Colonel Stratford Eyre
Appointment as Governor
In 1747 Colonel Stratford Eyre, who had served at Culloden, son of James Eyre, who had been governor of Galway in 1715, was appointed by the Government to command the town. The Eyre family had great local influence, they all showed themselves to be very vehement and aggressive Protestants. Froude describes Galway as Colonel Eyre found it:
"He found himself set to defend a town of which the walls had not been repaired for a quarter of a century; the castle in ruins; the very name of military authority forgotten. By law no Catholics ought to have been in Galway at all. There were thirty Catholics there to one Protestant, and the Protestant was becoming Protestant but in name. There were 180 ecclesiastics, Jesuits friars, and seculars. Robert Martin, owner of half Connemara, resided within the liberties, and was making a fortune by smuggling there. He was described by Eyre as 'able to bring to the town of Galway in twenty four hours 800 villains as desperate and as absolutely at his devotion as Cameron of Lochiel'. The Mayor and Corporation, the fee-simple of whose property did not amount to 1000 received the tolls and customs duties. By their charter they were bound in return to maintain the fortifications. Being what they were, they preferred to divide the town revenue amongst themselves. The mayor, an O'Hara, was the son of Lord Tyrawley's footman; the sheriff was a beggar; of the aldermen one was a poor shoemaker, the other a broken dragoon."
In the Civil Correspondent at the Irish Record Office there is a letter written by Eyre, dated the 27th February, 1747, in which he states:
Last Saturday, the 20th February, the Corporation of Galway gave their favourite,
|Mr. Fitzpatrick, for his services in supporting the rights of the corporation||900 0|
|To Mr. O' Hara for do||120 0|
|To Mr. Blake for his expenses in taking out a mandamus||45 10|
|To Mr. Cooke for defending the Corporation against the mandamus||91 0|
|To Mr. Miles for prosecuting Dominick Lynch for calling him a Papist||27 0|
|To Mr. Ellis for money paid ten years ago on a contested election||27 0|
|Given to the farmers of the markets in the year 1744 on account of losses that year||72 0|
|To Alderman Ch. Gerry for his services as chamberlain||192 0|
Eyre re-established discipline in the garrison with a strong hand. He himself closed the gaps in the town walls where they had fallen down; and gave orders for the gates to be closed at sunset. The Corporation protested and sent a complaint to Government, signed not only by the members but also by the majority of the citizens. The streets of Galway, they claimed, must be free at all hours of the day and night, without sentinels, or inconvenient persons, to restrain the citizens in their goings and comings. The Governor sent for the members and in his address to them said:
"And now, gentlemen since you are here in your corporate capacity, I must recommend you to disperse these restless Popish ecclesiastics. Let me not meet them in every corner of the streets when I walk as I have done. No sham searches, Mr. Sheriff, as to my knowledge you lately made. Your birds were flown, but they left you cakes and wine to entertain yourselves withal. I shall send you, Mr. Mayor a list of some insolent unregistered priests, who absolutely refused me to quarter my soldiers, and to my surprise you have billeted none on them. These and James Fitzgerald, who is also an unregistered priest, and had the insolence to solicit votes for his brother upon a prospect of a vacancy in Parliament, I expect you'll please to tender the oaths to, and proceed against on the Galway and Limerick Act. Let us unite together in keeping those turbulent disqualified townsmen in a due subjection. Lastly, gentlemen, I put you in mind of the condition on which tolls and customs are granted to you. Repair the breaches in these walls and repair your streets."
Opposition to Eyre
The Government, however, refused to stand by him. His policy was also opposed, apart from the corrupt Corporation of Galway, by the Prime Sergeant, the Protestant Bishop of Elphin, Lord Howth, and Lord Athenry. He was threatened with assassination as would appear from the following anonymous letter which he enclosed with his correspondence to Secretary Wayte, 11th December, 1747:-
"Sir, as I had not the pleasure of seeing you since you came to your government of Galway, I hope soon to see you in the Elysian fields, as I am just going off the stage. And I am sure, if you don't leave that town, you'll lose your life before the 10th of next month. 'Tis all your own fault, for you could not bear the employment which you got, not for your bravery, but for the slaughter you committed on poor people after Culloden fight. You'll be served as Lord Lovat's agent was. God be merciful to your soul."
