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William Robert Bunbury, 4th Baron Rathdonnell, M.C. (1914-1959)

“It is not length of life, but depth of life.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson




My grandfather packed a lot into his 44 years. Born in the early stages of the Great War, he lost his mother at the age of eight and, an only child, became very close to his father, the 3rd Baron Rathdonnell. Educated in England, Bill Bunbury, as he was known in younger years, lived it up in the US in the late 1930s but life turned serious again at the age of 21 when his kindly father died and he succeeded as 4th Baron. He married Pamela Drew, a free-spirited artist, a few weeks later. And then came Hitler’s War, in which he found himself in command of a squadron of tanks ….




On Sunday 23 November 2014, glasses were raised at Kinsellagh’s Hill, Lisnavagh County Carlow, to celebrate the 100th birthday of the 4th Baron Rathdonnell, my grandfather, who died aged 44 some 66 years earlier. On hand for this spontaneous and merry occasion were his three surviving children, three of his grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, namely Tom Bunbury, Jemima Bunbury and the Sykes trio.

Born in 1914, William Robert McClintock Bunbury, known variously as Bill and ‘The Baron’, was the only child of Tim McClintock Bunbury, 3rd Baron Rathdonnell and a grandson of Tom Bunbury, 2nd Baron Rathdonnell. His father had become heir to Lisnavagh following the death of his uncle Billy Bunbury during the Boer War. He was presumably named for his ill-fated uncle but there had been three William Bunburys “on the throne” at Lisnavagh during the 18th century, while William was also the name of Captain William McClintock Bunbury, his great-grandfather, who built Lisnavagh House.

Tim’s three sisters – Pauline Dalgety, Isabell Colvin and Mamie Bramwell – would all play a key role in his life. Indeed, my father tells me that whenever Mrs Bramwell announced her intention to visit Lisnavagh, his father treated it as a State visit and took on two extra men in the garden, such was his reverence for his aunt and her expectations!

In 1936, Bill was clocked as 5 foot 10 inches, blue eyed, brown haired and weighed 160lb (11.4 stone). A year later, the 23-year-old announced his engagement in The Times to Pamela Drew, an up-and-coming artist from the Lake District in England. His father dropped dead on the very day the announcement was published, and thus did Bill succeed to Lisnavagh House and the barony of Rathdonnell.

From 1939 to 1945, The Baron and Pamela were both active in bringing an end to Nazism in Europe, leaving the running of Lisnavagh to John Langham and, on occasion, to Pamela’s mother, Sylvia Drew (ESD). Pamela’s sisters Diana and Golly (Hermione) were meanwhile being Land Girls in England, and eventually farmed Bank Farm in the Lake District. Bill’s relatively short reign as Lord Rathdonnell was dominated by the Second World War in which he played an important role in the rounding up of senior Nazi figures after Hitler’s suicide. In 1945 he was awarded the Military Cross for his pivotal role in securing the crossings over the River Aller at Winsen, deemed the hardest battle that the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars fought in the war. It took place a stone’s throw away from the ghastly concentration camp at Belsen.

After the war, Lisnavagh House was put up for sale and was nearly purchased by Evelyn Waugh. Bill and Pamela oversaw the resizing of the house in 1952. Otherwise, their focus was on hunting, painting and partying for pleasure. Bill was a member of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee, a steward of Baldoyle races and was on the executive and agricultural committees of the Royal Dublin Society. A trustee of the Carlow Hunt, he even had his own pack of hounds for a while. The late Piers Dennis remembered him as “a very light-hearted and much loved man – almost a caricature of the 1920s generation”.

Talking with Caroline Keightley at the Chalke Valley History Festival in 2019, I was delighted when she fondly recalled how ‘he taught me how to drink port when I was a child.’ To the shock of many, Bill Rathdonnell died of a brain tumour at the Richmond Hospital in Dublin on 12 October 1959, aged 44. He left four young children – my father had just turned 21, Pally was 19, Jane was 16 and Rosebud just 11.


Baby Bill with his father, the Hon. Thomas Leopold McClintock Bunbury, aka Tim, who succeeded as 3rd Baron Rathdonnell in 1929.



Bill’s mother Ethel was a daughter of a prominent government servant, fluent Singhalese speaker and hunter called Bob Ievers who was based in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Her mother once famously survived a scuffle with a sloth bear near Anurdahapura. Ethel’s elder sister Nena married Norman Izat, a son of the Director of the Bengal & North-Western Railway Company, while her younger sister Kitty married Bertram de Glanville of the Ceylon Civil Service who later became Chairman of the Colombo Port Commission. Nena’s three children – Mary Izat [1], Katherine Izat [2] and Alan Izat [3] – and Kitty’s six children – (Ranulph [4], Geoffrey [5] , Robert [6] and John) and two daughters (Joan [7] and Moira Dorothea [8] ) – were thus all first cousins of The Baron.




On 23 November 1914, Ethel gave birth to her one and only child, William Robert McClintock Bunbury, later the 4th Baron Rathdonnell and this author’s paternal grandfather. The Times noted that the birth took place at 50 Drayton Gardens in South West London. 1914, of course, was a calamitous year to be born because the world had gone to war just a few months before William’s birth and the war didn’t stop for five years. Ethel moved to Ireland before Christmas and William was christened on 15 January 1915. Among the christening gifts he received was a silver dish presented by Godmother, Isabella K. Colvin, now in the Lisnavagh dining room. Isabella was one of his three aunts, the others being Mamie Bramwell and Pauline Dalgety.




Bill with his mother Ethel (née Ievers).

In 1912, Tim McClintock Bunbury, Bill’s father, began working as Assistant Secretary to Sir Wyndham Rowland Dunstan, the Director of the Imperial Institute in Kensington, London. Dunstan was also President of the (3rd) International Association of Tropical Agriculture, which took place in the last week of June 1914 and which Tim attended. Within six weeks, Europe was at war. Tim was appointed a temporary lieutenant by the War Office in December 1915, The following year, he was mentioned in despatches by Churchill and Smuts for his services in the campaign in German East Africa. He was later on special assignment in Italy and Carinthia (Slovenia), for which he was awarded the Croce di Guerra, the Order of the Crown of Italy and an MBE. [9]

After Tim’s death in 1937, Bill received a letter at Lisnavagh from Sir Charles Delme-Radcliffe, a man with Canadian connections who commanded the International Mission in Italy after the Great War. He stated that Tim had “served me right well during the war in Italy. I was very fond of your mother too. She was a wonderful person. I knew her when she came out to join your father at North Klagenfurt in Carinthia”.

In 1918, Tim was awarded the British Red Cross Society Medal for War Service. The following year, he was awarded an MBE and received a personal thanks from Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for War, who noted that he had been mentioned in despatches by General Smuts for his ‘gallant and distinguished services in the field’ in 1916. He returned to Ireland in 1919 and was appointed High Sheriff for County Carlow, a difficult post in a year when anti-English sentiments were reaching fever pitch across Ireland.




Bill’s mother, Ethel McClintock Bunbury, died young on 4 March 1922, having endured probably the most miserable decade in recent Irish history. Assuming she arrived in Ireland with her new husband circa 1913, she would have been just in time for Jim Larkin’s strike and lock out, the near civil war between the Irish Volunteers and the Ulster Volunteers, followed by the outbreak of the First World War (which kept her husband occupied for five years), the Easter Rebellion (which her father-in-law became closely involved with), the War of Independence (which brought great hardship to Rathvilly, particularly with the execution of Kevin Barry and the death of Michael Fay), the Anglo-Irish Treaty (over which her father-in-law became a vocal opponent of partition for the Unionist cause), the Spanish Flu (which wiped out people all across the surrounding parishes) and the bloody Civil War which erupted within weeks of her death. One senses that she died dreaming of happier days in Ceylon when it was all about tea, tennis and sunshine. She seems to have lived at Lisnavagh for much of this time, with her husband’s parents who were such a formidable pair that Ethel appears meek in their presence, a sort of Isabella Linton if you’ve ever read Wuthering Heights. She was buried in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey. Her widowed husband Tim would later write to a friend:

‘I have owed you a letter for several years. You were kind enough to write to me when my wife died and I am afraid I did not answer; I could not. I realise now that I was pretty well knocked out by an event which I had never contemplated; I grasped only one thing: that my boy was motherless and that everything in me had to go out to him. I hope you will forgive me for not answering. Perhaps you can sympathise.’



I am slowly working my way through various letters and other manuscripts, but it would seem that a particularly strong bond evolved between young Bill and his father in the years after Ethel’s death. But perhaps they hardly saw each other at all! As a boy, Bill appears to have gone to school somewhere in East Sussex as per this report in the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer of 22 July 1922:

The Gables School sports took place on Saturday, and were fortunately favoured with fine weather. There was a large gathering of parents and friends and everything passed off most successfully. Before the tea interval Mr. Goldsmith announced the winners of the gymnasium competition, which had taken place during the previous week.’

Drumcar House was built by ‘Bumper Jack’ McClintock, Bill’s ancestor, in about 1777. The wings, portico and window surround were added later.

‘W. McClintock Bunbury’ won two of the contests – the Egg and spoon race (under 8) and the Frog Race (with J. Furney as his cohort). ‘Major E. Bartlett, Major Gaitskell and Mr. Goldsmith kindly acted as judges.’

The connection may be through Dr Lionel de Glanville, a brother of Bill’s Uncle Bertram de Glanville of the Ceylon Civil Service. Bertram was married to Ethel’s sister Kitty. On 10 February 1915, Dr de Glanville was married at St Peter’s, Bexhill-on-Sea, to Hilda St Hilary Edith Everard Mayne (c. 1890-1972).

Between 1923 and 1929, his father was based at Great Wadd, near Staplehurst in Kent, so the youngster presumably spent a lot of his childhood there. As a motherless boy, he also spent a certain amount of his childhood at the McClintock stronghold of Drumcar House in County Louth, perhaps simply because there were two spinster sisters and a clergyman brother there with time on their hands to look after the little chap. They weren’t particularly closely related but Drumcar had belonged to Tim’s father until shortly after Billy McClintock Bunbury was killed in the Anglo-Boer War.

My father believes his father and grandfather were also regular visitors to the Bruen home at Straw Hall in Carlow, subsequently absorbed into urban Carlow and the now closed beet factory. Presumably this was part of the Oak Park Estate at the time. Was this the fine large house beside the Business Gateway Park Centre, directly opposite The Holy Angels Centre, which was owned by Bruen? Bill’s grandmother, Lady Rathdonnell (née Katherine Ann Bruen) passed away in 1924. [In 1926, Oliver Hardy-Eustace married Barbara Kathleen Hall. Their daughter Kathleen, Kate Carvill, was born on 12 April 1927 and died in 2023.]




Trees in the Pigeon Park at Lisnavagh.

In March 1928, Bill’s father wrote to his friend Hordern:

‘The Admiralty spun my boy for an eyesight defect from Dartmouth, and in September he is for my old house at Charterhouse. I hope he will be able to have another shot at the Navy from there in four years. At all events, when he is at Charterhouse, we shall talk the same language and have much ground in common.’

I don’t know where the Baron was educated before he went to Charterhouse. At Charterhouse, he was in Saunderites (as was his father, and indeed my father and my eldest brother) where he befriended Johnny Drew and Peter O’Sullevan. (Eton contemporaries he might have met at this point included Marcus Rueff, Gerald Kildare, John Grafton and Paddy Leatham).



In May 1929, his grandfather Tom Bunbury, 2nd Lord Rathdonnell, passed away at the age of 81. Tim duly succeeded as the 3rd Lord Rathdonnell. He took his 13-year-old son BILL with him on a trip to India and Egypt that Christmas. I believe Tim acquired a new lover about this time but am delving deeper into this. June 17 1929: Ginger Wellesley marries Toby (aka Doris Caroline Sabia) Kennedy.




Jan 16: ‘Lord Rathdonnell, who was accompanied by the Hon. W. R. McClintock Bunbury, arrived at Plymouth yesterday from Egypt.’ (Western Morning News – Friday 17 January 1930).

