Drogheda, County Louth. Home of the Keegans
The Massacre of Drogheda
Drogheda in County Louth north of Dublin, was an important walled town in the English Pale in the medieval period. It frequently hosted meetings of the Irish Parliament at that time. The parliament was moved to the town in 1494.
The town was besieged twice during the Irish Confederate Wars. On the second occasion it was taken by Oliver Cromwell in September 1649, as part of the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland and it was the site of an infamous massacre of the Royalist defenders.
Oliver Cromwell landed in Ireland in August 1649, to re-conquer the country on behalf of the English Parliament. Drogheda was by this time garrisoned by an English Royalist regiment under Arthur Aston and Irish Confederate troops – a total strength of about 3100 (roughly half of them English the other half Irish). Cromwell had around 18,000 men, of whom 12,000 were brought to Drogheda.
After breaking into the town, the New Model soldiers pursued the defenders through the streets, killing them as they ran. A group of defenders had barricaded themselves in Millmount Fort, overlooking the town's eastern gate held out while the rest of the town was being sacked. They negotiated a surrender, but were then disarmed and killed. Another group of soldiers in St Peter's church (at the northern end of Drogheda) were burned to death when the Parliamentarian soldiers set fire to the Church. Arthur Aston, the Royalist commander, was, reportedly, beaten to death with his own wooden leg, which the New Model Army soldiers thought had gold hidden in it. Richard Talbot, the future Jacobite Duke of Tyrconnell was one of the few members of the garrison to survive the sack.
Keegans of Drogheda
Robert Keegan’s father and grandfather lived through the horrors of Cromwell’s invasion. Robert himself was born in Drogheda with the horrific massacre of Drogheda still fresh in local memory.
Robert married Elizabeth in 1711. We don’t know her maiden name but we think she, like Robert was born and raised in Drogheda.
Rober's great-great grandson John Keegan was born in 1823 in Drogheda on the Banks of the Boyne. In about 1838 he began his apprenticeship as a Stone Mason which was a very important profession in Drogheda at the time.
Even today if you visit Drogheda’s Millmount museum there are tapestries dedicated to the stonemason’s profession.
The 1840s were a very difficult time to live in Ireland. In fact one of John’s contemporaries, a kinsman called Gerald Keegan, wrote about the difficulties posed by the famine.
In 1847, Gerald Keegan crossed the Atlantic in from County Sligo, Ireland to Grosse Ile, Quebec, Canada, which at that time was still part of Great Britain. His diary of that journey, titled Summer of Sorrow, was published in Huntingdon, Quebec in 1895. In 1982, James J. Mangan wrote a fictionalized account based this diary called The Voyage of the Naparima, later republished in 1991 as Famine Diary: Journey to a New World.
In about 1850 John married a woman called Mary who was born in 1825 in Cork.
Their first son John was born in 1852 in Drogheda where they lived but then we know they moved, probably to find work. Because their second child William was born in 1866 in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire). They moved again in 1856, this time to Dublin where their third child Mary Ann was born.
In around 1859 John, Mary and their children John, William and Mary Ann, embarked on a journey to England. They settled near Liverpool and their fourth child Elizabeth was born in 1859 in Bootle.
From birth, marriage and death certificates we can tell a lot. We know John and Mary moved from Drogheda to Dun Laoghaire to Dublin to Liverpool. And we know John died in about 1860 and Mary remarried to a man called Phillip Smith.
There is a John Keegan found in "Griffiths Valuation of Ireland" circa 1847. It is as follows:
Name: Keegan John
Townland: Village of Wallace's Row, Yellowbatter
Parish: St. Peters
He is shown to live with a Thomas Keegan (perhaps his brother). They are both lodgers of James Gernon.
The house is directly beside Drogheda's Corn Market.
See also the original page from Griffiths directory here: