Thursday, 21 November 2019

1st Baron de Blaquiere


ANTHONY DE BLAQUIERE , a French noble of Guyenne, married Elizabeth de Montiel, and had a son, Florence, who settled at Lozère, Languedoc, and was father of

JEAN DE BLAQUIERE (1676-1753), who took refuge in England in consequence of the revocation of the edict of Nantes, 1685.

This Jean married Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Peter de Varennes, and died in 1753, having had issue,
Lewis, died unmarried, 1754;
Matthew, died in the East Indies;
John Elias, died in infancy;
James, a military officer;
JOHN, of whom hereafter;
Catherine; Jane; Mary; Susanna.
The fifth and youngest son,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN DE BLAQUIERE (1732-1812), was nominated Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in 1772, and invested, in 1774, as a Knight Commander of the Bath.

Sir John was created a baronet in 1784, designated of Ardkill, County Londonderry, and sworn of the Privy Council in Ireland.
He held various public offices and was secretary of Legation at Paris 1771-2 (one of his responsibilities it was rumoured was to keep an eye on Bonnie Prince Charlie) and later became Chief Secretary to Lord Harcourt, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1772-7, and Bailiff of Phoenix Park in Dublin.
Sir John was elevated to the peerage, in 1800, in the dignity of  BARON DE BLAQUIERE, of Ardkill, County Londonderry.

His lordship married, in 1775, Eleanor, daughter of Robert Dobson, of Anne's Grove, County Cork, and had issue, five sons and three daughters, viz.
JOHN, his heir;
WILLIAM, of whom hereafter;
Edmund, died young;
George (1782-26); m, in 1826, the relict of Mr Leigh;
Peter Boyle;
Anna Maria.
The eldest son and heir,

JOHN, 2nd Baron (1776-1844), of Ardkill, County Londonderry, was Alnager and Collector of the Subsidies of Alnage in Ireland, 1797-1817, when the office was abolished.

About 1812 he was a prisoner in France, and never established his right to vote.

His lordship died unmarried, and the family honours devolved upon his next brother,

WILLIAM, 3rd Baron (1778-1851), FRS, a distinguished general in the Army, who married, in 1811, the Lady Harriet Townsend, daughter of George, 1st Marquess Townshend.

His lordship and Lady Harriet separated in 1814.

He died at Norwood, Surrey, by shooting himself while suffering from smallpox.

His lordship served in Flanders, at the Cape of Good Hope, and in India; major-general, 1813; lieutenant-general, 1825; general, 1841.

His eldest son,

JOHN, 4th Baron (1812-71), married firstly, in 1849, Anna, daughter of John Christie; and secondly, in 1852, Eleanor Amelia, daughter of William, 1st Baron Hylton, though the marriage was without issue.

The titles thereafter devolved upon his next brother, 

WILLIAM, 5th Baron (1814-89), Captain, Royal Navy, who married, in 1862, Anna Maria, daughter of John Wormald, at St Marylebone Church, Marylebone, London.

His lordship died without issue and was buried at Brockworth Manor, Gloucestershire.

On the decease of the 5th Baron in 1889, the titles became extinct.

THE CHIEF SECRETARY'S LODGE, Phoenix Park, Dublin, was surrounded by 62 acres of parkland and was completed in 1776.

It was purchased by HM Government in 1782 and became the official residence of the Chief Secretary until 1922, when it became the US Ambassador's residence - the Irish White House, in a sense.

I have written an article about the Chief Secretary's Lodge here.


PORTLEMAN HOUSE (or Port Loman), near Mullingar, County Westmeath, former residence of the 1st Baron de Blaquiere, was an 18th century house of three storeys and six bays.

It was built on rising ground above Lough Owel. The grounds comprised eight acres.

The main entrance was in a pillared recess; elaborate curved staircase. It is now demolished.



Blaquiere was the fifth son of Jean de Blaquiere, a French merchant who had emigrated to England in 1732, and his wife Marie Elizabeth de Varennes.

He at first served in the Army, in the 18th Dragoons (later the 17th Dragoons), where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

In 1771 Blaquiere was appointed Secretary of Legation at the British Embassy in Paris, a post he held until 1772.

The latter year Lord Harcourt, HM Ambassador in Paris, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and Blaquiere joined him as Chief Secretary for Ireland.

He became a Privy Counsellor the same year and was appointed a Knight Commander of the Bath two years later.

Blaquiere was to remain Chief Secretary until Harcourt's resignation in January, 1777.

He had been elected to the Irish House of Commons for Old Leighlin in 1773, a seat he held until 1783.

After a few months for Enniskillen in 1783, he sat then for Carlingford from 1783-90; for Charleville from 1790-98; and for Newtownards from 1798 till the Act of Union in 1801.

In 1784 Blaquiere was created a baronet, of Ardkill in the County of Londonderry; and in 1800 he was raised to the peerage as 1st Baron de Blaquiere, of Ardkill in the County of Londonderry.

Lord de Blaquiere also sat as MP for Rye from 1801-02 and for Downton from 1802-06.


I HAVE BEEN so far unable to find any record of the de Blaquieres owning a residence in County Londonderry, despite the name Ardkill being in their territorial title.

It is, perhaps, more likely that they simply owned land.

The Ardkill estate, Clondermot, County Londonderry, by marriage: The estate was bought for him by Alexander Tompkins, of Prehen, County Londonderry, father of Maria Tompkins (wife of Robert Dobson), and grandfather of Eleanor Dobson, the 1st Barons' wife.

