John Cassidy married Kitty McGinty, born 1806 in the townland of Barnesmore, County Donegal. They settled in the townland of Clogher in the parish of Townawilly, County Donegal. The townland of Clogher, which means “stony place” is situated three miles north of Donegal Town, just off the main Donegal/Ballybofey Road. It is surrounded by mountains. To the east is Clogher, to the north is Barnesmore, and to the west is Townawilly and the Bluestack Mountains with their mesmerizing waterfall, known as The Greymare’s Tail that rushes from its summit into Lough Eske in the valley below. It was into such surroundings that John and Kitty Cassidy settled and raised six children – three boys and three girls.
Their small holding consisted of the following – a two-roomed thatched cottage and ten acres of land. Their annual rent was three pound for the land and ten shillings for the cottage.
Today all that remains of their home is a few large stones that are still close to the original site. Also visible is the plot of ground where they grew their potatoes, and, although it was in the middle of a hay field, thankfully, both my grandfather Hugh and my father, William, preserved it in its original form.
John shared a further two acres of land with his neighbor Bryan Moss. It was there that he grazed his sheep. Each year John would sell some of the flock in the market in Donegal Town. The money gained from those sales was used to pay the rent and meet other family needs. Anything that disrupted that way of life would have meant financial ruin and possible eviction.
We – the present generation – cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for John and Kitty Cassidy to rear their family during an era of a cholera epidemic, two potato famines (1831-33 and 1843-47). These two disasters alone saw the population of Donegal fall from 296,448 in 1841 to 255, 158 in 1851. That downward trend continued through emigration, right up to 1971 when the population of the county stood at 108,549. The fact that our ancestors survived at all was a miracle. Not only did they survive, but quite a number of them helped to shape the Ireland of today.
John Cassidy died in 1882 at age 80. His wife Kitty died in 1890 at the age of 86. Their grave, which is located at the rear of Saint Agatha’s Church in Clar is marked with a large Celtic headstone that was erected by John’s son Hugh (my granddad) in memory of his parents and his first wife Ann Mulreany (1863-1884) of Screen, Donegal, who died at the age of 21 in childbirth one year after they were married.
As already mentioned, their oldest son, John, immigrated to the US, as did their daughter Hanna. The youngest member of John and Kitty Cassidy’s children was my grandfather Hugh, who was born in Clogher in 1851.
Another son was Frank. He married Sally Freel.