Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

Random Quote
Random Date




image title

Above: 1st Marquess of Waterford, painted circa 1787-92, by Gilbert Stuart.

De la Poer Beresford of Curraghmore, Co. Waterford

The following history was commissioned by Samantha Ware and Alice Beresford in 2001 as a light account of the family.

'You should study the Peerage … it is the best thing in fiction the English have ever done' Lord Illingworth in A Woman of No Importance, Act 3, by Oscar Wilde.

The Normans & Strongbow

In 1169 a small fleet of ships sailed up the River Bannow on the south Wexford coast, reputedly carrying a mercenary force of 30 Norman knights, 30 cavalry and perhaps 600 foot-soldiers. The army's commander was one Richard le Clare, Earl of Pembroke, otherwise known as Strongbow. The Norman magnate crossed the Irish Sea at the behest of Dermot MacMurrough, the wily King of Leinster who'd been booted out of his own kingdom by rival forces in the north of the country some years earlier. It may be a medieval smear campaign but Dermot comes across as a brutal man, famed for blinding his own godchildren when their fathers angered him. He offered Strongbow substantial lands in Ireland and the hand of his gorgeous red-haired daughter Aoife in return for the Norman's superior military assistance. Strongbow secured the permission of his king, Henry II, as well as a papal bull from Pope Adrian (himself an Englishman). This latter provided the Normans with a bizarre justification; it gave the invasion of Ireland the legitimacy of a Crusade against a heretic people. And yet Ireland was where Christianity had experienced its global renaissance a couple of centuries earlier.

In a few months, Strongbow's small force swept east to Waterford and north to Dublin, defeating all who chose to resist. The Viking port city of Waterford was burned to the ground and the Viking King (who had in fact converted to Catholicism) was beheaded. Nice fellow called Reginald apparently. The Annals relate how Strongbow and Aoife were duly united in marriage in Reginald's Tower while the city around them continued to smoulder and burn. The success of Strongbow and his men was such that the English king became deeply alarmed at the possibility of a rival Anglo-Norman kingdom in Ireland. Henry took it upon himself to sail to Ireland personally and there, at the Rock of Cashel, received the submission of both the Anglo-Norman adventurers and the native kings of Ireland.

Early De La Poers

It is not known whether any members of the Poer family were involved in Ireland at this early stage. However, within a decade, two Poers from Devonshire - Robert and Roger - emerged as important players in Norman Ireland. Strongbow's army chiefly hailed from his Welsh estates in Pembrokeshire and South Glamorgan. The eminent Cork historian Ken Nichols maintains that the Poers, from whom the present family of Lord Waterford descend, originated in Pembrokeshire. It thus seems reasonable to suppose that the family were in some way associated with Ireland from the time of Strongbow onwards. But perhaps it would make more sense to try and establish where the Poers might have come from before they arrived in Pembrokeshire.


The origins of the family are open to question and, as the late Nigel de la Poer, Vice President and Fellow of the Power Clan Society admitted, the truth has " become encrusted with myth and legend" over the course of time.[1] The accepted history declares them to be descended from the people of Le Poher, one of the ancient territorial divisions of Brittany. The first Celts (later known as Bretons) to settle in Brittany appear to have been Celts driven from their homes in England by Saxons in the 7th century AD. Le Poher was a prosperous region, run by the Celtic Counts of Poher and the Dukes of Brittany, descendents of such characters as Comorre I, Count of Poher (who died in 554AD), his fifth wife, Saint Trifine and their son Saint Tremeur. In fact, the Poher family may even be descended from the celebrated Merovingian dynasty. In the genealogies of the "Prieure de Sion" documents, for instance, there is mention of Arnaud, Count of Poher, who sometime between 894 and 896 intermarried with the Plantard family - the direct descendents, supposedly, of Dagobert II.

In 911, Rollo, also known as Hrulf Ganger (Hrolf the Walker), sailed into Rouen in his longship. Accoding to family historian Warren Power, Charles the Simple then “offered Hrulf’s crew all the land above where they landed, provided they become Christians and protected the coast line.” Mr. Power suggests that by 923 a number of Norman families had also moved into Brittany and become neighbours of the Bretons. In 937, Alain de Poher, grandson of Arnaud, became Duke of Brittany. One of his descendents was another Alain Poher, sometime President of France (2)

When William, Duke of Normandy, came in pursuit of recruits for his invasion of England in 1066, all the Normans in the district of Poher are said to have accepted the call to arms, as did their Breton neighbours who had hopes of retrieving the lands seized from them by the Saxons. William the Conqueror duly referred to their Company as "de la POHER". According to Mr. Power, one of the Norman Knights of that company, Le Sire de Poer, is mentioned in the Falaise Roll and the Battle Abbey Roll. Other Norman families who came to England, Scotland and Ireland from Brittany include the Royal House of Stuart in Scotland and the Butlers of Ireland.

In 1177, Henry II returned to Ireland to curtail the growing ambitions of the Normans who had settled in Ireland, his large army included four Poer brothers - Sir Robert, Sir Roger, Simon and William. Philip, a fifth brother, stayed at home with his father, Bartholomew de Poer, who was said to be the Sheriff of Devon.

As the late Nigel de la Poer pointed out, who can blame latter day Poers for choosing to be descended from such an illustrious house. The Breton families had a natural affiliation with the Celtic way of life, and continue to do so to this day. A thousand years ago, it made their transition into Scottish, Welsh and Irish society that little bit easier. However, as the eminent historian Ken Nichols asserts, the Celts were famous for their "vast sexual proclivities" and so the number of those claiming to be of the family of Poer is likely to have expanded at a tremendous pace during the early days of the "Norman" invasion of the British Isles.

[1] At least one historian strongly discredits this theory. "The origin of this terrible jumble is simply the desire of a family as old as the conquest of Ireland to repudiate their purely personal surname and to claim for it a territorial origin". The concept here is that the name Power or Poer quite simply meant "the poor man", which was either a derogatory name given by others or an approving nod to family members taking the vow of poverty. Canon W. H. Jones, the vicar of Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, claimed in a pamphlet published in 1855 that the name derived from the Latin "puer", in the sense of "knight" or "cadet" of a gentle family. Also put forward was that the name derived from the old French word Pohier, meaning either a native of Poix in Picardy, (around Amiens), a province in northern France, or simply "herald". (4)

The Poers in Ireland

The Norman Conquest of Ireland was not a straightforward affair. Gaelic culture has long had a habit of absorbing newcomers. Within a few short years of the Norman invasion many of the great feudal lords were acting, in effect, as Gaelic petty kings. The same fate could easily befall Australian carpenters in the modern day. The extent of the power of the kings of England over their own followers in Ireland would remain a problem until the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th century when managed to bring most people in line.

Robert of Devonshire

The Poer family did have a presence in Ireland from earliest times but, as with the name "Poer" itself, there are several theories as to who exactly the first fellow might have been. For many years the front-runner was Robert le Poer, a Devonshire man, appointed custos or guardian of Waterford after that city's subjugation in the opening months of the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. However, Ken Nichols says he is "absolutely certain" that this Robert, though connected to Waterford City, had nothing to do with the Poers of Waterford. Indeed, despite being granted all the land "between Waterford and the waters of Lismore and Ossory", Robert le Poer ultimately went on to settle in Dunshaughlin, County Meath. The 12th century Welsh spin-doctor Giraldus Cambrensis (of the Norman House of Fitzgerald) had little time for Robert, writing him off as "dishonourable and so lacking in activity". Perhaps this helped subsequent generations of the Poer family to remove Robert from the list of possible forbears.

Roger the Beardless

A second possibility is that the family descend from the bloodline of Roger le Poer, another man of Devonshire origin involved with the Norman conquest of Ireland in 1176. Nigel de la Poer suggests Roger may have been ancestor of the Poers of Powerswood, now Shankhill or Paulstown in County Kilkenny. Giraldus Cambrensis liked Roger very much, describing him as "a beardless youth, fair and tall" and later as "the youngest, bravest and handsomest of all the Anglo-Norman knights". In another major outburst of medieval flattery the Fitzgerald historian wrote:

"It might be said without offence that there was not a man who did more valiant acts than Roger le Poer who, although he were young and beardless, yet showed himself a lusty, valiant and courageous gentleman, and who grew into such credit that he had the government of the country about Leighlin and also in Ossory".

Alas, Ken Nichols feels that the Poers of Curraghmore are probably not descended from this chivalrous soul. He says he is "certain that they [the Curraghmore Poers] came from Pembrokeshire and were not connected with the Poers from Devonshire".

