Cork history

Modeligo House, County Cork and its servants

Modeligo House, County Cork and its servants

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien


In the Cork Constitution newspaper of 21st March 1921, Miss Braddell of Modeligo House placed an advert. The advert said “Wanted for country place, cook-general: small family: please send references and state age and wages [to] Miss Braddell, Modeligo, Fermoy.” It is not known if Miss Braddell got her cook. This article attempts to gather the names and particulars of servants who did work at Modeligo House.

Modeligo House

Modeligo House stands in the townland of Moydilliga in the Barony of Condons and Clangibbon in north-eat County Cork. The original structure was built in the 1780s with many additions over the years including a major addition in the 1877.[1] The estate was part of the Condon territory in medieval times and was acquired by Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, in the seventeenth century.

John Armstead acquired Modeligo from Sir William Heathcote of Hampshire, England sometime after the latter purchased it from the third Earl of Burlington in 1737. John was partner in the Cork bank of Harper and Armstead and the bank acted as Irish land agents for Heathcote.[2] Mary, one of the three daughters of John Armstead, married Matthew Braddell of Mallow, son of John Braddell of Ballyshane, Clonmore in County Carlow and brought Modeligo into the Braddell family. The Braddell family originally settled in County Wexford in the seventeenth century.

1901 census

The earliest records on servants working at Modeligo House comes from the 1901 census. In the 1901 census Modeligo House was described as having ten windows in the front of the house and thirty-five rooms within. Around the house were sixteen outbuildings.[3] The composition of these outbuildings in 1901 is unknown as the surviving B2 form has not been published.

Inside the house on census night, 9th April 1901, were six people, three members of the Braddell family and three servants. The three Braddell members were Henry Braddell (head of the house, aged 65, born Co. Cork, married), his wife Minnie Braddell (aged 55, born in Italy, married) and their daughter, Emily Braddell (aged 30, born Co. Cork, single). All three were members of the Church of Ireland and could read & write.[4]

The three servants in Modeligo House on census night in 1901 were Michael Fuail (aged 20, born Co. Cork, agricultural labourer/servant), Bridget Caplep (aged 25, domestic cook) and Jane Shaw (aged 24, domestic servant/parlour maid). All three servants were Roman Catholic, single and could read & write.[5] The Surname of Michael Fuail is difficult to establish. The name “Fuail” appears to be a misspelling of something else. The surname of Bridget Caplep is odd and the correct spelling is more likely to be Caples as there were a number of people of that name in the townland of Moydilliga in 1901 and members of the family still live locally in 2016. There were seventy-one people in County Cork in 1901 with the Shaw surname and many of them were Roman Catholic but it is difficult to determine which family Jane was a member of. Because two of the servants are women and the third has a misspelt surname it is not possible to find these people in the 1911 census.

Around the outside of Modeligo House a number of additional servants can be identified such as Owen Geary (aged 38, gardener/domestic servant, born Co. Waterford).[6]

In the wider area of Moydilliga townland in 1901 there were 113 people of whom the following were in the servant class John Hartigan (farm servant), Michael Stapleton (agricultural labourer), Margaret Dowling (unemployed cook), Edward Gayer (farm servant), William Norris (farm servant), James Stapleton (agricultural labourer), William Caples (farm servant), William Hartigan (farm servant), William Coughlan (agricultural labourer), John Hennessy (farm servant), Michael Revins (agricultural labourer), Michael Gayer (agricultural labourer), Michael Caples (agricultural labourer), Patrick Gayer (agricultural labourer), William Coughlan (agricultural labourer) and Thomas Maher (agricultural labourer).[7] All these people may not have worked on the Modeligo estate but some could have.

