The Davis family in Glenboy and Boggaun, had been known for their activity in the Orange Order, and for their determined opposition to Home Rule and impending Independence. When the events of First World War and the Easter Rising overtook the gradual political change, their opposition, like that of the Protestant community generally, melted away.
There is no doubt that Richard and his family, certainly harbouring reservations, threw their lot in with the new Irish state. Throughout the worst of the turbulent and uncertain times they emerged relatively unscathed and were targeted on only one occasion by an IRA group searching for guns.
In the fifteen years up until 1926, the Protestant population in Co Leitrim fell by almost a third, compared to just over five percent in the Catholic population, although there is no single factor that can explain the decline. While a good number left for nearby Co Fermanagh, many, like the Davises who had put down deep roots, probably felt, on reflection that they did not belong anywhere else.
A significant factor in the fortunes of the Davis family at this time, was Richard’s response to the collapse of his cattle shipping business, precipitated by his runaway business partner. He decided to pay all debts owed to his farmer suppliers at whatever personal cost.
This engendered considerable sympathy and support for the family, and the wider community saw to it that Richard and his family would not be evicted by the Bank seeking payment. Each year when the Bank re-advertised the farm’s sale, there was the same staunch refusal to bid. Given the families recent Orange activism such widespread community support and generosity must have been affirming, and humbling. And the community would rally round again some years later during another family tragedy when Herbie, Richard’s favourite son, became ill and died from diphtheria.
He had been comfortable borrowing from banks to buy land and for his business, but now Richard was now forced to sell. He disposed of one farm and cut spending to the bone; the family tightened their belts, and depended on what they had historically relied on, their labour, paying the bank whatever they could. When Reco, in 1939, at sixteen years of age went out to work drawing stone with their horse and cart, it marked the turning point in the family’s fortunes.
Despite his difficulties during the 1920s, Richard stood in the Leitrim Council election of 1926, proposed, and seconded by his neighbours, James Maguire and James MacGowan. He canvassed under the Ratepayers Defence Association, focusing on taxation and farming issues. The party would later, through a series of moves merge into the centre right party, Fine Gael. He polled a significant number of first preference votes but was eliminated on the 10th count.
My grandmother, Annie with more middle-class aspirations – and the backbone of family in that time of turmoil, as Richard readily acknowledged – was forced to give up any hopes of a Sligo Grammar education for her seven children. The hoped for jump out of their small farmer, peasant roots, although she would never have entertained such a description, was now abandoned. Their neighbours remarked that with Annie’s support, Richard remained surprisingly calm through this lean and stressful time.
Granda took me to fair days, showed me off on the counters of crowded pubs, then with a bottle of Cidona, left me, temporarily forgotten amid dark trousers and wellington boots. Above the clink of glasses, as mediums of stout eased the humid talk of cattle and weather; boots shuffled in the white sawdust on the floor, turning it the colour of cow dung.
He introduced me to the world of men and made me feel at home amid the work and clabber of the farm; told me stories of his encounters with the fairies up at the gap into Frank’s ground, his horse and cart stuck, leaving saucers of milk in return for their favour.
When he died in the winter of 1961, I remained at home with my aunts, sensing exclusion from some vital event, while my mother and her family grieved, waked and buried my grandfather in the graveyard of Manorhamilton Parish Church, within the walls of the fortified seventeenth century garrison.
1. The Davis lease of the 47 acre farm at Bogguan is first noted in the Griffith’s Valuation (1856-57), and it was here that the brothers James – Richard’s father – and Thomas Davis moved from nearby Glenboy where they were born on an 18 acre farm. The Boggaun farm was purchased in 1901. The neighbouring farm of Frank McLoughlin, of 23 acres was purchased in 1907, and that of Pat Lonegan, of about 20 acres in the 1940s, when Richard’s bank debts had been settled. Richard put at least one farm up for sale in 1934, but it may not have been sold. In the context of Irish agriculture and the land quality in that part of Leitrim, the Davis farm in the 1920s was probably above average size but not particularly large.
2 “Protestant and Irish, The minority’s search for place in independent Ireland.” ed Ian D’Alton and Ida Milne. A good reference to this period of change, particularly the introduction, Content and Context, and Chapter 3, Defining Loyalty, 1926-30, Brian Hughes.
2 thoughts on “Richard Davis, Boggaun, Part 2.”
Hi Stan, Another great read and wonderful photos too. I can see the resemblance of Tommy Davis in these photos. Thanks for the memories !
Thanks Alistair. I enjoy getting the pictures brushed up and used. Best Wishes. STan