Thursday, 4 February 2021

The Argory


JOSHUA MacGEOUGH (1683-1756), of Drumsill, County Armagh, married Anne, only daughter and heir of Brigadier-General the Rt Hon William Graham, MP for Drogheda, 1727-48, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
John, dsp;
Samuel, of Derrycaw;
Elizabeth, m W Houston, of Orangefield;
Mary; Anne.
The eldest son,

WILLIAM MacGEOUGH, of Drumsill, married firstly, Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Walter Bond, of Bondville, County Armagh, and had a son,

JOSHUA, his heir.
He wedded secondly, the daughter of Joseph Boyd, and had three daughters,
Elizabeth; Mary; Anne.
Mr MacGeough died ca 1791, and was succeeded by his only son,

Joshua MacGeough

JOSHUA MacGEOUGH (1747-1817), of Drumsill, who espoused Anne, daughter of Joseph Johnstone, of Knappagh, County Armagh, and had issue,
William, his heir, of Drumsill, dsp;
WALTER, of whom we treat;
Mary Anne; Isabella; Elizabeth.
The younger son,

WALTER MacGEOUGH-BOND (1790-1866), of Drumsill, Silverbridge, and The Argory, County Armagh, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1819, Barrister, assumed, in 1824, the name and arms of BOND in addition to his own.

Walter MacGeough-Bond with his youngest son,
Edward Staples MacGeough-Bond (Image: The National Trust)

He married, in 1830, Anne, second daughter of Ralph Smyth, of Gaybrook, County Westmeath, and had, with other issue,
JOSHUA WALTER, his heir;
Ralph MacGeough-Bond-Shelton, of The Argory;
Robert John MacGeough, of Silverbridge;
Edward Staples;
Mary Isabella; Anna Maria.
The eldest son,

JOSHUA WALTER MacGEOUGH-BOND JP DL (1831-1905), of Drumsill, County Armagh, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1872, MP for Armagh City, 1855-57 and 1859-65, married, in 1856, Albertine Louise, daughter of Frederick Shanahan, Barrister, and had issue,
Ralph Xavier, Lt-Col; d 1946;
Angeline Aimee Eliza; Anne Albertine Mary.
Mr MacGeough-Bond was succeeded by his eldest son,

Sir Walter MacGeough-Bond (Image: The National Trust)

(1857-1945), of Drumsill and The Argory, County Armagh, Vice-President of Court of Appeal at Cairo, Egypt, Knight Bachelor, 1917, who wedded, in 1901, Ada Marion, youngest daughter of Charles Nichols, of Dunedin, New Zealand, and had issue, an only child,

WALTER ALBERT NEVILL MacGEOUGH-BOND DL (1908-86), High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1952, died unmarried.

Garden Front

THE EARLIEST document relating to the MacGeoughs' Argory lands -  then known as Derrycaw -  dates from the 1740s, when Joshua foreclosed the mortgage on the property from a family named Nicholson, who stayed on as tenants.

Joshua McGeough's principal house was Drumsill, near Armagh.

He married Anne Graham, and their son William, the first of six children, first married Elizabeth Bond, the daughter and heiress of Walter Bond of Bondville, County Armagh.

When Joshua died in 1756, his house and estate at Drumsill passed to his elder son, William.

Joshua MacGeough, William's only son, rebuilt Drumsill House between 1786-8, apparently to the design of the master mason, William Lappan. He commissioned Francis Johnston to add wings to it in 1805-6, shown in two signed drawings now at the Argory.

Joshua McGeough died in 1817, leaving a curious will by which his eldest son William was given only £400 a year; while Drumsill was left to his second son Walter and his three daughters.

Walter was not, however, permitted to live there after his marriage as long as two of his sisters remained unmarried.

Isabella died later in the same year, leaving Walter her jointure of £10,000, but Mary-Ann and Eliza lived on as rich spinsters at Drumsill (with £20,000 each) for the rest of their lives.

Walter MacGeough, who had become a barrister after graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1811, must have realised that his sisters were unlikely to marry, or to give up Drumsill. He therefore lost no time in adding to the land he had inherited at Derrycaw, and building a new house there - later to be known as the Argory.
Work began on The Argory in 1819, and the main block and offices were more or less complete by 1824, when he assumed the additional name and arms of Bond, from 'affectionate regard to the family of his deceased grandmother'. 

Since Walter's eldest son, Joshua Walter, had already inherited Drumsill from his spinster aunts, The Argory was left to the second son Ralph, or Captain Shelton, who adopted the additional name of Shelton after a distant relation who may have left him some money.

Entrance Front

When Ralph died without issue in 1916, Walter Adrian MacGeough-Bond, who had already inherited Drumsill in 1905, inherited The Argory.

He moved most of the contents of Drumsill to The Argory and sold Drumsill in 1917.

He was a lawyer, ending his career as Vice-President of the Court of Appeal in Cairo, and received a knighthood for his services.

