Turtle Bunbury

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Lattin of Morristown Lattin, Co. Kildare


The Lattin family were prominent merchants in Kildare during the 16th and 17th centuries, well known and respected for their patronage of Catholicism. Like their cousins, the More O’Ferralls, they dispatched many sons to fight on the Continent during the late 18th century, losing one in battle in 1789. Patrick Lattin served in the Irish brigade and was a close colleague of Lord Cloncurry. His uncle Jack became the subject of a popular country dance tune, “Jockey Lattin”, following his premature death in 1731. Morristown Lattin was originally built in 1692 and passed by marriage to the Mansfield family in 1836.

The Lattin family were initially granted lands in Kildare in the reign of King John (1199 – 1216). By the late 16th century they had established themselves as merchants in the area. In 1621 Richard Lattin stood as MP for Naas and founded an asylum in Naas for the support of “four poor women”, according to Burke’s Irish Family Records, which can’t have made that much impact on 17th century Ireland, but good on them anyway. In 1641 the Lattin estate comprised a fairly modest 660 acres around Naas, a house and tenements in the town itself, as well as three castles elsewhere in the area.[1]

Like several Pale families, the Lattins remained Roman Catholic during the troubles of the ensuing centuries but somehow retained their lands. Indeed, their poise was so assured that in 1692 they built a new house at Morristown Lattin. The original building featured two storeys with a dormered attic and a deep bay projection at either end of it's front.[2] In the final decade of the 17th century, they also acquired a Dublin residence in the parish of St Michan's, Lattin Court (now part of Greek Street).[3]

Richard Lattin’s descendent George (d. 1773) married Catherine Ferrall, a daughter of Ambrose Ferrall. Her brother Richard married Letitia, only daughter of James Moore of Balyna, and so became ancestor of the More O’Ferralls of Balyna (qv). George and Catherine’s younger son Ambrose Lattin died fighting for the Austrian army in Germany in 1789. It seems likely he was fighting alongside his first cousin Major General James O'Ferrall who was also in the Austrian Service and served in the Revolutionary Wars in Turkey and Italy.

Their eldest son Patrick Lattin was a close friend and aide-de-camp to Count Arthur Dillon, founder of the Dillon Regiment of the Irish Brigade. When Dillon was “dragged out of his cabriolet and murdered by the French soldiers” for his Royalist sympathies in 1794, Lattin, who was in Dillon’s carriage at the time, immediately resigned his commission and returned to live at Morristown. He later returned to Paris and died at his home in the Rue Trudon in 1836.

Morristown Lattin passed to Patrick's daughter, Pauline, and her husband Alexander Mansfield. Their descendents would retain the property until the 1980s.

Lord Cloncurry recalled Patrick Lattin in his Memoirs thus:

“When he quitted the Irish Brigade, after the murder of le beau Dillon, [Lattin] settled at his house of Morristown-Lattin, and was thenceforward, to the close of his life, almost constantly a near neighbour and a frequent guest of mine at Lyons. He was one of a race now, I believe, extinct. A genuine Irishman in heart and person, his service in France, as an officer of the Irish Brigade, had added to his natural gaiety and warmth of feeling the polish and gallantry of a French gentleman, while his manly figure was set off in full perfection by the air and habits of a soldier of the old school. Light-hearted and joyous, the brilliancy of his wit was never clouded, nor his enjoyment of present mirth ever damped by thoughts of the morrow. When his purse was full he drew upon it without scruple, to gratify his taste for pleasure, or to help a friend; when it was empty, I have known him to sit down, and, in three months' work, to complete a translation of the Henriade, in order that he might relieve the necessities of an émigré friend with the proceeds of its publication. In the one case and in the other, he was equally blithe, and victorious over care.

