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NOTE: There are dates beside many of the names of people mentioned in this tale. This is awkward, but otherwise it is impossible to know who is who. Many of them share the exact same name.

I am beyond grateful for the work done by Wendy Jack on the history of Cavananore leases. It is no exaggeration to say that this piece would not only have been quite inaccurate but also absolutely impossible without her assistance.

Since the JACKSON family often referred to this story as if it were a Shakespearian drama, I have presented it in that form with a Prologue followed by Five Acts and an Epilogue.

NOTE: There are likely a few errors in this piece and I rely on the kindness of readers to set me straight.

Sharon Oddie Brown, May 12, 2010
SEE ALSO: Cavananore








It is beyond easy to misconstrue many aspects of the legal battles for Cavananore. Trust me – I can plead guilty on this score. The letters of my great-great-grandmother Eliza OLIVER (1815-1903) had initially lead me to think that this was a battle between families – a sort of Hatfield and McCoy kind of thing. Also leading me down the wrong path was a scrap of paper I had found at Gilford Castle scribbled by some long ago OLIVER alleging that Thomas and Jos McCullagh did their sister out of her place by Mullingar[1]. This sister they referred to would have been Elizabeth JACKSON née McCULLAGH (1788-1880), my g-g-g-grandmother and mother-in-law of our opinionated letter-writer Eliza OLIVER. If that were not enough, another Thomas McCULLAGH (1793-1877), who was a cousin of the Eliza McCULLAGH who was supposedly done out of her land, had his character immortalized by an unnamed OLIVER (possibly the same one): If he swallowed a ten-penny nail it would come out a corkscrew.


Gossip aside, I am grateful that a far flung “cousin” from Australia - Wendy Jack - reminded me that: ... the lifelong friendship between two of Eliza (Oliver) Jackson's daughters (Mary & Margaret) and Thomas (Corkscrew) McC's daughter Sarah, and also the marriage of Margaret (Jackson) Reed and Andrew McCullagh both indicate that this wasn't a feud between families as such, but merely between some individuals within the families. This makes sense. After all, Eliza OLIVER (1815-1903) and David JACKSON (1814-1889) celebrated their wedding in 1838 at the Derryvalley home of another McCULLAGH – named of course, Thomas (1765-1849). This one was the father of the aforementioned “Corkscrew”.


So where did this all this JACKSON, BIRCH, BRADFORD, COULTER, McCULLAGH fight to keep the lands of Cavananore begin? Amy Oliver JACKSON (1874-1962), a daughter of Sir Thomas JACKSON, summed up the beginnings of the family attachment to the land in a nutshell:


Cavananore (Round Hill of Gold) was granted to the Coulters after the Battle of the Boyne [1690] - from there to twin Bradfords, and then to Sir Thomas Jackson.


That makes it all sound so simple to track down, but it is anything but. Over and above the obvious bias of some documents and the absence of others, there is also the frequent recycling of names to contend with. Imagine this as a pinball machine game. Not only do you need to keep your eye on the ball but also on the ever-changing cast of players – and there was more than one Thomas McCULLAGH, Samuel COULTER and Samuel BRADFORD. Just to keep us on our toes, there are at least three Thomas McCULLAGHs in every generation and not one of them sports a middle name to help us clarify who is who. The consolation is that at least some of these characters are fascinating.


The earliest COULTER lease that I have which mentions Cavananore is from 1734 and refers to the Hon John Lord BELLEW (1702-1770) as a previous owner of neighbouring Annaghavackey. This lease is also the earliest mention that I have of a Samuel COULTER (born abt 1690). Although none of us have been able find a record of probate or administration for this particular Samuel COULTER, this is not surprising.  John Grenham's Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, notes "None of the Consistorial Courts had comprehensive records of all of the wills and administrations they dealt with. There was very little information earlier than the seventeenth century, and the majority of the Courts appear to have had serious gaps in their records before the mid-eighteenth century." The reason that we have had even the limited success that we have had is thanks to the various family members, scattered all over the world, who have contributed documents that had ended up with their particular branch of the family.


A later Cavananore lease dated 1779 references an earlier undated lease involving Right Honble Elizabeth Dowager Boyne[2]. She was Elizabeth HADLEY the first wife of Frederick HAMILTON, 3rd Viscount Boyne (1718-1772). Frederick was the son of Hon Gustavus HAMILTON and Dorothea BELLEW[3]. When he married in 1737 at age 19, it was just four years after his father had died[4] and his guardian tried to overturn this marriage.  After all, Elizabeth - a daughter of Benjamin HADLEY[5] a blacksmith from Tullamore, Kings County - was clearly not of their social standing. In spite of Frederick’s later efforts to have the marriage “set aside” and in spite of a second marriage which he entered into while Elizabeth was still alive, Elizabeth HADLEY became known as Viscountess Boyne on 20 April 1746. There is no record of children from her marriage, although there were several children resulting from Frederick’s second “marriage”.


