The noble family of BERNARD, of Castle Bernard, derives, according to Thomas Hawley, King of Arms during the reign of HENRY VIII, from
Sir Theophilus, a valiant knight of German descent, who in 1066, accompanied WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR to England. Subsequently the Bernards were found to be flourishing in the counties of Westmorland, Yorkshire and Northamptonshire.SIR THEOPHILUS, who was son of Sir Egerette, was succeeded by
SIR DORBARD, the first surnamed BERNARD, or FitzBernard.
His descendants settled at Acornbank in Westmorland (according to the authority already quoted) and appear to have continued in that county for many succeeding generations.
It can also be deduced from written annals that, when HENRY II landed in Ireland in 1172, he was accompanied by William FitzAdelm, Humfrey de Bohun, Hugh de Lacy, and ROBERT FITZBERNARD; and on departure of the King from Ireland, Wexford and Waterford were entrusted to FitzBernard's custody.SIR FRANCIS BERNARD, Knight, of Acornbank, in Westmorland, the lineal descendant of Sir Dorbard, married Hannah, daughter of Sir John Pilkington, and was grandfather of
SIR HENRY BERNARD, Knight, who married Anne, daughter of Sir John Dawson, of Westmorland, and had four sons, ROBERT, William, Francis, and Charles.
FRANCIS BERNARD, the third son, removed to Ireland during ELIZABETH I's reign and purchased considerable estates.
He died leaving issue, besides two daughters, a son,
FRANCIS BERNARD, Lord of the manor of Castle Bernard, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Arthur Freke, of Rathbarry Castle (ancestor of Lord Carbery).
Mr Bernard was killed while defending his castle from an attack of the rebel forces, and left issue, with four daughters, all married, two sons,
FRANCIS, of whom presently;The eldest son,
Arthur, born in 1666.
FRANCIS BERNARD (1663-1731), was attainted by King JAMES II’s parliament, but was restored to his estates by WILLIAM and MARY.
He was appointed Solicitor-General for Ireland by QUEEN ANNE, Prime Sergeant, and a judge of the Court of Common Pleas.
Mr Bernard represented Bandon and Clonakilty in parliament.
He wedded, in 1697, Alice, daughter of Stephen Ludlow, ancestor of the Earls Ludlow, and grandson of Sir Henry Ludlow, of Maiden Bradley, Wiltshire (whose eldest son was the famous General Ludlow); and by her he left at his decease,
FRANCIS, his heir;The eldest son,
Stephen, of Prospect Hall;
North Ludlow, father of JAMES BERNARD;
Elizabeth, m 3rd Viscount Charlemont.
FRANCIS BERNARD MP (1698-1783), of Castle Bernard, and Bassingbourne Hall, Essex, espoused, in 1722, Lady Anne Petty, only daughter of Henry, Earl of Shelburne; but died without surviving issue, when he was succeeded by his nephew,
JAMES BERNARD (1729-90), of Castle Bernard, son of North Ludlow Bernard, Member in several parliaments for County Cork, who married, in 1752, Esther, daughter of Percy Smyth, and heiress of her brother, William Smyth, of Headborough, and widow of Robert Gookin.
He died in 1790, having had issue,
FRANCIS, 1st EARL OF BANDON;The son and heir,
Rose; Esther; Mary; Charlotte; Elizabeth.
FRANCIS BERNARD, was elevated to the peerage, in 1793, as Baron Bandon; and created Viscount Bandon in 1795.
His lordship was further advanced, in 1800, to the dignity of an earldom, as EARL OF BANDON, and Viscount Bernard.
The 4th Earl was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Cork, from 1877 until 1922.
CASTLE BERNARD, near Bandon, County Cork, was re-modelled by Francis Bernard, 1st Viscount Bandon and afterwards 1st Earl of Bandon.
He pulled down the two early 18th century fronts in 1798 and began building a new house alongside the old O'Mahony castle, which was joined by a corridor.
It was of two storeys with a nine-bay entrance front overlooking the River Bandon; and a garden front of three bays on either side of a deep curved central bow.
It was altered and enlarged in Gothic style in the mid-19th century.
Castle Bernard became known as one of the most hospitable houses in Ireland and the house parties held by the 4th Earl and Countess were said to have been legendary.
In an early morning raid on the 21st June, 1921, an IRA gang, under Sean Hales, called at the Castle.
They intended to kidnap Lord Bandon, but "Buckshot" Bandon and his staff had taken refuge in the cellars.
At that, Lord Bandon and his party appeared from the cellars but it was too late, the fire had started.
Ironically the IRA carefully took out all the furniture and piled it on the lawn before setting the building on fire.
Lady Bandon had to sit and watch the flames for some hours.
When the flames were at their height, she suddenly stood up in her nightgown and sang God Save the King as loudly as possible, which disconcerted the incendiaries, but while they may not have stood to attention, they let her have her say and did nothing about it.
Lord Bandon was then kidnapped by a local IRA gang and held hostage for three weeks, being released on 12th July.
The IRA threatened to have him executed if the authorities went ahead with executing IRA prisoners of war.
During his captivity, Bandon coolly played cards with his captors, who treated him well.
Tom Barry later stated he believed the kidnapping helped move HM Government towards the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and the cessation of hostilities.
The elderly Lord Bandon never recovered from the experience and died in 1924.
Some years later, when the last of the IRA burning party died, the 4th Earl was asked to go to the funeral, which he did - in full funeral regalia of top hat and morning coat.
Castle Bernard continued to be the home of the 5th Earl and Countess: they built a small house within the Castle boundary walls.
The 5th Earl died in 1979 and, as he had no heir, the titles became extinct. Lady Bandon died in 1999, aged 102.
Lady Jennifer Bernard, who inherited the property, lived on the grounds of the castle until she died in 2010.
A modern house was built a short distance from the ruin by the 5th Earl in the 1960s and the uncontrolled growth of trees and ivy gives the building its romantic character.
There is a huge high window in the curved stairwell which would have been a magnificent feature in its day. Above the grand doorway and grass covered steps are a fine carved crest and standards.
Several of the attractive stone window frames are still more or less intact which adds to the appeal of this splendid ruin.
Percy, 5th Earl, GBE CB CVO DSO, Air Chief Marshal, was one of the most senior officers in the RAF.
In his retirement the 5th Earl discovered the pleasures of fishing, particularly in the River Bandon which was well stocked with salmon, and in shooting, snipe and woodcock found in large numbers near Castle Bernard.
He was also developing an enthusiastic skill as a gardener with a particular knowledge of rhododendrons.
The 5th Earl died on 8 February 1979 at Bon Secours Hospital in County Cork aged 74 and without male issue.
Consequently on his death all the titles became extinct.
He was survived by Lois, Lady Bandon and the two daughters from his first marriage, Lady Jennifer Jane Bernard, of Castle Bernard (b 1935) and Lady Frances Elizabeth Bernard (b 1943).
A portrait in oils (painted 1969) of Lord Bandon, in his uniform as an Air Chief Marshal together with his robes as a peer of the realm, hangs in the main dining hall at the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell.
First published in August, 2011. Bandon arms courtesy of European Heraldry.