First published in September, 2010. Blaquiere arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

The Reeks


CORNELIUS or CONNOR McGILLYCUDDY was born ca 1580; died by shipwreck, 1630, having married firstly, Joan, daughter of the Rt Rev John Crosbie, Lord Bishop of Ardfert; and secondly, Sheelagh, daughter of Richard Oge McCarty, of Dunguile, by whom he had a son, Niell, and a daughter.

By his first wife he had, with other issue,

DONOUGH McGILLYCUDDY (1623-c1695), of Carnbeg Castle, County Kerry, Sheriff of County Kerry, 1686.

This Donough obtained a grant of arms from Sir Richard Carney, Ulster King of Arms, in 1688.

He wedded, in 1641, Marie, youngest daughter of Daniel O'Sullivan, of Dunkerron, County Kerry, and had issue,
CORNELIUS, the heir;
Daniel, Colonel, Captain Monck's Regiment; father of DENNIS.
Mr McGillycuddy was succeeded by his elder son,

CORNELIUS McGILLYCUDDY, who married Elizabeth McCarty and dsp 1712, being succeeded by his cousin,

DENNIS McGILLYCUDDY, who married, in 1717, Anne, daughter of John Blennerhassett, by whom he had issue, with four daughters,
DENNIS, his heir;
CORNELIUS, succeeded his brother;
John, dsp;
Philip, dsp.
He died in 1730, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

DENNIS McGILLYCUDDY (1718-35), who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

CORNELIUS McGILLYCUDDY, born ca 1720, who wedded, in 1745, Catherine, daughter of Richard Chute, of Tullygaron, and had issue,
Denis, b 1747; d unm;
RICHARD, succeeded his father;
FRANCIS, succeeded his brother;
Charity; Mary Anne; Margaret; Ruth; Avis; Agnes.
The eldest son,

RICHARD McGILLYCUDDY (1750-1826), of The Reeks, High Sheriff of County Kerry, 1793, espoused, in 1780, Arabella Mullins, daughter of Thomas, 1st Baron Ventry.

He dsp 1826, and was succeeded by his brother,

FRANCIS McGILLYCUDDY (1751-1827), of The Reeks, who wedded Catherine, widow of Darby McGill, and daughter of Denis Mahony, of Dromore, County Kerry, and had issue,
RICHARD, his heir;
Frances; Mary Catherine; Elizabeth.
Mr McGillycuddy was succeeded by his son,

RICHARD McGILLYCUDDY (1790-1866), of The Reeks, who married firstly, in 1814, Margaret (d 1827), only daughter of Dr John Bennett, and had issue, a daughter, Dorothea.

He wedded secondly, in 1849, Anna, daughter of Captain John Johnstone, of Mamstone Court, Herefordshire, and had further issue,
Agnes; Anna Catherine; Mary Ruth; Sylvia Emily.
Mr McGillycuddy was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD PATRICK McGILLYCUDDY (1850-71), of The Reeks, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

DENIS DONOUGH CHARLES McGILLYCUDDY OF THE REEKS (1852-1921), DSO, Lieutenant RN, who married, in 1881, Gertrude Laura, second daughter of Edmond Miller, of Ringwood, Massachusetts, USA, and had issue,
ROSS KINLOCH; his heir;
Richard Hugh (1883-1918).
The elder son,

ROSS KINLOCH McGILLYCUDDY OF THE REEKS (1852-1950), DSO, Lieutenant, 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, wedded Victoria, daughter of Edward Courage, of Shenfield Place, Essex, and had issue,
JOHN PATRICK, his heir;
Denis Michael Edmond (1917-44);
Phyllida Anne.
Mr McGillycuddy was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN PATRICK McGILLYCUDDY OF THE REEKS (1909-59), who wedded, in 1945, Elizabeth Margaret, daughter of Major John Ellison Otto, and had issue,
Sarah Elizabeth.
Mr McGillycuddy was succeeded by his only son,

RICHARD DENIS WYER McGILLYCUDDY OF THE REEKS (1948-2004), who married, in 1984, Virginia Lucy, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon Hugh Waldorf Astor, and had issue,
Tara Virginia, b 1985;
Sorcha Alexander, b 1990.
Richard McGillycuddy was succeeded in the title by his first cousin,

(DERMOT PATRICK) DONOUGH McGILLYCUDDY OF THE REEKS (1939-), who married, in 1964, Wendy O'Connor, daughter of George Spencer, and has issue,
Michael Dermot, b 1968;
Jocelyn Patrick Spencer, b 1970;
Lavinia O'Connor, b 1966.

THE REEKS, near Beaufort, County Kerry, is a two-storey, five-bay, late Georgian house.

It has an eaved roof and pilastered porch, doubled in length with an extension of the same height and style.

Effectively this forms a continuous front of ten bays, the original porch, no longer central, remaining the entrance.

The two end bays of the extension protrude slightly.

AT THE end of the 19th century, before the Land Purchase Acts, Richard McGillycuddy's grandfather, whose mother had injected American money into the family, distinguished himself in the 1st World War, winning the DSO and the Légion d'Honneur.

From 1928 to 1936, he sat in the Senate of the Irish Free State as a supporter of the moderate WT Cosgrave and an opponent of the republican Eamon de Valera.

In the 2nd World War, he returned to the colours and became a regular informant on what was happening in neutral Ireland.

His grandson, Richard Denis Wyer McGillycuddy, was born in 1948. Richard's father, the senator's son, who had succeeded in 1950, himself died in 1959 as a result of wounds sustained during the 2nd World War in the Northampton Yeomanry.

At the time Richard was only 10 and still at his preparatory school before going on to Eton.

His English mother, although never feeling at home in Ireland, carried on dutifully at Beaufort to preserve the family inheritance for her son.