One other interesting bit of language in this 1779 deed is the reference to the “one undivided third part”. In the mid-1800s, many of the lands of the Parish of Creggan were held by the tripartite indivisible holdings of the JONES HAMILTON and TIPPING estate. I would suspect that this meant that the Dowager Boyne held a lease to Cavananore along with two other parties – likely the ancestors of the owners of this estate. It may be that SIBTHORPE was a middleman here, but without seeing the Dowager’s lease, I can’t yet say.


[NOTE: There are more other documents that I have yet to find and I have more questions than answers when it comes to the early leases of Cavananore. Since it was already being leased to Thomas & Samuel BRADFORD in 1779 by Robert SIBTHORPE, there may be an earlier HAMILTON-SIBTHORPE lease. Was SIBTHORPE a sort of middleman or was he involved in this as a result of family connections? After all, his daughter Jane SIBTHORPE married a Trevor STANNUS and one of their sons married Caroline HAMILTON. Also, did anything concerning Cavananore change after the death of firstly Frederick HAMILTON in 1772 and then Elizabeth HAMILTON? The lease for Cavananore might have reverted either to one of Frederick HAMILTON’s relations or else to one of his posthumously legitimized heirs[6]. These 18th century  HAMILTON leases will likely be a good place to nail down the earlier family connections to Cavananore. After all, until the late 1800s the various family COULTER and BRADFORD family members for the most part were not owners of Cavananore– merely lessees.]



Thomas BRADFORD (abt 1739-1790), the twin that Amy JACKSON mentioned, was the husband of Elizabeth BREAKEY (1758-1844). Her mother Elizabeth BIRCH (1733-1812) had two marriages: firstly to William BREAKEY (1712-bef 1760) and then secondly to Alexander GILMORE aka GILLMER(1735-1773). What is equally significant when we follow the early struggles over Cavananore is that she was also a half sister to the Rev. Thomas Ledlie BIRCH (1755-1828) – known to his detractors as Blubbering Birch. In 1799, BIRCH was preparing to flee Ireland in the aftermath of the failed United Irishmen uprising in the previous year. His brother, George, had arranged a plea bargain which protected him from being hung and he was understandably anxious to wrap things up ASAP. In this aspect, he was also most likely focussed on protecting the interests of his half sister’s daughter. The JACKSONs were equally determined to stand in his way. In a letter dated February 16, 1799, the Dublin lawyer George JACKSON (abt. 1744-abt. 1820) advised his nineteen year old nephew John JACKSON (1780-1817) I think your Mother need not shew Mrs. Coulters[7] will until Birch leaves the Country. He also warned that your friends in Cavananore seem very anxious to get Joe Coulter’s[8]  property into their Clutches.


It is already clear that by 1799, the paper trail of Cavananore had become complicated and a source of family division. Young Johnny’s uncle George counselled him further:


In Order to enable me to leave a full Case before Counl you must send me a true copy of your Uncle John Coulter’s will also a Copy of your Grandfather Bradfords Will and a Copy of Mrs. Coulters Will all of wch must be carefully compared with the Orig:ls to prevent any Mistakes as a few words either – Omitted or Incerted wch the Originals do not contain might Materially Alter the Meaning for wch reason they must be perfectly correct --- You must also let me know whether your Uncle Tom Bradford renounced the burthen of the Execution of your Uncle John Coulters will – I already know that your Aunt Betty [aka BIRCH’s niece] obtained Administration to your Uncle Tom however this is a Question of Great Nicety and Will take some time to give it that consideration which it requires. But if your Mother wishes to have proper advice on the Subject and that I shall be furnished with the proper Documts I shall State a Case in the best manner in my power & get her the best legal Advice that can be had here, but if she is Satisfied to Comply with Mr. Birch and his friends demands relative to the Property no advice will be necessary – My reason for writing to you sometime ago relative to Mrs. Coulters will was that I forsaw that your Aunt Betty’s friends wd be making the enquiries wch have taken place & I thought it best to put you & your Mother on your Guard ag:st them.


Translation: We need to have a complete paper trail nailed down here. Be careful. These relations may have a winnable case against us.


Setting the stage for this part of the battle for control of Cavananore was a series of recent deaths. Young Johnny’s Grandfather, John BRADFORD died in 1789 and then his wife Barbara COULTER died in 1795. His uncle Thomas BRADFORD died in 1790. The John COULTER who was mentioned by George JACKSON was actually a great uncle not an uncle. He died in 1774 and his wife, Martha died in 1791. Their son Joseph was mentally incapacitated and had been under the care of the JACKSONs. He died sometime 1791-1799. Seemingly he had no issue and probably did not regain his mental faculties, so his interest in Cavananore would have gone to the three trustees: Thomas BRADFORD, Samuel BRADFORD and David JACKSON. As a consequence, each of them would have had one-third of the original holding of Cavananore.


So, back to the pinball image: 1789. PING. 1795. PING. 1790. PING. And so on. The Thomas BRADFORD who was the late husband of Elizabeth BIRCH had also been the executor for the wills of both John and Martha COULTER. Not only would he have known where the legal bodies lay but his wife Elizabeth would have been in a good position to buttress her case with original documents and possibly other documents such as family correspondence that might have been unknown to the JACKSONs.


