Saturday, 31 October 2020

High Flyer

I was thirteen years old when this picture was taken.

Believe it or not, I won the senior 100 yards, long jump, triple jump and, I think, the 220 yards; and went on to win the Victor Ludorum.

The occasion was the annual Brackenber House School sports day, which took place at North of Ireland Cricket Club grounds, Ormeau Road, Belfast, in 1973.

The gentleman wearing the hat was Mr Bull, the PE teacher; Mike Bull's father.

First published in January, 2013.

The Colquhoun Baronets


This is a Scottish family of great antiquity, which has enjoyed a Scottish baronetcy since 1625.
The earliest surname under which the family of COLQUHOUN can be traced is that of Kilpatrick. Sir John Colquhoun of Luss was a descendant of Umphredus de Kilpatrick.
That patent was resigned, however, in 1704, by Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, 5th Baronet, upon condition of its being renewed to his son-in-law, James Grant (1679-1747), who thereafter assumed the name of Colquhoun.

SIR JAMES COLQUHOUN (1714-86), the eighth successor to the patent of 1704, was created a baronet in 1786, designated of Luss, Dunbartonshire.

He wedded, in 1772, Mary, one of the co-heiresses of James Falconer, and granddaughter of Lord Falconer of Halkerton, and had issue,

SIR JAMES COLQUHOUN, 2nd Baronet (1741-1805), of Luss, Dunbartonshire, who married, in 1802, Janet, daughter of Sir John Sinclair Bt, of Ulbster.

ROSSDHU HOUSE, near Luss, Dunbartonshire, was built in 1773 to replace a castle the Colquhouns had lived in since the 15th century.

In 1772, (Sir) James Colquhoun had begun to build the present house, which was originally what is now the central block, and completed it in the following year.

Later that year, the celebrated Dr. Johnson and Mr. Boswell were entertained at Rossdhu on their renowned tour of the Hebrides.

His son, Sir James, 2nd Baronet, was a friend and correspondent of Horace Walpole, to whom he gave a goat's horn snuff-mull, was a connoisseur and collector of paintings, landscapes in particular, engravings, ancient coins and rare old china.

The 3rd Baronet lived with discernment during the good taste of the Regency: He enlarged the house, adding two wings and the portico, using the stone from the old castle.

Sir James made the long south drive along the lochside, and built its two superb entrance lodges joined by a beautiful archway surmounted by the Colquhoun heraldic emblems, that form together an architectural gem on the side of the main road.

Draining the marshy "moss" that had guarded the landward side of the castle in the Middle Ages, but was no longer needed to protect the house, Sir James turned it into a deer park and enclosed the policies within a park wall.

Sir James, 4th Baronet and 28th Chief, tragically drowned in Loch Lomond in 1873. He was Lord Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire, as was was his son, Sir James, 5th Baronet, who was visited at Rossdhu by Queen Victoria in 1875.

The 5th Baronet's second wife inherited and sold many of Rossdhu's ancestral treasures when he died in 1907 and was succeeded by his cousin Sir Alan, 6th Baronet and 30th of Luss, KCB (1838-1910).

The Colquhouns signed a 100-year lease for the Estate -  to be made into a golf course -  to Tom Weiskopf's design, with Rossdhu serving as the Clubhouse.

Loch Lomond Golf Club opened in 1994, and has hosted the revived Scottish Open for a number of years.

The Colquhouns only moved a few hundred yards closer to Luss, to take up residence in the former Rossdhu dower house at Camstradden.

The Luss Estate today extends to some 45,000 acres.

First published in December, 2013.

Friday, 30 October 2020

Finaghy House


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

JOHN CHARLEY (c1659-1743), of Belfast, was father of

RALPH CHARLEY (1674-1756), of Finaghy House, County Antrim, who wedded Elizabeth Hill, and had an only child,

JOHN CHARLEY (1711-93), of Finaghy House, who married Mary, daughter of John Ussher, and had issue,

Matthew, died unmarried;
JOHN, of whom hereafter;
Hill, died unmarried;
Jane, died unmarried.
The eldest surviving son,

JOHN CHARLEY (1744-1812), of Finaghy House, married, in 1783, Anne Jane, daughter of Richard Wolfenden, of Harmony Hill, County Down, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
MATTHEW, succeeded his brother;
Annabella; Eliza Jane.
Mr Charley was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN CHARLEY (1784-1844), of Finaghy House, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

MATTHEW CHARLEY (1788-1846), of Finaghy House and Woodbourne, who married, in 1819, Mary Anne, daughter of Walter Roberts, and had issue,
JOHN STOUPPE, his heir;
Walter Matthew;
William Thomas (Sir);
Cecilia Anna; Suzanne Caroline; Letitia.
Mr Charley was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN STOUPPE CHARLEY JP DL (1825-78), of Finaghy House, High Sheriff of County Donegal, 1875, who espoused, in 1851, Mary Stewart, daughter of Francis Forster, and had issue,
John Francis Ralph (1853-55);
John Francis William (1857-99), k/a;
Walter Roberts Matthew, emigrated to Canada;
Ralph Mansfield, died in infancy;
Mary Grace Leader; Constance Stewart; Charlotte Elizabeth Forster.
FINAGHY HOUSE, Belfast, located in the townland of Ballyfinaghy, dates back to the late-17th century.

