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An Old Roscommon Family

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 20 May 1911
Location: Knockhall, County Roscommon, Irelandmap
Surnames/tags: Mills Roscommon
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Newspaper article: George Kelly, An Old Roscommon Family, Roscommon Messenger, 20 May 1911.


Old Roscommon Family. Mr George Kelly, B L, writes Although, the decision of his lordship, our learned Recorder, that the Isle of Man Is no part of the United Kingdom may have come as a surprise to many of your readers, yet It was not so to me. The name which I subscribe this letter may, perhaps, suggest Itself as some explanation of that circumstance, but the real reason Is that I a Co Roscommon man, and that Mark Antony Mills, the compiler of the “Law of Man,” published early the 19th century, and still standard work of authority, was native of my county. The old family Mills first settled In Co Roscommon early In the 18th century, having come there from Headford, Co Galway, where they held an estate. The first In Co Roscommon was Oliver Mills, of Knockhall, whose first and second sons established collateral branches. The wife of Oliver was a Hawkes, WHOSE MOTHER WAS A GOLDSMITH, of the family which produced our great poet and prose writer, Oliver Goldsmith. John, Oliver Mills's eldest son, is now represented In the county by Mrs McDonnell, of Lacken, and Mrs McDonnell, of Toberpatrick, whose sporting sons still carry the racing colours of the family. Mr Bernard McDonnell, of Toberpatrick, the breeder of Golder, and his cousin Patrick, of Ballygalda, a forward rider at all our Western hunts and point-to-point races; while his brother, Dr Robert McDonnell, of Dublin, still bears personal witness to the services of the family. The second son of Oliver, of Knockhall, was Edward the Elder, whose romantic residence at Fairymount was burned in "THE DEFENDERS" RISING, IN 1794. They were driven away too late by the garrison of Roscommon, their leader pronouncing the historic order of retreat, "To the bog, boys," a phrase of true Homeric rhythm, which would be much enhanced in its music were I to add to it the name of the rebel leader. In obedience to command they fled reluctant until their Parthlan glances found them plunging in a quagmire, where the foremost was smothered under the feet of those who followed. The spot is still known as the Kish-a-hoascawn, or "Bridge of Corpses". Edward the Elder was succeeded in his estates by Edward the Younger. Both were in succession High Sheriffs of the county, and Mark Antony Mills, my present hero, was his younger brother, a Dublin solicitor, who settled in the Isle of Man, and put in print the ancient laws of the Tinwald. Mark Antony, in his later years, settled in the vale called "Tempo," which residence he inherited from the Rev Mr Contarine, whose only child was the lady IMMORTALISED BY OLIVER GOLDSMITH in his “Letters from Tempo,” as the cousin Jane, whose taper fingers moved so nimbly over the keys of her spinet In the old house of Kilmore, when collecting facts for his Life Goldsmith, visited Mark Antony Mills at Tempo. A ruined wing of the building called “ the poet’s room” is pointed out there still. The traditions of the county teem with stories of the Mills, the Goldsmiths, and the Contarines, father and daughter. I trust that my memory has not erred too much In this long fight from the Hill of Tlowald to the Rath of Maeva. Although I cannot claim to be "Kelly from the Isle of Man," the air set to those words has been played to my honour. Let the honoured shades of Oliver Goldsmith and of Mark Antony Mills be my apologists for troubling you with so long a letter.

Research Notes

Oliver Mills of Knockhall's wife Catherine was the widow of Mr Hawkes. Her last name at birth was Goldsmith.

The house that burned down at Fairymount may have belonged to Edward the Elder or Younger. Sources conflict.


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