Bleakfield, Borris in Ossory

So often the nomenclature of houses is banal – Rose Cottage, The Gables, Fairview, Teach Bán,… Anyone who names their house Sonas (Happiness in Irish, a very popular house name) has clearly never had to look after a house before.

Stragglethrorpe Grange,  Northanger Abbey, or even Jonathan Routh’s Rat Hall, on Mosquito Bay in Negril are much more evocative. Or even Windy Bottom Farm in South Carolina, where you can buy organic beans.

The refined dandies of the late 18th centuries often romanticised their parents more rustic rumbustiousness.  Thus Mount Tallyho became Mont Alto. 

In Wexford Bastardstown fell into disrepair in the mid 20th Century and, strangely, was never restored.  Mount Misery became the Ard Ri Hotel in Waterford and has been wrapped like a Christoph installation for many years.  Horetown, is a popular wedding venue; Mount Venus, Ballydrain,  Ballyseedy…Laois’ more remarkable  names are Ballyruin  at Ballyroan, Calcutt’s Coldblow at Mountrath and the Meaghers’ Bleakfield. 

The Meaghers, Chiefs of Ikerrin, and descendants of the the O’Carrolls, controlled that area from Roscrea down to the Devil’s Bit, Templemore and Templetuohy.  According to Wikipedia Ó Meachair (anglicized as Mahar, Maher, or Meagher) means kindly or generous

There were Meaghers at Kileany, between Gortnaclea, Annegrove and Shanahoe, in the early 18th century and William Meagher of Borris in Ossory was probably one of them.  The house was probably built in the early 1780s following William Meagher’s marriage.  The King’s Inns Admission Papers show the admission in 1809 of William, 2nd son of William Meagher Bleakfield, Queen’s Co., and Fidelia Matilda Smyth, decd ( suggests that she was born in 1762).  In 1813 Samuel Meagher, the 1st son of William, Bleakfield, Queen’s Co., and Fidelia Matilda Smyth, decd was admitted.   

TCD has Samuel Meagher b 1789, admitted to Trinity in July 1806 and his brother William admitted in the same year at the age of 14, born 1792.  Their father was described as “Litium Procurator” or Solicitor.  William jnr died at his sister’s house Castle Biggs  in June 1820 aged 27.  (Gentleman’s Magazine V 90 p 281).  Jan 1805  Walkers Hibernian Magazine records that William Ledger Biggs of Castle Biggs Co Tipp  was married to Fidelia Matilda Meagher (1786-1864) dau of William Meagher, Esq., of Bleakfield.

It was at Bellevue on Lough Derg, that a dozen Nenagh IRA men under Martin, Patrick and Edward Hogan gang raped the 37 year old Eileen Warburton Biggs in June 1922. Neither Eileen nor her husband ever recovered and both died in psychiatric hospitals, Samuel Dickson Biggs in 1937 and Eileen in 1950.

In 1836 Joseph O’Meagher only s. of William, Blakefield, Queen’s Co., decd., and Bridget Martin; over 16; ed. Sentry Lodge, Queen’s Co.; afft. Wardle Joy Sterling. E 1836. (ap. to Wardle Joy Sterling, H 1838.

Joseph (who later emigrated to Australia with his mentor Wardle Joy Sterling) was the half-brother of William and Samuel by a later wife (Bridget Martin).    He married Letitia Kingsmill and had 5 children and was still at Bleakfield at the time of Griffiths valuation of 1850.   He died on 26 Mar 1871 in Maitland West, New South Wales.    Letitia’s parents were Henry Kingsmill and Mary Allen. She was born in Borris-in-Ossory,  Her brother John, a policeman, was tried for murder (together with 5 other policemen from Abbeyleix)  and found guilty of manslaughter in 1824.  They had gone to a pub in Balinakill run by James Fitzpatrick.  A law had been introduced putting closing time at 10 pm.  Richard McDaniel was told to leave, which he said he would do as soon as he had paid his bill.  With that the policemen leapt upon him and did him to death with their bayonets. Sergeant Kinsmill and two of the others were sentenced to be transported for life.   Kingsmill’s descendant, Donald  Kingsmill, a retired Australian ambassador, visited the pub in Balinakill in 2007

In the same assizes the chief constable of Athy, Nicholas McDonagh, was charged with murdering William and Joseph McDarby.  He had been out duck shooting when the McDarby’s dog “came at him” so he shot it.  When the McDarbys approached he shot them too.  McDonagh got off and was merely transferred to be Chief Constable of Belfast.

The Kingsmill / Meagher connection goes back to 1786, as the excerpts from these deeds suggests:-

In a deed of 1798 Luke Kingsmill Esquire of Donoghmore in Queen’s County and William Meagher of Dublin, mentioning Luke Kingsmill of Donoghmnore his nephew and George Despard.

15 Apr 1811   1811.631.489 deed mentions William Meagher, Bleakfield

1	James Calcutt of Coldblow, Queens Co.
2	John Banting, Ballyfin, Queens Co.
3	John Knaggs, Tarcloughy, Queens Co., elder son and heir of George Knaggs late of Donamore deceased.
4	William Meagher, Bleakfield, Queens Co.
 Lands at Doon   release of the 1786 deed from Jonathan Knaggs, Mountmellick to George Knaggs his eldest son & Elizabeth, mother of George, daughter & heir of George Barnes.    
Doon is the townland south of Bleakfield where the road crosses the railway line.

Who was Fidelia Smyth?  Most genealogies suggest that William Smyth of Borris Castle who died about 1770 only had two daughters, Anne Sally who married Frederick Talbot and whose daughter ultimately inherited the castle (and married Hulton King) and Maria who married Thomas Woods of Birr. However there was definitely a third  as Jeremiah Lalor,  of  Glasshouse, son of John  Lalor, of  Long  Orchard, Templetuohy was married  (circa 1770)  to.  1st,  Lydia,  dau.  of  William Smith,  Esq.  of  Borris Castle,  Queen’s  Co.,  by  whom  he  was father  of  John Lalor of  Gurteen,  co.  Tipperary,  who  m  Sarah, dau.  of  Edward  Kennedy,  Esq.  He married  2ndly,  his cousin Anne,  dau.  of John  Doherty,  Esq.  of  Outrath,  co.  Tipperary. Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry 1882.    A 4th daughter Sarah married Frederick Thompson, who subsequently lived at Borris Castle.   We may speculate that Fidelia was a 5th daughter. 

In November 1828 William O’Meagher,  of Bleakfield, Borris – in -Ossory,  Queens County, signed the Loyal Protestant Declaration in favour of Catholic Emancipation. 

By 1834 William Meagher had died, and his son in law William Biggs was one of the administrators of the estate.    .  It is noteworthy that on the 1840 OS survey the house is described as being “in ruins” and that 1he 1890 survey shows a slightly different footprint, probably as rebuilt by James Farrell.

Leinster Express 22 Nov 1834

In 1849 with the general sale of the Villiers estate,  Bleakfield was sold on 156 acres, and the purchaser was the Rev William Smyth King,  of Borris Castle, a cousin of William Biggs and a step cousin of Joseph Meagher who was in residence but about to depart for Australia.   His departure may have been hastened by a suspicion of chicanery around the winding up of William Bigg’s own estate, which was executed by his friend Wardle Joy Sterling.

Bigg’s property consisted of the leasehold interest for lives renewable for ever in part of the lands of Loghile, in the barony of Upper Ormond, containing 53a. Ir. 20p. statute measure, subject to the yearly rent of £17 10s. All those lands are under timber, consisting of oak, larch, and young fir trees which have been recently valued at £974 7s 6d. Just as Mr. Flanagan had made proclamation of sale, A gentleman, addressing the court, said—My lords, I interested in this property, and I am bound to say that I do not think it has been sufficiently advertised. Another gentleman said—My lords, I appear for the inheritor, and object to the valuation of the property, abstract of which is set forth in the rental, is totally erroneous and far-and-away below the value.— The valuation of the timber was made by furniture-broker from Dublin—a man who was not competent to give an opinion on the subject—and the recommendations of the inheritor to have a proper person, several of whom suggested as competent to appointed valuators, was totally disregarded the solicitor.  It transpired that the sale of the property had not been advertised at all, and the implication was that Meagher and Sterling might have been involved in a bit dodgy executorship. 

The sale was adjourned, and when it was finally sold in 1852  it realised a measly £160 and was bought by the honeymooning Edward Algernon Blackett (1824 -1873) who owned Wylam Hall in Northumberland. During a visit to Ireland where his brother Montague had acquired the Minchin property of Greenhills, he met Lucia Minchin, the elder daughter of Reverend William Minchin. He acted fast – in a matter of days he courted her and they were married on 25 May 1852 in Roscrea.  Upon his return home his friends asked “Did you get to see Mr Minchin’s beautiful daughters?”. “Yes indeed” replied Edward. “And I married one of them and brought her home with me.”  Tragically Lucia died in September 1863 after being thrown from a horse and carriage, leaving 6 children. 

Sydney Morning Herald 1853

By 1879 Bleakfield was in the possession of James Farrell, from a successful and wealthy family of Borris in Ossory merchants.  He sold it in 1879.

It was demolished in the first half of the 20th century.  If any one knows the names of any later occupants I would be very grateful for the information, as the census of 1901 or 1911 might then at least give us some idea of the size of the house. 


Greenville, Portlaoise

An article in the Leinster Express brought me back to research

Shane Reilly seeks permission for:

“a) change of use from dwelling house (record of protected structure no. 461) to 2 one-bedroom apartments, and

“b) construct 4 two bedroom apartments and 2 one-bedroom apartments, c) demolish existing outhouse, d) reconfigure site entrance and associated parking, e) bin shelter, covered bicycle rack, ESB sub-station with own access and all associated site works. All works are in the curtilage of protected structure No. 461”

The visualisation shows the original house erupting like a pimple from a mundane screen of bland horizontal planes that perfectly balance the Dunnes Stores car park across the road.  It is a development in tune with contemporary North Portlaoise.

The Buildings of Ireland describe it “Detached three-bay two-storey house, built c. 1830, with a Gibbsian doorcase, flat-roofed two-storey single bay extension to rear. Hipped slate roof with ridge tiles, two chimney stacks in the ridge, cast-iron rainwater goods to original structure. Roughcast walls and plainly rendered quoins to front elevation, square-headed window openings with painted rendered surrounds, painted door surround with blocked architrave and plain archivolt with keystone. One-over-one timber sash windows with convex horns, four-panelled door of c. 1890 with glazed upper panels, single pane to fanlight. Chimney stacks indicate a tripartite internal division. Two limestone steps to entrance open onto front landscaped garden, house set back from Green Road behind low wrought-iron railings on low rendered plinth course with cut-limestone copings, central entrance gate. Rubble limestone walls enclose the side gardens, substantial plainly treated rendered piers for gate to side garden to north. Substantial single-storey mews to the rear at the south with four bays including carriage arch and replacement corrugated-iron roof, windows and doors blocked up. Former privy and fuel storage shed against north wall.   It is likely that the later extension to the rear incorporates an earlier stair return as suggested on the 1841 OS map. “

Like the Green Mill the name comes from the fact that it stood on the old Green or Commons of Maryborough.

On Griffith’s Valuation of 1850 it was occupied by the Rev Ralph Taggart, C of I curate of the parish.

In January 1886 Mrs Lalor was selling the contents of Greenville.  She was almost certainly the widow of Matthew Lalor, farmer, of Green Road Maryborough, who had died of anaemia aged 45 in April 1884. I wonder was he a kinsman of James Fintan Lalor & Co of Tinakill?  The Dublin Weekly Nation – Saturday 08 November 1879 reported that he was present at Queen’s County Independent Club meeting chaired by Richard Lalor of Tinakill.  Or maybe he was a kinsman of the priest commemorated in the RC church at Ballyfin “ This monument has been erected by Matthew Lalor of Clonagown, in memory of his uncle, the Rev. James Lalor, who departed this life, March the 27th, 1826, aged 26 years.”

The next owner came of a very interesting family.  In 1887 Gilbert Kelly of Greenville, Maryborough, Clerk of the Peace for Queen’s County,  married Rachel Victoria (Queenie) 4th daughter of the late Thomas Wilson of Rathsallagh, co Wicklow.  (Cork Constitution – Friday 21 October 1887)

The joys of writing propaganda rather than history is that one just needs one’s audience to believe it rather than for it to be true.  The story is that  Fergus O’Kelly of Luggacurran Castle was murdered  by the Earl of Kildare in 1579, and the subsequent transfer of O’Kelly’s estates to the Fitzgeralds makes a black page in the history of the latter family; which it would be, were it true.  It seems that the murderer was Gerald Oge Fitgerald, of Morret Castle, the son of 11th Earl of Kildare and Elinor O’Kelly, the beheading was at Morett Castle and the cause was a disagreement between uncle and nephew over property, not between British oppressor and Gaelic Taoiseach, and there never was a Luggacurren Castle

Gilbert was the son of Peter Burrowes Kelly  1811-1883,  a barrister and noted tithe agitator, as well as being a Clerk of the Peace for Queen’s Co, through influence of Lord Castletown; He wrote Glenmore, or the Irish Peasant (1839), a novel about eviction, signed ‘A Member of the Irish Bar’; dedicated to his friend his friend the poet Thomas Campbell; His mother was Elizabeth Graves of Stradbally. His grandfather John Kelly of Stradbally married Eliza Grace of Ballylinan who was the author of “The Fatalist”  and “The Matron of Erin”

In 1892 Kelly moved to live with his sisters, Theresa and Lizzie, at his parents’ old home, Glen Tolka, Richmond Road, Fairview, Dublin, where he died of apoplexy at the age of 47,  5 years later.  

Lizzie kept lodgers – her nephews William B  Kelly, and William Burke, Fr Eugene Kavanagh, and later her niece Aoife de Burca, a nurse who was in the GPO in 1916, her brother Feargus (Frank) De Burca, having been a student at St Endas and recruited by Pearse as a founder member of the Volunteers.   Feargus recalled dropping into his aunt’s house to collect tins for bomb making, on his way back from getting a case of tins from Tom Clarke’s house in Philipsburgh Avenue, just past the Jewish Cemetery in Ballybough.  He wrote” ‘Twas my first visit to this house and the first occasion I had of meeting Mrs. Tom Clarke, a daughter of the famous Fenian, John Daly of Limerick”.

By 1894 Greenville was the home of the vet Edward J Conroy. Conroy,  son of Peter Conroy and Sarah Cassidy, from Raheen, Offaly, never married, and seems to have been a popular man:-

Edward Conroy’s Obituary

Let’s hope that someone manages to save it as a single home instead of dividing it up into apartments, with the inevitable loss of the original interior features.

Ballyknockan, or Castleview

Two-storey over basement house circa 1820, with earlier wing to the rear. All now in ruins. Hipped roof now removed. Roughcast rendered rubble stone walls. Square-headed window openings with limestone sills and timber sash windows. One room, two bays deep. The ground floor room on the west end had a shallow arched recess on the rear wall, and both upstairs and downstairs rooms had picture rails. Set back from road in own grounds; landscaped grounds to site (now part-overgrown). The beech trees in the left of the photo were apparently originally a beech hedge dividing the garden in two.

Google’s 2009 street view still seems to show a roof

The 1566 Fiants of Elizabeth I include “ To Thomas Hankie gent of the lands of Ballyknockan, Ballekeran Kylcolmanbane, Knocbrek, Ballecormynagh and Capole Queen’s County,  To hold for twenty one years at a rent of £7/2/6d”  No Hankie or Hanky appears in Griffith’s valuation, so this family, apparently from Chester, had but a brief flirtation with Ireland.

The castle is marked on the c. 1563 map of Queen’s County as Balicnogan and it was owned by Sir Thomas Colclough in 1598 (Comerford 1886, vol. 3, 284).  

Thomas Colclough (1564-1624) was married twice – firstly to Martha, daughter of Adam Loftus of Rathfarnham Castle (c. 1533 – 5 April 1605), Archbishop of Armagh, and Dublin, and Lord Chancellor, and Provost of Trinity College Dublin. With her he had 12 children, including Martha Colclough who married John Pigott of Grangebeg and of Dysart Castle, 3 miles NE of Ballyknockan and just south of the Rock of Dunamase, of which no vestige remains. She died in 1609.   His second wife was Eleanor, daughter of Dudley Bagenal, of Dunleckney

Little survives of Colclough’s Castle.   The exterior dimensions and several internal features can however be extrapolated from what remains. The monument is sited in a low-lying area, with evidence of its being constructed on an artificial platform, with a stream running around its southern side offering a natural defence. It is built of roughly coursed rubble limestone with no quoins or decorated stones surviving. Lower portions of the north and east walls survive to a maximum height of 4m, enough remaining in plan to suggest that the structure measured 7.9m by 8.6m externally. The entrance appears to have been in the north wall on the basis of a surviving section of a relief arch, however the area has been widened over the years by collapse.

On the uplands and at the angle of a young plantation near Mr Cassan’s mansion known as Ballyknockan House the foundations of a new farm house and out offices were excavated over forty years ago (This is a slated dwelling called Ned Duff’s House by the country people It is on the verge of the old road).   At the time cart loads of human remains are said to have been exhumed.  This was a dangerous defile for an army encumbered with artillery and baggage to pass especially in the face of an opposing force well posted.   Before reaching this point the downward road from Crosby Duff sinks into a small valley and then ascends a rather steep elevation Here according to the country tradition commenced the well known engagement of The Pass of The Plumes (17th May 1599).   It is probable that the bones turned up quite near the old road indicated the spot where many among the slain had been buried If the attack and surprise were first attempted at this spot most and those who fell there belonged to the van guard of the English army.    Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: – Page 286 1879

The Duff’s house, which is still extant, is marked beside the road just below Ballyknockan

The Book of Survey and Distribution has Ballyknockan as being the property of the Corporation of Gloucester in 1670. 

The next owner of whom we have details was Henry Reynell.   He was a relative (and possibly son of)  of  Sir Richard Reynell (1626-1699), 1st Baronet, an English-born judge who became Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.  He was said to have been both intelligent and fair, rare talents in the judiciary of any period.

Rishard Reynell married Hester, daughter of Randall Beckett of Dublin, at the Kings Inn in 1660. They had two sons, Richard and Henry, and four daughters, including Elizabeth and Hester. The elder son Richard, succeeded as second baronet. Sir Richard’s second son Henry practiced as a Barrister in Dublin and married Arabella Trollop in 1713. This Henry Reynell is said to have died in 1721 and had one daughter Jemima who married Kennewick Bray of Ballymanagh, County Galway. 