In 1901 he married Ada Marion, daughter of Charles Nichols, of Dunedin, New Zealand, a founding partner of Dalgety, Nichols & Company.

Their son, Walter Albert Nevill (Tommy) MacGeough-Bond DL, was born in 1908, attended Eton, and King's College, Cambridge.

Long a student and patron of the Arts, he and his family's interest in music is reflected throughout the Argory.

He formed a large personal art collection, including many works by Ulster artists.

Sir Walter's son and successor, the late Walter Albert Nevill MacGeough-Bond, presented The Argory and demesne of 320 acres to The National Trust in 1979.

He died in 1986 and is buried in the grounds beside the house. 

Quoting selectively from  The MacGeough Bonds of The Argory, by Olwen Purdue:

"Sir Walter was The Argory's most reluctant owner. He had worked as a judge in Cairo, Egypt and was knighted for his efforts and, like Captain Shelton, had an unwelcome culture shock on coming to The Argory.
He was also an unenthusiastic Moy resident and wrote: The Argory is not a desirable residence for me on account of the excessive dampness of the valley of the Blackwater.
I have, as you know, been advised by high medical authority to avoid a damp climate. And avoid it he did, spending as much time as possible in Rome and Nice.
He even brought an Italian man, Secondo Belucci, to work in The Argory. Some members of the local Orange Order found this really offensive and wrote this nasty letter to him saying basically 'we've got perfectly good Protestant people here, why don't you get them to work for you?"

Dr Purdue says that Sir Walter oversaw the sale of much of the family's lands in the final stages of land reform, choosing safe investments for the proceeds of sale.

He had married Ada Nicholls in 1901.

Their marriage was deeply unhappy and, again, they lived separate lives.

Sir Walter's wife Ada, Lady Bond, was known to leave The Argory and stay in a hotel whenever her husband was expected home.

Their son Nevill inherited The Argory and lived there for 30 years, becoming towards the end an "increasingly isolated and eccentric addition to the community". 

Like his father, he hated the damp weather, spending his summers in Jamaica, and only ventured into the chilly St James's Church in Moy, wrapped in several coats.

"The Troubles" deeply affected Nevill. His friends in Tynan Abbey, Sir Norman Stronge and his son, James, who was in the RUC, were murdered by the IRA on January 21, 1983.

Nevill's driver, Frederic Lutton, was also ambushed and shot dead by the IRA in 1979, inside The Argory's grounds.

A bullet was fired at Nevill and embedded in the door of the car. Terrified, he stayed away for a time. In addition, The Argory was becoming increasingly expensive to maintain, so Nevill decided to give the house to the National Trust:

"It was a very hard thing... having been in the family for these generations, for him to have to be the one to pass it out of the family,"

Dr Purdue continues: 
"But basically the family line died out with him and there wasn't going to be anyone else that would step in."

The demesne was established for the present house on the banks of the River Blackwater, built in 1824, and includes Pleasure Gardens, stable yard, South Lodge, gate screens and gates.

The grounds are fully maintained with fine mature trees, shrubs and lawns.

The architects, A & J Williamson, made plans for the gardens in 1821, the shape of which is adhered to, but the internal layout differs from the original plan.

The Pleasure Ground to the north-east of the mansion house has herbaceous borders, yew arbours, a tulip tree, a well- placed cedar and twin pavilions.

There is an enclosed early 19th century sundial garden at the house, with box-edged rose beds.

A riverside lime walk under pollarded limes is planted with daffodils.

An ilex avenue leads to the walled garden, which is made of brick and not cultivated.

Of the three gate lodges, two of ca 1835 are occupied; and an earlier lodge of ca 1825 is not used.

First published in August, 2010.


Anonymous said...

I'd agree, it's a fairly damp and miserable place. That was my impression the one time I went there. I suppose it might be OK in the Summer. VC

bgillesp said...

My ggg grandfather, Joseph Gillespie, farmed land in Culkeeran and Kilcarn under Joshua; these same lands were farmed by his son and my ggg uncle, Moses Gillespie, right up to and after the death of Ralph, of The Argory, in 1916. I have a copy of a land contract signed by Moses in 1880. I must go and see these lands "in pilgrimage" sometime.
Thanks for the info.
Robert Gillespie of Blackhall

Anonymous said...

For 'Nappa', should it read 'Knappagh'?

Timothy Belmont said...

Anon, Many thanks for that. I've edited it. Tim.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in nearby Moy (The Moy) in the 1960s/1970s and spent many a summer day with friends running riot around the estate. Both the grounds and the house were in a fairly decrepit condition in those days. There used to be a rundown tennis court at the side of the house – and the only place flat enough to kick a football around. We were all long gone by the time the National Trust bought it over. This place holds loads of great teenage memories.

Handelian said...

A sad tale of a beautiful building.

Andrew said...

The people who held out in this area during such terrible times are unsung heroes.