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Friday, March 13, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #11: Michael James Collins, Irish farmer of Leatra

     Michael James Collins was my husband's grandmother's father.  He lived in Galway, in the Province of Connaught in the western part of Ireland.  He lived in the townland of Leatra, which name, "Liath thra", means grey sand.  This area is on a well travelled route from Western Ireland to the East used by wayfarers and armies throughout the ages.  A major battle was fought there in 1316, contesting the kingship of Connaught.

     Michael was born around 1855, married Mary Connally around 1878.  I have not found exact records for ether event. I did find the baptismal record for their first child, Mary, born 14 Nov 1878 in Leatra.  They had ten children, 6 girls and four boys.  We find the family in the 1901 and 1911 Irish Census. In 1901 their house is described as having stone, brick or cement walls, one room and one window. They are Catholic, speak Irish and English and neither Michael nor Mary can read or write. In 1911, the Census reports that Michael is blind(it didn't say this in 1901).

     Michael seems to have been a bit of a fighter, he stood up for his rights. Eileen Finnegan in "A History of the Parish of Templetogher and the Town of Williamstown", she describes the "Springtown Riots." These took place in 1880 at the end of a three year famine.  The tenants requested a reduction of rent and were not given it and they rioted. Police were present but refused to fire on the crowd so injuries were minor being confined to three people with bayonet wounds, one of whom was "a Collins man from Leitra".  I believe that this was Michael, could have been a brother but the only Collins man seen with the designation of Leitra(Leatra) at that time is Michael. I've also found a number mentions of him in the Petty Court Sessions records from Williamstown either as a complainant or defendant. As a complainant it has been about people trespassing or owing him money.  As a defendant it has been because he refused to pay a particular assessment, and he was allowed to not pay it! He also was accused of having an unlicensed dog.  I also find him in the Dog License records up to 1914 licensing Female or Male Curs almost all yellow, one brown. I guess he learned his lesson on the dog licensing.

     The one other record or notice I've found of him is the fact that in 1886 he gave some of his land for the use of founding a National School in Leatra.  He swapped the land for another field, but still he made it possible for his children and the others in the area to receive an education.  I think he probably realized that his own lack of education (he couldn't read or write remember) kept him from being more that a poor farmer and wanted something better for his children. And most of them did go on to other places and better lives.  His son, Patrick stayed on the farm and it is still in the family today.

     I don't have a record of his death or know when it was.  He was buried in Cill Croain (Kilcroan) Cemetery near Ballymoe.  There is no headstone.  His wife, Mary, is buried in Kildarea Cemetery near Polredmond.  Again, no headstone. There many descendants in Ireland, England and the U.S. still remember or visit Leatra when they can.

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