Thoughts on the Matter of Ferriters and Islandman

Posted by Seoirse on 5/24/2011 in Commentary | Genaology

Creation of the new Ferriter Family website moved me to a review of certain items that I had in hand, for inclusion on the site. A number of these are now posted as blog entries, including the following. None of these observations, speculations, and theories have been altered by the time that has passed between having been written and now…enjoy reading, and comment, please!

Having inherited the (not uncommon within the family) interest in Ferriter History, I have pursued many of the leads provided by those mentioned above, and a few of my own. I am not a historian, but as a student of history, I have tried to apply the search for and application of sound source material in compiling a narrative of the Ferriter Family’s experience in West Kerry, and to a lesser extent elsewhere, following emigration. My favorite focus has been on the events that happened before the Cromwellian era. Information becomes progressively more sparse as one looks back in time, short the century and a half the followed the Norman incursion, wherein application of Crown Law led to better records for a while. Despite the losses incurred by the destruction of the P.R.O.I. during the Four Courts fire, there is relatively more from that period. Again, I am thinking that none of this is news.

The novel notion that fascinates me, and has led me deeper down the rabbit hole of time and history that I originally intended, involves the apparent destruction and near annihilation of the Ferriter Family during the late 16th century…almost certainly principally associated with the Desmond Wars. Perhaps more on that later, but all of this does bring me to the Blaskets.

The first Ferriter (le Fureter) to arrive in West Kerry seems most likely to have been a Walter le Fureter, arriving during the second generation following the initial Norman Incursion, c1230 or so. Although no documents exist to confirm this, the timing of le Fureters arrival, and the subsequent property and social activities associated with the family suggest that this man was a participant in the sub-infuedation of territories previously granted to Geoffry de Marisco. Successive lordship passed to the FitzGerald family, and it is known that the Ferriters held their lands of the Earl of Desmond from the time that the earldom was created, until its destruction. The lands held by the Ferriters included the Blaskets, and despite the changes in Lordship that occurred following the fall of the Geraldines, Ferriters held on to at least partial title until the 1620s, and probably had de facto control of the islands until the fall of the Catholic Confederacy in 1652. Attempts to reclaim claim to any portion of the Islands following the Restoration failed.

It is known that Iron Age structures exist on the Blaskets, supporting habitation far back into prehistory. As the islands are natural defensive positions, and as the Great Blasket can support habitation (however sparsely) it requires no great leap of faith to discern that the same motivations that drove the early Irish to create promontory forts on the mainland would have driven those same inhabitants to build similar defensive structures on the Blaskets. Once established on the islands, and with continuous close communication (weather permitting) with the mainland, that human occupation would have continued on again seems easy to accept. That there is no discussion in early texts of habitation on the Blaskets is also easy to accept. Why would there be. There is no description of the Great Blasket as uninhabited either, and as discussed above, the balance seems to favor habitation. 

Islands are natural refuges. When the Normans arrived on the Corca Dubhine, the islands would have been a natural place for refugees. (As they became later, during the Desmond Wars.) The native Irish, settling on Great Blasket away from the Normans, would have most likely held on to some semblance of their traditional lifestyle – tribal organization and tainistry. When the first Ferriter – probably Walter le Fureter – took title to the Islands, there were probably tenants there – cattle grazers and fishermen. While these people may have been from several different relict Irish families – Falveys, Sullivans, Sheas, et alia –they had probably already an island-centric traditional social structure, with their “king”, and other principal personages.

We know that the Ferriter family gaelicised during  the late 14th century, transforming from le Fureter to Fyreter and on to Feiritear/Ferriter  during the two centuries between 1350 to 1550. That Irish was the spoken and written language of the family long before Piaras Feiritear wrote his poetry seems certain. That the Corca Dubhine became an area where the Irish language was preserved and evne fostered formed an additional protective bulwark for the Blasket Islanders, insulating them from outside forces that would alter their language or lifestyle.

I expect that Ferriter landlords had no difficulty with however the offshore tenants wished to organize themselves, provided the supported whatever the family chief of the Ferriters had in mind. Some rent in kind via dried fish, or assistance in bringing grazing animals back and forth would have been expected.  The persistent tale that has The Ferriter paying a rent of falcons to Desmond in return for entitlement to the islands may well have been true. If so, the islanders probably caught those birds for him.