Henry, Baron of Dunhill

The Poers of Waterford simply cannot be certain about their ancestry until the reign of King John at the close of the 13th century when we find mention of a Henry fitz Philip le Poer of Dunhill. Before he succeeded his crusading brother Richard the Lionheart to the kingdom of England, (King) John was Lord of Ireland. In this capacity he visited Ireland on several occasions, commissioning, for instance, the construction of the castle at Limerick and, I believe, the bridge at Curraghmore. John granted the vast tract of land encompassing the whole of east Waterford, around Tramore, and the barony of Dunhill to Henry le Poer. Such a massive grant was not unusual for the Royal House of Plantagenet. As both Lord of Ireland and King of England, John was often granting lands to his nearest and dearest, regularly gifting the same land to two different people. Henry fitz Philip le Poer was most likely of Anglo-Welsh origin, the son of Philip le Poer of St. Laurence in Pembrokeshire. A charter written by Henry le Poer refers to his feudal tenants as being "all my men, French, English, Welsh and Irish". He would not have mentioned the Welsh contingent unless he was familiar with the Welsh borders. His descendents, known as the Barons of Dunhill, lasted in the direct bloodline down to about 1360. But even by 1300 there were a number of other branches of the Poer lineage in operation in Ireland.

Sir Eustace le Poer

Sir Eustace la Poer (d. 1311) is one of the main men in the family ranks. A younger son who made good, he was loyal to King Edward I (Longshanks) and the Plantagenet cause during an era of unprecedented aggression between the authorities in London and their enemies in the hinterlands of Scotland (Robert the Bruce, William "Braveheart" Wallace), Wales (the Llewelyns), Ireland (the MacMurroughs) and France. Sir Eustace seems to have had a sound grasp of the potential, if unscrupulous, rewards of marriage securing the hand of at least two wealthy widows. The first had been married to Peter de Barry. The second was widow of Pierce de Bermingham, a full on rogue and brutal murderer. Ken Nichols reckons Sir Eustace might have been a money-lender which was a sound and thoroughly illegal way of making your fortunes in medieval times. Until the 17th century, Christian thought maintained that it was a sin to take interest on money. Apparently Muslims still hold this philosophy today. Jews never fell for this and that's why they are so rich.

Strange Tongues

I asked Ken to tell me more about the Poers of this era. He reckons the upper echelons would have spoken Norman French. Those who came from Wales would have spoken Welsh also. And then there were would be many English speakers and Flemings. There was a large colony of Belgians who spoke Fleming in Pembrokeshire and many of these would also have come to Ireland with the Normans and probably mingled with the Poers. (Hence, the common usage of Fleming as a surname in Ireland to this day). The dialects of all those in Ireland were influenced by Flemish. In Ireland, Anglo-French vocabulary gradually disappeared during the 13th and 14th centuries to be replaced by Irish and English.

Sleeping Quarters

In terms of sleeping arrangements, by the 12th - 14th centuries, the Poer family would have lived in fairly substantial clay-walled houses, not unlike 19th century farmhouses. The upper classes would have lived in bigger buildings within an enclosure, surrounded by subsidiary wooden buildings. Many of the early castles were basically timber structures atop earthen works, like the various Norman mottes scattered across the land. Gradually these would have been replaced by stone; the original tower house of Curraghmore is probably late 15th century.

Makin le Poer

Matthew le Poer - known as Makin - was the direct forbear of the Poer family that now live in Curraghmore. I know nothing about this man but he was head of the family during the reign of King Edward I (Longshanks). Being head of the family meant one was supposed to maintain a degree of control over one's kinsmen. Makin doesn't seem to have cared tuppence for this concept. A short glance through the various volumes of the Calendar of the Justiciar Rolls of Ireland for the reign of Edward I reveals the Le Poer clan to have been every bit as unruly as their 21st century descendents. "Divers harms" is how the authors put it. There are more than a hundred references to family members being brought before the courts on charges of "divers harms": robbery, kidnap, muggings and general thuggery. One is charged with "feloniously carrying off the wife" of another man, although she herself is later charged with having consented to this abduction.

Curious Family Names

This may be as good a time as any to fire off some suitable names for any future Poers. Obviously the winner, hands down, is Tankard de la Poer and I would dearly love to see this name resurrected in the 21st century. Among the other de la Poer names that came before the courts: Adam. Andrew. Arnold. Baldwin. Benedict. Clement. Durant. Eustace. Martilla. Geoffrey. George. Godfred. Griffin. Hugh. John. Laurence. Maurice. Meilier. Michael. Oliver. Tito. Raymond. Robert. Roger. Stephen. Susanna. Tankard. Walter. William.

Crime Bosses of Waterford

My professional verdict is that the Le Poers were medieval knackers. In those days they were simply known as "idlemen", the implication being that without TVs, rock n' roll or footy, there was sod all else to do. There is no reference to any of them taking up a career in the clergy until the late 15th century when, seeing the profits that could be made from handing out forgiveness to wealthy Catholics, they started pouring into the monasteries, priories and abbeys of the Suir Valley. (That said, many of them never actually took religious orders; they just pretended they had and started stocking up on the cash). One or two, like Sir Eustace Poer, did fight for the King, most probably in his wars against Robert the Bruce, which culminated with the invasion of Ireland by Edward the Bruce's Scottish army in 1315. But, in fairness, they would probably have been hard at work in their homeland trying to prevent their own properties being destroyed and looted by rival medieval knacker gangs. By 1300 there's a very big criminal element emerging among the Poers. The Baron Dunhill is granted permission to blind any of his family who are not amenable to the law [English law at this stage; Roman Law would not arrive until English power collapsed after 1360], or starve them to the death. The head of the family was given power over all who held his name. It was a common way of the English feudal system to try and instigate law and order. It was a way of controlling these idle men. Everybody is answerable to the lord. "There is no violence as such", chuckles Ken Nichols. "One merely casts troublemakers into the dungeons and closes the lid".

Tough Times

It can't have been easy trying to live in the 13th and 14th centuries. Mortality rates among children and teenagers were extremely high what with plagues, famines, warfare, gum disease, abscesses in the jaw bones and all that Black Death malarky. I guess it's probably not dissimilar to being born in Africa today. You basically get born and it's downhill all the way. But, if you did survive your younger years, then there was a good chance you could live for ages. There are references to people who lived for "five score years or thereabouts" but then again the Bible maintains Noah lived to be seven hundred and fifty six. Ken Nichols says medieval people were a lot cleaner than their 17th and 18th century descendents. They believed in washing themselves and took baths all the time. Perhaps the change in habits is attributable to the Little Ice Age that engulfed the British Isles from about 1660 onwards, making the rivers and oceans far too cold for anyone to consider washing their goolies in. But there was also something weird going on which began with the Spanish Inquisition. As far as I can understand, if you washed all the time, then you could be mistaken for a Muslim. And if you were a Muslim then you got tortured, very slowly, until you died.

Wild Johnnie & Richard Mor

Makin's third son, John, is better known as "Wild Johnnie" (or Seoinin na Buile). His brother Theobald served as Sheriff of Waterford from 1323 until his death in 1317; Theobald's wife Eleanor was a widow of Walter de la Roche of Ballyhooley, County Cork. Wild Johnnie sired Richard Mor (Richard the Great), Chief Sergeant of Waterford in 1350 and Sheriff from 1367 until 1368. The Poer family at this time were in regular conflict with the citizens of Waterford and it is interesting that, following the death of the last Baron Dunhill in 1360, it was this same Richard who assumed the chieftaincy of the clan.

David the Red & MacDavy Rothe

After Richard Mor's death in 1376, the chieftaincy passed to his grandson David Rothe (David the Red). In December 1388 David and his father-in-law, Nicholas le Poer, were among those appointed to negotiate with a branch of the Power family who were in open rebellion against the King. David's son, Nicholas Power, known as MacDavy Rothe (ie: The Red Haired Son of David), served as Sheriff of Waterford from 1425 until his death in 1445 during which time he converted Waterford into a local lordship. One contemporary records him as being "the most hospitable of the Anglo-Normans of Munster".

Richard the Bad, Sheriff of Waterford (d. 1483)

Upon his death in 1445, MacDavy Rothe was succeeded as both chief of the clan and as Sheriff of Waterford by his son Richard, "the first notable - or notorious - member of the Curraghmore line". (6) Richard Power retained the office of Sheriff despite an attempt by the Irish Parliament to remove him in 1476. This attempt seems to have come at the request of the citizens of Waterford who distrusted Richard's ethics. He was clearly quite a character; the 1476 statute of the Irish Parliament records that:

"Whereas Richard Power is sheriff of the County of Waterford,, and has been so for more than 20 years past, and he, out of his insatiate malice, as an enemy of God and a rebel to the King, has by himself and his people, and other rebels, made assault on the mayor, bailiffs and commons of Waterford, both by sea and land, murdering and slaying divers of the citizens, and spoiling and robbing them of their goods, has put many of them to fine and ransom, and not only the citizens but also foreigners resorting to the city for trade, as English, French, Spaniards, Portugals, Britains and Flemings, to the utter destruction of the said city; and as in all countries round about the said city there is no rule or government but murder and spoiling, robbery and a universal rebellion; therefore it is enacted that the mayor and common council of Waterford for the time being shall from henceforth have the full election of a sheriff of the county of Waterford for ever annually, and that said Richard Power shall from this time be entirely divested of the said office".

It had been more than 200 years since the Normans first came to Ireland. The authorities in London and Dublin were profoundly worried by the consistent trend of the Anglo-Norman families in Ireland to adopt Gaelic traditions. The original settlers had married into native Irish families and produced sons and grandsons that were, in many ways, "more Irish than the Irish themselves". The Powers were no exception. In Waterford, they had made the Shrievalty of that county a hereditary right. Sheriffs were supposed to be elected but from 1425 onwards the Powers had held absolute control.

