While this study is that of the Doyles of Clooncarne and the families related to them, the course of research has revealed that in many ways the Diffleys of Clooncarne are the Cloooncarne family most intertwined with other families of the area. Not only did intermarry with the Doyles and Kilranes, but they also have connections, sometimes close, sometimes fairly tenuous, to many other families of interest to this study: the Reynoldses of the Bridge, the Geelans of Clooneagh, The Smyths of Sandy Hill, The Edgeworths of Longford and Bornacoola, and many others.

In this brief overview, we will deal quickly with the surname and origins of the family, before attempting a brief narrative of the known history.


Origins of the Surname

 Diffley is but one of several Anglicisations of the Gaelic Ó Dubhghiolla. The Gaelic is made up of the words Dubh (black) and Giolla, meaning servant or follower. The name stems from two distinct septs originating in Co Galway. Variants of the name include Duffley, Diffily, Diffely, Deffely, Divilly, Devilly, and Deely. (Patrick Woulfe, Sloinnte Gaedhael is Gall, Dublin 1923, Page 515. (CD-Rom Edition, published by Archive CD Books.)

To date we have no evidence of when the surname was first encountered in Leitrim. The Flax Growers lists of 1796 do not show any Diffley or variant names in the county. The Tithe Applotment Books of Mohill parish, compiled in 1834, shows just 3 Diffley/Diffly holdings: Connor in Ballygeeher, John in Clooncarne and James in Edercloon. There were 4 Deffley holdings: Conner in Acres (presumably the same man as Connor of Ballygeeher); Michael in Clooneen; and Peter and James in Gortnalamph. Finally, there were John and Peter Duffley with holdings in Currycramph.

Unfortunately there is insufficient evidence to make any further assumptions about when or how the Diffleys came to Leitrim, or what relationships there might be between the various 1834 families. We can, however, use the evidence relating to the family of our key founder, John Diffley of Clooncarne, to make some assumptions about the Clooncarne families, and these are documented under the families in question.

An Outline History

Sources such as Parish Registers of Baptisms, headstones, Wills, and so forth effectively do not exist for the people of interest to this study. The earliest record we can find of a Diffley presence in Mohill Civil Parish is from the Tithe Applotment Book of the parish, dated 1833 or 1834. This suggests the only Diffleys in the parish (or at least the only ones liable to pay the Tithe) were John senior and John junior in Clooncarne, and Connor in Ballygeeher. Given that parts of these two townlands adjoin, it seems very likely that there was a relationship between them all, but we have no real evidence for what that relationship might be.

By the time of Griffith's Valuation (1857) the only Diffleys in Mohill Civil Parish were located, with just one exception, in Clooncarne. That exception was Peter in Gortnalamph - a townland not all that distant. An examination of land holding maps from around 1870 show that the Clooncarne Diffley lands are almost all adjoining each other, suggesting (though by no means proving) that one holding was split among several sons of the one original holder.

In this history, it is asserted that John Diffley, who can be found on Griffith's, was the father of at least three children: Peter, who married Mary Murray and was the direct ancestor of the author; Thomas, who married Mary McGarry; and Mary, who married John Reynolds.

While the arguments in favour of this assertion are to be found elsewhere on this site, it is perhaps worth stating them again in this narrative.

The Valuation Office's land records show that Thomas replaced John as a land-holder in 1860. Thomas had a son William, born in 1862 and died in 1890. But in 1884, a William Diffley, identified as Nephew, acted as the informant of the death of Peter Diffley. The only William Diffley that has been found who would make a candidate to be a credible informant was William, son of Thomas. Assuming therefore the existence of only one possible William, it follows that Thomas and Peter were brothers.

We have no direct evidence that Thomas was John's son, but the most common reason for a person taking over another's holding on the death of the original holder was relationship, and direct (son/daughter) relationship in particular. It is on this basis that we are assuming John to have been father of Thomas, and therefore by extension of Peter.

Thomas and Peter would appear to have had a sister Mary. The oral evidence within the Doyle family is that Mary Diffley married a Reynolds of Drumhirk, and that her family later moved back to Clooncarne to live in Street. From simple inference Mary must have been a contemporary of Peter (grandfather of Mary Diffley, the author's grandmother) and therefore, it seems she must be a sibling of his. This is unproven but seems a reasonable assumption at least at the time of writing.


Peter Diffley is the Great-great-grandfather of the compiler of this history. We have not been able to trace any record of Mary, his eldest child, after her birth in 1846. But his three known sons married. James, the second son, married Kate Kilrane, and their three known daughters who survived childhood presented us with the lines known to us today as the Doyles, the Collums and the Beirnes. John was Peter's eldest son; he married Mary Mahon and moved to her family home in Rosdoowaun. They had a number of children but little is known about any of them bar daughter Mary. She married Michael Devine, from Ballygeeher, in the U.S. Peter's youngest son was Thomas, who married Ellen Keane and promptly vanished from history!

Thomas Diffley was, I believe, younger than Peter. He married Mary McGarry. At least three of their children married and had children of their own. John, the eldest, married Mary Maxwell and moved to her family home in Clooneagh. Of their children, William married a Margaret Reynolds but appears to have been childless. Mary married James Notley of Cloonboniah South in the U.S.A. Ann married John Smyth (or Smith) with whom she had several children. From these children connections run from the Diffley line to the families of McGuinness, Edgeworth and Geelan, and also to the Diffley family descended from Patrick, and which later produced John Patrick, Mikey and Emily (among others), of Clooncarne. It is very possible Patrick was related to John, the founder of our Diffley line. Finally, Michael (Thomas' son) married Mary Keogh of Clooncarne.

Mary Diffley, Peter's sister, married John Reynolds of Drumhirk. This provided the link known to exist between the Doyles and the Reynolds family of Street. Mary and John had several children, most of whom married. Interestingly, not only is did James Diffley (son of Peter) marry Kate Kilrane, but Mary's grandson John L. Reynolds also married a Kilrane, thus giving us a second connection between these two lines of interest.

 In truth, there are few outstanding stories to be told from the Diffley history. The Notable People section of this site lists a few people of note, whether Diffleys or persons who married a Diffley.