Anne Deane

Map Dublin 1836
Woollen Mills Foxford,_north_end_interior,_St_Fagans.jpg
St. Teresa's Church, Clarendon St. Dublin,_Dublin,_October_2010.JPG
Memorial Straide Abbey, Co. Mayo
Ann Cresham Collection

Women’s Land League / Philanthropist

This Mayo lady was President of the Dublin Branch of Women’s Land League.  She assisted many Foundations or Companies with her Philanthropy efforts.

Early Life

Anne Duff was born in Ballaghadeereen (at that time situated within County Mayo).  Her parents were Joseph Duff and Mother Monica (nee Dillon.)  She was a cousin of John Dillon whose own grandfather, Luke Dillon was a Member of the United Irishmen; he had a younger brother John Blake Dillon.  He moved to Ballaghadeereen where one son Thomas operated a small shop that prospered into a substantial business: it passed to his widowed sister Monica Duff on his demise.  As a young person Anne Duff received home schooling but also worked in the store, despite her mother’s misgivings who wished her to concentrate fully on her schooling.  [i]


Anne married Edward Deane a lawyer from Foxford, (eldest son of Hugh Deane Esquire of Foxford) a lawyer from Foxford, Co. Mayo on 3rd February 1864.  This occurred with the intervention of Dillon as her mother initially thwarted the union.  [ii]  She was involved in the raising of her uncle John Blake and wife Adelaide’s children following their deaths in 1866 and 1872 respectively.  Their son John spent his time between Dublin and Anne’s home: he regarded her as his second mother.  With a grant of almost £30,000 from Anne Deane he was able to marry.  [iii]

Family Business

Following her husband’s demise Anne Deane returned to Ballaghadeereen to look after the store business, she assisted her mother until her demise when she single – handily undertook the business, thus progressed to become a very independent successful woman at that time of Ireland’s history.  [iv]  From a simple grocery store the following were added; Drapery Department, Bakery, Ironmongers, Boot, Shoe & Leather warehouse.  There was a spacious yard that dealt in guono manure, farm seed, animal feeds, fuel and builders supplies, they also traded in beers, wines, spirits, tobacco, both retail also wholesale.  The iconic Firm’s Brand ‘Monduf’ was introduced during the 1880’s.  She also had a thriving Farm outside the town.  [v]

Land League

The Founder of the Irish Land League Michael Davitt suggested the formation of the Ladies Land League with Anna Parnell, (sister of Charles Steward Parnell) as its Organizer.  This Ladies League was a Women’s Organization formed during 1881 as an auxiliary to the official Land League following the enactment of the Coercion Act.  Anne Deane wrote during September 1882 to John Dillon to inform him that she was ‘pleasantly pleased’ with the Mansion House Committee as they ‘are to assist the Tenants in getting the benefit of the arrears act.  It is the greatest service they can do to the country.’  She was very interested in the land situation plus the welfare of Irish tenants who struggled to pay rent.  Along with Bea Walsh of Balla, Co. Mayo the two women attracted very large crowds at the Land Meetings.  They were also very successful in assisting many tenants to retain their land holdings by the building of temporary huts, prevention of land grabbing also collection of funds.  Anne Deane travelled extensively in Ireland, England plus Scotland to explain the aims of the organization.  She played a central role in the history of women’s involvement in Irish Politics also acted as a notable example of the importance of the concept of connections in land political history.  The Press plus the clergy displayed their unease with the presence of women within the Land League Movement.  The women were ridiculed as the ‘screaming sisterhood’.  Archbishop Edward Mc Cabe of Dublin castigated the women for forgetting the ‘modesty of their sex and the high dignity of their womanhood.’  Much of the hostility towards them and the Women’s League revolved around their public participation in political life.  [vi]

Friends / Visitors

Anne Deane’s home welcomed all ‘workers of Ireland’, according to Sophie O ‘Brien (William O ‘Brien’s wife) ‘organizers of campaigns on dangerous expeditions’ knew that they were safe within the large establishment.  Anne Deane corresponded with many friends including her cousin John Dillon, Andrew Kettle, Michael Davitt from Straide plus William O’Brien and his wife Sophie.  The 1886 Campaign by John Dillon, William O ‘Brien, Tommy Harrington called for ‘withholding rent on estates whose owners refused to reduce them by 20 – 20%.’   Deane was always ‘ready to face greater risks for Ireland’ according to O ‘Brien.  Another friend, Andrew Kettle; remember Anne Deane as a ‘remarkable woman who seemed to be quite at home at the head of a business that looked like the centre not of a town like Ballaghadeereen, but a province.’  [vii]