The Baron met his future wife Pamela Drew in about 1930. In fact, there is a brilliant mention in Granny’s diary of their first encounter which I don’t have to hand but, needless to say, it mentions both hunting and whiskey. He was great friends with her younger brother Johnny Drew and presumably went to stay with the Drews at Eversley because Ireland was too far away to go home for half-term. He left school, aged 18, in 1933. Within two years, he and Pamela were driving one another’s cars!’


1930 Lisnavagh Visitor’s Book


Lisnavagh House as it would have looked between 1847 and 1952.

The following comes from the Lisnavagh – Drumcar Visitor’s Book of this period. It’s also important to note that Bill’s wife Pamela wrote a diary for most of these years and within them will be all sorts of titbits that might help shape this story. I believe a new heating system had been installed at Lisnavagh in 1929.

  • Rosamund C Rashleigh July 28 – Aug 30. [Afterwards Lady Langham. Her engagement to John Langham was announced on 26 July 1930, so presumably champagne was flowing at Lisnavagh].
  • EF Bruen Aug 13 – 16
  • 1. Bruen ” “
  • PS James Aug 22 – Sept 2
  • H (or L?). Leatham Aug 22 Sept 2
  • Grace Walsh Sept 4 – 5
  • Oonah Walsh Sept 4 – 5
  • R de Glanville Aug 20 – Sept 18
  • MJ (Maude?) Butler Sept 17 – 20
  • John Langham 9 May 1929 – 27 Oct 1930
  • Crystal Langham 15 Oct – 27 Oct


1931 Lisnavagh Visitor’s Book


  • Maude J Butler April 11 – 12 1931
  • Maude J Butler June 27 – 30
  • Mary KR Colvin Aug 8 – 10
  • Peter McC Greenwell Aug 23 -31
  • JM Drew Aug 25 – Sept 1st
  • PM Leatham ” “
  • Cooper Ossory Sept 6 – 7
  • Diana M Powell Sept 18 – 21




  • Maude J Butler May 16 – 20
  • Maude J Butler June 10 – 14
  • Gore? Phillips Aug 18 – 22
  • Gurl? Boughey Aug 22 – 27
  • Noel G (or E?) Boughery? Aug 22 – 27
  • J Boughey Aug 22 – 27
  • PS James Aug 23 – Sept 2


Lady Rosamund Langham (née Rashleigh) and her husband Sir John Langham, 14th baronet, who ran Lisnavagh during the war years. They had been visitors to Lisnavagh since the late 1920s and married in 1930. These portraits were by Carlos Sancha in 1968. Rosamund’s family owned Menabilly in Cornwall, the house immortalised as ‘Mandalay’ by Daphne de Maurier. She is pictured with her West Highland terrier, Sally, and the diamond and ruby brooch she was presented with when she retired from the County Fermanagh Guides. Sir John was my father’s godfather.




  • Sept 18: Empire of Japan’s Kwantung Army invaded Manchuria, an event that marks the dawn of Japanese military aggression in East Asia.





  • January 24: Fianna Fáil won the general election; they were re-elected with 50% of the votes.
  • February 16: General Election sees Fianna Fáil become the largest party in the chamber. It formed a government led by Éamon de Valera, with the support of the Labour Party.
  • May 20: Amelia Earhart took off from Newfoundland for Ireland on the first anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight; she landed near Derry and so became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
  • June 8: Billie Kennedy of Bishopscourt married George John Robinson at St John the Baptist’s Church, Kill.
  • June 22-26: Count John McCormack – a familiar figure at the Naas races – caught the attention of the world when he sang César Franck’s ‘Panis Angelicus’ at a public mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. The mass was part of the 31st International Eucharistic Congress, an international gathering of clergy, religious, and laity from the Roman Catholic church.




The Hon William McClintock-Bunbury with Chrystal Doyne, The Tatler, 3 May 1933.

The Baron, or Bill Bunbury as he was then, matriculated, that is formally enrolled in Cambridge University, on 1 November 1933 having been admitted to Trinity College Cambridge from Charterhouse on 1 October 1933 as a Pensioner (an ordinary fee-paying student) on the tutorial side of John Burnaby. He studied for the Historical Tripos as the honours Bachelor of Art is known. In the examinations for Part I of this tripos in 1935 he was awarded a third-class pass. He was entered for Part II examinations in 1936 but his name does not appear in the class list. He was given an allowance to graduate, being among those candidates who (to quote the relevant notice) were ‘prevented by illness from taking every part of the examination or whose case was submitted to the Council by the examiners’.

Unfortunately, tutorial records, which would tell us a lot about his time here, do not survive for this period, so we don’t yet know the reason he did not sit Part II of the Historical Tripos. It’s intriguing that the double-agent Guy Burgess was in the Cambridge history department at this time, and I believe Milo Tabot of Malahide Castle, a pal of Kim Philby, also studied history in this period.

Bill’s tutor John Burnaby (1891–1978) served in Gallipoli and France in the First World War in 1st Battalion, The London Regiment. He became a Fellow of Trinity in 1915 and rose through the ranks, becoming Tutor (1931-38); Senior Tutor (1938-45), and Dean of Chapel (1943-58), having been ordained priest in 1942. He was Regius Professor of Divinity (Emeritus), from 1952 to 1958. His memorial notes: ‘He was an upright and sagacious man who had many and varied accomplishments. His stern countenance concealed much kindness and a keen sense of humour. He was an outstanding expositor of the thought of St Augustine, and he furthered the Christian faith by his preaching and by his example.’ His wife Dorothy Helen Burnaby was the sister of Robert Heath Lock, the botanist who wrote the first English textbook on genetics.[10]

Bill’s college days probably comprised of fishing and shooting in Ireland, and going to concerts, dinners and lectures, hawking and driving fast cars at Cambridge and in London. He became friendly with the young Duke of Grafton’s set. George Gossip has a record of him being among a group of Trinity friends who joined George’s diary-writing cousin Nicholas FitzGerald at a dance in the University Arms on Sunday, March 11, 1934:

‘Such a good dance at the University Arms. We were rather split up. Jane and Catherine [perhaps Katherine Hotham] and a few others seemed to rather look down on our party, but, who cares with two and one half magnums of champagne, swallowed by we six: Lady St. Davids, Jimmy Brent, Averil Sneyd, William Bunbury and my most unusually sober self – 7 all told. I lunched with my X today but why recall happy memories when its the future that matters.’

George adds: ‘They drank two and a half magnums of champagne between seven people yet still claimed sobriety.’ [11]




This leads to a curious connection with no less a soul than Timothy Slingsby, an old mate of mine from Glenalmond days and father of my goddaughter, Jessica Slingsby. Tim and his parents live at Idvies House near Forfar in Scotland. Before the Slingsbys, a family named Brodie owned Idvies. A daughter of this house by name of Phoebe Brodie married Humphrey Sneyd whose family hailed from Keele (subsequently an educational school set up by Labour) and Ashcombe Park in Staffordshire. Humphrey Sneyd was killed while serving with the Irish Guards at Ploegsturet on 2 November 1914. The cross his soldiers erected over his grave is still in the Churchyard at Cheddleton, says William Battersby who spent much of his childhood at Ashcombe Park, which his aunt and uncle bought in 1961. In April 1915, Phoebe gave birth to Humphrey’s posthumous daughter, Averil, named for the month that was in it.

On 25 August 1925, Phoebe married again, a chap named Alfred Dugdale. Alfred’s first wife died in 1918, three weeks after the birth of their son, George, who was a great pal of Averil. [Alfred probably has something to say to Rose Dugdale, the well-to-do lass who got in cahoots with the IRA during the Beit robbery.] The Dugdales spent their time between Idvies and Basford (inherited by Averil on the death of her uncle Gustavus). Meanwhile, Averil grew up from lonesome child to rebellious schoolgirl, coming out at a party given in Princess Gate by the Dugdales’s cousin, “Lady Amerhyst” of Hackney. She was a proper Thirties girl, eager for hunting and cabaret, dance and flirtation. She was much admired by the young men of Cambridge, headed up by John (Duke of) Grafton, who died young in a motor accident.

In her Memoirs, Phoebe recalls how each of ‘The Gang’, as Averil called her young men friends, proposed to her in turn and were refused. They led her into a good deal of trouble by having constant motor accidents. She managed to be in five serious ones in the course of two years. It seemed impossible to restrain her. The young men would appear and take her out. According to a conversation between Averil and T.P. Slingsby, one of these men was Bill Bunbury, aka The Baron, aka my grandfather. He was her senior by only five months.

Eventually Averil married Bunty Scott-Moncrieff, into whose car my grandmother would crash her Rolls in 1936. William Battersby, who knew them well, was on the button when he stated that they were ‘slightly larger than life.’ When Phoebe’s only surviving sister, Nancy Johnston Brodie, passed away she left her house to Averil and Bunty’s son Humphrey. (Nancy and Phoebe’s brother John accidentally shot himself while shooting in 1926). Humphrey’s wife Judy Prince was at school with Fay Slingsby and Penny Marshall. And it was through that connection that the Slingsby’s acquired Idvies where I spent many happy days during my school years at Glenalmond.





  • January 30: Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.
  • April 28: William and his father attend the wedding of Viscount Milton (later Earl FitzWilliam) and Olive Plunket in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.
  • July 10: Bill McClintock Bunbury takes 1st class cabin from Southampton to Angola on board the German Woderman-line vessel, the Watussi. One wonders what he was thinking of the new German chancellor at this stage? And what was he doing in Angola!!?
  • August 12: 20-year-old Gerald Kildare was injured in a car crash at Palmerstown, Dublin, when his car skidded into a telegraph post.
  • November 11: Denbigh won the Liverpool Autumn Cup as a 4-year-old. He came in at 13/2 3rd favourite. He was owned by Sir Ernest Tate, trained by Dobson Peacock and ridden by Billy Nevett. This horse won a £15,000 fortune on the Irish Sweep for Tommy Merriman.[13]




In April 1933 Peter Fitzwilliam, Viscount Milton (later Earl Fitzwilliam) married Olive ‘Obby’ Plunket, the youngest daughter of the Right Rev. Benjamin Plunket, the Bishop of Meath, and his wife, Dorothea Hester Butler (1874-1936), the daughter of Sir Thomas Butler, 10th Bt., of Ballintemple. Peter and Obby would become good friends of my grandparents. Obby’s paternal grandfather was Archbishop of Dublin and has a statue near Leinster House; her paternal grandmother was a daughter of Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness. Slim, petite and full of joie de vivre, the coppery blonde heiress was one of the most beautiful debutantes of her generation. Her father had recently inherited a Guinness fortune from his uncle, including Saint Anne’s, an imposing mansion situated at Raheny, at the mouth of the Liffey, overlooking Dublin Port. She was not only beautiful but immensely wealthy. She grew up at Bishops Court in Navan. Her nickname derived from her favourite childhood game of prancing around on a hobbyhorse.

Both Peter and Obby were party animals, always awaiting the next event, or dashing off on the spur of the moment trips, often by plane, to Paris and Le Touquet. The wedding took place at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin with 800 guests. Tens of thousands lined the 5-mile route from St Patrick’s to the Plunket house at Saint Anne’s. There were 12 bridesmaids; the bridal party was transported in three of the Fitzwilliam’s Rolls-Royces, bearing the family crest, shipped over from England for the occasion. Rather ominously Peter abandoned her in the middle of their honeymoon …




  • Mary Colvin Aug 12 – 15
  • J Fitzherbert Aug 23 – 28
  • MF Graham Aug 24 – 28
  • Philip S James Aug 22 – Sept 9
  • Sonia Golejewski Sept 7 – 8 [12]
  • Sonia Golejewski Sept 15 – 18
  • Maude J Butler Sept 20 – 23
  • John Drew Dec 19 – 23




  • Jan 10, circa: Carlow Hunt Ball.
  • May 23: Bonnie and Clyde gunned down in Louisiana.