The 2nd Sir Richard married his cousin Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Reynell of Laleham, Middlesex and Anne Balam. Elizabeth died in 1706, aged thirty-nine. They had three daughters, Hester Reynell who married Christopher Carleton, Anne who married firstly Lt. Randyll Bray RN and then secondly Abraham Dumaresq of the Hon. East India Company, and Catherine who married William Harvest, and one son Sir Thomas Reynell, 3rd Baronet.

Henry Reynell who owned Clopook and Ballyknockane in 1716, when he leased Ballyknockane and Cloghpook to Capt Wm Stewart, Barrackmaster of Dublin must have been the Judge’s younger son.

In 1744 Matthew Cassan of Sheffield leased Ballyknockan from Henry Reynell of London who had died previously leaving 4 sisters as his heirs – Hester, the wife of John Bowman, Ann the wife of Dale Ingram (1710-1793, a surgeon, m 1734) , Catherine the wife of Thomas Bulmer and Mary Reynell, spinster.  His son Stephen Cassan,  barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, then bought out the head lease and transferred it his father Matthew.  141.445.96133

A 1742 Chancery case tells us a little more – Dale Ingram and wife Ann and  Henry Reynell age 19 years National Archives C11/1842/29.and C11/1576/12 Bowman v Reynell. This is also involved Johnson v Bowman  1714-58  C11/637/62.

In 1752 Mathew  Cassan leased Ballknockan to James Knaggs.  156. 36.102965. A Deed Pole of  20 Mar 1779 includes 1 James Knaggs, Kyle  2 Robert Knaggs, son of said James, of Ballycannon & Ballyknockan Queens Co.  Witness John Knaggs of Kyle  and William Dawson Roberts, Dublin, gent.

It is difficult to fully explore the archaeology of the site, due to its perilous condition, but at the SE corner at the back of the house is a small building with a raised and fielded panelled front door that might have been the predecessor to the present house.

The earlier wing

Was this the home of James Knaggs?  Or might it have been the birthplace of  Bishop Michael Corcoran (1758-1819), the representative of the chiefs of Munster Corcrain, a district north of Fethard, Co Tipperary, and descendant of Cian, the third son of Olioll Olum, King of Munster, who died in 234. 

In 1833 it has somehow got 6 bedrooms

In May 1833 Matthew Sheffield Cassan  (1802-1892) a younger son of the Rev Joseph Cassan (1742-1830), rector of Timogue) is advertising Castleview as “New” (he emigrated to Ontario)  and Rev Erasmus Burrowes, who became vicar of Ballyroan in 1832 took the lease briefly, before inheriting the title and Lauragh, Portalington on the death of his brother, who died from a fall whilst out hunting on Friday 7 March 1834.

Joseph Cassan (1801-1882), the eldest son of the Rev Joseph Cassan married Catherine, fourth daughter of the late Thomas Mahon, (brother of Lord Hartland of Strokestown Park) of Ballynafad, Co Roscommon, in February 1830. (Mayo Constitution – Monday 08 February 1830). In about 1834 he took on the lease of Ballyknockan . 

Joseph Cassan was still the leasee of Matthew S Cassan in Griffiths Valuation of 1850.

Limerick Reporter – Tuesday 08 April 1856 reported the death of Joseph’s 12 year old son Joseph Mahon Cassan at Ballyknockan of water on the brain. In 1857 Joseph’s widowed mother died in Stradbally.

Owners of Land of One Acre and Upwards (1876) shows ; Joseph Cassan, Ballyknockan, parish of Kilcolmanbane, had 124 acres( and Matthew S. Cassan, Sheffield House, had 1,979 acres).

Two Bedrooms in 1878

However on 15 March 1878 the Lands and house of Ballyknockin and Castleview are advertised in fee simple subject to a lease dated 30 Apr 1853 for the life of lease, William Galway, and now in the occupation of Mr Obbins.  Dublin Weekly Nation – Saturday 14 October 1876 identifies Mr Obbins as an extensive cattle dealer.    William Galway had lived there for 5 years, from 1853 to 1858 – In May 1858 Gaze & Jessop are advertising a sale of contents. Leinster Express Saturday, July 18, 1863 is advertising it to let (4 bedrooms and a dressing room and finally a dining room!) apply on the premises to Mr P Quigley. Leinster Express Saturday, September 25, 1869, noting that Mr P Quigley is giving up some of his farms – Belad, Bloomfield, Sheffield and Castleview. Castleview House is to let. In Nov 1870 Quigley was still at Castleview – He and Gaze were counter-suing each other for offensive language and conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace outside Gaze’s home. Clearly Quigley was not happy with his realtor but then, who is?!! In 1871, during the ploughing championships on Mr Allen’s farm at Sheffield, there were pony races at Castleview, hosted by Mr J T Quigley.

It seems to have been bought by John Trench Pigott, son of William Wellesley Pole Pigott of Ryevale, Leixlip, and Lucy Henrietta Trench.    His 4xg grandmother was Martha Colclough of Ballyknockane!  He was married to Isabella Roe, daughter of John Roe a Maryborough solicitor.   In 1879 he is advertising it to let.  He lived in Portlaoise, where he died aged 49 in 1899. It is not quite clear whether Trench was letting it on his own behalf or for the Quigley minors in Chancery, for whom he was letting Bloomfield House, Portlaoise.

Five bedrooms in 1879! Note that none of the advertisements refer to a dining room

Leinster Leader – Saturday 17 July 1886 reports that Joseph Cassan Jr. of Ballyknockan had a number of undertenants who worked for him as labourers.

When Joseph Cassan Snr died in August 1882 leaving three daughters and a son, according to his death certificate he died at Ballyknockan.  Only Annabella married.  The other three remained at Ballyknockan.  Jane died in 1912, Joseph in 1918 and Kate in 1923 (at the age of 88).

The only other large house on the townlands was the Duffs, so it is a mystery as to where the Cassans lived when Mr Quigley and Mr Obbins were in occupation.

By 1924 (when he was on the committee of the Leix Agricultural Society) it was the home of Alfred Chenevix Pigott (1882–1958), the son of John Trench Pigott who had married Mary Catherine White, daughter of Robert White of Wyanoakes, Baltimore, USA at her uncle Andrew Johnston’s house in Pretoria in Feb 1907.  The Johnston’s South African home was called Lisdoogan, after their home in Ballymote, Sligo,

Nationalist and Leinster Times  Saturday, November 06, 1943;  Mrs Pigott was looking for a cook general.  On November 05, 1965 the Nationalist and Leinster Times  announced the death of Mary Catherine Pigott aged 87 widow of Alfred Chenevix Pigott.

Ballyadams Castle

Ballyadams Castle in 1882

Daniel Byrne Rothwell has kindly shared his remarkable & authoritative research on Ballyadams Castle.

First though I would like to remind readers that in May 2018 the castle’s large wooden doors, around 2m high and 1m wide, and weighing about 150Kg, were stolen and have not yet been found. The doors, which are probably 17th Century, are 8cm thick and were painted red and studded with nails. Keep your eyes peeled please! For 400 years these doors kept out the drafts and the unfriendly.  In one night a couple of bowsies, scangers of the lowest order, chavs unworthy of the insult, worn out zooks, stole them away in the back of their Transit or Hiace.  My favourite witch (who normally only practices the white arts) suggested a few curses:- May a splinter from the door give them lockjaw, may the door drop on their toe and break it horribly;  May their identity be stolen; May their partner buy a puppy, commission a portrait,  deceive them, desert them, humiliate them and take all their money; May their airbags develop unfixable  faults, and may they always fail the NCT.

Ballyadams was part of the territory of the Uí Caollaidhe (Kelly of Timogue) chiefs of Críoch Uí mBuidhe when they sold it in the mid-1300s to the O’Moores. There are thoughts that the townland takes its name from an Adam O’Moore, as in some records it is called Adamstown, but the name evolved from Aedstown, or Baile Abbain after St Áed, the patron of the healing eye well, Tobernasuil, near Ballyadams graveyard. Kylmehyde as Ballyadams was originally called, can be broken up into Kyl denoting a cell or small church, (from Latin cella), and Mehyde meaning Mhic Hyde or Mac HÍde, the Son of Íde. Thus, Ballyadams was the church or “Cell of Mac HÍde,” (Son of Íde). The modern Irish name of Kilmakeady, appears to be a little inaccurate, translating as the church or cell of Mac Éadaigh (Éide).

Castrum de Kylmehyde, modernly Kilmakeady, now known as Ballyadams, was the site of a castle that was likely to have been standing in 1301 when Edward I granted Sir Eustace le Poer, (d.1311) Baron of Kells, Co. Kilkenny, the right of free warren (the right to hunt game) on his lands in Waterford, Tipperary, Nurney in Carlow, Cullenagh and Kilmohede [Ballyadams] in Laois. (Calendar of Documents, Ireland, 1302-7). Eustace was kinsman, possibly brother, to Sir John le Poer (d.1324), fourth husband of Dame Alice Kyteler who was accused of witchcraft in 1324, Sir John’s children being among those who complained about her after their father fell ill and died. Eustace le Poer had been succeeded by his nephew Arnold le Poer (d.1331), who would have held Ballyadams. Alice had at first sought refuge with her brother-in-law, Roger Outlawe, Chancellor of Ireland and she persuaded Arnold le Poer to imprison her accuser, Bishop Ledrede (d.1361) in Kilkenny Castle to hold up proceedings. When the bishop was released he had Alice’s maid, Petronella de Meath, tortured until she confessed in engaging in witchcraft, involving all sorts of imaginative rites with Dame Alice. She was made to confess that Alice was not only a heretic, but made potions to control people, had a relationship with a demon called Robin Artisson, and murdered all her husbands. Arnold le Poer was also imprisoned on charges of heresy and died a prisoner in Dublin Castle after he had been excommunicated by the fanatical Ledrede. Although it will never be known, one cannot help but wonder if a stopover at Ballyadams figured in Dame Alice’s successful flight to England or Flanders in which she took Petronella’s daughter Basila to safety with her. Petronella was whipped before being burnt alive at the stake. Arnold was succeeded by his eldest son Eustace le Poer (d.1346) who joined Maurice FitzGerald, Earl of Desmond in 1346. He was however captured at the siege of Castle Island, Co. Kerry, and hung, drawn and quartered for treason. The castle, presumably seized from Eustace by Ralph Ufford, Justiciar of Ireland, is recorded as being destroyed in 1346 by the O’Moores, O’Connors and the O’Dempseys. It is likely that the lower section of the great tower, technically a B shaped gatehouse, was standing at this time.

The O’Moores

Daniel O’Byrne writing in 1856 thought that the tower at Ballyadams was constructed in the reign of Henry VII, which would be between 1485 to 1509, which suggests that it may have been built or rebuilt by Melaghlin O’Moore, Prince of Laois, (d.1502) (Melaghlin Ó Mórdha) whose tomb survives in Abbeyleix.. Melaghlin could be responsible for the ogee windows at the front and back of the tower, on the topmost floor, which is of later construction than the base. These were seen in Ireland throughout the 15th and up to the mid-16th century but it seems more likely that they were installed by John Bowen.

Melaghlin O’Moore’s tomb in 1819

The effigy is much damaged since the engraving was made.  The coat of arms was removed sometime in the 1800s and evidently is the one that appeared at Lamberton Park, from whence it was again removed and taken to Cremorgan upon the death of Judge Arthur Moore in 1843.

One of the ogee windows at Ballyadams when intact

                 Rory O’Moore was custodian of the manor of Kilmakeady until his death in 1354 during the rebellion of Maurice FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Desmond, when Gerald de St Michael of Rheban was appointed custodian.  An inquisition found that Rory O’More had held Ballyadams on a mortgage from Connell mac Ross O’Moore for ‘threescore kyne, that is to say 60 head of cattle, and that he held Ballintubber with his father Connell mac Melaghlin from Fearganainm O’Kelly for threescore kyne more.  The ‘Annals of the Four Masters’ record that Rory O’Moore, Lord of Leix, was slain by his own kinsmen and household. 

                It was held in 1546 by Gilla Patrick O’Moore, Lord of Laois (d.1548).  He was the son of Connell, son of Melaghlin (d.1502).  Gilla Patrick together with the O’Connors, attacked Athy, both town and monastery, killing many English and Irish.  In response, Lord Justice, Sir Anthony St Leger, combining with the Earl of Desmond took control of Ballyadams by force, leaving warders in control.  Gilla Patrick was the last O’Moore to have held the castle.  O’Connor’s fort at Daingean had also been previously captured and forts Governor in Offaly, and Protector in Laois, were founded as government strongholds. 

                In 1550, the Privy Council offered to grant a lease of Ballyadams to William Jarbard in recognition of his services to the Crown but he never took it up and 17 years later he and his son Walter were living in Wexford, employed as Treasurer, Bailiff and Receiver of the county:

After our hartie comendacons; whereas, the Castle of Ballyadame being parcel of the late O’More’s country, is presentlye with the rest in the King’s Majesty’s hands and disposition, and as yet remeyneth unserveyede; ye shall understand the King’s Majestie, by our advyce, having inclined to the humble suite of William Jarbard, whose service there hath bene, for longe and payneful endurance, commended, his Highness’ pleasure is, that ye shall iminediatelie proceed to the surveying of the castell, with the appurtenances, and thereupon make a lease thereof unto the said William Jarbard for xxi yeares accordingly; thus fare ye hertily well.-Westminster, the xxii of July, 1550.  Your loving frendes, E. Somerset, W. Wiltes, John Bedforde, William Northe, William Petre, Anothony Wyngfelde.

The Bowens

In 1551, a 21 year lease was granted to John ap Owein (d.1569).  Born in Glamorganshire, Welshman John Thomas, alias John ap Thomas ap Owen, or simply John Bowen, was nicknamed locally as “John of the Pike” or “Seán a Phíce” in Irish, because he always carried a pike. 

                John may have been a kinsman to Rhys Bowen who acquired Upton Castle, Pembrokeshire, in the 16th century.  (Descendants of the Bowens of Upton settled at Courtwood, Co. Laois, where in 1796 Charles Bowen married Martha, daughter and co-heiress of Robert Hartpole of Shrule Castle.  Their son, Charles Hartpole Bowen (b.1862) moved to Kilnacourt, Portarlington).

John Bowen of Ballyadams was of royal descent, being of the family of Bleddyn ap Maynerch, Lord of Brecknock, whose ancestry went back to Rees ap Tudor, King of South Wales (d.1093), an ancestor they shared with the FitzGeralds.  The House of Dinefwr to which Rees belonged, was founded by Rhodri the Great, who is called King of the Britons in the ‘Annals of Ulster.’  The Bowen genealogies, also record John’s descent from Brychan Breckiniog, a 5th century King of Brycheiniog.  He was an Irish prince who married into the Welsh kingdom of Garthmadrun.  Brychan is mentioned in ‘The Book of Leinster,’ his father being Anlach mac Cormaic mac Urb of the Déisi, whose people are believed to have settled parts of Britain around the year 300. 

The National Library of Wales acquired the Bowen pedigree in 2017 (NLW MS 24111G).  Known as the ‘Pedigree of John Bowen of Bath 1747-1835,’it consists of 36 panels comprised of 72 sheets laid on a linen backing.  They were once held by a member of the Moore family, although whether or not this was the Moores of Laois of the Moores of Drogheda is uncertain.  The pedigree roll is thought to have been written by the Rev. John Bowen of Bath and incorporates some 75 coats of arms showing lines of descent from Caradog Fraichvras, Brychan Brycheiniog, Cadwaladr and Bleddyn ap Maenarch.  The original was the now lost ‘Pedigree and achievements of Robert Bowen of Bally Adams of 1608.’  This had been compiled by Thomas Jones (ca.1530-ca.1620) of Fountain Gate, Tregaron, and extended to 1720 by William Hawkins, Ulster King of Arms (1670-1736).  The National Library of Ireland also holds a copy of the original pedigree together with Hawkins’s continuation to 1720 (GO MS 160, pp. 54-58), where it is called ‘The Pedigree of John Bowen Clerk… Examined and confirmed at the Carmarthen Gorse July 11th 1819.’ 

                                John Bowen died in 1569 without a will but leaving sons, Robert Bowen of Ballyadams and William Bowen of Castle Carra, Co. Mayo.  A Fiant of that year names him as ‘John Thomas alias Bowen, late of Ballyadam.’  There are two accounts of John Bowen’s death.  According to local folklore recorded by Daniel O’Byrne (1856), “Shane Bawn,” was remembered as a tyrant and a murderer of pregnant woman.  One day an O’Moore took one of Bowen’s sheep into a pit where he killed it and began roasting part of it.  The herdsman saw him and told John Bowen who rode over to arrest the sheep stealer.  However, upon finding it was an O’Moore, Bowen wheeled his horse around to gallop back to the castle.  O’Moore shot him in the back through a gap in his mail, presumably with a bow or crossbow.  O’Moore then crossed the fields, and taking the horse at the outer gate of the castle, he made his escape. 

                                There is an alternative story recounting John Bowen’s death that belongs to the family history of the late Johanna O’Dooley of Stradbally who told it to Nula Hayes (Laois Folk Tales, 2015).  Johanna said that her ancestor Henry Lalor escaped the massacre at Mullaghmast and that his wife, three year old daughter, and their baby, were at his castle at Dysert Aengus at the time.  Upon hearing the approach of horsemen their herdsman took the baby boy away to hide him.  The woman was murdered and the girl too, the girl being left hanging from a gatepost.  The boy, Mathew Lalor, was brought to his mother’s people in Orchard, Timahoe, and according to Johanna’s tradition it was this Mathew Lalor who killed John Bowen. 

                The story that a local chieftain killed John Bowen is present in both oral histories, as is the slaughter of women and children, however, the massacre at Mullaghmast is dated to 1578 at which time John Bowen was deceased some nine years and in addition, the genealogy Nula recorded for Johanna would place Henry Lalor as being born in the mid to late 18th century, several generations after these events.  Yet, oral history and tradition is the music of history and sometimes tells the story in abstract better than pages of dates and facts.  It reflects how the people of Laois perceived their story and depicted their heroes and villains.  O’Byrne mentions traditions that claim John Bowen executed people at the Chapel Hill of Killeshin, the Ash trees of Rahen near Ballynan, the Highroy Bush and Knock Crana Crugha near Timahoe.  He also reported the local belief that the first John Bowen of Ballyadams was buried at Timogue, in an unmarked grave close to the roadside wall. 