Every August, she organised a rather gentrified cricket match played on the lawn of the house - but it was abandoned around 1970 after young Richard, who had little interest in cricket and was not watching, was knocked unconscious by a mighty drive by a visitor who had played for the Cambridge Crusaders.

The young McGillycuddy's passion was cars, and he went into the motor trade in London after a brief sojourn at the University of Aix-en-Provence.

He was unreceptive to the efforts of his uncle Dermot, a Dublin solicitor much beloved of McGillycuddys of every class and creed, to interest him in Ireland.

Tall and dashing, the rugged and auburn-haired young McGillycuddy of the Reeks was much in demand in London among the Sloane Rangers.

Eventually, in 1983, at the age of 35, he married Virginia Astor, the granddaughter of the 1st Lord Astor of Hever.

Feeling that he had little in common with the local people in Kerry, McGillycuddy decided to sell The Reeks, and moved to France, where he acted as a property consultant to prospective British purchasers of chateaux and lesser French properties.

After the birth of his second daughter in 1990, the family returned to live in Ireland - not, however, in their ancestral territory, but nearer Dublin, where they rented a succession of houses, the last of them in Westmeath.

He continued to dabble in property, and latterly sold insurance; but it was a handicap that his upper-class English demeanour disappointed expectations raised by his Irish-sounding name.

Although he could be charming in the appropriate company, he did not relate well to Irish people outside his own class.

Meanwhile, despite poor health, his wife carved out a niche for herself doing valuable work as a prison visitor.

McGillycuddy was active in the council of Irish chieftains who had been recognised by the Irish Genealogical Office.

Richard McGillycuddy was survived by his wife and two daughters.

He was succeeded by his first cousin, Donogh, who lives in South Africa.

First published in March, 2013.

The Queen's Wedding Day

TODAY is Her Majesty’s 72nd Wedding Anniversary.

On the 20th November, 1947, Her Royal Highness THE PRINCESS ELIZABETH, elder daughter of KING GEORGE VI and QUEEN ELIZABETH, married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN).

On the morning of the Wedding, Prince Philip was created  His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.

The Royal Couple on their Platinum Wedding Anniversary

Their Royal Highnesses were married at Westminster Abbey and the new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh moved in to their new official home, Clarence House.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Sir Richard Wallace Bt


The Hertford Estate, centred round the area known as Killultagh at Lisburn, was one of the largest estates in County Antrim and, indeed, Ulster.

Sir Fulke Conway, ancestor of the Marquesses of Hertford, founded Lisburn.

Killultagh includes Ballinderry, Glenavy, Knockmore, Maghaberry and Moira.

In 1869, perhaps the most important political phenomenon in County Antrim was landlord influence and, in particular, the power of Lord Hertford, the county’s greatest landowner, and his agent, the Very Rev James Stannus, Dean of Ross and Rector of Lisburn.
Their influence on elections was considerable, especially since the secret ballot was not introduced until 1872. 
During an investigation into the running of the Hertford estate, which was located in the south of County Antrim. 
Dean Stannus stated that it comprised 66,000 acres, supporting a population of about 200,000.
There were 4,000 holdings within the Hertford Estate, of which 1,000 were leasehold and the remainder let on a yearly basis.

There were approximately 10,000 electors in the entire county and at least 1,000 of them lived on the Estate.

In addition, every elector in the Borough of Lisburn was either a tenant or sub-tenant.

The estate rental in 1871 amounted to £58,000 (about £5 million today).

This would appear to have represented a formidable source of political power.

There were only a number of other large estates owned by conservative families in the county, although none, with the exception of the O'Neill estate, could match the Hertford acreage during the Victorian era.

Many of the officers who had commanded the forces of the Crown against the Irish in rebellion were younger sons of gentlemen who, under English and Scottish law, did not inherit lands at home.

Victory against the Irish gave them the opportunity to set themselves up as independent, landed gentlemen including Sir Fulke Conway.

SIR RICHARD WALLACE, 1st and last Baronet (1818-90), KCB JP DL MP, of Sudbourn Hall, Suffolk, and Lisburn, County Antrim, philanthropist, art collector and connoisseur extraordinaire, inherited the Hertford estate from his father in 1871.

He was created a baronet in the same year, designated of Hertford House, London.

Sir Richard was the illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess of Hertford, for whom he worked as  personal secretary, and inherited his father's estates, and extensive collection of European art in 1871.

Wallace expanded the collection himself, and in 1897, after his death, the collection was donated to the nation by Wallace's widow.

It is now located in what was his London residence, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London - which houses  the Wallace Collection.

His bequests to the town of Lisburn included Wallace Park and Wallace High School.

Sir Richard's residence in Lisburn, Castle House (above), is a large, imposing mansion of 1880, though he seldom stayed there.

His country house, Sudbourne Hall in Suffolk, was demolished during the 20th century.

Here is a fascinating article about Sir Richard and his visits to Ulster.

Both the 3rd and 4th Marquesses of Hertford paid little attention to their Ulster estates, the 4th Marquess visiting Lisburn only once in his lifetime, briefly in 1845.

Sir Richard, on the other hand, took his responsibilities as a landowner very seriously.

In 1873, after his selfless behaviour during the siege of Paris had made his name famous throughout the UK and France, he made a celebrated visit to Lisburn, where he and Lady Wallace received a tumultuous welcome.

Having no house in the town until 1880, he rented Antrim Castle from Lord Massereene for his stay in Ulster and it was from there that he travelled in a private railway carriage to the town.

At Brookmount station it was stopped and the party alighted.

Here, in a marquee in the station yard, were gathered the Lisburn Town Commissioners and their ladies to welcome the distinguished visitor and his entourage.

