Clare County Library
Clare Genealogy

Donated Material: Family Histories, Biographies & Memoirs 

Patrick Frost of Smithstown and Drumline

Title: Patrick Frost of Smithstown and Drumline
Type of Material: Family History
Places: Smithstown, Drumline, Rossmanagher, Ballymorris; Bunratty
Dates: 1785 - 1851
Source: Frost; O’Donoghue; Clancy; Lyons;
Transcriber/Donator: Flan Enright

Patrick Frost was not the first member of his family to be associated with Smithstown, but it is appropriate to start with him as he was almost definitely the first to have lived there. A very significant piece of information about Patrick is contained in the Freehold Registry Book of Clare (1824). The register explains that he held a £20 freehold in Smithstown (Barony of Bunratty) from Thomas Frost Senior for the lives of Michael and James Lynch and James Clancy. Registered freeholders were usually people of some means and registration conferred the right to vote at elections. Thomas Frost (junior) of Pass, Meelick, had a similar freehold in Rossmanagher, also based on a lease from Thomas Frost Senior for the same three lives. Finally, William Frost of Ballymorris registered a £20 freehold based on the same lives. It is very likely that the Lynches and James Clancy came from Moghaun as they are mentioned in other leases in Aillacotty and Moghaun townlands (all in Newmarket RC parish). In the case of Clancy, there is a clear explanation for his involvement with the Frosts. Patrick Frost’s wife was Clancy and it is very likely that James Clancy was either his brother-in-law, or father-in-law.[1]

The information on the Freehold Registry makes a clear connection between Patrick Frost and Thomas Frost (Senior) of Rossmanagher. Patrick’s ownership of the farm in Smithstown is based on a lease held by Thomas. Was this Thomas Frost the father of Patrick Frost? There is compelling evidence that he was. Patrick got the leasehold of Smithstown from Thomas (Senior) in the same way Thomas (junior) got his leasehold in Rossmanagher. There is no doubt that Thomas Senior was the father of Thomas Junior and it is reasonable to believe that he was similarly related to Patrick. Also it has been suggested by some that Thomas Frost was the father of William of Ballymorris (1781-1833). Some doubt has been cast on this in the writings of Patrick Sarsfield O’Donoghue of Rineanna. Sarsfield O’Donoghue was the son of Bridget Frost of Rossmanagher, a daughter of Thomas. He leased a farm in the townland of Garrincurra beside Ballymorris (Cratloe RC parish) from Lord George Quin. William’s son, James the historian, (then Quin’s agent) got the leasehold of this farm in about 1873, a development that infuriated and embittered O’Donoghue. He accused the Frosts of poisoning the mind of his landlord against him so that they could grab his land. He described how his grandfather saved them from penury:

“James Frost of Ballymorris whose family about the year 1800 were taken off the roads
By my grandfather Thomas Frost Rossmanagher and put in possession of houses and
Land and who on several occasions afterwards were assisted through him by the
Augumentation (sic) of their holdings till they became extensive and substantial farmers….”

O’Donoghue’s description in this extract would suggest that they were in no way closely related to himself or his grandfather, Thomas Frost. In his anger he may have wanted to deny that James Frost bore the same relationship to his grandfather as himself.

William of Ballymorris was with the other Frosts who registered their votes in Newmarket on the same day (13 February 1824). The three leases are all based on the same lives. Surely this is more than mere coincidence. The likelihood is that this was a Frost family group travelling together to Newmarket on the same day to register their votes. By then, Thomas Senior was over seventy years of age and had acquired both wealth and status in the quarter century following his imprisonment. If he was willing to risk his life to liberate Ireland in 1798, it was only natural that he would want his family to support the political movement for Catholic Emancipation in the less turbulent era after 1800.[2]

The United Irishman’s rebellion in 1798 was a bloody affair in many parts of Ireland. There was some rebel activity in both Limerick and Clare. Thomas Frost must have exhibited some signs of being intoxicated by republicanism at this time but whether or not he was actively involved in the rebellion is unknown. In any case, the military came to Rossmanagher and burned his house. He was arrested and spent periods of incarceration in Duncannon fort (Wexford) and Limerick prison. With the country under martial law, his position was extremely perilous. Many of the rebels were court marshalled by the military in Limerick. Several were hanged in the city and others were taken and executed in outlying areas to terrify the populace. Some, like Frost, were sentenced to transportation. The soldiers amused themselves by putting pitch caps on the heads of rebels. These were then set alight to burn the hair to the roots and incinerate the scalp. Many rebels cut their hair in a bid to avoid this particular punishment. They became known as ‘croppies’. Thomas was questioned and tortured with the pitch cap. However, no useful information was extracted from him. For the rest of his long life he had to wear a wig to cover the scarring on his head. Thus, he came to be known as ‘wiggy’, or sometimes ‘Tommy the Croppy’.[3]

