John Sexton G3 c.1795-1847
John Sexton G3 (c.1795-1847) was the eldest son of Timothy Sexton who had held land in both Scobaun and Toehead. John was one of at least four sons – the others being Cornelius (c.1800-1876), Patrick (c.1805-1899) and Michael (c. 1810-??). John appears to have taken on his father’s lease of the Lot 4 at Scobaun – possibly on the death of his father in about 1835 and also had a lease on land at Gortacrossig. John was married to Mary Sexton (nee Hourihan, 1797-1887) who lived until the ripe old age of 90 and who therefore outlived her husband by some 40 years. Mary Sexton’s death certificate is available and indicates that she died at home in Scobaun on the 15th March 1887
We have seen that John’s father, Timothy Sexton, had leased holdings in both Scobaun and Toehead so it seems probable that the two holdings were effectively all held in the extended family group. We also know from the Tithe Applotment Records of 1825 that the Sextons also leased land at Gortacrossig – though this may have been rougher summer grazing as much as land for tillage. We know that there were at least four sons and possibly daughters whose names are not recorded and, in the pre-famine years, it might be presumed that the Sextons were reasonably comfortable leaseholders. In the early 1840s, John appears to have been responsible for Gortacrossig in addition to the lease he had inherited from his father at Scobaun. His younger brothers, Cornelius, Michael and Patrick appear to have had shares of the land at Toehead.
The fate of John Sexton (G3)
The Castletownsend Loan Society was active in the area in the years before the famine issuing small loans from £1 to £10 to be repaid at the end of the year. These loans enabled farmers who leased land from landlords and their middlemen to buy seed and carry out improvements on their land and were seen as highly successful. Unfortunately, the famine brought the whole enterprise to a crashing halt and John Sexton seems to have been one of those who got caught up in the mayhem. John had taken on a series of small loans from £1 to £3 between 1843 and 1846 and had also acted as guarantor or surety in November 1846 for two neighbours – John Brien of Rea and Batt Holland of Lahern who took on £3 and £1 loans respectively. By this stage, the famine was setting in and things quickly went form bad to worse. Both Brien and Holland died leaving John responsible for their loans and presumably unable to pay. John’s fate is made clear in the Supplementary Statement for John Brien which was drawn up some time after the famine to investigate the status of the outstanding loans. The return reads, ‘Sexton a pauper, the other parties are dead‘. The statement for Batt Holland’s loan reads, ‘Borrower dead – Sexton a pauper – the other party [the other guarantor, Michael O’Sullivan of Gortacrossig] has left the country – parties were decreed but no effects‘. As regards, John’s own loan, the Return to the Clerk of the Peace lets us know exactly what happened to John: ‘Resided on the … [land on the] … date … [written but unreadable in column 3], held a small farm, was in Very Poor Circumstances, died in Union Work House in 1847‘.
The death of John Sexton (G3) in the notorious Skibbereen Workhouse
The fact that the Sextons managed to retain the lease on Lot 4 does, in the light of John’s death in the workhouse, seem rather extraordinary. Somehow it appears, the family escaped the evictions that were a common happening in the aftermath of the famine.
How exactly John Sexton came to die in the infamous Skibbereen Workhouse isn’t known but a likely possible explanation is that, as a result of having a debt he could not pay, John presented himself to the workhouse as a pauper and that his wife and family somehow managed to survive – perhaps through the support of the extended family. Perhaps by presenting himself in this way, the family was no longer responsible for the debt. There is probably some truth in this as the family somehow managed to retain the lease on the Lot 4 farm and the Lot 4a house. The other house on Lot 4 (House 4b) was occupied by John’s first cousin, the other John Sexton who had the lease of Lot 5.
Another possibility is that John had become infected with one of the highly infectious diseases that were as much a cause of death during the famine as the lack of food. If it were determined by the authorities that he had contracted cholera or some other such disease, it is quite possible that he may have been forced to enter the workhouse to prevent the further spread of the disease.
How it was that Lot 4 stayed in Sexton hands after John’s death in 1847
Oliver Murphy has offered the following plausible explanation for this:
“In the late 1840s and early 1850s, the Immediate Lessor of small farms of land in Gortacrossig and Toehead was Thomas Somerville (1798 – 1882). In Scobaun, the Immediate Lessor was Sampson French (1807 – 1878) of Cuskinny in East Cork. Lot 4 in Scobaun, Lot 3c/4c in Gortacrossig, and Lots 1d and 1e in Toehead were leased by Sextons from at least 1825. Leases were often for an extended term and so long as all conditions set forth by the landlord were met to his satisfaction by the tenants they were simply extended or renewed.
