Monday, March 9, 2015

Patrick Leahey

Patrick Leahey

The optional theme for week five in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge was "plowing through."  I wracked my brain and I couldn't think of who I could pick for this theme!  An online genealogy buddy from Ravelry recommended that I flip a coin. That suggestion gave me the idea to pick a random number from my ancestor list that I made using an Ahnentafel numbering system. The winner of this endeavor was my 4th great grandfather, Patrick Leahey (Leahy)

This blog entry will be rather short, as I don't know as much as I'd like about this ancestor quite yet... it may end up with a long list of questions at the end. Patrick's wife Catherine Armstrong Leahey was the subject of Week Two's post.

I first connected Patrick and his wife to family from my great grandmother's notes, she was a family history buff too and left us great starting places and lots of primary source documents. In her belongings I found a trove of notes about my great grandfather's family history that she was given by her mother-in-law. One of these notes listed out Catherine Kelly Dillon's grandparents, parents, and aunts and uncles.

The little bit as the end has captivated me! It says "my mother's home was Thurles, Co. Tipperary Ireland her father taught in the caves at night all those who could go some of his couldn't write their names." 

 After doing some research, I have determined that she is referring to Hedge Schools. I haven't had time to dig into this too much, but the historical dates don't quite line up for this for me. Patrick Leahey was born in 1796, the penal law against Irish teachers was repealed in 1782. So it wouldn't have been illegal for him to teach his students. There wasn't wide accessibility to schools from the English until the early 1830s, and it seems that Irish Catholics did not want to send their kids to the English schools, likely because of sentiments such as those described here:

"As late as 1825, the Protestant hierarchy petitioned the King, saying "amongst the ways to convert and civilise the Deluded People, the most necessary have always been thought to be that a sufficient number of English Protestant Schools be erected, wherein the Children of the Irish Natives should be instructed in the English Tongue and in the Fundamental Principles of the True Religion."

Perhaps Irish teachers weren't illegal, but was it still illegal to teach Catholic doctrine, or the Irish language? I'm not sure. At least one researcher has found evidence that hedge schools did continue through the 1870s and one as late as 1892. So it is possible that he was a hedgemaster but I don't know at what point in the history of tense Irish-English relations. Was it in his youth before the institution of more palatable elementary schools in 1832. When did he start "teaching in the caves" and when did he stop? Did he teach at night not because it was illegal, but because he was teaching adults who had missed out on a proper education the first time? SO many questions.....
I don't really know anything else about Patrick Leahey's life beyond this; I was given some research that a cousin of some sort commissioned from the "Irish Ancestry Guild" in Dublin. According to their research Patrick Leahey died in 1866. I was able to find an Irish death record which corroborates the information from the guild. I would feel more comfortable if I could find one other source to know that the record below does belong to my Patrick Leahey.

I haven't found a grave for Patrick Leahey but I did find an interesting website with information about workhouses in the UK, and a page specifically devoted to the work house in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. There are great pictures of what the workhouse looked like as of 2002. Most of the buildings were demolished in 2004, which is unfortunate because I would like to have seen them in person. But maybe someday I can go to the site.....

Source: Higginbotham, Peter "Thules Poor Law Union and Workhouse" 
<> consulted 10 March 2015, 
Used with permission of the author.