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Ronaghan of Monaghan

Cover of the original document on which much of this report is based.

Some notes compiled by Turtle, with multiple assistance from the late Lorcan Ronaghan.




The Ronaghan family have been associated with County Monaghan for many long centuries, specifically with Oriel, an ancient kingdom that embraced Monaghan as well as parts of Tyrone, Armagh and Louth.

According to ‘The Surnames of Ireland’ by the eminent genealogist Edward MacLysaght, the name was variously spelled as Ronaghan, O Renahan and Ó Reannacháin. However, if you’re to take this genealogy sport seriously, then the list of alternative spellings must be elongated to include Runnahon, Runnahan, Ranaghan, Reneghan, Renihan, Rinaghan, Rinahan, Rinihan, Ranahan, Renehan and Renahan. The name apparently derives from the Irish word ‘reannach’, meaning either ‘sharp-pointed’ or ‘starry’, so take your pick …

MacLysaght pinpointed a John O’Renahan who was listed in the Hearth Money Rolls of 1663 as paying tax on a one-hearth home in the Fairtahy townland of Aughnamullen.

Of all those versions of the name, Ronaghan, Runnahon and Runnahan are the ones most closely associated with Oriel generally and the rural parish of Tyholland specifically. The family were certainly established in Tyholland by the late 18th century.

In 1796, a list of those awarded premiums for sowing flaxseed in Tyholland includes seven family members who received spinning wheels for each quarter acre of flax seed sown.[1] The most prominent was Alexander Runnahan of Tehallen who received 4 spinning wheels, while the Widow Runnahon received two and John, Patrick, Terence, Thomas and William Runnahon all received one.


Francis Ronaghan (c. 1740) of Carn


The earliest documented ancestor of the family was Francis Ronaghan who was born in about 1790. He was recorded in the Tithe Applotment Book of 1828 as living in Carn townland in Tyholland, near the Monaghan-Armagh border. He is thought to have been the father of four Ronaghan sons – John, Peter, Patrick and James.

He may have been connected to Philip Ronaghan, a Monaghan farmer, who took an oath of loyalty at the assizes in Monaghan town on 14 April 1779, thereby availing of the provisions of the Catholic Relief Acts. It is to be noted that James Barker, a Monaghan yarn merchant, took the oath on the same day. [2]


Ronaghan residences in Tyholland parish marked in yellow.


Peter Ronaghan I (c. 1821-1893)


Peter Ronaghan I was born in Carn in the early years of George IV’s ten-year reign, probably 1821 or 1822. He would have been a small boy when Daniel O’Connell secured Catholic Emancipation for Ireland in 1829. On 22 October 1838, the young farmer was married in St. Patrick’s Church, Tyholland, to 18-year-old Catherine Roache. The celebrant was Rev. Peter McMahon and the witnesses were John Roache and James Hughes. The banns were dispensed in Donagh by Fr. Moynagh and a sum of two shillings was paid for this dispensation.

Over the next 22 years, Peter and Catherine had seven sons and a daughter, namely Francis (born 1841), John (born 1842), Margaret (b. 1845), James (born 1847), Francis (born 1852), Peter (born 1855), Thomas (born 1858) and, although not yet confirmed, Michael (born 1860). Their firstborn son appears to have died young, possibly in connection to the Great Famine, as a second son was also christened Francis, recalling the name of Peter’s father.  Some details on these children can be found in Lorcan Ronaghan’s ‘Records of the Ronaghan Family of Carn Townland’, but it is worth noting that Margaret was married in 1868 to Francis Barks [Barka], a 22-year-old farmer, as it seems likely he was connected to the Barkey / Barker family also.

Royal Irish Constabulary helmet.

