By Madeline O’Connor
Hollywood star George Clooney has been delving further into his Irish roots recently, and now genealogist Fiona Fitzsimons has discovered that one of his direct Irish ancestors was “systematically victimised” by the authorities for working on the Sabbath.
Nicholas Clooney was prosecuted under a long-forgotten law for working on the Holy Day, according to newly unearthed court records. Nicholas was one of several cottiers in Windgap in Kilkenny in the 1850s who was a victim of so-called ‘middlemen’ who tried to boot farmers off the land so they could create bigger farms.
Speaking on Morning Ireland this morning (July 3), genealogist Fiona Fitzsimons told Morning Ireland recently that she had uncovered previously unavailable court records which showed “systematic harassment” of the Clooney family in 1852 by such men following the Great Famine..
“There were two court records that show that Nicholas Clooney had been forcibly stopped from planting oats in a field and that his implements had been thrown over a ditch.” said Fitzsimons.
Three months later, a second court record showed that Clooney was prosecuted for working on the Sabbath, an old law which the authorities usually ignored but which stayed on the statute books.
“Suddenly we saw in late August 1852 the authorities systematically prosecuting all these people in this one parish for breach of the Sabbath,” said Fitzsimons. “And when I went back and made a cross comparison with the land records, I realised that all the people being prosecuted were cottiers.”
George Clooney doesn’t have blood relatives in Windgap any more, but there are remaining members of the extended Clooney family living in the area. Fitzsimons also said that she did not believe anyone had informed the actor of these recent revelations.