Above: Major H. C. Massy sporting the cap is of the 4/7
Dragoon Guards with its 8 pointed star badge.
(Photo courtesy of P. R. McClintock Bunbury)
On 27th May 1961, Major Hugh Caruthers Massy, formerly of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, married Pamela, Lady Rathdonnell, in St Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny. (1). Pamela, an artist, was the widow of William Robert McClintock Bunbury, 4th Baron Rathdonnell. When the Rathdonnells married 21 years earlier, Hugh Massy had stood as the Baron's Best Man. The new Mrs Massy was also my grandmother.
Creating a specific page for the Major has been a good excuse to re-evaluate the man for whom I was, rather spontaneously, given my third Christian name of 'Hugh' at my christening in 1972. The Major has long held a villain-ish role in our family annals, and yet he appears to have been perfectly popular before the war and relatively helpful to Lisnavagh afterwards. He was pretty frightening when I knew him as a child. I vividly remember him hollering madly at an episode of 'The A Team' I was watching on TV in which the bad guys were Japanese. I concluded that he'd been locked up in a Japanese POW. I was wrong of course. The POW camp where he was locked up was in Italy.
The Massy family of Ireland trace their origins back to General Hugh Massy, a cavalry officer dispatched to suppress the Ulster rebellion of 1641. His forbears appear to have been a Norman family called de Macey from Avranches who came to England with Hugh of Avranches, known as Hugh Lupus, a nephew of William the Conqueror. It is claimed that Sir Hamon de Massey commanded a division of archers at Hastings under Hugh Lupus and was granted considerable possessions in Cheshire as a reward. One of these possessions was an estate at Dunham, which had been confiscated from a Saxon landowner called Alweard. It is notable that nearly a thousand years later, the Major's uncle Rollo was given "Dunham" as one of his middle names. The Massey or Massy family quickly spread throughout the west coast of England. In about 1630, a branch of the Cheshire Masseys emigrated to Salem, Massachusetts; from them descend Hart Almerin Massey, co-founder of Massey-Ferguson. As a child, I was convinced the Major had single-handedly invented these red beauties, a number of which ploughed the furrows of Lisnavagh.
The General's sons secured land in Limerick for their troubles with a family seat at Duntrileague. In 1773, the General's great-grandson, also Hugh Massey, MP, married Mary Dawson, the heiress of Ballynacourte, Co. Tipperary. Three years later, Hugh was elevated to the Peerage of Ireland as 1st Baron Massy. Hugh's great-great-grandfather was the 3rd Baron. By the time the Major was a young man, the baronetcy had devolved upon his distant cousin, also Hugh, 9th Massy, who lived in Stoney Gate in Leicester.
The 3rd Baron's second son, the Hon. George William Massy, was great-grandfather, to The Major. George was born in 1794 and lived at Bellmont, Co. Limerick. He married his first wife - Hugh's great-grandmother - in April 1821. She was Narcissa Smith Barry of Fota Island. Her botanical father, James Hugh Smith Barry, was the man responsible for designing the present layout of the gardens at Fota, building the terraces and high walls and beginning the conversion of "field, wood and swamp into arboretum, water, gardens and semi-tropical jungle". Her brother Arthur Hugh Smith-Barry and in turn her niece Dorothy Bell subsequently continued this tradition. George and Narcissa had three sons, including Hugh's grandfather, before she was drowned on 9 Jan 1831. George was married secondly in 1834 to Mary Jane, eldest daughter of Lt Col. Crosbie of Rusheen, Co. Kerry.
Hugh's grandfather, Hugh Hamon John Massy was born in 1822 and was a Captain in the 44th (the East Essex) Regiment of Foot. As such, he was most likely stationed in Ireland during the Famine years of 1847 and 1848 when four companies from the regiment's 1st Battalion were variously garrisoned at Belfast, Fermoy and Cork before moving to Malta. By the time Captain Massy's marriage on 25th May 1850, these companies had been reunited with the 1st battalion in Malta. The Captain's wife was Annie Margaret, second daughter of Morgan John Evans of Llwyndbarried, Co. Radnor. The Captain seems to have moved his family to the old house of Hazelhurst near Sway in Hampshire. He died on 29th July 1867, only a few months before Drumduan (now Arnewood Court) in Sway became home to Andrew Peterson, the philanthropic millionaire with whom the Captain's son Rollo would be closely involved. The Captain left two sons - (Commander) Hugh and Rollo - while his widow, Annie, survived him until 24th September 1882.
Hugh's father was Lieutenant Commander Hugh Hamon George William Caruthers Massy. The Commander was the firstborn son of his parents, born on 10th March 1851, and succeeded to Hazelhurst when he was 16 years old. He joined the Navy rose to become Commissioner of Income and Land Taxes. He married twice. His first wife, whom he wed in July 1882, was Agnes Henrietta, youngest daughter of John James Edward Hamilton and granddaughter of Admiral Sir Edward Joseph Hamilton, 1st Bt., of Marlborough House. She died on 5th November 1907 without issue. On 10th November 1910, the 59-year-old Commander married Hugh's mother. She was his cousin, Anne Emma Fetherstonhaugh. Her father was Colonel Robert Thomas Thompson, 56th Regt. Her mother, Grace Elizabeth Elinor, was a daughter of Waterloo veteran Lt Col. Hon. John Massy (see APPENDIX 1 below). The Commander died on 6th October 1916 aged 65. His widow died on 13th May 1926.
