Bowles DNA Project
The Bowles of Ballickmoyler, co. Laois
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An article that I wrote on this family entitled 'The Bowles and the Ballickmoyler Connection' was published in the Laois Heritage Society Journal Volume 4 (2008).
My direct Bowles ancestors lived in Ballickmoyler in the Barony of Slievemargy in Queens County, Ireland from the early 1700's until the early 1800's.
Ballickmoyler is a small hamlet, really just a few houses and a pub in the Barony of Slievemargy, at a crossroads on the main road from Carlow going NW towards Portlaoise. A few miles further along on that road is the Church at Castletown (Church of Ireland) where most of the Bowles' baptisms, marriages and funerals were held. On the way you pass through Arless where a few records of a Catholic branch of the Bowles are found. The earliest records for the family are found in the area's closest market town, Carlow. Note: just to the north of Ballickmoyler on the following map you can see the Kilabin Old Church. Just below the name of the barony 'Slievemargy' on the map you can see the Killeshin Old Church. Ballickmoyler is variously referred to as being in either Killaban or Killeshin parishes.The Barony of Slievemargy is in the SW corner of Queen's county (which is now called co. Laois) with county Carlow to the East and county Kilkenny to the south.
County Laois is a land-locked county in Leinster province.
Click on any map to enlarge it
The Earliest RecordsThe earliest documented date for the Bowles arrival in this area is a deed memorial dated Jan. 19 (registered Jan. 26, 1726) for John Bowles of Carlow, shoemaker, for the lease of his home, shop and small garden on Tullow Street in Carlow town. The lease was for the term of three 'lives' including the life of "John Bowles first son to the said William Bowles aged about five years". The wording implies that John Bowles Sr. already occupied the property, probably as a renter, and was now purchasing a lease on it. ref. From this we don't know who William Bowles was but he was likely John's brother or (less likely) his son. William's son John Bowles Jr. is listed as his first (eldest) son, aged 5, so he was born about 1720.
We next find John Bowles by about 1740 at Ballickmoyler, Queen's county, about 5 miles NW of Carlow town.
There is a deed memorial which was registered Nov. 18, 1767 at the Dublin Land Titles office which refers to a deed signed between William Cooper of Shraugh (later called Coopers Hill) and John Bowles of Ballickmoyler, perukemaker, (i.e. wig maker) dated July 27, 1750 which defines the terms of the lease which John Bowles held under the Coopers. It also states John Bowles wife's name to be Ann, his mother's name to be Mary and refers to his eldest son, Michael. The wording of this lease indicates that it is a new lease replacing a previous lease which had already been in effect for some time, likely prior to John's birth as the only person remaining alive from the signing of the previous lease is John's mother Mary. If so that would indicate that the Bowles were on this property as early as 1720 and possibly as early as 1714 when the Coopers first leased this land from Richard Saunders. text of the deed memorialThe lease signed in 1750 specified a yearly rental of 5 pounds sterling during John's mother's life (that would represent the terms his father had agreed to in an even earlier lease and indicates that John's father had likely recently died that year) and allowed an increase to 6 pounds per year after her death. The registration of this deed in 1767 indicates that John's mother, Mary, has probably died that year thus allowing the rent increase.
The land they were leasing was owned by the Cooper family who lived at Coopers Hill Demesne just East of Ballickmoyler. See The Bowles of Ballickmoyler and The Coopers of Cooper Hill Demesne. The 1750 deed memorial refers to John Bowles' eldest son Michael. I have found Michael Bowles military discharge papers in the War Office 121/13 collection (Chelsea pensioners records) at the National Archives of England. When discharged from the British Army in 1792, Michael gave his age as 47 and his place of birth as Killaban parish near Carlow town. That fits for Ballickmoyler and confirms his birth to have been around 1744. Michael was described in 1750 as the eldest son, implying there was also at least one younger son. In 1747 a Joseph Bowles was baptised at the St. Mary's church in Carlow. His parents were stated to be John and Ann Bowles of Killeshin parish.
Killaban is the name of the civil parish and Killeshin is the church parish but both include the village of Ballickmoyler. Both Killaban and Killeshin can be seen in the map of the Slievemargy region above.
Prior to obtaining their land around Ballickmoyler the Coopers lived at Newtown in south co. Carlow very close to Dunleckney which several of our Ballickmoyler Bowles still had connections in the 1800's. The ongoing connection of these Bowles to Dunleckney near where the Coopers came from leads me to suspect that the Bowles came from that region with the Coopers prior to the 1740's. See The Bowles of Dunleckney, co. Carlow. The Weldon family of nearby Ballylinan has another indication of a connection between Ballickmoyler and Dunleckney. As will be seen below, the Bowles assisted in the rebuilding of the church at Castletown under the leadership of the Reverend Arthur Weldon of Rahin in 1801. Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) mentions for the Dunleckney Civil Parish, "It is a vicarage, in the diocese of Leighlin, and forms part of the union of Dunleckney; the rectory is impropriate in A. Weldon, Esq. ". I have confirmed that was an Arthur Weldon but the question would be whether these connections of the 1800's may indicate an earlier connection as well. In any case, John Bowles move from Ballickmoyler to Dunleckney around the 1820's may have been related to their connection to the Weldons or to the Coopers or to both. See The Bowles Connection to the Weldon Family
It's likely that the land that the Bowles acquired at Ballickmoyler included the rights to the rents from the existing Irish tenants on the land. This area had been seized from the previous Irish landowners in the 1500's by Queen Mary. She had then awarded the land to loyal English subjects who gained an income by collecting the rents of the existing tenants on the land in some cases and in others by clearing the 'peasants' off the land and selling it to new tenants brought from England.
