Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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1. FAMILY BACKGROUND (PRE-1800)

The improbably named Captain William Bunbury McClintock Bunbury was undoubtedly one of the most important members of the family to sit upon the throne of Lisnavagh. It was, after all, he who commissioned the building of the present house at Lisnavagh in the 1840s. Born in 1800, he lost his mother to a horse-fall in Bath the following year. His widowed father, John McClintock, MP for Louth, was married again to a sister of the Earl of Clancarty, one of the most powerful men in Europe during the Congress of Vienna that followed the fall of Napoleon. Educated at Gosport in Hampshire, William entered the Royal Navy aged 13 in July 1813 as a first class volunteer on the Ajax.

As a 16 year old Midshipman on HMS Severn, William took part in the Bombardment in Algeria, marking the start of a naval career focused on the liberation of slaves. In the 1820s and 1830s, he sailed the little known seas of the Southern Hemisphere as an officer on board HMS Samarang, again chasing slave ships and protecting British interests. Also on board the Samarang was his first cousin, later Admiral Sir Leopold McClintock, and the artist-adventurer William Smyth. In Brazil and Peru, the Samarang encountered the Beagle, upon which Robert FitzRoy and Charles Darwin were travelling.

On the death of his maternal uncle Thomas Bunbury, MP, in 1847 he succeeded to the Bunbury family estates at Lisnavagh. As a legal prerequisite for this inheritance, he had to comply with his uncle's will, combining the surname "Bunbury" with his own family name of "McClintock". Hence, the current name of "McClintock Bunbury". It is said that the McClintocks had the cash and the Bunburys had the name. William also succeeded to his late uncle's seat in the British House of Commons and served as Member of Parliament for County Carlow alongside Colonel Henry Bruen during the unhappy era of the Irish Famine. In 1847 he recruited the services of the eccentric Scottish architect Daniel Robertson to build a New House at Lisnavagh. Robertson was also commissioned to landscape and design the gardens and grounds that surrounded the new house. He represented County Carlow in the British Parliament for the Conservative party from 1846 to 1852, and again from Feb 1853 until ill-health obliged him to retire in 1862. In 1842, William married Pauline Stronge, second daughter of the influential Orangeman, Sir James Stronge, of Tynan Abbey, County Armagh. She provided him with two sons, Tom and Jack, and two daughters, Bella and Helen, before his somewhat premature death at the age of 66 at Lisnavagh on 2nd June 1866.

NB: The Captain was a methodical man who, after he left the Navy in 1834, chronicled much of his life in a series of small pocket journals'. I plan to transcribe these over coming years. His diary page can be found here: Captain Bunbury's Diary.

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Redmond Kane was one of the most prudent
men in Ireland in the 1780s, buying up land
across the country. His only surviving child,
Katherine, married William Bunbury, MP for
Carlow, and was grandmother to Captain
William McClintock Bunbury.

Childhood

Captain William McClintock Bunbury was born in Dublin on Monday 8th September 1800, the second son of John and Jane McClintock of Drumcar House, Co. Louth. Early the following year, he was christened "William Bunbury McClintock" in memory of his mothers' father, William Bunbury, a promising politician who had been killed in a horse accident near Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, some twenty four years earlier. His death left his young widow Katherine with two small boys, Thomas and Kane, and a daughter, Jane, born posthumously some months after William's death. Katherine was a wealthy heiress, being the sole surviving child of Redmond Kane, a razor-sharp land speculator from Co. Monagahn who specialized in acquiring bishops' leases (since these were usually let at under-value), particularly under the Archbishop of Dublin and the Bishop of Clogher. (For more, see Redmond Kane of Mantua).By this manner, Redmond had secured considerable estates along the Ulster border during the 1770s and 1780s. Katherine's only brother had also been killed when his robes were caught in the spokes of a stagecoach, dragging him under its wheels. After the death of her husband, Katherine Bunbury seems to have raised her three children between the Bunbury family home at Lisnavagh in County Carlow - their uncles Benjamin and George Bunbury lived nearby - and, in time, the City of Bath in Somerset. Nor would they have been strangers to the Kane family seat of Mantua at Swords to the north of Dublin City. (1) All three children settled in Ireland, with Thomas taking on Lisnavagh House and being returned to Westminster as the Member of Parliament for County Carlow. Kane Bunbury was old enough to serve during for the Crown during the Rebellion of 1798 although he did not see any action. The previous year, 19-year-old Jane Bunbury was married to an up and coming politician from Co. Louth by name of John McClintock.
Footnote
(1) Kane Bunbury was actually born at Mantua.

