The Persse Family of County Galway

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The Persse family of Co. Galway is descended from the Revd Robert Persse, a ‘man of God’ who arrived in Ireland before 1602 ‘to preach the Gospel’. The Revd Persse, who is linked to the powerful Percy family of Northumberland, England, settled in Co. Kildare, where he served as vicar at Carogh, Downings and Clane. A son, the Revd Edward Persse, succeeded his father as vicar of Carogh and was also vicar of Straffan, Curragh and Kildare. The Revd Edward Persse and his brother, Henry, were fortunate to survive the worst excesses of the 1641 rebellion. Their subsequent sworn depositions are included in this publication. Henry’s son, the Revd Dudley Persse, arrived in Co. Galway in late 1653 or 1654, apparently courtesy of a Cromwellian Transportation Certificate. With the restoration of the Monarchy, he established the first family estate in Galway at Spring Garden, Tynagh, in 1677, courtesy of a grant of lands from King Charles II. On receiving an additional grant of lands from King James II in 1686, Dudley established the principal Persse estate at Roxborough near Loughrea. Dudley’s son and heir, Robert Persse, purchased additional lands c.1741 at Moyode, near Athenry, and at Castleboy, adjacent to the Roxborough estate. By the end of the eighteenth century, the power and influence of the extended Persse family permeated every level of society in the county. Robert Persse’s son, William, established a militia supporting Henry Grattan’s campaign for an independent Irish parliament and corresponded with President George Washington in the United States. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Persse estates also possessed lands in counties Mayo, Roscommon, Kilkenny and Offaly (King’s County).
The Persse brewing business of Robert Persse of Roxborough, and Henry Stratford Persse of Newcastle, Galway, was bankrupt by 1816; it was purchased by Burton Persse of Moyode who later converted it to a distillery. In 1823, Robert Persse conveyed the heavily indebted Roxborough estate to his son, Dudley. The hard living and anything but a celibate lifestyle of Robert Parsons Persse, proprietor of the Castleboy estate, led to him being declared a lunatic in 1828. His death in 1829 triggered a three-way battle for control of this profitable estate between members of the family, a battle which occupied the courts and the House of Lords until 1856. The situation was made more complex in that Robert Parsons, who never married, made a will in which he acknowledged and made provision for eight illegitimate children; and their mothers. Dudley Persse would eventually win the Castleboy estate and in the process, he impoverished his father and younger brother, Robert Henry, whom he also had imprisoned. Dudley’s reputation had already been tarnished by his alleged mistreatment of tenants at Persse Park, Ballinasloe, during the Great Famine.
Descendants of the Persse landed families increasingly came to prominence in the 1800s and played leading roles in the commercial, social, sporting and political life of Galway city and county. The Persse distillery, forced to relocate to Nun’s Island in the 1850s, would produce world-renowned single-pot still whiskey until the early twentieth century. Sons of Henry Stratford Persse became successful merchants and ship owners; Thomas Moore Persse became the first US Consul in Galway and was chairman of Galway Town Commissioners. Dudley Persse, another son of Henry Stratford Persse, established a thriving paper mill in the US and maintained strong links with Galway; arranging food relief during the famine, and promoting direct shipping links with the United States. Notable contributions and achievements on the part of family members who emigrated to the UK, Africa, Australia, Canada, the United States, and New Zealand, are also recorded in this publication.
The combined impact of agrarian attacks on property and persons; the demise of the landed estates; the death of eight sons in the Great War; migration and emigration, would eventually decimate the Persse family numbers in Galway and Ireland generally.

Gerry Kearney
Book Details and Retailer Listing
Book Details:
Format: Paperback (170 X 240)
Pages: 640
ISBN: 978-1-3999-4861-6
RRP: €35
Copies of this limited print run of only 200 are available to purchase at:
Kenny’s Bookshop, Galway – order online at for worldwide delivery
Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, Middle Street, Galway
The Lighthouse Gift Shop, Salthill, Galway
News N Choose, Loughrea, Co. Galway
Salmon’s Store, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway
Gillane’s Shop, Peterswell, Co. Galway
O’Mahony’s Bookshops, Ennis and Limerick City, and online at
Alan Hanna’s Bookshop, 270 Rathmines Road Lower, Dublin 6

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About this publication

Written by Gerry Kearney

Published by Gerry Kearney

Published here 16 Jul 2023

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