The People’s Priest: Rev William Casey of Abbeyfeale

Castleisland District Heritage holds a copy of James D Harnett’s A Sketch of the Life of Rev Wm Casey, PP, of Abbeyfeale published in 1908, soon after Rev Casey’s death.[1]  The beloved Rev Casey died on 29 December 1907 aged sixty-three, and a measure of his popularity might be taken from the 12,000 people – if not more – who attended his funeral.


St Mary’s Church, Abbeyfeale, where the funeral of Rev Casey took place and where he was laid to rest.  His remains were exhumed in 1968 and transferred to St Mary’s Cemetery when a new church was constructed on Convent Street.[2]  Image to the right of the old church shows the surviving breastplate from Rev Casey’s original coffin.  Images courtesy Maurice O’Connell, Abbeyfeale Community Council

A movement was begun in the immediate aftermath of his death to honour his memory, with James D Harnett acting as Honorary Secretary in the proceedings.[3]  In 1910, a statue was unveiled in The Square in Abbeyfeale which remains a notable landmark.[4]


Rev William Casey Monument, The Square, Abbeyfeale Image © Castleisland District Heritage.  Image of the unveiling on the right courtesy Maurice O’Connell, Abbeyfeale Community Council


‘I must have my land or my rent.  I will give you to this day week to pay the year’s
 rent, if not paid I will direct my solicitor to serve you forthwith with ejectment

– James H Edmonde JP DL

Reverend William Casey, son of John Casey and Johanna Kiely, was born into a farming family at Castlequarter, Kilbehenny, near Mitchelstown in 1844.[5]  He had two brothers, Owen and Patrick, and two sisters, Mary and Norah.  His uncle, Rev Daniel Casey, was parish priest of Glanworth, Co Cork.[6]


He was educated at Mount Melleray, Waterford; St Colman’s College, Fermoy, and Carlow College where he trained for the Catholic priesthood.  He was ordained on 2 July 1868 and first served as curate at Banogue in the diocese of Limerick.  In 1869, he undertook temporary duties in the parish of Abbeyfeale during the illness of one of the priests before returning to Banogue and subsequently (1870-1871) to Manister in the diocese of Limerick.  In 1871, he was appointed to Abbeyfeale where he remained for the rest of his life.


Rev Casey is popularly recalled as the priest who fought fearlessly on behalf of tenants during the Land War.  The following describes the change in fortunes in Abbeyfeale in the years that followed Fr Casey’s appointment:


From 1871 to 1877 the crops were sound and abundant and the tenants were able to pay an increased rent.  However, in 1877, the crops rotted and prices fell. The tenants were in serious trouble.  The landlords demanded the full rent.  The tenants could not pay.  Father Casey intervened and promised the rent would be paid if reductions were given.  His offer was rejected by the landlords.[7]


On 29th September 1879, Father Casey called a public meeting in The Square, Abbeyfeale.  The town was packed, and on that day, the Land League was launched in Abbeyfeale.  Father Casey exhorted the tenants to stand fast for the Griffith Valuation and promised the full support of the Land League.  On Rent Day, 1st October, Fr Casey met the tenants and led them to the agent’s door:


The procedure was each entered the office singly with hat or cap in hand to plead their cause.  Not so on this occasion.  They entered in a body.  Father Casey remained outside.  Every man kept his hat or cap on.  In every hat or cap was pinned a membership card of the National Land League.  The agent enquired had they come to pay the rent.  They answered no.


A good example of Rev Casey’s support of the people is his thirteen year battle for the Harnett family, evicted from their farm at Knockbrack on 26 April 1884 by landlord James Thomas Esmonde:


On Saturday the County Limerick Sub-Sheriff, protected by a military and police force under the command of Major Rollestone RM, evicted Maurice B Harnett and Wm D Harnett, cousins, from a farm at Knockbrack near Abbeyfeale for non-payment of two years’ rent to the landlord, Mr Edmonde, County Tipperary.  Wm D Hartnett was put back as caretaker.[8]