Richard married Elena, a daughter of Sir Edmond MacRichard Butler and granddaughter of the 3rd Earl of Ormonde. He died in October 1483 and was buried at Mothal in a table tomb that can still be seen within a fenced enclosure to this say. Nigel de la Poer records how a man named Hugh Ryan of Carrick told him this tomb had been used for hiding rifles during the Irish Civil War of 1922.

The First House at Curraghmore

Ken Nichols reckons the first tower house at Curraghmore was built in the 15th century, probably by Richard the Bad, with wings added in the 17th. He directed me to a picture of the house at Curraghmore dating to 1720. He reckons the area would have been primarily pastureland and tillage with much of it under timber during the 15th and 16th centuries. In the 1654 Survey undertaken by Cromwell's men refers to "a fayre Castle and a goodly stone house upon the land, there is also an Orchard and Meadowupon the same and stands by the side of a fine wood". It concludes rather memorably by mentioning "the River Clodagh running within a musket shot".

The Wool Boom of Carrick

During the reign of King Charles II, Thomas Butler, Duke of Ormonde, a grandson of Black Tom and cousin of the Poers, was the most powerful man in Ireland. He had been one of the commanding officers in the Confederate Army amassed to defend Ireland against the onslaught of Cromwell's parliamentary thugs. During the 1650s he had joined King Charles in exile in Paris. Here he had been greatly impressed by the style and panache of the French court that would come to its head with the creation of Versailles later in the century. Following the restoration of the monarchy, the Duke was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1670 he established the woollen manufacture business by his grandfather's old castle in Carrick-on-Suir. This must have had a profound effect on the de la Poer family then resident in Curraghmore. By the close of the 18th century upwards of 3000 people were employed in the making of ratteens of which about 6000 were made every year. A good trade was also developed along the Suir between Clonmel and Waterford after the Irish parliament subsidized the deepening of the river channel necessary for traffic to come to and fro. Clonmel was a major centre for the export of corn and other provisions; Waterford had a lucrative trade in beef, butter, tallow and hides. The prosperity of Carrick-on-Suir and the surrounding countryside declined in the early 19th century.

Sir Piers Power (d. 1521)

Upon his death in October 1483, Richard was succeeded as Sheriff of Waterford by his eldest surviving son, Sir Piers Power of Curraghmore. (7) Sir Piers further cemented the family's influence with a strategic marriage to the House of Fitzgerald. His first wife, Katherine, was a daughter of Sir Gerald Fitzgerald, Lord of the Decies. His second wife was another Fitzgerald of the House of Kildare. Sir Piers seems to have been very much his father's son. In the Presentments of the Juries of the County Waterford it talks of Sir Piers ruling, like his father before him, "at their pleasures by extort power oppressing the King's subjects". Sir Piers seems to have taken the family "privilege" to the Shrievalty of Waterford for granted, assuming it on his father's death and holding it by force until 1510.

Sir Richard Power, 1st Baron Le Poer & Coroghmore (d. 1538)

On his death on 2nd August 1521, Sir Piers was succeeded as head of the family by his eldest son, Sir Richard Power, later 1st Baron le Poer and Coroghmore [8]. Sir Richard had acquired the lands at Curraghmore from another branch of the Power family. In 1499 he served, in his father's absence, as Sheriff of Waterford. In 1526, five years after his father's death, Sir Richard married Lady Katherine Butler, a daughter of Piers, 8th Earl of Ormonde, and aunt of 'Black Tom' Butler, Queen Elizabeth's childhood sweetheart. The marriage occurred at a fortuitous time for Power family fortunes. English influence in Ireland had been in decline for several decades and the rival Houses of Butler and Fitzgerald effectively ran the country. The Powers of Curraghmore were intimately connected, by marriage, with both.
Following the break with Rome in 1529, Henry VIII appointed a new Lord Deputy to Ireland, the Machiavellian genius Anthony St. Ledger. St. Ledger's policy was to win back the support of wayward Irish and Norman families by offering substantial gifts of land, titles and monies in return for swearing an oath of loyalty to the King who would, hereafter, also be known as "King of Ireland". The Earl of Ormonde was anxious that his own heirs benefit from this dubious patronage. In June 1535, he wrote to the King advocating that his son-in-law, Sir Richard Power, "should be enabled to be a baron of parliament with some profits in the county of Waterford". On 13th September 1536, Lord Chancellor Audley wrote that he had made two patents for barons in Ireland - for Richard Power and Thomas Eustace.
In 1538 a civil war broke out over the succession to the Earldom of Desmond. Baron Le Poer was inevitably entangled in this conflict, fighting in support of the Crown's candidate. On 10th November 1538 he was slain by "the traitor Owen O'Callaghan". He was succeeded by his eldest son Piers. (8)

Sir Piers the Warrior, 2nd Baron (1526 - 1545)

Piers was born in 1526 and, as an 18 year old, served as a Captain General of the Irish kerne (or lightly armed foot soldiers) with King Henry VIII's army at the Siege of Boulogne in 1544. An English army, commanded by Edward Seymour, had crossed to France that June. Boulogne was captured in September but English success was thwarted later in the month when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, formerly England's ally, made peace with the French at Crespy and effectively abandoned the English. Piers Power was knighted for his efforts. He died on 10th October 1545, probably from wounds received at Boulogne. His remains were shipped back to Ireland and he was buried at Mothal Abbey. On 5th January 1545 Sir William Wyse wrote that Lady Katherine Butler and her brother, "Black Tom", the Earl of Ormonde, were planning a memorial for the young soldier at "Mothell beside Curraghmore where they intend in an obseque for Lord Power's soul, where much devotion of meat and drink is prepared there, where much devotion of meat and drink is prepared there. The poor people are like to say "Requiescant in pace" but the more they cry the more the sorrow increaseth".

Sir Piers was succeeded as 3rd Baron by his younger brother John of whom we treat anon. Sir Piers youngest brother Thomas Power was married to Joan Tobin, a lady who would later emerge as the wife of Edmund Fitzgibbon, the White Knight. Piers' sisters also married into the cream of Irish aristocracy - Katherine married Sir Nicholas Devereux, Ellice wed Sir Thomas Fitzgerald of Conna (and was mother of James fitzThomas, self-styled 14th Earl of Desmond); Margaret married William Bourke of Ballyloggan, Co. Tipperary, lord of Costure, and then married his brother, Walter Bourke of Cappagh, lord of Muskerryquirk; Ellen married Teig MacBrien of Ballytrasna, Co. Limerick.

Lady Katherine Power

After the murder of Sir Richard Power in 1538, the administration of the Power family affairs in Waterford should technically have been taken up by his son and heir, Piers. However, with Piers so deeply embroiled in the King's foreign wars, the rule of the country was effectively placed in the hands of Piers' widowed mother, Lady Katherine Power, aunt of Black Tom Butler, 10th Earl of Ormonde, and perhaps the most influential man in Ireland at this time. Lady Katherine does not seem to have endeared herself greatly to the commoners of County Waterford. In 1537 they appealed to the Royal Commission, accusing "Dame Katherine Butler" of regularly flaunting her position to extort money from them. She later married James Fitzgerald, 13th Earl of Desmond and died on 17th March 1552.

John "Mor" Power of Curraghmore (d. 1592)

After Piers premature death in 1545, he was succeeded as 3rd Baron by his younger brother, John "Mor" Power. John Mor married his cousin, Alice Fitzgerald, third daughter of James Fitzgerald, 13th Earl of Desmond. To add to the confusion, John Mor's mother Lady Katherine Power was married to the 13th Earl. Alice's brother Gerald Fitzgerald was the last Earl of Desmond. After Alice's death, John Mor married Ellen, a daughter of Teig MacCorma oge MacCarthy, Lord of Muskerry and widow of James, Lord Buttevant. John Mor spent most of the 1560s fighting on behalf of Queen Elizabeth against the rebels in Munster. His uncle, Black Tom Butler, Earl of Ormonde, was actually commanding officer during this war and among those fighting alongside him would have been a young Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1576, Sir Henry Sidney, the flamboyant Lord Deputy of Ireland and father of the poet Sir Philip Sidney, stayed with John Mor at Curraghmore. He seems to have been much impressed by John Mor's set-up.

"The night after I departed from Waterford I lodged at Curraghmore, the house that the Lord Power is baron of. The Poerne country is one of the best ordered countries in the English Pale, through the suppression of coyne and livery. The people are both willing and able to bear any reasonable subsidy towards the finding and entertaining of soldiers and civil ministers of the laws; and the lord of the country, though possessing far less territory than his neighbour (ie: Sir James Fitzgerald of the Decies, John Mor's cousin) lives in show far more honourably and plentifully than he or any other in that province".

