Tighe of Rossana, Co. Wicklow
FROM 'THE LANDED GENTRY & ARISTOCRACY OF CO. WICKLOW' BY TURTLE BUNBURY & ART KAVANAGH (IRISH FAMILY NAMES, 2005).
“Summum Nec Metuam Diem Nec Optem" (Let Me Neither Fear nor Wish for the Last Day)
The Tighe family’s connection to Ireland began when an opportunist farmer from Lincolnshire secured the contract to supply Cromwell’s troops with bread and wheat. He became MP for Dublin and indeed every generation of the family held a seat in the Irish Parliament right through to the Act of Union in 1800. His grandson, Richard Tighe, was a Privy Councillor in the reign of George I and became one of Dean Swift’s greatest foes. By dint of prudent marriages to families such as Bligh, Fownes and Bunbury, the Tighes became one of the wealthiest commoner families in Ireland. With a reputation for frugality, they had amassed over 16,000 acres by 1876, primarily in Counties Kilkenny and Wicklow. For 200 years they held court at Rossanagh outside Ashford. The family had a remarkable talent for encountering the literary greats. Dean Swift, Percy and Mary Shelley, Thomas Moore, John Wesley and Patrick Bronte were all connected and they even had their own family poet, Mary Blachford Tighe. Plagued by an asthmatic gene, many of the family perished young but the line continues to prosper, inspire and amuse to this day. Their magnificent gardens at Woodstock in Co. Kilkenny are presently being restored. Perhaps Rossanagh will one day have a smiliar happy fate.
Origin of the Family
The name of Tighe comes from the ancient village of Teigh in Rutland mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. During the Middle Ages, the family name was variously spelt Ty(e), Tygh, Teye and Teigh. By the 16th century, a branch of the family had settled in the Lincolnshire parish of Corby, some 15 miles north of Stamford. During the reign of King James I, William Tighe of Corby married Mary, daughter of Tobias Haughton, of Kelthorpe, Rutland. They had two sons, William and Richard, both of whom moved to Ireland.[i]
Richard Tighe - “Cromwell’s Baker”
The younger son, Richard, crossed the Irish Sea in the 1640s having secured a contract to supply bread and fodder-wheat to Cromwell’s troops. Nearly a century later, Jonathan Swift would accuse his grandson, Dick Tighe, of being descended from “Cromwell’s baker”. In lieu of payment, Richard was granted a 3000-acre estate at Rutland in Co. Carlow. His loyalty also earned him high office in the Irish capital – he was appointed Mayor of Dublin in both 1651 and 1655. In 1656, his ambitions reached new heights when he was simultaneously appointed High Sheriff for Dublin and elected MP for the city in Cromwell’s Parliament. He survived the upheavals of the Restoration intact, returning to office as High Sheriff for Co. Kildare in 1662. Richard’s wife Mary was a daughter of Newman Rooke of London. They had a son, William, and three daughters who married into distinguished families. The elder daughter Anne was thrice married: to Captain Theophilus Sandford of Moyglare, Co. Meath; John Preston of Ardsallagh, Co. Meath and, in 1688, to the Earl of Cavan’s son, the Hon. Oliver Lambert of Painstown. The second daughter Rebecca married Dublin wine merchant Hugh Leeson and was grandmother to the 1st Earl of Milltown. The youngest daughter Mary married Francis Wheeler, forbear of the Wheeler-Cuffe baronets.
William Tighe & the Lovett Connection
Richard died on 20th February 1673 and was succeeded by his 16-year-old son, William. The young man was soon married to the wealthy linen heiress, Anna Lovett. Her father Christopher was the third son of Sir Robert Lovett of Liscombe Park, Buckinghamshire. As a young man, Christopher Lovett worked as apprentice draper to the future Viscount Molesworth in London. He then briefly operated as a merchant-adventurer in Turkey before settling in Dublin in the 1650s, becoming Mayor in 1676. Anna’s brother was the silk merchant, Colonel John Lovett, MP, who lived for many years at Killruddery holding a lease from the financially struggling Earl of Meath. Her sister Frances married General Edward Pearce; their son Edward Lovett Pearce was the architect of Parliament House in Dublin. Thomas Pooley painted William’s portrait shortly before he died, aged 22, in 1679. It seems likely he was carried off by asthma, a genetic illness that was to hamper the Tighe family for several generations to come. The Tighes and Lovetts shared a burial vault at St. Michan’s in Dublin. The strange preservative properties of the vaults at St. Michan’s were once well known; among subsequent generations of the two families there was the saying that the Tighe bodies could be recognised by their long noses and the Lovetts by their long jaws.[ii]
Dick Tighe, Dr. Sheridan & Jonathan Swift
Anne was left to raise their infant son, Richard – or “Dick” - and a small daughter, Mary. In February 1681, Anne considerably upped her future prospects when she married the barrister Thomas Coote; he became a Judge of the King's Bench in 1692. Young Mary was subsequently absorbed into the Ascendancy when she became the wife of Captain Alexander Stewart, second son of the 1st Viscount Mountjoy; their daughter Anne married Luke Gardiner, Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. The Rt. Hon. Richard “Dick” Tighe was appointed to the Irish Privy Council and was variously MP for Belturbet (1703), Newtown (1715) and Augher (1727). His wife Barbara was a daughter of John Borr, a merchant who built a fine house, Borr's Court, near Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. John Borr’s father, Christian, a naturalised German, had come to Ireland early in the 17th century and amassed a large fortune as a merchant, trading principally in the export of beef and import of corn, wine, and salt. His sharp business acumen outlived him for in his will he directed that his body be buried in "a comely but not costly manner" near his pew door in St. Kevin's Church, Dublin. The will concluded by detailing a long list of debtors with the prayer that Providence might direct them to discharge their considerations!