Some years later, Ellen Leahy Harnett, widow of Maurice B Harnett and mother of four young children, recalled how her family watched as ‘Mr Edmonde’s emergencymen ate our potatoes’ and their oat crop was ‘left to perish.’[9]


She also cursed the landlord as she recalled the fate of her forty-year-old husband:


When we were thrown out on the road, homeless and shelterless, by the man to whose cruel treatment of us I shall to my last hour trace the cause of my husband’s terrible death on the railway near Ballybunnion, it was our beloved Patriot Pastor, Father Casey, that found us shelter and a comfortable home.[10]


The matter did not end there.  In 1889, the family was again evicted.  Rev Casey, ‘in the name of the outraged people,’ publicised how Mr Hobson, sub-sheriff of the county, at the head of a number of bailiffs and police attended Knockbrack where the Harnett family had lived ‘for over 300 years’:


From this once happy home, this family is now cast on the roadside to make room for the cattle of their landlord, Mr James Esmonde, JP, Dromenagh, Borrisokane, county Tipperary, for one and a half year’s rent …There were fifty police and two district-inspectors, one of whom, a Mr Royce, of Kilfinane, being in supreme command, and I call him a commander par excellence.


Rev Casey described how ‘this officious policeman, after having put his men two or three times through some form of drill, ordered them to fix bayonets, surround the house, and take up every strategic position and remove every person who chanced to be near.’


Rev Casey attended the eviction to administer the last sacraments to the dying tenant but was removed by force by Inspector Royce.  He tried again to gain entry to the property but was ‘pushed back by Mr Wright, DL, Newcastle West, and when he seemed disposed after my earnest entreaties to allow me in, a policeman with fixed bayonet rushed up and reminded him of the order given by his superior officer.’


Fr Casey offered to pay the landlord, to no effect:


Tonight this poor old man in his 87th year is in the very throes of death, his wife is paralysed, and his family dare not go near him except at the risk of prosecution.  This Mr Esmonde evicted another member of the family for one year’s exorbitant rent on the 24th April 1884.  This honourable man supported his family by manual labour for nearly four years.  He then got a position as a guard on the Listowel and Ballybunion Railway but after a few days, was killed in discharge of his duty,, adding yet another to the long list of victims of landlord rapacity.  The day’s work is only the beginning of Mr Esmonde’s clearances.[11]


In the wake of the eviction, Mrs Harnett, widow of Wm D Harnett, seems to have been denied even a temporary hut on a neighbouring property.[12]  However, she evidently remained in occupation for a few years later, at a meeting of the Abbeyfeale branch of the Irish National Federation, great indignation was expressed at the conduct of James Esmonde JP DL of Drominagh in evicting ‘during the past week’ the widow of the late William D Harnett of Knockbrack:


This poor woman was turned out of her home on Thursday morning last by Mr Hobson, sub-sheriff, in the midst of a dreadful downpour of rain.  Though Mrs Harnett is an object of pity as she is suffering severely from paralysis still her humane landlord would offer her no settlement although he was several times offered the rent due.[13]


The matter remained unresolved the following year:


At a crowded meeting of Abbeyfeale National League and the recent action of James Esmonde landlord of Drominagh Borrisokane in endeavouring to oppose Mrs Wm D Harnett’s occupancy of one of the labourer’s cottages was severely condemned.  It was unanimously agreed that Maurice Wm Harnett be accepted by the ratepayers as a suitable tenant for the cottage which the landlord seeks to prevent his mother occupying.[14]


After a thirteen year struggle, the Harnett family was finally reinstated in 1897, thanks to Rev William Casey.


As a result of the recent negotiations between Rev William Casey PP Abbeyfeale and Mrs Caroline Esmonde, the relict of the late Mr James Edmonde DL Borrisokane, the Knockbrack tenants will resume possession of their holdings on Wednesday after an interval of 13 years.   With the exception of Dr McCarthy’s, the families of the other tenants have emigrated for the most part or sought a living elsewhere while one of the tenants named Maurice B Hartnett being obliged to look for a livelihood elsewhere and accepting the position of guard on the Listowel and Ballybunion railway was killed accidentally on the first year of its opening leaving a widow and four children.


