Turtle Bunbury

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The McClintocks were a Scottish family who settled in north west Donegal during the early 17th century. By the 1750s, Alexander McClintock had made sufficient fortunes as a barrister to found the family demesne at Drumcar in County Louth. His ultimate heir John McClintock would marry Jane Bunbury and so give life to the McClintock Bunburys of Lisnavagh. The McClintock genes lay claim to a number of historical celebrities including Generals Montgomery and Alexander, Speaker John Foster, the Barons Rathdonnell, Dame Marie Colvin and the explorer Sir F. Leopold McClintock.

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Above: Drumcar House was built by John 'Bumper Jack' McClintock in about 1777. The wings, portico and window surround were added later.



The Scottish family name of McClintock is said to be an English corruption of the Gaelic name “Mac Giolla Fhionntog", meaning the ‘son of the Ghillie of Fhionntog.’ This suggests that our family descend from someone who looked after the fishing, or perhaps hunting, for someone by name of Fhionntog. McClintock family lore has it that Fhionntog was no less a soul that Saint Finnian, the Carlow-born saint from Myshall who established a monastery of much renown at Clonard on the banks of the Boyne in County Meath. As a Carlow man, I’ve long enjoyed this theory but, alas, I don’t buy it. [1]

Instead, my focus is on Saint Fyndoc who was not only a Scottish saint but a lady to boot. She was one of the Nine Maidens, nine sisters, raised between Glamis and Dundee, who practically invented the art of being a nun when they set themselves up in a veritable convent at Abernethy where they lived a very strict and austere life, munching barley bread, sipping springwater and tilling the soil, all the while delivering prayer and singing praises to God.

Saint Fyndoc seems an unlikely fisherwoman, I concede, but what is relevant is that there is a chapel dedicated to the Saint Fyndoc on the Scottish island of Inishail, the remains of which stand yet. Inishail is set on beautiful Loch Awe, a freshwater lake in the ancient district of Lorne in present day Argyle County. The first reason I run with Fyndoc is that records indicate the earliest McClintock estates included a manor house near Loch Awe. And secondly, Loch Awe is renowned for its trout. So, my thinking is the name comes from a trout fisherman affiliated with this chapel. In the early 14th century the barony of Argyle was granted to the Campbell family by Robert the Bruce. However, much of the lands to the north of Loch Awe remained the dominion of the MacGregor clan, from whom the celebrated Rob Roy MacGregor didst hail. There were certainly McClintocks in the MacGregor’s circle. The earliest written record of the McClintock surname is in the early 16th century Book of the Dean of Lismore (not to be confused with Ireland’s Book of Lismore), a Scottish manuscript written in Gaelic and compiled by James and Duncan MacGregor. This refers to Mac Giolla Fhionntog (ie McClintock) as a clan bard or Man of Songs who penned a poem of praise to Malcolm MacGregor, 4th chief of the Clan MacGregor, who died April 20, 1440.

Another branch of the McClintock clan held territory directly west of Loch Lomond, in the parish of Old or West Kilpatrick. Known as the Lands of Luss, these were held by royal charter by the Earls of Lennox. In 1368, the earldom passed by marriage to the Clan Colquhoun (pronounced Calhoun) and so these McClintocks became a sub-sept (or something along those lines) of the Colquhouns.

I don’t know if our McClintocks came from the Loch Awe or Loch Lomond branches, if either. Maybe someday there will be some undreamt way to prove such things but right now we can’t do much more that speculate. Search the archives and your bitter rewards is all manner of M’Ilandick, M’Illandag, M’Illandick, M’Lentick, MacIlliuntaig and indeed MacClinton, the names scattered high and low, highland and lowland. Some of the very earliest McLintocks can be found in large numbers at Bonhill in Co Dumbarton, while others show up at Balloch and Boturich on the east side of Loch Lomond, including some who refused to pay the tithes in the early 16th century because they suspected the money was going straight into the Abbots pocket. And there were more McClintocks in and around Glasgow and Sterling.