The Commander's only brother Rollo (Dillon Dunham) Massy - Hugh's uncle - was a civil engineer and sometime Justice of the Peace for Hampshire. He was born on 16 June 1856 and married on 22 Nov 1884 to Emma (d. 27 Oct 1926), daughter of James Inman. They lived within the New Forest.
Rollo's principal legacy, though often unaccredited, was to advise the Yorkshire cement magnate Judge Andrew Petersen (1813-1906) on the construction of the 200 foot high Sway Tower in Lymington, one of the very first examples of high-rise concrete construction, built between 1879 and 1886. It is considered by many to be the tallest un-reinforced concrete structure in the world. Others deem it the tallest folly in the world.
Rollo lived at Hatchett Villa, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, where he died on 1st April 1934, leaving two daughters. * The eldest girl, Annie Narcissa, was born in December 1885 and became a nurse at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London. She died in May 1948, shortly before the hospital became part of the National Health Service. Her sister Louisa Blythe was born in April 1887, lived at Twynham House in Lymington, now headquarters of the local Chamber of Commerce.
* The England & Wales National Probate Calendar of 1934 confirms that RDDM of Hatchett Villa, Brockenhurst, Hampshire died on 1 April 1934 (aged 78). Probate was granted on 5 July 1934 to his daughters Annie Narcissa and Louisa Bythia. Thanks to Carainn Childers.
Hugh Caruthers Massy was born on 25th October 1914. He lost his father at the age of 2 and his mother at the age of 12. Perhaps he and his elder sister then went to stay with his Uncle Rollo? Or maybe they were dispatched to their Thompson cousins?
As the son of a naval officer, Hugh was educated at Pangbourne College on the Thames in Berkshire. Pangbourne was a nautical boarding school founded in 1917 with a view to prepare boys to be officers in the Merchant Navy, but as the merchant fleet dwindled, it became a training ground for many Royal Navy officers. He then went on to Trinity College Cambridge where he presumably met my grandfather, the Hon. Bill (WR) McClintock Bunbury who was reading history.
On August 1-8th 1935, Hugh Massy recorded his name as a guest at Lisnavagh for the first time. This was presumably to coincide with Horse Show Week. Other guests that same week included John and Consie Cherry (Cressy?), Katie Gethin and an aspiring young artist from Westmoreland by name of Pamela Drew. Born in Westmoreland in 1910, Pam was the eldest daughter of John Malcolm Drew, head of an affluent Lancashire cotton-printing family based at Eversley, Dallam Tower and Burnley.
In The Times of Saturday, January 30th 1937, the previous days' London Gazette noted the appointment of two men under the heading of "Cavalry" to be elevated to Second Lieutenant from the Territorial Army - W.R. McClintock Bunbury joined the 15th / 19th Hussars and H.C. Massy joined the 4th / 7th Dragoon Guards.
On 25th November 1937, Bill - by now 4th Baron Rathdonnell - and Pamela were married. Pamela was given away by her brother Anthony Drew. Her sister Diana was the only bridesmaid and the best man was Hugh Caruthers Massy. My aunt Rosebud has photos of Pamela [her mother] outside Heversham Church, 'with crowds assembled, the wind blowing her very long veil as she seems to enter the church, or maybe she is leaving, although she is pointed in the "entering direction"!' There is also one of Bill and Hugh marching down the unpaved streets of Heversham entitled "Get me to the Church on Time"! They got there in time, and the service was officiated by the Bishop of Ossory together with the Archdeacon of Furness, Canon Royds and the Rev ER Ellis. Pamela sported "a greenish-grey check tailor-made suit with a felt hat and jumper to tone". On account of the 3rd Baron's recent death, there was no reception afterwards. The horseracing-mad newlyweds went to Manchester on their honeymoon where they managed to catch the November Handicap. (2)
During the late 1930s, Hugh was dispatched to the Middle East. There is a photograph album in the library at Lisnavagh which shows him gandering across the Gaza strip with the Royal Dragoon Guards in 1939. This ties in with the end of a three-year revolt by the Arabs in Palestine against the British. Irrespective of who is reporting on the conflict, this seems to have been an era of protracted brutality on all sides - including the British army, backed up by the 6,500-strong Jewish auxiliaries, now the "Settlement Hebrew Police" which "developed quickly in its size and organisation … until it became a semi-military militia, armed with rifles and machine guns, and equipped with armoured vehicles". (5) Complemented by internment camps with thousands of prisoners held without trial, a string of fences and "Taggart" forts blocking arms supplies, escape and medical relief, the costs had been too great. For the Palestinians, the battle was over. By the autumn of 1939, buses were running, tax payments were resumed and armed clashes had fallen right off. According to Dimbleby, 3,000 Palestinians died in the 1936 - 1939 Revolt; Palestinian researchers claimed 5,000. (6) At any rate, Hugh's album tends towards cheerful images of Bedouin tribesmen, ancient Crusaders burial chambers and those amazing young girls who can carry 20 tonne pitchers of water on top of their head. It was perhaps during this era that the Major, or my grandmother, came up with the marvelous line, 'No Gin Til Jericho'.
