The Tinneny Family History Site




The house and farm where Big John Tinneny, his ancestors and descendants, lived is referred to throughout this text as "The Homeplace." For as far back as I was able to research, it seems to have been the primary, of several Tinneny houses and farms on Goladuff down through the generations. It is located in the townland of Goladuff, the town of Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh, Ulster Province, Northern Ireland. Goladuff is an island-like piece of land connected by a small neck to County Fermanagh. 

In the winter months the rains cause flooding that results in Goladuff being cut off from the mainland and in effect becomes an island.  The bodies of water that surround it are the River Erne on the west, Quivvy Lough on the south and the River Finn on the east. The border between the Republic and Northern Ireland runs midway through Quivvy Lough. The homeplace is located approximately 200 yards from the water's edge in a cluster of trees and vegetation, which is surrounded by pastures. 

Photo: Tunnel of Vegetation Approaching the Homeplace.

During a visit to Goladuff in May 1992, Hubert Tinneny took me to Goladuff. Along with his young son Hugh, we crossed Quivvy Lough by rowboat from Hubert's farm, which was located directly cross the Lough from Goladuff in Belturbet, County Cavan in the Republic. As we approached the shoreline of Goladuff and then walked crossed about 150 yards of open pasture, the homeplace could not be seen because of the vegetation surrounding it. Not until we entered the tree line and walked the last 50 yards through a tunnel of limbs and foliage, did it come into sight. 

The four external walls of the house were standing, as were the three interior walls, which divided the interior of the house into four rooms. All of the walls were bare stone. The roof, which had been thatched, was long gone. The house measured approximately 18 feet wide and 50 feet long. It had two doorways leading to the interior, both of which enter from opposing walls into the kitchen/living area. 


Photo: Rich in front of the door at the homeplace.


As we entered the house there was a fireplace and hearth along the left wall of the combination kitchen and living room. On the opposite wall from the fireplace were several small square niches about six feet above the earthen floor. These were probably used to store small items, candles and lanterns. Through the doorway to the  left of the kitchen/living room was another room with a fireplace. This would have been used as a bedroom and sitting room. A door in this bedroom/sitting room leads to a second bedroom on that end of the house.

Maisie Tinneny, who frequented the homeplace growing up in the 1940s and 50s recalled that the place was sparsely furnished. In the kitchen was a wooden table with wooden chairs. In the bedrooms were small wooden wardrobes, a bed and a chair. She recalled that the boys, her uncles, had their belongings on a chair next to their beds.

Going back to the entrance door of the house and to it's right, as one enters the house, was a room that was used as a workroom. The workroom still contained the large metal butter churning machine which was powered by a mule driven gears and a shaft, from outside the house Mary Ann Tinneny, the wife of Big John Tinneny’s son James, used the churn to make butter which she sold in the town of Belturbet. She was the last person that used the churn. Although the exterior and interior walls of the house were once finished smooth and whitewashed, in 1992 only the rough unmortared stones remained. During a visit in 2001, the walls were noticeably leaning. Compared with other houses of the time the homeplace was quite large. Within several yards of the house is a smaller stone out-building which was used to thrash wheat and oats. About 50 yards beyond that is another stone building, which was the barn for the farm animals.

Photo: The Remains of the Fireplace in the Kitchen.

The homeplace was occupied until the 1960s. It's last occupant and owner until he died in November 1994 at the age of 93, was Philip “Phil” Tinneny. Phil was the   grandson of Big John Tinneny and was the oldest Tinneny that I have been able to locate. He was a bachelor and lived alone in a caravan (mobile home) on the farm, not far from the remains of the homeplace. 

Although the Tinnenys are believed to have lived at Goladuff since the 1600s, the earliest documented evidence of their presence there, that I've been able to locate, dates back to 1732. It is found on the headstone at the Tinneny burial plot in Drummully Cemetery, County Fermanagh. 

Drummully is located about 4 miles from Goladuff. The single headstone that marks the gravesite of many generations of Tinnenys was erected in memory of Thomas Tinneny of Goladuff who was born about 1732 and died in February 1807. Thomas was probably not the first of the family to be buried there and he was certainly not the last. 


