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The Misses' Curtin Testimonial Fund, 1886

Agrarian agitation, coupled with a demand for Home Rule from England, resulted in turbulent conditions across Ireland during the 1880s. Secretive, shadowy, bands of raiders, known as Moonlighters, frequently carried out operations in rural areas at night against landlords and other members of the establishment.

In County Kerry a group of Moonlighters raided the home of John O’Connell Curtain of Castlefarm, Firies, for arms, on the night of Friday 13 November 1885. John was a law-abiding farmer from a nationalist background. However, he was fatally injured in the raid, as was one of the Moonlighters. During the fracas one of John’s sons, Dan, also apparently struggled violently with another Moonlighter, ably assisted by his sisters Lizzie and Nora. A second son, George, was responsible for quickly alerting the Royal Irish Constabulary and they conducted an extensive search for the perpetrators.
The activities of the police resulted in widespread antagonism and resentment towards the O’Connell Curtin family.

The Moonlighters were very influential locally and the O’Connell Curtins were subsequently the victims of a relentless campaign of boycotting. Powerless to work the land or sell its produce Agnes, John’s widow, departed Castlefarm in 1888 to live with her daughter Nora, in Killorglin. When Nora’s husband, Robert Dodd, later died Nora emigrated to Canada c. 1910. She appears to have brought with her this scrap book. It contains many newspaper accounts of the raid. More importantly, it details subscriptions donated to a Testimonial Fund established by Gertrude Browne Lady Kenmare. This fund was intended to assist Lizzie and Nora following their father’s untimely death.

One hundred years after the raid at Castlefarm two of Nora’s Canadian descendants, Joanne and Donna Maria Claridge found the scrapbook. They were astonished to uncover this long forgotten episode in their family history. Later, Joanne and Donna made contact with yet another O’Connell Curtin descendant, Gay MacCarron from Dublin. The decision was subsequently taken to return the scrapbook to Ireland and so it came into Gay’s possession. He very kindly donated it to Muckross House Research Library.

Further Reading:


McCarron, Gay, ‘The Murder of John O’Connell Curtin: A 19 th Century Tragedy at Castlefarm, Firies,’

The Kerry Magazine, Issue 27, 2017,

McCarron, ‘A Vicious Boycott, Firies, January 1886-April 1888,’

The Kerry Magazine, Issue 28, 2018.