| The Marmion Brothers, A Hundred years in Mourne
by Brigitte Marmion
with additional research by Tom Cunningham, Sheila Phillips, Fiona Doyle Jones and research and photos by Barry Boecher
Patrick Marmion and Richard Marmion were brothers. Patrick remained in Mourne and Richard would immigrate t o
New York in 1810 and open a Tobacco Company. The first documentary evidence of Marmions in Mourne is contained in a lease dated 19 July 1765 made between Brent Spencer of Ballyardle Esq., and Patrick and Richard Marmon (sic) of Morne.
Brent Spencer leased to the Marmons the lower half townland of Ballymagart including the bleach green, the bleaching mills and as much turf as
they could cut, spread, and dry within the five acres of the bog of Ballyardle. It was further specified that the turf was to be used for the firing of
the premises only. The term agreed was 31 years, in compliance with the penal law. The yearly rent amounted to £78.10.0. This was to be
paid half yearly, on the 1st. May and the 1st. November. These dates were customary and were known as ‘Gale Days’.
When Spencer leased the whole of Ballyardle from his uncle the Rev. Dr. Joshua Pulleine in 1750 the rent was fixed at £56.6.4 together with
twelve pieces of bleached linen or £12 in lieu, twelve geese every 29th September or 12 shillings and six fat lambs in Summer or £1.10.00.
Pulleine had taken Ballymagart and Ballyardle on a perpetuity lease in 1731 from Mr. Robert Nedham of Newry at the yearly rent of £20.
James and Christopher Marmion were two of the sons of Mary Garvey and Patrick Marmion of Mourne born sometime in the 1770's. Mary was the
daughter of Dudley Garvey and Bridget McDermott and the niece of Bishop Anthony Garvey of Augnagon, she grew up in the same small cottage that
the Bishop had held clandestine masses in (Garvey cottage above), at a time when Catholics were extremely oppressed and it was unlawful for them to worship God. Patrick Marmion lived at Kilkeel and settled in Lurganconary. Patrick and Mary raised their family here.
In 1790, James Marmion married Jane Magenis, the daughter of Arthur Magenis and Jane Savage. Arthur and Jane, however were deceased by the time of their daughter Jane's marriage to James and the dowry was provided by her Uncle Roger Magenis of Balloly (Ballyla) in Dromore. The society wedding was noted in all the papers. The couple returned to settle in Lurganconary, Kilkeel and James named his home "Janebrook" after his bride. A few years later Christopher Marmion, James' younger brother married Jane Magenis' sister Mary. So the brothers were now not only brothers but brothers-in-law as well, as were the Magenis sisters doubly related to each other. Both marriages appear to have been a love match. The Marmions owned 1,790 acres of several townlands in Mourne at a time where it was unlawful for Catholics to own land, so in an extreme act of kindness, and without thought to their own lands being taken from them if they were found out, the Joseph Glenny of Newry held the Marmion's lands in trust. Being the honorable men they were, returned the land back to them when it was finally safe to do so. Christopher and Mary were never able to have children, so their heir was the husband of James and Jane's daughter, Mary . Mary Marmion had married Alexander Macdonnel (born Ft William, Scotland) of Merchants Quay in Newry. James and Jane had quite a large family and all but their youngest daughter Ann married. They had quite a few sons, James, John, Arthur, George and William, however it was only Arthur Marmion who would live to middle age, he was a spirit merchant in 1819 in Mourne, by 1829 was an Agent in Dublin and by 1839 had immigrated to New Orleans with his wife Catherine Murphy (daughter of Lawrence Murphy and Bridget Murphy of Aughnagon and Newry) and their 4 (soon to be 5) children, never to return. Son in law Alexander Macdonnell would inherit the Ballymagart Mill. James and Jane's daughters married well, all to Protestants, and all except Bessy Marmion Murphy Dowdall, and her sister Ann Marmion left Ballyardel.