Also of note is Michael, the youngest son, whose family connection has not yet been verified. He joined the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1882 aged 21, on the recommendation of Sub-Inspector Thomas Murphy of Monaghan. The record suggests that Constable Michael Ronaghan (RIC 50112) had a brother James Ronaghan (RIC 50112) who enlisted on the same day and resigned ‘to emigrate’ on 13 June 1889.[3]  Michael served variously in Donegal and Tyrone. He got into some trouble in 1884 when he was ‘married without permission’ to Annie McArdle of County Monaghan, and there were further ‘unfavourable Records’ scored against his name in 1889 and 1890. He was based in Letterkenny from 1910 until pensioned off on 14 March 1919.[4]

On 21 January 1841, Peter Ronaghan I was back in Tyholland church to attend the double marriage of his brothers Patrick and James.[5] Peter actually stood as witness when the Rev. McMahon married Patrick to Margaret McCleary. It is perhaps notable that the other witness was a Miss B. Hughes, not least given the Hughes-Barkey alliance during the Tithe Wars, more of which anon. In the same service, James married Anne Barka of Tyholland; Owen Barka and a Bernard Ronaghan stood as witnesses. James and Anne had two sons, Laurence and Francis. Patrick and Margaret Ronaghan had four children, including twins.[6]

These were undoubtedly very hard times for anyone in Ireland and Tyholland parish in particular lost more than 37% of its population during the Great Famine to death and emigration.

Another tough era came in the late 1870s. The summer of 1877 was one of the worst in living memory. Relentless rain throughout August destroyed the oat crops and left potatoes rotting in the ground all across Ireland. The harvest of 1878 was also poor while that of 1879 was the worst since the Great Famine. Indeed, 1879 was the coldest and wettest year since records began. It rained for 125 days in the six months between March and September, or two out of every three days. By the close of 1879, the Irish peasantry had been stirred into action, aghast at reports of widespread evictions of small tenant farmers who owed perhaps two or three years of rent. The Irish National Land League was formed in October 1879 ‘to put an end to Rack-renting, Eviction and Landlord Oppression’. The Ronaghans would have been amongst those dealt the hardest blow by the dire weather and the severe economic crisis that accompanied it.

Ireland remained a complicated and economically uncertain country for much of the 1880s, an era which began with the Land Wars raging across the island and which was characterised by events such as the assassination of the Irish Chief Secretary in Phoenix Park, the collapse of Gladstone’s efforts to secure Home Rule for Ireland and the rise and fall of Charles Stewart Parnell.

Catherine Ronaghan (née Roache) died in Carn on 13 February 1882, aged 62. Peter survived her by just over a decade and passed away on 29 March 1893, at the age of 70. His 38-year-old son Peter was present at his death.


Carn in the Tithe Wars, 1831


Extract from ‘Exiles and Islanders: The Irish Settlers of Prince Edward Island’ by Brendan O’Grady (‪McGill-Queen’s Press – MQUP, 2004), which refers to one of the Barkeys and Hughes of Carn.

‘Monaghan historian D.C. Rushe describes what happened in 1831 when the proctors of Tyholland attempted to collect tithes that were owed to the rector, Mr Crookshank:

Large crowds assembled to resist the collection. The proctors were assailed by a crowd of people and fled for their lives through the country. The rector heard of it and sent for the police. There were only four men and a sergeant in a barrack which was then in Tyholland, and the sergeant wisely declined the invitation of Mr Crookshank to aid in collecting the tithe in the face of such an angry assemblage. A troop of dragoons and some police came out from Monaghan.
The people assembled in great crowds, most of them armed, on the hills, and there was general expectation of a real battle being fought. But the proctors could not be induced to continue their work even under such protection. This was the first resistance in this county, which was rapidly followed by similar scenes in several districts.

The following year more violence occurred at Aughnaseda when the rector of Monaghan sought to collect the tithe from John Hughes, a man whose family had been active in the insurrection of 1798. On that occasion, historian Rushe relates, Mr Hughes “declined to pay, and produced a printed document which he said was an order from the Grand Club [evidently a secret society] to pay no more tithe”:

John Hughes’ brother then came forward and shouted to a young man at some distance to sound the horn on Goudy’s Hill, which was forthwith done, and had the effect of gathering a crowd who abused and hunted [the two proctors,] Watson and Longmore. As soon as the news of this reached the town, the police and military were sent out to arrest the Hugheses, and Michael Hughes gave the authorities a race for his capture. Having run about a mile, hotly pursued by the police, he changed clothes with a young man named Barkey in Carn, who, being fresh and mistaken for Hughes, gave the police twice as severe a run through Tyholland for several hours, until at last he was surrounded and captured about Leitrim townlafi. The whole body of police and military brought Barkey a prisoner into Monaghan in great triumph. But, alas! on his being confronted with the proctors, the authorities were informed that they had caught the wrong man.’