Massy was one of the cavalry officers assigned to give rapid training to the troops at Sandhurst in the early part of the war. The 4th / 7th Royal Dragoon Guards were a cavalry regiment closely allied to the Skins, aka, the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. (3) By 1938, both regiments had been largely mechanised, initially with the 4.5 ton two-man MK2 Light Tank. The last mounted parade took place on 15th August 1938. In April 1939, the regiment was transferred to Royal Armoured Corps and was among the first armoured units to be deployed to France in support of the British Expeditionary Force. They fought alongside the Skins in the desperate but gallant withdrawal to Dunkirk. Both regiments spent the next four years training and re-equipping with heavier tanks in preparation for the Normandy landings. (4)
On 29th August 1943, Hugh was raised from lieutenant to Captain. (7) He was also mentioned in despatches [when?]. Hi promotion must have been affected considerably earlier as, on Saturday 5th December 1942, The Times published the dreaded news that "Hugh Caruthers Massy, Captain, Royal Dragoon Guards, aged 28" had been "missing in the Middle East" since November. According to my father, he was captured by the Italians.
In July 2012, I was contacted by David M. Guss, Professor and Chair of the Dept. of Anthropology at Eaton Hall, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts. Prof. Guss was writing a biography about Alastair Cram, the Scottish mountaineer, soldier, war crimes prosecutor, and colonial judge in Africa during the Mau Mau revolt. An article Prof. Guss forwarded me (published in Faculty News and written by Angus Stewart QC) revealed that Cram made 29 escapes or attempted escapes during the war – a World War Two record – ‘from cages, prisons, camps, hospitals, trains, trucks and marching columns’.
According to Prof. Guss, Alastair Cram left extensive journals in which he mentions Hugh, referring to him as “the imperturbable Hugh Massy.”Cram and Massy became friends when they were prisoners together in both Gavi (Campo 5, or Campo di Concentrattamento, numero 5), and again later in Germany. They must also have continued their relationship while in Kenya. Gavi, the Italian version of Colditz, was a special punishment camp for serial escapers and commandos and occupied an old and utterly impregnable Genoese fortress. They hid together when the Germans took Gavi over right after the Italian Armistice in an attempt to avoid being sent to Germany. Unfortunately, they were discovered and Hugh Massy was sent to Oflag IX A/Z. Rotenberg which was evacuated in April 1945 with the prisoners being liberated by the Americans around two weeks later. A book by Peter Green called 'The March East 1945' was published in 2012 about the Rotenberg camp and the liberation of the prisoners. Cram was also there, escaping from the column along the way.
As Massy appears to have been captured in November 1941, Prof. Guss suggests it was ‘very likely’ at the Battle of Sidi Rezegh, fought during Operation Crusader in Libya during November and December 1941, and described by Sir Geoffrey Cox as ‘the forgotten battle of the Desert War’. [i]
Massy subsequently attempted to escape from Modena, after which he was sent to Gavi. As George Reid Millar, one of his fellow prisoners put it, ‘the hardness of life at Gavi bound all these men into a bond of fellowship so deep that it is difficult to write of it. I am proud to have been a prisoner there’.[ii] Another prisoner, John Cowtan, concurred that 'morale was very high, internal discipline of a high order, escaping continually being planned, food good and vino plentiful'.[iii] Life in a concentration camp gave Massy a lifelong hatred for Italians, and also a penchant for devouring all nibbles left out at drinks parties - peanuts, crisps, parrot crap and such like.
Meanwhile, on D-Day, Hugh's regiment, the 4/7th, as part of the Eighth Armoured Brigade, were the first tanks to land on Gold Beach in Normandy leading the advance on Caen; their tanks were also the first to cross the river Seine and they led the rescue column to Arnhem. (8)
[i] I also seem to think someone told me he was involved in Palestine during the war but Prof. Guss's update seems to throw that out of whack. Palestine was relatively quiet during the Second World War, the major concern being the advance of the Italians and Germans towards the Suez early in the war. The battle of El Alamein removed any real threat to Palestine in this period. In June 1941 the British Army and Free French forces entered Syria from Palestine. After facing tough resistance from the Vichy forces the Allies captured Damascus on 17th June. The armistice was signed on 12th July and pro-British regimes were maintained in Syria for the rest of the war.
[ii] George Reid Millar, Horned pigeon, Classics of World War II: Secret war, Time-Life Books, 1989, p. 132
[iii] From the Gazala Line to Behind the Lines: Wartime Memories of John Cowtan, AuthorHouse, 2011, p. 47-48.