In the early 18th century, anyone involved in British politics had to be wary of a man called Jonathan Swift. If the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral took a dislike to you – and he almost certainly would – then chances were that you would become the subject of a brilliant fifty-six verse satire which would be published and circulated throughout Dublin society within a very short space of time. Dick Tighe’s mistake was to inform upon Swift’s good friend, Dr. Thomas Sheridan when the aspiring clergyman preached a sermon on the anniversary of George I's birthday, following the theme, “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof”. Sheridan was duly struck off the list of the Lord Lieutenant's chaplains while parents quickly removed their children from his school. As Swift said, “he had killed his own fortunes by a chance shot from an unlucky text”. But, in consequence, “Dick FitzBaker” swiftly became the subject of a litany of stinging satirical poems, each one more cutting than the next. The Privy Councillor was likened to a maggot, a monkey, a knave, a vulgar wretch – and vehemently castigated for heading up “a pack of mimic legislators, abandon'd, stupid, slavish praters”. On a darker note, Swift wrote to his beloved Stella to say: “Dick Tighe and his wife lodged over against us; and he has been seen, out of our upper windows, beating her two or three times; ... I am told she is the most urging, provoking devil that ever was born; and he a hot whiffling puppy, very apt to resent”. [iii] By 1711, it would seem the Tighes had parted company and were travelling “in different coaches”.
On May 8th 1733, Dick Tighe laid the first stone of a new theatre at Rainsford Street in the Liberties, a locality then inhabited by a very influential and wealthy class of citizen, presided over by the Earl of Meath. He was assisted by his young son William and his cousin, Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, then Surveyor-General of Works in Ireland.[iv]
William Tighe & Lady Mary Bligh
Dick Tighe died at the age of 58 in 1736 and was succeeded by his 26-year-old son William who had been elected MP for Clonmines three years earlier. In March 1736 William added further prestige to the Tighe family name when he married Lady Mary Bligh, eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Darnley of Cobham Hall in Kent. The Blighs, a family of Cornish stock, had secured some 25,000 acres around Athboy and Rathmore in Co. Meath during the Cromwellian resettlement.[v] The Earl had begun life as plain John Bligh but secured a peerage following his marriage to Theodosia Hyde, Baroness Clifton, sole heiress of the Earl of Clarendon.[vi] When her father died in 1728, Mary had received £8000, about £¾ million in today’s terms, which was subsequently incorporated into the Tighe family fortunes.
Rossanagh & the Largest Tree in Ireland
William inherited the family’s asthmatic gene and was advised by his doctor to move out of Dublin City. Between July 1741 and May 1743, he purchased the Rossanagh estate on the south side of the River Vartry near the village of Ashford.[vii] Rossanagh means “wood of the ford” and among the demesnes many trees was a Spanish chestnut which, according to a report from 1733, had a girth of “thirty feet at four-and-a-half feet” which made it the largest tree in Ireland. It was under this same tree that the Methodist preacher, the Reverend John Wesley, delivered a sermon when he visited Rossanagh in June 1789.[viii] The fine house of Rossanagh is thought to have dated from the mid 1740s. In May 1752, Mrs. Delaney, the diarist, described the property as “a very pretty place ... neatly kept, and capable of great improvement, which he (ie: William) is setting about with all speed.” William subsequently became Keeper of the Records in Birmingham Tower and MP for Co. Wicklow in 1761. He was also for a short period Keeper of the Phoenix Park.
Plum Pudding Tighe & the Widow Wingfield
William and Lady Mary Tighe had three sons, William, Edward and Richard, and a daughter, Theodosia. William inherited Rossanagh and is dealt with anon. The second son Edward was MP for Belturbet (1763) and Wicklow (1790); his son George later eloped to Italy with the wife of the 2nd Earl of Mountcashell. The third son, Richard Tighe, MP for Wicklow, went on to run both Rossanagh and Woodstock. Richard married Sarah Richards of Grange, Co. Wexford, and had two sons, Edward and Robert.[ix] The younger of these sons Robert became a prosperous brewer and was nicknamed “Plum Pudding” Tighe. His first wife, Sarah, was a daughter of the Prebendary of Armagh, but died less than a year after their wedding in 1832.[x] Shortly after Sarah’s funeral, Robert met the young widow, Joan Wingfield. She was a granddaughter of Robert Jocelyn, 1st Earl of Roden. Her husband, the Rev. Edward Wingfield of the Powerscourt family, had died some years earlier from “a Surfeit of Fruit” and she was living with her four small children at Thames Ditton in Surrey. She was supposed to be in mourning at the time for, even in 1833, she was left 100 guineas “for mourning” by the Dowager Lady Proby. But then Robert Tighe came a-courting; the couple married at Kingston-upon-Thames in August 1833. The marriage seems to have been much against the wishes of the Grand Dame Isa Powerscourt – Robert was a mere brewery manager. Joan’s great aunt Martha Wingfield likewise responded by leaving her one shilling “to mark my disapprobation of her conduct in making such a second marriage … in every respect” Joan’s siblings and sons all received sums of between £10,000 and £15,000 in the same will. Robert and Joan subsequently settled at Park House in Hampton Wick and then at Little Rounds in New Windsor, where Joan remained until her death in June 1884. In 1845, Robert Tighe gave £40 (c. £2700 in 2005) for the Powerscourt Ladies Poor Relief Association and promised a further £30 a month until the harvest had come in. Isa Powerscourt seems to have changed her opinion by then, writing "Mr Tighe is marvellous”.
Rev. Thomas Tighe & the Bronte Connection
After Lady Mary’s death in 1748, William Tighe married secondly Margaret, eldest daughter of Captain Thomas Theaker, MP, who bore him a son, Thomas, and daughter, Barbara. The son, Thomas, was educated at Harrow and Cambridge and became Rector of Drumballyroney in County Down. As such, he provides another extraordinary literary link for the Tighes. One of the Rev. Thomas Tighe’s child protégés in Drumballyroney was the future Rev. Patrick Bronte, father of the famous sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne. The Rev. Tighe died in 1821. Thomas’s sister Barbara was married in 1776 to the Rev. Michael Sandys, Rector of Powerscourt.