                The great tower itself actually consists of two towers, the highest of which, contains a winding stone staircase, and is seventy-five feet high.  It has rooms that are still intact because of their vaulted ceilings and a murder hole, or meurtrière, over the gate, through which defenders could fire arrows or drop stones down on attackers. 

                Traditionally, Seán a Phíce was credited with the creation of a “murder hole” near the castle entrance.  In folk memory, again recorded by O’Byrne, this was a pit concealed by a trap door with a bone-breaking mill wheel half-way down to trap the victim.  The confirmation of whether or not such a pit ever existed will perhaps make a good project for a future archaeologist, however, it could be that this tradition is a distorted memory of the construction of the murder hole over the gate. 

The murder hole (1992).

The great tower, in essence a B shaped gatehouse, was originally the gatehouse to a larger castle and such gatehouses often contained the lord’s private apartments.  The large original entrance that passed through the tower was eventually blocked up and a doorway inserted, essentially converting the building into a tower house.  It is also evident that the height of the tower was extended at the same time, creating the murder hole.  The great tower resembles the gatehouse at Neath Castle, Glamorganshire which was destroyed, by Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford, in 1321, from whom the Bowens also claimed descent.  Hugh Despenser the Younger is credited with the rebuilding of the castle in 1376, including the gatehouse  It could well be that John Bowen knew this place in his youth and remodelled the tower at Ballyadams on Neath. 

Depiction of the gatehouse at Neath Castle, Glamorganshire by Dugdale.
Ballyadams showing clear evidence of conversion from gatehouse to tower house.

                John Bowen had a daughter called Margaret who married Gerald Oge Fitzgerald of Morett.  The story really begins with Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare, who died a prisoner in the Tower of London.  He had a son by Alison FitzEustace, his first wife, called Silken Thomas FitzGerald (potential king of Ireland) who was executed at Tyburn in 1535 with his five uncles.  By his second marriage to Elizabeth Grey, he had Gerald FitzGerald (d.1585), who became 11th Earl of Kildare (known as the Wizard Earl) who married Mabel Browne (d.1610) on 28 May 1554.  There is some discussion about whether or not Gerald, the Wizard Earl, also had a relationship before this with Elinor, daughter of the O’Kelly of Timogue.  One possibility is that there was some sort of union between Gerald and Elinor under Brehon law although the FitzGeralds of Morett claimed that Gerald and Elinor married before Thomas Leverous (later Bishop of Kildare) in 1545.  Either way, they were the parents of the Gerald Oge Fitzgerald who lived in Morett Castle and who married Margaret Bowen of Ballyadams.    It is known that the Wizard Earl went into hiding following the execution of his half-brother and uncles in 1537 because he was in danger as claimant to the Earldom.  He spent some time in Tír Chonaill under the protection of his aunt, Eleanor McCarthy, and her husband, Manus O’Donnell.  His supporters, known as the Geraldine League, mostly comprised the O’Neills, the O’Donnells and the O’Briens of Thomond but these were defeated in August 1539 after which FitzGerald fled to Europe under the protection of Francis I of France and Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire.  He was educated in Liège and later studied in Rome under Cardinal Pole, after which he went on crusade with the Knights of Rhodes.  After ten years in exile he ventured to England following the death of Henry VIII in 1547 and was reconciled to Edward VI.  It is most unlikely that he was secretly in Laois two years earlier marrying Elinor Kelly, although he may have gone to Ireland after 1547 when the king restored his lands to him.  If there was a relationship, then it has to have been sometime between 1547 and 1554 when Mary I, created him 11th Earl of Kildare in acknowledgement of his support of her during the Wyatt Rebellion, which an attempt to stop Mary from marrying King Phillip of Spain. 

                But what of the legends that Gerald, 11th Earl of Kildare murdered the O’Kelly of Timogue and claimed his lands in the reign of Elizabeth Tudor, sometime after 1558?  In the version given by Garrett Byrne of Fallowbeg, in 1579 Fergus O’Kelly, presumably the brother of Elinor, married an O’Byrne of Glenmalure and built for her a house of stone in one week.  O’Kelly’s servant, a man named MacLeod, being away at the Feast of Michaelmas, was annoyed to find that no goose was left for him on his return.  O’Kelly told him to settle the matter with the cook or else go to the yard and kill one for himself.  Garrett says that MacLeod disappeared instead off to see the Earl of Kildare at Kilkea and took it on himself to invite the Earl to spend Christmas with O’Kelly of Timogue.  When the time came, O’Kelly received his unexpected guest with good grace.  At Candlemas, the Earl asked O’Kelly if he could stand sponsor for O’Kelly’s first child who was as yet unborn.  He returned following the child’s birth and was godfather at the christening but the following morning O’Kelly’s wife and child were found dead.  The Earl invited the grieving O’Kelly back to Kilkea where a few days later he was taken to the top of the tower to be shown the view.  It was a trap and he was beheaded by Kildare’s men.  Garrett Byrne of Fallowbeg said that heard this story from Edmund Cowen who had heard it from Catherine McJames who had worked for O’Kellys.  The story was published in ‘The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres’ in 1831.  However, the story cannot be true in this version, as there is no doubt that the Earl of Kildare was not in Ireland at this time.  But, as H.F. Hore noted, Timogue does appear in the 9th Earl of Kildare’s rental roll, even if no rent was collected.  (The Rental Book of Gerald, Ninth Earl of Kildare, A.D. 1518). 

Daniel O’Byrne (1856) also told the story of the stone house built in a week, only in his version it was Rory Oge O’Moore (d.1578) who built it for Maighréad (Margaret) Maol O’Byrne, the sister of Feagh mac Hugh O’Byrne. If anything, this version of the building of the stone house appears more reliable as unlike the O’Kelly-O’Byrne alliance, the O’Moore-O’Byrne marriage is verifiable. O’Byrne also says that the site of the house was called “Shanish Clough”- Old Stone, which as far as the name goes, agrees with Garrett Byrne’s account. When Daniel O’Byrne relates the story of O’Kelly’s death, which he says he took from a history of Kilkea written by the Marquis of Kildare, there are differences. In this version the wife of O’Kelly disagreed with a servant called Macgloud, (a phonetic variation of MacLeod) and Macgloud took himself off to Kilkea and invited the earl to visit O’Kelly. The earl visited and seeing that O’Kelly’s wife was pregnant he asked if he could sponsor the child when it was born. Returning to Timogue for this event, that night mother and child were found dead. O’Kelly returned to Kilkea with the earl who had O’Kelly ambushed and beheaded whist he was being shown the view from the top of the castle. O’Byrne says this was in 1580. But again, the problem is that the earl was absent from Ireland at this period.

                The story is more plausible if the Fitzgerald involved was Gerald Oge Fitzgerald and the beheading was at Morett Castle rather than Kilkea.  The incident would also make more sense if Fitzgerald of Timogue believed that he had some right of inheritance regarding Timogue via his mother.  This would also fit with other Laois traditions claim that the O’Moores burned Morett Castle in retaliation for the murder of O’Kelly in 1600, killing both Gerald Oge Fitzgerald and his wife, Margaret Bowen.  It was said that the O’Moore who headed the attack hid his identity by claiming to the defenders of Morett that his name was O’Neill.  A memorial inscription in the church at Timogue mentions the Bowen-Fitzgerald relationship, the murder and the burning of Morett. 

In this vault and ground lie the remains of Gerald Fitzgerald of Morett, Esq., and of his wife a daughter of John Bowen, of Ballyadams, Esq.  He was murdered and his castle burned in the reign of Elizabeth.  And of his only son, Gerald Fitzgerald, of Timogue, Esq.  And of his wife, a daughter of O’Demesy, Lord of Clanmalere.  And of his eldest son, Thomas Fitzgerald, of Morett, Esqr.  And of his wife a daughter of John Picat of Dysart, Esquire.  And of his eldest son, Stephen Fitzgerald, of Morett, Esq.  And of his wife a daughter of Henry Gilbert, of Kilmenchy, Esquire.  And of his eldest son, Thomas Fitzgerald, of Morett, Esquire.  And of his wife, a daughter of Sir Gregory Byrne, Bart.  He dyed on the 18th day of April, 1754.

                The only child of Garrett Oge and Margaret, another Gerald, is said that have been with his Bowen grandparents at the time, presumably at Ballyadams, which may indicate that an attack was expected, and so he survived.  This Gerald, also known as Garret Buidhe because of his yellow hair, married a daughter of O’Dempsey, Lord Clanmalier.  He came a Colonel in the Confederate army, and raised a life guard to protect James Tuchet, 3rd Earl of Castlehaven.  Apparently, his other nickname, obviously attained in later life, was “Old Gerald.”

                John’s successor at Ballyadams, Robert Bowen (d.31 July 1621), alias Robert Thomas, had his tenure renewed as a grant in capite on 31 August 1578, by which he held the castle by knight’s service.  He became Provost Marshall of Leinster and Meath. 

The rebel Bowens

Hugh O’Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone, disappointed in his hopes to be named Lord President of Ulster, entered into a conflict in 1593 that was to be known as the Nine Years’ War, in which he was joined by Hugh Roe O’Donnell, their intention being to re-establish King Philip II of Spain as king of Ireland.  Many joined them in the coming years, including the O’Moores, and In May 1596 they defeated the Cosbys at the Battle of Stradbally Bridge under the leadership of Owney mac Rory O’Moore.  O’Neill secured a signal victory at the Battle of the Yellow Ford on 14 August 1598 and in the following year, Sir George Carew said of Laois:

‘… not one of us make any profit of these lands, neither have we any part of them in possession save only the two have Castles Dysert and Ballyadams, which Pigott and Bowen hold by the sufferance of the rebels hitherto; and now they say they shall hold them no longer.  I am persuaded they are or will be lost very shortly.’ 

Owny O’Moore secured another victory in Laois at the Pass of the Plumes on 17 May 1599 and Robert Pigott had fled to England by 1600.  Writing to Sir Robert Cecil on 7 May 1600, Pigott says that he had not come over to seek relief at the hands of the Queen till necessity forced him to through the extreme miseries he had endured.  He sought help also for his allies and kinsmen, the Breretons, Barringtons and Danyels but made no mention of the Bowens.  Together with the Hartpoles they had by now evidently joined the rebels.  However, Spain never gave substantial military help to their “Irish province” and O’Neill surrendered on 30 March 1603, neither knowing that Queen Elizabeth had just died or that there was no money left to raise another army against him. 

                On 18 March 1604, pardons were granted to Robert Bowen Esq., of Ballyadams, William Hartpole of Blackforde, John, Thomas and Edward Bowen, gentlemen, Muitagh O’Dowlin, Donell McEvoy, and Donogh McEvoy, husbandmen (tenant farmers), Donogh O’Loghnan, carpenter, William McEdmund and Donogh mac Awly O’Doine, husbandmen, all of Ballyadams.  (Deputy Keeper of Public Records in Ireland: eighteenth report, 1886). 

                Edward Bowen, being the youngest son of Robert, does not appear to have inherited land, at least he was not mentioned in the remainder to the family estates in Robert Bowen’s Will of 1621, so he may have been deceased by then.  His uncle, William Bowen, in his will (proved in 1549) had left him £20.

                In 1609 Robert Bowen, Henry Brereton and Alexander Barrington asked to go through the process of surrender and regrant, in which James I accepted the surrender of their properties and regranted them to hold of the Crown:

At the suit of Robert Bowen of Adamstown [Ballyadams] in the Queen’s County, Provost-Marshal of Leinster and of the County of Meath, his Majesty accepts the surrender of the said Robert Bowen, Henry Brereton, and Alexander Barrington, jointly and severally at their pleasure, of the castle, towns and lands of Adamstown, of Ballyntubered, and of Rossbranagh; also the town lands and village of Loghteoge in the said County, in the tenure of Henry Brereton; and of the castle, town, and lands of Cullinagh in the said County, in the tenure of the Alexander Barrington; and of the town and lands of Castlekarrow in Mayo; [the other Bowen property] and of all their other possessions in the realm of Ireland.  Directing that the same be regranted to them in fee-farm.

                Robert Bowen was also granted a pension in consideration of the losses that he and his son Oliver had sustained at the hands of rebels in the Nine Years’ War.  The change of sides appears to have been overlooked and Robert claimed that he was now so impoverished that he would be unable to provide for his children in his will.

                Fortunately, copies survive of two of the wills that Robert Bowen made.  The one dated 3 April 1619, begins: ‘I Robert Bowen of Balliaddams in the Queens Countye Esquire, being farre stricken in age and therefore having noe long tyme to live, but of perfect mynd and memorye, thanks be to God, doe revoke all former wills by me made…’  After directing his body to be buried in the church of ‘Kilmokydy’ [Ballyadams] he left his wife ‘Elise Hartpoole’ his leases of the two rectories of Rathaspoke and Kilmokidy, together with the wardship of the body and lands of Thomas Keating of Croftantegle.  She was also left all his ‘corn in ground and above,’ his plate, bedding, linen, and kitchen utensils, together with the cattle and stock that he had left in ‘Castle Carye’ (Co. Mayo) with their son John Bowen.  It was witnessed by Thomas, Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin, William Skilton and Arthur Bladesmith. 

                Bowen’s wardship of Thomas Keating is interesting because the Keatings, another planter family of Laois, had joined the O’Moores in the Nine Years’ War under Redmond fitz John Keating and the 1640 survey records this Thomas Keating, along with the families of Hartpole, Hovendon and St Leger as the ‘papist proprietors of Slievemargy’ before their lands were confiscated.  Croftantegle, also known as Crottentegle (Crochta an tSeagail) was later known as Ashfield and its 415 acres were granted to Parliamentarian Adventurer and soldier Anthony Gale who married a Wandesforde of Castlecomer.  He was there at the time of the 1659 Census. 

                Robert Bowen made another will dated 17 July 1621.  There was no mention of Keating this time, so presumably he had come of age.  In this will, Robert desires his wife to enjoy the same thirds as his mother had, 60 acres in Ballintubber and 20 acres in Ballintlea.  The plate etc were to be equally divided between her and his son John whilst his second son Oliver, and third son Thomas, were to pay such head-rents on the Mayo estates of Castlecarry, Liskilline, Robyne, Killgonill, and Toghire as his sons-in-law ‘Thomas Ram, Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin and Alexander Barrington, shall think right.’  Ballyadams and his other Laois properties were to be entailed on his son John with remainder to his other sons Oliver and Thomas, then to his nephew Edmond Bowen of Crunnagh (son of Thomas Bowen and Elizabeth Warier), then to the heirs of his grandson Robert by his wife Mary Hungerford.  His witnesses this time were Teige O’Currin, Piers Lawless, and John Phelan.

                In his time Robert had expanded the family estate by the grants of two patronages, meaning that he had the right to appoint vicars at Ballyadams and Ballintubber, churches he probably built or at least rebuilt.  He also received a watermill that had belonged to the monastery of St John of Athy, and a burgage plot in Maryborough.  Robert must have died at around the age of 77 as a Co. Mayo Exchequer Inquisition had found that he was aged 50 on the death of his brother William Bowen of Castlecarra in 1594.  Robert himself died on 31 July 1621, leaving three sons, John, the eldest, who succeeded to Ballyadams; Oliver, the second son; and Thomas of Liskellin Castle, Co. Mayo, which he purchased in 1625.  Thomas was the ancestor of Rev. Christopher Bowen, Rector of Heatherfield, Isle of Wright (d.1900) and Judge Charles Bowen(d.1894), created Baron Bowen in 1893). 

                Oliver Bowen purchased Burriscarra in Co. Mayo from John Kinge on 15 November 1608 but he mortgaged his lands in 1632 to Sir Thomas Blake of Menlo for £400.  In 1642, Oliver took refuge from the war in Ireland with his cousin, Phillip Bowen of Haskard, Pembrokeshire, Wales, where he died leaving no children.  It is interesting to see that the Bowen family in Ireland kept contact with their Welsh kinfolk, several of whom were high sheriffs of Pembrokeshire.  James Bowen, who was high sheriff in 1622, is recorded in the ‘Visitation of Pembrokeshire’ in 1591 and he may have been nephew to John of the Pike. 

The Bowen monument

In 1631, ten years after Robert’s death, an armorial monument was constructed to his memory in Ballyadams Church with the effigies of him and his wife, Alice Hartpole. Although she did not die until 4 June 1634 it was not unusual for a widow to prepare such a monument. Similar is to be found in Old Leighlin Cathedral where on the 1569 altar tomb of William McFirr O’Brin, Burgess of Old Leighlin, his wife, Winifred Kavanagh, also left gaps on the monument left that were intended to record her own date of death. The Bowen memorial itself is not dissimilar in design to that constructed a couple of years earlier at Lorrha, Co. Tipperary commemorating Johannis O’Kennedy. According to the Ordinance Survey papers, Ballyadams Church was built by Robert Bowen, a Catholic. The Alice Hartpole, wife of Robert Bowen, commemorated on the tomb was a daughter of Robert Hartpole of Shrule, Constable of Carlow Castle in 1577 and of Grania or Gráinne Byrne. Gráinne was a member of the Coulteman O’Byrnes of Carlow and was sister to one of their leaders, Owen mac Dowlagh O’Byrne of Tinryland, Sergeant to Robert Hartpole. Owen was described by Shane MacGillapatrick of Kilbride as no less than “a common extortioner.” Curiously, the memorial to John Bowen’s son, Robert Bowen (d.1621) and his wife (Alice Hartpole) is referred to on the first edition Ordinance Survey map as ‘Shone Apheeka Bowen’s Tomb,’ an impression shared by O’Hanlon who says it commemorates Robert’s son John [Bowen] nicknamed “John of the Pike.”

                Around the three sides of the Bowen monument are eight recesses, containing figures of members of the Bowen family with their names inscribed overhead and under the armorial bearings of Robert and Alice, is the following inscription:

‘If tears prevent not, every reader's eye
May well perceive that on this tomb dooth lye
Friend's hope, foe's dread, whose thrice victorious hand
Gain'd love, wrought peace, within this joyful land;
Whose worth dooth mount itself on angell's wings,
Whose great descent was first from Royal Kings;
Whose never-dying virtues live for aye,
Whose fame's eternized; it can never dye.
The Bowen Memorial in 1794
Bowen Monument, Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society (1914).
Gerald Villers Butler’s photograph of the Bowen monument (1914).

