Friday, 19 November 2021

Shane's Castle

Armorial Bearings of the 1st Earl O'Neill KP
64,163 ACRES

The house of O'Neill boasts of royal descent, and deduces its pedigree from CONN O'NEILL, Prince of Tyrone, who, upon relinquishing his royalty, was created EARL OF TYRONE by HENRY VIII in 1542. 

PHELIM O'NEILL, Lord of Clanaboy, son of Niall Mór, dying in 1533, left two sons, of whom the eldest son, 

SIR BRIAN O'NEILL (c1520-74), married firstly, a daughter of Sir Arthur Magennis, Viscount Iveagh; and secondly, Anne, daughter of Brian Carragh O'Neill.

This Sir Brian, Captain or Lord of Clanaboy, was later obliged to repulse an invasion by Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, who crossed the ford of Belfast and, though welcomed by Sir Brian as a guest, arranged the massacre of 200 of his people, and took Sir Brian and his wife in 1573.

Sir Brian died in 1574, and was succeeded by his son,

SHANE McBRIAN O'NEILL, of Edenduffcarrick, otherwise Shane's Castle, who married firstly, Rose Guinness, sister of 1st Viscount Magennis of Iveagh; and secondly, Anne, daughter of Brian Carrach O'Neill of Loughinsholin.
This gentleman was the last captain or lord of Clanaboy, and MP for County Antrim, 1585. In 1598, joined his cousin the 3rd Earl of Tyrone's rising, but was pardoned.

In 1603, at the plantation of Ulster, the Clanaboy O'NEILLs were stripped of over 600,000 acres; however, in 1607, JAMES I settled the castle and estate of about 120,000 acres upon Shane McBrian O'Neill.
He died ca 1616, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR HENRY O'NEILL, Knight, of Shane's Castle, born ca 1600, Lord of Clanaboy and chief of his name, who married Martha, daughter of Sir Francis Stafford, Governor of Ulster, and had issue, Rose, who married Randal, 1st Marquess of Antrim.

The present Lord O'Neill with a portrait of Rose, Marchioness of Antrim

Sir Henry died in 1638, and was succeeded by his brother,

ARTHUR O'NEILL, of Edenduffcarrick (Shane's Castle), who married, about 1677, Grace, daughter of Cathal O'Hara, and was succeeded by his son,

CHARLES O'NEILL, of Shane's Castle, who wedded the Lady Mary Paulet, eldest daughter of Charles, 1st Duke of Bolton; at whose decease without issue, in 1716, the estates passed to his brother,

JOHN O'NEILL (1665-1739), known as French John, of Shane's Castle, who married Charity, daughter of Sir Richard Dixon, and had issue,
CHARLES, his successor;
Catharine, m 7th Viscount Mountgarret;
Rachael; Eleanor; Rose; Anne; Mary.
Mr O'Neill was succeeded by his eldest son,

CHARLES O'NEILL, of Shane's Castle, MP for Randalstown, 1727-69, who married, in 1737, Catherine, third daughter and co-heir of the Rt Hon St John Brodrick (eldest son of Alan, 1st Viscount Midleton, Lord Chancellor of Ireland) by Anne, only sister of Trevor, Viscount Hillsborough, father of 1st Marquess of Downshire, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
St John;
Anne, m Rt Hon R Jackson.
Mr O'Neill died in 1769, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE RT HON JOHN O'NEILL (1740-98), of Shane's Castle, Privy Counsellor, MP for Randalstown, 1760-83, and for Antrim, 1783-93, who wedded, in 1777, Henrietta Boyle, daughter of Charles, Viscount Dungarvan, and had issue,
JOHN BRUCE RICHARD, succeeded his brother.
Mr O'Neill was elevated to the peerage, in 1793, in the dignity of Baron O'Neill, of Shane's Castle; and advanced to a viscountcy, 1795, as Viscount O'Neill.

1st Viscount O'Neill (Image: Ulster Museum)

His lordship, Governor of Antrim at the outbreak of an uprising, was mortally wounded by an assailant in 1798, having received wounds from insurgent pikemen previously.

He was succeeded by his elder son,

CHARLES HENRY ST JOHN2nd Viscount (1779-1841), KP, PC, of Shane's Castle, Colonel, Antrim Militia, Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, 1831-41, Vice-Admiral of Ulster.

His lordship was advanced, in 1800, to the dignities of Viscount Raymond and EARL O'NEILL.

He was appointed a Privy Counsellor and installed a Knight of St Patrick in 1809.

The 1st Earl died, unmarried, from a complication of gout and influenza at Shane's Castle.

