Herdsmen in County Galway

Records of National Census and Griffiths Valuation (1855)

Research: Eileen Keane, Abbey Heritage

Collins House, Ballygowan in 2021 – a Herd’s House in times past.  Photo courtesy: Therese Murphy

Herdsmen were widely employed by Landlords in the west of Ireland to look after their animals, and Landlords in the district of Abbey in South-East Galway were no exception.

From searching the National Census and Griffiths Valuation (1855) records, the following herdsmen are listed in this area:

Thomas Donohoe, Barnaboy

Patrick Collins, Ballygowan

Hubert Donohoe, Ballynagar

Patrick Quinn, Cloonacastle

Francis Conroy, Cregg

Ml Gleeson, Mountainpark

Thos Davy, Tomanybeg

Patrick Lawlor, Kylemore House

Dr John Cunningham has extensively researched Herdsmen in County Galway and his excellent article “A ‘spirit of self-preservation’: herdsmen around Loughrea in the late 19th century is worth checking out.  This can be accessed at: http://www.aughty.org/pdf/herdsmen_loughrea.pdf

The following quote from this article will give the reader an understanding of the situation pertaining to herdsmen at this time:

‘It is now five and thirty years since the crook was given to me by my father, when I took his place in care of my master’s stock, and at that time I could buy a pair of shoes for six shillings; a hat for a shilling; get a suit of clothes made for very little; and potatoes, milk, butter and eggs could be had for a song.  Our wages and freedoms were then just the same as now, when we must pay the tailor, the shoemaker and the hatter three times the amount and the cost of provisions has increased in greater proportion. Artisans, mechanics and labourers had their wages greatly increased in the last ten years, but the shepherds of Ireland have made no progress; … ‘neither shepherds nor bailiffs, and yet a compound of both’ receive the same miserable wages as their fathers”.

  • Herdsmen were responsible for any loss arising from, or traceable, to his own negligence including scab or grub in sheep, injury to cattle from an open drain, or anything obviously out of order
  • Herdsmen wages were mostly in the form of ‘freedoms’ calculated according to the amount of land the individual was responsible for
  • Freedoms consisted of one acre of tillage ground
  • Collop meaning ‘sum’ was an archaic Irish land measurement, the value of a collop was approximately 5 or 6 pounds
  • Herdsman of about 300 acres might earn 50 pounds a year
  • Herdsmen had a rent free cottage and a small cash wage
  • Herds were servants with some responsibility
  • Herdsmen would usually employ another person to help with a large area of land
  • Herdsmen were scarce and had a strong bargaining position



This page was added on 27/09/2021.

Comments about this page

  • My 2nd great grandfather Patrick Ward’s sister, Mary, married Thomas Goggins, listed as a herd on their marriage license. It’s interesting to read about what herdsmen did. Kilmoylan, Cummer area

    By Mari ONeill (13/02/2022)

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