The Address of Welcome from the Commissioners was read by the Rev W D Pounden, rector of Lisburn Cathedral; and Sir Richard, in his reply, expressed his pleasure at being in the district.

Sir Richard became MP for Lisburn in 1873 and served until 1884.

He became the principal benefactor of the city, paying for the improvement of water supplies as well as the building of Assembly Rooms, a court house (now demolished) and a school, which survives as Wallace High School.

Wallace also employed the architect Thomas Ambler, who had remodelled Hertford House for him, to build a house in Lisburn, Castle House.

Wallace had hoped that his son Edmond would take up residence in Lisburn, but this was not to be and Castle House was only rarely used.

After his death in 1890, the citizens of Lisburn erected a magnificent monument to Sir Richard in Castle Gardens, where one of two Wallace fountains in the city may also be found.

Wallace’s name survives elsewhere in Lisburn, in Wallace High School, Wallace Park and even in a recently opened shopping centre, Wallace Colonnades.

Wallace Park is a public park of twenty-five acres created on land presented to the people of Lisburn by Sir Richard Wallace in 1884.

The area was formerly the outer park for Castle House, his Lisburn residence. He also furnished it with a bandstand, entrance gates and lodges.

The pond was made from what was formerly a town reservoir.

There are mature trees and further planting has been undertaken.

Most of the grounds are grassed, the northern part consisting of tree-lined paths, and the southern end is occupied by sports fields.

Sir Richard died in Paris on the 20th July, 1890.

I last visited the excellent Wallace Collection in London in 2015.

First published in May, 2010.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Rowan-Hamiltons at Home



When Lieutenant-Colonel Denys Rowan-Hamilton MVO DL handed over the keys of Killyleagh Castle to his son five years ago [2001], he reassured him that he mustn't let the property become a millstone around his neck and that, if it ever became too great a burden, he could sell it.

Then, on his way out the door, he reminded him gently that the castle had been in the family for 400 years.

"It was a bitter-sweet moment," Gawn Rowan-Hamilton ponders, sitting in a cosy, but strikingly high-ceilinged, room in Ulster's oldest inhabited castle.
"But I always knew, growing up, that if things worked out I would come and live here. I also knew that I had to earn a living to be able to afford its upkeep as, unfortunately, the castle isn't surrounded by masses of land. The handover went very smoothly and it is a far nicer place to raise a young family than London, where we used to live."
It certainly seems like an idyllic existence for Gawn, his wife Polly and five children Tara, Archie, Jake, Charlie and Willa.

There is endless scope in the nine-bedroomed castle for searching for secret passages and the several spiral staircases leading to the top of the towers provide hours of fun.

The castle even has its very own dungeon.

And outside, there are enough lawns to host Wimbledon and a swimming-pool worthy of any Olympics.

Built in 1180 by John de Courcy as one of a series of fortifications around Strangford Lough to protect against the Vikings, the castle, with its handsome turrets and seemingly impenetrable walls, looks like it has been lifted straight from the Loire valley.

The constant stream of tourists, who gaze in wonder through its iron gates, compare it to Hogwarts or a castle from Disney.

It has been kept in excellent repair through the years and, says Gawn, only needs painting on the inside - although that's not going to happen any time soon because of the children.

Even the nursery is the same as when Gawn was a child, and now his children are enjoying it too.

Gawn, who is his father's only son and has three half-brothers, one half-sister and two full sisters, attended Killyleagh Primary School and his closest friends lived on High Street.

He was then sent to Eton and after that studied at Cambridge - but returned to the castle at every opportunity.

"Family stands out most of all from my childhood memories," he says.
"I am the youngest of my mother's seven children and the house was always full of people. I remember sitting around the dining room table with a very large family having quite intensive discussions and arguments. 
Because I was at boarding school, mum would compensate by asking people to stay when I came back for holidays, and she didn't mind if there were 10 or 20 people for lunch. 
She was determined that we would have a good time here. And because it was known that I was going to come and live here one day it made it easier on the others."
What was it like, living in a castle?
"Up to the age of 14 I wasn't aware of the significance of living in a castle," Gawn says. "You think you're lucky but you just take it for granted. I went to Eton so living in a big house didn't distinguish me at all, but one hopes my children will be comfortable with it. 
If they are comfortable with it then they will take little notice of what people think." 
As Gawn spends half of each week in London as director of a major mergers and acquisitions firm, Polly spends much of her time looking after the castle, its self-catering accommodation in the gatehouses and events it hosts such as outdoor concerts. 

The family conducts tours for schools and, with the castle holding a registry licence, weddings also take place.
"I just love Killyleagh and the sense of community," says Polly. "It's so much nicer than London, the people are wonderful and because the house is right in the village we feel part of everything that's going on." 
Indeed, the Hamiltons have been part of goings-on for some 400 years since, in 1606, in an event described as the most important in Ulster-Scots history, Gawn's ancestor, James Hamilton, and his fellow Scot, Hugh Montgomery, arrived.

Montgomery had spied his opportunity to acquire a chunk of eastern Ulster when the Irish chieftain, Con O'Neill, was imprisoned and needed his help to escape from jail and secure a Royal pardon from Montgomery's friend, King JAMES I.

But Hamilton discovered the plan and persuaded O'Neill to give him some land, too, a move that caused the Scottish settlers to become bitter rivals despite living close to each other in northern County Down.

When he settled in Killyleagh Castle, James Hamilton built the courtyard walls and then his son, the 1st Earl of Clanbrassil, built a second tower as a sign of rising prosperity.

In 1649, the castle was besieged by Cromwellian forces, who blew up the original gatehouse using gunboats which had sailed into Strangford. Lord Clanbrassil fled, leaving behind his wife and children.