On 29 September 1934, Christabel Burton, elder daughter of Major P.C. Burton and niece of Lord Rothermere, was married at Marylebone register office in London, to Peter Bielenberg of Hamburg. Sunday Mirror, Sunday 30 September 1934


  • John Drew July 16 – Aug 8
  • Isabel Colvin Aug 13 – 14
  • EH Pilsbury Aug 20 – 24
  • FWB Smart Aug 20 – 24 [14]
  • J Fitzherbert Aug 21 – 26 (could be June Fitzh? FitzH with a capital H could be Irish branch and proddy , if small h it means senior English branch and RC!]
  • Jean Hanap / Harap Aug 27 – 29
  • Michael Harap Aug 27 – 29
  • Seramus Sweetman Aug 30 – 31
  • Maude j Butler Sept 7 – 10
  • Mary Purcell-FitzGerald Sept 14 – 18
  • Nicholas Purcell-FitzGerald ” “
  • R de Glanville Dec 16 – 23



  • John Dalgety April 14-16
  • Pamela Drew April 26 – 30 (first recorded visit to Lisnavagh by my grandmother)

[On Friday 28 June 1935, Bill Bunbury and [Sir] Tom Butler were among those who attended a dance thrown by the Greenwalls at Woldingham.]

  • Maude J Butler May 4 – 6
  • John Cherry? Aug 1 – 5
  • Consie Cherry / Cressy? Aug 1 – 5
  • Hugh Massy Aug 1 – 8
  • Katie Gethin Aug 2 – 5
  • Pamela Drew Aug 1 – 9
  • Pamela Drew Oct 7 – 11



This section is only for the true die hards! It concerns District Justice O’Shea‘s ongoing attempt to ban the Carlow Hunt Ball.

In the Tipperary Circuit Court on Wednesday his lordship Judge Sealy reversed the decision of District Justice O’Shea in refusing to grant an occasional license for the Carlow Hunt Hall. Mr. O’Hanrahan. solr , for the appellant, Mr. R. McDonnell, licensed trader, Carlow, said the Justice in refusing the application did not reflect in any way on the Hunt Ball, but was merely adhering to previous ruling he had made. There was no opposition on the part the Civic Guards to the application. In giving his judgment. Judge Sealy expressed the view that the District Justice was not exercising his discretion on a proper principle. It would a pity that there should be one law in the County Carlow and a different law the rest of the Saorstat as regards occasional licenses. (Leinster Leader, 2 February 1935)

Justice O’Shea wasn’t letting up though as per this one in Leinster Leader, 9 November 1935:

CARLOW HUNT BALL. An occasional license AGAIN REFUSED At Carlow District Court on Monday, District Justice T. O’Shea refused an application made by Mr S. Roche, solicitor., on behalf of Mr R McDonnell, Tullow Street, Carlow, for an occasional licenses for the Carlow Hunt annual ball. The Justice granted the application made by Mr Roche on behalf of the Carlow Hunt for the holding of the ball at Kilnock House on the 17th January, 1936. Mr Roche said that last year a similar application was made by him on behalf of Mr McDonnell for an occasional license which his worship refused. He (Mr Roche) brought the application on appeal before Judge Sealy, KC, at Tipperary Circuit Court, when he reversed the decision and granted the application. “I sympathize with your worship in this matter, and you have been consistent all the time, but, after all you are bound by the decision of the higher court.” Justice-“I would be bound by the case you refer to, but this is a fresh application for an occasional license at a dance to be held in 1936. It does not follow that because a license was granted last year that I should give it on the present occasion. A New Application. ‘I am not bound by the decision of the Circuit Court Judge in a matter which has never come before this court,” continued the Justice. “This is a new application and I cannot be bound by anything that happened last year, and, as a matter of fact, assuming there had been some trouble or complaint about the last ball, would I be bound to grant this application? There is no suggestion there was anything wrong or that the dance was not properly conducted. I have been given discretion to give occasional licenses for special purposes and for special reasons. My view of the law is that I should exercise that discretion in a certain way. Where the law entitles a person to certain facilities with regard to having intoxicating liquor I don’t interfere. I never interfered in such cases and I don’t intend to interfere. Where the law places responsibility on me, I must exercise that responsibility according to the way I think is right and proper. I have never refused occasional license except for all-night dances. It is the only way I can exercise discretion that the law allows me. Moreover, I think it is wrong from the point of view of parents, and I have a duty to discharge to them and that I should not do anything to which a parent might object such as allowing intoxicating drink at such a luncheon. Appeal Again. Mr Roche – The ball will be held at Kilnock House, my own residence, where there is proper suppression. If you say three o’clock in the morning, I am perfectly satisfied. lf not I must go again before Judge Sealy. Justice—l don’t think that last remark should be addressed to me. I have the greatest respect for the decision of the Circuit Court. I am sorry I cannot grant this application for the reasons stated. I won’t be a bit offended, Mr. Roche, if you try to keep yourself right in any way you think proper.’



Between 18 May and 29 August 1935, Bill’s father seems to have been on board a 1990hp ship called the Tuscan Star that sailed from London to Australia and New Zealand. There is a certificate of discharge from the Board of Trade relating to this in the Visitors Book at Lisnavagh. On Friday 28 June 1935, The Argus of Melbourne Australia announced on page 6 that he had arrived in the state of Victoria but misquoted his home address as Donegal:

Lord Rathdonnell, of County Donegal, Ireland, arrived in Melbourne yesterday. He is staying with Colonel E F. Harrison, M.H.R., M H R , and Mrs Harrison at 14 Lansell road, Toorak. Lord Rathdonnell is taking advantage of a health tour to visit Australia and to see something of Australian (report cut short).’

Pauline Dalgety, Bill’s aunt, who died in 1935.

While sailing home, Tim learned of the death of his widowed sister, Pauline Dalgety (née McClintock Bunbury) on 25 July 1935 aged 58. On 26 June 2005, her grandson Alexander Dalgety told me that the circumstances of her latter years were a source of considerable pain to the family. At some point, Pauline had become a convert to Christian Science. When her husband Major Fred Dalgety took ill in the 1920s, she seems to have refused to administer the necessary medical treatment to him. He died aged 60 on 23 May 1926. She subsequently went on a lecture tour of America promoting Christian Science. On her return from one such trip she caught chronic dysentery. She again refused to take any medicine and so she died, presumably in agony, while her brother was sailing home from New Zealand. Alexander seemed flabbergasted by his grandmother’s actions – she was hitherto known as a very popular and rather beautiful lady. But her own sons considered her religious beliefs to have caused their father’s death and her face is etched out of the family albums. Oct 3 1935: 200,000 soldiers from Italy invades Abyssinia, triggering Second Italo-Ethiopian War, also referred to as the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. The war continues until February 1937. League of Nations fails to halt it. Nov 23 1935: Bill turned 21. At Lisnavagh, all the alternating oak and beech trees that run alongside the Broom Park were planted in celebration of the occasion. Nov 1935: Lord Londonderry dismissed from cabinet by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. *****

To: The Hon W.R McClintock Bunbury, Trinity College, Cambridge Author unknown. Postage stamps marked Hawywards Heath, Sussex, dated 1 Dec 1935. Brookers, Sunday Oh! William I kant kum up to Kame BridgeI’m afraid on account you kum down too kwick but you kum hear aphta. And wenn you play with Raddev So sorry about porr Rueffs aphlickshun – tell hi try – ZAMBUCK a gnetleman (?) on the radio has just told me it works wonders with the pheet. Did Padlock disbehave himself properly? Love to all the bhoys & to Bundle, Auntie WHEEP!

(Rueff was presumably Marcus Rueff; perhaps Padlock was a nickname for Patrick Leatham).




Johnny Drew as a boy with his sisters Golly, Diana and Pamela.

Johnny Drew died on 19 December 1935. The coroner’s verdict suggested that Johnny threw himself from the 7th floor of the Dorchester Hotel in London having said goodbye to a particular lady friend (sometimes said to have been Rosemary Davidson Houston, later Lady Butler) who had gone overseas to America a few days earlier. Johnny and Bill had been good friends for many years. So too were Albert Marcus Rueff and Patrick Leatham, both called upon as witnesses for the Coroner’s Inquest. [15] He was buried at Heversham in Westmorland.

I do not know why he killed himself but, over fifty years, later I asked Johnny’s younger brother Anthony Drew if he ever had any brothers. Anthony said no, he had no brothers. The impact of Johnny’s death must have been absolutely phenomenal on the family and is a matter to consider in greater depth anon.

Marcus Rueff was an officer in the Tower Hamlets Rifles, or the 9th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade as it became known. He was killed in Libya in April 1941, alongside Captain Quentin Hurst, the son of Sir Gerald Hurst. The two men had been at Rose Hill together. Marcus was apparently ‘a gifted scholar, musician and soldier’. For more on his death, see here.

Nottingham Evening Post – Thursday 19 December 1935
A man fell to death from the window of a room on the seventh floor of a hotel in Parklane, London, early to-day. He crashed through a fanlight on the first floor, and was picked with severe injuries. On arrival St. George’s Hospital he was found to be dead. He was John Lindsay Drew, aged 21, of Eversley, Milnthorpe, Kendal, Westmorland. Of independent means, Drew was believed to be a very rich young man. He was described to a “Post” representative as being “a tall, fair-haired, and exceedingly handsome young man in his early twenties.”
He moved in fashionable West End circles, possessed great personal charm, and was exceedingly popular at the hotel, where it is understood he was fairly frequent visitor. He was regarded as a “young man about Town.” Early to-day his powerful silver-coloured saloon sports car was taken from the front of the hotel, where he had left it last night, and place in the garage. Drew was a keen motorist. At a garage in the vicinity of the hotel, a “Post” representative was informed that he had been the owner of several cars —all a powerful sporting type — during the past few months. His present car was a very modern model. It was about 3 a.m. that he fell to his death in the courtyard of the hotel.
Drew, it is understood, lived with his mother. His father died some years ago. Mrs. Drew heard of the tragedy by telephone soon after 7 a.m., and she at once made arrangements to travel to London. “Mr. Drew was home last week, and on Saturday went out shooting,” said the butler to a “Post” representative to-day. “He then left for London, and we were expecting him back at the end of this week for Christmas. News of his death has come as a great shock to us.” Mr. Drew was the eldest son of Mrs. Drew and the late Mr. John Drew. He was very popular among county society circles in Westmoreland. He stayed at Eversley last week-end before returning to Burnley, where he was learning the business at the Lowerhouse Calico Print Works, of which his father was director. Mr. Drew, who was keen rider to hounds, and was fond of shooting, finished his studies at Cambridge University few months ago. A friend of Drew told a “Post” representative that the young man, in company with some friends, visited a West End supper resort last night, and that he did not return to his hotel until shortly before 3a.m.
The friend said that Drew was in the best of spirits. As far as he knew Drew had no worries, and always gave the impression of having plenty of money. When Drew visited the West End supper resort he was accompanied by two men friends, and a young woman. Apparently they had been together all the evening. Another friend said to-day that Drew was a victim of fits of depression. According to one of his three companions, Drew rose from the table and walked outside, unknown to his companions. He hailed a taxi, and asked to be driven to his hotel.
“About quarter of an hour later,” according to the companion, the young woman went outside and asked where Mr. Drew had gone. She was greatly surprised when told that he had taken a taxi to his hotel. She remarked that he was very depressed. She took his car to the hotel garage for him. When she returned she was deathly white, and exclaimed: “My God, he is in St. George’s.” Another friend said Drew was not engaged to the young woman.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail – Thursday 19 December 1935
Death Fall
A young man fell from the window of a room on the seventh floor of an hotel in Park Lane, London, W., early to-day. He was John Lindsey Drew (21), of Eversley, near Milnthorpe, Kendal, Westmoreland. He crashed through a fanlight on the first floor and was picked up with severe injuries. On arrival at St. George’s Hospital he was found to be dead. Of independent means. Mr. Drew was believed to be a rich young man. He was described to a Press Association reporter to-day as being “a tall, fair-haired, and exceedingly handsome young man in his early twenties.” He moved in fashionable West End circles, possessed great personal charm, and was exceedingly popular at the hotel, where, it is understood, he was a fairly frequent visitor. Early to-day his powerful, silver-coloured saloon sports car was taken from the front of the hotel where he had left it last night and placed in the garage. Mr. Drew was a keen motorist. At a garage in the vicinity of the hotel a Press Association reporter was informed that he had been the owner of several cars — all of powerful sporting type – during the past few months. His present car was very modern model. It was about 3 am. that the young man fell to his death in the courtyard of the hotel.
Mr. Drew was the eldest son of Mrs Drew and the late Mr. John Drew He was very popular among county society circles in Westmorland. He stayed at Eversley last weekend before returning to Burnley, where he was learning the business at the Lowerhouse Calico print works, of which his father was a director. Mr. Drew, who was a keen rider to hounds and was fond of shooting, finished his studies at Cambridge University few months ago. A friend of Mr. Drew’s told a Press Association reporter that the young man, in company with some friends, visited a West End supper resort last night and that he did not return to his hotel until shortly before 3a.m. The friend said that Drew was in the best of spirits. So far as he knew. Drew had no worries, and always gave the impression of having plenty of money. When he visited the West End supper resort he was accompanied by two men friends and a young woman. Apparently they had been together all the evening.



January 20:
Edward VIII succeeded his father, George V; not crowned. January (end): Londonderry makes private visit to Germany and, escorted by Ribbentropp, met Hermann Göering, Rudolf Hess and Hitler.

February 16: Death of Bill’s uncle Lt. Col. Forrester Farnell Colvin, OBE.

February 17: After several years of a disastrous trade war, the British and Irish governments signed the Anglo-Irish trade pact which greatly reduced tariffs between the two countries. The Irish government finally agreed to pay the land annuities to British claimants, but Irish exporters regained access to their most lucrative market.

March 6: Hitler orders the Wehrmacht to march 20,000 German troops into the Rhineland, causing joyous celebrations across Germany. The French and the British governments, unwilling to risk war, decided against enforcing the treaties. Having got away with that, Hitler will opt to do it again in Sudetenland …

March: Londonderry criticised for a letter to The Times defending Hitler’s recent occupation of the Rhineland and calling for an agreement with Berlin.

May 24: At 9:00am, Lolar, the inaugural Aer Lingus flight, took off from Baldonnel Airport just outside of Dublin. Five passengers were on the six-seater De Havilland 84 Dragon to Bristol. In the remaining years prior to the outbreak of World War I, Aer Lingus expanded service to Liverpool and the Isle of Man. May: Lady Londonderry writes eulogy in praise of Hitler and the Nazi regime in Sunday Sun.

May 30: Ribbentrop visited the Londonderry’s County Down estate at Mount Stewart. A Meissen porcelain figure model of an SS storm trooper at Mount Stewart was reputedly given to the Londonderrys by Ribbentrop although I have heard it said that it was actually a gift from Himmeler.

July 16: The journalist and MI5 informant George McMahon (c.1902-1970), née Jerome Bannigan of Cookstown, County Tyrone, attempted to assassinate Edward VIII as the king rode through Hyde Park, following the Colour ceremony. He claimed to have been recruited by the Italian embassy in London and that his attempts to warn MI5 and even the then home secretary were ignored.

August 9 (Sunday): Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow, was officially opened by Patrick McNamee, President of the Ulster Council of the GAA. It was named in the memory of Most Rev. Dr. Cullen, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, who died on 2 January 1936, honoured as “a great churchman, a true-hearted gael and a patriotic Irishman”. The attendance on opening day consisted of nearly all Carlow people. A message of apology for non-attendance was received from Éamon de Valera, President of Ireland, and also from the Minister for Education, Thomas Derrig, T.D.

August 11: Ribbentrop succeeds Konstantin von Neurath as German ambassador to London.


1936 Visitors Book


  • Henry Bramwell Aug 2nd – 5th
  • Philippa Bramwell ” “
  • Mabel Ussher Aug 8 – 11 [16]
  • Lancelot Ussher ” “
  • Maude J Butler Aug 10 – 12
  • Isabel Colvin Aug 9 – 15.




Bill graduated with a BA on 16 October 1936.[17]

On 5 August 1936, four days after Adolf Hitler launched the Olympic Games in Berlin, my 22-year-old grandfather sat at his desk in the plush Hotel Warwick, Newport, Virginia, and wrote a letter to his father. Curiously the letter was sent to “The Lord Rathdonnell”, c/o Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston, Mass” implying that his father was also in America at this time. [18] The letter essentially explained that his plane had arrived safely at Richmond having called in at Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington – “just like a bus!” He seems to have been staying with a family friend by name of Gerry or Gerard who was almost certainly Sumner Gerard Jr. MBE (1916–2005), later to serve as Nixon’s United States Ambassador to Jamaica (1974-1977). . As chance would have it, my friend Alex Blackwell went sailing with Ambassador Gerard in Jamaica in the late 1970s. [19] Bill writes:

Gerry extremely well and working as a stevedore or something in the shipbuilding yard ..he gets off on Friday midday and we are going down to Virginia Beach for the weekend, to the Cavalier Hotel if you want to write. He will come up on Wednesday and show me New York a bit and he then wants me to stay with some friends at Southampton, Long Island. After that we would go to Bar Harba (Maine). I think it sounds a good idea as he knows lots of people and can show me round properly. I shan’t see so much of America (though quite a lot) but I shall see it much closer and meet far more people of interest.” He complains that he was “pretty fed up with Henry when I got to New York and heard absolutely nothing – no message or anything and I think I am quite justified in handing him the [???] which I now intend to do”.

Again, I am not certain who Henry was. Perhaps a servant!? It can’t have been his cousin Henry McClintock Bunbury Bramwell because, according to the Lisnavagh – Drumcar Visitors Book, he and his new wife Philippa (née Carroll-Leahy) stayed with Tim from August 2nd –5th. At any rate, “I think I am quite justified in quitting on Henry”. [iii] Bill was never too far from tragedy. He had just learned of the death of his friend John Grafton in the papers. John, who had succeeded his grandfather as 9th Duke of Grafton in 1930, was a passionate motoring enthusiast. On 4 August 1936, the duke took part in the Limerick International Grand Prix. However, on the very first lap, tragedy struck when he crashed his Bugatti at the Roxborough Road Corner. The car burst into flames trapping John inside. Eventually dragged out by a marshal, the 22-year-old was rushed to hospital where he died later that day. “I am very sorry about it‘, wrote Bill, ‘but was always afraid something like that would happen eventually. We shall all miss him very much”.

A permit allowing Bill to drive was issued by the State of New York’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles on 14 August 1936. As my father observes, ‘I did not know he was there long enough to drive – always amusing that in those days with so few drivers there were no reciprocal arrangements!’ He sat his test at Sutton Place gave his address as 113 East 73rd Street, located in the Lenox Hill neighbourhood in Manhattan. [20] The permit came with the description that Bill was 5 foot 10 inches, blue eyed, brown haired and weighed 160lb (11.4 stone).

August 1936 was to prove a busy month in world affairs. While Hitler hosted the Olympics in Berlin, the Civil War continued to rage across Spain as General Franco gradually secured control. And presumably Bill was wont to wonder at the growing speculation in the American and continental press when Wallis Simpson joined the King and other guests for a cruise along the Yugoslav, Greek and Turkish coasts. For one thing, Wallis was simultaneously rumoured to be having an affair with Gerald Kildare’s father, the Duke of Leinster.




Cambridge 27-8-36 My dear Son, The University have given me a Certificate indicating clearly that you are qualified to be admitted to the B.A. Degree. This is now in the hands of the O.T.C. Colonel Murray returns on Monday and, now that I am here, I think I will wait and see him. I do not think it will do any good for I think the lists are already made up. I think you had better make up your mind that you will have to wait for the February nominations. I will have a shot at General Courage, but he is usually in Scotland at this time. This is all very annoying, for I am due at Lisnavagh on Tuesday when Langham is due for leave. No more now. I hope you are enjoying things. Your loving Dad




Bill Rathdonnell as a young officer.

Meanwhile, Tim Rathdonnell began to pull the necessary strings at the War Office for his only son to secure a nomination to an officer’s commission in the army the following month. My father believes Bill’s original notion of joining the Scots Greys came a cropper when the Greys stated he needed to provide three horses and pay £1000 a year to stay with them; the Hussars merely required one horse and £500 which was much more affordable. However, as Bill had failed to pay “certain monies due” to Cambridge, the College Office would not issue the necessary Certificate that would qualify him to proceed. With Bill in Maine, Tim journeyed to Cambridge on 23rd August to try and reason with the authorities but could find nobody of use, just a “lot of rubber-neck Americans ogling Kings; I caught the remark “My, isn’t that just too cute” – I wonder what the O.B. would have said”. The OB was presumably Tim’s late father, probably short for the ‘Old Boy’. By the 27th, he was starting to get fed up running around Cambridge looking for the relevant bodies to talk to. “This is all very annoying”, he wrote, “for I am due at Lisnavagh on Tuesday when Langham is due for leave”. Nonetheless he pledged to “have a shot at General Courage but he is usually in Scotland at this time. [21]

The next day, Tim wrote the promised letter. General Courage had been Colonel of the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars since November 1931. The regiment was formed in 1922 by an amalgamation of the “The Fighting 15th” (or the King’s Hussars) and the 19th (or the 1st Bengal European Light Calvary, raised in 1861, and nicknamed “The Dumpies”). In the ensuing fifteen years, the Hussars had been part of “an army at low ebb; an army disheartened by a policy of disarmament, hampered by parsimony and disregarded by the people in the revulsion against war which came with peace”. They were garrisoned in Egypt from 1924 to 1928 – “the normal peace-time life of training, reviews, polo, racing and sport”. In late 1928 they sailed to the North West Frontier in India where they remained, stationed at Risalpur, until 1934, doing their share of patrols and expeditions at a time when the frontier tribes were wont to “blaze into sporadic insurrection”. The regiment returned to England in 1934 and was stationed first at Shorncliffe and then, in early 1936, at Tidworth.

Tim explained his son’s case to the General, stating that the “hitch” was that Bill had been too ill to complete all his papers and that, as the University was then “in vacation”, it was difficult to secure the necessary papers to prove that the University had in fact awarded him a BA degree – “a sort of aegrotat”. [22] An Aegrotat means you receive credit for a course even though you have not been able to complete all the work required. Tim was particularly perturbed by the fact that if Bill’s name did not go forward for the September nominations, “my son … is going to lose six months seniority in the Army”. There was no mention of “certain monies due”. Three days later, Tim wrote to his son that the September nominations were now beyond their reach. He berated him for “missing the bus” and insisted he pay all his College and University fees as soon as possible, visit Colonel Murray and start seeking a nomination in November. He stated that these matters:

“… must take precedence of all other engagements whatsoever …Your inattention to essential matters during the last three months has caused an immensity of trouble and was on the way to jeopardizing your Army career”.

Tim was still in Cambridge and clearly very bored with the heat and “stiff-lipped” bureaucracy of his old college.

I came here to spend 2-3 days, but it takes 2-3 days to do 2-3 hours work and I have now been here 11 days in a heat wave. Everything is closed now and were it not for the rubber-necks, the place would be dead. The shops have sold off all their wares and not yet got the new ones; the shop keepers stand at their doors and cast jests across the street at each other. I have tried to buy a suitable shirt but failed; Bodger offered to make one for me but when I asked him How Long? he said ten days! All the dons are on leave; when I went to the University for that Certificate, it took three days to find a don to sign it. No, I have not enjoyed myself. All best love, Son, look after yourself”.

A week later, Tim was back at Lisnavagh, watching the hay come in and the silage pile up at the bottom of Kinsella’s Hill.

None of the corn has been brought in yet and until some threshing can be done there are no oats or straw: all the carefully made reserves have been used up. It has been a bad summer, like 1930. Good job there were reserves to use [but] the worst of building up reserves is that people think there is any amount to waste”.

Bill was meanwhile voyaging around the Great Lakes of America, staying at Sault. The Ards TT Race at Newtonards brought back memories of John Grafton’s death when “a [Riley] car got into a skid and charged the spectators”, killing eight and injuring 40 others. It was to be the last TT Race at Newtonards. Tim Rathdonnell was clearly anticipating his son’s return soon:

“I told Dowdall to get The Scut in and cleaned up for you to ride when you come, but he is only grass fed: there are no oats until threshing can be done. Anyhow, if you do not want him, he can be turned out again”. [23]



Bill began to make preparations for his return across the Atlantic in early September. He appears to have been in Long Island at this time, perhaps staying with the American lawyer Amos Pinchot. [24] He also seems to have been with Pinchot at 101 Park Ave when a letter arrived for him circa 24 September. It had been sent by his father a month earlier, when he was staying in Boston, and had followed him to Long Island before reaching him at the Pinchots. He had also befriended Henry and Byba Coster. (Charles) Henry Coster, a veteran of the Great War and a classics scholar, was the son of an early partner of financier J. P. Morgan and grew up in Tuxedo Park. (Sumner Gerard, aka “Gerry”, was a family member.) He was also honorary U.S. consul in Florence, the home city of his Italian wife Vincenza Giuliani (1889-1987), aka Byba. She came from a cosmopolitan Florentine family with connections in Calabria and in Germany.

