The name Esker is derived from the Irish word eiscir (Old Irish: escir), which means: “a ridge or elevation (of sand hills), especially one separating two plains or depressed surfaces”. The term was used particularly to describe long sinuous ridges, which are now known to be deposits of fluvio-glacial material from the Ice Age. The best-known example of such an eiscir is the Eiscir Riada, which runs nearly the whole width of Ireland from Dublin to Galway, a distance of 200 km, and is still closely followed by the main road from Dublin to Galway. This townland of “Esker” is part of that Eiscir Riada. Many townlands in Ireland that contained a part of an esker had Esker as their full or part name. The Down Survey of the 1640s records its name as ‘Bog’ but there can be little doubt that this referred to a much bigger area locally including Ballynamona and Pollacrossaun both of which did contain bog.
Esker, a townland in the civil parish of Moylough and the Barony of Tiaquin, shares borders to its north with the townland of Skehanagh, with Carrowmore and Garbally to its west and Ballynamona and Pollacrossaun to the east. It has a triangular shape or perhaps more accurately compared to a slice of rhubarb tart! It lies to the north-west of the main Menlough to Monivea road.
Landscape and features.
The townland in total has an area of 79 acres, 3 roods and 2 perches and gets its name from the gravel deposits following the Ice Age. The terrain has three dominant features – the esker itself, a nearby turlough and some very rich and fertile farmland. Many other smaller, though equally significant, features are to be found in the ‘Townland Features’ section of this web page.
Much of the esker has been used over the centuries to provide road making materials as well as being used in other forms of construction associated mainly with the farming community. Sand and gravel was extracted both privately and commercially. Internal land and road boundaries for the most part are by way of dry stone walls.
Early Ruling Families.
By 1670, shortly after the Cromwellian invasion of the late 1640s, the townland was owned by a trio of Catholic landholders. Patrick Ffrench, in addition to Esker, had six other townlands in Tiaquin Barony – Kilbeg, Corrandoo, Doonaun, Ballynamona, Pollacrossaun and Cooloo in addition to properties in counties Mayo and Sligo. George Evellin shared these same townlands in Tiaquin while, in addition, he personally ruled properties in counties Roscommon and Tipperary with the latter being his most expansive base with ten townlands. This was later spelt Evelyn and extensive records are available for that family both for County Galway and in the Ballynacourty area of County Tipperary. The third landowner was another Patrick Ffrench who in addition to Esker also ruled in Garbally, Doonaun and Cooloo.
The Ffrench family is descended from Sir Maximilian de Ffrench, the first of the name, who accompanied their kinsman, William The Conqueror, into England from Normandy in France. Their original place of settlement in Ireland, along with many other English and Anglo-Norman adventurers was County Wexford. From there two branches of the family moved west into Galway (1). One of these branches moved west and bought the lands of the O’Kelly family, building onto the fortifications of the O’Kelly castle and establishing Monivea House. Successive generations of the Ffrenchs worked hard to reclaim useful land from an estate which was mainly bogland and encouraged the growth of plants, especially trees, which would dry out and stabilise the soil. Following the confiscation of their lands during the Cromwellian invasion they were in a position to buy them back again and continued the reclamation process.
The two individual Patrick Ffrench’s mentioned above as rulers of Esker townland were of course related though it is clearly not possible to declare the precise and exact relationship.
At Griffiths Valuation of Tenements, early 1850s, Robert French was the owner of the entire townland. He was a member of the British diplomatic service and served as Secretary to the British Embassy in St. Petersburg and Vienna. He travelled widely and led the life of a rich Diplomat. He married Sophia, only child of Alexander de Kindiakoff, a Russian noble of great wealth with seven estates on the Volga River and they had one child – Kathleen Ffrench. Robert died in Italy in 1896 and Kathleen decided to build a Mausoleum in Monivea where he would be laid to rest. While the Mausoleum is immaculately preserved and maintained only the central tower of the main house and some of stables survive. In fact this was the original castle around which was built a more modern house.
Kathleen (1864 -1938) often visited Monivea from her travels abroad and once wrote that she loved Monivea so much that she “could quite easily settle here”. While Kathleen spent much of her life away, her cousin Rosamund stayed in the house and remained there until she died. A rift developed between the women in later years. Rosamund may have thought that Kathleen ignored Monivea and stopped financing the house and was leading the high life abroad. Kathleen died in Harbin 1st January 1938. Her body was brought back to Monivea, a distance of four thousand miles. Kathleen left nothing in her Will to her cousin Rosamund but Rosamund inherited the estate following a legal problem – but had died 2 days previously so she never knew. As neither had an heir the Estate passed to Rosamund’s friend Cicily Godwin Austen and her chauffeur Henry Stainer. By the 1940s most of the estate was disposed of by the Land Commission. Kathleen Ffrench willed that the house be used as a home for “indigent artists”. The terms of the Will were never honoured and the house was knocked down though the original tower house around which it was built remains to this day.
- 1. The History of the Town and the County of the Town of Galway by James Hardiman Esq. – 1820.