Peter Ronaghan II (b. 1855)


Peter Ronaghan II.

Peter II, the sixth of Peter I and Catherine’s eight children, was born in 1855 and baptized in Carn on 21 May by the Rev. J. Mulligan. His sponsors were Francis McSkane and Bridget Duffy.

At about the time of his mothers’ death in 1882, Peter married Ellen Barkey (sometimes Barka or Barker) of Coolmuckbane, Tehallan, County Monaghan, with whose family the Ronaghans had various other family ties. She is presumably connected to Owen Barker who was listed under Tehallan on Griffiths Valuation of Ireland, and Francis Barker, otherwise Barky, of Urblekirk, County Monaghan, farmer, who died in July 1891.

Nine children followed, namely Mary Catherine (b. 1884), Ellen (b. 1885), James (b. 1886), Peter III (b. 1888), Francis (b. 1890), John (b. 1892), Elizabeth (Lizzie) (b. 1894), Eugene (b. 1896) and Maggie (b. 1898).  Details of these children can be found in Lorcan Ronaghan’s ‘Records of the Ronaghan Family of Carn Townland’.

Mary Catherine was recorded as a dressmaker on the 1911 census while the younger Ellen Ronaghan, a typist, was married in 1915 to Henry ‘Harry’ Hamill, a Monaghan compositor, with whom she was all set to emigrate to the USA.  As it happened, they never left but lived out their long lives on the North Road in Monaghan Town.

Lizzie Ronaghan was married in 1920 to James Gray, an egg merchant from Leitrim, Tyholland.

Eugene Ronaghan qualified as a pharmacist in 1926 and ran a practice on Parliament Street, Dublin, for some years before becoming manager of Sweeney’s Medical Hall, Glenties, County Donegal, which he ran until his death in 1953.[7]  This generation of the family also bring us neatly into the modern age as Francis Ronaghan, the third son, passed away at Coolmuckbane in January 1980, aged 90.

In ‘A Return of judicial rents fixed by Sub-Commissions and Civil Bill Courts, notified to Irish Land Commission’ in January 1890, ‘Peter Ronaghan, junior’ is noted as a tenant in Carn of landlord James M. Ross.[8] The Ross’s are thought to have lived at Liscarney, County Monaghan and James M Ross was a lieutenant colonel in the British army. In the 1940s, the Ross house and surrounding lands were purchased by Jimmy Ronaghan, son of John (born 1892) and a great-uncle of Nicola (Coveney), Peter and Andrew Ronaghan.

Ellen Ronaghan (née Barkey / Barker) died in Carn on 2 June 1943. We don’t yet have a date of death for Pater II; he predeceased Ellen by a number of years.


Peter Ronaghan III, M.P.S.I. (1888-1953)


Kathleen and Peter Ronaghan in 1928, possibly on their wedding day.

Peter III, the fourth child and second son of Peter II and Ellen, was born in Carn on 27 April 1888. He was named for his grandfather Peter I who was still alive during the boys’ first five years.[9] As a young man, he studied pharmacy at University College, 35 Wellington Place, Belfast.

On 15 May 1908, the County Down Spectator and Ulster Standard filed a report from J. Cherry, MA, the college president:

‘The many friends of Messrs. Peter Ronaghan, Monaghan (Guiler’s Medical Hall), and Mr. Kelly (M’Knight’s Medical Hall), Belfast, are pleased to learn that they both (the only candidates sent up from above College) passed flying Pharmaceutical Prelim. (April, ’08, Exam.)’

