My wife’s mother, Grace McFadden, lived on land that once belonged to the Earls of Leitrim near the town of Carrigart (Mevagh Parish) in County Donegal. Her McFadden and Coll ancestors were tenants of the Clements family.
In the 1700s, the Clements family, the Earls of Leitrim, acquired land in Counties Kildare, Galway, Leitrim and Donegal. The Clements were absentee landlords who mostly lived on their estate in Manorhamilton in County Leitrim, but they also owned an estate in Rawros, County Donegal. Their lands in Donegal were located on both sides of Mulroy Bay and included a great portion of the Fanad Peninsula.
My wife’s ancestors, the McFaddens, farmed a narrow plot of land in Straham Townland that stretched from the Carrigart-Milford Road down to the shores of Mulroy Bay . They survived the Great Famine on this land thanks to the beneficence of Charles Clements, the 2nd Earl of Leitrim. However, this changed in 1854 when Charles died. He was succeeded by his son, William Sydney Clements, the infamous 3rd Earl of Leitrim. In 1865, the new earl built a residence, called Manorvaughn, in Rawros, County Donegal, just north of the McFadden farm.
The 3rd Earl was always hot-tempered and quarrelsome. It took little for him to evict tenants for minor offences such as cutting tree limbs or improving properties without permission. He once evicted all of the tenants on five townlands. It was said that he wished to protect the land from being exhausted from overpopulation. He preferred his land to be covered with fleecy animals instead of humans. He was tyrannical and hated by all of his tenants. Somehow, my wife’s McFadden ancestors managed to suffer through Lord Leitrim’s tantrums and were never evicted.
Lord Leitrim was especially hated by his tenants on the Fanad peninsula. In 1878, a Fanad girl was found drowned. Allegations were made that he seduced and killed her. People also claimed that he compelled girls to work for him under threat of eviction of their families from his land.
Michael McElwee, Niel Shields, and Michael Heraghty of Fanad plotted Leitrim’s murder. In 1878, they took a boat and crossed Mulroy Bay to Mevagh Parish and laid in wait for Lord Leitrim to leave his Donegal estate, and travel the road to Milford on his way home to County Leitrim.
Two carriages were taken for Leitrim’s trip. Leitrim was in the first car with his clerk William Makim, and his driver, Charles Buchanan. Leitrim’s luggage was in the second car with his valet, William Kincaid, and the driver, Michael Logue. Some believe that Logue was in on the plot to kill Leitrim because he stopped his car after arriving at the Milford Road and checked his horse for lameness. The jaunting car carrying Leitrim continued on the road toward Milford.
Michael Heraghty left his post at the ambush site and walked down the road to prevent a passing carriage from returning toward Carrigart. He left his gun behind with MccElwee and Shiels.
When Leitrim’s carriage passed the ambush site, McElwee opened fire and killed the driver. Shiels shot and wounded Leitrim’s clerk. Shiels then picked up Heraghty’s gun and shot at Leitrim but missed. Leitrim leaped out of the carriage to meet his attackers. He grabbed McElwee but Shiels struck him with a gun and crushed his skull. The butt of the rifle broke during the attack and they left it at the scene as McElwee and Shiels ran off and took their boat back to Fanad. Heraghty found his way back to Fanad via a different route.
Eleven men were arrested for the crime but eight were soon discharged. The three men still in custody were Bernard and Thomas McGranahan, and Michael Heraghty. The gun butt was traced to Heraghty. Paper for the wadding used to load the rifle was traced to a school copybook owned by the McGranahans.
Heraghty died in Lifford Jail before trial. The McGranahans were released for lack of real evidence. The actual murderers were never arrested. McElwee died of fever before being implicated, and Shiels lived until 1921.
In 1960, a Celtic Cross monument was erected in Fanad to the “patriots” who killed the 3rd Earl of Leitrim “in the cause against landlordism.”
There is the murder of a tyrannical landlord in my novel, DONEGAL GENERATIONS. It is of course fictional. To my knowledge, there was no murder of that sort in the Finn Valley. However, it is easily seen that I based this killing on the actual events that occurred on April 2, 1878 as described here.
It was interesting reading about your book.Is it available on Kindle.