A strategic marriage took place in 1585 implying that John Mor's status in Ireland was one of great importance. His daughter Margaret Power was married to James fitzThomas FitzGerald, the "Sugan" Earl of Desmond. (9) During the Desmond Wars, the Sugan Earl commanded the Munster rebels. He would later re-emerge as a leader during the Nine Years War against the English. On 29th May 1601 the Sugan Earl was tracked down and betrayed by his own kinsman, Edmund Fitzgibbon, the White Knight, while hiding in the Mitchelstown Caves. He was taken prisoner, handed over to the English and died soon afterwards in the Tower of London.

John Mor died in 1592 and was succeeded by his son Richard Power, 4th Baron Le Poer and Curraghmore.

The 4th Baron & the White Knight

Upon his death in 1592, John Mor was succeeded as 4th Baron by his son Richard Power. Richard had been seriously wounded while fighting with the Desmond rebels in the 1580s. In 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, Queen Elizabeth rewarded him with the grant of lands worth £50 per annum. He married Katherine Barry, daughter and sole heiress of the 3rd Viscount Buttevant. The family's penchant for inter-breeding duly continued when Richard's son John married Helen Barry, a daughter of the 5th Viscount Buttevant. This John Power was killed in a skirmishwith Edmund Fitzgibbon, the White Knight, who had married John's widowed great-aunt Joan Power (nee Tobin). His death seems to have been an accident. The White Knight is said to have given his men a "strict charge" that "if Lord Power should fall into [their] hands" he was to be treated "with all mercy and humanity" and kept "in safe custody until further orders" were issued. As it happened, John Power attacked the White Knight's army with such force that one of his enemies was compelled to beat him from his horse with a pole-awe whereupon the young man was "trampled to death in the heat of that engagement".The White Knight was the chief of the ClanGibbon, or FitzGibbons, the senior line of the cadet branch of the great Geraldine house which included the Earls of Desmond and Kildare. The FitzGibbon territory, called the White Knight's Country, included some of the most fertile lands of southern Ireland, extending from Mitchelstown in the east to Kilmallock in the west. The White Knights had taken possession of Mitchelstown after 1340 when the original Norman owners, the FitzDavids de St Michel, died out. Two years after his death in 1569, John Oge, the 10th White Knight, was the subject of a posthumous conviction for high treason and his lands had been forfeited to the Crown. His son, Edmund FitzGibbon conspired to regain them and, in 1576, his tactical loyalty to the English was repaid when most of his father's domain was restored to him on a 21 year lease. It was not particularly unusual for a feudal lord like Edmund to have been at war with his neighbours and relatives. Hoewever, his persistent seizure of neighbouring lands eventually put him out of favour with the Crown and, on 1st March 1583, a powerful army led by Sir Henry Walsingham arrived at Mitchelstown and laid siege to FitzGibbon's castle. Edmund was a product of the Elizabethan Age and knew full well that his best bet was to change sides whenever he was in trouble. At the close of the Nine Years War, he personally commanded the force that captured his kinsman, James, the Sugan Earl of Desmond, and delivered him to the English where he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Edmund FitzGibbon died on 23rd April 1608, the day after his son and heir. Legend has it they were both poisoned by a member of the family. His grandson, Maurice Oge, the last White Knight, died aged 14 in 1611 and the FitzGibbon lands fell to an English settler family, the Fentons.

John Power, 5th Baron Le Poer & Curragmore

During the 17th century there was a massive transfer of land ownership from the native Catholic Irish to English and Scottish Protestant settlers. This plantation had been precipitated by the final collapse of the Gaelic Resistance at Kinsale in 1601 and the Flight of the Earls in 1607. At the start of the 17th century, 90% of the lands in Ireland were owned by Catholic Irish. By the close of that century, the figure may have been as low as 14%. The new owners were for the most part settlers, such as Cromwellian soldiers and officers and "adventurers". It is likely that the Power family did not approve of this new wave of invaders. Like most Anglo-Norman families they would have considered themselves Roman Catholic. James I was anxious to convert his more powerful subjects to the Protestant religion. He duly ordered the 4th Baron Le Poer to send his grandson and heir, John Power, to England for his education. John's father John Power had been killed in a skirmish with the White Knights some years earlier. John duly spent his teenage years at Lambeth, living with the Archbishop, but in the end he "relapsed" to his Catholic faith. All this tossing and turning of religious faith seems to have played havoc with John's mind and he became "disordered in his wits in later life".

Kinbrough Pypho

The strong-hand of the Power clan at this time was, again, a woman. Kinbrough Pypho, named for the Saxon Saint Kinbrough, was John's formidable mother-in-law. He had married her daughter Ruth in St. Mary's Abbey in Dublin. In 1642, she wrote to the Lord Justices of Ireland explaining that Lord Le Poer had "these past twelve years been visited with impediments [lunacy]" which had "disabled him from intermeddling with his own estate". She implored the Justices to ensure that, during the inevitable horrors of the oncoming Confederate Wars, they dispatch a force to protect Lord Power and his young children from "molesting or impoverishing". The family were heavily embroiled in the political turmoil that befell Ireland during the Confederate Wars. The 5th Baron's sister Ellen Power was married to the 8th Viscount Roche of Fermoy, a charismatic soldier hanged in 1652 by the British Commonwealth regime on a trumped up charge of murder. His aunt Katherine (who married Piers Power, second son of the 4th Baron) was a daughter of the 11th Earl of Ormonde, the man who headed up the Irish Confederacy in opposition to Oliver Cromwell and the Republicans. His cousin Piers Power (son of Piers and Katherine) was attainted for participating in the 1641 Rising. (10)

Despite this, Kinbrough Pypho's letter to the Lord Justices seems to have had the desired effect. When Oliver Cromwell arrived in Ireland, he issued a writ on 20th September 1649 decreeing that Lord Power and his family be "taken into his special protection". The war had bankrupted the family but, in 1654, they were awarded a grant of 20 shillings a week to see them through the bad times. There was a brief attempt to have them transplanted to Connaught - a fate which befell many other landowners who fought against Cromwell - but they were saved when several leading soldiers declared that Lord Powers' son and heir, Richard Power, had been active in support of the English during the Confederate Wars, arresting several felons and providing invaluable intelligence to the army. The family were classed as recusants but there was no forfeiture of land and Richard duly succeeded as the 6th Baron Le Power & Corroghmore. Richard Power would go on to become the 1st Earl of Tyrone and the 1st Viscount Decies.

In 1654 a survey undertaken by Cromwell's men refers to "a fayre Castle and a goodly stone house upon the land, there is also an Orchard and Meadowupon the same and stands by the side of a fine wood". It concludes rather memorably by mentioning "the River Clodagh running within a musket shot".

Richard Power, 1st Earl of Tyrone & Viscount Decies

Born in 1630, Richard Power was the eldest son of John Power, 5th Baron Le Poer & Curraghmore, and his wife, Ruth, daughter and heiress of Robert and Kinbrough Pypho of Dublin. His father had gone doo-lally while he was still a boy and thus he had been raised by his staunchly Protestant grandmother, Kinbrough Pypho, and by his cousins, the Annesleys. But his three sisters and younger brother all wed Catholics and he himself became a Catholic in later life. His eldest son and heir, John Power, was also a Catholic but died without issue early. But his second son, James Power, the 3rd Earl, was a Protestant who received a famous letter from King Billy commending him for his efforts at the Boyne. So I'm confused.

During the Confederate Wars (1642 - 1649), Richard saved the family from certain ruin by his apparent support of the Cromwellian army against rebellious Catholics. He can only have been a teenager at this time but with his father's premature insanity it seems likely that his formidable mother had groomed him to the task of survival. After the Restoration of the Royal House of Stuart to the throne of England in 1660, Richard was appointed Governor of both Waterford City and Waterford County (March 1661). He also represented County Waterford in the Irish House of Parliament from 1661 to 1665 and served as a Colonel of Foot in 1670.

In April 1672 he received a grant, later vacated, of "the Decies", which had come into the Crown's possession on the death without male heir of John Fitzgerald of Dromana. (For further details on this, see below under his son John Power, 2nd Earl of Tyrone). On 9th October 1672 Charles II conferred upon him the Earldom of Tyrone and, in 1673, elevated his young son John to the peerage as Viscount Decis. He sat on Charles II's Privy Council from 1667 to 1679 but was then implicated in the "Popish Plot" and forced to resign. The Popish Plot was a fraudulent conspiracy created by leading Protestants in the King's Council seeking to rid the higher ranks of men sympathetic to the Roman Catholic cause. The plot hinged on an invasion of England by Catholic French troops of the 'Sun King' Louis XIV. The Blessed Saint Oliver Plunkett was among those executed on the back of this fictitious plot. In 1681, the Earl Of Tyrone was brought before the House of Commons, charged with high treason and imprisoned in Westminster gatehouse. In 1684, a huge £30,000 bail settlement ensured his release from prison, along with other Roman Catholic peers.

James II, a fervent Catholic, evidently approved of the Catholic Earl of Tyrone and, in 1686, appointed him to the Irish Privy Council. The Earl sat on the parliament held in 1689. During the Williamite Wars, he served as a colonel of infantry and, in September 1690, was among those who negotiated the terms of the Surrender of Cork to Colonel Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough. He was arrested along with Donough MacCarthy, Earl of Clancarty, and other high-ranking Jacobites. He was charged with "high treason in levying war against their majesties [William and Mary} and adhering to their enemies".

