Irish Family Research Discover the secrets of your ancestors’ past Brendan Mullins Genealogist

     The Orme family of Tirawley, County Mayo.

     Brendan Mullins

      The Famine

      When the famine struck in 1845, William Henry Orme (6th gen.) of Abbeytown and William Knox Orme (6th gen.) of Glenmore were in India serving with their regiments. On the Orme land around Crossmolina there were at least 70 tenants, although there were none on the Abbeytown townland itself. Most of the surrounding land was of poor quality, like most of Mayo. Through the 18th century and into the 19th century, the potato was the mainstay of the poor tenants because of its nutritional value, but this over reliance led to disaster when a fungal disease struck in 1845 and again in 1846 with horrendous consequences. This continued until 1850. A Relief Commission was set up, with a committee in each affected area to raise funds and distribute food. One of these was in Crossmolina and the secretary was Francis Knox Orme (6th gen.) of Glenmore. Also on this committee were William Knox Orme of Glenmore and William Orme of Owenmore. Many letters were sent to the Relief Commission requesting more food for the starving tenants, including one in 1846 from Francis Knox Orme, written on behalf of his brother, William Knox Orme of Glenmore, who was away serving in India. He explained how many tenants had walked up to 9 miles to Ballina, only to be turned away due to the short supply of Indian meal, and the great crowd gathered there. He also requested that a depot should be set up in Crossmolina34. In March 1848, William Orme of Owenmore wrote to the Commission describing how at least one third of the land in the barony lies in waste, deserted by the tenants and of the worn out state of the remaining land, already exhausted without manure and unable to yield an average crop35. In the same year, he and his neighbour Colonel Jackson, disposed of some lands, rent free, to the Society of Friends (Quakers), including the required supply of manure and seed, and this created employment for many weeks. They grew a variety of crops, but primarily the turnip36.

      Francis Knox Orme was obviously looking after the cattle on the Glenmore estate and in 1849 at the Ballina Farming Society’s Show, he won the prizes for the best two year old heifer and the best yearling heifer37.                                

      As William Henry Orme of Abbeytown was also abroad serving in India, the house was let to Godfrey Fetherstone and he also sent several letters to the Relief Commission.   

Sale of Encumbered Estates 1852

      The Aftermath

      As a result of the Famine, the Orme family lost most of its wealth and the Abbeytown House and estate owned by William Henry Orme, and the Glenmore House and estate owned by William Knox Orme, ended up in the Court of the Commissioners for the sale of Encumbered Estates in 1852 divided into 6 lots38. Abbeytown was then purchased by Anthony Carolan who was a successful merchant in Crossmolina and in the 1901 Census the owner was James Carolan. It has been sold a number of times since then and it was once even used as the parish priest’s residence. There is now a housing estate and a football pitch and clubhouse on the land. Glenmore House and the diminished surrounding estate are in excellent condition today.

      Owenmore House remained in the possession of the Orme family until 1912 when it was sold, with 3,100 acres, to the Congested Districts’ Board and the remaining descendants moved to Sligo, Dublin or England.                                                                                  

Page 3 of 3 Orme Famine Letter

Letter sent to the Relief Commission by Francis Knox Orme, written on behalf of his brother, William Knox Orme of Glenmore, who was away serving in India.  Sept. 1846.

It reads as follows:-


     I beg to represent to you that within the last few days several of the tenantry of my brother, (Wm. Knox Orme of the 16th. Lancers) were obliged to return without being able to procure any Indian meal at the Government store at Ballina as from the great crowd of applicants, all could not be served, and they were obliged to go home disappointed after having journeyed eight or nine miles. Additional places of sale are most necessary at Ballina, as also a Depot at Crossmolina - distance eight miles from Ballina -

Your obedient servant

  The Secretary

     Relief Crossmolina -                                     F. Knox Orme.

Coat of Arms, granted to William Henry Orme of Abbeytown by the Ulster King of Arms, Sir William Betham. March 1845. See photo to left.


Orme of Abbeytown

William Henry Orme

Arms- Az., an eagle displayed between

3 pole-axes or.,  

Mantling - az. and or.

Crest- a dolphin embowed az.,

fins and tail or., surmounted of a pole-axe as in the arms.

Motto- Fortis et fidelis.

In- Armorial Families 1930

Fox-Davies, London-

Orme Arms- as above.

