Select Higgins Miscellany

Here are some Higgins stories and accounts over the years:

O'Higgins Origin and Heritage

It is thought that the O'Higgins were originally a branch of the Ceneil Fiachach, a group of septs claiming common descent from Fiach, one of the sons of Niall of Tara.  The Annals of Ireland suggest that the O'Higgins had originally been associated with the area of Uisneach in Westmeath.  By the twelfth century, some O'Higgins has moved westward into Connacht and were located in the southern region of county Sligo on the border with Roscommon.  

Since early times, the O'Higgins were renowned as bards and minstrels, producing over three centuries a remarkable number of distinguished poets, beginning with Tadhg M'or O'hUigin who died in 1315 to Tadg Dall who died in 1617.  Another Tadg called O'g flourished in the first half of the fifteenth century.  The sixteenth century saw five more poets of the name, one of whom, MaoImuire, was also the archbishop of Tuam.  A poem by Pilib Bocht O'Huig'in was the first to be printed in the Irish language.

With the destruction of the Gaelic order in the seventeenth century, the O'Higginses lost their pre-eminence in the literary sphere.

The Higgins Burnt Out at Summerhill

The local story has it that the Higgins were evicted from their homes at Clondoogan during the troubles of the 1790's.  Their homes were set on fire and they were forced to live in the bog lands at the edge of the Ardrums estate in Summerhill.

John Higgins later took up employment with the Royal Canal Company.  As part of his payment for services rendered, he was allowed to build a small cottage on a section of bog land on the northern bank of the canal by the Meath border.  This remained the family home until 1947.     

Richard Higgins - An Early Settler in New England

There are several recorded documents relating to the life of Richard Higgins.

April 23, 1627.  Richard Higgins, son of Robert Higgins of Leominster in the County of Hereford, mercer, placed himself as an apprentice with Philip Ruddock of St. Clements Land, London for the term of seven years from the date given herein.

October 7, 1633.  Richard Higgins purchased from Thomas Little his now dwelling howse and misted, for and in consideration of twenty one bushels of merchantable corn, whereof twelve bushels to be paid in hand and the remainder at harvest next ensuing.

April 1, 1634.  Samuel Godberson, son of Godbert Godberson of New Plymouth, deceased, was duly apprenticed to Richard Higgins aforesaid, tailor, for the term of seven years.  Samuel agreed to deliver to Higgins six bushels of corn and a cow calf this present year and Higgins agreed to deliver the calf and half her increase in the expiration of the term of seven years.

December 11, 1634.  Richard Higgins married Lydia Chandler and went to housekeeping in the house bought from John Barnes.

August 11, 1639.  Richard Higgins hath assigned and set over all the residue of the term of Samuel Godberson which is until April 1641; for and in consideration that John Smaley shall teach Samuel Godberson the trade of tailor and that Richard find Samuel apparel and John Smaley meat, drink and lodging for said term.

The Indian Paul Higgins

Norridgewock resident Sylvanius Sawyer may have given the best testimony of the destiny of Higgins in 1779.  That Paul Higgins as a white man could rise to the level of an Indian chief, or leader of family bands, is not so much of a mystery as that of uncovering who the man actually was.  The best theories researchers can adopt regarding Higgins's identity suggest that he was not a joiner but tended to form his own alliances and hunt his lands on his own terms and that he managed to escape exposure and harm in those ways.

Kenneth Roberts in his historical novel Arundel, for the sake of spinning a good tale, would, however, have us believe otherwise.   He gives Higgins a major role in the expedition as one of that group of Indians who tailed the army through the dead river lands and left food, canoes, and a youthful guide along the route, then met with Arnold in Sartigan where a number of Abenakis joined the forces bound for Quebec.  Roberts portays Higgins as delivering an oration to Arnold before personally enlisting.  He ultimately elevates him to the position of "captain" of the Abenaki party.  Arundel is a thoroughly enjoyable fireside story, but one must not take it to accurately depict the life and activities of Paul Higgins.

The Liberator of Chile - A Red-haired Irish/Chilean

No one expected the illegitimate son of a young daughter of an aristocratic Chilean family and an Irish engineer named Ambrose O'Higgins, who was in the service of the Spanish crown, to amount to much.  His early years were spent in obscurity as his father continued to rise in his profession.

Later, Bernardo O'Higgins inherited his father's estates, Hacienda Las Canteras in Las Laja near Los Angeles, and began his adult life in Chile as a gentleman farmer.   He was soon elected as a delegate from La Laja to the Cabildo in Chillan and began his public life.

During this period, Napoleon invaded Spain and placed his brother Joseph on the throne.  This caused confusion for the Spanish colonies who refused to acknowledge Joseph.  On September 18 1810, criollo leaders met in Santiago and decided on limited self-government until the Spanish throne was restored.  This date is now celebrated as Chile's Independence Day.  However, opponents of independence, the royalists who wanted Chile to return to royal rule, began to foment opposition to the Congress.

Bernardo recognized the need for an armed militia and, using his inheritance, formed two cavalry companies with the huasos (cowboys) and peasants who worked his estate.  His militia got the first taste of battle in the 1813 Surpresa del Roble, where Bernardo distinguished himself for bravery in leading a cavalry charge against the royalist factions.  Following his victory, Bernardo was named Commander in Chief of the army and went on to several more victories.  However, the royalists, with help from Peru, fought back and began a reconquest of Chile.

Ahead lay the years of revolution.   When the fighting was over, the republicans had won and Don Bernardo O'Higgins became the first President of Chile in 1818.

Robert Higgins - An Early Settler in Australia

The following story of Robert Higgins, an early settler in Australia, comes from Marion Starr's 2002 book Murder, Mayhem & Misdemeanours - Early Settlers at the Cowpasture River.

Robert had joined the newly formed NSW Corps from Wiltshire and set sail for Australia in 1791, guarding the first shipments of Irish convicts there.  The records of soldiers in the Corps in 1808 list Robert as being 46 years of age, five feet seven inches tall with a dark complexion, hazel eyes, dark brown hair and a thin face.

At that time, Robert and his common law wife Lydia Farrell were living at 21 Spring Row in Sydney.  The same year Robert sold the house to Lydia for five shillings.  However, this was probably to prevent the house being seized by bailiffs due to debt because, a year later, he himself ended up in a debtor's prison.

Afterwards, his fortunes improved.  He was released and transferred to a special invalid and veteran company who were no longer fit for active service but were assigned to light duties.  As part of his social reforms, the new governor Macquarie was encouraging formal marriages; and, on July 9 1810, Robert married Lydia at St. Phillip's church in Sydney (by then they already had four children).  It was one of the first marriages in the new church.  Two years later, Robert was granted 50 acres of land on the eastern bank of the Nepean river and they built a small farm there.

In 1818, the Sydney Gazette announced the sale of Higgins' farm.  Robert was in debt again and part of his land and all of his farming tools were sold.  He was even forced to sell his old draught horse.  Lydia died in 1823, Robert lived on for a further twenty years.

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