Hugh returned from the war with a full-blown beard and retired from the army - Burke's suggests 1948 but my father says earlier - with the rank of Major. Like most of his peers, he was a member of the Cavalry Club. My father suggests that circa 1947 he and his sister Narcissa purchased a pretty two storey Georgian house called Killowen House outside New Ross, Co. Wexford. (9) The house stood close to Aldarton. Hugh now began to take a big role in my father's life, teaching him how to spot curlews and sand martins, how to use a shotgun and how to drive a small tractor - a Massy Ferguson, I'm sure. My father remembers the house had no electricity, just a large generator out the back.
Narcissa later lived nearer to Campile. According to my aunt Rosebud it was 'a small farm house, with an upstairs and many cats, without electric or water, although she had a pump close by and there was a yard where there were many chickens, turkeys and fowl, and a farmer right next door ... it was situated down a long boreen near Campile.' Rosebud recalled being 'delivered by Mr Woods [the chauffeur] in the Roller with Nanny - it was glorious down there!'
Above: The car is almost certainly a Bristol owned by the man in it, Major H.C. Massy. The Bristol, unusual perhaps then, had a rev. counter on the dashboard as well
as a speedometer; when he had to take Mother Drew from Leasghyll to London he switched them around; R.P.M x 100 on the dial is about half miles per hour! The
girl pictured here is believed to have been Hugh's stepdaughter Rosebud. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Halpin and Tony Roche).
In 1952 the decision was taken to 'considerably resize' the original Victorian house at Lisnavagh. Pamela Rathdonnell oversaw the project along with her uncle, Aubyn Peart Robinson. Hugh Massy was summoned north from Killowen to assist PJ Roche (a son-in-law of Jack Halpin) in stripping all the oak from the horrid Victorian stain, black or ginger, from the condemned rooms for the new library; tables and chairs, mirrors, doors and windows, all the library bookcases, went into the bath of caustic soda in the backyard to emerge pale and lovely. It is not clear whether Bill Rathdonnell had yet embarked upon his romance with Anita Madden. At any rate, towards the end of 1952, Hugh was summarily banished from Lisnavagh over what is assumed to have been an indiscretion, real or imagined, with Pamela.
After his disgrace at Lisnavagh, Major Massy seems to have made his way to Kenya. From October 1952 to December 1959, the colony was under a state of emergency arising from the Mau Mau rebellion against British rule. The governor requested and obtained British and African troops, including the King's African Rifles. Hugh formed part of the military police, a mounted cavalry who, like the British army in Afghanistan today or the B-Specials in Ulster, attempted to maintain peace in the region. Johnny Alexander's brother Brucie was also there during this time. My brother Andrew once met a man who claimed Hugh, giving chase as a policeman, had accidentally shot his own white stallion from under him.
In January 1953, Major General Hinde was appointed director of counter-insurgency operations. General Sir George Erskine became commander-in-chief of the colony's armed forces in May 1953, with the personal backing of Winston Churchill. The capture of Warhi Itote (General China) on 15 January 1954 and the subsequent interrogation led to a better understanding of the Mau Mau command structure. Operation Anvil opened on 24 April 1954 after weeks of planning by the army with the approval of the War Council. The operation effectively placed Nairobi under military siege, and the occupants were screened and the Mau Mau supporters moved to detention camps. May 1953 also saw the Home Guard officially recognized as a branch of the Security Forces. The Home Guard formed the core of the government's anti-Mau Mau strategy as it was composed of loyalist Africans, not foreign forces like the British Army and King's African Rifles. By the end of the emergency the Home Guard had killed no fewer than 4,686 Mau Mau, amounting to 42% of the total insurgents. The capture of Dedan Kimathi on 21 October 1956 in Nyeri signified the ultimate defeat of the Mau Mau and essentially ended the military offensive.
"When in the end, the day came on which I was going away, I learned the strange learning that things can happen which we ourselves cannot possibly imagine, either beforehand, or at the time when they are taking place, or afterwards when we look back on them." - Karen Blixen, Out of Africa, 1937
When the mounted police were disbanded in Kenya, Hugh became a game warden somewhere near Lake Naivasha, charged with stopping both poachers and predators from reducing the wildlife around Naivasha. My father says he was sometime secretary to the Nanyuki Country Club, just north west of Mount Kenya. In fact, my father thinks he has some shares in the club somewhere but from what I can see, the Nanyuki Club no longer exists unless it is the Mount Kenya Safari Club in disguise. Hugh also ran a farm in conjunction with the hunter Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter. Tatham-Warter was an officer of the 1st British Airborne Division who won a DSO for his courage at Arnhem in September 1944. He also seems to have been the inspiration behind the character of umbrella wielding Major Harry Carlyle in "A Bridge Too Far". Tatham-Warter said he "carried the umbrella because he could never remember the password, and it would be quite obvious to anyone that the bloody fool carrying the umbrella could only be an Englishman". Unlike Carlyle in the film, Tatham-Warter survived the battle and was captured by the Germans. He escaped, and in the weeks that followed, aided by Dutch Resistance, helped hundreds of other soldiers in similar situations to be evacuated to safety. After the war, Tatham-Warter retired to Kenya, where he ran a safari park at Kilifi, 40 miles from Mombasa, and became a world renowned hunter. He died in 1993. Digby's daughter Belinda Tatham-Warter was born in Nairobi on 10th November 1954 and was a goddaughter of Hugh. On 9th January 1982, she was married in Nanyuki, Kenya, to Friedrich August, Duke of Oldenburg. She subsequently visited Lisnavagh while attending a wedding nearby.