 British M P Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, the English Poet / Writer described Anne Deane’s house as a hub of political activity with occasionally several visitors including Charles Steward Parnell; he said that she was ‘a very clever woman of about fifty-five.’ A later diary entry by him on April 8th, 1886 stated that ‘A great day was spent at Ballaghadeerreen, which we spent wondering how things would be in the House of Commons, for this is the day of Mr. Gladstone’s speech on the Home Rule Bill.  I did not go out but enjoyed the comfort of a well – ordered house, writing letters and composing notes with Mrs. Deane.  She spoke a good deal of Parnell, who had been once or twice to her house.  I have enjoyed my talks with Mrs. Deane more than anything yet, and they have been most instructive.’  [viii]


A very keen Philanthropist Anne Deane donated three hundred pounds to the Sisters of Charity in Foxford.  She offered monetary support to many Irish emigrants.  The majority of her philanthropy work occurred outside of Ireland; including one generous act to James O ‘Hara of Castleknock, Colorado during July 1884.   [ix]


Unfortunately, Anne suffered a severe fall during 1904 that resulted in the deterioration of her health.


Anna Deane’s demise occurred on 3rd July 1905 at the Sisters of Charity Nursing Home, Leeson Street, Dublin.

She is interred at Straide Abbey where her tombstone bears her legacy: she is remembered as ‘a great friend of the poor and oppressed, a lover of Ireland and liberty.’  [x]


Mrs. Sophie O ‘Brien has portrayed a beautiful personal account of her friend Anne Deane on pages 106 – 114 in her Publication ‘My Irish Friends.’  She recalled when she first knew Mrs. Deane ‘her business was flourishing; her many anxieties were over’ as her late husband’s debts had been cleared.  ‘But the wonder was she had ever a penny, she gave so much in private charities and in answer to public appeals.  Mrs. Deane was generous with her large income, spending next to nothing on herself and gave all away.’  She greatly helped Mother Arsenius of the Sisters of Charity at their Convent in Ballaghadeereen with her early struggle of poverty and ignorance.’ When the first venture was successful: ‘Mrs Deane worked hard to get the same chance for Foxford.  She had a good deal to do with overcoming the difficulties that faced the opening of the Providence Convent.’

‘Mrs. Deane had read a few books, but she had read them to good effect.  She knew the country people and understood thoroughly the conditions of Irish life.  She welcomed my husband’s (William O ‘Brien) land policy with all her heart.

‘I recall happy days spent with these two friends in Ballaghdeereen or Mallow Cottage. They (Mrs. Deane and Mrs. Martin) would talk of their early days and their friends: Thomas Davis, Gavan Duffy, John Blake Dillon, Martin and Mitchel.  Mrs. Deane used to recall delightful parties in Dublin, when young people met, danced, had a simple supper, it all cast so little, or sat and listened to Thomas Davis.  The two friends rejoiced at the reunion of all parties, brought about by the United Irish League, and at Wyndham’s Land Bill.’

‘Mrs. Deane would pay us a visit in August 1904, when the Cork electors insisted on bringing my husband back to Parliament.  She enjoyed as usual her time in Mallow Cottage. On her return she wrote to me that she felt so well and was busy as a bee.’

‘Unfortunately, she fell in her yard, and was never afterwards free from pain.  In December I came to her. She could scarcely crawl.  All our homely remedies proved to no avail.  At last the nuns and I persuaded her to go to the Nursing Home in Leeson Street, where the Sisters of Charity had taken such good care of her in a former illness.  It was settled I should go to Dublin with her.  The last day in Ballaghadeereen seemed to help me to know my old friend better.  She was in extreme pain.  She was quite calm, and her mind was taken up by arranging for Christmas.  She was getting labels written with addresses to which hampers, turkeys, and other presents were to be sent; no one was forgotten.  When she came downstairs, she sent for the heads of different departments and gave her advice to each. Did the thought strike her it was her last day in her old home?  I tried to imitate her cheerfulness, and ran messages with the rest of the household.  She sat at the table, while, to please her, I had to pretend to eat.  She had taken no food for days.  The nuns came to say goodbye and give us courage.  She was quite helpless.  She bore her journey like a heroine, and it only when she was in the Home that she collapsed.  It was time she came.  The doctor said she could not have lived three days more in that condition.’

‘Within a short time she grew better.  We parted.  For months she lingered between life and death, and we could not meet. The dear old lady went through her share of Purgatory in those long weary months. We met a fortnight before the end.  How warm her welcome!  She was back in the Nursing Home and free to see those she loved.  She looked beautiful.  Her lovely white hair made a halo round her head.  The lovely hair I loved to brush in the old days.  She was so cheerful, it was impossible not to have hope.  She asked about the house we had taken.  She questioned my husband about his work.  She was her old bright self.  She was all alive.’

‘We returned to Westport for a couple of days.  I received a chatty letter dictated to a nurse.  The moment I reached Dublin I rushed to Leeson Street to spend the afternoon with her.  Like a knife in a wound came the announcement that she was too bad to see me.  I went to the church in Clarendon Street.  I knew had I seen her she would have told me to pray for her.  Her life had been a life of prayer.  She loved the Rosary. Once in the Carmelite Church, which she and I loved, I cried as I had not cried for ages.  As I write the old wounds bleed afresh, and the sense of loneliness for the great and generous soul sweeps over me again.’  I saw her again.  She was very weak, very calm.  She was ready for the call; that had no terror for her.