‘Her maternal grandfather was Philip Schwarzenberg from Brunswick, who came to Florence on account of his liberal tendencies and bought the former Augustinian convent on the Costa Scarpuccia on the steep slope between the Arno and the Pitti Palace gardens, near the Ponte Vecchio.’ [25] The Costers divided their time between their farm at Meadowburn in Warwick (New York), New York City and their villa in Florence. At Meadowburn, Henry Coster experimented with sheep and some on-farm meat production but for the most part the farm continued to be managed by tenant farmers. In 1975 Henry and Byba Coster gave the farm to their nephew, and Henry’s namesake, C. H. Coster Gerard and his young family. [26] I am assuming it was September 1936 when Byba wrote to William as follows:

Meadowburn Farm, Warwick, New York Sept
Dear William I got your letter last night and Henry who, strangely enough, has a very weak spot for you insisted on sending you the maddest telegram. I say “strangely enough” not as an insult but because I don’t think two more different people than you and my husband but then this kind of thing happens all the time. From all the exclamations and dots on the i’s you may gather that I have become a full fledged American, by the way I must say it’s jolly quick of you to have discovered after only a few weeks stay here that there is a lot to be said for God’s own country after all…… But this subject would carry us too far and I would like to find a more practical means than the ones suggested by Henry to see you before you sail through. Of course, the best would be if you put off your sailing for a week. The unfortunate part is that we are probably going to Long Island to the Derbys [aka Ethel Roosevelt, ed. [27]] (whom you met in Florence) for lunch next Tuesday the 22nd (their telephone number is Oyster Bay 81) We shall be spending the night and the following day at Glen Cove 2324 And I shall be back in New York the night of the 23rd. If the Queen Mary sails at midnight we might all have a grand send-off party that evening? But better change the date of your sailing as H. suggests. Anyway The most practical thing is that as soon as you get to NY you call up my club, the Cosmopolitan [Regent?] 4–5950 and leave a message there where I can reach you so that if I see a possibility of meeting you I know where you are and can telephone you.
Yours sincerely Byba Coster
PS I am fairly bursting with stories and giggles!



While Bill pondered whether to stay or go, his father was held hostage at Lisnavagh while John Langham was on leave until the 17 September but had hopes to be in the south of England by the 20th. He suggested meeting his son off the “Queen Mary” at Southampton on the 28th. That said, he was by no means pushy, adding that:

“I am not tied to dates and you may have other plans for your arrival. I have some business in Southampton but that is not dependent on your movements. Carry on, Son. But please let me know”.

Life at Lisnavagh had not been so easy.

It has been blowing a gale here for 24 hours with slashing showers. I think of the unfortunate harvest. I see no chance of building up another reserve this year. I was in the garden yesterday without coat or hat and got drenched. Some bug got washed down from the heavens and on the way bit me in my back hair – kind of horse-fly bite; nothing serious, but annoying to have the back of one’s neck getting in the way of one’s collar”.

Perhaps he sensed that his son’s imminent return would put an end to the correspondence between them. At any rate he concluded his last letter rather sweetly thus:

Good luck and good traveling to you, Son. Thank you so much for all the letters which you have sent; they have been most refreshing to me; they have been more than that, Son, they have kept me in touch with your ideas of a world which has changed and which will go on changing. All best love, Son, from …”.



However, a sense of panic resumed the following week when Tim evidently got wind from General Courage that his son could not possibly be considered for the Army until a proper degree was conferred by Cambridge. On Wednesday 16 September, he telegrammed Bill, staying at Sol’s Cliff in Bar Harbor, Maine, that the “matter now rests entirely with you … everything possible done this side”. The following day, Tim received an encouraging letter from General Courage, sent from Golden Cross House in Charing Cross. The General apologized for not replying sooner but explained he had been on a cruise for the previous three weeks.

“I am so sorry there was a hitch over your boy’s Degree and I look forward to getting him a Commission in my Regiment after October”.

Better still, “I should not worry unduly about your boy having lost six months seniority, as I do not think it will affect his future”. Tim was delighted with the news. The General had meanwhile written a similar letter to Bill in which he counselled him to “let me know” when the Degree was conferred “and find out from Colonel Murray that he has definitely forwarded your name to the Military Secretary and then I will take up the matter at once and get you gazetted”. Tim was still not convinced.

On Tuesday 22 September he wrote to his son, explaining that he “badly” wanted to see him about “your Army affairs”. He said he would be staying at The Dolphin Hotel in Southampton and advised Bill to make his way directly there once he had disembarked. He figured his son would probably try and escape to go on the razz in London and advised that “there are frequent fast trains [to London] from Southampton” although he personally did not wish to go there “unless obliged”. He stressed that his being in Southampton was merely coincidental. “I have important business, unconnected with you … it concerns Miss. Hewitt and must be transacted”. He further offers his “love, or regards or compliments, whichever you think most proper to deliver” to a “Miss. Brickenden” (see below) and to Gerard”.




Meanwhile, a new matter had arrived on Tim’s desk at Lisnavagh. It concerned a young lady called Pamela Drew, eldest daughter of John Malcolm Drew of Alexander Drew & Sons, calico printers, of Eversley, Milnthorpe, Westmorland. And one banjaxed Rolls Royce. The matter had first arisen in August when Tim received a letter from David Scott Moncrieff, owner of the Esher Garage on the Portsmouth Road in Surrey. Known by his friends as “Bunty”, Scott-Moncrieff described himself as “a purveyor of horseless carriages to the nobility and gentry since 1927”. He specialized in Mercedes, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Alfa-Romeo, Lagonda and Fiat. [28] From Bunty’s letter to Tim Rathdonnell, dated 17 August 1936, it would seem that Tim had lent his Rolls Royce to “Miss. Drew”, his only son’s girlfriend, and that she had returned it “with all four wings wiped, the luggage grid bent and the spare wheel bracket attacked”. The garage had done their best to repair the vehicle and a bill for £8-15-0 was already whittling its way to young “Mr. Bunbury”. Pleading ignorance as to the origins of these injuries, Tim wrote back to Scott-Moncrieff that he would personally foot the bill – his son being in America – but not until he knew more about “the place and nature of the mishap”. He had certainly heard nothing at all from either his son or Miss. Drew. Bunty replied that the Baron had dropped the Rolls off at his garage shortly before he left for America, asking him to sell it and get a new one “with front wheel breaks”. Bunty then tracked down “Miss. Drew” and the result was this amusing letter, written to the 3rd Lord Rathdonnell on Tuesday 22 September 1936, just over a year before Bill and Pamela’s engagement was announced.

Dear Lord Rathdonnell,

I have now heard from Miss. Drew. Apparently both she and William drove the car after it came out of the Coachbuilders. William didn’t hit anything, but she seems to have scored four wings and a luggage carrier in three hits.

At the traffic round-about opposite Victoria station an omnibus stopped suddenly on the corner without warning and she ran into the back of it.

Oxford Street was very slippery from a thunder shower. Miss. Drew was coming westwards from king’s Cross and a taxi skidded in front of her; as you know the Rolls only has back wheel brakes and in the ensuing skid quite a lot more damage got done.

Of all the cars in London to back into she chose mine. However luckily it was only the works hack and did not suffer much, but the Rolls got a bit dented.

I hope these details are sufficient.

Yours sincerely,

David Scott-Moncreiff

So between this and Bill’s uncertain army career, Tim certainly had much to stress about. However, I do not know if the Southampton meeting ever took place or what happened next! There are a stack more letters which I have yet to transcribe and these may yield more on the matter!




Gerald and Joane Kildare at the 1000 Guineas at the Curragh, 1937.

On Saturday 17 October 1936, Tim Rathdonnell was among those who gathered at Borris House in Co. Carlow to attend the wedding of Major Arthur McMurrough Kavanagh’s daughter Joane to the Marquess of Kildare. [29] Bill was unable to make the wedding, being “at present [still?] abroad, overseas”. It was a shame he could not make the wedding. The Marquess – Gerald FitzGerald, later 8th Duke of Leinster – was a friend and exact contemporary.

Gerald was born in May 1914 and Bill in November, both in London. Gerald’s father was the notorious spendthrift Duke of Leinster who lost the Carton estate. He was also apparently engaged in an affair with Wallis Simpson at the time of his son’s marriage. He had separated from Gerald’s mother shortly after his birth; Gerald was raised by a great-aunt, Lady Maurice Fitzgerald, at Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford, as well as his aunts and uncles at Kilkea. It was at this wedding that Sir Harry Mallaby-Deeley, the man who secured the Carton estate after the 8th Duke’s bankruptcy, gifted the newlyweds the historical FitzGerald castle of Kilkea near Castledermot as a wedding present.

On 20 October 1936, three days after Gerald and Joane’s wedding, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin confronted King Edward VIII for the first time over his relationship with Mrs Simpson. (The king once claimed the Gerald’s uncle Lord Desmond FitzGerald was his best friend). Baldwin asked the king to conduct his affair more discreetly and to persuade her to put off her impending divorce proceedings against her husband. Baldwin’s request was to no avail and a divorce was granted.

On 11 November 1936, Oscar Traynor was appointed to de Valera’s Cabinet as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

On Thursday 17 December 1936, William attended the wedding of his cousin Ruth Greenwall to William Colquhoun.

Bill Rathdonnell’s Aviator’s Certificate, 1936


Bill was granted an Aviator’s Certificate (British Empire) from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on 5 November 1936. It was signed by the brewer Sir Lindsay Everard (aka W.L. Everard), who was chairman of the Royal Aero Club in Piccadilly, and Harold Perrin, the secretary. My cousin Jacqui has a letter from Pamela, our grandmother, suggesting that her first date with Bill was in a Tiger Moth airplane. Written on 18th February 1986, this was in response to a card Jacqui had sent her with a plane on it. As Jacqui says, “Deciphering granny’s writing was an acquired skill: but she kindly transcribed the relevant section:

“Thanks a million for the lovely card, it is a beautiful painting – how I wish I could be flying in those lovely aeeryoplanes. The first one I ever flew in had two wings like that. It was a Tiger Moths & the pilot!?? He was your grandfather, your Mammy’s Papa. 1936 it was – Cambridge (I was his girlfriend at the time, Whoopee). He was a very cosy man, but I think his worries at Lisnavagh killed him- but that was my first wonderful flight & your lovely card reminds me. Thank you so much”

[Jacqui adds: ‘So, he was indeed a pilot and flew at least one flight! Given Granny’s love of aeroplanes, wasn’t it lovely that he was the pilot on her first flight that she remembered so fondly. Something tells me this was their first date? Doesn’t say so in the letter but that may have been gleaned in conversation with her. She included a sketch of a Tiger Moth which I framed in a lovely ‘Habitat’ clip frame (all the rage at the time) but haven’t come across it – perhaps it’s long gone!’]

A wooden biplane participates in the 1937 airshow at Ballybar, Tinryland, near Carlow. Did Pamela attend!?



Major Hugh Massy, see his story here.

In The Times of Saturday 30 January 1937, the official appointments and notices of the previous days’ London Gazette were listed. Only two men appeared under the heading of “Cavalry” as having secured appointments as Second Lieutenant from the Territorial Army – the Hon. W. R. McClintock Bunbury (15th / 19th Hussars) and HC Massy (4th / 7th Dragoon Guards). He was at the Fulford Cavalry Barracks in York when he received a typed letter from his American friend Sumner Gerard, aka Gerry, a cousin of Byba Coster, who was studying at Cambridge at this time:

February 7, 1937 Trinity College, Cambridge.
Dear Billy,
Please forgive this bloody typewriting, but I can write a good deal faster and more legibly on the thing, which is a good thing as there appears to be a lot to say. Thanks for your letter of a few days ago. I was beginning to wonder whether you were going to answer me at all, or perhaps you didn’t notice the letter in which your definitely belated letters were wrapped. In any case, what the sweet hell, as we say in America, voila!, as they say in France. The little Bleeder has been in here for the first time I have laid eyes upon him for some time. He seems to be in good form, and, although nearly bald, looks as though he were already having his visiting cards somewhat lopsided the more easily to have K.C. printed off to his name. We discussed among other things YEW! and we decided that the situation was definitely NOT under control. When I read your letter, I decided myself that the tone of it was not what it alter to have been – full of joi de vivre, The bubbling of merry laughter against a background fraught with the popping of champagne corks. In fact, seriously, I was worried, so I hope you will forgive me if I speak somewhat frankly and perhaps say things in a slightly blunt way. Anyway, you can’t throw anything at me from York. First, let me state definitely that I think it would be a very great shame if you left the army at any rate before another year is out. I appreciate that you consider it your duty to look after your father and be as good to him as you possibly can, but I do not see that you’re leaving the army will help matters along that line any. You say that you are afraid that he will peg out if something isn’t done, but I fail to see what you can do. I hardly think that you’re being around will make him give up smoking and take to Barley water. In any case I have a suspicion that he literally thrives on a diet of whiskey and Turkish tobacco, and I cannot believe that he would want you to give up your career to make him more contented during his last years. The main reason why you want to leave the army, I suspect, is that you want to get married. Now you know that I am against that on principle. However, if you must, from the very little I have seen of Pamela (one day at Newmarket, if you remember, through a slight haze of champagne) I should think that she would suit you very well. Obviously, since it is the way of women, she wants to get married, and in this case all the advantage seems to be on her side of the fence, but for heavens’ don’t let her run you into it unless you are absolutely sure you want to. I don’t really know anything about the situation, but as far as I can see my heavy uncle advice would be for you to let the thing run another year if you possibly can, and then you would be asked to be certain. If you must, do it with gusto and may the Lord and all His little Angels be on your side. Here endeth the first lesson. Life here is pretty terrible. I haven’t done a days hunting or been up in a flying machine this term, and I don’t think I shall be able to stand the present state of affairs much longer. Massey was down here for a few days, covered with brass buttons and a pink coat and smelling strongly of horse dung. It was about the only relieving feature I have seen around. I haven’t got many friends around, except the American gang and the Eddie Rothchild, Bill How bunch, neither of which groups inspire one greatly. Since I can’t have a car, I can’t do much. I go down to London once a week to see my lady which is fun, but the rest of the week is Goddam boring. Went down to Oxford to see my little friend Douglas Berry ride in a point-to-point or grind and saw the beautiful Renee, and I am doing the same again this Saturday. Beyond that nothing. It’s terrible this sitting around trying not to run up bills. Whatthesweethell? This vacation, which begins on the 14th of March I am making my friend Richard Danielson drive me down to Florence. From there we may go on to Egypt for eight few days if the money holds out, but I don’t think it will. I hope maybe that I will have a chance to go over to Ireland and see Kitty Blackett [30] for a day or two but for going to Italy. She is going to Wexford or somewhere to fish, but I am not sure whether not I’ll be able to fit it in, or whether the finances will allow it. Buggeritall, here I have a father and and uncle both as rich as Croesus and I don’t hardly have enough to go to the movies in the ninepenny seats let alone pay for a days hunting. However, I don’t suppose I should kick, since I’ve got a bed to sleep in and enough to eat. I got a letter from Byba, wanting to know whether we were both coming to Florence. Apparently the good Christina has been asking after you, and the rest of the girls about us both. I suppose, however, you won’t be able to make it, though if by any wild chance you can, let me know. I think that about covers the news.
Please forgive it for being so tardy.
Write soon. I remain, sir, Yours, etc., Gerry


Bill’s correspondence includes an absentee slip from 12 March 1937, and another from York on 24 March 1937 ‘B’ Squadron, signed by Sgt W Griffiths, Orderly Sergeant.

To: The Hon W.R McClintock Bunbury, Lisnavagh Postage stamp marked 21 April 1937 Castle Ward Downpatrick Ireland Wednesday Dear William, I’m just going back to Oak Park today – if you’re coming over for Punchestown, come & have a drink on Monday evening or after the races. Henry & wife will be here & a few other people. Ys, Patricia

May 12 marked the coronation of George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon as King and Queen of the United Kingdom at Westminster Abbey, London. A statue of George II in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, was simultaneously destroyed, and the Royal Coat of Arms symbol was blown from a building at Exchange Court. A poem entitled ‘Victoria’ appeared in the Wolfe Tone Weekly, advocating the bombing of the Queen Victoria at Leinster House. On Friday 4 June 1937, William attended a regimental dinner for the King’s Hussars at the Cavalry Club. The previous day, Edward and Wallis Simpson were married in France; Wallis was now the Duchess of Windsor.




ABSENCE OF CRIME IN CARLOW. Judge presented with White Gloves. At Carlow Circuit Court on Tuesday Mr Fitzgerald, County Register, said he had great pleasure in presenting His Lordship, Judge Sealy, with white gloves as a token of the crimeless state of the County of Carlow. His Lordship said he was very pleased to receive the presentation and he congratulated the people of Carlow on the fact that there was no criminal business to go before him. Carlow, he said, was a very well-behaved County, and it very often happened that there was no criminal business. He had some doubt about the continuance of this practice of presenting white gloves. In the old days, this pleasure fell on the Sheriff of the County who had a lucrative office, but that office had been abolished, and they had transferred the honour to the County Register, but none of the fees. As the Minister for Justice had refused to pay the expenses of presenting white gloves, His Lordship said that in the circumstances the County Register had his permission to discontinue the practice in future. (Nationalist and Leinster Times, June,1937. With thanks to Michael Purcell). On 1 July 1937, a national plebiscite resulted in 56.5% of voters in favour of repealing and replacing the Constitution of the Irish Free State with the Constitution of Ireland. 43.48% of voters, or 526,945 people, were not in favour. On 27 August 1937, the first traffic lights in the Free State were installed at the junction of Merrion Square and Clare Street in Dublin. My father believes the Dutch Barn at Lisnavagh was erected in about 1937 by Graves of Waterford; my father added all the concrete there in 1965.



Samuel Beckett

On 3 July 1937, Irish playwright Samuel Beckett wrote a letter in which he said he had been:

“… offered a job as an agent to an estate (Lord Rathdowne’s?) near Carlow. £300 & a free house. I passed it on to Percy but he turned it down on the ground that Beverley would whip in a young wife the moment his back was turned. I thought it would have suited him exactly.” [31]

The editor of these letters points out that the Rathdowne estate belonged to Viscount Chetwynd, one of whom died in 1936, but it was in Dublin. As such, the editor said ‘the Rathdonnell estate in Co Carlow came closer to the description’, particularly as the then Lord Rathdonnell allegedly lived in England at this time.

Lisnavagh had the same manager from 1930 to 1951 but the editor suggested Beckett might have been offered a job running a smaller property nearby, curiously suggesting Oak Park.



The Rolls-Royce which stood at Lisnavagh from 1937 to c. 1961. It was up for grabs in February 2018 for £40-50,000. See here.

In May 1937, Bill – then apparently serving with the 15/19 Hussars in York – bought a 1929 Rolls-Royce 20hp Barker Two Door Coupe. This motorcar with the registration GFN10 had originally been ordered by Albert Donn, an Eastbourne property developer, and was registered in the name of his wife Ethel Donn at their London address of Northgate Mansions, Regent’s Park. [32]

By 1936, the car was with Arthur Isaac Phillips of Tunbridge Wells but, according to research by the team at, by early 1937 the car is shown on the chassis card as being with Frederick Alfred Gatty of the Overwater Hall estate which he purchased in 1929. Mr Gatty made his fortune through the development of Khaki dye which the Army adopted; upon his death in 1951 the estate and contents were auctioned off; the contents numbered over 2,000 items, including 12 bottles of 1878 Vintage Cognac, two cannons and a chair carved from the timbers of HMS Foudroyant, Nelson’s sometime flagship.

Mr Gatty only had the Rolls a short time before it was bought by the Hon W. R. McClintock-Bunbury, aka Bill Rathdonnell. GFN10 remained with the Rathdonnells until after the death of the 4th Baron in 1959. Car historian Brendan McCoy writes: ‘Though very expensive they were quite popular as they were well engineered, reliable, pleasant to drive and fast. See here for more on them. The chassis and engine were usually bought from Rolls Royce and the body built separately to the owners’ requirements by a coachbuilder, Barkers, in this case where it’s of a style known as a Doctor’s or Sportsman’s Coupe. It was a market niche that Bentley took over later in the 30s to the 50s and an Aston Martin would probably be the equivalent in our time.’

Brendan also notes that the car has grille badges for both the RIAC and the RAC as well as what looks to be a 1940s tax disc. ‘They were always desirable and collectable but, then as now, the road tax here was savage compared to the UK so I guess that’s why it was sold back there when your grandfather passed away.’ [33] By 1964 the little 20hp had moved to Woodbridge, Ontario (hometown of Elizabeth Arden) and was with D. McColl until 2004. In December 2013, the car returned to the UK and was offered for £39,500 via the Real Car Company in North Wales. The car was sold in 2014 and then reacquired by the Real Car Company later the same year and sold to its current owner in 2015. It was up for grabs again in February 2018 for £40-50,000.

In May 2006, Edward Byrne presented Emily with a bathtub plunger as a gift for the late Lord Rathdonnell’s generosity over fifty years earlier when he drove Mr Byrne’s father to hospital in the Rolls! My father – Bill’s son Ben – remembers learning to drive in GFN10 – which was slightly awkward but not as bad as the Alvis he had at Dartmouth which had!




Pamela Drew painting a train.

To: The Hon W.R McClintock Bunbury, Roundhay Park, Leeds (forwarded on from the Cavalry Barracks, York)
Initially sent from Eire, date unclear, York forwarding stamp marked 26 June 1937
Sent from Henry C Roper on Reeves & Sons headed paper, with address at 51 Merrion Square East Dublin 25 June 1937
Dear Mr Bunbury,
Your Father called on me yesterday, and told me about your engagement to Miss Pamela Drew, and gave me the name of the Solicitors in Manchester who would presumably act for Miss Drew in connection with any Marriage Settlement. Your Father wrote to me before the interview to look into the matter. I have looked up the matter, and the income which is at present received from the property and funds comprised in the Resettlement of 1902 which includes the income which your Father released in your favour by the Deed of 22nd March 1935.
I see that the total income from the rents still payable out of the unsold property, and from the investments representing the portions which have been sold, including the Land Bonds, amounts to £4100. per annum gross. Of this income your Father released in your favour by the Deed of March 1935, £2382 gross leaving him in receipt of an income of about £1713 gross from the trust property, but of this income I see that your Father has been allowing you to receive about £140 gross, being the interest on a sum of £4000, 3½ % War Loan, though he us under no legal obligation to give you this income. The lands in hands which are also comprised in the Resettlement of 1902 are the Lisnavagh Mansion House and pleasure grounds, the Lisnavagh and Ballybit farm lands. Your Father released his life interest in the farm lands in your favour by the Deed of 22nd March 1935, retaining only the Lisnavagh Mansion House and some pleasure grounds. You are aware, of course, that a substantial sum is required for the upkeep of the place. As far as I know, your private income consists, in addition to any pay you get, of (a) the rents you receive from Great Wadd which your Father gave up in your favour some years ago, (b) a sum of £144.16.2 gross, being the interest on the Land Bonds which your Father also gave to you and (c) some sum which you receive annually from your moiety of the Belfast property. You have power to charge the settled property, subject and without prejudice to your Father’s life interest in the income of the property which he has not released in your favour, with a jointure not exceeding £1200 for any wife you may marry in case she survived you. I see that when I write my letter to you of 5th November last, I fell into an error in thinking that in addition to charging the jointure you had power to charge portions for any younger children you might have. The original Instructions I sent to Counsel in 1926 were to this effect, but after the matter had been carefully considered by your Grandfather and your Father, it was decided that the property, having regard to the claims for Death Duties which must arise on your Grandfather’s death, would not justify any further charges for younger children being out thereon. In considering Settlements like the present it is always well to bear in mind that your eldest son who must succeed to the title and to Lisnavagh must, if possible, be left with sufficient income from the trust estate to enable him to carry on. On your Father’s death, you will become entitled to the income which he at present receives from the trust estate, viz.. £1730.1.10, so in considering the jointure, I think you might take the figure of £4100 which I mentioned as being the approximate income, but you must bear in mind that the upkeep expenses are very heavy, and that there will be further Duties payable on your Father’s death with regard to portions of the Estate, and the payment of such Duties will, of course, reduce your income. I suggest for your consideration – (1) That you should by a Deed to be executed prior to your marriage, appoint to your intended wife, in case she survives you, a jointure of £500 a year, to be increased on your Father’s death to £800 a year. (2) That you should consider insuring your life for say a sum of £5000 which would help towards the Duties which might become payable on your death. I would not, however, advise you to settle such Policy, or indeed to settle any of your own private income, but if your intended wife were prepared to bring into the Settlement a substantial part of the property to which she is now or will become absolutely entitled, then you might consider whether you would settle Land Bonds which your Father have you and the Great Wadd property which I understand is let. (3) Would you like me, when writing to Messrs. Cobbett, Wheeler & Cobbett who are acting for Miss Drew, to enquire whether it is proposed that she should bring into settlement any part of her fortune. I am sending you a copy of this letter to your Father, as he mentioned that no doubt you would be writing to him about the matter, and he would know what I had recommended. Yours sincerely, Henry C Roper PS. Some years ago your Father released his life interest in your favour in a sum of £4000. 3½% War Loan. This War Loan was subsequently sold, and the proceeds invested in Land Bonds, and the income therefrom is included in the sum of £2383 referred to on page 1 hereof. HCR.

William’s reply was as follows:

1st July 1937 Dear Mr Roper, I have discussed with my father the question of a jointure for my future wife, which we talked about last Tuesday. He entirely agrees with the proposal that the jointure should be £500, to be increased to £800 on my father’s death, and to be put up to the maximum of £1200 should she be required to leave Lisnavagh against her will. As to the fortune which she may bring with her, you will have to get the information from Mr Cobbett, as I know very little. I think it is an excellent suggestion of yours that you go to Manchester to see them. If, while you are there you want to see me for any reason, I could possibly meet you there. My life, I find, is only insured for £1000 at present, but I am in communication with the insurance company at present with a view to increasing this to £5000 as you suggest. Yours sincerely,




Dinny Brickenden, 1948.

In the summer of 1937, Bill received this letter from a girl whom I believe he had met in America.

Tolmers Highouse [?] [Hertford] July 21 / [19]37

Dear Applebaum,

I’m most certainly going to Ireland for the show! I’ll be staying with a second cousin one Dr. Long, Tivoli House Tivoli Terrace (South) Kingston, I.F.S. (Ph = Dun Laoghaire 345)

Thanks for ‘gram’ – wondered sorta if you were still in existence – I’m sailing on the nightboat for Kingston (don’t know where its from yet) getting in at the scandalous hour of 7:30 or so, morning of Aug 2nd, – am staying until Aug 8th when I hop up to Belfast to get a tug homeward bound!

Am running around in semi-**s trying to fit in everything before I sail for Ireland – farewell parties are swell fun – but not as a nightly diet – thank my lively grasshoppers that I finished all my exams a couple of terms ago – I’ve only been at school for the odd tennis match – gymcarna [sic] or driving display.

Have given up smoking as a bad job – “smoke gets in your eyes” – I still can’t drink rye without looking even unyei [??] !

So long pal – I’ll be seein’ you – are you sailing about the 1st or 2nd? If so where from? (or can’t you have any fun on the Irish Sea?!)



Kizzie Brickenden who Bill stayed with in 1936.

The letter-writer was Dorinda (or “Dinnie”) Brickenden, the 16-year-old daughter of George (Arthur Porte) and Catharine Keziah McCormick Brickenden. Better known as Kizzie Brickenden, Dinnie’s Ontario-born mother was the granddaughter of wealthy biscuit maker Thomas McCormick. As a visionary theatre producer, playwright, director, actress, entrepreneur, and co-founder of London Little Theatre, Kizzie became known as “the Grand Dame of the Grand Theatre” during the 1920s. She modelled much of her work on The Abbey Theatre in Dublin. She also wrote ‘A Pig in a Poke’, which was produced on the Grand Theatre stage in 1950 and starred Nonie Jeffery. Dinnie’s father was Judge George A. Brickenden. Born in 1920, Dinnie was raised in London, Ontario. At 16, she went to train horses at the 1936 Olympics in Germany where, as she recalled, “Hitler made his terrible speech and that afternoon Jesse Owens won and we all cheered, and I thought, I will never forget this.”

In August 2005, I established contact with the late London theatre critic Chris Doty (1966-2006), co-founder of the Brickenden Awards for Theatrical Elegance, who had written an appraisal of Kizzie’s life to see what he knew. He subsequently spoke with Dinnie (now Mrs. Dorinda Hall-Holland Fuller Greenway and based in Hertfordshire) who confirmed that she had met Bill while at boarding school in Yorkshire in 1936 and that, at her invitation, he had come to stay on the Brickenden estate, Dorindale, for the Summer. One of the most famous names in Pony Club camp circles in Canada, she has been riding to hounds all her life, achieving her colours with the London (Ontario) Hunt at the age of eight. Chris added: “Like her mother, she [Dinny] is a very accomplished equestrian and still rides at breakneck speeds at the age of 85”. She co-founded the London Pony Club in February 1948, shortly before winning the first modern-day show jumping competition at Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair in 1949. She was an active member on committees of the Western Fair, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair as well as Canadian and international equestrian federations and teams. She was inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame in November 2017. For more, see the Brickenden Awards.



The Irish Press, 1st October 1937.

On Tuesday 28 September 1937, two starkly contrasting events took place. I was astonished when I first espied this unhappy coincidence in about 2010. Perhaps the sorrow was so unbearable that people felt compelled to say nothing on the subject and move on. Firstly, an announcement appeared in The Times stating that Bill and Pamela Drew were to be married. [34] Their proposed marriage had been a source of great concern to Tim who, while approving of Pamela no end, felt his son was far too young to engage in such a union.

I have a number of fascinating letters relating to this period that I will endeavour to transcribe soon. Bill is defiant throughout, his father patient and wise. However, rather shockingly, Tim Rathdonnell died on the very same day his sons’ engagement was announced in The Times. He was 57 years old. It is not clear why he died so young, although my father – his grandson – says he was in poor health in later years and the wheelchair in the library at Lisnavagh was most probably for his use, as opposed to his own father before him. No doubt his wartime experiences did not help but he also smoked heavily and was fond of a drink. He was cremated at Liverpool in a private ceremony and his ashes were then transferred to be with his late wife at Brookwood, outside London. The Times carried a short obituary to him two days later. His story is told here.

The Tatler – 3 November 1937

21 October 1937: (Sir) Tom Butler of Ballintemple, a recent graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, married Rosemary Davidson-Houston of Pembury Hall, daughter of Major James Davidson-Houston. On that same day, Clodagh Kennedy, a daughter of Cub Kennedy of Bishopscourt, married Robert Jocelyn, 9th Earl of Roden.

6 November 1937: Birth of Lady Pamela FitzGerald, first-born child of Gerald and Joane Kildare.

William McClintock Bunbury, 4th Baron Rathdonnell, weds Pamela Drew in Heversham in the English Lake District.



Tim’s death must have come at a hugely inconvenient time for Bill who now became the 4th Lord Rathdonnell. The marriage to Pamela went ahead on 25th November – just two days after Bill’s 23rd birthday and three days after Bill finally secured his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 15th / 19th King’s Royal Hussars. The Rev ER Ellis was also involved in the service. Pamela sported “a greenish-grey check tailor-made suit with a felt hat and jumper to tone”. The best man was Hugh Caruthers Massy of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards. After Bill’s death in 1959, Hugh Massy would go on to marry Pamela and became known to the family as “The Major”. As my father says, “I am unsure what plans they may originally have had but all was considerably changed by the death of Tim, my grandfather. Weddings in general and honeymoons were much less spectacular then.”

On account of Tim’s death, there was no reception afterwards. On Saturday 27 November 1937 the Burnley Express published the story of Bill and Pamela’s wedding alongside Bassano’s photographs of the newlyweds, beneath the heading ‘LORD RATHDONNELL’S LOCAL BRIDE’. The story ran:

‘A fashionable wedding of interest to local people took place last Thursday in Heversham Parish Church, Westmorland, when Miss Pamela Drew of Aversely, Milnthorpe, was married to William Robert McClintock Bunbury, Baron Rathdonnell, of Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, Ireland. The bride is the eldest daughter of the late Mr John M Drew and of Mrs Drew of Eversley. Her father was a director of Alexander Drew and Sons, Lowerhouse Print works, was the eldest son of the late Mr Dan Drew who lived at Lowerhouse. Her mother was the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs Peart Robinson of Reedley Hall, where Miss Pamela was born.

The bridegroom is the only son of the late Lord Rathdonnell and the late Mrs McClintock Bunbury.

The ceremony was performed by the Rt Rev the Bishop of Ossory, assisted by the Ven the Archdeacon of Furness, the Rev Canon Royds. The church was beautifully decorated with chrysanthemums and evergreens.

The bride, who was given away by her brother, Mr. Anthony Drew, wore a gown of parchment-coloured velvet with long, tight-fitting sleeves, and train cut in one with the dress.

Her veil of tulle was edged with antique Brussels lace lent by the bride’s grandmother, and was held in place by a small wreath of orange blossom. Her bouquet was of Christmas roses, freesias and myrtle.

She was attended by her sister Miss Diana Drew who wore a coat-shaped dress of maize-coloured-velveteen piped with red and had a small red cap to match the piping.

Mr H C. Massy, of the 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards acted as best man.

The bride’s mother wore a black woollen and fur coat over a black suit and toque to tone.

Owing to mourning in the bridegroom’s family, no reception was held after the ceremony.

Many local residents, relatives and friends of the bride attended the wedding, amongst those who accepted invitation being: Mrs and the Rev. E. R. Ellis, Mrs John M Drew, Miss Diana Drew. Miss Hermione Drew. Mr. Anthony R. Drew, Mr Esmond Peart Robinson, Mr. Aubyn Peart Robinson, Captain and Mrs G. W. Sherston, Captain and Mrs. A. Milburn, Mr. and Mrs Edward Drew, Mr Alexander Drew, Mr Gordon Drew, Mrs John Robinson, Mrs Hay, Miss Lorna Drew, Mrs Donald Beith, Miss Julia Beith, Mr J. S . Drew, Colonel and Mrs Occlestone, Major and Mrs Birtwistle, Mr Peter Birtwistle, Mrs Bolton, Miss Bolton, Mr George Bolton, Mr and Mrs Douglas Sloan, Mrs Robinson.

The honeymoon is being spent in Manchester, the bride travelling in a greenish-grey check tailor-made ensemble with felt hat and jumper to tone. Their future residence will be the bridegroom’s family home, Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, Ireland. The bride has been a prominent follower of hounds, and amongst the many gifts received were a hunting crop from the indoor and outdoor staff at Eversley, a hunting crop from the Windermere Harriers” Hunt Ball committee, and a sporting picture from the Oxenholme Staghounds. While in Manchester Lord and Lady Rathdonnell are attending the races at Castle Irwell.’

To this the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (Friday 26 November 1937) added: “Miss Drew is one of the best known sportswomen in Westmorland. She hunted regularly with several packs of hounds, was a member the Royal Windermere Yacht Club, an artist of ability, and a prominent Girl Guide.” As for her wedding dress, “She also wore an antique necklace of mother of pearl and seed pearls in a vine leaf design.’ On 23 November 1937, Pamela gave Bill a copy of Brown Jack by R.C. Lyle. Brown Jack was a legendary stayer who dominated staying races around 1930. Originally trained to run over hurdles he was good enough to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. After this he was switched with dramatic effect to run on the level. His forte was the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot. It was run over two and three quarter miles and was therefore the supreme test of stamina for a horse. Brown Jack made the race his own, winning it on no less than six occasions. His regular partner was the Champion Jockey, Steve Donoghue. He won other big stayers races too. These include the Ascot Stakes, Goodwood Cup, Doncaster Cup, Chester Cup and the Ebor Handicap. These races were often won carrying very large weights.