The Masons & the Shelleys
George Tighe was the son of Edward Tighe and grandson of William and Lady Mary Tighe of Rossanagh. He is known to posterity as “Mr. Mason” and is worthy of a detour because he provides an intriguing link between Rossanagh, Mary Shelley and one of the last great literary discoveries of the 20th century.
In 1788, Mary Shelley’s mother, the pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecroft came to Ireland to be governess to the family of Robert King, the irascible Earl of Kingston. This peer’s free-thinking eldest daughter Margaret quickly became Wollstonecroft’s favourite; the two women continued a secretive correspondence long after Wollstonecroft’s dismissal. Five years later, Margaret married Stephen Moore, 2nd Earl of Mountcashell, and bore him eight children. In 1804, Lady Mountcashell met Eton-educated 28-year-old Captain George Tighe of the 7th Dragoons. The two fell in love and, in 1807, they eloped to Italy. They settled in Pisa, calling themselves “Mr and Mrs Mason” after one of the characters in Mary Wollstonecraft’s “Original Stories for Children”.[xi] George and Margaret “Mason” had two daughters, Laurette (1809-1890) and Nerina (1815-1874). Wollstonecroft had meanwhile died, giving birth to a daughter, Mary (Shelley), by her philosopher husband, William Godwin.
In 1818, Mary and her poet husband Percy Bysshe Shelley set off for Italy, anxious to heal themselves from the pain of losing their first three children. Mary, whose first novel “Frankenstein” was published that same year, carried a letter of introduction from her father to “Mrs. Mason”. The Shelleys and Masons became close friends; Margaret no doubt feeling an enthusiastic bond of affection for the child of her departed governess. She also wrote “Twelve Cogent Reasons for Supposing P.B. Sh-ll-y to be the D-v-l Inc-rn-t-”, a flattering defence of the radical atheist poet.
Mary Shelly likewise became very fond of the Mason’s daughters. An entry in Mary Shelley’s diary for 10th August 1820 reads: “Write a story for Laurette. Walk in the mountains … the weather is warm and delightful”. This happy yet melancholy children’s story was assumed to have been lost for more than 150 years. However, in 1997, the year of Mary Shelley’s bicentenary, an Italian lady by name of Christina Dazzi came upon a little book of pages, sewn together with string, in a wooden chest in the attic of her Tuscan palazzo. The manuscript was entitled “Maurice” or “The Fisher’s Cot”. At the top of the first page were the sort of words that inspire people to nip up to their attics and get rooting: “For Laurette from her friend Mrs. Shelley”. The Laurette in question was the illegitimate 11-year-old great-granddaughter of William Tighe of Rossanagh. Signora Dazzi’s husband Andrea was a direct descendant of Laurette’s sister Nerina who had married into the Cinis of Pistoia.[xii]
Mary Blachford Tighe, Author of Psyche.
William and Lady Mary’s only daughter Theodosia married the Rev John Blachford and was mother to the great Romantic poet Mary Tighe. She was born Mary Blachford and raised by her mother, a Methodist, after the premature death of her father in 1773. As a teenager, Mary was a celebrated blue-eyed beauty at the Vice-Regal Court in Dublin. However, in 1793, she became Mary Tighe when she married her cousin Henry Tighe, MP for Inistioge. Henry was the younger brother of William Tighe of Woodstock. It was to prove a loveless – and childless – marriage. Mary became a household name in literary circles following the publication of her poem, “Psyche” in 1805, highly regarded by Keats. Also known as “The Legend of Love”, the poem was an adaptation of the story of Cupid and Psyche from the “Golden Ass” of Apuleius. Mary perished from tuberculosis in 1810 at Woodstock, aged 37. A monument in Inistioge by Flaxman today marks her grave. In her will, she bestowed the money she made from “Psyche” to an asylum on Baggot Street called “The House of Refuge” where “young women, of unquestionable character” were trained in “plain-work and washing, until they are provided with eligible places”.
The Acquisition of Woodstock
William Tighe died in May 1766 and was succeeded at Rossanagh by his 28-year-old eldest son, William. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, William went on the Grand Tour in the early 1760s, had his portrait painted by Pompeo Batoni and met the ill-fated young Marie Antoinette in Vienna. Only sixteen months before his father’s death, William had secured as his bride, the heiress Sarah Fownes. Her father Sir William Fownes of Woodstock, Co. Kilkenny, was an affluent Privy Councillor, the son of a former Lord Mayor of Dublin and grandson of the 1st Earl of Bessborough. The Fownes family made their fortune importing tea. Sarah came with an enormous dowry of £4000 (c. €650,000 in 2005). Moreover, being an only child, her father had entailed the entire Woodstock estate on her children. This came to pass on Sir William’s death in 1778.[xiii]
At the age of 23, William Tighe was elected MP for his mother’s family constituency at Athboy. When “Grattan’s Parliament” convened in 1782, William sat as representative of the Tighe family borough of Wicklow. He seemed destined for an impressive political career – George Romney painted his portrait in 1781 - but the asthmatic gene struck again and the 44 year old suddenly collapsed and died at the close of 1782. Sarah Tighe, his widow, living between Harrow and “the blessed village of Haverfordwest” in Wales, became increasingly drawn to Wesleyan Methodism. In June 1789, John Wesley himself visited Rossanagh and delivered a sermon beneath the majestic Spanish chestnut. Contemporaries called her “The Madam” on account of her bigotry. Her brother-in-law, Richard Tighe, took over the running of both Rossanagh and Woodstock on behalf of the young heir apparent, William “Statistical” Tighe. By 1793 Richard declared himself unable to work with The Madam because she seemed bent on bankrupting both estates. He went on to run the Bligh estates in Co. Meath for his cousin, the Earl of Darnley.
