Posted by in Features.

To have an address in Tón Rua or Tonroe may not seem so glamorous at first when “Red Bottom/Arse” could be a possible translation of this placename; some people may even prefer to opt for Lydican instead. But in fact the more accurate translation is not only much more earth friendly but it would seem that Tón Rua is in fact but a part of Lydican and those living there could be perfectly justified in claiming a Lydican address.

All of the standard Irish dictionaries give other meanings to ‘tón/bottom’ besides the anatomical one as in Tón an bhaile, the lower end of the townland, (Niall Ó Dónaill, 1977, p.1250). Dinneen has ‘remote or lower part, low-lying ground’ (1927, p.1230) and mentions several placenames such as ‘Tón le gaoith, a wind-struck, bleak place’ anglicised often as Tonlegee, which was my Great Grandfather’s village.

Rua as in sionnach rua or madra rua is the red russet colour either of the soil or the grass, perhaps an area of rocky land covered in red fern. Certainly the Tonroe of Ardrahan has about 100 acres of red fern grasslands adjacent to it. The Tonroe of Clarinbridge is found in the turlough to the northwest whose grass would turn reddish in a dry season. Both however are situated next to castles, Castle Taylor and Creggana Castle respectively. The farmers of our Tonroe should be able to tell us why their land could be called red or russet coloured and then all we need to figure out is whether Tón Rua is the low-lying part of Carnmore or perhaps the rear section of the Lydican Castle estate.

Originally Lydacan Tower House belonged to the O’Flaherty’s of Aughanure Castle but they made a strategic withdrawal from the east side of Lough Corrib and were out of Claregalway by the 1235 conquest of Connaught. I can find little enough information on the house/castle or on the other Lydacan Castle on the Laban-Kinvara road. In the eighteenth century Lydecan (as it was then spelt) was a parish of its own under Parish Priest Fr Tadhg Murphy, until about 1805 when it was united with the parish of Claregalway under Fr Malachy Mannion. Where the thatched Church of Lydecan might have been would be interesting to ascertain?

Neither the census of 1851 nor the ordnance survey rateable valuation maps of the following years has mention of our Tonroe unless I am greatly mistaken but the earlier records of the Tithe collections of the Protestant churches has. These are collected in a volume called “The Applotment Book”, now in the County library to the rear of Galway Cathedral. This gives the names of the landowners or bigger tenants in the area with the acreage of their lands whether of the first, second, third or fourth quality with a tithe levy of between one shilling and seven pence for the first quality down to a penny an acre for the fourth. The Commissioners, Samuel Shone and John Mahon, collected £240 for the two ministers, Rev. James Daly and Rev. Wiliam Beresford, this in 1827, when oats was ten shillings and sixpence a barrel.

The 250 acres of Lydacan Demesne is given as part of Andrew Lynch’s estate but leased out to John Lynch Esq., as was 89 acres of Caherlea to Thomas Fox & Co, 98 acres of what appears to be Lisscananane to Philip Murphy & Co, 98 acres of Ballanacuffy to a John Colter (Qualter?) & Co and 187 acres of Gortatleva to Henry Walsh & Co. John Colter has a further 60 acres on the next line but the townland name is difficult to decipher. Tonroe is mentioned next as being in the hands of Patrick Fahy & Co (80 acres), James Lynch Esq. (80 acres) and Daniel Glynn & Co, (10 acres). This amounts to a 100 acres more than the 1850’s Land Survey as being in Lydacan/Tonroe but perhaps the Lisscananane 98 could be excluded. Apart from showing that Tonroe was then reckoned as part of the Lydacan estate, the great wall of which sorrounded Tonroe, it may be the only documentary proof for the Glynns and others named above of the names of their Great Grandfathers!

More of the Applotment Books next month.
Aodán McGlynn