Photo: The Tinneny Headstone in Drumully Cemetery "Thomas Tinneny died 1807” born about 1734

The Irish Government's  Ordinance Map of 1835 shows the Tinneny homeplace and farm, along with other Tinneny houses and farms that were on Goladuff at that time. Likewise, Griffith's Valuation of the parish of Drummully in 1862 shows there were four Tinneny families with houses and land on Goladuff in the mid-1800s. The valuation shows the Tinnenys were all tenants of John McClintock. 

In 1862 the largest of the Tinneny farms was the homeplace which was occupied by Big John Tinneny, his wife Margaret McAdam and their children, including Yankee Pat who eventually established the family in America. The three other Tinneny households on Goladuff in 1862 were headed by Philip Sr., Philip Jr. and Isabella. The Tummin and the McAvenue families were the only other families living on Goladuff at the time. Like their Tinneny neighbors, the Tummins and the McAvenues were tenant farmers. 

In 1862 the largest of the Tinneny farms was the homeplace which was occupied by Big John Tinneny, his wife Margaret McAdam and their children, including Yankee Pat who eventually established the family in America. The three other Tinneny households on Goladuff in 1862 were headed by Philip Sr., Philip Jr. and Isabella. The Tummin and the McAvenue families were the only other families living on Goladuff at the time. Like their Tinneny neighbors, the Tummins and the McAvenues were tenant farmers. 

Originally, the homeplace was probably situated on a 4 ½ acre plot of land, since that was the usual size of the farms that the British landlords parceled out to their tenants. Over the years the Tinneny farm grew as adjacent parcels of land were acquired and added and the property was passed down as one. In 1994 about a quarter mile across the pasture from the homeplace were the ruins of several other smaller stone houses. One of these, Pat's house, was built in the 1950s. One of the workers who built it was Paddy Connolly. The last occupants of two of these houses were John and Patrick Tinneny. They were the sons of Big John Tinneny's son Francis. Like the homeplace, these houses are no longer habitable. 

According to Phil Tinneny, the Tinnenys were able to survive the great famine of the mid-1800s that devastated so much of the population because of the location of Goladuff. Since it was surrounded by water, and the rivers and lough were so well stocked with fish, they were able to catch and eat fish, unlike the population in other parts of the country that depended totally on crops for their survival. Even in the winter the Tinnenys were able to catch fish by breaking a hole through the ice and fishing through the hole. 

Phil's assessment of the impact of the famine on the residents of Goladuff is supported when one looks at census reports for the years 1841, pre famine, and 1851 post famine. In 1841 there were a total of 50 inhabitants of Goladuff. There were 24 males and 26 females. Ten years later, in 1851, there were 49 inhabitants, 26 males and 23 females a change of only one person. The census records also showed that there were 8 buildings on Goladuff at the time and that the land was valued at 73 pounds and 18 shillings. 

Photo: Mary Ann Tinneny, wife of James, sitting on the family cot on the shore of Goladuff.  In the background across the lough is Quivvey.  Courtesy of Mary McGarvey.

Likewise, since they were located on the lough, they always had cots, which they regularly used to haul grain and corn for the neighboring farmers and others in the area. To supplement their rations they would salvage the remnants of grain left in the bottom of the boats, dry it, grind it and make it into bread. 

During the latter part of the 1800s, Goladuff was a small part of the 40,000 acre estate of Lord Rothdonald. Lord Rothdonald owned Goladuff but didn't live there. He lived at his castle in County Down. As was the case with the other residents of Goladuff and generally with all of the Irish Catholics at the time, the Tinnenys rented their land from a Protestant landlord. By the late 1800s Big John Tinneny had passed away and his widow Margaret, their son James and his wife Mary Ann were living in the homeplace. 

On "Gale Day", which was in the Fall of the year, all of the tenants in this part of Fermanagh County were required to travel into the town of Newtownbutler to pay six months advance rent. They were always required to pay a half years rent in advance. The agents of the landlords who collected the rent would never accept a partial payment no matter how little was missing from the amount due. If the tenant did not have the full amount due, the agent would get an eviction bill. The bailiff would execute the bill by going to the tenant's house accompanied by the police. He would strike the corner of the house three times and read the eviction notice. Then the police would enter the house with their spears and throw the occupants and their belongings out of the house. The family would then go behind the hedge and live in the woods. Phil Tinneny remembered hearing that all of the Tinnenys at Goladuff were evicted in this manner at one time or another. 