In 1918 he established the pharmacy on Church Square in Monaghan. Four years later, Mr. Peter Ronaghan, Ph.C, of The Medical Hall, Monaghan, was appointed dispenser to the Cavan and Monaghan District Lunatic Asylum.[10]

In about 1928, Peter III married Kathleen McElhill, who was born in about 1893. Kathleen’s father Sergeant John McElhill (RIC, 42708) was born in the townland of Bomacatall near Drumquin, County Tyrone.

Drumquin was a staging post for coaches and travellers journeying between Derry from Omagh during the 19th century and consequently flourished. John McElhill joined the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1877 at the age of 20. John, who measured 5 feet 9 inches, was sent to County Meath that summer and remained there until 1 November 1890 when he was transferred to Collon, County Louth. This followed his marriage on 27 May 1890 to Catherine Reilly, or O’Reilly, who grew up near Kells in County Meath.   John was promoted Acting-Sergeant on 1 October 1892, rising to Sergeant on 1 Jun 1895. He is later thought to have moved to Lurgans, near Carrickmacross, County Monaghan. He resigned in 1912 and moved with his family back to Drumquin.[11] As such, he was presumably much affected when a group from the Irish Republican Army attacked the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks in Drumquin on 26 August 1920, leaving one RIC constable and one IRA volunteer dead

The bust of Sir William Whitla on the wall of Whitla Hall, Queen’s University Belfast. His family formerly owned the pharmacy on The Diamond in Monaghan now owned by the Ronaghans. A strong unionist, Whitla was elected to parliament in 1918, serving until 1923 as representative of the Queen’s University at Westminster. He was appointed honorary physician to the king in Ireland in 1919 and was subsequently university pro-chancellor.

Peter III and Kathleen initially lived on Dublin Street in Monaghan where their son Peadar was born in 1929. They then moved to a house at the corner of Mill Street and the North Road where three further children were born, namely Marie Colette (born 1930, who married James Lynch), Lorcan (born 1933, who married Maire Redmond) and John Joseph (born 1937, who married Sally Duggan).

In 1939, Peter purchased a second shop on The Diamond in Monaghan, to which he moved with his young family, while simultaneously keeping the shop on Church Square running. The Pharmacy in the Diamond was previously owned by Sir William Whitla (1851-1933), a celebrated Irish physician who became physician to the Belfast Royal Hospital in 1882, a post he held there and in the Royal Victoria Hospital, its successor, until his retirement in 1918. The Sir William Whitla Hall at Queen’ University in Belfast was opened in 1949 and named after him.

Peter served as a Peace Commissioner in Monaghan during the 1920s and 1930s, and was an elected member of Monaghan Urban Council for a number of years in the 1920’s. In December 1950, he was appointed Compounder of Medicine under the Monaghan County Council.[12] He passed away in 1953.

Kathleen Ronaghan (née McElhill) passed away on 18 June 1987 at the age of 94.



Peadar Ronaghan IV, M.P.S.I. (1929-1991)


Ronaghan family photo with Peadar, Nicola, Peter, Eleanor and Andrew.

Eleanor Ronaghan, née Pelly.

Peter (Peadar) Anthony Ronaghan was born on Dublin Street, Monaghan, on 15 October 1929, nine days before the Wall Street Crash plunged the Western world into a ten year long economic depression.

Peadar married Eleanor Pelly, daughter of Mr and Mrs T.J. Pelly of Butterfield Crescent, Rathfarnham, County Dublin, with whom he had a daughter Nicola and two sons, Peter V and Andrew.

Peadar passed away in 1991. Eleanor survived him by over thirty years before her death in January 2023.


Lorcan Ronaghan (1933-2022)


Lorcan Ronaghan

Lorcan Ronaghan was the family historian and did much to help with this report. In the summer of 1967, he was married in St. Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan,  to Marie Redmond, D.Sc.I., daughter of Mr and Mrs. W. F. Redmond of Assumpta, Monaghan. The bridesmaids were Misses Patricia Redmond, Alice Redmond and Mary Kearney, while and the bestman was his brother, Peadar. They honeymooned in Scotland.

