A Blast from The Past

Surfing the internet, I came across an article that I wrote in October  1986, exactly 30 years ago, which is copied below.  How strange to recall the months of research, the frustration of closed libraries and inaccessible records, the clacking typewriter and the eternal Tippex!  It was not until 1988 that my wife bought a Commodore 64, with a dot matrix printer.   Now I have Windows 10 and 50 Mbps – what joy!

Strangely not a lot has changed in Laois.  Several houses have been partly or fully brought back to life such as Knightsbrook, near Portarlington, Knockatrina at Durrow, and Brittas Castle.  Thomas Dobson  has restored elegance to Glenmalire and Sir David Davies has turned Abbeyleix into a temple to Wyatt.   Ray Simmons has made Woodbrook at Portarlington quite wonderful.  Several other houses have changed hands – hoteliers have replaced the church at Ballyfin and Durrow Castle.  John Hurt has left Ballintubbert, which is at present a wedding venue.   Capard has been through a couple of owners and now John Farrington’s elegant restoration is being redone to make it, reputedly, even smarter than Ballyfin (surely not possible?).  But there are still Hamiltons at Moyne, Cosbys at Stradbally,  Walsh-Kemmis’ at Ballykilcavan and Blands at Blandsfort.

County Houses of Laois

Laois, according to the Victorian travel writers Mr. and Mrs. Hall possesses no features of distinguishing character and may be so dismissed. As they speed from Dublin to Limerick and Cork modern travellers notice nothing of Laois except the quality of the main roads. But if they venture a mile or two off the highway and onto the byways they will find some of Ireland’s finest architectural heritage, from the simple charm of Cecil Day Lewis’s childhood home at Ballintubbert House, near Stradbally, now the home of actor John Hurt, to the ruined magnificence of the O’Dunnes Brittas Castle. There are half a dozen houses in Laois which qualify for the description of stately home, massive mansions surrounded by great parks and once furnished with the finest antiques and paintings. There are at least two dozen houses of national architectural importance, and there are countless smaller homes built for the strong farmers of the 18th century which have a charm and character that make them uniquely appealing.

Though once home of the wild chieftains, Laois’ rich lands, mineral resources and geographical importance meant that from the 16th century colonists had sought land here. The O’Moores, Magiollopadraigs and O’Dunnes were harassed by the seven tribes -Hartepole, Cosby, Bowen, Barrington, Ruish, Hetherington , and Hovenden. They were followed a century later by the Piggots, Cootes, Priors, Parnells, Poles and Cuffes. While traditionally the big houses have been identified with English ascendancy it is worth remembering that many who were rich and Protestant were actually Irish, like the Fitzpatrick’s of Grantstown and the Dunnes who built the battlement-ed sandstone mansion Brittas Castle to the design of McCurdie in 1869.

Conversely many English and Norman settlers remained Catholics and became “more Irish than the Irish” in the words of one frustrated Viceroy. It also comes as a surprise to many to discover that most of the “Big Houses” were in the eighteenth century considered to be farmhouses, surrounded not by thousands of acres and a multitude of tenants but farming four or five hundred acres – the middle classes of their day. Indeed some of the most remarkable of Laois men came from houses which would be modest even by today’s standards – hardly a stone remains of Sir Jonah Barrington’s house at Cullenagh near Timahoe, but it was certainly no mansion. His birthplace, in 1760, was Knapton House which was rebuilt in 1770 by Colonel Piggot and apparently inhabited by the Vesey family while their house was under construction.

Dr. Bartholomew Mosse’s home between Portlaoise and Stradbally is now only marked by a forestry plantation. Patrick and James Fintan Lalor’s home, Tinakill near Shanahoe stands in ruins, a modest late 18th century two stories house three bays wide with an attic storey squeezed in under the caves, similar to the nearby Fruitlawn House which was once the agent’s house for the Abbeyleix estate.

Few of the unfortified dwellings built before 1720 remain. The ivy clad chimney stacks of Castle Cuffe near Clonaslee show how ill prepared Sir Charles Coote was for the rebels who destroyed it in 1641. Near the Green Cross Roads, north of Ballybrophy stands the empty shell of a mid 17th century house while at Rush Hall on the main road from Mountrath to Roscrea are the ruins of another larger 17th century house.

At Aghaboe a barn building was once a late 17th century residence and had till recently traces of a spiral stone staircase and plaster panelling. To the south of Durrow is Edmonsbury which with it’s massive chimney stacks and high pitched roof probably dates from the very early 1700’s, a similar date to Raheenduff near Stradbally which is a two storey house with windows. Shrule Castle, on the Carlow borders, which was the principal seat of the Hartlepoles and home of the historian William Lecky was demolished in the 1940s. All that remains is the 16th century tower house with a chimney piece dated 1576 and the initials R.H.

The first country house of importance that still stands in close to its original condition is Castle Durrow. Colonel William Fowler started the present house around 1712 and it is one of the few 18th century houses for which precise building records survive. In 1714 a slater called Andrew Moore of Ballyragget was engaged in roofing but his work was so bad that in 1722 his work had to be redone. Some things never change!

By 1714 the windows were being glazed by Francis Trumbull but work was still underway in 1726 when John Rudd was paid £21 for 229.5 yards of oak wainscot and 10.25 yards of floor for the dining room and in 1737 Trumbull was still glazing. The mason who provided the pinkish grey cut limestone from which the house is built was Benjamin Demane of Kilkenny. In 1922 the banks foreclosed and the Viscount Ashbrooke went to England. The house has been very well maintained by the Presentation Nuns, but most of the original decoration is long since gone. However a couple of rooms have retained their panelling and the room to the left of the hall still has the 1717 plasterwork of Thomas Lett and John Thompson – geometrical borders, heavy baskets filled with flowers and rosette and shell motifs.

As a piece of pure architecture Summer Grove is probably one of the finest examples in the country. John Sabatier, a Hugenot, bought the land in December 1736 and the house was apparently built by 1748, though the interior detailing may not have been finished until a decade later. The facade has all the elements of classical architecture – a Gibbsian doorcase below a Venetian window with, in the pediment, a Diocletian window, while the front of the house is of two storeys a triple doored screen in the hall leads down to the kitchens and up to bedrooms on three levels, giving large high ceilinged rooms at the front of the house and cosier chambers at the back. The front of the building is constructed from very small cut stone blocks.

Nearby on the side of the Slieve Blooms is Capard House, overlooking the Quaker village of Rosenallis. Capard is an immensely impressive neo-classical house built by John Pigott. Poor Mr. Pigott, he started the house with great notions of grandeur. It was to be “one of the most extensive mansions in the kingdom, extending upwards of 220 feet”. Built from limestone quarried on the estate, Pigott’s intention was to create wealth and employment in the area. His plan was to triple the size of an existing house built in 1742, which itself had replaced Sir John Dowdall’s 16th century tower house. However he took the rebellion of 1798 as a personal plight and gave up his ambitious plans when they were only half completed, moving to England for a decade.

For all its grandeur there were very few large rooms -the servants block to the north, under which runs a mountains stream, is as big as the many house. Painted on the wall of the staircase hall is a family tree of the Pigotts, just in case they should ever forget who they were. In the yard is a sawmill dating from about 1750. It is a charming building in pure Palladian style.

In similar style, but on a scale that is truly magnificent is Ballyfin, described by Mark Bence Jones in his guide to Irish Country Houses as the grandest and most lavish 19th century house in Ireland. The original house of the Poles is illustrated in Milton’s Views of Seats and was the home of the Duke of Wellington’s brother but he sold it in 1821 and Sir Charles Coote employed an architect called Dominick Madden to design a new mansion. When the first stage of the house had been completed he called in Sir Richard and William Morrison, the most fashionable architects of the day, to complete the work. The front of the house, built of cut local sandstone, is thirteen bays or windows wide, in the middle of which is a massive Ionic portico.

The front hall has ben described as an austere room, with a roman mosaic floor, but beyond it is a vast rectangular top lit saloon with screens of composite Ionic columns, an inlaid floor and a coved ceiling entrusted with plasterwork more ornate than any wedding cake. There is a green and gild music room with carved and gilded musical instruments in panels on the walls and a wonderful white marble fireplace, its shelf held up by statues of two muscular Romans. The West end of the house is entirely taken up with a 70 foot long library, with a large bow window half way along, opposite the door. From the library one can go out into Richard Turner’s elegant 1850’s conservatory. Turner also made the conservatory at Glasnevin and Kew.

The grounds are as superb as the house, having been laid out by the distinguished Irish landscape gardener John Sutherland, who worked for both the Pole and the Cootes. His coup de grace is the medieval round castle, complete with turrets, moat and drawbridge. In 1929 Sir Ralph Coote sold the house and 600 acres for £10,000 to the patrician Brothers who use it as a school.

Another house associated with an internationally famous name is Woodbrook near Portarlington. It was built in 1712 by Knightly Chetwoode with the help and advice of his friend Dean Swift. Nothing to do with a sylvan stream, its name is a combination of Chetwoode and Brooking, his wife’s maiden name. Damaged during the rebellion of 1798, a new front was added in 1815 with inlaid oak floors and a vaulted ceiling. The drawing room has superb murals by E. Hayes of various Highland castles, painted to honour the Scottish bride of a mid 19th century Chetwoode.

It had until a recent demolition a four storey polygonal tower from which the surrounding countryside could be surveyed and an 18th century galleried kitchen, from which the mistress of the house could observe the cook’s labours. The delightful wooded parkland including an avenue of trees planted by Swift and a long canal also planned by the Dean was cleared away in the name of progress.

Not all the important Laois houses are enormous. Mount Henry at Portarlington, now a Presentation convent, was built in about 1820 for Henry Smyth to the designs of Richard Morrison. It is a square two storey house with a later wing. A porticoed front door is set back between symmetrical bays. The stone floored front hall has a screen of columns and a small circular gallery lets in light from a roof lantern. On the other hand another Laois House that Morrison worked on was Emo Court, which is massive. Emo, a corruption of the Irish townland name Imoe, replaced Lord Carlow’s earlier house, Dawson’s Court.

In 1790 his son, the Earl of Portarlington, commissioned James Gandon, of The Customs House and Four Courts fame, to design the house, but it was not completed until 1860 when the great copper domed rotunda was put on by the Dublin architect William Caldbeck. In the intervening years the English architect Lewis Vuklliamy had completed the garden front giving it the giant portico and a Dublin architect called Williamson had done up the interiors.

In the late 19th century it nearly became the home of Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, who knew Laois well from his friendship with Barney Fitzpatrick, Lord Castletown. However it was not sold until 1930 when it became a Jesuit seminary. It was then that various naked classical statues were dumped in the lake, lest they distract the meditations of the seminarians.

In 1969 it was brought by Mr. Chomeley-Harrison who has since restored it and executed several of the various designers’ original intentions that were never carried out, such as Gandon’s trompe I’oeils in the entrance hall. Generally decoration is quite restrained throughout the house – the beautifully proportioned drawing room with its bow window has nothing more exotic than two pairs of marble columns. A circular dining room has an ornate ceiling, but the central rotunda is the piece de resistance.

A circular room with an intricately inlaid wooden floor, marbled plasters rising the full height to the dome above and plaster panels on the walls, it is an astonishing space.

Gandon’s great rival was Wyatt and it was to Wyatt that Thomas Vesey turned in 1773 to design a new house at Abbeyleix. An impressive block of a house it is 7 bays wide and 3 storeys over a basement. Inside the ceilings and walls are decorated with Wyatt’s classical plasterwork, while the drawing room is hung with a beautiful 19th century blue wall paper.

The formal gardens were laid out in 1839 by Lady Emma Herbert and based on her memories of her Russian grandfather’s garden at Alupka, near Yalta in the Crimea, though at Abbeyleix a pond replaces the spread of the sea.

Local tradition has it that a Russian relation of hers planted the poplars that line the road to Ballacolla. A disgraceful story told of Abbeyleix is that at a family christening in the 19th century the entire company became very inebriated before the ceremony. Driving the short distance to the church in an open carriage they upended themselves in a ditch. In the ensuing confusion Lady de Vesci’s pet terrier was wrapped in the swaddling clothes instead of the baby and duly christened in the church.

Another tale of Abbeyleix relates to Arthur McMurrough Kavanagh of Borris who despite being born with no arms or legs managed to live a full life as explorer, sportsman and politician. Arriving at Abbeyleix station one day for a shoot, the station master, as he helped to lift him off the train, said, “Welcome back to Abbeyleix, Mr. Kavanagh”. Later in the day while shooting with one of the guns that he had specially adapted to strap onto his shoulders, Kavanagh commented “Amazing, I have not been here for over 15 years and the station master recognised me!”. Abbeyleix remains as fine a house as ever.

Rathleague House, near Portlaoise the home of the Parnells has not faired so well for in the 18th century it was described as being one of the finest mansions in the country whose “well ornamented pleasure grounds boasted a conspicuous temple”. The Parnell responsible for the improvements was a great socialite but was born dumb. His nephew, Charles Stewart Parnell, had no such problems!

By the 1840’s the house had fallen into considerable disrepair and the present house is but a pale shadow of the mansion that once stood there. It’s neighbour, Sheffield, a mid 18th century three storey gable ended house of the Casan family with a door case identical to Roundwood, has completely disappeared. Stradbally Hall is still the home of the Cosbys, the only one of the Queens County tribes to have survived in their ancestral lands until the 20th century.

Described by Brewer in his Antiquities of Ireland in 1826 as a commodious and eligible mansion, the first house was an O’Moore fortified tower which was obtained by the Cosbys during the reign of Queen Mary. This first Cosby fell in battle with the O’Byrnes at the age of 70 in 1580 having built himself a new castle with the stones of a Franciscan Friary.

The house was enlarged in 1714 and a new front was added sometime after 1740, possibly to the designs of John Aheron, but in 1772 everything was demolished. The new house was built under the direction of one Arthur Roberts. This was the building which was enlarged and reclad to the designs of Sir Charles Lanyon in 1866-69. Inside there are some rooms with their original simple late 18th century plasterwork and others, like the top lit gallery at the head of the oak staircase, display the height of Victoriana with pink marble columns and elaborate decorative details. Sir Jonah Barrington has a delightful account of a dinner party at Stradbally at which a certain half blind Dr. Jenkins was sitting next to his host, Admiral Cosby.

Mistaking the admirals gnarled brown fist for a bread roll he thrust his fork into it with uproarious consequences. Just outside Stradbally is Ballykilcavan, the home of the Walsh Kemmis family. It’s most famous occupant was actually a member of the staff – William Robinson (1838-1937). He was born in Stradbally and became head gardener at Ballykilcavan. His book, “The Wild Garden”, published in 1870, was a reaction against the Victorian formal garden and brought about the fashion for the more naturalistic borders of the cottage garden – “unadorned nature” was his style. He left Ballykilcavan in 1861 having had a violent row with his employer and on the night he left he extinguished all the heaters in the greenhouses and opened the windows so that the following morning the entire collection of tropical plants were dead. The land was bought from the Hartepoles in 1639 by the Walshs of the Mountain, a Kilkenny clan.

The present house incorporates the late 17th century house built by the second Walsh to live there but it was enlarged and modernised both at the beginning and the end of the 18th century, though the latter improvements were never completed due to the rebellion of 1798. Gracefield which is also in the east of the county, was the seat of the Grace family, whose name was originally Le Gros – “the fat”. From 1785 to 1814 Gracefield was unoccupied and the early 18th century house fell into severe disrepair. Nash, the prince regent’s architect was commissioned to design a new house, William Robertson overseeing the work.

A contemporary description still accurate: “It’s varied outline, irregular exterior, and the gothic labels over the windows give it an animated and picturesque character”. It cost £5,000 to build at a time when skilled masons and carpenters were being paid 12.5p a day, while labourers got 5 pence. Sutherland, who was working at Ballyfin, laid out the gardens.

Heywood at Ballinakill still has fabulous gardens. It was built in 1773 Frederick Trench, the only man, according to Mark Bence Jones, ever to name a house after his mother-in-law for Heywood was his mother-in-law’s maiden name. Trench was an amateur architect who had worked with Richard Johnston on the Assembly Rooms next to the Rotunda Hospital.

There is some suggestion that Gandon may have given him some advice on the design of the house as well. The original four bay three storey house has superb Adamesque decoration in the dining room. It was subsequently enlarged in Victorian railway station style in the 1870s and in 1879 and 1880 hosted the Empress Elizabeth of Austria who came to Ireland for the hunting.

Trench devoted great care and attention to the layout and he transported a window form Aghaboe Abbey to create a gothic folly on the avenue. Heywood passed to the Poe family, (cousins of Edgar Allen Poe), and in 1906 William Hutchenson Poe commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens to design the compartmental gardens.

Terraces, pergolas with ionic columns, a yew garden and an elliptical pool with loggia are all features of the layout, which is the finest early 20th century garden in Ireland. The cost was far in excess of the estimate and although Poe paid up, his influence on Lutyens extravagance nearly lost Luteyns the job of building New Delhi. Close to Heywood is Blandsfort. This house was built on the ruins of an O’Moore keep in 1715 and some rooms still have bolection moulded panelling from that period.