As a matter of interest my great grandfather was Neil Shiels one of the Fanad Patriots,today the 2nd of April is the anniversary date.
We hold a commemorative event on Easter Monday for them and all Ireland’s dead,at the monument .
Looking forward to reading your book.
Sorry, Patrick. My book is not available on Kindle. You should be proud of your great-granddad…Tom
Thanks for your reply.
Will purchase your book.
Are you planning any more?
Keep the fire burning,more power to your pen.
Alice Shiels was the girl who drowned…
My Great Grandmother was Catherine Sheils, Nail’s sister…
I’ve been putting together my family tree, and recently learned that my great great grandfather is Owen Cannon, whose wife was Katherine Sheils (or perhaps Catherine Sheils). I’m wondering if she is the same C/Katherine Sheils who was Neil’s sister. Does anyone know? Thanks for any information you can share.
My Great Grandmother was the sister of Nial Shields she was married to Daniel Meenan they moved to Derry City near the end of the 1800s .
My great grandmother was Hannah Sheils (married name McFadden). Her father was Andrew Sheils and they lived at aughalatty, Carrigart. I wonder if there’s a connection
Hello all. Douglas Shields of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
My grandfather was Darby Shields of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. He was born to Mary & Nail Shiels, the tailor from Doughmore and one of the Fanad Patriots.
He and his wife, Margaret (Peg) White (of Grange, Lislavane, Timoleague, Co. Cork) had 6 kids, Neil*, Darby*, Catherine (Kate), Patricia (Patsy), Margaret (Peggy) and Hugh*. (*deceased).
Darby Shiels met Peggy White here in Pittsburgh. When Darby left Ireland for Scotland and work he changed the spelling of his last name from “Shiels” to “Shields.” Something to do with the Irish being discriminated and Shields was a Scottish surname as well. Or, so the story goes. Two years later, at age 22, April 1, 1912, he landed in NYC, Ellis Island on the Caledonia.
From there he went to Pittsburgh and stayed with Barney Logue who lived in the lower Hill District of Pittsburgh.
The 1901 Census of Ireland notes Neal (57y.o.) and Mary Shiels (57 y.o.) had six children: Maggie – 21, Patrick – 18, Neal – 15, Bridget – 13, , Michael – 12, Darby, 10.
Hello all. Douglas Shields here.
My grandfather was Darby Shields of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. He was born to Mary & Nail Shiels, the tailor from Doughmore. He and his wife, Margaret (Peg) White (of Grange, Lislavane, Timoleague, Co. Cork) had 6 kids, Neil*, Darby*, Catherine (Kate), Patricia (Patsy), Margaret (Peggy) and Hugh*. (*deceased).
Darby met Peg here in Pittsburgh.
We all, the Sweeny’s, Shiels, McFaddens, Friels, McElwee’s and more all seem to have families that have intertwined over time.
The 1901 Census of Ireland indicates that Neal (57y.o.) and Mary Shiels (57 y.o.) had six children: Maggie – 21, Patrick – 18, Neal – 15, Bridget – 13, , Michael – 12, Darby, 10.
My Great Grandmother was a sister of Neil Shields Catherine Shields who married Danial Meenan their Son Danial Junior was my Grandfather .
Hi Patrick, my name is Adrian Shiels, my Dad was Humphrey shiels born 1922 in Ballyheirnan , would their be any connection to Barney shiels , thanks
Good for Neil Sheils Patrick.
any one know of a woman involved in some small way in Leitrim’s killing . She was known as Ceann Rua (or Kin rua) and married a Sheridan . She was my great grandmother and my grandfather came from Drumhallagh Lower. I find this all fascinating and any info would be much appreciated
sorry. I meant to add the remarkable fact was that she lived till she was 110 (so the family believe)
My family and I were just in County Donegal tracing my husbands family history. His great grandfather, James Semple worked at ManorVaughn for Lord Letrim in 1911. We did not locate the house pictured on your website, I’m sorry to say. When was this picture taken. Can you provide any additional details of life at ManorVaughn and the exact location?
