Bowen Family History

Both Jane and her husband died young and Henry Cole Bowen was heir to the Tipperary and Cork estates by the time he was only a year old. He eventually succeeded to the estates when he was twenty-four years old. He was responsible for the completion of the mansion, Bowen's Court near Doneraile. After his death in 1788, his son Henry Cole Bowen succeeded and he in turn married Catherine Prittie, Kilboy House, Co. Tipperary. There were no children from this marriage and so the estate passed to one of his brothers, Robert Cole. The lands of Ballymackey continued to pass from generation to generation and were always valuable source of income to supplement the smaller Cork estate.

In 1860, R.C. Bowen married Elizabeth Clarke (above) of Graiguenoe Park, Holycross, Co. Tipperary. In contrast to earlier generations R.C. Bowen travelled to his Tipperary estate from Bowenscourt, Cork, for a few days every week. He also reclaimed possession of 'Camira', a seventeenth century house, from a tenant and he proceeded to renovate it for his own use. R.C. Bowen was a shrewd businessman! He encouraged his tenants to improve their holdings, often with grant assistance. This was motivated by his desire to increase the value of his property.

Twice a year his whole family came on extended visits to 'Camira' and several extracts from the journals of the young Bowens, Sarah, Annie, Mary and Charlie are reproduced in Elizabeth Bowen's Bowen Court.

May 10th, 1876
Our first day at Camira, and a holiday. We took a long walk with Henry; first we went to the garden, then to Capa castle, then we walked through and just as we got to Toomevara we heard Bowers calling us, then he told us that mama wanted us. In the afternoon, the Joneses came to see us. We played Prisoners Base with Hume and Rickie. A fine day.
Annie Marcella Cole Bowen
June 19th 1876

During the last few weeks we have been so busy preparing for the Sunday school examination at Nenagh that we have not had time to write in the diary. The principal events as well as I know were that we heard that Nurse was very sick with jaundice, from which she is now recovering, also we heard that Mrs. Dickey laid four eggs, Mr. Dickey broke two of them. The weather here has been very fine. We have had many pleasant drives about the country, sometime to Nenagh. Once we had a picnic at Knocknagh. ………..Papa has had a beautiful haybarn built. Hanlon and Davy Smith came down from Bowen's Court to build it.

It was finished on Saturday last, when papa gave the men a half-holiday and got up great fun for them, consisting of donkey races, sack races, pulling ropes etc., etc. Then Papa distributed amongst them ten shillings worth of bread and, afterwards they got eight gallons of porter and had a great concert in the yard. Hanlon sang the best. Miss Jones dined here. That evening after dinner the workmen all came before the hall door. Higgins was the leader, he called out three cheers for Cole Bowen and all the men waved their hats and cheered. Then he added, three cheers for the Coles of Ballymackey, they cheered again and went away………………..Sarah.

Robert Cole Bowen seemed to have faith in his personal skills as a fair and just landlord and by 1883 when the land courts were deciding on judicial rents for tenants, he was content to abide by the findings of the court, without any intervention on his behalf. We find only five of his tenants having recourse to the courts as the majority of the remaining tenants were in possession of leases. Of the five, three were granted reductions. At this period, the number of tenants on the Cole Bowen estate had dropped to approximately one hundred; this is the most recent rent book to have survived.

ABOVE: Table showing judgements of land courts made on claims by tenants on the Bowen Estate, July 1883 [Source: N.G.26 June, 1883; Table by Mary B. Murphy]

Robert's wife, Elizabeth had died in 1881 from smallpox. Although soon marrying for the second time, he was again widowed by 1886 and he himself died in July 1888, aged fifty-seven. The eldest son Henry Charles Cole Bowen was now heir to the Tipperary lands. He did not share his father's enthusiasm for Camira and the Tipperary estate.

He was later to marry and father the author, Elizabeth Bowen and she would visit Ballymackey when it was no longer part of the Bowen estate. Tradition has it the she stood under a big tree in the garden, this tree has also succumbed to the ravages of time. In the 1890's Henry Bowen sold Camira and surrounding lands to Colonel Heard. He in turn sold the holding to John Ryan, Carrigatoher and as the big house was no longer in permanent occupation, it eventually collapsed. The lands are now in the possession of Michael Canty, a grandnephew of John Ryan. The Cole family and the Bowen family no longer remain except in the memory of the Ballymackey people.

Bowen, Elizabeth, Bowens Court, London, 1942

Lee, Hermione, The Mulberry Tree: Writings of Elizabeth Bowen, London 1986

Murphy, Mary, From Bowen's Court to Ballymackey: landlord, tenant and community 1841-1888 (B.A thesis, University of Limerick 1999)

Murphy, Nancy, Elizabeth Bowen: the Ballymackey connection, Nenagh Guardian, 2 January 1982

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