Statistical Tighe of Woodstock & Rossanagh
William “Statistical” Tighe was the gifted eldest of five siblings. His wastrel brother Henry, aforesaid, married their first cousin, the poet, Mary Blachford Tighe. Henry originally seemed so certain for the Church that his mother had a new church built in Glenealy, modelled on Old St. John’s College, Cambridge. The cost of this construction, carried out while Statistical was on his Grand Tour, very nearly ruined the Tighes forever. As it happened Henry became a barrister and, in due course, MP for Lord Clifden’s pocket borough of Inistioge. Statistical’s younger sister Caroline married Charles Hamilton of Hamwood, Co. Meath, agent to the Duke of Leinster. Statistical’s eldest sister, Elizabeth, became the wife of the Rev. Thomas Kelly of Kellyville, near Ballintubbert, Queen’s County, founder of the eccentric Kellyites.
Statistical Tighe is so named because he was the author of “Statistical Observations Relating to Co. Kilkenny 1800-1801”, an invaluable reference book for anyone interested in the history of that county. By the time he completed the book, Statistical was one of the wealthiest landowners in Ireland, having inherited both the Rossanagh and Woodstock estates. Raised at Woodstock by his Fownes grandparents, he was a pupil at Eton when his father died. He subsequently went on the obligatory Grand Tour between 1788 and 1793, visiting pre-Revolution France, the Netherlands (where he was joined by his mother and sisters) and Italy and then pushing east through Germany and Hungary into Poland, Sweden and Russia. In 1793 he married Marianne Gahan, daughter and co-heir of Daniel Gahan of Coolquil, Co. Tipperary, MP for Fethard. Her mother, Hannah, was a sister and co-heir of Colonel Matthew Bunbury of Kilfeacle, a prosperous landowner with some 3000 acres in North Kilkenny and Co. Tipperary. Upon Colonel Bunbury’s death, Hannah had inherited approximately £100,000 in gilt-edge securities.
In 1793 Statistical began extensive works at Woodstock, commissioning William Robertson to add two single-storey wings to the main house, and building the Swiss Cottage. A close friend of Henry Grattan, Statistical was MP for the Borough of Wicklow in the Irish Parliament and for Co. Wicklow in the Imperial Parliament. He became Lord Lieutenant of Co. Kilkenny and was a member of George III’s Privy Council. As the exclusive “patron” of the boroughs of Wicklow and Inistioge, he had the power to return four MPs, making him one of the most influential commoners in Ireland at the time of the Union. Statistical was virulently opposed to the Union, (rightly) convinced it would cause massive economic hardship for Ireland. When an MP proposed to the Commons that the Union bill should be burnt, Statistical seconded the motion. The government attempted to bribe him with offers of a peerage and compensated him with a staggering £30,000 (nearly €2 million in 2005) for the loss of his two Rotten Boroughs. It may have worked with most of his contemporaries but Statistical remained a staunch opponent of the Union until his death.[xiv] Plagued by asthma and cancer in his latter years, Statistical Tighe died in London in the Spring of 1816.
Elizabeth Tighe & the Kellyites
Statistical Tighe’s eldest sister Elizabeth became the wife of the Rev. Thomas Kelly of Kellyville, near Ballintubbert, Queen’s County, founder of the eccentric Kellyites. Kelly was ordained as a Church of England clergyman but banned from preaching for his evangelical zeal. He subsequently founded the Kellyites, establishing Meeting Houses in Athy, Portarlington and Blackrock, County Dublin, with the express purpose of converting Roman Catholics. By 1845, the Athy meeting house had 50 members. When it was sold shortly after Kelly’s death in 1855, the remaining Kellyites however rejoined the local Anglican church. Kelly was a prolific hymn writer, producing eight editions of his hymnals between 1804 and 1838. The final edition contained 767 hymns, the best known probably being "The head that once was crown’d with thorns". Elizabeth died in her 84th year at 12 Pembroke Place in Dublin in June 1857. [xv]
Elizabeth’s death took place just over a year after the death of her daughter Elizabeth Kelly who, in 1830, married the Hon Rev "Willie” Wingfield, Rector of Abbeyleix and a son of the 4th Viscount Powerscourt. Like his father-in-law, Willie was a zealous evangelical with a great sense of humour and a passion for writing limericks. The Wingfield’s eldest daughter Elizabeth married Sir George Colley, the ill-fated Irishman who was killed alongside 93 of his men by Boer marksmen at Majuba Hill in 1881. My grandfather, Gilbert Butler, who married Sir George’s great-niece, told me that family legend has it Sir George and Lady Elizabeth had a furious row the morning he died.
John Taylor & Maria Spilsbury
One of the more unusual residents at Rossanagh during this period was John Taylor, the Calvinist evangelist and inventor who established Dublin’s first Sunday school. He was originally invited from London to Rossanagh in 1814 to serve as tutor to Statistical Tighe’s children. While at Rossanagh he met his future wife, the artist Maria Spilsbury Taylor, who was teaching the same children how to paint. Maria’s father, John Spilsbury, a well known mezzotint engraver and portrait painter, had been employed by the Madam (Sarah Tighe) as a drawing master to her daughters Elizabeth and Caroline at her London townhouse in Harrow.[xvi] John Spilsbury was probably introduced to the Madam by John Wesley when the latter had him engrave his portrait by Romney. It is not known where exactly the Taylors lived but Ballina Park in Ashford, which became a Dower House for the Tighes, was remodelled at about this time. Both John and Maria died within six years but their son, the Rev. John William Augustus Taylor, born in the Tighes’ Dublin townhouse on Dominick Street in 1818, subsequently founded the Rookery Prep School in Oxford, now Ruskin College.