What I can say is that there appears to have been one lot of McClintocks who were loyal to the posh Colquhouns and another lot who were loyal to the somewhat rowdier MacGregors. All this came to a head in early 1603, two weeks before James VI of Scotland succeeded Queen Elizabeth to become James I of England. The Clans MacGregor and Colquhoun fought a savage battle at Glen Fruin, near Loch Lomond, in what transpired to be the last clans battle fought in Scotland. The cause of this battle was an incident involving the theft of a Colquhoun sheep by two hungry MacGregors who were subsequently captured by the Colquhouns, tried by Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, the Laird of Luss, and executed for this crime, which certainly seems rather extreme. This act lit a rage in Clan MacGregor who amassed every fighting man they could and set forth to attack the Colquhouns who likewise rallied, mustering twice as many men as MacGregor, including a number of skilled horsemen. If any MacGregors hesitated, they were reassured by the clan seer who told how he could see the shrouds of the dead wrapped around the Colquohouns. Greatly cheered by this vision, the MacGregor’s charged … the Colquohouns horses became bogged in mud and it turned into a triumph for the MacGregors as somewhere in the region of 150 Colquhouns were slain, enough for this to be categorised as a massacre in Scottish lore.

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Above: Monument marking the site of the batte
of Glen Fruin, 1603, in which some of the McClintocks
served. (With thanks to Sylvia McClintock).

One of the few MacGregor’s killed was John, a brother of the clan chief, who came a cropper when an arrow passed through the neck joint of his chain mail. It appears this arrow was aimed by a young man with the upstanding name of MacClintock.

Any joy the MacGregor’s may have experienced in victory was short-lived. King James was a supporter of the Colquhouns and, having apparently met with ninety Colquhoun widows, he proclaimed the name of MacGregor ‘altogidder abolished’. Anyone who bore the name had to renounce it or suffer death. The MacGregors were outlawed, hunted and flushed out of the heather by bloodhounds; 35 members were rounded up and executed.


I mention the battle of Glen Furin of 1603 because it took place just six years after the purported date of the McClintock’s first arrival in Ireland which, according to Burke’s Peerage and other such sources, took place in the unlikely year of 1597, when Alexander McClintock of Argyllshire is said to have purchased the estate of Trintaugh in Raphoe, North East Donegal. As I say, the date has never added up for me and I think a much more accurate starting point is 1623, the date supplied by John 'Old Turnip' McClintock to the 1835 edition of Burke's Commoners. The first definitive record of a McClintock in Ireland comes from 1630 when another Alexander 'MacLentock' was recorded in Donegal. This followed the early 17th century division of the barony of Raphoe into two precincts, Lifford (which was granted to a group of nine Englishmen) and Portlough (which was co-ordinated by Ludovic Stuart, 2nd Duke of Lennox, a kinsman and friend of James II). The Duke of Lennox parcelled out land to his family and other close allies, including the McClintocks.

I have no immediate date for his arrival but "Alexander Mc Lentock," appears on the Muster Roll of Ulster of 1630, bearing a sword and pike, on the lands of Duke of Lennox, in the Precinct of Portlough. Either he or his son, another Alexander, was married to Agnes McClean who lost her father and seven brothers at the Battle of Inverkeithing, Scotland, when a Scottish Covenanter force loyal to the future King Charles II failed to halt a superior force from Cromwell’s New Model Army. They lived at Trintaugh House where he died in 1670. He was buried in Taugboyne, about 8 miles west of Derry, as was Agnes who died in 1698.

