Was he the inspiration for
the character of 'Bunbury' in
'The Importance of
Jack Bunbury as a young fellow in the 1860s.
Born in Dublin on 1st September 1851, the Hon. John William (Jack) McClintock Bunbury was the only brother of Thomas Kane ("Tom") McClintock Bunbury (1848 - 1929), subsequently Lord Rathdonnell and President of the Royal Dublin Society (1913 - 1929). Their father was Captain William McClintock Bunbury (1800 - 1866), MP for Carlow, who sailed the coast of South America as a youth, chasing slave ships and entertaining Charles Darwin on board HMS Samarang. Their mother Pauline was a daughter of Sir James Stronge of Tynan Abbey, Co. Armagh.
Shortly before Jack's birth, his parents and elder brother moved to the new house at Lisnavagh, Co. Carlow, where the McClintock Bunbury family live on today. Jack seems to have succeeded his great-uncle Kane Bunbury in the house at Moyle. Jack's memory is somewhat tainted by a story of him whipping a farmer during a dispute over hunting. He also seems to have become entangled in debts.
Jack's wife Myra was a daughter of the eccentric Carlow huntsman Bob Watson who famously believed he would be reincarnated as a fox. Their only son Geoffrey died at the age of 9 in 1892. Jack, who had been living in England for several years, died the following year aged 42 and was buried in Cheshire. Myra continued to hunt across the British Isles and married a Dutch aristocrat.
Jack's father, Captain
Bunbury, sailed the coast of South
America with Darwin in the 1830s. He
passed away in June 1866 when
Jack was fifteen years old.
Like his father and elder brother, Jack was an extremely talented oarsman. He was rowing for St Peter's College in Radley in the early 1860s. In September 1865, he joined his elder brother Tom in Dr Warre's House at Eton. His classmates included Henry Neville Gladstone (son of the Prime Minister) and George Harris (the cricketer who became Governor of Bombay). Jack was rowing at Eton in June 1866 when news arrived of the death of his father, Captain Bunbury. (1)
Jack and Tom rowed together again in 1868, the summer Tom left Eton. Jack stroked the Eton eight for the next two years so that, for three years in succession, there was a Bunbury at the stroke oar.
During Eton's annual sculling races on the 25th and 26th of May 1870, he won the Silver Sculls. (1b) On June 1st 1870 - Speech Day at Eton - he was Second Captain of the Victory with fellow crew members Daniell, Preston, Yarborough, Coleridge, Benson, Fountaine, Hall and Allen (cox).
He also stroked Eton to victory in the Ladies Plate before leaving Eton in July 1870. Like his brother Tom, he was a member of Pop, the Eton Society.He also stroked the Eton boys, if you will, to win the Grand for Oxford Etonians in 1871. (2) For extra information on Tom and Jack – their high jumping and rowing exploits – look up M’Clintock Bunbury on The Times – note its M’Clintock, not McClintock.
Above, Jack and his brother Tom Bunbury (later Lord Rathdonnell)
and, below, with Mr. C. Nugent performing
in a play called 'Ticklish Times'
In the book ‘Amateur Clubs & Actors’ (Edward Arnold, London, 1898), edited by W. G. Elliot, Mr F. Tarver recalls the evening of Thursday, December 14, 1865, when he helped organize ‘a little entertainment’ at Dr Warre's house for the amusement of his pupils, family, and a few friends. The programme read:
Rev. E. WARRE'S THEATRICALS will be presented in the newest possible Theatre,
"A CHARADE " in Three Acts.
To be followed by the usual "Christmas Box" (not without " Cox ").
Box : Mr. F. Tarver.
Cox: Mr. T. H. M'Clintock Bunbury. (± Now Lord Rathdonnell).
Mr. Bouncer: Mr. J. M'Clintock Bunbury.
To conclude with the Burlesque Tragic Opera,
Artaxominous: Mr. T. H. M'Clintock. Bunbury.
Fusbos: Mr. H. F. Eaton.
General Bombastes: Hon. B. Lawley.
Distaffina: Mr. W. Higgins.
Attendants, Courtiers, Army, &c.
Tarver added that his principal recollection of this performance was ‘the stroke of genius which inspired the younger Bunbury (who died a few years ago) to express to Mr. Cox the hope that he slept ‘comfortable’ (so pronounced).’
When their father died in June 1866, Tom succeeded to the Bunbury estates and Jack was left Jack £14,000.
He subsequently inherited the house at Moyle from his great uncle, Colonel Kane Bunbury, but I will probe this further in die course.
Above left: Jack Bunbury at about the time he went to Oxford. Above right: A carte de visite of the Oxford crew of 1871, courtesy of Greg Denieffe, with Jack bottom right.
bunbury (BUN-buh-ree) noun. An imaginary person whose name is used as an excuse to some purpose, especially to visit a place. verb intr. To use the name of a fictitious person as an excuse.
[From Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of being Earnest where the character Algernon invents an imaginary person named Bunbury as an alibi to escape from relatives. He explains to his friend, "I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose. Bunbury is perfectly invaluable. If it wasn't for Bunbury's extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn't be able to dine with you at Willis's to-night."]
On 24th October 1870, 19-year-old Jack was matriculated into Brasenose College, Oxford, matriculation being matriculated the formal ceremony of admittance as a member of the University. At matriculation his status was given as 'armigeri filius', son of an 'esquire' (originally a man entitled to bear heraldic arms). His sister Helen passed away earlier that year. 
Jack duly became one of the so-called Oxford 'Swells' and was described as 'one of the best of good fellows'.  In July 2012, I asked Dr. Robin Darwall-Smith, FSA, FRHistS, Archivist at Magdalen College if he could define a 'swell'. He most eloquently replied: 'What is a swell, you ask? As you say it, I at once think of someone who is a bit flashy - definitely wearing very fashionable clothes, rather expensive, and with a splendid buttonhole, and a smart walking stick - without being vulgar; he will have a bit of money to throw around, even if he can’t really afford it; he’ll know all the right people and be invited to all the right parties; he will be a member of rather exclusive dining clubs; he will be a bit pleased with himself; he won’t be particularly academic. That’s a caricature, I know; but when you say “Oxford swell” to me, that’s the picture I have. I then looked at the “Oxford English Dictionary”, and they suggested “A fashionably or stylishly dressed person; hence, a person of good social position, a highly distinguished person.” So I think I got it about right.' Elizabeth Boardman, the Brasenose College archivist concurred that an Oxford Swell was 'someone who was more into the social and sporting life of the College as opposed to being studious.'
 Brasenose College holds an annotated edition of the Register which belonged to an amateur genealogist, the annotations of which record that John William McClintock Bunbury was born 1 September 1851, and was Justice of the Peace, High Sheriff of County Carlow in 1880, of Moyle, County Carlow, and of Somerby’s, Rutland. His name also appears in Oxford Rowing by WE Sherwood (Oxford and London 1900) and The peerage, baronetage, and knightage of the British Empire by Joseph Foster. According to the Brasenose College Register (1909) and Joseph Foster's Alumni Oxonienses 1715-1886 (1891) John William McClintock Bunbury was born in Dublin, the second son of William Bunbury McClintock, of Dublin and the brother of Baron Rathdonnell.
 The Pall Mall magazine, p. 27, by Frederick Spencer Hamilton, Sidney Daryl, Charles Robert Morley, George Roland Halkett (1906)
During his year at Brasenose, Jack continued to be a keen rower, and rowed in the Brasenose Eight and in the Oxford Eight and Sculls in 1871.
He was also a member of Vincent’s Club, the University club for Blues and sportsmen.
The 4th June Procession at Eton in 1889. Jack
participated in this same event 20 years earlier.
On 11 Feb 1871, The Graphic said Oxford was struggling to find a suitable stroke as ‘it is said that Mr Bunbury, who came from Eton with a great reputation, has not “last” enough for the place’. Nonetheless the mustachioed Jack was chosen as stroke. In the build up to the race, Cambridge were able to field ‘a good stroke and a good No. 7’ while Oxford, with five veterans from 1870’s ‘Dark Blue’ crew, ‘will have men who are untried to fill both those important places.’ The Graphic predicted a victory for Cambridge. They were soon out practicing on the water, displaying their prowess to a few riverside spectators, in a boat built by Messrs J and S Salter. Sometimes they were steered by Mr W Benson while Mr EG Banks coached them by horse-back from the bank.
On February 25, the Penny Illustrated stated that Jack had ‘much improved on his trial-eight form … and if he can make the heavy men behind him row forty in an outrigger as well as he did the boys’ crew forty-eight, he will be able to show an older on younger shoulders than is often seen’. But much doubt was still placed on Oxford having ‘almost a boy for a stroke to a mammoth crew’. He weighed 8lb less than the average member of the Oxford team. On February 23, Oxford decided to swap Jack’s stroke with the No. 7, R. Lesley. It seems to have worked better for them and by March 18, the Penny Illustrated favoured Oxford over Cambridge. And they’re off! You can see portraits of the two competing teams here: THE OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE OARSMEN, 1871. On Saturday April 1st, the two teams set off but it was Cambridge who, despite a last minute spurt by Lesley and the Oxford team by the Mortlake brewery, won by a length in 23 minutes and 5 seconds (‘with a foul wind from the north east’). They had a big feast celebration in Willis’s Rooms that evening.
At Henley in July 1871, he was defeated ‘with ridiculous ease’ by Mr Fawcus of the Tynemouth Rowing Club, shortly before Fawcus defeated Mr Long, the Wingfield sculls winner. Jack also stroked the Eton boys to win the Grand for Oxford Etonians in 1871.(4)
The Brasenose Quartercentenary Monographs (1909) has a chapter entitled Brasenose Rowing (pp. 64-65) by the Rev. H. C. Wace in which he described the 1871 boating season as 'an uneventful year' for Brasenose. 'Both boats had a chequered career , with the result that the Eight finished where it started and the Torpids gained one place.' However, he singled out 'J.W. McC. Bunbury [who] won the O.U.B.C. Sculls, and with A.D.C. Lewis of University the O.U.B.C. Pairs. Reverting to the story of the Eight, he wrote that their prospects 'were to all appearances as bright as its best wishers could have desired' but things went downhill when three of the crew were obliged to vacate their seats. 'Still, with the valkuable addition of Mr. Bunbury, it was hoped that the Eight would succeed in making some bumps.'
 SPORTING NOTES - The Graphic (London, England), Saturday, February 11, 1871; Issue 63
 UNIVERSITY BOAT-RACE - Penny Illustrated Paper (London, England), Saturday, February 18, 1871; pg. 109; Issue 490
 Penny Illustrated Paper (London, England), Saturday, April 01, 1871; pg. ; Issue 496.
Jack Bunbury at Eton.
Jack left Oxford before taking a degree. We know this because his name was removed from the College books (the Buttery Book) in 1871. At this point the man ceased to be a member of the College and dues were no longer payable. Names were removed if a man left before taking a degree; after degrees the name remained on the books (and dues were payable) for life unless the member removed his name. Therefore it does seem that he had left the College a few years before Wilde matriculated from Magdalen.
Oscar Wilde was at Trinity College Dublin from 1871-1874, and then at Magdalen College, Oxford from 1874-1878. It is said that at university Wilde encountered a man called Bunbury who inspired the imaginary invalid in his masterpiece, "The Importance of Being Earnest". That Jack was called Jack is perhaps curious as 'Jack Worthing' is the name of the lead character in "Earnest". At any rate, "Bunburying" has since entered the dictionary as "the art of inventing a friend whose troubles are so compelling that nobody will question the need to visit that friend at short notice, and for any length of time". The contemporary Spanish rock singer Enrique Bunbury adopted his name from Oscar Wilde's book.
On Wednesday March 29th 1871, Jack McClintock Bunbury, Scots Greys, continued his acting career when he took to the stage of the Theatre Royal in Dublin to entertain the Lord Lieutetant and the Countess Spencer with the Garrison's first and only Amateur Performance. Also present were Major General Newton, CB, Commander of the Garrison, and General Wardlaw, CB, Commander of the Cavalry in Ireland. The evening commenced at 8:00 with a two cat drama called 'The Rent Day' by Douglas Jerrold. The cast included Captains Vivian, Brownlow (30th Regt), Lindesay (30th Regt) and Smythe (70th Regt) along with Brander Esq (30th), F. Roupel Esq (70th), F. Clows Esq (30th) and J. McCalmont (8th Hussars) while the two female roles were performed by Miss E Faucit Saville and Miss Agnes Markham.
As befitting a Bunbury, Jack's role was in a farce in one act which followed entitled 'Fitzsmythe of Fitzsmythe Hall', written by John Maddison Morton in 1860. J. McCalmont of the 8th Hussars took the titular role with Captain Smythe as Frank Tottenham, Jack as the servant Gregory and the two female roles of Mrs Fitzsmythe and Penelope by Mrs F Huntley and Miss T. Coleman respectively. On 21st September 1860, The New York Times described the play as 'a lively farce, imported from london. Without possessing much merit it keeps the audience in a roar of laughter, and thereby answers its purpose'.
On 30th December 1871 Jack purchased a commission as a sub-lieutenant in the 2nd Dragoons (which became the Royal Scots Greys in 1877). His expenses were covered bya gift to his mother of £1000 from Jack's great uncle, Colonel Kane Bunbury of Moyle and Rathmore Park.
Jack's brother Tom was by then a Lieutenant in the Royal Lancers and stationed at Plymouth and Dartmoor. Tom Bunbury married Kate Bruen on 26th February 1874. The marriage united two of County Carlow's most influential families. Four days after the wedding, Jack was made a Lieutenant in the Scots Grays. The regiment does not appear to have seen any action during the 1870s but was devoted to peace time duties in England, Scotland an Ireland.
Above: Jack's great-uncle Colonel
Kane Bunbury who sponsored his
entrance into the army and left him
the estate at Moyle.
Following the sad but anticipated death (apparently at Lisnavagh) of his great uncle, Colonel Kane Bunbury, aged 92, on November 9th, Jack succeeded to Moyle and a number of other estates. The Colonel was buried in the family vault at St. Mary's Church in Rathvilly where Jack's father and two sisters also lay. The 1876 Registry for the "Owners of Land of One acre and Upwards" suggests that the Moyle estate comprised of 3098 acres.
On 28th October 1875 - John William Kane [sic] McClintock Bunbury of Moyle, Co. Carlow, was elected a life member of the Royal Dublin Society. He was proposed for membership by J. L. Naper and J. C. Doyne. This was the same year that Parnell was elected MP for Meath.
On 30th June 1876, the RDS members list again included John Kane McCB of Moyle. On 1st November 1880, Jack was listed by the RDS as "the Hon. John W McCB of Moyle"; it is not clear why he was considered an honourable, although his brother Tom had since succeeded their uncle John McClintock as 2nd Lord Rathdonnell.
Jack's mother died in 1876, the same year Tom was elected High Sheriff for Co. Carlow. Jack succeeded his brother to that office the following year, a time when Parnell began his campaign for Irish Home Rule and Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India.
On 11th September 1878, the Hon. John McClintock Bunbury, Esq, of Molye, Co. Carlow, married (Elizabeth) Myra Watson, second daughter of Robert Watson of Ballydarton, the famous Master of the Hounds. As reported in The Times on 18th September, the marriage took place in Fenagh with the Dean of Leighlin and the Rev. Leslie Badham, Rector of the parish, officiating. Four days after the wedding, Jack's brother Tom was blessed with a son and heir, William McClintock Bunbury, meaning Jack was no longer first in line.
Robert Watson, father-in-law
to Jack Bunbury and Master of
the Carlow & Island Hounds.
The Watsons claim descent from the Rutland line of Watsons in England, one of whom became Marquess of Rockingham in 1728. From this line came John Watson of Crosted, Cumberland who married Jane West and settled at Kilconner in County Carlow in 1658, leasing the land from the Earl of Ormonde. His eldest son, also John Watson, served as a Commissioner under the Great Seal, helping Sir John Ponsonby's enquiry into the causes and cruelties of the Irish rebellion of 1641. (a) He built Kilconnor House where the Watsons lived for many centuries. His son, another John Watson, born in 1649, became a member of the Society of Friends and built a Quaker meeting house at Kilconnor, for which he was imprisoned and had his land forfeited. At the time, there were several meeting houses in Carlow and the Watsons were inter-married with the Leckys, the most prominent Quaker family in the county. The Watsons were well known for their love of hunting and are sometimes credited with killing the last Irish wolf at Myshall. John's grandson Samuel Watson (1714-1784) was the first of the family to live at Ballydarton, between Fenagh and Leighlinbridge. In 1808, Samuel's grandson John Henry Watson became Master and co-founder of the Tullow Hunt. (b) As Jimmy O'Toole has noted in his book, 'The Carlow Gentry', this marked the beginning of the legendary Watson association with hunting not just in Carlow, but also in County Meath, the Cotswold's and Australia. John Henry Watson was Myra Bunbury's grandfather. Her father was Bob Watson, legendary Master of the Carlow & Island, while her uncle George Watson moved to Australia in 1850 where he became known as the "Prince of Starters" at the race courses of Victoria as well as Master of the Melbourne Hunt. (c) Another uncle William Watson was Master of the Cotswolds.
In his history of the Kildare Hunt, Lord Mayo tells an anecdote relayed to him by Bob Watson about his father. 'When Mr John Watson, was a boy, he used to hunt during the holidays with a pack belonging to Sir Richard Butler of Garryhundon, Co. Carlow. Young Watson was once returning to school in Dublin on horseback, attended by a man-servant, when he met the Kildare hounds hunting a fox. They had checked, but young Watson called out, " Jostler has it." Mr. Kennedy [ie: John Kennedy, then Master of the Kildare Hunt], rode up, looking very impressive in his tall silk hat, which he always wore, and said to the boy, " Who are you, and what do you know about Jostler? " " I'm John Watson," replied the boy, " and that's Sir Richard Butler's Jostler, wherever you got him." Such was the beginning of a great friendship between the two families of Watson and Kennedy.'