Richard Power, 1st Earl of Tyrone was imprisoned in the Tower of London and died there, aged 63, on 14th October 1690. His body was buried at Farnborough in Hampshire, burial place of his father-in-law, Arthur, Earl of Anglessy. He was succeeded by his son 25-year-old son John.

In 1654, Richard Power had married Dorothy Annesley, Arthur, daughter of the 1st Earl of Annesley.

John Power, 2nd Earl of Tyrone & Viscount Decies (d. 1693)

John Power was the son and heir of Richard, 1st Earl of Tyrone, by his wife, Ruth Pypho. Born in 1665, the year of the Great Plague, he was just 7 years old when his thrifty father engineered a marriage that would, albeit briefly, substantially increase the size of the Power family's land-holding in Ireland. In May 1673, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Gilbert Sheldon, had overseen the marriage of young John Power to his first cousin, the orphaned heiress Catherine Fitzgerald of Dromana. Catherine was a ward of the 1st Earl of Tyrone at this point and, as Nigel de la Poer says, it had clearly been his hope "to annex the vast territory called the Decies to the Curraghmore estate". John was in fact known as Viscount Decies from 1673 until his father's death in 1690. However, Catherine seems to have been a determined young lady and was not remotely interested in John Power. She managed to have the marriage declared null and void and, in March 1676, wed the Hon. Edward Villiers, son and heir of George, 4th Viscount Grandison. In the legal proceedings that followed, the 1st Earl had been forced to abandon his claim on the title deeds of Dromana.

John Power, 2nd Earl of Tyrone, is the man to whom the famous Curraghmore Ghost Story is attributed. Nigel de la Poer tells it as well as anybody.

"When discussing religious doubts with a Miss. Hamilton, they agreed that the first to die should appear to the survivor and declare what was the true religion. The lady, who had married Sir Tristam Beresford, 3rd Bart, was startled one night by the apparition of the earl, who informed her of his death (14th October 1693) and that "the revealed religion is the only one by which we can be saved", and predicted her remarriage, the number of her children etc… and her death in childbirth at the age of 47. She, being incredulous of the reality of the vision, allowed him to touch her wrist, though warned that it would be irreparably scarred. The apparition did so and "for evermore that lady wore a riband on her wrist". She died on 23rd February 1712 on her 47th birthday which, from a mistake about the year of her birth, she thought she had passed".

John died aged just 28 on 14th October 1693, exactly 3 years to the day after his father's death.

James Power, 3rd Earl of Tyrone (d. 1704)

James Power was the younger brother of John Power, 2nd Earl of Tyrone and second son of Richard Power, 1st Earl, by his wife Ruth Pypho. He was born during the reign of King Charles II, in whose administration his father had been a major player. During the Williamite Wars, James fought for James II and the Jacobites, perhaps hoping to free his father from his imprisonment in the Tower of London. However, after the fall of Waterford on 21st July 1690, James insisted he had only fought for the Jacobites because he had been "forced by the severity of his father". His submission to King William ensured that he was neither outlawed nor indicted. Following the premature death of his brother John at the age of 28 on 14th October 1693, exactly 3 years to the day after his father's death, James Power succeeded as 3rd Earl. The previous Christmas he had wed Anne Rickard, eldest daughter and co-heir of Andrew Rickard of Dangan Spidoge, County Kilkenny. His reputation may still have been in some doubt at this point as he was, after all, still a Jacobite veteran. However, in 1697 he received a Pardon under the Great Seal and he served as Governor of Waterford from 1697 until his death in 1704.

In 1700 the 3rd Earl commissioned the construction of the present house at Curraghmore on the site of the original castle. It is rather astonishing to think that less than 50 years earlier, his family had been living off a Cromwellian subsidy of just 20 shillings a week.

Colonel John Power

The 3rd Earl had no sons and so on his death in August 1704, both the Viscounty and Earldom expired. The titles then devolved upon his cousin Colonel John Power but as this man had been outlawed and attainted for his support of the Jacobites, they were deemed extinct. Colonel Power nevertheless styled himself Baron Le Power and Coroghmore after the 3rd Earl's death. He had served as Mayor of Limerick during the siege of the city by King William's army and was duly attainted in 1688. He later returned to England where Queen Anne gave him some financial assistance. He was allegedly murdered by one of his own servants during a visit to Paris in August 1725.

Catherine Power, Lady Beresford

Catherine Power was the only child of James Power, 3rd Earl of Tyrone, by his wife, Anne Rickard, eldest daughter and co-heir of Andrew Rickard of Dangan Spidoge, County Kilkenny. Her father left the entirety of the Power lands and possessions to her on his death in August 1704. However, he specified that should she die without issue, his trustees were to erect and maintain a convenient building "in or near the College of Dublin which shall be called Powers Hall". He also called for the construction of a free school "in imitation of the school at Eton in England". One wonders did this have any influence on Commissioner Beresford's decision to found Saint Columba's College in Rathfarnham. Catherine wed Sir Marcus Beresford, only son and heir of Sir Tristram Beresford and his wife Nicola Sophia Hamilton, the lady of the ghost story. In 1720 Sir Marcus was created Baron Beresford and Viscount Tyrone. In 1746, a year after Bonnie Prince Charlie's army was defeated at Culloden, Marcus was created Earl of Tyrone. It was the third time the Earldom of Tyrone had been created. His son George Beresford was created Marquess of Waterford in 1789, the year of the French Revolution. The present head of the Beresford family is the 8th Marquess of Waterford. In 1767 the Irish House of Commons declared that Catherine, Lady Tyrone, had "fully proved her claim to the Barony of Le Poer in fee and hath a right to the said Barony in fee". George III confirmed this soon after. This has been a matter of considerable debate in subsequent years as the Barony had never actually existed. It is on the back of this that Major de la Poer of Gurteen launched his claim for recognition as Baron Le Power and Corroghmore in 1920.

The Annesley Connection

Incidentally, the Bersefords and de la Poers were already related when they united the two tribes in marriage. Their mutual cousins were the Annesleys of Valentia, Co. Kerry, and Bunclody, Co. Wexford, another rowdy gene-pool that has continued to the present day. One of them, Richard Annesley (1694 - 1761), was responsible for an astonishing jolt of 18th century skulduggery when, in 1727, he sold his orphaned nephew, James Annesley (1715 - 1760), the family heir, to a passing slave ship and took over the estates himself. Young James remained in slavery in America for several years before joining one of the ships' of Admiral Vernon's English fleet. He told his story to the officers and Vernon brought him back to England. Richard was rumbled but despite life-long legal proceedings James was never able to re-establish his rightful titles and died a broken man.

Tyrone Power

I presume Tyrone Power (1913 - 1958) the film actor was named for Tyrone de la Poer. His great grandfather was also Tyrone Power (1797 - 1841), born near Kilmacthomas in County Waterford on 2nd November 1797 but raised in Wales. He made his name on the London stage taking on comic Irish begorragh parts and, by the 1830s, was packing out houses all the way to America. On St. Patrick's Day 1841 he was returning across the Atlantic from a property searching expedition to Texas when the ship, The President, the largest steamer then afloat, was caught in a gale and all aboard were lost.

The Beresfords

The Beresford family descend from John de Beresford who held the manor of Beresford in Staffordshire on 4th October 1087. There is a strong argument to suggest that the Beresford's held their Manor, around the stretch of Dovedale now called Beresford Dale, well before the Norman Conquest in 1066, and the family were in fact pre-Saxon. Thomas Beresford of Fenny Bentley, married into the Cheshire family of Hassall and his wife Agnes bore him sixteen sons and five daughters. Thomas fought at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and later raised a Troop of Horse comprising eight of his sons and their retainers for service in the French Wars. It is from the sons of this Thomas that the present main branches of the family descend. The present Head of the House of Beresford, Mr. J. Christopher Beresford is the descendant of Thomas's third son, Hugh, and 29th Head of the family in a line which stretches back nine hundred years to John of 1087. The descendants of Thomas's fifth son, Robert Beresford, are flourishing today both in England and abroad, whilst the descendants of Humphrey, Thomas's sixth son, are represented in the branch headed by the Marquess of Waterford.
Apart from the Marquess of Waterford and the Earl of Tyrone, the family titles have included two Viscounts, five Barons and a number of baronets and knights. The family has produced three Archbishops, four Bishops, two Admirals, six Generals, three Circuit Judges and a great number of MPs. Its members have achieved me Victoria Cross, six Olympic Medals and other sporting honours.

Commissioner Beresford, the '98 Rebellion & the Act of Union

John Claudius Beresford (1738 - 1805) was the chief breadwinner of the clan in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He was born in Dublin on 14th March 1738, and educated at Kilkenny College (where Jonathan Swift had studied four decades earlier) and Trinity College Dublin. He was called to the bar in 1760 but never practiced. In that year the 22-year-old Dubliner also won the seat for Waterford in the House of Commons, which he retained until his death 45 years later. In 1768 he was appointed Privy Councillor and in 1770 became Commissioner of Revenue. Two years after the death of his first wife in 1772, he married Barbara Montgomery, a celebrated beauty and one of the Graces in Reynold's painting. It was for her that Montgomery Street (aka 'The Monto') in Dublin was named.

