Fr. Andrew Mullen

19th Century Ireland: Two Economies

In 1818 Ireland and England were still living under the Act of Union . Ireland was ruled by King George the 3rd. His viceroy Charles Talbot was in residence in the Viceregal lodge in the Phoneix park Dublin better known today as Áras an Uachtarain,  the Tory’s were in power and the prime minister was Robert Banks Jenkinson. Local government in Ireland was vested in  the local Boards of Guardians,  they were made up of landlords, justices of the peace and clergy. They were responsible for local emergency relief projects and the day to day running and management of the work houses within their areas.

In Ireland there were two economies.  The official economy made up of farming and skill based workers such as blacksmiths, stonemasons, carpenters, weavers and leather workers. Most people worked from home whereas in England they were already forming factory groups and co-ops which was later propelled by the Industrial Revolution. Professions stayed within families, sons went as apprentices to their fathers, generations of the same family worked as servants in the big houses.

The unofficial economy was made up of póiteen making,  cock fighting gambling and various levels of other criminal activity.Towns had two or three fairs per year where people went to buy and sell their wares, by the 1900’s they were mainly for the sale of cattle ad sheep.


Houses in Ireland in 1818

Houses in Ireland in 1818 were of several different types. There was the large land lord style houses where the family lived upstairs and the servants lived down stairs. The two story gentleman farmers style house where the family had a few servants and a few hired men.  Most people lived in two roomed cottages, many were thatched,  but in this area a lot were slate roofed as Fitzwilliam’s had their own slate quarries just outside Carnew and in Wales. A lot of the very poor people lived in one roomed hovels which were built out of rough stone and sods and were roofed with dry straw or reeds. People living in these houses often slept outside in the Summer and inside with their animals in the winter, indeed this is where the expression ‘pigs in the parlour’ came from.


Illegitimacy was quite common in 1818 and up to five generations of the one family often lived in the same house. There were no nursing homes or care homes so the elderly and infirm were either kept at home or sent to the work house or the asylum. Looking after them fell to the women of the house so it was hard for them to split away from the family to set up homes of their own.

Transport to Australia

In the south east following the 1798 rebellion a number of people were transported to Australia by 1818 a lot of these had their letter of freedom and some had land grants. They often brought younger brothers and sisters out to Australia to help with the work.

Sport & Entertainment

Sport and entertainment was big amongst the people.  There were unregulated forms of football, hurling and handball. Faction fights often broke out between the groups following these matches and had to be broken up by the constabulary. Weddings and wakes often went on for several days with quite a lot of drinking involved. The landlord class, gentleman farmers, doctors, solicitors and other professionals often followed the hunt. A local pack of hounds was 52. People often attended patterns at blessed wells  and holy sites which was followed by a party like event which often included matchmaking.

Fr. Andrew Mullen: Growing up

Fr.  Andrew Mullen was appointed to be curate of Clonmore in 1815. The bishop at the time was bishop Corcoran. He was born in Daingean Co. Offaly in 1790 then known as Philipstown in Kings county. It appears to have been a prosperous place. The landlords were the Ponstonby’s who had inherited their estate from the Molesworth’s. The Ponstonby’s  had plans to set up a wool milling business in Philipstown as it was serviced by the royal canal giving them a direct link to the Dublin docks. His mother was related to the Delahoides,  it was her Maiden name.  There was not much direct fighting in Daingean in the 1798 rebellion but a lot of local people fought in Kildare and north Wicklow. His father may have been a baker and the family business,  a public house,  was probably also a grocery shop. His mother inherited it and after Fr. Mullen’s early death ran it for her life time.

In Fr Dempsey’s book ‘A Light From The Grave’ he seems uncertain if she had any other children. His primary education was probably a local day school. It would have been a mixed school with both Catholic and Protestant pupils. The teacher would have been paid for by the families.  The emphasis,  as he was from a business family, would have been on maths and languages. He may have learned some Latin there also. There would have been a bible based religion class, but most pupils would have received religious tuition from their own clergy. He would have received his from his parish priest. This may have been where he developed his interest in the priesthood for he went on to study in Carlow college and in Maynooth.


Student Life

Student life would have been made up of long days of hard study and prayer with little contact with home. The attitude at the time seems to have been that  when you took on the religious life you gave up your earthly family for your religious one. On the internet and in Fr Dempsey’s book there are sections of a letter Fr Mullen wrote to his mother in which he tells her not to worry about his health which may imply that he already may have suffered from poor health. He also warns her of the dangers of alcohol and drink  which may appear to be hard words to a woman who is using her business to pay for his education,but I’m sure every college student questions their parents choices . A lot of farmers sons are currently vegans.

Clonmore Parish

Clonmore was Fr. Mullen’s  first and only parish. It was poor land on the Carlow- Wicklow border. When he arrived to this rural place he must have found it very different from student life or even life in the town. He lived in the priests residence in Killinure which at that time was rented from the Browning family who lived in Grangemore near Bunclody, Co. Wexford. They were connected by marriage to both the Nickson families of Munny House and Killinure House lower. The house locally called ‘Browns walls’ was demolished in the mid 1980s and the site is now on Nolans farm. It was a substantial two story house with a walled garden and a few sheds.  The last people to live in it were the Jordan family who were servants to the Lawrence family of Killinure House lower.

During his time in Clonmore Fr. Mullen was known for his good works and kindness to the poor to the point of his own personal discomfort. It is said that he often went without a fire or warm clothes in order to support his people. It is widely believed that he had special healing powers. Many people came from other parts of the country to see him.


In January 1818 his death appears to have been very sudden, any number of reasons have been given but it was most possibly a combination of  hypothermia and malnutrition due to his lifestyle of putting so many ahead of himself. It is possible that he had a underlying health problem such as diabetes, colitis or kidney disease which would nowadays be dealt with by modern medicine,   or else  an infection or disease picked up in the course of his work.

He was waked in ‘Browns walls’ in January 1818 and buried in Clonmore at the road side of the old church. A guard was placed on the grave as grave robbery for valuables or bodies was common at the time .

Return to Co. Offaly

It is said that five weeks after his death in late February or early March 1818 a group of people lead by a man called John Dunne came from Daingean under the cover of night bringing with them a pony and cart to bring the body of Fr. Mullen back to Daingean. It is said to keep down the noise,  they covered the wheels of the cart with mill rope and the pony’s hooves with sacking. They were met in Clonmore by a Miss Tallent or Tallon as the name is pronounced locally,  who had been Fr Mullen’s house keeper. She was very loyal to him led them to the grave. It is said that a light rose up from the grave and hovered over them as they worked. They believed that this was a sign from God that they were pursuing the right course of action in returning Fr. Mullen to his home county.

He was re buried in Killaderry co Offaly.  Miss Tallon remained in Co Offaly with his mother and married there. Following his death it is said that Fr.  Mullen’s clothes were torn up into relics. Many people removed clay from the grave in Clonmore believing it to have healing powers. Many of the older generation in Clonmore would continue to pray to Fr. Mullen in their time of need. A cure for shingles which remains with a family in Clonmore is reputed to have originated with Fr Mullen.

In Killaderry his unofficial feast day is Good Friday.  Many people remain in the cemetery over night as part of the local tradition.

It is hoped that Fr.  Mullen will become a saint in the Catholic church. A file regarding this was sent to Rome in the 1990’s,  as part of this many people have recorded miracles in his name.


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