MOFFATT - Record Lists
- Category: Land Lease Records
Bunacloy is an insignificant townland 2.7 kilometeres west of the village of Killashee in western County Longford. Somewhat surrounded by an industrial wasteland of cutaway industrial peat bogs, it is a patch of green that in traditional measure is 40 acres 1 rood and 22 perches.
Small, almost flat, green, and composed mostly of two fields for grazing, Bunacloy still has a history that stretches back in time to before 600 AD.
A half-kilometre to the west lies what remains of the Ballinakill Grey Friars monastery, built in the 500s. Reputedly founded by St. Ernan, it still has a graveyard that is said to contain the remains of a well known early bishop, Flann Mulvihill. With the monastery just "down the track", almost certainly there was some form of cultivation at Bunacloy.
The other early and special place is within this miniature townland itself. Ardneev's Well, which was always considered to contain spirits and whose waters many believed had healing properties, lies across the road from the main part of Bunacloy. It really is just a wet spot now. The land is owned by the Magan family, but in the 1970s they leased the part of Bunacloy north of the road, and the temporary farmer made the ill-considered move to bulldoze and cover the well. Since the well is the lower end of a small underground stream, it just made a marshy area for him.
Killashee itself had a name that fit in perfectly with a landscape supporting spirits, as the name means Wood of the Fairies.
In the 1700s the Middleton townland, along with many others, including Bunacloy, came into the ownership of the Montfort family. They were typical landlords, looking out for their own best interests, but realizing they needed the support of the Scottish and English tenants in holding off the very justified resentment of the Irish Catholics in the area.
For the Moffatt family Bunacloy is particularly important. David and Martha Moffatt, born perhaps around 1740, lived and farmed here, and raised their family of six children in a stone cottage at the edge of the road. They had married about 1770, almost certainly at Killashee Church of Ireland, but by luck the records for this church have survived, but only from 1773.
The first Moffatt had come from Scotland as a soldier in 1655 to guard the crossings of the Shannon not just at Clondra but also on the track that meets the Shannon River directly west of Bunacloy just 4 km. Undoubtedly this track had been used since the 500s when the Grey Friar's monastery was built.
The first Moffatt there had Arthur Aughmuty of Brianstown, a few kilometres north as a landlord, and the family had first settled at Lower Kilmore, essentially at Kilmore Crossroads, where the cars drive by at 100kph on their way to cross the Shannon River at Termonbary.
David Moffatt was first noted as being of Middleton in 1763, when he was made Barony High Constable. Middleton is adjacent to Bunnacloy on the north, but it could even be that the two townlands were confused and he was actually living at Bunacloy even then
Certainly they were at Bunacloy by 1773. James, Catherine, Jane, Ann, David and Samuel, the children surviving infancy, came along at intervals between 1772 and 1788, and those born in 1773 or later are duly noted in the Killashee Church of Ireland register. These baptisms mentioned their living at Bunacloy, and at intervals there were deeds listed for David Moffatt, and he is noted as being "of Bunnacly". The first of these was in 1777.
Undoubtedly for centuries the life of Bunacloy townland had continued much as it had, with a level of agriculture, and perhaps with a cottage or two opposite to the field containing Ardneev's well, which unquestionably was the water source for the family and the livestock they husbanded.
Visiting today, the townland is a little different, but at least has not been strip-mined for peat or made into an industrial base for that deed.
It is possible to imagine the young children, including David and Martha's youngest, Samuel, born 25 Oct. 1788, running down the road, or struggling with pails of water from Ardneev's Well back across the 40 yards of field, and then across the road to the cottage that was home.
It is possible to see them running west along the muddy road to the remains of the Ballynakill Grey Friars Monastery and playing amongst the stones - even though they were probably told not to go in there.
And at intervals, perhaps to fish or just for the adventure, they likely walked briskly as far as the Shannon River. Perhaps at some point they even came back with fish, even an Atlantic salmon.
On 16 Jan 1791 David Moffatt died, and the family never fully recovered. Son James Moffatt took over the lease, but Bunacloy itself did not change. Trees along the track, the cottage remaining the same, the need to pay the landlord Montforts the same.
When compared to the accurate and handsome Victorian 6inches=1mile maps, any hedges between fields within Bunacloy have been cleared away, so that it looks like a single flat expanse. On the Victorian map the cottage, lived in by James and his wife Bessy Bole with their 11 children, is plainly seen.
In measuring the cottage, it appears to be about 25 metres in length, which would be about right for the living quarters being approximately 12 metres of that, and room for livestock and farm equipment in the remainder.
Youngest child Samuel Moffatt married around 1813, when he was 24. Mary Connor was from elsewhere, and perhaps this was one reason Samuel and family left Killashee. Their eldest son David is christened there in 1814, but at some point in the next few years Samuel joined the Constabulary, probably in Westmeath.
Certainly Bunacloy could really only support a single family, and James Moffatt had the lease and the rights. And at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 a series of disasters hit. Prices for agricultural products plummeted; then in 1816 the effects of an Indonesian supervolcano eruption provided endless rain and cold conditions in the summer, and in 1817 there were epidemics to add to the misery.
Bunacloy in the years following was not seeing family stay there. Eldest daughter Eliza married Thomas Shaw of Ballynakill, the adjacent townland, but she died. Eldest son David Moffett moved to the United States after marrying Ruth Wilson a cousin, in 1841. Others drifted away as the famine swept down on Co. Longford in the 1840s, some moving to England, others America. The parents James and Bessy Moffatt remained to farm alone.
Bunacloy itself would not have looked much different as James and Bessy Moffatt grew older. Perhaps after they turned 60 things began to go downhill. Then in 1847, when the couple was in their mid-70s, they were removed by the landlord Montfort family, and the lands leased by the Magan family.
The Magans would maintain the lease, and eventually gained ownership, and still own the land.
Bunacloy still looks green, but very empty. No one lives on the townland, with occasional visits from farmers to move sheep or holstein cattle in or out.
The cottage and any fence rows have fallen to the backhoe, and have been mounded up, making a higher hedgerow out of what had been a a small but vital family cottage, heated by turf, and with children around as the family settled in to keep warm on a winter day.
Matching Victorian Map and GoogleEarth (see top of page)
For the past 15 years, copies of the Victorian copper-plate 6in=1mi Ordnance Survey maps have been around that cover Bunacloy.
Recently GoogleEarth has put in place high resolution imagery that covers Bunacloy Townland, and a comparison of the two, including an overlay, makes an interesting study.
First, the match is incredibly tight, showing that the Victorian survey data was correctly done, and accurate.
Secondly, by overlaying the Victorian map on the modern GoogleEarth imagery, one can tell exactly where the tenant cottage was located.
By combining mapping results 180 years apart, one can get a sense of what has changed - and how much has not changed at all.