Thanks in advance,
Hi Connie: I took the photo of Manorvaughan in 2005. A friend who lived in nearby Slate Row in Upper Carrick Townland brought us there. It is located on a country road to the right (east) of the main road into Carrigart from Milford. It is on one or two roads before reaching the approach to the new bridge to Fanad (that wasn’t there in 2005). I’d suggest that you first find it on Google Earth. It is listed as Mulroy House on Google Earth. There is some confusion about the name. The building where the Earls of Leitrim lived is known as Mulroy House. The estate where Mulroy House is located is Manorvaughan.
There was a video (VHS) produced by Charlie Dougherty about the killing of the 3rd Earl. It is called “The Third Earl of Leitrim”. Scenes were filmed at Manorvaughan. Also, two books by author Leslie W. Lucas are good references about the Earls of Leitrim.
Note that Manorvaughan is still privately owned and still occupied by a descendant of the Earls. I visited because our friend had done some work for the estate.
My father John Shields was the son of Neil Shiels. The D was added when he came to the US, due to the pronunciation of his name. As a child my father would tell us this story. My grandmother, Mary came to the US when she was in her 80′s and lived until she was 103.
My Great Grandfather Daniel Meenan was married to Catherine Sheils, the sister of Nail Sheils.
above is my grandfather’s house where he was born on the Milroy Bay peninsula. The Logue home was returned to the family during Ireland’so Independence in 1917.
Thanks for posting the history. I am the great-grandson of Nail Shiels the Tailor, grandson of Darby Shields, and son of Darby John Shields in Pittsburgh PA. All the best to the Shiels in Donegal!
Correction: Douglas & I are the sons of Darby Michael Shields in Pittsburgh PA. (we are the brothers of Darby John Shields)
I believe we may be cousins,I am sure that your that your parents / grandparents visited my fathers home in Scotland , I will try and find out more information .
Will be in touch on this site
Hi Douglas,I was interested in your family tree .My
Grandmother Bridget Shiels was the sister of Darby Shiels.
My grandmother married Henry Carr and moved to Scotland.
I remember my late father James receiving visitors from America ,Pittsburgh?,
I visit Fanad regularly in fact one of my daughters is now married and settled in Fanad ,it is great to have family going back to their roots.
You may be able to check your roots and find that we are related,if not at least we have Fanad Donegal in our hearts Slan.
Patrick, do you remember who he was visiting? I am here in Pittsburgh PA and I have been researching my husbands family tree for about 10 years now. Any and all information about Sheilds-Haggerty- Louge all connects with his family. Thank you
Very nice website, I’m afraid I might upset some peoples thinking on Leitrim.
You say you are connected to the Colls who worked for Lord Leitrim, then you might know that one of your family connections gave witness against one of the three so called heroes in the court of enquiry [as reported in the London Times newspaper 1878]. This would be Edward Mills, husband of Margaret Coll.
The MIlls and Coll family were both employed on the estate.The Mills family lived on at Manorvaughan until around the time of WW1 with a house next to the ferryhouse on the banks of Mulroy, it was just near the new bridge. Strange you would think given the supposed Irish dislike for so called informers, but he wasn’t the only one, many gave evidence and lived on and their families still do around Carrigart. The reason they could and did talk to Police was they owed a lot to Leitrim and were not that happy he was killed, especially it being done by outsiders from Fanad.
Edward was my great grandmother Caroline Elliott [nee Mills] brother. James [great grandfather] and Caroline Elliott also worked for Lord Leitrim and contrary to the rubbish repeatedly spouted about him he was actually a good man to work for. My great-grandfather James and Eddie Mills both were arrested for various things, drunk, fighting, cutting Leitrim’s trees, neither were fired or evicted. The court papers are available for Milford petty sessions listing their offences.
When he built Manorvaughan [it only became Mulroy after his death so not really too confusing] he had all his workers & servants into the main house for a house warming dinner, some 40 or 50 of them irrespective of rank. Do you know any other landowning Lord in Victorian Britain would do that??? These were mixed Catholic & Protestant people, he didn’t care about religion, another rarity in that day. Yes he supposedly had a bad temper, but even other Landlords he had court cases against spoke well of him after his death.