Daniel Bunbury-Tighe of Rossanagh
Statistical Tighe was succeeded at Woodstock by the elder of his two sons, 18-year-old William (Frederick Fownes) and at Rossanagh by the younger son, Daniel. In July 1818, Statistical’s daughter, Hannah Tighe, was married with a huge dowry of £10,000 (c. €700,000 in 2005) to Lord Patrick Crichton-Stuart, MP, brother of the late 2nd Marquis of Bute and uncle to the infant 3rd Marquis.[xvii] On 4th March 1825, Daniel married the Hon. Frances Crofton at St James Church in London. Frances was a granddaughter of the Earl of Galloway and the third daughter of Sir Edward Crofton, of Mote Park, Co. Roscommon. It was to prove the first in a number of marital alliances between the Tighe and Crofton families.[xviii] Six weeks later, his elder brother William married Lady Louisa Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond. In March 1828, Daniel, an officer in the Grenadier Guards, was appointed High Sheriff for Co. Wicklow. Daniel and Frances had three surviving sons and six daughters.[xix]
When Daniel succeeded to Rossanagh, the estate was virtually bankrupt. The original estate was much increased in 1805 when it absorbed 1600 statute acres at Ballymanus from the exiled United Irishman rebel, Garrett Byrne. However, when his mother, Marianne Tighe (née Gahan) died at Tunbridge Wells in 1853, Daniel inherited his share of the Bunbury fortune, which cleared much of the debt. In recognition, Daniel assumed by Royal Licence the additional surname and arms of Bunbury on 2nd May 1872. Remarkably, Daniel still had over £40,000 (c. €3.3 million) when he died in March 1874. His widow, Frances, survived him until the winter of 1891. Daniel was buried in Glenealy Church, the foundation stone of which he had laid in March 1868. The church was designed by Edward Welby Pugin and George Ashlin who worked together on St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cork. Another important local event of 1868 occurred when Daniel leased a small tuck-mill in a wooded valley on the edge of his estate to a Dublin businessman named Edward Walpole. Over the next eight years, Edward’s three sons transformed the one-acre plot into the magnificent Mount Usher Gardens which today cover some 20 acres of trees, shrubs and flowers with the Vartry River running through the centre.
Colonel Tighe & Charlotte de Burgh
Daniel’s eldest son Frederick would go on to inherit Woodstock on the death of his uncle William in 1878. As such, Rossanagh passed to Daniel’s second son, Colonel James Stuart Tighe. Born in 1831, James was married at the age of 26 to Charlotte de Burgh, youngest daughter of the Very Rev. Thomas de Burgh of Oldtown, Co. Kildare, Dean of Cloyne. James was Deputy Lieutenant, JP and High Sheriff for Co. Wicklow and served as Lieutenant Colonel of the 8th Madras Cavalry. James died on 3rd July 1904 aged 73; his widow died just six weeks later. They left two sons, Walter and Wilfred, and five daughters. Remarkably these five daughters included two sets of twins – Flora and Louisa, and Una and Maud – but, as with the fifth sister Charlotte, none of the sisters married. The last of them, Louisa died in September 1944.
Colonel Walter Tighe
The eldest son, Colonel Walter Tighe, was born in July 1861 and succeeded to Rossanagh when he was 43. In April 1894 he married Adelaide Browne, daughter of Major DP Browne of the 7th Hussars. The couple took out a large mortgage on the estate and relocated to Italy, leaving the younger brother Wilfred to run the estate. Walter died without issue in December 1925; Adelaide passed away in January 1938.
Wilfred Tighe & the Lewin Family
In April 1898, Wilfred married Lucy Lewin, one of the five daughters of Frederick Thomas Lewin of Castlegrove, Co. Galway, and Cloghans, Co. Mayo. Lucy’s grandfather Thomas Lewin served with the 30th Regiment during the Napoleonic Wars and her father was a prominent magistrate in Counties Galway and Mayo. Her brother Brigadier General Arthur Lewin, DSO, commanded the 40th Infantry Brigade during the catastrophe of Gallipoli and later emigrated to Kenya. Another brother, Captain Frederick Lewin of the Connaught Rangers, died of wounds received in 1915. Wilfred and Lucy lived at Ballina Park outside Rathnew where they raised four sons – Dan, Charles, Toby and Lester - and a daughter, Noreen Una. Wilfred died on 21st September 1945.
Captain JC Corballis & the Sale of Rossanagh
Upon Walter Tighe’s death in 1925, Rossanagh passed directly to Wilfred’s eldest son, 26-year-old Dan (Charles Frederick) Tighe. Dan was educated at Haileybury and served briefly in the last year of World War One. On 28th January 1930, he married Beatrice Mary, only daughter of Harold Gibbs of Ablington Manor, Gloucester. During the 1920s, much of the estate was parcelled off to tenants in keeping with the requirements of the Irish Land Commission. In 1932, the 200-year-old family home was rented to Captain JC Corballis, MSc ARCS, affectionately known as “Tommy”. He had served with the Leinster Regiment during World War One and lectured in the National University. Tommy was practically a relation. In 1919, he married Ada Flynn, eldest daughter of Joseph Flynn, JP, and his wife Tessa, née Allingham, of 5 Upper Leeson Street, Dublin.[xx] Ada’s sister Mona married Dan Tighe’s younger brother Charles, so the families of Tighe and Corballis were closely connected. In 1931, Tommy had inherited a considerable fortune from his centenarian cousin Richard John Corballis. Dan, who had by then settled at Tegg Down Farm near Winchester in Hampshire, sold Rossanagh, complete with contents, to Tommy.
Tommy Corballis reroofed the house, created an oratory and maintained the house in considerable style, retaining a large staff both indoors and outdoors. He tried to buy back the famous paneled room which had been dismantled and sold some years earlier. The room seems to have been destined for an American buyer but was destroyed during the Blitz in London while it was in storage. Tommy’s nieces, Elizabeth and Ann Tighe, spent many a childhood day at Rossanagh with their first cousins, Jerningham, Richard and Jennifer Corballis. Tommy died in May 1947 and the property was sold to the Wildings. The sale was agreed shortly after Jern’s marriage in 1950 to Mary Emmet, daughter of Captain and the Hon. Mrs. Emmet of Altidore Castle, Kilpedder, Co. Wicklow. Mary was a descendant of Thomas Addis Emmet whose brother Robert was executed for his role in the 1803 rebellion. Jern and Mary Corballis subsequently moved to Delgany and Ada built a house, Creech Barrow, nearby. Richard and his wife Barbara Corballis moved to Kiltiernan where they farmed. Jennifer Corballis married Raymond O’Neill, SC.