Fast forward now to 1817 when the young Johnny mentioned in the 1799 correspondence died at age 37 and left a 29 year old widow with four children to raise. The eldest was only six years old and the youngest was actually baptised on the day of his demise. James and Thomas McCULLAGH, brothers of the widow, still owed her £143.10.5 as a share of their mother’s legacy. The fact that this was due by civil decree would indicate that it may have had to be  enforced by a court order. Who knows what that was about? Another of the Cavananore families from the earlier rounds of the pinball game also owed the young widow money.  The £135.14.4 that Samuel BRADFORD (1739-1818) owed was actually part of the legacy that had been pledged to young Johnny’s father David JACKSON (abt, 1743-1796) by Martha COULTER for the care of her mentally handicapped adult son, Joseph.


There is one other curious detail in all this. John JACKSON & Elizabeth McCULLAGH were married in 1811 but their marriage wasn’t recorded in the Registry of Deeds in Dublin until 33 years later in 1844. This is unusual. It may or may not be a coincidence that this was also the year that David JACKSON (their son) seemed to have decamped lock, stock and barrel from Co. Leitrim to Urker. Why? I don’t know. My suspicions about why the marriage was registered at that late date are that it may have been connected to issues with a land lease in Co. Leitrim held by JACKSON and the attempt (probably unsuccessful) to hold on to it.



In 1847 when Andrew Coulter BRADFORD (1788-1847) a 1st cousin of John JACKSON (1780-1817) died at age 59, he triggered a chain of events that would echo well into the 20th Century. In 1811 at the young age of 23, he had been one of the trustees appointed for the marriage settlement of John JACKSON and Elizabeth McCULLAGH (1788-1880). His youthful age may seem unusual but with his father dead he was the only male left in the family. Also, not only was he a 1st cousin to JACKSON but thanks to the family’s habit of frequent intermarriage his sister Mary was married to Thomas McCULLAGH (1786-1849), one of the brothers of Elizabeth. If you can’t follow that, don’t worry. What matters at this stage of the tale is that the 59 year old Andrew died unmarried and “without issue” (as they say) and appointed three of his friends to be his executors:


  • James Birch GILLMER (1808-1877) of Mayfield, Co. Down (grandson of Elizabeth BIRCH and grand-nephew of Thomas Ledlie BIRCH both mentioned in 1799). NOTE: He was closely connected to the JACKSONs. In 1818, a letter addressed to him had the address: Urker. This was the residence of the recently widowed Eliza JACKSON.
  • Thomas “Corkscrew” McCULLOGH (1793-1877) of Dunraymond and later Derrivalley Co. Monaghan, a 1st cousin of the young widow, Elizabeth JACKSON.
  • William CHARLETON (1798-1875) of Phillipstown, Co. Louth (his ancestry was tied in to DONALDSON and BAILIE families who were in turn all related to JACKSONs).


In Andrew’s will there was a flock of phrases detailing “if this, then that” – enough to make anyone’s eyes glaze over. In his defence, it seems that he was trying to protect the interests of his female relations. As it turned out, the ongoing finagling of at least two of his trustees defeated some of what he had intended. Some of the legatees were well protected. Some not so well. The subsequent wheeling and dealing and quarrelling became so complicated, that I would totally understand it if the following is beyond comprehension to many readers. I can barely follow it myself.


For starters, the three trustees were to set, let, and demise, the same and every part thereof to Solvent Tenant or Tenants … at the best rents which can be had for and out of the same for any terms or times not exceeding twenty one years. They were also expected to pay all taxes and to keep the whole show running as profitably as possible so that all the legacies could continue to be honoured. These two parts seem simple enough. For the rest of it, we almost need a diagram, so please feel free to skip this part if you want to cut to the chase. The other provisions included:


  • His trustees were to manage his share of the lands of Rochdale, Cavananore, Dungooley and his full share of Tullyvallen. They were not to be rented to his three nephews: William OLIVER (Abt. 1810-1873); David JACKSON (1814-1889) and Andrew OLIVER (1818-1877).
  • Out of the rents, they were to pay all taxes and other charges and also make improvements so the land would be as productive as possible in order to keep up and preserve the perpetual estates. Out of this, they were also to pay the following legacies:
  • £50 a year to his sister Barbara DONALDSON (1783-1865)[9] and after her death, this £50 a year to be split between nieces Eliza DONALDSON (1806-1851) & Mary Jane OLIVER (1821-1875); and after their deaths, £50 annuity to nephew Thomas OLIVER (Abt. 1812-1867) of Killynure and after his death (if childless), then £ to go to his brother William OLIVER (Abt. 1810-1873);. Then if William died, £50 a year to the daughters of Sally McCULLAGH (1816-1857). She was his niece and was also the wife of one of his trustees, Thomas McCULLAGH (1793-1877).
  • £30 to his niece Eliza JACKSON née OLIVER (1815-1903) - and it was noted that this money was to be protected from her husband’s debts or engagements - and after her death in equal sums to her daughters.
  • £20 to be paid to Anne HANNA (1822-1891) the wife of Andrew OLIVER (1818-1877), brother of Eliza and another of Andrew’s nephews. On her death, then to be distributed to her daughters (NOTE: She outlived them all – but George NORRIS (1865-1935), the husband of Martha Eliza OLIVER (1844-1872) was included in the Trustees distributions in 1925-1931).
  • £50 to his sister Margaret BRADFORD (1786-1874) and after her death to Eliza DONALDSON (1806-1851) & Mary Jane OLIVER (1821-1875)  and after their deaths the money to go to “nephew” (actually a grand-nephew) Andrew Coulter Bradford JACKSON (1846-1929).
  • £30 to Mary Jane OLIVER (1821-1875) and on her death to her sister Eliza JACKSON née OLIVER (1815-1903).
  • £4/annum to his faithful servant Cormack ROONEY as well as the house he was living in the house that Michael QUIN had been living in along with gardens belonging to the two houses.
  • £2/annum to one of his labourers, Thomas McKEOWN.
  • £4/per annum to friend James TIPPING
  • Interest on £1100 on debt owed by Thomas “Corkscrew” McCULLAGH (1793-1877) to his wife Sally McCULLAGH (1816-1857).
  • £200 to a Thomas BRADFORD[10] of Drumrule, Co. Monaghan and now of Philadelphia.
  • £100 to be paid to the daughter of Trustee James Birch GILLMER (1808-1877), Isabella Mills GILLMER aka GILMORE (1840-?).
  • And then everything that he hadn’t mentioned to his sister Margaret BRADFORD (1786-1874) and niece Mary Jane OLIVER (1821-1875).

The pinball game gets a little harder to follow when people keep dying without surviving issue. After Barbara’s death, her share in the will was to be split between her daughter Eliza and Andrew’s niece Mary Jane OLIVER. But her childless daughter predeceased her and Mary Jane also died childless. So did the next in line, Thomas OLIVER. So did the next in line, his brother William OLIVER. There were also some unresolved legal issues arising out of the 1831 death of Benjamin OLIVER, the father of these two OLIVERs. Their brother Andrew felt hard done by and since Andrew Coulter BRADFORD had been one of the trustees of that set of arrangements some of that continued to carry emotional if not strictly legal reverberations.


Curiously, there didn’t seem to be much concern over potential conflict of interest when it came to some aspects of how things were set out in the will. For example, the will stipulated that the interest on Thomas McCULLAGH’s £1100 debt was to be paid to the other two trustees CHARLETON and GILLMER for the use of trustee McCULLAGH’s wife, Sally. Barbara DONALDSON née BRADFORD engaged a lawyer in 1850 to seek clarity about whose interests held the trump card here and was told that this part was not a huge concern.  It is however suspicious that shortly after the death of Andrew in 1847, William CHARLETON refused to act as trustee. There is no record of why. Then it seemed that he changed his mind and he was back on board. Same with McCULLAGH. Off again, on again. It would seem that something was amiss. At one point, GILLMER was the sole acting trustee[11].


Wendy Jack points out that things were probably not as awry as Eliza JACKSON’s letters on such topics might have us believe. The will makes it clear where the money for each of these bequests was to come from, and the legal advice sought by Barbara Donaldson confirms that the income from one source could not be applied to a different bequest. So although it may have rankled some of the annuitants, if Sarah McCullagh arranged for the interest payments on her husband's debt to be purely a paper transaction, that was between Sarah & the trustees & in no way impacted on the annuities. As for the principal of the debt, that would go in equal shares to Margaret Bradford & Mary Jane Oliver as residuary legatees. Margaret's will of 1859 (proved in 1874) shows that Thomas still owed her £300 at that time, and when Mary Jane died in 1875 Thomas still owed her £100, so it would appear that this debt was being repaid. Both women willed this debt & interest to children of Thomas.


All that being true, it is also understandable that Barbara would have been wary enough to want to engage legal counsel. At the time of his death, her brother Andrew had been living with their sister Margaret and niece Mary Jane OLIVER. In the guise of caring for these two spinsters, GILLMER (who at that time was the sole acting trustee) ignored the stipulations about disposing of the furniture and farm implements and renting the place out at the highest rates possible in order to fund the various legacies.  Since GILLMER lived about 30 miles away, it probably made sense for him to leave the women to manage the day to day needs of the farm and house. Compassionate reasons may also have come into play – the desire not to turf out the two unmarried women. After all, they were supported by the produce from the land. For reasons that are less clear, he also made sure that McCULLAGH had no say in much of this.


Even so, allowing the women to enjoy the use of the property (instead of liquidating it and paying out the legacies) was clearly a breach of trust. Part of the consequences of this choice by GILLMER at al was described by the legal counsel retained by Barbara DONALDSON in 1850: The stock & crop &c on the lands at the time of Mr. Bradfords death were estimated at the lowest worth £500d but from bad management it is not probable that the full value was realized and the stock now on the lands is by no means equal in quantity or quality to what it was then. This was the reason that Barbara DONALDSON had only received £33.17.1 for two years worth of her annuity rather than the £100 that was her due. Her legal advice also refers to the fact that there had been an offer of a rent of £200 that had been refused.  Since the rents were to fund the legacies, it probably rankled that they ended up being underfunded while the interest on the £1100 loan kept being paid regular as clockwork to the wife of trustee McCULLAGH’s wife. This is probably part of what got Eliza OLIVER’s dander up as it would not be surprising if payments to other legatees were also being given short shrift. In spite of this, there is no record that Barbara went the full distance in terms of legal action – nor did Eliza.



