Subscribe for Unlimited Access to Turtle’s History Quarter.

Includes content from Vanishing Ireland, Easter Dawn, Dublin Docklands, The Irish Pub, Maxol and many more, as well as Waterways Ireland, the Past Tracks project and hundreds of historical articles on Irish families, houses, companies and events.

The Harringtons – From the Beara to Butte City, Montana

Copper was the mainstay of the Harringtons for a number of generations.

An off-shoot of the Harrington family of the Beara Peninsula in West Cork who made their way from Milleens near Eyeries, via the copper mines of Montana and the silver mines of Colorado, to the verdant pastures of Tipperary where they turned to cattle farming.

 

*****

 

The Harrington family have been on the Beara practically since Noah’s daughter Cessair landed on its coast umpteen thousand years ago. [1] By the 15th century, the clan were known as O hIongardail. One of the earliest references to the name in West Cork occurs in 1518 where Donaldus Yhyngardeyll, parish priest of Kilmackillogue, became parish priest of Kilcaslain and Kadmarra (probably Kenmare) in the dioceses of Ross and Ardfert.  By the early 17th century, this had been modified to O hUrdail.

Of course, neither of these names sounds remotely like ‘Harrington’ but, following the conquest of Munster by Queen Elizabeth’s English army, that is how English officials in Dublin interpreted the name. Indeed, the earliest reference to ‘Harrington’ is to be found on a pardon of 1577 granted by William Drury, Lord President of Munster, to John mac Teighe o Hengerltye, alias Harrengton of Downebechan. It would seem this particular Harrington had been among those who joined in on the Earl of Desmond’s bloody and ill-fated rebellion against English forces in Munster during the 1570s.

 

Flor Harrington, Farmer (c. 1785-1860)

 

Fast forward to the 1820s and, in an exhaustive list of tenant farmers on the Beara, we find twenty-eight Harringtons in the Eyeries parish alone. [2] The names that stand out on this list are those of Florence Harrington and Daniel Harrington. The earliest known forbears of the Harringtons of Milleens were Florence and Julia Harrington, great-great-grandparents of Josephine.

Florence – or Flor – Harrington was born in about 1785. His farm at Milleens lay just south of Eyeries, on the north side of the Beara Peninsula in West Cork. The land is sheltered beneath the misty spruce-covered slopes of Maulin, which, at 2,044 feet (623 m), forms the highest peak in the peninsula’s Slieve Miskish mountains. The peninsula of Kilcatherine, in which Eyeries is situated, is particularly rich in old Bronze Age pagan remains, stone circles, pillar stones and dolmens. The petrified remains of the original Hag of Beara are said to lie in the pre-Christian churchyard of Kilcatherine.

The farm may have come to Florence by his marriage to Julia O’Regan who was apparently born there in 1780. The sumptuous views from here have changed little since Flor and Julia’s days – the azure waters of Coulagh Bay, the mouth of the Kenmare River and the Iveragh peninsula to the north. At Milleens, the Harringtons probably maintained a herd of short-legged Kerry cattle, and perhaps a small flock of sheep.

When the economist Arthur Young visited the area in 1780, he wrote:

The common stock of the mountains are young cattle bred by the poor people; their breed is the little mountain or Kerry cow, which upon good land gives a great deal of milk.’

Known as the ‘the poor man’s’ or the Irish cottier’s cow, the hardy black Kerry excelled in infertile landscapes like the Beara. It also provided a useful supply of beef, ‘fattening rapidly when required’. By the time Flor was in his fifties, the Kerry had evolved into the stouter and somewhat more efficient Dexter Kerry, a Kerry-North Devon cross-breed.

 

Dan Harrington (c.1820-1870)

 

One of the remaining vestiges of the Allihies copper mines. Daphne du Maurier based her 1943 book ‘Hungry Hill’ on the Puxley family of Allihies.

Flor and Julia (O’Regan) Harrington had at least six children. Their third son, Dan, was born in 1820. It is not known where the young boy was baptised but, in 1823, work began on the construction of a small Roman Catholic chapel in Eyeries. Completed in 1825, this was enlarged in 1843, and further improved in 1883. The resurgence of Catholic Ireland would find its greatest champion in Flor’s contemporary, Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator. Born in Derrynane, County Kerry, just across the water from Eyeries, O’Connell secured Catholic Emancipation in 1829.

As a third son, it seems unlikely that Dan would have inherited the farm at Milleens straightaway although he does seem to have retained a lifelong interest in the place. Alternative employment opportunities were somewhat limited on the rugged and mountainous peninsula but perhaps he found seasonal work on the currachs trawling the coast by night in pursuit of mackerel, a considerable industry in those times, also known as seine fishing.

