Fr. Ryan's Notes



While viewing microfilmed baptismal records of the Roman Catholic parish of Carn (which includes the civil parish of Templecarn, straddling the Donegal/Fermanagh border), I came across a few pages of notes, signed "N Ryan," regarding the weather and growing conditions. Not having had personal experience of the Irish climate, the notes were a revelation to me. And I think I have a better appreciation of how it would have been for my great grandmother's family during those years.

Because of the handwriting, and the condition of the manuscript, I had difficulty in transcribing the notes. JOHN B. CUNNINGHAM ([email protected]) of Belleek, Co. Fermanagh, retired schoolmaster and historian, has taken a look at my transcription, and has filled in many of the "trouble spots." He also added the explanatory items in parentheses. Below are John's comments regarding Fr. Ryan.

"The following are Fr. Ryan’s notes on the weather and crops in the Pettigo area between 1855 and 1859. They are not earth shattering but are a record of the time when priests frequently lived on a small farm where they needed to grow their own crops of hay, oats and potatoes as well as getting turf cut and saved. This last was generally done by a meitheal (group) of men who did the work voluntarily. In an area almost totally based on agriculture they soon became proficient in discussions of the state of the crops and the vagaries of the local weather; if indeed, from their own backgrounds they were not already proficient in this. These notes are taken from Templecarne Parish baptismal records 1851-1877 and the first transcription was made by Margaret Jenkins whose ancestors came from the Lettercrann area. They reflect the priest’s concern over the weather for planting and harvesting and are a possible indication of post-famine worry that starvation might again stalk the locality. He frequently signs his name to individual entries. There are a few enigmatic entries but to the best of the ability of the authors and the condition of the Ms this transcription is correct."
1855: The frost commenced on the 5th of January and continued increasing in intensity until a party of twenty persons crossed upon the Ice from Dreenan (a townland on Boa Island in Lower Lough Erne) onto Muckross Point. (About three miles west from Pettigo towards Belleek)

On the 17th of February at Pettigo the snow fell to cover the ground about six inches.

On the 22nd 23rd a Very warm and genial sun. The snow still covering the ground. N. Ryan

Great Snow on the 24th of February 1855. On the 26th thaw. On the 5th of March no spade or plough can enter the ground more than three inches. The frost under that depth is fully twelve inches; no field labour anywhere March [1st] 1855

March 7th Frost so hard that a spade can not enter the ground in the rear of my house Dated as above 1855.

March 14th The frost still in the mountains impenetrable to spade or plough.

April 23rd Potatoes planted. Turf cut on May 10th

May 3rd A great fall of snow and on this date no appearance of grass and the bushes and trees I may say without leaves. May 10th 1855

Sept. 1st 1855:  After high winds and heavy rain for a week preceding, the weather has become fine 3rd a very hot day Potatoes doing well. The corn shorn It has been the calmest summer I have ever completed? at L(ough) Derg and it has been my 29th completed on that celebrated spot. (Everyone remembers the number of times they have completed the arduous Lough Derg Pilgrimage)

October 11th  After a long continuation of the finest weather for handing corn sheaves this day has set in with heavy rain, the only wet day the 7th of August.    N Ryan
A fine crop of potatoes scarcely any affected by blight

1856: February 16: The wettest day that has come for this year.

February 27th: I have planted my first early potatoes in the garden and early [Yorks? (A cabbage)] plants

March 1st: The finest day I have uninterrupted calm and genial. The sun for the season unusually warm great many potatoes planted.   N Ryan

March 6th: A most beautiful day calm and warm finished my garden as to potatoes

March 14th: Very cold and a change apparent after nearly a month of unusually fine weather. No oats sown. N Ryan

March 18th: A very wet day, was sowing oats wet but had to quit.

March 20, 21, 22nd: Beautiful day unusually hot. Corn sown. My boys (Workers) this day planting potatoes

March 28th 1856 Primroses and daisies in abundance though frost last night. The lower moss planted with potatoes. (In moss or peaty ground potatoes were found to be less susceptible to blight. Many landlords gave tenants who only had clay ground i.e. soil plots of moss ground to grow potatoes in during and after the famine. The Johnstons of Magheramena Castle near Belleek did this. The Mc Goldrick family of Crilly about five miles north of Pettigo had little potato loss during the Famine in moss ground but had to dig their crop by moonlight so no one would know how good their crop was. Three farmers from this locality were the first to have potatoes for sale in Pettigo fair after the famine.)