After the 1847 death of Andrew Coulter BRADFORD,  a new set of deaths laid the ground for the next act in this drama, later characterized by Eliza JACKSON as Loves Labours Lost:


  1. Barbara DONALDSON’s only child Eliza DONALDSON died unmarried in Dublin sometime before her will was probated in 1851.
  2. Barbara DONALDSON née BRADFORD died in 1865. Thomas OLIVER and Mary Jane OLIVER were her trustees. The largest bequest was for £500 was to be invested by her trustees for the benefit of Eliza JACKSON née OLIVER.
  3. Thomas OLIVER died unmarried in 1867. Probate was granted to his brother William.
  4. William OLIVER died unmarried in 1873. William COUSER & William MENARY (husband of niece Mary JACKSON) were executors. In 1874, his brother Andrew OLIVER launched a lawsuit over William’s will (letter Oct 15, 1874).
  5. Margaret BRADFORD died unmarried in 1874. Like her sister, she appointed nephew Thomas OLIVER and niece Mary Jane OLIVER as executors. In her will, it is clear that Trustee McCULLAGH has yet to pay over £300 held in trust. She directs that the money – with interest – be paid to his children when they reach legal age. It also seems that she attempts to protect the money: and until the said bequests shall become due and payable respectively my Will is that the interest payable for the said sum of Three hundred pounds so lent as aforesaid be received by my said Trustees and placed in the Savings Bank to the account of said Trustees.
  6. William CHARLETON, one of three trustees of Andrew Coulter BRADFORD’s will, died September 25, 1875.
  7. Mary Jane OLIVER died October 3, 1875. In her bequests, there is mention of an unpaid loan of £100 due to her (with interest at the time of her death) by David JACKSON, husband of her sister Eliza. Another loan of £100 was owed by Thomas McCULLAGH (Andrew Coulter BRADFORD’s trustee). Alexander DICKIE was to get: horses cows farming stock implements of husbandry and farm produce which may be at Cavananore at the time of my decease. Her chosen trustees were Thomas JACKSON (son of her sister Eliza), Alexander DICKIE and Eliezer GILMER. She directed them: And in case my personal estate shall be insufficient to pay off and discharge in full the said several legacies then I direct that the said legacies shall be abated accordingly in proportion to their amount.

Then in 1876, following on the heels of the death of Mary Jane OLIVER, John E. MORTON initiated a court case against the trustees[12]. This came about because trustee GILLMER had placed a call for offers for leasing Cavananore in two newspapers - even though he had yet to lease the land for maximum rents. MORTON had acted in good faith and made a competitive offer. Even the two trustees had to admit that his was the best offer that they had. You would think that they would want to go for it, but no. Although we don’t exactly know why, they both set about to block it.


A flurry of correspondence went back and forth between MORTON and Trustees McCULLAGH & GILLMER and on February 18th, MORTON’s lawyer cautioned the trustees against leasing or otherwise disposing of the possession of Cavananore except in accordance with letter of the 31st January. It is surely no accident that on that very day the co-trustees played their trump card and “cousin” Samuel BRADFORD quickly signed a lease for Cavananore for 21 years. One might well ask: What was in it for him? Years later, there were accusations that he had bribed the trustees. There is no actual evidence of these allegations but it would fit the outcome.


These families being as inter-related as they were, there was of course another family connection to MORTON as well. His wife, Sarah BREAKEY, was the daughter of Rev. William Edmond BREAKEY and Jane CROTHERS. She was related to the “Drumskelt Breakeys” – the same line of BREAKEYs that the JACKSONs, BRADFORDs and COULTERs also descended from as a result of Elizabeth BREAKEY marrying Thomas BRADFORD of Cavananore in 1781. The lease from 1779 with Samuel and John COULTER had been for the lives of two sons of Isaiah BREAKEY of Millford – James and Isaiah – probably half-brothers of Elizabeth. Since MORTON was arguing that he wanted to have the place on account of Mrs. Morton's health it is possible that she had as much a sentimental attachment to the land as many of the JACKSONs, McCULLAGHs and BRADFORDs. After all, the MORTONs owned hundreds and hundreds of acres elsewhere and could have readily found another estate equally conducive to good health.



At this point, the tale takes on the elements of a French farce. It is fun just to go along for the ride. One night –some time before November 1880, Samuel BRADFORD (1846-1915), who wouldn’t have been more than 25 years old at the time, had a falling out with his mother. He was probably living with her at Carnbeg at the time. Anyway, he threw his bedding into a cart and headed out into the night for Cavananore with his confidential servant. They arrived there about 10:00 at night but left in a rush and in some secrecy at 4:00 in the morning. As Eliza noted in a letter to her son Thomas: I would like to know their experience of the sight but they told no one; & kept the whole matter as quiet as possible. The place is said to be haunted; but I know what the ghost is; just the roaring of the chimneys in the empty house. Being Eliza, she had to add her moral gloss to the story: Everyone who had a hand in that villainous transaction about Cavananore now sees their error & is sorry for it; Johnny McCullagh among the rest. A year later, she embellished the tale even further: Did I write you that Sam endeavoured to sleep a night in Cavananore, and had to fly out of it before evening? He fled actually naked; durst not venture back for his clothes; but had to send a man for them.


