Early Bretts of Co. Sligo, Ireland

Bretts of the 1700s

The Land Records of the early 1700s reveal many Brett leases from Theobald and Nicholas Taafe, Earls of Carlingford. These are summarized in the Memorials of Deeds, along with later deeds, up to 1848. This leasing activity was obviously slowed when the Taaffe estates were sold as a result of an agreement between Nicholas Taaffe and Robert Sutton, which resulted in a Private Act of Parliament, Private Act 15 Geo II c.25, an Abstract of which we have obtained.

If we examine the Memorials, several eras emerge. The 1600s have already been discussed, and we see John Brett and Francis Brett and perhaps Thomas Brett [this may be a typo for John Brett]. Also there is a Lay Postulation for Hugh McDermott in 1683 [1] that is signed by John Brett and John Brett Jun.

There is one memorial of deed to Patrick Brett of Cloonamanagh in 1710. The death of John Brett of Cluid in 1714 is recorded in most Irish Wills Indexes. [The Wills were burnt in 1922].

There is a set of leases in the period 1716-1717 involving the following:

John Brett Sr. of Deroon
John Brett Jr. of Bricklew
Patrick Brett of Cloonemanagh

Then in 1723 there is another spate of leasing involving the following, in which the distinction Sr. is not given to any John Brett, thus indicating that John Brett Sr. of Deroon is deceased by then.

Bernard Brett of Cloonemanagh
Bernard Brett of Ballymote
Patrick Brett of Cloonemanagh
John Brett of Bricklew
John Brett of Rathdoony. This is likely the husband of Anne Taaffe.
John Brett of Deroone

Then in the 1735 time period we see the following appear.

Bernard Brett of Cloonmanagh
Stephen Brett of Cloonamanagh
Charles Brett of Deroon
John Brett of Maghera [a suburb of Ballymote]

Now occurs the sale of the lands of Ballymote from the Taaffes to Petty Fitzmaurice.

The 1749 Census of Elphin contains the name of two Bretts, Paul Brett of Drumcolumb and John Britt a fisherman of Sligo town.

We know from the Index to  Irish Wills that Bernard Brett of Corran died childless in 1756, and Rev. John Brett of Deroon, probably born in 1698 in Deroon, Ballymote , the Bishop of Killala from 1743 to 1748 and of Elphin from 1748 to 1756 died on 22 March 1756 and was buried in Ballymote Abbey.

In the 1762 period we see leases taken by the following

Patrick Brett of Arnaglass. We know that Patrick sold his lease to Seafield about 1768 when it was taken over by the Phibbs family for several centuries.
William Brett of Seafield
Dudley Brett of Deroone, Dudley Brett of Carrowcully

Rev. Charles Brett the parish priest of Ballysadare and Kilvarnet from 1758 to 1768 died in 1768 at Deroon, and was buried in Ballymote Abbey.

In 16 Oct. 1768 there is a petition from the parishioners of the RC Chapel of Ballysadare was sent to Rome. Fr. Liam Swords states that it contains the signatures of Ann O'Hart the sister of Bishop John O'Hart of Achonry[ ], and seven nephews of this bishop, namely John, Charles and William Brett, John and Bernard Verdon, and Michael and Laurence O'Hara.

After this time there is an interval to about 1790 when a new set of leases was effected.

The first set is one in 1790 by George Brett of Dunowla in the parish of Kilmacshalgan, near Dromore West. The lease mentions three lives, those of Thomas, Mary and John Brett, but does not give the relationship of these people to George Brett of Dunowla. This George is also mentioned in Voters Lists, and in the Spinning Wheel Premium of 1796, given to growers of flax. The same list mentions a James Brett of the same parish. Family historians state that George was married to Mary Campbell, and state that he came from Cluid, but the source of this information is not known to me. The same historians also state that George had an elder brother named John or James, and that his father was married to wives named Lyons, Rutledge and Knott.

The second lease in 1792 mentioned in the Memorials of leases is to William Brett of Ardcree for the lands of Eskeragh, and this memorial gives the names of his second and third sons, namely Patrick Brett and William Harloe Brett. A lease recorded in the O'Hara material in Sligo County Library is of a lease of the Mill of Ardcree of 1781 to William Brett, and a further lease to the mill of May 1785 William Brett rent £12/12/0 for the lives of John and William sons of William Brett, and William Phibbs the son of W. Phibbs of Hollybrook. This may indicate that John is the first son, and it is curious that he does not appear in the later deed.