By 1797 the brothers were involved in the beginnings of the 1798 rising. Christopher Marmion especially would take up the fight. Their wives
brother, John Magenis was a leader of the Defenders in Down and was married to Bartholomew Teeling's sister. Their Uncle Roger Magenis also took up the cause and did what he could to fight the oppression that had such a stranglehold on all their lives. At the time England was using Ireland as one large social experiment, and the results of it were devestating, taking 200 years to recover from. The Marmion brothers saw this and had decided to do all they could to survive it, and to preserve the life they knew. The United Irishmen and Defender Organizations was open to any religions and were united solely by the fact that they were Irish. Ireland for the Irish. As Wolfe Tone famously said, "From my earliest youth I have regarded the connection between Ireland and Great Britain as the curse of the Irish nation, and felt convinced, that while it lasted, this country would never be free or happy. In consequence, I determined to apply all the powers which my individual efforts could move, in order to separate the two countries." Christopher more so than James was actively involved in the rebellion, James had a large family to consider and was concerned for their well being should he be caught, he was extremely cautious that this never happen. A year before the rebellion began both Wolf Tone and Bartholomew Teeling came to Ballymagart Mill, most likely to shore up plans for the rebellion in Down. Wolf Tone did not stay long, leaving by fishing boat, however Teeling was there quite some time. One day word came to Teeling that the Welsh Horse were spotted on the road into Mourne Park while he, Teeling was fishing on the mill-dam, while he was in his French Uniform, he was also barfoot and ran to tell Christopher of his predicament. Christopher took off his own boots and gave them to Teeling and took him to where Tom Doyle lived to hide him. Part of the house was burned by the Guard but Teeling was not discovered. The Welsh Guard did take Christopher Marmion into custody and imprisoned him at Gallows Hill and held him there for quite a long time. Christopher made friends with his captors and played sports games with them, he was aquainted with one of the guard upon arrival and gave him a letter to Ballymagart to take Teeling to Balooly (Ballala), Roger Magenis's home. Christopher was a friend good of Monroe who fought the battle of Ballynainch, and was imprisoned with some of his men. Christopher's wife Mary waited at the gallows and expected her husband to follow some of Monroe's men to the Gallows the day they were hanged, but thankfully he was not executed with the others. Eventually he was released and but he would be sent back a few more times, thanks to his great enemy Squire Hall who used any opportunity to do so. Oddly enough Hall and James Marmion were friends, or perhaps it only appeared so. The Act of Union in 1800 was one of the results of the failed rising, the promise that discrimination against Catholics and Presbyterians would end just didn't materialize and they continued to suffer severe political and economic deprivations. The brothers together were Linen Drapers and owned the Ballymagart Mill, as did their father and his brother before them. However in 1819 the bottom fell out of the linen industry. They had been engaged in the business of smuggling since early 1790's, and it was a perfectly acceptable occupation to be involved in at the time, so when the linen industy failed, it was not as devestating in Mourne.
A Letter from LORD ANNESLEY to LORD HILLSBOROUGH about Deputy Governorors 14th April 1793
I received your Lordships letter. I believe when the Volunteers were in fashion, which I wish they never had been, your Lordship,
Lord Bangor, Lord Londonderry and myself, were appointed Deputy Governors of the County that we might
get arms. How far that appointment has to say to this matter, I know not, but I will be in any line you think will be of use to support you against
a great many of whose names are on your list. I fear Moore, the Justice of the Peace in Mourne, is a very low fellow. Mr. T. Corry I believe has a
house in Mourne. How far you can put confidence in Captain John Waring I know not. His brother the parson is an insolent [ ] .
One George Hustons father was a reputable man in Mourne; his son George voted against you because you did not assist him in the smuggling line.
I really do not know anything of the Mourne men, but I believe they are a cunning, Presbyterian set of rascals, mixed with a set of Papists.
I beg you will let me know when you think the Militia will be embodied, and if drummers and fifers are provided, as I have two or
three that may answer until you get proper persons.
Smuggling was a main industry in the late 1820's in Morne and a visitor traveling through the area remarked on the many mansions in Kilkeel with no sign of any industry. In order for the families of Mourne to keep from becoming destitute by the outrageous and crippling taxes that the British government was imposing on them, making it difficult to purchase or even develop new farm impliments or to grow an industry so much were the taxes paid squeezing this land dry. Thus they began to rely on the smuggling of liquor and tobacco and bypassing the revenue man to make a decent living. In a letter from Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to Lord Kilmorney in response to Kilmorney requesting mail service the Lord Lieutenant mentions the smuggling problem in Mourne and tells Kilmorney that he wouldn't consider a boat for Kilkeel's mail until the smuggling problem was resolved. He is also making a veiled comment that he is aware that Kilmorney is involved. The Bristish goverment then enlisted the aid of Alexander Chesney who was a for-hire vigilante of his day, having previously fought in the America Revolution for the British. He moved his family into the neighborhood to spy on his Ballyardel neighbors and capture them in the act of smuggling. Chesney was obsessed with catching Christopher Marmion and at some point, Christopher was reported to have been arrested because he shot a revenue officer, this was either Chesney or one of his men, but it does not apear to be a fatal wound. A trial was held and Christopher was aquitted of the charges. Christopher would be in Goal several other times, for maiming a hourse (stray bullet?), and other instances, always aquitted. Lord Kilmorney lived way beyond his means and loved to gamble when in England, he moved to Mourne and made a very good living at smuggling. George Houston as well joind the smuggling operation, and it was both these men who protected Christopher Marmion and his brother James when things went wrong. The Houstons and Marmions were linked via the Newell family by marriage. Many in the Marmion family in Louth, where the Marmions originated, knew how to make liquor, brew beer and their Uncle Richard Marmion in New York manufactured tobacco, there were plenty of resources for their operation. However, they were not the only smugglers in town.