After the death of his father in 1959, my father, then just 21, was left in a considerable quandary as to what to do next. He was serving in Malta at the time. Making is way home from Kenya, the Major called in to see him in Malta. After two days discusson, my father took the decision to "get Massy home". When I asked why, he said simply: "He was the only man I knew that would help us and not charge". Most of my grandfather's friends strongly disapproved of the Major; Bill Harrington remembered him as a "conceieted f---ker". Dad called upon Geoff Milne, an old friend of his mothers living near North Leech in Cheltenham and the two sat through a long night pondering the matter. The Major duly returned from Kenya and took up the running of Lisnavagh.
On 27th May 1961, Hugh and Pamela were married at St. Canice's Cathedral by the Bishop of Ossory. (10) There were only six people present at the wedding including my father and Bob Spindloe, the two witnesses. the latter was an officer on board HMS Undaunted who had innocently popped down to Lisnavagh for the weekend only to be called upon to act as witness. The Massys lived in the big house at Lisnavagh initially but relocated to the Farm House soon afterwards. My father returned in October 1964 when he retired from the navy. Upontheir return from honeymoon in October 1965, my parents settled in the flat at Lisnavagh House, subsequently rechristened the North West Passage by my brother Andrew. My father insists Hugh Massy was responsible for keeping Lisnavgh afloat during this time. A couple of decades later, I decided to christen him 'le grandpere escalier'.
Following the death of Horace Holroyd-Smyth on 13th December 1969, the Ballynatray estate outside Youghal in County Waterford passed to his cousin, George Ponsonby of Kilcooley Abbey. (11) George's first act was to recruit a friend to manage the farm at Ballynatray. (12) George and Hugh had known each other a long time - possibly since the war - and George was one of the first eight guns to enlist as members when Hugh set up the Lisnavagh Shoot Syndicate in 1962. Thus, Major and Mrs Hugh Caruthers Massy came to manage the estate, living in the Red Lodge, a purpose-built house. The Massys effectively looked after Ballynatray throughout the 1970s. It is generally believed that the main house of Ballynatray would have fallen apart were it not for the Massys. Indeed, they were now doing exactly what they had been doing at the Rathdonnell's ancestral home at Lisnavagh for the previous ten years - keeping a draughty old mansion alive while the next generation braced itself to take over. As such, they were constantly making their way around the house with buckets and hammers or else out on the estate sorting out drains, clearing back the ferns and briars, laying new roads and cleaning up the old weirs. Hugh also had a certain ecological bent and managed to extend the estate's cultivable lands from 100 acres to 600 acres. After their rather restricted time at Lisnavagh, it must have been a great pleasure for both him and Pam to be able to make such improvements and have someone else pay the bills. My father described Hugh as a typical ex-army land agent - "not particularly capable but very hearty and he threw himself into it".
By 1974, the Massy's were ensconced in a caravan at Ballynatray. The caravan itself was immortalised in a painting by Christiane Kubrick, the third and last wife of legendary film director Stanley Kubrick. The Kubricks had come to Ireland to film an adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's The Luck of Barry Lyndon, also known as Barry Lyndon. Starring Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson and Marie Kean, the three hour period romp followed the life of an 18th century gambler and social climber who slowly insinuates himself into high society. Ballynatray House formed one of the principal locations for the film. As always, Kubrick used innovative camera and lighting techniques, perhaps most famously for the many interior scenes, shot with a specially adapted high-speed still camera lens originally invented for the NASA space program. This still camra allowed many scenes to be lit only with candlelight and created an almost two-dimensional diffused image reminiscent of 18th century paintings. The film was a box office failure in the USA but won four Academy Awards and found a large audience in Europe, particularly in France. By the time Barry Lyndon was released in 1975, the Massy's were living in the Red House, a new bungalow built on top of the hill by George to replace a previous dower house apparently been made of tin. That same year, Ballynatray House had its first fridge installed and so the Ice House became redundant.
My father believes that the first chocolate Labradors appeared in Ireland on account of Barbara Eustace Duckett, daughter of Mrs W Hall, wife to Hardy Eustace and aunt to Johnny Alexander. The story runs that for decades breeders had been drowning chocolate puppies at birth as they were considered inferior. Hugh Massy was breeding Labradors at this time. Barbara told him not to put them down but instead to see what would happen if they kept them alive. Amongst the first chocolate Labradors that Hugh bred was a green-eyed beauty called Cora who I loved greatly in my teenage years. It is curious to note that Landseer also painted a Labrador called Cora over a hundred years earlier.