Or maybe he was attracted to work at the copper mines in Allihies, 20km south of Milleens, which were opened by John Puxley in 1812. The mining blood certainly came into the family somewhere along the line for Josephine (Harrington) Butler’s father worked in the copper mines in North America. I know of no surviving records for those who worked at the Puxley mines but I think it reasonable to suppose that at least some of the Harringtons of Eyeries might have made their way down the Beara to earn some shillings on the red ore. If Dan was among them, he must have endured a hard, back—breaking existence. At their peak, the mines employed about 1,200 workers but the conditions and wages for its Irish workers were notoriously poor. When Lady Chatterton visited the mines in 1838, she noted that ‘the work employs a thousand people. Girls who attend to the washing get 3 ½ d a day, boys 6d, men from one shilling to one and four pence’. [3] At the end of every month, as Peter Somerville Large notes, ‘tools were weighed and the value of the metal which had been worn away was deducted from these earnings’. Nearly 90,000 tons of copper was successfully mined at Allihies between 1812 and 1842. [4]

In 1868, the Cork Examiner published a letter by the Rev. G. T. Stoney, a new Protestant curate to the Allihies mines, who wrote:

I have frequently visited the log shanty of the slave on the cotton plantations in South Carolina, and chatted with the inmates. I have knelt on the mud cabins on the mountains of Connemara and the bogs of Roscommon, but never ’till I came to the Berehaven mines did I witness such wretchedness of eye-revolting poverty….”

 

Dan H (Norr) Harrington (1840-1910)

 

By his wife Nora Dwyer, Dan Harrington had a son, Dan H (Norr) Harrington, and two daughters, Julia and Mary. Born in 1840, Dan H was five years old when the first potato crop failed. Over the next five years, the Beara was hit hard by the Great Famine. The fishing community at Eyeries was further hampered by the cruel winter of 1847 when stormy conditions prevented the currachs from venturing out into the open sea in pursuit of mackerel. A fishing station founded by Quakers at Castletownbere at this time had closed down by 1852.

Between 1841 to 1851 the population of Eyeries Parish dropped from 6904 to 4549, and the number of inhabited housed fell from 1221 to 774. [5] Many of the Harringtons’s neighbours emigrated to seek a better life abroad and it was perhaps during this time that the idea of emigrating to America first seeped into the Harrington mindset.

Dan H’s wife Johanna McCarthy was born at Knockanebracca, near Kilcatherine, in March 1851. She was the daughter of Mort (Mor) McCarthy (Rohane) and his wife, Ellen O’Shea. It is not known what year they married but probably about 1870. By then there had been a changing of the guard at Milleens.

Flor Harrington died in 1860, the same year old Henry Puxley of the copper mines died. His widow, Julia (O’Regan) Harrington passed away at Kilcatherine on 29 December 1867, shortly before the Puxley family put the copper mines up for sale. Her death was reported by Norry Harrington who was present when she died.

Dan Harrington died in 1870 when he was not yet 50 years old. Dan H, his only son, inherited the property at Milleens. Between 1872 and 1883, his wife Johanna gave birth to least ten children, six boys and four girls, many of whom would later move to North America.

 

Florence Harrington (b. 1872)

 

Born at Milleens in 1872, Florence Harrington was Dan H and Johanna’s firstborn child. [6] He is said to have been born in the same house where Milleens Cheese is made today. That same year, the Berehaven Mining Company reopened the Allihies Copper Mines and installed a new 22 inch steam engine. It’s possible that some of the Harringtons worked in the mines at this time, but little ore was produced and the mine was finally abandoned in 1878.

By the time Florence was 18-years-old, prospects on the Beara were decidedly grim. This is a breathtakingly beautiful landscape, all bubbling brooks, rugged slopes, lush mosses and medieval trees. But no matter how spectacular the scenery might be, it was not an easy place to live in the 1880s. Aside from cattle farming and seine fishing, there was no employment. That said, in 1916, it was noted that the mackerel fishery in Eyeries was ‘a big industry’ employing ‘about 400 men besides women and children, and the value of the fish may be put down at £5,000 or £6,000 a year … it was here mackerel curing first started for the American markets.’ [7]

There was also not much food and the families were simply too big for the cottages they inhabited. Adventurous souls like Florence and his sister Julia inevitably began to focus their sights west across the turbulent Atlantic Ocean on the New World beyond. And at the heart of that vast unexplored continent, deep within the Rocky Mountains, there was a place called Butte City, Montana.

