Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Stone family of Lurgan near Clara, County Offaly

My wife Theresa's parents were Catherine Stone and Edward Dwyer, both from Ireland.

The Stone famliy lived at Lurgan , a thatched cottage surrounded by farmland which lies between the towns of Clara and Moate on the border between counties Offaly and Westmeath.

Lurgan is approached by The Bog Road , off the road to Ballycumber, which passes over the peat bogs from which local people cut their turf . Up until his recent death, Lurgan was farmed by my wife's uncle, Dan Stone, who had inherited the land from his own father.

I do not know exactly when the Stone family took over Lurgan, I believe it may have been in the 19th century because the family lived there for three to four generations at least. The land , comprising about 50 hilly acres.

Uncle Dan was a much loved local man in the town of Moate and he farmed cows and sheep on Lurgan all of his life. Dan was the brother of my wife's mother, Catherine Dwyer, nee. Stone. Even following the deterioration of the actual cottage, Dan continued to live on the land in a caravan before eventually moving into a cottage on the Clara Road on the edge of Moate town .

Stone origins

It is speculated that a British soldier named Stone, along with others who stayed on in the rural Midlands of Eire, may have been awarded substantial land in the area in return for services to the crown in the late 1700s / early 1800s. It is also likely that Stone might have been an English Protestant whose children and grand children married local Catholics and so, as was the way in Southern Ireland, his descendants quickly became assimilated into the Irish community, it's ways and customs .

English surnames are very common in Westmeath and the Midlands , an area at one time on the edge of 'The Pale' - the large area of rich agricultural land west of County Dublin which the British guarded and planted down through the centuries . In a search of local cemetaries near to Tubber for instance I discovered as many English names as Irish ones , including Berry, Smith, Warburton, Martin, Robinson, Fuller and Egan amongst many others. The more that one researches family history in Ireland the more likely it seems that most Irish people have Scottish, Welsh and English ancestors as well as Irish ones and it is a tribute to the whole nation that through the years people have married and generally lived alongside one another harmoniously, despite the turbulent story told in the annals of history .

Having said this, an interesting gravestone in the old Killmonahan cemetary on the Ballycumber Road is actually a monument put up in the 1930s by local Republicans to two young members of the United Irishmen movement who were hanged by British Soldiers in Athlone in the 1780s .

It is thought that the soldier Stone was the father or grandfather of Kitty Dwyer's grandfather (her great or great-great grandfather), living therefore in the early part of the 19th century. The original size of the land that Stone gained was some three times the present size of Lurgan and incorporated surrounding fields now belonging to neighbours.

The Stone Family in Lurgan in the 1911 Irish Census
It was Kitty's grandfather, Daniel Stone, who specifically inherited the cottage and farm at Lurgan when the larger piece of Stone land was divided up into three by that gentleman's own father. It is believed that the larger piece of land was divided between three brothers. The 1911 Census refers to Lurgan as an area containing several residencies as opposed to the name of a single farm, so a little more research is required to fully understand the history of this general place known as Lurgan and the origins of the families who lived there.

My mother-in-law, Kitty Dwyer, nee. Stone, suggested that the land was divided between three brothers in the late 1800s, one of whom was her grandfather Daniel. His brothers were Michael and John.

Michael was the grandfather of a woman named Mary Martin who continued to live on this particular piece of farmland for many decades in the 20th century. Her father was Richard "Dick" Martin who must therefore have married Michael Stone's daughter).

It is believed that John Stone married a woman named Warburton; the Warburtons were an English-descended Protestant family from the Athlone side of Moate, they have a family grave in the Church of Ireland cemetary at Ballymoor. John Stone's descendants sold their third of the land to Kitty's brother Dan several years ago, so the aforementioned Uncle Dan actually ended up owning two thirds of the original land whilst Mrs Martin owned the remainder .

It would be interesting to clarify if the division of the land into three parts in the late 19th century was the only time the land had been divided up and whether there was an even larger piece of land before this.

Daniel Stone junior (right) bringing in the turf with the help of my son Patrick circa. 1998

Daniel Stone senior

Prior to inheriting Lurgan from his father, it is believed that Daniel Stone senior was the head gardener at a local convent where he was well-known for his expert care of the orchards and flower beds . Kitty recalls that her grandfather planted plum trees and rhubarb around Lurgan. We also now know that Daniel Stone was at one stage a Publican in Mullingar .

Daniel Stone married local woman Mary Duffy and they had eight children ; Elizabeth , Edward ( Kitty's father ) , Mary , Catherine , James , Daniel , Timothy and Richard . Edward Stone married Catherine Flanagan ( Kitty's mother ) whilst his sister Catherine Stone married Catherine Flanagan's brother John; which forms an interesting conumdrum in that Catherine Stone became Catherine Flanagan whilst Catherine Flanagan became Catherine Stone, perhaps there's a Westmeath riddle to be formed from this ? As if to add further complication to the riddle, another of Daniel Stone and Mary Duffy's children, himself named Daniel Stone, married his cousin , also named Mary Duffy ( his mother's name ) and they emmigrated to New York.

Stone women during the past are believed to have married men named O'Casey, Grennon and Robinson. Kitty has an interesting old photograph of a cousin of her father named Pat O'Casey who has his arm proudly around the shoulder of his wife whilst their dog is sitting on a chair in front of them. There is a cousin of Kitty named Richard ( Dick ) Stone buried at Mountjoy cemetary and it is thought that there are other relatives buried there.



  1. Hi there, I'm from Moate and just want to say that Dan was a lovely gentle man. Really nice to see a photo of him.
    Kate Ross

  2. Thank you Kate. Very nice of you to look at the blog and leave that lovely comment about Uncle Dan. Theresa and I hope to be over to see her mum at Tubber this summer.

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