17th Century Genealogy Two Irish Sources

Murder at Ballyankor

It was early spring in 1641-2, the rebellion had been occurring for a few months. This days events are recorded in the Trinity College Library's manuscripts along with many other small outrages in a viscous war that lasted ten years. The Manuscripts Room at TCD is at one end of and accessed through the famous long room library opened in 1732. Also displayed in the long room is the famous illuminated manuscript Book of Kells.

The events described below occurred at Ballyankor, County Waterford. Ballyankor was part of the Lismore Estate part of Sir Walter RALEGH's Plantation that was bought by Richard BOYLE. Richard BOYLE was knighted and elevated to the peerage first as Baron Boyle of Youghal and in 1620 as Earl of the County of Cork. Why I have been expansive on the owner of the land where these events occurred is that the records of the Lismore Estate are very extensive including leases prior to 1600 and accounts books for a number of years early in the 1600s.

The events of 9 March 1641-2

Ballyankor most likely had a fortified farm house as was the fashion due to the insecurities and necessities of the times. A party of rebels was seen approaching the house. The gates were closed and positions taken up at the windows. The first assault came and was repulsed with one of the attackers dead. They started negotiations after about two hours of fighting. Captain FENNELL leading the attackers offered quarter that is the occupants could leave with their clothes and have safe passage to Lismore not far away.

Inside the house were eight men, three women and four children Edward CROKER, his wife Katherine nee DOWNING, three of their younger children including Christopher CROKER aged about eleven, Edward's brother Christopher CROKER, and a number of servants including James PIKE (PEAKE or PEEKE), his son John and daughter Joan.

Leading the rebels was Captain Edmond FENNELL and Mr Thomas BUTLER reported to be a relative of the Earl of Ormonde.

Other witnesses included John CASEY who was delivering a letter to Thomas BUTLER and Edward's brother-in-law (Major) Thomas DOWNING who was at Lismore but led a party that found the bodies. He took the bodies to Lismore for burial.

Quarter was agreed and the arms were passed out a window and the rebels entered the house. Soon after, five of the men from the house were separated from the rest, Four were hanged from the gate and then used for pike practice. The men striving to see who could strike deepest.

Edward CROKER, the remaining one of those singled out for further punishment tried to bargain for his life offering £20, a considerable sum in those days. But Captain FENNELL wanted revenge for some of his supporters that had been hanged by another of Edward's brothers, Hugh CROKER who was high sheriff and Captain of Cappoquin Castle. Thus Edward was only offered the choice between being hanged or shot. Slow strangulation at the end of a rope or being shot by some untrained people using inaccurate weapons. Neither choice would have been very appealing. In the end he chose to be shot.

He was taken to the ditch and two shots were fired wounding him in the body but not killing him. Captain FENNEL then strode up and shot him in the head finishing the job.

The rebels then went on their way, taking the remaining prisoners with them. Katherine CROKER and her children had been stripped. The house was probably burnt perhaps alerting Thomas DOWNING in Lismore so his investigating party found the bodies.

The prisoners were held for some months until news of landings of English troops in Youghal reached the rebels.

All these details are clearly recorded in the Trinity College Manuscripts. One of the telling descriptions of that day is the deposition of John CASY which is reproduced below 1 .

John CASY of the old Forder now Tallowe aged 54 years or thereabouts being duly sworn upon the Holy Evangelist and paned depoteth and sayth that on shrovs Tusday in the year 1641 this deponent going with a letter from David BARRY sonne to John Barry of Dongarry his being at Coolisley to Mr Thomas BUTLER, then the sayd BUTLER was at Ballyanker with Collonell Capt Edmond FENNELE and several others of the Irish Rebells and after this depont had delivered to the sayd BUTLER his lord he commanded this depost to looke into his waggon and that he did see Mr Edward CROKER and foure other English men as prysoners in the custody of the sayd Rebells and that the said FENNELE and the sayd Thomas BUTLER & others were then present and did /see/ see the foure English men hanged upon a gate in this deponents presents the sayd FENNELE standing by with a pistoll in his hand until they were strangled & dead and that presently after he heard Mr Edward CROKER then a prisoner as aforesaid proffer a contayned money at leaste twenty pounds for his life but the said FENNELE made answer that if he would give a humdred pounds he should not hand his life because he was a kinsman of Capt CROKER of Cappoquin but should have his choyse either to be hanged or shot to death whereupon the said CROKER made choice to be shot to death. After Capt FENNELE called a souldier of his partie and they both went with the sayd CROKER causinge his hands tyed behind his backe & push him up against a ditch and then shott him to death in the presence of this deponent /and/ his cause of knowledge is from that he was present and did see and heare what he hath deposet aforesaid to be true
Another viscous event is recorded at the bottom of Thomas DOWNING's deposition about the above events:
This Examinee further saith that Anne DOWNING the Examinees wife being great with child within two months of her time & 3 smale children, named Thomas, Robert & Anne DOWNING (the eldest being about 6 years, the youngest about 1 year old) & one George BROWNE the Examinee's servant were murdered in the house in ???ittowne in the Co of Limerick & barony ??? the rest of the page is missing.