Arms, as listed in -

A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of Great Britain and Ireland, by Sir Bernard Burke Part II 1863

Fourth Ed. Harrison, Pall Mall, London.

Orme of Abbeytown

William Henry Orme

Arms- Quarterly: 1st. and 4th. az.,

An eagle displayed between 3 pole-axes or.,

2nd. and 3rd. arg. A chevron between three escallops gu.

Crest- a dolphin embowed az., fins and tail or., surmounted of a pole-axe as in arms.

Motto- Fortis et fidelis.


Orme of Glenmore

William Knox Orme

Arms- as above

In 1st. and 4th. quarters, a crescent for difference.

Orme Coat of Arms Orme Coat of Arms Heraldry

36   Swords, In Their Own Words, North Connaught, 1845-1849, pages 285-286.

37  Newspaper Abstract, ‘Ballina Chronicle, 31 October 1849- Ballina Farming Society’s Show’, , viewed 5 February 2011.

38   Andrew J. Morris, Consolidated Index to –County Mayo Chronicles, Issue 2, page 39 and Issue 4, Pages 91-93. National Library of Ireland, Ref. Ir 9292c33.  and Mayo Library, ‘Irish Tourist Board Document 1942- Mansions, Castles and Estates, Co. Mayo’,,13844.en.pdf , viewed 5 February 2011.

39  Fox-Davies, Armorial Families, Printed in 1930, 7th Ed. Hurst & Blackett, London, N.L.I. on shelf. P 1472.

34  Famine Relief Commission Papers, Letter 1846, National Archives of Ireland, Dublin, ref. RLFc3/2/21/67.

35   Liam Swords, In Their Own Words, The Famine in North Connaught, 1845-1849, Published 1999, The Columba Press, Dublin. Page 298.

      Robert Orme (5th gen), the second son of William and Isabella Orme of Belville, succeeded his brother William of Owenmore, who died in 1876. Robert was born in 1815 and in May 1843 he married Sidney Frances L’Estrange of Market Hill, county Fermanagh in St. Peters Church, Aungier St., Dublin. He also owned land and property in Enniscrone, County Sligo. They had three sons, Robert William, Christopher Guy and Edward L’Estrange, and a daughter Janet Georgina. He died in 1877.

      Robert William Orme (6th gen), who was born in 1856, succeeded his father at Owenmore and Enniscrone in 1877. He became a J.P. and D.L. for county Mayo, and High Sheriff and J.P. for County Sligo39. He died unmarried in June 1903 and was succeeded by his brother, Christopher Guy Orme.      

      Christopher Guy Orme (6th gen), was born in Dublin in 1858, and in 1907 he married Mary Kathleen, daughter of the 1st Baron Morris and Killanin. Like his brother, he became a J.P. and D.L., and then High Sheriff for county Mayo in 1910, and for county Sligo in 1914. He cannot be located on the 1901 Census, but on the 1911 Census he resided in Correens in Kilfian, County Mayo with his wife, his three children and his sister, Janet Georgina. His children were Robert William Martin, Lettice Frances, and Cicely Dorothea and as his wife, Mary Kathleen, was a Roman Catholic, the children were also. In Dublin, he was a member of the Kildare Street Club and the St. George Yacht Club in Kingstown, now Dún Laoghaire. Also, in 1914 he became the owner of the first tractor in County Mayo. He was one of the first car owners there and was instrumental in promoting the first bus service between Ballina and Enniscrone. In 1934, his daughter, Cicely Dorothea, married Lt. Col. Robert Lesley Berridge and they lived first in Monkstown, County Cork, then Screebe, County Galway and later in Andorra, Spain. The sons also left Mayo.

      The second daughter of Robert Orme (2nd gen.) of Carne in Moygownagh was Margaret and she married Thomas Paget of Knockglass in County Mayo. A probable grandson of theirs was Captain William Orme Paget Bourke of the 18th Foot Regiment, or Royal Irish Regiment, and he was the great grandfather of the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson40. His mother was Elizabeth Paget of Knockglass, however there is still a possibility of his descent being from a different branch of the Orme pedigree.      

      A Distinguished Descendant                                                                                                         

40   Michael O’Sullivan, Mary Robinson, The Life and Times of an Irish Liberal, Published 1993, Blackwater Press, Dublin 24, pages 8-12.

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