"An enquiry was held by Francis Carleton, collector at Newry, into the allegations of
William Beers, surveyor at Annalong, and James Purdy, Customs boatman at the same place,
that Alexander Chesney had been guilty of corrupt connections with smugglers. The board of
Customs, as a result of Carleton's report, dated 24 March, 1802, informed Chesney that the
circumstances of the spirits being sent to his house at an unseasonable hour was open to
suspicion, and cautioned him as to his future conduct respecting smugglers. James Purdy's
suspension was cancelled." (Minute Book of the Irish board of Customs, No. 278, p. 126 ; in
the Public Record Office in London.)
In 1825 James Marmion moved to the Bell Hill (Belmont) mansion house at Ballyardel which had previously belonged to the Houstons which consisted of 348 acres. This was the homestead house in Mourne because the Harbor road lead right up to the front steps of the home. James would live out the remainder of his life here with his wife Jane. In the 1820's Mourne and especially Ballyardel had become a dangerous place
ATTEMPT TO ASSASSINATE.
WHEREAS the Rev WILLIAM HUGHES, a Magistrate of this County, on his return from Taghmon, on Monday the 24th instant, was
fired at from the plantation of Belmont, about the Hour of Eight o’Clock, in the evening, the Ball passing through his Car.
A Reward of ONE HUNDRED POUNDS, will be paid to any person giving such Information as may bring the villain to justice.
—25th December, 1827.W. HUGHES.
There were other instances when a Police car in Ballyardel was hijacked one evening. Other times shots rang out at night. There was much going
on when the sun went down, for the smugglers and for the lawmen.Eventually even Chesney saw that there was more to be made in smuggling that in Revenue, and besides all of his Ballyardel neighbors had grown increasingly angry with him and what he was doing to them.
Naturally, Chesney's success in foiling the smugglers had aggravated them and led
him into many quarrels with them. The marked increase in the clandestine trade and the falling off in the import duties had aroused the lords of the Treasury to try their hand at the suppression of smuggling in the summer of 1820 by sending the royal
naval inspector-general of the Preventive Water Guard to survey the Irish Channel with a view to establishing a preventive force.
The Irish board of Customs instructed their revenue officers to co- operate in this project by supplying every assistance and information, an order which Mr. Chesney appears to have complied with to the best of his ability, although he was to learn at the end of the year that the Water Guard, when established, would supplant his office. However, he had made many seizures during the year, for
which he had received a considerable amount of money, and he began at once to make arrangements for building on his farm at Ballyardle.
When the potato crops began to slowly fail by 1840 the famine had begun, though by most acounts the suffering was not very bad in Mourne, Lord Kilmorney was an excellent landlord. The Marmion brothers were old men by then and much of the fight had gone out of them. They had lived good long lives, had had much adventure, but also had to make many adjustments, they had hung on to what they could, were not men apt to complain. Their lives were full and they would be the last of the Marmions to live in relative comfort and wealth in Ireland. Having had strong bonds with the other men of Mourne whom they trusted by their word alone. There began, about this time a much different Ireland, the country would emerge from the famine, a much harsher and crueler one where everyone could only rely on themselves to survive, most would lose everything, some, even their beautiful homeland.
James Marmion died in 1843 at Bell Hill, Christopher Marmion would die in 1850, his obituary read:
April 18th 1850 in his 85th year, Christopher Marmion at his residence Dunnavan, Mourne, County Down.
By his death the strongest link is broken that bound his parish the respect and reverence of the
present generation to the disinterested patriotism of those who periled their all for country in "98" it was well known
and well remembered that he was "out" the memorable year and when it's storm had passed
away he was loved by his friends for his truth and respected by his enemies for his humanity on that occasion.
8 May 1850 Freemans Journal
|Garvey Cottage, Aughnagon|
|Garvey Cottage, Aughnagon|
|Harbor, County Down|