Bartons of Boa Island


The Barton Family have been linked with Boa Island since the 17th Century. They had arrived in Ireland as English settlers at the time of the Plantation of Ulster around 1610.Thomas Barton, who may have been an officer in Queen Elizabeth's army obtained 1000 acres of land in the Barony of Drumminshin and Necarne between Kesh and Irvinestown. The Barton Family are described in an Inquisition of Fermanagh in 1629-30 as being of Norwich England and despite some family claims that they were from Lancashire it would seem that since all of the Barony of Lurg was distributed to people from the Norwich area of Norfolk that the Bartons should have been an exception. The Borough of Enniskillen received it's royal charter in 1612-1613 and Thomas Barton was one of the group of the first Burgesses of the town. He built a stone house, two stories high with a high wall around it, four hundred yards square, on Rosclare hilltop near Kesh.

By 1619, Sir Gerard Lowther had obtained these lands. Lowther is described as "a miserly old bachelor" and was an unscrupulous speculator in confiscated Irish lands at this time. He was third Baron of the Exchequer and afterwards Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. Like many others he had to leave behind all the wealth he had cunningly amassed and his relatives benefited. He died in April 1660.For many years Irvinestown was known as Lowtherstown in remembrance of this, apparently not very nice person. Christopher Irvine a surgeon or as some say a coronet in a Scottish Regiment married Sir Gerard Lowther's niece and in time Irvinestown got a new name and became "Irvine's Town".

The Bartons seem to have become established on Boa Island some time before the 1640's and during the 1641 Rebellion suffered in the violence of the time. The Irish who had been dispossessed of their lands were now attempting to regain control of the lands that they had once held and while they murdered the menfolk of the Plantation they tended to spare the women and children-- a thing that the Planters had not always done when they had been conquering the country forty years earlier--See Lord Chichester's Campaign.

However David Barton, son of Thomas Barton now seems to have been on Boa Island and to judge by the names of his captors to have been taken by those who were the former owners of Boa Island. A document survives in Trinity College Dublin which is a deposition of Anthony Barton's wife or Anthony Barlowe as he is incorrectly spelled in the document. Many of those who survived the murders of this time made depositions of their losses in order to claim compensation and sometimes these claims were greatly exaggerated and also the cruelty of the rebels involved. However regardless of exaggerations there were thousands murdered and even greater numbers deprived of what they had built up and Margery Barton was acting for herself and her children in setting down her terrible experience. She said that she and her husband lost the following around the 25 of October at the start of the Rebellion:- beasts, horses, household stuff, corn, hay and their interests in two leases in all amounting to above �0 sterling. The leases are an interesting detail since this fits in with the known sale of the Boa Island to Anthony Barton's brother William later. At this time the Blennerhassetts of Castle Caldwell, at this time called Hassettsfort, owned Boa Island and the used the Hassett part of their name in relation to property that they owned. In the rebellion Francis Blennerhassett who owned Hassettsfort was shot in Ballyshannon Christmas Eve and his wife Anne also made a deposition. Then follows a list of the rebels that hanged her husband, Anthony, before her eyes along with a group of other men. The list begins with Rory Maguire of Crevenish Castle near Kesh who was the leading instigator of the Rebellion locally and goes on to name Thomas Oge Maguire of Bouhasset and Torlough Ballagh [Maguire] of Bowhassett. Both these names obviously refer to Maguires of Boa Island or Hassett's Boa Island, as it is being referred to here, and are almost certainly descendants of Maguires who had earlier owned the Island. She names six others who were hanged at the same time as her husband, John Moore, John Hutchingson, Mathew Hollsworth, Thomas

Throw, William Seaton and Gabriell Gibson.

There are still descendants of the name of Gibson, an ancient family on Boa Island, and like the Bartons and indeed the Maguires too descendants of this ancient conflict and still on or about this place. Then she goes on to tell of herself and her children being stripped naked in the snow and frost and turned out to beg and die of exposure and that they only survived through eating old calfskin’s hair and all. The Rebells had been enjoined by their religion not to spill blood and although women and children turned out naked were not killed outright the intention was still to have them die another way. However Margery Barton and her children survived and were able to tell their story and the next Barton to be noted on Boa Island was either a brother or a son of Anthony Barton who was able to buy the Island of Boa which had been leased by the same family from the Blennerhassetts. They acquired the entire island of Boa Island from the family of Edward Blennerhassett in 1662.

The Blennerhassetts, who like the Bartons were from Norfolk had originally been granted the island as part of their Bannaghmore Estate, This ran from the Bannagh River near Kesh to Belleek in County Fermanagh. The title deed was made out to Edward Barton from Sir Edward Blennerhassett at a reserve rent of �5-0 yearly for ever. Edward Barton was William Barton's older brother. William Barton, who is probably a grandson of the original Thomas Barton came and lived on Boa Island and almost certainly in Dreenan Townland. There is no actual oral or written evidence as to where he lived but there is the remains of a fortified building in this townland which may indicate the original Barton dwelling of Anthony Barton. There is little of this building to be seen and only a firing slit in a ruined wall remains. A fort is not mentioned here in the first Ordnance Memoirs or maps but the earlier Admiralty charts of Lough Erne of c 1826 mark a fort here on Boa Island. An alternative oral source claims the building was a Maguire fort and indeed why should it not have been as it easier to refortify an existing fort rather than build anew.



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