The late John Frost of Rosroe, a descendent of ‘Wiggy’, maintained that Thomas Frost’s father and grandfather were James and Richard respectively. Another source believed that Thomas’ father was Solomon. Whoever they were, it seems likely that his ancestors lived in Meelick. Having escaped with his life Thomas went on to become a wealthy man and managed to provide handsomely for his large family. It is not altogether clear how he secured large farms for his sons, but there may be a clue in an advertisement in the ‘Clare Journal’ in 1797. Henry D’Esterre of Limerick was offering to let 186 acres of Rossmanagher. ‘Thomas Frost of Old St, near Rossmanagher Bridge’ was available to show the land to interested parties. This suggests that he was operating as a land agent, certainly for Mr D’Esterre, and possibly for other landowners in the South East Clare area as well. Such a role would put him in an advantageous position when good farms came on the market. He would have the information and contacts to enable him to bid for farms and get long leases.[4] The fact that he registered a £50 freehold in Old St, Rossmanagher, as early as 1808, shows that he had already entered the ranks of the wealthy.[5]

There is evidence that ‘Wiggy’ had five sons. William of Ballymorris, born in 1781, was probably the eldest, followed by Solomon J.P. of Rosmanagher (1784-1871), Patrick of Smithstown (1785-1851), Thomas of Rathlaheen (dob unknown, went to the USA, died in 1879) and another who was a publican in Sixmilebridge. The order of birth of his five daughters is unknown. There was Mrs King, Mrs Miller, Mrs Weldon, Mrs Collins and Mrs Bridget O’Donoghue of the Wildes Cottage in Rineanna. The entire family seems to have been very well provided for.

It is known that Patrick Frost’s wife was a Miss Clancy, and all the evidence suggests she was from Moghaun. [6] The date of the marriage and her Christian name are unknown, but they had a large family which consisted of eight sons and at least three daughters. Patrick had a good living in Smithstown, but with eight sons to provide for he did not spare himself in the effort to acquire more land. Like his father, he proved himself to be a man of energy and courage and held his nerve even when the odds were stacked against him.

It is likely that he benefitted substantially from his father’s will. Thomas Senior died in 1837 and within twelve months, his two sons, Solomon of Rossmanagher and Patrick of Smithstown, were invited to become members of the Grand Jury, where they would associate with the local magistrates (the gentry) for special sessions. This status was only conferred on men who were substantial landholders and it also gave them a role in local government and the judicial process.[7]

Within a year after his father’s death, Patrick was in possession of a large farm of 178 acres beside Glosters holding in Bunratty. It was a grazing farm and under the terms of the lease he was bound not to till any of the ground. The same stipulation applied to Gloster’s place.[8] The locals around Bunratty were very unhappy about this. Labourers who owned no land needed to be able to rent tillage or ‘mock’ ground from the local farmers. This was the only way they could provide food for their families. If some farmers refused to let out ground, then the cost became inflated.

In March 1838, fifteen acres of Frost’s land in Bunratty and forty of Gloster’s was turned up maliciously. Crowds of men gathered with their spades and turned over the surface as a first step in preparing the ground for tillage. The authorities were very worried by this kind of agrarian unrest. The fear was that it could spread to other parts of Clare as happened in 1831 when many people were killed and injured and property damaged as the labouring poor tried to drive down the price of conacre. A strong force of police under Tomkins Brew, stipendiary magistrate, was sent to the area and a reward of £100 was offered for information. Progress in the investigation was slow in spite of 23 arrests. The police were experienced in dealing with this kind of situation and some felt sympathy for poor people who could not get a plot of ground to till even when they were willing to pay full market price and the locality had plenty of good land.[9]

This standoff typified what could happen between commercial farmers like Frost and Gloster and small holders and labourers who were subsistence farmers. The former were business men who farmed large holdings to make profit and build up capital, while the latter expended their family’s physical labour on a small plot of land so as to produce enough food for day-to-day needs. There were many similar confrontations in Clare during the pre-famine years as the growing number of labouring poor strove to survive in an era when the competition for land was growing more intense.

Frost was now a marked man as far as many of the locals were concerned. A threatening notice was posted on a tree near the Wells Church. It warned people under pain of death not to work a day for Patrick Frost of Smithstown or patronise his brother’s licensed premises in Sixmilebridge.[10] Frost removed this notice himself, but soon afterwards, the police were summoned to investigate a break-in at Perry’s house in Clonmoney. The inmates were beaten because they had removed another threatening notice.[11] It is not clear what the connection between Frost and the Perrys was at this time. Perhaps, they were employees of his. Many years later, a granddaughter of Patrick married George Perry of Fomerla, Tulla.