It is thought, indeed, that the original house was erected ca 1695.

It was first built as the residence of Richard Woods, but was bought in 1727 by the Charley family, who lived there for five generations.

The two-storey, thatched house was purchased by Ralph Charley.

A mural plaque on the south-west gable records that the Charleys first took possession of the site in 1727.

Finaghy House comprised six reception rooms and twelve bedrooms, and was described by a descendent of the family as 
"an imposing mansion in a large park, with extensive outhouses and stables … a remarkable feature [of the interior] being a revolving fireplace between the drawing-room and the dining-room."
Ralph Charley was a prosperous linen merchant who possessed a number of bleach greens in the Dunmurry area, and later established looms (for the weaving of linen) at Finaghy House.

In 1824 his descendants, John and William Charley, formed the partnership J & W Charley & Co.

Five generations of the Charleys subsequently resided at Finaghy House for more than 150 years.

In the 1830s the Ordnance Survey Memoirs described the house as a commodious two-storey dwelling that continued to possess a thatched roof, remarking that "the walls are nearly four feet thick and run together by grouted lime, similar to other ancient buildings."

The main (two-storey) building was depicted along its present layout, and also featured a number of outbuildings to the north-west side of the house.

It was recorded that these outbuildings were slated,  and had been erected by the Charley family during the last forty years.

The attached two-storey rear return and outbuilding (located to the north-west of the dwelling) had been constructed between the 1830-58.

John Stouppe Charley occupied Finaghy from 1866 until 1885.

Following his death in 1885, Charley’s widow sold the house and its contents to Major and Mrs Brewis.

The Brewises bred corgi dogs: one of which was called “The Queen Mother”.

The first corgi owned by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was bred in this house. 

James Moore acquired the mansion during the 1890s, and it was during his residence that the formerly thatched building was probably re-roofed and altered into its present appearance.

The most discernible subsequent alteration was the construction of the current single-storey entrance porch.

The Irish census recorded that Finaghy House’s thatched roof was replaced with slate by at least 1901, so it's likely that the house was re-roofed shortly after the building was purchased by Moore about 1890.

The Moores continued to live at Finaghy House until 1930, when the property was acquired by Major and Mrs Tyler.

Finaghy House remained in use as a family home until 1960, when it was converted into a residential care home and renamed Faith House.

Faith House was listed in 1987.

Work was carried out to the two-storey return in 1989-90, when the original windows were replaced and the side porch (located in the courtyard to rear) was altered.

The outbuilding to the north-west side of the original building was replaced with the current two-storey wing at this time, too.

Despite the addition of the modern wing, the original two-storey gable bay to the north-west end of the return (which had been erected between 1833 and 1858) was retained.

Between 1991 and 2011 an additional number of modern extensions were constructed to the north-west and south-west sides of Faith House.

These extensions have considerably increased the capacity of the care home.

First published in March, 2011.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Carton House


This illustrious and ancient family is descended from a common ancestor with the house of FITZMAURICE, Earls of Kerry (an earldom now merged with the marquessesate of Lansdowne) and that of WINDSOR, Earls of Plymouth; namely,

MAURICE FITZGERALD, LORD OF LANSTEPHAN, through whose exertions the possession of Ireland was chiefly accomplished by HENRY II.
This Maurice was the son of Gerald FitzOtho (son of Walter FitzOtho, who, at the general survey of the kingdom in 1078, was castellan of Windsor, and was appointed by WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR, warden of the forests of Berkshire; which Walter was the son of

OTHO, a rich and powerful lord in the time of ALFRED THE GREAT, descended from the Dukes of Tuscany, a baron of England, according to Sir William Dugdale, in the reign of EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, by Nesta, daughter of Rhys, Prince of South Wales.

The said Maurice obtained for his services a grant of extensive territories in the province of Leinster, and was constituted, in 1172, one of the governors of Ireland; in which year he slew O'Rourke, Prince of Meath, then in rebellion against the English Government.

This feudal chief died, full of honour, in 1177, and was succeeded by his eldest son, 

GERALD FITZGERALD, 1st Baron of Offaly (c1150-1204), who was with his father in the memorable sally out of Dublin, in 1173, when that city was besieged by O'Connor, King of Connaught, with an army of 36,000 men, over whom the FitzGeralds obtained a complete victory.

This Gerald, dying at Sligo, was succeeded by his son,

MAURICE FITZGERALD, 2nd Baron (1194-1257), Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, who was put into possession, by a mandatory letter of HENRY III, dated 1216, of Maynooth and all the other lands of which his father died seized in Ireland, and was put also into possession of the castle of CRUM, County Limerick.

This nobleman is said to have been the first who brought the Orders of the Franciscans and the Dominicans into Ireland.

In 1229, the King, appreciating the good services of the family since its settlement in Ireland, constituted his lordship lord-justice of the kingdom.

In 1236, Lord Offaly built the castle of Armagh; and, in 1242, he erected a similar edifice at Athlone.

His lordship died in 1257, in the habit of St Francis, leaving the reputation of having been a "valiant knight, a very pleasant man, inferior to none in the kingdom, having lived all his life with commendation."