At some point, a tower house or other sort of stone built fighting position seems to have been built on Great Blasket. This probably had multiple uses – as a residence for Ferriters when visiting, perhaps for the Blasket “King” when not otherwise used, and as a refuge if attack by pirates occurred. With MacCarthy and O’Sullivan lands just to the South, and with the sea-faring O’Flahertys off to the north, coastal raiding may have been a frequent problem. The possibility that shipwrecking and piracy may have been practiced also exists, so perhaps the “castle” was also a pirate lair. By account, this structure was cannibalized for building stone over time, and no longer exists.

There are well known tales involving Piaras Feiritear and the Blaskets. That he may have sought refuge or hidden there seems likely. We also know that during the siege of Bunratty by Lord Muskerry during 1646, Captain Penn send a sloop to “Ferriter’s Island” for provisions, with a note to “Captain Ferriter” to assure safe passage. 

There is an interesting correlation between the recently discovered correspondence that Identifies inhabitants (albeit they were ‘hooligans’) on Ferriter’s Islands . This letter discusses  a land lease dispute where the contesting parties were the Ferriters (Eamon and Pierce) versus “Diarmuid an Daingean”, who of course was the famous “Dermot O’Dingle”, or  Dermot Moriarty of Ballinacourty.

Dermot was chief of the Moriartys, and Lord Cork’s agent for Corckaguiney.  Later, this man became Pierce Ferriter’s father in law, and his fellow leader in the War of the Catholic Confederacy during the siege of Tralee in 1641/1642.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a fictionalized account of the taking of the Zeeland vessel “Fortune” by Pierce and his sons at the end of the War with Parliament, c1650. In this tale, I invoked the existence of “hooligan” islandmen, who were loyal to Piaras, and who helped in securing the treasure. While the details of my tale are imaginary, the basis for the story is not, and looking back, my guess is that Islandmen did help Pierce with his plunder.



Comments on the Genealogies

Posted by Seoirse on 4/30/2011 in Commentary | Genaology

Creation of the new Ferriter Family website moved me to a review of certain items that I had in hand, for inclusion on the site. A number of these are now posted as blog entries, including the following. None of these observations, speculations, and theories have been altered by the time that has passed between having been written and now…enjoy reading, and comment, please!

Quite a few citations involving the Ferriters of the 17th and 18th centuries exist. That said, there are no birth marriage or death documents for any of these people, nor will there ever be. Records keeping within the Catholic communities was proscribed, and records destruction as in the case of legal documents, has been apocalyptic. However, much can be done within the existing record.
Within the Ferriter Family, the Big Mystery — The Enigma — has been in sorting out the lines of descent from Piaras. Family oral tradition has most frequently maintained that Piaras Feiritear was, in his time the last male Ferriter, and all living Ferriters extend from him. Via DNA studies, we know that the Ferriters seem to have had a single common male ancestor…but whether this was Pierce, or the original le Fureter arrival in ireland is unknown. We do know that there were very few Ferriters alive at the time Piaras was born. There was no colony of related Ferriters living around Ballyferriter as there is now – the tribe had been substantially wiped out during the late 1500s. It is very unlikely that Piaras had many cousins, if he had any cousins at all. It seems more likely that he might have had a brother.

1. In order to make the known genealogy work out such that Piaras was every Ferriters direct ancestor, he is sometimes required to have had two families, one early one late. To fit that scheme, the idea that he was married as a young man to a Helen Trant, who died about the time the Rebellion of 1641 began, (which seems to be supported within the record) and then later married an O’Moriarty has been posited for a number of years. This may be correct. (Tree A)

2. Alternatively, Piaras may have had a younger brother, Thomas – who was listed as forfeiting with him following the failure of the Rebellion, in 1654 or so. They probably were both already dead – we know for certain that Pierce was. In this case, Thomas may have been the father of the “second family”, which included Redmond and Maurice. This does not, however support Cardinal Rinuccini’s description of Piaras being Thaddeus Moriarty’s brother-in-law, unless Piaras was not married to Helen Trant. (Tree B)

3. OR…Redmond and Maurice may also have been Perse’s sons, alongside Edmond, Dominick(2), and Richard. This makes some sense, in terms of the chronology… and aligns with Maurice beinge Pierce Ferriter’s son – just not the first Pierce.  It also aligns with Moriarty Family information that would have Redmond’s Daughter, Mary as being first cousin to Edmond’s daughters.  There are plenty of examples where Irish families produced many children – all it took was a strong, healthy woman with good child-bearing characteristics. Again in this scheme, Pierce would have never been married to a Helen Trant, but only to an O’Moriarty. (Tree C)
So, We have these three choices. As stated we can pretty much safely rule out “shadow Ferriters” or widely spaced inter-relationships…one way or the other, this was a small, genetically close family in the mid-1600s. So one of these three choices is probably substantially correct.

