Turtle Bunbury

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Redmond Kane and the Mantua Estate in Swords


"Lord Rathdonnell's family name is McClintock-Bunbury, and he is the representative of the McClintock family, formerly of Drumcar, Co. Louth, and the Bunbury family of Lisnavagh, Co. Carlow. However, the estates which the family owned and which their archive documents were by no means confined to Cos Louth and Carlow. The McClintock family owned or leased lands in Cos Fermanagh, Monaghan and, to a much lesser extent, Tyrone. In 1773, William Bunbury, MP, of Lisnavagh married Katharine Kane, the heiress to lands all over the place. Indeed, it is probable that the Lords Rathdonnell had possessions in more counties than any other Irish peerage or gentry family".

So runs Anthony Malcolmson's introduction to "The Rathdonnell Papers" on behalf of the PRONI. The marriage of William Bunbury, MP, of Lisnavagh and Katherine Kane was arguably the greatest hour of the Irish branch of the Bunbury family. It brought into their possession the substantial Kane estates, which had a gross rental of £2,819 in 1840. These had been assembled by Katharine's father, Redmond Kane (d.1778), who lived in a seaside villa at Mantua, Swords, Co Dublin. Malcolmson suggests Redmond was an attorney who may have been a convert to the Church of Ireland. He even suggests Redmond might have been a crypto-Catholic.

The Mystery of Redmond Kane...or was he Keane?

It is not known who Redmond Kane's forbears might have been but he may have changed his name from Keane to Kane whilst changing religion. Alternatively Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland (1958) draws reference (p. 402) to the Dublin family of Kane of whom Joseph Kane stood as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1725. Joseph's brother Nathaniel Kane not only served as Lord Mayor in 1734 but owned land at Drumreaske, Co. Monaghan. Nathaniel Kane also co-founded the Bank of Kane & La Touche with David Digues La Touche. This family descended from the Ulster clan of O'Kane who owned considerable lands in County Derry (including the castles of Limavady, Enagh and Dungiven) and Antrim (Dumseverich Castle). In 1607 Sir Donnell O'Kane, who married Hugh O'Neill's daughter Una, was arrested and incarcerated in the Tower of London where he died, untried, in 1626. Sir Donnell's estates were then seized and divided among the civic companies of London.

The 1801 Dodds Traveling Directory, compiled 23 years after Redmond's death, mentions Mantua as having been the property of a Redmond Keene. Faulkner's Journal states that on the night of Friday 11th October 1765 a "Master KEANE", described as the "only Son of Redmond KEANE, Esq." was killed at Castle-Bellingham "by his Cloaths getting into the Wheels of a Post-Chaise". It stands to reason that this unfortunate young man was Katherine Kane's brother. Moreover, in numerous books, Mantua - Redmond's three storey villa in Swords - is described as belonging to the Keane family. But then there is a reference to a Redmond Kane who was married in St Paul's (Roman Catholic) Church on Arran Quay to a Margaret Curren in 1790.

Swords in Redmond Kane's Day

Swords in the 18th century was a small town, containing a 12th century Norman castle, a few townhouses and many handsome cottages which were chiefly let in summer for sea bathing. It had a Constabulary Police and a Coast-guard Station. St. Colmcille founded a monastery there in the 6th century and a 9th century round tower survives today, along with a 13th century square Norman tower. On a clear day you can see the Mountains of Mourne from the top of the Round Tower. One wonders did Redmond Kane ever clamber up those stone steps and gaze north to where his new lands lay? John Sweetman, the United Irishman and friend of Wolfe Tone, was buried in the shadow of the two towers.

The Molesworth family acquired much of the neighbouring land during their rise to power in the wake of the Boyne. The 1st Viscount Molesworth built Brackenstown House in the early 18th century; Jonathan Swift was among his regular visitors. Swords in Redmond Kane's day was a notoriously corrupt borough. For most of Dublin City, the canvassing of individual voters was normally frowned upon. Instead, political candidates solicited the endorsement of each of the 23 guilds whose members tended to vote in a body. However, in Swords, the individual householders were determined to vote as they saw fit and were thus wide open to the concept of selling their votes to the highest bidder. I have little doubt Redmond learned his craftiness in such an environment! In 1788, ten years after Redmond Kane's death, an inspired businessman named M'Intyre secured the passing of an Act through the Irish Parliament enabling him to build a canal from Malahide to Swords and neighbouring Fieldstown. Unfortunately the scheme failed, as did the same mans' cotton manufacture which had been granted £2,000 from the Irish Parliament.

