Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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HISTORY

FAMILY HISTORY

The Trench Family, Earls of Clancarty

A Frenchman in Ballinasloe

Frederick Trench II & the Battle of Aughrim

Horse Fairs & Heiresses

1st Earl of Clancarty

The 1st Earl's Children (and he had 19!)

The Diplomatic 2nd Earl

Benevolent Dictators?

The 3rd Earl & the Great Famine

Belle Bilton - The Dancing Girl

The 8th Earl & his UFOs

The Ballinasloe Horse Fair

Introduction

On 15th April 1805, two years after the death of his first wife, Jane Bunbury, John McClintock of Drumcar, Co. Louth, married Lady Elizabeth Le Poer Trench, sister of the 2nd Earl of Clancarty, an influential British diplomat. Her father, the 1st Earl of Clancarty died 12 days after the wedding.

A Frenchman in Ballinasloe

The Trenches descend from a French Huguenot who emigrated to England in the wake of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. In 1631, Frederick Trench, a grandson of the Frenchman, relocated to Ireland and, after the Cromwellian Wars, purchased a large amount of land in east Galway and the Cavan lakelands. The family were duly headquartered at Garbally House, near Ballinasloe, at the confluence of the slim River Suck and the broad majestic River Shannon. At this time Ballinasloe (or “Béal Átha na Slua” meaning “Mouth of the Ford of the Hostings”) was a small settlement with two ancient castles guarding the fords. It’s location on the main Dublin - Galway road gave the castles an important role in the celebrated "Gathering of the Hostings", a meeting of the clans of Ireland dating back more than 2000 years to the High Kings of Tara. The surrounding land was seized from the O'Kellys during the Elizabethan plantations and regranted to the Brabazons. After the collapse of the Catholic Confederacy in 1649, the lands (including Garbally) were granted to a Cromwellian officer from Cork, William Spencer, who in turn sold the lands to Frederick Trench.

Frederick Trench II & the Battle of Aughrim

Frederick I died in 1669 and both he and his wife are buried in the family vault in Ballinasloe. During the Wars of 1689 – 1691, the Trenches served alongside King William’s army, fighting at the conclusive battle of Aughrim in which King James’ commanding officer, General St. Ruth, was mortally wounded and died in a ring-fort just behind Garbally. After the battle, many of the wounded officers were taken to Garbally House to have their various wounds treated. The house was then owned by Frederick’s son, Frederick Trench II.

Horse Fairs & Heiresses

When Frederick Trench III succeeded to the Galbally estates on the death of his father in 1704, there probably wasn’t much going on. A small-time horse fair had been running for a few years but, in 1722, Frederick III secured a great coup in the form of an official charter from England’s brand new non-English speaking monarch, King George I. This charter permitted the running of a weekly livestock fair on the village green during the month of October. And thus Ballinasloe’s Great October Horse Fair was born. Frederick III died in 1752 and was succeeded by his eldest son who was not called Frederick but Richard. This fellow scored magnificently when he wed Frances Le Poer (or Power), an heiress twice over. Through her father, she stood to inherit the Power family estate at Coorheen, County Galway, while she was also due a large estate from her mother, Elizabeth Keating.

1st Earl of Clancarty

The eldest son of this union was William Power Keating Trench, an energetic Whig (ie: 18th century Liberal) who represented the locality as MP for Ballinasloe in the Irish House of Commons. He was raised to the Irish House of Lords as Baron Kilconnell of Garbally. In 1800, his support for the Act of Union earned him advancement to Viscount Dunlo of Dunlo & Ballinasloe in 1800. In 1802, this loyal and ambitious Whig was further elevated to the peerage as 1st Earl of Clancarty. This title had previously been bestowed upon a Munster clan but they lost it along the way, I can’t remember why. The 1st Earl was born in 1741. On 30th October 1762, he married Anne Gardiner, daughter of the Right Hon Charles Gardiner (1720 – 1769) and Florinda Norman. Anne’s brother Luke was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Mountjoy but was killed negotiating a peace with the Irish rebels at New Ross in the summer of 1798.