I descend from Alexander and Agnes's eldest son John McClintock who was born in 1649 and succeeded to Trintaugh at the age of 21. John was ancestor of McClintocks of Drumcar, Lisnavagh, Seskinore and Red Hall. On August 11th 1687, John married Jenet Lowry, the youngest daughter of a prosperous landowner John Lowry, another Scotsman, who had settled at Aghenis, Co. Tyrone. The family subsequently added the name of Corry and were given the title of Lord Belmore. John and Jenet appear to have sought refuge in Scotland during the War of the Two Kings in 1689-1691. Agnes as certainly in Scotland at the time of the Siege of Londonderry, when their first child was born although the baby did not survive infancy. They returned to Ireland after peace was re-established and had thirteen children, of whom seven survived.


Following John’s death in 1707 he was succeeded by his eldest son who is known in the family as Alexander McClintock of Drumcar. I’m tempted to think Alexander was inspired by the success of Speaker William Conolly, the son of a Donegal innkeeper, who went to study law in Dublin and fetched up as one of the richest commoners in Ireland. Alexander likewise went to Dublin to read law, in about 1710, and became a barrister of note during the early Georgian Age. In 1725 he married Rebecca Sampson of a prosperous Dublin family. Her brother Michael Sampson was a business associate of Redmond Kane, a somewhat mysterious businessman whose daughter and sole heiress would later marry into the Bunbury family of Lisnavagh.

Alexander made a substantial fortune but had no children which was good news for his nephews and nieces whose descendants would come to call Alexander the ‘Fairy Godfather’. Not all of his nephews benefited – his will notably excluded his nearest natural heir Dr. James McClintock, a son of his brother William, although he did provide some support to another nephew, another William McCliintock, who was disinherited for marrying his first cousin. Meanwhile, Trintaugh had passed to another nephew James, a different chap to the doctor, whose extravagant habit of stabling 29 hunters and coach-horses, as well as driving a coach and four, reduced the family fortune to such an extent that Trintaugh sold soon after his death in 1786. James’s daughter Susanna married the Rev Samuel Montgomery; their grandson Henry Montgomery was not only Bishop of Tasmania but also the father of F.M. Viscount Montgomery of El Alamein, who pinned a Military Cross onto my grandfather at the end of the Second World War. (FM Lord Alexander of Tunis is also claimed as another offspring of the McClintock line.)

It was Alexander who first purchased the Drumcar property in Co Louth in 1767 after it had passed through various families such as Tallon, Cashell, Holt and Curtis. In 1764 there were 12 Protestants and 363 Roman Catholics in Drumcar parish but it had no church and no chapel. Alexander died at his townhouse on Dominick Street, Dublin, on 25th May 1775, and was buried in Dunleer, a couple of miles outside Drumcar.

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Alexander left Drumcar to nephew ‘Bumper Jack’ McClintock, grandfather of first Lord Rathdonnell. In 1766 Jack married Patience Foster, whose first cousin John Foster would become the last Speaker of the Irish House of Commons in Dublin and one of the greatest men of his age. Such political connections were extremely useful to the McClintocks and Jack was MP for Enniskillen in Grattan’s Parliament from 1783 to 1790, and then MP for Belturbet from 1790 until 1797. He was also one of the original 25 members of the Northern Rangers Hunt Club, founded in 1774, and was elected the club Treasurer in 1783.

It was Jack who commissioned the building of a vast mansion on top of the wooded ridge at Drumcar in 1777, where the McClintock family remained until 1940s. It started out as a rectangular Georgian block, three storeys over basement, two rooms deep and a large central hall. Following a cash injection in the early 19th century, they added the Doric porch and balcony, as well as the moulded window surround and, later, the two-story 3 bay wings. One of jack’s more unusual employees was John Suttoe, a black man who settled in Louth and married a local girl after his ship ran aground at Dunany in 1783.