Elements of farce aside, the fates of both Cavananore and Samuel had been on a downward trajectory for some time. Several of his relations chalked this up to you reap what you sow. Although the main house at Cavananore ended up lying empty for several years, Samuel finally did manage to secure a tenant in 1883 when Dr. WILSON and his wife leased it for £30 a year. This didn’t last long as WILSON moved out in December 1885 and the loss of income was not something that “Cousin Sam” could easily carry. Already in 1884, he was about £2,000 behind on his debts and several of his properties had gone into receivership. Of course, one man’s loss is another man’s gain and the departure of Dr. WILSON was regarded as an opportunity for the JACKSONs. Eliza figured that Samuel was likely to consider selling his 90 acres for something like £20 on the acre since £40[13] would be sorely missed from the profits, If Samuel could sell, then he could get close to covering his most urgent debts.


Two years later, in August 1887, Samuel still hadn’t sold, but he was also quite unable to pay the May rent. In October, he put Cavananore into the Land Court with a view to lowering the rent. He was within his rights to do this. The previous imbalance of power between landlords and tenants had been shifting for some time in ways that finally treated tenants more fairly.  The Land Act of 1887, an extension of the Ashbourne Act of 1885 , had also reduced the period of rent set by the Land Court to 3 years. Also, in the Ashbourne Act, a £5 million dollar fund had been established to bankroll any tenant who wanted to buy land – they could take out a loan from the government and pay it back in monthly instalments over 48 years with interest set at 4%. Samuel could have reasonably felt that with these kind of changes, that at least the laws were tilting in his favour.


Eliza revelled in the downturn of Samuels’s fortunes: [Samuel’s] case has not yet come on. Alexr Dickie says that Sam intends to sell the whole place; his own part of the land, and all; when he gets a reduction of the rent. What a job those old wretches the Trustees made of it letting that man in, to plague us. But they thought of nothing but getting bribes for themselves. There is one comfort in this and all other cases; the worst man in the world can do nothing more than God permits to be done. Sam’s time is coming, and old and failed as I am, I hope to live to see it.  In spite of this, Samuel did end up with some sort of success at Court. His status was changed from a lessee with a 21 year lease (due to expire in 1897) to a year-to-year tenant. Had he not done anything else stupid, he may have been able to pull the fat out of the fire. Unwisely, a month later, he cut a significant quantity of timber. Since a covenant in Andrew’s will prohibited such an action, charges were laid.


The case was expected to come to Court on January 10th. The family members on the JACKSON side of the argument: Rev. William REID (1829-1906), Eliezer GILMORE (1845-1919) and Thompson BROWN (1837-1915) all met with Eliza to see what could be done and also went up to inspect the damage. Eliza’s weekly letters to her son Thomas kept him in the loop even though he was still far away in Hong King: What confusion those perjured wretches, James Gillmer, Thos McCullagh and Joe Dickie laid up in store for us! Mr Reid & his wife, Alexr Dickie & Johnny McCullagh also did their best against us. They profess to be sorry for it now; my opinion is, that if they had been as wise then, as they are now; they would have acted differently; and if they were no wiser now than they were then; that they would do the same thing over again.  Obviously, Eliza had no control over the Land Court since it awarded Samuel a £60 reduction in his rent. Of course, Samuel being Samuel, he then figured he could do even better than that and asked that his case be referred to a superior court. So, the whole case was tried again.


Two things would have galled the JACKSONs. Firstly, Eliza JACKSON often fumed that the lease at Cavananore should have gone to her son, Andrew Coulter Bradford JACKSON, and not to the dreaded Samuel BRADFORD. After all, Andrew was also one of those in line for an annuity in Andrew’s will and he may also have made a pitch to lease the land. Unlike Samuel, he also was by all accounts a competent farmer. In 1880, under Samuel’s management there was a loss of cattle, the likes of which had not been seen under other management– even under the management of the two elderly women. The second galling detail was that Eliza’s son, Thomas JACKSON - the residual legatee of Andrew Coulter BRADFORD’s estate, was continually losing money as a result of the lack of profitable leases and the ongoing mismanagement. Although her family had modest means when Thomas was a boy, he had grown up to become the head of HSBC and presided over millions of dollars of international financial transactions. Yet even so, not  he could not bring the perjured wretches to heel.


It wasn’t much consolation that two years later, Samuel was still sinking deeper into debt. Eliza JACKSON writes: Cousin Sam has paid no rent for two terms. He is said to be greatly embarrassed; and I would not be surprised if he would make an offer to sell Cavananore to you. If he does so, beware of him, for he is a kittle customer, and I would not wish him to be enriched at your expense. He has not left a tree worth cutting on C.nore that he has not cut and sold; like the dishonourable fellow that he is. Eliza cautions her son: Cousin Sam’s affairs are in every body’s mouth; & the rent cannot be got from him. I dread lest he would write to you; or entrap you on your arrival.


