This is the story of Relocation, how seven Families moved from one part of north Tipperary in the mountains of Keeper Hill Toor Newport to another part of north Tipperary in the lowlands of Loran Couraguneen Roscrea a distance of about forty miles. The reason for the relocating was that in feb1926 The Irish Land Commission I.L.C. received a report that there was a considerable amount of over population in this area of Toor; even though Emigration had been high in this area. This was mountainy land and difficult to work, farmers had no way of increasing their acreage to decent size holdings and this gave them the perfect opportunity while staying in their own county and country. It would help in two ways, the farmers that were relocating would be getting new farms from the I.L.C. and the land that they would be leaving behind would be divided between the local Toor farmers by the I.L.C. also. I’m sure at the time it must have been a very difficult decision especially for the older people as they would be leaving long standing friends and relations behind. These people would have known the mountains well, how to farm the land there and how to survive in difficult times. The loneliness of leaving must have been a very hard burden to bear at the time, but with the knowledge of getting farms of good land must have made it a bit easier especially for the young people like my father Robert Lee.
John Kennedy from Glencrow was the man in charge of the relocation and it was he who approached the Families in the area in Feb 1927. He had a brother Dr Henry Kennedy secretary of the Irish Agriculture Organisation Society I.A.O.S. who had a major influence in the relocation. His brother-in-law Patrick Hogan was the Minister for Agriculture at the time. The Irish Government had set up the I.L.C. in 1881 and under the land act of 1923 set about distributing land to farmers from the division of large estates that the Government had acquired after the end of the civil war. One of these estates was The Roe Estate in Loran Park Couraguneen, Roscrea. The Roe estate comprised of about 2’600 acres in the town lands of Loran, Couraguneen, Gortnaskehy, Dromard, Cullahill, Gortderryboy and Gortnagowna. All good quality land that would yield high quality produce, what ever type of farming they wanted to do.
The families that decided to go were of course The Kennedy family of Glencroe, The Kennedy and Hartigan families of Bleanbeg, The Lee family of Knocknamoheragh, The Ryan “Tailor” family of Keeper and The Fogarty family of Gortnaskehy. The Lee’s were first cousins to the Kennedy and Hartigan families’ of Bleanbeg. Johnny Lee, Bill Kennedy and Tim Hartigan were married to three O Brien sisters from Bottomy, Foilduff (Jackson) namely Mary, Catherine and Honora. The sisters wanted to stay together in the same area and this had a big influence in the three families going to Loran.
Members of the families went to see the land in Loran and were happy with what they saw and on the 22nd of March John Kennedy Glencroe organised a team from the families to go with him to Loran to work the land as a community. They included Pat Hartigan, John and Ned Kennedy Bleanbeg, Michael and Matt Fogarty Gortnaskehy, Robert Lee Knocknamoheragh, Phil Ryan ”Tailor” and his wife, his sons Jack and Phil, daughters Bridget and Sarah Keeper, who were to do the cooking and housekeeping. He also took two neighbours Tom Ryan “Lar” and Mick O Dwyer to help work the farm and provide turf, fodder, and enough food for the coming winter, when the rest of the family members would join them. They land had to be fenced off and divided into a number of individual holdings. Houses and farm buildings had to be built, and to do this they would employ local contractors from the Roscrea, Templemore area to tender for the job.
My father Bob Lee, Jack Ryan “Tailor” and Ned Kennedy brought furniture and some supplies by horse and cart. The Ryan “Tailor” family travelled by motorcar as it would have been too long a journey for the older members to go by horse and cart. My Father met some people in Clonakenny on the way and asked are we near Loran, they replied “Your near your end” This was the first sign that their might be some animosity towards the men from the mountains. But there was worse to come. They all arrived at their destination to Loran Park House, tired and hungry but exited of what lay ahead for them. They were eager to settle down and get some rest for the days ahead. Just then they heard a big crowd led by a fife and drum band coming up the avenue, shouting “go home you grabbers from Newport” and tried to intimidate them by running the horses from the yard. Fortunately the Gardai came and asked the men from Toor to go to the local RIC barracks down the road which was unoccupied and stay there for the night while they tried to sort out the situation. Next day the Toor people went back to Loran Park House, they prepared to make themselves at home and start what they came to do. On Sunday the Parish Priest denounced the people who had caused the trouble Twenty one protesters were arrested and seven imprisoned in Limerick for disturbing the peace.