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A rather hazy view of Alexander McClintock,
the barrister who built Drumcar House in Louth.
He left the property to his nephew, Bumper Jack
McClintock, grandfather to William.

The McClintocks

The McClintocks trace their ancestry back to Luss and Balloch on the shores of Lough Lomond in the Scottish lowlands where they are variously described as rogue highwaymen and landed farmers, often interconnected with the Lindsay clan that ruled the area. Alexander McClintock made the hazardous voyage across the north coast of Ireland to County Donegal in 1598, three years before King James conferred a knighthood on Henry Bunbury in London. 1598 marks an interesting date in Irish history, being the year of Red Hugh O'Donnell's historic victory over Marshall Bagenal's English army at the battle of Yellow Ford. However, within three years the Ulster Rebellion had been suppressed and the lands of O'Donnell and his supporters were confiscated and parcelled out to families who's loyalty to the crown was unquestionable. It is assumed that the McClintock's were loyalists, perhaps benefiting from the interesting transfer of power in London from the House of Tudor to the Scottish House of Stuart following the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. Interestingly, the fort from which Red Hugh O'Donnell was to flee to the Continent in 1607 was called Rathdonnell, "Fort of the O'Donnells". The McClintock's acquired the property soon after this; more than 250 years later William's brother John McClintock was to be created Baron Rathdonnell.

'Bumper Jack' McClintock

John McClintock (1769 - 1855) was the eldest boy of four sons and four daughters born to John 'Bumper Jack' McClintock (1742 - 1799), MP, of Drumcar, by his marriage of 1766 to Patience Foster, daughter of William Foster, MP, of Rosy Park, Co. Louth, and first cousin of John Foster, Lord Oriel and Spaker of the Irish House of Commons. Bumper Jack had succeeded to considerable wealth in May 1775 on the death, without children, of his barrister uncle, Alexander McClintock of Drumcar. 'Bumper Jack' duly commissioned the building of the vast mansion at Drumcar House outside Dunleer in 1777, where the McClintock family remained until the 1940s. From 1783 to 1790 he was MP for Enniskillen and from 1790 to 1797 he held the seat as MP for Belturbet. In a famous painting of the Irish Parliament of 1790 Bumper Jack, MP for Belturbet, is seated just three to the right from Speaker John Foster. Oblivious to the all around him, Bumper Jack appears to be wearing a nun's habit and is clearly fast asleep. When Bumper Jack first met his new daughter-in-law, he made the mistake of greeting her maidservant first. That evening he may well have ruminated on Daniel Defoe's similar encounter which prompted the 'Robinson Crusoe' author to write: 'I remember I was put very much to the Blush, being at a Friends house and by him required to salute the ladies, and I kiss'd the Chamber Jade into the bargain, for she was as well dressed as the best. Things of this Nature would be easily avoided if servant maids were to wear Liveries'.

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William Bunbury's grandmother,
Patience Foster, was a first cousin
of John Foster, Speaker of the Irish
House of Commons and one of the
most influential men in Georgian Ireland.