The gardens are by James Fraser, an early 19th century Scottish gardener who was a great influence in breaking away form the Capability Brown type of parkland naturalism. There is also on the demesne an important conifer arboretum.

Another Bland family house is Rath House which was the home of the Dease family from Westmeath from 1838. They intermarried with the Grattans and Blands. A classical house of the early 1800s, it has two storeys over a basement, an oval entrance hall and a fine library or drawing room with ornate plasterwork. There is a Victorian conservatory and a small gothic chapel.

Grantstown Manor also had a chapel in the 1800s. However much of this late Georgian and Victorian house was destroyed by fire in 1977. It was the home of Barney Fitzpatrick, second and last Lord Castletown, who remodelled it. Lord Castletown was a passionate sportsman and entertained Edward VII to duck shooting here. It was finally sold out of the Fitzpatrick family in 1947.

During the War of Independence the I.R.A. came knocking one evening looking for guns. Lord Castletown was reputed to have come to an arrangement with his gamekeeper, who was in the I.R.A.The gamekeeper kept custody of the guns but whenever a days shooting was required they would be available, so the search of the house was fruitless. However he had a long chat with the men, who were not locals, in Irish, much to their surprise, and tried to persuade them to join his family in a rubber of bridge, an invitation they declined on the grounds that their masks might alarm the ladies!

Within sight of Grantstown is Cuffesborough, a distinguished but typical example of the homes of the prosperous middle class farmers of the 18th century. It has a drawing room, a dining room, with a concealed cupb6ard behind the shutters for the chamber pot which was much used after dinner, four bedrooms and a barrack room – a large room where all the guests slept in dormitory conditions. The house has pretensions of great grandeur – the front hall was originally decorated in faux stone blocks alternate white and grey oblongs spattered to give them the look of masonry. The basement is built of rubble stone but when the builders got to the ground floor windows they changed to cut stone blocks – presumably a cheap source of cut stone must have been discovered.  The 400 acre estate got its name from a 16th century vicar of Abbeyleix, one of the first Cuffes in Ireland. In the 1760s it was bought by the young Henry Grattan as , to use today’s terminology “a non residential farm”. Like many a modern speculator he built the house and yards and sold it on at a profit. It was bought by the Palmers from whom the show jumper Lucinda Prior Palmer is descended, but when the family moved up to Mayo a Dublin auctioneer called Cuffe acquired it so that he became Mr. Cuffe of Cuffesborough. Sadly when the land commission divided the lands it was allowed to fall into ruin but was rescued at the eleventh hour. During the restoration it was discovered that many of the rooms had been redecorated only once in the last 200 years!  <NB – some of this information is incorrect and has been revised in light of later research.  See separate entry for Cuffsborough>

Grattan undertook several such developments in Laois but his closest tie with the county is at Dunrally. Awarded £50,00 in the 1780s by the Irish government for his services to the country (in those days politicians were not paid), he bought a considerable portion of the Cosby ‘s estate. On the banks of the Barrow he built a house within an old fort at Dunrally. Judging from the ruins that remain this can never have been more than a cottage for picnics and indeed he called it his hermitage.

Near Cuffesborough is Aghaboe, which was once a city of 1,300 dwellings. In the 1770s only one stone house is marked which appears from Taylor & Skinner’s maps to have been used as the rectory of Dr. Ledwich, the noted antiquarian.

A rectory was built in 1820 and the old house became the home of a branch of the White family whose homes included Coolnagpor at Coolrain, Ballybrophy or Court Plunket House, (the present ruin near the railway station is an early 19th century two storey over basement five bay house of rendered rubblestone with cut stone pediments over the ground floor windows and a doorway with a wide fanlight sheltered by a porch supported on two pairs of doric columns which they rented from the Duke of Chandos and Buckingham), Raheen at Borris and Knocknatrina, the splendid Tudor-gothic above Durrow.

Aghaboe was the birthplace of General White, who commanded the 17th lancers in the Crimea and whose ghost is said to walk the Abbey Field. Aghaboe has gone through many metamorphoses. The old barn to the North and a section of the present house were originally a pair of 17th century houses with identical plans and window layouts. In the mid 18th century a new front of two storeys over basement was added and then in the mid 19th century the house was turned around to face South and the 18th century doorcase was moved to the back of the 17th century house. Aghaboe also stood empty for many years, its woodwork vandalised, its Adamesque black marble fireplaces stolen. Fortunately however it too has found a saviour and is in the course of being restored.

Roundwood at Mountrath was another house which looked set to sink into ruin before the Irish Georgian Society and the late Brian Molloy undertook it’s restoration in 1970. Although once attributed to Francis Bindon, the actual architect of Roundwood is still shrouded in mystery. It is typical of that type of house classed by the architectural historian Maurice Craig as being a classic Irish house of the middle size. As at Cuffesborough and Aghaboe the carved stone doorcase is of a different quality from the rest of the stone work. It is a nice idea that in the 18th century you could go to the local hardware store and select your particular door case from the pattern books.

It was built around 1750 for Mr. Flood Sharp, a wool merchant, the front in cut stone, the sides in rendered rubble stone. It has four rooms on each floor with a grand Chinese Chippendale galleried staircase leading to the first floor while the top floor is served only by the modest back stairs. It has cellars rather than a basement and the kitchens, normally to be found in the basement, were in the range of building which remained from the original late 17th/early18th century house.

Roundwood is now the home of Frank and Rosemary Kennan who run it as a most excellent country house hotel, despite the odd ghostly child in the bushes or tombstone in the stables. Sadly many of the country house of Laois are either in an advanced state of dereliction or have disappeared for ever. There are places like the Adair’s Bellegrove, Ballybrittas a U shaped Regency house which had an Italianate Romanesque winter garden designed by Sir Thomas Deane, the most talented late 19th century architect working in Ireland. The pillars he copied from the basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.

J.G. Adair rose to infamy when he evicted all the tenants from his Donegal estate at Glenveigh Castle, though the grandson of one of the tenants having made his fortune in America bought the estate back in 1938. Bellegrove was burnt and then finally demolished in 1970. Ballyshaneduff or The Derries stood next door. It was built in 1810 on the site of an O’Dempsey tower for the Alloway family. Remodelled and rebuilt in the mid 19th century it ended up two hundred feet long with battlements, pointed doors and windows. It must have been an impressive place. Now there are only trees there.

Brockley Park at Stradbally was a targe three storey house built in 1768 for the Earl of Roden by Davis Ducart, the Sardinian architect who designed some of the finest houses in Munster. It had superb plasterwork but in 1944 it was dismantled and more recently completely destroyed. Coolrain House is in ruins, amid 18th century cut stone, pedimented two storey gabled ended house which had a formal canal and a ha-ha in the grounds. Dunmore House at Durrow was a three storey gable ended house of the 1700s demolished within the last twenty years.

Glenmalire House at Ballybrittas stands empty and in need. A fine Regency two storey over basement cut stone house it was built by the Trench family on the site of a Fitzgerald castle. There was Old Derig, near Carlow, once home to John Doyle, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, a fine three storey house of the 1740s, Thornberry House, Abbeyleix, The Croker’s late 18th century five bay house with a wide fanlit doorway in a projecting bow. There was Phillipsborough, a fine three storey house with excellent details and a round panelled front door, a design usually associated with Limerick. It became hard-core in the 1980s.

The walls of the servant’s attics at Phillipsboro was decorated in graffiti libelling the Phillips’ and dating back to the 18th century. Farmleigh House “built with great taste and judgement” by William Pigot in the 1790s and Annagrove Abbey have gone and Donore, the home of the Despard family is no more than a romantic shell. Designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, the architect responsible for Castletown House, Ceibridge. Knoghtstown, is a very fine two storey house with a cut stone pedimented doorcase, a Venetian window and some interesting mid 18th century joinery. Now it serves as a nest for rooks and rats.

From Garrydenny Castle on the Carlow-Kilkenny border to the ruinous Landsdowne Park, a once elegant and much enlarged home of the Moore family, Earls of Drogheda overlooking the Barrow on the Kildare-Offaly border, fromBrittas Castle in the Slieve Blooms to Erke Rectory on the Tipperary-Kilkenny border in the South, the catalogue of Laois’s lost or ruined houses has over 70 entries.

 

Royal Scandals, Foreigners & Fundamentalists.

Edmundsbury House, Newtown

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Five-bay two-storey early-Georgian house, built c.1740. Extended, c.1990, comprising three-bay single-storey wing. Double-pitched slate roof with nap rendered chimneystacks. Roughcast rendered walls, painted, with rendered quoins. Square-headed window openings with limestone sills, six-over-six timber sash windows to front and single-pane timber sash windows to rear. Square-headed door opening with limestone doorcase with segmental pediment over and timber panelled door. Interior not inspected. Set back from road in own grounds; landscaped grounds to site. Pair of freestanding stone towers to site on circular plans. Group of detached outbuildings to site.  The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is rather restrained. Not enthusing about its early features – the massive chimney stacks and high pitched roof.   I have not seen inside, but  Dominic Hamilton recalled that it had raised and fielded panelling covered by hardboard.  The OS 6” map marks  a Cerses statue ( Goddess of agriculture, grain crops, & fertility) on the park in front of the house (gone by the time the 25” map was done 50 years later) and the turrets are most interesting – They do not appear on the earlier map. so are not likely to be the  remnants of a bawn, but maybe of a 19th century gardening scheme?

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The house was built by  Edmund Butler in the reign of King George II, at about the time that his wife Queen Caroline died (on her deathbed in 1737, she urged he husband to marry again.  He is said to have tearfully answered “No, I’ll have mistresses.” )   The other famous quote attributed to George II, which might be echoed by Ireland’s present Department of Regional Development,  Rural Affairs, Gaeltcht, Arts and Heritage, was “I hate bainting, and boetry too!  Neither the one nor the other ever did any good.”

The genealogy of the Butler’s of Edmundsbury is summarised in  Kilpatrick’s chapel at Augustinian  Fertagh Priory,  which is beside the Round Tower on the back road from Galmoy to the Johnstown Road.  It is also known as Beggar’s  Inn.    There are  monuments to Mrs. Elizabeth Butler of Wilton, who died in 1817, aged 75 ; and her father-in-law, Mr. Edmund Butler of Edmundsbury, who died in 1759, aged 62, and his wife Anne Skellerin of Chester  who died in 1787, aged 87,  dau of Rev. Hugh Skellern of Killeshandra.  Carrigan writes that “ The said Edmund Butler, of Edmundsbury House, Newtown, Currow, ancestor of William Butler, Esq., J. P., Wilton, became a Protestant in 1719. He was son of Major Pierce Butler, of Mustard’s Garden, Fertagh, died circa 1716  (Mustard’s Garden was also known as Steepleview House and dated from before 1655, in which year it appears on the Down Survey as a ” chimney ” house.  It was still standing at the end of the 18th Century when the Rev John Cody, PP of Johnstown, died there.) ; son of Major Edmond Butler of Killashoolan, slain at Aughrim, fighting on the side of King James, in 1691 ; son of Pierce Butler of Barrowmount (between Goresbridge and Duiske Abbey) who was executed in England, as a royalist, in 1650 ; son of Sir Edmond Butler of Barrowmount, who was raised to the Peerage as Lord Galmoy, in 1646, and died in 1653 ; son of Pierce Butler of the Old Abbey (died in 1603), an illegitimate son of Thomas, 10th Earl of Ormond, The Black Earl”    Black Tom fathered 11 children but unfortunately no sons who reached adulthood by any of his three wives.  James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond, was known as “The White Earl”  Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond,  was known as “The Wool Earl”;  Piers Butler the 8th Earl was known as The Red Earl.   Some suggest that Black Tom won his spurs and possibly his nickname when suppressing the rebellion against Queen Mary of Sir Thomas Wyatt, called White Tom.

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The Round Tower at Fertagh

The Tudorplace website recites the highly improbable but amusing rumour about Pierce Butler:-
His [Thomas’, 10th Earl of Ormond] will so favoured his eldest illegitimate son, Piers, as to suggest that the mother of Piers of Duiske was someone of great importance. Indeed, there is not lacking
circumstantial evidence to support the persistent and rather startling rumour that the Virgin Queen bore him Piers Butler of Duiske, the father of Edmund, 1st Viscount Galmoy.  Towards the end of 1553 she had the opportunity to conceive Piers Butler; in Feb 1554 she was said to be pregnant at Ashbridge. In May, when offered physicians at Woodstock, she announced: ‘I am not minded to make any stranger privy to the state of my body but commit it to God’.

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Black Tom

Pierce was married to Catherine Flemming, the daughter and co heir of Thomas Flemming, 16th Baron Slane, and his wife Catherine Preston, daughter of Lord Gormanston, all old Catholic families.

In  1787 Ann Butler, the relict of John Butler of Edmonsdbury, died – John was presumably a brother of Edward.

Edward Butler’s sister Anne married  James Scott of Annegrove

In November 1 759, the year of his father’s death, Edward Butler (1732-1816) of Edmundsbury married Sarah Harrington of Baltinglass,  daughter and heiress  of Anderson Harrington of Grange Con    (Dublin Prerogative Marriage Licenses).  Strangely the marriage settlement was dated 15 December 1763.   He married secondly in 1766 Mary Walsh (bur 18.01.1815,) dau of Rev. John Walsh of Kilcooly. He and Mary Walsh had 3 sons and 3 daughters.   He was practising  as an Attorney in the King’s Bench and Exchequer Courts before 1793.   An attorney was one who practiced civil law- contracts, torts, and property.  In the 19th century the various para-legals all were branded as solicitors.  A lawyer  referred to one who practiced public law- Criminal and Constitutional; A counselor refers to one of the many roles lawyers/attorneys serve. They are not there only to advocate for their clients in a trial; they are also there to give advice and counsel their clients.   A barrister is a person called to the bar and entitled to practise as an advocate, particularly in the higher courts.

Their son Edmond Butler of Edmundsbury (d before 08.10.1815)  m. (c04.1794) Frances Madden (d 1834, dau of Rev.Samuel Madden of Kilkenny)

Edmond and Frances had 5 children, and their eldest Reverend Piers Edmund Butler married Mary, the daughter of Henry Sheares,  lawyer and United Irishman, who was executed after the 1798 rising.  Their descendants include Judge Butler-Sloss.  Their daughter Catherine married  Reverend Wilberforce Caulfeild, the great great grandson of the 2nd Viscount Charlemont, and the great grandfather of the 14th Viscount, such are the vagaries of inheritance.

In  1827  the Freeman’s Journal advertised:- To let house & demesne of Edmundsbury, 82a, 2 m of Durrow, 6 of Johnstown, adjoining coach road from Dublin to Cork (by Cashel), .

In 1837 Lewis notes that it was the seat of   Capt. E. C.Thompson, probably one of the Thompsons of Durrow, Harriston and Borris Castle.  Beyond a couple of references to him in Hart’s Army List little is known of his life.

Piers Butler and Mary Sheares’ son Reverend Piers Butler was born on 27 February 1826.  He married Sophia Lever on 15 January 1852.1 He died on 18 November 1886 at age 60.
He graduated from Trinity College in 1850 and from 1851 to 1853 was the curate at Southrepps in Norfolk.  He leased Edmundsbury for 51 years to John Hungerford Switzer on 29 November 1856

The Switzers, who lived there till the 1920s, came from Farrenmurray, just to the North of Johnstown, on the West of the main road.  They were descended from Christopher Switzer, buried in Kilcooly Church of Ireland, who was born in 1716 who was probably a son of Michael Switzer of Rathkeale;   James Switzer, a Quaker philanthropist, who built the barracks and Switser’s Asylum on the Bennetsbridge road in Kilkenny and whose descendant founded the department store in Grafton Street now occupied by Brown Thomas, was probably also a descendant of Christopher.

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St James’ Asylum, Kilkenny           Picture courtesy NIAH

Hans Jacob Schweitzer was born in 1620, in Assenheim, Pfalz am Rhein, Germany.  One of his six sons was Johann Jacob Schweitzer (1656-1746) whose children were Michael  Schweitzer born, 1681 and Christopher Schweitzer, born 1686.   1688 saw the first shots of the Nine Years War between Louis XIV of France and the Grand Alliance of the rest of Europe – the Battle of the Boyne was a side show in this war as was King William’s War in North America, between French and English settlers.  Louis XIV had pretensions in the Palatinate in the name of his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Charlotte.  Realising that the war in Germany was not going to end quickly and that the Rhineland blitz would not be a brief and decisive parade of French glory, Louis resolved upon a scorched-earth policy in the Palatinate, Baden and Württemberg, intent on denying enemy troops local resources and prevent them from invading French territory.

On 2 March 1689 Count of Tessé torched Heidelberg; on 8 March Montclar levelled Mannheim. Oppenheim and Worms were finally destroyed on 31 May, followed by Speyer on 1 June, and Bingen on 4 June. In all, French troops burnt over 20 substantial towns as well as numerous villages.  The peasants struggled on, but a disastrous winter in 1708 destroyed most of their vines, and agents from America, particularly the Carolinas, were active in trying to promote emigration to the New World.