He evicted tenants that didn’t pay rent, what was he supposed to do then leave them there and let the good rent payers cover the difference. Clearly your McFadden’s were good rent payers, as you say they weren’t evicted, like the vast majority of his tenants weren’t. I take it your people would have been happy to pay the difference if asked, somehow I think not. You don’t hear about the families who had to leave Donegal because the men lost there jobs as a result of the murder do you? It took over a year to sort out who inherited the title so not much work in that time.
Regarding the murder itself the three stooges were working for what today would be called a ‘gangster’, from Fanad who had lost an eviction case to Leitrim two days before the murder and wasn’t happy, his name and the details are now quite well known. The Police knew from early on who was involved, much like they do fighting the mob in the States, getting someone in Fanad to talk was another matter [fear of your man], not so in Carrigart. So I’m afraid it was no great blow for the working man’s freedom as the myth has it, written by the same people who tried to blacken his name. There was nothing heroic in murdering an old man, but even at 3 against 1 they struggled.
I think some people need to do a bit of reading, many records are now available in Dublin & Belfast shed light on what he did do for the three Irish estates he held, very little of it was what you could call bad.
Suzanne…Irish Independence in 1917, err no! Tennants had rights, they could always sell their plot of land, there was a thing called the Ulster Custom, you could buy and sell your lease without the Landlord being able to stop you. He retained the lease but you could move on if you could sell it. The reason people were evicted was because they were basically not very good at farming and the land they had was poor, hence him later putting cattle and sheep on it. It wasn’t fit for humans. He actually did some of them a favour, or they would have never gone to America and become millionaires…think on it.
Sorry if this doesn’t fit your rose tinted view of History.
Thank you for your interesting comments. Yours is the only side of the story I’ve heard that was pro-Leitrim. It would be hard to justify murder of anyone, even tyrannical landlords. Apparently, everything he did was lawful, and his household servants probably loved him. My “relatives” never claimed any animosity toward the 3rd Earl. It seems, however, that he was hated by so many that his hearse was almost overturned when his body was being brought to it final resting place at St. Michan’s in Dublin. In general, you’ll not hear much positive about the man in the history of Donegal.
Dear Rob, I was astonished and fascinated to read your side of this story as I’d also heard respectable accounts of this particular Lord Leitrim. From my grandmother no less who was Caroline Delaney (née Mills in 1903) Being curious I had a look at the 1911 census and discovered that Edward Mills was her father, my great granfather and therefore your great grandmother’s brother. I’m about to get in touch with my uncle who has traced the Mills family tree quite far back. Thanks to everyone here who has contributed to this fascinating discussion,
Dear Anne, I am the granddaughter of Edward Mills and am fascinated to find this story. I would love to know more about my Mills and Coll family. I would love to get in touch if possible.
I would love to find out more about Caroline Mills as she is my great great grandmother.
Hi Tom, what a joy is was to find the retelling of this event on Facebook. It is a story that my father often told as we drove past Milford and through the woods on our way to his birthplace just past Downings. I was wondering if you could remind me of the name of this woods. Please excuse the spelling but it sounded like Cret a la Woods when my dad told the story but I’d love to know the correct spelling. My dad said the fellas waited up in the trees & dropped down from them for the attack. Again thank you for posting this. I will be over this summer the end of July and am looking forward to that beautiful drive up to Downings. So happy they took out all those hair pin curves that were there years ago. God bless, MaryO
Hi Mary: To my knowledge, Lord Leitrim was ambushed at Cratlagh Wood on his way from Manorvaughn to Milford. I’ve driven that road several times but never could figure out the exact location because of my unfamiliarity with the area. Thanks for your interest. Tom
Oh my, I don’t even know where to start. As a favor to my husbands Uncle Jack Haggerty, here in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, I began researching his family tree about 10 years ago. All of the names in this story connect. Do you have any information on Michael Hergahty’s family or Niel Shields, or Michael Louge? All of these names are VERY prominent through out the tree, and the time line for when they left for America is spot on. Any help that you could pass my way is deeply appreciated
Michael heraghty is my 5x great grandmother s brother.his sister is Susan heraghty.
Sorry for the delay in posting these comments. Very busy and didn’t get around to checking them. I can’t post them automatically because of the spam problem.
