One of the remaining out-houses at Riverview Mills.

Riverview Mill and Mrs Whitely’s displeasure

The latest edition of Jonathan Smyth's Times Past columns recalls Riverview Mill and Mrs Ellen Whitely's dilemma...

For many generations Riverview Mill continued to operate from Cornacarrow, along the Dromore River near to Clementstown, Cootehill. The property, a corn mill, passed through various hands over the decades and was a substantial concern in the business community of its day. In the latter part of the 19th century, the mill came under the ownership of Mrs Eleanor Whitley, about whom the tale that follows refers to, and how she clearly hoped to have the last word for her somewhat intrusive son-in-law.

Milling history

The Shackletons of Kildare, well known for their Quaker heritage, were also prolific in the commercial world of flour production. The family were the celebrated ‘forefathers’ of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the distinguished Antarctic explorer. Ernest Shackleton’s great aunt, the author Mary Shackleton Leadbeater was married to William Leadbeater, a former teacher of French at Ballitore’s Society of Friends School. It was his nephew, Garett Leadbeater, who possessed Riverview, the Cornacarrow Corn Mill at Cootehill, which he managed until his death in the early 1850s.

Garett and his wife Mary Leadbeater had a daughter Lydia who married Samuel Dundass of Drum. The Dundass family moved to America, but it appears that their daughter Ellen returned to Ireland at some point to stay with her grandparents and then married Charles Whitley of Corbeagh. However, her husband died in 1864, leaving Ellen with a young family and a corn mill and farm to run.

The Whitley children

The children of Ellen and Charles were Lydia Sarah, Anna Maria, Susan and Ellen Jnr and, as time marched on, her daughters began getting married. Lydia Sarah married Joseph Bowden, Cortobber; Susan married William Fairbairn (a widower); and Ellen married Andrew Boyle of Cabra House, Cootehill. Anna Maria Whitley appears to have suffered from an affliction, affecting her mental health, as was noted by her mother.

As a mother-in-law, Ellen spoke highly of her son-in-laws except for Andrew Boyle whose insolence, it seems, drew her wrath. For as Shakespeare’s Hamlet uttered the line, that all was not well in Denmark; in just the same way, all was not well at Riverview Mill, which in Mrs Ellen Whitley’s firmly-held view was down to Mr Boyle’s meddlesome nature.

The trouble began when Ellen Jnr and Andrew, her husband, and four children were ‘put out’ of a house at Dromore West, and being a kind lady, Mrs Whitley offered them sanctuary in her home at Cornacarrow. However, she soon became disillusioned with her guests especially Andrew who on one occasion sacked a Mill worker, as she put it ‘without my permission’ and then cheekily gave the sacked man’s job to himself. What infuriated his mother-in-law further was that he took on to control everything, taking charge at the mill and borrowing horses from the mill without consulting the owner, and using them for jobs on his farm at Cabra.

Mrs Ellen Whitley died on September 1, 1900, and this paper noted that her passing had ‘occasioned’ deep regret while the chief mourners included Mr Boyle and Mr Bowden, and grandchildren. Wreaths were sent from the Bowden, Boyle and Fairburn families and the arrangements were carried out by Ronaldson Brothers.

Afterwards, Ellen’s true feelings became known, at the reading of her ‘last will and testament’, in which she recalled that her daughter Ellen, and husband Mr Boyle and their four children: ‘were supported and kept in everything ... servants paid, and all found for nearly six years, part of which time they made themselves most disagreeable, so much so, that I was obliged to leave my own parlour and take my meals in my own room and various other things I will not mention...’ and when ‘Mr Boyle came to live with me it was distinctly understood that I did not wish him to work, but see that men minded their work but very soon after he came to live with me he took on to order everything.’ Having put a roof over the head of the Boyles for six years, she added that her daughter and son-in-law had already received their portion, but she would leave them £50 for ‘their joint use and in lieu of any service’ they did for her.

Nor did she forget her ‘faithful servant’ Jane Martin to whom she bequeathed £5 free of income tax or legacy duty. The small farm at Cornacarrow, she decided, would go to her grandson Louis Bowden.

Riverview Mill, its eel weirs, and water courses were to become the property of her daughters Susan and Lydia Sarah. Mrs Whitely’s house on Market Street, Cootehill, at the time rented out to Ellen McCabe at fifty guineas a year (this property, originally owned by Garett Leadbeater, was later the home and surgical practice of Dr Brian Gallagher) was to leave a portion of its rental income, £20, to go to Anna Maria ‘who is of weak mind and not able to manage her own affairs’ and the remaining income to be divided between Susan and Lydia Sarah.

The mills of God

They say that 'the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small', but in the end, did Mrs Whitley have the last word? It appears that the rest of the family may have reached an accommodation with Mr Boyle because, when carrying out further research, I discovered that Andrew Boyle was still listed as '‘occupier’ of the old Leadbeater and Whitely homestead at Cornacarrow in 1911 when his sister-in-law Anna Maria Whitley died (presumably, having not married, she still lived with the Boyles). Mr Boyle died at the age of 78 on December 28, 1916, at Cornacarrow.

I am informed that after Ellen Whitely’s day, Leadbeater's old Riverview Mill was known locally for a time as Boyles' Mill, then becoming Bowden’s Mill under Ellen Whitely Snr’s grandson Louis Bowden who lived there until the late 1960s. The original house and mill are long gone and, apart from the shells of smaller buildings, you would never know that such an enterprise had ever existed on the site.


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