Some 13,000 Germans migrated to England between May and November 1709, hoping to get to America. Their arrival in England, and the inability of the British Government to integrate them, caused a highly politicized debate over the merits of immigration. The English tried to settle them in England, Ireland and the Colonies.

The Tories and members of the High Church Party were dismayed by the numbers of “Poor Palatines” amassing in the fields of Southeast London. Long-standing opponents of naturalization, the Tories condemned the Whig assertions that the immigrants would be beneficial to the economy, as they were already an acute financial burden.

Michael  Switzer had procured a passport signed by the court on May 4, 1709. The passport basically stated that he was born in the Village of Assenheim, near Hochdorf, and that he should be given safe passage to seek his fortune in Pennsylvania in the Americas.  The trip to the Dutch coast took 4 to 6 weeks.   By early June the immigrants where flocking into Rotterdam.   A few Dutch ship owners where commissioned by the Duke of Marlborough, whom Queen Anne had made responsible for transporting the displaced Germans to England.  “Good Queen Anne” and her commissioners thought that surely all these convinced Protestants would strengthen the anti-Roman feeling in Britain.

The sailing ships from Rotterdam landed at Deptford near London.   Michael and his family were sent to refugee camps at Blackheath upon arrival in England, June 2, 1709.  Each family was presented with a 9 pound loaf of bread as “white as fallen snow” – a curiosity to the Germans who were used only to dark bread.

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Contemporary Woodcut, showing the Palatines encamped on Blackheath outside London. Courtesy of the Widener Library, Harvard University.

Figures vary, but probably 3,073 Palatines were brought to Ireland in 1709.  821 families were settled as agricultural tenants on the estates of Anglo-Irish landlords. However, many of the settlers failed to permanently establish themselves and, treated badly by landlords and harassed by Catholic Irish neighbours,  567 families were reported to have left their holdings, with many returning to England, in far worse condition than when they had left.   By 1712 only around 1,200 of the Palatines remained in Ireland.   Some contemporary opinion blamed the Palatines themselves for the failure of the settlement. William King, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, claimed “I conceive their design ’tis but to eat and drink at Her Majesty’s cost, live idle and complain against those that maintain them.” However, the real reason for the failure appears to be that the settlement lacked political support from the High Church Tories, who generally opposed foreign involvement and saw the settlers as potential Dissenters rather than buttresses to their own established church.

It is remarkable that 400 years later the same ignorance, prejudice and stupidity abounds in the world, with Brexiteers, Trump supporters, Marine Le Pen, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.   Foreigners, of a different religion, and, worst of all, poor.  Let them die in their birthplace.  The notion that an influx of hard working Germans might have been good for the economy is clearly misguided at best, but more probably the subversive idea of someone with evil intentions to undermine our country – Eurocrats or the British Dirty Tricks Department.  I am reminded of my own happy days in the British Civil Service (many years ago, of course;  this sort of thing does not happen nowadays) when hard workers were gently discouraged – lest the rest of us should appear idle.   Surely it is possible for humanity to rise above base selfishness and greed?

The Switzers were lucky.  On August 8, 1709, Michael and his family left in wagons to go to Chester to embark there for Ireland. The trip was about 120 miles.  From Chester, they sailed in schooners up the Mersey and across the sea to Dublin. The trip to Ireland took about 24 hours.   Sir Thomas Southwell chose experienced husbandmen and some weavers for his estates in County Limerick.  All of the Palentine men were issued muskets, although Irish Catholic tenants throughout the country had been disarmed.  Later the Palentines where to be enrolled in a Militia unit of their own – The German Fusiliers, or “True Blues”.

By the 1930s Edmondsbury was the home of the Jacob family.  The Jacob family have shown much religious fervor over the centuries, but in many guises.  Arriving into Ireland at the beginning of the 17th Century from Cambridgeshire, they were originally Calvinists. In Laois there were three generations at Knockfin in the latter half of the 18th century who were noted doctors.  Arthur Jacob of Knockfin  (1790 -1874)  founded the first eye hostpital in Dublin in 1829.   One branch of the family became noted Quakers.   In the 1940s the Kilkenny People reported :-  “ On holiday from Johannesburg is Mother Dorothea , eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob , Edmundsbury House. Whose son, Brother Romanus,  is a priest at Knockbeg”  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.  Personally I believe in Kimberley, Mikado and Coconut Cream, created by the Waterford branch of the Jacob’s family.

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Belmont House

Belmount, Belmont, Bellmont or The Lodge

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The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage describes Belmont thus:-

Detached single-storey house, built c.1860, with loggia to front, canted bay windows and advanced end bays. Double-pitched slate roof with nap rendered chimney stacks, sprockets to gables and overhanging eaves and verges. Nap rendered walls. Lancet-arch window openings with limestone sills and two-over-two timber sash windows. Square-headed door opening with timber panelled door. Interior not inspected. Set back from road in own grounds; landscaped grounds to site. Detached gate lodge to site with pointed-arch openings. Gateway to site comprising limestone piers with wrought iron gates.

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Belmont on the 6″ map 1835

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Blmont on the 25″ map 1890

In the medieval era the site was probably associated with the nearby priory of Aghmacart which was founded on the site of a pre-Norman church that seems to have been dedicated to St. Tigernach (perhaps the patron of Clones who had Leinster connections). This early church was burned in 1156 by the northern king, Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn. Neither foundation date of the Augustinian Priory nor its secular patron are known, although it may have been endowed by the Meic Gilla Pátraic (later Fitzpatricks) kings of Ossory. The late medieval records indicate that it was in the diocese of Ossory and that the Fitzpatricks laid claim to the priory. There were links between Aghmacart and Monahinca, the famous Augustinian pilgrim site near Roscrea, Co. Tipperary.

AGHMACARTFolk traditions include a church that stood in ‘Kiln Field’, and field remains include an ecclesiastical site, and a previously extant church ruin. In Carrigan’s “History of Ossory ” he writes – “The nunnery of Addrigoole stood in Adrigoole Kiln-field beside the road to Aghamacart, about four perches north-west of the lodge gate of Belmont House.  (A rod or perch or pole is a surveyors tool and unit of length equal to 5 1⁄2 yards, 16 1⁄2 feet)

There was a famous medical school of Aghmacart developed under the patronage of the Mac Giollapadraig dynasty, well established by 1500 but not heard of after 1611.  This school reflects the hereditary nature of the medical families but in a broad extended sense. The physicians involved in this school were the O’Conor  (Ó Conchubhair) family.

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The Lyons family arrived in England initially with the Norman conquest, but during Henry VIII’s reign one of them settled in France and became protestant.  His son Captain William Lyons, supporter of Henry of Navarre and the Huguenot Cause, fled back to England after the Massacre of St.Bartholomew in 1572 and, entering the army of Queen Elizabeth, commanded a company of Cavalry under the Earl of Essex in the Irish wars of 1599 against the Earl of Tyrone.  In 1622 he bought from Patrick, Lord Dunsany, the estate of Clonarrow, now known as River Lyons, in King’s County. River Lyons House was near Daingean and was in ruins in the middle of the 19th c..  An armigerous family, they have the splendid motto Noli Irritare Leones – don’t irritate lions!

Major John Lyons, JP. DL. of Ledestown Hall, Westmeath, High Sheriff of Westmeath, acquired the Ledestown estate in 1715. He had entered the army in the 1690s and attained the rank of major, serving with distinction in the West Indies during the reigns of King William and Queen Anne. He went  to Antigua around 1694, where he married Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Williams, Lieut-Governor of Antigua, and widow of Colonel Richard Ashe. As sole heir of her father, she inherited extensive estates on the Island of Antigua, which Major Lyons augmented by considerable purchases. Most of their children were born in Antigua.   Having retired from the army after many years of service, Major Lyons returned to Ireland, leaving his forth son, Samuel Lyons, in possession of the larger part of his property on the Island. The French sacking of Antigua in 1712 may have influenced John’s return to Ireland. After 1712 he resided for a while at Muclogh, King’s County, at Rahenrohan, just beside The Heath in Laois and Grange Mellon, County Kildare before buying Ledestown.

There were other Laois men in Antigua at that time making their fortune –

John Piggot of Dysart sailed from Plymouth, 9 March 1690, for the West Indies, as a young officer in the Duke of Bolton’s Regiment (later Henry HOLT’s); their ship formed part of the West Indies Squadron, under command of Commodore Lawrence WRIGHT, sent to address security issues arising from hostile French activity in the neighbourhood, including Antigua, where the Squadron arrived on 30 May 1690.

He came to the notice of the Antiguan authorities:

“…I beg also to recommend Captain John PIGOTT for a military command, who has served well in the late as in former expeditions. He is returning to Europe in hopes of serving the King there. His father is, I believe, a gentleman of considerable interests in Ireland, and has suffered greatly by the late rebellion there. I will engage for his loyalty and courage.”

[General Christopher CODRINGTON, Antigua – letter dated 3 July 1691, to the Lords of Trade and Plantations, London; “Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, 1689-92,” H.M.S.O., 1901.]

The eldest son inherited Ledestown or Ladestown on Lough Ennell.  In 1843 his descendant John Charles Lyons wrote the first manual on the cultivation of tropical orchids in the world. He built his own printing press (now in the County Library, Mullingar) and grew orchids in a glasshouse heated and watered by a system invented by him.

Henry, the second son, became the Deputy Muster-Master-General and Deputy Clerk of the Council.  His uncle’s brother in law was the Earl of Belvedere (who imprisoned his wife and built the Jealous Wall at Belvedere).  Henry may have built Belmont around the 1720s.  Who his wife was is not at present known, but around 1730 they had a daughter Louisa who married on 23 October 1752, as his second wife, Chambre Brabazon Ponsonby, (c1720 – 20 February 1762) MP and  nephew of the Earl of Bessborough.  Chambre’s father General Ponsonby lived at Ashgrove near Piltown  Co. Kilkenny and was married to Lady Frances Brabazon, daughter of Chambre, 5th Earl of Meath. The General was killed in action at the catastrophic battle of Fontenoy on 11 May 1745. He left a daughter Juliana and a son, Chambre who inherited Ashgrove. Just over a year after his father’s death, Chambre  married his first wife and had a daughter.  In 1738 he had bought about 4,000 acres of land near Kilcooley, in Galmoy, Co. Kilkenny. These lands at Whitewalls, Bawnmore and Rathbane,made him a neighbour of the Lyons family.   Chambre’s second wife, Louisa, was equally short lived but they also had a daughter, , Sarah.  In the Gentlemans’ Magazine Capt John Lyons is described as a gentleman of uncommonly polite Iivelv agreeable manners and prodigiously esteemed, and his daughter  Miss Louisa Lyons was a most elegant accomplished young lady and at that time the admiration and the toast of Dublin.

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Chambre Brabazon Ponsonby

Louisa having died whilst she was still a baby, and her father Chambre dying when she was only 9 years old,  Sarah was sent to live with her father’s cousin, Lady Betty Fownes, and her husband, Sir William, at Woodstock, Co Kilkenny. She attended Miss Parke’s boarding school in Kilkenny city.  Sir William Fownes apparently made inappropriate advances towards his ward. His wife, Betty, whom Sarah dearly loved, was still alive, but her health was failing and Sir William over-eagerly anticipated the day when he could take pretty Sarah as the second Lady Fownes.  In 1768, aged 13, Sarah met the person, 16 years older than herself, who was to become her life partner and fellow diarist. Referring to Lady Eleanor Butler, youngest daughter of Walter Butler and his wife, Ellen Butler (née Morres), she proclaimed in 1778 that she intended “to live and die with Miss Butler”. In March of that year, during their foiled attempt to elope, Sarah reputedly leapt out of a window, in male attire, armed with a pistol and her dog, Frisk. A successful venture followed in May, assisted by Eleanor Butler’s redoubtable maid, Molly the Bruiser, who ensured that their flight was not frustrated and traveled  with them via Waterford to Wales.  There they lived at Plas Newydd and became known as the Ladies of Llangollen.

V0007359 Sarah Ponsonby (left) and Lady Eleanor Butler, known as the

V0007359 Sarah Ponsonby (left) and Lady Eleanor Butler, Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

After Sarah’s mother Louisa died Chambre married Mary Barker, of Kilcooley, by whom he had another daughter and a son. Chambre died just before Christmas 1762, when his son, also called Chambre Brabazon Ponsonby, was less than 6 months old.   Sir William Barker invited his widowed sister Mary and her two children to live at Kilcooley.   Within a few years Mary had remarried, becoming the second wife of Robert Staples, the seventh Baronet of Lissan, County Tyrone and moved to Dunmore outside Durrow. She left her two children from her first marriage behind her at Kilcooley. After her death in 1772, in Sir William and Lady Catherine (Lane) raised the children as their own.  Sir William was something of a Protestant extremist and commanded two companies of Volunteers. The young Chambre would inherit Kilcooley from his uncle on his death in October 1818.  The daughter Mary married Thomas Barton of Grove, which also in due course would be inherited by the Ponsonbys.

From 1762 Belmont was rented by William Butler of Bayswell  (d 1786) and his wife Honora Scully (d before 13.03.1794, dau of Roger Scully of Kilfeacle & Dualla) and was lived in by their son William Butler (b 1754) when he married Mary White (dau of John White of Oldglass) on 15 July 1781

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Sir William Barker, fourth Baronet painted by Gilbert Stuart c 1790

Accreditation- The Archives of Country Life

Though apparently living at Kilcooley,  Coote in 1801 records “ Belmont is a very handsome small demesne by C B Ponsonby Esq.  The lodge is extremely neat and well planned the lawn pretty and commands a pleasing view of the mountains ruins of Aghmacart and the round tower of Beggar’s End in the County Kilkenny  ‘Tis situate contiguous to Cullihill which is a mean village and only remarkable for an old castle now in ruins, the estate of Sir John Freke, Bart.”

In 1837  Lewis’s Topography records Belmont as the seat of J Roe, but by 1840 John Hely Owen, coroner and land agent was in residence.  Jeremy Williams suggests that in the 1850s Hely employed John Mulvany, James Perry’s favourite architect, to enlarge it and add the loggia and single story front.

John Hely Owen, (1793 -1870) married Frances Smith (1803- 1896)  in 1828, the daughter of Brett Smith and Charlotte Bagnall  (Brett Smith and his son, also Brett Smith, were famous Dublin printers who produced everything from Leet’s Directory to the works of Rousseau.). His brother was William Owen of Erkindale, and his parents were Robert Owen and Sarah Hely ( about 1760-1842) of Raheen.  Though Sarah Hely is said to have come from Tipperary or Offaly, it is probable she was a Hely of Foulkscourt,  possibly a sister of Gorges Hely and a daughter of John Hely and Elenor Cuffe, whose sister was married to Denny Cuffe of Cuffsborough.    From 1840 Owen was one of the Queens County Coroners, investigating deaths such as that Eliza Carpenter, who died because of a stone thrown by Catherine Brennan, or Mary Fitzpatrick who was accidentally given a dose of sulphuric acid mixed with castor oil by Fanny Deane, and Maria Fitpatrick who was eaten by a pig.  As the century progressed his case load changed, and starvation or fever became the commonest causes of death as the famine bit.  He died November 14th 1870, leaving three sons and three daughters,  and his eldest son Robert Owen  (b 1830)  took over.  His daughter Charlotte had married John Shortt, a barrister of Upper Fitzwilliam st., Dublin and of Cappagolan, Tullamore.

Robert acted as agent for his brother in law, George Ayres, the Rector of Mulhuddart, and son of a wine merchant from Stockton on Tees.  In July 1881 during the land War Owen accepted that he was “a fit subject for assignation for not accepting Land League terms in dealing with tenants” and requested police protection.   John Campion and Patrick Murphy were responsible for a notice warning “Robert Owen of Belmont, agent to the meek parson Revd George Ayres, Finglas”,   Robert Owen owned 360 acres and George Ayres had 616 acres.

At sometime in the early 1900s Belmont was bought by Alexander Francis Boyle who was agent for Lord Ashbrook at Castle Durrow,  Boyle’s antecedents came from the Castlecomer area.  He was the  third son of James Boyle of Ryefield, Castlecomer, and the grandson of John Boyle, of Ardara, Co. Kilkenny.  He died in 1919, the same year that Robert Flowers, Lord Ashbrook,  died at Knockatrina.  In 1922 the banks foreclosed on the 9th Viscount Ashbrook, who left Ireland with his wife Gladys and his children Eileen and Desmond. Part of the Castle Durrow estate was soon bought by Maher Brothers of Freshford. They felled much of its 650 acre plantation of oak, beech and ash. The town of Durrow became the property of the Bank of Ireland and remained so for forty years.

Alexander Francis Boyle married Anna Maria Harpur and they had five children.  The second son became Air Marshal Sir  Cathal Kavanagh Dermot Boyle who served as Air Marshal during WW2  and was educated at St Columba’s College, Dublin and joined the Royal Air Force on 14 September 1922.

