History of Elopement
“In comes the captain’s daughter the captain of the yeos,
saying brave United Irishman, we’ll ne’er again be foes”
The above words are from the old Irish ballad, The Boys of Wexford and tell the true story of one such elopement. The young couple escaped west as far as north Kerry and there married and reared a family. The groom was Thomas McKenna from perhaps Monaghan and she was Jane Foulkes from south Tipperary, At the time, elopements did not cause great consternation, except when they crossed religious or class boundaries. Usually when a Landlord’s daughter fell in love with a poor tenant, the tenant was moved on and sometimes killed.
Elopement became common place
After the French Revolution, disrespect for rules and regulations and any form of authority became the order of the day. Elopements became a regular practice among the aristocracy at first and then among the common people. We know that Wolfe Tone eloped with a fifteen year old girl. It was considered romantic to elope even where matches had already been arranged. ………. Indeed it became so common, the then Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. Edmond Dillon felt obliged to make a rule “that no priest could officiate at the marriage of a girl who did not have the permission of her father or guardian to marry”. On his death in August 1808, as Napolean had put the pope under house arrest, his successor could not be ratified until 1811. In the intervening period, people probably felt they could ignore the rules of the former archbishop.
In the matchmaking culture of the day, a girl had to marry the choice of her parents or otherwise, she got no dowry. Secret societies often tried to counteract this custom. They snatched the girl, seemingly against her will, and lodged her with a friend. Though she was innocent of any impropriety with her own choice of husband, she was still considered compromised. The parents were then obliged to hand over the dowry to her man so that he could make an honest woman of her in marriage.
Three sisters snatched
There was a strong branch of Ribbonmen in the parish of Killererin. One day, three of its members arrived in Tuam on horseback and “snatched” three sisters from Feeragh, Caherlistrane and took them back to Killererin, not kicking and screaming, as you would expect, because they already had their important belongings hidden underneath their shawls. Tradition dictated that the girls were kept in a “safe” house until the girls’ father came up with the demanded dowry. After the usual negotiations, the three ladies ‘got their men’ and settled down to become pillars of society. The ladies’ surname was Glynn and the three men were Kemple from Immaun, Healy from Lissavalley and Hughes from Barnaderg; the Glynn family were referred to as the ‘Fada Glynns’ (Fada meaning long or tall) and their descendants were all fine tall people. This episode is said to have taken place circa 1810.
Though Micil Kemple was my great great grandfather, Miss Glynn was his second wife and I am descended from his first wife. I am therefore a step third cousin of Rev. Oliver Canon Hughes.
This document was first prepared for the late Canon Oliver Hughes and research was carried out by the late Rev. Fr. Flavian Kemple, O.F.M. a native of Cloonfush west of Tuam but whose father came from Imaun Mór where Donnellans now live (Mrs. Donnellan’s maiden name was Kemple).