Sunday, 31 July 2022

Ram's Island

Ram's Island is on the eastern side of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles.

It lies across the entrance of Sandy Bay, the place where we departed on the 7th July, 2018, for our trip to the tiny island.

In fact Ram's Island used to be considerably tinier, because the water level of the lough has been lowered by about eight feet since 1847.

Prior to 1847, the island extended to a mere six acres; whereas today it comprises over forty acres, a cause of some debate between the owner of the island and the owner of the lake-bed.

This little islet was greatly beautified in the 18th century by a previous owner, James Whittle, who planted a profusion of shrubs and trees, laid out an orchard and a garden, and maintained it all most assiduously.

The short journey from Sandy Bay to the island takes less than ten minutes.

We embarked on the good boat Island Warrior and motored across the stretch of water (which occasionally froze over in the past) to a large jetty, where we all disembarked.

There is an old barge adjacent to the jetty, used as a kind of visitor centre for catering and so on.

Refreshed with a good beaker of tea and a bun, we were given a tour by our guide, Michael Savage, who showed us the ancient round tower and the ruins of Lord O'Neill's former cottage.

I should mention that the stump of the tower, about forty-three feet in height, thirty feet in circumference, stands among tall trees.

Its walls are almost three feet in thickness.

This charming islet is a haven today for doves, ducks, blackbirds, finches, even a few hens!

It had a herd of goats until twenty or thirty years ago.

Ram's Island had a monastery in the 11th century, which was seemingly destroyed or plundered by a local tribe in 1121.

Una Brankin wrote an interesting article in 2013 about life on Ram's Island and its resident caretakers.

Lord O'Neill's Cottage  (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2018)

Charles, 1st Earl O'Neill, purchased the island in 1804 for £1,000 (about £95,000 today) and erected a singularly pretty and tasteful cottage.
The 1st (and last) Earl never married. He spent a great deal of time on Lough Neagh, and in a number of cottages which he built at various points in and around the lough. He kept several yachts, including one of the very first steam-powered vessels.
Lord O'Neill adopted it as his occasional residence, and converted the island into a most luxurious demesne.

The entire ground was laid out into walks, and covered with lush green flora.

Several hundred rose trees, exquisite plants and flowers all thrived luxuriantly.

Even those sides of the island which were almost perpendicular were adorned with all those creeping plants and hardy shrubs which were suitable for the location.

The 1st and last Earl also built a resident caretaker's residence.

Lord O'Neill's cottage stands almost directly below the round tower, the remains of which still dominate its roofless shell today.

It was maliciously burnt to the ground in 1944, some seven years after the last caretaker had left the island.

The O'Neill coat-of-arms proudly adorned the front of the cottage overlooking the lough, between two gothic windows, though I examined the walls myself and absolutely nothing remains today to indicate its existence.

There is still some plasterwork inside, though scorch-marks betray the ferocious fire which engulfed the cottage over seven decades ago.

Pebble-dashing (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2018)

It was pebble-dashed, with a very wide, overhanging thatched roof.

This history aroused my interest to the extent that I wrote a bit about the cottage some years ago.

In 2005, Lord O'Neill signed a thirty-year lease with the River Bann and Lough Neagh Association for the custodianship of the island.

During our tour I asked Michael if the O'Neills still had photographs of their times on the island, though he explained that in 1922 the Victorian Shane's Castle had been maliciously burnt, thus destroying all mementoes and Victorian photographs.

Lord O'Neill remarked that their first priority, naturally, had been to save valuable works of art, furniture and so on, and the likes of photographs perished.

So if any readers possess old images of Ram's Island in their attics or lofts, send them to me, please, for publication on the blog.

Our island trip concluded at about three-thirty in the afternoon, and we left a dozen or so campers outside their tents nestling in the woods.

First published in July, 2018.

Saturday, 30 July 2022

1st Baron Mountjoy

The origin and history of this most ancient and distinguished family has been elaborately investigated by Sir Alexander Croke, of Studley Priory, Oxfordshire, who traces it from the Counts of Guînes, in Picardy, France, a race of nobles descended themselves from the Scandinavian rulers of Denmark.

It gave birth to three distinct races of peers, viz. the Lords of Guînes, in France; the Barons of Ixworth, in Suffolk (which barony ceased with Sir William Blount, Baron of Ixworth, who was slain fighting under the banner of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, at the battle of Lewes, and subsequently attainted, by Parliament, in the reign of HENRY III); and the Barons Mountjoy, of Thurveston, Derbyshire, which barony expired in 1681.

RUDOLPH, 3rd Count of Guînes, had three sons by his wife, Rosetta, daughter of the Count of Saint-Pol, all of whom accompanied the NORMAN in his expedition against England, in 1066; and, contributing to the triumph of their chief, shared amply in the spoils of conquest.

One of the brothers returned to his native country; the other two adopted that which they had so gallantly helped to win, and abided there.

Of these,

SIR ROBERT LE BLOUNT was the first feudal Baron of Ixworth, but of him presently.

SIR WILLIAM LE BLOUNT was a general of foot at Hastings, and had grants of seven Lordships in Lincolnshire.

MARIA LE BLOUNT, sole heiress of her line, marrying, in the next century, SIR STEPHEN LE BLOUNT, united the families of the two brothers.

The elder son,

SIR ROBERT LE BLOUNT, had the command of WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR's ships of war, and was styled "DUX NAVIUM MILITARIUM."

His portion of the Spolia Opima embraced thirteen manors in Suffolk, of which county he was the first feudal baron of Ixworth (the place of his abode), and Lord of Orford Castle.

Sir Robert married Gundreda, youngest daughter of Henry, Earl Ferrers, and had a son and heir,

GILBERT LE BLOUNT, 2nd Baron of Ixworth; from whom we pass to

WILLIAM LE BLOUNT, 6th Baron of Ixworth, who was standard-bearer to Simon de Montfort, and fell at the battle of Lewes, 1264.

