Flaxgrowers Lists

The art of linen cloth production was brought to the north of Ireland by settlers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Prior to that the main thread spun and used in garment-making was wool.

It was fortunate that Ulster specialised in linen for the British Government that ruthlessly suppressed competition to English manufacture through tax and excise duties, had no reason to penalise the Irish linen industry.  Through the eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries it was a ‘cottage’ industry here, although the First Industrial Revolution in Britain dates to this time. 

That linen production was widespread and rewarding at the close of the eighteenth century is evident from the lists of flax-growers drawn up in 1796.  Almost one hundred such growers are listed for the Lordship of Newry, indicative of a thriving agricultural product but also of a successful industry.  Although the list is of bare names (with the first thirty named having more than one ‘wheel’) it is the earliest list available of family names in the Newry area.  As such it is highly significant.  The family researcher should however bear a few points in mind.  Flax being an agricultural plant they were more likely to have been rural (than urban) dwellers and the Lordship of Newry had extensive lands in S Down, S Armagh and Louth.  No addresses are included or any further information.  That this was a rewarding crop indicates that the poorest, for example cottiers, are not included.  Also the penal laws continued in force, preventing extensive Catholic land ownership.  There was also considerable discrimination against Dissenters (mainly Presbyterians): a section of them was active in the United Irishmen movement in Newry.  The genealogist cannot conclude anything from the information here alone but may find enough to warrant further research. 

By way of example only, your author had a great great great grandfather named James McKeown who lived in the early nineteenth century on a farm in The Fews district of South Armagh.  It is known that a farmer descendent of his a century later in the same region was growing flax.  There is a James McKeown recorded her in 40th place.  It may or may not be the same man, or his father.  It is however a significant find and fully justifies further research.  Another conclusion that can be drawn is that the modern English spelling of many of our common surnames was in force although Irish was still the language of most people.  The reader may wish to check whether any of his/her name farmed here then, or to draw up a list of the most common surnames from these hundred.  There are certainly many of the most frequently heard surnames of today, Boyle, Mooney, Clark, Fegan, McIlroy, Wilson, McCracken etc.  I have reproduced names as they appear in the list. 

Have fun!

Lordship of Newry  Flax-Growers Lists 1796

Samuel Gordon    James Connor     John Thompson     James Burns Richard Waddel     Alexander Riggs     James Wilson     Robert Wilson     James Stitt      Brice McMullan     James Stewart     John Crozier     Hugh Magrath     Samuel Reid     Cornelius McCullough     David Pollock J    ohn McMullan     John McCullough  Sarah Mills     John Mills     Andrew Murdogh     John Graham     William Crawford      Thomas Crawford      Hugh Crawford     Andrew Clark     William Heslip     John Grant     David Anderson     William Andrews     Robert Kerr  T    homas Treanor     Patrick Treanor     Rose Mathews     Bernard Magiverigen     Patrick McCamely      John Morgan     James Ferran    Edward Carry     James McKeown     Patrick McAvoy      Edward Bagenal     Patrick Bagenal     Alexander Boyd     Adam Fegan     Henry Moony     Adam Kernaghan      William Martin     Susannah McCleland    John McMinn     John McCracken     Isaac Leister     Agnes Henry   Jane Wilson     John Lutton     Richard McIlroy     Charles Quin     Patrick Boyle William Bradford     Laurence Murphy  Michael Turley     James Morgan     Hugh Morgan     Hugh Waddell     Patrick Lavery     Andrew Dodds     Patrick McIllorey     Robert Irwin Elizabeth Maffot     John Mathews     John Campbell     Patrick Fitzpatrick     James McCullough     John Scott      Robert Harbison  Phelemy Keating      Thomas Graham     William Crawford      James Sloane     John Bailie     George Cantley     David Campbell     Andrew Mechefemy  William McComb     Thomas Magiverigen     William McKee  William Boyd     William Dunn     Andrew McCullough     David Johnson     John Penny  Anne McIlroy      Margaret Sprott     Robert Logan
.. Oliver Plunkett …

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