By his wife he had issue,
Gerald FitzMaurice;
MAURICE FITZGERALD, of whom we treat;
David FitzMaurice;
Thomas FitzMaurice.
He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, 

MAURICE FITZGERALD, 3rd Baron (1238-c1286),
Chief Governor of Ireland, then in minority; and Prince EDWARD having obtained the dominion of Ireland from his father, HENRY III, claimed his wardship as a part of the prerogative; but the barony of OFFALY being held by the minor and his deceased father under Margaret, Countess of Lincoln, to whom belonged the county of Kildare, as widow of the Earl of Pembroke, that lady contested the right of wardship, and brought the case before the King himself for decision. This nobleman was afterwards Chief Governor of Ireland.
He espoused firstly, Maud, daughter of Sir Gerald de Prendergast, by who he had issue, a daughter, Amabel; and secondly, Emmeline, daughter of Stephen Longespee, by whom he had a daughter, JULIANA FITZGERALD, LADY OF THOMOND.

Lord Offaly was succeeded at his decease by his cousin,

JOHN FITZGERALD, designated of Callann, who wedded firstly, Margery, daughter of Sir Thomas Anthony, with whom he acquired the lands of Decies and Desmond, and had an only son, MAURICE.

He espoused secondly, Honora, daughter of Hugh O'Connor (the first Irish lady chosen for a wife by any member of the family), and had four sons,
Gilbert, ancestor of The White Knights;
John, ancestor of The Knights of Glin;
Maurice, first Knight of Kerry, or The Black Knight;
Thomas, ancestor of the FitzGeralds, of The Island, County Kerry.
This John being killed with his eldest son, Maurice, at Callann, by MacCarthy Mor, against whom the FitzGeralds had raised a great army in 1261, was succeeded by his grandson,

THOMAS, nicknamed an-Apa or Simiacus,
The APE, a surname thus acquired - being only nine months old when his father and grandfather fell at Callann, his attendants rushing out at the first astonishment excited by the intelligence, left the child alone in its cradle, when a baboon, kept in the family, took him up, and carried him to the top of the steeple of Tralee Abbey; whence, after conveying him round the battlements, and exhibiting him to the appalled spectators, he brought him down safely, and laid him in his cradle. From this tradition the supporters of the house of LEINSTER are said to have been adopted. This Thomas was constituted a Lord Justice of Ireland, and captain of all Desmond, in 1295; and being of so much power, was generally styled Prince and Ruler of Munster.
He married Margaret, daughter of John, Lord Barry, of Oletham; and dying in 1298, left two sons,
JOHN, his successor;
Maurice, created EARL OF DESMOND in 1329.
Thomas was succeeded by his elder son,

JOHN, 5th Baron (c1250-1316), who, being at variance with William de Vescy, Lord of Kildare, and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in 1291, and having various charges to prefer against him, came over to England, and confronted, and challenged the said Vescy, Lord of Kildare, before the King.

Lord Kildare first took up the glove, but subsequently withdrawing to France, His Majesty EDWARD I pronounced against his lordship, and conferred upon Lord Offaly Vescy's manors and Lordship of Kildare, Rathangan, etc.

Lord Offaly returned triumphantly to Ireland, and having continued to promote the English interest there, was created by EDWARD II, in 1316, EARL OF KILDARE.

His lordship died in the same year.

FROM this nobleman the family honours descended, without anything remarkable occurring, to

GERALD, 5th Earl,
Who died, leaving a daughter and heir, Elizabeth, who marrying James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormonde, the King's sheriff, in 1434, was ordered, on payment of the usual fine to the Exchequer, to give full livery of the Earl of Kildare's estates to this latter nobleman and his wife; and on the same roll, in that year, we find that Lord Ormonde and his wife paid the accustomed "relief" due to the Crown out of the estates of the said Gerald, Lord Kildare. But no claim was ever made by the Earls of Ormonde to the parliamentary barony of the Kildare family in right of their marriage with the heir; for we find it with the earldom inherited by

THOMAS, 7th Earl (c1421-78), who succeeded his father John, the 6th Earl, in 1427.

This nobleman was appointed, in 1454 and 1455, Lord Deputy of Ireland; in the latter of which years he held a great council, or parliament, in Dublin, and subsequently one at Naas, wherein, amongst other proceedings, it was resolved
"that as no means could be found to keep the King's coin within the Kingdom of Ireland, that all Frenchmen, Spaniards, Britons, Portuguese, and other sundry nations, should pay for every pound of silver they carried out of the land, 40 pence of custom to the king's customer, for the use of the King."
His lordship was continued in the government of Ireland until 1459, when Richard, Duke of York, was constituted Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; but the following year, Lord Kildare was appointed Deputy to the Duke of York.

This tide of prosperity continued to flow until 1467, when, being involved with the Earl of Desmond, he was attainted with that nobleman (who suffered death), but subsequently pardoned, set at liberty, and restored in blood, by act of parliament.

His lordship was afterwards a Lord Justice of Ireland; and, in 1471, Deputy to George, Duke of Clarence.