Redmond's Penal Wheelin' from Meath to Monaghan

Anthony Malcolmson believes Redmond Kane to have been an attorney. He suggests that "he may have been a convert to the Church of Ireland or even a crypto-Catholic. His putative religion notwithstanding, he specialized in acquiring bishops' leases (since these were usually let at under-value), particularly under the Archbishop of Dublin and the Bishop of Clogher. The latter See held the lands on Fermanagh, Tyrone and Monaghan". However, "by a most confusing coincidence, the Kane property in Fermanagh, consisting of only two townlands, was beside the McClintocks' manor of Rathmoran, also held under the Bishop of Clogher; and the McClintocks [of Drumcar] owned or held a couple of townlands right in the middle of the Kane estate in Co. Tyrone. The provenance of these bits and pieces is actually immaterial, because what has been deposited in PRONI is the 'Northern' (including Co. Monaghan) material of whatever provenance". See: The Rathdonnell Papers (D/4132 AND MIC/632), PRONI, A.P.W. Malcomson (1997)

In 1752 the Kane demesne in County Meath included 100 mesuages, 600 cottages, 600 gardens, 10 orchards, 2 mills, 1000 acres of arable land, 1000 acres of meadow, 1000 acres of pasture, 50 acres of wood and underwood, 50 acres of heath and 50 acres of marsh at Bodington. (Is it possible that the Kane's owned Bodenstown in County Meath when Wolfe Tone was buried there?) These lands had been seized in 1731, an act contested by Bernard Kane and Redmond Kane in 1752 as an "unjust seizure". Who was Bernard?! Malcolmson suggests a scam whereby Kane, a possible Catholic, would deliberately have his lands confiscated so a friend could buy them cheap and sell them back to him even cheaper. The 1704 Act of Popery stated that if a Protestant came forward in Court and proved that a Papist had acquired anything greater than a 31 year leasehold interest in a property, those lands would be granted to the "Discoverer". In this case, the Discoverer was Mr. Charles King of Dublin. After King's death, his son and heir sold the lands back to Kane for practically nothing. Malcolmson believes this was a deliberate ploy to confirm Kane in his lease.

"As regards the Monaghan estates, there are two deeds at Lisnavagh, dated 1761 and 1764, which reveal that certain Kane's estates were subject to a successful lawsuit by a "Protestant Discoverer" under the Penal Laws, Charles King of Dublin. These were subsequently sold back to Kane by King's successor for a nominal sum. The interpretation of these deeds is unclear; probably, because the sum paid was nominal, the lawsuit was collusive and designed to pre-empt a genuine at "discovery" under the Penal Laws. The leases concerned those to and from Redmond Kane (1762-1876) of the lands of Drumsnaught in parish of Donaghmoyne in Barony of Farney and parish of Errigle in Barony of Trough. These were first acquired by Redmond under a lease from the Bishop of Clogher in 1760. Katherine's marriage settlement included £3000 as a portion of cash and immediate possession of some of Kane's landed property".

The Lisnavagh Archives include the will of a once prosperous lady named Eleanor Irvine dated to 1767. It seems she had got into serious debt and was unable to pay this off without selling her lands at Flemingston, Meath, Tyrone and Omagh. As the executors holding land in trust for her daughter, Olivia, Malcolmson believes Robert Nugent and Redmond Kane probably bailed her out and then took all the property as payment.

