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created: Aug.2003
refreshed: 09-Apr-2012
BYRN Family Links
The Mulroney connection

This is a tale of contrasting family fortunes as between Landlord and Tenant: in the late 20th century, the descendants of the erstwhile landlord no longer lived in Ireland and they occupied no significant public office whereas a descendant of the erstwhile tenant was to become Prime Minister of Canada.

During the last quarter of the 18th century when James Byrn (d.1824) held the estate at Park, in the Townland of Ballyknockan, Co Carlow, one of the properties he sub-let was a coaching inn, The Royal Oak. His sub-tenant was a certain Pierce Mulroney. In the year 1788 they agreed a 91-year lease in the sum of £60 per year. A Roman Catholic, Pierce Mulroney had been enabled to take on this lease thanks to a recent relaxation in the Penal Laws — he was no longer obliged to conform/convert, it was sufficient to take the Oath of Allegiance. This he did at the Carlow Assizes in Sept. 1783.

The Royal Oak was located in a village of the same name some three miles south of Leighlinbridge on the Dublin-Kilkenny-Cork route. That was the most important coaching route in Ireland at the time. Its visitors include the preacher John Wesley who records stopping off there in April 1787. In those years business was good, so good in fact that in 1794 Pierce Mulroney could sell the lease onwards for £100 and was then able to devote himself to farming at nearby Ballyknockan. The farm he moved to was also part of James Byrn’s estate, and the Agreement between them survives amongst the Byrn family papers: “[September 1794] James Byrn Gent to Pierce Mulroney. Articles of Agreement of Landlord’s holding at the yearly rent of £45-10-0”. Pierce Mulroney eventually died there in 1823.

A generation later during the Great Hunger, Pierce Mulroney’s grandson, also named Pierce Mulroney, emigrated to Canada. Three generations later his great grandson, Brian Mulroney of Baie Cormeau, Quebec – 3rd great grandson of James Byrn’s tenant – was elected Prime Minister of Canada (1984).

Based on information compiled by the Dublin genealogist Paul Gorry on the occasion of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s visit to Ireland in July 1991.

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