Galway, St Francis Abbey – John Nolan (c1733-1793) – of Loughboy??

Recently James F. Nolan of Wisconsin and his wife (see earlier Post) found in the courtyard of St. Francis abbey, Galway city,  an old Nolan tombstone dating back to the 1700s reading as follows: “Lord have mercy on the soul of  John Nolan who died August 26, 1793 aged sixty years.”

Based upon the writings of James Hardiman in the early 1800s (History of Galway),  we also know that an older Nolan memorial is known to have existed on the grounds of St. Francis abbey, having been refurbished sometime before that by a Michael O’Nolan of Loughboy.  To my knowledge, for reasons unknown, no recent visitor to the abbey has been able to locate this memorial which presumably existed in the early 1800s when Hardiman wrote about it.  Could the tombstone inscription for  John Nolan (c1733-1793) have been etched unto the older existing Nolan memorial?  Based upon my experience this would certainly be a possibility, perhaps using another side of the stone.  I would therefore suggest that the headstone found by Jim (James F. Nolan of Wisconsin) be more closely inspected to see if traces of earlier inscriptions can be found.

Putting this possibility aside and reflecting upon who the John Nolan who died in 1793 might have been,  a promising lead is found at the website documenting Galway’s Landed Estates.  From the information found at the website it is evident that  a John Nolan of Loughboy existed in the 1700s but one generation earlier than the “John Nolan” buried in the abbey courtyard.  Could the John Nolan (1774-1820) of Loughboy documented on  a webpage at the Galway Landed Estates website have been the son of the John Nolan buried in the St. Francis abbey courtyard?

Circumstancial evidence pointing in this direction certainly exists! Recall that it was a “Michael O’Nolan of Loughboy” who erected the older, now lost (?), memorial to the Nolans of Loughboy.  That the John Nolan buried on the grounds of the St Francis abbey be of the Loughboy Nolan family would be consistent with the fact that Nolans of Loughboy had already been buried there in earlier times.

A review of the sources cited at the Galway Landed Estates webpage (see link above)  may help to confirm or refute this conjecture.  Following is the relevant excerpt from ta page found at the Galway Landed Estates website:


Nolan/ Ferrall (Lugboy) Estate

  • Reference #3380: Deeds re. estate of
    John Nolan of Loughboy, Co Mayo, 1774-1820.
    D. 16,536-16,538
    (RN:  available at the National Library of Ireland )
  • Reference #5110: Agreement between
    John Nolan of Cloonaville, county Sligo & John Nolan of Logboy, county Mayo re repayment of loan, 1810.
    D. 16,537   
    (RN:  available at the National Library of Ireland )
  • Reference #12375: Westport Estate Papers, Collection List 78. Details of Lord Oranmore and Browne’s lands sold in the Encumbered Estates’ Court, including  8 lots purchased
    by John Nolan Ferrall, May 1855.
    MS 40,966/34
    (RN:  available at the National Library of Ireland )


For anyone interested in the Nolans of Loughboy, Lugboy or Lugboy (current spelling) , Co. Mayo, an article entitled “The Nolan Chantry” and relating to a descendant of the Nolan-Ferrall family,  a Monsignor Edmond Nolan, son of John Nolan of Logboy,  was published in the March 2015 edition of the Nolan Clan Newsletter.
From this article and other sources it would appear that this line of Nolans was of the Roman Catholic persuasion as would have been the John Nolan buried on the grounds of the St. Francis abbey.

At this point I would also like to express my sincere thanks to Jim Nolan of Wisconsin and his wife for bringing to our attention the old Nolan tombstone in the courtyard of St. Francis abbey in Galway city.

With best regards,
Roger Nowlan,  webmaster and Nolan Clan Newsletter editor.

One thought on “Galway, St Francis Abbey – John Nolan (c1733-1793) – of Loughboy??”

  1. According to Hardiman’s History of Galway (1820s) a monument once stood in the centre of the Franciscan Friary cemetery which read “This tomb was first erected in the year of our Lord 1394, by the O’Nolans of Loughboy and is now rebuilt and ornamented by Michael O’Nolan, merchant, Galway, one of the representatives of said family.”

    Some family historians, including myself, have questioned the accuracy of the date of 1394, reasoning that, prior to the monument’s renovation a faded and weathered date of 1594 could easily have been misread as 1394. Circumstancial evidence supporting this view is the fact that the next oldest recorded headstone in the friary cemetery dates back to 1579 erected to the memory of a Thomas Davin, goldsmith, and bearing on its face the arms of the Corporation of Goldsmiths. [NOTE: In 1689 another older monument, dating back to the 1200s and honouring the memory of the friary’s founder, Richard de Burgo, was found but this was not a burial monument; the friary’s founder is known to have been buried at another friary to the east of Galway city).]

    If one accepts 1594 as the corrected/revised date for the erection of the Nolan monument which once stood in the Franciscan Friary courtyard then one can easily imagine that the 1594 Nolan monument was likely erected to the memory of the descendants of “Downyll Oge O Volloghan” (sic O hUallachain, O Hoolahan, etc.), goldsmith, who, according to city council records, was made a freeman of the Galway city in the year 1500. According to guild customs of the time, the Nolan goldsmith who became a freeman of Galway city in 1500 would naturally have been buried alongside other goldsmiths belonging to the goldsmith’s guild, seemingly on the grounds of St Francis abbey, judging from the fact that Thomas Davin, goldsmith, was buried there.

    The location of “Loughboy” mentioned on the Nolan monument is also a source of confusion. Some family historians believe that “Loughboy” refers to the townland of Loughboy which today forms an integral part of Kilkenny city. This was also my initial belief but upon further research, I find myself more and more inclined to believe that the “Loughboy” mentioned on the Nolan monument refers to the modern-day townland of Lugboy in County Mayo (in north-eastern Connaught).

    In the late 1700s we find the “Loughboy” spelling in Co. Mayo land transactions, in the mid 1800s we find “Logboy” and finally today we find “Lugboy”.

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