On November 1, 1889 a news article described the case where Samuel was being sued by the trustees of Cavananore for cutting down and converting to his own use twenty-seven trees, which grew along the avenue leading to the mansion or dwelling-house in said lands.  Damages were laid at £50. After deliberation, the courts ruled that Samuel had to pay 10s per tree, amounting to £26 as well as the costs of the court (£4.1.0). Another account, a year later, claimed that actually 67 trees (not 27) were cut down. Even so, Samuel still had the gall to contest the court’s judgement (ironically, he himself was a J.P.) and the judge overseeing the challenge told him that his actions were intolerable and if it had been up to him, he would have been fined more heavily.


In January 1891, Eliza updated her son Andrew: There has been a new instance of "Loves labours lost" in Cavananore; and the pity is that James Gillmer and the other worthies who so generously gave their neighbour's property to Sam Bradford did not live to see it. The case was tried on January 15th and the result was that Sam's judicial lease was broken and the Receiver under the Court ordered to take possession of our part of Cavananore next day. Accordingly, he came there on Friday accompanied by Bailiffs and evicted Mrs. McCoy, Thomas Murray, and an old woman who lives in one of the houses; allowing them to go in again as caretakers and giving each a penny a week. So you see that other people beside Alexander Dickie can play at penny a week; and my poor innocent Sam is done with that part of Cavananore. The people who took the land in conacre were in a state of desperation; they had given Sam securities for payment, and now will not get the lands. Kelly of Bally[binvie] gave them great comfort; he said "Devil [mend] them, and that the Jacksons were always civil and decent people; & that nobody should have joined in a plan to rob them." Sam was allowed a certain time to remove his cattle & the judicial lease which he thought a great benefit was just what settled him; for he was not restrained from subletting by the lease he got from Messrs McCullagh and Gillmer. Sam is due a year's rent to the Trustees, & a year's head rent last Novr. These rents must be paid before the farm can be disposed of; but the Bank of Ireland is a very good stake for payment. What the Courts will do with the land now that they have got possession, remains to be seen. There is a great difficulty in this case. A large part of the land is ploughed, and so left useless for grazing; and they cannot let it for conacre; that would be the same thing that Sam was condemned for. They must do something soon; as nothing will be made of it this year. Sam made awful swearing, but was not believed; he swore that the land was in as good condition as when he got it, & that his steward had cut the hedges unknown to him, and plenty more. The Lord grant him repentance.


In November 1892, Eliza told her son Thomas that probably Mr. REID will expect him to pay the half years rent on Cavananore, but that also Eliza’s share would come out of that. [NOTE: More work needed here. It seems that Samuel is no longer a player with respect to Cavananore and Thomas JACKSON has taken over the lease]. A year and a half later, July 1893, it seemed that Thomas JACKSON definitely has the lease in his name since his mother wrote to tell him that his steward in Cavananore could not get help for love of money to manage the hay and turnips; so Eliezer and I sent all our men up for two days. That place looks beautiful, and the old house at home is not getting out of repair. The steward may have been Patrick LYNCH (who was at least there by1901). He was one of Thomas JACKSON’s farm hands from some JACKSON family lands in Co. Kildare [NOTE: Again – more work needed here. Where were these lands?].


Later in the summer of 1893, the harvest at Cavananore was reported to be fine and Eliezer’s and Eliza’s farm hands worked for several days to bring it all in. A year after this, Eliza gloated over how well Cavananore was doing, If cousin Sam had had it a couple of years longer, it would have been little worth. And then in October: I went with Ely to Cavananore yesterday and never since the first day that I remember did I see it in such prosperity; so much corn on it, or so many cattle; the crops [?it] this year were something marvellous, everyone wondered at it; and the cattle throve admirably. Every minute I wished you could see it. The new home is finished and Thomas Murray is living in it; and only that I am tied to Urker, I would covet to live in it myself. It contains two beautiful rooms with boarded floors, & a tiled kitchen, and a nice porch. What made me long for a house like it was that there are no stairs in it.


I am still unsure how all the legalities worked at this time. Thomas JACKSON seemed to be running Cavananore, but in 1895, the Law Courts in Dublin ruled that Samuel BRADFORD’s sisters’ pastures had to be the first charge on Samuel’s property. Perhaps this ruling only had to do with the small parcels that Samuel still held clear title to. There was a separate 30 acre parcel that had been part of his parent’s marriage settlement in 1835. It abutted the lands held by Andrew Coulter BRADFORD. On the one hand, Eliza was pleased that Samuel’s sisters will not be wronged out of what their father left them. On the other hand,  But I have fear that the Bank of Ireland and the Widows fund of the Presbyterian Church will lose heavily, for all his property would not pay his bills. I hear that Mr Garrett is afraid of getting blame for trusting him so far.