The Massys moved to the Lake District in England in 1980 and settled close to Pamela's childhood home at High Leasghyll between Milnthorpe and Heversham. The Major passed away during the night of 16th - 17th September 1987. (13) Pamela passed away in 1989
The Major's elder sister Narcissa Catherine Massy was born on 12th January 1910. She later lived at Ballyedock, Campile, Co. Wexford, and I believe she converted to Catholicism.
With thanks to David Guss and miscellaneous members of my family.
The Hon. John Massy, great-grandfather of Hugh, was born on 4th June, 1795 to Margaret Everina Barton and Hugh Massy, 3rd Baron Massy of Duntrileague. He joined the 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards (then known as 1st Dragoon Guards) as a Cornet on 13th March 1814. He served under Captain Henry Rt. Carden in B (or No. 3) Troop at the Battle of Waterloo and was awarded the Waterloo Medal for his participation in the campaign. The medal was sold in July 2015.
He married Elizabeth Homewood on 12th April 1828 and had four children; Richard Hugh Stephen, William Augustus, Dawson Dunbar and Grace Elizabeth Elinor.
Massy was promoted to Lieutenant on 23rd November 1815 following Waterloo and rose to the rank of Captain on 28th November 1822. He went on the half pay list from 1826 and was brevetted Lieutenant Colonel on the birth of the Prince of Wales on 23rd November 1841. He died on 7th March 1848 at the age of 52.
Grace, his youngest child, married Colonel Robert Thomas Thompson and their daughter, Anne Emma Fetherstonhaugh Thompson (who married her second cousin Lieutenant-Commander Hugh Hamon George William Carruthers Massy) was mother to Narcissa and Hugh.
(With thanks to Nicola Whittaker and Sarah Isaacs of Fellows Auctioneers, Birmingham).
* Isak Dinesen (the pseudonym of Danish Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke), Out of Africa (Putnam, 1937). ISBN 0-679-60021-3
* The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood, Elspeth Huxley, ISBN-10: 0141183780; ISBN-13: 978-0141183787.
* Elspeth Huxley: A Biography, by Christine Stephanie Nicholls, 2003, ISBN 0312300417.
* Thurman, Judith, Isak Dinesen, St. Martin's Press (September 1983) ISBN-10: 0312437382 ISBN-13: 978-0312437381
1. The Times, Thursday, Jun 01, 1961; pg. 1; Issue 55096; col A
2. The Times, Friday, Nov 26, 1937; pg. 19; Issue 47852; col D
3. The cavalry regiment was formed in 1922 by an amalgamation of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards and 7th Dragoon Guards (Princess Royal's). The regimental Colonel was Maj-Gen. Arthur Solly-Flood, CB, CMG, DSO.
4. On 30th December 1940, a cadre of men from both the Skins and the Dragoons was formed which was to be the nucleus of a newly raised cavalry regiment, the 22nd Dragoons (the sum of the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th). The 22nd Dragoons were disbanded after the War.
5. High Commissioner in Palestine to the Colonial Secretary, quoted in Nimr, Sonia Fatha el-, "The Arab Revolt of 1936", Ph.D Thesis, Exeter University, 1990.
6. Dimbleby, Jonathan and McCullin, Donald, The Palestinians, Quartet, 1979.
7. The London Gazette, 31st August 1943, Third Supplement. A lieutenant was automatically raised to the rank of Captain after eight years service but I don't think Hugh joined the army as early as 1935. My father doubts that Hugh attained the rank of full Major.
8. The Regiment still wears the same identification flash on the Service Dress that was first worn by the 4/7th in 1939 prior to their deployment to France. The Skins for their part were in almost continuous action from after Normandy to the end of the War, taking part in the successful action to capture S-Hertogenbosch and the breakout from the Rhine bridgehead. See: Stirling, J.D.P. The first and the last : the story of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, 1939-1945. London ; Glasgow : Art and Educational Publishers Ltd., 1946. Actions of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, May-June 1940. Dorking : Rowe's, printers, 1941.
9. Killowen is a two storey Georgian house overlooking the River Barrow. In the 1950s, Killowen House became home to Mrs Josephine Forrestal, widow of James V Forrestal, Secretary of the US Navy (1944-47) and First secretary of defence (1947 - 49). The Killowen estate was originally purchased from the Earl of Anglesey by George Glascott in 1725. The Glascott estate included Alderton, Fruit Hill and Killowen. A member of the Tottenham family married a Glascott and lived in Killowen in the 1930's. Mrs Tottenham was the first passenger in Andrew Boland's New Ford Model A saloon car used as a hackney car. Bolands,from Whitechurch have been in the Motor Trade since 1923. Another occupier was Mrs. Marie Elena,known as 'Mecha Cazalet'. In the late 70's Killowen was bought by Michael Ryan, the R.T.E journalist and former presenter of 'Nationwide'.