In the 20th century it has had several owners – The Hodgins were followed by the O’Connells who owned The Sportsman’s Inn and produced such distinguished chefs as Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell.  It is now the family home of David Gibbs, Warden of St.Columba’s from 1974-1988.

Tithe Wars and Trillionaires

Erkindale, also known as Erkina House is a 3 bay 2 story plastered rubble stone house, with a Victorian verandah across the front and an unusual plaster portrait, believed to be of the builder, on the rear gable.

The ancient highway from the western side of Upper Ossory to Kilkenny in times of yore, came east from the Levally road, near Rathdowney ; forded  the Erinka under Coolkerry Church; ran thence through Coolkerry ; forded the Erkina again under Erkindale Ho.; then through the rath field, round by Carrick Rock, on to Gorteen, and after crossing the River Goul near Newtown Nunnery continued on towards Aharney Church.

oserkinaNote the rath behind the house.  The Rath Field is opposite Knockfin

The earliest reference to Erkindale that I have found so far is to William Owen in the Dublin Evening Post  17 Aug 1822.  The Owens were a Welsh family who had been in Laois for about 3 generations in Raheen, Donaghmore and Rathdowney.  The unpopular 19th century agent (and what agent was not unpopular?) Robert Owen of Belmont was William Owen’s cousin or uncle.

The Belfast Commercial Chronicle reports that during the Tithe Wars on Sunday the 12th November 1832 an attempt was made by an armed party to take arms from the house of Wm. Owen, Esq. of Erkindale. All the family were absent except two young lads, Mr. Owen’s elder sons, who resolutely refused them admittance.

The Tithe Wars were pretty violent times.  At Newtownbarry (Bunclody) in Wexford, in 1831, thirteen peasants were killed by the yeomanry and police; in 1832 eleven police and several peasants were killed in a tithe-conflict at Carrickshock near Knocktopher in Kilkenny. So the Owen family got off lightly.

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For those unfamiliar with tithes,  from the time of the  Reformation (the first  Tithe Act was passed in  1536)  a tax of one tenth of annual produce or earnings was taken for the support of the Church of Ireland clergy.   Paying tithes, like all other taxes, was always resented, especially by Catholics, Presbyterians, Agnostics and a lot of other people who didn’t see why they should have to pay for the upkeep of the established Protestant church.  From 1735 to 1823 tithes were not due on pastureland: graziers were exempt.   With the extension of tithes to pastureland a large group of well off, articulate and powerful farmers joined the malcontent poorer farmers.   Bad idea!

While tithes were the only source of income for some clergymen, others let their tithes to lay people (tithe-farmers) for a fee. But lay people also owned tithes. In the OPMA files there is a list of laymen who owned rectorial tithes in the diocese of Killaloe and Achonry. Among these were the choirmen of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. In the diocese of Cork, the duke of Devonshire  was a claimant for tithe arrears.

Tithe-owners employed tithe-proctors or valuators to enter each property on which tithes were due to value the crop and thus set the tithe to be paid. The tithe-proctor was resented mainly because he was the human embodiment of the system of tithe-collecting. And he could be got at.

Emancipation for Roman Catholics was promised by Pitt during the campaign in favour of the Act of Union of 1801 which was approved by the Irish Parliament, thus abolishing itself and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The king, however, refused to keep Pitt’s promises, and it was not until 1829 that the Duke of Wellington’s government finally conceded to the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act, in the teeth of defiant royal opposition. Wellington’s government actually fell as a result.  However, the obligation to pay tithes to the Church of Ireland remained, causing much resentment. Roman Catholic clerical establishments in Ireland had refused government offers of tithe-sharing with the established church, fearing that British government regulation and control would come with acceptance of such money.

According to the affidavit of Hans Caulfield, rector of Bordwell parish:

‘After this y[ea]r memorialist went to the leading farmers in the parish, who then promised to pay and to use their influence with the rest of the parishioners to pay before a certain day; but when that time arrived they said they could not venture thro’ fear of the “Whitefeet”, to make any payment, or settlement whatsoever’ (OPMA 154/5/8).

A campaign of passive resistance was proposed by Patrick Lalor (1781–1856), a farmer of Tenakill and father of Irish Nationalist politicians James Fintan Lalor, Peter Lalor and Richard Lalor, who later served as a repeal MP (1832–35). He declared at a public meeting in February 1831 in Maryborough that “…he would never again pay tithes; that he would violate no law; that the tithe men might take his property, and offer it for sale; but his countrymen, he was proud to say, respected him, and he thought that none of them would buy or bid for it if exposed for sale. The declaration was received by the meeting in various ways: by many with surprise and astonishment; by others with consternation and dismay, but by a vast majority with tremendous cheering.”  Lalor held true to his word and did not resist the confiscation of 20 sheep from his farm, but was able to ensure no buyers appeared at subsequent auctions.

In 1838 O’ Connell was able to persuade the government to cut the tithe payment by 25%, and make the landlord responsible for the payment of the tithes.  Though they could pass it on to their tenants, who in turn could pass the tax on to their sub-tenants, it was the landlord who had to pay the rector. Tithes as such, with associated valuators, tithe-farmers, tithe-proctors and process-servers, together with large contingents of police and militia, disappeared from Irish agitation.  They were finally abolished in Ireland with the disestablishment of the Anglican church in 1871.

To return to Erkindale:-

William Owen, of Pembroke Street, and Erkindale, Queen’s County, was elected a life member of the R.D.S. in 1833. His proposers were Isaac Weld and the barrister Eccles Cuthbert.  William Owen was a member of the R.D.S. agriculture committee 1835-37. He was deleted from the membership list in 1850.  Weld, who was the brother in law of George Ensor (architect of much of Georgian Dublin) ,  was compiling a statistical survey of Roscommon at that time, having made his name as an author with his account of travels through America and Canada, published in 1799, in which he noted that  Americans were obsessed with material things.  Unkind critics might say “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.

The next inhabitant was  Edmund French Boys.  He joined the 45th or Nottinghamshire Regiment of Foot as an Ensign on 17th November 1808 and became it’s Lt. Col on 21st June 1832.  The 45th were one of the great regiments involved in the Peninsula War and fought in nearly every engagement from Rolica 1808 to Toulouse 1814 wining thirteen battle-honours in the process.   At the battle of Badajoz 1812 the 45th were the first regiment to storm the fortress and succeeded in pulling down the French flag.  Not having a British flag to hoist in its place, an officer took off his red coatee and ran that up instead. This feat was commemorated  every 6th April when red jackets were flown on the regimental flag staffs.

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Raising The Sherwood Foresters ” The Old Stubborns”  Red Coatee

The regiment were in Belfast in 1840 and in Dublin from 1841 to January 1843 when they sailed to the Cape.   By 1850 he was administrator of Natal.  His brother Philip Boys lived at Annefield house in Dundrum with his wife Mary and their daughter Joanna.  On 8th February 1847 The Patrician records the death  Boyes, Edmund, Esq. late of the 45th Regiment, and eldest son of Colonel E. F. Boyes, at Erkindale in the Queen’s County.   The enormously valuable website of Dr Jane Lyons www.from-ireland.net  records a relevant memorial in Rathddowney:-  Boys: In memory of/John Boys Esq./who died April 18th 1848/And Mary Boys (relict/of Philip Boys Esq./Annafield, Dundrum, Co. Dublin)/who departed this life/on /9th Jan 1869/at an advanced age.

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The uniform of Lt Col Boys, for sale at the time of writing on http://themilitarygentleman.com/ for £6950

At that date another name is also associated with Erkindale.  In 1847 Charles Paulett White (1821-1895) of Erkindale Rathdowney and of  Coolacurragh , Ballacolla was  appointed a magistrate on the nomination of Lord De Vesci

On 11 Apr 1850 Charles, son of Robert White of Old Park (Granston Manor) and Anne Doyne (dau of Col. Charles Powlett Doyne of Portarlington), married Joanna, daughter of Philip Boys.

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Annefield, Dundrum, the home of Philip Boys

Presumably the Paulet/ Paulett/ Powlett name that occurs in the Doyne, Handfield, Carey, Mildmay, Piggot, White, Cosby and Hamilton families (amongst others) refers to the Lord Lieutenant Charles Powlett, 2nd Duke of  Bolton (1661-1722), after whom Bolton Street is named.  In Jonathan Swift’s tract Remarks on the Characters of the Court of Queen Anne, a commentary on the book Memoirs of the Secret Services by John Macky, in response to Macky’s statement that the Duke “Does not now make any figure at court”, Swift’s dismissive reply is “Nor anywhere else. A great booby”.

The Duke of Bolton

The Advocate or Irish Industrial Journal, notes that on January 26 1857 at Erkindale, Queen’s County, the wife Doctor Kirkwood, M.D. gave birth to a son.  From 1836 – 1844 there is a Kirkwood, T. A., M.D in Rathfarnham.  He later appears in Antrim, so presumably was just renting or staying at Erkindale, unless his wife was a relation of Joanna White.

On 10 Sep 1863 the Dublin Evening Mail  reports that Charles P. White, Esq., J.P., Mrs. White, and Miss S. Burnett, have left their residence, Erkindale, Queen’s County, en route for Scotland.

Thoms Directory shows Charles P White Esq in 1874  and Bassett’s Directory has him there in 1889.

Back to http://www.from-ireland.net/  Rathdowney burials – White: Erected/by Charles P White Esq./Erkindale/to the memory of/his beloved wife/Joanna White/who died 21st may 1880 /aged 57 years/For if we believe that Jesus died/and rose again even so them/also which sleep in Jesus/will God Bring with him.

Charles White died in 1895 and Erkindale soon became the home of Alfred William Perry (1861 -1942), who sold it to the Thompsons in the early 1930s.

On Perry Memorial  in The Square at  Rathdowney is the following inscription:  “In memory/of/Geraldine/wife of/Alfred William Perry/Erkindale Rathdowney/died June 1918”.  Geraldine Perry nee Radcliff  was the daughter of William Henry (aka Geoffry) Radcliff who was born in Wilmount, Kells, Co Meath and the widow of John Wallace of Knockfinn, the neighbouring farm, who died in 1900 at the age of 29  in Dublin.  They married in March 1902.

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The Perry Monument, Rathdowney

The Perry family are worthy of detailed study.  The question is how a family of fiddle makers, small tenant farmers in a minor village,  who skated so lightly over the surface of history that their slight impact has mostly been washed away by the rains of time, became brewers and billionaires, millers, merchants and manufacturers is at present quite beyond me.

There were several Perry families in Ireland, quite unrelated.  The Perry from County Down, tenants of the Fords of Seaforde whose descendants include the 1798 leader Anthony Perry are a quite separate family from the Laois & Kilkenny Perrys.    Though others disagree, according to the researches of Sir Francis Cruise, the Laois/Kilkenny/Offaly  Perry family was of French Huguenot origin who became Quakers , and the first of them to settle in Kilkenny was named Jacques Periez.

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A Thomas Perry Violin of 1781

In 1598, Henry IV of France signed the Edict of Nantes which ended the Wars of Religion and gave French Protestants freedom to practise their religion (in particular places and under certain conditions).  In 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. He expelled the Protestant clergy and declared that the rest of the Huguenot population was to remain in France and become Catholic. Those who stayed were forced to convert, although large numbers continued to practise their faith in secret, at home or in clandestine assemblies in remote places. Others left the country illegally to seek a new life abroad in a Protestant country.   Conservatively about 5000 French Huguenots came to seek religious toleration in Ireland.  It is interesting that 5 years later Irish Catholics were fleeing Ireland for France, also in search of religious toleration.

The Dublin violin maker Thomas Perry was born c. 1738/9, son of John Perry  of Dublin and Tinekilly (Tinnakill, Coolrain), Queen’s County (Co. Laois). Kenneth  Rice, the  Irish Chamber Orchestra violinist and expert on Irish musical history,  rejects any French Huguenot connection, noting that Perry is a name borne by many settlers of English origin in Ireland.  It was Rice who identified Registry of Deeds Memorial, 410063: 604/416, establishing John Perry’s identity.   In 1766 Perry married Elizabeth Smyth.  However his name in the parish register is said to be de Pierray, which supports the theory put forward that Perry was of French Huguenot origin. He is said to have been related to the well-known French violin maker Claude Pierray who died in Paris in 1729. His father opened a shop in Dublin in 1741 and died there in 1771 according to an obituary in the Faulkners Journal, which gives his surname as Pierrie.

A James Perry of Ballymulroony, Queen’s county is mentioned in deeds with Thomas Perry.  William Wilkinson, Perry’s partner and son-in-law came from Cappakeel, the townland adjoining Ballymulroony,  near Emo and 8 miles from Mountmellick.

Alfred William Perry’s grandfather, Henry Perry,  was born in 1768 in Shanderry,near Coolrain, three miles from John Perry’s home at Tinnakill, which is why I believe them to be related.  One of Henry’s sons, Robert Perry (1791-1855), founder of the brewery in Rathdowney,  married Anne Gale of Sampson’s Court near Ballinakill in August 1826 in the Friends’ Meeting House in Mountrath.

The couple’s children were Ellen, Anne Gale, Mary Walpole, Arthur (later of Burgh Quay), James, John Miller of Ballinagore Mills, Thomas, Henry Robert who took on the Belmont Mills in Offaly and founded Robert Perry Limited (as opposed to the Rathdowney Robert Perry & Son Limited), and Robinson Gale Perry.  Robinson married Deborah Walpole of Ballyduff , Co Laois in November 1858 at Knock Meeting House.  He went into milling and brewing; In 1874 he was patenting “Improvements in kilns or drying chambers for peat drying malt, grain etc.”   In 1878 Mr. Robinson Perry of Rathdowney was described in the Belfast News-letter as Secretary of the Provincial Brewers Association.

perry brewery

If the brewery history is correct in  saying  that it was founded in 1800, when Robert Perry of Shanderry was only 9, another Perry must have actually started the brewery.  There were other Perrys in Rathdowney – in 1839 there was a grant and release by William and Anne Perry, Rathdowney, Queen’s Co., to Thomas Dugdale, Clara, King’s Co., of  flour mills and land at Rathdowney.   William Perry (1804-74) was Robert Perry’s younger brother and married to Ann, a daughter of John Dugdale Snr. of Mill Books King’s County who owned a mill at Donnaghmore.  Another brother was John Perry who bought the mills at Ballinagore, near Castletown Geoghan in Westmeath.

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Ballinagore Mill

Robert Perry and Son’s Rathdowney Brewery manufactured malt which was widely noted for its excellence. The brewery had an admirable water supply, brewed a clear and non-deposit ale, and held the royal warrant as brewers to Queen Victoria.

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Belmont Mill

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Belmont

But the “proto-tycoon”, the Tony O’Reilly,  of the whole family was a fourth brother James Perry (1795-1858).

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James, with two other brothers Henry and John, set up Perry’s Haberdashery, Button and Trimming Warehouse, Ironmongers, Hardware and Iron Merchants, agents to the Bristol Copper and Brass Company, at 27 and 28 Pill Lane before 1821, when both James and Henry are listed as subscribers to 1821  “The Giant’s Causeway: A Poem, with The Traveller Benighted in Mourne”.

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An 1820  Caricature of Pill Lane from Trinity College

Pill Lane, behind The Four Courts, was a continuation of Hammond Lane, originally Hangman’s Lane, famed for its foundry which was already in existence on Rocque’s 1756 map of Dublin.  Pill Lane was noted for the Fishery Company’s fish market.  So this was the busy industrial area of the city, far from the elegant muslins of Merrion Square.  Thomas William Magrath in his  Letters from Upper Canada, published in  1833, advises prospective emigrants to Canada on the tools that they should bring with them:-

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James other interests included an Iron Foundry in Ringsend, The Hibernian Gas Company, and he was a founder director of the Dublin & Kingstown Railway (better known nowadays as The Dart!) which opened in 1834.

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11 minutes from Dun Laoghire to Pearse in 1834  – DART commuters eat your heart out!

He was also involved in the Dublin Drogheda Railway, the Great Southern Western Railway and the breakaway Midland Great Western Railway.  His most successful venture was The Hibernian Mining Company in the Ruhr.

The key person in the Mining Company initiative was Michael Corr van der Maeren. Though a Belgian citizen who fought for Belgian liberty in 1830,  Michael Corr van den Maeren was as Irish as his colleagues. In 1802 his father, Michael Corr, whose name appears in the 1798 Rebellion Papers in the National Archives as an active revolutionary, arrived in Brussels as a political refugee accompanied by his wife but without their two-week old son Michael. It was only after the lifting of the continental blockade in 1815 that young Michael was able to join his parents in Brussels where he was educated and after five years in the army took up a business career. He was a well-known free-trader, an associate of Cobden and Bright and an advocate of social science as a discipline. He married a Flemish lady named van der Maeren and took her name as an adjunct to his own. Michael Corr van der Maeren owned some property near Gelsenkirchen and became interested in the possibility of the modernisation of the mining industry in the Ruhr. He visited Dublin in 1853 and met William Mulvany, James Perry and Joseph Malcomson. It is not known what his original contact was but it is perhaps interesting to speculate that it might have been with Mulvany through an acquaintenship between their younger brothers. Mulvany’s brother, George Field Mulvany, was an artist like their father and was the first Director of the National Gallery of Ireland. Michael Corr’s younger brother, Matthew Erin Corr, was a professor of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.  Thus, in 1853,  began one of the largest coal mining operation in the Ruhr, the Hibernia Mines, of which the Perry’s initially owned 40%..  This company founded entirely by Irish investors  has developed into  E·ON, a German based power company with an annual revenue of well over €100 billion, which operates in over 30 countries and serves over 33 million customers.  Perhaps it is time we reminded German financiers of the debt they owe Ireland!