                Sir John Bowen (1574-9 February 1644) was knighted on 13 November 1629 and succeeded his father as Provost-Marshal of Leinster and Meath.  James Tuchet, 3rd Earl of Castlehaven, recounts in his ‘Memoirs’ how he went to Ballyadams in 1643 with a troop of horse and spoke to Sir John Bowen “an old soldier,” telling him that he intended to garrison the castle.  Bowen, however, refused to surrender Ballyadams and calling for his wife and two daughters, he asked where Castlehaven intended to place his guns.  When asked what he meant by this, Bowen replied, “I will cover that part, or any other your lordship shoots at, by hanging out both my daughters in chairs.”  Castlehaven wrote:  ’Tis true the place was not of much importance; however, this conceit saved it.’  The story is recounted in a poem called ‘The Romance of Ballyadams.’  (The Rhyme Book, Hercules Ellis, 1851). 

                The Marquis of Ormonde took Captain Sir John Crosby, Richard Grace, Gerald Oge FitzGerald of Morett and Sir John Bowen prisoners in April 1642.  Sir John Bowen was tried for high-treason on 31 January, 1643 but acquitted and released on 7 February.  The family entry in Burke states that he died 9 February 1644 aged 70. 

James Tuchet, 3rd Earl of Castlehaven

                                Sir John’s wife, Elis (Ellice), was a daughter of Myler Magrath, Archbishop of Cashel.  Their marriage settlements were drawn up on 18 March 1601.  Magrath had been a Franciscan priest who had become Bishop of Down in 1565.  Converting to Protestantism on 31 May 1567, in 1570 he was made Bishop of Clogher and promoted to Archbishop of Cashel on 3 February 1571, dying on 14 November, 1622.  His son, Donough, alias Giilagruama Magrath, was Chief of Termon-Magrath, in Fermanagh.

The Manor House
Sir John’s son William Bowen (d.1686) succeeded to three castles Ballyadams, Ballintubber and Derrinroe (later Kellyville), forty messuages or farm-steads, a wind-mill, a water-mill (at Rosbran) and two pigeon-houses. He also held the patronage of the churches of Fonstowne (Ballintubber) and Killmoheide (Ballyadams). He may well have built the manor house adjoined to the tower, which was probably in the Jacobean style and the windows dressed with stone, of which only a couple of segments remain. It appears to have consisted of two stories over a basement, and would have become the main entrance to the castle. It probably incorporate parts of the original curtain wall and perhaps some sections of earlier buildings.

A very rough impression of how the Bowen Manor house at Ballyadams may have appeared.  This was the front of the Bowen’s manor house of two stories over a basement, the front door originally being approached by a flight of steps. 

William Bowen died aged 72 on 10 April 1686.  The day before he died he made a verbal will in the presence of George Bowen, John Dwyer, Bridget Bowen and Ann Reynolds.  An Ulster Office Funeral Entry records that William Bowen of Ballyadams son of Sir John Bowen was married to Bridget, daughter of Sir Robert Tynte of Ballycrenane, by whom he had two daughters.  The eldest, Helena, married Edward Brereton of Loughtioge, and the younger, Katherine, married Peirce Butler of Killvelaugh.  By his second wife, Margaret, daughter of Sir William Domville, he had a son named John Bowen, and three daughters, Bridget, Mary, and Lucy.  The son, John Bowen, made a statement to Sir Richard Carney, Ulster King of Arms, that his father William ‘departed this mortal life at his house at Ballyadams aforesaid, on Sunday the eleventh day of April 1686, and was interred the Sunday then next following, being the eighteenth day of the same month in the church of Ballyadams aforesaid.’ 

The east front of Ballyadams in 1914 when the tower was still roofed and habitable. 

                John Bowen (d.1691) did not long outlive his father.  He died intestate, that is to say, without a will and having never married, administration of his estate was granted to his mother on 19 January 1691, his heirs being his sisters, although his uncle, George Bowen of Derrinroe (Kellyville) disputed this.  George left a will dated 26 December, 1699: 

I will and devise that all my real estate of Inheritance of which I die seized or possessed of, or of right I ought to have the whole lordship or Manor of Ballyadams in as large and ample manner as my brother William dyed seized and possessed of the same, and all his lands and tenements in the Kingdom of Ireland, I leave and bequeath to my eldest son Henry Bowen and his male heirs, and in default of such to his second son Andrew and his male heirs

The estate, however, was divided between John Bowen’s two half-sisters, Hellena Bowen who married Edward Brereton of Loughtioge and Katherine Bowen, who married Pierce Butler, and his full sisters, Bridget Bowen who married Thomas Carr of the City of Dublin, Mary Bowen, who died unmarried and Lucy Bowen. On her death in 1749, Bridget left Ballintubber, to Lucy’s children. The Georgian house at Ballintubber, then a vicarage, was the birthplace in 1904 of poet Cecil Day-Lewis who wrote two poems about the ‘elegant, shabby, white-washed house.’ In his father’s time, Caroline Butler of Ballyadams House played the organ in the church on Sunday and Rosie Butler ran the Sunday school. Once home once to the late actor Sir John Hurt, it may well have begun life as one of the Bowen castles.

Ballyadams Castle itself went to Lucy Bowen who in 1709 married Colonel William Southwell (1669-1720) of William Street, Dublin. Southwell’s mother was Elizabeth O’Brien, daughter of Murrough O’Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin, a descendent of Brian Boru. Dame Lucy, in her will (proved in 1788), wished to be buried at Ballyadams.

Medieval tower and Jacobean House, Ballyadams Castle in 1992.

                However, the estate eventually came to Katherine Bowen, who had married Pierce Fitz James Butler of Kilmoyer Co. Tipperary.  They had a daughter, Ellen Butler, who in turn married Stephen Creagh and had a son, Stephen Creagh-Butler of Brittas, Co. Limerick, who added Butler to his surname following an inheritance from an uncle.  In 1759 Stephen Creagh-Butler sold the estate to Garret Butler of Garranlea, Co. Tipperary (no immediate relation), son of Alexander Butler of Ballymore.  Garret claimed that he had purchased it on a lease of lives for ever but Stephen Creagh-Butler challenged this, maintaining that the property was still his.  Creagh-Butler appears in the Qualification Rolls on 1 November 1745, because as a Catholic he took the precaution of taking an oath of allegiance to avoid penal law being used against him but in 1786 the courts ordered his estates be sold for payment of debts.  He died in Dublin in 1795, leaving his claim to Ballyadams to his natural son, William Butler.

                On 10 August 1782, in the time of Garret Butler, the antiquary Austin Cooper, visited Ballyadams.  He wrote:

At Ballyadams is a large castle; the front consists of two large round towers, between which is an entrance, and over it a wall is carried in a line with the exterior limits of these towers, so as to form a machicolation over the door.  Adjoining these towers on each side are two large modern wings, one of which is kept in repair as a lodge by Mr Butler, the present proprietor; the other never was finished.  The inside of the castle exhibits a scene sufficient to excite compassion from every lover of ancient grandeur – the boarded floors all torn up, the plastered walls and ceilings threatening the observer with destruction, and, to complete this grand scene of desolation, the great state room still remains hung with elegant tapestry now left to rot away.

                Ballyadams Castle may have been briefly occupied in the 1790s by Garrett’s son-in-law Daniel Beere.  Garrett’s daughter, Margaret Butler, had married Daniel Beere (1757-1831) in January 1791.  Daniel was the son of Garrett’s land steward George Beere (1718-1799).  (Hibernian Journal & Walker’s Hibernian Magazine). 

The Beere family of Skinner Row, Dublin were notable goldsmiths, with George also being Warden of Dublin’s Goldsmith’s Company.  Several other members of the family found employment as clerks and agents.  Daniel Beere himself was Deputy Pursuivant of the Court of Exchequer.

                Garrett Butler was with his daughter and son-in-law at Ballyadams when rebellion broke out in 1798.  There was an attack upon the castle and the church, and according to the story told to the Kildare Archaeological Association, Garrett left Ballyadams “in the night,” presumably to secure his property at Garranlea. 

Garrett’s son Edward Gerald Butler (1770-1824) joined the 14th Dragoons in 1788 and in 1791 exchanged to the 24th Regiment of Foot. He married Barbara Boland on 10 November 1791 in Cork, but she appears to have died soon after. In 1793 he sold his commission and joined an independent company of foot, but the venture failed and in 1794 Edward Gerald purchased a cornetcy in the 15th Light Dragoons. The regiment was sent to Flanders to fight the French and the following month he purchased a lieutenancy in the 11th Dragoons, but had not yet taken it up when he saw action at Villers en Couché on 24 April 1794. Francis II, Emperor of Austria, leaving Brussels, suddenly found himself in danger of capture by the French. The 15th Dragoons and the Austrian Hussars were ordered into action and after some desperate fighting, the emperor was saved although Edward Gerald had his horse shot from under him. In late 1795 he was promoted to captain and on 12 April 1796 he was transferred and promoted to major in the 87th Foot (Royal Irish Fusiliers). His regiment was sent to the West Indies to garrison St Lucia. It was here that Edward Gerald, then Commander of Castries, married the 17 year old Rosetta des Rameaux. Her family were distant cousins of Josephine de La Pagerie, mistress and then wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.          

     Their eldest son, Edward was born in 1799 in Martinique.  The following year Edward and Rosetta had another son, Gerald Villers Butler, born in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, whilst Edward Gerald was on leave.  In the same year he was granted the title of Knight of the Imperial Military Order of Maria Theresa in recognition of his part in protecting the emperor.  In 1802, they had a daughter Rosetta Frances, who was also born in Harpenden and Edward Gerald, now on half-pay, was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.  However, in 1803 the British Empire was at war with France again. 

They had another son, Walter Butler born in Dublin in 1804 and the 18th Earl of Ormonde stood as his godfather.  Edward Gerald became colonel of the 87th Foot and was stationed in Guernsey where he formed a close friendship with the le Marchant family.  His son, Gerald Villers Butler was to call his eldest son Villers le Marchant Butler.  With the threat of invasion gone following the British naval victory at Trafalgar in 1805, Edward Gerald’s battalion was moved to Frome in Somerset where their son Richard was born in 1806.  He was sent to South America where his forces helped to capture Montevideo in Uruguay.  His regiment was next sent to garrison the Cape of Good Hope and in 1809 Sir Edward Gerald was appointed Commandant of Simons Town but the following year he was ordered to Mauritius where he was appointed Commandant of Mahebourg.  Edward Gerald sent his wife Rosetta back to England in 1811 to enroll their eldest son Edward in military college and by 1814 Sir Edward Gerald held the rank of Major-General. 

                The still young Rosetta died in Bristol in 1816 and their son, now Ensign Edward Butler of the Cheshire Regiment, was sent to Mauritius as Sir Edward Gerald’s ADC.  Edward Gerald was in London in 1818, and after visiting Dublin, he and his daughter Rosetta returned to England stay at Knowle House, Ulcombe, as guests of the Marquess of Ormonde.  Although Sir Edward Gerald and the Marquis were the same age, Rosetta was betrothed to Ormonde, but the Marquis died soon after in 1821 before they could be married.

                The widowed Sir Edward Gerald had begun an affair with Mary Byfield who had a son by him but he actually married Ellinor Lawrence on 19 September 1818, in Berkshire.  The relationship was brief and he deserted her in the town of Bath.  Settling in Ballyadams, his son Edward tendered Edward Gerald’s resignation to the army on his behalf, but Edward Gerald died 30 November 1824.  The army accepted Edward’s request to withdraw the letter as the death followed the letter so quickly and the commission was valuable.  Sir Edward Gerald’s will, mentions a natural daughter called Sally Landrigan, who was to receive £20 a year plus £40 pounds for her dowery.  His memorial at Ballyadams reads:

‘Sacred to the memory of Major General Sir Edward Gerald Butler KTKMT [Knight of the Order of the Maria Theresa], who departed this life the 30th Novr 1824 in the 54th year of his age and whose remains repose in the vault beneath.  A kind father, a gallant soldier, he distinguished himself on the field of battle and served his country in the four quarters of the world.  He left four sons and one daughter to lament his loss.’ 

                Major Edward Butler (1798-1861) had composed his father’s will and codicil, which Sir Edward Gerald’s deserted widow, Ellinor, sought to contest.  However, she subsequently withdrew her claim. 

                Edward Butler’s younger brother, Captain Gerald Villers Butler, was born 24 November 1800 in the West Indies.  He married Charlotte Jackson on 3 December 1834 in St Cuthbert’s Church, Edinburgh and died 10 October 1854 in Australia.  Gerald Villers became Government Resident at Guichen Bay in 1846 before moving to Hobart, Tasmania, in 1849.  His son, Lieutenant Villars Butler, was in New Zealand before returning to Ireland in 1864.  His cousin, Walter Butler, served in the customs at Melbourne in 1854 before working at the Gold Warden’s Office at Beechworth in 1856.  These Butlers left a fascinating collection of family papers and letters to the University of Melbourne (Butler Family Collection), describing life in the colonies. 

Sir Edward Gerald Butler’s son, Major Edward Butler (1798-1861) married Catherine McCarthy and had two daughters, Rosette (Rosie) and Catherine, and a son, another Gerald Villers Butler, not to be confused with his uncle in Australia of the same name. Edward Butler may well have built or rebuilt Ballyadams House from the proceeds of the sale of his father’s commission. James Norris Brewer saw the castle in 1826 and by his description the manor house portion was in ruins although the tower must have remained intact and habitable. Edward is listed in Lewis’ ‘Topographical Dictionary of Ireland’ as being of Ballyadams Castle in 1837 but he lost ownership in 1840, when Thomas Kemmis, JP, of Shaen (1798-1844) foreclosed on a mortgage. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) describes Ballyadams House as a ‘five-bay single-storey house with dormer attic, c. 1865, possibly incorporating fabric of earlier building, with advanced entrance bay and gable.’ However, the Macleans, Robert and Sarah, were living in Ballyadams Castle by 1841, when their daughter Ellen was born, if not earlier, which suggests that Ballyadams House was built before that year.

                Ballyadams House, described as modern and with 53 acres, were advertised for sale in the Dublin Evening Post on 11 August 1853.  It can only be assumed that the Butlers purchased it.  A.H. Maclean was the agent for the sale. 

Ballyadams House

Major Edward Butler’s son, Gerald Villers Butler (1829-1914) of Ballyadams graduated from Trinity College, Dublin. He remained at Ballyadams as a tenant with his son Walter William Butler (1870-1929). At the time of the 1901 census, Gerald Villers, then aged 70, recorded himself as ‘Esquire and BA, TCD’ and his son Walter William as a farmer.

A descendent of the Butler family purchased Ballyadams, house, castle and farm, in the mid-20th century and today it is owned by David Butler.

The first mention of a Maclean in connection with Ballyadams so far discovered belongs to the story of Captain Constantine Maguire (ca.1777-1834) of Tempo, Co. Fermanagh. He married Frances Augusta Maclean (1783-1840) in 1804 and the couple had one a daughter, Florence Elizabeth Maguire, who was born in Athlone in 1805. Florence Maguire married Rev. Henry Hickman Brereton (1802–1894) of Ballyadams, a cousin of the Bowens, on 17 September 1831 at St Mary’s, Donnybrook, Dublin. He was a chaplain of the East India Company and son of Captain Arthur Brereton who died at Ballyadams in 1836. Arthur Brereton was a son of Major John Brereton (1722-1816), nephew and heir of Bowen Brereton, son of Helena, daughter of William Bowen (1620–1686) of Ballyadams Castle.

The story of Florence’s father is told in ‘Captain Cohonny, Constantine Maguire of Tempo’ by W.A. Maguire. In 1833 her mother, Frances Maclean, attempted to divorce Constantine on the grounds of his adultery with his mistress, Eleanor Gavan, who went on to have five children by him. The Maguires of Tempo had gained an estate in the Ulster Plantation of 1610 but this was greatly reduced by the time that Constantine Maguire inherited it in 1800. Constantine Maguire’ mother, Phoebe Macnamara was the daughter of Ellen Butler who was daughter of Pierce Butler of Ballycarron, Tipperary, and Katherine Bowen, a daughter of William Bowen of Ballyadams Castle (1620–1686). Ellen Butler, wife of George McNamara, had been previously married to Stephen Creagh, and thus was mother to Stephen Creagh-Butler who had sold Ballyadams.

Constantine Maguire was notorious for an incident in which he and his brothers Brian and Stephen had attacked the Rev. Lucas Bell in 1798. Rev. Bell owned a flax kiln that the Maguire brothers set on fire. Constantine took a shot at vicar in the ensuing uproar and was subsequently charged with attempted murder, for which he served three months. Thus, a descendent of William Bowen was a United Irishman. Constantine later found himself in debtors’ prison, the Marshalsea in Dublin, where he lived for seven years with his mistress. Eventually, Constantine found a home in Co. Tipperary where he inherited 900 acres. Meanwhile, he had a boundary dispute with neighbouring farmers to his land in Tempo. In 1830 a John Rutledge tried to shoot Constantine after he had a stone boundary wall constructed at Tempo. Rutledge tried to escape to America but was caught, convicted of attempted murder and hung. That Constantine had only served six months for a similar offence cannot have escaped notice. However, Constantine himself was viciously murdered on 1 November 1834 at his home at Toureen Lodge, Tipperary, by Ribbonmen.

The origin of Constantine’s wife, Frances MacLean, is a mystery. Before she met Constantine, she was mistress of John Hamilton, 1st Marquess of Abercorn (1756-1818), using the name Phoebe FitzJames or alternatively Phoebe Butler, whilst she was with him. (Why Butler?) Frances McLean alias “Mrs Hawkins” and the Marquess had several children together. A son called Arthur Charles FitzJames, a daughter, a son called John James who was born in 1800 and died 29 April 1808. He was openly acknowledged and mourned, despite his illegitimacy. Another son, James John FitzJames (1808-1843), became a barrister and Arbitrator for Jamaica. Tragically he was drowned when the Solway, which was sailing from Falmouth to the West Indies, ran aground off the coast of Coruna, Spain, with the loss of 35 lives including James’ half American-Indian wife, Arabella Theresa Martin and four of their children.

Frances married Constantine in 1816, but the marriage was unhappy and it is a moot point as to whether Constantine took to living in the Marshalsea because of his debtors or to avoid her.

There was an unfounded belief that Frances was sister to Sir Fitzroy MacLean (1770-1847). She claimed to be the widow of a man named Hawkins but it is questionable whether or not he actually existed. One account says that she was born at Pallas, Co. Laois, which raises the possibility that she was a daughter of Robert Maclean who is associated with Portlaoise.