I am from Pennsylvania I started to research my ancestors from Ireland So far I’ve gone back to the early 1800s on my grandmother and my grandfathers side.I googled the monument for the fanad patriots As I started to research the family tree,I realized that I was related to Michael mcelwee.As I continue to research our tree I have found that I am related to all three of the men on there.we come from two different families from fanad since the early 1800s.So far that is the first time I have heard anything about the lord of lietrim.Have family and friends all over Ireland.most of my immediate family had already been there .Now we will be planning a trip for the summer.I can’t wait to see the country along with the last of the McFadden children in my family. I never would have even known about patriots if I didn’t start a family tree that I would be giving to my daughter We weren’t very sure about our family history because our grandmother didn’t really tell us anything about it.I can’t wait to read the book Thanks,Tom McFadden U.S.A
Joann Haggerty Feb 2017
My fathers name was James Carr ,son of Henry grandson of Daniel (Donald) his mother was Bridget Shiels daughter of Neil Shiels (Fanad patriot)
My father had visitors (cousins) from Pittsburgh to his home in Pumpherston West Lothian Scotland (Margaret etc)
Michael Heraghty married my grandmother sister Grace
Hope this is of use to you .,contact me on this forum for further information if of interest Slan
Have you read the book by a woman down in Leitrim whose mum runs a b&b not far from the Earl’s home? Sorry I gave my copy to my brother and can’t remember the names. As I recall it seems he had a reputation for daliances with daughters of his tenants and his fellow Lords…..The 3rd Earl, from my understanding, was not in the original line of inheritance. It was his cousin who was the 2nd Earl – whose death without an heir put Sydney in the seat, so to speak. A long story short I discovered he was my 3rd cousin, 3 times removed; not something I was looking for but no one of us has a choice as to what skeletans reside in our genealogical closets! Though I question someone attacking an elderly man and shooting dead such a young man just for being in the wrong place I in no way can judge them. In honesty it seems he may have gotten some of his own back – part of me is quite curious to see the various homes of my ancestors while another part of me would be embarrased to be known as from their lineage. What is important is that today we are honest about what has gone before us and to truly learn how to behave different…
Hi Marcella, Most of my information on the 3rd Earl is from books by Leslie W. Lucas of Donegal and a VHS video called the Third Earl of Leitrim that I bought in Carrigart. There should be no shame in having an infamous character for a distant relative. I believe we all have someone like that in our closets. It’s good hearing from you. As I mentioned, the murder of a landlord in my novel is strongly based on the life of the Third Earl, and his reputation for the alleged abuse of his power with the daughters of his tenants. Apparently there was no #MeToo movement in the 19th century.
My granny was Mary shields , I used to take her up to meet her cousins in fanad. Her father was bernard shields brother of niall shields. She used to talk about William Sydney Clements and his evil deeds. My mum remembers them in her house and talking irish so the young ones would not know what they they were saying. We have photos of the fanad patriots
Hi John. Would you be able to share photos of the Fanad patriots?
So interesting reading all this. Does anyone know of family members that moved to Scotland in Coatbridge? My family is somehow related as well. I only know my grandfathers name, Hugh Shields
John Carr, my mum was from fanad, Micheal Heraghty was her 2×great uncle. Would love to see photos.
My Father Seán Shields was from Duagh More, Co. Donegal – Great Great Grand Son of Neil Shields.
My grandmother was Mary Shields McCrane from Donegal.
Caroline Mills and James Elliot would be my great great grandparents would love to find out more about them.
I enjoyed your piece, mo chara. It’s altogether too rare and, therefore, becomes increasingly more important, with the passage of time, to expose these evil, grandiose, narcissistic, colonial ways as don’t forget that much of our true Irish history has been “lost” to this foreign occupation. One of the biggest robberies in the history of mankind. It’s not about digging up old wounds. It’s about the truth and paying respect to those innocent defenseless victims who can and indeed could not ever speak up for themselves fully without fear of punishment, affliction and suffering. The youth and old of today equally deserve the whole truth, not the sugar coated crowned version that suits. It’s important for identity which they have tried very hard to steal from us. I can only assume that much of the truth of our past was conveniently cast up in flames over the years. How sad? There must have been a lot to hide? But to he or she who understands, the melancholic pain of our ancestors is and always will be felt in our spirit, our soul, the depths of our being. To this day! We know the truth despite your best efforts to clean your mess! We know!