A staunch supporter of the Crown, parliament fined him all his spare cash for the return of his castle and land.

But contrary to what their history might suggest, the current Hamiltons and Montgomerys - whose country seat is Grey Abbey House in Co Down - are good friends:
"I grew up with the Montgomerys and it makes me laugh when I think that when the two families first arrived here they fought battles with each other," Gawn says. "I suppose Montgomery felt slightly cheated out of the sweet deal he had concocted with Con O'Neill and probably felt quite bitter. 
When he was on his death bed he decreed that no Montgomery must ever marry a Hamilton and to this day I don't think the families have intermarried. 
I find that astonishing, actually, given the fact that we have lived beside each other for 400 years." 
For centuries the castle's first role was protection but in more recent times work was done to make it more comfortable:
"During the famines in the 1850s my great-great-great grandmother redeveloped the house and installed gas," Gawn says. "Because she received no income from the state she decided to spend all her maternal fortune on making the house habitable. "She employed Charles Lanyon, the architect of Queen's University, Belfast, to redesign and open up the castle."
This was a challenge for Lanyon, who was used to building on a greenfield site - but the castle was confined to a structure already in place which he couldn't change.

But he made sterling work of it nonetheless, and all the intricately detailed plasterwork and wood panelling dates from this period.
"Lanyon turned the castle from what would have been a dark and uncomfortable interior to a very light and comfortable one," explains Gawn. "And although people might think the castle is cold and draughty, the rooms are actually not as big as you may imagine because the walls are so thick."
And with all that colourful history, there must be a ghost or two, surely?

For instance, does the so-called Blue Lady, Lady (Alice) Clanbrassil, flit through the corridors at night?

She was married to the 2nd Earl, Henry Hamilton, and their only child died in infancy.

To her horror, the 1st Earl had decreed in his will that if Henry died without issue the estate should be divided between five cousins.

But in her determination to get her hands on the Hamilton properties for her own family, Alice destroyed this will and made her husband write a new one.

Henry received a letter from his mother with the grim warning that the day he changed the will would be the day he died.

So it proved, as Henry was poisoned by his wife shortly after bequeathing his estate to her.
"Yes, I suspect there are ghosts running around with tales to tell," says Gawn. "Although I haven't seen a ghost people say that some rooms are spookier than others. It certainly adds to the character of the castle to think there might be ghosts."
There have been explosive events more recently, too, for the castle was targeted during the Troubles in the 1920s:
"I have a cutting from the Belfast Telegraph which tells the story of my great-great uncle being woken at 2am and exchanging gunfire from the battlements, which was terribly exciting," says Gawn.
But, despite the family's history of settling on land once owned by Irish men, Gawn says the Hamiltons have never experienced animosity from Roman Catholics:
"Actually, my most famous ancestor was Archibald Hamilton Rowan, who was a United Irishman," he explains. "He was put in prison by the British in Dublin but escaped and went to the Americas before he was pardoned and returned. 
There was one occurrence of animosity from loyalists in the 1970s when my father stood for election to Westminster as an Alliance Party candidate. 
Although he didn't get in loyalists were angry as they believed he was establishment and was taking some of their votes, and they burned his effigy in one of the village estates. That shows how extreme the politics of that time were."
A happier event concerns Prince Andrew, Baron Killyleagh, who regularly visits the village, although he hasn't stayed at the castle during Gawn's tenure.
"My father was hosting an event one day which the Duke of York was attending," he says. "A wedding had been booked for that afternoon and, because the first event was running longer than expected, my father eventually had to tell [HRH] that he had to go as the wedding party would soon be arriving. 
Of course, on their way out Prince Andrew and his entourage bumped right into the wedding - but he jumped out of his car and went over to the wedding party and had his photo taken with them, which was very good of him."
Says Gawn: "To have such a long history of the family here is wonderful and that sense of continuity reinforces the feeling I have about the house." 

First published in September, 2011.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Kilkenny Palace

The See of OSSORY, which, like that of Meath, takes its name from a district, was originally established at Saiger, about 402 AD, by St Kieran, after his return from Rome, where he had remained 20 years in the study of the Christian faith, and had been consecrated a bishop.

He was accompanied on his return by five other bishops, who also founded sees in other parts of Ireland, and after presiding over this see for many years is supposed to have died in Cornwall.

Of his successors, who were called Episcopi Saigerenses, but very imperfect accounts are preserved.

Carthage, his disciple and immediate successor, died about the year 540, from which period till the removal of the see from Saiger to Aghaboe, about the year 1052, there appears to have been, with some few intervals, a regular succession of prelates.

The monastery of Aghaboe was founded by St Canice, of which he was the first abbot, and in which he died ca 600 AD; and after the removal of the see from Saiger, there is little mention of the bishops of Aghaboe.

Felix O'Dullany, who succeeded him in 1178, removed the see from Aghaboe to the city of Kilkenny, as a place of greater security, where he laid the foundation of the cathedral church of St Canice, which was continued at a great expense by Hugh de Mapilton, and completed by Geoffrey St Leger, about 1270.

Richard Ledred, who was consecrated in 1318, beautified the cathedral and rebuilt and glazed all the windows.

He also built the episcopal palace, near the cathedral.

The diocese of Ossory continued to be a separate see until 1835, when, on the death of Dr Elrington, Lord Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin, both those dioceses were annexed to it, and their temporalities vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

The diocese, which is one of the five that constitute the ecclesiastical province of Dublin, constitutes almost the whole of County Kilkenny, a good part of the Queen's County (Laois), and some of the King's County (Offaly).

It extends 46 miles in length from north to south, and 29 in breadth.