Antony Tighe, Heir Apparent
Dan Tighe’s eldest son Antony was born at Rossanagh in May 1931 and is the present lineal head of the Rossanagh branch.[xxi] After an education at Bryanston in Dorset, Antony became the first Tighe in several hundred years to have to go out and earn a living. He spent a number of years in Rhodesia before returning to England. Antony and his cousin Sir Christopher Coote (late of Ballyfin) are currently Trustees to James Tighe, the unmarried son of Admiral Tighe and present owner of Woodstock. James has since made Antony and his son Edward heir to the 1500 acres at Woodstock currently leased out until 2070. The family sold their freehold interest in the property and used some of this money to purchase Yaldham Manor near Sevenoaks in Kent where Bryan Tighe’s nephew, Edward Lade, now lives.
Charles Tighe & Sir Chester Beatty
The second son Group Captain Charles Herbert Tighe was born in July 1903 and educated at Malvern. In 1929, with the help of some wealthy Lewin kinsmen, he purchased Ballina Park, the former Tighe dower house in Ashford, from his father. Four years earlier, he had married Mona Flynn, whose sister Ada was married to the aforementioned Tommy Corballis. Charlie Tighe was present at the fall of France in World War Two and served with distinction for the RAF, being mentioned in despatches and winning a DFC. In 1946, he was awarded an OBE. Incidentally, I'm told Flight Commander Tighe was also known as Tight Commander Fly.
When the American philanthropist, Sir Chester Beatty, purchased the old Truell family home at Clonmannon House, Ashford, Dermot MacGillycuddy was asked to find him a suitable advisor. Viscount Powerscourt and his wife recommended Group Captain Tighe and thus started a beautiful friendship between Sir Chester and the Tighes. When Mona Tighe became afflicted with arthritis in the late 1950s, Sir Chester built a saltwater pool for her at Clonmannon. He frequently invited the Tighes to stay at his villa in Portugal and to dinner at his home on Ailesbury Road. Group Captain Tighe was one of the Executors and principal beneficiaries of Sir Chester’s Irish will.[xxii]
Group Captain Tighe’s eldest daughter recalls her father, late in life, telling some friends, “I have never been blessed with a man-child but I have compensated for this with seven son-in-laws”. Indeed his charismatic daughters, Ann and Elizabeth, certainly enjoyed their share of husbands. Ann was first out of the stalls when, in June 1948, she wed the 5th Baron Crofton. Their eldest son Piers was born the following year and succeeded as 6th Baron in 1974.[xxiii] The Croftons were divorced in 1962 and Ann married secondly the criminal barrister Robert Flach. Born in Vienna and educated in Australia, Flach made his name in such celebrated cases as R. v Myra Hindley, the Dixon and Tibbs protection gang, the Bank of America Robbery, the Bank of Scotland Fraud Case and the Pearlberg Fraud. In 1965 the Flachs had a son, Alexander Otto Stuart Flach. Archduke Otto of Austria, an eminent political scientist who many consider the rightful heir to the Hapsburg Empire, stood as godfather at Alexander’s christening. Ann’s third husband was Guy Brook of New York. Ann Tighe, as she calls herself today, lives in Wexford and is a sculptress of considerable repute. She has exhibited in Switzerland, Britain and Ireland. In 2005 she sold a bronze group to the Irish Enterprise Board for their Board Room. Her work can be seen in the Gorry Gallery on Dublin’s Molesworth Street.
In 1953, Charles’s second daughter Elizabeth married Captain Nigel Knight-Bruce of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, an eccentric war veteran renowned for a daring escape from an Italian POW camp in 1943. The charismatic, rough-tongued Captain Knight-Brice was also Master of the Silverton Foxhounds in Devon. They had two sons, Robin and son Rory.[xxiv] After their divorce in 1957, Elizabeth married the TV producer John Irwin whose father, Dr. Irwin, was Principal of Wesley College, Dublin. In 1965 she was married thirdly to the late Prince Yuri Galitzine of Russia, with whom she had a son Nikolai. Her present husband is Neville Alexander. Elizabeth Alexander, as she calls herself today, is responsible for the famous, high quality jams, marmalades, conserves, sauces and chutneys that carry the “Tighe Foods” brand name. Based in Ballon, Co. Carlow, her jams have won four Great Taste Awards.
Rear Admiral Toby Tighe
Wilfred and Lucy’s third son, Wilfred Geoffrey Stuart Tighe was known as Toby and became a Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy. He was born in July 1905, educated at Haileybury and served with the Royal Navy from 1923 until the end of World War Two. In July 1935 Toby Tighe married Dorothea Simpson, younger daughter of Julius Benedict Simpson of Clearmount, Weymouth, Dorset. He succeeded his cousin Brian as heir to Woodstock in 1944, after which it passed to his son, the present incumbent, James Tighe, who was born in 1938. The Rear Admiral also had a daughter, Caroline Susan, who married a Mr. Gooch. In 1959, Toby published a book called “The Tighe Story”.
The youngest son Major Lester (Gahan) Tighe was born in April 1908 and educated at King’s School, Canterbury. He served with the Royal Tank Regiment in World War Two. In September 1951 he married Mabel Harriet Christian, widow of Cmdr. EHG Gregson, RN, and daughter of Major Arthur MacGregor of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. The only daughter, Noreen Una Tighe, was born in January 1902 and was married shortly before Christmas 1927 to Rear Admiral Sir John Coote, 14th Bart, of Monkton House, Melksham, Wiltshire.[xxv] Sir John and Lady Noreen had two sons – Christopher (b. 1928) and Terence (b. 1933).
