The Emmet family connections with Inchigeelagh.

by Peter O'Leary

An article in Journal No2. mentioned the local story that Robert Emmet stayed in Dooneens in the Parish of Inchigeelagh sometime about 1790.  Further details have recently come to light which add interesting detail to this odd fact.

The Robert Emmet in question was the one who became notable for his part in the 1803 uprising, and in particular, for his famous speech from the dock, later that year, when he was on trial for his life.

The father of the famous Robert was also called Robert.  Dr.Robert Emmet snr,
.was born in Tipperary on 29th.November 1729 the eldest son of another medical man, Dr.Christopher Emmet.  Robert snr. trained in Medicine in Edinburgh and then took up a post to practise his profession in Cork City.  He lived in Hammond's Marsh in the City, and in 1760  married Misa Elizabeth, daughter of James Mason, a wealthy landowner living near Killarney. There were several children of the marriage, including the third son, Thomas Addis Emmet who was born in 1764 and later was leader of the United Irishmen.  Robert jnr. was not born until 1778 when his father had moved to Dublin.

But Dr.Robert was not only a medical man.  The family had modest wealth, and as was the custom of the time, they invested this in land and property.  One of these investments was described in an advertisement placed in 1766. "To let for 21 years from the 1st.May 1767 a remarkable good mountain farm in the West of the County of Cork, lying about four miles from Inchigeela and eight from Bantry. The lands are known by the names of Dooneens and Dereenvealnasleo.  They would be let together or in separate denominations or subdivided to responsible tenants. Proposals to be made to Doctor Robert Emmet, Cork."

It seems that Dr.Robert was not successful in letting the properties and this caused him to make a most peculiar and unusual proposal in 1767.

"To the out pensioners of Chelsea College, Dr.Robert Emmet having a very improvable mountain farm in the West of the County Cork will give the following encouragement to any such pensioners as shall go out and settle therein. Every settler shall have a lot of twenty acres assigned to him at a very reasonable rent for the term of three lives, and shall set down, rent free for the first three years. He will also make application to secure for them, the premium of £5 which the Dublin Society has been pleased for some years past to give to disbanded soldiers, taking such lands and setting in the Provinces of Leinster, Connaught or Munster, and will to the utmost of his power in every respect assist in promoting their honest industry.  Cork,26 August 1767" 

Even this tempting offer did not bring any Chelsea Pensioners rushing over. The farm remained untenanted, and in 1769 he was still trying to sell it, as indicated in the article of Journal No2.

In 1770 Dr.Robert was offered and accepted the position of State Physician which required him to move to Dublin.  In January of that year he was trying to dispose of several investments in property in the Cork area, partly because he needed £1,000 as the purchase price of his new appointment.  The farm in Dooneens was still included in his list, and he adds that he holds it by a lease renewable for ever at £20 per year, and half-a-crown for each renewal. It is four miles from Inchigeela, contains about 800 acres, 350 of which have a rich improvable bottom, and the upland is reputed the best in Iveleary……The Doctor being desirous to settle his affairs as soon as possible, will without delay, close with the first offer within the limit of acceptance.

Sadly we hear no more of the sale of Dooneens.  He did move to Dublin and take up his new office in 1770, and some of his property was still up for sale during that year, but no more is heard of Dooneens. Robert jnr. was born in Dublin in 1778.
From the date evidence it would seem most probable that the Emmet family, as local lore has it, did use the farm as a holiday home, and this would have included many of the children of Dr.Robert snr.  But equally, from the same date evidence, it most probably did not include young Robert jnr. who later became so famous, and  who was not born until the family had resided in Dublin for eight years, by which time the farm would probably have finally been sold or let.

It is interesting to note that property sales could linger on for many years in those times, as indeed they do in the 20th.century.

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I am indebted for the theme to Christy Cronin's article in Journal No 2.
And for the further detail to John T.Collins "The Emmet Family Connections with Munster" Cork Historical and Archaeological Journal. Vol lv