He was attainted, and the Barony of Ixworth forfeited.

Sir William left no issue, so that the representation of the family devolved upon his uncle,

SIR STEPHEN LE BLOUNT, who wedded, as stated, MARIA LE BLOUNT, heiress of Saxlingham, and had two sons,
ROBERT, his heir;
The elder son,

SIR ROBERT BLOUNT, espoused Isobel, daughter and co-heir of the feudal Lord of Odinsels, by whom he acquired the Manor of Belton, Rutland, and had issue (with two other sons),

SIR WILLIAM BLOUNT, who married the Lady Isobel de Beauchamp, daughter of William, 1st Earl of Warwick, and had a son,

SIR WALTER LE BLOUNT, of Warwickshire, who wedded Johanna, third sister and co-heir of Sir William de Sodington, and acquired the Estate of Sodington, Worcestershire.

Sir Walter died in 1332, and was succeeded by his elder son,

SIR WILLIAM LE BLOUNT, who wedded Margaret, daughter and co-heir of Theobald, 2nd Baron de Verdon, but dying issueless, left his property to his brother,

SIR JOHN BLOUNT, of Sodington, who espoused Isolda, daughter and heir of Sir Thomas Mountjoy, of Derbyshire, whence the title of MOUNTJOY was afterwards assumed as a barony by a member of the family.

Sir John's third son,

SIR WALTER BLOUNT, was father of

SIR THOMAS BLOUNT (1378-1456), who wedded Margery, daughter of Thomas Gresley, and had issue,
Thomas (Sir), 1414-68;
WALTER, of whom hereafter;
The younger son,

SIR WALTER BLOUNT KG (c1416-74), of Thurveston, Derbyshire, espoused firstly, before 1443, Helena, daughter of Sir John Byron, of Clayton, Lancashire, and had issue,
WILLIAM (1442-71), father of EDWARD, 2nd Baron;
JOHN, 3rd Baron;
Anne; Elizabeth.
He married secondly, ca 1467, Anne, widow of Humphrey, 1st Duke of Buckingham.

Sir Walter was elevated to the peerage, in 1465, in the dignity of BARON MOUNTJOY.

His lordship's eldest son, William, was slain at the battle of Barnet, 1471, and he was succeeded by his grandson,

EDWARD, 2nd Baron (1464-75), who dsp, and was succeeded by his uncle,

JOHN, 3rd Baron (c1450-85), who married, ca 1477, Lora, daughter of Edward Berkeley,  and had issue,
WILLIAM, his successor;
Lora; Constance.
THE family line passed uninterruptedly until we come to

CHARLES, 8th Baron (1563-1606), KG, LORD DEPUTY OF IRELAND, 1600-3, LORD LIEUTENANT OF IRELAND, 1603-4, who was created, in 1603, EARL OF DEVONSHIRE.

The 1st Earl died without legitimate issue at Savoy House, London, when the titles expired.

MOUNTJOY CASTLE is located near the village of Mountjoy, County Tyrone, on a hill overlooking Lough Neagh.

The castle was built by the 8th Baron Mountjoy in 1602, and partly burned in 1643 by Captain Turlough Gruama O'Quin.

It is a two-storey brick building and the lower storey is stone-faced on the outside.

The castle comprises a central rectangular block with four spear-shaped angle towers with gun loops.

The northwest tower is partly demolished and the west curtain wall destroyed.

The entrance was on the south side of the east curtain wall.

On the first floor there are some wide windows.

Mountjoy Fort

MOUNTJOY FORT, which stood near the castle on the south-western edge of Lough Neagh, was discovered by a team of archeologists in 2018.

First published in July, 2018.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Louth Hall


This noble family, the eldest branch of the numerous house of PLUNKETT, claims a common ancestor with the Earls of Fingall and the Barons Dunsany; namely, John Plunkett, who was seated, about the close of the 11th century, at Beaulieu, County Louth. From this gentleman descended two brothers, John and Richard Plunkett; the younger of whom was the progenitor of the Earls of Fingall and the Barons Dunsany; and the elder, the ancestor of

SIR PATRICK PLUNKETT, Knight, of Kilfarnan, Beaulieu, and Tallanstown, who was appointed, in 1497, Sheriff of Louth during pleasure.

Sir Patrick married Catherine, daughter of Thomas Nangle, 15th Baron of Navan, and dying in 1508, was succeeded by his eldest son, 

OLIVER PLUNKETT, of Kilfarnon, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1541, in the dignity of BARON LOUTH (second creation).

His lordship wedded firstly, Catherine, daughter and heir of John Rochfort, of Carrick, County Kildare, by whom he had six sons and four daughters; and secondly, Maud, daughter and co-heir of Walter Bath, of Rathfeigh, by whom he had two sons and two daughters.

He was succeeded at his decease by his eldest son,

THOMAS, 2nd Baron (c1547-71), who married Margaret, daughter and heir of Nicholas Barnewall, and was succeeded at his decease by his eldest son,

PATRICK, 3rd Baron (1548-75), who wedded Maud, daughter of Lord Killeen; but dying  without issue (having been slain by McMahon, in the recovery of a prey of cattle, at Essexford, County Monaghan), the title devolved upon his brother,

OLIVER, 4th Baron; who having, with the Plunketts of Ardee, brought six archers on horseback to the general hosting, at the hill of Tara, 1593, was appointed to have the leading of County Louth.

He married firstly, Frances, daughter of Sir Nicholas Bagenall, Knight Marshal of Ireland, by whom he had five sons and three daughters; and secondly, Genet Dowdall, by whom he had no issue.

His lordship died in 1607, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

MATTHEW, 5th Baron, who wedded Mary, daughter of Sir Richard Fitzwilliam, of Meryon, and had four sons.