Later in 1895, Samuel’s stables at Dowdallshill burned down in the middle of the night. These were impressive stables. A report in 1881 had described them: For substantiality, convenience, and effect they stand unique.  After the fire, Samuel brought a legal case trying to claim costs for malicious damage as the cause of the fire, but failed. Since the stables were insured, one can’t help but wonder if this was another in the long list of dodgy actions on the part of Samuel BRADFORD. Insurance actuaries are rarely surprised when suspicious fires follow on the heels of financial distress.



With respect to Cavananore and the JACKSON, it would seem that Loves Labours Lost was finally turned into Alls Well that ends Well. By the end of the 19th Century, the JACKSONs had gained (or regained – depending on your perspective) the house and lands of Cavananore. Not only that, but Sir Thomas JACKSON Bart. (as he was now known) owned about 450 acres including lands in several of the other townlands that had figured in his family’s sense of ancestral roots. These lands included: Cavananore, Annaghavakey, Urcher and Liscalgot.


These days the JACKSON family doesn’t own any of these lands and none of the extended family still have a presence in Co. Louth,[14] but for a brief moment in time, it was all reclaimed. The indomitable Eliza JACKSON would undoubtedly have given credit for the family’s success to her Presbyterian God, the efficacy of her prayers and the talents of her son –in that order.



In one of those wonderful turn of events where some other sort of justice prevails in the end, the current owners and residents of Cavananore are the descendants of an old widower named Patrick LYNCH. He was the farm hand brought up from Co. Kildare by Sir Thomas JACKSON when JACKSON became the full owner of Cavananore in the late 1800s. Whenever the JACKSONs were away from Cavananore, LYNCH and his two daughters (in their early 20s) lived in the main house. He and his daughters were all practising Catholics, a faith that had been significantly disadvantaged by the governments of his time. His son, Patrick LYNCH jr. also lived nearby with his wife and two children in a house on Cavananore. In the 1950s, Patrick FINN[15]  emigrated to the USA and become financially successful and then helped to bankroll the LYNCH’s purchase of Cavananore with the contribution of a $2,000 down payment. In the past decade, Tom LYNCH’s son Eugene (as well as Eugene’s son Rowan) has been amongst those who have helped to make the telling of this tale possible.

[1] This is a curious townland to mention. There are two townlands with this name: one in Westmeath and one in Donegal. Not knowing which one it might be, my instincts would be to start with Westmeath. An Anne JACKSON shows up in Griffiths at Mullingar Canal Street. Also curious is that her brothers were names Thomas and James – not “Jos” which is usually short for “Joseph”. This may be one of those fragments that while not fully accurate in what it alleges may nonetheless lead us to something that is.

[2] Although I don’t have this lease and I cannot conclusively prove who she was, there are not many prospects to choose from. We can rule out Elizabeth BROOKE (-1721) wife of the 1st Viscount of Boyne Gustavus HAMILTON (1642-1723) since she predeceased her husband.

[3] Dorothea BELLEW: Her father was Richard BELLEW, 3rd Baron of Duleek and her half brother was John BELLEW (1702-1770), 4th Baron of Duleek. NOTE:, Dorothea’s half brother John is mentioned in connection with Nathanial COULTER son of Samuel COULTER of Cavananore. The names of various COULTERs were included in a lease for neighbouring Annaghavackey in Deed 82-179-5752 dated March 11, 1734.

[4] On 25 August 1737 Frederick and Elizabeth married at Chapelizod, Co. Dublin SOURCE:  G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume II, page 267. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage. SOURCE: http://www.thepeerage.com/p14771.htm

[5] Additional information on the Hadley family:

·        1755 Benjamin Hadley of Tullamore, King's County, made a deed 28 Oct.1755, for his dau. Elizabeth alias Hamilton, transferring to her all his plate, linen goods etc.

·        Elizabeth ma. Frederick Lord Hamilton, Viscount Boyne 25 Aug. 1737.Among those present were her father Benjamin, her brother Thomas,Lieutenant O'Hara, John Walsh etc.

·        Benjamin Hadley died in 1761 aged 90 (d.o.b. ca. 1671) SOURCE: http://heathcock.org/genealogy/ps04/ps04_276.html

[6] There was a court case after his death to settle on behalf of his eldest son.

[7] Martha COULTER née COWEN

[8] Joseph COULTER, son of John COULTER & Martha COULTER née COWEN

[9] Barbara BRADFORD (1783-1865) was the widow of William DONALDSON ( 1768-1815). Like the aforementioned Thomas Ledlie BIRCH, he too had been militant on the side of the failed United Irishmen uprising. Barbara’s share of the annuity eventually ended up with Mary REID & Sally WHITESIDE.

[10] NOTE: It does not help that I have been unable to find any such townland and also haven’t a clue who this man was. I have found a sprinkling of BRADFORDs in various other townlands in Monaghan in this time-frame, but none of them sound anything like “Drumrule”.

[13] I assume the Wilson’s rent had been increased in the second year  from £30 to £40 – perhaps imprudently, since they left.

[14] NOTE: the 1931 Parliamentary Proceedings shed some light on this, but there is much more to put together.

[15] HE was a brother-in-law of Tom LYNCH who was in turn a son of Patrick LYNCH jr.



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