John McClintock & the Fosters

Considered a gentle and upright soul, John McClintock was heavily embroiled in the Irish political scene in this Age of Revolution. At the age of 17, young John entered the University of Dublin as a fellow commoner where, after remaining for three years and a half, he took out his degree of Bachelor of Arts. ‘He had originally intended himself for the profession of the law, and had actually kept several Terms for that purpose, but his intentions in this respect were changed by a vacancy having occurred in the office of Serjeant-at-Arms to the Irish House of Commons’.[x] 21-year-old John McClintock was appointed to this post in 1794, in conjunction with his younger brother, William Foster M'Clintock esq, who died in 1839.[i] As Serjeant one of his roles involved looking after the Speaker’s mace. On this subject, FB Hamilton advises: ‘When the mace lies on the table, it is a house. When under the table, it is a committee. When out of the house, no business can be done When from the table and on the Serjeant's shoulders, no motion can be made'. As a Serjeant in Grattan’s Parliament, remarks the Carlow Sentinel, Mr McClintock was: 'The contemporary of the most distinguished men at the time when the brilliancy of Irish genius was the theme of admiration throughout Europe. He was a patriot in the true sense of the term, being consistently opposed to the Union - when peerages honours and decorations were lavished on those who supported the measure. He owed much of his political career to his neighbour and cousin by marriage, John Foster, later Baron Oriel. Born in 1740, Foster had risen steadily through the ranks of Irish politics since his election, aged 21, to the borough of Dunleer in 1761. In 1784, John Foster was elected Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland and duly oversaw the passage of the Corn Law, which, by granting large bounties on the export of corn and imposing heavy duties on its import, encouraged a significant shift in agricultural practice from farming to tillage. In 1785 Foster was unanimously elected Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and held that post until the passing of the Act of Union less than three months after William's birth.

FOOTNOTE
[i] Writing in 1832, Hamilton, FB, says John was appointed Serjeant in 1791 but both his obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1855, and his memorial at Drumcar state ‘1794’. Was John the Serjeant at arms during the Kingsborough Trial in which case it was a lucky escape for the United Irishmen were all set to storm Parliament and hold everyone therein hostage! See p. 44 – 45 of White Knight, Black Earl.

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The Battle of New Ross, 1798, at which Lady Elizabeth McClintock's
uncle, Lord Mountjoy, was murdered by rebels.

The 1798 Rebellion

John Clintock served the office of High Sheriff of CO Louth in the eventful year 1798 and was present in that year at the battles of Arklow and Vinegar Hill. (His father died in February 1799).The decades immediately prior to William's birth saw many extraordinary developments in the world at large. The American colonies liberated themselves from British rule in the 1770s. The monarchy was overthrown in France, plunging Europe into the mayhem of the Napoleonic Wars until 1815. William's birth came just seven years after the shocking execution of Louis XV. Britain was contending with an unparalleled crisis in its uppermost ranks with the increasing waywardness of its' Hanoverian King, George III. Dissent amongst the lower and middle orders had not been so vocal since the age of Oliver Cromwell. In Ireland, this dissent inspired a radical alliance of Catholic, Presbyterian and Protestant thinkers who believed the time had come for the Crown Forces to pull out of Ireland and, in extremis, for Ireland to be granted independence. Over the course of the 1790s, these thinkers combined forces with a more aggressive element. They came to see their solitary option as an armed insurrection against the Crown Forces in Ireland. The process came to a head in the early summer of 1798 with the outbreak of a major rebellion in Leinster. Several months later, more than 30,000 men, women and children lay dead across Ireland. The blood of British Redcoats, Scottish Fusiliers and Irish mercenaries mingled with that of Catholic priests, Anglo-Irish aristocrats and bystanders of every faith. Lord Mountjoy, the well-meaning uncle of the future Lady Elizabeth McClintock, was murdered trying to negotiate a peace settlement with the rebels at New Ross. Carlow witnessed a period of notable unrest in February. In May, rebels on their way into Hacketstown from the battle of Carlow (in which 500 died and another 200 were executed) were ambushed by a joint detachment of the Antrim militia and English yeomanry forces, leaving another 250 dead. A counter-attack by the rebels in June proved much more successful, forcing the 170 strong yeomen garrison to retreat to Tullow. In the churchyard, there is a monument to Captain Hardy with who died along with eight fellow loyalists while defending Tullow from the rebels. There was a further series of bloody confrontations in Carlow and Hacketstown that autumn in which a thousand rebels were allegedly slaughtered. According to his obituary in 'The Carlow Sentinel', William's uncle, Captain Kane Bunbury, on active service with the Princess Royal's Dragoon Guards, 'happily escaped the bloody scenes in which so many of his comrades in arms were necessarily engaged'. However, a Captain McClintock is said to have been present at the trial of Father John Murphy (along with General Sir James Duff, Colonels Foster and Eden, the Earl of Roden and Major Hall). Father Murphy was hanged that same day - it is said that his body was burned and that his head was fixed on the markethouse in Tullow. The Rev. Edward Whitty 's house at Rathvilly was totally destroyed during the same rebellion although just how the original house at Lisnavagh fared is at present unknown. Another incident that must have had major repurcussions on the family was the trail and execution of their neighbour, Sir Edward Crosbie.
The 1798 Rebellion was ultimately a colossal disaster for almost everyone concerned. But at day's end, it left the Crown Forces in control of Ireland and now the British Government seized the opportunity to transfer the administration of the troublesome colony to London. Meanwhile, across the stormy seas, the French Army of Napoleon Bonaparte had crossed the Alp and conquered Italy. Admiral Nelson took the bull by the horns, advanced his fleet across the North Sea to Denmark and annihilated the French fleet at the Battle of Copenhagen. In 1800, Ireland's population stood at approximately 5 million. Within forty years, that figure had nearly doubled. A hint of the tragedy that was to come arrived with a famine shortly after William's birth. (6)
Footnote
(6) Among the witnesses to this early hunger was the author Maria Edgeworth, daughter of the exceptionally talented inventor and educationalist, Richard Edgeworth of Mostrim (now Edgeworthstown) in County Longford. In 1800, she published Castle Rackrent, astonishing readers by its ground-breaking depiction of Irish peasants as real human beings. Not that anyone knew it was Maria who had written it; women were still very much to be seen and not heard at this time and she had the book published under a male pseudonym., I wonder did either John or Jane McClintock ever find the time to read this entertaining work, caricaturing several generations of an eccentric Anglo-Irish family.

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The McClintocks and Bunburys both spent a good deal
of time at Bath in the early 19th century. Indeed, it was
here that Captain Bunbury's mother met her untimely death,
killed when thrown from her horse at the age of 21.
This painting depicts Bath in 1828.

McClintock, Foster & the Act of Union

By this Act of 2nd July 1800, the Irish Parliament consented to vote itself out of existence and relinquish control of Ireland's administrative affairs to Westminster. This decision, made effective by the Act of Union on 1st January 1801, would radically alter the state of Irish politics. (2) Foster was a die-hard adherent of the Protestant Ascendancy and strongly opposed both the Act of Union and Catholic Emancipation (which would unleash the majority upon the electoral polls). (3) When the Irish Parliament met for the last time on August 5th 1800, five weeks before William's birth, Foster famously refused to surrender the mace. (4). It is reasonable to suppose that John McClintock was of a similar philosophy to Foster in terms of allegiance to the Tory Protestant Ascendancy and opposition to Catholic Emancipation and the Act of Union. He may also have shared Foster's devotion to the advancement of agricultural techniques. (5) During the twilight of the Irish Parliament in the 1790s he had not only sat as a Member of Parliament for Louth but also performed the duties of Prime Serjeant. According to Sir Jonah Barrington, John was the last person to leave the House of Commons, accompanied by the Speaker, on the night the abolition measure was passed in March 1800. ‘Both seemed impressed with the solemnity of the occasion when at the door they turned around and took a last view of that house which had been, as Grattan observed, the glory, the guardian and the protection of the country’.
After the Act of Union, the names of the McClintock brothers were put upon the pension list. £2545 was assigned to them in compensation for the loss of the office, and John was still in receipt of that pension until at least 1832.

Footnotes

(2) The Act of Union was signed by King George III on 29th December 1800, uniting the Parliaments of Ireland and Great Britain for the first time. In return for substantial cash payments and titular accessories, the Irish Parliament had consented to effectively vote itself out of existence. The Act decreed that henceforth Ireland would be represented by 100 Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, along with 28 peers and 4 Bishops in the House of Lords. The Act also amalgamated the Churches of Ireland and England, whilst confirming the pre-eminence of the Protestant Episcopalians by securing the continuation of the British Test Act which virtually excluded all Non-Conformists (Catholics and Presbyterians) from Parliament and membership of municipal corporations. Free trade between Britain and Ireland was established in the Act of Union so that Irish merchandise was admitted to the British colonies on the same terms as British. The effects of this were disastrous; while Britain proceeded to enter into its industrial era, Irish agricultural produce and estate rentals went into sharp decline. Meanwhile, the Catholic population continued to increase dramatically.
(3) King George III's Coronation Oath highlighted his intention to maintain the Protestant character of the Court and thus Prime Minister Pitt (whilst he would like to have done) did not ultimately pursue emancipation for the Catholics).
(4) The mace was preserved by his descendents, along with the Speaker's chair, at Antrim Castle for many years. It is now in the Bank of Ireland, College Green, Dublin, formerly Parliament House. The chair was destroyed in a fire.
(5) John Foster's position in Ireland was such that, along with Commissioner Beresford, he was one of the few anti-unionists to secure a seat in the united parliament. In July 1804 he was again appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. He retired in 1811 and in 1821 was created Baron Oriel of Ferrard. He died at Collon on 23rd august 1828.

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The Irish House of Commons in 1780.

The Irish Parliament in the 18th Century

The Irish Parliament had, to a degree, enjoyed uninterrupted administration of Irish affairs since William III's victory over the Jacobites in 1691. For all that, the politicians who had represented Ireland's various boroughs and townlands during the 18th century generally maintained a disconcertingly aloof distance from the unruly land which they ruled. The 18th century was a time for money-making and profiteering. The British Empire was entering into its Golden Age and the Anglo-Irish Protestant elite was determined to secure its own slice. You generally had to be a Church of Ireland Protestant to make money, though Presbyterians, Quakers and Methodists fared okay. Roman Catholics had been in the dog-house since the Jacobite Wars, relegated to the status of second class citizens. The Irish Parliament, with the support of the King and the British Houses of Parliament, subjected the Catholic majority to a series of prohibitions and restrictions known as the Penal Laws. Catholics were forbidden from ownership, be it property or a mere horse. They were not permitted to carry weapons of any description. They were not welcome in the British Army. They were forbidden from attending public mass. Their lot, in other words, was to accept the role of subservient tenant and do as the landlord required.
This is not the moment to question just how strictly the Penal Laws were actually observed. Suffice it to say, it wasn't all bad. But there can be no doubting that the gulf separating rich from poor in 18th century Ireland was as enormous as it is in, say, Mexico or India today. Yet, in terms of the economy, Ireland managed to start paying for itself for the first time since the English army had begun their colonization in the 16th century. The linen merchants of Ulster and farmers across the land were actually making money. Dublin had begun to evolve into a major city with the construction of new quaysides, bridges, parklands, residential suburbs and vital commercial, financial and administrative buildings. Even while the baby William Bunbury was letting forth his first bleats in the autumn of 1800, James Gandon was directing the masons of Dublin through the final stages of the Four Courts on the banks of the Liffey.

1800 Events

· Act of Union with Great Britain (29th Dec) - Irish Parliament votes itself out of existence, sending 100 MPs to Westminster, 28 peers and four Bishops to the House of Lords. This also involves the union of the Churches of Ireland and England, whilst confirming the pre-eminence of the Protestant Episcopalians by securing the continuation of the British Test Act which virtually excluded all Non-Conformists (Catholics and Presbyterians) from Parliament and membership of municipal corporations. Free trade between Britain and Ireland is established in the Act of Union so that Irish merchandise is to be admitted to the British colonies on the same terms as British, but the effects of this are disastrous because where the UK proceeds to enter into its industrial era, Irish agricultural produce and estate rentals decline in value and the population increased substantially. Hence, the impact of the Great Famine. Indeed, thousands perished in a famine between 1800 and 1801.
· King George III's Coronation Oath highlighted his intention to maintain the Protestant character of the Court and thus Pitt (whilst he would like to have done) did not pursue emancipation for the Catholics.
· Napoleon conquers Italy.
· Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent.

 


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