10. The Times, Thursday, Jun 01, 1961; pg. 1
11. Born on 3rd April 1913, George was the second son of Tom Ponsonby of Kilcooley by his wife, Francis Paynter. Friends knew him as "The Abbot" from the large number of abbeys he seemed to inherit, including both Kilcooley and Molana. During the Second World War he served in North Africa with the 17th/21st Lancers. He won the Military Cross and bar, but was badly wounded on four occasions. When his father died in 1946, his elder brother Chambre opted out of inheriting Kilcooley and remained in the military. George duly retired to Kilcooley and, on 18th September 1948, married Libby (Elizabeth Melville) Wills, CBE, of Barley Wood, Wrington, Somerset. Together they purchased yearlings and trained them up to be top class steeplechasers. They had three sons, Thomas, Henry and Peter, all educated at Eton.
12. George's younger brother Henry Jeffrey (Harry), was born on 30th November 1930. He frequently maintains that he was 'the limit' as he was born some 13 years after his sister Noreen. He was educated at Castle Park School in Dalkey, Co. Dublin. In 1955, he succeeded his cousin Charles Robert Barton to the house and lands of Grove outside Fethard, Co. Tipperary. He married Rosemary Wells of Sussex by whom he has a son, Julian, and two daughters, Jane and Rosanna.
13. My father received "the phone call" from Pamela's sister Golly at 7.30 a.m. on the morning of his 51st birthday and took a ferry over to Liverpool that day. As the farm manager Andy Verney was away fishing, my brother William was left in charge of Lisnavagh for the first time. This period coincided with the arrival at Lisnavagh of P J Carroll's for a photo shoot. Harvest was also in full swing and William actually checked out Pat Murray's progress on the combine by Carroll's helicopter. As it turned out, the only decent milling wheat of the year was harvested in the Cow Field that day. Meanwhile, in Scotland, a cricket ball came hurtling my way and I was too slow off the mark - it smacked me bang between the eyes and I still have a tiny wee scar to prove it.
Reading your latest book on ‘Vanishing Ireland’. I am prompted to write and remember your grandmother to you in the same vein as your delightful books on changing Ireland. Pam was a dear friend of mine and I remember her with great affection.
I met Pam shortly after she arrived in Ballynatray and we had great times together, painting, having supper together and going on visits to interesting places locally. My family were financially very badly off and she sort of took me under her wing and helped me in every way she could. I painted and we often painted together in her studio at Ballynatray. She influenced me greatly with her style of painting and she would often shout at me while painting “Lighten up, lighten up”. She had studied in Paris under Robert Chastel and this is what he taught her, to be loose with the movements of the brush in order to create a sense of spontaneity. She achieved this to great effect in her paintings on aluminium of aeroplanes in motion. There is an outstanding example in the R.A.F. Museum at Hendon.
She regarded televisions as unsightly and told me there was a great opening for someone to paint picture boards to be placed in front when the TV was not in use. She devised one such board for use at Ballynatray. She also wrote to R..T.E. which was only a few years in operation at the time and asked to be allowed to illustrate the Angelus with various paintings of Marian Shrines from around the country. This idea never materialized and I still think it is a great idea. When she was having an exhibition in 1975 she asked me to choose a painting for myself and I chose a simple painting called “Chichester in the Doldrums” which still holds pride of place in my bedroom. She also had a big part to play in designing the new bungalow they built at Ballynatray. At first they considered living in the main house but Major Massy was not keen on that. He felt it would do his arthritic knee no good. The Major was friendly with Sir Terence Conran and they very cleverly managed to marry two of his prefabricated designs together to form a delightful house wit a huge picture window.[i] Pam designed a spectacular curtain for this window made up from her old evening dresses and ball gowns, interspersed with patches of deer skins. At night, when drawn, it bought a totally new and colourful dimension to the room and was always a talking point with visitors to the house … I wonder whatever has become of it?[ii]
But she was more than a friend, she was also a mentor. I regret now I didn’t always take he advice because she was truly a person of great vision and wisdom. She advised my father not to abandon the old house at Garryduff but to demolish an old Victorian wing and make the roof more compact. She said to make the roof sound and use only the rooms that were easy to heat. She reminded us that our ancestors before us for thousands of years never had central heating so there was no immediate need for it. We eventually moved to the gate lodge and I regret to this day that we didn’t take her advice.
Her arrival in the Blackwater Valley was like a breath of fresh air. She was totally oblivious of class or creed and she caused many an eyebrow to be raised by her delightfully flamboyant and extrovert nature. Many called her eccentric when she refused to be part of the stuffy, snobbish and inward looking gentry of the area. Instead she attracted around her anyone who had developed a talent or had an interesting story to tell. She favoured a round table for meals and never had a “pecking” order when meals were served. I remember once at supper, I had a retired army general on one side, the local dressmaker on the other and opposite me a film director (Stanley Kubric and his young wife) while Kitty Fleming took the floor and entertained us with jigs and reels. I loved it even better when it was just the three of us for supper, Pam, the Major and I. Pam always referred to Hugh as “the Ibwana”, a name meaning boss from his African days, but everyone else called him “the Major”. Hugh worked extremely hard to change Ballynatray from a sporting estate to a profitable farm. This was no easy task as he had to deal with a staff that were set in their ways and had no idea of modern farming methods or how to handle modern farm machinery. He was regimental in his ways but over time the staff began to respect him. They had to work much harder but there were also rewards. He improved their living conditions by building new cottages and repairing existing ones. It was also interesting to notice how the neighbouring farmers copied his farming methods to their advantage. He told me that he suspected that he might be a target for the I.R.A. and always carried a loaded gun when out alone at night. Once when Pam was away in Cumbria I dined with him and he amazed me with his knowledge of the various liaisons and trysts that had taken place between members of the Smyth family and members of the local community down through the generations. Above all else he was loyal and discreet and carried the secrets of Ballynatray with him to the grave.