As well as finding work locally servants also travelled far distances as they followed the work. Sometimes these journeys were to get new jobs on ne estates but also could be on related properties. In this regard relations of these Modeligo servants were in the employment of Henry Armstead Braddell of Newhill, Two Mile Borris, Co. Tipperary, a son of Henry Braddell of Modeligo. These servants were Ellen Prendergast (aged 25, born co. Cork, house maid/domestic servant) and Edmond Guair (aged 27, born Co. Cork, coachman/domestic servant).[8]

Later records say that Michael Gayer (Gear) died 26th August 1901 as a labourer.[9]

Between 1901 and 1911 census

In the years between the publish census records of 1901 and 1911 other sources provide the names of labourers and servants in Moydilliga townland. Labourers often moved from place to place, staying for a few years or maybe just for a season before moving on to find work elsewhere. On 9th August 1905 Richard Mellerick of Modeligo died as a bachelor and labourer. On 26th June 1907 Patrick Hogan, labourer, died in Moydilliga townland.[10]

1911 census

The 1911 census found three members of the Braddell family living in Modeligo House on census night. They were Henry Braddell (aged 70, a magistrate for Co. Cork), Laura Noeme Braddell (aged 60, wife, born Co. Cork) and Emily Braddell (daughter, aged 30 and single). All were members of the Church of Ireland. Henry and Laura Braddell were married forty-four years and had three children who were all living in 1911.

The 1911 information contains some questionable differences from the 1901 information. Henry Braddell only aged five years in ten years while Emily was thirty in 1901 and 1911. When Henry Braddell died two years later, on 9th March 1913, his aged was given as eighty-seven (that’s aging 17 years in 2 years!).[11] Laura Braddell is called Minnie in 1901 and born in Italy but she was born in Co. Cork for the later return.[12] When Laura Braddell died in July 1915 her age was given as eighty-two, an advance of twenty-two years in four years![13]

Modeligo House in 1911

The structure of Modeligo House is different in 1911 compared to 1901. In 1911 there were eight windows in front of the house compared to ten in 1901. The number of rooms had drastically reduced since 1901 from 35 rooms to 12 rooms. The number of outhouses in 1901 was sixteen and in 1911 had increased to eighteen. It seems that some of the dwelling house was converted into outhouses between the census returns.[14] The description list of the outhouses in 1911 give us one stable, one coach house, one harness house, two cow houses, one calf house, one dairy, two piggery houses, one fowl house, one barn, one potato house, one workshop and two sheds along with three store houses.[15] Unfortunately we don’t have the descriptive listing for 1901 to compare the different houses. The big fall in the number of rooms is a subject for future investigation.


Modeligo House

1911 servants

Meanwhile there were four servants in Modeligo House on census night 1911. These were Ellen Corcoran (aged 50, born Co. Cork, house maid/domestic servant), James Barry (aged 26, born Co. Waterford, laundress/domestic servant), Norah Hugh (aged 25, born Co. Cork, cook/domestic servant), and Ellen Coughlan (aged 20, born Co. Cork, kitchen maid/domestic servant).[16] Ellen Corcoran was the daughter of Daniel Corcoran of Ballinscourlogue in the parish of Ballynoe. Her father, Daniel Corcoran was a widower and farmer. In Griffiths Valuation of about 1850 Daniel Corcoran rented a house, offices and garden from John Nason.[17] Ellen Coughlan was born on the Modeligo estate. In the 1901 census she was recorded as the daughter of William and Hannah Coughlan.[18] It was not possible to find 1901 records for James Barry and Norah Hugh. It is possible that Norah Hugh was related to the McHugh family of Castlelyons.

The small numbers of house servants at Modeligo are in keeping with attending a small landlord family. By 1901 the Braddell family had sold much of their estate to their tenants as most of the houses were owned by the occupiers. When the Braddell family sold Modeligo in 1950 the estate was about 400 acres and possibly was slightly bigger in about 1900. We cannot say if the number of servants was greater around 1850 when the estate was about fifteen hundred acres.[19]

Servants in Moydilliga townland

The 1911 census recorded 105 people in Moydilliga townland of whom the following were listed among the servants; Patrick Gair (coachman), John Coughlan (agricultural labourer), Michael Caples (farm keeper), William Coughlan (agricultural labourer), Edmond Gair (agricultural labourer), John Hynes (agricultural labourer), Batt Murphy (agricultural labourer), Richard Gair (agricultural labourer), Ellen Cahill (general domestic servant), John Hartigan (agricultural labourer), William Coughlan (agricultural labourer), John Hynes (agricultural labourer), and John McGrath (farm servant).[20] Some of these people worked on the Modeligo estate like Patrick Gair the coachman.