Mr. Stephen Phibbs of Australia has generously shared further information concerning this lease. According to a Solicitor's bill, in 1797 Charles Phibbs sued William Phibbs, arguing that Eskaragh was the property of Charles. Then in 1800 the two Phibbs sued William Brett amd Patrick Brett his son to recover the lands. On 10 April 1802 Patrick Brett  surrendered the lease, his father William  Brett in the meantime having died. One month previously, on 2 March 1802 William Harloe Phibbs of Sligo agreed to pay Patrick Brett an annuity for life.

The Genealogical Office in Dublin, Volume 384, page 206, states that a Patrick Brett of Gerrard St., Parish of St. Anne, Middlesex Co., England died 19 July 1816, unmarried and apparently without a will, and his brother Jasper Brett and sister Elizabeth Brett wife of John Galbraith sought to administer the estate. The estate was valued at 25,000 pounds.

The next set of deeds occupies the following people around the year 1818:

John Brett of Tubercurry
Mathew Brett of Blackhall St., Dublin
Michael Brett of Cloonamanagh
Patrick Brett of Behy

John Brett of Tubercurry may be buried in Achonry Cathedral churchyard with the following memorial:

"Sacred to the Memory of John Brett, late of Tubbercurry who departed this life September 6, 1844, aged 79 years  [i.e. 1765-1844] , also to the memory of Ellen, the beloved wife of John, his son, departed this life September 1, 1858, aged 43 years."
May they Rest in Peace."

The sons of John Brett of Tubercurry, Henry the County Surveyor of Mayo during the Famine and later of Wicklow, and John and are likely the subjects of the final set of memorials which involve, in 1839 and 1842

Henry Brett of Castlebar, Co. Mayo
John Brett of Tubbercurry
John Brett Jun. of Tubbercurry.

And this supposition is strengthened when we learn that John Brett Jr. married Ellen Henry. It is presumably John Brett Jun. who is the agent in 1848 for Harloe Phibbs mentioned in the Phibbs deeds.

The Betham Manuscripts have Genealogical information extracted from 1700s Wills by Sir William Betham in the early 1880s, whixch is useful  since the wills themselves no longer exist. Among mention of Bretts around Ireland we have the following genealogical information [Betham MSS, 198, film 100109.]about the family of Laurence O'Hara of Behy, Co. Sligo. See also. In the Tithe Applotment c 1830 the only Brett in Tawnagh is Patrick Brett, Esq. of Carrowkeel, and in the Griffiths Evaluation c. 1860 Anne Brett of Carrowkeel.

Generation 1

Probate: 5 Apr 1786; Residence: Behy, Co. Sligo; Will: 20 Sep 1783


2. i. MARY O'HARA.

Generation No. 2

2. MARY O'HARA She married JOHN BRETT.
Children of MARY O'HARA and JOHN BRETT are:

The information of Fr. Swords would imply that this Laurence O'Hara might have a mother a sister of Bishop John O'Hart. This is strenghtened by the story of the lands of Cloonamahon given by O'Rorke. In any case, it may be that Patrick  Brett of Behy is a descendant of the John Brett who inherited the leases at Behy of his father-in-law Laurence O'Hara.

The Convert Rolls edited by Eilenn O'Byrne contain the names of Catholics who converted to the Church of Ireland in the 1700s and there are two Bretts of Co. Sligo, Anna Brett the wife of Roger Irwin of Lisballilly, Co Sligo, certified 30 June 1731, and William Brett, p. Taunagh, certified13 May 1782.

The Church records of Ireland in the 1700s are sparse but there is a record of the Church of Ireland for the parish of Emlaghfad, and it contains the following entry concerning the Brett family: March 1762 Philip Coleman marrried Ellinor Brett by licence.

1.Liam Swords, "A Hidden Church, The Diocese of Achonry 1689-1818", Columba Press, Dublin, 1997. Fr. Swords gives a balanced account of life in the diocese for the time period under study, and gives references to material in the Vatican Archives.


Bill McGee
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Nepean, Ont., Canada K2H 5N3
e-mail: wfmcgee@sympatico.ca