Portrait of “Frances Hawkins” and her son, John James Hamilton.  Painted about 1806 by Thomas Lawrence.

                On 16 January 1777 Robert Maclean purchased property in Portlaoise from Bartholomew Graves that had been previously held by Patrick Cavanagh.  Robert was from Randalstown, Co. Antrim, the son of Rev. Dr Clotworthy McLean of Rasharkin, Antrim, evidently named in honour of Sir John Clotworthy, (d.1665) 1st Viscount Massereene, who established a college at Antrim to train Presbyterian ministers.  Dr Clotworthy McLean was son of Rev. John McLean of Grishipoll, Coll, Argyll, Scotland who died in 1729 as Vicar of Kilmory on the Isle of Arran.  The Macleans of Grishipol claimed descent from Hector ‘An Cleireach Beag’ McLean, 4th Laird of Coll (1508–1565,) who was also ancestor of the Macleans of Mull.  Clotworthy had brothers, Rev. James McLean Curate of Rathlin Island, Antrim (1707-1750) and Rev. John McLean Rector of Billy, Antrim (1699-1795).  H.F. Kearney’s, ‘A Handlist of the Voters of Maryborough, 1760,’ (Irish Historical Studies, vol. 9, no. 33, 1954, pp. 53–82) shows two of Clotworthy’s sons, Robert and Charles, as freeholders in Portlaoise.  Charles is described as being married to the daughter of Parnell’s steward. 


                The leases on the Portlaoise properties were renewed on 11 May 1830 by Robert’s son, Christopher Maclean. 

                Leet’s Directory of 1812, describes Newpark, Portlaoise, as being the home of John Maclean Esq.  John built a house on The Green, Portlaoise, which became home to Rev. Thomas Harpur (Leinster Express, 5 November1831; Page 4). 

                Francis Maclean Esq., (d.1833) another member of the Portlaoise family, a son of Robert, was an ironmonger in Belfast.  His son, Francis McClean Esq., (d.1894) had a dental practice in Dublin and established his family in Ballintubber.  His son, Donald Stuart Maclean Gent., (1872-1931) lived in Kellyville House, and appears there on the 1911 census.  Under occupation he was happily able to write: ‘Income derived from houses, land investments etc (no trade or profession).’  Another son of Robert, Adam McClean Esq., (1766–1849) was a wool merchant.  The Macleans of Ballintubber were held to be cousins of the Macleans of Ballyadams Castle. 

Robert McClean (1730–1808) who purchased the Portlaoise estate in 1777 is thought to be grandfather of Captain Robert M’Clean (1799–1874) who lived in Ballyadams Castle. It is unclear whether or not he moved in as a tenant when it was still owned by the Butlers of Ballyadams House or whether he went to live there after Thomas Kemmis of Shaen (1798-1844) acquired it in 1840. One thought is that Captain Robert M’Clean and Major Edward Butler may have served together. In his time, according to his granddaughter, Ellen Shore (1883-1980), he kept a room in the old tower full of guns in case of trouble and he replaced the roof on the old tower with a galvanized one. He was caretaker for a time after Kemmis acquired the property but later appears as farmer. Robert Maclean died on 11 October 1874. The ‘Freeman’s Journal’ of 13 October 1874, wrongly reported the event describing it as a sudden death and giving his name as Michael. His recently married daughter and son-in-law Ellen and William Shore were living with him as well as his son James.

Griffith’s Valuation, 1848-1864
These rooms in the tower would have been the last to have been occupied. 
Photo courtesy of Sean Murray

James Mclean (1846-1920), son of the captain, was employed by the Kemmis family as gamekeeper but described himself as a farmer by 1878. He lived at the castle until around 1884 before taking work managing an estate in Emlaghmore, Connemara. However he returned to Laois and had a shop in Stradbally in 1888. By 1901 James and his family were living in Balisland, Co. Wicklow, where he was living off his own means. Ten years later he was in Tankardstown, Carlow, where he now described himself as a retired game keeper. The ‘Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society’ (1911) makes the following comment: ‘The last person who lived on the premises was a game-keeper named McLean, belonging to the Kemmis family of Shaen, near Emo, in the Queen’s County, to whom the castles estates passed in 1840 on the foreclosure of a mortgage, and by whom it has recently been sold to the tenants.’ Much of Ballyadams was indeed sold in 1896, although the sale excluded the castle and the Orchard Field. As late as 1913 the House of Commons discussed the eviction of Edward Foley from his holding at Ballyadams by the Kemmis estate. James and his German born wife, Christina Pfotzer, had eleven children. A daughter Elizabeth was governess to the family of land agent Colonel James Dopping of the 6th Rife Brigade and two other daughters, Lily and Louise Kingsmill McLean, were also governesses.

                The naming of Louise Kingsmill McLean was in honour of James’ grandmother, Sophia Kingsmill who had married into the McCleans.  Unfortunately, her husband is always described as ‘Mr Mclean.’  Sophia was a daughter of John Kingsmill, a wool comber who in November 1760 had been living at Grantstown, Co. Laois when together with his brother-in-law, Robert Palmer, a Dragoon in the Regiment of Light Horse, is named in a deed concerning lands at The Glin and Blackheath in the parish of Killermogh that were in the possession of John Kingsmill and Robert’s brothers, Paul and William Palmer.  He appears again in December 1765 in a deed of lease and release as John Kingsmill, Gent., of Ballygauge, with his brother, Luke Kingsmill, Gent., of Borris-in-Ossory, and Thomas Conway.  The deed states that Thomas Kingsmill of Ballyharadon, Co. Armagh, Gent., had on 25 June 1753, demised to Luke Kingsmill that part of the townlands of Moneymore lying on the south side of the new Turnpike road containing 150 acres and part of the lands of Stranboe containing 50 acres adjoining Moneymore for the natural lives of Thomas Kingsmill the lessor, Margaret his wife and Luke Kingsmill.  Luke Kingsmill had claimed to be entitled to 80 acres of lands in Clononen that had belonged to his father Henry Kingsmill.  Luke’s mother, Mary Kingsmill, then a widow, and his wife, Ann Cecil are also mentioned.  Another deed dated 12 December 1767 was made between John Kingsmill, farmer of Black Heath, Co. Laois, and William Lodge of Rathmekelly, Co. Laois.  On 20 June 1770 there was an indented article of agreement between Thomas Kingsmill of the City of Dublin, John Kingsmill of Donaghmore, Co. Laois Gent., and James Morphy of Rathdowney, Co. Laois, Gent., by which John Kingsmill assigned a yearly rent of ten pounds payable to him out of the lands of Moneymore and Shanboe, Co. Laois, containing about 200 acres, over to Morphy.  He sold Monemore and Shanboe to Rev. John Kean in 1793.  Another deed dated 17 July 1795, mentions John Kingsmill, his son Anthony, Luke Kingsmill, Rev. John Kean who married Mary Ann Wade, Richard Vicars, Edward Flood, Thomas Kingsmill and others, concerning the same lands.

                John married Eleanor only sister of Paul Palmer of Derreen, land left a will dated 24 February 1801  They had five sons, Henry, Thomas, Luke, Anthony and John, and two daughters, Sophia McClean and Eleanor Abbott.  He was then in Borris-in-Ossory, describing himself as ‘very weak and feeble of body, but of perfect sound mind and memory.’  Going on to claim that the death of his brother Luke entitled him to certain rights, he charged his sons, Luke, Thomas and Anthony, and his grandson, John, son of the deceased Harry, to recover these rights, leaving them each an eighth share of the proceeds if any, otherwise they were each left one shilling and one penny.  However, his brother Luke, had already left him a shilling as a bar against any such claim.  Of the remainder of his presumed rights, John bequeathed one eighth each to his daughters Eleanor and Sophiaand to his son John’s children, Elenor and John Kingsmill.  He also mentioned that both he and his brother Luke were owed money by ‘that Rev. villain,’ his brother-in-law, John Kean in the form of a bond for £200.  John Kingsmill himself owed money to Samuel White of Roundwood Esq., and Marmaduke Grace, Attorney and he directed that this be paid out of John Kean’s bond, the balance of which he left to daughter Sophia, and daughter Eleanor’s two sons John and Thomas Abbott.  Sophia was also left the remainder of the lease of a house and garden rented from John Kean.  He left small portions of the £200 leviable on Moniamore to his daughter Eleanor Abbott, her sons, John and Thomas, and her husband Thomas Abbott, the remainder going to the grandchildren John and Eleanor Kingsmill, who were also left to the care of their aunt, Eleanor Abbott with the warning that if they married or lived with a papist their legacy was forfeit.  The executor was Samuel White of Roundwood. 

                James Maclean’s brother-in-law, William Shore (1839-1922) was a member of a farming family from Kilgory, Co. Laois.  It is thought that he purchased the castle and the Orchard Field sometime after 1896.  The ‘Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society’ mentions that, ‘To the north of the castle, beyond the field in which an old cherry orchard stood, there is a well called Tober-na-Goppal, or “the Well of the Horses.”  Another old Irish place-name is Boolia-duck (The Milking Place), which is the name of a field at the junction of the roads near the gateway leading into the Castle Field; neither of these names is marked on the six-inch Ordnance Survey maps.’ 

                William Shore had gone out to Australia in the 1860s to try and make his fortune.  He appears to have had an adventurous time there with his brother-in-law, Swedish born Victor Bladin (1831-1900).

In November 1873, Olaf Victor Bladin, to give him his full name was charged with deserting his wife, William’s sister Frances, on 11 January 1868.  In 1870 their four children were sent to an industrial school at the instance of Frances, whom Bladin had deserted.  He had since been discovered working as a sub-contractor at St Kilda and arrested.  After he was made to pay various sums over for the upkeep of the children, Frances had her children discharged from the school and sent to her in Gipps Land, where she had managed to acquire some property. 

                William Shore told his family stories of his adventures in the gold rush; but it appears that he never took out a mining licence.  William was robbed near Melbourne in 1869 whilst taking money to his sister Frances sent by her husband Victor.  He was struck with an axe and bore a scar across his face from that attack for the rest of his life.  Returning to Ireland with some green beer bottles into which some gold nuggets had been hidden, he married Ellen Maclean on 7 May 1874 at Ballintubber.  Things weren’t going well and in 1876 he got accommodation at one of the gate lodges at Stradbally Hall but he argued with Robert Cosby (1837–1920) and promptly left.  It is not clear how he came to be working as a gardener in Belfast where his daughter Ellen was born at 10 Lowther Place on 2 May 1883.  It is believed that the Shores were back living at Ballyadams Castle by 1896 when the estate was sold to the tenants.  There was an argument between the agents and the Shores over the furniture in the castle, particularly about an antique clock, a Maclean heirloom.  Nevertheless, the auctioneers sold the furniture, including the clock, insisting that everything belonged to the Kemmis estate.  The date that William Shore is supposed to have purchased the castle and the Orchard Field is not known. And the family were gone by 1901 although they may have lived back at Ballyadams at other times after that.  The Shores were living at Naas in Co. Kildare in 1905.  William did eventually buy a farm but sold it and retired with his wife Ellen to Oldtown, Abbeyleix. 

Frances Shore Bladin’s grandson, William Shore’s grand-nephew, was Air Vice Marshal Francis Masson Bladin CB, CBE (1898–1978) of Box Hill, Victoria, Australia.  During 1942 and 1943, with meagre forces at his disposal, he reorganised Australia’s defences and successfully defended the country in the air from the threat of Japanese invasion.  He was much respected by those who served under him.  A Presbyterian, he married a Catholic and later organised the multi-faith Anzac Memorial Chapel at St Paul, Duntroon.  
Vice Marshal Francis Masson Bladin

                There were a few legends the Shores passed on about the castle.  One is that during a dance held there a woman was found murdered and a servant was suspected as he had been seen earlier with an axe.  When questioned he said he had only used it to knock down a nail in the floor because a woman had caught her dress on it during the dance.  When her body was examined, it was noticed that there was the mark of nail on the sole of her shoe and it could be seen that there were marks on the floor showing that a nail had been knocked in and so nothing could be proved against the man.  Another story is that every expectant mother who had lived in the castle by tradition gave birth to her child on the stairs in the great tower.  Up to the late 1800s, dances were held on the roof of the castle to which the locals were invited to attend. 

                The castle was in the possession of Dermot Hurley (1868-1916) by the early 1900s.  Dermot played host to an outing of the Kildare Archaeological Society to Ballyadams Castle organised by Lord Walter FitzGerald on 27 September 1911.  The excursion coincided with a railway strike that prevented some from joining the tour but three cars were volunteered to help out and it was well attended by about 30 members, despite the rain.  After seeing the castle, they went on to see the ruins of the church.  It was described how the previous year, a couple of Hurley’s cattle had climbed the spiral stairs, one going into a room on the first landing, and other coming out beside the corrugated iron roof at the battlements.  A  butcher from Athy was called but fortunately the cattle were got down safe.

Ballyadams Castle,
‘Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society’ (1914)

                Dermot Hurley died in 1916.  Described as gentleman in his will, he left just £10, his nephew Gerald Hurley being his heir.

Dermot’s family had been tenant farmers in Ballyadams for generations. His brother, Rev. Walter Francis Hurley, was Catholic curate of Delgany, Co. Wicklow. Their father, Walter Hurley (1813–1878) of Cappanafeade, had been one of the larger farmers around Ballyadams, and by the 1870s he was also farming at Oldconnell, Kildare. Thomas Kemmis of Shaen (1837-1906), Gerald Villers Butler of Ballyadams House, Samuel Connolly of Athy, George Taylor of Dublin and Walter Hurley of Old Connell Esq, were members of a drainage scheme for Ballyadams in 1877.

                The ‘Kildare Observer’ of 6 March 1897 records that Gerald Hurley, of Old Connell, Dermot Hurley’s nephew, was the purchaser of Ballymany House and its 118 acre farm near Newbridge, for £2,200.

                It seems that a family may have taken up residence in the tower until the 1920s or so.  Whether or not the castle and Orchard Field were being rented from William Shore is unclear but Shore’s daughter maintained that he never actually sold it.  Local tradition has it that the place was rendered uninhabitable after the well was poisoned.  This was possibly because Dermot Hurley had served in the RIC and had made a number of arrests around Ballylinan in his day. 

Michael Powell Siddons, 'Welsh Pedigree Rolls - Further Additions and Corrections', NLWJ, 36.3 (2016), 266-270.
P.C. Bartrum, Welsh Genealogies A.D. 300-1400 (Cardiff, 1974), pp. 863, 865.
Lord Walter FitzGerald, 'Ballyadams in the Queen's County, and the Bowen Family', in Journal of the Archaeological Society of the County of Kildare and Surrounding Districts, 7 (1912-1914), 3-32.
Rhys Morgan, The Welsh and the Shaping of Early Modern Ireland 1558-1641 (Woodbridge, 2014), pp. 76, 146, 193, 197.
Sir Edward Gerald Butler – Geni: 
O’Byrne, History of the Queen’s County, 1856.
O’Hanlon, History of the Queen’s County, 1914.

Daniel Byrne Rothwell, author of The Byrnes and The O'Byrnes  


A confusing estate to research, as it was divided in two in the early 18th century.

The original Knockfin is indicated by an arrow, and the one designed by Richard Morrison in about 1800 is above it

Knockfin The Fair Hill, like most of South Laois was part of the Mac Giolla Phadraig lands by the beginning of the 17th century and according to the Book of Survey and Distribution  it was confiscated from Daniel Fitzpatrick.  In 1670 the Titulado was Capt. John Garret who got a block of 8 townlands down to Ballinfrase on the Kilkenny border.    He was one of five brothers, all Cromwellian soldiers.  His son John established himself in 1700 at Janeville in County Carlow where his descendants lived until around 1870.

Joseph Chamberlaine is the next owner of whom we have any knowledge.  He was probably the same Joseph Chamberlaine who had a son Joseph and a wife Mary and was living at Connell, Newbridge, in the 1720s.    He wrote his will  on 16 Sept. 1744, which was proved in August 1747. He divided the townland between his two sons, Joseph and John.  John got  “From Carrick Bounds to the Sand Pits and from the Back of the Orchard to Black ditch in the bog”.  ROD  128, 162, 86662

This is no doubt why Joseph Chamberlain the younger commissioned a survey of Knockfin’s 78 acres by John Washinton July 1748.  The Down Survey had described Knockfin as having Unprofitable land: 25 plantation acres Profitable land: 250 plantation acres.

Joseph Chamberlain of Knockfin m Mary Young of Granston 8 Jun 1752

It is not clear that John Chamberlain actually lived on the land as  Saunders’s News-Letter – Wednesday 10 April 1776 reports that:- “James Phelan, Patrick Phelan, John Fean, Jeffrey Purcell, James Daly, and Kelly, found guilty assembling at the house of John Chamberlain of Coolfin and robbing him of a gun; likewise of robbing Mary Egan of Augmacart of cloak.—Thomas Mulholland, alias Cheshire Tom, found guilty of violently assaulting Wm. Phelan, and desperately wounding him with a Sword.” The trials of the seven criminals were not ended till past 11 o’clock Thursday night, when sentence of death was pronounced against them, but the days of their execution were not fixed on when this account left Maryborough.”    This could have been a misprint for Knockfin, as Coolfin is 3 miles North of Knockfin.

Dublin Evening Post – Saturday 18 September 1779  reported that John & Joseph Chamberlain were both grand jurors of Queens County

John Chamberlain of Knockfinn m Elinor Chamberlain widow 28 Apr 1792

Theophilus Chamberlaine m  Mary Ro(w)e of Donaghmore 13 Apr 1799

The will of Theophilus Chamberlaine, Knockfin, Queen’s County, gent.  was proved in 1800

Kilkenny Moderator – Wednesday 24 June 1829 reported that John Chamberlain of Knockfinn  was a Freeholder

Dublin Weekly Register – Saturday 12 September 1829  at Donamore church Joseph Chamberlain of Kockfinn to Elizabeth 2nd daughter of Pierse Alley of Donamore

Three months later Dublin Weekly Register – Saturday 19 December 1829  “At Aghavoe Church, Queen’s County Humphrey Palmer.  of Rathdowney, in the Queen’s County, only son of Captain George Palmer, to Eleanor, fourth daughter of Theophilus Chamberlaine, Esq , of Knockfinn, in the said county”

On 14 Nov 1859 Mary Jane, daughter of Joseph Chamberlaine of Knockfinne married George Sothern of Grogan Cottage, Rathsaran

Joseph’s son John Chamberlain moved to Harold’s Cross where he got work as a warehouse man and married Jennie Burrowes from Portadown in 1880, 

Peter Thomas Chamberlain of Knockfinn, b 1830, son of Joseph Chamberlaine, married Frances Harriette Smith on 3 Feb 1875 in Rathfarnham.  On Nov 27 1877 he died of an inflammation of the lungs.  Within a month on Dec 20 1877 his wife is selling up.