To have a seat in the church for your family’s use was a sign of some social status in pre-famine Ireland. Churches in those days did not come equipped with pews and kneelers for everyone. Anyone who could afford it bought a seat and put it in the church for the family’s use. These seats were placed near the front of the church. Poorer people who couldn’t afford a pew stood towards the rear of the church. The seating of the Wells church was not completed until the twentieth century, even though it was probably built around 1830. Patrick Frost and his family were among the first to have their own seat in the Wells Chapel. Some months after the affair at Bunratty, Frost’s pew was removed from the Chapel by being taken out the window. Presumably, the door was locked and because of this the window had to be taken from its frame to make an opening large enough to get the pew out. This shows how unpopular Frost was.[12]

This episode turned out to be no more than a dress rehearsal for what happened in Dromline less than a year later. The population of that townland consisted mostly of small holders and labourers. Its largest farm had been owned by the Sargent family for many years, but the last member of the family, James Sargent, died sometime in the 1830s. The landlord, John Bourchier of Nenagh then leased the house and farm to Mathew Canny and for some time it was occupied by his nephew (or step brother?), John. The lease ended with the death of the last name in 1839. On this farm of 360 acres, there were 56 families who were described as sub-tenants of Canny. It is more likely that most of them lived in cabins and rented conacre annually from him in return for their labour or maybe part of the crop.

They became agitated and enraged when they heard that Patrick Frost was preparing to replace Canny as the leaseholder. They were convinced that Frost had made a deal with Bourchier to turn out all the small holders. The Bunratty affair meant that Frost was perceived to be a grazier and therefore no friend of small tillage farmers and labourers. The small holders determined to resist Frost at all costs and support Canny who promised they would not be disturbed. Bourchier sent two representatives by coach to Dromline, but they were pelted off the land and had to take shelter despite re-assuring their persecutors that they were not the bearers of notices to quit. Frost himself was afraid to attend Mass at the Wells Chapel.

Bourchier demanded a rent of £400 for Dromline House and farm. Though a substantial sum of money, it must have caused some surprise that Canny was unable to afford it. The Cannys were middlemen, or minor landlords and substantial commercial farmers in neighbouring townlands, such as Clonmoney, Ballycasey and Tullyvaraga. In 1829, the ‘Clare Journal’ announced that they had taken 100 bullocks to the Cork market and when they failed to sell, they had them shipped to Bristol! Their inability to afford the rent gave opportunity to Frost. He was willing to pay the full amount. He sent a representative named Michael McNamara, Mrs Vandeleur’s coachman, to take possession of the farm. McNamara got a severe beating and had to take refuge in John McMahon’s house in Firgrove before being escorted home by the police. Some of the land of Dromline was turned up and the police feared that Frost would be murdered. His daughter-in-law was assaulted on her way to Mass in the Wells! A strong force of police patrolled the whole area to keep the peace. Meanwhile, Canny seemed determined to hang on to possession in the hope that Frost might bow to public outrage. He also claimed compensation for tree planting done during his tenure.
The local curate, Fr Pat O’Brien found another threatening notice on the altar of the Wells Church. He tried to act as an intermediary and proposed that the people should give possession to Frost and receive leases of twenty one years at a fair rent. The Cannys were greatly displeased by his intervention. In the end they had to give way and Frost succeeded in taking possession of Dromline.[13]

Dromline House, a substantial two storey over basement building, provided a much more spacious residence for Patrick Frost and his large family. He needed to move there without delay because his eldest son James was already a married man. Smithstown was to be his inheritance. He married Hanora Lyons of Barntick on 3rd of February 1836. Their married life was not destined to be a lengthy affair. James became ill and realising that his days were numbered, made a will before his death in September 1844. According to the Newmarket Birth Register, three daughters were born to Hanora and James. They were christened Anne, Bridget and Caroline (born 23 July 1844). However, the will made shortly before his death mentioned only two children in the family, the aforementioned Caroline and an older brother Augustine. It is likely that the two other girls did not survive infancy. Their loss may have persuaded Hanora to return to her parents’ home for the birth of her third child, Augustine. His baptism took place in Clarecastle. When James died, he was interred in a new tomb at the rear of old church in Bunratty cemetery. His is the only name inscribed upon it.[14]

Hanora and her young family did not inherit the farm in Smithstown. Even though they were living there, it is clear that James was never the titleholder to the farm. The Field and Perambulation Books for Dromline show that Patrick Frost still owned land and a house in Smithstown while Hanora also had a house and some land there. Robert Frost, another son of Patrick was still living in Dromline with other members of the family, but he eventually inherited most of Smithstown. He married Johanna Reidy, the daughter of a large farmer from Rineanna and may have rented a house from his mother-in-law for a time before moving to Smithstown.

