James Perry

Source: The Goodbodys: The Story of an Irish Quaker Family 1630-1950 by Michael Goodbody 2011

At the time of Griffiths Valuation (1855) James Perry owned over 2300 acres in the eight townlands of Ballygurrane North, Ballygurrane South, Ballygurrane West, Cuillairbawn, Gortnahown, Moonbaun, Newford and Park in the parish of Athenry. Who was James Perry and how did he come to own these lands?

Quaker Family

James Perry was a member of a Quaker family from Shanderry, Mountmellick, one of six sons of Henry Perry. He moved to Dublin and with his brothers, Henry and John, set up in business as ironmongers and hardware merchants there about 1820. The firm prospered and became major importers of metal goods from Britain. Having accumulated substantial cash surpluses they took over the Ringsend Iron Company. When railways appeared to be about to become a serious proposition for the movement of goods and people James took an active interest in their introduction to the country. He joined up with the Pim family to promote the Dublin & Kingstown railway. This was the first railway in Ireland and opened in 1834. As well as investing in the new company James Perry provided financial backing for William Dargan who was the main contractor and was subsequently responsible for constructing a major proportion of the 1,000 miles of track which had been opened by 1853. This made Perry a sizable fortune.


In 1854 James Perry was one of three investors in two coal mines at Gelsenkirchen in Germany costing about £1000 in total. To finance the development of these mines Perry brought in the very wealthy Malcolmson family and the mines started operating on Saint Patrick’s Day 1855.


In 1829 James and his brother, Henry, purchased a house called Obelisk Park in Stillorgan, Dublin. Set in 30 acres of grounds it was divided in two parts providing accommodation for the families of the two brothers. James and his wife, Hannah, had four children. When Henry died in 1848 his widow and family moved out and the house became the residence of the recently widowed James, his surviving son William and two daughters, Elizabeth and Hannah.

The Goodbody Connection

James Perry was a member of the Central Relief Committee. This consisted of twenty one prominent members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) set up in 1846 to gather information on the true state of affairs during the Great Famine and to raise and distribute funds. As a member of this committee he encountered Marcus Goodbody.

The Goodbodys were a Quaker family who played a dominant role in the development of Clara, County Offaly, in the 1850s.Three brothers, Marcus, Jonathan and Lewis, were partners in the milling business. They invested the considerable surplus income from milling in improving houses, purchasing large amounts of land and starting factories for weaving coarse linen and jute as well as building homes for their workers and a gasworks for the town lighting. Of the three brothers Marcus was considered the strategist, a shrewd investor not afraid to make decisions.

Marcus Goodbody, then 37 years old, married Hannah Perry in 1848. She was nineteen years old. The marriage settlement amounted to £10,700. By 1873 they had thirteen children and all lived to be adults. Her sister, Elizabeth, did not marry but assisted Hannah in the rearing of the Goodbody children.


In 1850 James Perry purchased the former Oranmore and Browne family estates at Athenry from the Encumbered Estates Court. Griffiths Valuation shows James Perry as the owner of 2337 acres in Athenry Parish in the townlands of Ballygurrane North, Ballygurrane South, Ballygurrane West, Cuilliarbawn, Gortnahown, Mooabaun, Newford and Park.

James Perry died in 1858. It is believed that his estate was worth at least £67,000   but was given as “under £60,000” in the official Wills and Administration register. The annual wage of a foreman in the jute factory at that time was £100.

William Pim Disinherited

His son, William, married Eliza Pim against his father’s wishes. Eliza was one of the daughters of James Pim. He was the secretary and treasurer of the Dublin & Kingstown Railway where Perry had long been a director and a founding shareholder. James Perry altered his will by codicil on 20th February 1858. As a result William was no longer to have a lifetime interest and over his father’s properties. Much of them were now to go to Hannah’s family. Marcus Goodbody inherited Pill Lane and Obelisk Park for life and these were then to pass to his and Hannah’s children. William was to inherit the Athenry estate provided that he did not marry Eliza Pim. If he persisted in defying his father he would not even get a life interest and it would go to Hannah’s second son James Perry Goodbody, then aged 5 years. However in a further codicil Lames disinherited William completely if he married Eliza.

William and Eliza were married in April 1859. While William took legal advice in regard to his father’s will an agreement was reached between him and Marcus Goodbody whereby the latter paid William £18,400 in full and final settlement in November 1859. William was involved in business and set up a brewery in Harold’ Cross, Dublin with a cousin. William lived in Mosstown, County Westmeath until 1866 and then in Obelisk Park until 1874. He died in 1891 being predeceased by Eliza in 1887.

The Railway Hotel in Athenry (now the headquarters of the Galway-Roscommon Education and Training Board, GRETB) was built in 1853 by James Perry having been designed by John Mulvany. 

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