The house on 79 acres was bought by G J Swaile and his wife Frances, who were looking for tenants February 14, 1880 – Benjamin Hewett took on the farm, Hewett selling his interest in 1890, and moving to England.  By 1901 Timothy Barber or Barbour of Rathdowney was in residence.

Joseph Chamberlaine’s Knockfinn is the building on the road heading south, which he is leasing from Thomas L Mackessy and is valued at £8. 

The house looking North towards Middlemount is occupied by Benjamin Mosse who is leasing it from John Jacob.  It is valued at £20 15s

If the Chamberlain (e) family occupied the more southerly house at Knockfinn from approx. 1730 to 1877,  the other house at Knockfin seems to have had a far more varied history. 

In Taylor & Skinner’s roadbook of 1778   Palmer  is of Knockfinn (there is also a Palmer of  Derrin, between Netwon Mill and Castle Durrow, 4 miles to the east.)

The Post Chaise Companion … By R. Lewis or William Wilson. The 3d edition 1803…Knockfin seat of Mr Palmer.  This may be a mistake.    By now John Jacob has the lease, having moved there from Portlaoise around 1789, soon after he had married Grace, the daughter of Jerome Alley of Donaghmore, who was one of the 33 children of the Rev Peter Alley who d in Donaghmore in 1763 at the age of 87 (not 111 as is often suggested – that is merely conflating him with his father, Rev Peter Alley of Modreeny). 

Jacob was there till 1805, when he moved back to Maryboro and built Portleix House on the Dublin Road on being appointed Surgeon to the Queen’s County Infirmary.   A very distinguished family of medics, John Jacob was the surgeon in charge of the County Infirmary, his son John carrying on the medical tradition on Laois, whilst his son Arthur became the foremost ophthalmic surgeon of his day.    Vickers headed out to make a fortune in Australia, where he  arrived with his wife and children on ‘Medway’ in 1822. His intention was to resign from the Service and settle in New South Wales as a general merchant and agent. He established a store in George Street Sydney.  He was granted 2,000 acres on the Hunter River which he named  ‘Knockfinn’ and ran cattle and grew wheat.  Thomas went on to become the County Solicitor, whose appalling behaviour is detailed under Thornbury.

Jerome Watson was found guilty of the murder of Mr Whitaker, steward at Levally, during a raid for weapons in 1798.  He was hanged  from a tree in Rathdowney Square, the rope having being tied around his neck by a young son of Dr. Jacob of Knockfinn (presumably the 9 year old Vickers or the 8 year old Arthur).  Watson’s grave remained a hallowed patch of gravel in the Square at Rathdowney till the 1990s, when the council tarred it over and erected instead a memorial that some must consider tasteful,

Portleix House, Jacob’s house in Portlaoise

Jacob had engaged Richard Morrison to construct a new house at Knockfin.    Though no images of it have yet been discovered it must have been pretty massive – the 1901 census records that the façade head 24 windows, and it was described as being 3 storeys high.

He advertised it to let and according to Leet’s directory of 1814  Richard Steele was in residence. 

The post-chaise companion: or, Travellers directory through Ireland.   4th ed 1820  By William Wilson – Knockfin seat of Mr Steele

Dublin Evening Post     19 March 1822  … BIRTH. On Monday 11 March . at Knockfin. Queen’s County, the Lady of Richard Steele, Fsq. of a Daughter.  He may have moved the following year when Jacob is advertising it again   In 1838 Fraser’s guide through Ireland describes Steele as of Ballyedmond 

The next tenant was Thomas Mosse, great nephew of Bartholomew Mosse of Rotunda fame.  Thomas’ son, a successful London barrister, Bartholomew Mosse, gave up the lease in 1858 and Robert White of Oldglass took it on.  Robert died in 1863, but his son Robert Philip White was there till 1873 when he moved to Woodview, Stillorgan.

Luke Bredin Flood, the son of Edward Flood of Middlemount,  was there for 3 years.

A vet, he married Alicia Emily Whitney in Sept 1874. “Luke Bredin Flood Esq., of Knockfin House, Queens County, to Alicia Emily, eldest daughter of Elliott K [sic] Whitney, Esq., of Woodlands House, county Wexford.” (Wexford Constitution, 18 September 1875).  By September 1876 he was planning his move to Florida, where he died in 1899.

By 1891 the tenant as Albert Edward Drought, son of Dr Robert Drought of Ballygeehan House, Ballacolla, who married Lily, the daughter of District Inspector James Roe, RIC of Ardee and niece of Lewis Algeo of Glenboy House, Leitrim.

In 1897 the newspapers reported his death:-

DEATH OF MR. ALBERT DROUGHT. It is with feelings of regret that we have to chronicle the death of the above-named gentleman which sad event happened suddenly on Thursday of last week at his residence, Knockfinn House, Rathdowney. Mr. Drought, though differing in religion from the majority of his countrymen, took side with those who were fighting for Nationality. In the Land League days he suffered for his principles when he refused to pay an exorbitant rent to R. Hamilton Stubber for his farm at Kilbreedy from which he was evicted. The large and respectable funeral cortege, consisting of near 200 cars and upwards of 20 horsemen, testified to the esteem in which he was held.

In February 1899 Mrs Drought sold her interest in Knockfin

Around 1900 Knockfinn was rented by John Wallace junior, the son of John Wallace of Glencorrig, Shinrone, and the nephew of Joseph Wallace of Liverpool.  He had married Geraldine Radcliff, that daughter of William H Radcliff of Wilmount, Kells, Co Meath, the year before and the couple had moved to Knockfinn in the hopes that the country air would cure his sickness.   Sadly the sickness was Bright’s Disease and he was dead within 6 months.   

 By 1911 the tenant was Langley Thompson with his wife Mary Anne Watson, daughter of Roland Watson, and their 9 children.

Langley died in 1931 at Knockfinn and his son Arthur took on the farm.  In 1942 Arthur sold the house on 133 acres to his brother David who lived next door at Erkindale for £2,500.

Knockfin South

Coolfin, Rathdowney

In the 17th and 18th Centuries Rathdowney, the Erkina  and its tributaries was the focus for well off families, their buildings statements of both their assessment of their own importance and their  aspirations.  Levally House, Coolkerry Castle, Erkina House, the two houses at  Knockfinn, Phillipsburgh and Carrick to the East.  Coolfin, Donaghmore, Beckfield, and Farranville to the North.  Mount Oliver, Castlegrogan, Castle Fleming to the west, and  Harristown and Kyle to the South, all within about a 4 km radius.  Strangely Rathdowney, which had been seized from the McCashin family and granted to Capt Thomas Prior by Cromwell, was still a very small village in 1665, with only about a dozen persons paid hearth- money in the whole townland of Rathdowney in that year.

The 1659 census names Robert Parrot as the Titulado  of Coolfin and notes that there was 1 English and 3 Irish residents in the townland.

Coolkerry lies between Coolfin and Knockfin, to the West of Middlemount.  TCD’s Down Survey website identifies Colekerry as being in the possession of Morgan Cashin, in 1641 and John King, Lord Kingston in 1671.  Morgan Cashin, the chief of the McCashins  was killed in battle at Borris-in-Ossory, in 1642; in the 1659 census there was a  Morgan Cashin of Palmershill who is believed to be his son.

The 1659 census names John Geale as the Titulado of Coolkerry and notes that there were 9 English 41 Irish in the townland.

James Anderson’s 1769 map shows Coolkerry Castle as a significant late 17th century house – it was merely marked as an earth work on the 1840 OS Map.

Coolkerry in 1769

The Finns arrive – but from where?

In 1671 the will of William Finn of Coolkerry was proved (Ireland, Diocesan and Prerogative Wills & Administrations Indexes, 1595-1858).   

Edmund Finn, the bookseller who established Finn’s Leinster Journal in January 1767, was of Kilkenny, and his brother William was a wealthy Carlow merchant.  But Edmunds Finn early career was in Cork where there were 11 Finn in the 1659 survey. So the roots of William Finn remain completely obscure.

RoD 5.371.2097    18 May 1711 Robert Finn of Coolfin.  From other deeds we know that his wife was Ann and his son was William.  He may have also been the father or brother of Daniel Finn

From the 5th Report of the deputy keeper of Public Records in Ireland 1873  “13 Dec 1711  John Hill of the city of Dublin and Anne his wife  Robert Finn Coolefin and Anne his wife, Plaintiffs, Defendant John Newell of Curragh-kill-brenagh.   Re Croan Gurteene Kilfreghane Ballyvery alias Ballywery and Currghmony  bar Iffa & Offa  (an area near Fethard Co Tipp)

£1753 to the Hills and 5/- to the Finns W,D,C, 129 F117

William Finn married Elinor Whitshed, the sister of the Lord Chief Justice in March 1724/25, and the marriage settlement included the lands of Coolfin, Akip, Kilbreedybeg Ballycooladbeg, Kilbreedymore, Shaghnegan, Laragh, Eglish Mondrehid, Dysartbeg, Knockballymore – several thousand acres!  (Until 1752, New Years Day was on 25 March, so 23 March 1724 was actually 24 March 1725 in modern terms).    Registry of Deeds 43.330.28241   

Elinor’s grandfather was the massively rich  Mark Quinn, Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1667 whose mansion stood on the south side of High Street. He cut his throat in St Mary’s Chapel, Christchurch Cathedral, on 10 Nov. 1674 it is said from “jealousy of his wife”, but was actually probably prompted by a political coup against him.  Either way the result was that the cathedral was immediately closed, since it needed to be reconsecrated after the shedding of blood, and the shops around the cathedral also had to close, resulting in the loss of trade and even some bankruptcies.  (from Prof Raymond Gillespie’s research)

In January 1710 Daniel Finn of Rathdowney his wife Mary, dau and sole heiress of John Sandford decd were raising a mortgage of £120 on the land at Castlefleming.  RoD 6.364.2278  

In 1691 Mary Hutchinson of Timoney Park Roscrea died, who was the daughter of John Sandford of Doe Castle, Co Donegal.  It seems very possible that Mary Finn was her niece.  In a deed of 1725 it mentions John Finn, eldest son and heir apparent of Daniel and Mary Finn.  120 years later, in Griffith’s Valuation  there were a dozen Finn families descended from Daniel and Mary around Errill, Rathdowney, Mountrath, Portlaoise and Durrow, some of whom still live in Laois in the 21st century. 

In 1731 Robert’s son William Finn was High Sherriff of Queens County, and reported that he had not found any Nunneries or Friaries in the county.  Carrigan History of the Queen’s County – Volume 2 – Page 570

The Mountrath toll road trustees 1731 and 1735 include Robert Finn and William Finn  The Statutes at Large, Passed in the Parliaments Held in Ireland  George II  9th Yar  1735  p 325 & 5th Year 1731 pg 607

In The Dublin Journal, Monday, February 26, 1742;   William Finn of Coolfin was letting land.

Probate of the will of William Finn, Gorteens was granted in  1775.  Gorteens is on the banks of the Goul north of Cullahill.

Fintan Dunne recently noted the following inscriptions in Kilbreedy graveyard.

Burial monument No. 1

Here lieth the body of Wm Finn late of
Coolfinn in the Queens County Esqr who died the
9th of January 1767, aged 74 years
And the Body of Mrs. Mary Stubber Rel.
Of Sewell Stubber Esqr dearest and only
Daughter of said William Finn Esqr She died
The 9th of May 1767 aged 49 years.

(William would be the son of Robert and Ann Finn and the grandson of William Finn of Coolkerry, d 1671. In the 1852 edition of Burke’s Landed Gentry William the younger is described as a Major, but this might be “mere puff”. )

Burial monument No. 2

This Stone covers the mortal remains of
Late a Captain in his Majesties 7th Regiment of Horse
He departed this life on the 18th day of October 1819
In the 69th year of his age
It is but justice to his memory here to record
That he was a Gentleman of ineffable integrity in all his
Intercourse with Man
Of unaffected and warm piety toward God
An affectionate Husband and Brother
And a sincere Friend
To preserve his excellent Quality from Oblivion
To testify the Brotherly Love that
Subsisted between them thro life
This tomb is erected by his afflicted Brother
Reverend Sewell Stubber of Ballinakill

Burial monument No. 3

Sacred to the memory of Robert Ormsby Esqr
M.D. of Durrow, who died on the 7th November 1864
In the 54th year of his age. Doctor Ormsby
was the Dispensary Physician of his district
for upwards of thirty years and during
that long period of almost unremitting
toil, discharged the onerous duties of his
position with an earnest devotion and
unostentatious zeal, that won for him the
gratitude of the poor and the esteem
of all classes. Beneath this monument
(erected by his beloved widow) repose
The remains of his mother and sisters
Who died many years ago

Colefinn is to let in 1773. The Palmers may not have been the most ideal tenants!
How I feel for Robert Palmer!! I wonder was this the beginning of the financial troubles that beset the family for the next three generations?

By 1775 Robert Palmer Esq of Coolfn is selling barrels of rape seed Finns Leinster Journal, Wednesday, April 12, 1775.  This is presumably the son of Robert Palmer of Srah.

‘Kilkenny, 5 May [1770]. Married a few days ago, Robert Palmer, junior, Esq; of Sragh, in the Queen’s county, to Miss Stoney, daughter of George Stoney, of Greyfort, in the county of Tipperary, Esq; an amiable young lady with £2000 fortune’ – Finn’s Leinster journal, transcribed in ‘The Irish genealogist’ vol. 8.   (The marriage settlement is Registry of Deeds 282-56-184344).

30 November 1796 Between Robert Palmer the Younger, Lieutenant in the Ayrshire Regiment of Fencibles, of the first part, Charles Ward, city of Dublin, of the second part, and Robert Palmer the Elder, Sragh, Queen’s county (father of Robert Palmer the Younger), of the third part. The covenant relates to a mortgage by Robert Palmer the Elder of the lands of Sragh and Moynough, Queen’s county, and the lands of Graganossey and Turfarney, Queen’s county, to Charles Ward for £1,800 stg.

For more information about Robert Palmer of Sragh see ‘Reports of cases argued and determined in the High Court of Chancery, in Ireland: during the time of Lord Chancellor Manners 1807-14, Volume 2’ – Palmer v. Wheeler.

A royal executioner

William and Elinor Finn’s only child, Mary, married Sewell Stubber, in 1743.  He was the son of Capt Robert Sewell and Sarah Stubber and grandson of Robert Sewell (pronounced “sole”) a draper and gentleman of the bedchamber to King Charles II who had married Jane,  dau of Dr Brune Reeves, (1596-1677), Dean of Windsor.

Whence came the Stubbers, and how was Sarah such an heiress that her husband took her name?  It started on Tuesday 30  January 1649, a freezing morning in Whitehall, and Sarah’s grandfather may well have been about to commit an appalling act of regicide.

Richard Brandon, the common executioner, should have been preparing for the climax of his career,  but it is said that he had refused £200 to execute King Charles I and even on his death bed six months later he denied having committed the act.

The execution of Charles I was done expertly, with a single clean cut to Charles’ neck, possibly suggesting that the executioner was experienced,  Some suggest the Royal executioner was Francis Hacker who commanded the guard of halberdiers (whose weapons were axes) charged with keeping the King in close confinement.  One of the halberdiers was called Peter Stubbers. 

By April 1653 the lowly halberdier had become a Colonel and was made Military Governor of Galway. Despite the fact that his friend and neighbour in Galway, Richard Gunning, another Cromwellian whose descendants included the lovely Gunning sisters of Fuerty, claimed to have been the king’s executioner, it is more probable that it was Stubbers, the speedy promotion being his reward.  Certainly Charles II thought so, ordering that Fitzpatrick be specifically restored unto his estate that had been ‘in the possession of one [Col. Peter] Stubbers, a halberdier, that assisted at that execrable murder of our Royal Father… and so exempted by Our “Declaration” from pardon’ .

Peter Stubbers had two sons and a daughter, and Edward Stubbers the elder boy seems to have managed to hang onto 11 townlands around Castlefleming and Erril, another 11 around Clara in Offaly,  and most of the town of Callan in Kilkenny.  On his death it was inherited by his brother’s daughter Sarah, Sewell Stubber’s mother. 

Sewell Stubber and Mary Finn had 6 sons and 3 daughters but only 2 of the children married –

A)           The Rev Sewell Stubber m Miss Catherine  Flood of Middlemount by whom he had     

1 Catherine who married Captain James Nicholas Maillard in 1801 in Dublin, (swapped from the 56th Foot to the 16th Foot in April 1802.   He is thought to have been of West Indian origin and was not a welcome son in law, being more of a fortune hunter.    They had 5 children between approx. 1802 & 1810. Maillard died in 1811, Catherine remarried & had 2 more children .  (source Karen Sydow, Maillard Stubber historian )

II Eleanor who married The Rev Alexander Chetwood Hamilton in 1801.

Both sons in law took the name Stubber which of course led to litigation Stubber v Maillard (Calling himself Stubber) [1869] House of Lords Appeal J0304-2 – That must have cost both sides a fortune!! The traditional explanation for poverty is slow horses and fast women. A more accurate one might be bad temper and bad lawyers!

The Maillard Stubbers at some stage deserve an article all to themselves. In 1866 the papers were informed that “Sewell Maillard Stubber, formerly of Monaclare, Queen’s County, is likely establish his claim to the title of Baron Athenry, in right of maternal descent in the family of Sewell, the patent having been to heirs general.  It is stated that he will succeed to the baronies of Melvin and Hurrnin by similar descent.  We feel assured that the success of this gentlemen will afford much satisfaction his relatives and friends in the Queen’s County.” 

B)            Sarah m 13.01.1775 the Rev Sydney Ormsby of Grange, Co Roscommon and had issue William Ormsby who married Miss Bell and was the father of Dr Robert Ormsby of Ormsby House, Durrow, 1800-1867, on whose death the lease of Ormsby House was taken by David Mercier, Durrow miller, shopkeeper and businessman, and descendant of the Portarlington Hugenot Philip Mercier. The Ormsby’s were descended from Thomas Ormsby who came from Lincolnshire in the 1560s and ended up at Castle Strange.    The Finns, Hamilton and some Ormsbys were buried in Kilbreedy churchyard.

