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The Bowles and the Ballickmoyler Connection

by Tom LaPorte

as published in the Laois Heritage Society Journal Volume 4 2008

There were Boals in Sir Thomas Smith’s Plantation in the Ards (co. Down) in 1570.  A Captain Bolles is found in a 1625 list of officers in Dublin ready to be redeployed.  Boles are first found in co. Cork in the 1630’s as tenants of Lord Percivall.  A Bowles arrived with Cromwell as Deputy Treasurer for the Army in Ireland and settled in Dublin. 

I cannot connect any of these sources to my Bowles for certain although there is one hopeful possibility.  John Boles, one of the descendants of the Boles of Cork, settled in co. Carlow in 1690 and joined the Quaker community which was led by the Leckys, Watsons and Coopers.  He later moved on to Tipperary but left behind a son George with wife Mary and their young son John all of whom disappear from known records at that point. 

However, their neighbour Edward Cooper, purchased land in Queen’s county in 1714 [Deed memorial 12-539-5893 Saunders to Cooper Feb. 1, 1714] and moved there shortly after.  This land included the town land of Ballickmoyler where I find the first concrete reference to my own Bowles line.  In 1767 Edward Cooper’s son William filed a memorial for a 1750 deed under which a John Bowles, perukemaker, was sublet 6 acres of land in Ballickmoyler which at that time was already occupied by John Bowles and his mother Mary [Deed Memorial 262-115-168056 Cooper to Bowles Nov. 18, 1767].  Are these the same John with mother Mary who were Edward Cooper’s neighbours in co. Carlow and who may have joined him in his move to Queen’s county as his tenants?  I would like to think so but I have no proof of the connection yet.

The earliest reference for a Bowles in this area is in the military discharge papers for a Michael Bowles in Manchester, England in 1792 which give his age as 47 and his place of birth as Killaban Parish near Carlow town.  That would place his birth at about 1745.  John Bowles memorial of a 1750 deed mentioned above was for the lives of himself, his wife Anne and their son Michael.  There is also a 1747 baptismal entry at St. Mary’s Carlow for a Joseph Bowles, son of John and Ann Bowles of Killeshin parish.  Baptismal records for the next generation indicate they also had sons John and William and daughters Anne, Lucinda and Elizabeth.

John Senior was a peruke maker according to the deed memorial.  I don’t imagine that he found much market for those long flowing white wigs of the aristocracy after he moved to Ballickmoyler so it’s not surprising that his son Joseph took up the shoemaker trade instead.  William may have been a tanner according to an unconfirmed source and Michael left Ireland to find employment in Manchester as a carpenter at about age 21, married there, raised a family and joined the 29th Foot Regiment of the British Army in 1770 to support them.  He would have served in Florida and then following the American Revolution he would have helped defend Quebec and Montreal from American incursions against the British there until his return to England in 1787 and his discharge in 1792.  He seems to have returned to Ballickmoyler with his family in about 1800.  Their return may have been precipitated by the events of 1798 which affected his family back home. 

In the 1780’s, the resistance to the church tithes had led to the grassroots organization of agrarian resistance movements which would later develop into the White Feet of the 1830’s, a local version of the White Shirts, White Boys and other such movements.  John Bowles, who was apparently taking in too few orders for perukes, had taken on the role of Land Agent for the Rev. John Whitty of Ballickmoyler.   In 1787, the Reverend Whitty, John Bowles and seven others armed with swords and three guns went on foot down to a distant part of his parish on the border of Kilkenny to execute a decree for the seizure of cattle in lieu of tithe payments which were long overdue.  Having seized some cattle and on the point of returning home they were “attacked by a multitude armed with scythes, hangers, bayonets, pitchforks etc. who knocked down his people, swore they would hang his agent John Bowles, who was of the party, and whom they compelled to swear that he would never intermeddle with tithes there for the future [The Hibernian Magazine of January 1787].”  The scare apparently worked as John doesn’t seem to have been involved in further such attempts.  The Bowles family’s troubles with their neighbours were not over though. 

In 1798 the United Irish Rebellion swept through that corner of Queen’s co.  While the rebellion is accepted to have had both Catholic and Protestant roots united for a self-governing Ireland, the division in Ballickmoyler seems to have been upon religious lines.  On May 24th, 1798 Ballickmoyler was the rallying point for pikemen who would then march on Carlow town in a coordinated attack with other bands approaching from the south.  A local historian in Ballickmoyler told me that the rebels were jeered at by the Protestants in their houses prior to the band’s departure for Carlow but that may be just local legend. 

At the Graigue Bridge which crosses the Barrow River into Carlow, the pikemen came up against two cannons, British troops and the Carlow Militia waiting for them.  Turning around and returning to Ballickmoyler in frustration and finding the protestant homes deserted they then burned much of Ballickmoyler including the market and the houses of the 10 Protestant families which had already fled to the Rev. Whitty’s house, Providence Lodge, just outside town where they prepared to make a stand.  Two of the houses burned belonged to John’s sons, Joseph and William [Commissioner’s List of Persons who have suffered Losses in their Property in the QUEEN’S COUNTY, April 6, 1799].  As John would have been in his late 70’s at the time it’s likely that one of those houses was his original house from the 1740’s which was now occupied by one of his sons. 