THE PALACE, Kilkenny, is a Georgian house built on the foundations of an older medieval palace.

It was probably built by the Right Rev Charles Este, Lord Bishop of Ossory from 1735-40.

The palace has a plain façade.

In 1760, Bishop Pococke constructed a Doric colonnade which joined the palace to St Canice's Cathedral, including a splendid, single-storey, pedimented, bow-ended robing-room.

The colonnade was subsequently demolished; the robing-room, however, remains a feature of the palace garden.

The palace was restored about 1963 by Bishop McAdoo (later Lord Archbishop of Dublin).

The last bishop to live at the palace was the Right Rev John Neill, from 1997-2002.

Ross Willoughby has written about her childhood there.

In 2008, the palace became the headquarters of the Irish heritage council.

First published in November, 2015.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

1st Viscount Thurso


This family, which descends from George, 4th Earl of Caithness, has possessed the lands of Ulbster, in an uninterrupted succession, for more than two centuries.

There is a charter extant, dated 1615, from the 4th Earl, confirming "for the particular love and favour that he bears his much beloved cousin, John Sinclair, of Ulbster, all and hail the town and lands of Ulbster etc" to the said

JOHN SINCLAIR, which grant was afterwards sanctioned by the Crown.

From this John Sinclair lineally descended

JOHN SINCLAIR (1691-1736), of Ulbster, Heritable Sheriff of the County of Caithness, who married, in 1714, Henrietta, daughter of George Brodie, and had issue,
GEORGE, his heir;
Mr Sinclair was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE SINCLAIR, who wedded Janet, daughter of William, Lord Strathnaver, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
Helen; Mary; Janet.
Mr Sinclair died in 1766, and was succeeded by his son,

THE RT HON SIR JOHN SINCLAIR (1754-1835), of Ulbster and Thurso Castle, who espoused firstly, in 1776, Sarah, daughter of Alexander Maitland, of Stoke Newington, by whom he had a daughter, Janet; and secondly, in 1788, Diana, daughter of Alexander, 1st Baron Macdonald, and had issue,
GEORGE, his successor;
Elizabeth Diana; Margaret; Julia; Catherine; Helen.
Mr Sinclair was created a baronet in 1786, designated of Ulbster.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR GEORGE SINCLAIR (1790-1868), 2nd Baronet, of Ulbster, who wedded, in 1816, Catherine, daughter of William, Lord Huntingtower, and had issue,

SIR JOHN GEORGE TOLLEMACHE SINCLAIR DL MP (1825-1912), 3rd Baronet, of Ulbster, who married, in 1853, Emma Isabella Harriet, daughter of William Standish Standish.

His grandson,

THE RT HON SIR ARCHIBALD HENRY MacDONALD SINCLAIR (1890-1970), 4th Baronet, KT, CMG, JP, of Ulbster, espoused, in 1918, Marigold, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel James Stewart Forbes.

Sir Archibald was elevated to the peerage, in 1952, in the dignity of VISCOUNT THURSO, of Ulbster in the County of Caithness.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, the Hon James Alexander Robin Sinclair.

THE CASTLE, Thurso, Caithness, was built in the 1870s by the architect David Smith for Sir Tollemache Sinclair, 3rd Baronet, replacing the original castle of about 1660.

The Victorian castle was built in the style of a French chateau close to the shore on the east of the river mouth.

During the 2nd World War, a sea mine exploded nearby and the castle became structurally unsafe.

Consequently, much of it was demolished to make it safe in 1952.

The contractor who had the job of taking the roof off and demolishing other parts to make it safe was paid by being allowed to keep the lead from the roof.

What is left standing shows the height and number of floors that made it a very impressive structure given its position on the coast where it could be seen a long way off.

Its position gave it marvellous views over Thurso Bay.

First published in November, 2013.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Huntley House


The family of Charley, or Chorley, passing over from the north of England, settled in Ulster in the 17th century, firstly at Belfast, where they were owners of house property for two hundred years; and afterwards at Finaghy, County Antrim, where  

RALPH CHARLEY (1664-1746), of Finaghy House, was father of

JOHN CHARLEY (1712-93), of Finaghy, who left a son and successor,

JOHN CHARLEY (1744-1812), of Finaghy House, who married, in 1783, Anne Jane, daughter of Richard Wolfenden, of Harmony Hill, County Down, and had issue,

JOHN, of Finaghy House 1784-1844, died unm;
MATTHEW, of Finaghy House;
WILLIAM, of Seymour Hill.
The third son,

WILLIAM CHARLEY, of Seymour Hill, Dunmurry, married, in 1817, Isabella, eldest daughter of William Hunter JP, of Dunmurry, and had issue,
JOHN, of Seymour Hill;
WILLIAM, succeeded his brother;
Edward, of Conway House;
Mary; Anne Jane; Eliza; Isabella; Emily.
Mr Charley died in 1838, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN CHARLEY, of Seymour Hill, who died unmarried, in 1843, aged 25, and was succeeded by his brother, 

WILLIAM CHARLEY JP DL (1826-1904), of Seymour Hill, who married, in 1856, Ellen Anna Matilda, daughter of Edward Johnson JP, of Ballymacash, near Lisburn, and granddaughter of Rev Philip Johnson JP DL, and had issue,

William, 1857-1904;
EDWARD JOHNSON, of Seymour Hill;
John George Stewart, 1863-86;
Thomas Henry FitzWilliam, 1866-85;
Arthur Frederick, of Mossvale, b 1870;
Harold Richard;
Ellen Frances Isabella; Elizabeth Mary Florence;
Emily Constance Jane; Wilhelmina Maud Isabel.
The second son,

EDWARD JOHNSON CHARLEY (1859-1932), of Seymour Hill, was succeeded by his sixth son, 

COLONEL HAROLD RICHARD CHARLEY CBE DL (1875-1956), of Seymour Hill, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles; fought in the Boer War and First World War, with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, and was wounded and became a PoW. 