 

 

Butte City, Montana

 

the copper mines in Butte City from the 1890s when Florence Harrington worked there.

A view of the Anaconda Mines in Montana where Florence’s cousin Peter Paul Harrington was supervisor.

In 1882, four years after the Allihies Mine finally closed, Thomas Edison switched on the world’s first large-scale electrical supply network, zapping 110 volts directly to fifty-nine customers in lower Manhattan. Electricity was no longer a scientific curiosity. It was the must-have tool for modern life. One of the vital ingredients for the creation of electricity was copper. Even as the electricity flickered across New York, Cavan-born Marcus Daly was about to score his great breakthrough at the Anaconda Mine in Montana where his team drilled deep enough to hit a 50 foot wide vein of red copper ore flowing through his mine like a river. Within a year, the tented hamlet of Butte had become one of the largest boomtowns in the American West.

By the time 18-year-old Florence arrived in 1891, ‘Butte City’ was home to hundreds of saloons and a notorious red-light district. Huge numbers came from Ireland and even today, Butte City is frequently referred to as ‘Ireland’s Fifth Province’. According to the historian David Emmons, author of ‘The Butte Irish: Class and Ethnicity in an American Mining Town, 1875-1925’ (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), the six most common Irish surnames in Butte between 1886 and 1914 were Sullivan, Harrington, Murphy, Kelly, Shea, and O’Neill. In 2008, the phone book contained over 100 listings for Sullivan as well as 43 for Shea and 32 for O’Neill. On-line message boards on Ancestry.com and such like are replete with descendants of Harringtons from Kerry whose forbears headed west across the Atlantic and headed, via Montana, to places like Michigan and Utah.

As Emmons concluded, “the Irish-born among Butte’s thousands of Irishmen were principally drawn from the idle copper mines of West Cork and from landless farm laborers and small farmers of the West of Ireland.’

One of Florence’s cousins, Peter Paul ‘Causkey’ Harrington, was a supervisor at the Anaconda Mine. And perhaps Florence was also related to John “The Yank” Harrington (1903-2004), a modern day icon of Butte City. John the Yank was born in Montana but raised in Co Cork by his grandmother after his father died young. He returned to Butte City in his 20s and was frequently to be found entertaining crowds with his button accordion.

 

 

Colorado & the Loughman Connection

 

It is not yet known how long Florence stayed in Montana or precisely where he worked. It seems that he later moved south to Colorado, possibly to the silver mines before that enterprise collapsed during the intense economic depression that befell the USA during the Panic of 1893.

Florence’s younger sister Julia Harrington (1873-1917) married a Tipperary emigrant called Michael Loughman and settled in Colorado at this time. She died in New Jersey aged 44 in 1917. Their daughter Mary (Loughman) Feser lived to be 101. Their son Bill Loughman (1897-1990), a lifelong bachelor, served in the army and was stationed in China in the 1930s where he used to patrol the rivers similar to the movie “Sandpebbles” with Steve McQueen. Bill almost married a Russian refugee from the Russian Civil War who was stranded in China.

It may be that Florence and Julia actually voyaged together to America. There is certainly much to be unravelled here for, in about 1904, Florence returned to Ireland, married Michael Loughman’s sister Molly and began to run the Loughman farm at Ballytarsna, Moycarkey, in the parish of Borris-on-Ossory, some 6 miles north east of the Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary. Ballytarsna was once owned by the Standish family who farmed on a large scale and owned a bleach green there, but sold up and moved to Canada in 1819. [8]

 

The Circle Of Life

 

At the time of the 1911 Census, Florence Harrington gave his address as Aughnagomaun, Ballysheehan, near Cashel, Co. Tipperary.’ [9] To the family, this was always known as Ballytarsna. The 35 years old stated that he had been married for seven years to 29-year-old Mary Loughman (Molly). He described his family as Catholics who could read and write, and who spoke both English and Irish. They had five children but two had died young, leaving them with six-year-old Josephine, five-year-old Daniel (known as Sonny) and a three-and-a-half year old toddler, William (known as Billy). Florence’s younger sister, 20-year-old Nora Harrington, also lived with them but of her we have no further knowledge. In time, Molly would give birth to another son, Florence, and four more daughters, Mary, Nancy, Kitty and Julia.