Your Choice?


Dominick Ferriter’s Restoration Document

Posted by Seoirse on 4/29/2011 in Genaology | Ireland

Dominick Ferriter’s Restoration Document:

Upon consideration had of a report unto us made by Morogh ats Morgan, Earl of Inchquin, Henry, Viscount Moore of Drogheda, & Sir William Penn, Knt., grounded on our reference of the 15th of January instant granted on the petition of Major Dominick Feriter, in which report it appeareth that the said Dominick Feriter his father Captain Pierce Feriter did in the beginning of the Rebellion in Ireland relieve and preserve many English Protestant families & continued his case of their preservation so far that he withdrew many of them for their safety to the securest parts of his own estate  until they found opportunity &  saw their own conveniences to repair with their goods to England, that they said Captain Pierce Feriter endeavored still to preserve his loyalty by securing and adhering to any authority from our late royal father of blessed memory in our Kingdom of Ireland, that he cheerfully submitted and constantly adhered to the peace concluded by James, Marquis of Ormond Lieutenant of our said kingdom in 1648 & opposed to the settlement such as resisted our authority in that our kingdom till at length he was put to death by a court martial of the Late Usurper Cromwell for his constancy to our service, and that his son & heir the said Dominick Feriter performed many acceptable services for the support of our authority in said kingdom and was of the last that laid down arms when the power of the usurper became prevalent & then withdrew into forrain (sp) parts whence he with those under his command did offer several times to quit all employments under other princes to come and serve under our ensign if we had found occasion to make use of his service; We have therefore thought fit, and it is our will & pleasure that the said Major Dominick Feriter be forthwith restored to the quiet and peaceable possession of all & every the house, lands, tenements and hereditaments whereof his said deceased father & himself have been dispossessed by the late usurped power, and which are not in the hands of reprisable adventurers or soldiers, We do by this presents will and require our Justices of our said Kingdom of Ireland, and all other of our chief governors and governors for the time being to cause reprisals to be had for them out of such other lands as they shall think fit, and thereupon to cause the said Dominick Feriter to be forthwith restored also to that part of his said estate which is in the hands of reprisable adventurers or soldiers: and we do will & require all and every person or persons now possessing houses, lands, tenements, or herediaments which did or do belong to said Dominick Feriter as aforesaid, to yield up and deliver unto his assigns, or such as shall be authorized by him the quiet and peaceable possession of the same, as  they and every other of them will answer the consequences at their perils (sic) And if any rent or rents or other sum or sums of money do remain in charge on the the said houses, lands and premises in our charge of Exchequer in our said Kingdoms of Ireland, which were put in charge since the month of October 1641, the Barons of our said Court & of them, and any other officer thus whom it may concern are to cause the same to be put out of charge, and our further will & pleasure is that our said Justices of our said Kingdom, and all our Chief Governor & governors for the time being, our sheriffs or others whom it may concerne, do cause this our order to be put forth & in execution; For which this shall to them & every of them a Warrant.   Given at our Court at Whitehall this 23rd day of January 1660 in the 12th year of our reign.

By His Majectie’s Command

Wm. Morice


More about seoirse

George Edmond Ferriter

From a branch of the Ferriter family that made its way to Illinois and Iowa during the middle part of the 19th century, George is a resident of Doylestown in the state of Wisonsin, USA. His was a family group that, while scattered, developed a tradition of keeping the family history alive in a sort of oral tradition. George has had a lifelong interest in Ferriter family history, both the history of the family in Ireland and of the traveling branches. He has written many short blog pieces of Seoirse Feiritear, and has presented at earlier Ferriter events on several topics. In 2015, George will make a presentation on Ferriters who served in the US Civil War. This will focus on the individuals, but also on the larger context of the Irish in this conflict. Extending from a military line, George is a veteran of the US Air Force. George's grandfather John Patrick Ferriter, and his father Charles Arthur Ferriter were career military men as veterans of WWI and WWII respectively. A retired engineer, George currently serves as Village President in Doylestown.