His lordship died in 1629, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

OLIVER, 6th Baron (1608-79);
Who, joining the Royalists in 1639, was at the siege of Drogheda, and at a general meeting of the principal Roman Catholic gentry of County Louth, held at the hill of Tallaghosker. His lordship was appointed Colonel-General of all the forces to be raised in that county; and in the event of his lordship's declining the same, then Sir Christopher Bellew; and upon his refusal, then Sir Christopher Barnewall, of Rathasker. This latter gentleman accepted the said post of Colonel-General, for which he was imprisoned, in 1642, at Dublin Castle, and persecuted by the usurper Cromwell's parliament.
His lordship married Mary, Dowager Viscountess Dillon, second daughter of Randal, 1st Earl of Antrim, and was succeeded at his demise by his only son,

MATTHEW, 7th Baron; who, like his father, suffered by his adhesion to royalty, having attached himself to the fortunes of JAMES II.

His lordship died in 1639, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

OLIVER, 8th Baron (de jure) (1668-1707);
Who, upon taking his seat in parliament, was informed by the Chancellor that his grandfather, Oliver, 6th Baron, had been outlawed in 1641; and not being able to establish the reversal of the same, the dignity remained, for the two subsequent generations, unacknowledged in law.
His lordship was succeeded by his only son, by Mabella, daughter of Lord Kingsland,

MATTHEW, 9th Baron (de jure) (1698-1754), who was succeeded by his eldest son,

OLIVER, 10th Baron (de jure) (1727-63), who wedded Margaret, daughter of Luke Netterville, and had issue,
THOMAS, his successor;
Susannah; Anne.
His lordship was succeeded by his elder son,

THOMAS OLIVER, 11th Baron (1757-1823), who had the outlawry of his great-grandfather annulled, and was restored to his rank in the peerage in 1798.

He married, in 1808, Margaret, eldest daughter of Randal, 13th Lord Dunsany, and had issue,
THOMAS, his successor;
Randall Matthew;
Charles Dawson;
Henry Luke;
Edward Sidney.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

THOMAS OLIVER, 12th Baron (1809-49), who espoused, in 1830, Anna Maria, daughter of Philip Roche, of Donore, County Kildare, by Anna Maria, his wife, youngest daughter of Randall, Lord Dunsany, and had issue,
RANDAL PERCY OTWAY, his successor;
Thomas Oliver Westenra;
Algernon Richard Hartland;
Augusta Anna Margaret; another daughter.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

RANDAL PERCY OTWAY, 13th Baron (1832-83) an officer in the 79th Highlanders.

14th Baron Louth

RANDAL PILGRIM RALPH, 14th Baron (1868-1941), JP DL, was an officer in the Westminster Dragoons and the Wiltshire Regiment, and served in the First and Second World Wars.

The 14th Baron, though not prominent in politics, did take part in public life: He was a member of the Irish Reform Association, and took part in the campaign for a Catholic University. In politics he was a Unionist. His papers show that he was an active sportsman and also travelled widely.
He sold most of the estate soon after the 1903 Wyndham Land Act. He died in 1941, and was succeeded by his only surviving son Otway, briefly 15th Baron, before his death in 1950.

Louth Hall and demesne at Tallanstown were sold and the family settled at Jersey, Channel Islands.

The 16th Baron died at Jersey, Channel Islands, on the 6th January, 2013, aged 83.

The title now devolves upon his lordship's eldest son, the Hon Jonathan Oliver Plunkett, born in 1952. 

LOUTH HALL, the ancestral demesne of the Barons Louth, is in the parish of Tallanstown, 2½ miles south of the village of Louth, County Louth.

The mansion is a three-storey Georgian house, built ca 1760, now in ruins.

There is a shallow, projecting, curved bow to the east of south elevation of ca 1805; and a tower-house to west of ca 1350.

The roof is not visible, hidden behind a crenellated parapet.

The Plunkett family crest is above the pediment.

Louth Hall is situated within what is now a field, with ranges of random rubble stone outbuildings of ca 1805, arranged around three yards; remains of walled garden to west; artificial lake to south, dovecote to south-west.

Entrance gates to north-east on roadside comprising tooled limestone squared piers, cast-iron gates, flanked by pedestrian gates and curving quadrant plinth surmounted by cast-iron railings.

This house was the home of the Plunkett family from the later medieval until the early-20th century. 

The 14th Baron sold most of the estate soon after the 1903 Wyndham Land Act.

He died in 1941, and his only surviving son, Otway, was briefly 15th Baron Louth, before his death in 1950.

The house and demesne were also sold, some years after the estate, and the family settled in Jersey, Channel Islands.

The continuity of occupation is reflected in the architectural changes, the migration from tower house to Georgian mansion.

A fire in 2000 destroyed delicate early 19th century interior plasterwork.

The archaeological, architectural and historical associations of this building are as immense as the structure itself. 

First published in March, 2013.  Louth arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

House of Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell (son of Walter Cromwell, a blacksmith at Putney), upon his return from foreign service under the Duke of Bourbon, obtained a situation in the suite of Cardinal Wolsey, and, after the fall of that celebrated prelate, was taken into the service of the King (at HENRY VIII's special command, from his fidelity to his old master), in which he evinced so much zeal and ability, that the road to the highest honours of the state presented very soon an unimpeded course for his ambition.

In a short time he filled successively the important situations of Master of the Jewel Office, Clerk of the Hanaper, Principal Secretary, Justice of the Forests, Master of the Rolls, and Lord Privy Seal, and was elevated to the peerage, in 1536, in the dignity of BARON CROMWELL, of Oakham. He was afterwards constituted the King's Vice-Regent of Spirituals, honoured with the Garter, and finally created EARL OF ESSEX, when he was invested with the Lord High Chamberlainship of England.

