17th & 18th Centuries
For the very early history of South Leitrim, including Lough Rynn and Mohill, see the section 1200-1621AD. This includes a description of the original Reynolds / MacRaghnaill clan and how they were ulimately replaced by English and Scottish Planters in the 1621 Plantations.
Rynn in the 1700s
Little is known about Lough Rynn specifically during this period, but there is no reason to believe that life here was any different to other parts of the country.
The mid-1700s was a period of huge change in Ireland. The country's population doubled in the eighteenth century to nearly 5,000,000; by 1841 it had increased to over 8,000,000. The period between 1780 and 1830 saw the most rapid growth. Although it is unclear why this increase occurred, and at such a rate, there are a few notable contributory factors.
One significant factor was the arrival of the potato, which by the 1780s, formed the staple diet of the people. It could be grown on marginal land - enabling more land to be used - and it was prolific, providing food for nine months of the year. One acre of potatoes would support a family of six, even though each consumed an average of ten to fourteen pounds per day. (This may be an over-estimate since the skins were usually given to the family's pig.) And the potato diet led to improved health. It was nutritious: the sole nutrient the potato lacks is Vitamin A, making it the only single cheap food that can support life on its own. The only supplement needed for a balanced diet was buttermilk and bacon and the occasional fish and vegetables. The potato therefore can be credited for ending, for the most part, the frequent famines of the mid-1700s when the failure of one crop after another would cause horrific crises. In the early 1800s, life expectancy for Irish males was 38 - not much by today's standards but it compared well with other contemporary societies - and Irish men were two inches taller than their counterparts in Britain. (By the nineteenth century, the rural population had adopted another staple - tea. And Guinness, launched in 1759, became popular along with the traditional and highly acclaimed Irish Whiskey.)
Although the Penal Laws were still on the statute book, by the mid-1750s, Irish (Catholic) tenants were being granted short leases on small plots of land. As small tenancies became available, young men and women felt more able to set up home, and they tended to have more children than, for instance, their contemporaries in Britain.
As tenancies increased, so did discontent with the punitive taxes and tithes imposed by the Government and the Church. Tenants' grievances were expressed through Secret Societies that grew throughout the country: these eventually culminated in the 1798 rebellions. Tenants' discontent continued to underpin social unrest until the end of the 19th century. At Lough Rynn, the Clements family - especially the 3rd Earl - were dogged by continuous disputes with tenants. These ultimately led to Lord Leitrim's assassination.
1798: Humbert's march through Leitrim
Leitrim played a small role in the 1798 rebellion: French forces coming to help the rebels endured a long march through Leitrim before they and their leader General Humbert surrendered to the English at Ballinamuck. Click here for more on this >>>