In the meantime, Hanora (Lyons) Frost moved back to Clarecastle with her young family. There was a dispute about what she was entitled to take with her. She must have brought a substantial dowry to Smithstown when she got married. The Frosts disputed her right to have a portion returned. There is clear evidence of a serious rift between the Frosts and the Lyons. Matters came to a head on the road near Dromoland in June 1849. There is some confusion in reports about what happened. At first, it was reported that an armed party attacked a group of men driving Frosts’ cattle on the road between Dromoland and Carnelly. A stock keeper named Lillis was wounded in the fracas. The attackers were branded as strangers who came from across the Shannon. Shots were fired and Lord Inchiquin, the nearest magistrate, was roused from his bed. One of the Frosts was placed under arrest. However, after further investigation, he was released.

The crucial point is that there were keepers on the cattle “owing to an undecided claim between some of the family as to which of them the stock belonged.” In another issue of ‘The Limerick Chronicle’ the cattle are described as the property of a man named Lyons. The party in charge of the cattle succeeded in driving off the attackers. A further report noted that four brothers named Lyons were identified and arrested for their part in the attack. Whether they ever appeared before a court is doubtful, but they may have done enough to insure that Hanora got back some of her dowry. Patrick Frost himself was then in his sixties and was hardly directly involved in the fracas. It was surprising that he was unable to broker a compromise that would have prevented such a bitter family feud.[15]

Hanora and her family settled in Clarecastle and she eventually found herself another husband named Quinlivan. Her name appears in the 1901 Census as Hanora Quinlivan. She was then supported by her daughters. Her eldest daughter, Caroline Frost, was still living with her and had become a teacher of music and singing. She never married, but she was the first person in the village to own a gramophone. In the long summer evenings she used to open the window so that her neighbours could gather to enjoy the sound of music. When she died she was buried with the Frosts in Bunratty cemetery and her grave is marked with an iron cross.[16]
In 1867, her brother, Augustine, or Austin (then a merchant in Limerick), married Mary Hickey, only daughter of the late Patrick Hickey, merchant, of Ennis at Arran Quay, Dublin. They had three daughters between 1868 and 1874 when they were living in Mill St.[17]

The last years of Patrick Frost’s life were sad times in Ireland. The blight came in 1845 and destroyed the potato crop. The same thing happened in 1846 and 1848 and there was a very small crop in 1847. Workhouses remained packed with paupers up to the mid 1850s. It was most severe in the West of Ireland including Clare. The repeated failure of the potato crop devastated the subsistence farmers who rented conacre. It is likely that many of the 56 families on Frost’s Drumline holding ended up as beggars, went to the workhouse, died of disease or emigrated. Some of them must have been involved in the last stand made on Drumline Hill in the spring of 1846. Notices were posted calling on people to meet at the Hurlers’ Cross and go to a certain location ‘to adopt measures to provide for their families.’ In spite of appeals from the clergy, 200 to 300 people walked from the Hurlers’ Cross to Drumline Hill. They arrived at about one o’clock. The police were in close attendance and sub-inspector Heard went to the front of the crowd and told them that the first twenty men that advanced would be treated as the ring-leaders. Nobody moved but they complained bitterly that some farmers thought that hay was good enough for labourers to subsist on! They threatened vengeance on those. Soon afterwards, they dispersed. The police patrolled the area and calm was restored.[18]

How many of these people were still in Drumline by the time of Patrick Frost’s death is anyone’s guess. It occurred in 1851. His death notice describes him as an ‘honest industrious’ man. He died at Dromline on the 12th March 1851 in the 66th year of his life, and is almost certainly buried in the same tomb as his son, James, behind the old church in Bunratty cemetery. This indicates that his birth year was probably 1785. It seems likely that he was born in Rossmanagher, in Sixmilebridge parish. He had at least eleven children. The following list gives their names as far as they are known and indicates if they were married and had families.[19]

James Frost (d 1844) married to Hanora Lyons of Barntick, 2 children survived, lived in Smithstown.

Robert Frost (d 1869) married Johanna Reidy of Rineanna, 8/9 children, lived in Smithstown.

John Frost married Anne Brassil of Newmarket in 1839, had a family, lived in Rossmanagher

Patrick Frost married Mary Killeen of Molosky, 10 children, lived in Dromline.

Thomas Frost married Margaret Crotty of Co Limerick, had family of 8, lived in Dromline House.

Charles Frost of Smithstown, died unmarried

Michael (or William?) Frost

Solomon Frost married Anne O’Brien of Annameadle, Toomevara 1848, had a family, lived in Rossmanagher.

Maria Frost married Terence O’Brien of Annameadle, Toomevara in 1845 and had family, lived in Mogulane and emigrated to Canada 1862 and on to the USA.

Catherine Frost married Morgon O’Brien of Annameadle, Toomevara in 1845 and had family, lived in Mogulane and emigrated to Canada, and on to USA.

Ellen Frost

Anne and Bridget Frost?

Patrick Frost