The Bunbury Marriage

In his will of 30/9/1777, Redmond gave, devised and bequeathed all his messuages, lands, tenements and hereditimants "in the kingdom of Ireland" to William Bunbury of Lisnavagh in accordance with the marriage (28th September 1773) of William to his only surviving child, Katherine Kane. He made many more generous endowments to his daughter during his lifetime, settling lands on the couple and giving her a substantial £3000 fortune. The suggestion is that Kane was somewhat obliged to pay the Bunbury family for the privilege of marrying into the landed gentry!

A codicil dated 9th May 1778 appointed Sir James Nugent, the Hon. Barry Barry and Charles King trustees. Barry Barry was born Barry Maxwell and was a son of Lord Farnham of Munny, Co. Carlow (now the Bielenbergs), and Newtownbarry (now Bunclody). Nugent and Barry were also beneficiaries. Under the wills of Redmond and Katherine Kane, these estates were to be held in trust for the use of William and Katherine's second son, (Colonel) Kane Bunbury and his heirs. Otherwise they were to go to their firstborn son, Thomas Bunbury and his heirs. Otherwise they were to be divided between the daughters Jane (later Jane McClintock) and Katherine (later Katherine Gardiner) as Tenants in Continuity. If none of this worked out, Redmond left it to the children of his sister Sophia Kane.

Following Redmond's death in 1778, Katherine duly entered possession and secured the rents and profit of lands as a tenant for life until her death. Her will, dated 27th June 1834, bequeathed all the Kane lands, including those at Cloghna (1) and Dublin (2) to her second son, Kane Bunbury. He retained these until his death at a great age in 1874. In his will, his great-nephew, the Hon. Jack Bunbury was appointed residuary legatee.

Thomas Bunbury of Lisnavagh

From the death of his mother in 1834 until his own passing in 1846, Thomas Bunbury, MP for Carlow, was in possession of the Kane estates under the limitations & conditions of the settlement made on the marriage of William and Katherine. On his death, this all passed to his brother Kane. Thomas's will, dated 26th May 1846, gave, devised and bequeathed all his estates, freehold and copyhold, as well as his leasehold estates (whether held for lives or years) to trustees therein named upon trust for his brother Kane, for life, with remainder to his nephew Captain William McClintock Bunbury and his heirs (who got 2/3) and John McClintock (1st Baron Rathdonnell) (who received 1/3). Captain McClintock Bunbury and William Elliot were executors.

Up until 1891, the Kane estates in all counties were administered separately and estate business was recorded in a separate series of rentals (for no logical reason, since they had merged with the Bunbury estates in 1846 and then merged with the McClintock estates in 1879). In 1891 a reorganization must have taken place (probably following the dismissal of the agent for the Kane estates), and 'Fermanagh, Kane and Louth' came to be administered as one unit, and the Bunbury estates as another.

Fate of Mantua

In Vanishing Country Houses of Ireland, Mantua is described as "a three story, bow ended mid 18th century house with single storey 20th century porch, similar to nearby Lissen Hall. In 1783 the seat of Mr. Keane." (p. 60). Mark Bence-Jones adds that the bow-ends were curved, "the silhouette of their roofs exactly prolonging that of the main roof, five bay front; Venetian window above rusticated and pedimented tripartite doorway" (p. 200). He further states that by 1814 the house had become the residence of a Dr. Daly whose widow or daughter, Mrs. Daly, was living there in 1837. It later belonged to Patrick & Hannah Cuffe. The villa - where Colonel Kane Bunbury was born - was built in the mid 18th century but demolished in the 20th century. The exact date of its demolition is presently unknown.


(1) The see of Clogher, having been suppressed, was vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissions (in accordance with the laws of 1851) to at once and forever fix the time and manner of renewal, thereby converting into a lease for limited terms only during the lifetime of Kane Bunbury and without being moved thereto by him.
(2) The see of Dublin was not vested as it was not suppressed. The Irish Church Act seems to have contradicted Redmond Kane's will as regards the chattel interests contained in the sees of Dublin and Clogha. Questions were posed as to who now was entitled to the title of these lands. Could John McClintock, by execution of any deed or act on his part, acquire a valid title? Could he purchase the sees from the Commissioners? Or could he recover from Kane Bunbury's residuary legatee, Jack Bunbury? An illegible conclusion seems to imply.