The Fate of Rossanagh
As to Rossanagh, the original house was considerably reduced during the 1950s, with the loss of the two wings. The Long Room where the poetess Mary Tighe once played her music was divided into three parts. The harp she played on went with the Corballis’s to Delgany and the organ is now at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Kilpedder. Much of the stable block to the rear of the dairy was also felled. And down came the Old Library where gentlemen pondered the world at large and John Wesley is said to have composed his Sermons and Hymns; the Madam had built an outside staircase so he could come and go as he pleased. It was the end of an era, for sure, but the Tighes can rest assured that during their two hundred years at Rossanagh, they added a vibrant human dimension to a landscape already blooming with the manifold colours of nature.
Colonel Tighe of Woodstock, Co. Kilkenny
The Rossanagh branch of the family was inevitably closely linked with that which took root at Woodstock. Indeed, over the course of time their roots once again merged as one. Colonel William Frederick Fownes Tighe was the eldest son of Statistical Tighe. He was educated at Eton and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and succeeded to the Woodstock estates on Statistical’s death in 1816. In April 1825, he married Lady Louisa Lennox, one of fourteen children born to the guardsman and duellist, Colonel Charles Lennox, later fourth Duke of Richmond. She was a goddaughter of the Duke of Wellington and her hard-drinking father was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1807 until 1813. However, the Duchess did not approve of the marriage – Louisa’s sisters had already secured three Duchy’s and a Marquessate – and so Lady Louisa came to the marriage with a name and much elegance but no dowry. A daughter Charlotte was born soon afterwards but died young. They were to have no further children although they did enjoy their Golden Anniversary in 1875. The Rt. Hon. William FF Tighe made his mark on Irish affairs - as a Privy Councillor, Justice of the Peace, High Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant for Co. Kilkenny. Lady Louisa was instrumental in the landscaping and planting of the magnificent gardens at Woodstock, lately restored by Kilkenny County Council. William died in June 1878 at the age of 84, leaving Woodstock to his nephew, Frederick.
Frederick Tighe & the Ponsonby Connection
Frederick William Tighe, eldest son of Daniel Bunbury Tighe, was 52 years old when he inherited Woodstock in 1878. He may have inherited the property but the house was still very much the home of his Dowager aunt, Lady Louisa Tighe, who survived until March 1900. Frederick served with the 53rd and 82nd Regiment, and as Lieutenant Colonel in command of the Kilkenny Militia. A JP for Co. Wicklow, Frederick was married in August 1858 to Lady Kathleen Ponsonby. Her father, the Earl of Bessborough, was a popular Whig peer who had died while serving as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1846. Lady Kathleen died five years later, possibly in labour, having begotten two sons, William and Edward, who both came to an unhappy end. The elder son William served as a lieutenant with the Grenadier Guards but was killed aged 27 when he walked into an empty lift shaft in a London club in April 1887.
The Unhappy Fate of the Tighes of Woodstock
When Frederick passed away aged 65 in 1891, his second son, 29-year-old Edward Kenrick Tighe succeeded to Woodstock. Educated at Harrow and Trinity College Cambridge, Edward served with the Rifle Brigade during the Burmese War and later with the Grenadier Guards. In the autumn of 1894 he married Viola, only daughter of Edward Skeffington Smyth of Mount Henry, County Laois. They had two sons and four daughters. Their first-born son Frederick, or Fritz, died aged 7 in August 1911 from the same asthma that had carried off so many of his forbears. This was largely because Viola’s obsession with Christian Science precluded her from getting him any medical assistance. The couple left Woodstock shortly afterwards and settled in London. On 17th November 1917, just ten days after the Bolsheviks seized control of Russia, Captain Edward Tighe was murdered with a fire poker while staying at his new London home, Winkfield Lodge, in Wimbledon. The motive for his murder remains unknown – he may have simply surprised a burglar but there is talk of a disgruntled French sailor.
His only surviving son, Bryan, aged four, duly succeeded to Woodstock but the house was burned to the ground by Republican forces just three years later. The burning was a strategic rather than political decision as the building had previously been occupied by Free State troops. Most of the family heirlooms, portraits, furniture and silver had long since been moved to London but a statue of Marianne Gahan Tighe and innumerable books were destroyed in the blaze.
Viola and Bryan had by then removed to England. Bryan went on to study at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge and was a jockey of some ambition during the 1930s. My grandfather Gilbert Butler described him as “a gallant rider but not a very good one”. He also competed in the Aintree Grand National. “I think he fell at the first and brought all the favourites down with him”, recalled the late Mr. Butler. Bryan enjoyed a romance with a well-known Marchioness before moving for a while to Tahiti. He returned to England on the outbreak of World War Two, joined the 11th Hussars as a lieutenant and went to France. He was reported missing at Dunkirk in May 1940; his death was confirmed on 5th June 1940.[xxvi] Rear Admiral Toby Tighe’s son James currently holds the remaining Tighe interest in Woodstock.
With thanks to Elizabeth Alexander, Winkie Corballis and Rory Knight-Bruce.
[i] William’s son Richard Tighe (1645 – 1699) married Mabella Stearne, daughter of Rupert Stearne of Tullynally, Co. Westmeath, and sister of Major General Robert Stearne, Governor of Kilmainham. See 1912 Edn., Burkes Irish Landed Gentry, Tighe of Mitchelstown.
[ii] "Mr. Lovett Out of Iorland", by Rt. Rev. E. Neville Lovett, C.B.E., D.D., Dublin Historical Record, Old Dublin Society, Mar - May 1941, Vol. III. Transcribed by Combs &c. Researcher Denise K. Mortorff
[iii] Jonathan Swift, Journal to Stella, "Prose Works," ii, 229. W. E. B.
[iv] A Retrospect of the Dublin Stage, Illustrated Dublin Journal, No. 1, September 7, 1861.
[v] Captain Bligh of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame was a kinsman; he named Darnley’s Islands in the Torres Strait.