In 1780 he secured the post for which he is most famous - 1st Commissioner of the Revenue. In this position he was able to introduce many reforms. With his good friend Lord Carlow, he convinced the young James Gandon to come to Dublin and in 1781 work began on the Custom House. This was no easy thing. Gandon arrived in Ireland on 26th April 1781 to be greeted by loud protests from the Dublin merchant bosses. In September a mob led by Napper Tandy broke down the paling around the new building and caused some damage. It took a decade to complete the project but the building is now rightly hailed as one of the most splendid of its type in the world. During this era Gandon was also commissioned to extend Pearce's Parliament House, design the new Four Courts (1785 - 1802) and design the King's Inn (1795 - 1808).Beresford also sponsored an extension of the quays and the opening up of Sackville Street (O'Connell Street ).

When Pitt became Prime Minister, Beresford was unofficially placed in charge of Irish affairs. But when the well meaning Lord Fitzwilliam arrived as Lord Lieutenant in 1795, vowing to inaugurate a policy of conciliation, he found that Beresford was "virtually king of Ireland" and so unpopular with Grattan and his party that the new policy could not be carried out. He dismissed Beresford for misadministration and alleged malversation of funds. To keep the peace, he continued to provide the Commissioner with his annual salary of £2000 a year. However, in a few weeks, Fitzwilliam was recalled and Beresford returned to office. A duel between the two men was prevented by the police who "secured them, and told them they must submit to be taken into custody, unless they would give their honour that nothing further should pass, which they did".

The administration of Ireland was divided in 1798. In one corner was the Viceroy Lord Camden and his team (including the talented Chief Secretary Lord Castlereagh and Under Secretary Edward Cooke) trying to bring Castle administration back into order. On the other stood Commissioner Beresford and the hardcore Privy Council elite, Lord Auckland, Lord Clare (Chancellor) and John Foster (first cousin of Patience McClintock). These men had been responsible for securing the dismissal of Fitzwilliam when he tried to remove them from power. And when Camden had first arrived it was they who had helped secret him into the city, under cover from a mob gathered to protest at Fitzwilliam's dismissal - Clare had been physically assaulted, John Beresford had shot his way through the crowd.

And now these were the men squaring up for control when the Rebellion began in May 1798. When it finished four months later, more than 30,000 were dead "rotting in heaps in a smoking and desolate countryside". The rebellion was a catastrophe. It's origins were as a noble as any revolution - Wolfe Tone and a handful of young intellectuals stood on a hill in Ulster in 1792 and made a vow to unite the people of Ireland in a new age of liberty, equality and fraternity. And thus the United Irishmen were born. Tone went to France and secured Napoleon's support for an invasion of Ireland. However, just as the O'Neills and O'Donnells had been bucked by bad weather at Kinsale in 1601, so the French fleet found itself unable to land when they sailed into the choppy waters of Bantry Bay in December 1796. The fleet sailed home and the rebellion was postponed for 18 months.

In the spring of 1798 the authorities in Dublin arrested a dozen men whom they correctly believed to be plotting a nationwide rebellion. Deprived of leadership, the remnants of the United Irishmen grew scared and, inevitably, the situation became very dangerous. Lord Edward Fitzgerald, younger brother to the Duke of Leinster, caught the public's imagination during his own brief revolt against the powers in Dublin but his life was unexpectedly ended when he became embroiled in a gunfight with a Dublin constable.

Political intrigue and personal rivalries now took over. Rumours abounded. Catholics were told that the Protestants were preparing to massacre them all. Protestants were told that the Catholics were preparing to massacre them all. A lot of people believed these rumours. And so when the first confirmed reports of Catholic and Protestant murder victims started to circulate, a tremendous panic swept the country. It's difficult to understand just how crazy or brutal this conflict was. Everybody was as bad as each other. All across Leinster, men, women and children were dragged from their homes and piked or flayed to death. Robberies, looting, rape and pillage. There were trouble makers and fire starters all over the place. Catholic priests and Anglo-Irish gents reluctantly found themselves pushed into positions of power over mobs of drunken soldiers and ill-equipped pikemen. It took several weeks before the British Redcoats were organised into some semblance of an army capable of restoring order.

The fighting reached a peak in Wexford in June with the siege of Wexford and the battle of Vinegar Hill. Ulster also exploded in revolt, its leaders a curious mixture of no nonsense Presbyterian and Roman Catholic. At the end of June, peace had just about been restored in Ireland when a French fleet under General Humbert arrived at Killala Bay expecting to find an island full of mad Irishmen baying for the blood of the English. Instead they met the local populace of surprised Mayo farmers who, having ascertained the French intent, armed themselves with sticks and pikes and assured the French they were up for a scrap. General Humbert uncertainly advanced east across Ireland with his Franco-Irish army, securing several useful victories over the local Protestant militias. But the British were having no more of this nonsense. On September 8th, General Humbert's army was carefully and methodically slaughtered by superior forces in the bogs of Ballinamuck, County Longford.

But if JCB was a dodgy egg, his kinsmen were far worse. In 1799 his brother-in-law Thomas Judkin Fitzgerald was tried for his inhumane treatment of the people of Tipperary during and after the United Irishmen rebellion. Pakenham describes him as "a parody of the more extreme kind of loyalist: brave and energetic, but arrogant and reckless to a degree verging on insanity". When the revolt flared up in Wexford, he apparently rode his horse through Tipperary (where he was High Sheriff) "like an avenging demon, haranguing the people in Irish for hours at a time, making them kneel down and pray for the King, pardoning them if they confessed their crimes, and flogging them if they had no crimes to confess". He doesn't sound like a cheerful chappy to be married to.

Here's a particularly happy anecdote from Tom Pakenham's book.

"To avoid the lash, one of his [Fitzgerald's] victims had accused a French professor at Clonmel of being a United officer; in fact he was a respectable Protestant of unimpeachable loyalty. Fitzgerald seized the professor by the hair, dragged him to the ground, kicked him and cut him across the forehead with his sword; then he had him stripped to the waist, and tied to a ladder, and ordered him 50 lashes. A major from the garrison came up and asked Fitzgerald why the man was being flogged. Here is the evidence, said the Sheriff, and he handed the officer a note in French; he did not understand the language himself, he added, but he could assure the major that he would find ample evidence there to justify flogging the scoundrel to death. The major, who did read French, explained that the note was a harmless one. The Sheriff ordered 50 more lashes for the professor, and part of his bowels could be seen protruding from the wounds. His waist-band was cut, and a further 50 lashes were added. And then leaving the wretched man hanging from the ladder, the Sheriff went to find a firing squad to finish him off. They were not to be found and the professor survived in the town gaol where he was left for a week without medical help. Other were less fortunate".

With the Rebellion at last suppressed, there was a serious movement launched to wrest control of Irish administrative affairs from Dublin and leave things to Westminster. JCB and his cronies reckoned this would put them out of business. Hence they were opposed to the Union. But gradually they came around to see a more positive outcome, often aided by golden handshakes and titular accessories. When the Act of Union was passed, it effectively meant Ireland was governed by London in alliance with the High Protestant party in Ireland. John Claudius Beresford, leader of the Dublin Orange Lodge, was among those to be reconciled; his kinsmen would soon be reaping the rewards in their pursuit of vacant bishoprics. John Foster was created Viscount Oriel and in 1804 was triumphantly restored as Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer. (He's a sort of forbear of mine, his sister married a good McClintock fellow). As they realized they were not to be stripped of their power, so Enniskillen, Downshire and the other High Protestant anti-union elite returned to the fold over the next few years.

John Claudius Beresford died at his seat in Walwaorth, Derry, on 5th November 1805.

Lord John De La Poer (d. 1862), Primate of Ireland, Chancellor of TCD

In 1805 - the year Nelson destroyed Napoleon's fleet at Trafalgar - a new Bishop arrived to take up the see of Cork and Ross. 31 year old Lord John De La Poer Beresford, a younger son of the 1st Marquis of Waterford, would go on to become Primate of All Ireland. He was born at Tyrone House [11] in Dublin on 22nd November 1773. (11) After an education at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, he took holy orders and, having served in various family livings, succeeded to the See of Cork and Ross. [12]

Thomas Pakenham suggests Lord John had a reputation as a rake. (13) Over the next two decades his rise was assured - Bishop of Raphoe (1807), Bishop of Clogher (1819), Archbishop of Dublin (1820), Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland (1822). These would have been intriguing times to be the Church of Ireland's head man. Daniel O'Connell's monster meetings across the country were having the desired effect on the ruling elite - it was time to tone down the Penal Laws and offer the Catholic peasantry some form of liberation.

Beresford was a conservative and opposed Catholic Relief. In the general election of 1826 O'Connell arrived in Waterford and convinced the "forty shilling freeholders" to vote against a member of the all-powerful Beresford clan. The tide was turning against the Established Church and, in 1829, Catholic Emancipation was granted. That same year the Primate was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Dublin. In 1851 he was appointed Chancellor. He was a good choice. He made generous endowments to the university library. He endowed a chair of ecclesiastical history. And he forked out £3000 to have the great campanile erected in the great quadrangle of Trinity College.

