single. They lived in a Class 3 house with 2 front windows. They had a stable, cow house and calf house. It was a private dwelling. 15 persons occupied 3available rooms.
Letterkeeghaun Census 1911
This is a return of the Members of families in Letterkeeghaun, their visitors, boarders and servants who slept or abode in the house on the night of Sunday the 2nd of April 1911.
Description of the Houses
All the houses in Letterkeeghaun were listed as private dwellings and were built of concrete or stone. The roofs of the houses were of wood, thatch or other perishable material. Most likely they were thatched. The head of the family was listed as the landholders. One family lived in each property. The Class of the house depended on the material used in the roof, walls, number of rooms and number of front windows. Most of the houses came under “2’ in the census form meaning that there could be 2, 3, or 4, rooms in the house.
House & Building Return
Out Office & Farm Steadings
House 1: John Mc Donagh aged 61 a farmer and head of the family lived with his wife Mary 58 and children Patrick 25, John 24, Margaret 21, Martin 18, (who were listed as farmer’s sons and daughters), Dudley 15, James 14, Bridget 11and John’s grand daughter Delia Anne Healy aged 5 were scholars. It was a private dwelling – Class 3 house with 2 front windows. They had a stable and 3 cow houses. They were married 31 years. 15 children were born alive and 13 were still living. 10 persons occupied 3 available rooms. The family could read and write except Mary but the family spoke Irish and English.
House 2: Thomas Mc Donagh aged 41 a farmer and head of the family lived with his wife Mary 35 and children John 5, Michael 4, Mary Anne 2 and baby Barbara 5 months. They could read and write and they spoke Irish and English. They lived in a Class 3 house with 1 front window. They had a stable, 2 cow houses and a piggery. Thomas and Mary were married 6years and they had 4 children born alive and 4 were still living. 6 persons occupied 2 available rooms.
Church records of births, deaths and marriages:
Church records of births, deaths and marriages are available online at http://www.rootsireland.ie. To search these records, you will need to know the ‘church parish’ rather than the ‘civil parish’. (The civil parish is the pre-reformation parish and was frequently used as a unit of administration in the past.)
Letterkeeghaun is in the civil parish of Kilcummin.
This civil parish corresponds with the following Roman Catholic parish or parishes.
- Clonbern & Kilkerrin in Galway East.
- Carraroe in Galway West.
- Kilannin in Galway West.
- Kilcummin/Oughterard in Galway West.
- Rosmuc in Galway West.
Church of Ireland parish:
This civil parish corresponds with the following Church of Ireland parish.
- Kilcummin in Galway West.
In general, the civil parish and the Church of Ireland parish are the same, but, this is not always the case.
It is located at 53° 27′ 39″ N, 9° 26′ 50″ W.
Original OS map of this area
Ireland was first mapped in the 1840s. These original maps are available online.
Original OS maps at the Ordnance Survey of Ireland website
Below is a link to the Ordnance Survey of Ireland website. It displays the original OS map that was created in the 1840s.
Information from Google Maps:
You can use this link to find this townland on Google Maps.
Information from the National Monuments Service:
You can use this link to view a map of archaeological features. This link brings you to a website wherein you will have to search for your townland.
Archaeological map from the National Monuments Service
Galway Library Website
Letterkeeghaun Village or“where the grass gets greener”
Roger and Marie-Helene Biondi, Letterfore, two members of the Corrib Ramblers Group, discovered an old settlement while walking the “Derroura Trail” in December 2008.
Nowadays you can access this old settlement from the forestry road, you have to climb a bit up from the road where you spot an area so green that it shows that animals have been grazing here in the past, and there you are, discovering old stone walls perpendicular to the forestry road and covered with a thick coat of bright green moss, to your right a lovely tiny forest (probably not there originally) and in front of you, the ruins of houses (a sketch could be drawn to try to establish how many houses could have constituted that village). More walls can be seen here and there, probably delimiting fields and vegetables corners. Once you have reached the top house, you can see a lane on your right bordered by a stone-wall on each side, which could have been the main access to the village during olden times.
Batchelor Dudley Mc Donagh lived there until about 1968, when he left the house and stayed at his nephew’s place – Bartley Mc Donagh, for the rest of his life until 1972.
There were two houses at the end. In one of them lived Dudley Mc Donagh, brother of Bartley’s father Jimmy Mc Donagh (a local rate collector who was later replaced on Jimmy’s retirement by John Clancy Glann).
In the second house Tom Mc Donagh uncle of Dudley lived with his wife Mary and their son Jim. When Jim was a teenager they moved to Leiter. Jim Mc Donagh and his wife Ciss are the parents of John, Willy, Mary, Ann and David Mc Donagh, Bunakill.
The Land Commission divided the land in this area where the settlement is, and the Costello family built another house with a shed attached in 1930 with a grant of £80 (which was big money at the time). The Costello family – parents, son and daughter lived in the area until the early sixties when they moved to Roscommon. The daughter died in 2008, the son lives in Roscommon and their mother is now in her nineties. Dudley did not want to avail of the grant offered. He was content to live as he always lived. He travelled into Oughterard regularly to get his tobacco.
In this settlement there are the remains of a hen house, a piggery and stables.
There are so many of these deserted villages in this area – so if you have information or photos on such villages we would be delighted to hear from you.
“Culture and Heritage Group”