‘A much longer period would have intervened before any settlement would be arrived at only for the persistent efforts of Father Casey,’ wrote one reporter, ‘who despite the most discouraging circumstances and immense pains and inconvenience successfully brought to a finish a dispute which threatened to go on indefinitely.’[15]


Above (left) John Downey, of the committee of Castleisland District Heritage, pictured at Knockbrack, property of Gerard McCarthy, great great grandson of Maurice Harnett of Knockbrack, who met a tragic death on the railway in 1888.  In the centre, Gerard McCarthy, owner, and Maurice O’Connell, Abbeyfeale Community Council, inside the historic property.  On the right, the premises of J D Harnett, Main Street, Abbeyfeale


Another measure of Rev Casey’s character is shown by an incident that occurred when four well known men of the town who had been “rabitting” in the “Inches” were caught by the swollen Feale:


The cry reached the brave-hearted curate, and he at once galloped to the scene, dashed into the roaring flood, defying its danger, and one by one rescued the terrorised young men, under the most deterring circumstances, from the inevitable death that five minutes before had stared them in the face.[16]


Abbeyfeale Community Council


Maurice O’Connell, Chairman of Abbeyfeale Community Council, has a personal interest in the life and times of Fr Casey.  He writes:


For all the icons of the modern world and those we look up to in faraway places, both in the physical and online worlds, the excitement and charged atmosphere that was once right on our own doorstep, approximately one hundred and forty years ago, with crowds of 3000-10,000 plus gathering in local Towns and Villages to hear what the iconic leaders of the day had to say must have been nothing short of electrifying. However, more important than all that was the genuine guidance and support that the underprivileged and downtrodden in the West Limerick and North Kerry areas at that time looked for and received at these monster meetings – the kind of support that eventually brought families out from underneath the sole of the often brutal and uncaring foreign-based landlords to become owners of their own land, their own property, and their own destiny.


The local superstars of the day were none other than Fr William Casey of Abbeyfeale and Fr Arthur Murphy of Castleisland and later Brosna/Knocknagoshel. Following a few years independently looking after their own people, they decided to join forces to form what was one of the most formidable and much-admired support groups in the Country. This collective approach by two men to offer support to all the people on either side of the River Feale created such heightened excitement throughout the region that the Kerry People newspaper in September 1903 printed a sketch of both men “clasping hands across the Feale.”


James D Harnett, also from Abbeyfeale, was also a well-known and much-admired figure throughout the region at that time due to his editorial columns in local newspapers and the reporting he often gave on the monster meetings in the different towns and villages.  Luckily for us he was a great believer in the work being carried out by Fr Casey, and following Casey’s death at the end of 1907, published a booklet on his life.


Sketch of James D Harnett


James Daniel Harnett (1871-1951), auctioneer, merchant and journalist, and author of “A Sketch of the Life of Rev William Casey,” was the son of Daniel B Harnett of Knockbrack and Ellen D B Woulfe (1841-1917) of Athea.[17]  He was the grandson of Bartholomew Harnett of Knockbrack House, Abbeyfeale and great grandson of William Fuller Harnett Esq of Knockbrack.[18]


He married Bridget, daughter of J O’Sullivan, Fevata (Feavautia, An Fhéith Bháite), Knocknagoshel.  As far as can be seen, they had six children.[19]  Their sons were Daniel Gerard Harnett and Dr James Borgia Harnett.


Dr James Borgia Harnett, who was educated at Blackrock College, Dublin and undertook medical training at the College of Surgeons, Dublin, died from septicaemia on 19 December 1938, soon after completing his medical studies.  He was described as of fine athletic physique, distinguished at games, and assisted the Alma Mater in winning the Leinster Rugby Cup.[20]


Daniel Gerard Harnett married, in 1955, Mary C O’Sullivan, second daughter of Timothy O’Sullivan, Gortroe, Knocknagoshel, the ceremony performed by his uncle, Very Rev Richard A Harnett, DD, former Provincial of the Holy Ghost Order, Kimmage Manor, Dublin.[21]


James Daniel Harnett died at his residence, Main Street, Abbeyfeale on 4 January 1951:


Mr James D Harnett was probably the last of the older generation of Irish journalists who reported the great Land League and Plan of Campaign meetings and the eviction scenes in West Limerick in the days when a famous Parish Priest of Abbeyfeale, Fr William Casey, led the tenantry in the fight for justice against landlordism.  The late Mr Harnett was a brilliant journalist, and represented Dublin and Cork daily papers as well as the local press of Limerick and Kerry for 60 years.  A man of fine literary taste and possessing a flair for historic work, his contributions to various journals helped greatly to preserve the historic traditions of his native town and district … during the fight for Independence his life was frequently threatened by the Black-and-Tans because of his fearless reporting of atrocities in Abbeyfeale.[22]


Bridget Harnett died at her residence, Main Street, Abbeyfeale on 3 August 1968 aged 91.[23]


A Sketch of the Life of Rev Wm Casey, PP, of Abbeyfeale


James D Harnett’s memoir of Rev Casey displays an intimate knowledge of the clergyman which renders the work a highly personal tribute.  Its expression is a worthy attempt to record the depth of feeling of ordinary people towards a man – a patriot pastor – who did so much for them.  It records how the reverend almost lost his life during the fever epidemic in 1883 when he anointed nineteen parishioners before contracting the disease himself.   It records the presentations and celebrations organised by the parish to show their regard for this saint among them – for they worshipped him, and no matter how hard they tried to show it, they could not adequately convey their gratitude to this man among men for leading them to a better life.


The memoir is scarce, and has been reproduced by Castleisland District Heritage for new generations who may wish to learn more about the man depicted on the impressive memorial that greets all who pass through the town of Abbeyfeale.  The booklet can be purchased locally, or via the Castleisland District Heritage publications page on this website.


An article, ‘‘Too Honest for the Shoneens’: Father Murphy, Roman Catholic Curate of Castleisland,’records the famous handshake between Fr Casey with Fr Murphy when they united on the land question.  It is included in the journal Earls, Axeteers and Hoggies (2020, pp50-54) or can be read on the website of Castleisland District Heritage.


A Personal Tribute to Fr Casey
by John Roche, Chairman of Castleisland District Heritage


I am pleased and honoured to have the opportunity to pay a little homage to one of the heroes of my life, Fr William Casey.  It goes back to the storytime of my youth, as my father, born in 1893, had the great experience of attending some of Father Casey’s huge peaceful rallies.  His active ministry coincided with the involvement of my immediate ancestors who were steeped in the Land League/Castleisland Moonlighter movement of the 1880s and 1890s.  Three of my great-uncles were amongst fourteen activists from Castleisland interned without trial in Limerick and Kilmainham prisons in March 1882.


I believe that if a study of the effectiveness of the Land War of the 1880s was conducted area by area, the West Limerick/Castleisland Land Leagues would rank very high if not top.  Two priests were very prominent in that, namely Fr Casey and Fr Arthur Murphy, who chaired the first monster meeting to form the Castleisland Land League in October 1880.


At a time when RC clergy and authorities are being pilloried – in many instances rightly so – for their stewardship in the past, it’s only right that larger-than-life priests who literally devoted their lives to the advancement and betterment of their ‘flock’ are remembered and honoured. Fathers Casey and Murphy were all of that.  It would appear that Father Casey, in the Diocese of Limerick, had the support of his bishop.  Father Murphy in Kerry, however, did not have that kind of support.  Father Arthur Murphy was elected President of the Castleisland branch of the Land League after its founding chairman, Mr P D Kenny, was interned without trial in Kilmainham prison in March 1882.  Shortly afterwards the then Bishop of Kerry had him transferred to another parish in the diocese because of his active involvement in the campaign.


On the other hand Fr Casey became a colossus in West Limerick, as illustrated by James D Harnett in his tribute published in 1908.  On reading this account of his life and actions in greater Abbeyfeale, the mystery is – how one man could support and lead so many movements and still not neglect his priestly duties as he saw them.