After 1911

Later records tell us that on 31st January 1930 Edmond Gair died and was described as a labourer. His wife Bridget died on 20th February 1936.[21] In the 1911 census Edmond and Bridget couldn’t read but they could speak Irish and English whereas their children could read and write but only speak English.[22] Many labourers and servants had literacy difficulties especially if they came from poor backgrounds. In the 1850s Thomas Gear rented a house and no land in Moydilliga townland from Thomas Morrissey.[23] This would suggest that Thomas Gear was a labourer and many of his descendants had the same occupation.

On 27th September 1955 Michael Caples died as a retired labourer. He was then eighty-five years old and so desired some retirement.[24] In the years following 1955 mechanisation of farming made many labourers redundant. Domestically, rural electrification allowed electric dishwasher, clothes washers and electric cookers to enter people’s homes and make domestic servants a thing of the past, even in big houses like Modeligo.


In this study we can say that many of the servants at Modeligo House came from the surrounding estate. When people had to walk to work they didn’t travel far. The furthest servants came from a six mile radius as far as can be determined. If we had earlier census returns before 1901, or estate papers, a better study could be done, but it is likely that most of the servants would still come from the surrounding estate. As for the 1921 advert for a cook, we can’t say if Miss Braddell was successful in her endeavours.




End of post




[1] accessed on 9 September 2016

[2] David Dickson, Old World Colony: Cork and South Munster 1630-1830 (Cork, 2005), p. 594, note 9

[3] accessed on 9 September 2016

[4] accessed on 9 September 2016

[5] accessed on 9 September 2016

[6] accessed on 9 September 2016

[7] townland=moydilliga  accessed on 9 September 2016

[8] accessed on 9 September 2016

[9] Conna parish death records (Conna Community Council, 2005), p. 275

[10] Conna parish death records (Conna Community Council, 2005), pp. 276, 277

[11] Conna parish death records (Conna Community Council, 2005), p. 281

[12] accessed on 9 September 2016

[13] Conna in History and Tradition (Conna Community Council, 1998), p. 246

[14] accessed on 9 September 2016

[15] accessed on 9 September 2016

[16] accessed on 9 September 2016

[17] Griffith’s Valuation, Ballinscourlogue, Ballynoe parish, Kinnatalloon barony, Co. Cork

[18] accessed on 9 September 2016

[19] Conna in History and Tradition (Conna Community Council, 1998), p. 246

[20] townland=moydilliga  accessed on 9 September 2016

[21] Conna parish death records (Conna Community Council, 2005), pp. 290, 293

[22] accessed on 9 September 2016

[23] Griffith’s Valuation, Moydilliga, Knockmourne parish, Condons & Clangibbon barony, Co. Cork

[24] Conna parish death records (Conna Community Council, 2005), p. 301


3 thoughts on “Modeligo House, County Cork and its servants

  1. Samuel A. Craig says:

    Both of my maternal grand-parents were employed at Modeligo House . My mother’s sister ( Julia Sweeny , Chicago ) used to pun ” My sisters and I were Gayer before we married “. I have seen on documents , at least four different spellings of ” Gayer “, “Gair “, “Gear ” ,and on my mother’s birth certificate , the Gaelic version ( which hurt my throat when I tried to pronouce it )

    • Hello Samuel,
      Thanks for your comment. There was no standard way of spelling surnames in those far off days as few people could read or writer and the scribe would have to try and guess an appropriate spelling to the surname he was told to write down.

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