He died in 1478, and was succeeded by his eldest son (by Joan, daughter of James, 6th Earl of Desmond), 

GERALD, 8th Earl (c1456-c1513), KG; who was constituted, on his accession to the peerage, Lord Deputy to Richard, Duke of York, and held a parliament at Naas.
In 1480, he was re-appointed Lord Deputy; and again, upon the accession of HENRY VII, Deputy to Jasper, Duke of Bedford, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. 
Upon the arrival, however, of Lambert Simnel, and his tutor, Richard Simon, an Oxford priest, in Ireland, the Lord Deputy, the Chancellor, Treasurer, and other nobles in the York interest, immediately acknowledged the imposter, and had him proclaimed in Dublin, by the style of EDWARD VI; and the Lord Deputy assisted with the others at his coronation at Christ Church Cathedral, in 1487, where the ceremony was performed with great solemnity, the Chancellor, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Earl of Lincoln, Lord Lovell, Jenico Marks, Mayor of Dublin, and several other persons of rank attending. 
The crown was borrowed from the image of the Virgin Mary; John Pain, the Bishop of Meath, preached the coronation sermon; and the Pretender was subsequently conveyed upon the shoulders of Darcy, of Platten, a person of extraordinary height, to Dublin Castle, amidst the shouts of the populace. 
In the engagement which afterwards decided the fate of Simnel, near Stoke, the Chancellor, FitzGerald, fell; but the Lord Deputy had the good fortune to make his peace with the King.

His lordship was nominated Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1496, when he was succeeded by his son,

GERALD, 9th Earl (1487-1534); who, with his five uncles, having revolted, was imprisoned in the Tower, where he died, in 1534, and an act was passed in the parliament of Ireland attainting him of high treason, and forfeiting the family honours and estates.

His eldest son,

THOMAS, 10th Earl, shared in the misfortunes of his father, and leaving no issue, was succeeded by his brother,

GERALD, 11th Earl (1525-85); of whom a most remarkable account is given by a contemporary historian, Richard Stanihurst.

It appears that, at the age of 10, he was preserved from the power of HENRY VIII by the precaution of his female relatives, and his tutor, Thomas Leurense, his father's foster-brother.

He wandered from court to court upon the Continent, until Cardinal Pole, who was related to his lordship's mother, sent for him into Italy and completed his education.

He wedded Mabel, daughter of Sir Anthony Brown, and through the medium of that connection, obtained the favour of EDWARD VI, who conferred upon him, in 1552, the Lordship of Maynooth and other of his father's estates.
In the ensuing reign, he was fully restored, by letters patent, to the earldom of KILDARE and barony of Offaly, with the precedence of his ancestors. It is a remarkable circumstance that, though attainted by act of parliament, this Gerald, under such grants from the Crown, but without any new statute, was summoned to, and actually sat as a peer in, the parliament of 1560, and it was not until the 11th year of ELIZABETH I that the attainder was removed by parliament. 
His lordship's eldest son, GERALD, Lord Offaly, dying in the lifetime of the 11th Earl, left an only daughter, Lettice, who married Sir Robert Digby, and for a long time claimed the BARONY OF OFFALY, as heir of her father, but which claim, after being referred by JAMES I to the judges of England, was decided by His Majesty himself, who confirmed the barony of Offaly to the Earls of Kildare and their heirs male, and created Lady Digby BARONESS OFFALY for life; whereupon that ancient title devolved on the deceased Earl's second son and successor,
HENRY, 12th Earl, who wedded the Lady Frances Howard, daughter of Charles, Earl of Nottingham, and had surviving issue,
His lordship dying thus without male issue, was succeeded by his brother,

WILLIAM, 13th Earl; who died unmarried, when the honours devolved upon  (the son of Edward FitzGerald, brother of the 11th Earl, his kinsman,

GERALD, 14th Earl; whose grandson,

GEORGE, 16th Earl, was the first of the family brought up in the reformed religion, being so educated by his guardian, the Duke of Lennox.

His lordship wedded Lady Jane Boyle, daughter of the 1st Earl of Cork, and had, with other issue,
WENTWORTH, his successor;
Robert, father of ROBERT, 19th Earl.
George, 16th Earl, was succeeded by his elder surviving son,

WENTWORTH, 17th Earl, who was succeeded by his son,

JOHN, 18th Earl, who dsp in 1707, when the honours reverted to his cousin (refer to Captain Robert FitzGerald, second son of the 16th Earl), 

ROBERT, 19th Earl (1675-1743), third son of Captain Robert FitzGerald, second son of the 16th Earl, who took a distinguished and active part in favour of WILLIAM III, during the contest in Ireland between that prince and his father-in-law, JAMES II.

This nobleman was an eminent statesman in the reigns of Queen ANNE, GEORGE I and GEORGE II.

His lordship espoused, in 1708, Mary, eldest daughter of William, 3rd Earl of Inchiquin, by whom he had four sons and eight daughters; and dying in 1743, was succeeded by his only son then living, 

JAMES, 20th Earl, who was created Viscount Leinster, of Taplow, in 1747; and in 1761, advanced to a marquessate, as Marquess of Kildare.

His lordship was further advanced to the dignity of a dukedom, in 1766, as DUKE OF LEINSTER.