On this side of the county bounds in my youth, older people still revered the names of Fr Casey and Fr Arthur Murphy.  Through my ancestors I was familiar with the account of a seven year battle to prevent the occupation of a large farm of an evicted Protestant family – the Powells of Clashgannive House.  This eviction was an abomination, with about a dozen homes of Powell tenants razed in a conflagration in the space of half an hour by the tyrant land agent Sam Hussey.  Shortly afterwards at a public rally in Castleisland, attended by thousands, Fr Casey gave a clear direction to the Land League members, that ‘the Protestant farmer must be supported as well as his Catholic neighbour.’ When I knew Willie Powell, the last of the family and lifelong friend of my father, in the 1950/60s, he still appreciated the intervention of Fr Casey. They had feared that they would be on their own when evicted.


When Fr Arthur was appointed to the parish of Brosna years later, both men resumed their co-operation and worked together to get results for their areas and people.  The iconic sketch of their ‘Clasping Hands across the Feale’ is a fitting tribute, much more than words can express, to two of Ireland’s patriot heroes who achieved without guns, ownership of homes, businesses and lands for the Irish tenants.  For the first time in centuries native Irish people owned the land and property they occupied in all 32 counties of Ireland.


Above left, Rev William Casey, Parish Priest of Abbeyfeale.  In the centre, the iconic “Clasping Hands Across The Feale” between Fr Casey and Fr Murphy in 1903, a powerful symbol of the unification of Limerick and Kerry in the national cause.  On the right, an interpretation of the dramatic scene at the ‘Inches’ outside Abbeyfeale where Fr Casey rescued a number of young men endangered by the swollen river.  Illustration by Noel Nash, Castleisland District Heritage


Learning from the Past
By Brigid Harnett, Granddaughter of J D Harnett


On behalf of the Harnett, McCarthy, Downey and Fitzgerald grandchildren of J.D. Harnett, we are delighted to see his booklet being re-published.


We are proud of the fact that our grandfather took such a courageous stand with Fr. William Casey to help eradicate the tyrannical landlords and their agents.


It was the writings and speeches of people like J.D. Harnett and Fr. Casey that fired up the downtrodden people to gather in large numbers, thus finding the courage to rid themselves of the yoke of oppression.


Ultimately our freedom came from the stand they took at the time, we are in a debt of gratitude to the men and women of that generation.  It goes to show what can be achieved when communities pull together.


Our family are thankful that Castleisland District Heritage is providing this opportunity for the present generation to learn from the struggles of the past.


[1] Collection Reference IE CDH 44.

[2] The gravestone is inscribed: Of Your Charity/pray for the souls of four parish priests/of Abbeyfeale/whose remains were transferred from St Mary’s Church/on 16th December 1968./V. Rev. Daniel Lyddy, 1824-1849./V. Rev. Thomas Carroll, 1849-1856./V. Rev. Michael Coghlan, D.D. 1856-1883./V. Rev. William Casey 1883-1907./May They Rest in Peace Amen.

[3] ‘Appeal to Irishmen to Honour the Memory of a Noble Priest and Fearless Patriot’ signed by James D Harnett, Hon Secretary, Daniel Leahy, Solicitor, Barth C Collins MCC Treasurer  (‘Suggestion to Appoint Local Committees,’ Killarney Echo, 25 January 1908).  ‘On 29th September last Father Casey unveiled the Rathkeale Memorial Celtic Cross and to the great loss of the Irish nation, he died three months after … Poor Ireland has lost a faithful son’ Report of progress of support, Kerry Weekly Reporter, 22 February 1908).

[4] The Father Casey Memorial was unveiled on 29 December 1910, three years after the death of Rev Casey.  A fundraising committee was formed in early 1908; its secretary James D Harnett (Killarney Echo, 25 January 1908, Kerry Weekly Reporter, 22 February 1908).  A report of the unveiling ceremony and information about the sculpture was carried in the newspapers of the time; see Irish Independent, 30 December 1910 and Cork Examiner, 30 December 1910.  It was sculpted by Edmund Sharp (1853-1930 – see Dictionary of Irish Architects). Its architect was Mr James D Leahy (1853-1923) of Cullenagh (or Cullinagh) House, Newcastle-West, youngest son of Michael Leahy Esq, JP.  He married Elizabeth, youngest daughter of Thomas Roche Esq JP, Newcastle West, at Newcastle West, on 10 March 1888.  In the Census of Ireland 1901, he was widowed with a four-year old daughter, Elizabeth.  He married again on 22 April 1903 at the Roman Catholic Church, Chelsea, to Alice, only daughter of John Fox of Bromley, Kent.  The Census of Ireland 1911 records James and Alice Leahy at Cullenagh, with their family.  James D Leahy died on 24 November 1923.

[5] His year of birth is given as 1844 in the Dictionary of Irish Biography, ‘Casey, William’ contributed by C J Woods, and as 1840 in Echoes of Abbeyfeale (2015), ‘Rev William Casey, Parish Priest of Abbeyfeale 1871-1907,’ p43.

[6] For genealogy of the Casey family, see Echoes of Abbeyfeale (2015) ‘Rev William Casey, Parish Priest of Abbeyfeale 1871-1907,’ p43.  A photograph of the unveiling of the Fr Casey monument in Echoes of Abbeyfeale (p75) provides the following interesting story from Patrick T Fitzgerald, author of The Colleen Bawn (2018).  ‘We believe that the little girl in the photo is my grandmother Mary (Daly) McMahon.  Mary was born on 4 Jan1906 and lived in the Square (behind the statue.  Some of the houses on the river side of the square lacked backyards and the Dalys allowed the neighbours certain days of the week each to hang their washing. They regularly endured rain on their own days but honoured the schedule!).  Her nephews later ran businesses in adjacent properties – John Daly insurance and Con Daly Dentist and Stephen Daly Solicitor.  Mary’s father was a tailor and her mother Johanna Lyons had lived in America.  Mary had three brothers; Stephen who immigrated and fought in the Korean war – he died in America shortly afterwards; Jackie who held a Fine Gael seat as a member of Limerick County Council and Fr Connie who was bursar of Rockwell and Blackrock Colleges and who died before he could take up the role as Bishop of Mauritius. Mary married Thomas McMahon from Nobber, County Meath who along with his brother were cattle dealers and worked the Fairs in county Limerick in the 1930s.  Mary was one of the last to be baptised by Fr Casey. (Anecdote by email to Castleisland District Heritage dated 8 October 2022).

[7] From an account of Fr Casey in an unidentified publication.  Copy courtesy Patrick Fitzgerald, author of The Colleen Bawn (2018).

[8] Cork Constitution, 29 April 1884.  James Esmonde (1827-1894) married Caroline, daughter of John Sugrue in 1859.  They had issue including eldest son James Esmonde (1860-1899) who died unmarried.

In 1870, Maurice B Harnett Esq, Knockbrack and William D Harnett Esq Knockbrack numbered among those who subscribed to a fund for defending a tenant named McEnery who was served with an ejectment by his landlord, Henry Trench Esq.  Some years earlier (1862), James W Harnett of Knockbrack published a public apology to Messrs William P Broderick and John O’Sullivan of Abbeyfeale.

[9] Letter to the editor about the Harnett Eviction, Freeman’s Journal, 22 August 1889.  See also Kerry Sentinel, 28 August 1889.  Thomas Lawley (or Lawler) who hailed originally from Moybella near Listowel was employed as an emergencyman on the farm of evicted tenant Maurice Bartholomew Harnett in 1887.

[10] An inquest into the death of Maurice Harnett found that he died from head injuries passing a bridge while working as a guard on the Lartigue railway on 18 April 1888.  Report of incident in Kerry Evening Post, 12 May 1888. 

Ellen Leahy Harnett (1846-1930) of Knockbrack, Abbeyfeale died in her 83rd year in February 1930.  Her children were Bartholomew (Batt) M Harnett (1883-1954) married Johanna McEnery (who died 25 January 1917), had issue Mary Harnett McCarthy (1912-2003).  Bartholomew died at his residence in January 1954, funeral report Limerick Leader, 1 February 1954. Cornelius (Connie) Harnett, died at Knockbrack on 31 July 1961. Edmond (Eddie) Harnett (1885-1960), died at Knockbrack on 18 February 1960.  Delia Harnett died at St Ita’s Hospital on 23 July 1978 aged 89.