At the time of his wedding, Lorcan was chairman of Monaghan Tourist Association, as well as a newly-elected member of the Monaghan Urban Council. He and Marie were the parents of Declan, Tiarnach and Neal.  Lorcan resided at Drumcarn, Latlorcan, Monaghan Town, where he died on 14 June 2022. He had a funeral mass at St. Macartan’s Cathedral two days later.




With thanks to the late Lorcan Ronaghan, Andrew Ronaghan, Peter Ronaghan, Nicola Coveney, Neal Ronaghan, Jim Herlihy and Peter McGoldrick.



‘Mullaghmore and the Rose Estate’ by Timothy Belmont (2011)


The Rose estate included 25 townlands with a total of 2,688 acres. It was originally church lands, or termon lands, attached to St Dympna’s Church or Abbey.

The Gaelic system of land-holding was abolished in County Monaghan in 1591. The Tydavnet termon lands were allotted to John Connalon, parson, of Moynalty.

James Rose bought his lands from the Bishop of Clogher in 1821 for £20,000. Mr. Rose died in 1841 and was succeeded by his daughter, Gertrude, who ran the estate until her death in 1907.

When Gertrude Rose died the holding became the property of Sir Robert Anderson who used it as his country residence. He erected the entrance gates in 1910.

Anderson was born in 1837, son of James Anderson of Corbofin, County Monaghan. Sir Robert Anderson died in July 1921.

Mullaghmore then became the residence of Capt. S. R. Tufts. On the night of 24th January 1925 a disastrous fire swept through Mullaghmore House razing all but the servants’ wing and stable block behind.

The family were away visiting friends in County Tyrone and there were no servants in the house at the time. No cause for the fire was discovered.

The residence was demolished and the service wing fitted out to serve as a house. The house was bought by Luke Owens, school teacher, in 1928.

The Owens family sold the house in 1964 to Samuel Johnston who lived there until his death in July 1972.

It then passed by purchase to Danny Aughey who sold it on to Peadar Ronaghan later in the 1970s. The Ronaghan family continue to live there. Danny Aughey kept most of the land, about 120 acres. 

Land Owners in Ireland in 1876 lists Gertrude Rose as the owner of 3,943 acres with a valuation of £2,187.



(from The Northern Standard, January 1907)

“A gentleman who was for many years an intimate personal friend of Miss Rose, of Mullaghmore, whose lamented death we referred to in last week’s issue, has sent us the following interesting sketch:-

By the death of Miss Rose the neighbourhood of Monaghan has lost one of its most interesting inhabitants. She was a lady of many parts, of great initiative, ability, and kindness of heart, a sterling friend, and a good neighbour. She has left a void which cannot easily be filled. Coming into the property of Mullaghmore about 50 years ago, on the death of her uncle, she at once set herself to perform the duties of her position with zeal and devotion. We believe it was her first intention to sell the property, but the late Archbishop Temple, with whom she was on terms of intimate friendship, impressed upon her the duties of her position; so she retained the property and faced its duties with very high ideals which she ever kept before her and strive to realize. She was a young woman then*, and from that time, till now that she has been removed by death, she had devoted herself to the service of her people and the betterment of their condition.

Scotch by race, English by birth, French by education, she expressed the sterling qualities of each nation. She had the fixity of purpose, the unbending, uncompromising character of the one, — the ‘granite’, — (but ‘granite on fire’, as her friend Archbishop Temple** was described); the great common sense and love of justice of the other, and with this the graceful winning courtesy of the French. As soon as she came into the property, she built herself a home suitable to her position, and from that time till now, she has lived continuously amongst her people, ever influencing them, inspiring them by her example and sympathy. Improved farms, stock, tillage were brought about by her efforts, and on her ‘home-farm’, was to be seen some of the finest live stock in the north of Ireland.

But not merely in the material improvement of her tenants was Miss Rose interested. She built a large school***, and supplemented the teacher’s income, so that the children might have the benefit of a good education. In many ways was Miss Rose considerably before her time, and because of this, was likely to be misunderstood, but time has proved she was right. Around her, at Mullaghmore, she kept a large staff of employees, and on them she expended a wealth of devotion and care. Were they sick she attended them; and everything that her house contained, that would be for their good, was at their disposal. A doctor told us that 28 years ago, he first met Miss Rose. When he was a very young man, he was called upon to attend a herd(sman) in her farm yard, and by the patient’s bed-side, ministering to him, he met her. Since then the acquaintance casually made ripened into the closest friendship; and he found Miss Rose ever the same — ministering to the wants of others.  