""In your notice of longevity of masters of hounds, huntsmen, &c., which appeared in your paper of February 18, the name of Robert Watson, master of the Carlow hounds, does not appear. I think this most wonderful man and sportsman is facile princeps in the field of long-lived hunting men. He is at this moment 76 years of age, I believe, and is hunting his hound as he has done continuously for more than 40 years; and not only is master in the ordinary sense of the word, bat as hard riding a master huntsman as can be found. The field as a rule ride hard, and it is a big and very difficult country; but no one is ever nearer his hounds or goes straighter than this admirable sportsman." The gentle man here referred to is a brother of Mr. George Watson, the veteran starter of the V.R.C. and master of the Melbourne Hunt Club, who, despite his advanced years, is just as keen a huntsman as his patriarchal relative in Ireland. The Advertiser, 13 April 1893. (d)
(a) John Watson's younger son Samuel settled at Clonbrogan in Co. Tipperary
and was ancestor to the Watsons of Ballingarrane. See: 'A PROCLAMATION.
CHARLES by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland.
Defender of the faith, etc.
To all Our loving Subjects of Ireland,
Take notice by this Our PROCLAMATION that John Watson, Esquire, latte
of Richmond, is hereby appointed as Commissioner to inquire into the State
of Ireland following the late horrid Rebellion in that country, the Cause,
Displacements, Acts of Violence, Cruelties, Atrocities etc. etc.
Given at Our Court.
Charles, King etc.. 1641.
We Michael, David and Johanna Nowlan do Swear that we usually reside at Cranaha, Parish of Myshall, Carlow acknowledge ourselves indebted unto our lord the King in the sum of 10 pounds Sterling each. So help me God. (signed) David and Johanna Nowlan.
I Michael Clowery do swear that I am a householder and have a house wherein I usually reside at Celema Glush in the townland of Kilmagulsh, Parish of Myshall and I am worth the sum of 10 pounds Sterling over all my just debts.~~ So help me God (signed) Michael, his X mark, Clowery.
I James Minchion do swear that I am a house holder in Ballynocken, Parish of Fenagh and I am worth the sum of 10 pounds Sterling. ~~ So help me God. (signed) James, his X mark, Minchion
Michael, David and Johanna will attend the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace to be held at Tullow to answer charges brought by George Nolan.
Sworn before me at Ballydarton this 5th day of April 1832. ( signed) John Watson.
(c) In Melbourne, George Watson named his property on St. Kilda's Burnett Street "Fenagh" after the Parish in County Carlow where Ballydarton was situated.
(d) The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia), Thursday 13 April 1893, p 3.
An epiphany is defined as the sudden realization or comprehension of the essence or meaning of something. Quite when Irish huntsman Robert Watson had his epiphany is uncertain. It may have occurred in the wake of one of his many falls. Perhaps it was the one where he broke his leg crossing a fence in Gorey in 1862. But more likely it was that strange afternoon of 30th January 1879 when his horse fell at a hazardous fence and broke its neck. What was strange was that the Whip's horse, jumping next, met precisely the same fate while a third horse dropped dead just as it reached the fence. At any rate, Bob Watson’s epiphany was that he would one day be reincarnated as a fox.
Bob Watson probably counted foxes to get to sleep at night. His bloodline was about as thickly fox-hunterish as you get. His grandfather is credited with killing the last wild Irish wolf at Myshall, Co. Carlow. His father co-founded the Tullow Hunt. His uncle was Master of the Cotswolds. His brother went to Australia and became Master of the Melbourne Hunt. His son John was a famous international polo player and Master of the Meath Hounds. And Bob himself was Master of the Carlow & Island Hunt for 32 years.
If you were convinced you were going to be reincarnated as a fox, what would you do? Bob Watson took no chances. At the time, his family lived at Larchill in Co. Kildare. Bob designed a knobbly grass-covered mound, shaped exactly like a Foxes Earth, and whacked it bang in the midst of Larchill’s beautiful Arcadian Gardens (www.larchill.ie). He pitched a rough semi-columned temple on top and ensured the mound was full of useful escape tunnels, each one carefully tapered so that a fox could zip through but a slightly bigger hound could not.
Bob Watson died aged 86 in 1908 and was buried at Fenagh, Co Carlow. At his funeral, the mourners were apparently instructed to shout the hunter's cry "gone-away gone-away". It is assumed that Bob the Fox then made his way to Larchill where he now roams the water meadows and perennial borders, mingling with frogs and dragonflies, dining on wild duck and breathing in the aroma of herbs and wildflowers. Bob the Fox does not fear the hunters’ horn. In his last will and testament, Bob the Man banned fox-hunting, in perpetuity, at Larchill.
(As published in The Irish Times Magazine, July 2008).
Myra's father, the aforementioned Bob Watson, aka Robert Gray Watson was John Henry Watson's eldest son. He succeeded to Ballydarton in 1869 and was 56 years Master of the Carlow & Island Hunt (the new name of the Tullow Hunt from 1853). On 16th December 1862, Bob Watson earned a paragraph in The Cork Examiner:
SERIOUS ACCIDENT TO ROBERT WATSON, ESQ, MASTER OF THE CARLOW AND ISLAND HOUNDS.Mr. Watson met with a very serious accident, a day or two since, when following the hounds at Shrule, near Gorey. When crossing a fence, Mr. Watson's horse fell, and then rolled over him, and one of his legs was broken a little below the knee. He was conveyed to a neighbouring house, where the leg was set and dressed by Dr. Sims, and Mr. Watson was then conveyed to his own residence, Evergreen Lodge, Fenagh. It is satisfactory to know that he is now progressing very favourably.
Another story told about Bob Watson concerns a time when he was present for a post-hunt chat amongst members of the Kildare Hunt. One member began bragging about his horses, saying: 'I've just been thinking about the amount of money I had between my legs in that run to-day. The chestnut cost me ^£350, and the second horse £250, £700 altogether, and they were well worth every penny of it." As Lord Mayo relates, 'there was a lull in the conversation, and the gentleman, turning to Mr Watson, resumed, " By the by, Watson, that was a good nag you were on to-day." " He is in- deed," was the reply. " What did you give for him?" " Sixteen pounds ten," replied Mr Watson, amid a roar of laughter. This was the fact. The horse he called Quaker, and he bought him of a man who asked him to buy him because he could not keep him on the land, so he gave that exact sum for him. He was a good horse, and though he never got him to change his legs at a fence he seldom fell.'
