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The Woulfe-Flanagan Family of Co. Clare

by Danny Parkinson 

Extracted from The Woulfe Flanagan Family of Roscommon and Dublin -- Vol. XI 1995 journal of the Irish Family History Society p110.

When Terence Flanagan (1780-1846) the eldest son of the very rich Roscommon family of John Flanagan of Clogher, Co. Roscommon married Johanna Woulfe (c1788 1837),eldest daughter of Stephen Woulfe of Tiermaclane, Co. Clare in 1813, the marriage brought together two very old Irish families.

How it was decided to combine the two family names is not clearly indicated in the extensive family m/s available. The most likely possibility is that Johanna suggested to her husband Terence the joining of the two names to help her family gain prominence in the legal world, should they be interested in doing so. Another explanation as to how the two names were combined and it is the most written version was that when Stephen, her son, married Mary Corballis, his mother Johanna decided it would be very advantageous to do so because Stephen was starting in the legal profession. His wife Mary Corballis's father was also involved in the legal world. This was not possible because Johanna died in 1837 and Stephen got married in 1851.

It is pity as to how joining of the two names was decided is not clearer. On one point it is possible to be sure of and that is the fact that Johanna had some part to play in that decision. She was the brother of Stephen Woulfe (1786-1840) who became the first catholic to be appointed Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1838. Her three sisters all had married into families connected with the legal world. Two of her three sons also became involved in the legal world.

Anyway the two families were united by the marriage of Johanna Woulfe and Terence Flanagan. The Woulfe family, settled in the Limerick area during the reign of Henry II (1154- 1189). They became one of the largest Catholic land owners, owning among other holdings, that of Richard Woulfe's (bl629), 149 acres in the Corbally area up to 1641. Many members of the family became bailiffs for Limerick in the 15th century, and married into families who were Lord Mayors of Limerick. They also married into the Sarsfield family. So obviously they were part of the landed gentry of the time.

They appear to always have been a Catholic family and unfortunately during the Siege of Limerick backed the losing side. They also took part in the 1641 rising. As a result most of the Woulfe families were dispossessed (at least thirty of them were allowed to emigrate to the continent, some to Paris). Francis, a Dominican friar, and James, Superior of the Franciscan friars were both hanged by General Ireton in 1651. Their brother George, a Captain in Sarsfield's Army, escaped to England. He changed his religion, settled in York and was the great grandfather of General Woulfe who was involved in the fall of Ouebec in 1759.

As compensation for the forfeiture of their Limerick lands they were offered land in Clare and on Aug 9th 1684 Nicholas Woulfe obtained a lease of the lands of Tiermaclean with a clause for perpetual renewal from Dec 24th 1688. Here the family settled down and prospered, intermarrying with other leading families of the land. We have records of marriages to Dublin, Cork, Galway, Meath and English families.

Not many records of how much the family prospered are available but it must have prospered quite considerably, because Johanna on her wedding to Terence Flanagan received a dowry of f20,000 from her father Stephen Woulfe.




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