Friday, May 21, 1993

Plewman family / Thomas Plewman

On the 11th of February 1911 the Irish Times under the heading "Forty Five Years in Public Life" referred to the record of uninterrupted public life service of Thomas Plewman of Athy. Described as having entered his 70th year yet looking as vigorous and as active as a man of 50 he was carrying on the family tradition of involvement in the public life of County Kildare.
"His popularity may be judged from the fact that he invariably heads the poll at the local elections. This will be all the more appreciated after it is remembered that Mr. Plewman, although a prominent member of the Church of Ireland, numbers his friends among every section of the Catholic community in which he resides. He has given his services and his resources generously for the benefit of the public."

Thomas Plewman was born in 1842 in Kilcoo House to where his father, also named Thomas Plewman, had moved on his second marriage to Elizabeth Rothwell of Ballagh, Isle of Man. His first wife Anne Guest, daughter of Edward Guest of Athy, had died in 1837. Thomas Plewman Senior had been elected a Church Warden of St. Michael's, Athy, that same year and was elected a member of the first Town Commissioners appointed in Athy in February 1842. He was re-elected in the 1847 election with 100 votes when interestingly enough the local Parish Priest, Rev. John Lawler, was also elected with 105 votes. Thomas Plewman Senior was still a member of the Town Commissioners in November 1855 when a petition was submitted by the Athy Town Commissioners to the Lord Lieutenant seeking an extension of the towns boundaries.

His son Thomas, the subject of the Irish Times article in 1911 was elected a Towns Commissioners in 1866 replacing his father. His popularity in Athy was reflected in his topping the pole in the elections of 1874. The Chairman of the Town Commissioners following these elections was Edward Lord, Solicitor, whose name has passed down to us in the place name "Lords Island". Thomas Plewman was himself Chairman of the Town Commissioners in 1887 and again for a five year period between 1894 and 1898.

Appointed a Justice of the Peace in the 1890's he remained a Towns Commissioner and later an Urban Councillor until 3rd May, 1920. On that day he resigned after 54 years of public service apparently because of the Council's decision to change the meeting times to 7.00 p.m.

On his marriage to his first cousin, Ellen Taylor of Dublin, Thomas Plewman had acquired Woodstock House, Athy, which remained the family home of the Plewmans up to the 1960's. The house is now part of the Minch Norton complex.

His brother Edward Plewman married Martha Booth of Dublin in 1876. They lived in Kilcoo House where they brought up a large family. The burial records of St. John's Cemetery show that in a two week period in the summer of 1885 Edward and Martha lost three of their young children. Robert aged three and a half years died on the 23rd May, Charles aged two years died on the 4th of June to be followed within three days by his young brother Edward aged five years. What tragedy befell the family we cannot say but even with the lapse of 105 years one cannot but be saddened by the enormity of the family's loss.

Thomas's step-sister, Hannah, born in 1830 had a romantic attachment with local man Myles Whelan which resulted in the young couple eloping. Family tradition relates that Hannah left Kilcoo House with the assistance of one of her brothers by descending a rope from her bedroom window. Hannah and Myles were to have nine children. Their grand-daughter Margaret was to marry local vet M.T. Byrne who lived at Millview House, now gone and replaced by the Allied Irish Bank building.

A grandson of Thomas Plewman, also named Thomas, was married to Eliane Sophie Brown Bartroli a member of the French Resistance who was captured by the Germans in March 1944 and executed. She had earlier been awarded the French Croix de Guerre for her involvement with the Resistance movement.

The family of Plewmans or Plowman as the name was originally spelled hold a unique record of public service in Athy. Between father and son, both named Thomas Plewman, they served 78 continuous years as public representative in the town. Theirs is a unique and proud record which is unlikely ever to be equalled.

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