The 1st Earl of Clancarty was clearly determined to keep his new blue blood flowing for his good, broad-hipped wife bore him no less than 10 sons and 9 daughters. He died on 27 April 1805; Lady Anne survived him until her death on 8 July 1829 at the age of 83.

The 1st Earl's Children (and he had 19!)

The eldest son Richard (1767 – 1837) succeeded as 2nd Earl. The second son Power (1770 – 1839) went on to become Archbishop of Tuam. The third son William (4 Jul 1771 - 14 Aug 1846) became a Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy. The fourth son was the Venerable Charles le Poer Trench (Dec 1772 – 1839). The sixth son, Sir Robert le Poer Trench was born in 1782. On 21 November 1805 – six months after the McClintock wedding - he married Letitia Susanna Dillon, daughter of Robert Dillon, 1st Baron Clonbrock. He died aged 41 on 14th March 1823. Letitia died at Nice, France, on 25 March 1865, leaving four daughters – Fanny (d. 28 Dec 1888), Elizabeth (d. 9 Dec 1867), Emily (d. 13 Sept 1899) and Augusta (d. 10 Dec 1914).

As noted earlier, the Earls's daughter, Lady Elizabeth, married the widower John McClintock and thus provides a vital link to Lisnavagh. Her sister, Lady Florinda married William Handcock, 1st Viscount Castlemaine on 20 March 1782. She died on 9th February 1851. William died on 7th January 1839 at the age of 77. There were no children and so the Castlemaine title passed to William’s brother Richard Handcock (May 1767 – 18 April 1840). Another sister, Lady Frances married Henry Stanley Monck, 2nd Viscount Monck of Charleville on 28 July 1806. She died on 22nd Nov 1843. The 2nd Viscount died on 20 September 1848 at age 63 leaving four daughters – Lady Elizabeth (d. 16 June 1892), Lady Frances Isabella (d. 9 June 1871), Lady Georgiana Ellen (d. 20 march 1887). A fourth daughter Lady Emily predeceased her parents and died on 22 Nov 1837. And another sister, Lady Harriet, married into the Kavanagh family and was mother to the Incredible Mr. Kavanagh.

The Diplomatic 2nd Earl

Lady Elizabeth McClintock's eldest brother Richard succeeded as 2nd Earl of Clancarty. Born on 19th May 1767, Richard was an outstanding diplomat who performed an instrumental role at the Congress of Vienna which ended the Napoleonic Wars, invented Belgium and the Netherlands, awarded Capetown to the English and substantially changed the frontiers of Europe. In 1807 he was appointed to the Privy Council, a group entrusted with Britain's foreign and domestic policies. With him in the council were men such as Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington), the 4th Duke of Richmond, Spenser Perceval and Lord Palmerston). From 1812 - 1814, Richard occupied the post of Master of the Mint, the highest officer in the royal mint and a position that entitled him to sit in on cabinet meetings. From September 29th 1812 - January 24th 1818 he was President of the Board of Trade, another cabinet level position, that put him in charge of devoping Britain’s international trade. This coincided with a European recession that followed the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Benevolent Dictators?

The Trenches are regularly hailed as “a rare example of enlightened landlords … held in high esteem to this day” . The family certainly helped the local community to avoid the worst excesses of the Great Famine, as well as funding the erection of public buildings (including their elegant grey limestone townhouse, now the Bank of Ireland), the paving of the streets and, later on, the introduction of gas lighting. In Ireland, the 2nd Earl eared some brownie points as Fair Landlord, refusing to allow his tenants to sub-let (cutting out the dreaded middlemen famous for extorting high rents on behalf of absentee landlords) and employing vast numbers of people throughout the region. Many were involved in remodelling Galbally House in 1819. There were no cottier tenants on the Clancarty estates. (These were tenants who offered free labour instead of rent, and were thus treated like slaves).

