© Donal G. Burke 2013
The Bigoes are said to have been Huguenots (French Protestants) who fled their home in Lorraine as a result of religious and political persecution and initially took refuge in England. Thereafter they established themselves about Birr in Kings County in the early 1620s.[i] The family appear to have been proficient at glassmaking to the extent that it claimed that they at one time enjoyed a monopoly in that industry in France prior to their departure. In 1623 Sir Laurence Parsons gave a lease to Abraham Bigoe of the castle and lands of Clonoghill, near Birr, with the condition that he did not set up a glass works anywhere else and that he only purchase the wood needed for that industry from Parsons.[ii] He established a glass works on his property that was sufficiently successful to provide glass for windows, drinking vessels and other common items as far away as Dublin. The lease remained in place from 1623 to 1627.
Glassworks at Gloster
Another of the family, Phillip Bigoe acquired lands about Lusmagh, then in County Galway and was resident at the former Madden and McHugo castle of Newtown in the parish of Lusmagh by 1641. While Bigoe would later describe Newtown castle as ‘his estate by inherittance’, the castle and estate had formerly been the residence of Hugh O Madden and subsequently, by inheritance through marriage was the property of the MacHugos or McCooges, prior to the arrival of Bigoe. It is likely that Bigoe was not long established at Newtown prior to 1641, however, as a legal case was taken in 1638 by McCooge against Donnogh O Madden, gentleman, accused O Madden of having encouraged one Daniel O Madden and his wife Margaret to enter, and take possession of, a house or cottage located within the grounds of Newtown Castle and who then held it in opposition to tenants of McCooges.[iii]
About 1641 Bigoe was described as ‘Maister and owner’ of a glass factory, identified at that time by a local as a ‘glasshowse’ nearby at Gloster in Lusmagh and was one of the more prominent locally of a number of minor Protestant settlers established in that area.[iv] These settlers were both French and English in origin, with one Claude or ‘Glawde’ Bonny of Gloster testifying later that he (Bonny) was a French Protestant who arrived in Ireland about 1620 and from that time settled about Gloster.[v] It is likely that it was about this time, alongside others of a similar background, that the Bigoes first arrived in Ireland. The family’s French origin was confirmed by Ulick, Marquis of Clanricarde and Earl of St. Albans, who described Philip Bigoe as a Frenchman ‘who had set up glass works in several places and most in the Kings County.’
With the prospect of fresh land confiscation’s and colonisation’s looming large in the background and unable to depend on an unreliable monarch or an increasingly powerful anti-Roman Catholic English Parliament for satisfaction, several of the Ulster Roman Catholic land-owners took advantage of the divisions then current between the King and English parliamentarians and in 1641 rose up in arms against the colonists. The leading rebels claimed as justification for their actions that they were rising out in support of the King, in his struggle with an English parliament determined to divest him of his powers. As the Ulster rebels, composed mostly of the Gaelic aristocratic families, claimed to be acting in the interest of the Crown, the old Anglo-Norman families or the Old English, found themselves on the same side as the Gaelic lords, facing a common enemy. Many of the Old English joined the insurgents and the rebellion met with considerable initial success.
On the rising out of the Irish in 1641, Bigoe’s lands and property, along with those of other Protestant settlers, were despoiled and Newtown became a refuge for a large number of these families, who repaired there for protection. Bigoe would later claim that since the beginning of the Insurrection, he ‘and his said souldjers, family, and people, aforesaid (whom hee solely manteined) were (vntill they had quarter) soe watched besett and kept soe narrowly in the said Castle, that they durst not sturr publiquely abroad becawse the Rebells Lay soe nere and were soe many against them: Saveing that one tyme, when (Bigoe’s) owne Brother in lawe by name Jacob Dehooe and four other souldjers martched privately out out of the said Castle,: The Rebells that lay closse in ambush (being three or fowre hundreth in number) suddenly rushed vpon them and then and there slew this (Bigoe’s) Brother in lawe: but the other four souldjers flying towards the Castle were rescowed from the Rebells pursuers; by such as did sally out of the Castle: And at another tyme the Rebells hanged one William Wasberry one of (Bigoe’s) souldjers and his wife as they were privately goeing to visitt their sonn whome the Rebells had wounded.’[vi]
About September or October of 1641, a number of leading rebels, for the most part from Kings County and County Tipperary but including the local Galway landholder Owen oge O Madden ‘of Curclogh, gentleman’, together with what was, according to Bigoe, a force of at least five hundred soldiers ‘layd stronge seege’ to Newtown for twelve continuous days. (‘Garrett Moore of Cloughan in the County of Galway, Esquire’ was included among the leading rebels who besieged Newtown in another account of the siege given by Claude Bonny, one of the besieged, but no mention was made by Bigoe of Moore’s presence at the siege. The Memoirs and Letters of Ulick, Marquis of Clanricarde would suggest that the siege was concluded before the end of July of 1642.) Bigoe would later assert that ‘then and for a long tyme before haveing at his owne charges and not being releeved by anie maintained and kept there twelve souldjers and fforty twoe Protestants more besides of women and children, defended the Castle as well as they could and with their shott Killd many of the Rebells and many others they hurt’. Bigoe sent word to Ulick, Marquis of Clanricarde seeking military aid but both Clanricarde’s own position and the location of Newtown on the opposite side of the River Shannon rendered it difficult for Clanricarde to assist. The Marquis was only in a position to send his own company of foot under Captain Thomas Leicester and ‘some other forces’ to relieve the besieged.[vii] Before Clanricarde’s force arrived the defenders were eventually forced to yield due to a lack of ammunition and water and Bigoe arranged, ‘with much difficulty,’ quarter for himself and his family, soldiers and the inhabitants and ‘to come away & depart with their Lives, and only with two musketts two swords two pistolls, their apparell and the most part of their other goodes.’ Clanricarde later reported that his force arrived in time to serve ‘only for a convoy to bring Mr. Bigo, his family and some goods of considerable value to Loughreagh.’