[11] The Nation, 10 August 1889.  G C Royse, District Inspector of Police, replied as follows: ’The old man Harnett was evicted on title in 1884 for non-payment of rent, and was then re-admitted as a new tenant when he promised to surrender the place should be fail to pay the newly fixed rent.  I understand that since September 1887, he has payed no rent.  On the day of the eviction the house was barricaded, and in order to prevent obstruction to the Sheriff a cordon of police was placed around the house so as to keep the crowd back.  The Rev William Casey was treated with every courtesy by me.  But the rev gentleman refused to go outside the cordon of police unless he was removed by force which at last had to be reverted to, and that was mostly nominal.  The rev gentleman then tried to force his way through the cordon again and was prevented as his presence was not in the least required.  I can assure you no unnecessary force was used to the rev gentleman.  Harnett was not removed and his family were at once reinstated as caretakers.  Every kindness and consideration was shown to Harnett and his family…. Father Casey, who had professed great anxiety for Harnett’s health, and the necessity for his presence with them, accompanied the crowd following the police to the houses of two sub-tenants and jeered at me, and threatened to have me reported to the House of Commons by Mr Tim Healy MP.  I am not informed as to the tendering of rent and cost referred to in the extract you sent but would suggest you write to the landlord, Mr James Esmonde, DL, Ballenderry, Borris House, Co Tipperary, who could give you full particulars concerning Harnett &c.  This gentleman, I may mention, is himself a Catholic, and is uncle to Sir Thomas Esmonde, a Nationalist MP’ (The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 21 August 1889).

‘Mr Esmonde has reduced to the position of caretakers eight or ten other families, all of whom, with one exception, are able and willing to pay their rents, but because one is unable all must go.  All held under joint leases.  These tenants have made most liberal offers to Mr Esmonde.  They have made him an offer of twenty years’ purchase, which is more than he himself paid Mr Brett for the property twenty years ago’ (Leeds Mercury, 6 August 1889).

[12] ‘A hut was in course of erection for her on an adjoining property when her landlord persuaded the landlord of the latter place to prevent it’ (Irish Examiner, 5 May 1892).

[13] Cork Daily Herald, 26 August 1891.

[14] ‘Mrs Harnett was evicted about three years ago for non-payment’(Irish Examiner 5 May 1892).

[15] ‘Reinstatement of Evicted Tenants Back After Thirteen Years’ Freeman’s Journal, 24 March 1897. ‘The present reinstatement under most acceptable terms is also in no small measure due to the kindness of James Thomas Edmond virtual owner of the estate whose disposition towards reconciliation might advantageously be imitated by many other Irish landlords. It is a remarkable fact that no attempt at grabbing was made during the time on this estate or parish.  This is due to the admirable organisation of the district. The tenants who are John P McCarthy, MD, Mrs Maurice B Harnett, Mrs William D Harnett, and representatives Jas W Harnett, held under a joint lease, and Mrs M Harnett and Mrs W Harnett failing to pay one year’s exorbitant rent, the four were dispossessed in April 1884 under proceedings which debarred redemption and since then the farms have remained on the hands of the landlord.’ 

In October 1903, a number of the tenants on the estate of John Minchen Harnett, Knockbrack, were served with civil bills for rent arrears.  In 1904, Rev Father Casey, PP, advocated the claims of the tenants, against the majority of whom decrees for arrears of rent had been obtained, and after considerable discussion the tenants finally agreed to purchase at 20 years on their second term rents, after arranging portion of the arrears that had accumulated for some years, the tenants to pay interest on purchase money from date of acceptance (Wicklow People, 26 March 1904). 

Minchin Harnett Estate

John Minchin Harnett Esq JP (1833-1910) was the son of Daniel Creaghe Harnett Esq JP of Shannon Lawn, Co Limerick / The Terrace, Glin.  His brothers were William Minchin Harnett (1829-1879) and Falkiner Minchin Harnett RIC (1831-1879). 