His instrumentality in allying the King with Anne of Cleves was the rock upon which his fortunes foundered. Unprepared for such a proceeding, Cromwell was arrested, under the King's especial order, by the Duke of Norfolk, at the Control Board, 1540, hurried off to the Tower, attainted unheard, and beheaded, notwithstanding Archbishop Cranmer's powerful exertions in his behalf; and all the honours of the ex-minister were of course forfeited under the attainder; but his son, Gregory, who, in his lifetime, had been summoned to Parliament as Lord Cromwell, had that dignity confirmed to him in the December following his father's execution.

Thomas Cromwell

SIR GREGORY CROMWELL KB (c1514-51), born at Putney, Surrey, was tutored by Richard Southwell and attended Cambridge University.

In 1539, he was summoned to Parliament as Lord Cromwell, servant of HENRY VIII, and in 1540 he was created BARON CROMWELL.

He wedded Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Seymour, sister of Edward, Duke of Somerset, and widow of Sir Anthony Oughtred; by whom he had three sons, of whom the eldest,

HENRY, 2nd Baron (1538-92), summoned to parliament in the reign of ELIZABETH I, wedded Mary, daughter of John, Marquess of Winchester.

His elder son,

EDWARD, 3rd Baron (1559-1607), was with the Earl of Essex in his expedition at sea against the Spaniards, and joined in the insurrection three years afterwards, which cost Lord Essex his head.

The 3rd Baron, however, received an especial pardon in 1601. 

His lordship, having alienated his estates in England by sale, purchased the barony of Lecale in County Down from Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport, or "made an exchange thereof".

He married twice, and, dying in Ulster, was succeeded by his son,

THOMAS, 4th Baron (1594-1653), who was created by CHARLES I, in 1624, Viscount Lecale. 

His lordship was advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1645, as EARL OF ARDGLASS.
Lord Ardglass remained firmly attached to the interests of the King during the civil wars, notwithstanding his friendship with the Earl of Essex. 

Ardglass was an important town during the middle ages, which would explain Cromwell's choice of title.

The 1st Earl was commander of the Regiment of Horse in Ireland for CHARLES I during the Civil War; and subsequently made his peace with Parliament, paying £460 for his "delinquency".
The 1st Earl married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Robert Meverell, of Throwleigh, Staffordshire.

He was succeeded by his eldest son, 

WINGFIELD, 2nd Earl (1622-68), who was educated at Stone School in Staffordshire; matriculated at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1637/8; was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Laws at Oxford University in 1642. In 1649, he was taken prisoner in the Royalist cause.

His only son,

THOMAS, 3rd Earl (1653-82), married a daughter of the Most Rev Michael Boyle, Lord Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland; but dying without issue, 1682, the family honours reverted to his uncle,

VERE ESSEX, 4th Earl (1623-87), PC, a son of the 1st Earl, who married, in 1672, Catherine Hamilton.

He died at Bonecastle, County Down, and was buried at Downpatrick Abbey [Down Cathedral].

Lord Ardglass was educated at Stowe School and at Finstock, Oxfordshire.

This nobleman married, though died without male issue, when the titles expired; except the barony of CROMWELL, originating in the writ of 1539, devolved upon his daughter,

ELIZABETH CROMWELL, as Baroness Cromwell, in which rank her ladyship assisted at the funeral of MARY II, and the coronation of Queen Anne.

She wedded the Rt Hon Edward Southwell MP, Principal Secretary of State in Ireland, and had issue, two sons and a daughter, who all died sine prole; and another, a son, Edward Southwell, who, marrying Catherine, daughter of Edward Watson, Viscount Sondes, and sole heiress of her brothers, Lewis and Thomas, Earls of Rockingham.

Her ladyship's son,

EDWARD SOUTHWELL (1705-55), succeeded to the barony of DE CLIFFORD.

The Lady Cromwell died in 1709, and the barony of CROMWELL is now considered to be vested in the Barons de Clifford.

Dundrum Castle was held by the 1st Earl between 1605-36.

The colours of Downpatrick High School's crest are taken from the arms of Elizabeth, Baroness Cromwell, owner of the Downpatrick estate.

The Earls of Ardglass were landlords of most of the barony of Lecale.

Dr Eileen Black has written about the Southwells here.

The lands of Lecale were held, prior to the Reformation, either by the great religious corporations in Downpatrick or by the descendants of the early English colonists.

The Church lands, having become vested in the Crown, were leased to the Earl of Kildare and, after the expiration of that lease, came into the possession of the Cromwells, Earls of Ardglass.

They still form the Downpatrick estate, except large portions of them that have been sold or leased by the Cromwells or their descendants.

The estates held by the descendants of the early English colonists were almost all confiscated under the Act of Settlement, after the termination of the civil wars of 1641.
Throwley Old Hall, Staffordshire, was a seat of the Cromwells through marriage. Elizabeth, the last of the Meverells, married Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's chief minister, responsible for the disillusion of the monasteries. A descendant of them was Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector.
The writer and poet Charles Cotton married into the Cromwell family in 1669 – his 2nd wife Mary was a widow of Wingfield Cromwell. He spent time fishing the local river with his great friend Izaak Newton and building his famous fishing lodge on the River Dove.
Following the Cromwells the house passed to the last Baron de Clifford, Edward Southwell, who sold to Sir Samuel Crompton in 1790, who let the property to the reputable Phillips family.
Several members of the family are interred at Down Cathedral. The 1st Earl held Dundrum Castle between 1605-36.

Ardglass arms courtesy of European Heraldry.   First published in February, 2012.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

The Capper Series: I

Wilfrid Capper MBE (1905-98) was a former Northern Ireland civil servant whose true passion was for the preservation and conservation of the countryside.

He conceived and created The Ulster Way.

The following article is a selective extract from Caring for the Countryside: A History of 50 Years of the Ulster Society for the Preservation of the Countryside, published in 1987.