His Grace wedded Lady Amelia Mary, daughter of Charles, Duke of Richmond and Lennox, by whom he had seventeen children, of whom were
WILLIAM ROBERT, his successor;
Charles James, 1st Baron Lecale;
Henry, m Charlotte, Baroness de Ros;
Robert Stephen;
Emilia Maria Margaret; Charlotte Mary Gertrude; Sophia Sarah Mary; Lucy Anne.
The 1st Duke died in 1773, and was succeeded by his eldest son,
The heir presumptive is the 9th Duke's younger brother Lord John FitzGerald (b 1952).

 The Dukes of Leinster are premier dukes, marquesses and earls of Ireland.

CARTON HOUSE, near Maynooth, County Kildare, is one of the grandest stately homes in Ireland.

Formerly the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Leinster, the demesne presently comprises 1,100 acres.

During a history spanning more than eight centuries, Carton has seen many changes.

The estate first came into the ownership of the FitzGerald family shortly after Maurice FitzGerald played an active role in the capture of Dublin by the Normans in 1170 and was rewarded by being appointed Lord of Maynooth, an area covering townlands which include Carton House.
His son became Baron Offaly in 1205 and his descendant, John FitzGerald, became Earl of Kildare in 1315.

Under the 8th Earl, the FitzGerald family reached pre-eminence as the virtual rulers of Ireland between 1477 and 1513.

However, the 8th Earl's grandson, the eloquently titled Silken Thomas was executed in 1537, with his five uncles, for leading an uprising against the Crown.

Although the FitzGeralds subsequently regained their land and titles, they did not regain their position at Court until the 18th century when Robert, the 19th Earl of Kildare, became a Privy Counsellor and a Lord Justice.

The first record of a house at Carton was in the 17th century when William Talbot, Recorder of the city of Dublin was given a lease of the lands by the 14th Earl of Kildare and is thought to have built a house.

The house and lands were forfeited to the crown in 1691 and in 1703 sold to Major-General Richard Ingoldsby, Master-General of the Ordnance.

In 1739, Richard Castle was employed by the 19th Earl of Kildare to build the existing house after it was bought by the 19th Earl of Kildare.

This was the same year the FitzGerald family bought Frescati House. Castle (originally Cassels) was also responsible for some other grand Irish houses including Westport House, Powerscourt House and in 1745, Leinster House, which he also built for the FitzGeralds.

In 1747 James the 20th Earl of Kildare and from 1766 first Duke of Leinster, married Lady Emily Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond and great-granddaughter of King Charles II.

LADY EMILY played an important role in the development of the house and estate as it is today.

She created the Chinese room (bedroom to Queen Victoria) and decorated the famous Shell Cottage on the estate with shells from around the world.

One of Lady Emily's 23 children was the famous Irish Patriot Lord Edward FitzGerald, leader of the 1798 rebellion.

Leinster House (formerly Kildare House)

Carton remained unaltered until 1815 when the 3rd Duke decided to sell Leinster House to the Royal Dublin Society and make Carton his principal residence.

He employed Richard Morrison to enlarge and re-model the house.

Morrison replaced the curved colonnades with straight connecting links to obtain additional rooms including the famous dining room.

At this time, the entrance to the house was moved to the north side.

Carton remained in the control of the FitzGeralds until the early 1920s when the 7th Duke sold his birthright to a moneylender, Sir Harry Mallaby Deeley, in order to pay off gambling debts of £67,500.

He was third in line to succeed and so did not think he would ever inherit, but one of his brothers died in the war and another of a brain tumour and so Carton was lost to the FitzGeralds.

In 1923 a local unit of the IRA went to Carton with the intention of burning it down.

However, they were stopped when a member of the FitzGerald family brought a large painting of Lord Edward FitzGerald to the door and pointed out that they would be burning the house of a revered Irish patriot.

Ronald Nall-Cain, 2nd Baron Brocket, whose principal residence was Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire, purchased the house in 1949; and in 1977 his son, the Hon David Nall-Cain, who had by then moved to the Isle of Man, sold the house to its present owners, Lee and Mary Mallaghan.

Carton House  was remodelled by Richard Castle in 1739, building an enormous central, pedimented block, curved colonnades and wings.

Their Graces' Dublin residence, Kildare House, later renemed Leinster House, easily the grandest private home in the Irish capital, was erected by the same architect six years later.

The Organ Room or Gold Saloon is probably the most magnificent and important room in the House, with its Victorian Pipe organ at one end; its sumptuous gilded walls, ceiling and plasterwork.

The Chinese Room (below) also retains its 18th century character, resplendent with its Chinese wallpaper of 1759 and the sumptuous gilded embellishments within the room.

It has been unfortunate that Carton no longer belongs to either the Dukes of Leinster who created it; nor the Nall-Cains, whose role was notable, too.

Both families left for reasons of impecuniosity: The 7th Duke squandered the family fortune.

The Dukes of Leinster were, by far, the greatest landowners in County Kildare, with an immense amount of property and ground rents in Dublin and Athy.

There were prosperous tenant farms and the family had to release this land under the terms of the Wyndham Act of 1903.

Carton House and demesne has been lovingly restored to become a luxury hotel.

First published in May, 2011. 

1st Duke of Buccleuch


SIR RICHARD LE SCOT, the undoubted ancestor of this family, was a person of great distinction in the reign of ALEXANDER III, King of Scotland.