[John Foster: The Politics of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy - A. P. W. Malcomson]


Following his death in February 1799, Bumper Jack was succeeded at Drumcar by his eldest son John McClintock, known in the family as ‘Old Turnip’. (I think this is because of his catchphrase ‘I wouldn’t give an old turnip for that.’) Born Dublin in 1770, he was five years old when his father succeeded to Drumcar. In 1787 he entered Trinity College Dublin to read law, passing through to Lincoln’s Inn in 1790. However, he changed direction on 12 September 1792 when, aged 21, he was appointed Serjeant-at-Arms to the Irish Parliament (along with his younger brother, William Foster McClintock) where his cousin John Foster was now arguably the most powerful player. He was paid £670 for attending his first parliament, which computes at about €40K in 2017, according to the National Archives. (I think there may have been a fire of some sort in Parliament House in 1792 which may prove relevant).

In 1797 he married Jane Bunbury, daughter of William Bunbury of Lisnavagh, County Carlow. Bumper Jack made the brilliant faux pas of kissing her maidservant hello instead of his new daughter-in-law when first introduced. John was High Sheriff of County Louth during the turbulent year of 1798 and served at the battles of Arklow and Vinegar Hill. His first son John – the future Lord Rathdonnell – was born that summer while a second son, William (later McClintock Bunbury of Lisnavagh) followed in September 1800. A daughter, Catherine, was born early in 1801 but the baby can hardly have been off the bosom when her mother was tragically killed in a horse riding accident near Bath in May 1801.

Jane was killed four months after the Act of Union came into effect. According to the Carlow Sentinel, Old Turnip was ‘consistently opposed to the Union - when peerages honours and decorations were lavished on those who supported the measure.' In March 1800, he and John Foster were the last two people to leave the building when Parliament House ceased to operate; Foster refused to surrender the Speaker’s Mace and brought it with him to County Louth. There was a nice compensation for John and his brother for relinquishing the office they had held for the previous six years - £2545 each up front, plus a pension of £2,000 a year for life (which, in John’s case, was the next 54 years). That looks like about €80,000 a year and is assumed to have paid for the new wings at Drumcar.

Old Turnip was married secondly to Lady Elizabeth Le Poer Trench, a daughter of the 1st Earl of Clancarty. They had five sons and three daughters but suffered a rotten year in 1833-1834 when four of these sons and a daughter died in quick succession. Their surviving son Robert became Rector of Caste Bellingham, in which capacity he was once approached by an old man who claimed the remains of Napper Tandy, the United Irishman, had been transported by sea from France to Dunany or Annagassan, and buried at dead of night in a grave at Caste Bellingham.

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Above: Lady Elizabeth McClintock (nee Le Poer
Trench), the matriarch of the family. At the
time of her death, aged 97 in May 1877, she was
living at Corrig House, Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire)
in County Dublin.

Lady Elizabeth McClintock’s brother, Bishop Trench of Waterford and Lismore lead an evangelical revival during the 1820s and 1830s which was in part a response to Catholic Emancipation and also something of a backlash from the Christian world as science began to undermine their beliefs in eternal life and so on. Lady Elizabeth was certainly of an evangelical nature and founded the Protestant elementary school in Drumcar in 1825, while her husband built the church at Drumcar in 1845. [The stained glass window in the rectory is by Harry Clarke; a letter exists where Clarke apologises for being late with the delivery of the window explaining that he had been ill.]

Old Turnip was mildly ridiculed for his beliefs by his electoral opponent Richard Lalor Shiel. His brother Alexander, a clergyman, became deeply embroiled in the Tithe Wars when 14 people killed during riot in Newtownbarry (Bunclody) in 1831. That said, in 1852, there was a petition from 114 people describing themselves as ‘the Roman Cathlic Farmers, Tradesmen and Labourers of John McClintock’s estate at Drumcar’ who denounced accusations that he was a bigot and pointed out that he had contributed to the construction of Dillonstown Church, never favoured Protestant tenants over Catholic, employed a large number of both religions and had never evicted any tenants who fell into arrears.

At the general election in 1820, Old Turnip was returned to the Parliament for Athlone, but he resigned his seat in the same year. In 1830, he took the place of John Leslie Foster, and he was elected after a poll.