The earldom of O'Neill consequently expired, though the viscountcy passed to his brother, 

JOHN BRUCE RICHARD3rd Viscount (1780-1855), MP for County Antrim, 1802-41, Constable of Dublin Castle, 1811-55, Vice-Admiral of Ulster, General in the Army, who died unmarried, when the titles expired.

The Barony was revived, however, in 1868, when the 3rd Viscount's second cousin twice removed, the Rev William Chichester (later O'Neill), was created BARON O'NEILL.

SHANE'S CASTLE demesne lies at Lough Neagh, between the towns of Antrim and Randalstown in County Antrim.

The original Shane's Castle took its name from Shane McBrian O'Neill, last captain or lord of Clanaboy.

There were two principal branches of the House of O'Neill: Tyrone and Clanaboy.

After a long and turbulent history, JAMES I finally settled the O'Neill estates, in excess of 120,000 acres, on Shane McBrian O'Neill, who had made his peace with the Crown.

After passing through several cousins, the O'Neill estates were eventually inherited by Charles O'Neill (d 1769), who built Tullymore Lodge in Broughshane, the dower house of the O'Neills till the 1930s.

Charles also built Cleggan Lodge, originally a shooting lodge until it was acquired by Sir Hugh O'Neill, 1st Baron Rathcavan, in the early 1900s.

Charles's son John, 1st Viscount O'Neill, was a highly respected parliamentarian and was tragically killed at the Battle of Antrim in 1798.

Charles Henry St John, 2nd Viscount, was further elevated to become 1st Earl O'Neill and Viscount Raymond (1779-1841), continued his father's tradition as a distinguished parliamentarian and, for his support of the Act of Union, was granted the earldom.

The 1st Earl's younger brother, John 1780-1855), succeeded to the titles as 2nd and last Earl O'Neill when the earldom became extinct.

However, his estates were inherited by his cousin, the Rev William Chichester, who assumed the surname of O'Neill in lieu of Chichester the same year.

In 1868, the barony was revived, when the Rev William was created 1st Baron O'Neill, of Shane's Castle in the County of Antrim.

This title is still extant today.

The 1st Baron was the great-great-great-grandson of John Chichester, younger brother of Arthur Chichester, 2nd Earl of Donegall.

The latter two were both nephews of Arthur Chichester, 1st Earl of Donegall, and grandsons of Edward Chichester, 1st Viscount Chichester..

Lord O'Neill was succeeded by his eldest son, the 2nd Baron, who sat as MP for Antrim.

His eldest son and heir apparent, the Hon Arthur O'Neill, was Mid-Antrim MP from 1910 until 1914, when he was killed in action during the First World War the first MP to die in the conflict.

The 2nd Baron was consequently succeeded by his grandson, the 3rd Baron (the son of the Hon Arthur O'Neill), who was killed in action in Italy during the 2nd World War.

As of 2010 the title is held by his son, 4th and present Baron, who succeeded in 1944.
As a descendant of the 1st Viscount Chichester, he is in remainder to the barony and viscountcy of Chichester and, according to a special patent in the letters patent, the earldom of Donegall, titles held by his kinsman, the present Marquess of Donegall.
Two other members of the O'Neill family have been elevated to the peerage: Hugh O'Neill, 1st Baron Rathcavan, youngest son of 2nd Baron O'Neill; and Terence O'Neill, Baron O'Neill of the Maine, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, youngest brother of 3rd Baron.

The barony of the present creation really descends through marriage from the Chichester family, Earls and Marquesses of Donegall.

Shane's Castle remains one of the largest and finest private demesnes in Northern Ireland, extending to 2,700 acres.

It lies in a particularly scenic, not to say strategic, position on the north-east shore of Lough Neagh between Antrim and Randalstown.

Part of the Estate is a nature reserve.

The O'Neill family has had a hapless history with regard to the fate of their houses: the first Shane's Castle dated from the early 1600s and was utterly destroyed by an accidental fire in 1816.

The family moved to a small house adjoining the stables.

That house was replaced in 1865 by a larger, Victorian-Gothic castle which, tragically, was maliciously burnt in 1922 (as was the nearby Antrim Castle).

Its ruin was subsequently cleared away, and for the next 40 or so years the family lived once again in the stables.

The present Neo-Georgian house (above) on the estate was built in 1958 for the present Lord O'Neill, to the designs of Arthur Jury, of Blackwood & Jury, architects.

The formal gardens to the south were laid out from the 1960s.

The extensive and fine walled Shane's Castle demesne lies on the north shores of Lough Neagh.

It was established in the 17th century and surrounds a succession of houses on different sites.