Henry lived at Newtown Park, Deansgrange, which he rented from John Armit, Secretary of the Ordnance Board and a wealthy army agent and banker.  In more recent times it was the home of Senator Edward McGuire.

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Newtownpark House, Deansgrange

By 1837 James was living in  Obelisk Park in Stillorgan.  It had been sold after the death of Graves Chamney Swan in 1829, the father of Edmund Swan of Abbeyleix.    There is a wonderful endorsement of Electric medical therapy in The Dublin Literary Journal for 1845:-

Stillorgan Park 2nd of 1st Month 1837

I certify that my left foot was sprained and the muscles injured in consequence of my horse having fallen upon it by which I was so much disabled as to be incapable of using it for about two months After the inflammation had nearly subsided I tried several means under Surgical advice without obtaining the desired effect and was at length advised by the Surgeon General to have Medical Electricity applied by Joshua Abell and I have now the pleasure to state that this produced a gradual progressive improvement by which I obtained the wished for result JAMES PERRY.

Joshua Abell, also a Quaker, was founder editor of the Dublin Literary Gazette, in which he also published his own translations from the Gaelic and advertised his  ‘medical electricity’ practice.  When does a Renaissance Man become merely an eccentric?  I suspect Abell crossed that boundary.

Henry Perry, of Pill Lane, and Newtown Park, Deans Grange, was elected a life member of the R.D.S. on 31 May 1838. His proposers were Edward Clibborn and Joseph Hone. On 5 November 1845 Perry won second prize for oats at the R.D.S. Farm Produce Exhibition.   The family were obviously keen on their horticulture.   In September 1856, according to the Freeman’s Journal , James Perry of Obelisk Park won a prize for melons in three varieties from his garden.

James’s daughter Hannah Woodcock Perry married Marcus Goodbody on 13 December 1848 at the Friends Meeting House.  A pretty amazing wedding dress, now in the National Museum of Ireland.

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Hannah Perry’s Wedding Dress – I pray the bride was prettier than the mannequin!

There is a moral problem here;  This was the end of the famine.  A million people had died of starvation in Ireland over the previous 3 years.  However actually James was the treasurer of the Qauaker Famine Relief Committee, and his brother Henry, who ran the clothing distribution and Quaker kitchen for famine relief died of famine fever in 1847.   Are prejudiced conclusions naturally wrong?  Or are all wealthy people who retained their wealth through the famine guilty of moral turpitude?    James died in 1858 and was buried in the Perry  vault in Mount Jerome that Mulvany had constructed for him 14 years earlier, in the same Egyptian style as Broadstone Railway Station.

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Perry’s Broadstone inspired vault at Mount Jerome by Mulvany

Friendship within the Society of Friends only seems to have had limits in James’ case.   In his will stipulated that should his son William James Perry  marry Elizabeth Pim, the daughter of James Pim of Monkstown Castle and sometime  treasurer of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway (a role which caused Pim and Perry to fall out) most of his property  should go to his son in law, Marcus Goodbody.  In 1859 William James Perry married  Eliza Pim in the Protestant  St Brigid’s Church in  Stillorgan.  Lawyers were engaged!  The final agreement involved Marcus Goodbody getting Obelisk Park in I873.  He instantly engaged Sir Thomas Drew to build a new house, and made a Japanese garden and lake centred on the obelisk designed by Edward Lovett Perarce.    William James moved to Ardlui on Newtownpark Avenue, done up for him by the architects McCurdy & Mitchell.  That was demolished in the 1950s and only the gate lodge and a garden folly remain.    Ardlui was famous for its tennis parties.  Perry’s daughters Charlotte, Gertrude and Ida,  and son Francis Woodcock, a stockbroker, all played competitive lawn tennis.  By 1890 the Perrys had moved to 28 Clyde Road, where St Conleths College now stands.  In 1892 there is a deed of covenant and charge by Alfred W. Perry, Rathdowney, Queen’s Co. and others to Charlotte E. Perry, 28 Clyde Rd., Dublin affecting Ballinagore and Knockycosker. .

So the question still remains.  How did a family of fiddle makers become so successful.  The second question is where is all the Perry wealth now

As a postscript whilst researching this blog I came across the following cutting:-

perry by John Spooner

Little Lord Fauntleroy & Ireland’s First Lesbian

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Ballybrophy house from JJ McEvoy’s collection of Laois Photographs

The O’Brophys were originally the chiefs of Galmoy on the borders of Kilkenny and Tipperary.  They were driven out of Galmoy after the Norman invasion, and settled, under the protection of MacGillapatrick, at Baile Ui Broithe, now Ballybrophy.

At Christmas 1626 Charles the First granted his favourite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, Borris-in-Ossory, “Ballybrophy, Grangemore, &c., &c. ; all of which he erected into a manor to be called the Manor of Villiers”.   In 1693, a Catholic gentleman named Owen Carroll, who came from the neighbourhood of Seir-Kieran, took a lease of the entire manor from the Duke’s representatives, George Rodney Bridges, Esqr., and the Right Hon. Anna Maria, Countess of Shrewsbury, his wife, for 31 years, at a yearly rent of £750 ; and about 1705, he further took a reversionary lease of same, for 11 years, from the said George Rodney Bridges, Esqr., and John Bridges, his son.

The story of how the Villiers estate passed from the Duke of Buckingham to the Countess of Shrewsbury is fairly remarkable.  Anna Maria’s first husband, Francis Earl of Shrewsbury, was killed in a duel by George Villiers the second Duke of Buckingham.  The inheritance came to her in 1693 under the will of the Duke whose partiality for her caused  the duel with her first husband. The tale that the Countess witnessed the duel disguised as a page appears to have no foundation..  For a time, the Duke of Buckingham kept Anna Maria as his mistress in his family home where his wife, Mary also resided.  Buckingham provoked an outrage for installing “the widow of his own creation” in his own and his wife’s house.  She gave birth to his illegitimate son and created a scandal at court by having the boy baptised in Westminster Abbey.   Their affair was finally broken off in 1673. The Countess went to France and spent some time in a convent, before returning to England and marrying George Brydges in 1677.

The Countess was a passionate woman (harsher critics have called her a nymphomaniac): her numerous lovers included Henry Jermyn, 1st Baron Dover and Colonel Thomas Howard (younger brother of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Carlisle) : in 1662 they fought a celebrated duel for her favour in which Jermyn was left for dead and his second, Giles Rawlings, was killed.

Lely, Peter, 1618-1680; Lady Anna Maria Brudenell (1642-1702), Countess of Shrewsbury

Lely, Peter; Lady Anna Maria Brudenell (1642-1702), Countess of Shrewsbury; National Trust, Knole

Anna Maria’s family were all fairly wild – her cousin Lady Frances Brudenell, Countess of Newburgh, wife of Charles Livingston, 2nd Earl of Newburgh, who lived on Usher’s Quay,  was noted in Dublin for her bisexuality, and her affair with Lady Allen of Stillorgan Park.  She was the subject of a debt action brought by William King, secretary to The Earl of Arran, who Horace Walpole described as “an inoffensive old man, last of the illustrious house of Ormonde, and much respected by the Jacobites”.

Not everyone thought Lord Arran inoffensive  – There was strong suspicion that he deliberately started the great fire that destroyed much of Dublin Castle on the 7th April 1684.  His full and perfectly structured account of the event further fueled rumours. The fire began in his newly built lodgings, on the wooden flooring under the fire grate of his dressing room. The crackling of the flames woke him and he fled through the State Rooms as far as the long Gallery, leaving all the doors open behind him. He then looked back and saw his bed in flames. The sentries raised the alarm. Arran sent for Robert Cuffe, the Engineer – the Architect, Robinson, being out of town. Cuffe arrived shortly afterwards with six barrels of gunpowder from a private store. A controlled explosion at the southern end of the Long Gallery failed to halt the flames. So, another was set off at the northern end and this prevented the fire reaching the Lord Lieutenant’s lodgings and the Gunpowder Tower, through the Coal Yard. There was a westerly wind blowing and a final explosion, near the Presence Chamber, succeeded in halting the fire advancing along the south-western range, to the Kitchen Tower (now known as the Bermingham Tower), which housed the public records at that time.

King James II issued a royal warrant on the 24th July, stating that the fire started accidentally. Suspicion remained and many believed that the warrant was a ‘pay off’ in gratitude to Marquis Ormond for services rendered – including his three years leadership of the royal army against the Ulster rebels during the 1641 rebellion. The King also directed that the old walls and as many towers as required be taken down and a new Chief Governor’s residence be built ‘the same to be still and forever called by the name of the Castle of Dublin’. Building works got underway and more stately accommodation replaced the medieval fortress.

Lord Arran’s wife, Elizabeth Crew, employed as her lady in waiting  Katherine Mildmay, the aunt and foster mother of the essayist Richard Steele who founded The Spectator.    Lady Arran was also one of Lady Newburgh’s  “social circle of tribades”

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Elizabeth Butler, née Crew, Countess of Arran (c. 1679-1756)

King alleged Lady Newburgh owed him several thousand pounds. He lost the case and in revenge, in 1732, wrote a satire against her, entitled “The Toast”, which portrays her as “a promiscuous bisexual witch and lesbian named “Myra”. It is notable for an early use of the word lesbian in the modern sense – the second or third time that it was ever used in print.

NPG D5713; Frances (Brudenell), Countess of Newburgh by William Wilson, after  Michael Dahl

by William Wilson, after Michael Dahl, mezzotint, early 18th century

To get back to Ballybrophy, when Owen’s son,  Bamaby Carroll’s faith brought him under the ban of the penal laws, about 1730, three vultures named Richard Despard, William Garden, and Walter Stephens, swooped down on his ample substance to seize and devour it. Stephens, or Squire Stephens, as he was afterwards called, took possession of the evicted papist’s home in Borris;  Carden found Lismore more suited to his tastes ; Despard’s share in the plunder was Ballybrophy.  Their lease from the Duke of Buckingham is dated 1731.   Ballybrophy already had a tenant who seems to have remained in possession.  Thomas Brereton, the son of William Brereton,  obtained the lease of Ballybrophy in 1723.  The Brereton were a Cheshire family who arrived in the neighbourhood of Stradbally during the Elizabethan plantation in the 1560s.  William Brereton of Rathmore (probably the son of Major Thomas Brereton of Borris in Ossory) was born during the reign of King Charles I (1625-1649) and lived until just after the accession of Queen Anne. He died in 1715.

Charles White of Kilpurcel was the third son of Charles White of Kilmartin, Borris in Ossory, a Cromwellian who arrived from Oxford in 1657.   Kilpurcel is five fields south of Ballybrophy.  The second son of Charles of Kilpurcel, Thomas White, married Ann Steele of Kyle, Rathdowney in 1739 (she died two years later),  and was granted the townlands of Ballybrophy 330 acres & 17 acres of Bog, by Mrs Elizabeth Despard & others, rent £115 10s per annum in 1746.  The following year he took as his third wife Charity Tydd.  Their son Charles White of Ballybrophy was born in 1753 and married Sarah White (d 13.02.1835, dau of Charles White of Aghavoe) in 1775.  Barrington describes Charles White as “a civil and inoffensive man as any in Ossory.”  In  1808  he organised a steeple chase from Ballybrophy for six miles across the country, between his horse Icarus  and his neighbours’ horses. He died in 1828 aged 75.

The last embodiment of Ballybrophy house was an early 19th century two storey over basement five bay house of rendered rubblestone with cut stone pediments over the ground floor windows and a doorway with a wide fanlight sheltered by a porch supported on two pairs of Doric columns.   It had bold quoins on three corners only.  The main rooms had egg and dart cornices.   The return, containing the main staircase and a parallel servants’ staircase, had a tall arched window.   This was probably built by their son,  yet another Charles, who married Barbara Knox White (nee Ruttledge) who held six townlands in the parish of Crossmolina,  County Mayo, formerly part of the estate of her brother-in-law, Henry William Knox of Netley Park. She married, as her second husband, Charles White, second son of Charles White of Ballybrophy, Queen’s County (Laois). Charles White died in 1855 without children.

His brother, Thomas White, who also lived at Ballybrophy, had died two years previously.

On Saturday 14 January 1854  The Dublin Evening Post was adverting the house, demesne and lands at Ballybrophy to let.

By January 1855 William John Russell was renting Ballybrophy.   Russell, whose family lived at Hazelhatch, County Kildare,  had been born in Dublin on 25th November 1818.   He lived in Mountjoy Square in Dublin where he married his first wife, Elizabeth Amelia Fagan, on 12th February 1850.  She was the daughter of Catholic lawyer Michael Joseph Fagan of 4 Summerhill who was the eldest son of Patrick Fegan of Portrishen, Carlow.  Following the death of her wife, Russell had a brief marriage in 1866 to Bessie Jane Pelissier who also died.  His third wife, Elizabeth Hollwey, was the daughter of a Dublin shipbuilder, John Hollwey.    In 1855 his son, another William John Russell, was born at Ballybrophy.

They seem to have moved on quite quickly because in November 1858 we find Anthony Gibbs and Sons, agricultural suppliers of Ballybrophy House advertising in the Farmer’s Gazette and Journal of Practical Horticulture .

Saturday 25 May 1861 ,  Saunders’s News-Letter has Thomas Plunkett of Ballybrophy House.  Walford’s County Families  describes the Plunketts as of Ballybrophy, Mount D’alton, Co Westmeath and Corlismore, Co Cavan.  Thomas Plunkett had married Hannah, daughter of James MacFadin, Corlismore, Co Cavan.  Mount D’Alton is the home of the Gibson Brabazon family.  The D’Alton (and D’Alton Begg)  family lived there till it was sold by the Incumbered Estates Court in 1850.  It may be that Plunkett bought it then and initially leased it to the Brabazons.

Joseph Michael Plunkett, Thomas Plunkett’s son, married Laura Caroline Darby of Leap Castle, daughter of Jonathan Darby and Caroline Curteis Graham, on 29 August 1887.  On inheriting his uncle James MacFadin’s Cavan estate he changed his name to Plunkett MacFadden

In the Yokohama War Cemetery there is a memorial to Lieutenant Colonel John Oliver Plunkett, Straits Settlements Volunteer Force. 10th December 1942. Age 55. Son of Joseph Michael Plunkett, and of Laura Plunkett (nee Darby); husband of Elsie Campbell Plunkett, of Hove, Sussex. M.I.C.E. Brit.Sec.   John Oliver is described as the eldest son.  In about 1900 Joseph Michael Plunkett arranged to move from Mount D’Alton  the pyramidal monument, thirty feet high, erected by Count D’Alton in honour of the Empress Maria Theresa, the Emperor Joseph II., and King George III. On three sides it is adorned with their profiles in white marble, and on the fourth with the arms of the family and a suitable inscription.  It was said that he was intending to put it up as a monument to his son (presumably a second son).  However when it got to Ballybrophy Station he failed to pay the railway company for moving it, so it was incorporated into the fabric of the shunting yard.    I believe that it was moved back to Mullingar in the 1980s.

In 1900 Major Foulerton, a Scottish friend of Lord Castletown’s was living at Ballybrophy.  In a letter of 7th April 1900 from Samuel Hemphill, the vicar of Birr,  to H.G. Farmer, now in the University of Glasgow’s special collection, Hemphill notes that  Major Foulerton left Ballybrophy House with Leinsters for the front yesterday (the Boer War).  Foulterton died at Vrede. 5th Jan. 1901.

In 1907 James Ogilivie Grant 11th Earl of Seafield was in Ballacolla Cottage but by December 1910 he had moved to Ballybrophy House.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Francis William Ogilvy-Grant, 6th Earl of Seafield (6 March 1778 – 30 July 1853) was married twice. He married firstly Mary Anne Dunn, daughter of John Dunn of Northumberland and St Helena, where he was an East India Company surgeon, in 1811. They had five children. After his first wife’s death in 1840 he married secondly Louisa Emma, daughter of Robert George Maunsell, of Spa Hill, Limerick  in 1843.  His second wife was a cousin of the Evans family of Ash Hill Towers.   He died in July 1853, aged 75.  For a very challenging bit of rather close relationships:-

Louisa Emma née Maunsell, married the 6th Earl of Seafield in 1843, who was some 46 years older than her. Six years later, in 1849, Lewis Alexander Ogilvy-Grant, one of her step-sons married her sister, Georgina, thus becoming her brother-in-law too.