That’s why the real Irish are tough and strong people who forcibly and continuously endured suffering at the hands of an overwhelming force for evil. Like covid 19, there was no end date. No certainty. This island wasn’t created by God for wealthy tyrants such as LL (and many more like him) to come over and flex for sex and all they could get. Re: Roberts comment, the only real gangster in this story is “Lord Leitrim” himself. Never mind about the locals. Why was he here in the first place please? Despite all the ill gotten wealth and power, All the King and Queens horses and men couldn’t put old LL back together again, however. The killing of another human being should not be glorified but it must be understood. Context is important. Revenge is sweet they say and the people of inishowen celebrated as victims should when they are freed from the clutches of a merciless captor. From reading your strong defense of this animal, i am instinctively called to derive the strong feeling that your family tree was on the “right side” of this impostor. Gombeen man? Did he pay yis well? Had your porridge honey and milk and meal in it? Could you fetch the finest calf to celebrate your daughters birthday or your sons return in return for your eyes, ears and oath? where does your allegiance and willingness to defend this greedy brute originate? It is common local knowledge that LL was a power assertive rapist and rich thief who brought his historical privileges and Ill gotten gains to our island to steal from and plunder.. to take full advantage of the poor oppressed locals on stirabout. Of course the crown forces, Anglo Irish gombeen men and women and weak traitors will tell and mislead you differently. Some traitors did so to survive of course. There are spectrums to and reasons for everything. Context and understanding once again are vital in accurately disseminating history. After all, few bite the hand that feeds them. Few are martyrs. Many are proud staring down the barrel of the gun. Many have to just get on with it. Currency will most often be prioritized over honor and integrity. It is well known in local circles that LL was the prince Andrew of his time. He thought donegal would be his slave quarters and paradise island. Easy pickings. He thought he would come over and rule the roost but he found out in the end that there are Irish men and women who wouldn’t take his shit. eventually, as sure as day is night, there comes a time when enough is enough. It’s called squeaky bum time in donegal long before sir Alex Ferguson said it. So God bless and rest peacefully the men and woman who were victims of “Lord Leitrim”. To those who stood up to him. To those who were forced to accept. To those who suffered, we don’t forget and salute you and Irish men and women like you all around the country. There is only one Lord that the Irish pay eternal homage to, however, and that’s the good lord above, creator of heaven and earth. To him, nothing is unseen. LL clearly never read the 10 commandments. He is far from a Lord where he is now though. May he be an example. God bless Tom! I enjoyed reading your work. Thank you!
Christopher O Dowd.
Hi I may be a bit late in asking, but has anyone got any information on Dan Sweeney the tavern owner mentioned in this story? I ask because my Grandfather and his brothers left the Dargan- Ballymahgahy area around that time, some of them went on to America via Dumbarton Scotland ,My Granfather John stayed on in Dumbarton and raised a family. Any information would be appreciated
Dear Tom, Thanks very much for this information about the killing of Lord Leitrim. I am researching my family history and have learned that an ancestor, Thomas Peter Carr, was the chief RIC officer investigating the murder. It is great to get the back story for the event which is not given in the contemporary newspaper reporting of the case. It is good to know that two of the men on trial who were inncocent were not wrongly convicted – there was intense pressure on the RIC to get convictions and they went to great lengths to do that. The defence counsel fiercely defended the accused.
Amazing story! My great, great, great grandfather was the driver, Michael Logue. Family lore has always been that suspicion on the family was ruinous and compelled his sons to leave Ireland and scatter in search of better luck (except for Michael’s oldest son, who became the revered Cardinal Michael Logue “the Northern Star.”) Eventually, Michael’s grandson, my great grandfather Dennis borrowed steerage passage from a cousin in NYC and came to America. His son, my grandfather John, became a highly successful businessman and attorney. He dedicated his life to his work so that future generations (my mom and me) would have the privilege of time to explore our family history…I am so grateful for what you have shared here!