In the early 1830’s tensions were high in the Castlepollard area due the tithe war and evictions. A lot of evictions occurred on Lord Buckingham’s estate which took in the area which is now Mullaghameen forest, Castletown, Tulllyhill, Foyran, and Tonyowen townlands. The land agent was William Fishbourne who resided in Carlow. A letter was brought to Lord Buckingham in 1832 by Rev Fr Burke PP Castlepollard seeking relief for the tenants. The Castlepollard massacre occurred in May 1831 in which 13 people lost their lives.
This is the story of a murder which occurred in 1834 at Tubrid, as a result of a land dispute between 2 neighbouring families in nearby Tonyowen.
Edward Maher and Owen M’Enroe were joint tenants on land owned by the Duke of Buckingham in the townland of Toney Owen (Upper). According to the Tithe and Applotment books they shared 99 acres, 1 rood and 21 perches. While the land was granted jointly they farmed it separately.
There were endless disputes between the two over boundaries and in Feb 1834 the sheriff arrived with dispossession notices for several of the Duke of Buckingham tenants including M’Enroe and Maher and another family called Kearney.
A report in Westmeath Journal of the 13th March 1834 stated
The notice (below) was left at the house of Owen M’Enroe, in the parish of Foyran, in this county, last week, while he was attending the assizes in Mullingar, to obtain remuneration for the malicious burning of his house, offices and haggard. A gun and pistol were at the same time taken by the party; consisting of four persons, who entered M’Enroe’s house in open day. Nothing can exceed the lawless state of that part of the county, where notwithstanding the vigilance of the neighbouring magistrates all authority is set at defiance, “Take notice, Owen M’Enroe, if you have anything to do with Edward Maher’s land, that we will come and blow your brains out, and if he does not get his land back you shall get the same wages, for you are the instigation of all this and if you want to follow any person for this look for “Captain Rock”.
The dispute worsened as the land agent apparently told M’Enroe he could stay on as a tenant, but on the condition that he also took over Maher’s half of the land, which effectively signed his death warrant.
In the middle of July 1834 Owen McEnroe was passing by the place where the Maher’s had set up residence when he was attacked and killed by them.
At Trim assizes a week later Edward Maher was charged as an accessory and for inciting the murder. It was stated in court that the prisoners among others were dispossessed from a farm on the Duke of Buckingham’s estate which they attributed to the deceased and said that would be revenged. Rev Fr Burke the anti-tithe activist PP of Castlepollard spoke for the prisioners.
Edward Maher was found not guilty. His three children William, Patrick and Ellen were sentenced to hang. William and Patrick were hanged at Trim Gaol and Ellen was reprieved on the day and a month later her sentence was commuted to transportation for life to New South Wales. She was sent to N.S. W on the transport ship Roslin Castle in 1836
It was stated in the testimony of William Ford Esquire to an enquiry into the state of Ireland held on 16th January 1845 when discussing the McEnroe murder. “that there were a great many notices to quit, I know, served in the county about that time, and it would appear that that these horrible murders had the effect of having them withdrawn.
It was said locally that the wife of Edward, and mother of William, Patrick and Ellen travelled to Trim and brought the belongings of her sons home in a wheelbarrow.
Seamus Smith, 2018