On the other hand Pam had no secrets. If she liked you, she told you and if she didn’t like you she also told you … and always to your face. She taught me to treat everyone as she treated them, with respect as equals. When she first arrived at Ballynatray it was at the height of the Ecumenical Movement when the Catholic Church was making an effort to bring the Christian faiths together. She was the only person I knew who entered into the spirit of the proposals and paid all churches a visit in turn on Sunday mornings. She found the Methodist preacher in Youghal rather dull but liked the singing while on the other hand she said the rector of the Church of Ireland spoke in archaic language which could have been written by Charles Dickens!! One Sunday morning she went to Mass in nearby Glendine and afterwards told the priest that he should speak up as people down the back of the church couldn’t hear him. She was at this time going deaf herself and often lamented to me that she was finding it increasingly hard to engage in conversation.
She loved jazz music from the 1920’s and 30’s and always played it when she felt she needed cheering up, claiming that it is impossible to be sad when lively jazz sounds fill the air. Pam was always doing things like making jam, finding new uses for old discarded objects and tending to her flock of Guinea fowl. I have a vivid memory of her sitting with her sister “Gollie” and both of them making sachets from old dress cloth later to be filled with lavender seeds and later still to be dispersed around the parish as Christmas presents. She saved twine and wrapping paper for Basil Watson, proprietor of a hardware shop in Youghal. She liked Watsons Store because it was one of the last remaining hardware stores that incorporated a tint pub half way down the shop where one could have a drink while Mr. Watson parcelled up your purchases … vanishing Ireland indeed!
I often travelled around with her in her Citroen DS estate, the most comfortable car of its era. Once when I was attending the funeral of a cousin she asked if she could come along in order to experience an old fashioned Irish wake. When we got to the house a glass of whiskey was thrust into her hand which immediately endeared the family to her. Later we drank punch and later still poitin. It was 4 a.m. when she got back to Ballynatray to find the Major on the phone to the gardai reporting her missing! On another occasion I observed Hugh leaning out the bedroom window, paying her parking fines to a garda because she had refused to pay. She was prepared to go to gaol as a protest at the lack of car parks in Cork.
I have many, many memories of the Massys at Ballynatray, all happy ones. I remember her African paintings hanging around the house and a wonderful portrait of an old gamekeeper from Lisnavagh hanging over an old oak coffer in the entrance hall. I hope this painting has found its way back to Co. Carlow.
I think I have never met you in person … only through your delightful books … you were probably not born back then but I do remember the Doyle children and how they used to delight in going with Hugh to fish the weir.
I was very sorry when they had to leave. I had hoped Hugh would have got the job of warden at Fota Wildlife Park which was starting off at that time. He was the ideal man for it with his vast experience in Africa. He also told me he knew Fota as a child as he was related to the Smith Barrys.
I went to see Pam when she returned on a visit and stayed at Dromana but by then she was very deaf and a little feeble. It was Rosebud who called me and told me she had passed away. I was truly grieved and always remember her with great fondness, hence this letter.
You are always welcome here at Garryduff as I was at Ballynatray during the time of the Massys. I wish you and all your family a very Happy Christmas.
PS: I attach Pam’s last letter to me (I am a hoarder!) which shows her generosity and note the time she wrote it 3:30 a.m. in the morning which was not unusual especially when painting, KH
Pamela Drew R.S.M.A., S.A.V.A., B.I.S.
The Studio, Ballinatray, Youghal, Co. Cork, Eire.
Tel: Youghal 7145 (024-7145)
My Dear Kieran,
Horrors of Packing Up! The Movers are not exactly here yet. And we have some nice Books, the Major found on a shelf, he wants you to have – “SPECTATOR” 6 vols. Also I have a superb big drawing board, & I wonder if you know of any student who is on for Architecture or Engineering, who will need one – it’s a Gift – it was given to me in London & I do not use it EVER, it would be nice if some young Up & Coming person had it – or a Designer. It’s Big & Heavy – but would fit in your Car! Any idea? Give us a ring SOON. May be gone by weekend. Love Pam.
[i] It is believed that Kieran meant to say Barney Heron, the late Irish furniture designer, house-builder, boat builder, writer, poet, friend of Dylan Thomas and wearer of Sherlock Holmes cloaks. According to The Irish Times (9 Nov 1995), ‘his specialty lay in using Maplewood to make furniture after designs by the great French architect Pugin’, although I did not think Pugin was French.
[ii] It is thought Pally might have them!