He married the daughter and heiress of Murthockstone (Murdostoun), of that ilk, by whom he obtained a considerable estate in Lanarkshire, and, as a feudal lord thereof, swore fealty to EDWARD I, of England, in 1296.

Sir Richard assumed the cognizance of Murdostoun, which was a bend azure, into his armorial bearings, disposing theron the crescents and star, the arms of Scott, as since borne by the Dukes of Buccleuch.

He died in 1320; and from him lineally descended

SIR DAVID SCOTT, of Branxholme, who sat in the Parliament held by JAMES III, at Edinburgh, in 1487, under the designation of "Dominus de Buccleuch," being the first of the family so designated.

The grandson of this Sir David,

SIR WALTER SCOTT (c1495-1552), of Branxholme and Buccleuch, wedded thrice, and was succeeded by his grandson,

WALTER SCOTT (1549-74), who was succeeded by his only son,

SIR WALTER SCOTT (1565-1611), Knight, a powerful chieftain, and a military commander of renown in the Netherlands under the Prince of Orange; who was created, in 1606, Lord Scott of Buccleuch.

His son,

WALTER, 2nd Lord, was, in 1619, advanced to the dignity of Earl of Buccleuch.

His lordship died in 1633, and leaving no male issue, his eldest daughter,

MARY, became Countess of Buccleuch.

Her ladyship married Walter Scott of Harden, but dying childless, the family honours devolved upon her sister,

ANNE (1651-1732), who wedded the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of CHARLES II.

In 1663, Their Graces were created DUKE AND DUCHESS OF BUCCLEUCH, Earl and Countess of Dalkeith, and Baron and Baroness Whitechester and Eskdale, with remainder to their heirs male.
The English honours of the Duke of Monmouth, Earl of Doncaster, and Baron Tindale, as well as his Scottish dukedom of Buccleuch, were forfeited upon the execution of that unhappy nobleman for high treason.

The peerages enjoyed by the Duchess, however, in her own right (Duchess of Buccleuch), were not affected by the attainder.
The offspring of this union were James, Earl of Dalkeith, and Henry, created Earl of Deloraine, Viscount Hermitage, and Baron Scott, in 1706, which titles expired with the 4th Earl in 1807.

The Duchess married secondly, Charles, 3rd Lord Cornwallis, and at Her Grace's demise, in 1732, was succeeded by her grandson,

FRANCIS, 2nd Duke (1695-1751), son of Lord Dalkeith.

His lordship obtained a restoration of the earldom of Doncaster, and barony of Scott, of Tindale, in 1743.

He wedded, in 1720, the Lady Jane, eldest daughter of James, 2nd Duke of Queensbury, by whom he had issue, a son, and three daughters who died unmarried, with Francis, Earl of Dalkeith, who died in the lifetime of his father, but left a son, Henry, and a posthumous daughter by his countess, Caroline, eldest daughter and co-heiress of John, Duke of Argyll.

The Duke of Buccleuch married secondly, Miss Powell; by whom, however, His Grace had no issue.

He died in 1751, and was succeeded by his grandson,

HENRY, 3rd Duke (1746-1812), KG KT;
Seats ~ Bowhill, Selkirk; Boughton House, Kettering; Drumlanrig Castle, Thornhill, Dumfriesshire.

The Dukes owned a further 17,965 acres of land in Northamptonshire.

DRUMLANRIG CASTLE, Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, was built in the late 1600s by William, 1st Duke of Queensbury, on the site of the former 14th & 15th century Douglas stronghold.

The present Castle was created as a mansion in the 17th century, by which time defensive ramparts had given way to comfortable living and large, airy windows.

An earlier, more defensive castle had been built in the middle of the 14th century by the Douglases.

Drumlanrig is built of local pink sandstone on a hill (Drum) at the end of a long ridge overlooking the Nithsdale Hills and the valley of the river Nith.

It was rebuilt with a central courtyard and was in a good enough state to receive JAMES VI on his visit to Scotland in 1617.

Between 1679-91, William, 3rd Earl of Queensberry (later 1st Duke) built a new, large mansion, following the earlier courtyard layout.

Despite almost bankrupting himself as a result of creating his new home, the Duke spent only one night in the building, decided he didn't like it - and returned to Sanquhar Castle.

His son, however, moved in after inheriting the title and estates. Bonnie Prince Charlie spent a night there on his retreat from Derby.

After being allowed to become derelict in the 18th century, Drumlanrig passed to the Duke of Buccleuch, head of the Scott family, in 1810, following a merger of the Douglas and Scott dynasties.

The castle was restored in 1827 and is still the Dumfriesshire home of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry (though his main residence is at Bowhill House in the Scottish Borders).

It is also home to part of the internationally renowned Buccleuch Art Collection. featuring such treasures as Rembrandt’s The Old Woman Reading as well as many other fine paintings, tapestries and objects d’art.

Grand reception rooms, magnificent staircases and ornate period features sit happily beside cosy parlours and the Stableyard, now housing the Stableyard Studios and Stableyard Cafe.

First published in November, 2013.   Buccleuch arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Belle Isle: Epilogue

Esmond Brown with Lavinia Baird at Belleisle Courtyard, 1972


It was quite by chance, when browsing on the Internet one evening, that I came across your blog and article about Belle Isle.

