Charles McCloskey, Mary Duffy and the Duffy Family

Charles McCloskey and Mary Duffy married in about 1839 and resided in the village of Draperstown within the town of Cahore in Ballynascreen parish. Between 1840 and 1856 they had ten known children. The Ballynascreen Catholic parish records did not begin until 1847 so only the last four children's baptisms are recorded, including the birth of Sarah McCloskey in 1856:

Table of McCloskey baptisms in Ballynascreen Catholic parish, County Derry, Ireland

Child Parents Birth date God parents
Peter McCloskey Charels and Mary (Duffy) ofDraperstown 13 May 1849 Peter Duffy
Mary Henry
Catherine McCloskey Charles and Mary (Duffy) of Cahore 20 Sept 1852 John McNeal
PeggyAnn Broobury
Theresa McCloskey Charles and Mary (Duffy) of Cahore 25 Oct 1854 NN and Sally Walls
Sarah McCloskey Charles and Mary (Duffy) of Cahore 9 Sep 1856 James O'Neil
Peggy Duffy

Years later Sarah McCloskey's daughter would say that Sarah was born on a ship just off the coast of Scotland but Ballynascreen parish baptisms confirm that Sarah was born at the family's home in Draperstown.


Returning from Market, Kilkenny - The Illustrated London Times, Jan 24, 1857

Charles McCloskey is listed in an 1858 tax list of Draperstown just two doors from his father-in-law Peter Duffy. The list reports that Charles lived in an urban area, along a row of buildings, leasing a house, office, yard and stable, indicating that he may have been some kind of a tradesman rather than a farmer. Sometime after this tax list was taken, Charles McCloskey died leaving a widow and ten children. One account passed down in the family suggests that Charles was murdered by English soldiers who wanted to take his land. Although land could not be owned by Catholics, leases could be held by them until death. A rival could only apply for the coveted lease when the lease-holder was dead, whether by murder or natural causes, it didn't matter. But murdering Charles McCloskey would not have released the lease on his property because he did not own the lease, but rather sub-let it from the lease holder. Given the strong resentment toward the British government, it was not uncommon among American Irish to exaggerate or fabricate stories of mistreatment by the British back in Ireland. The story of Charles' murder by British soldiers may be such a fabrication, but since research in Irish records has not yet revealed the circumstance of Charles McCloskey's death, the murder story cannot be discounted yet.

On-site research did uncover another murder that occurred in the family although not involving Charles McCloskey. The following excerpt from an article appearing in a prestigious Irish genealogy research journal explains further. The author, Dwight Radford is co-editor of the journal as well as a professional genealogist who researched the Duffy family in Ireland.

By Dwight Radford, co-editor The Irish At Home and Abroad

Peter Duffy of Cahore

Peter Duffy, a Roman Catholic, was born about 1783 in County Londonderry. Peter (whose daughter immigrated to New Jersey) appeared in the enumeration of the 1831 census of Draperstown, Ballynascreen Parish, County Londonderry. The local Catholic registers do not go back far enough to document the birth of his children. However, by extracting all the Duffy's who acted as sponsors and witnesses in the registers, it was possible to reconstruct Peter's family.

Peter also appeared in the Tithe Applotment in Cahore taken in 1825. He was tithed for forty-three acres of land. Griffeth's Primary Valuation of Ballynascreen Parish was taken in 1858 and published in 1859. At this time, he was taxed for two acres in Cahore and for his home in the village of Draperstown The town of Draperstown actually includes land in three townlands, one being Cahore.

Griffeth's Primary Valuation [tax list] was also studied for known children (and sons-in-law) and their residences, and all their locations were traced forward by number as far as the valuation records were on file. The family's property was traced from 1862 through 1971. From this it was learned that Peter Duffy disappeared from his Draperstown home in about 1862, at which time Ellen Kelly was listed as residing there. Maps were obtained from the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland and the sites of the family's holdings were marked. By doing so, it was possible to go to Draperstown and visit all of the sites. Upon arriving, it was found that the homes of Peter Duffy and all his sons-in-law were still standing; however, they were all being used as shops.