The 6th Earl’s fourth son was James Ogilvy-Grant, who became 9th Earl of Seafield (27 December 1817 – 5 June 1888).  He married Caroline Louisa Evans daughter of Eyre Evans of Ash Hill Towers, Co Limerick who died in 1850 when her son Francis William Ogilvy-Grant, later and briefly 10th Earl of Seafield (born in Ireland in 1847) was only three.  After his education, Francis William served as a midshipman in  the Royal Navy and then joined the merchant navy.

He arrived in New Zealand in 1870 at the age of 23 and bought a farm in the Waiareka Valley in a locality known as Te Aneraki  to the west of Oamaru in North Otago. He lost his money through his farming pursuits, and from the late 1870s worked as a labourer in fencing or other available tasks.  Some time after the marriage, the family moved to Oamaru.

He married his first cousin (her father and his mother were brother and sister), Ann Trevor Corry Evans, on 24 November 1874, at The Bethel in Otago.  She was the daughter of Major George Thomas Evans and Louisa Barbara Corry. They had seven children; four girls and three boys  Their youngest daughter, Nina Geraldine (1884–1951), married Sir Lees Knowles, 1st Baronet in 1915.

According to a family story, when he received the telegram in on April 1st 1884 informing him that his cousin had died and his father had become the 9th Earl he was painting a house. From that time forward, the Dowager Countess of Seafield provided a stipend of about £600 per year, which alleviated much of his financial distress. In 1888, Lord Reidhaven’s father died and he became Sir Francis William Ogilvie-Grant, Baronet, 10th Earl of Seafield, chief of the Clan Grant. Unfortunately, within a matter of months, in December 1888, he died of heart failure and was succeeded by his eldest son, the Hon. James Ogilvie-Grant, Lord Reidhaven, who was still a boy aged twelve years.

11th earl

When the 11th Earl succeeded the Dowager Countess offered to send out a tutor to bring him home and educate him in a manner befitting his ancient title, and though this offer, it is said, was declined by the Earl’s mother (who, contemporary accounts noted, was a connection of Lord Carbery).   It was this boy that furnished the inspiration for the popular novel “Little Lord Fauntleroy.”   Frances Hodgson Burnett published the story as a serial from November 1885 to October 1886.  Unlike “Dearest” of that story, however, his mother did not part with her son.

James Ogilvie-Grant, 11th Earl of Seafield, lived in Auckland before his marriage to Mary Elizabeth Nina Townend, the eldest daughter of Dr Joseph Henry Townend, of Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1898.  Mary Townsend’s grandparents owned the Sterling Iron and Railway Company of New York, worth about £30 million in the 1900s.

After immigrating from New Zealand to England and then Ireland, James and his family eventually went to Scotland.  The old Countess, whose grandmother was a Nugent from Westmeath,  and whose great grandfather was Henry White of Kilcok, offered the young Earl a sizeable allowance if he would promise to go back where he came from and stay there.  She explained that she did not wish any Colonial Clodhoppers cluttering up the landscape.

Strangely enough, it was James’ angry refusal which won him the family estates finally. For, far from being offended, the strong minded and haughty countess was so pleased that she straightaway signified her intention of bequeathing him all the property that went with the title.

As a journalist wrote at the time of the old Countess’s death ”rumour has it that the dowager lady intends to leave much of her land and fortune to the present earl, who is her grand-nephew. She is said to have declared that she regarded herself as a trustee for life of the properties, to clear which from debt she would devote all her energies and leave them at her death to the holder of the earldom. She is said to have made such a settlement, so that the details of her will will be awaited with great interest.” Caroline, Countess of Seafield, died 6 Oct 1911, aged 81.

James was killed in action at Flanders leaving little Nina Grant, then nine years old, as heiress of all the Grant possessions. After leaving Ballybrophy in 1912 she lived at Cullen House, where she was reared quite simply and quietly. In fact, there was no suggestion in her training that she was destined to be a person of prominence later on. When she was a tot she played with the gardener’s children and was brought up almost as she might have been had her family remained in New Zealand and had she grown up to be a farmer’s daughter.

Nina Caroline Studley-Herbert, 12th Countess of Seafield  born 17 April 1906, died 30 September 1969, the second richest woman in  Britain after the Queen – and about her there is a whole novel waiting to be written – just google “Please, Pretty Countess, Won’t You Marry My Son” for more.

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The next tenant that we know of at Ballybrophy was A G Seton, who subsequently moved on to Holycross.   In 1916  Lieutenant Biddulph of The Kings County Hounds lent 7 couples of hounds to Mr. Alfred G  Seton, of Ballybrophy House, to hunt with his harriers.   Seton, a friend of Thomas Johnson, 1872-1963,  the first leader of the Labour Party in Dáil, seems an unlikely man to have been an MFH.

On Sept. 5, 1914 the widow of Thomas Augustus Plunkett, late of Ballybrophy, died suddenly in Switzerland.

At some point in the 1920s Ballybrophy fell into the dreaded grip of the Land Commission, and the house and immediate demesne were acquired for William Phelan, one of the Munster Phelans mentioned under Cuffesborough.   In 1938 At the suit of Guard Creegan, Wm. Phelan, Ballybrophy House , Borris-in- Ossory, was fined Is. for driving without a driver’s licence.

By 1978 when I first visited it, only a decade or so after William Phelan’s demise, it was already a nearly roofless, and the cut stone window cills had already been quarried.

 

Up the hill and down the hollow, that’s the way to Ballacolla

Like the neighbouring villages of Clough, or is it Clogh, and Aghaboe, or is is Aghavoe, officialdom  have problems spelling the name of Ballacolla, or is it Ballycolla, which is described in the Rough Guide to Ireland as “an unassuming village, two miles northwest of Durrow, which has few sights to speak of.”

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According to the Down Survey Map there was a ruined castle in “Ballicalo” in the middle of the 17th century. Its site is still pointed out in the ” Old Gardens”, close to the cross-roads of Tintore. Part of the townland is called Lughabarra, from a remarkable hollow basin, 5 acres in extent, filled up with water in winter, but perfectly dry in summer. There was a Mass-Pit here in the Penal times and part of the altar, built of loose stones, is still shown in the breast of the fence separating Lughabarra from Tintore.

The 1814 edition of Leet’s Directory of Notable Place lists John Harper of Ballacolla, but there are no other references to him. A man of mystery.  Nothing in births, dearths and marriages;  no newspaper advertisements;  not noted in any other directories.  Who was he?

By September 1832 , The Newry Telegraph is advertising property “ For Particulars of Title, Rentals, Etc., apply to Willam Caldbeck, Esq., The Cottage, Ballacolla; or Messrs. Bolton and Bolton”.

Bolton and Bolton were solicitors in Abbey Street, Dublin, Nenagh and Abbeyleix. Bringing Caldbeck to the area a little earlier,  in the 1827 Tithe Applotment Survey both William Caldbeck and George Bolton held land at Kilebeg, a small townland near Aghaboe.   Caldbeck also had land at Black Hill Abbeyleix. The King’s Inn admission papers record the admission of George Bolton junior, third son of George Bolton of Kilebeg, Queen’s County and Catherine Standish in 1824. These Boltons are probably descendants of Sir Edward Bolton, the Solicitor General to Thomas Wentworth in the 1630s, whose son lived at Clonroosk, now a suburb of Portlaoise.

William Caldbeck (c 1800 – 1862) was a grandson of William Caldbeck (1733-1803), KC, of Moyle House, Clondalkin, a lawyer and amateur architect, who was distinguished in the Volunteers and built gunpowder mills at Moyle to supply the Volunteers with ammunition. The mills were a bit of a disaster – they exploded after five years afterwards with such force that pieces of the building several tons in weight were found six fields away and the concussion was felt so severely in Dublin that it caused the fall of a stack of chimneys in Usher’s Quay.  In their genealogy in Burke’s Landed Gentry Of Ireland, 1912, Pg.103 Caldbeck of Moyle and  Larch Hill Whitechurch, Co Dublin goes back no further than the lawyer and his wife Anne Keatinge.

William’s cousin, another William Caldbeck (c1820 – 1872), was an architect working for, amongst others, the Earl of Portarlington at Emo and Sir Charles Coote at Ballyfin. He had been a pupil of Dublin architect William Deane Butler (who designed Shaen House near Emo c1810).

Now the only remains of Ballacolla Cottage are the low wall running along the road on the left from Ballacolla to Rathdowney, with the remnants of both the front and back gates. The plantations, gardens, lime kiln, all have been swept away.

James Fraser in 1844 writes that “A small inn, where cars can be hired, has been lately opened at Ballycolla, and adjoining the hamlet is Ballycolla Cottage ;” The small inn is now called Caoch O’Leary, named from Keegan’s most famous poem, Caoch The Piper, based on the true account of the visit, in Keegan’s childhood, of a blind piper, Caoch (which means blind) O Leary and his dog, poor Pinch, to Keegan’s home at Shanahoe and the piper’s return visit twenty years later.

William Caldbeck’s wife Mary died in 1873, and Ballacolla Cottage was inherited by their son Richard. He had at least three sisters; in 1852 the youngest, Anne, married Robert Lloyd whose family lived in Gloster, just outside Birr. In the same year the second daughter Martha married William Hely, Esq , of Foulkscourt Castle, Johnstown whose ancestor was Sir John Hely (died 1701), Chief Justice of Ireland.

There’s an interesting notice in 1874 in the Sydney Mail and NSW advertiser http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162484300 (rightmost column under Missing Friends):-
RICHARD CALDBECK, of Ballacolla, Queen’s County, Ireland, is anxious to hear from ALBERT CALDBECK, formerly from the same place. His mother having died, he will hear of something to his advantage if he corresponds with above.  It appears that they never contacted each other and only in recent times have Albert’s Antipodean descendants been trying to discover their roots through the internet.

Richard Caldbeck died on 2 October 1893 and the house was inherited by his son Captain Eaton Hely Caldbeck. Eaton was still on the army list in 1902, serving in the 10th Hussars, but died ar Ballacolla House in 1908.  His son Richard C. Caldbeck, an electrical engineer, took over and let it.

According to Hazell’s Annual,  James Ogilvy-Grant, 11th Earl of Seafield became the tenant. There is still a story waiting to be uncovered here. On June 22, 1898 at St. Barnabas Church in Fendalton, Christchurch, New Zealand, 22 year old James Ogilvy-Grant, 11th Earl of Seafield married 22 year old Mary Elizabeth Nina Townend, who was called Nina like James’ mother. Their only child, a daughter, Nina Caroline Ogilvy-Grant was born on April 17, 1906.

In 1903, when the third wife of James’ grandfather the 9th Earl of Seafield died, James and his wife Nina took up residence at the ancestral homes in Scotland: Castle Grant in Grantown-on-Spey, Morayshire and Cullen House in Moray, Banffshire. James, 11th Earl of Seafield and Nina, Countess of Seafield became very popular and highly regarded. James devoted much time in activities that would benefit his tenants and gained a reputation for his knowledge of estate problems. He took a special interest in afforestation, the establishment of a forest or stand of trees in an area where there was no forest.

So what was one of the richest men in Britain with several castles scattered around Scotland, not to mention the odd town house in London,  doing in a cottage, albeit a large one, in Ballacolla? Was it something to do with the visit of Edward VII to Granston Manor to shoot as the guest of Lord Castletown?  The next blog on Ballybrophy will reveal all!

Seafield died on 12 November 1915 at age 39 at France, from wounds received in action. Scottish peerages could be passed on to female heirs. James’ daughter Nina became the 12th Countess of Seafield in her own right. At the time of her death in 1969, she was the second richest British woman, after Queen Elizabeth II and owned over 200,000 acres.

The 985 acre property at Ballacolla was taken over by the Land Commission in December 1914.

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Annegrove Abbey – One of the houses the Land Commission knocked about a bit.

 

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Scott of Annegrove Abbey, Queen’s Co. in: Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland

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Some families tread lightly on history’s pages, and Scott of Annegrove is one of them.  I am reminded of Hilaire Belloc’s The Garden Party:-

They married and gave in marriage,
They danced at the County Hall,
And some of them kept a carriage
And the flood destroyed them all

According to Burkes Landed Gentry of Ireland they arrived in Ireland with King William’s army at the Battle of the Boyne.

They shot – so much so that on one occasion  James Scott found himself so overladen with grouse that he tied strings around his trouser ankles and dropped birds down his waistband as he shot his way home. In 1828 it is reported that he won a shooting competition in Kilkenny –  ten birds, twenty-one yards from the trap. He won at the ninth shot, having killed eight birds. They hunted – lawn meets took place at Annegrove.  They bred horses –  in 1898 the Farmers journal reported the sale of a bay mare, 7 years old, by Lord Scrope, dam by Cimareon, grand dam by Crown Prince; bred by’ the late Mr Scott of Annegrove.

William Butler of Ash Park, Templemore, whose daughter Anne married James Scott was well connected – a distant cousin of the Ormondes.  The pedigree of Butler of Killoskehan, Drum, and Wilford, of Lisduff, of Monequillin, and of Park, all in Co. Tipperary, c.1630 — 1870. Is to be found in the Genealogical Office: (Ms.176, pp.310-8).

James Scott’s younger brother John Robert Scott (1747-1808) married Elizabeth Glison of Mountrath.  They had 8 sons – John Scott, George Bradshaw Scott (b 1780), Samuel Scott, James Scott, Benjamin Scott, Robert Scott, Edward Scott and William Scott.  George went to Dublin where he married a Sarah Handcock  February 27, 1807 in St Peter’s, Dublin, and in 1813, being worth over £2,000 and a merchant of  the City Quay, was appointed a sherrif of Dublin.  It is fascinating how the descendants of this side of the family have been airbrushed out of the family history – they were trade and Dublin, whilst the Annegrove Scotts were landed gentry and country.   It might have something to do with a newspaper announcement of 1831 to the creditors of George Bradshaw Scott, late of No. 6, Alsop’s-Place, Regent’s-Park, Mary-le-Bone, in the County of Middlesex, an insolvent debtor.  After this he seems to have headed for Canada, where one of his sons, another George Bradshaw Scott (1817-1895)  of the Montreal Bank, married  Emma, third daughter of the late Richard Richardson, formerly cashier of the Bank of Upper Canada in 1848.

It is probable that another brother of George Bradshaw was James Edmund Scott of Ancaster, near Toronto, who married Sarah Scott of Clonenagh in Mountrath 7th Feb. 1840.  The witnesses were Sarah Scott, Matthew Butler Scott (George Bradshaw’s brother) and John Scott.  It is interesting that though these Scotts had moved down the social ladder whilst there cousins were moving up, they could still afford to travel backwards and forwards to Canada.  This may not have been so unusual – an ancestor of mine was building flour mills in Canada and Ireland and crossed the Atlantic at least three times in the early 19th Century.

In 1815 Atkinson wrote in The Irish Tourist:- Before my departure from this neighbourhood I was recommended by one of my subscribers to visit Mr Scott of Anngrove a gentleman whose cultivated mind and love of letters promised to a person of my pursuits a favourable reception.   His conduct answered the expectations given me and although his house, like that of Springmount in the same neighbourhood, lies rather low for commanding a view of the country yet when those useful and ornamental improvements which he is now carrying on are completed and the view to and from his house rendered more open by the removal of those clumps of trees which now obstruct it then then Anngrove without deriving any other advantage from nature than that of a level plain and a pretty country around it will be a place of considerable beauty.

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Annegtove on the 1837 OS Map – still partially obscured from the road by a belt of trees, but with superb gardens

Their son James Edmond Scott married into the smart set – his bride’s father Denny Wheeler Cuffe was a cousin (once removed, but what’s a removal between cousins!) of The Earl of Desart.  He became a Justice of the Peace in 1832, and a founder member of the Queens County Conservative Association, set up in 1836

They had a son James William Butler Scott who was born in 1811 and married Elizabeth Rosetta Massey in 1851.  Her father, John Bolton Massy (1785-1871) was the son of Robert Compton Bolton of Brazille Castle, Swords.  His mother Elizabeth Rosetta Massy, was the daughter of the 1st Baron Massy (according to her granddaughter  Lady Glover, Mrs. Bolton was a beauty of her time, a fascinating lady who danced the cachuca with the Duke of Wellington and was a well-known figure in society of that day and a great friend of the Duke’s).  John Bolton Massy was also a grandson of one of the daughters and co heiresses of Abraham Green of Ballymacreese, County Limerick. He took the name of Massy when he inherited the estate of his grand uncle, Honourable John Massy, third son of the 1st Baron Massy of ,in the Dublin Mountains, well known for its phantom black cat, a familiar of The Hell Fire Club. Another grand uncle, John’s brother Eyre Massy who lived at Altavilla in Coolrain, 7 miles away.

Kilakee

The 1806 version of Massy’s Killakee House, built for Luke White of Luttrellstown

They had a son and three daughters, but his wife Rosetta died in 1859.  The eldest daughter, Elizabeth Rosetta was only 5 and as she grew up became hostess for her father’s guests.  His son, James William Edmund Scott (1855 to post 1933), was a lunatic and was already committed before his father died in 1889.