Lismore Papers

Some corroborative evidence is found in the Lismore Papers. There is a 1637 deed for Ballyankor which assigns the lease of the property to Hugh CROKER from the previous owner William GREATRAKES the elder.

The Lismore Papers now held in the manuscript collection of the National Library of Ireland have proved a valuable source of facts from these early times in my researches of the CROKER family. I obtained, some years ago, from the National Library of Ireland a poor quality microfilm copy of some of these papers. They provided, for example, some very significant information on Lt Colonel Walter CROKER (c1605 ?1647) of Lisnabrin. Firstly, the following deed shows he could not have been involved in the capture of Waterford in 1650. This deed also shows the rehabilitation needed after eight years of war. Note the prohibition on keeping goats.

Quarto Junij Anno dm 1649

It is this day coventanted agreed and concluded upon between the right honble Elizabeth the Countess of Cork by authoritie received from her son the right Honable Richard Earle of Corke on the one pte Capt Barry CROKER on the other pte that the sayde Capt Barry CROKER his extors legators and assigns shall have and hold one hundred & forty eight acres of Lisnobryn late in the possession of Walter CROKER deceased with all and singular the apphenantus whatsoever thereunto belonginge either waste mayed harry off ..l their royallists whatsoever belonging to the sayde Earl of Corke exroyted for and duringe the tearme of one whole year from the feast of Phillipp and Jacob last past before the date hereof yeilding and payinge thereafter into the hande of right honable Richard Earle of Corke or his assigns the.. of foure pounds ster to be payde att the College house in Youghall att the feasts of Lam[m]as All Souls Candlemas and May day by even and equall portions and have fatt capons att pymas or in leuu thereof five shillings for there sted And to mantayne and keepe in repayre all bljch houses quitksotts and fenres as are upon the premisses and att the expiration of this demise to leave the same fre maintained and repayred and not to make spoile or wast of the woods nor to keepe goats on the premis nor to alyon or make away the same without spetiall lycence from the said Earle of Corke first obtayned And to doo all such suite of Court and mill as hath been accustomed to be done in respecte of the premis and thus the sayde Barry CROKER shall likewise pay all quarteringe and billettinge of soldiers and all other taxes or Countrie Charges whatsoever imposed upon the sayde lande provided always that this absent grant shalbe not as indice to the Earle of Corks leases formerly made of the premisses hereby demised now to the recouveringe of the arreare of rent formerly due for the land .. hereof the ptis about sayde to these spe ht hand interchangeably sett there hands the day and anno first above written Hy Aaltman for

mads hereof Barry Croker

William Chettlo

Chas Wranckland

Other deeds prove his wife was Jane MANSELL (MANSFIELD MAUNSELL) daughter of Reginald and Elizabeth MANSELL and sister of Anthony. They also show Jane was unmarried in 1629 and Jane and Walter's child also called Walter was old enough to be a life on a deed in 1637. Thus Walter and Jane married c1630.

The account books document the regular (though some times late) flows of monies from deeds together with other minutiae such a threepence given to a poor boy at the back gate by the estate manager.

The Earl of Cork's diaries have been published and have loads of details of transactions with his tenants. There are also letters from others to the Earl asking for favours.

Further Reading

Mary Agnes HICKSON Ireland in the Seventeenth Century or the Massacres of 1641, London (1884) 2 Vols available in the National Library of Australia 941.56HIC

A typed manuscript of Earl of Cork's diary is reproduced in Casey Vol IV (see below) while the State Library of South Australia has a microfilm copy the book edited by Alexander GROSART containing the diary and other papers and letters.

Colonel Edmund FENNELL was tried at Cork in December 1652 for these murders see Waterford and South East Ireland Archaeological Society V15 (1912) pp146153.

Albert Eugene CASEY, O'Kief Coshe Mang, Slieve Lougher and Upper Blackwater, (1953+) in 16 volumes published privately for Knocknagree Historical Fund NLA q929.309415CAS

Copyright © Nick Reddan 1998


1 Reproduced with acknowledgment to the Board of Trinity College Dublin.