This man is also to blame for the education of some of the shakiest characters to have emerged in modern history. In 1844, St. Columba's College was opened in Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin, "to furnish the gentry of Ireland with a school on the model of Eton". Beresford gifted a whopping £6000 to the cause. He also restored the cathedral of Armagh at a cost of £30,000.

He died at Woburn near Donaghadee, Co. Armagh, on 11 July 1862. He was buried in Armagh Cathedral.


Victorian Beresfords

In 1850, John Henry de la Poer Beresford, 5th Marquess of Waterford, built Bellevue Terrace, a terrace of 8 holiday villas, overlooking The Promenade and Tramore Bay. The properties were used by visiting gentry of the era to take in the sea air.

In his very readable biography "My Early Life", Winston Churchill recalls his friendship with the Beresford brothers during the latter years of the 20th century. (14) These were heady days. Brittania was at the apex of her imperial glory. The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, prompting a rampant era of patriotic flag waving from her loyal subjects that would ultimately fuel the necessary popular support for a war against the impudent Boers in South Africa the following autumn. Churchill was one of thousands of expertly trained cavalry officers gasping for some action.

"Lilian, widow of my uncle the 8th Duke of Marlborough, the daughter of a Commodore in the American navy, and very wealthy by an earlier marriage, had recently married in third wedlock Lord William Beresford. He was the youngest of Lord Waterford's three brothers, each of whom was a man of mark. The eldest, "Charlie", was the famous Admiral. The second, Marcus, made a great place for himself in society and on the Turf; and the third, "Bill", the soldier, had won the Victoria Cross in Zululand. All my life until they died I kept coming across these men. Lord William and Lilian Duchess had married in ripe years; but their union was happy, prosperous and even fruitful. They settled down at the beautiful Deepdene near Dorking, and bade me visit them continually".

Lord William Leslie de la Poer Beresford, VC, KCIE, was born 20 July 1847 at Mullaghbrack, Market Hill, Co. Armagh. He died on 28th December 1900 at Dorking, Surrey, and was buried at Clonagem Churchyard, Co.Waterford. He served as a Captain and later as Lieutenant-Colonel with the 9th Lancers (The Queen's Royal). His heroic action took place on 3rd July 1879. He seems to have made a strong impression on young Churchill.

"I took a strong liking to Bill Beresford. He seemed to have every quality which could fascinate a cavalry subaltern. He was a man of the world acquainted with every aspect of clubland and society. For long years he had been military secretary both to Lord Dufferin and Lord Lansdowne, successive Viceroys of India. He was a grand sportsman who lived his whole life in companionship with horses. Polo, pig-sticking, pony-racing, horse-racing, together with shooting big game of every kind, had played a constant part in his affairs, As a young officer of the 12th Lancers he had won a large bet by walking after dinner from the Blue Mess at Knightsbridge to the cavalry barracks at Hounslow; there catching a badger kept by the 10th Hussars and carrying it back in a bag on his shoulders to the expectant Mess at Knightsbridge, in an exceedingly short time, considering the distance. There was nothing in sport or in gambling about sport which he had not tasted. Lastly he was an officer who had served in three or four wars, and who had in circumstances of forlorn hope rescued a comrade from Zulu assegais and bullets. His opinions about public affairs, though tinged with an official hue, were deeply practical, and on matters of conduct and etiquette they were held by many to be decisive."

But sadly not all Lord Bill's opinions were correct. "Always do I remember his declaration that there would never be another war between civilized peoples. "Often", he said, "have I seen countries come up to the very verge but something always happens to hold them back". There was much too good sense in the world, he thought, to let such a hideous thing as that break out among polite nations. I did not accept that as conclusive; but it weighed with me, and three or four times when rumours of war filled the air, I rested myself upon it, and three or four times I saw it proved to be sure and true. It was the natural reflection of a life lived in the Victorian Age. However, there came a time when the world got into far deeper waters than Lord William Beresford or any of his contemporaries had ever plumbed."

As to the events that won Bill Beresford his Victoria Cross, here's what one of his obituaries had to say:


The British public love the Beresfords, and throughout the homes of England, stately or lowly, there is genuine feeling of regret at the passing away of Lord William— "Bill Beresford" — who paid nature's debt on Saturday, 8th instant, at the early age of 53. Of the three brothers [four, including John, 5th Marquess of Waterford, who died in 1895 – ed.], Charles, William, and Marcus, the eldest was perhaps the most popular idol. He is a sailor, and no doubt that counts for much, but of the man who was and now is not was probably the more loved of his friends than any.

First and foremost, he was a fighter, as are all the Beresfords, and he possessed the family sporting instinct, and gave free rein to it, but he was also a courtier, an accomplished diplomat, a staunch friend and true, and a man who, whilst always enjoying himself, was ever at work planning enjoyments for other people. He was, indeed, one of the most attractive and genial figures on the stage of life.

After being educated at Eton, where he distinguished himself as much by his love of sport and mischief, particularly when there was any danger to be run or any pugnacity to be shown, as by devotion to books, he joined the 14th Hussars as cornet. Exchanging into the 9th Lancers, he gained his lieutenancy in 1870, and seven years later his captaincy.

During this period he had no opportunity to show the stuff whereof he was made, other than by risking his neck on every possible occasion when there were races to be run and hurdles to be jumped; but in 1877 his regiment was in India, and the Jowaki war broke out. In this frontier business he first flashed his sword, behaving with much dash, gallantry, and recklessness of personal safety.

He was scarcely out of the saddle from 1879 to 1882. He was with Lord Chelmsford in the Zulu war, and was at the battle of Ulundi, when over 20,000 Zulus, commanded by Cetewayo himself, enveloping the British in the open country, and thought to annihilate them by charging on all sides of the square.

It was in this decisive battle that he won his Victoria Cross. Everybody should know the story of what Archibald Forbes, the famous war correspondent, called "the bravest deed I ever saw," but some may not, and therefore let Forbes tell it once again.

"Beresford," he says, "was out on a scout—or, rather, an armed reconnaissance —to ascertain the strength of the Zulu forces. Buller directed him to be very wary, or he would be ambuscaded. The advice was good, for, suddenly, from out of a deep watercourse crossing the plain, and from out the adjacent long grass, sprang up a long line of several thousand armed Zulus. At Buller's loud command to fire a volley and then retire, Beresford and his scouts rode back towards the main body, followed by Zulu bullets. Two men were killed on the spot. A third man's horse slipped up, and his wounded rider came to the ground, the horse running away. Beresford, riding behind his retreating party, looked back and saw that the fallen man was trying to rise.

The Zulus were perilously close to the poor fellow, but Beresford believed he saw a chance of anticipating them. Galloping back to the wounded man, and dismounting, he confronted his adversaries with his revolver, while urging the fallen soldier to get on his (Beresford's) horse. The wounded man bade Beresford remount and fly. Why (said he) should two men die when death was inevitable but to one! The quaint, resourceful humor of his race did not fail Beresford in this crisis; he turned on the wounded man, and swore, with clenched fists, that he would punch his head if he did not assist in the saving of his life. This argument prevailed.

Still facing his foes with his revolver, Beresford partly lifted, partly hustled the man into the saddle, then scrambled up himself, and set the chestnut agoing after the other horsemen. Another moment's delay and both must have been assegaied. A comrade, the brave Sergeant O'Toole, fortunately came back, shot down Zulu after Zulu with cool courage, and then aided Beresford in keeping the wounded man in the saddle till the laager was reached, where no one could tell whether it was the rescuer or rescued who was the wounded man, so smeared was Beresford with borrowed blood.

Lord William was commanded to Windsor to receive the reward 'for valor' from the hands of the Sovereign. But something more must be told, Beresford plainly told her Majesty that he could not in honor receive recognition of the service it had been his good fortune to perform, unless that recognition were shared in by Sergeant O'Toole, who, he persisted in maintaining, deserved infinitely greater credit than any which might attach to him.

Not less than soldierly valor can Queen Victoria appreciate soldierly honesty, generosity, modesty, and so the next 'Gazette' announced that the proudest reward a British soldier can aspire to had been conferred on Sergeant Edmund O'Toole, of Baker's Horse.''

That story shows the man.

[Taken from The Cobargo Chronicle (NSW) of 22 Feb 1901, but widely circulated.

The West Australian of 10 Dec 1914 augmented the above tale as follows:

When Lord William Beresford gained the V.C. in the Zulu war he declared that he could not in honour accept that decoration unless it was also conferred upon Sergeant O'Toole. The latter had, indeed, played a man's part in helping Beresford. When Lord William was bringing in the man whom he had rescued, the sergeant rode out to his help and shot down Zulu after Zulu with his revolver. His success beat the savages back, and he then helped Beresford to keep the wounded man in the saddle until the safety of the laager was reached.