In 1870 James William Butler Scott owned 194 acres in County Kilkenny, 2 acres in  Kilkenny City and 1,754 acres in Queens County.    By May 1914 Major Robert Maxwell Marsh, son of Francis Marsh of Springmount, Queen’s County was farming Annegrove.   Marsh had followed his elder brother into the Army, joining  the 4th Battalion of the Leinster Regiment, from which he retired in 1893, and became a Civil Engineer, working in India for many years.  The estate was finally divided by the Land Commission in 1933.

James William Edmund Scott’s eldest sister had a rather exciting life which she vividly recalled in Memories of Four Continents: Recollections Grave and Gay, published in 1923.

Glover

Elizabeth Rosetta (Scott) Glover on the occasion of her daughter’s marriage

Her memories of Annegrove are worth reproducing, as they give a rarely heard  Unionist landlord’s view of life during the land wars :-

My father was the only son of James Edmund Scott and was christened James William Butler. William was after his godfather. Lord Maryborough, Chief Secretary for Ireland and brother of the Duke of Wellington, and Butler because his mother was Miss Butler of Park, member of a branch of the Ormond family. On the occasion of the christening Lord Maryborough presented two beautiful old silver beer jugs to his godson. They are very large and heavy, and I still have them and the old engraved glass tumblers that were used on that occasion. His father was a descendant of the Duke of Buccleuch who came over with the King’s army and settled in Ireland, Lord Clonmel being descended from another branch of the Scott family. Our house was part of an old abbey, the foundations of which were still to be seen in the grounds, and there were also the ruins of two castles near by which had been bombarded by Cromwell, and round them many ancient relics of the fighting days were found, deeply buried in the soil.  (NB – it is strange that neither O’Hanlon nor Carrigan mention an early abbey at Annegrove).

From my earliest years I was my father’s close companion, and had little time to work in the schoolroom, which made me the despair of our governess. We were living in disturbed times. The Fenians had not then begun to murder women and children, as the Sinn Feiners do now ; they were content in those days to shoot the landlords, boycott them, and steal or mutilate their cattle. But, in spite of everything, the landlords were always loyal to the British Crown ; they were descended for the most part from men who had come over from England or Scotland when soldiers in the British army, and had inherited loyal traditions. There is much in heredity.

In those days my father’s life was only worth nine pounds purchase, for that was the exact sum promised to a man named Walsh, who came over from America to shoot him. Walsh was also promised a free passage back when the deed was done, for no one thought it a crime to shoot a landlord, or dreamed that the murderer would ever be brought to justice by the Government.

I wonder how the £9 was raised, and how Mr Walsh got back to America, as he failed in his mission!

I often heard about Colonel Garden’s escapes. He was known as ” Woodcock ” Garden, because he had been fired at so frequently. If I remember rightly, his arm had been shot off in the Crimea, and he was considered a very gallant soldier. I think the Fenians got him at last — or at least a pellet did — in one of the eyes, but he said he could see a lot with the other ! The unhappy loyalists were not much better off in those days than they are now, the only difference being that it is no longer a religious and agrarian war — it has gone far beyond that. The old battle cry ” The wrongs of Ireland clamour in the blood ! — The iron has entered her soul — She will never forget and never forgive. Like the Russian Bolshevik, she is out now for blood, and she gets it.  But in my younger days there was still some chivalry left ; at least Tommy Moore thought so when writing his immortal poems.

However, my father was advised to be careful after he had refused police protection, so he carried me about on his back in my baby days when wandering about in the hayfields and through the farms, and kept well away from hedgerows. I learned from him the name of every tree and bird and wild-flower as soon as I could speak, also much about agriculture. Later I was strapped into a basket side-saddle, and he led the tiny pony until I was big enough to walk by his side.

After my mother’s death, when I was just five years old, my father gave up hunting. He had a famous horse at that time, named Peacock, a well-bred weight carrier who never made a mistake. My father was a tall, heavy man, and well known as the owner of clever hunters, he spent his time farming and breeding short-horned cattle, and took many prizes at the Horse Show for heavy-weight hunters. He was a typical country gentleman of those days, and worked for his country without thanks or reward, sitting on the magisterial bench, attending grand juries at the assizes, and poor law meetings. One year, I remember, he was High Sheriff, always an expensive honour.

Very soon all the old places will have been sold, unless the owners are fortunate enough to draw large incomes from other sources for their upkeep. The next generation will see a new order of things, and they may be better able to adapt themselves to circumstances ; but much of the historic interest of the old county families has already passed away with many of the “stately homes of England”.  There will be no room for the impoverished country squire. Of course, unlike the sister isle, England is a vast industrial and manufacturing country, and factories and workshops will push away hedgerows and fences ; but to make agriculture pay it must become a big business proposition — at least that is the opinion I have formed after years of observation. Small fields enclosed by hedgerows leave no scope for the plough and the land is wasted by headlands.

But besides resident governesses, we had at one time a visiting governess who gave us lessons three times a week. Also a dancing master, Mr. Lyons, who played the violin while showing us the various steps — reels, mazurkas, strathspeys, and waltzes — and he did it astonishingly well, his neat little feet keeping time to the music, of which he had a large repertoire. Mr. Crowley was our singing-master, and we had fortnightly visits too from the clergyman for religious instruction when preparing for confirmation. Our Rector, Dean King, was a gentleman of the old school, with kindly, aristocratic manners. His daughter married the curate, Mr. Finlay, who was one of our instructors. This man was popular with everyone in the parish on account of his charm of manner, and he was greatly regretted when he left on promotion to a living. Later, his elder brother died, and he inherited a place in Cavan, where he and his wife lived until a few months ago ; but in the year of grace 1922 the Sinn Feiners for no ascribed reason entered Dean Finlay’s house in the night, took his wife and six servants out of their beds, locked them up in an outhouse, and then brutally murdered the old clergyman in cold blood.

When we were children Sheridan, the sweep, was our bogey-man. He arrived periodically in a donkey-cart with a little boy and long brushes. The poor little boy had bare legs and only a flimsy shirt to cover him. He was sent to climb up the wide chimneys with a hand-hoe to hack down the soot. When he was slow at his work the old man used frightful language, and the child seemed terrified and sometimes cried bitterly ; but he often managed to steal pigeons eggs and any other little thing he fancied when his master was not looking.

One Sunday, when driving to church (St. Matthew’s Church Rosskelton), we passed a procession of men with flags and banners, shouting and yelling like mad. They were on their way to a big demonstration meeting which the agitators had got up. The church was in a very desolate spot, with no houses near it ; and in the middle of the service the men surrounded the building and hammered at the doors, shouting, “Down with the land grabbers ” The congregation was mostly composed of women and children. The clergyman stopped reading the prayers and there was dead silence, except for the howling outside. For a moment everyone expected the men to burst open the doors and rush in ; but with curses and the clashing of brass instruments they finally marched off.

Roskelton

Rosskelton Church with the sexton’s house

Then came the days when men brought their revolvers to tennis parties and laid them out in a row while playing, and a couple of constables walked about the grounds for fear of a surprise. Yet the British Isles were supposed to be civilised  All this happened when I was young, and late in 1922 I heard that an old maid-servant who lived in our family for years, the daughter of the then sexton of our church, had been brutally treated. On her father’s death she was made sextoness and caretaker, and lived in a cottage within the church-yard walls. Having gained access to the church, the raiders encountered Miss Allen, who is now a feeble old woman, unable to walk without the aid of a stick, and practically a cripple. She refused to give up the key of the safe, and the miscreants then brutally assaulted her. One struck her on the face, a second clutched her by the throat, and a third kicked her as she lay helpless on the ground. The men then entered the vestry and tried to break open the safe with a hammer, but without success. They then attempted to burn the Bible which was on the lectern. While in the caretaker’s house, at two in the morning, they made tea for themselves and took away all the food they could find.

Of her marriage she wrote:-

Sir John Glover came to see a cousin who was staying with us at the time, and this was the occasion of our first meeting.  After this, when on his way to a shooting party at Lord John Browne’s, Westport, in County Mayo, there was a railway accident in which Sir John sustained somewhat serious injuries, and my father telegraphed, asking him to return to our house and stay until he was recovered. At first it was supposed that there was not much the matter ; but when Surgeon Butcher arrived he considered that it was a case of life or death, and day and night nurses were sent for. It fell to my lot to see that the doctor’s orders were carried out, and those who have watched critical cases winning through in the late war will, I think, understand the sympathy that is created, and not be surprised that when he was convalescent we became engaged, and were married in Kent not long after.

John Hawley Glover (1829 -1885) was a Royal Navy officer distinguished for surveying, and charted the waters of the Niger during Dr William Balfour Baikie’s second exploration of the river in 1857. After the expedition’s steamer ‘Dayspring’ was wrecked near Jebba in October, Glover trekked overland to Lagos three times to ensure the safe return of the party. Britain annexed Lagos in 1861 and Glover left active naval service to join its new colonial administration, becoming Secretary in 1864 and then Administrator from 1866 to 1872. A committed Christian evangelist, Glover also battled the slave trade and encouraged the work of missionaries.

Their courtship is described in more detail in  The Life of Sir John Hawley Glover (1897)

In August 1875, Sir John Glover received invitations from Bishop Alexander, of Derry, and Lord Clermont to stay with them in the north of Ireland, and bring his step-sister with him. He enjoyed meeting the bishop and his charming wife and daughter, who did all they could to make the visit a pleasant one. While there he received a letter from an old lady who was a distant cousin of his family, saying that her nephew was away from home, and that therefore they were unable to ask him to stay much, as she wanted to see him once more ;but her cousin, Mr. Scott, of Annegrove Abbey, in Queen’s County, with whom she was then on a visit, expressed a hope that he and his sister would come and see her there, and stay for a night on their way to London. A letter to the same effect was received by his sister from Miss Scott, who was doing the honours of her father’s house, having lost her mother in early childhood.

Sir John was anxious to see his old cousin, thinking it might be many years before he again visited Ireland, and therefore accepted the invitation, arriving, in August, at Mountrath station, and leaving on the following day, after a long ride before lunch with his hostess. In this way he made the acquaintance of Miss Scott, who impressed him so deeply that although he had foresworn matrimony after his previous disappointment, he fully made up his mind to return to Ireland at no distant date and see whether on further acquaintance with this young lady he could impart the same feelings to her that she had inspired in him. With his usual cautiousness or, possibly, from diffidence, he never wrote to her or expressed any intention of returning till the following October, when her father received a letter saying that Sir John was coming over to Ireland to shoot at Lord Sligo’s with his old shipmate Lord John Browne, and that, in consequence of his  sister not being included in the invitation, he would, if convenient, bring her and leave her at Annegrove Abbey, if Mr. Scott and his daughter would renew their invitation made when they were last with thein, that they should offer themselves if they visited that country again. Accordingly they came at the end of October, and, during the week that followed. Sir John fully determined to declare his feelings. Just then Mr. Scott appeared to have noticed his intentions, and told his daughter that he objected to her marrying.  This made her manner cold and constrained, and Sir John, thinking that the time had not yet come for him to speak, left at once for Sligo by the night mail.

About five o’clock the following morning, the train he was in dashed into a luggage train at Westport, and he found himself crushed down amid the debris of the railway carriage, unable to move. The whole of the compartment was smashed and telescoped together, only the one corner that he was sitting in was not entirely destroyed and flattened. The rail above his head had been driven down and caught him across the back of the neck, and the opposite seat had been jammed forward and held his leg so tightly that it was some time before he could extricate himself. When this was achieved, finding he had no bones broken, he at once did all he could in helping the porters and the crowd that had collected to extricate the dead and wounded from the debris, and perceiving the engine- driver to be alive, tore up a rail, and using it as a lever helped to lift off part of the engine which was crushing out his life. It was not till the excitement and strain were over that Sir John fainted, and the doctor discovered that he was severely injured. To join the shooting party was out of the question, and he was obliged to remain in the station- master’s house until he was sufficiently recovered to travel.

Mr. Scott, hearing of the accident, made his daughter write and express a hope that as soon as Sir John was able he would return to Annegrove, and wait there until he was well enough to go back to England. This he did, little thinking that during the next seven weeks he would be battling with life and death. The following is a short note written by him to his mother’s sister, fearing she would be alarmed at hearing of the railway disaster ; ‘ I got a severe shake in the railway accident the other day, but am mending ; I could not write before. Fortunately my sister was not with me. I give you an extract from the surgeon’s certificate : — ” Severe contusions in left thigh and leg, and severe wrench and contusions of neck.” I send a rough sketch of the appearance of the carriage after the mash. I am now staying till better at Annegrove Abbey.’

The wound in the leg had been badly managed at Westport, and erysipelas supervened. A nurse was telegraphed for, and the local doctor, seeing the case was serious, sent to Dublin for Surgeon Butcher. When he came he pronounced his patient to be in a very critical condition, and seeing that the invalid’s sister had no idea of nursing, impressed on Miss Scott that all his orders must  be carried out with the greatest care, as it was a case of life or death. Thus she was in a great measure given the responsibility of the case, and was obliged to see that the night-nurse, and others in attendance by day, were adhering strictly to his orders. There is no time when the helplessness of a man appeals more to the sympathy of a woman than when she is trying to win him back to life and health. So, during the anxious days that followed, Miss Scott realised how much she cared for the man whose life was hanging on a thread.  At last the turning point came, and Dr. Butcher said all danger was past, though his nervous system had gone through such a severe shaking, it would probably shorten his life. When conscious of returning health he expressed his hopes, and found he had won the heart of the lady he wished to make his wife. But she told him what her father had said, and expressed her fears that the difficulties of ever gaining his consent to their union would be great. They proved to be even greater than she had anticipated, and after getting a flat refusal of his consent, Sir John Glover was obliged to leave Ireland. The Queen, with thoughtful kindness, caused Lady Ely to write to him and also to Miss Scott, expressing her regret that there should be any difficulty about the engagement.

Soon after that, still with her father’s disapproval, they were married and set off for Newfoundland to which he had been appointed Governor.

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Annegrove from the road in 2015

Begining a little after the begining

Ultimately I hope that this Blog will list 300 or so houses in Laois ( I already hear the clicks of Unsubscribe!)  that have some pretension to architectural grandeur – or at least have some pretension,  whose inhabitants have achieved some slight fame, or are just quirkily interesting.  Of these about 50 are quite derelict or have been demolished, but 30 that were derelict have been restored since 1990.

I am trying to put the houses up in a vaguely alphabetical fashion, which is frustrating as some of the most interesting houses begin with S and T, and Woodbrook at Portarlington, which I wrote up for an interiors piece in Image in the 1980s, is the last house on the list and quite fascinating.

These are the houses beginning with A and some of the families associated with them

Abbeyleix House Vesey Davis
Aghaboe Grange White
Aghbaoe House Dunne  Maillard  White  Banks Ledwich
Aharney House, Abbeyleix Mulhallen Marum
Air Hill Rathdowney Harte Thompson
Allwort House,  Abbeyleix Delahunty Swan Kennedy,
Altavilla Coolrain Massy Watson Luther Bolton
Annagh. Coolrain
Anne Grove, Mountmellick
Annebrook House Portlaoise White Rankin
Annefield, Maryborough
Annegrove Abbey Scott
Anneville Cottage Colclough
Archerstown Delaney Lawrenson
Ashbrook Aghaboe
Ashfield Hall Ballickmoyler Fishbourne Jeffers Gale
Ashgrove, aka Ashfield Ballybrittas Dean of Kildare Odlum Earcett
Attanagh House

laois-map

 

Alta Villa, Coolrain

 

A 3 storey house, the top floor being an attic floor, of 5 bays with a very distinct rhythm suggesting a wide hall.  Gable ended with stacks in the gables, not massive enough  to suggest an early house.   It appears on the OS  6” Map with its parkland, as surveyed in 1839, but not on Taylor and Skinner in 1777 or  1783 , who only mark the neighbouring houses of Coolrain and Laurel Hill.  It appears in Leet’s Directory to the market towns, villages, gentlemen’s seats and other noted places in Ireland in 1814 as the home of the Hon Eyre Massey. This was probably George Eyre Massy (1772 – 1842) son of Hugh Massy, 2nd Baron Massy of Duntrileague and Catherine Massy.   He married Elizabeth Scanlan in 1791 and they had 7 children.

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Altavilla from Google streetview

In the early 1830s it was rented by the Crofton family of Mountmellick.  The earliest reference to Croftons in the area is a deed of  10 Jun 1719, Vol.24 , page 169, deed no 1341 witnessed by Joseph Crofton, gent, of Mountmelick, Queens Co.  Walter Cavendish Crofton (1806 – 1871) describes the vicissitudes of his family in “The Orange Pole and Papist White Boy”.  Originally a brewer and miller in Mountmellick, his father refused to attend the removal of the contentious orange pole in that town.

Errected as a memorial to the victory of the Wellesley “Orange” Pole over local 1798 insurgents.  A local, Wellesley Pole was the older brother of the Duke of Wellington, who in 1781 inherited Ballyfin from his cousin, William Pole.  The monument consisted of a tin plate on top of a pole, an equestrian figure of William of Orange on one side and the letters GR (Georgius Rex) in honour of  King George IV, on the other.