Myra's brother John Watson was a famous international polo player
and Master of the Meath Hounds from 1891 to 1908.The Watsons were
far more interested in hunting than politics, although they played their
part in local affairs, chiefly in support of the right wing Tory party.
In 1871, Robert Watson was listed as owner of 776 acres in the county. His
cousin Robert Lecky Watson had 687 acres at Kilconnor while a further 1087
acres rested with Robert's mother, Sarah Lecky Watson, also at Kilconnor.
In 1878 there occurred a dour business when a dubious Carlowman called Thomas Lawlor managed to harness a dozen or more people to guarantee a life insurance for him to start up a business venture. Jack guaranteed him for £500 and Lawlor duly declared himself bankrupt. Investigations were made as to how Lawlor could have spent so much in a mere 5 months, but it came to nothing. Jack later stated in a letter of March 1883 to his solicitor, Richard Reeves, 17 Merrion Square, that "I know I have made a fool of myself but I took a fancy to the man & thought he would have been able to work a good business - which I believe he could have done had he not tried too much ... however, there is no use crying over spilt milk & I must get out of it as well as I can ...".
On 30th January 1879, Jack's father-in-law, Robert Watson, Master of Hounds, nearly died when his horse fell at a dangerous fence and broke its neck; the Whip's horse jumping next met the same fate and so did a third horse who actually dropped dead before reaching the fence. It is suggested that it was from this point onwards that Robert became convinced he would be reincarnated as a fox.
In 1880, John William McClintock Bunbury, aka Jack Bunbury, brother of the newly landed 2nd Lord Rathdonnell, succeeded Charles Edward Henry Duckett Steuart to become High Sheriff of Carlow, and appears to have retained the seat until 1886 when Henry Bruen took the office.
In early 1883, Lieutenant Jack Bunbury, Scots Greys, became embroiled in further troubles when he struck a farmer across the face with his riding crop. He had been appointed a JP early in the year and was thus entirely familiar with the implications of the 1881 Land Act which had enshrined the Land League's policies for fair rent, fixity of tenure and the right to freely sell their holdings. The Act was seen as the first serious economic dent I n the previously impenetrable armour of the gentry. For keen huntsmen like Jack Bunbury and his father-in-law, Bob Watson, there was a psychological impact also. They could no longer ride their horse and hounds willy-nilly across the county. Jack came face to face with this new age while out hunting with his captain, Beauchamp Bagenal, and several ladies near Bagenalstown. The small party came upon the 100 acre Curracruit farm of James and Patrick Fenelon, brothers who had been amongst over 200 farmers who signned a petition forbidding the hunt to cross their land. They had also sent notice of this ban to Bob Watson. Jack and his colleagues entered the farm when Patrick Fenelon blocked their path and demanded they leave or he would be obliged to use violence.
With five years of Eton education raging in his blood, Jack about turned and left. But the insult must have been too much to bear and soon Jack was back and surrounded by the 6 foot 3 inch frame of Patrick Fenelon and five others. The men took hold of Jack's horse by the winkers, prompting Jack to roar 'How dare you speak to me, a gentleman and a magistrate, in that tone of voice!' According to a newspaper report from the time, Jack also whipped Mr. Fenelon 'soundly across the face'. News of the incident spread like wildfire across the county. Mass rallies were called for and Jack quickly became a cause degoutant for newspapers with 2 pages of the Leinster Leader in February. At a mass demonstration that December, at St. Mullins in support of the Irish National League, the Rev. Delaney of Clonegal proposed that "every Land Leaguer in County Carlow give a penny-a-piece to buy a gold-mounted riding whip and present it to the Honourable Bunbury to flagellate all the farmers that opposed hunting". Jack was fined £10 on an assault charge and ordered to pay £150 costs. See deatils of the case in Hansard 1883.
At the Summer Assizes of 1882 and the Spring Assizes of 1883, J.W. Bunbury of Moyle was listed as one of the 20 or so gentlemen sworn in as jurors on the Grand Jury. His property was rated at £450 and he was described as a non-resident. However, contrary to his remarks to Fenelon, the box beside the word 'Magistrate' is ticked no. (Returns for Counties of Ireland of Grand Jury Panel for Spring and Summer Assizes, 1882-83).
On a lighter note, his wife Myra bore him his first (and ultimately only) child, a son, Geoffrey McClintock Bunbury, born on 10th October 1882.
By 1883, Jack seems to have got himself into more hot water and was, I believe, forced to put Moyle up for sale. He subsequently moved to Ebnal House, Malpas, Cheshire (the original Bunbury land!), sometime after March. There seems to have been some problems with James Smith, former tenant & confidante of Colonel Kane Bunbury, then residing at Little Moyle. As it happened Moyle remained unsold until purchased by Tom Bunbury in 1898. It is entirely possible that James Smith was Colonel Kane Bunbury's illegitimate son.
In 1887, Jack's wife Myra Bunbury (nee Watson) may have been involved with the tragic fate of Constance Duguid, the English girl to whom Myshall Church is dedicated. Constance came to Ireland, fell in love with and got engaged to Inglis Cornwall-Brady, the dashing heir to the local estate. She was thrown from her horse and killed while out hunting, sustaining injuries from which she did not recover. Rumours abounded that one of the Watson girls - with whom Inglis Brady was said to have an "understanding" - had put a bur under her saddle. It is certainly worth noting that Jack's sister-in-law, Mary Watson, married Brady 6 months later.
Kevin Bright, the RDS archivist, suggests that Jack must have emigrated to England between July 1886 - July 1887 as by latter date his address is given as the Manor House, Lillingston, Dayrell, Bucks, where he still resided, according to the RDS list, in August 1889. (1)
From 1890-93, Jack is listed as an RDS member but without an address. However, on 30th October 1890, he had an address at Hampton Old Hall, a house dating to 1591 in the former Bunbury stronghold of Malpas, Chester. (2) At least that was the address he used to secure a mortgage on Big Moyle to Samuel Cooper of Newcastle, Co. Stafford. I would hold that Cheshire was their principal residence as both Jack and his son were both buried at Tarporley, while Myra's will suggests a closeness to the big Cheshire gentry families, Chomondeley and Grosvenor.