April 1st A beautiful day ............ rain and brisk wind.

On this day April 10th I finished potato planting.

On this day October [31st] the warmest day I have felt since the 15th of August 1856

On Saturday 29th of November 1856 it has snowed the entire day. N Ryan

1857: March 4th a most tempestuous day and I may say this month has been so far bitterly cold and changeable.1857 N Ryan

April 23rd 1857: This a very wet day scarcely any corn sown, the land inundated, in the district land cannot be cultivated by harrow, plough or spade; it has been the wettest spring in my recollection of more than 50 years cattle starving and dying for the Necessary? Fodder. Hay six shillings per cart and is very scarce at that enormous price N Ryan

The wind from North, this .................... a change which cannot be for the [better]

April 26 After incessant wet for nearly 3 months this day has been fair for a wonder And has given hope of a continuation may God grant it. The corn sown in damp locality has burst in the ground. (This means the crop will rot in the ground)

I have this inst. finished my potato planting this 7th of May 1857       N Ryan

September 18, 1857
A beautiful day in the which it has been the best harvest and earliest in my recollection. On the 16th of August I saw oats in the stack at Rossharbour. (About half way between Pettigo and Belleek) Potatoes partially damaged, but much safer than in years past. We have had no Epidemic of any kind during the summer notwithstanding the heat which has been intense. Harvest operations all completed on the above date. N Ryan

Had my confirmation on the 10th day of this month in Pettigo Chapel. Number confirmed 291, Bishop, Charles McNally. We all dined in my residence, Aughafy, under the Big Chesnut Tree. (Fr. Ryan lived in a single story house on a small farm less than a mile from Pettigo)

September 25th
After six weeks of the best harvest weather I have ever seen the Rain has set in this morning.

October 20th
Mary & Jane left this … for America. This is very fine.     N Ryan

1858: Frost has set in. The wind from the East bitterly cold. The intensity of the frost however is greatly mitigated by the length of the day so as not to prevent field operations. February 13th    N Ryan

March 2
Black frost continued with a sharp piercing wind. The air intensely cold. March dust flying in clouds on the public roads which is said to be worth a peck of gold.

March 10, 1858
A grand snow storm which appears to appears (sic)to continue for some time.

April 2nd, 1858
Good Friday, the coldest day. I feel since the beginning of the year snow, sleet and rain with a violent, nipping cold wind, the corn generally sown and a great quantity of potatoes planted, labour will be at a stand still for some time I fear.       N Ryan

[Good Friday 2ndA very heavy fall of snow and water ?

This day 6th a most tempestuous and boisterous wind, insufferably cold.

April 8th
A cold wet day. The wind northeast; potatoes nearly set, corn sown though the ground is very wet.

April 30th 1858: the most tempestuous day since the beginning of the year, cold, sleet and a most furious gale. N Ryan

September 22nd (58)
On this day the wet has set in after a month of the most harvesting weather. On the 13th the heat was 85 degrees in the shade. The corn & hay all in the yard. On the 11th I had corn and hay in the haggard. Potatoes perfectly safe as yet/well. (the haggard was an enclosed area beside the farm house where great stacks of hay and corn were kept. These great stacks were known as "pikes.") My best in duds on 11th of this month??    N Ryan

1859 February 9th Very changeable weather and no field labour done. We have had no frost as yet for this year. N Ryan

April 1st (59)
A most tempestuous day hail, sleet storming wind. March was with nearly the entire of February a continued torrent of rain. No corn or potatoes planted     N Ryan

15th A great snow storm and bitterly cold, finished only the sowing of the corn and very little sown in country, though vegetation is unusually in advance. Scallions have appeared on [the 2nd] of this month.

MARGARET JENKINS  [email protected]
Sullivan/Swieton HOME                  rev. 30 Dec 2000              IRISH LINKS PAGE