There are ruins of the original dwelling on the shores of Lough Neagh and the 18th century house, with a lake-side terrace and a vault of 1722.

The attached and surviving camellia house, also by Nash, of 1815 is full of plants.

The present house (above) was built in 1958 in a pleasant spot to the north-west of the earlier house and south-west of the intermediate 1860s house (by Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon), which was burnt by the IRA in the 1920s.

It is classical, well-proportioned, with a handsome fanlighted doorway.

The parkland is beautiful and contains many well distributed venerable trees.

There are substantial shelter belts, which once accommodated walks and rides. Clumps and plantations also grace the fields.

There has been a long history of ornamental gardens and productive gardens on the site.

It was visited, depicted and remarked upon by various commentators of the 18th and 19th centuries.

A portrait of the landscape gardener John Sutherland by Martin Creggan (1822), hangs in the house.

Early 20th century photographs show well maintained acres in the days when many gardeners were employed to keep up a high standard commensurate with the size of the demesne.

In 1933 the surroundings were described as, 
‘… exceedingly pretty, with old oaks, lovely flowers and enchanting vistas of both river and lake, and with rockeries, water-lily ponds and ferneries in profusion.’  
A large and impressive mid-19th century rockery built in a quarry near the lough shores is not planted up but is kept clear.

At the present time there are beautifully maintained contemporary gardens at the house and adaptations of the walled garden planting for modern use.

Glasshouses have been removed.

The arboretum is being reinforced and much new planting has been added in the vicinity of the house.

There is a family graveyard, with a statue of a harpist by Victor Segoffin of 1923.

There are many well maintained and listed estate buildings such as Ballealy Cottage of ca 1835.

The surviving gate lodges by James Sands are very fine: Dunmore Lodge, ca 1850; Antrim Lodge, ca 1848; White or Ballygrooby Lodge, ca 1848; and Randalstown Gate Lodge, ca 1848, all listed.

The latter lodges belong to a period of enhancement on the demesne.

Two pre-1829 bridges are Dunmore Bridge and Deerpark Bridge.

The deer-park, on the western side of the River Maine, was sold to the Department of Agriculture before the last war and is known as Randalstown Forest. 

First published in May, 2010. 


My home said...

I am a direct relation to the O’Neills of Shane’s Castle. My great great great great great grandfather was Hugh O’ Neil who was born in Shane’s Castle and moved to Delaware with his son James. My wife and I are coming to Ireland in August of this year, and it would be an honor to meet the current lord of the Castle and discuss my heritage. Is this possible?
Thank you.

nsmyer said...

My 2x great grandfather, Joseph MacMillan, worked at Shane's Castle for more than 30 years. He began as a Farm Servant and worked his way up to Farm Steward, then Foreman to Land Steward, Second Steward, Foreman Gardener, Under-Steward, and finally to Steward. He lived at Shane's Castle for most of his life, married at First Presbyterian Church in Randalstown, and had 4 children.

His wife, Margaret Harper, was 21 years younger. Her father, Andrew Harper, worked at Shane's Castle as a Farm Servant.

Research by my uncle, Norman Stewart Heaney, came upon a story that Joseph MacMillan, Steward at Shane's Castle was shot accidentally while a hunt or shoot was going on at the estate. He was wounded and retired. He died of pneumonia 19 June 1892.

We will be in Randalstown for the last weekend in May this year. I would be honored to walk on the land where my family lived, worked, and raised their children.

Nancy Myer, USA

Burkecadaver said...

I actually saw the White Lady of Shanes Castle in 1966, while there with my school, I was ten years old, I went down to the vaults of the castle, which have now been closed up, I saw a Lady in white, crying, I asked her if she was okay, no answer, she knelt down on her knees, got up, put her hand up in the air, she could have not been very old, maybe in her twenties, I always assumed I could hear her, but it was so long ago? A friend called me I looked around, he had seen no one, when I looked back, nothing. She was in a long white dress, blond hair, I could see the tears falling from her cheeks I was that close. Nobody believed me, except my mother, why I do not know, however a couple of days later her father, my grandfather died!

Christy said...

Hi Nancy, I hope you got to look round Shane castle. I live in randalstown. Very interesting family history

Christy said...

Very interesting family history, I hope you got your wish

Anonymous said...

To post name My Home from 4/19/2019...I too am a 5th granddaughter of Hugh O'Neall of Shane's Castle...I traced the history through my great grandmother Allie O'Neal Tanner...

Finola said...

What is known about the people buried in the graveyard at Shane's Castle e.g Edmund & Elizabeth Mulholland ? Thank you.