It was extraordinary that I should stumble upon it at that time, for the article had only just been posted. 

I made contact with your good self and explained I had been brought up in Belle Isle Castle.

I was most surprised by your interest.

I owe you a real debt of gratitude for the encouragement that I should share some of my recollections and you have been very kind in publishing a number of these articles.

I had been meaning for years to put down on paper all that I remembered of what had been an extraordinary upbringing and you have given me the push I needed to do just that.

 I am the only one who remains from that period, with the exception of my brother Gerald who came on the scene from 1959 onwards.

I have decided to make this my last article.

I want to stop before someone asks me to shut up!

I thought it would be appropriate that these last recollections should be about Nicholas Porter, Lavinia Baird and Belle Isle itself.



Nicholas Porter had been educated at public school in England.

As a young man, he had worked with horses in Argentina.

When World War One broke out, Nicholas returned and fought alongside his elder brother, John Grey Porter. 

They were posted together with the 9th Lancers.

Nicholas’s brother was second-in-command but was killed in a battle at Cambria.

Nicholas was shot in the same action and lost the use of one of his arms, but survived.

Nicholas also had a younger brother, William Waucoup; and two sisters, Audley Josephine and Coralie, better known as Cosie.

William Waucoup died at Belle Isle when he was aged fifteen, from appendicitis.

Of Nicholas’s sisters, Audley Josephine married James Baird, a Scottish landowner from Fife; and her daughter, Lavinia, became the next heiress to Belle Isle. 

The estate was entailed, Nicholas Porter had no children and, ultimately, Lavinia succeeded him in 1973.

The second sister, Coralie, married twice. Her first husband was Sir Merrick Burrell

There are photographs of the glittering wedding party at Belle Isle around 1920.

Coralie’s second marriage was to Captain Richard Outram Hermon of Necarne Castle in Irvinestown (formally Castle Irvine), who’s own history became closely associated with Belle Isle in later years.

Nicholas had become the heir to Belle Isle upon the death of his elder brother, John Grey, and inherited in the 1930s when his father, John Porter Porter, died. 

By this time the demesne of Belle Isle had reduced to around 450 acres.

Nicholas had been married as a young man but his wife, Amy Gunther, died in the 1930s.

He never remarried.



Nicholas was every inch the country gentleman, a very courteous and charming man.

He was typically dressed in tweeds and always wore a tie and jacket.

Nicholas sported a moustache and beard, had a sunny disposition, a twinkle in his eyes and was liked throughout the county. 

He always carried a very large, brightly coloured silk handkerchief and was known to produce one with a flourish in St Michael’s Church at Derrybrusk on Sundays and blow his nose loudly, much to the amusement of the assembled congregation!

The Belle Isle Pew was at the front of the church on the left hand side.

As a child I often accompanied Mr Porter to church and sat with him.

Not by choice, I might add, but it was one of the things Mr Porter was particular about. 

With the exception of Nicholas Porter, the Belle Isle household was not a church-going one.

I think he saw me as a young heathen, in need of Christian instruction, and I was marched off to church on a regular basis!

Nicholas's sneezes and nose-blowing used to make me squirm in church because I knew all eyes were looking at our backs.

Nicholas, however, was blissfully unaware of the effect this simple act caused.

He was confident and secure in his position and gave the service his full attention!

Nicholas Porter was easy going and had a tolerant and understanding nature: The matter of attending church was an exception.

He did have one other eccentricity: he would sometimes insist that every young person who happened to be on the Island of Belle Isle salute him if he drove past in his Land Rover or car. 

Other times he did not bother!

On one occasion, walking home from school and self-absorbed, I neglected to salute and received a severe ticking off - not from him directly but from my mother, to whom he had complained.

I did, however, have an affectionate relationship with Nicholas Porter as a boy.

I would tramp round the fields with him when he went on his regular inspections around the place at that time.

He often walked round the fields and took a great interest in everything that was going on. 

He would sometimes take me into Lisbellaw, the village a few miles distant from the castle, in his Land Rover when he drove there to pick up his newspapers.

Almost inevitably he would buy me some sweets in Nawn's

He was always good to me and I spent a lot of time in his company when I was small.

I often went to talk to him in the morning- room at Belle Isle Castle where he had his desk and wireless.

It was his favourite room and the one he used most of all.



Nicholas Henry Archdale Porter was without issue.

The estate of Belle Isle had been entailed for three generations.

The third generation and Nicholas’s heiress was his niece, Lavinia Baird.

Lavinia’s father was William James Baird, of Elie, Fife in Scotland.

Her mother was Audley Josephine Porter, Nicholas Porter’s sister, who had been raised at Belle Isle. William and Audley were married in 1918.

William was a member of the Baird shipping family and he inherited the Elie Estate at Fife in Scotland. 

William James and Audley Josephine were divorced after eighteen years in 1936. Lavinia, who had been born in 1923, was fifteen years old when her parents parted.

Audley Josephine relocated to Rutlandshire.

Lavinia was brought up at Elie and subsequently in Rutlandshire.