How much will her social qualities be missed. Her house was ever open; she was the essence of hospitality. The friend and associate of the very highest in the land next Royalty; the friend and patron of the poor; the valued friend of many in the neighbourhood of Monaghan. Who will understand more fully their loss by experiencing it? 

Any remarks regarding Miss Rose would be imperfect that would omit noticing her intellectual capacity. She possessed mental powers of a high order. Hughly educated, she read books of a high class, and brought her mind to bear on the ethical and social problems that are agitating the thinking world of to-day. She was a delightful and instructive person to meet; and one always felt, whether one agreed with her conclusions or no, they were not formed without thought and consideration. She has gone to rest in a good old age, but we can ill spare her. It may be said of her — ‘She did her duty’.


Miss Rose was the daughter of Dr. Thomas Rose, a surgeon in the 2nd Life Guards, and she was the youngest of seven children, three of whom died in one week of diphtheria.”  (end of page)

*Gertrude Rose was 21 when she inherited the estate from her uncle in March 1849.

**Archbishop Frederick Temple, who died four years before Gertrude Rose, was Archbishop of Canterbury 1896-1902 and had been a chaplain-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria.




Northern Whig – Tuesday 27 January 1925

‘The sun was setting around Bragan as a crowd of over fifty people gathered at the former National School at Cornagilta, a few miles from Tydavnet, for an evening devoted to the history of what was once part of the Rose estate. Since 2001 when the late Canon Jackie Gilsenan was Parish Priest of Tydavnet, a group of locals has been working hard to preserve the building, which has some interesting stonework features, particularly at the entrance.

The small rural school was one of a number in the parish, which includes Scotstown (Urbleshanny), Knockatallon, Ballinode and Tydavnet, where the old school has already been restored and now serves as a community centre. Among the visitors was the former GAA President and former Principal at Urbleshanny NS, Seán McCague from Scotstown. A former teacher and a number of former Cornagilta pupils gathered to listen to one of their own, Patsy Brady, describe the history of the school.

The records show that the school opened on July 9th 1912 with a total of 68 pupils: 36 boys and 32 girls. It was closed in June 1984, when the roll call had reduced to 28 children. Over a 72 year period, 671 attended classes there, 351 boys and 320 girls. An important contribution to education in North Monaghan. In view of our visit there with the William Carleton Society in August 2011 during the summer school, I was interested to heard Patsy refer to a hedge school being run nearby in the 1820s.

Patsy described the different Masters who had run the school. They included Master (Brian) Deery, who was there from 1967 to 1978. The first was Master Luke Owens who later took over as Master at Barritatoppy school, also in the parish. In 1928 he moved into what was the service wing of Mullaghmore House between Tydavnet and Scotstown. I remember visiting Mullaghmore with a group from the Clogher Historical Society that include his son, the late Dr Cahal Owens from Clonskeagh in Dublin. He also came to Cornagilta on the same occasion, where Brian Deery was there to open the school door once again.

The original house was demolished after being destroyed in a fire on 24th January 1925. Those at the talk recalled how some local people then children remember seeing the flames in the distance as the large house burned (it was not a “castle”, as some described it). In a useful article about the property, a fellow blogger Timothy Belmont has a description of the fire and more information about the owners of the house, now the property of the Ronaghans.

The fire razed all but the servants’ wing and the stable block behind. The family (Captain S.R. Tufts) were away visiting friends in County Tyrone and there were no servants in  the house at the time. No cause for the fire was discovered. Previously the house was owned by Sir Robert Anderson, a Belfast businessman and founder of the Anderson & McAuley store in 1861, who had acquired Mullaghmore on the death in January 1907 of Gertrude Rose. 