What a sparkling collision of wit marked the meetings of Lattin and Curran; and yet his amusing powers seemed still more striking when, at his own house in Paris (where I met him in 1805), he told his tales and launched his repartees alternately in French and English, to the mixed audiences which he used there to assemble round him. No thing, and no person, capable of being made the subject of pleasantry, ever escaped; and yet when a blow was given, it was with a skill and lightness that rendered it harmless to the object. Upon one of those occasions, I recollect a M. de Montmorency, whose Christian name was Anne, making his appearance, and announcing that he was enabled to return to France, in consequence of the First Consul having scratched out his name on the list of émigrés. "A present done," observed Lattin, "mon cher Anne, tu es un zebre --- un ane rayée."

In one of his hours of industrial activity, Lattin wrote a pamphlet in support of the Catholic claims, which brought him into collision with the notorious Dr. Patrick Duigenan. That zealous partisan replied to Lattin's brochure with so much of his wonted brutal ferocity, as to place himself within the reach of the law as a libeller. Lattin brought an action against him in Westminster Hall, and was awarded damages to the amount (I think) of £500, by an English jury. This result was the basis of a standing joke between Lattin and me. When he had written the original pamphlet, and shown it to me, he had said he was not then in funds to publish it, which I undertook to do, jestingly conditioning my outlay with a claim for half the profits. I used, accordingly, to demand from him a moiety of the damages, as being part of the proceeds of the venture. Lattin died in Paris about 10 years since”.

At this juncture it is worth taking a short detour into the life of Patrick’s uncle Jack Lattin (1710–1731). Normally the death of a man aged 21 in the 18th century would attract little attention but Sean Donnelly of the County Kildare Archaeological Society has lately unearthed that “the demise of Jack Lattin was far from usual, and the memory of his going remained alive in local and family tradition for nearly two centuries”. Jack Lattin was a gentleman musician during the days of Jonathan Swift. His Catholic family, having survived the 17th century intact, were now facing utter bankruptcy in the face of the Penal Laws. [4]

The story runs as follows. Jack was raised in Paris with his father, the eloquent wit and raconteur Patrick Lattin. He regularly returned home to see his relatives in Ireland. In his bizarre novel, The Life of John Buncle Esq (1756–1766), the notoriously eccentric author, Thomas Amory, makes reference to a knees up in a Dublin pub called The Conniving House where he encountered “dear Jack Lattin, matchless on the fiddle, and the most agreeable of companions; ... and many other delightful fellows; who went in the days of their youth to the shades of eternity”. One summer’s day in 1731, Jack danced his way along some 8 miles of road between Morristown Lattin and Castle Browne, only to drop dead of exhaustion when he arrived.[5] Exactly why – or indeed if - Jack headed off on his fatal marathon dance is unknown.[6] Many say it was a wager that went wrong. Jack’s name was however enshrined in the title of a popular country dance tune, “Jockey Lattin”, that arose shortly after his death.

Jack Lattin dressed in satin
Broke his heart of dancing
He danced from Castle Browne
To Morristown.


[1] The principal holding was Morristown Moynagh (400 acres), later renamed Morristown Lattin. The name survives in the present townlands of Morristown and Lattinsbog.

[2] It was subsequently extended in the early Georgian period to include a four-storey tower, crowned with a coat-of-arms, which rose from the middle of the front, like the towers at Gola and Ancketill's Grove, Co. Monaghan. The projections were joined by a single-storey balustraded corridor with Wyatt windows and a porch of fluted Doric columns.

[3] They retained this house until 1737, by which time they also had other property in nearby Capel Street.

[4] “ The Strange Fate of John Lattin of Morristown Lattin” (1731), Sean Donnelly, Journal of County Kildare Archaeological Society xviii, 4 (1998-9), 565-88

[5] Castle Browne was the original name for Clongowes Wood Boarding School. The old castle was owned by the Browne family from 1667 until General Michael Wogan Browne sold it to the Society of Jesus to in 1813.

[6] Traditionally, a long distance dance in Ireland - or rince fada - is danced on May Eve or May Day to welcome summer. Often this involved young women carrying large garlands of flowers by way of a greeting to important persons, such as the return of a landlord after a long absence.