“I have a copy of a lease executed on Oct. 13, 1858 between a Peter Sullivan (1820 – 1875) of the townland of Raheen in the parish of Castlehaven (theTenant) and the Reverend Maurice Fitzgerald Stephens Townsend of Castletownsend (the Landord, and brother-in-law of Thomas Somerville mentioned above), which had a term of “one life and 31 years”. This means that after Peter Sullivan died in 1875, the lease was valid until 1906. Like some other landlords of his time, the Reverend Townsend was a benevolent landlord. Shortly after taking over the estate in Castletownsend in 1845 from his brother, Colonel John Townsend, the Reverend forgave 10,000 pounds (equivalent to 626,500 pounds in 2005) in owed rent with the goal of giving his tenants a clean slate. It must also have been the case that, even before the Famine, tenants of Thomas Somerville and of Sampson French must also have owed large amounts of money. Because of the continuity of tenants in Scobaun and in Toehead from circa 1850 until modern times, it is safe to assume that Thomas Somerville and Sampson French must also have been rather benevolent.
“In the early version of the House Book for the townland of Toehead (ca. 1849), Patrick Sexton and his brother Cornelius Sexton were leasing Lots 1d and 1e, respectively. Thus, it appears that some time before his death, Timothy Sexton (ca. 1770 – ca. 1840) of Scobaun/Toehead/Gortacrossig divided the original Lot of leased land in Toehead between two of his sons, Patrick and Cornelius. It is my belief that Timothy also instructed that the lease for the land in Scobaun (Lot 4a) and in Gortacrossig (Lot 4c/3c) be assumed by his eldest son, John Sexton (ca. 1800 – 1847), who was named after his grandfather, John Sexton (ca. 1740 – ca. 1810). Shortly after the death of John Sexton (ca. 1800 – 1847), responsibility for the “already in place lease” for Lot 4a in Scobaun was assumed by his son, John Sexton (1838 – 1922). This was probably a smooth transition, since the legal contractual problems that John Sexton (ca. 1800 – 1847) had were not with landlords but with the Castletownsend Loan Society. Since the money that the Loan Society loaned out was British Government money, accountability for it was high. On the other hand, leases made on land were a civil matter, and any non-compliance with any terms of such leases would only have been pursued if a landlord filed a legal claim. Leaving aside any benevolent attributes that the landlords (Somerville and French) may have possessed, any compensation that may have accrued to them as a result of pursuing any legal remedies, or the possibility of them leasing to more well-off prospective tenants, in the Castlehaven of 1847 – 1850, were essentially zero”.(Ref. Oliver Murphy, email to Michael Sexton, 5th November 2017)
This may well explain how the Sextons managed to hold on to Lot 4a and allowed for the transfer of the land from the deceased John Sexton (d. 1847) to his son, John Sexton (1838-1922). In the absence of any other evidence, it certainly seems to be the most plausible explanation.
The children (G4) of John Sexton (G3)
When John Sexton (G3) came to an unfortunate end in the Skibbereen workhouse in 1847, he left a wife, Mary (nee Hourihan) and at least eight children. Mary, as we have seen, lived on for forty years after her husband’s death and died at home in Scobaun in 1887 at the age of 90. While there is no documentary proof that their first born son was called Timothy, this seems highly likely as he would have been named after his father’s father, Timothy (G2). Timothy was probably born in the mid 1820s. The fact that a younger brother, born in 1830, was also called Timothy leads us to believe that the older Timothy must have died as an infant or very young child before his brother’s birth. In order of birth, John and Mary’s children (G4) were named Timothy (c.1827 and died shortly after), Bartholomew (1829-1912) who inherited half of the Toehead Lot 11 holding (most likely from his uncle Cornelius) and who was probably named after his mother’s father, John Jnr (1831-1911 or perhaps 1922 who was named after his father) who inherited Lot 4 in Scobaun, Timothy (1830-1899 – named after his grandfather and also after his now deceased older brother) who emigrated to Boston, Ellen (1830 -1917), Mary (1839-1881), Patrick (1834-1893) named after his paternal uncle and who later emigrated to Boston, Susan (1841-1913), and the baby of the family, Cornelius (1845-1921) also named after his paternal uncle and who later joined the Coastguard and moved to Cobh (then Queenstown) and later to Dublin. Let’s take a closer look at each of these children and what became of them.