She (Mrs Martin) described in a letter to me our old friend’s peaceful end, adding that she had kept under her pillow the last letter I sent her.  ‘And now the two old friends have met again in a better land.  We are the poorer for having lost them, the richer for having known them.’  [xi]


Senator Michelle Mulhern laid a Wreath at Straide Abbey to commemorate Anne Deane at a Ceremony on 7th August 2016.  [xii]

Her cousin John Dillon acknowledged his dept to his aunt Anne Deane in a Monument sculpted by Padraig Pearse’s father at Straide Churchyard. (Brendan O ‘Cathaoir, ‘The Irish Times’ 15th November 2004) [xiii]

One may read about Anne Deane on Ballaghaderreen Past and Present Facebook page: dated 6th August  2017. [xiv]

The Swinford Board of Guardians at a meeting remembered Anne Deane for ‘her great charity to the poor and her untiring zeal in the interests of the national cause.’ [xv]

The Ladies Land League is discussed in Chapter V1 of the Irish Land League 1879 – 1881 by Walter Jennings of the University of Illinois, U S A. [xvi]

Anne Deane is mentioned in the following publications: GRO; obituary, Freeman’s Journal, 5th July 1905, [xvii]  Obituary Mayo News, 15th July 1905,  [xviii]

O’ Brien Sophie 1937 ‘Mrs Deane of Ballaghaderreen’  Irish Monthly’ 1937; (9th February  2018)  [xix]  O’ Brien Sophie 1937 ‘My Irish Friends’ Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Dublin / London [xx]

Kettle, Andrew 1958 ‘The Material of Victory’ Kettle, [xxi]  ‘John Dillon’ 1968 Fallon  Dublin Lyons F. S. L. Routledge and Paul, London,  [xxii]  Coté Jane 1991 ‘Fanny & Anna Parnell – Ireland’s Patriot Sisters’ Palgrave Macmillan London  [xxiii]

Clarke Francis  ‘Deane, Anne’ in James M Guire and James Quinn (eds) ‘Dictionary of Irish Biography.’ [xxiv]

An image of a Ladies Land League meeting plus the building of a hut may be viewed at this link. [xxv]

The following publications that reference Anna Deane may be of interest:

John Dillion Papers (Department of Manuscripts Trinity College Dublin)

The Western People’ 22nd  July 1905 also 9th  Dec. 1987.

Curtis Perry May / June 2011 ‘Three Oxford liberals and the Plan of Campaign in Donegal, 1889’ in ‘History Ireland’ xix.

Lyons  F.S.L 1968 ‘John Dillion: A Biography’ London.

Swords Liam 2004 ‘A dominant Church : the diocese of Achonry 1818 – 1960’ Dublin.

Accessed at this site:


[i]  Picking a President Anna Deane ( [assessed July 15th 2019]

[ii]  Information from Oliver Murphy June 2019

[iii]   Secret Bases – Anne Deane ( [assessed July 15th 2019]

[iv]  Picking a President Anna Deane ( [assessed July 15th 2019]

[v]  An Irishwoman’s Diary by Mary Gallagher ( [assessed July 15th 2019]

[vi]  Picking a President Anna Deane ( [assessed July 15th 2019]

[vii] Ibid.

[viii]  Dillon House Beara Breifne Way ( [assessed July 15th 2019]

[ix]  Picking a President Anna Deane ( [assessed July 16th 2019]

[x]  Ibid.

[xi] ‘My Irish Friends’  O’ Brien Sophie 1937  Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Dublin / London pages 106 -114)

[xii] Wreath Laying at the Tomb of Anne Deane ( [assessed 16th July 2019]

[xiii]  ‘The Irish Times’ 15th November 2004 Brendan O ‘Cathaoir [assessed 10th June 2019]

[xiv]  (Ballaghadeereen Past and Present Facebook Page ( ) [assessed June 10th 2019]

[xv]  Picking a President Anna Deane ( [assessed July 16th 2019]

[xvi] Full Text of the Irish Nation League 1879 -1881 ( [assessed July 16th 2019]

[xvii] Anne Deane obituary ( [assessed  June 10th 2019]

[xviii] Obituaries ( [assessed June 10th 2019]

[xix] Picking a President Anna Deane ( [assessed July 16th 2019]

[xx] My Irish Friends ( [assessed May 5th 2019]

[xxi] The Material for Victory ( ) [assessed 10th July 2019]

[xxii] John Dillon a Biography ( ) [assessed June 15th 2019]

[xxiii] Fanny and Anna Parnell ( ) [assessed June 25th 2019]

[xxiv] Dictionary of Irish Biography ( ) [assessed June 25th 2019]

[xxv]  Anne and Fanny Parnell ( ) [assessed June 25th 2019]


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