See Selected Queen's County Land Deed Transactions for a list of deeds on file at the Dublin Deeds Office relating to the Ballickmoyler area and other areas in Queen's County connected to the Cooper family.
Also see The Early History of Ballickmoyler
From the 1750 deed we know that John Bowles was described as a Perukemaker which was a maker of the flowing white wigs worn by the gentry of the time. There would not have been much call for such a profession in rural Queen's county so he seems to have used his leather working skills from wig making in a new profession as a shoemaker. He would be the first of 6 generations of Bowles shoemakers which would even last for several generations in Canada.
About 1765, my direct ancestor, John Bowles' eldest son Michael, left Ballickmoyler to find work in Manchester. That led to his enlistment in the British Army, his marriage to two and possibly three wives (consecutively, not all at once) with whom he raised a large family. After his discharge Michael settled in Nottingham where he died in 1799. See Michael Bowles of Ballickmoyler His children returned to Ireland though as we find several references for them there shortly after. His son Michael Jr. baptized a son, John, in the nearby Castletown Church in 1806. His son Joseph married in Carlow in 1808. His son John was married and raising a family in Carlow by 1800.
In 1798 the United Irish Rebellion swept through Ballickmoyler which had been a gathering point for United Irish pikemen prior to their attempt to take Carlow town. Their attempt was turned back by the British Army which was expecting them and they retreated through Ballickmoyler again with the British Army in pursuit. Most of Ballickmoyler was burned either by the rebels or by British troops, probably by both, including the marketplace and many houses including Joseph and William Bowles' homes and then besieged them in Whitty's house, Providence Lodge. Joseph and William were able to file for compensation from the government afterwards and received 50% of their claimed damages which allowed them to rebuild in Ballickmoyler.
See Ballickmoyler in the 1798 United Irish Rebellion for an account of the above events.
Some of the Bowles' church functions of the 1700's were held at St. Mary's Church in Carlow town and these records have survived. There does not seem to have been a church at Ballickmoyler but the family probably also attended services at the Killabban-Castletown church about 3 miles NW of Ballickmoyler. The Vestry records for that church indicate that a new church was built there in 1801 replacing an earlier church. That church was probably also burned in the 1798 rebellion or possibly much earlier and no records for it now exist. In 1801, the Bowles were active in the planning and building of the Killabban-Castletown church and we find the Bowles records there after that.
The Bowles did rebuild in Ballickmoyler after their houses were burned in the 1798 rebellion but in the increased religious tensions in Ireland which followed those events they may not have felt too welcome by their predominately Catholic neighbours. In the next few years they would move on to Carlow and many of them would go on to America. See The Bowles of Ballickmoyler in Canada and the U.S.
There are a few references to Bowles still in the Ballickmoyler, Killabin parish, co. Laois area after 1798:From 1801 to 1816 they were heavily involved in the planning, building and operation of the new Castletown-Killabban church just north-west of Ballickmoyler. The Index to Leighlin Administrations Intestate, (ref: Supplement to the Irish Ancestor, 1972) lists a John Bowles of Ballickmoyler in 1803. The list of Tithe Applotments for Ballickmoyler, Killabban Civil Parish, Slievemargy for 1824 include the following holdings under the Estate of William & Gregory W. Cooper, Esqrs.: Plot Occupying Tenant # Acres Yearly Yearly Amt of (in a/r/p) Value Composites 453 Bowles, William 3 1 10 5 9 10 9 4 2 470 Bowels, Michael 0 1 8 0 0 10 0 0 10
The index books for the Dublin Quaker Meeting Minutes include references to a Robert, deceased, and Anne Bowles of Ballickmoyler, Queen's county at the time of their son Robert's marriage to Hannah Wardell in Dublin in 1833. See The Robert Bowles Family of Ballickmoyler and Dublin for more information on this branch. One of their descendants set up a large agricultural business in Dublin and another later settled in Cork. See The Bowles of Cork City.
Griffith's Primary Valuation for Ballickmoyler of 1850 lists no Bowles in Ballickmoyler any more but there were 6 people leasing their houses from a William Bowles (see the list below). The 1852-53 Griffith’s Primary Valuation for Carlow town lists William Bowles as resident on Dublin Road in Carlow town. That would indicate that after Michael Bowles left for Canada, William moved to Carlow and sub-let the last Bowles land in Ballickmoyler to other families. See William Bowles of Carlow.
Griffith’s Primary Valuation, co. Laois (Queen’s co.), Killabban Civil Parish (Baronies of Ballyadams & Slievemargy; Unions of Athy and Carlow) May 1850 listing people who were leasing property in Killabban Civil Parish in 1850 and the occupiers of the property. All these lots (Lot 9, units c, d, g, h, i and j) are 10 to 15 perches (200 to 300 sq. ft.), with a land value of 2-3 shillings and a house value of from 8 shillings to £1, 3 shillings. Fiche reference 5.F.10.
And that is the last reference that I have for any Bowles connection to Ballickmoyler.
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