In her adult life Lavinia became involved with St John’s Ambulance and was the County Superintendent of St John’s Ambulance Brigade between 1955 and 1957.

She was invested as an officer of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in 1956. 

She was also Staff Officer to the Superintendent in Charge between 1959 and 1960.

She worked closely with Lady Mountbatten.

I recall my mother telling me Lavinia had been Lady Mountbatten’s aide-de-camp and travelled extensively with her all over the world. 

Lavinia apparently had dined at Buckingham Palace and was acquainted with the Queen.

Lavinia also kept a bolt-hole in London at Ashley Gardens.



The first I knew of Lavinia were comments overheard at Belle Isle at the time when her mother, Audley Josephine, died in 1952.

Lavinia was reputed, at that time, to have said “Oh, it is just one of those things!” 

The general opinion was that she must be a cold fish indeed! However, because Miss Baird was the heir to Belle Isle, she could not be ignored.

Large wooden crates started to arrive at Belle Isle in the 1950s.

These were deposited in the empty seventeenth century wing.

They contained items from the properties that Lavinia had sold in Scotland and Rutland and that she intended to relocate to Belle Isle.

My father was charged with unpacking some of them.

It was a delicate task for they contained, among other things, complete dinner services of enormous proportions and porcelain objects d’art.

I remember that in many instances they were lovely.

What I would not have appreciated at that time was that they were probably worth a fortune!

Lavinia had started to come and stay at Belle Isle regularly and these visits increased as the years went on.

She was installed in the blue bedroom overlooking the Lough and I was kept out of the way when I was little.

I remember hearing her voice which was very posh!

The most clipped and refined tones of the Queens English; a lazy, well-modulated drawl!

I eventually met Lavinia and she turned out to be very nice indeed.

She had a ready laugh, a terrific sense of humour and was as sharp as a needle!

She was genuinely interested in everything and everyone. 

She took a shine to my mother and my father had a great respect for her.

Lavinia became involved in Belle Isle many years before Nicholas Porter died and spent a lot of money on the fabric of Belle Isle even before she inherited it. 

Her involvement in the local farming community in Fermanagh is well documented, so I will not repeat those details here.

Instead here are some amusing anecdotes extracted from a chapter I have written about Lavinia Baird.

My mother, Pearl, and Miss Baird got on very well; Lavinia would follow my mother around as she worked, chatting away to her.

I wished I had taken more notice of the tales my mother told me at the time.

Lavinia could be heard from quite a distance, “what should we do with this Purll?” or “I rather like that, Purll, do you think it might do?” 

My mother’s name Pearl translated by Lavinia’s dulcet tones into Purll and sounded very grand!

My mother would invariably agree, “I think that is just right, Madam,” or something along those lines. 

It would be wrong to say my mother always agreed: she would give her opinion freely, but often she would go with the flow; she had learnt that ‘madam’ would do as she wanted anyway.

It was amusing to watch Lavinia and my mother together, for my mother would be trying to get on, or reach a point where she could nip out for a cigarette; however madam tended to follow her around...

Huge changes were made in the castle by Miss Baird: The old kitchen was replaced by a new one which was now located in what had been the old servants hall.

The logic behind this was that it was nearer the Gallery and Miss Baird wanted to make the gallery into her dining-room. 

The old dining-room became her drawing-room. Furniture was relocated on a grand scale and everything was moved.

The doors to the rooms in the front hall, and on the upstairs landings, were stripped down to bare wood.

Miss Baird was always talking about the ongoing renovations and asked me once what I thought of the stripped doors.

I was honest and said I did not think they suited the place. Madam was sniffy!

My mother said later that I should just have agreed that they were lovely; madam was going to do what she wanted anyway!

And finally an amusing story told by Miss Baird: on the occasion in question Miss Baird, my mother and I were standing in front of the old dining-room drinks' cupboard.

My mother had been doing some work in the dining-room and I was with her; Miss Baird had made an appearance and, after some general chit-chat, told us a tale concerning her grandmother Josephine Porter at Belle Isle in the past:- 

In the 1920s a house maid at Belle Isle was cause for concern, she appeared to be ‘slightly under the influence’ sometimes, but never bad enough for Mrs Josephine Porter, Nicholas Porter’s mother, or the Housekeeper, who at that time was Daisy McDougal, Dougie’s aunt, to be sure. 

She did her job well enough and could not be faulted but seemed to slur her words occasionally and miss the odd step!

And she smelt of onions!

The story was not exceptional but the telling was hilarious because the very aristocratic and well spoken Miss Baird adopted a slight stagger and started to slur her words, “I never did, madam. I don’t know what you can be thinking, I ain’t done nothing wrong.” 

The upshot of the story was that the maid had been taking the odd ‘nip’ and replacing the spirit with water.

As the need increased so did the watering! 

To the horror of Mrs Porter having dispensed drinks to guests on a social occasion in the 1920s the ruse came to light: "Did you put some water in my Gin, Josephine; I really think it is a bit orf!” 

Mrs Porter was mortified that she was serving watered drinks!

Needless to say the maid was dismissed and the spirit cupboard was locked from then on!


THANK YOU for reading my little articles.

I hope they have provided some flavour of a time that has gone forever and trust that I have not disturbed the peace of those who have gone before. 

First published in April, 2010.