Old Turnip’s younger brother Henry pioneered the Jedward haircut and penned a day-to-day diary of life in early 19th century County Louth that has been painstakingly transcribed by historian Pat O’Neill in a book called ‘The Journal of Henry McClintock’. Henry served in the 3rd Dragoon Guards as young man but retired on marrying a daughter of Archdeacon Fleury of Waterford and became Collector of Customs at the Port of Dundalk. Although relatively poor in comparison to his relatives, he was extremely popular and well regarded in the county. His journal includes fascinating references to such events as the Wildgoose Lodge Murders and the presence of a velocipede (bicycle) in Dundalk in 1819 while I doff my cap to his doctor who told him to have three glasses of claret a day. His oldest son was a tearaway who ultimately vanished in Demerara while the others included Alfred Henry McClintock, Master of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, and Leopold, who became one of the greatest Arctic explorers of the Victorian age. Leopold had a channel named after him, was knighted, received the Freedom of the City of London, wrote a best-selling book, became a Rear-Admiral and was put in charge of Portsmouth Dockyard.

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Above: Malcolm Wright, Sylvia Wright (nee McClintock), Turtle Bunbury, John & Irene McClintock of Redhall after Turtle's talk about
the McClintock family in April 2017 at CastleBellingham. The event raised over €2500 for the restoration of Drumcar church
and lych-gate.


When Old Turnip died at Drumcar in 1855, the property passed to his oldest son John McClintock, a former lieutenant in the 74th Foot. John was sometime Deputy Lieutenant for County Fermanagh and served as High Sheriff of Louth in 1840. He ran for election to represent County Louth in the Parliament at Westminster in 1841, but was unsuccessful. He fared better in 1857 and represented County Louth until 1859. He was Lord Lieutenant of the county from 1866. In 1867 he was appointed Colonel of the Louth Militia.

John’s wife Anne Lefroy was a cousin of Tom Lefroy, the Chief Justice of Ireland, who had reputedly enjoyed a romance with the writer John Austen in his youth. In 1868, Benjamin Disraeli secured the approval of Queen Victoria to have John elevated to the peerage as Baron Rathdonnell. When he died without issue in 1879, the title passed, by prior agreement with her Majesty, to his nephew, Thomas McClintock Bunbury, who was known as Tom Bunbury in his younger years. It is thought that Tom commissioned the lychgate at Drumcar. The story runs that while and his wife Kate Bruen were on honeymoon in Switzerland, they saw a lychgate and decided to commission one for the church at Drumcar. He brought a picture of it back on a box of matches and approached a man called Connor to build it for him. Mr Connor agreed on the condition that he could use the best oak tree on the Rathdonnell estate. When the lychgate was broken up in 2016, an ingenius Annagassan carpenter by name of Tommy Mulroy converted two bits of it into lovely candlesticks which were then presented to me after I gave a talk on the family at Castle Bellingham in April 2017. The candlesticks are thus made from Lord Rathdonnel’s best oak!

In 1901, Tom’s eldest son Billy was killed during the Boer War. Shortly afterwards, Tom sold Drumcar to his cousin Frank McClintock and moved permanently to Lisnavagh. Frank, aka Francis Le Poer McClintock, was Rector of Drumcar and Private Chaplain to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He went on to become Dean of Armagh. Frank actually lived in the Rectory at Drumcar but installed his twin sisters Emily and Gertrude in the house They were last members of the family to reside at Drumcar. (Their brother Charles may also lived in the house for a time.) My grandfather, the 4th Baron Rathdonnell, spent a good deal of his childhood at the house, perhaps simply because there were two spinster sisters there with time on their hands to look after the little motherless chap.

With thanks to Colonel Bob McClintock, Ben Rathdonnell, Sylvia Wright, John McClintock, Pat O'Neill, Jack McClintic, Bryan Rogers, Luke Torris & many more.

[1] An article that tracks the migration of Gaelic speakers who crossed the Irish Sea 1,700 years ago can be found here.