In an extract from the Thorp Scrapbook about Carlow, kindly transcribed by Jean Casey, it says: " Surely in the history of last season (1890-91) - broken and disappointing as it was - no item of personal ill fortune was so sad as the accident that deprived Mrs Bunbury of her hunting. I say it advisedly and without exaggeration --- no lady we have seen ride to hounds, where so many ride fearlessly, skifully and well, had the knowledge and faculity of crossing a country possessed by Mrs Bunbury, who not only rode to hounds in the most complete sense, but might even have handled them herself." This was presumably Myra, but what the accident was is unknown.
On 2nd October 1892, Jack and Myra's only child Geoffrey McClintock Bunbury died aged 9. I have not yet established cause of death and there seems to have been no mention of his demise in the press. The Bunburys were living in Cheshire at the time and Geoffrey was buried at St. Helen's, Tarporley. His memorial reads: 'GEOFFREY McCLINTOCK BUNBURY DIED OCT 2 1892 AGED NINE YEARS.'
In October 2012, Maurice Hunt, the Hon. Archivist to the Parish of St. Helen's, was surveying some 'significant tree surgery' in an area abutting the graveyard at St. Helen's.He began cleaning various leaves and debris away only to discover he had found Geoffrey's headstone. Up until then, Mr. Hunt had thought it rather sad that Geoffrey's name was not included on the headstone bearing his father's name. At the time of their deaths, the existing graveyard was full-up so he had assumed they were buried together.It now became apparent that father and son simply did not share a plot. As Mr. Hunt noted, 'Geoffrey, who predeceased his father, was buried in a very confined position between a wall and an adjacent grave. Whilst this plot appears sufficiently long to accept a nine years old boy, it most certainly would not accept an adult man. Consequently, Geoffrey is in his own grave with his father in another. Being a sentimental old sandbag, it is for me still rather sad, but at least we now know for sure where the boy lies and he does have a memorial. He is not too far from his father in one of the oldest parts of the graveyar.' (With thanks to Greg Denieffe)
I presume the family were aware that the Bunbury family's connection to the church at Tarporley goes back to the 13th century.
At this time, Jack's brother Tom Rathdonnell must have been deeply occupied with the growing divisions in Irish politics occurring over the Parnellite split, the Ulster Convention and the Home Rule movement.
On 31st October 1893, Sir Horace Plunkett - who was at both Eton and Oxford after Jack - returned from America and noted in his diary: 'J Bunbury dead'. Jack, brother-in-law of Plunkett's good friend, William 'Beau' Watson, had died two weeks earlier on 14th October 1893. It was just over a year since the death of Jack's only son, Geoffrey. Jack Bunbury was 42 years old when he was laid to rest alongside Geoffrey at Tarporley in Cheshire.
On 14th February 1894, a week after Jack's will was proved by the Probate division of the High Court, Tom and his co-executor Edmond Venables issued a statement to The Times in which, acknowledging Jack's death, they requested that anyone to whom Jack still owed money must write the particulars of their claim and send them to the executors before 2nd April 1894. Thereafter, Jack's possessions and assets would be distributed in accordance with his will. Jack's past addresses as listed in the Notice were:
· Moyle, Co. Carlow, Ireland
· Rose Cottage, Somerby, near Oakham, Co. Rutland (see below)
· 8, Norfolk-street, Park-Lane, Middlesex
· 21 St. Mary-street, Whitchurch, Shropshire
On 22nd November 1894, Sir Horace Plunkett was at the House of Commons when he received a visit from Myra's brother, William 'Beau' Watson. Beau had come directly from Paddockhurst, home to the declining fortunes of torpedo-inventor Robert Whitehead, where Beau was employed. He told Sir Horace that 'P'hurst was sure to be sold, that his position would come to an end and that he proposed to go in with his sister Mrs. Bunbury in a horse dealing business if he could raise his share of the capital'. Beau said Myra Bunbury was prepared to put up a third and hoped Sir Horace would not only advance him a third but also invest another third himself. Horace described Beau as 'straight, energetic, business like' and reckoned Myra 'would be a great help & has a good horse connection'. Thus Horace concluded, 'I am anxious to see him on his feet & shall go in'. Twelve days passed before Horace wrote in his diary, with considerably subdued enthusiasm, on 2nd December 1894: 'After a day at letters &c went to Paddockhurst where I found W Watson & his widowed sister Myra Bunbury. Object of visit to talk over a proposal that he should go into the horse dealing business with his sister in Cheshire probably, & that I should lend him 3rd capital & subscribe 3rd myself. I don't like it at all. But I daresay I shall be able to get my money out & I know no better way of putting that very helpful & satisfactory protégé of mine on his legs'. No more is yet known of this equine venture, but in late 1900 Horace arranged for Beau Watson to act as Lord Dunsany's agent at the Castle. Beau left this position in 1902, saying he 'could not live in Meath'. He died of cancer in 1913; Sir Horace retained contact with his widow Ada and son Robin.
In 2009, I was contacted by Jeremy Bale whose grandmother, Charlotte Bale (nee Bratt) was a lady's maid for Myra McClintock Bunbury. Myra wrote to Charlotte in 1895 from Cholmondeley Castle. Charlotte later married Alfred James Bale, who served with the 9th Lancers in Ireland circa 1889, and was batman to Lord Charles Cavendish-Bentinck. Jeremy wondered if they met in service at Moyle, but I have not had a chance to explore the relevant records of this properly.
