The  O'ROURKES  of  Deffeir


Welcome to the O'Rourkes of Deffeir story

The O'Rourke Clann were the ruling Chieftans of The Barony of Breffny. Their history is a colourful one but we won't go into it all here.  Briefly, this family were to be found for several hundreds of years if not thousands in what is today known as County Leitrim in the north west of Ireland. This site is just a small part of a great incredible story and likewise the simple story of some plain and simple people way down the Royal Family Tree and some 400 years after their ancestors lost their kingdom.

The O'Rourke Clann is attributed with having caused the end of the Feudal ruling system in medieval times (late 1500's) as a result of the fiery temper of the last ruler in the Barony, Tiernan O'Rourke. His wife Dervogilla fled from Breffny into the arms of another Monarch, Diarmuid MacMorrough, King of Leinster in the east of Ireland. O'Rourke was set on revenge, believing that MacMorrough kidnapped Dervogilla. Tiernan and his army were a feard bunch and MacMorrough fled to England and begged for assistance from King Henry. The English King sent people over to Ireland to observe the situation. They reported back with the news that the quarrelsome Irish were disunited and their lands were of good quality (they obviously didn't visit Leitrim). Henry then used the island of Ireland as a bargaining tool to placate the vicious Scots who were  a thorn in his side. The Scots were offered prime land, mostly in the north of the island. They accepted the offer and subsequently, the Irish were removed from their houses and lands, the Scots moved in. This event in history is referred to as the ''Plantation of Ulster''.

                  The crest of the O'Rourkes.
The only Irish Family crest with both Latin and Gaelic.
"Buagh" means "Victory" and "Serviendo Guberno" is a clever motto which, unusually for Latin, could be translated two ways. It could mean "In serving I rule" or "I rule by serving".
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Jimmy O'Rourke

                                      James O'Rourke   (1884 - 1968)

We start the O'Rourke pages of this family story with a brief summary of James O'Rourke, my grandfather

James (known as "Jimmy") was born in 1884, in Gowel, Deffeir, where the family operated a lime processing plant. The remains of the old homestead and the limeworks (below left) are still visible in the undergrowth. At some point later we will have details about the exact location of his grave and an explanation as to why he is not buried in the same grave as his wife Kate. There are some myths and legends surrounding James and after some more research we will cover these. Jimmy was known to his grandchildren as  "Goggy".    


Left: The O'Rourke Kiln at Deffeir, near Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, Ireland




The platform at Drumshanbo Station (now closed)





    The gatehouse, Ballinamore, County Leitrim in 1988.



        Mary Graham and Jimmy O'Rourke

Jimmy was a well known man all over County Leitrim. There was a saying about him that 'people who didn't know him, knew of him'. In conversations with some old-timers around Ballinamore and with some older relatives, a picture of Jimmy's personality emerges. One striking point about him is that he was a very competent letter-writer, and he was always available to fight the cause of those were who supressed by people in authority.
He smoked a pipe and sometimes chewed pipe tobacco, he walked a lot, and any time he was seen in public, he always wore a suit. he was a soft-spoken man and it was said that when he spoke, he knew what he was going to say long before he said it.

There are  lots of myths surrounding Jimmy, and I hope, with your help we can clarify or dispel some of the stories about him.
It is alleged that Jimmy emigrated to America in his mid-teens (around 1900) and in a short time married a girl there. It is also alleged that he had to leave America shortly after that because of a crime. None of these allegations has been substantiated, but stories from people spanning many years seem to indicate that there might be  some grey area worth looking into. That is to be left to a future  enthusiastic researcher.

When he married Katie Gilbride around 1915 the plan was to go to America and start a new life there. However, the story takes a turn here. He and Katie were on the platform of the railway station at Drumshanbo waiting for the train to take them on the first stage of their journey to the "New World", Jimmy said to his new wife 'no, we're not going to America', and they left the station and returned to Gowel. 
There have been references made in subsequent years to Jimmy having possibly spent some time in America earlier in his life and they were followed by a comment to forget that they were mentioned.