Coney Island, Lough Neagh

"IT has never been the policy of the Society to acquire land or property itself, though it has helped to raise funds for special places."

"However, we made an exception for Coney Island in Lough Neagh, in rather unusual circumstances."

"I had come to know Lord Charlemont, the owner, through the Youth Hostel Association and he rang me up one day to ask me if  I would like an island."

"I was rather taken aback and asked what island."

"Coney," he said, "I think you would appreciate it."

"I thought it was rather like offering a pet dog to someone he thought would look after it."

"Lord Charlemont then found he could not give it away and would have to charge even a nominal sum for it."

"The minimum price he could charge was £300 and I could have it for that amount."

"In 1946 I had not even £300 [about £12,400 in today's money] to spend on an island so our society undertook to raise the money by public subscription."

"We then gave the island to the National Trust and allowed the Portadown Scouts to use it for training purposes."

"Oddly enough I did later buy an island in Strangford Lough [Inisharoan Island] for the same £300."

"I failed to acquire an island in Lough Erne, so as Hitler once said, "This is my last territorial claim."

First published in October, 2019.

1st Earl of Belmore

The paternal name of this family was LOWRY.

JAMES WILLIAM LOWRY, of Ballymagorry, County Tyrone, removing to Ulster from Scotland during the reign of CHARLES II, was father of

JOHN LOWRY, of Aghenis, County Tyrone, who married firstly, a daughter of ______ Hamilton, of Ballyfallow, and by her, who died at Londonderry during its celebrated siege in 1689, had issue,
William, went to the East Indies;
Elizabeth; Margaret; Mary.
Mr Lowry wedded secondly, Miss Mary Buchanan, a Scottish lady, and had further issue,
John, died unmarried;
ROBERT, of whom we treat;
Catharine; Rebecca; Anne; Jane.
The only surviving son,

ROBERT LOWRY, of Aghenis, married Anne, daughter of the Rev James Sinclair, and had three sons, namely,
Robert, dsp;
James (Rev), founded the branch seated at Pomeroy House.
The second son and eventual heir,

Galbraith Lowry-Corry MP (Image: The National Trust)

(1706-69), of Aghenis, MP for County Tyrone, 1748-68, wedded Sarah, second daughter and co-heir of Colonel John Corry MP, and had issue,

ARMAR, his successor;
Anne, m William, 1st Earl of Enniskillen.
Mr Lowry was succeeded by his son,

ARMAR LOWRY (1740-1802), MP for County Tyrone, 1768-81, who assumed the additional surname and arms of CORRY.

Mr Lowry-Corry was elevated to the peerage, in 1781, in the dignity of Baron Belmore, of Castle Coole, County Fermanagh.

1st Earl of Belmore (Image: the National Trust)

His lordship was advanced to a viscountcy, in 1789, as Viscount Belmore; and further advanced, in 1797, to the dignity of an earldom, as EARL OF BELMORE.

He espoused, in 1772, the Lady Margaret Butler, eldest daughter of Somerset, 1st Earl of Carrick, by whom he had an only surviving child,
SOMERSET, styled Viscount Corry.
His lordship married secondly, in 1780, Harriet, eldest daughter and co-heir of John, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, by whom he had an only daughter, Louisa Mary Anne, who wedded, in 1804, George, 6th Earl of Sandwich.

He married thirdly, in 1794, Mary Anne, daughter of Sir John Caldwell Bt, but by her had no issue.

His lordship was succeeded by his son and heir,

SOMERSET, 2nd Earl (1774-1841), MP for County Tyrone, 1797-1800, Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of Jamaica, 1828-32, who wedded, in 1800, the Lady Juliana Butler, daughter of Henry, 2nd Earl of Carrick, and had issue,
ARMAR, his successor;
Henry Thomas;
2nd Earl of Belmore (Image: the National Trust)

His lordship was succeeded by his elder son,

ARMAR, 3rd Earl (1801-45), High Sheriff of County Fermanagh, 1832, who espoused, in 1834, Emily Louise, daughter of William Shepherd, and had issue,
SOMERSET RICHARD, his successor;
Armar, grandfather of 7th Earl;
Frederick Cecil George;
Henry William.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

SOMERSET RICHARD, 4th Earl (1835-1913), GCMG PC JP, Governor of New South Wales, 1868-72, who married, in 1861, Anne Elizabeth Honoria, daughter of Captain John Neilson Gladstone, and had issue,
ARMAR, his successor;
CECIL, 6th Earl;
Theresa; Florence; Madeline; Mary; Winifred; Edith; Violet; Margaret; Dorothy; Kathleen.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

ARMAR, 5th Earl (1870-1948), JP DL, High Sheriff of County Fermanagh, 1901, Captain, Inniskilling Fusiliers, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

CECIL, 6th Earl (1873-1949), JP DL, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1916, High Sheriff of County Fermanagh, 1922, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his cousin,

GALBRAITH ARMAR, 7th Earl (1913-60), JP DL, Major, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who married, in 1939, Gloria Anthea, daughter of Herbert Bryant Harker, and had issue,
JOHN ARMAR, his successor;
Anthea Geraldine (the Lady Anthea Forde);
Sarah Lilian.
His lordship was succeeded by his only son,

JOHN, 8th and present Earl (1951-), of the Garden House, Castle Coole, who married, in 1984, the Lady Mary Jane Meade, daughter of John, 6th Earl of Clanwilliam, and has issue,
Montagu Gilford George;
Martha Catherine.


JOHN CORRY, former provost of Dumfries in Scotland, settled, in 1639, at Tullynagardy, in the Ards, County Down.

The Corrys were presumably well-known in Newtownards during the 17th and 18th centuries: Another John Corry (1771-1851), a farmer, married Susan White. They farmed at Concord Farm, Tullynagardy, built about 1800, but beside ruins ca 300 years old.