[vi] Lady Mary’s sister Anne, widow of Robert Magill of Gill Hall, Co. Down, married the 1st Viscount Bangor.
[vii] In “The Tighe Story” (published privately, 1951-59), Rear-Admiral W.G.S. Tighe says Rossanagh was formerly named “Eccles Grove” after the family living there in the early 18th century. These Eccles were presumably close kinsmen of the Eccles of Cronroe, which family included the barrister, Hugh Eccles, and his son, Ambrose Eccles, the Shakespearean scholar. When Mrs. Delany visited Cronroe (outside Rathnew), she declared it the most beautiful place that she had seen in Ireland. (“A History of the County Dublin”, Francis Elrington Ball (1902-20 ) Ch. 7.
[viii] This fact was unearthed by Arthur Forbes, senior lecturer at the Avondale Forestry School, in 1906.
[ix] The elder son Edward married Lucy, youngest daughter of Richard Newton King of Macmine Castle, Co. Wexford.
[x] Sarah’s father, the Rev. John Cleland, was ancestor of the Clelands of Stormont.
[xi] They were eventually married some time after Lord Mountcashells’ death in 1822.
[xii] Perhaps inspired by the Shelleys, Laurette later wrote novels under her married name, Sara Tardi. Her husband, Professor Tardi of Genoa, died in 1914. “Maurice” was published by Viking in 1998 with an introduction by Claire Tomalin, author of highly acclaimed biographies of “Mary Wollstonecraft” and “Samuel Pepys” (winner of the 2002 Whitbread Book of the Year Award).
[xiii] Kirwan, John: The Woodstock-Bessborough Connection, 69-72, Old Kilkenny Review, 2nd Series Vol 3 No 1 (1984).
[xiv] Lives of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland, vol. ii. p.268
[xv] George Romney painted a beautiful portrait of Miss. Elizabeth Tighe in 1793. The original was sold at Sotheby's New York in 1983. A copy is now exhibited in Kenwood House, London
[xvi] Maria’s mother, Rebecca Spilsbury, taught future Prime Minister William Pitt mathematics.
[xvii] Lord Patrick’s other brother, Lord Henry Crichton-Stuart was forbear to the Villiers-Stuarts of Dromana, Co. Waterford
[xviii] The Crofton family came to Ireland in the convoy of Lord Deputy Sir Henry Sidney in 1565. Frances’s brother, the 2nd Baron Crofton, was a lord-in-waiting to Queen Victoria and married Lady Georgina Paget, daughter of the Marquess of Anglesey. Her nephew Edward succeeded as 3rd Baron Crofton in 1869 and was State Steward to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1880. Another nephew, Lieutenant Charles St. George Crofton, RN (1836 – 1895) married his first cousin Theresa Augusta, third daughter of Daniel Bunbury Tighe. Sir Edward Crofton succeeded as 5th Baron Crofton in 1842 and, six years later, married Ann Tighe, elder daughter of Group Captain Charles Herbert Tighe, OBE, DFC, of Ballina Park, Co. Wicklow.
[xix] The third surviving son, Arthur Francis Tighe, served with the Royal Navy but passed away aged 23 in 1870. The eldest daughter, Frances Marianne Tighe married the Hon. Frederick Chichester, Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod and third son of the 1st Baron Templemore; their son Major Spencer Chichester served in the Zulu Wars of 1879 – 1881. The second daughter Louisa died unmarried in 1914. The third married in 1864 her first cousin, Lt. Charles Crofton, RN. The fourth, Georgiana, married J. Hargrave Bridgeford. The fifth and sixth, Susan and Gertrude, died unmarried.
[xx] Tessa Allingham was a cousin once removed from the poet William Allingham and his artist sister.
[xxi] Antony’s brother Michael Dan was born in October 1944 and educated at Brickwall School in Northiam, Sussex.
[xxii] Clonmannon House is now a retirement home but, in 2002, it doubled up as a studio when Irish rock band Atlan took the Queen Anne mansion to record their album “The Blue Idol”.
[xxiii] The 6th Baron passed away in June 1989, leaving a daughter. His only surviving brother, Guy, succeeded as 7th Baron. Ann and the 5th Baron had two further sons, Brian (who died in infancy) and Adrian (who died in December 1986 aged 29, leaving a son), and a daughter, Georgina, (who married Brent Hutchinson and has a son and daughter). The 7th Baron Crofton is currently Defence Attaché at the British Embassy in Angola. He is married with twin sons, Harry and Marcus, now at Stowe.
[xxiv] Robin Knight-Bruce is present Chairman of the Silverton. His brother Rory was for many years editor of Londoner's Diary and senior feature writer on the Evening Standard. Rory now writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Country Life. He divides his time between London and his farm near Exeter. He is the author of “Timothy the Tortoise - The Remarkable Story of the Nation's Oldest Pet”. As three times Master of Foxhounds, Rory also had the honour of introducing Otis Ferry, son of Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry, to the joys of hunting. Otis, now joint master of the South Shropshire Hunt, made his mark when he and some friends successfully stormed Westminster in protest against the proposed hunting ban in April 2004.
[xxv] Sir John’s brother Thomas Coote was sometime Principal Planning Officer at the Ministry of Housing & Local Government in England. In June 1942 he married Zuilmah Paton, daughter of W. P. Sherriff of Delgany, Co. Wicklow.
[xxvi] Brian’s eldest sister Kathleen married twice - Captain Richard Welsford of the Rifle Brigade (died 1931) and Major Robert Chanter of Barnstaple, Devon. The second sister Oonah never married and lived in Chelsea. The third sister Moira was married late in life to Reginald Fraser Barbour of Sussex House Farm, Cowden, Sussex and settled down at Shana Court in The Irish RM country around Castletownsend, Co. Cork. The youngest sister Shelagh was married in 1938 to John Mourier Lade, settled at Yaldham Manor, Kent, and had a son and daughter. Amen.