In 1916 he started workshops for interned British servicemen at Murren. He was Officer-in-Charge for Technical Instruction for servicemen interned in Switzerland in 1917; Commissioner of British Red Cross Society, Switzerland, 1918; commander of the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, 1919-23.

Appointed CBE, 1920; City Commandant, Ulster Special Constabulary, 1924-52; originator of the British Legion Car Park Attendants scheme (adopted throughout Great Britain); Honorary Colonel, 1938, Antrim Coast Regiment (Territorial Army).
His eldest son, 

COLONEL WILLIAM ROBERT (Robin) HUNTER CHARLEY OBE (1924-2019), married Catherine Janet, daughter of William Sinclair Kingan, in 1960. 

HUNTLEY, Dunmurry, originally known as Huntley Lodge, was built ca 1830 by William Hunter (1777-1856), of Dunmurry House, on land leased by the Stewarts of Ballydrain from the Donegall Estate.

His son William (1806-90) lived in Huntley for a time and brought up his family.

In the mid 1850s, he moved with his family to the Isle of Man.

The house was then left by his father William (1777-1856) to his widowed sister, Mrs Isabella Charley (1800-82).

Isabella's husband, William Charley of Seymour Hill, had died in 1838 and she lived at Seymour Hill until her eldest son William was married in 1856.

Isabella then moved to Huntley, where she was joined by her late husband's sisters Mary (1820-86) and Anne Jane Stevenson (1822-1904), whose husband had died in 1855, and Emily (1837-1917).

The ladies at Huntley were talented artists, did embroidery and kept beautiful scrapbooks.

They supported many charities and gave generously to local churches, schools and church halls.

They founded the Charley Memorial School at Drumbeg in 1892 in memory of their brother William Charley (1826-90) of Seymour Hill; and also established the Stevenson Memorial School, Dunmurry.

They built the church hall in Dunmurry on the condition that a service must be held there every Sunday afternoon.

Huntley remained in the possession of the Charley family until 1932, when Edward Charley, of Seymour Hill, died.

The house was sold to Mr George Bryson, who had been a tenant there since just after the 1st World War.

Huntley now operates as bed & breakfast accommodation.

First published in March, 2011.

Garbally Court


This family, which has been ennobled in two branches, assumed the name from the Seigneurie of LA TRANCHE, in Poitou, of which they were formerly possessed.

The first of the family in England was

FRÉDÉRIC DE LA TRANCHE, or TRENCH, who fled from France after the massacre of St Bartholomew, and took up his abode in Northumberland about 1575.

He married, in 1576, Margaret, daughter of Thomas Sutton, and had issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
James (Rev), Rector of Clongill, m Margaret, daughter of Hugh, Viscount Montgomery;
Adam Thomas.
Mr Trench thereafter crossed into Scotland, where he died in 1580.

The eldest son,

THOMAS TRENCH, married, in 1610, Catherine, daughter of Richard Brooke, of Pontefract, Yorkshire, and had issue,
FREDERICK, of whom we treat;
John (Very Rev), Dean of Raphoe; ancestor of BARON ASHTOWN.
The elder son,

FREDERICK RICHARD TRENCH (1681-1752), MP for Galway County, 1715-52, succeeded at Garbally; from whom descended the 1st Earl's grandfather, Richard Trench, who espoused Elizabeth, second daughter of John Eyre, of Eyre Court, County Galway; and was grandfather of

RICHARD TRENCH (1710-68), MP for Banagher, 1735-61, Galway County, 1761-68, who wedded, in 1732, Frances, only daughter and heir of David Power, descended from the Barons de la Poer, and, in the female line, from the Lords Muskerry, afterwards Earls of Clancarty, by the marriage of John Power with Elena, daughter of Cormac, Lord Muskerry.

Through this marriage, Mr Trench obtained the united fortunes of the families of POWER and KEATING.

He died in 1768, having had issue,
FREDERICK and DAVID, both died in infancy;
WILLIAM POWER KEATING, of whom hereafter;
John, a major in the army;
Eyre, a Lt-Gen in the army;
Anne, m C Cobbe, of Newbridge.
Mr Trench's eldest surviving son,

WILLIAM POWER KEATING TRENCH (1741-1805), MP for County Galway, 1768-97, was elevated to the peerage, in 1797, in the dignities of Baron Kilconnel, of Garbally, County Galway, and Viscount Dunlo, of Dunlo and Ballinasloe, in the counties of Galway and Roscommon.

His lordship was further advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1803, as EARL OF CLANCARTY (2nd creation), in consequence of of his descent from Elena MacCarty, wife of John Power, daughter of Cormac Oge MacCarty, Viscount Muskerry, and sister of Donough MacCarty, Earl of Clancarty in the reign of CHARLES II.

He wedded, in 1762, Anne, eldest daughter of the Rt Hon Charles Gardiner, and sister of Luke, 1st Lord Mountjoy, and had issue,
RICHARD, his successor;
Power (Most Rev), Lord Archbishop of Tuam;
William, Rear-Admiral;
Charles (Ven), Archdeacon of Ardagh;
Luke Henry;
Robert le Poer (Sir), KCB;
Florinda; Anne; Elizabeth; Harriet; Frances; Louisa; Emily.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD LE POER, 2nd Earl (1767-1837), GCB, PC, who was created a peer of the United Kingdom, as BARON TRENCH, 1815, and raised to an English viscountcy, in 1824, as VISCOUNT CLANCARTY.