The 1840 OS map of Coolfin. What are the 4 small buildings by the enclosure to the North of the house? Pigsties? Hen houses?

More Roes

In 1814 Leet recorded that Coolfin was unoccupied.  

By 1829  Thomas (Henry) Roe, a son of Peter Roe of Kyledellig,  is of Coolfin

In Griffiths Valuation of 1850 Thomas Roe is the tenant of Robert Hamilton Stubber, at Coolfin and the house is valued at £16/10

He died of “Natural Decay” on 6 Aug 1879 at Coolfin, at the age of 89, leaving a widow and several (probably 8) children including

Peter Henry (1824-1893) who married Grace Westropp of Ballysteen, County Limerick in 1856 and had 7 children.  He became an Army Surgeon Major and served in The Gold Coast, dying in South Norwood, London (Anyone can survive Ghana, but South Norwood for someone in their 60s is definitely a challenge.)

Jane (1813-1889) who married Vere Dawson Shortt of Larchill,  Coolrain in 1842

Madelaine who married Thomas Scruton Odell of Kilcleagh Park Moate

Mary, who married Richard Somers of Streamstown House, Westmeath (whose daughter Annie m her cousin Richard Westropp Roe).

Freeman’s Journal – Friday 26 October 1883  the lease of Coolfin  to be sold on behalf of Dr Roe

It is described as having drawing room, dining room, 6 bedrooms and out offices. It noted that a moderate outlay would make the place suitable for a gentleman’s residence

By 1890 the Roes had reroofed Coolfin and were still looking for a tenant.  The tenant who arrived in about 1893 was William Hodgins of Cloughjordan, with his wife and 8 children, which soon became 10 children.  William died at Coolfin in 1940 aged 95.

Thornberry House, Abbeyleix

Pair of gateways, c. 1820. Section of rubble stone walled garden, c. 1820, to site.   Remainder of estate (including house) now demolished and site cleared.

It is hard to guess the date that Thornberry was built.  The central half octagon bay is reminiscent of Mount Brown in County Limerick and Wilton that once stood outside Urlingford, both from the middle of the 18th century.  The brick stacks however suggest a later date, as does the wide fanlight and the joinery.               

Lawrenson, Robt. & Edward were named in the will of Robert Lawrenson of Rathmoyle, (proved in 1794) ½ a mile North.    The Larensons were often agents for the de Vesci estate, so this might well be yet another agent’s house for Abbeyleix.  The de Vesci’s were certainly the head landlords. 

In 1806 Robert Lawrenson, on being appointed sheriff of Queen’s County, was advertising it to let, and describing it as newly built.  So it is not unreasonable to suggest that it was built in the late 1790.  But might the front be merely an addition stuck onto to an earlier building at the back, whose hipped roof is just visible on the left of the photo – the suggestion in Francis Evans advertisement of 1815 is that it was an “improved” old house

The first lease in 1806 was John Scott of Harcourt Street – no not Copper faced Jack, but the nephew of the Scotts of Annegrove.

Scott was moving on by 1809 and the lease was taken on by Francis Evans (Leet 1814)  Francis Evans junior of Thornberry bought 6 copies of Morni: an Irish bardic story, in three cantos: pub 1815.  His wife bought another 2 copies and his father, Francis Evans of Kilcoole Castle, bought another two.  One has to presume that the author, Richard Benson of Nery, was a very good friend.  A good investment though – de Burca Rare Books had one in his 205 catalogue for €475.

Mrs Evans Snr of Thornbury Abbeyleix also subscribed for 2 copies of The Irish Tourist: In a Series of Picturesque Views, By A. Atkinson in 1815.

Richard Croker was of Thornbury, Queen’s County in February 1817 when he married Catherine Jane Bland of Blandsfort. 

Extract from  “The Irish Crokers”  by Nick Reddan:-

Richard who entered the Royal Navy and was commissioned Lieutenant on 7 January 1809, was stabbed by a seaman, Joseph Gibson in 1812, who was hanged 20 November 1812. Richard was promoted Commander on 15 June 1814 but received a pension for wounds that December when he retired with the courtesy rank of Captain. He was granted the freedom of Limerick on 1 July 1816.

His brave actions saving seven people from the sea off Glin were reported in the Limerick General Advertiser on 13 September 1816. Richard was of Blandsfort, Queens County, when he married Catherine Jane Bland by an Ossory, Ferns and Leighlin licence in February 1817 at Ballyrone church. Their marriage settlement was dated 13 February prior to their marriage. Richard died at Thornbury Queens County in October 1836.”

‘Limerick General Advertiser’ 13 September 1816:

A boat with a military officer and seven men, from Tarbert to Glin was upset a few days since in a heavy breaking sea, no boat or assistance being near and the distance from the shore being very great. Capt Richard Croker RN, son of the Rev Richard Croker, Croom, put off with a few gallant volunteers in a boat from Glin with nearly her forepart out, (the only one to be had) and after a most perilous and long pull in a very heavy sea and gale, succeeded in rescuing from a watery grave six out of seven of the crew – hopes are entertained for their recovery.”

In June 1829 Croker was still resident at Thornberry and serving as a magistrate. Selection of Reports and Papers of the House of Commons  V9 p93

He died at Thornberry in October 1836 and in 1837 his will was proved.  His widow married the Vicar of Chiswick and in 1843 the lease was transferred from William Bland Croker to Thomas Andrew Bailey.  The Laois Papers Deeds  Genealogical Society of Ireland

In the meantime Richard White was in residence from 1837  but died at Thornberry in October 1838.     Dublin Morning Register  02 October 1838  Robert White had previously libved at Oldglass now called Granston Manor. 

William John, youngest son of Major Law Dundas, of Thornbury, in the Queen’s County, married to Caroline Grace, only child of George Roe, of Farmly, in said county.   Saturday 16 January 1841

Of Dundas we learn something from a gravestone in Munny, Co Wicklow:– Sacred to the memory of Jane Honoria the beloved wife of Captain Abraham Augustus Nickson of Munny in the County of Wicklow. Daughter of Major Lawrence Dundas of his Majesty’s 26th Regiment of Light Dragoons and granddaughter of Major Greene of Middleton in the County of Cork Esq. She fell asleep in Jesus on the 17th February 1858 also In memory of the above named Abraham Nickson who died the 7th November 1861 aged 88 years.  There is more on the Dundas family at

Mr. Thomas A. Bayley, of Thornberry, land agent; Mr. William Hamilton, of Roundwood, Mountrath, J.P.; Wednesday 09 October 1844    Cork Examiner. Thomas Bailey was probably the son of Christopher Bailey Esq., JP,  of Cappalough, near Rosenallis;  He was the witness to Isabella Bailey marriage to Philip Meredith of Rearyvale in April 1849:

At Thornberry, Abbeyleix. the Lady of Thomas A. Bailey, Esq. of a son.  Wednesday 06 May 1846  Limerick Chronicle

At Thornberry, Abbeyleix., Isabella, second daughter of Thomas A. Bailey, Esq. .died .  Saturday 07 November 1846   Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette

He had 10 children and died at 3 Ormond Road in 1891 at the age of 81.  Was it a coincidence that John Waldron his successor at Thornbury also lived on Ormond Road, at Number 8, almost opposite, where his wife Emily died in July 1894 aged 79 and he died 1897 in aged 74.   Ormond Road is off Moyne Road in Ranelagh. His son Wellesley Cosby Bailey, b in 1848 became a policeman in the Punjab and in 1874 started The Mission to Lepers.

Bailey moved to Poles Bridge, Stradbally pre 1860 and Thomas Jacob, the county solicitor, took on the lease.

Thomas Jacob (1802-1865) had had a very colourful youth.  He married in March, 1827, Jane, daughter of Mr Blood, of Ballykilty Manor Co Clare, and had five sons and three daughters.  In 1829 he was staying with his brother, Dr Jacob in Ely Place.  They set out in a “car” with Dr Jacob’s 4-year-old son to see Dr Montgomery. Thomas had the reins and spotted Dr Montgomery walking down Merrion Row, and pulled up.  Immediately there was a crash and the car span round.   The driver of the cabriolet behind them had run into them, but did not stop, so they chased after it on foot.  In a case of road rage worthy of a facebook video the driver roundly abused them and would not give them his name.  They tracked the cabriolet down to Captain Byng,   Comptroller of the Household to the Lord-Lieutenant  and son and heir to The Earl of Stafford.  The case duly went to court.

The next time Thomas appears in court was on 9 Nov 1831 in Tipperary town.  Police Constable Mulholland had gone to arrest Dan Ryan and seize a horse that he had unlawfully in his possession.  Ryan’s house was a stop for “car man” or cab drivers.   He lodged Ryan in the Bridewell and came back to get the horse but found the stable locked.  Whilst he was waiting for Mrs Ryan to unlock it Thomas with 5 or 6 people rushed wildly and in a furious manner into the house and “Jacob called on the people to turn the police out of the house”.  Constable Mulholland showed him the magistrates warrant but Jacob, assisted by an Oyster boy,  in a most daring and menacing manner held up his fist and told Mulholland that he would prevent him from executing the warrant.  They each had to come up with bail, and the case was sent to the Quarter Sessions. 

It gets worse.  In 1849, the year before he was appointed state solicitor for Queen’s County, he and his sons were charged for the abduction of his cousin Georgina, a 12 year old Quaker heiress from Angelsey, and marrying her to his son John.  Vickers Hamilton Jacob (the son of William Jacob, late of the General Post Office, Dublin and his wife Marcella de Freyne)  m Charlotte, the daughter of John Howard of Balinakill.  Georgina was their only daughter.    She actually married John Jacob in 1857, and after his death married Mr Hogg of London in 1865, dying in 1868

March 17, Died at Boulogne-Sur-Mer, John Jacob, eldest son of Thomas Jacob, Esq, Thornbury, Queen’s    Catholic Telegraph Dublin, 26 Mar 1864 

Thomas Jacob died of a heart attack during the nomination of candidates in Maryborough Couthouse “which was thronged to suffocation” on the day  Leinster Express, Saturday, July 22, 1865

His younger son Mark Anthony Jacob died in Harcourt Street on Dec 23 1866 at the age of 24 and in 1869 Mrs Jacob was selling her lease.

The new occupant had been living in Abbeyleix since at least 1854, and in 1857 John Waldron of Abbeyleix, builder, was looking for carpenters. 

John Waldron, of Abbeyleix, builder, has been declared contractor for the erection of a new church at Ballintemple, County Tipperary. Mr. J. Waldron and his father, who lives at Edenderry, have given the fullest satisfaction to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners     Leinster Express, Saturday, October 16, 1858; Page: 6.

John Waldron’s son Thomas died at Thornberry on 3 Oct  1871 aged 18, following an amputation.

WALDRON—FLAVELLE-August 24. St. Mary’s, Kilburn, by the Rev. E. Coultbard, M.A., John Waldron, Tbornberry, Abbeyleix, Queen’s County, solicitor, elder son of John Waldron, of Ballyfallen, Athboy, County Meath, to Julia, third daughter John Flavelle, of Wellbank, Sydney, N.S.W.   Northern Whig – Tuesday 30 August 1887.

Her father (1816-1899) was a professional photographer, optician and jeweller, who came from Dublin to New South Wales apparently as a trained optician. He accompanied George Baron Goodman to Van Diemen’s Land in 1842-44 as photographic assistant. Purchasing a camera and photographic chemicals from Goodman, Flavelle opened his own daguerreotype portrait studio in St John Street, Launceston, after Goodman left the island, but this seems to have ceased operations a few weeks later when he ran out of chemicals and/or plates.

Flavelle returned to Sydney, arriving in the brig William on 17 May 1844. By 1846, in partnership with Samuel Brush, he was an optician at King Street, transferring to George Street about the middle of 1848. The partnership was dissolved in 1850 and Flavelle set up as Flavelle Brothers at George Street, the other half of the partnership being his elder brother Henry, who became the firm’s London supplier. John Flavelle was now primarily a jeweller, but he also worked as a watchmaker and general supplier, importing photographic apparatus, dental equipment and mathematical instruments, as well as with watches, jewellery and silver.  He married Catherine Rossiter, from Kilcullen and about 1870 built a two-storey home in Concord which he named ‘Wellbank’ after his wife Catherine’s birthplace at Flemingtown South, near Kilcullen.  Bartholomew Rossiter, b.1796 married Elizabeth Waldron, (a great aunt of John Waldon’s perhaps?). They had five children., Mary Ann b 1821 Kilcullen Co Kildare., Elizabeth b 1823 Kilcullen., Catherine, Gertrude G., and John. In 1840 Bartholomew brought his wife and children to Sydney Australia, arriving 03 October 1840 on the “Lord Weston.”

Wellbank NSW

John Waldron snr and his wife Emily moved to live with their son William in Ranelagh, where they died in the 1890s.

John Waldron jnr flourished as a solicitor and he and Julia had a daughter, Muriel, who married Ernest Henry Thompson of Tenbury Wilts on 19 Jan 1915.  John died in September 1920 and within a month Julia was selling up.  The purchaser was Mr. F. S. Younge, Rathdowney, and the purchase price £8,000, but it was for sale again within a year.

In the 1970s it was still roofed and habitable, but sadly the owner abandoned and then demolished it

OS Maps 1840 & 1890


Mairtin D’Alton has kindly allowed me to put up the article that he wrote for the Laois Heritage Society Journal Vol 4 2008

Lest the men of Offaly protest, Mairtin has pointed out that Garryhinch was considered originally to be in Queens County, because the river used to be in front of the house. The river was the county boundary. One winter, after a flood, the course of the river changed and it was behind the house. So thereafter people were unsure, in which county they house was in…. 

There are many accounts of the Warburtons on the web – a few links below

Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland

Burkes Landed Gentry of Ireland 1912


Photo of house in ruins in 2011 by Mike Searle.
Photo of house under restoration by Canice Farrell in 2019 by David Hicks

The date of Knockatrina is established in “Central Leinster: The Counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly” by Andrew Tierney

Tudor Revival mansion of c. 1870, Built by Robert Thomas Flower(b. 1836), third son of the 5th Viscount Ashbrook of Castle Durrow, who was granted land here by his father in 1866. <He married the daughter of the Rev Sewell Hamilton in 1866 and the house was certainly finished by 9 July 1870, when Robert Flower’s son was born at Knockatrina – JC> Faced in dressed limestone and planned in two-storey ranges round a small courtyard. Contrastingly sized and shaped reception rooms, articulated in bays and bows principally on the s and w elevations, allowing for a show of gable-ends and tall terracotta chimneys. Generous mullion-and-transom windows in stone. Entrance to the w via a narrow corridor that turns r. into a long hall, lit by a tall window over the staircase on the s. Modest-sized reception rooms flank the stairs, one extending into a three-bay bow. Three more reception rooms on the N, the first with an attractive canted bay window. Dressed limestone under the plaster of its south wall indicates that this once formed the outer face, and that the brick-built N wing is later.

1890 OS Map has an excellent article and well researched by Mark Thomas. I am not convinced by the suggestion that the Scottish architect Robert Armstrong (1799-1875) was Knockatrina’s designer. One of his English designs, Stansted Hall in Essex, designed in 1871,  is said to bear strong stylistic resemblances to Knockatrina.

Fintan Dunne’s elevation of Knockatrina – does anybody recognise a similar house in England?

There are many accounts of the final years of Knockatrina. In early 1946 Frances Mary White tried and failed to interest the Land Commission in it. Then on March 25th that year the house and farm were bought by either Mrs Mercier or Miss Mooney, both of Ormsby House, Durrow.

David Mercier, a Methodist flour merchant, had bought Ormsby House from the executors of Dr Ormsby in 1860. His son, also David, was living at Erkin Lodge, Durrow when he married Elizabeth Tracy Cochrane in Limerick in 1869.   His second son, Samuel Turpin Mercier married Elizabeth’s sister Anna in 1873

David jnr’s son Ernest Francis Cochrane Mercier, was described as an accountant on his marriage certificate to his first cousin Amy Laura Mercier (1874 -1954), the daughter of Samuel Mercier, also a flour merchant , on 3 Oct 1906 at the Methodist church Belfast.

Ernest was also an auctioneer, shop owner, and property dealer.  He bought the neighbouring house  (that had also been built by Dr Edward Harte of Erril in 1798) as his office.  Such was his business that it contained 4 safes! Ernest died in January 1927 of heart disease.    His widow carried on the business. 

Whether Knockatrina was  bought by the 72 year old Amy Mercier or by Amy’s companion and  bookkeeper, Mary Mooney, 25 years her junior, it all ended up with Mary when Amy died in July 1954 as Amy left everything to Mary Mooney.  Despite her training as a bookkeeper Mary felt daunted by her huge responsibilities – she was the eldest of seven children of an illiterate labourer from a 4 roomed cottage on the hill by Clonageera.  She was soon befriended by a tractor salesman from Cork called Jerome K Daly who relieved her of much of her wealth and organised the removal of the roof of Knockatrina.   The school children in Durrow used to chant “Daily, daily sing to Mary”.  Daly sold pretty much everything that Mary had inherited.  Mary died aged 70 on March 16th 1968. On August 8th that year the Irish Independent ran an advertisement announcing the auction of all Ormsby House’s contents on Daly’s orders.  Sic transit omnia!

Stanstead Hall
Maybe The Nationalist & Leinster Times has the answer – did Robert Flower use plans for an already constructed building? The legend that it was a copy of an existing building is very persistent.
The demolition sale in 1958

Durrow Community have a Knockatrina Restoration facebook page

There is also an article by Robert O’Byrne


Perhaps the most famous sons of Kildellig were the Kellys, in the 1920s and 30s a one family ceili band.  

At Kellys of Kildellig where man and beast grow big.
There lived there two comrades a gander and a pig

KILDELLIG, or KILDELLYGLY, a parish, in the barony of UPPER OSSORY, QUEEN’S county, and province of LEINSTER, 3- miles (S. E. by S.) from Burros-in-Ossory. on the road from Mountrath to Rathdowney; containing 303 inhabitants. It comprises 1103 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and is a rectory, in the diocese of Ossory, forming part of the union of Rathdowney: the tithes amount to £57. 10. In the R. C. divisions it forms part of the union or district of Aghadoe. About 40 children are educated in a private school.