Gertrude became the landlord after her uncle James Rose died in 1841 and on reaching 21 in 1849 she inherited the holding of 2810 acres, which comprised 21 townlands. Her relative had bought the lands from the Bishop of Clogher for £20,000 in 1821. The list of townlands was discovered by Theo McMahon in a letter to the new owner written around the late 1840s by an agent in the estate. It was part of the records of a “defunct estate” that were about to be disposed of in Monaghan a number of years ago, when Theo stepped in at a fortuitous moment and rescued the documentation.

The same letter gives Gertrude, who was then quite young, some advice on how to proceed. Better to get people to work, the writer advised, at a time when tenants had great difficulty paying rents, arising from the famine. Gertrude Rose ensured that a school was built at Cornagilta in 1859, using the locally quarried limestone and sandstone. In the early 1900s the building was closed and for a time was used for storing grain. Gertrude was a progressive and forward thinking landlord. For more details see Theo McMahon’s article on the Rose estate in the Clogher Record Vol. 18, No. 2  (2004), pp. 218-256. Theo’s talk was introduced by Grace Moloney of the Clogher Historical Society.’




‘Patsy Brady from Tydavnet in County Monaghan has literally uncovered the answer to something that has puzzled local historians for decades. Patsy has been researching the story of the former Cornagilta National School, with which three generations of his family including himself are linked. His eventual ambition is to turn the building with its unusually decorated entrance into a heritage museum for the parish, returning it to its original role as a centre of learning. It is the oldest public building left standing with a connection to the Monaghan estate of Gertrude Rose, who inherited it from an uncle in March 1849 on turning 21 and who was the subject of a talk last month by Patsy. The demesne contained 21 townlands and covered 2810 acres.

During a visit to the building by members of the William Carleton Society in August 2011 some members of the group noticed the biblical inscription on the stone tablet above the entrance door, taken from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Chapter IV, verse 8. They also saw that immediately underneath it was a recess in the stone and one of them wondered whether there had ever been another inscription in this space. Well now we know, thanks to the detective work of Patsy. He says he was taking part in the national clean-up day in February and had gone to the recycling centre at Scotch Corner with some rubbish. On his return journey to Tydavnet he went to look at the grave of Gertrude Rose in the graveyard at St Dymphna’s Church of Ireland church in Ballinode, not far from Mullaghmore House where she used to live.

As the audience at Cornagilta school listened intently wondering where the story would lead to, Patsy explained that he saw a slab lying half concealed on top of the gravestone and wondered about its dimensions. He went home for a measuring tape and when he checked them, 31.5″ x 5″, he discovered that this matched exactly the gap in the stone immediately above the school door lintel. He brought the slab to a local company, Murray fireplaces, to get it cleaned. The inscription on it reads: “SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF / MARY ANN ROSE, DIED NOV.18 1857″. Here was proof that the school had been dedicated by Rose to the memory of her late mother.  The school was built and opened in 1859 to provide for the education of local children.

So a great mystery has been solved and an important step has been taken by the local heritage committee in the preservation of Cornagilta school, a process first encouraged by the late Canon Jackie Gilsenan in 1992. There is however still one important question: who removed the plaque and when? One theory is that a local priest might have encouraged its removal and transfer to the graveyard some time after the death of Gertrude Rose in 1907.’




Ronaghan’s Pharmacy, Monaghan.

[1]Flax Growers of Ireland, 1796 – County Monaghan.’ Among the small industries found in eighteenth-century County Monaghan, historian D.C. Rushe includes linen manufacturing, tobacco manufacturing, tanning, brewing, and distilling; and among the tradesmen and craftsmen he lists shoemakers, hatters, dressmakers, tailors, dyers and specialists in manufacture of wigs and bonnets.

[2] Catholic Qualification Rolls Index.

[3] JAMES RONAGHAN (1847-1907)

James Ronaghan, the fourth of Peter I and Catherine’s eight children, was born in 1847 and baptised in Tyholland on 14 July 1847 by the Rev. James Forde. His sponsors were Arthur Davidson and Rose Renahan. James’ oldest brother Francis died at about this time and his other older brother John may also have passed away as a child. As such, he was most likely paired up as a child with his sister Margaret who would later marry the farmer Francis Barks.