Timothy (G4) c1827-c1828
As we have noted above, Timothy died either as an infant or as a very young child.
Bartholomew (G4) 1829-1912
Bartholomew was probably known as Bart and was named after his maternal grandfather, Bart Hourihan. He married Honora Sullivan (b. 1833). It is possible that the Mary Sullivan recorded as living in Scobaun on the 1901 and 1911 censuses may have been a sister of Hanora. Bart and Hanora had seven children (all G5). It is worth remembering that Bart farmed half of the 16 acre plot recorded as Lot 11 at Toehead in a house that was constructed some time shortly before or soon after the Famine. Prior to this time, all the houses in Toehead were to be found in the main ‘clachan’ a few hundred metres further north. The land was probably inherited from his uncle, Cornelius whose own sons Timothy and James (b.1844) appear to have either died or emigrated.
John (G5) who born around 1853 seems to have died as a young child.
Michael J. (G5) 1854-1873) married Mary Murphy and, as the eldest son, inherited his father’s half of Lot 11. Michael and Mary had at least five children: Batt (G6) (b.1888); Patrick (G6) (b.1889); Bridget (G6) (b. 1897); Nora
(G6), also known as Hanora (b. 1895); and Katie (G6) (b.1903) who later married John Murphy of Scobaun. It seems likely that the boys all either died young or emigrated as Nora appears to have inherited her father’s land (Lot 11, Toehead). From the state of dereliction in which the cottage can currently be found (see the main picture for this website), it would appear that the cottage was abandoned sometime in the early 1900s.
Cornelius (G5) (1856-1873) obviously died as a young man prior to marriage.
Mary (G5) (1859-1909) married a Michael Attridge who had land at Ballychane and Lickowen.
Ellen (G5) (b.1862). Nothing else is known of Ellen.
Kate (G5) (1865). Nothing else is known of Kate.
John (G5) (1866-1919) married Mary Collins (1862-1919). Further research is required to find out what became of this couple. It is presumed that they either emigrated or died childless.
Timothy (G4) 1830-1899
Timothy emigrated to Boston and it is not known whether he married and had a family. Timothy bears the same name as his eldest brother (Timothy, born two years previously in 1828) who died as an infant. It is also, of course, the name of his father’s father. The fact that the name was used a second time demonstrates the importance of the name Timothy in the family.
Ellen (G4) 1830-1917
Ellen who may have been a twin of Timothy married Thomas Murphy of Doneen.
John ‘Jnr’ (G4) 1831-1911 (or 1922)
John appears to have been known as John but the suffix ‘Jnr’ is often found on official documents to distinguish him from the older John Sexton (John Sexton Snr) who lived in Lot 7 in the same Scobaun townland. Mary was married to Bridget Driscoll (1837-1909) and they occupied Lot 4 Scobaun. The house they lived in is known in the Griffith Valuation records at House 4a and is shown on the OS maps as being a little south of the current house (which is known as House 4b). This appears to be an error on the part of the recorder – understandable in view of the fact that both houses were occupied by Sextons (John and Patrick who were second cousins). The house recorded as 4b is almost certainly the house occupied by John Sexton as direct living descendants of John Sexton (of which Con/Neilie Sexton is one) have no knowledge of the family ever having moved ‘next door’. Con is quite convinced that he would have heard about this from his own grandfather (Cornelius G5) if this had, in fact, been the case.
John and Bridget had eight children (all G5). First born was Ellen (G5; 1857-1905). Ellen was married to Patrick Donovan of Skibbereen and they had three children: Annie, Katie and Michael Donovan. Mary (G5) was the next child born in 1862. Mary married Jeremiah Murphy of Scobbaun and lived until 1948. The first born son was John (G5) named after his grandfather but also sharing his own father’s name who was born in 1860. John appears to have died either as an infant or as a boy. Cornelius (pronounced as Cornailus, G5), born in 1866, was the second son but as his elder brother died young, he inherited the family farm (lot 4 in Scabaun) from his father, John. Cornelius married Bridget Mahony (1868-1932) and lived until the age of 86, dying at home in Scobaun in 1952. He is buried in Castlehaven old cemetery (where it is presumed all preceding Sextons were buried up until the opening of Castlehaven new cemetery
in the 1960s. Cornelius is pictured above (on the right) with his son, John (G6), and grandson, Con (Neilie) (G7). Cornelius’s family will be discussed in further detail below. Three years later in 1869, Susan (G5) was born with another girl, Bridget (G5) born in 1871. Susan later emigrated to the US. A third son was born in 1876 and was named John (G5) sharing the name of his now deceased older brother. John (known to his family in Scobaun as Johnny Dooneen) went on to marry twice and his family will also be traced below. The youngest child was Julia, born in 1871.