[16] The following newspaper report from the Kerry Evening Post (11 December 1872) may allude to the incident, which occurred on Sunday 8 December 1872, shortly after Rev Casey was appointed to the parish: ‘Narrow Escape.  Six boys had a narrow escape from drowning near Abbeyfeale on Sunday last, in consequence of the sudden rising of the river Feale, which surrounded them.  They were rescued after considerable trouble.’  The Tralee Chronicle of Friday 13 December 1872 carried the same report.  A Patriot Priest (1920) by Rev D Riordan (pp22-24) describes the struggle that Fr Casey had in trying to save the lives of the young men.  Reference courtesy Maurice O’Connell, Abbeyfeale Community Council.

[17] Daniel B Harnett (1833-1892) of Knockbrack and Ellen D B Woulfe (1841-1917) of Athea,  Known offspring: William (1862); Bartholomew (1862); Patrick (1863); Daniel (1869); William (1864); James Daniel (1871- 1951); Daniel W, born c1872, hotel proprietor USA (from Census of Ireland 1901); Annie J (1872); Margaret (c1874); John D (1879-1904) Vote of condolence passed to Mrs Ellen D B Harnett on the death of her son, John D Harnett, in Pittsburg. (Irish Examiner, 6 April 1904); Very Rev Richard A Harnett CSSp (c1879-1959) Died at Mater Private Nursing Home, Dublin on 11 November 1959.  Obituary and photograph in St Mary’s College Annual (1960) pp23-24.  Clerical career given in Irish Independent, 12 November 1959; Bridget (1884).  Sincere thanks to Marie H Wilson, Tralee for genealogical research.

[18] ‘Daniel B Harnett, who died on 8 October 1892, was the second son of Bartholomew Harnett of Knockbrack and grandson of Patrick Hayes, The Cottage, nephew of Daniel Hayes Esq and grand-nephew of the late William Hayes, Cork’; see funeral report: ‘A most varied and beautiful collection of floral tributes of respect, consisting of wreaths, crosses, etc, strewed the grave and literally enveloped the coffin’ (‘Death of a Respectable Inhabitant of Abbeyfeale,’ Kerry Weekly Reporter, 15 October 1892).

Bartholomew Harnett Esq, son of William Fuller Harnett Esq of Knockbrack and son-in-law of Patrick Hayes Esq, Feale Cottage, Abbeyfeale, died at Knockbrack on 2 January 1855.  William Fuller Harnett Esq died at Knockbrack on 30 November 1829 aged 84.

Knockbrack House, in the vicinity of Gerard McCarthy’s property, was demolished and a new property built on the site.

[19] Eileen Mary Harnett (1905); Mary Francis Harnett (1908); Marie Harnett (1914- 2001); Marie married Edward Florence McCarthy in 1953; Monica Harnett (died in 1994); Daniel Gerard Harnett (c1911-1983); Dr James Borgia Harnett (1911- 1938).

[20] ‘Funeral of Dr James Borgia Harnett, younger son of Mr and Mrs James Harnett, Abbeyfeale.  Deceased, who was only 27 and had only been qualified since June 1937, had been attached to the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, Wales and had travelled home to spend Christmas with his family.  Rev Dr R A Harnett CSSp, St Mary’s College, Rathmines (uncle) officiated at the obsequies.  Others present included Rev D Hackett CSSp Nigeria (Cousin) Rev Bro Angelus Keane, Superior-General, Presentation Brothers (cousin). Mr Daniel G Harnett (brother), Misses Eileen, Marie and Monica (sisters), Miss Dora O’Sullivan and Mrs Phil Curtin (aunts) Mr Patrick O’Sullivan (uncle).’  See Irish Independent, 21 December 1938.  Funeral report, Irish Examiner, 22 December 1938. 

[21] Daniel G Harnett died 25 June 1983 (from headstone inscription at St Mary’s Abbeyfeale).

[22] Irish Press, 6 January 1951 and Irish Examiner, 8 January 1951.

[23] Funeral to St Mary’s Cemetery, Abbeyfeale.