When Queen Victoria heard of Beresford's chivalrous action as regards the sergeant's right to share the honour with him, she so appreciated his fine display of feeling that the very next "Gazette" after that announcing "Bill's" Cross contained the notification that Sergeant Edmund O'Toole, of Baker's Horse. had been granted the well-earned "bit of bronze."

It is interesting to note that it was Archibald Forbes, the famous war correspondent, who was the first to call the attention of Sir Evelyn Wood to Beresford's gallantry, and also, indirectly as it turned out, to help to pin the Cross on the sergeant's breast as well.


As Bill Beresford stated, he would not have lived to see his VC on 3rd July 1879 were it not for the quick thinking of Sergeant Edmond O’Toole of the Cape Frontier Light Horse. He assisted Beresford in the rescue of Sergeant Fitzmaurice (42nd Regt) whose horse had fallen and rolled on him at Ulundi. O’Toole ‘dismounted his own horse and kept the Zulu warriors at bay with his pistol and rifle’. He then helped Beresford heave the wounded Fitzmaurice onto Beresford’s mount and held him upright while they galloped to safety. Born in Ireland in 1848, O’Toole was also awarded the Victoria Cross. He died in South Africa sometime after 1900 and his VC has since vanished. (For more on Edmond O'Toole, click here). It might be of interest to note that Beresford, O’Toole and Fitzmaurice were all mounted on Irish horses.

In 1898 the Pathan tribesmen on the Indian frontier arose in revolt against the English. Churchill was in India at the time and immediately telegraphed Lord William the Badger Robber to encourage Sir Bindon Blood, the General in charge that young Churchill was just the chap to have on his staff. "These Beresfords had a great air", muses the future Prime Minister. "They made one feel that the world and everyone in it were of fine consequence".

Churchill also records an anecdote about Lord Marcus Beresford dining in the Carlton Club with Billy Gerard, an old war horse with a liking for the booze who'd just been appointed ADC to Sir Redvers Buller in South Africa. "As he rose to leave us, Lord Marcus Beresford said with great earnestness "Good-bye, old man, mind the V.C.". To this our poor friend, deeply moved, replied "I'll do my best to win it". "Ah!", said Lord Marcus, "you are mistaken, I did not mean that, I meant the Vieux Cognac". This was terribly, terribly funny at the time.

Admiral Lord Charles Beresford was one of Prince Bertie's great mates - along with Randolph Churchill, Prince Louis of Battenburg, Christopher Sykes, Charles Carrington and Major General Sir Harry Flashman. Charles and the king fell out when the latter embarked on an affair with Lady Daisy Brooke, later Countess of Warwick, whom Charles had been rumbling with himself a few years earlier. Flashman was another of Daisy's conquests. (15)



Arthur Young toured Ireland in 1776, 1777 and 1778, recording his encounters with people of all classes from titled landowners to common labourers, and all areas from the semi-industrial north to the dairy country of Waterford and Wexford. Constantia Maxwell noted that "as an agriculturalist of European repute, he had no difficulty in securing introductions to the most prominent members of the Irish aristocracy and gentry, giving him a framework for his astonishingly comprehensive tour of the island". Young compiled two books of his travels - one, a scientific account of Irish agriculture; the other, a record of who's who celebrity gossip that would have propelled him to the front of contemporary tabloids, except there weren't any. Tragically the latter journal was stolen while he snoozed in his carriage on his way home. He did, however, leave an intriguing insight into the lives of the poor living in and around Curraghmore. He stayed a few nights with "Lord Tyrone" (aka George De La Poer [Beresford], 2nd Earl of Tyrone) in October 1776 and recorded the various improvements being made to the Curraghmore estate, specifically the conversion of 127 acres of briar-coated hills into lush fields of wheat and barley. This was at a time when the American colonies were on the verge of securing independence from the English Crown. Captain Cook was circling Australia. Wolfe Tone was a boy. The French Revolution was barely a decade away. He concluded that Curraghmore was "one of the finest places in Ireland, or indeed that I have anywhere seen. The house, which is large, is situated upon a rising ground, in a vale surrounded by very bold hills, which rises in a variety of forms, and offer to the eye, in riding through the grounds, very noble and striking scenes". (16) The following extract from Young's journals is long and quite hard work but ultimately an interesting read. I personally find it easier to understand 18th century texts if I read it aloud, like I'm auditioning to be a fluffy-faced geezer in a Jane Austen movie.

Oct. 15th 1776

Left Newtown[anner], and keeping on the banks of the Suir, passed through Carrick [Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary] to Curraghmore [Co. Waterford], the seat of the Earl of Tyrone. This line of country, in point of soil, inferior to what I have gone through; so that I consider the rich country to end at Clonmel. For the following account of the husbandry of the county of Waterford I am obliged to the attention of Lord Tyrone.

That country is divided into very large farms, and the renters of them keep cows generally, which they let to dairymen. One farmer, Mr. Peor, has two thousand cows. [Peor = Poer?] and pays £2000 a year, but they rarely let more to one man than 50 cows, usually about 20. The dairyman's privilege is a house and 2 or 3 acres of land, or a horse and two cows in twenty. They make nothing but butter, and all keep hogs, but do not feed them with milk, selling it all. 1300 to 1500 churns full of milk, each 8 gallons, goes into Waterford every day in the year, and a prodigious quantity to Carrick. The country is by far the greatest dairying one in Ireland. The breed is the common mountain cow, poor to look at, but great milkers. Average rent of all the land under cows, 10 s[hillings].One third of the county mountain. Not a thirtieth part of the county under the plough. The tillage consists only of little patches broken up by the cabins; it has been increasing these fifteen years. About Dungarvan [Co. Waterford] there are many potatoes planted, which are sent to Dublin in boats, with loads of birch brooms, and they are said to be loaded with "fruit" and "timber", but in no part of the country do they plant grass potatoes; they plant many of the Bull or Turk sort for their pigs but they are reckoned an unwholesome sort for the people to feed on. Upon the coast there is a great deal of seaweed and sea sand, especially beyond Dungarvan and Waterford. Flax is scarcely anywhere sown.

The poor people feed on potatoes and milk. Most of them have cows. Many of them for a part of the year only salt; but they have oat bread when potatoes are not in season. They all keep pigs but never eat them. Their circumstances are in general greatly better than they were 20 years ago, both in food and clothing; they have now all shoes and stockings, and are decently dressed every Sunday. No hats among the women, and it is the same in other parts. The religion of the lower classes is the Roman catholic.

Emigration from this part of Ireland principally to Newfoundland, for a season; they have £18 or £20 for their pay, and are maintained, but they do not bring home more than £7 to £11. Some of them stay and settle. Three years ago there was an emigration of indented servants to North Carolina, of 300, but they were stopped by contrary winds, etc. There had been something of this constantly, but not to that amount. The oppression which the poor people have most to complain of is not having any tenures in their lands, by which means they are entirely subject to their employers.

Manufacturers here are only woolens. Carrick is one of the greatest manufacturing towns in Ireland. Principally for ratteens, but of late they have got into broadcloths, all for home consumption. The manufacture increases and is very flourishing. There are between three and four hundred people employed in it, in Carrick and its neighbourhood.

Lord Tyrone is clear that if his estate in Londonderry was in Waterford, or that all the inhabitants of it were to emigrate from it, so as to leave him to new model it, he would be able to get full one-third more for it than he can do at present; rents in the north depending not on quality but on the price of linen. The rise in the prosperity of Ireland, about 1749, owing to the higher price of provisions, which raised rents and enforced industry. Butter now 9d a lb; 30 years ago 2 1/2d.

Lord Tyrone has improved 127 acres of hill, the soil reddish dry loam, on a slaty bottom, overrun with furze, briars and bushes. He first grubbed them up, then he levelled an infinite number of old ditches and mounds, ploughed in winter, and second ploughed in May; and 200 barrels of roach lime per acre. Upon this ploughed twice more, and sowed, part with wheat at Michelmas, and part with barley in spring. The crops exceedingly good; 8 barrels an acre of wheat, and 18 of barley. After the wheat, barely and grass seeds were sown; the barely as good as the other, and upon the barely, part oats were sown, the crop 15 barrels, and white clover and hay seeds. Before the improvement, it let at 10s an acre; after the improvement, it would let readily at 25s.

With thanks to the Marquis of Waterford, Ken Nichols, Edward O'Toole, Warren Power, Vicky House and a gentleman called Magnus and others.

For more on Edmund O'Toole, VC, visit Vicky House's most useful website here.

page 32 - search Beresford for Marcus Beresford

see page 65 for Beresford family and Polo Artic



Dear Sir,

It is funny that the only heiress of Sir Roger POER, lord of Power-Hayes (Devon) was Cecilia married to William DUKE.

Before that marriage around 1450, there was already a Thomas DUKE who ravishes before 1356 Cecilia, wife of Robert POER (liv. Power-Hayes).

Thomas DUKE was a nephew of Thomas DUKE born as Thomas DUX or “de HERTOGHE” in Brussels around 1315/20 and spoke Flemish …

Before thestart of the campaigns in Northern-France of King Edward III, Thomas, Clayton and William DUKE were the most important money lenders.

Kind regards from Brussels.

O. Meert.