Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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(1848 - 1929)



1. THE FORMATIVE YEARS (1848-1866)
4. BILLY'S DEATH & THE EVE OF WAR (1900-1913)
5. WORLD WAR ONE (1914-1918)

7. THE IRISH CIVIL WAR (1922-1923)
8. TWILIGHT & EPILOGUE (1924-1960)

These pages will be consistently updated.
Comments, updates and corrections are much appreciated




5. WORLD WAR ONE (1914-1918)


On 26th Jan 1911 the Rathdonnells may have attended the wedding of Eustace Mansfield and Mabel Paget at St Mary’s of Cadogan Street. Mabel, an English heiress and third daughter of the late Guy Paget of Ibstock and Humberstone, Leicester. She was given away by her brother Guy and they honeymooned in Paris.

In 1912, Mabel acquired a splendid 6-year-old hunter called Lisnavagh, bred by the Rathdonnells at their Carlow estate. His sire was Rhodoricus and his dam was Catherine. Mabel purchased him from Mr. H. B. Alexander who had perhaps wearied of the horse after the Glascairn Point-to-Point of March 1912 when, with himself in the saddle, Lisnavagh was an also ran in the Open Race Cup presented by the Officers of the 5th Lancers, which was won by Captain Rusk’s Partridge. [i]

However, at the County Kildare Hunt Horse Show in August 1912, Lisnavagh won the Class XIV for hunters 14 stone and upwards and the Kildare Observer noted that Mrs Eustace Mansfield’s “big, good looking gelding that was bred, we believe, in the Co. Carlow and was for some time the property of Mr. H. B. Alexander, who disposed of him last spring”. [ii] He went on to win the same class at the Royal Dublin Society’s 1912 Horse Show.

On Saturday 28 June 1913, the Princess Royal, the Duchess of Fife and Princess Maud were present at the International Horse Show in Olympia, London, when Lisnavagh took second place (to Mrs Bennett Raby’s Cork) in the class for ‘Hunter Mare or Gelding, conveying more than 14st’.[iii] Two days later, Lisnavagh he took fourth place in the 13st. class for ‘Hunter Mare, or Gelding, capable of carrying front 13st 7lb to 15st.’[iv] A reviewer from the Kildare Observer (July 5, p. 8) felt it ‘very strange for such a good hunter that he refused to jump, or else he would probably have gained firsts and a championship, as he beat the second in the championship and was second to the 14st. champion.’

At the 1913 Dublin Horse Show, he placed 2nd out of 38 entries in the 14st. up to 15st. hunters, beaten by Sir Timothy O’Brien’s The Bailiff. [v]

In August 1914, Eustace Mansfield took Lisnavagh with him to the Western Front in the service of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Born in November 1879, Eustace Mansfield was the firstborn son of George Mansfield of Morristown Latten.[vi] Like his father, Eustace was educated at Stonyhurst, a Catholic boarding school in Lancashire. Eustace’s mother Alice Adele was the eldest daughter of Baron d’Audebard de Ferussac of Paris, a scientist of considerable repute. When the Great War broke out in 1914, George Mansfield, father of Eustace and Deputy Lieutenant of Co Kildare, issued a joint statement with Sir Anthony Weldon, Lord Lieutenant for the county, expressing their absolute opposition to British plans to enforce conscription in Ireland. They set up a committee to raise sufficient numbers so that “no question can arise as to the loyalty of the County Kildare” with regard to those willing to “join their brethren at the front”.

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Above: The Rathdonnells have always
had a soft spot for horses. In 1914,
a hunter called Lisnavagh went to
the Western Front and served
during the Great War. Lisnavagh
was one of the few horses
who returned alive.

Captain Mansfield and Lisnavagh served on the Western Front until Eustace was shot in the neck and invalided home. He had been promoted to the rank of Captain and was serving with the Northamptonshire Regiment at the time. On Monday 27th September 1915, C and D Companies near Foss 8 were attacked from the rear by Germans using bombs. Captain Mansfield collected a mixed force of men and counter-attacked to relieve C Company. A further counter-attack to regain the village at Foss was cancelled after several senior officers, including General Thesiger, were killed by a shell whilst organising the attack. The battalion held their positions for the rest of the day before being relieved on the evening of the 27th. The battalion had suffered very heavy losses with over 400 casualties.[vii]

Lisnavagh returned with him to Ireland and subsequently won a prize at a horse show in England. The horse is buried near where the glasshouse used to be at Morristown Latten. Eustace died on 14th April 1945 and Mabel on 20th May 1949. This story was told to me by their only son Patrick Mansfield. They also had two daughters, Rosalind and Elizabeth, one of whom inherited the silver horse trophy won by Lisnavagh.

With thanks to Rosa Kende.


[i] Irish Independent, Friday, March 8th 1912, p. 8.

[ii] Kildare Observer 1880-1935 Saturday, August 10, 1912, p. 6.

[iii] News - The Horse Show. The Coaching Corinthian, The Times, Monday, Jun 30, 1913; pg. 6; Issue 40251; col C

[iv] News - The Horse Show. The Connaught Trophy, The Times, Tuesday, Jul 01, 1913; pg. 7; Issue 40252; col G

[v] Kildare Observer, Saturday, August 30, 1913.

[vi] Eustace’s brothers were Henry, Alexander and Tirso, about wich I have written in the Kildare Gentry. On 30th December 1913, Eustace’s eldest sister Mary married Thomas Esmonde. Her husband’s father, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Esmonde, Royal Irish Regiment, won a Victoria Cross at Sebastopol, the same battle in which her great uncle William Mansfield perished. The younger Thomas Esmonde was lost at sea on 10th October 1918. Mary lived on until 10th March 1963. Eustace’s younger sister Marguerite (1883 – 1939) was married twice. Her first husband (1905) was Richard Morton Wood, 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, eldest son of Colonel George Wilding Wood of Docklands, Ingatestone, in Essex. He died without male heir on 6th January 1908. In 1911, she married Edward Nettlefold of Brightwell Park, Wallington, Surrey. He was seriously wounded in the war but survived to become a Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th Dragoons.

[vii] http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=49720


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Above: 'Goodbye Old Man' by Fortunino Matania.

Lisnavagh was a fortunate horse. Over a million horses were sent to France from
Britain and Ireland during the Great War; only 62,000 returned alive. One assumes
these were heart-breaking statistics for horse lovers like Tom and Kate Rathdonnell.
Such thoughts were further enhanced after reading Max Hasting’s introduction to
Michael Morpurgo's War Horse, the story of Joey, beloved mount of a Devon farmer's
son, translated into a beast of battle and burden in France. He reports that, ‘between
the Somme in July 1916 and the Armistice in November 1918, the British Army
recorded 58,090 horses killed and 77,410 wounded by gunfire; 211 were killed and
2,220 wounded by poison gas; while several hundred were killed by aeroplane bombs.’



New water-works opens in Carlow.

Carlow avoids the Compulsary Tillage Order imposed on other counties.

January 17: Carlow Foxhounds meet at Lisnavagh.

January 30: Foot and mouth disease is again confirmed with outbreaks occurring in Kildare, Dublin, Cork and Tipperary. There were in all 76 outbreaks with 957 animals being affected and 4180 slaughtered.

February: Sir Francis Denys-Burton, Baronet, of Pollacton, Carlow, plants "Three hundred Larch trees in a field called "The Slang" Kernanstown in the Parish of Urglin by request and on behalf of my Wife Lady Grace E. Denys-Burton”. Thomas Kane Mc Clintlock Bunbury , Baron Rathdonnell of Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow and William Rochfort Esq. of Cahir Abbey , Cahir, Co. Tipperary are "Trustees of the Estate".

February 26: Tom and Kate Rathdonnell celebrate their Ruby Wedding after forty years of marriage.

April 7: House of Commons passes Home Rule Bill.

April 16: Tom Rathdonnell co-organizes Bull Show with Waterford Agricultural Society.

April 25: Lord and Lady Rathdonnell are amongst the huge number of aristocrats and landed gentry who attend the gloriously sunny Punchestown Races, for which the Great Southern and Western Railway provided excellent railway facilities, special trains that arrived on time. (Weekly Irish Times, p. 1).

April 25 (Saturday). The Nationalist reports that the Carlow Urban Council had decided to rename Carlow's Hay Market 'by the old name of 'Templecroney Square and to rename Wellington Square 'Governey Square' after the Council Chairman, Michael Governey (who died in 1924). A wealthy boot factory owner, Mr. Governey was an ardent supporter of Parnell and had been favoured as Parliamentary representative of County Carlow, but withdrew in favour of Walter McMurrough Kavanagh. With Monsignor Ryan of Tipperary he was appointed co-trustee of the National Volunteers at the time of their formation in 1915. He later supported John Redmond, particularly during the Convention of 1917 of which he was a member. His second wife was a daughter of Colonel Brodie and sister of Rev. Wilfrid Brodie, C.P., St Paul's Retreat, Ilkley, Yorkshire. As well as Michael Governey (who said he would rather they did not call any street in Carlow after him but was told by J. Brennan, with much laughter, 'You have no call to interfere', those present at the 1914 meeting were: Thomas Murphy, Patrick Lawler, John Murphy, J.D. McGrath, J.Brennan, William Purcell, Edward Duggan, John Foley, W.J.Jackson, J.D.McCarthy. Mr. W.A.Lawler, Town Clerk and Mr. Cardery, B.S. Councillor William Purcell referred to above was grandfather to J.J.Woods and uncle to the late Pat Purcell, 1895-1994, Killeshin /Carlow. (PPP)

May 1: Sir Francis Denys-Burton, Baronet, of Pollacton, Carlow, desires to have the trees registered in the office of Jocelyn Thomas, Justice of the Peace for Carlow as the property of the Trustees (Thomas Kane Mc Clintlock Bunbury , Baron Rathdonnell of Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow and William Rochfort Esq. of Cahir Abbey , Cahir, Co. Tipperary) of the Estate.

May 9: Tom Rathdonnell presides over a meeting of the RDS’s Committee of Agriculture at Leinster House to commend everyone on the successful bull show in Waterford in April. The Committee then thanked Tom, as President, ‘especially’ for both his ‘untiring assistance to the project from its inception’ and for entertaining the officials of the Department of Agriculture, the representatives [and] the herds in charge of the cattle, and practically the whole of the public attending the inspection and sale.’ There was also a reading of a letter from the Irish Goat Society. (The Irish Times, p. 10).

July 4 : Olive Packenham Mahon of Strokestown House, Co Roscommon, marries Edward Stafford King Harmon of Rockingham (Lough Key Forest Park), Co. Roscommon, at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London. Elizabeth Bowen describes a wedding in July 1914 in ‘The Last September’ during which the war broke out. Guests at the wedding included the Anstruther Greys and Viscount Gough and his wife. Edward is killed four months later.

July 12: A huge rally of the Irish Volunteers in the Grove Field in Castlebellingham, with Padraig Pearse in attendance. Pearse's father erected the grave for the Bellingham family.

July 18 (Saturday): ‘Lord Rathdonnell has returned to Lisnavagh, Count Carlow, from London. Lady Rathdonnell is now nearly recovered from her recent operation.’ (Weekly Irish Times, p. 4).

July 26: Massacre on Bachelor's Walk follows safe return of Erskine Childers' Asgard expedition.

Death of Pierce Gun Mahony of Grangecon.

August 4: British declaration of war on Germany. The war came at a particularly tense time in Irish history with the Ulster Unionists and Irish Volunteers – or Nationalists - on the cusp of civil war over Home Rule. The declaration of war on Germany changed the focus and, to an extent, united both against a common enemy. The following day, John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party and much the most influential nationalist, effectively vowed to Westminster that the Irish would stand firm and defend their shores.

August 8: The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) is passed in the United Kingdom.

September 5 (Saturday): ‘A meeting of the Council of the Royal Dublin Society was held in the Council Chamber, Leinster House, on Thursday last – the Right Hon. Lord Rathdonnell, H.M.L., President, in the chair. On the report of the Committee of Agriculture, it was decided that, owing to the continued occupation of the Society’s agricultural premises at Ballsbridge by the military authorities, the Winter Show of fat cattle, poultry, and farm produce, etc., announced to be held on December 9th and 10th must be abandoned.’ (Weekly Irish Times, p. 5).

September 9: Trade restrictions brought about by foot and mouth disease are removed. The origin of the disease was not determined.

September 19: ‘A meeting of the Council of the Royal Dublin Society was held in the Council Chamber, Leinster House, on Thursday last – the Right Hon. Lord Rathdonnell, H.M.L., President, in the chair. The following resolution was passed:- Resolved- “That any official or workman in the employment of the Royal Dublin Society who volunteers for the war will have his full salary, less the amount paid by the War Office, and his position kept for him. A letter was read from the Irish Cattle Trader’s Association with reference to the abandoned Winter Show, and other routine business transacted.’ (Weekly Irish Times, p. 7).

Oct: Louis Murray Phillpotts, DSO (1870-1916), husband of Amy Duckett, is gazetted Lieutenant Colonel.

November 6: Edward Stafford King Harmon killed at Ypres. His remains were never recovered and confirmation of his death takes some time to filter home. His wife Olive had become a wife, widow and mother in 12 months. She last saw him in Liverpool Street Station in London when he hesitated and looked at her and walked on again. Had they had a son, the boy would have inherited both Strokestown and Rockingham; their daughter Lettice (pronounced Lettuce) did not succeed as she was a girl, but Edward’s brother Cecil King Harman did. The story is told in Anne Morrow’s ‘Picnic in a Foreign Land.’

November 23: Birth of William Robert McClintock Bunbury, 4th Baron Rathdonnell, only son of Captain TL and Ethel McCB.

November 24: Birth of Anne Bruen, daughter of (Admiral) EF Bruen and his wife Constance.

November 26: Death of TKMB's uncle Colonel George McClintock, aged 88, at Fellows Hall.

Amongst those wounded in the war was Major Bramwell. Bill Burgess recalled him as 'a big man who was very badly wounded in the 1914-1918 War' and recuperated at Lisnavagh. He bought a horse from Bill's brother Harry Burgess which he hunted with the Carlow Hunt.

Lennon Wylie's record of Car & Bicycle ownership in Carlow, 1914-1915, includes Rathdonnell's car , registration IC 49.


Arthur Thomas Bruen, Kate's brother and formerly the agent at Lisnavagh, was too old to fight in the Great War. In 1915, Arthur drove his Clement car (perhaps IC 73, registered to Germaine's in 1914) from his home in Invernesshire to Dover, where he put it on a cross-Channel ferry and embarked for France. Enrolling in the Red Cross, he used it as an ambulance in the front lines for the next six months. He was then inducted as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Army Service Corps and remained at the Front until 1919, being used as 'trouble shooter' wherever there were supply problems. This information comes from the entry for his grandson, the Falklands War poet Bernie Bruen, on www.warpoetry.co.uk

Tom Rathdonnell subscribes £50 to St Mary's Church Sustentation; most prominent parishoners put up £1 and the remainder, including Abraham Watchorn, whose son was to be killed during the Easter Rising of 1916, subsscribed either 5 or 10 shillings.

March 4: Lady Rathdonnell listed as a patron of the French Wounded Emergency Fund, London (co-opted with the Special War Committee of ladies the Order of Bt. John Jerusalem) alongside the Countess of Arran, the Countess of Bandon, the Viscountess Powerscourt, the Lady Farnham, the Lady Talbot, the Lady Holmpatrick, the Hon. Mrs. Ernest Guinness, Lady Arnott, Mdme. Des Longchamps, Mrs. Greer. They make an appeal for monetary aid, together with blankets, towels, sheets, vests, pants, flannel shirts, etc., all to be sent to Mrs. Barker, of Diswellstown Hoaee, Castleknock, Co. Dublin. (Dublin Daily Express, Thursday 04 March 1915).

April 14: (Wednesday) Freeman’s Journal reports that Norman Baron, a shorthorn bull calved at Lisnavagh in 1913, out of Royal Pearl (s) and Dunmore Farewell won Tom Rathdonnell 1st prize in the auction sale class at the Spring Show. According to The Agricultural Gazette and Modern Farming (Volume 81, 19 April 1915) he was a Scotch top crossed roan.

April 17: Death of Steuart James Charles Duckett, D.L. (1847-1915) of Russellstown Park, County Carlow. He and Tom Rathdonnell were exact contemporaries, as well as old Etonians; Steuart was also Hon Secretary of the Carlow Hunt. He made his will on the 3rd June, 1903, and bequeathed the residue of his property to his daughter Amy Philpotts, to the detriment of his only son John Steuart Duckett ... a court case ensued.

May 7: The Cunard Liner Lusitania bound for Liverpool was sunk off the Irish coast by a German submarinee with the loss of almost 1,200 lives. Sir Bache Cunard, head of the Cunard Line company, was a friend of Tom Rathdonnell and had stayed at Lisnavagh.

May 14: Lt. Col. Walter Lorenzo Alexander, 42-year-old commander of the 2nd Battalion of the Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire) Regiment, killed by a shell while inspecting troops at Festubert, just south of Neuve Chapelle. His father George had been land agent to both Milford and Oak Park, and lived at Rathvindon during the 1860s and 1870s.

May 25: In H. H. Asquith's new wartime coalition, Tom Rathdonnell's old Eton school friend and former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour becomes First Lord of the Admiralty until 1916, when succeeded by Winston Churchill, son of another of their classmates.

June: “Lord and Lady Rathdonnell have returned to Ireland from London.” (Newcastle Journal, 9 June 1915).

June 18: Centenary of Battle of Waterloo.

August 21: Lord Longford killed by shrapnel at Gallipoli. His last words before his death were reputedly: "Don't bother ducking, the men don't like it and it doesn't do any good...."

Sept 13: Lord and Lady Rathdonnell travelled by E.M.S. Pointer from Glasgow to Belfast last night. (Tuesday 14 September 1915 , Daily Record , Lanarkshire)

October 29: Rt Rev Maurice Day, Bishop of Clogher, writes to Lord Rathdonnell from Bishopscourt, Clones, Co. Monaghan, to thank him for contributing £700 to the various Monaghan parishes. In today's currency, that £700 would equate to £30,000 or €34,000. This letter is now framed at Bishopscourt.


February: Sir Francis Denys-Burton registered the following as the property of the ‘aforementioned' Trustees, Rathdonnell and Rochfort, "six thousand three hundred and fifty larch trees and seventy Abies (Douglas Glauea) in a field called "The Slang". He also proposes “planting in the same field other trees to the number of three hundred or four hundred”.

March 3rd: Lord Desmond FitzGerald, son of the Duke of Leinster, killed during a grenade-throwing exercise in Calais.


April 21: (Good Friday) The Irish Times 'Fashionable Intelligence' reports that Lord and Lady Rathdonnell are staying at the Marine Hotel in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire). On this same day, Sir Roger Casement and the German boat Aud are captured in Kerry prompting Eoin MacNeill to call off a planned rising on Easter Sunday. The organisers of the Rising opt to override MacNeill and reschedule the Rising for Easter Monday.

April 24 (Monday): Outbreak of Easter Rising in Dublin leaves over 450 dead, including 180 civilians and 116 soldiers, RN, RIC, Dublin Metropolitan Police and loyalist volunteers, plus at least 350 wounded. The first British officer killed in Guy Vickery Pinfield from Bishops' Stortford. A further 614 civilians are injured. Of the rebels 15 were executed, 100 were sent to Penal Servitude, 6 were imprisoned and 1700 deported. I don't yet know how many rebels were killed in action. (This from contemporary accounts of the Unionist newspaper).

Not so long ago a clever woman of my acquaintance reached deep into a bookcase &, to our mutual surprise, plucked out a notebook of considerable interest. It was an Eason's "Terracotta" Reporters Notebook and on the front cover was written: "Left behind by Sinn Fein occupiers of 122a Stephen's Green, April 30th 1916". And Sunday April 30th 1916 was the day that the Easter Rising formally concluded.

Upon investigation, I discovered that 122a Stephen’s Green was the seat of the School of Irish Learning with which Hyde, Moore and others were much involved. A floor in the building was occupied by Mary Susan Bruen and her sister Eleanor Margaret Bruen. Born at Oak Park, Carlow, younger sisters of Lady Rathdonnell and daughters of the the Rt. Hon Henry Bruen, sometime MP for Carlow. At the age of 58, Mary was perhaps unlikely to be batting eyelids with any of the young revolutionaries. However, the 1911 Census gives her career as a 'Writer for the Press', which leads one to wonder what newspaper or magazine was she writing for. It looks like she and Eleanor were Christian Scientists so I wonder if she wrote for the Christian Science Monitor in Dublin or one of its offshoots. (It is notable that the ‘1916’ notebook is a Reporter's notebook.) On 26th April 1916, the Christian Science Monitor carried front page reports on the Easter Rising and the arrest of Sir Roger Casement.

[The Times of London noted Mary Bruen's death, at her residence, 122A St Stephen's Green, on 5th June 1920, following a short illness. Eleanor - described as a 'Secretary of an Institution' in 1911 - also never married and died in Boston in 1938.]

I don't yet know whose words are penned on the pages of this notebook but I suspect it was members of Commandant Michael Mallin's garrison. On Easter Monday, Commandant Malinn led a small force of 36 soldiers from the Irish Citizen Army, supported by members of the Fianna Eireann and Cumann na mBan, through the large gate at the Fusiliers Arch into St. Stephen’s Green, the 22-acre public park on the south-side of Dublin City. Their primary objective was to occupy and hold the green which would give them control over a large section of traffic in the city centre. The ‘Green’ was also earmarked to serve as the rebels’ principal base should they successfully capture the city. [Among those killed in the area of the Green on Easter Monday was James Connor, the manager of Clogrennane Limeworks near Milford in County Carlow, who was shot in his car by the rebels and died subsequently from his wounds.]

The notebook refers to two men called ‘Shannon' and 'O’B’ which could refer to Martin Shannon and either Liam or Frank O’Briain who served under Mallin at Stephen’s Green. I'm not yet sure what became of them. There is also a reference to a man called 'Sullivan'.

Tom Rathdonnell was still a the Marine Hotel in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) when the Rising began as it was also the Spring Show at the Royal Dublin Society. John Evelyn Wrench recalls meeting him in his memoirs, 'Struggles, 1914-1920', and talks of how Lord Rathdonnell and Mr Doyne were the only two officials who were physically able to reach the show when it began on the Tuesday. They attempted to keep the show in motion while Wrench nipped up Killiney Hill with some binoculars and watched Dublin 'and notably the Post Office in Sackville Street, which was occupied by the Rebels, being shelled with wonderful accuracy by the gun boats in Kingstown'.

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The flames of the Easter Rebellion fanned right into Lisnavagh with the death of a 21-year-old local boy who was serving in the British Army that week. Private Abraham Watchorn of the 5th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers was killed in action on Easter Wednesday (26th April 1916) . He was a son of Abraham Watchorn, of Williamstown, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, by his Carlow-born wife. Jane, daughter of George James. Born in Dundrum, Co. Dublin, on 20th October 1894, Abraham had been educated in the Lisnavagh Schoolhouse and was working as a farmer when the First World War broke out. He enlisted with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 22 November 1915. Official reports say the regiment was brought to Dublin from The Curragh, arriving in Dublin at 3.45am on Tuesday 25h April. They appear to have gone straight into action around Dublin Castle. Abraham Watchorn was probably involved in a major assault on the Volunteer occupied offices of the Daily Express on Dame Street when a detachment of the 5th Battalion under 2nd Lieutenant F O’Neill charged the building with bayonets. It required five assaults over the next hour or so before the building was taken; 22 Irish Volunteers were killed. Private Watchorn is assumed to have been mortally injured in the action. He died at the Red Cross Hospital at Dublin Castle the following ay and was buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery.

He is amongst those named on the Great War memorial on the organ in St. Mary's Church in Rathvilly.

[In 1915 A. Watchorn subscribed 12/- (twelve shillings) to St. Mary's Church Sustentation. By 1929, Abraham Watchorn, the father of the dead soldier, was giving £1.10.0. The 1934 account reveals Frank Watchorn, brother of the soldier, giving the same amount whilst the accounts list a Mr. & Mrs. Watchorn subscribing from 1970 right through to 1982. They may have been related to Joan Watchorn who worked at Lisnavagh in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These details added by my father, April 2013]

Photos courtesy of Paul Horan and Paul Maguire, Curator of the Carlow County Military Museum.



That same Easter Wednesday, a detachment of 2,000 Sherwood Forresters arrive at Kingstown (Dun Laghaire). As Alex Findlater says, they were ‘inexperienced troops and somewhat confused. Some even thought they were in France. Food was short because the kitchens and rations had not arrived, though the officers enjoyed the hospitality of the very unionist Royal St George Yacht Club, where members were able to pass on the latest rumours about the fighting, with no doubt generous doses of paranoid talk about Irish treachery. As a result, the officers became extremely suspicious and forbade the ordinary soldiers to accept the gifts of tea, cholcolate, oranges, bananas, sandwiches and sweets that the loyal residents of Kingstown and Blackrock showered on them. Big Billy Vaughan, manager of the Blackrock Findlater’s, solved the problem by rolling apples and oranges down the street for the young soldiers to pick up’.

Alex Findlater tells a particularly poignant story about one of his grandfather’s in-laws, a barrister from Nottingham called Frederick Christian Dietrichsen who was an officer in the Sherwoods. Unbeknownst to Christian, his two young daughters had been sent to Dublin for safety to escape the danger of zeppelin raids. They were actually in Blackrock waving flags on the pavement when Christian marched the Sherwoods through. ‘His fellow officers saw him drop out of the column and fling his arms around the children. It was a joyful scene with no hint of the tragedy to come’. (Max Caulfield, The Easter Rebellion, pp. 221).

The Forresters were en route to oust the rebel leaders from the General Post Office on O’Connell Street. They paused at the Royal Dublin Society's premises in Ballsbridge where Lord Rathdonnell was attempting to host the Spring Show. J. E. Wrench, who recalls it as 'a very hot day' remembers how '... the English troops marched up from Kingstown and generally made a halt when they reached Ballsbridge before they got into the line of fire. One British regiment consisted of young recruits, such a nice lot of boys. We brought them lemonade, for which they were most grateful. Only six or eight hundred yards on they had to pass houses that were occupied by rebel snipers, and nearly two hundred of them were killed and many wounded. It always seemed to me such a wanton waste of life, though we tried to explain to them as well as we could the geography of the streets in that part of Dublin and what they might expect'.

As the two battalions of Sherwood Foresters approached Mount Street Bridge, they came in for a big surprise. De Valera had surveyed the Westland Row and Grand Canal district in the weeks preceding the Rising. He had considered the military possibilities and now his planning was to pay off. The Volunteers at Mount Street Bridge secured perfect positioning for a cross-fire ambush. The Forresters walked into a death trap. Their attempts to charge the rebels were utterly suicidal. In a battle that ultimately lasted from noon to 8pm, 234 British officers and men were killed or wounded, marking almost half of the total British Military losses for the whole week of the Rising. Only four Volunteers were killed in the same battle. During the early part of the action, Mick Malone slipped down to the battalion HQ in the Bakery and warned de Valera that they needed a fast firing weapon urgently. The bespectacled Commandant unbuckled his own Mauser, handed it over with 400 rounds of ammo and said ‘Sorry I cannot do more for you’. When the superior British firepower eventually overwhelmed the Volunteers, Malone was among the four killed in the final assault. Amongst the Forresters slain in the Battle of Mount Street Bridge was Nottingham barrister Frederick Christian Dietrichsen. A Memorial to the Volunteers stands by the bridge today. There is no such record of the unfortunate Forresters who perished, although a number of them do seem to have been buried in the military cemetery at Grangegorman.

Mick Purcell drew my attention to another of Wrench's remarks where he says: 'Perhaps my upbringing in Fermanagh has enabled me to see "the other fellow's standpoint" so wholeheartedly that sometimes I find that I am almost taking sides against myself. It is an uncomfortable state of affairs!' I sometimes wonder whether, for all his Unionism, Tom Rathdonnell might not have thought a bit like that.

Mount Street Bridge finally fell to the British on Wednesday evening. De Valera's garrison held out until Sunday when Nurse O’Farrell delivered Pearse’s order to surrender. At first de Valera thought that this was a British ploy but when he was finally convinced that it was genuine, he instructed his men to ensure all arms were put out of action lest they be of use to the enemy. None of his men were prepared to carry the white flag of surrender, so it fell to a Red Cross worker to hold it while de Valera’s vice-commandant, Joseph O’Connor, marched the men out onto Grattan Street where they were ordered to ‘ground arms’. It galled de Valera to see the local people coming out from their homes to offer cups of tea to the British soldiers while ridiculing the Volunteers for their actions. ‘If only you had come out to help us,’ he chided, ‘even with knives, you would not behold us like this.’[1] After their surrender, de Valera and his men were held for two nights at the RDS Showgrounds in Ballsbridge. These included Tom Traynor, a bootmaker from Tullow who had been shot acorss the cheek while clearing Westland Row train station. As Volunteer Seamus Murphy recalled, 'A Bull Show had been arranged for the Show Grounds and some animals had arrived. The bulls were taken out of the stalls and we were put in their place. We were packed in tightly and remained there until Tuesday morning. During the time there we had two meals a day, consisting of billy beef, hard biscuits and tea’. De Valera himself was reputedly held in the weights and measures room at Pembroke Hall. By the time they were transferred to Richmond Barracks on Tuesday morning, there was already a queue of prisoners being tried. The delay was to save de Valera’s life. When he finally stood for his trial by court martial on 8 May he was, like all battalion commandants, sentenced to death. However, the executions of the main ringleaders earlier in the week had already generated such a negative effect on public opinion that his death sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life. His US citizenship was not used in his favour and he himself made no claims on that basis.

[1] Foy and Barton, The Easter Rising, p. 117.
[2] Seamus Doyle, Witness Statement 166, Bureau of Military History, p. 6.

The Rathdonnells appear to have had an extraordinary interest in what they called 'The Sinn Fein Rebellion', gathering various postcards and clippings from the period into an album, as well as a handwritten copy of the Proclamation of Independence and a notebook. This may stem from Kate Rathdonnell's sister, Miss Mary Susan Bruen, who lived at 122A St Stephen's Green at thsi time. The building was also the seat of the School of Irish Learning with which Hyde, Moore and others were much involved.

The bombardment of Dublin left it looking very much like a wartime European city. The British response was also akin to the wartime – bomb the city and execute the leaders – rather than the moderate response it merited.

April 26: The killing of Sheehy Skeffington by Bowen-Colthurst prompts Monk Gibbon to resign his commission in the British Army, although no records of this have yet been traced.

31 May - 1 June: Just over a month after Tom is caught up in the Easter Rebellion, Kate Rathdonnell's brother (later Admiral) E.F. Bruen commands HMS Bellerophon at the Battle of Jutland. She fired sixty-two 12 inch rounds and received no damage. After the battle she swept with the other vessels of the Grand Fleet regularly. 'Eddo', as he was apparently known, commanded HMS Resolution throughout the rest of the First World War, ending up as an Admiral.

Tom's former school colleague (and former Prime Minister) Arthur Balfour becomes Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1916–1919

July 1: Massacre on the Somme, with 20,000 British dead and 40,000 wounded on first day. Among those who fought in this dreadful battle were Norman Stronge, Alan Cameron, Ted Brown (of Alcock & Brown), Hubert Gough, William Allgood and Captain Maurice Collis-Sandes (killed). Over 5,500 Ulstermen were amongst those killed or disabled, going over the top for King and Empire.


1) DORA limits pub opening hours and ups prices on spirits. Serving soldiers are also barred from drinking and nobody is allowed to shout rounds. The distilling industry is also virtually closed down. After the war, wives were so petrified by their husbands drinking propensities that they urged the government to restrict their access to alcohol.
2) Irish farmers have a huge role in feeding the largest British Army in history and the demand for agricultural produce is the greatest since the Napoleonic Wars, not least with so many ships being sunk and German U-boats effectively blocking imports to England and Ireland. DORA orders farers to convert land to tillage so that where 12% of Ireland was in tillage in 1914, it was upped to 39% at the peak of the war. Labourers wages rose in tandem with the profits and, while recruitment posters urged southern famers and labourers to ‘Join Up and Defend’, relatively few of them actually did.
3) The government was obliged to conceded to the unions during the war in order to avoid conflict at home; it was the Unions who would leap opposition to conscription while women were increasingly to the fore.
4) The VAD nurses needed sphagnum moss for cotton wool and this was washed, sorted and graded by a team of 6,000 volunteers – creating 300,000 dressings in 1917 alone which were sent to field hospitals in every theatre of war.
5) There were 23 auxiliary War Hospitals in Ireland with wounded amputees wearing pale blue colours everywhere reminding the nurses of the fate that might befall their loved ones on the frontlines.

July 6 (Thursday): The Court Circular of The Times informed its readers that "Lord Rathdonnell has returned to Lisnavagh". It was the King and Queen's 23rd wedding anniversary.

August 3: Sir Roger Casement hanged for treason.

September 4: 'Lord Rathdonnell has been adding to his promising Shorthorn herd at Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, and has secured with other selections from Scotland one or two members of the Groat family from the herd of Colonel Johnston of Linksfield, Elgin, including the dam of Red Baron, the stud bull in the herd of the Hon. Frederick Wrench, Killaooona, Ballybrack, that has proved such averitable gold mine him.' (Aberdeen Journal). When I alerted my father to this reference in June 2016, he responded, "Why yes! One of the magnificent ladies I inherited forty something years later was named Muriel Groat XVI; I was not previously aware of the reason."

Sept 8: Death in action of Brigadier General Louis Murray Phillpotts, DSO (1870-1916), husband to Amy Duckett.

November 10: Corporal Francis Slater, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, died of wounds in Flanders. He may have grown up beside Lisnavagh at Knocknagan. He was the son of Peter [?] Salter and Mary Benniger who married in 1898; he appears to have been born in 1895 and thus out of wedlock.

November 13: End of battle of Somme.

December 18: End of battle of Verdun.

image title

As Ireland tumbled towards
the warfare of 1916 - 1923,
the 2nd Baron Rathdonnell
became one of the key
players in deciding the
fate of the 32 counties.
Discretion was his valour.


January: Heaviest snowfall recorded in Ireland.

January 16, (Tuesday) - 'Lord and Lady Rathdonnell are at present staying in Dublin' - The Irish Times.

January 25: Sinking of the SS Laurentic, a White Star liner, off Lough Swilly … 354 died … there was also 43 tons of gold stowed on board, most of which has since been recovered.

February: 'The Noble Count Plunkett', a colleague of Tom Rathdonnell's from the RDS, is among those elected as the first Sinn Fein T.D. for North Roscommon during an election that contemporaries called the ‘Election of the snows’ when a blizzard similar to that of February 1947 struck Ireland.

March 3: RMS Connaught, a sister ship of RMS Leinster and originally part of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company line, is torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-48 while returning to Southampton from Le Havre. Three crewmen were killed; the rest of the crew took to lifeboats. Connaught sank within four minutes of the second torpedo striking.

By 1917 there was a panic that the Republicans in Ireland would free the German prisoners and the Germans were thus transferred to the UK.

Kate Rathdonnell's brother (Admiral) Edward Francis Bruen commanding HMS Resolution; wasn't he at Jutland?

In the warm spring of 1917, Ballintemple, the last Butler seat in County Carlow, was destroyed by what most believe to have been a straightforward accident, a fire started when a plumbers blow-lamp set the dry-rot filled roof rafters alight. Sir Richard Butler serving with the 60th Rifles (now the Green Jackets) in France and later with the British Expeditionary Force in Mesopotamia. In 1917 he is the one of the first men to reach Damascus in the wake of the city's fall to General Allenby. It was at this time he heard the sad news from Carlow.

In 1917, Monsignor Delaney returned to Rathvilly after a serious operation and found himself unable to sleep on account of the racket from the village green which had been a camping ground for circuses, traveling shows and itinerants ever since the Rathvilly fairs ceased in the late 1880s. They presented their shows right beside the church. The Monsignor asked Edward O’Toole, ‘was it not possible to compel the itinerants to take up their stands in a position less disturbing?’ Ultimately this meant that the green was enclosed and planted with ornamental shrubs. (From Eileen McGregor, ‘Edward O’Toole, 1860-1943: Rathvilly schoolteacher and nationalist’.)

April: William Orpen heads to Ypres as official war artist.

May 16: Lloyd-George announces that he wants immediate Home Rule for the 26 counties of Ireland. Six north-eastern counties are to be excluded for a period of 5 years.,

June 19: The British royal family renounce the German names and titles of Saxe-Coburg, (responding to anti-German sentiment) and become Windsor.

July 25: The first meeting of the Irish Convention. It become clear to Rathdonnell and the Southern Unionists that the Ulster Unionists were so opposed to Home Rule that they were prepared to break away. Hence, the concept of a Six-County (originally Nine-County) Ulster. The British government also seemed to have little interest in the south, its war-torn eyes focused still on the great ship-building industry in Belfast. The government was preoccupied by one of the most disastrous years in the war. Ireland was still a low priority. Sinn Fein was correct when they sceptically suggested Lloyd-George’s interest in resolving the Irish crisis was so he could appease Irish-American interests in Washington and get the USA on side for the war effort.

October 2: HMS Drake, the cruiser formerly commanded by both Admiral Jellicoe and Edward Bruen, torpedoed near Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim. Eighteen men in Boiler Room No. 2 are killed.

Oct 25: 1, 700 Sinn Féin delegates attend a convention in the Mansion House and De Valera replaced Arthur Griffith as the president of Sinn Féin,

November 2: The Balfour Declaration proclaims British support for the "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" with the clear understanding "that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities". And lo, the Jews were offered a new homeland in Palestine.

Nov 6: Battle of Passchendaele: After 3 months of fierce fighting, Canadian forces take Passchendaele in Belgium.

Dec 11: General Allenby and the British army enter Jerusalem on foot, coming in the symbolic guise of pilgrims rather than conquerors. Lawrence of Arabia is amongst them but his broad smiles will fade away when he learns the implications of the Balfour Declaration which will utterly betray all the promises he made to the Arabs.

Lord Rathdonnell presents Boyle Medal to Professor Henry Horatio Dixon (1869-1953).

Tom Rathdonnell on the Executive Committee of the Unionist Alliance when they met in 1917 shortly after the Government threatened to introduce conscription to Ireland. The war was already won by this stage so the issue never came to a head.

Henry Bruen sells Castleboro House for £15,000 (a record price for a farm sale in Wexford at that time) to an industrious farmer called James R Dier, JP, of Clonroche, Co. Wexford. The house would be burned down six years later.


Feb 5: The Representation of the People Act passed by the British Parliament received the Royal Assent, grants the vote to women over 30. Their first opportunity to use it comes at the General Election on 14th December 1918.

March 6: Death of John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

March 30: For Prisoner of War.— Lady Rathdonnell, Lisnavagh House, Co. Carlow, has forwarded £35 11s to the Leinster Regiment Prisoners of War Fund, being money collected in Co. Carlow. (Weekly Freeman's Journal - Saturday 30 March 1918).

May 1918: Lord French, the new Viceroy, announces "German Plot" and 73 Sinn Feiners are arrested.

May 17: Death in action of Kane Bunbury's great-grandson, James Kane-Smith. (Carlow Sentinel) ROLL OF HONOUR. LIEUT. JAMES KANE-SMITH, M.C. We regret to find amongst the official causality list this week the death of this gallant young Carlow soldier, who was eldest son of Mr and Mrs Kane-Smith, Little Moyle. He was attached to the R.F.A., and some months back was reported wounded and missing, but hopes of recovery were entertained up to the last. He was awarded the M.C. for distinguished services, while his kind and genial disposition made him a fast favourite amongst his many friends, who mourn his loss, and sympathise deeply with his bereaved parents.

August 8-12: General Charles Kavanagh is commanding officer of British Cavalry Divisions at Battle of Amiens - his father was Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh, the legendary limbless Carlow MP, while his brother Walter served on Carlow County Council from 1910-1918.

October 10: SS Leinster sunk by two torpedoes, leaving 529 dead in Ireland’s worst maritime disaster. Among the dead is Robert Jocelyn Alexander, known to his family as Joe, son of the Primate of Ireland his wife CF Alexander, the hymn writer. Born in 1852 and educated at Winchester and Brasenose College, Oxford, he was awarded the Newdigate Prize for Poetry (which Oscar Wilde also won) in 1874. He married his cousin Anne Humphries in 1876 and they lived in London. Only son died aged 8 months. He was HM Inspector of Schools. He was killed when SS Leinster sank, and was survived by his wife and daughter Betty. He was buried in Derry.

October 23: Birth of Rathdonnell's nephew (Lt Col) Francis Bruen (DSC), only son of (Admiral) Edward Francis Bruen and his wife Constance. The boy's father, EF Bruen, then commanding 2nd Cruiser Squadron, was awarded the order of Companion of the Bath and also received high decorations from France, Russia and Japan.

Extraordinary bedspread made at Lisnavagh by women including Ethel McCB, Emily McClintock and many Burgess, Woods and other familiar names.

To The Editor of the Nationalist. October 23rd 1918.
Dear Mr. Editor - In connection with the letter appearing in your issue of last week under the name "Fisherman" , I would like to emphasise that the matter referred to by your anonymous correspondent is a fishery question and I would also ask all the licensed fishermen interested to inquire who "Fisherman" is, as I think that an anonymous letter-writer is not only a public danger but also a coward - Yours truly, Kane J. Smith. (Thanks to PPP).

October: The Spanish Flu epidemic begins to bite. On 19th October 1918, The Nationalst and Leinster Times wrote 'Carlow is suffering severely from the influenza epidemic, which appears to be almost world-wide. Things are serious in Carlow. Over sixty asylum patients have been stricken, and eighteen of the attendants, two of whom have died. All the hospitals are filled and an assistant has been appointed to help the Carlow Dispensary Medical Officer, Dr. L. Doyle. Last week a thousand died in Ireland, Most of the country schools are now
closed. In some places the entire postal staffs have collapsed. Throughout Ireland generally, the fearful scourge commonly known as the "Spanish Flu" is taking a toll of the population.'

I have been told about – but not yet seen – the beautifully presented roll books from Rathvilly school, dated July 1918 and Oct-Nov 1918. It shows how badly the community was hit by the Spanish Flu influenza. At least three people died in Tobinstown – Bill’s brother, Atty’s mother and one of Betty’s cousins. Children were protected from this information. Nellie O’Toole’s brother was sickest in family but survived. She recalled how Lady Rathdonnell would daily dispatch a soup wagon from Lisnavagh down to the village at Phelan’s Row. This ultimately proved a useful PR move in terms of preventing Lisnavagh being burned by the IRA in ensuing years.

October: 'News has reached Carlow of the death in Palestine of Private Thomas Sunderland, Royal Irish Rifles, he was from Castle Hill in Carlow. He was killed in action on September 21st during the advance on Palestine.'


November 11: End of the Great War. 28,000 Irish dead.

December: Sinn Fein sweep to victory in General Election, winning 73 of the 105 Irish seats in the British Parliament. Sinn Fein decided to establish an Irish Parliament to be known as The Dail.

December 30: The Minute Book of the "Comrades of the Great War Society" records that the first meeting of the society was called by Lieut-Colonel Browne-Clayton on Monday, 30th December, 1918. It was held in the Deighton Memorial Hall, Burrin Street. The meeting was attended by 67 men, many of them ex-soldiers of the British Army, wearing the Discharge Silver Badge. Also among the attendance were a number of men wearing Khaki, home on leave or invalided out. There were also a number of civilians present who had relatives in service. The meeting was addressed by Sapper B.W. Bagenal, 10th Field Company, Australian Engineers. It was decided to establish a "Post" in Carlow town. (Posts had already been established in Rathvilly, Tullow and Bagenalstown). Sapper Bagenal stated: "that it was imperative that rooms or a building should be procured in order to establish a meeting and recreation place for members.'"Other desirable arrangements in the interests of members would include a Library and Reading Room with a plentiful supply of quality newspapers, a Licence to sell Beer would be sought and a canteen established where members who have stood "shoulder to shoulder" in the Great War on the Sea, Land and in the Air, would be able to spend leisure time among old comrades and friends". The Carlow Rootsweb has more of this which comes courtesy of Micheal Purcell.