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In September 1845 five harvest workers from Williamstown in Co Galway were arrested at Athleague, Co. Roscommon, and brought before the local magistrates. They were on their way back from Staffordshire where they had been bringing in the harvest on local farms. Thousands of poverty-stricken Irish labourers came over to England each year to do this. This group of men had been discovered carrying ‘guns and pistols as perfect as if [they were] out of a military barrack.’[1]

Irish labourers with weapons, 1840s

Irish labourers with weapons, 1840s

One of those arrested and interrogated was Patrick Concagh or Concar. Patrick came from the class of small cooperative land holders whose very existence was threatened by Ireland’s landlord class. In 1833 a Patrick Cuncah, or Concar, almost certainly Patrick’s father, rented 88 acres in Boyounagh parish. He was part of a ‘company’ of tenants who leased land in partnership in the traditional system of communal farming that operated in the west of Ireland. [2] Members of these families supported each other in their battle for subsistence and that support included groups of men going off together to find seasonal work in places like Staffordshire.

After his arrest in 1845, Patrick Concar was the only one to talk. His story was that he had seen others carrying weapons concealed in bundles of sticks. There had been no police searches until they were stopped in Athleague. Patrick escaped imprisonment because he seems to have given evidence against his gun-running colleagues. They were members of the ‘Molly Maguires’ who were then carrying out violent attacks on landlords and their agents in rural Ireland. Patrick’s decision to talk suggests he was on the fringe of the movement and susceptible to threats from the authorities. That may have made him a marked man. All we know is that Patrick later left Co. Galway and turned up in Stafford. His arrival during the Famine could have been the escape and exile of an informer. Nevertheless at least three of his relatives also came to Stafford.[3]  In 1851 Patrick was working on Tillington Farm, whilst his brother William was nearby at Creswell Farm. In the 1850s another brother, Martin, also came to Stafford with his son Edward. William and Martin did not stay but Edward did, doing farmwork and labouring until his death in 1891. He never married. The surviving line of the Concar family today descends from Patrick’s marriage to Bridget Kenny which took place at St Austin’s Church on 2nd October 1854.

[1] National Archives of Ireland (NAI), Outrage reports, Roscommon, doc. 25/19637, report of magistrate Matthew Browne to Dublin Castle, 17th September 1845.

[2] Tithe Applotment Book, Co. Galway, 11/18, Boyounagh Parish

[3] NAI, Outrage Reports, Roscommon, doc. 25/19819, report of magistrate D. Duff to Dublin Castle, 19th September 1845.