However, Richard seriously blotted his copybook when it came to his antipathy towards the Roman Catholic Church. By this stage the whole Trench family were staunch Protestants. Elizabeth and Richard’s brother, the Most Rev. Power Trench (10 June 1770 – 16 March 1839) was Archbishop of Tuam. The family actively supported the local Bible Society and were apparently known to use brute force to assist the proselytising elements within and around Ballinasloe. The twon's website - www.ballinasloe.com - cites the 2nd Earl's vocal opposition to any form of rights for Catholics including his vote against the Catholic Emancipation bill. The website also suggests Richard’s initial opposition to the Act of Union was softened to a Yes vote when he was offered the lucrative office of the Postmaster General. This was shortly before John McClintock married his sister. When he died, his legacy included not just the impressive house at Garbally and a vast wealth, but also the right to us the name and arms of Le Poer as had been the wish of his great grandfather, Frederick III.

The 3rd Earl & the Great Famine

Following the death of the 2nd Earl on 24th November 1837, his eldest son – Elizabeth McClintock’s nephew - William Thomas Le Poer became the 3rd Earl of Clancarty, During his time, he extensively remodelled the house at Garbally and had the gardens completely renovated. He duly proved as complex a man as his father, continuing his father’s policies such as the prohibition on sub-letting and the payment of a fair rate to labourers. He was also actively and rather aggressively involved in a campaign to convert his tenants to the Protestant cause, building Free Schools on his estate and in Ballinasloe and ordering his tenants to send their children to Bible studies at these schools or face eviction. On the other hand, the 3rd Earl inherited his father’s peculiar and rather feudal values as a landlord and, during the Famine, Ballinasloe suffered far less than it might have done under another man. The absence of any middlemen and the 3rd Earl’ refusal to mass evict his tenants earned the Trench family a respect that endures to this day. Among the Good Things he did was to establish the Ballinasloe Farming Society which had a model farm set up in the Deerpark to instruct farmers in modern farming techniques. “It was also by his efforts that the main streets of Ballinasloe were paved at this time. These things and the fact that he was a sponsor of the workhouse, show that he tried to some extent to alleviate some of the worst extremes of suffering at that tragic time” .

Belle Bilton - The Dancing Girl

The rough and ready fair landlord / evangelical nightmare traits of the Trench family continued on to his son and heir, Richard, 4th Earl of Clancarty, but ground to a delightful halt with William, the 5th Earl, who hooked up with a dancing gal named Belle Bilton and, while still a minor, married her totally against his father’s wishes. A scandalous court case ensued in which the 4th Earl tried to have the marriage declared void on account of William’s minority but the court went with the young lover and the 4th Earl was shafted with the costs. Seeing nowt but trouble ahead, the 4th Earl began selling off his assets rapidly but died suddenly, mysteriously even?, in 1891. He was buried alongside his ancestors in the vault at Garbally House.

Nonetheless, the 5th Earl’s estate was considerably reduced in size to that in which he had grown up as a youngster. He didn’t have much interest in religion, thank God, but still maintained the family sense of fairness when it came to being a landlord. When Wyndham's Land Reform Act was passed in 1903, he settled by mutual agreement the sale of much of his land. This sale and the reduction of family fortunes prompted the Earl to sell Galbally Court in 1907, during which year he was declared bankrupt and moved to Merry England. Galbally Court later became St. Joseph’s College of Ballinasloe. Today Ballinasloe is a busy manufacturing centre, backed up by a local healthcare centre, three 2nd level schools, numerous tourist attractions, sports clubs and a burgeoning arts community.

