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The Early Days

The Palatines originally came from Germany, from the Palatinate. In the early 1700s, the Rhine Rift Valley had suffered repeated warfare with much sacking and burning of villages and resulting famines. In addition, there was a very severe winter which added to the hardship. At the time, Queen Anne of England was attempting to attract families to settle in her colonies in the New World. Many golden tales were told of the opportunities available. As a result, in 1709 and 1710 a huge number of potential emigrants converged on Rotterdam, and then moved to London in search of assisted passages to the New World.

On arrival in London, the Palatines were accommodated in camps at Blackheath, Greenwich and Camberwell, all south of the River Thames. There was no way that such numbers could be offered free passage to the New World, and many were forced to return to the Continent. However, as Ireland was (in the opinion of the Government) in need of ‘Loyal’ settlers, it was decided that about 500 families of poor Palatines should be settled in Ireland. The appointed group moved overland to Chester, from whence they sailed to Dublin.

When they arrived in Dublin, they created a considerable problem as Ireland was no more prepared for such an influx than London had been. Lord Southwell recruited three parties of these Palatines: the first group he settled in Courtmatrix, the second group of 20 in Killeheen, and the third larger group of 60 went to Ballingrane. Peter Sperling is listed in the register of those who arrived in London in 1709. He was 47 years old and accompanied by his wife and six children, daughters aged 18, 16 and 14 and sons aged 10, 8 and 4—hence born 1699, 1701 and 1705.

However, our family starts with a George; and Peter and family are said to have reached the New World. Is it possible that the family split? It might be that the eldest girl married; and the young couple, short of funds, opted to settle in Ireland and took her young brother George with them. This young man soon acquired a lease: George Sperling was one of the leaseholders mentioned in Killeheen, Kilscannell parish, by 1720. He must have been married but there is no record of his wife’s name; she may have died prior to Rathkeale Registers being kept.

Research on another branch of the Irish Sparlings traced them from a Benjamin, born circa 1693 who died in 1769, the earliest ancestor of the Rathnaveoge family based in the townland of Ballynakill (in the Roscrea area). This might account for another of the boys, if the age at death was somewhat exaggerated. Certainly, a Sparling did pay tithes in Ikerrin Barony, Rathnaveoge Parish in 1825. These Sparlings seem to be very much involved with the Huguenots—so could be descended from London Sparlings who settled prior to our Palatine migration.

It has also been suggested that our family came from Saxony. The source of this appears to be that there was a Spurling family living in London in the 1700s as outlined in Burke’s Peerage. However, I feel that if our economic refugees had any connection to this family, they would have made contact in London, appealed for help, and never reached Ireland in the first place. I should stress that our knowledge of this era of the family history is mostly supposition backed by few facts and many family legends. The trouble with these legends is that generations get telescoped, and families merged. So at the moment, this period is far from accurate.

GEORGE, according to family legend, had 13 children; but we are now sure that these 13 children only featured in the memory of Joshua Johnston, and were of a much later date.They revolved round the information gleaned from his parents; his mother was born in Adare in 1803, daughter of Philip of Graigue, and so apparently a grandchild of John of Killeheen and his first wive Catherine. The 13 names relate to the Sparlings who lived in Adare in the early 1800s.

We are absolutely certain that GEORGE SPARLING held a lease in 1720 from Lord Southwell in the townland of Killeheen. He was buried 11 October 1747, so should have been about 50 years old. He had been a member of the Vestry and signed the Parish Records in 1741, 1742 and 1743. His signature was really beautiful, well formed and elegant. We have no idea of his wife’s name; the Margaret Anna suggested by some researchers, belongs with a family resident in England.

The second generation Sparlings lived in Killiheen, near Rathkeale. The names recorded in the registers of Rathkeale were:

1. PHILIP, married and was siring children by 1745. He died in 1754.
2. CHRISTOPHER (STUFFLE ), married Margaret Legier in 1746.
3. GEORGE JUNIOR, died 17 January 1746.
4. PETER, married Margaret Fissell in 1754.
5. JOHN, married Catherine prior to 1761.
6. Elizabeth, married Tobias Fissell in 1747.
7. Suzannah, married Christopher Youngman in 1749.

There was a 1766 Census of all families who were wealthy enough to be assessed for tithes. Christopher Sparnell and John Spennell featured in the Parish of Kilscannell.These were definitely our family—nos 2 & 5 above.

Sparlings also featured in the 1776 Freeholders lists which covered the areas surrounding Rathkeale and Adare.

a) Christopher of Killiheen (son of 2 above)
b) Christopher Stuffle of Killiheen (2 above)
c) George of Killiheen (son of 2 above)
d) John of Killiheen (5 above)
e) John of Graigue (son of 2 above)
f) Philip of Graigue (son of 5 above)

Adare had been established as a Palatine secondary settlement about 1772. The Sparlings first took up land in Graigue which is a little way to the SouthWest of the village, on the south side of the Rathkeale road. John, son of Christopher Stuffle (who had married Ann Fissell) held land there from at least 1776.

At that time his brother George held land at Killeheen but later established himself across the road from his brother at Rour. Their younger brother Christopher is associated with the landholding of his wife’s family, the Corneilles. This was at Ballycurrane, to the west of Patrickswell. He later, on behalf of his newly married daughters, took on a lease at Rouska, on the Courtney Estate up in the hills to the west of Newcastle, a project which led to his murder.

The youngest brother Philip was employed on one of the big estates. Their first cousin Philip, son of John of Killeheen, was another original settler at Graigue while his young brother Christoper later held land at Tougha, to the west of Adare. George threw in his lot with his wife’s family, the Switzers of Kilcooly. James went to work on one of the big estates and the younger brothers fended for themselves as best they could; Samuel and William held small parcels of land at Askeaton and supplemented their income by other means.

One needs to realize that it was normal practice to put the names of very young children as leaseholders. This was because the lease extended through their lifetime, or 30 years, whichever was the longer. So, a 6 year old boy, living to the age of 55 would have the right to the land for the longer period. The prudent father put the names of two or three of his sons on any agreement which he negotiated. In the case of Philip’s holding at Graigue, we know that his brother Samuel was by 1827, the last remaining life.Philip lived till 1835, but his name, as eldest brother, was not on the original lease.

In addition to farming skills, all Palatines tried to ensure that their sons acquired an additional trade, carpenter, shoemaker or weaver, often apprenticed out to relatives. Some were attracted to trade and are to be found in the big cities. A young man would thus have two strings to his bow in order to make his living. Most of the older boys got out and made their own way—and married elsewhere. Many joined the British Army or the Royal Irish Constabulary, professions which had the additional advantage of paying a pension.

Many sons never married at all, they lived and worked in the home farm for their parents and then were supported till their death by the son who had taken over the property. It was usually the youngest son who inherited the land, and he generally married late in life. Often his choice of bride was made from within a close circle, even inter-related. The reasoning behind this was that, by marrying somone who had inherited part of the original family farm, it was possible to amalgamate the two holdings by adding her dowry to his property. The bride was often considerably younger than her husband. The prime aim of a girl was to marry and have her own establishment. A rich husband, of any age, was preferable to remaining unmarried.

As in the Developing World today, children arrived at two yearly intervals; the act of breastfeeding an infant proving a sort of birth control; only when a child was weaned did the mother conceive. Hence, if an infant died, the next child arrived in pretty short order! Families of a dozen children were not uncommon.

In many cases the first wife died in childbirth and the father was left with a young family to care for. Usually after the obligitory year’s mournng he would remarry in order to provide a mother for his brood. In a surprising number of cases his choice would be made from his immediate family circle, a cousin or sister-in-law being a sound choice.

The alternatives available to a girl were either to work for the rest of one’s days on the family farm, or to go into service. This was seen as the final indignity by the family, the uniform was the mark of servitude. Opportunities depended on one’s skills and probity, from being an outside maid, washerwoman, tweeny, kitchen maid, dairy maid, a laundress, upstairs maid, ladies’ maid, cook or housekeeper, each a step higher in rank. If attached to one of the Big Houses, a girl had the chance to travel and acquire graces which put her considerable above her stay-at-home contemporaries, at least in her own estimation. One was also enabled to marry for love, clear of the arranged marriages of the home surroundings.

The Irish tradition as to burials is, to outsider eyes, remarkably swift. One lies at home for just one day before being brought to the church and usually buried two days after death. The choice of burial ground is also important; husbands and wives are buried side by side and their unmarried children nearby. In the case of the earlier Palatines, most returned to the family plot at Rathkeale whenever possible within the set timescale. Thus we have the earliest Adare Sparlings being returned to Rathkeale for burial.

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