Further revelations about Peter Duffy's life came from visiting the Catholic cemetery which serves the parish. The impressive tombstone found there for Peter's son-in-law and daughter, Dr. Franics and Matilda (Duffy) Charleton, showed that this was not a peasant family. Next to the Charleton monument was a huge flat stone erected by Peter Duffy in memory of his deceased children. This stone, almost eroded beyond recognition, dated from at least 1833. It was puzzling, however that no tombstone was found for Peter himself. Logically, a man of moderate wealth would have had a respectable tombstone. So, it was assumed that one of the huge unreadable stones nearby was Peter's. By investigating further, this assumption was found to be in error. The cemetery visit not only confirmed the existence of additional children, but also revealed more about Peter's social standing in the community.

More clues about Peter were found by visiting the homesite of his son-in-law, James McGlade, outside Draperstown in Cahore. Although the farm house was still standing, it was being used as an outbuilding. The present owners did not know anything about the Duffy or McGlade families, but they did know the oldest man in the townland who lived up the road.

Upon visiting the elderly gentleman and mentioning Peter Duffy, it was found that Peter was part of the local lore. The gentleman reached into his wallet and pulled out a handwritten copy of an 1859 rent roll from the local estate owner. This record listed Peter Duffy and all of his sons-in-law.

According to the gentleman in Cahore, Peter Duffy has a dispute with one of the man's ancestors, Patrick Trolin, and subsequently Peter murdered Mr. Trolin. The gentleman stated that the two men occupied land next to each other and that the dispute was over a right of way. Griffeth's Primary Valuation confirms the residence of Mr. Trolin in Cahore at the same time that Peter Duffy was there.

The gentleman stated further that Peter Duffy had "escaped" from his new house in Cahore and left through the port of Londonderry for America! The gentleman proceeded to take me to the new house in Cahore, which is currently in ruins, and showed me the window out of which, according to legend, Mr. Duffy jumped to escape the Trolin relations who were on the farm seeking vengeance. This legend also stated that the police were after him. The new house in Cahore would have been dated between Griffeth's Primary Valuation and the next valuation records of the PRONI.

It was known that Peter's son-law and daughter, Charles and Mary (Duffy) McCloskey, left in the early 1860s for New Jersey. Although the police reports filed at the National Archives were checked, nothing was found under the headings of Duffy, Trolin, "Rewards", or anything which would denote a murder. So the mystery of Peter Duffy will remain unsolved until my next trip to Ireland, when the facts learned during my last trip will be followed up on in more detail. Further research will consult newspaper accounts and family legends or papers in the Cahore area, as well as search for the complete rent rolls of Cahore to see if they list any further information concerning Peter Duffy and the murder.


Although compelling and despite the convincing detail, old man Trolin's information was only partly accurate. Disputing Mr. Radford's assumption, further research revealed that Peter Duffy was not a murderer who fled Ireland and that he is most likely buried in the parish cemetery beneath one of the illegible stones. There certainly was a murder between the Duffys and the Trolins, but it occurred in an earlier generation between a Patrick Duffy and a James Trolin. The Ordnance Survey, kept by local city officials records the following details:

Ordnance Survey Memoirs for Ballinascreen 1836:

James Trolin, farmer, was killed by Patrick Duffy, farmer in 1831. They both lived in the townland of Cahore. The cause was a drinking dispute. The murderer absconded [cause: a dispute about a pars or bridal road. Duffy fled the country].

*"drinking dispute" refers not to a bar brawl but to the right for grazing sheep or cattle to drink from a well or creek on the property.

Patrick Duffy of Cahore was no doubt a relative of Peter Duffy (possibly a son or brother), but their exact relationship is still not known. In 1831 only Peter Duffy's family is listed in the census, so Patrick Duffy may have already fled by the time the census was taken. An earlier tax list taken in 1825 shows only a "Peter and Michael Duffy" leasing forty-three acres together. Further down on the tax list was the soon to be murdered, James Trolin leasing just six acres.

This murder of James Trolin appears too distant to have been the origin of the story of Charles McCloskey's death. Further research should be done to learn how Charles died. In any event, something serious enough happened in the early 1860s that compelled Mary Duffy McCloskey to leave her family and friends in Ireland. At least one Draperstown friend was already in America and may have been encouraging Mary to come across. The Murphy family had left Draperstown over twenty years earlier, but appear to have still maintained contact with friends and relatives. By the 1860s the Murphys were well established in America and their son Felix was a successful businessman and politician in New York City.

 



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