Later in life he established a timber business in Belfast called Corry & Montgomery, in 1814, and it was the foundation of the James P Corry & Company in 1814. John moved to Ballyalton House, beneath Scrabo Hill, after he gave the Tullynagardy farm to his daughter Mary, born in 1794. They called it Concord Farm. John Corry and his wife Susan had eight children.

Yet another branch established the Corry's Star Shipping line. They owned Scrabo Quarries and helped to build early Belfast. One of their ships was named the Jane Porter. Robert Corry is remembered as having introduced Scrabo Stone to Ireland as a building material.

He started the firm originally as building contractors and became a great timber merchant; and he founded a major shipping line.

The original John Corry was appointed a freeman of Belfast in 1654.

Corry spent only a brief period in Belfast and Lisburn before purchasing land in County Fermanagh.

Corry thrived and, in 1646, bought the Coole estate from Roger Atkinson for £860.

Its extent was about 4,576 acres.

He married Blanch Johnston and had a son,

COLONEL JAMES CORRY (1634-1718), MP for Fermanagh, 1692-1718.

This gentleman was appointed by the Duke of Ormonde as captain of the Fermanagh Militia in 1666, was High Sheriff of Fermanagh in 1671, and later became High Sheriff of Monaghan in 1677.

He was promoted to colonel in 1689; elected as a MP for Fermanagh in 1692; Governor of Fermanagh in 1705; and continued to represent the constituency until the time of his demise in 1718.

Colonel Corry was once accused of supporting JAMES II but was acquitted after a year upon confirmation of his loyalty to WILLIAM III.

He was married thrice: First to Sarah Anketill (daughter of Captain Oliver Anketill) to whom he had three daughters and a son named John. 

Unfortunately Sarah died so the Colonel remarried. His second wife was Lucy Mervyn (daughter of Henry Mervyn) to whom he had a daughter who died shortly after birth and Lucy a few years later. 

His third marriage was to Elizabeth Harryman, which was childless and ended in divorce.
Through marriage the Corry family became the Lowry-Corrys.

I have written an article about the Lowrys of Pomeroy here.

As 1st Earl of Belmore, Armar Lowry-Corry's three names represented the three components of his future inheritance: Armar, the valuable church-lands in Fermanagh; Lowry, his paternal estate in Tyrone; and Corry, the remainder of his Fermanagh estate and his country seat.

Belmore Mountain - or Mount Belmore - is a hill in west County Fermanagh.

 I've written about the 8th and present Earl.

In 1852 the Fermanagh estate amounted to 7,140 acres in addition to the 14,900 acres of church-land leased from the Lord Bishop of Clogher; while the Tyrone lands comprised 41,448 acres.

The Belmore estates also encompassed counties Monaghan, Longford, Armagh and Dublin. This amounted, in all, to 72,715 acres.

In 1789 the gross rentals were as follows: Fermanagh church-lands £2,700; Fermanagh estate £1,400; Longford estate plus miscellaneous small properties £1,565; and Tyrone estate £7,130: giving a total rental of £12,795. By 1800 this had increased to £16,645.

The income generated by the estates allowed Castle Coole to be constructed at a cost of £57,000 in 1798, equivalent to approximately £20 million today.

The Belmores were one of the most powerful and influential landed families of their time.

Apart from their County Fermanagh seat, the palatial Castle Coole, the Belmores kept a London house at 56 Eaton Place.

The family live at the Garden House in the grounds of Castle Coole.

Belmore arms courtesy of European Heraldry.   First published in December, 2009.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Craigdun Castle


TORQUIL MacNEILL, chief of the Clan Neill, of Taynish and Gigha, born ca 1380, was constable of Castle Sween, in Knapdale, Argyllshire.

LACHLAN McNEILL, of Terfergus and Losset, Argyllshire, fourth son of Torquil MacNeill, married firstly, Mary McNeill, of Colonsay, and had a large family.

The third son,

NEILL McNEILL, settled in Cushendun, County Antrim, about 1676, and married Rose Stuart, of Garry, in the same county, and was father of

LACHLAN McNEILL, who wedded Jane Macnaghten, of Benvarden, and had several children, of whom the eldest son, 

NEILL McNEILL, of Cushendun, County Antrim, espoused Christian Hamilton, of Londonderry, and was father of

EDMUND McNEILL, of Cushendun, married Elizabeth, daughter of John Hamilton, of Londonderry, and died in 1790.

The eldest son,

EDMUND ALEXANDER McNEILL JP (1787-1879), of Cushendun, County Antrim, married, in 1817, Rose, eldest daughter of Alexander McNeile, and had an only son,

EDMUND McNEILL JP DL (1821-1915), of Craigdun and Cushendun, County Antrim, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1879, who married, in 1851, Mary, eldest daughter of Alexander Miller, of Ballycastle, and had issue,  

1st Baron Cushendun (Image: National Portrait Gallery, London)


CRAIGDUN CASTLE, near Cullybackey, County Antrim, is a Victorian-Baronial style house built of basalt, in 1867, by Edward (Eddie) McNeill.

It comprises two storeys with a gabled attic.

There is a substantial five-storey tower with pepper-pot bartizans.

The drawing-room is notable for its Classical plasterwork ceiling.

The house is said to have thirty rooms in total.

Craigdun Castle is believed to have been designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, who was responsible for many of Northern Ireland’s best known Victorian buildings, including Belfast Castle and Ballywalter House.

The Scottish baronial architecture was a fashionable style of the period, incorporating crow step gables and conical turrets and mock defensive features such as crenellations and arrow slits.

The McNeills owned 609 acres in County Antrim during the 19th century.

Although their original seat was Glenmona House, Cushendun, which was increasingly used for holidays, the family tended to reside at Craigdun.

Today Craigdun comprises a more manageable ten acres.

In 1912, the estate was purchased by a Belfast man, John Percy Stott, and it passed to his daughter Doreen on his death in 1949.