The rebels pursued them and attacked Providence Lodge from which “Whitty and eleven other Protestants” kept up a spirited defense from 3:00am until word came at 6:00am of the great rebellion losses in Carlow at which point the remaining rebels disbanded into the country side leaving 21 dead around the Lodge [Memoirs of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, Richard Musgrave, 1802].

The Bowles history in Ballickmoyler started its decline after that.  Joseph remained in Ballickmoyler and apparently rebuilt but his only son, John, does not appear to have had any sons to bear the family name.  William moved on to Carlow where he lived on Dublin Road, appears in voter’s list with the occupation Trader and raised only daughters.

Michael returned from Manchester with his three adult sons, each of whom married in Ireland but not in Ballickmoyler.  Michael’s son John married an Ann Mills and settled at Dunleckney, co. Carlow where he probably also was a shoemaker until the family boarded an emigrant ship at New Ross in the spring of 1818 [Return of Protestant Families preparing to emigrate from the Counties of Carlow and Wexford in the ensuing Spring. November. 1817. Ottawa Branch News, Ontario Genealogical Society, Vol. XXIX, No. 5 (September-October, 1996), pp. 162/78].  They settled in Quebec City where he opened his shoe shop and that branch eventually begat me.  Son Joseph married in Carlow town and opened a shoe makers shop on Burrin Street.  I wonder if either John or Joseph did a bit of peruke repair on the side. 

In 1831 Joseph auctioned off his goods [The Carlow Morning Post, Thursday, April 28, 1831 page 1] and emigrated to Canada to join his brother John with a competing shoe shop just down the street in Quebec City.  Michael’s son Michael also married but apparently his wife died soon after their son John was born in Ballickmoyler in 1806.  Michael married again in about 1819 but this time to a Catholic woman with whom he raised a family.  It’s unknown how well the family and particularly his son John took this event as Michael’s son John had emigrated with his Uncle John to Canada in 1818.  Michael’s new Catholic family followed the migration to Canada in the 1840’s but settled in Ontario and from that time on had no known contact with his brothers in Quebec even after they moved down and settled in Ontario as well.  Any suggestion of a connection was denied until DNA test were done at my request to settle the issue and a 100% match was found.

So as the Bowles family spread out in the wake of their 1798 misfortunes, their presence in Ballickmoyler was much depleted but they were not finished there yet.  There does not appear to have been a Protestant Church in the area before 1798.  Coote's statistical survey of 1801 records that there is "not one parish church now existing, there is service each week alternating at Ballickmoyler and at the Rector's house at Sheffield near Ballylynam (Ballylynan)".  Other chapels in the area had possibly been burned in 1798 but I can find no records for an actual church.  On June 27, 1801 the Rev. Arthur Weldon (the Rev. Whitty having moved on by then) and his parishioners held a meeting to discuss the construction of a church at the site of the cemetery at Castletown, a small village just up the road from Ballickmoyler.  This meeting was recorded by Joseph Bowles as the Vestry Clerk and the minutes record that the first Church Warden was John Bowles (this would be John Jr.). 

After a brief attempt to have the church built at Ballickmoyler instead, the construction and furnishing of the church at Castletown-Killabban by 1804 is documented in Joseph’s handwriting in the Vestry Minutes book currently held in the Church of Ireland archives (the RCBL) in Dublin.  The Gentry in the area who principally financed the church were William Cooper of Coopershill, Arthur Hovendon of Gurteen and James FitzMaurice of Ashfield House. 

Michael Bowles’ presence in Ballickmoyler is documented in a March 1807 minute identifying him as a sideman to William Cooper during the latter’s term as Church Warden.  They also record the February 1816 payment of 10£ to the widow of Joseph Bowles the late vestry clerk.  Joseph had died in October 1815, John jr. died in 1818 and both were buried in the Castletown cemetery.  Michael had moved away to wherever he married his Catholic second wife by 1819 so that year marks the end of the confirmed Bowles presence in Ballickmoyler.  William and Michael are still on record in the 1824 Tithe Applotments for owning land in Ballickmoyler but it’s not known if they actually still resided there.  After Michael’s departure for Canada, the last brother, William, then living in Carlow, still owned the family land but he had sub-divided it into 6 small lots for rental to Edward Bambrick, John Brennan, Thomas Donegan, James Fitzhenry, Mary Holohan and Catherine Neal [Griffith’s Primary Valuation May 1850].  The last Bowles in the area, another William but I do not know from which branch yet, died in Carlow between April and June 1886 at age 86 [General Index, Deaths Registered in Ireland].


Tom LaPorte is a French Canadian resident of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada who has spent the last 7 years discovering his Irish quarter on his Mother’s side.  His research has led him from the initial claim by his very Victorian Grandmother that there were no Irish in the family, to his great-great-great grandfather’s shoe shop in Quebec City followed by the discovery of the 1842 Census record for Quebec City which gave the family’s origin as Ireland.  Eventually, following that trail he found a reference to Carlow, then to Killeshin and finally to Ballickmoyler where Tom visited last summer, walked the ground of his ancestors, visited the church they helped build in 1801 and discovered his pride in his heritage which had been hidden for so long.

See The Bowles of Canada

See  The Bowles of Ireland

See The Bowles of Great Britain

This page was last updated 12/21/18