On 1st June 1896, Myra Bunbury married Baron Maximilian de Tuyll,at St. Marks Church on North Audley Street. Max de Tuyll was an officer in the 10th Hussars, descended from the ancient Dutch family of van Tuyll van Serooskerken. (a) I believe he was the son of of Baron Henry de Tuyll de Servoskeren by his 1860 marriage to Jospehine Maria, second daughter of Edward Walpole. Max's elder brother, Baron Carlo de Tuyll, was married on 17th June 1884 to Louise, youngest daughter of William Henry Hatford of Oldown House in Almondsbury, Gloucestershire. Two sons, Baron Francis Owen (Frank) de Tuyll (1885 - 1952) and Baron Maurice de Tuyll (1888 - 1915), were born before Carlo's untimely death in 1893. In 1895, Louise, a passionate hunter and patron of the Royal Hospital in Bristol, married Henry FitzRoy, Marquess of Worcester. In 1899, Henry succeeded his father to become 9th Duke of Beaufort (1847 - 1924). The Duke was one of the greatest fox hunters of his generation. Louise begat him a heir in 1900, the 10th Duke (founder of the Badminton Horse Trials and husband to the Queen's niece, Lady Mary Cambridge) and two daughters, Blanche (widow of the Earl of St. Germans who married, secondly, Captain GVF Scott Douglas) and Lady Diana Shedden (died 1935), wife of Captain LHC Shedden. At the Coronation of George V in June 1911, the 9th Duke carried the Sword of Mercy; his wife's borther-in-law, Max de Tuyll, died three months later. The 9th Duke of Beaufort passed away in 1924; his Duchess died at Badminton on October 11th 1945.
Max and Myra moved to Asfordby House, Melton Mowbray, Co. Leicester. She hunted for years with the Quorn and, according to Otho Paget, was one of the few ladies to follow her own line across country. (b) Marrying Max certainly brought Myra into the higher ranks with the Grosvenors, Beauforts, Chomondelays, Asquiths and Pagets in her social circle. The marriage columns of The Times suggest that the de Tuyll's life was an endless run of hunting and weddings. In 1912, Myra's nephew, Frank de Tuyll hosted the most fashionable dance of the season in Dublin at the Café Cairo. (4) Max died on 7th November 1911 aged 55 at Ashleigh, Virginia Water.
Jack's brother Tom, 2nd
1896 also witnessed the death of Myra's brother-in-law, Inglis Brady, aged 37. Her widowed sister, Mary Brady, was married again in 1899 to the Hon. Ralph Bowyer Adderley (1872 - 1933). Ralph's grandfather, the 1st Lord Norton, had been a pioneer of British Colonial policy and President of the Board of Trade for the Tories. He prevented the Cape from being turned into a convict settlement and Adderley Street in Capetown is named for him. Ralph's father, the 2nd Lord Norton, was also closely involved in trade matters.
In 1911, 'in view of the growing burden of taxation', the 2nd Lord Norton disposed of the greater portion of his Warwickshire properties, retaining only Hams Hall, near Birmingham, the ancestral home of the Adderley family. His hope was that his tenants would purchase their holdings, a desire that was to some extent gratified. Ralph's mother Caroline Ellen was a daughter of Sir Alexander Churchill Dixie and bore the 2nd Lord eleven children, of whom three sons and four daughters survived. One brother Humphrey died of wounds in action in 1917. Ralph succeeded his father as 3rd Lord Norton in 1926. He passed away after a serious illness in October 1933 and, in the absence of any children, was succeeded as 4th Lord Norton by his brother Ronald.
Lady Mary died in 1939, and the truth about the death of Constance Duguid died with her. She had a daughter by Brady - was it Mona? - but I don't know what became of her. Their brother was the great polo-playing John Watson, whose story is well known.
In August 1898, the Baroness Myra de Tuyll sold the estate of Moyle to her brother-in-law, Lord Rathdonnell. When Bob Watson retired as Master of the Carlow & Island Hunt in 1904, the hounds moved from Ballydarton to Moyle. William Grogan of Slaney Park took the helm of the Carlow Hunt (as it was now called) and held it until 1920 when the celebrated Olive Hall took up the reins. Mrs. Hall remained Master until 1965 when her daughter Barbara Eustace-Duckett became Master. Barbara died that same year when the baton was taken up by her sister, Olive Alexander of Milford.
In October 1908, Little Moyle was given as the address of Eric Edward Bayley, late of the 17th Lancers, whose daughter Vera Mary Bayley married the 'high spirited and reckless' Earl of Rosslyn in the registry office for the parish of St George's, Hanover Square, to which the couple drove together in a motor car. They afterwards left for Peebles Court, Holyport, Berkshire. (The Times, Friday, Oct 09, 1908; pg. 11; Issue 38773; col B). It was the third marriage for the famously good-looking Earl and renowned as 'an extremely happy marriage' at the time of his obituary in The Times in 1939. Lord Rosslyn was born in 1869 and would appear to be a very colourful character. By 1919, Moyle was given as the address of WF Grogan.
When Robert Watson died at Ballydarton aged 86 in August 1908, the Carlow Sentinel mourned the passing of a man considered 'one of the most fearless riders and one of the best and keenest huntsmen in the British Isles which, as regards fox-hunting, spells the world'. Legend had it that Robert declined the inheritance of the family seat Rockingham Castle, retorting: 'What would I be doing with a castle in England when I have Ballydarton, and the best pack of hounds in Ireland'. He had stepped down as Master of the Carlow & Island Hunt in 1904.
After the death of her husband in November 1911, little is known of the Baroness de Tuyll. On 25th January 1914, she was staying at the Ritz Hotel in Paris when she died suddenly from heart failure. She left no issue. (5) Her will was published in The Times on April 22nd 1914. It stated that 'Elizabeth Myra, Baroness de Tuyll, of 2 Gloucester-square, W., left unsettled English estate with net personalty £14,856. She bequeathed a picture of Ormonde with Fred Archer to Lord Hugh Grosvenor, and a piano player and records and certain jewellery to the Marchioness of Chomondeley; certain jewellery to Lady Rathdonnell and her daughter, a diamond plaque, a fur coat, and a dressing case to the Hon. Mrs Adderley [her sister, Mary]; to the Countess d'Alsace a portrait of her daughter, and to the Countess Nicoli d'Alsace a string of pearls. She left a gold-mounted salts bottle with "Tim" in diamonds to Lady Ardee, an old silver cruet to Lord Kenyon, and her linen and plate bearing the De Tuyll crest to Maurice de Tuyll'. Her nephew was a well known huntsman in Badminton. However, on 15th May 1915, The Times reported that Captain Maurice de Tuyll, 10th Hussras, had been killed at Ypres three days earlier. His brother Baron Frank de Tuyll survived the war and died at Little Sodbury Manor on 27th June 1952 aged 67.