Phil told of the time, following implementation of Gladestone's Land Reform Act, which gave the tenants in Ireland the right to challenge their landlords, when his grandmother, Big John's widow, did just that. Along with her son James and his young wife Mary Ann, Margaret went to Newtownbutler to pay the rent on the homeplace on Gale Day. When she laid down the six months rent the landlord's man would not take it. She was probably slightly short of the amount that was due. Margaret took her fist and hit the table "Be devil," she said, "I'll land you in the land court." She then picked up the rent money, put it into her pocket and told the landlord's agent to "go to hell". Margaret, James and Mary Ann then left and returned to Goladuff. As evidenced by this account and Phil's memory, his grandmother Margaret could be a "fierce and high tempered woman". 

On their return to Goladuff, James and his mother immediately set out to build their case for the hearing at the land court. James contracted two lawyers, Tony Dogen or Dugeon and another lawyer named Fitzgerald. They in turn had the Darlin brothers, from down the River Erne, come and evaluate the land. The brothers went into every field, dug holes and took soil samples. Phil rememberd when, as a young boy working in the fields, there was still evidence of these holes as late as 1914. 

The Darlins documented their evaluation of the house and land on a "pink sheet". The pink sheet was the document that was used at the time to record property evaluations. James presented the pink sheet to the barrister in preparation for the hearing and the barrister rejected it saying, "I'll not accept that, anyone can place their cattle on the road." Dogen then went to Goladuff himself and wrote an additional evaluation which included the statement "the house was dilapidated and there were no fences." Now they were ready for court. 

On the day the hearing was scheduled, Margaret was sick in bed and unable to make the train trip to Enniskillen to appear in court. James was deputed to represent her. James, Tony Dogen and Fitzgerald traveled to Enniskillen for the hearing. According to Phil, the hearing was held at the law court in Enniskillen and began at 10:00a.m. The landlord's lawyer got up and made a good presentation. There were three lawyers representing Margaret in the lawyers’ box. When it became time to present her case, Tony Dogen did a masterful job. The judge decreed on the spot that the rent be reduced from 21 pounds a year to 14 pounds a year. 

Meanwhile back on Goladuff, many of their neighbors thought that James would probably go to jail as a result of challenging the landlord, especially, since like his mother "he had a fierce temper." Also this was the first time that a tenant had taken advantage of Gladestone's new act, at least the first time in the area of Goladuff. 


There were seven men waiting at the train station when James and the lawyers returned that evening from Enniskellen. All of them were greatly surprised that James had been successful and lamented the fact that they had been too afraid to challenge the landlord about their rent. Likewise, they were all apologetic that they hadn't gone to the court to support James. According to Phil, "That night, old Ned Tummins brought whiskey to the house and the homeplace was full of visitors, Protestants and Catholics alike, who celebrated the Tinneny's victory in the land court." In later years all of the neighboring tenants followed Margaret and James' lead and successfully had their rents reduced. 

Photo: Phil Tinneny at 91 years of age in 1992.  He was the last Tinneny to live on Goladuff. He died in 1994.

As a result of another of Gladestone's reform acts, tenants were to be given their land free and clear once they had paid rent on it for 69 years. Phil, the son of James who fought the land court battle, remembered his father telling him many times that when his (Phil's) sister Mary reached 70 years old the land would be nearly paid off. 

Although Mary did not live to reach 70, one year in the 1970s, Phil, the only remaining Tinneny on Goladuff, sent the traditional half years rent in. That year half of the rent payment was refunded to him, thus the 69 years were up. The homeplace and it's farmland, which our family had occupied for several hundred years as tenants was now owned free and clear by Phil Tinneny. 

See the Goladuff Page for more photos and information about Goladuff including a poem by Lee Tinneny. 


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Updated December 23, 2023
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