Upon the death of her son, Peter Stott-Martin, from Multiple Sclerosis in 1952, she and her husband, Commander Stott-Martin, bequeathed the castle to the National Health Service as a respite care home for MS sufferers.

Much work was carried out during the 1960-80s, including many internal alterations for the installation of a lift in the early 1980s.

The NHS sold the castle in the early 1990s. William and Romayne Baird owned Craigdun for nine years, till it was bought by Andrew Clark in 2002.

Andrew and Julie Clark were married at Craigdun in 2010 and together they restored the building into a comfortable family home, which featured in the final of the BBC House of the Year programme in 2011.

Craigdun Castle itself remained a private family home, though the walled garden and grounds could be hired as a venue for marquee weddings, receptions and photographs.

The gardens are associated in the past with the early 17th century Craigs Castle.

There are fine mature trees in the shelter belts and parkland, including exotics.

A champion parkland sycamore has a circumference of eleven yards at the base.

The walled garden is adjacent to the house and has a circular pavilion, with a conical slated roof, in one corner.

The two gate-lodges have been demolished.

First published in July, 2012.

The Richardson-Bunbury Baronets

About the time of the rebellion in Ireland, 1641, the RICHARDSONS, who were of Scotland, obtained the castle and estate of Augher, County Tyrone, by the intermarriage of ARCHIBALD RICHARDSON, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1680, MP for Augher, 1692-3, the representative of Sir James Richardson Bt, of Smeaton, Fife, with the daughter of Sir James Erskine. This gentleman neglecting, for some reason or other, to revive the baronetcy of Nova Scotia, to which he was heir, it fell into disuse, and so continues.

Mr Richardson was great-uncle of,

WILLIAM RICHARDSON (c1749-1830), of Augher, County Tyrone was the son of St George Richardson, MP for Augher, 1755-60, by his wife Eliza, eldest daughter of Benjamin Bunbury, of Mount William, County Tipperary.

Mr Richardson, MP for Augher, 1783-90, Ballyshannon, 1798-1801, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1789, was created a baronet in 1787, designated of Augher, County Tyrone.

He married firstly, in 1775, Eliza, daughter of the Rev Galbraith Richardson, and had issue,
JAMES MERVYN, his successor;
Anne; Letitia.
Sir William wedded secondly, Mary, daughter of William Newburgh, and had further issue,
Maria Isabella.
He was succeeded by his son and heir,

SIR JAMES MERVYN RICHARDSON-BUNBURY, 2nd Baronet (1781-1851), of Castle Hill, County Tyrone, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1831, who espoused, in 1810, Margaret, daughter of John Corry Moutray, of Favour Royal, County Tyrone, and had issue,
JOHN, his successor;
William, great-grandfather of 5th Baronet;
Diana; Catherine; Caroline; Isabella; Mary; Emily; Letitia Augusta.
Sir James assumed, in 1822, the additional surname and arms of BUNBURY.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE REV SIR JOHN RICHARDSON-BUNBURY, 3rd Baronet (1813-1909), who married, in 1838, Maria, daughter of William Anketell, of Anketell Grove, County Monaghan, and had issue,
Mervyn Matthew (1841-89), father of  4th Baronet;
Matilda Anne; Olivia Emma.
Sir John's eldest son predeceased him, and he was succeeded by his grandson,

SIR MERVYN WILLIAM RICHARDSON-BUNBURY, 4th Baronet (1874-1952), who died unmarried, when the baronetcy devolved upon his cousin,

SIR (RICHARD DAVID) MICHAEL RICHARDSON-BUNBURY, 5th Baronet (1927-2017), Lieutenant-Commander RN, who married, in 1961, Jane Louise, daughter of Colonel Alfred William Pulverman, and had issue,
Roger Michael (1962-94);
Sir Michael was succeeded by his younger son,

SIR THOMAS WILLIAM RICHARDSON-BUNBURY, 6th and present Baronet (1965-), a solicitor, who wedded, in 2001, Sally Ann, daughter of Rex Lofts, and has issue,
Archie Oliver;
Mollie Olivia; Lily Charlotte.

SPUR ROYAL, or Augher Castle, near Augher, County Tyrone, is a square, three-storey, plantation castle with an unusual triangular tower in the centre of each of its sides.

It was built ca 1615 by Sir Thomas Ridgeway, afterwards Earl of Londonderry (1st creation).

Augher Castle was burnt in 1689; though it was restored about 1832 by Sir James Richardson-Bunbury, 2nd Baronet, who added two castellated wings; thus transforming the old castle into a late-Georgian mansion house.

The Gothic-Medieval-Revival style mansion is built onto the original tower house.

It comprises two storeys with corner bartizans, crenellated parapets and late medieval windows.

The central range is recessed with crenellated balconies over a central, tall, pointed, arch doorway.

The mansion house is set in it own grounds and perched at a height overlooking the Lake.

An estate stone wall abounds the village side, with two entrances to the estate.

On the north-east side of the lake sits the stable-yard with coach houses, a four bedroom cottage, and a large walled garden with hanger and further large storage barn.

The house commands a fine prospect over the garden and lake.

The estate manager’s house is accessed via a separate avenue and it sits amongst a copse of trees over looking the lake.

Spur Royal has passed through many hands in recent times and very little ground remains with the house.

During the Victorian era, the demesne comprised 635 acres.

A large portion of the present holding is taken up by the lake, which makes for a spectacular setting for the house.

It is surrounded by lawns and shelter trees.

Few mature trees remain of a once ‘tastefully wooded’ site.

The walled garden is concreted.

There is a gate lodge of ca 1840.

First published in May, 2012.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Castle Forbes


The surname of Forbes is said to be a corruption of Forebeast, which was originally assumed by the founder of the family in Scotland, to commemorate the achievement of having destroyed a ferocious bear which had infested the country.