Although the date of his marriage is not yet known, James wed Mary O’Hara of Tamlat, Tyholland, who, born in about 1862, was approximately 12 years his junior. Incidentally, 1862 is a date that sticks with me because Statia Kealy, one of the people we interviewed for the Vanishing Ireland project, was the daughter of a woman who was born in 1862. History can play tricks with you like that. Statia’s mother happened to be 41 when Statia was born, and Statia was 104 years old when I interviewed her, but the point is that sometimes these long distant ancestors are not quite so far away as we might think.

In the 1901 census, James and Mary were recorded as living on their farm in Carn with their two sons Bernard, aged 12, and Edward, aged 6, as well as their 10-year-old daughter Kathleen and a 70-year-old bachelor cousin, James McCleary.

James Ronaghan died at Carn on 4 July 1907; 18-year-old Bernard was present at his death. Three years later, poor Bernard was also present when his mother passed away on 16 February 1910.

James and Mary had four sons Peter (born 1882), Thomas (born 1884), Bernard (born 1888) and Edward (born 1894), and two daughters Mary Ellen (born 1886) and Catherine (born 1890).

[4] RIC Records via Peter McGoldrick: Michael Ronaghan 50113. Joined 28 Aug 1882 aged 21; height 5′ 8″; from Monaghan. First allocated Donegal 27 Mar 1883; Tyrone 19 May 1887; Donegal 15 May 1891. Married without permission 26 Nov 1884 a woman from Monaghan with connections in Louth. This marriage noted as ‘Reg’d with effect from 1 Oct 1914). Jubilee Record 29 Jun 1889. Unfavourable Records 15 Mar 1889; 20 Oct 1890 (marrying without leave). Pensioned 14 Mar 1919 from Letterkenny, Ref HO184/26. He was certainly in Letterkenny No 2 RIC Barracks from 1910 to the end of his service (and in Letterkenny from 1901 census too); in 1910 he is noted as being ‘Single’ this changes to Married by 1916.  The census returns though show him as married.

[5] Peter I is also thought to have had an older brother John who married Mary McPike (McPeake) from Crumlin, Tyholland, with whom he had a son Thomas, born 1835, and Ellen, born 1839.

[6] Patrick and Margaret Ronaghan had a daughter Mary in 1842, another daughter Anne in 1843 and then twins Thomas and Ellen in 1845.

[7]  RONAGHAN. — At Glenties, co. Donegal, Eire, Mr. Eugene Ronaghan, M.P.S.I., on March 21, suddenly. Mr. Ronaghan, who qualified in April 1926, was manager of Sweeney’s Medical Hall, Glenties. For some years after qualifying he had carried on a pharmaceutical practice of his own at Parliament Street, Dublin, which he later disposed of to Mr. F. J. Barragry, M.P.S.I. Mr. Ronaghan was a brother of Mr. Peter Ronaghan, M.P.S.I., and uncle of Mr. Peter A. Ronaghan, M.P.S.I., Church Square, Monaghan. He was unmarried.” (The Chemist and Druggist , London, March 28, 1953).

[8] See

[9] It’s possible he was the 22-year-old student listed as a resident of Auburn Street in Belfast on the 1911 census although that Peter Ronaghan was apparently born in County Donegal. See

[10] Chemist and Druggist: The Newsweekly for Pharmacy, 1922.

[11] RIC Records via Peter McGoldrick:

John McElhill 42708

Joined 8 Jan 1877 aged 20y 5m; height 5′ 9″; from Tyrone. First allocated Co Meath 31 Aug 1877, then Co. Louth from 1 Nov 1890. Promoted Act-Sgt 1 Oct 1892, Sgt 1 Jun 1895.  Married a woman from Meath 27 May 1890 (cause of his transfer to Louth). Jubilee Record 29 Jun 1889; Class II HYS 3 May 1888 No mention of when he retired. Ref HO184/22

[12] The Irish Times, 18 December 1950.