For every birth there is a death. Florence’s mother Johanna (McCarthy) Harrington died in 1910. In June 1914, the family learned of the death of Florence’s youngest brother, Jerry, aged 30. He had been working as a stevedore in San Francisco, so this may have been the result of an accident. Three years later, news arrived of Julia (Harrington) Loughman’s premature death aged 44 in New Jersey. After Florence’s death [when?], the farm at Ballytarsna passed to his eldest son, Florence, who married Mary Moloney. Their son Liam now lives at Ballytarsna while they also had two daughters, Mary Philomena (who died young) and Anne.

 

Josephine Harrington Butler (1906-c. 1998)

 

The boys and girls of the Gaile National School, where Josephine
Harrington was educated during the Great War. The schoolmaster, Michael Myers, is standing on the left.

Born in 1906, Florence and Molly’s daughter Josephine started her education at the Gaile National School shortly before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Established in 1900, the two-room school was located between Cashel and Thurles at the foot of Killough Hill. Clad in skirt and blouse, she sat at her inkwell desk and studied English, maths, history and geography as well as more practical subjects like singing, needlework, drawing and cooking. The school, with approximately 70 students at any one time, was presided over by Michael Myers.

During the Troubles, the teenaged Josephine Harrington is said to have ridden a bike carrying messages to and from rebel families. At this time, she was at school at the Ursuline Convent in Thurles, where her teachers included Josephine Ahearn. At about this time, Miss Ahearn married James MacNeill, a brother of Eoin McNeill and great-uncle of former Tánaiste Michael McDowell. James McNeill would go on to become Governor General of the Irish Free State, while his wife Josephine became President of the Irish Country Women’s Association and served as Ambassador to the Netherlands in Sean McBride’s coalition government of 1948. What makes the connection between the two Josephine’s particularly interesting is that, in 1963, the Irish Times refers to Mrs Josephine Sheehan (as Josephine Harrington was then known) as one of the committee members of the Irish Housewives Association, an off-shoot of the ICWA. [10]

The early 1930s was a hard decade for the Harringtons. Josephine’s brother Billy Harrington had gone to Rome to study for the priesthood at the Irish College under Monsignor Curran. He was six months short of being ordained when he contracted tuberculosis and died in 1932. That was the year de Valera’s government swept to power in perfect time to host the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.

Flor Butler, Josephine Sheehan (née Harrington, later Butler) and Thomas Butler on the latters’ wedding day.

Two years later, Josephine’s youngest sister Julia Harrington also contracted TB and died. That same year, Josephine was married, as his second wife, to Thomas J Butler of Ballyglasheen, County Tipperary. See his family history here. They had seven children, namely Essie, Mary Pat, Ita, Thomas (of whom we treat), Alice Mary, Sheila and Florence. After Thomas died in 1961, Josephine was married secondly to Tom Sheehan of Limerick. We don’t yet know what he did for a living but he died circa the early 70s. Josephine died circa 1998.

Josephine’s brother Dan – known as Sonny Harrington – seems to have moved to North America, but later returned to Tipperary where he died in 1968. Her younger sisters, Mary, Nancy and Kitty all moved to Dublin.

Mary married Pierce Maher and moved to Blackrock, Co. Dublin. They had four daughters, Mary (married to Jerr Barry), Anne (married to Peter O’Connor, mother of Stefan and Alison), Patricia (who perhaps lives in Canada?) and Joan (married to Bernard Costello, one son and four daughters). Nancy married John Hayes and had at least one daughter Marie. Kitty, the youngest, joined the Religious Sisters of Charity and became known as Sister Oteran. Her name perhaps recalls Mother Oteran of the Ursuline Convent in Waterford. Sister Oteran lived at St. Vincents, Elm Park, and died in 1992.

 

FURTHER READING

 

Books

 

  • Emmons, David, The Butte Irish: Class and Ethnicity in an American Mining Town, 1875-1925 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989)
  • Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 2 vols. (London, 1837; reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1984), Vol. I, 302.
  • O Riobard O’Dwyer, Who Were My Ancestors?, in four different volumes representing the parishes of Eyeries (1976), Allihies (1988), Castletownbere (1989), and
  • Bere Island (1989), all published by Stevens, Astoria, Illinois. Dwyer has traced the histories of over 14,000 people on the Beara Peninsula.
  • Somerville-Large, Peter, The Coast of West Cork (Appletree Press Ltd, 1998).
  • Tracy, Frank, If Those Trees Could Speak: the Story of An Ascendancy Family in Ireland (South Dublin Libraries, 2005)
  • Wallace, Robert, Farm Live Stock of Great Britain (Oliver and Boyd, 1923).