Jimmy and Katie started  their married life in Gowel, Deffeir, near Carrick-on-Shannon, and it is there that their children, Tom, Seamus and Cathal were born. Jimmy worked with the railway (C.I.E.) and they got  a "gatehouse"  at Aughawillan, 3 miles north-east of the Ballinamore railway station, which they shared with a family called Tallon.  Kate suffered from multiple sclerosis, and after a period in hospital in Dublin, Jimmy  removed her back to the family home in Leitrim after a confrontation with the doctors there. Apparently, he called to visit her and found her in a distressed state because a doctor made her get out of bed and stand on the floor to use her as part of a lecture to student doctors. Jimmy asked to see the doctor and told him that his wife  was no longer a guinea-pig for the medical profession and that  he was taking her home. He brought her home and she died shortly after that (in the late 20's). when Kate's funeral was being arranged, there was confusion about the O'Rourke plot in Kiltoghert. Seemingly there had been a recent burial there and the grave couldn't be opened by law, therefore, Kate was buried in the Gilbride family grave.
At some point later, Jimmy and his children  moved to the gatehouse in Ballinamore. He had already met and married his second wife Mary Graham through an advertisement in a paper or magazine such as "Ireland's Own". They were married in the late 20's when Jimmy was aged about 37 and Mary about 27. they had five children, Tony, Paddy, Sarah, Sean, and Carmel (who died aged about 4 months).
Mary died here in 1951 and Jimmy remained for a period after the Cavan and Leitrim railway closed on March 31st.1959. He then joined his son Cathal and his wife Maureen in a house about 3/4 of a mile  from town on the "old" creamery road in Ballinamore directly opposite the first left turn on that road. Afterwards they moved to Kiltymooden to the first of a pair of houses about half a mile from the start of Kiltymooden Hill. A short while later they moved to St. Mel's rRoad, Longford, where Cathal continued his employment with C.I.E. 
Jimmy joined them  a short while later and remained there  until he died on March 5th. 1968.




                            About "The Ballinamore Gatehouse"
You will notice in the photo above that some old "sleepers" from the railway were used here to form the garden fence. Older members of the family remember that Jimmy kept two goats in the front garden (to the left of the entrance path). The gatehouse was demolished in 2008 to make way for 'developments' such as a new ring-road around the village. The ring-road is hardly used. In other European countries, such a structure would have been renovated and preserved. It is a sad reflection on the way Ireland is ''making progress'' (or to quote the new phrase use by politicians, "Going forward".


                            Janie (Shanley) O'Rourke.

                                       Going back.....

This is, so far, the only known photo of Janie (Shanley) O'Rourke, Jimmy's mother. Details about her life are scarce. Janie was a daughter of Thomas Shanley and Rose Leddy. She died in the 1930's, possibly in her 70's. she was a soft-spoken woman and said to be "very calm".

This photo is an extract from another photo and therefore is of poor quality. If you would like to have the original photo of any photo on these web pages, please send an E-Mail using the link below. (yellow box, red script  "contact us") The offer closes when I'm dead.

Janie was the daughter of Thomas Shanley and Rose Leddy. She married Thomas O'Rourke and they had five children, James, Thomas, John, Rose and Kate.  John and Rose emigrated to Providence, Rhode Island in the U.S.A. Rose married John Gallagher from Clogher in County Tyrone. in the U.S.A. Kate married Frank Costelloe and they lived their lives in Kiltubrid. . Shortly (this year) I will have a page on Rose-Anne O'Rourke and John Gallagher's story.

Ten Bob Tony. . . 

There is a funny story about an event in Jimmy's life. (Believe me this is absolutely true!) In 1951, when Jimmy's second wife (Mary) was quite unwell and was confined to bed shortly before her death, their son Tony was walking from the gatehouse to the centre of Ballinamore and found a ten shilling note on the street. This was a lot of money at that time. He decided to spend it wisely and, knowing that his mother was dying, went an bought some cups, saucers and new bedsheets for the impending wake. A short time later, Jimmy arrived back at the Gatehouse in an agitated state and asked Tony to come with him and help him look for a ten-shilling note that he had just lost. At some point, Tony managed to hide his purchases and conveniently 'found' them when Mary died, with the explanation that she must have bought them for a rainy day. After this story, some referred to Tony as "Ten-Bob-Tony".

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