The 8th Earl & his UFOs

The local community must have still been wondering about the state of the Clancarty’s head in recent years. One of the most amusing anecdotes to have emerged from recent research into debates in the House of Lords was a discussion initiated on Thursday January 18th 1979 by the 8th Earl of Clancarty, an editor of the Flying Saucer Review and author of seven books on the subject. At this time Britain was at the height of an economic and industrial melt down, later dubbed the Winter of Discontent, and there was a very real danger of mass deployment of troops to calm the escalating anarchy and rioting across the once mighty kingdom. The Earl stood up to address his fellow peers and did so with the following words: "It is with much pleasure that I introduce this debate about unidentified flying objects - known more briefly as UFOs and sometimes as flying saucers." In fairness to the Earl, there had recently been a highly peculiar situation a few weeks earlier when three ducks, a goose, a swan and two baby wallabies were found dead at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall; on January 3 it had been reported that their bodies revealed significant traces of radiation. This was being linked to sightings of UFOs in the area.

I’ll leave the rest of the tale to Tim Coates who wrote a wee tale essay on the subject.

Clancarty, who died in 1995, was 67 when he initiated his debate, calling for an inter-governmental study of UFOs. He was a heavyweight in the field, an editor of the Flying Saucer Review and author of seven books on the subject. Clancarty believed that the human race derived from aliens from several galaxies (this accounted for our various skin colours); they had landed here 65,000 years ago and some of them still inhabited the centre of the earth. Asked what had happened to all these aliens, he once replied: "Well, you do see a lot of strange people around, don't you?" In the Lords debate, Clancarty was careful to stick to what he took to be well-documented sightings, including one over Iran in September 1976. In this incident a large glowing object was seen over the capital, Tehran, and a Phantom jet was scrambled to investigate; when the pilot tried to fire an air-to-air missile at the object, said Clancarty, he found that "the weapons control panel was not working and all electronic systems were out of action".

The time had come, Clancarty told their lordships, for the British Minister of Defence to make a public broadcast about UFOs: "That would go a long way to discredit the view held by a lot of people in this country that there is a cover-up here, and that in some way we are playing along with the United States over this."

All this was a little too much for Lord Trefgarne, a qualified pilot, who had never seen a UFO in 2,500 flying hours. He said: "Since time immemorial, man has ascribed those phenomena that he could not explain to some supernatural or extraterrestrial agents. Today, no one takes witchcraft seriously, and there are no fairies at the bottom of my garden."

Clancarty himself never saw a UFO, although he once spotted what he called an "eerie white light" crossing the night sky over his flat in South Kensington. To the end of his life, however, he stuck to his beliefs; and you feel that his fellow peers, however scornful, were grateful to Clancarty for raising matters which, in Lord Gladwyn's words, "take one's mind off the absolutely frightful everyday events" of the Winter of Discontent.

The Ballinasloe Horse Fair

THE BALLINASLOE FAIR is one of Europe's oldest Horse Fairs. It is held in East Galway's principal town on the first week of October each year. In the beginning, the Fair was more versatile, supplying both livestock and labourers to local landowners, but the power of the horse rapidly came to the fore. Indeed there is a remarkable account of how agents from the Great Powers of Europe, especially Russia and France, would come to Ballinasloe to seek out cavalry horses, draught horses and ponies for the baggage trains of these great armies. Some say that anything up to 6000 horses would change hands in a single day, which sounds like exceptional business but I guess a lot of horses must have copped it during battles such as Fontenroy and Waterloo. Local legend has it that Napoleon’s horse Marengo was purchased at Ballinasloe.But you will hear that very same legend at many a fair across the west of Europe! Alas, the emergence of the motor car, the tractor and the tank gradually whittled away the influence of the horse and the four legged beast was soon transferred to the kinder pursuits of leisure – namely hunting and racing. Incidentally, there’s a cracking good racecourse at Ballinasloe if that takes you’re fancy … or you could try a day out with the East Galway Hunt. The October Fair continues to this day, although in a much more modest format, providing a livestock market for farmers throughout the region.

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