SIR ARTHUR FORBES (c1590-1632), Knight, directly descended from the Hon Patrick Forbes, of Corse, third son of James, 2nd Lord Forbes, by Egidia, his wife, daughter of William Keith, Earl Marischal of Scotland, settled in Ireland, 1620, and was made, by patent dated at Dublin, 1622, a free denizen of that kingdom. 

In 1628, Sir Arthur was created a baronet; and having, by petition to the King, made discovery that several royal fishings in the province of Ulster belonged to the Crown, an inquiry was thereupon instituted, and Sir Arthur was eventually rewarded by a grant of such proportion of the said fisheries as he thought proper to demand, besides the sum of £300 from the first profits of the remainder. 

He had previously obtained extensive territorial possessions from the Crown, particularly a grant of sundry lands in County Longford, in all 1,266 acres, which were erected into the manor of Castle Forbes, with the usual manorial privileges.

Sir Arthur wedded Jane Lowther, and falling in a duel at Hamburg, 1632, where he had accompanied his regiment (he was lieutenant-colonel in the army) to assist Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE RT HON SIR ARTHUR FORBES, 2nd Baronet (1623-95), who zealously espoused the royal cause in Scotland, and was rewarded, after the Restoration, by being sworn of the Privy Council in Ireland, and appointed marshal of the army in that kingdom.

In 1671, Sir Arthur was constituted one of the Lords Justices of Ireland, and again in 1675, when he was elevated to the peerage, in the dignities of Baron Clanehugh and Viscount Granard.

In 1684, his lordship was appointed Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Foot in Ireland, and Lieutenant-General in the army; and in the same year was advanced to the dignity of an earldom, as EARL OF GRANARD.

He married Catherine, daughter of Sir Robert Newcomen Bt, by whom he had five sons and a daughter, Catherine, wedded to Arthur, 3rd Earl of Donegall.

His lordship died in 1695, he was succeeded by his eldest son,

ARTHUR, 2nd Earl (c1656-1734), who wedded, in 1678, Mary, eldest daughter of Sir George Rawdon Bt, of Moira, County Down, and had three sons and two daughters.

His lordship was succeeded by his only surviving son,

GEORGE, 3rd Earl (1685-1765), who had been called to the House of Lords in the lifetime of his father, as Lord Forbes.

His lordship was a naval officer of great eminence and rank, and at the time of his decease, was senior admiral of the Royal Navy.

In 1733, he was appointed envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the court of Muscovy; and upon his recall, in 1734, was highly complimented by the Empress.

He espoused, in 1709, Mary, eldest daughter of Sir William Stewart, 1st Viscount Mountjoy, of that family (now extinct), and widow of Phineas Preston, of Ardsallagh, County Meath, and had issue,
GEORGE, his successor;
John, Admiral of the Fleet.
His lordship was succeeded by his elder son, 

GEORGE, 4th Earl (1710-69), Lieutenant-General in the Army, Colonel, 29th Regiment of Foot, MP for Mullingar, 1749-65, who wedded, in 1736, Letitia, daughter of Arthur Davys, and was succeeded at his decease, in 1769, by his only son,

GEORGE, 5th Earl (1740-80), MP for St Johnstown, 1762-8, who married firstly, in 1759, Dorothea, second daughter of Sir Nicholas Bayley Bt, and sister of Henry, 1st Earl of Uxbridge, by whom he had one surviving son, GEORGE, his successor.

His lordship espoused secondly, in 1766, Georgiana Augusta, eldest daughter of Augustus, 4th Earl of Berkeley, and had issue,
Georgiana Anne; Augusta; Louisa Georgiana; Elizabeth.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE, 6th Earl (1760-1837), who was created a peer of the United Kingdom, in the dignity of Baron Granard, of Castle Donington, Leicestershire.

He wedded, in 1779, Selina Frances, fourth daughter of John, 1st Earl of Moira, and had issue,
Francis Reginald;
Hastings Brudenell;
Elizabeth Maria Theresa; Adelaide Dorothea; Caroline Selina.
His lordship was a general in the army, and Clerk of the Crown and Hanaper in Ireland.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, Jonathan Peter Hastings Forbes, styled Viscount Forbes (b 1981).
The ancestral family seat of the Earls of Granard is Castle Forbes, near Newtown Forbes, County Longford.

It remains in the ownership of the family (as of 2008).

The 8th Earl was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Longford, from 1916 until 1922.

CASTLE FORBES, near Newtownforbes, County Longford, is a 19th century castle of random ashlar, built about 1830.

It replaced an earlier house destroyed by fire.

It has two storeys over a high basement, with two adjoining fronts dominated by a lofty, round corner tower.

The house is prolonged by a low service wing and a gateway to the yard in the French style, with a high roof and conical-roofed turret and bartizan added about 1870.

Castle Forbes has heavy battlements and machiolations; lancet windows separated by stone mullions; and a few Early English tracery windows.

There are also corbelled stone balconies with pierced balustrades.

The Castle remains the private home of the Forbes family, Earls of Granard.

The village of Newtownforbes takes its name from the Forbes family, having resided in the region since 1691.

The village church, built in the late 17th century, is one of the few Regency buildings of its type in the county.

Castle Forbes has its entrance in the centre of the village.

The Forbes family changed the name of the village from Lisbrack to Newtownforbes ca 1750.

There is no public access to the Castle or grounds, which are strictly private.

Although Newtownforbes geographically has always been in the shadow of Castle Forbes, it cannot be regarded as an estate village.

There are only a few houses in the centre of the village, near the main entrance to the estate, which were built by the estate owners for the workers on the estate.

They were some of the first houses in the county to have flush toilets.

The present occupant is the Lady Georgina Forbes, although she lives in France (as of 1990) and uses the castle occasionally during the year.

Lady Georgina is an accomplished horse breeder and owner.

First published in May, 2011.  Granard arms courtesy of European Heraldry.