Founded in Armagh in 1795 to counteract the non sectarian nationalist unifying influence of the United Irishmen, The Orange Order was banned by the British government from 1823 to 1845 because of its involvement in sectarian violence.  Thus it was that in 1824 the parish priest Anthony Duane successfully appealed to the County magistrates in Maryborough to have the pole removed.  The removal was the subject of a mini-riot in the town.

Crofton writes that following his father’s refusal to attend the dismantling,  Fr Duane suggested to his congregation that the Crofton  family be boycotted.  The Crofton drays were attacked, and one dray man and several of the horses were killed.  Emigration was the only answer.  As soon as all the arrangements were completed, the furniture sold off, the loose property converted into cash, and the premises leased, the family removed to Bristol where they remained for 10 years; but becoming weary of living in, to them, a foreign country, far away from old friends and old associations, they again broke up housekeeping, and once more ventured back to Ireland.

“Having returned to the land of our nativity, visions of happiness  and former competency soon opened up to us. ” Alta Villa,” a beautiful country residence, with extensive grounds, lawn, gardens and farm, was taken ; large flouring mills were rented in the neighbourhood, and everything in the future was tinted with odeur du rose.  This state of affairs, however, did not last long: owing to the various removes and vicissitudes of the previous years, my father had become unsettled in his business habits.

About this time the furore and excitement of emigration to America filled every mind : most people were inoculated with the idea, and the new world was looked upon as the land of promise, and to reach it was considered to be the acme of felicity — the sure road to wealth and fortune. We were not long making up our minds that Ireland was to be no longer a home for us ; and, acting on that conviction, we took up our temporary abode in the pretty village of Castletown, before taking our final departure for the land of the west.  Shortly after this eventful period, the family left by coach for Monasterevin, to take passage, via the Grand Canal, to the metropolis, as we learned that our ship, the Duncan Gibb,  was to sail on the following week.”

Crofton’s account of a journey across the Atlantic in the 1830s on a sailing ship is worth reproducing:-

When we left Dublin the cholera had broken out in its most virulent form ; hundreds died daily. Such a scourge had not been heard of in the British Isles since the time of the great plague. The dead cart was going incessantly, night and day, and every one looked at his neighbour in blank and mute amazement, or with that enquiring glance that says — whose turn will come next ?

Glad indeed were we to turn our backs on the squalid misery and woeful faces that met one at every turn in the stately city of Dublin ; and although we were leaving our native land forever, we did so with less regret in consequence of all we had undergone, and the terrible visitant we, as we supposed, were leaving behind us.

As our good ship passed the ” Pigeon House,” and approached the open sea of the Irish Channel, we had more leisure to look around and examine who were to be our fellow passengers for the next few weeks.

In the first cabin were no less then five doctors, and my father’s family occupied all the remainder, so that with the captain of the ship and the first officer, we made a very cozy little party.

In the second cabin, which was rather smaller than the first, were crowded thirty-two human beings, ladies and gentlemen, children and servants, amongst them a colonel and major of the line — who seemed to be very much put out with their accommodations — with their wives, and many other people of condition ; and viewing all the discomforts they had to undergo, we had reason to be thankful we had secured for ourselves such comfortable quarters as we did.

In the steerage, if I remember rightly, there were four or five hundred, of all classes, sexes and sizes ; a heterogeneous intermixture of affluence and poverty, comforts and squalour, for what with sea-sickness, typhus, cholera, ship fever, incipient Asiatic cholera, itch, drunkenness, filth, starvation, and suffering of every kind, combined with the close, sickening and unwholesome atmosphere of ‘tween decks, the scene to a casual cabin visitor was almost too disgusting to look upon. Truly an emigrant ship, under the old regime, was a fit subject for the contemplation of philanthropists. Yet there were times when those people would lay aside their cares and troubles, and enjoy themselves as  thoroughly as the happiest in the ship. On those occasions, whenever a fine day intervened to vary the monotony of the boisterous weather we were visited with, all hands would turn out on deck, and with music, dancing, singing, and pleasant games, they would endeavour, by the means within their reach, to ” drive dull care away.”

Our voyage lasted six weeks. When we arrived on the banks of Newfoundland, we were becalmed and befogged for several days, but all hands, except the martyrs to sea-sickness, spent the time pleasantly enough in the exciting enjoyment of cod fishing.

Crofton also writes:-

In 1690, after the battle of the Boyne, King James, it is well known, fled to Dublin for refuge; but, fearing treachery, he secretly left that city, with a small retinue of nobles and gentlemen who still clung to his fallen fortunes, and proceeded to Waterford, from whence he took ship to France. It was on this journey, and travelling Incognito, he arrived in the neighbourhood of Mountrath. Worn out with fatigue and hunger, and being unable to proceed any farther that night, he allied for shelter and protection at the house of my great great grandfather.   This castellated house or mansion, after a lapse of two centuries, still stands, and is in a good state of preservation.

There is a similar story told of Shelton Abbey in Wicklow – At the back of Shelton Abbey is a room in which it is said that King James, in his flight from the Battle of the Boyne, rested. It is believed that he had one of his infamous nose-bleeds in the hall, and his blood spattered the door post, which was afterwards cut out and preserved as a relic for many years until a servant unwittingly used it for firewood. – from http://www.coillteoutdoors.ie.  It does seem more probable that Shelton was on the route from Dublin to Waterford, whence he took ship, than Mountrath.    But it would be interesting to know where Crofton’s grandfather lived.

To return to Altavilla, Samuel Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland 1837 notes  Altavilla, as the seat of Mrs. Watson.    In 1828 the tithe Applotment Survey lists a couple of Watson families around Coolrain – of whom Thomas and William seem to have been the most affluent.  Maybe Mrs Watson was the widow of one of them.

By the time of Griffiths Valuation in 1849  Guy Luther was resident at Altavilla where, according to  The Cork Examiner 3 Dec 1851  his mother Catherine (Minchin ) Crofton (1769-1851) relict of Anthony Guy Luther, Esq., of Anne Street, Clonmel, died at an advanced age.

His ancestor Henry Luther was the MP for Youghal in 1703.  The first Luther to arrive in Ireland was John Luther, born in Essex in 1623.  He came to Ireland about the year 1650, and settled at Youghal.  The family claimed kinship with Martin Luther but it is more likely that theirs was a toponymic surname, and that they lived in a house with lutherns, or dormer windows.

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Great Myles, the Luther home in Essex which had a window for every day of the year!

Their principal house in Essex was Great Myles which was demolished in the early  19th century, but Luthers near Waltham Abbey still stands and was tenanted by Roger Casement from 1912 till the time of his execution on 3 August 1916.

luthers

Luthers, Waltham Abbey

Samuel Hayman has written a good account of the family in  an article on  The Local Coinage of Youghal  (The Journal of the Kilkenny  Archaeological Society New Series, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1858), pp. 222-232).  In it he records that Mr. Luther served as Bailiff of Youghal in 1659, and as Mayor in 1666 and 1681. In the second year of his mayoralty he erected at the foot of Windmill-lane, Youghal, a dwelling-house, still standing, and but little changed either within or without. The massive stair-case of oak exists, and the principal apartments appear to be in their original condition. In the north coign, high up near the eaves, is a small black slab, inscribed (as was customary) with the founder’s initials and the date of the erection of the house.  It sounds wonderful, but typically of a town that demolished the wonderful 18th century buildings on the harbour in the 1980s, because they had become a place frequented by drunken youths, this is the present condition of the site at the foot of Windmill Lane:-

windmilllane

Guy , who died in 1891 and is buried in Mount Jerome, had three sons by his wife Alicia Fitzmaurice  – George Minchin Luther, John Fitzmaurice Luther and Anthony William Luther.

The http://pigott-gorrie.blogspot.ie/2013/01/william-pigott-darby.html  has relevant information:-  John Fitzmaurice Luther was killed in action at Gallipoli – Captain John Fitzmaurice Guy Luther, a graduate of the University of Dublin Medical School, was fatally wounded at Hill 60, Anzac Beach, north sector, at 4 p.m. on 25 August 1915, by a single sniper shot to the head; he had accompanied an Officer & several men to show them the dangerous spot on the communication line when he was hit; he was examined by Dr MacDonald 16th Bn, whose “…expression upon his face when he rose to his feet dispelled all hopes of the Doc’s recover; whereupon Luther’s own stretcher bearers bore him gently to the beach, where he passed away about an hour later, without regaining consciousness.” [CHATAWAY, p. 93]. He was buried “…by a Church of England chaplain, on 8 o’clock on the evening of his death, in the presence of Father Noure, the Roman Catholic chaplain, and 20 others. The spot where he lies is called Waldron Point, near Suvla Bay” [Brisbane Courier, Tuesday 2 November 1915].

A fellow Laois man in the 15th Batillion was William Pigott Darby who was born in 1872 in Monasterevin.   His mother, Ann Mary Pigott of Portarlington, married in July 1871, as his 2nd wife, Martin Patrick Darby, of Monasterevin, a Medical Practitioner who apparently also lectured in Osteology, possibly at the Catholic University Medical School in Cecilia Street, Dublin.  William passed the Preliminary examination in Arts, for the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons in Ireland, in October 1890; he was enrolled in the Medical Students Register in 1892; as a student of yet another organisation, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, he studied Osteology, Materia Medica, Hospital Practice & Chemistry. By his own letter of 1918, he admits he did not complete the course.   The details are sketchy, and probably not fully recorded, but his family was led to believe that William may have committed an indiscretion involving the wife of one of his Professors, which resulted in him being “banished” from Ireland by his father. 

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William Pigott Darby   Picture The Returned & Services League of Australia 

In 1926, William stood as sculptor Sir Bertram MacKennal’s model for the bronze soldier figure which stands at the eastern end of the Cenotaph in Martin Place, Sydney; it was cast in England in 1927-28.  He served  with the 15th Infantry Battalion, on detachment from the A.A.M.C. as a Stretcher Bearer under Captain Luther.

 

 

Allworth House, Abbeyleix

Allworth, which was possibly originally known as Oldworth and at one stage was called Lombardstown, on the right hand side of the road from Abbeyleix to Carlow, was originally the home to a branch of the Swan family who arrived in Abbeyleix ar the agents for the de Vesci estate in 1806.   It is an outstandingly attractive South facing 3 bay 2 storey late Georgian  house of the late 1820s or early 1830s, with cut stone quoins, and cut-stone and raised block-and-start window surrounds, with a parapet above a moulded cornice. The West facing garden front has two symmetrical full height bay windows.  Perhaps its most charming feature is a large central lantern.   Architecturally it is one of the most important minor houses left in the Abbeyleix area.

allworth

photo source:- Laois Record of Protected Structures

The Swans are a remarkable family.   Of Kentish origin,  from near Gravesend, they were an early established family, calling themselves gentlemen by the late 1300’s.  The earliest Irish Swan arrived in 1588 with the Earl of Essex and his son married into the Whitty family of Ballyteigue Castle.  The third generation of John Swans got  a Cromwellian grant of Baldwinstown Castle in Wexford.  His grandson  Joseph Swan of Trombrean, near Carnew,  Co Wicklow was the father of Graves Chamney Swan who became the de Vesci agent, and probably built Allworth for his son Edmund Lombard Swan.  Edmund was resident at Allworth by 1833 advertising in October 10, 1833 – Dublin Evening Post.  In 1837  Lewis’s Topography records Swan, E. L., Esq., Allworth, Abbeyleix, Queen’s County.

Born on 29 Mar 1805 to Graves Chamney Swan and Mary Lombard (daughter of Edmond Long of Lombardstown and Castlemartyr).  Edmund Lombard Swan married Annie Jane Homan, the daughter of the Rev Travers Homan, Rectory of Modreeny, Cloughjordan and had 7 children.   Though they share a medical tradition, the family of the trainer Charlie Swan now of Modreeny were originally of Scottish origin and came from England in the 1960s.  There was another family of Swans in Laois at Capponellan, outside Durrow, but they were descended from the 17th century Dublin silversmith Edward Swan.

Edmund was brought up at Newtown Park in Blackrock, where the obelisk built to commemorate Lady Allen in 1727 still dominates the locality.  A webpage of the The Fripp and Pocock families of Bristol http://www.beanweb.net/ft/frippuk/pafn28.htm has some interesting information on the Swans.

Info from: http://www.nationalarchives.ie/
Record 1266 from ‘Famine Relief Commission Papers, 1845-1847’
National Archive reference number: RLFC3/2/24/
Description: Rev John Shea, vicar of Abbeyleix and secretary, enquiring if the government will financially assist the gratuitous distribution to the 3,147 destitute individuals in the area, with draft reply. Edmund Swan, secretary, enclosing subscription list for a soup kitchen and a subsequent supplemental certified subscription list.

Date: 9 Dec 1846 – 26 Mar 1847

Edmund’s daughter Sybil Jane Swan married Sir Thomas Smartt, a doctor and native of Trim, Co Meath, who became physician to the South African industrialist Cecil Rhodes and eventually served as Minister for Public Works, acting Prime Minister of the Cape Colony and Minister for Agriculture in the early South African administrations of Jan Smuts.

His son William Travers Swan joined the army and served in India and then in the Boer War.  At the outbreak of the 1914-1918 war he was appointed Assistant Director Medical Services for the 7th and then 5th Division, and then in 1915 became the DMS for the VII Corps of the 3rd Army under General Allenby, and served in Egypt and Palestine. He died in 1949 in Eastbourne.

The Frip web site gives the following information from Michael Innes, the general’s grandson;-

It is said that William was an accomplished historian & won many scholarships during his time at university. He used the proceeds of the scholarships to pay for his course in medicine when he qualified as a medical doctor. He joined the British army & saw service in India, South Africa. He rose up through the ranks seeing service in France during WWI & witnessed the first gas attacks by the Germans. Later he was in Palestine as General Allenby’ s 2nd in command & marched immediately behind him into Jerusalem, which had been taken from the Turks.  He was a keen collector of antique military weaponry such as arquebusses, suits of armour & the like.

Another son,  John Lombard Swan, 1865-1950, studied at Trinity College, and went cattle ranching in S America. He then travelled to S Africa where he managed some of the farms belonging to the ‘Smartt Syndicate’ near Mafikeng (Sir Thomas Smartt who graduated in medicine from Trinity in 1879 and left for first Australia and then South Africa where he went to Britstown as physician. A keen farmer, he later founded the Smartt Syndicate, one of the largest dams in South Africa.).

A third son Graves Chamney Swan married Constance Trotter of Summerhill Co Meath and had two daughters.  They were still living at Allworth in the 1911 census and he died in 1941.

A lot of information about the Swan’s agency can be gleaned form”Letters and papers of the 2nd Viscount de Vesci and of his agents, Stewart & Swan, later Stewart & Kincaid, 1799- 1855 in the National library of Ireland  Collection List No. 89  Compiled by A.P.W. Malcomson; with additional listings prepared by Niall Keogh”

The documents are mostly in connection with the running of the Longford/de Vesci estate in Dublin, Limerick and especially in County Cork, 1799-1806, and including one letter of 1799 to the 1st Viscount on that subject. Much of the correspondence about the Cork estate concerns the role of the Parker family – Richard Neville Parker, son and successor of the former agent, Michael Parker (see MS 38,915/1-2), now deceased; Michael Parker’s widow; and another of her sons, William. The Parker family applied (unsuccessfully) for a perpetuity lease of the whole of the townland of Maulbaun, which gave rise to a series of letters from the 2nd Earl of Longford to the 2nd Viscount de Vesci in which Lord Longford expresses his determination not to let a whole townland to any one individual or family, and never to grant a perpetuity. In the end the co-owners decide to replace Richard Neville Parker as agent by the Dublin firm of Stewart & Swan (whose senior partner, Henry Stewart, was married to Lord Longford’s sister) – a decision which, when announced by joint letter to Parker in 1806, not surprisingly put him into a ‘huff’ (see also MS 38,957/1-2). The other letters and papers about the Longford/de Vesci estate consist of Parker’s accounts, a letter from one Bernard Shaw, a tenant on the Cork estate, urging that a grant of fairs and markets be obtained for Monkstown, letters about the compulsory acquisition by the government of a small part of the Dún Laoghaire estate for military purposes, and letters about houses in Limerick City.

1807-26: 1833: 1835-41: 1844-6: 1849

Seven folders of correspondence between the 2nd Viscount de Vesci and Graves Chamney Swan of Stewart & Swan, who were the head agents for the de Vesci estate in Co. Laois and, from 1806, for the whole of the Longford/de Vesci estate in Ireland (see MS 38,921 and MS 39,239/1- 7), and from c.1830 between the 2nd Viscount and the successors to Stewart & Swan, Stewart & Kincaid of 6 Leinster Street, Dublin. The correspondence relates to the state of the 2nd Viscount’s account, the purchase of debentures for him, the running of the estates, etc, etc.

In the mid 20th century Allworth became the home of Daniel Kennedy, farmer, victualler and  county councillor and now belongs to the Delahunty family.