In my last post you will have noted that Francis McGann lost his life in a snow drift returning from a meeting at Keshcarrigan Fair on the the morning of the 21st December, 1815. The meeting was organised by McGann and his ‘Rockite’ acquaintances to denounce a local landlord by the name of Minor Peyton. Peyton had been involved in subduing civil disturbances in the local area. His retaliation apparently consisted of burning several houses in the townland of Drumcollop and cutting the road in the townland of Laheen Peyton.
The cutting of the road was a major inconvenience to the local people, including my own ancestors who lived in the adjoining townland of Corderry Peyton. The people were prevented from travelling in one direction towards Mohill and Drumsna and in the other to the village of Keshcarrigan. Whilst the act of Minor Peyton was purely retributive it also appears to be petty and vindictive. At the public meeting McGann denounced Peyton as a Tyrant, and cleverly instead of dwelling on the daily inconvenience fested on the locals, focussed instead on the obstruction of their worship at the local Catholic chapel.
The estate at Laheen was originally associated with the Reynolds family of Lough Scur. John Peyton married a daughter of Christopher Reynolds of Laheen in the early 18th century and thus the Peytons inherited Laheen. The Peytons first acquired land in Leitrim through an earlier marriage with the Reynolds family of Lough Scur around 1650. Several members of the family served as High Sheriffs of Leitrim in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The family traditionally buried in Fenagh.
In the 1790’s Arthur O’Neill visited Laheen and described it and the incumbent, old Toby Peyton as follows:
“I went to Toby Peyton’s, for whom Carolan composed ‘Planxty Peyton’. This gentleman had a fine, unencumbered estate, and exclusive of the expenses of groceries and spices he spent the remainder of his income in encouraging national diversions, particularly harping and all other wired instruments. He lived to the age of a hundred and four, and at the time he was a hundred he mounted his horse as dexterous as a man of twenty and was the first in at the death of a fox or a hare. This gentleman’s age accounts for my observations of him and my visiting him, Carolan’s time being before mine”.
This Tobias Peyton died aged 104 in 1796 so it is likely his son, also Tobias is the ‘Minor’ Peyton of 1815.
The elder Peyton’s first meeting with Turlough Carolan was not very auspicious. Meeting the blind harpist on the road Peyton is reputed to have told the bard that he rode his horse crooked. Carolan quickly retorted “I will pay you for that remark with a crooked tune”. Despite the tone of this initial meeting Peyton invited Carolan to his house on many occasions.
Notwithstanding the old saying that ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’ the nomadic harpist and the local squire seem to have genuinely liked the others company. A Thomas Furlong later put words to Carolan’s tribute to Peyton:
“For Toby’s the soul of sport, me boys
His home is our gayest resort, me boys
Where the toasts fly round
And all care is drowned
In brimmers of sparkling Port, me boys”
Certainly the music conveys the spirit of a convivial big house where Carolan’s glass was regularly topped up. The musical tribute has lasted much longer than the Peytons. Within a century the Estate was encumbered and soon broken up through various leases, mortgages and sales. Their name is perpetuated in several townlands in the area which continue to bear the suffix ‘Peyton’ and of course in ‘Planxty Peyton’ performed here by Musica Pacifica of San Francisco.