The Nenagh Guardian newspaper reported on April 16th 1927.
Of the twenty one men arrested in connection with the Loran land dispute 19 of them surrendered to their bales at Roscrea District Court on Monday when they were charged with unlawfully assembly at Loran on the 22nd of March last. The Courthouse was packed to overflow and the proceedings were followed with the greatest of interest. The facts were told to the court by the state solicitor Mr O Brien. On the 22nd of March the Land Commission acting under their statutory powers, had put into possession of the lands of Loran Park which had come to be acquired under the Land Act, certain persons from Newport. The Land Commission had migrated these persons from Newport to Loran Park and apparently that procedure did not commend itself to the defendants because on the evening that these migrants from Newport arrived and were put up at Loran Park House the property of Mr John Kennedy, the defendants with a number of other people invaded the premises. They told the migrants from Newport that they should leave; that they would not have anyone in possession of these lands expect themselves. The people from Newport said they would not leave unless they were compelled to go out by force and that force was forthcoming. The defendants and others actually entered the house, took out the furniture that these migrants brought from Newport to Loran Park. An attempt was made to drive the horses away to Newport. There may or may not be a natural disappointment in the minds of these men in not getting the lands of Loran Park but that was a matter entirely for the Land Commission. The Land Commission was the authority in the country for the distribution of land and they were the proper tribunal to decide who the allottees should be. It would be an impossible state of affairs if disappointed applicants were to be allowed to do as these men did to come in and attempt by force of arms, not exactly by force of arms but by strong arm, to eject these people who were put there by the Land Commission under a statutory right. The Land Commission in all these matters had a much better opportunity of judging the fitness of the applicants for the lands and if they exercised their discretion, whether rightly or wrongly, their decision must be abided by. Certainly if their decision was to be questioned the proper way to question it was not by getting a band of people together and do violence and intimidation by invading premises and threatening to put out people who have been legally and properly established there. He (Mr O Brien) was willing to believe that the people that did these things did them without exactly thinking of what the consequences of their acts might be. They did it without proper reflection. He also believed that they were all decent respectable men, but they allowed perhaps not an unnatural feeling of disappointment to carry them away and led them into acts which in their sober moments they would not approve of. Having regard to that he and the authorities did not want any victims at all. All they did want was to secure that conduct of this sort would not be continued.
Twelve of the men were bound to the peace and gave a reassurance that it wouldn’t happen again. It was widely reported at the time in the newspapers, The Tipperary Star, The Midland Tribune and The Irish Times also carried the story. It was one of the first estates to be divided and with anything new people weren’t sure of the implications surrounding the land act. The protesters were local farmers in the area and were worried they wouldn’t get any land from the I.L.C. but when the land was divided the locals got what they had qualified for under the land act of 1923.
The men from the mountains went to work and built ditches and boundary fences to divide up the farms, John Kennedy through the help of his brother Dr Henry Kennedy got grants from the I.L.C. and organised men from the mountains to work in Loran. Soon up to a 100 men could be seen working the land by day and at night they would entertain themselves with music, song and dance. At first the locals stayed well away from the mountainy men but eventually the local girls decided they would join in the dancing in the long summer evenings. My father was a good hurler and played senior hurling for Newport before he came to Loran, he was asked to play with the local team Clonmore, he wasn’t long making friends and after a while they all mixed well with the local people and that ended any animosity between them.
The next problem was getting the animals from Toor to Loran. My uncle Dan Lee and Jack Ryan “Tailor” drove John Kennedy’s cows along the road in one day a distant of about forty miles. My father and my uncle Dan drove the Lee stock to our cousins' farm, The Lee’s of Ballincara where they stayed the night and continued to Loran the next day.
By September 1927 the Roe estate was divided into farms, the houses were built and were ready to be occupied, and then it was time for the other members of the families to come to Loran. The older and younger members prepared to leave their homes in Toor. With six families leaving a close nit community it had to be difficult. The members of the Lee Family to leave Knocknamoheragh was my Grandfather Johnny Lee his wife Mary their daughter Bridget and sons Robert, Dan and Jack who was only about twelve years of age. They were allocated a farm in Dromard. Our cousins from Bleanbeg Tim Hartigan his wife Hanora daughters Mary Ann, Katie, sons Pat and Tim were allocated a farm in Cullahill. Also our cousins from Bleanbeg Bill Kennedy his wife Catherine their daughter Bridget and sons Ned and John got a farm in Cullahill. The Ryan “Tailor” Family got a place in Loran and John Kennedy got Loran Park. The Fogarty family got a farm in Cullahill also and they stayed until 1945 when they relocated back to the mountains between Newport and Ballinahinch. Another cousin of ours decided to take a farm in Dromard they were the Madden’s from Bollingbroke near Dolla.
By now the new farmers knew what sort of land they had been given and decided it would be good for grazing cows and producing milk, with the help of Dr Henry Kennedy they decided to try and set up a local creamery. John Kennedy went about canvassing local farmers to see if it could be done. Approximately 160 farmers in the area decided to be shareholders and Loran Creamery was born and built in 1928. It was a great asset to the community over the years. Pat Hartigan worked there all his life as did his son Tim. It was demolished in1997 as there was no need for small creameries anymore with farmers having milk collected at the farm. The store is still opened today for farm supplies and its run by Centenary Co-Op.
All the families settled in Loran and over the years married the local people and had families of their own. My Father didn’t marry locally instead he went back to his old home place in the mountains to find a wife; he even went back to his old town land of Knocknamoheragh and met my mother Alice Kennedy. Her family originally came from Foilduff but moved to Knocknamoheragh when they bought a farm there around 1845. In the 1850s Griffiths Valuation records show three families owning most of the land in Knocknamoheragh Andrew Kennedy, Thomas Kennedy and Patrick & Robert Lee. My uncle Monsignor Roger Kennedy wrote in his book “From Bun Ciamalta Vale to New South Wales” that his family bought part of Knocknamoheragh from Long Andrew Kennedy and the other part was bought by the Lee’s. This means that both sides of my family owned most of Knocknamoheragh between them from around 1845 to1927.
My Father and Mother got married in 1955 and she came to live in a new house he had built in Shanakill on a farm he had bought previously about a mile from Loran. They had two daughters and twin sons. We grew up in the locality very much aware of the relationship we had with Toor. We went there on holidays to my Uncles Brian and John Kennedy and got to know the area well. My sisters Mary and Theresa are married in the locality around Loran. My brother John married Patrica Hartigan a grand daughter of Pat Hartigan that relocated at the time, they have one son called Robert and they live in Shanakill. I now live in Gortnaskehy with my wife Helen in one of the same houses built by the Land Commission at the time in 1927. This farm was given to a local family Martin Morrissey and his wife. Jack and Bridget Ryan “Tailor” that relocated lived in it with Bridget’s husband Gerry Maher before me. All the people that moved from their homes in Toor 85 years ago, made sacrifices to improve the standard of living both for themselves and future generation in both communities in Toor and Loran have passed on now. The two Kennedy, Lee, Hartigan and Madden family descendants are still in the Loran area today. John Kennedy died a young man in 1935 aged around 52. Jack Lee and Sheila Smith (Kennedy) died in the last few years. Margaret Buckley (O Donnell) is the last surviving members that travelled from Toor to Loran to make a new home in September 1927. She lives in Cappamore Co Limerick aged 93.
I was fortunate to get a lot of this information from my Uncle Jacks notes and in a piece he wrote in the Newport News in Dec 1998 entitled “Toor-My Native Place” The local Newspapers and from hearing the story while growing up and talking to people in both localities.
Edited in March 2013