 

Articles

 

  • Hayton, David, Ruling Ireland, 1685-1742: politics, politicians and parties, Volume 1, Irish Historical Monographs (Boydell Press, 2004).
  • O’Halloran, Rev. W., Eyeries, West Cork, from Early Irish History and Antiquities and the History of West Cork (1916).
  • O’Neill, Timothy M., 19th century ADEire-Ireland: Journal of Irish Studies, Spring-Summer, 2001.
  • Williams, RA, The Berehaven Copper Mines – History of the Commercial, Social Life and Folklore of this Region (British Mining No.42).
  • Wilson, Professor James, ‘Kerry and Dexter Cattle’, from Volume One “Cattle” of the six volume Live Stock of the Farm, 1918

 

Maps & Indexes

 

  • Taylor and Skinner’s maps of the roads of Ireland surveyed in 1777 and corrected down to 1783 (1783)
  • Griffith’s Valuation is indexed by county and is shelved in the main reading room of the National Library of Ireland, Dublin.

 

Acknowledgments

 

With thanks to Grainne Butler, Seamus King (www.seamusjking.com), Liam O’Donoghue, Harry Cleeve, Melo Lenox Conyngham (Sec. of The Butler Society), Oisin Harrington, Grainne Harrington, Donie Harrington (www.milleens.net), Gerard Ryan (PRO, Tipperary County Board), Dolores O’Shea, Dr Des Marnane and Dr David Butler.

 

End-Notes

 

[1] Just to confuse matters, records show that a number of Harrington’s in the Cambro-Norman army that arrived with ‘Strongbow’ into Ireland in 1170. These Harringtons were awarded lands in Cork and Kerry.

[2] Riobard O’Dwyer, ‘Marathon list of tenant farmers in the Beara Peninsula, Co. Cork, + the Bonane District, Co. Kerry, in the 1820’s’.

[3] Somerville-Large, Peter, The Coast of West Cork (Appletree Press Ltd, 1998) p. 193.

[4] Nineteenth-century Ireland contained several copper-mining districts, two of which (Knockmahon in County Waterford and Avoca in County Wicklow) equalled or exceeded Allihies in both production and number of workers engaged

[5] Riobard O’Dwyer, quoting from Cecil Woodham-Smith’s “The Great Hunger”.

[6] The 1911 Census suggests 1875, www.milleens.net opts for 1872. It possibly amused him that, during his lifetime, there was a very successful stage actress in London who also went by the name of Florence Harrington.

[7] Eyeries, West Cork, from Early Irish History and Antiquities and the History of West Cork, by Rev. W. O’Halloran, published 1916.

[8] Ballytarsney Castle, a lofty square tower, ‘is said to have been built by a person named Hacket, who, according to tradition, was hanged by one of Cromwell’s generals, who had gained possession of it by treachery.’ (Lewis, 1837).

[9] BALLYSHEEHAN, a parish, in the barony of MID-DLETHIRD, county of TIPPERARY, and province of MUNSTER, 3 miles (N.) from Cashel; containing 3034 inhabitants. It is situated on the mail coach road from Dublin, by way of Cashel, to Cork, and comprises 8678 statute acres, of which 3657 are applotted under the tithe act and valued at £7118 per annum. There are about 150 acres of bog, producing a valuable supply of fuel, and 50 acres of woodland; the remainder is arable and pasture. New Park, the handsome seat of Matthew Pennefather, Esq., is pleasantly situated in a well-planted demesne of 960 statute acres; and Dually is the seat of J. Scully, Esq. Fairs are held on May 6th, Aug. 15th, and Dec. 5th; and a constabulary police force is stationed here. The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Cashel, and in the patronage of the Archbishop; the rectory is impropriate in S. Cooper, Esq. The tithes amount to £415. 7. 8 ¼., of which £265. 7. 8 ¼. is payable to the impropriator, and £150 to the vicar. There is neither church, glebe-house, nor glebe; the members of the Established Church attend divine service at Cashel and Ardmoyle. In the R. C. divisions this parish forms part of the union or district of Boherlahan; the chapel is a neat modern building. There are three pay schools, in which are about 140 boys and 90 girls. From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) by Samuel Lewis

[10] On 31 May 1963, Mrs Josephine Sheehan attended a talk at Mansion House by Gerald Bradley of the Irish Sugar Company. The lecture was called ‘Food Processing in Ireland” and was followed by ‘a colour film on making packaged instant potatoes’. When The Irish Times reported on the event next day, they noted that Josephine was on the committee of the Irish Housewives Association. (Irish Times, Saturday June 1, 1963, p.10). She retained this position in May 1964 (The Irish Times, Saturday, May 30, 1964).