The family of Cornelius Sexton, Scobaun (G5) 1866-1952
As noted above, Cornelius (Cornailus) Sexton (G5) married Bridget Mahony (1868-1932) from the adjoining townland of Dooneen on the 13th February 1896 and they had six children. Cornelius’s father, John, and Mary Mahony, probably Bridget’s sister, were the witnesses to the marriage. As can be seen from the photo, ‘Cornailus’ was a tall, strong man and lived to a very good age. Sometime (possibly around 1910), the farmhouse was extended and a second floor added. It is likely that a slate roof was added at around this time too. The design of the house remained largely unchanged until the 1990s when it was modernised though, thankfully, its basic character remained intact. John and Bridget’s first child, Bridget (G6), was born in late 1896 or early 1897. Mary (G6) was born in 1897 and went on to marry Jeremiah Buckley of Shepperton. As well as being cousins, the Buckleys of Shepperton were close friends of the Sextons of Scobaun and the Buckley children, Timmy, Connie, Patrick John, Jerry, Margaret (Madge who emigrated to Boston), Mary, Kathleen, Sheila and Josephine (Josie who also went to Boston) were frequent visitors to Scobaun. Mary, Kathleen and Sheila all went on to become nuns. John Sexton (G6), the first son (see below) of Corneliius and Bridget, was born in 1898 and inherited the farm from his father. Julia (G6)was born in 1902 and subsequently married Patrick Brien, a member of An Gárda Síochána. They lived in Ballinspittle but after her husband’s death, Julia returned to live in Skibbereen. They had no children. Ellen (G6) was born in 1904 and was known as Helen. Helen (who was the Godmother of Con/Neilie Sexton (G7) married Michael O’Reilly and settled in New Jersey. Theresa (G6) also went to live in New Jersey. Michael (G6) was born in 1906 and also emigrated to the US and, after a period in Boston where he worked as a bus driver, moved to Bergenfield, New Jersey. He was married to ??? Walsh (who was US born but whose ancestors came form the Derraghlea Bridge area outside Skibbereen) and they had three children, Cornelius (Neilie – G7 – named after his grandfather), Michael (Buddy G7) and Mary (later Mary Evans G7). Upon the early death of Michael’s wife, Theresa (Michael’s sister) came to live with Michael and reared the three children effectively as their mother. Neilie (G7) later married Clair (surname not known) and they had a number of children (names not known). Neilie served in the US army and, at one point, visited his father’s homeplace in Scobaun. Michael (Buddy) died unmarried at a relatively young age. Mary continued to live in the family home with her father and children at Bergenfield, New Jersey.
John Sexton (G6) 1898 – 1989
John Sexton (G6) was born in 1898 and, as we have seen, was named after his grandfather. He was a quiet but hard-working man and married Eileen (Eily) Sullivan of Bluid at Castlehaven Church in 1935. He was known to be a man who said very little but who listened well and always knew what was going on from his daily trip to the creamery. His wife, Eily, was a strong, sociable, capable woman who loved to be out and about. Their first son, Con (Neilie) (G7) was born in 1936 and their daughter, Maura (G7), in 1939. A second son, John (G7), was born in about 1945 but died soon after birth. He was buried (at night as was the custom) in Castlehaven old cemetery. Con (Neilie) emigrated to England on St Patrick’s Day 1954 and lived for a number of years in Guildford, Surrey where he met Bridget O’Shea from Kenmare, Co Kerry. They married in Kenamre on 26th July 1960. They had five children: John (G8) born April 1961, Helen (G8) born and died shortly after birth in January 1962), Michael (G8) born March 1963, Kieran (G8) born April 1967 and James (G8) born June 1969. The family returned to Ireland in 1973 and settled in Ballincollig, Co. Cork. John is married to Clair (nee O’Halloran) from Ballintemple and has two children: Julie (G9), born in 1995, and Orlaith (G9) born in 1997. Michael is married to Maeve (nee Cooper from Douglas, Cork) and has four children: Cian (G9) born April 1996, Eimear (G9) born January 1998, Caoimhe (G9) born March 2000, and Colm (G9) born 2003. Both families live in Shanakiel, Cork. Kieran emigrated to London in the early 1990s but is a frequent visitor to Cork. James married Sheila (nee Harte) in 2017 and lives alongside his father, Con, at Hillsboro (Ballincollig).