Ballyhaise bridge with Humphreys’ former home in the background, now the Agricultural College run by Teagasc. 8Photo: Courtesy of Cavan Library

Times Past: Big night out in Ballyhaise in 1857

Historian Jonathan Smyth's latest edition looks back at reports from a Ballyhaise Estate Farming Society dinner from 1857...

There is nothing like a good meal to celebrate the achievements of a year’s work and, to this end, the Ballyhaise Estate Farming Society annually sat down to a dinner where they received a well-earned ‘pat on the back’ from the landlord for doing a good job. The event was hosted by the local landlord William Humphreys of Ballyhaise House and brought together all his surrounding tenantry, some of whom would be amply awarded for their skills that had contributed to the prosperity of the estate.

William Humphreys had inherited the lands at Ballyhaise from his father William Snr. Earlier, in the 18th century, the estate belonged to the Newburgh family from whom the Humphreys purchased it. In 1906, Ballyhaise House passed from the Humphreys' hands when it was sold and thereafter became an agricultural college, which today is run by Teagasc.

With an air of loud applause, toasts were made to all and sundry including the ‘Queen of England’ and to the achievements of the local farmers. The ‘shindig’ was held on November 25, 1857 in the ‘large room’ of the Market House, Ballyhaise, and was filled to capacity by the ‘happy and contented tenantry’ who were to receive handsome premiums for their exhibition of ‘stock and green crops’ as was to be read from the premium lists.

According to this newspaper, landlord Humphreys always kept an active and enthusiastic eye on his tenants' farming activities and he must have been pleased by their efforts. Some of the farmer tenants in attendance had come from as far away as Mountnugent.

Agricultural importance

A meal was provided for the assembled families by Mr Kennedy of Ballyhaise and was said to have been ‘well and plentifully served up, in a manner and style that does that gentleman credit’. Glasses were filled to the brim and a toast drank to ‘Queen Victoria’ and after several more glasses of vino, an ever more cheerful applause erupted from the crowd.

The chairman managed to get to his feet and called for yet another plethora of toasts, then he asked for Ireland’s ‘continued prosperity’ and ‘may she use agriculture as her highest and most beneficial interest’, he said. The celebrations continued with cheering as the chairman toasted the ploughs of the farmers with the words ‘speed the plough’, while the newspaper made the point that Ireland had no great history of making ploughs but that her prosperity as regards manufacturing lay more so in the linen industry.

‘Ireland’, according to the chairman, had ‘a people, able and stout, and willing to work … and in ‘these respects there was a vast difference’, he believed, ‘between the Irish and English’.

Having raised a glass to Mr Humphreys, another speedily followed for Mrs Humphreys, whom the exuberant speaker thought to be ‘an ornament to her sex, and is not a whit behind her husband in looking after the interests of the Ballyhaise estates’. She had demonstrated her care towards the social and domestic needs of the tenantry having anxiously ensured that the estate’s children would be ‘well-educated’, a matter reflected by the strong attendance of children at the schools in the locality.


Premiums won by the farmers added a most welcome supplement to people's income and the winners included the following: First class awards for farms above 15 acres with cows went to Henry Nesbitt, Ballyhaise and Joseph Johnstone, Lissagoan. Second class awards for farms 15 acres and under, went to Bernard Sheridan, Ballyhaise; John Brady, Carrickmore and Laurence Kennedy, Ballyhaise. First class awards for farms above 15 acres with two-year old cattle went to Robert Foster, Drumliff; Rev Mr Moneypenny, Broomfield; and, as already mentioned, Joseph Johnstone. Second class awards for farms 15 acres and under with two-year old cattle went to Thomas Kennedy, Killyvanny; John Wood, Drumliff; Henry Scarlett, Lissagoan and Patrick Reilly, Corgarive.

Under the many other categories, the following farmers won premiums also for their progressive work: Patrick Rudden, Brockley; William Phair, Drumliff; Thomas Topham, Lissagoan; James Dolar, Cornamuckla; Thomas Shannaghey, Cornamuckla; John Ebbitt, Killyvanny; William Dolan, Cornamuckla; Matthew M’Annurney, Corgarive; Mr Farrell Fox, Cornamuckla; William Foster, Kilmainham; William Moore, Ballymackarue; John Moore, Ballymackarue; Henry Nesbitt, Raheg; Patrick Lynch, Barcony; Richard Tubman, Crossreagh; Robert Foster, Drumliff; Thomas Shannaghey, Cornamuckla; Mathew M’Annurney, Corgarive; James Dolan, Cornamuckla; Mrs Widow Fox, Cornamuckla; and Patrick Fagan, Barcony.

Complimentary comments were made on the production of green crops on the estate as well.


The premiums won by the farmers could now be used to improve life on the farm and, when they were asked what they would like to choose, a note was taken of what they picked, with some selecting ‘churning machines, ploughs and timepieces’. The Rev Mr Moneypenny proceeded to deliver a speech, telling the diners that: ‘He had much experience in the world and, when he looked abroad amongst mankind, he found there were great rogues. Virgil himself had well defined this’, and yet, ‘he would say, that if there was honesty at all to be found, it was with the agricultural classes’ adding that, ‘they were the bone and sinew of the Emerald Isle’.

Having enjoyed the entertainment, the farmers gave three of their loudest cheers for Mr and Mrs Humphreys, and ‘their faithful agent’.


On March 16, 1901, the Cavan Royal School’s hockey team, played against Castleblaney in the Royal School grounds and after ‘a well-contested’ game the home team won by two goals to one. The game began with fast play but towards the end it was very slow ‘owing to’ the rain. The Cavan team demonstrated superiority and, after 20 minutes, McConnell made the first score with a goal for the Royal.

A sterling defence was said to have been played by players ‘Cloak and Knight’ for the Monaghan side. In the second half, Castleblaney pressed on and McGailey scored a goal for them. Cavan were now ‘on the alert’ and Seall took a pass from McAllan who playing a good forward game, was to score the Royal’s second goal which sealed the school’s victory.

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