Bigoe was not only able to retain ‘goods of considerable value’ following the siege but also considerable monies, as Clanricarde, ‘with some difficulty’ and ‘by earnest entreaty’ soon thereafter persuaded Bigoe to give him four hundred pounds in gold for the Lord Viscount Ranelagh, Lord President of Connacht. The Lord President was at that time fearful of a possible mutiny among his troops, who lacked adequate clothing, provisions and pay. Clanricarde, concerned for the welfare of the Lord President, himself and ‘the King’s service in the whole province,’ approached Bigoe for financial assistance and Bigoe accepted the Lord President’s and Clanricarde’s bond.
‘Philipp Bygo of Newtown in the Kings County’ married Susanna, daughter of another of the name Bigoe, by whom he had two sons and three daughters; Phillip, John, Dorothy, Catherine and Mary. All of his children of his first marriage died young, with the exception of Mary, who married John Eyre, Esq. He married secondly Bridgett, daughter of Sir George Herbert, Knight and Baronet, by whom he had two daughters, Bridgett, who died young and Catherine who married Gilbert Rossan of Dorra.[viii]
Bigoe’s property in Lusmagh was said to have comprised lands at Newtown, Feddane, Ballyneshragh, Carrowmore and elsewhere and he appears to have retained possession of these following the upheavals of the 1641 Rising, the subsequent Cromwellian government and the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 in the person of King Charles II.[ix] Having served as High Sheriff of King’s County in 1662, Bigoe died at Newtown in 1666 and was buried in the church at Birr, Kings County.[x] From his funeral entry he would appear to have been survived by his two daughters; Mary, wife of Captain John Eyre of Eyrecourt and Catherine, wife of Gilbert Rossan. That he had a sister who appears to have lived in Ireland also and settled nearby is evidenced by the presence at Newtown castle during the siege of 1642 of his brother in law Jacob Dehooe.
For the arms of this family, refer to ‘heraldry.’
[i] Cooke, T. L., The Early History of the town of Birr or Parsonstown, Robertson & Co, Dublin, 1875, pp. 41-2.
[ii] Cooke, T. L., The Early History of the town of Birr or Parsonstown, Robertson & Co, Dublin, 1875, pp. 41-2.
[iii] Crawford, J. G., A Court of Star Chamber in Ireland; The Court of Castle Chamber, 1571-1641, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2005.
[iv] Trinity College Dublin, Ms. 814, fols. 271r-272v. Deposition dated 16th June 1646.
[v] Trinity College Dublin, Ms. 814, fols. 271r-272v. Deposition dated 16th June 1646. That Claude Bonny was one of a number of local settlers of French origin is witnessed from his statement that ‘this deponent & divers others french and English protestants expelled and driven from thence by the parties Rebells aforesaid, and from thence (for more safety) fledd to the Castle of Newtowne alias Ballinoe in the County of Galway then alsoe belonging to the said Mr. Bigoe.’
[vi] Trinity College Dublin, Ms. 830, fols. 132r-133v. Deposition dated 24th March 1643.
[vii] Trinity College Dublin, Ms. 830, fols. 132r-133v. Deposition dated 24th March 1643; Clanricarde, Earl of, The Memoirs and Letters of Ulick, Marquis of Clanricarde and Earl of Saint Albans, R. & J. Dodsley, London, 1757, pp. 202, 233-4.
[viii] NLI, Dublin, G.O., Ms. 73, Funeral Entries, p.97. Funeral entry of Philipp Bygo of Newtown in the King’s County.’ Another entry relating to the same Philipp Bygo gives the same family details but omits a son named Phillip by his first marriage to Susanna Bigoe. (N.L.I., Dublin, G.O. Ms. 67 Funeral Entries, p. 114.)
[ix] Cooke, T. L., The Early History of the town of Birr or Parsonstown, Robertson & Co, Dublin, 1875, p. 324.
[x] NLI, Dublin, G.O., Ms. 73, Funeral Entries, p.97. Funeral entry of Philipp Bygo of Newtown in the King’s County.’