Edmund Marmaduke Dayrell,
a naval officer who lived in the
Manor House in Buckingham
where Jack Bunbury was
(1) The Manor House was home to the Dayrell family who had been the principal
residents of the village of Lillingstone Dayrell since the 12th century.
Edmund Marmaduke Dayrell (1835-1909), the last of the Dayrells to
live in the Manor House, was a naval commander born in Co. Wexford. As a
young man he seems to have had a remarkable nack for saving the lives of
drowning men by plunging in after them. He saw much activity in the Far
East and the Mediterranean. For instance, he was present at the capture
of Palermo by Garibaldi and the bombardment of that town by the Italian
fleet. In 1867, Lieutenant Dayrell was appointed to HMS Lark, for
the protection of the Irish Coast during the Fenian outbreak.
In 1866 he married Isabella Holloway of Dublin with whom he had two sons and seven daughters before 1881 when Isabella died of acute bronchitis while giving birth to a daughter Mary. In 1883, Edmund married secondly Eleanora Hope, daughter of F. Hope of Manchester.
Edmund retired from the Navy in 1881 and his wife died the following year. The Manor House was then in a state of great neglect and occupied by the farm bailiff. However, by 1885, his second wife Eleanora was able to write: "The old Manor House has recently been restored, and presents a fine specimen of a comfortable English home, the staircases and passages and most of the rooms are floored with deep black oak, in the highest state of polish. The old hall where once frightened women took shelter from Cromwell's soldiers, now echoes to the click of nothing more dangerous than billiard balls; and the long dining room in which for a time infants were registered and marriages solemnized during the Protectorate, witnesses now nothing more important than the Christmas dinner at which Captain Dayrell and his tenantry wish each other God Speed."
However, as one of Edmund's descendents, Tony King (T.King@wkac.ac.uk), has noted on his website:
"The picture painted here [by Eleanora] proved to be illusory. In 1887, the estate (of 625 acres) was sold to Abraham Robarts (Reed 1999, 127; BRO D210.24), and by 1891, the Manor House is not listed in the census (PRO RG 12/1154/55-62). It appears to have been demolished, and currently, Lillingstone House is the main house in the village. It is difficult to know why Edmund Marmaduke decided to move out. No family documents to indicate the reason, which could have been financial, or emotional, or both. At all events, he no longer wanted to be at the ancestral home, preferring to reside by the sea, in Jersey.
His obituary from The Times, September 22, 1909, p. 13 reads as follows:
Captain Edmund Marmaduke Dayrell, who died on Saturday at Sandown Villa, Havre des Pas, Jersey, was the only son of Mr. Edmund Francis Dayrell, of Lillingstone Dayrell, Buckinghamshire. Born in 1835 he entered the Royal Navy in November, 1848, and served in the Herald during her surveying expedition in the South Seas and coasts of Australia from 1852 to 1859. During this commission he was made a mate in 1856 and promoted to lieutenant in August, 1858, and among other services took part in several engagements with the natives of the Solomon Islands. In 1870 he was promoted to commander, and while in command of the Cockchafer in the China Seas, was several times mentioned in despatches for zeal in dealing with pirates. While divisional officer of the coastguard at Kingstown he was presented writh the "Tayleur " silver medal for saving the life of E. Dunn, who was blown overboard (with the loss of one hand and injury to the other) by the premature discharge of a gun he was loading on board a steamer on the occasion of the Kingstown Regatta, July 7, 1878. Commander Dayrell jumped overboard, brought the man to the ship's side, and supported him until assistance was rendered. The Commissioners of Irish Lights officially recognized this act of gallantry, and the Royal Humane Soeiety presented him with a testimonial on vellum. He retired with the rank of cantain in August, 1885. Captain Dayrell married, first, in 1866, Isabella Ann, the youngest daughter of the late Colonel C. W. Elplhinstone Holloway, C.B., R.E., of Belair, Devonshire; and, secondly, in 1883, Eleanora, widow of Mr. Francis Hope. His elder son is Major Gerald Dayrell, of the Bedfordshire Regiment.
(2) Hampton Old Hall was built in 1591 and tied in with the Bromely family.
(3) John William McClintock Bunbury, Deceased - Pursuant to the Statute
22nd and 23rd Vic, cap. 35, intituled "An Act to further amend the
Law of Property and to relieve Trustees". Notice is hereby Given, that
all CREDITORS and other persons having any claims or demands upon or against
the Estate of JOHN WILLIAM MCCLINTOCK BUNBURY, late Moyle, county Carlow,
Ireland, and of Rose Cottage, Somerby, near Oakham, in the county of Rutland,
and 8, Norfolk-street, Park-lane, in the county of Middlesex, Esquire, and
formerly residing at 21 St. Mary-street, Whitchurch, in the county of Shropshire
(who died on the 14th day of October 1893, and whose will was duly proved
in the Principal Registry of the Probate Division of Her Majesty's High
Court of justice on the 7th day of February 1894, by the Right Honourable
Thomas Kane Baron Rathdonnell and Edmond Ernest Venables, the executors
therein name) are hereby required to send, in writing, the particulars of
their claims and demands to us, the undersigned, the solicitors for the
said executors, on or before the 2nd day of April 1894, after which date
the said executors will proceed to distribute the assets of the said deceased
amongst the parties entitled thereto, having regard only to the claims of
which the said executors have then had notice, and the said executors will
not be liable for the assets, or any part thereof so distributed to any
person of whose claim the said executors have not had notice at the time
Dated 14th day of February 1894
Stileman, Neate and Toynbee, 16 Southampton Street, Bloomsbury Square, London, WC, Solicitors for the Executors.
The Times on Saturday, Feb 24, 1894; 2; Issue 34196; col C:
(4) Bence Jones, p.144
(5) The Times, Tuesday, Jan 27, 1914; pg. 1; Issue 40431; col A
With thanks to Michael Purcell, Micheal de las Casas, Penny Hatfield, Kate Targett, Jeremy Bale, Dr. Robin Darwall-Smith (Archivist at
Magdalen College), Georgina Edwards (Archives Assistant,
Brasenose College) and others.