Billy the Banker

Billy the Banker

William ‘Billy the Banker’ Perrott must be one the most frustratingly elusive characters in Perrott family history! Despite the fact that he appears to have been a financially successful and well-known character, 20 years of research have uncovered very little information about his life.

My great-great-grandfather William Perrott was born in Ardgehane near Timoleague in West Cork, Ireland in about 1809 and died in Timoleague on 10 October 1881. There is no record of his birth as most of the Irish records were destroyed during the civil war in 1922, and unfortunately there is very little record of his life.

Anecdotal information is that he came from the nearby townland of Ardgehane where there were many other Perrott families at the time, and that his grandparents may have been Matthew Perrot (d. 31 August 1830) and Susanna Pattison from Ardgehane Strand whose grave is in Timoleague cemetery. It is said that William had 3 brothers who all emigrated to America during the Irish potato famine.

William married Jane Jeffcot from Kilshannig, Mallow in 1838 and they lived in Abbeymahon just outside Timoleague, in a farm-house overlooking the river. The Primary Valuation of Ireland Tenure Book for 1847 shows that the property consisted of 33 acres of land with 6 outbuildings, leased from the Ladies Boyle who owned much of the land in this area of Cork. William and Jane had seven children, all baptised in the Church of Ireland parish of Abbeymahon: Elizabeth (26 May 1839), Thomasina (30 May 1841), my great-grandfather John William (5 March 1843), Arthur (5 December 1844), William (13 December 1846), Thomas (January 1849) and Robert (November 1852).

Despite the fact that Thomasina – who pre-deceased her father – and Arthur are buried in a large family plot in Timoleague Church of Ireland cemetery with other members of their family, there is no indication that William and Jane are buried here. In fact, there are no existing Church records of his baptism, marriage or burial.

One of the few legal records that mention William is a deed dated 1875 that confirms and legitimises the grant of land to his sons John William (Baurleigh), Arthur (Meelin), Thomas (Silverhill) and Robert (Lislevane) along with further property and land in Courtmacsherry and Ardgehane. This all appears to be property that William had accumulated during his lifetime, so he was undoubtedly a very successful businessman. William’s nickname of ‘Billy the Banker’ has been passed down over the years, but in common with much of his life there is no record of him ever owning or working in a bank. In fact, other than the grant of land to his sons there is no record of any deeds of mortgage or loans made to his clients in the Registry of Deeds. It could also just have been a nickname derived from his shrewd business practices, as he certainly seems to have accumulated a great deal of property by the time of the 1875 deed. However, a relative of mine who has since died said that she remembers there being a big brass safe in an outhouse referred to as the ‘bank’ when she was a child.

Another intriguing fact is that there was a tunnel from William’s house running 300m under the fields from the back of the house to the old Cork Road. I have been to the house and seen the entrance to the tunnel, which was filled in during the lifetime of the present owner. Whether this tunnel was an escape route during turbulent times in Ireland or a means of conducting illicit business is open to conjecture, but it all adds to the mystery that surrounds ‘Billy the Banker’.

Considering that he appears to have been a well-known character and successful businessman I have been able to find out very little about William ‘Billy the Banker’ Perrott, and I would be very grateful for any more information!

‘Billy the Banker’s house at Abbeymahon, near Timoleague

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