The Houses of Kildellig

A religious establishment existed here at an early period, the last mention of which is in 885, when the abbot was killed by the Danes.  In the year 722 ‘Cilli delgi’ (gen.) is mentioned in  “The Annals of Tigernach’ (ed. Stokes in Revue Celtique XVI, XVII, XVIII, 1895-7). 

1542. (May 4). ” The King (Henry VIII.) presents Donald 0’Fellan{0’Phelan) clerk,to the rectory or prebend of Delge (Kyledellig),

A pardon was granted, in 1566, to John M’Cassyn of Delge (now Kyledellig),surgeon

Carrigan writes:- It is certain, from the way this word is invariably pronounced by the Queen’s County people, that it signifies not the church, but the Wood, of the Thorn Trees,

In some 13th and 14th century entries in the Red Book of Ossory, the parish of Kyledellig is mentioned as the ” Rectoria de Delgy.” On the 2nd April, 1491, Thady O’Brien, priest of Ossory, was, by Papal Brief, appointed Rector of Rarara)ni (that is, Rasaran or Rathsaran,) and Vicar of the parish and church of Delge, both parishes being in Ossory Diocese. Donald O’Phelan was appointed to this parish in 1525.

According to Bishop Phelan’s List, the patron saint of Kyledellig is St, Eman or Senan, Abbot, whose feast day is Jan. 1st. On this day the Martyrology of Donegal commemorates St. Eman, thus : ” Eman, son of Eoghan, son of Feilim, son of the brother of Colum Cille.

The parish church of Kyledellig was very small, being only 36 ft. long. In 1862 portions of the east gable and south side-wall were thrown down and the materials used in the erection of the graveyard wall. At present the foundations of the church alone may be said to remain, and even these are covered over by fallen masonry and rank weeds. In the graveyard there are but two inscribed head-stones, neither of which is more than a century old. About 120 yards north-east of the church is a large green ” Moat,” circular in shape, flat at the top. and 9 or 10 ft. high.

In Lisryan, a sub-division of south Kyledellig, containing 60 acres, there is a round Lis or fort. Another sub-division of the same townland, containing but 12 acres, is called Duthaith Ui Neill ,or O’Neill’s Land.  (Perhaps ‘battle-ground of the Oulthachs, or Ulstermen, and the O’Phelans, in 1156 or 1157’ – History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory II 64)

A third sub-division , containing 40 acres, and lying between Lisryan and Duthaith Ui Neill, is called Kildrummady, or the Church of the Long Ridge; no tradition of the church has, however, been handed down. 

The debate about whether Kill is slightly stems from “coill” meaning “wood” or “cill” meaning “church” is further confused by the origin of the word.  The Druids’ place of worship was often a forest grove or glade.  When the early Christian missionaries converted the pagans, they generally went for the local druid first of all.  Once you have converted the regional distributor, you have all their clients.   So coil and cill, the wood and the church are probably originally the same word. 

At the time of Griffth’s Valuation the three most valuable house on the townland of Kiledellig were occupied by James Duignan (on the site of the present Kyledellig House) and Theophilus Roe both held their lands of Robert Hamilton Stubber,  and Humphrey Palmer, whose house is now Guidera’s) who was a tenant of Robert Palmer.  The most valuable of the three was Humphrey Palmer’s (£5)  The other two were £3/10/-   Compare that to Theophilus’ Roe’s Beckfield that he was renting from Robert Palmer which was worth £50 or Farranville that Humphrey Palmer was actually living in and renting from James Drought which was valued at £13/10/-

Humphrey Palmer, who was married to Eleanor Chamberlain of Knockfin in 1829, was the grandson of Robert Palmer of Sragh, between Cullahill and Rathdowney.  In old age he ran into financial difficulties:-

Westmeath Guardian 7 Dec 1848

The house was bought in the 1890s by Daniel Guidera, the son of Timothy Guidera from Knock, Roscrea who married Mary Anne Quinlisk in 1881.  They had lived in Dublin but moved to Kildellig in about 1895. 

The Roe’s house at Kildellig was on the North side of the road to Clough near Marshalstown. Nothing but a few sheds remain of the Roe’s house.

Peter Roe of Killdellig, near Ballybrophy, who died at the residence of his son George Roe of Ru(i)sh Hall in 1852 was born in 1750.  He was resident at Kildeelig by 1814 when he is noted in Leet’s Directory.  He had 9 sons, including Robert Roe the solicitor, Peter Roe of Granston, and Theophilus Roe of Birr.

Robert Roe’s son  Teophilus Roe, of Kyledellig.  was sued in January 1860  for 6 weeks wages at 13s a week by Anne Cunningham on the basis of over work and meagre food, though under cross examination she admitted that the bill of fare was sufficiently good.  She still got her wages.  His first son Theophilus was born in September 1851.  A daughter was born in 1853, twin sons born in 1854 (one of whom, Jacob Hardy Roe, died at Ingersoll, Canada, on 17th November 1880; the other Thomas Walpole Roe died in Windsor Ont in 1909), a son Thomas born in 1857, and a daughter Anne Catherine  born in September 1860, d in Ontario 1938)  All the children apparently emigrated to Canada.

The property occupied by James Duignan on Griffith’s valuation became the home of the Percys.  The old house here seems to date, on stylistic grounds, from the 1870s

The Mahers built the new house at Kyledellig in the late 1990s. The original house is hiding in the trees to the North (right). From Google Street View

William Percy of Clononan, Borris-in-Ossory had three sons:-

William Percy b 1822 of Clononan who was the father of John who married Sarah Dobbs, and William who married Helena Roe, the daughter of Theophilus Roe of Birr, late of Kildellig, (and widow of Theophilus Drought of Birr, son of William Drought who d in 1865 aged 44)  Their daughter Margaret Ann was born in 1873.

Richard Percy b 1818,  m Margaret Bouchier (1850-1899) son of Edward Bouchier of Thomas St in 1871   and  died at Kildellig in August 1902  aged 84.    In Thom’s Directory of 1850 Mr Bouchier was a cabinet maker and upholsterer, but by 1859 had become a linen draper.

Their children included Margaret who married William Henry Jackson of Ballyboy, James, and Mary Alice, who shot herself on 4 January 1903.

Robert Percy b 1823, late of Kildellig, died on April 11, 1909. at Clononan, aged 87.

Josephine Maher, the present custodian of Kyledellig, has a requested that the photos of Kildeelig are not published on the site.  Should anyone require them for research or out of interest please do leave a message.  This image was of the front of the house, a 2 storey 3 bay house with a hipped roof, cement rendered, with plastered block and start quoins.  The replacement aluminium windows are horizontally tripartite with an opening middle casement.  The original limestone cills are still in situ.  The square headed front door has narrow lights on either side and across the top.  

James Percy (1619–1692?), is said to have been born at Harrowden in Northamptonshire in 1619, was the only surviving son of Henry Percy, by Lydia, daughter of Robert Cope of Horton in Northamptonshire.  He was a successful trunkmaker in Dublin. His grandfather was generally admitted to be Henry Percy ‘of Pavenham’ in Bedfordshire.    The eleventh Earl of Northumberland  died at Turin on 21 May 1670, and James Percy travelled from Dublin to London in pursuit of his claims on 11 Oct. in that year. He waited, however, for some months, until the widowed countess, who was pregnant, had given birth to a dead child, and it was not until 3 Feb. 1671 that he entered his claim at the signet office, and presented a petition to the House of Lords praying for recognition in his person of the title, style, honours, and dignity of Baron Percy and Earl of Northumberland, as great-grandson of Sir Richard Percy, the fifth son of Henry, eighth earl. 

A combination of a very powerful counter claimant, the Duke of Somerset, an ill prepared case, a lack of money, and the latent snobbery that still exists in some elements of the aristocracy against anyone engaged in trade resulted in the failure of his claim

His eldest son, Sir Anthony Percy, became Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1699, and was knighted at the close of his term of office.  Sir Anthony’s son, Henry Percy of Seskin, Co. Wicklow,  published a pamphlet in which he reviewed and renewed James Percy’s claim to the Earldom.  (Adams 12-05-2015 lot 210)    In the female line descendants include Lord Oranmore and Brown and the Butlers of Garryhundon.  . Sir Anthony’s two younger brother also left descendants.

John Percy of Ballintemple, King’s County, was granted by Sir William Betham, Ulster King of Arms, armorial bearings in evident recognition of Percy’s claimed descent from the House of Northumberland.   He is said to have been a younger brother of Sir Anthony.  There has been some recent research to suggest that his father was actually Richard Percy and his mother was Sarah, daur of Rev. John Padfield, bpt in Huntsham, Devon in 1643.  On the other hand as John’s wife was Mary Parsons, grand-daughter Sir William Parsons and daughter of Francis Parsons and Sarah Fancleuth was born in 1650, it is improbable that Sarah Padfield was his mother

From this John Percy claim descent George Percy of Ballylonan, near Frankford, King’s County, and John Percy of Clononeen, Borris-in-Ossory, Queen’s County, either of whom may be the male representative of old James Percy, the “Trunkmaker,” and his claims.

Richard Percy’s son James married Eileen Hodgins of Coolfin in 1909. 

PERCY  HODGINS—June 30. Rathdowney Church, by the Rev. Canon Greene, M.A., assisted by the Rev. T. Lowndes, M.A.. James Percy. Kildellig House. Rathdowney, Queen’s County, to Eileen, second daughter William Hodgins, Coolfin, Rathdowney. Northern Whig – Tuesday 06 July 1909

He does not appear to have shown the chivalrous instincts of his distinguished 14th century ancestor Harry Hotspur of  Alnwick Castle.

IRISH MATRIMONIAL ACTION The petitioner, Mrs. Percy, applied to have alimony fixed, the petition was brought for the restitution of conjugal rights, the respondent being Mr. James Percy of Kildellig. The parties were married in June. 1909, and lived together until January 1911, when, counsel said, the gentleman acted in an extraordinary way- He locked part the dwelling house, put the keys in his pocket, and went to reside lodgings in lodgings in Rathdowney, leaving his wife in the without any servant. He supported her until November, 1916. She had occasion to go to Dublin, and on returning in December found the house shut up and no one there.  She went again and saw her husband in the yard. She asked him to open the door for her, but he refused and went away, and she had been obliged to live since at her father’s house, and her husband had given no money for her support. Mr. Justice Madden fixed alimony at £2 per week.  Dublin Daily Express – Tuesday 04 April 1916

Josephine Maher, the present custodian of Kyledellig, has a requested that the photos of Kildeelig are not published on the site.  Should anyone require them for research or out of interest please do leave a message.
These images showed the bannisters, the cut string embellished with a flowing S or wave shape, the mahogany topped hand rail, and the original 19th century blue distemper that decorated the hall.  The staircase has 12 treads to the half landing above the door to the kitchen, with a 3 over 6 sash window on the landing, and another 8 steps to the bedroom floor.   When new the hall presented a picture of taste, style and affluence.  The cornices, doorcases and architraves all have a fairly simple bead profile.  The dining room has a wide arched shallow recess for the sideboard.    The splayed window openings have shutters with 3 flat panels, The middle one being half the height of the top and bottom panels.    The image of the rear of the house shows a number of 19th century additions to what must then have been quite a new house.  The area between the staircase return and the north was filled in with a two storey lean to built of coursed limestone rubble with solid limestone lintels.    On the South side of the staircase is a projecting wing, the full height of the house, and built as part of the original building.  It projects about 12 feet beyond the staircase.  There are three chimney stacks, each with two flues, and hexagonal chimney pots in yellow clay.  There is a stack on either side of the hall, and one in gable wall of the wing. Contemporary with the lean to extension is a lower two storey extension of agricultural buildings, with a fine red brick arch.
The building is at grave risk from ivy growing up the rear gable and the valley of the hipped roof over the staircase.  Ivy, elder and buddleia are the curses that all too often lead to the collapse of rooves and staircases and when caught early on can be dealt with dealt with very easily.  The blocked downpipes will also cause the rotting of joist ends.  One of the best things to do to preserve a house that is being neglected is to take off the gutters.  Though water dribbling down a wall is not great, it is far better than the devastation caused by blocked gutters and drain pipe. 

Despite this difficulty they had children and the Leinster Leader  Saturday 23 March 1929 reports that  James Percy, Kildellig, was summoned for failing to comply with the School Attendance Act in respect of three of his children –  Joseph (b 1920)  Violet Mary (b 1918) and James (b 1916).  There was another daughter, Maud who married Marin Gallagher in Dublin in 1951 (unless Violet was now calling herself Maud).

Things did not seem to improve greatly:-

Borris in Ossory Court. before District Justice Meagher, a farmer named Jas. Percy, late of Kildellig, was summoned for the burning of a quantity of clothing, valued at £5, the property of Mrs Percy – his wife. Supt Toomey said the case had been adjourned to see how the defendant would conduct himself.

Midland Counties Advertiser – Thursday 05 February 1931

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann  has a story of the Kildellig Dancing Board near Knockaroo, an area rich in tradition. The area itself catered to all facets of Irish life, heritage and culture. It was the home of the famous Kildellig Pipers Band, as well as the renowned hurling team, better known then as `The Boys of Knockaroo’.

 Starting in the early nineteen thirties, people both young and old travelled long distances on foot and on bicycle to dance the evening away at the Kildellig Dancing Board near Knockaroo,. The ring of the musicians’ tunes and the echo of the dancers’ footwork could be heard for miles around. The jovial laughter and kindly banter was always evident throughout the long summers’ evenings, while the dancers were wheeling with glee. Unlike most other Dancing Boards this one was not located at a crossroads, but up a very narrow lane that serviced three homes. During the summer months when all things were in bloom the hawthorn bushes and trees that grew tall on either side of the lane met high above and formed a canopy. It was beneath this canopy of bloom and blossom that Kildellig Dancing Board was built. It was not unusual then to see a shower of swirling blossoms fall softly on the hair of many a beautiful girl as she made her way to the Dancing Board. The lane also would be covered with fallen bloom which made the scene so beautiful and grand. Not far away at Kildellig Cross, there stood a small thatched cottage, that served as a sort of dressing room and beauty parlour for the women folk. It was also a gathering place for musicians to play a few tunes before going out to play for Céili and set dancing. Sometimes a new Polka, jig, Reel or Hornpipe would be introduced. Meanwhile, the women would change into more casual wear for dancing. There were no boutiques or fancy dress shops in those days. Women made their own clothes then which usually consisted of a skirt and top that could easily be changed from week to week. Fashionable belts to compliment the top of the skirt were artistically woven from tinselled paper found in cigarette packs. While the women prepared and the musicians practised, a cup of tea would be served to all present. This was known as ‘the cup out of your hand.’ Outside of the crossroads, the crowd would gather and stay a while to listen to the music before going off to the Dancing Board. Dancing was from 6 to 10 with a break in between for lovely home made scones and tea. The midway break from dancing was a time for traditional singers to be heard. There were many indeed. The last dance of the evening was always the well known ‘Threshing Set’, which derived its title from the threshing dances that were held in the homes locally during the harvesting and threshing of the corn in the months of September and October. I should mention here that this particular set had faded into oblivion for years, until recently when thanks to our own Stephen Conroy and the Camross Set Dancers, the Threshing Set is back again to the delight of many old timers who remembered its popularity when they were young. Well the years went by and a change of clergy came to our parish. Very soon the new pastor directed that Sunday, (The Lord’s Day) should be observed in a more meaningful way. Therefore the Dancing Board would have to close. And so after seven years the Dancing Board closed in July 1938. While dancing continued in the homes around, the closing of the Dancing Board left a certain void in the area. People got separated, the much looked forward to Sunday evening gathering was no longer a reality. The Kildellig Pipers Band continued to flourish. They were frequently called on to perform at political rallies and GAA games. During one of my recent visits to Ireland, I went back again to visit the places and scenes from boyhood years. Only a clump of briars, nettles and undergrowth amid stones and rubble is all that is left now on the site where a happy home once stood. The Kildellig Crossroad, too, is silent now.

The Dancing Board

Another house of interest in the immediate area is Garryduff, the black garden.  There are four Garryduff townlands in Co. Laois, which makes research challenging!

September 15, 1814  Thomas White Garryduff received a game licence.  Thomas White (1759-1827)  was the son of Charles White of Kilpurcet and Charitie Tydd, and married Sarah Palmer of Cuffesboro around 1780

On 4th May 1817, in Henry Street, Dublin, to the lady of William Flood of Garryduff, in the Queen’s Co. a daughter;  Freemans Journal May 17 1817. 

On Friday, the 24th July 1818 to the lady of William Flood of Garryduff, in the Queen’s Co. a daughter; Carlow Morning Post Monday, July 27, 1818

The older girl , who was baptised Grace Lewis Flood, on 18 May 1817 did not survive.  The other, Emilia Anne Vickers O’Connor Flood was baptised at St Pauls Dublin on 1 June 1819 and was married by the Rev Hickman Hallahan at St Georges Church to Mr JR Miller in January 1841, her father being described as the late William Flood of Middlemount. 

Humphrey Palmer, Esq. is of Garryduffe, Rathdowney  Saturday 06 October 1832. ( Waterford Mail)  This could be Sarah White’s brother or the Humphrey Palmer, who was married to Eleanor Chamberlain of Knockfin in 1829, and was the grandson of Robert Palmer of Sragh.  On 3 June 1832  a Rockite notice was received by Mr H Palmer of Garryduff near Rathdowny ordering him to give up his farm and reported to Mr Wade Foott, the chief constable at Abbeyleix. In August of that year his horse was shot dead.

By the time of the 1840 OS survey the house is “in ruins”. It had apparently been gutted by fire.

In 1880 it was the home of George Percy and his wife Catherine Abbott

In 1914 the Land Commission was dividing “The Owen’s Estate, at Garryduff, Clough, from which James Cleare had been evicted around 1880.  In the 1901 Census Arthur John Owen from Wicklow was a land agent living at Shanvaghey with his Mauritian born wife.   1894, Nov. 8–Arthur John Owen, eldest son of the late William Owen, J.P. of Blessington, Co. Wicklow, married Olivia Charlotte Aylmer, dau of the late Sir James Macaulay Higginson of Connelmore, near Newbridge.  They both died in 1908.

By the time of the  1901 census it is the home of John Conroy (65) his wife Margaret (70) , their son, Patrick (30) and their nieces Sarah (15) and Mary (8) Becton, relatives of John Becton, a blacksmith in Ballacolla.  They were farmers and builders. 

The terror of Kildellig known as Kelly’s long nosed sow!