Eyre was insulted with impunity throughout the town. Froude tells of a Connemara boy, named Brennan, a follower of Robert Martin of Dangan, who walked passed the sentinel at the bridge carrying a gun and pistol. The boy being a Catholic was disarmed, but Eyre returned the weapons to Martin with a message that if he was sending arms into the town he had better for the future send them by persons qualified to carry such things. On Martin refusing to receive back his property Eyre confiscated the weapons. The assizes coming on Martin served a summons on Eyre to appear before the judges and answer to a charge of larceny. Enclosing the following document to Secretary Wayte Eyre wrote, "If the law was to be thus openly insulted, government would become impossible and neither the Property Act nor any other act, could be enforced in any part of Ireland:-"
Robert Martin, Esq., Pr. Stratford Eyre, Esq., Dt.
By the Lords Justices of assizes for the Connaught circuit.
"The defendant is hereby required personally to appear before us at 8 o' clock in Galway on the 6th of April next, to answer the prosecutor's bill for 5 sterling, being the value of one gun and one pistol, being prosecutor's property, which defendant took and converted to his own use."
Dated March 30, 1748. Signed by order, E. Butler and L. Mears, registrars.
In a letter to Secretary Wayte, dated 19th August, 1755, Eyre again complains that:
"A party of Frenchmen came to Galway on an unknown errand, and lay for some time concealed in a convent. They had landed without passports or credentials. I sent for them to come to me. They refused, and I arrested them. The mayor immediately took them out of my hands, and in the presence of the prisoners threatened to commit me if I interfered further."
Eyre was a man full of violent personal and religious animosities, intolerant of opposition, "and much more fit of the command of a regiment than for the difficult task of governing a Catholic town ".
In the Deeds Office, Dublin, there is a document date 1st May, 1711, which refers to money transactions between aMr. Burke of Dublin and "Thady Fahy of Clooningare, Co. Galway, gentleman." It is a deed of lease and re-lease of a considerable part of Fahy's estate to Dominick Burke of the city of Dublin, and Joseph Burke, late of Ballylee, County Galway. By the deed Fahy obtained from Burke a loan of 147, for which he was to pay interest at the rate of 11 18s. yearly "in pure silver and gold of the same weight and value that silver and gold now are in the kingdom of Ireland." This mortgage was taken by Edmund Eyre of Galway - the deed of transfer being dated 6th December, 1712. Meantime, Burke pressed his claim for the payment of the original mortgage. Fahy being unable to meet it, Burke confirmed to the "said Edward Eyre, his heirs and assigns, the said townlands of Cloon, containing 114 acres profitable land, lying in the parish of Kilbecanty..." on condition that Eyre should satisfy the claim and give in addition 50.Cloon House was then taken over by the Burke-Eyre family and remained in possession of that family until the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The Eyres were Cromwellian adventurers. Colonel Eyre, a native of Wiltshire, accompanied Ludlow to Ireland, obtained a grant from the crown in 1662 of the manor of Eyre Court and other lands, and represented the county of Galway underCharles II in the Irish House of Commons. A document preserved in the Rolls Office casts a curious light on what Eyre regarded as his privileges as member, and on the irresponsible manner in which he was permitted to assert them, to the ruin of a member of the Fahy family. It is dated 12th August, 1697. Eyre had rented some lands from a Colonel Burke which he had sublet to other tenants. The land agent, Patrick Fahy, having had to seize some cattle for unpaid rents, took by mistake some that belonged to Eyre, the county representative in Parliament. The cattle were at once restored and the agent on the order of Eyre was arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for "breach of privilege." Fahy was dismissed by his employer Colonel Burke.
Petition of Patrick Ffahy to the Honble The Knights and Citizens and Burghers in Parliament.
"That the petitioner by order of the honble house lately taken into custody of the Sergeant-at-arms for breach of privilege committed against Coll. John Eyre, a member of this honble house. That the petitioner was ... 1691 servant to Coll. Thos. Burke and rec of his rents and the said Coll. Burke being then in Dublin the petitioner did by mistake distraine some cattle belonging to the under tenants of Coll. Eyre on the lands of Oghill beg in the Co. of Galway, which the said Coll.Eyre held by lease from said Coll.Burke under ... yearly rent.
That the said distraine was taken by mistake and without the least intention of disrespect to the said Coll. Eyre the petitioner finding the said lands mentioned in a rent-roll delivered to him by Coll. Burke a year before the distress was taken and the petitioner had no other power or authority from the said Coll.Burke for taking said distress; and as soon as the said Coll.Burke had notice thereof he ordered the petitioner to go back and restore the said distress, which the petitioner did accordingly, and the said Coll. Burke for this unhappy mistake dismissed the poor petitioner his service, so as he hath no way left to maintaine himself and his distressed familie.
In tender consideration thereof the petitioner most humbly preys the said Coll. Eyre's pardon and the mercie of this hon. House to be dealt with as to his libertie fees with regard to his poore condition as the Coman will think.
And the petitioner will prey.
Delivered at the table 1697." Patrick Ffahy.