The Moylough Cattle Drive of 1916

Very active local branch of the Land League

Anthony Boyle & Brigid Carthy

Anthony Boyle


The whole area of North Galway was very little affected by the Easter Rising in Dublin at the end of April 1916, but the rebels were very active in the other parts of the county — in Loughrea, Athenry and Gort.  On Easter Monday, April 24th, the Sinn Féiners occupied the Town Hall, Athenry and on Wednesday, April 26th about a thousand men took possession of Moyode Castle, and on the Tuesday of that week, the police barracks at Clarenbridge was attacked by an armed party of rebels under the command of Liam Mellows, a former Irish Volunteer organizer.  Needless to say, news did not travel fast in those days, and it would be ten years later before we would have our own Radio Station — 2RN.  In the parish of Moylough that very same week, trouble of a different kind was brewing, initiated by a very active branch of the Land League, the members of which were eager to have the land acquired by the Land Commission for the relief of congestion in the area.  At an enthusiastic and well attended meeting in Moylough on that Easter Sunday, it was unanimously agreed on a plan of cattle driving from farms on the Jameson Estate in Mullaghmore during the following week.  On Easter Monday morning, all the cattle on one of the farms were rounded up and driven by road to the owner Mr James Cooke, Cornfield, Ballinasloe, – a distance of over fifteen miles.  On arrival at Cornfield, the stock was counted out to him and it was explained that he was borne no ill-will, but that their action was the result of acute local agrarian unrest.

O’Roarke Estate

Mr. Cooke agreed not to return his cattle to the land, though he had a legal right to do so and his attitude had a major effect on the eventual result of the bitter campaign.  On the following Saturday, April 29th 1916, nineteen men from the area took part in the driving of cattle and sheep belonging to Mr. Fleming from Killererin of the O’Roarke Estate in Mullaghmore.  When the party arrived at Fleming’s with the stock, the latter was furious and threatened to shoot them, and went to the local R.I.C. station in Barnadearg to have the incident reported and the men arrested.  However, there was only one constable in the local station, as the other had been called to Athlone and Moyode, where there was trouble of a more serious nature.  Among the 19 men engaged in the above were Luke Lyons, Thomas Laffey, Martin Walsh, John Lane, Conor Lane, John Mc Hugh, Thomas Kelly, John Carrick, Thomas Quinn, Michael Finnerty, William Ward, Patrick McHugh, Thomas Donohoe, Thomas McHugh and Martin Boyle.  The nineteen men were eventually charged and appeared in Court in Dublin and the Tuam Herald of June 17th 1916 carried the following report under the heading of ‘SEQUEL TO MOYLOUGH CATTLE DRIVE: Mr. Justice Ross sentenced to four months imprisonment for contempt of Court, 19 men who had been engaged on April 29th, in cattle driving off the lands of Mullaghmore, near Moylough, on the estate of C.D. O’Roarke, J.P., and put a stay on it’s execution as regards 15 of them to see how they would conduct themselves.  The four for whom no stay was put on were Martin Boyle, Thomas Donohoe, Patrick McHugh and Thomas McHugh.  The Receiver D. P. Kirwan was represented by Mr. Hewitt Poole (instructed) by Messrs. E. & G. Stapleton).  Dr. Comyn appeared for defendants and Mr. Overend for Mr. O’Roarke.”  In the case of William Ward, who was an officer of the local tenants’ organization, an attachment order in respect of all legal expenses was issued against him, and on foot of this order his stocks were seized for the purpose of raising money by way of auction.

Much indignation

However, the very active local branch of the Land League under the chairmanship of Mr. Peter Burke had funds on hand and immediately paid the amount due, thus releasing the stock to Mr. Ward to the great jubilation of all his neighbours and fellow members of the organization.  Much indignation was felt at the time at the fact that the men were not tried at a local Court in Tuam or Ballinasloe.  The four men — Martin Boyle, Thomas Donohoe and Patrick and Thomas McHugh, all neighbours from Mullaghmore — served approximately nine weeks of the four months sentence in Galway Jail and while they were in prison the neighbours ensured in true Christian and neighbourly fashion, that all the farm work was done at home in their absence.  On their return from prison they were escorted to their homes by a group of musicians led by the late Eddie Dempsey and were greeted by bonfires and banners.  And subsequently a report, from Tuam Court appeared in June 24th, 1916 issue of the Connaught Tribune (the paper was scarcely seven years old at the time) under the heading of ‘CLAIM FOR CATTLE DRIVING’: Patrick Fleming, Killererin sought £126-15-0 compensation for injury to stock driven off lands at Mullaghmore, Moylough, Mr. E B. Mc Donagh appeared for Fleming, Messrs. H. Concannon and Co. for Mountbellew District Council, and Mr. P.M. Hosty for the ratepayers.  Evidence was given that the applicant had stock at Mullaghmore.  On April 29th, people came and drove 20 cattle, 55 ewes, 14 hoggets and 43 lambs on to the public road.  Fleming was a grazing tenant at Mullaghmore for the past 26 years.  Animals injured at the rate ail a head; two ewes and their lambs died on the following day.’  Local bard Patsy Heavey, who was a native of Mullaghmore and died about 1930, put the story of the Moylough cattle driving of 1916 into verse (although his poetry was not of the highest standard) as follows:

‘Just going into Barna — it was a lovely sight,

To see old Patrick Fleming preparing for a fight,

Paddy Mc Hugh walked up to him and to him he did say,

Now, my boy, if you don’t stay quiet,

Your home is not far away.

We all returned back again, And to Joyner’s we did go,

And we drank the health of man to man,

For the clear out of “GROW”.

‘GROW’ was the recognized name, and still is, of the farm from which the stock were driven and ‘your home’ is an obvious reference to the Killererin cemetery which was across the road from Fleming’s residence.  The story of the Moylough cattle driving of over seventy years ago has, however, an extremely happy ending, as before the termination of that decade, the lands in question were acquired by the Land Commission and practically every one of the families involved in the incidents referred to here benefited from the eventual land division.  And today the descendents of most of these nineteen men travel in their cars and tractors to work the land which was grazed by the stock that was driven out during the same week as the historic and eventful Rising in Dublin of Easter 1916.  To any of those who have benefited from the efforts and sacrifice of their ancestors of eight decades ago who may wish to see a monument to them, let’s say “Just look around you.”‘

Note: The writer is indebted to the following for their assistance in compiling this article: Jim Laffey, Snr., Ballinruane; John Ward, Dublin (native of Ballinastack); my brother, John Boyle, Mullaghmore, and the staff of Galway County Library.

[‘A Cattle drive in Moylough 1916’ by Anthony Boyle, from the Tuam Herald, September 1986]


The Cattle Drive at Mullaghmore, Easter Week 1916

Brigid Carthy

“My earliest recollection of the cattle drive at Mullaghmore was getting up early one morning and asking my mother where my father was.  She said he was gone to milk the cow.  He was taken early that morning to serve four months in Galway jail for his part in the cattle drive.  There were nineteen men arrested at that time.

The drive took place on April 29th 1916 during the historic week of the rising.  Four men from Mullaghmore were sentenced to four months in Galway jail.  They were all married men with young families.  The others were allowed out to see how they would behave.  The four sentenced were Thomas McHugh, Martin Boyle, Thomas Donoghue and Paddy McHugh.  One of them owned only 6 acres of land.  They were released in 9 weeks to see how they would behave.  Among the other men who took part in the drive were Luke Lyons, Thomas Laffey, John Lane, Conor Lane, John McHugh, Thomas Kelly, John Carrick, Thomas Quinn, Michael Finnerty and William Ward.  While they were in jail the neighbours ensured that all their farm work was done.

Stocks belonging to William Ward, Ballinastack were taken to pay the expenses of the court.  William Ward was a member of the Land League under the chairmanship of Mr. Peter Burke who had funds and paid the amount due so that his stock was returned to William Ward.

The four men were released after nine weeks in Galway in jail.  On their return home they were met by a group of musicians led by the late Eddie Dempsey and his band.  Bonfires and banners greeted them.  I was just six years old at the time.  I remember my father was so happy to see me, he carried me on his shoulders all the way home.

The story of drive had a happy ending as the land always known as Grow was taken over by Land Commission and divided among them.  A man named Fleming from Barnaderg grazed it for 26 years.  A Mullaghmore man named Patsy Heavy at the time of the cattle drive wrote the following verses:

We are those four old hero’s

And I mean to let you know

We spent nine weeks in Galway jail

For the clearing out of Grow.

It was at a private meeting those hero’s did agree

To drive old Mr. Fleming down to Barney

Just going down to Barney it is a funny sight

To see old feeble Fleming preparing for a fight.

Paddy McHugh walked up to him

And this to him did say

Now my boy keep quiet

For your home is not too far away.

We all returned back again,

And to Joyner’s we did go,

We drank a health from man to man,

For the clearing out of Grow.”

[Written by Brigid Carthy for the St. Joseph’s National School, Ballinruane and surrounding community publication “Until Gooseberries Grow On A Tongs” (2006)]

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