In 1813, his lordship was appointed ambassador to The Hague, and was created by the King of the Netherlands, in 1818, Marquess of Heusden, having obtained permission of his own Sovereign to accept the said honour.

Lord Clancarty wedded, in 1796, Henrietta Margaret, second daughter of the Rt Hon John Staples, and had issue,
WILLIAM THOMAS, his successor;
Richard John;
Louisa Augusta Anne; Harriette Margaret; Emily Florinda; Lucy.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

There is no heir to the peerages.

GARBALLY COURT, Ballinasloe, County Galway, is a large, austere, two-storey mansion, built in 1819 to replace an earlier house burnt in 1798.

It is square, built round what was originally a central courtyard.

The eleven-bay entrance front has a single-storey Doric porte-cochere.

There is an adjoining front, also of eleven bays, with pediments over the ground-floor windows.

The rear elevation has a single-storey curved bow.

The hall boasts Ionic pilasters and niches, with an arch leading to a grand picture gallery, built in the central courtyard about 1855.

The 5th Earl of Clancarty sold Garbally Court in 1907, following the decimation of his estate caused by the Land Acts.

Garbally College, a Roman Catholic boys' school, purchased Garbally Court in 1922.

First published in December, 2012.  Clancarty arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

The Prince of Wales

THE PRINCE OF WALES is 71 today:

His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Great Steward of Scotland, KG, KT, GCB, OM.

His Royal Highness is heir apparent and first in line to the Throne.

Born at Buckingham Palace on the 14th November, 1948, HRH was educated at Cheam School; Gordonstoun; and Trinity College, Cambridge.

His Royal Highness is Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy, Field Marshal in the Army, and Marshal of the Royal Air Force in the RAF.

These ranks are known as "Five Star" in the United States.

  • Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter 
  • Royal Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle 
  • Grand Master of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath 
  • Member of the Order of Merit.
His Royal Highness shall ascend the throne as CHARLES III.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Old Belfast Castle

Belfast Castle ca 1611

When Sir Arthur Chichester, the younger son of Sir John Chichester, was granted a patent by JAMES I, dated the 8th November, 1603,
"the Castle of Bealfaste, or Belfast, with the Appurtenants and Hereditaments, Spiritual and Temporal, situate in the Lower Clandeboye"
he did not fully realize the value of the property thereby granted.

Chichester was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in the following year, at a salary of £1,000 per annum, together with £500 for an outfit and some fees attaching to his office.

But on the death of the preceding Lord Deputy, Charles Blount, 5th Baron Mountjoy and Earl of Devonshire, Sir Arthur wrote to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, 25th April, 1606, asking to be transferred to
"some meaner office" giving as his reason that his "fortunes are poor, not having a foot of land or inheritance, but such as his Majesty gave him in the North, of which he makes small benefit, and his expenses last year greatly exceeded his income."
Even three years after he had become the proprietor of the lands upon which that part of the City of Belfast, situated in County Antrim, now stands, he apparently failed to realise the potential value of his acquisitions.

High Street, Belfast, in the 17th century

In the development of that property, however, he was retarded by the onerous and exacting duties attaching to his high office, and it was not until after 1610 that the project of building a new castle upon "the ruynes of the decayed Castle" was carried to completion.

The report, undated, but supposed to be about 1611, bears the following signatures:
  • Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy, Baron Chichester 
  • George Carew, Earl of Totnes, Baron Carew 
  • Thomas Ridgeway, Earl of Londonderry 
  • Sir Richard Wingfield, Viscount Powerscourt 
  • Sir Oliver Lambart, Baron Lambart of Cavan
"We came to Belfast where we found many masons, bricklayers, and other labourers working, who had taken down the ruins of the decayed Castle there almost to the vault of the cellars, and had likewise laid the foundation of a brick house 50 foot long which is to be adjoined to the said Castle by no staircase of brick well [sic] is to be 14 foot square.

The house to be made 20 foot wide, and 2 storeys and a half high.

The Castle is to be built two storeys above the cellars, all the rooms thereof to be vaulted, and platforms to be made thereupon.

The staircase is to be made 10 foot higher than the Castle, about which Castle and house there is a strong bawn almost finished which is flanked with four half bulwarks.

The foundation of the wall and bulwarks to the height of the water-table is made with stone, and the rest, being in all 12 foot high above the ground, is made with brick, the bawn is to be composed about with a large and deep ditch or moat which will always stand full of water.

The Castle will defend the passage over the ford at Belfast between the upper and lower Clandeboye, and likewise the bridge over the River of Owenvarra between Malone and Belfast.

This work is in so good forward [sic] that it is like to be finished by the middle of the next summer.

The town of Belfast is plotted out in a good form, wherein are many families of English, Scottish, and some Manxmen already inhabiting, of which some are artificers who have built good timber houses with chimneys after the fashion of the English pale, and one inn with very good lodgings which is a great comfort to the travellers in those parts.

Near which town the said Sir Arthur Chichester has already made above twelve hundred thousand of good bricks, whereof after finishing the said Castle, house, and bawn, there will be a good proportion left for the building of other tenements within the said Town."

First published in July, 2012.   Source: Eddie's Book Extracts.

Shane's Castle

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 Mor, dying in 1533, left two sons, of whom the eldest son, 

SIR BRIAN O'NEILL, married Amy, daughter of Brian Carrach MacDonnell (he married an unnamed Scotswoman in 1568).

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.

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, 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.

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) at Shane's Castle, County Antrim, 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.   O'Neill arms courtesy of European Heraldry.