The couple went to Manchester on their honeymoon where they managed to catch Solitaire winning the November Handicap, perhaps hoping they might double their luck with the Irish Sweepstake.  After their in Manchester, the new Baron Rathdonnell joined his regiment in York where he bore witness to the momentous change that had finally begun to press itself on the Army for “the era of the horse was finished and in future men would do battle in machines”. Meanwhile, in Ireland, November 1937 was the month in which an explosion destroyed the plaster cast of Royal Coat of Arms (aka ‘the lion and the unicorn’) at Exchange Court in Dublin, shattering hundreds of panes of glass in surrounding shops, houses and offices, and hurling bricks and mortar around. There was also drama in Carlow on 27 December 1937 when a disgruntled employee burned down Frank Slater’s cinema on Burrin Street. The cinema had been erected in 1913 by Fred Thompson’s firm on the site of the 1906 great fire of Boakes Drapery shop. This became the site of Carlow’s “new” post office in 1967. (See ‘Slaters Cinema’ for more).




Bill Rathdonnell, circa 1943, with his son Ben (right) and daughter Alexandra, aka Pally.

Bill and Pamela’s firstborn son (Thomas) Benjamin McClintock Bunbury – my father – was born at Lisnavagh on 17 September 1938. As he likes to say, he was born seventeen feet in the air as the bedroom at Lisnavagh where he was born no longer exists. The event was recorded in the Dundee Evening Telegraph (Wednesday 21 September 1938, p. 4), as follows:

‘Son and Heir for Lord Rathdonnell – The birth of a son at Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, to-day to Lady Rathdonnell announced. Lord Rathdonnell, the fourth baron, is 23. He succeeded to the title in September last year, and two months later married Pamela, eldest daughter of the late Mr John Malcolm Drew, of Eversley, near Milnthorpe, Westmorland. At the ceremony at Heversham, Westmorland, he wore the waistcoat which his father used at his wedding 25 years previously. Before her marriage, Lady Rathdonnell was a keen follower of the Oxenholme Staghounds and a member of the Royal Windermere Yacht Club.’

The son was named Thomas Benjamin McClintock Bunbury, combining two of the three most popular Bunbury family Christian names, the third being William. The event was recorded in the Court Circular of The Times four days later. [35]

At my father’s christening his godparents were Christopher Dalgety (father of Alexander), Honor Leatham, Jack Langham, Diana Drew and Hugh Massy. The latter gave Dad a silver tankard with all the Grand National winners etched on it, now in the office. Dad says his father fancied Honor Leatham ‘a good deal’; she was a sister of one of the Cambridge ‘gang’, Paddy Leatham, who died on 17 August 1951 in a riding accident. [36]




My father says that when his mother arrived as a bride to Lisnavagh in 1937 there were 21 non-productive staff (mostly in-house but including stableboys and a gamekeeper) and over fifty semi-productive employees working on the farm. However, by the 1940s – with Britain itself bankrupt – there was no money to either pay staff or to keep the place warm and clean.




Hilda the nanny with young Pally (Alexandra) and Ben.

The late Bill Burgess liked Henry Giff who was Steward at Lisnavagh for 30 years or so, having started as Under-Steward. Mrs. Giff, who lived in the Laundry House, was a ‘good, honest man’ who reared ‘an awful lot of Guinea Fowl in the Second War,’ said Bill. ‘They were a pound each at that time.’ ‘They were also exporting large numbers of rabbits from Lisnavagh to England then.’ At Corrigans in Maplestown, Bill recalled rabbits being so plentiful that if a sheepdog chased them down the burrows, they’d pop up out of another one because there wasn’t enough room for them all!

Alas, as of 2022, I fear for the future of all Irish rabbits – I suspect buzzards. ‘It got to the stage with Mr. Giff that he couldn’t buy a couple of nails’, recalled Bill. Everything had to go through John Langham, my father’s godfather, who was the agent at Lisnavagh for many years and lived in Germaines. ‘He’d have to send up to Langhams with them. Langham was terrible mean for buying things. I remember Mr. Giff sitting down here one day to know did I have a pair of ordinary ploughing chains. I had some myself. Everything he bought had to come through Langham. Why he couldn’t make up a pair, I don’t know? He had a blacksmith and all. But I had a new pair and I gave them to him.’

On another occasion, Mr Giff asked Bill, ‘have you any oats down there?’ ‘I have’, replied Bill. ‘You’d never give me a few bags of oats. I have cattle going to the show in Dublin and Langham won’t let me buy anything to feed them and I’ve nothing to give them’. ‘Come down and have whatever you want’. (‘I don’t know how he got on in the show!’, said Bill, but the week after the thrashing in the autumn, his oats were replaced.)


Feb 10: Oak Park, Carlow, hosts the National Ploughing Championships. Three tractor outfits took part and, the night before, there was a “Ceilidhe and Dance” in Carlow Town Hall. The late Andy Verney told me that a single furrow ploughman would cover 11 miles in a single acre per day, going back and forth, in those days. A man told him that when first tractor came to Lisnavagh, the driver drove it into a ditch because he couldn’t find the reins to pull it up.

March: Austria was annexed to Germany in the Anschluss. Hubert Butler prepares to head to Austria to help save the Jews.

April: ‘Lord and Lady Rathdonnell in the very finest fettle at Halverstown, where the Kildare, who have had a super season, held their Hunt races shortly before Easter. An enormous crowd saw some capital contests, particularly in the Adjoining Hunts’ Race, won by Mr M Hickey on Man of Aran. Before her marriage last year, Lady Rathdonnell was Pamela Drew.’ (The Tatler – Wednesday 20 April 1938)

April 3: Death of Lady Pamela FitzGerald, the five month old first born daughter of Gerald and Joane Kildare.

May 16: The Department of Justice in Ireland bans Photography magazine because of ‘attention given to the female nude’.

June 23: The Ritz in Carlow is opened by movie star Diana Wynward on the site of Tynan’s Hotel, designed by Michael Scott, MRIAI, president of the Architectural Institute of Ireland.

July 6-15: Évian Conference convened at Évian-les-Bains, France, at behest of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to address the problem of German and Austrian Jewish refugees wishing to flee persecution by Nazi Germany. The Dominican Republic is the only one to offer assistance. Hitler took the disinterest in the fate of Jews as a good omen for his future plans.

July 16: Japan forfeits 1940 Olympics in Tokyo; Helsinki takes them on.


July 17: Douglas Corrigan takes off to fly the “wrong way” to Ireland and becomes known as “Wrong Way” Corrigan. According to one account: ‘In 1938, after a transcontinental flight from Long Beach, California, to New York, he flew from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, to Ireland, even though he was supposed to be returning to Long Beach. He claimed that his unauthorised flight was due to a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass. Corrigan, however, was a skilled aircraft mechanic (he was one of the builders of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis) and a habitual risk-taking maverick; he had made several modifications to his own plane, preparing it for a transatlantic flight. Between 1935 and 1937, he applied several times, unsuccessfully, for permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland, and it is likely that his “navigational error” was a protest against government “red tape”; however, he never publicly acknowledged having flown to Ireland intentionally.


On 12-13 August 1938, Bill Rathdonnell was playing cricket for Na Shuler against Cork County during the club’s pre-war revival. He was out for an LBW by Collins after just 3 runs. On the plus side he avenged his Great Uncle Jack Bunbury, who was caught by a Colthurst in 1873, by catching out Sir George Colthurst. On 15–16August, the Na Shuler team went on to Castlemore where Bill was run out but he managed to catch out the opponent’s captain, K. Alexander. Lord Kildare also played. On 17 August they played Newtownbarry where Bill was caught out by Hall-Dare after just 6 runs.John de Burgh batted after him. Bill’s last game was against Cork on 18–19 August when he was bowled out for 4 runs; the late Mungo Park played same game. The last game the Na Shuler played was at Newtownbarry on 26 August 1939 though (Sir) Bill Blunden did rally troops in the 1970s. Mungo Park, a stockbroker from Bailey in Howth, played with him, as did Hall-Dare, John Watson and Philip Blunden (an artist who lives out by Celbridge). [37] This was the same month that the German government decreed that all Jews must add Israel or Sara to their first names for ease of identification.

Aug 17: Arrest of Thomas Kendrick (1881-1972), Vienna’s Oskar Schindler, arrested by the Gestapo in Bavaria, a major blow to SIS operations. As “Passport Control Officer” in Vienna, he had enabled circa 10,000 Austrain Jews to gain entry permits to Palestine.

Aug 20: Kendrick released and expelled from Austria.

September 17: Birth of Thomas Benjamin McCB, 5th Baron Rathdonnell. On the very same day, Neville Chamberlain flew to meet Adolf Hitler in Munich where he would ask the Führer to outline his grievances against the Czechs.

September 26: Death of Bill’s unmarried great-aunt Eleanor Margaret Bruen in Boston. She may have lived at 122A at the time of the Easter Rebellion. She was living in Boston from at least 1932 as that is where she met a kinsman Bruen Worthington who was trying to work out where he came from.

September 30: Signing of the infamous Munich Agreement by which Chamberlain agreed that Hitler could have Sudetenland so long as he promised to stop grabbing any more territory. Chamberlain came home shouting “Peace for our time” because he was convinced he had got a brilliant deal and put manners on Hitler. Most people in the UK were delighted because nobody wanted another war, but many others didn’t trust a word of it. They rightly suspected that Hitler had made the agreement with Chamberlain simply so he could have longer to get his army, airforce and navy ready for the next phase of his wicked plan.

Nov 9: Kristellnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass. Nazis seek to terrorise Jews out of Germany, further normalising the othering, distortion and demonisation of Jews. A lonely time for German Jews as UK and Ireland advises against ‘the wisdom of importing Jews,’ as it may heighten anti-Semitism in their countries.

Dec 12: Marriage in St. Patrick’s Church, Dublin, of Dermot McGillycuddy, second son of The McGillycuddy of the Reeks, and Madam McGillycuddy, and Patricia Kennedy, aka Tiggy, daughter of the late Mr. Edward Kennedy (of Roi Herode fame) of Bisphopscourt, Straffan, County Kildare.

Dec 28: Carlow Cinema on Burrin Street, newly renovated, burns down. The premises had been acquired by Frank Slater, since deceased, in 1929.



During my first conversation with him, the late Atty Dowling told me a story about my grandmother Pamela Drew and Mr. Giff, the steward at Lisnavagh, arriving on horseback in the Cow Field. It was a cold morning in February 1939. Atty was working in the field at the time with his cousins from Williamstown, Jack, Pat and Tom Dowling. They were following a hoodless tractor, stomping in the sods of earth kicked up by a herd of cattle who’d been grazing there over the winter. Everyone was smoking cigarettes. ‘Ah it’s very cold, Lady Rathdonnell?, they said. ‘It I’‘ said she, ‘it’s a lazy wind that wouldn’t take the time to go around you but would go straight through‘. Mr. Giff later asked why she thought a European war so inevitable. ‘Because the Jews have bought the stocks of the world up‘, she said. ‘And she was right’, concluded Atty. ‘Six months later we were at war.’ Photo: James Fennell.

Jan 26: Franco’s Nationalist army capture Barcelona as Republicans flee across border to France.

Feb (early): Concentration camp established at Argeles-sur-Mer by Albera Massif for 100,000 Spanish Republican refugees, following the Fall of Catalonia.

Feb 19: Éamon de Valera states his intention to preserve Irish neutrality in the event of a second world war.

March: ‘Lady Rathdonnell and her sister, Miss Hermione Drew who is at present her guest at Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, with which county pack Lady Rathdonnell is one of the regulars.’ (The Tatler, Wednesday 8 March 1939)

March 6: Death at Browne’s Hill of Brigadier-General Robert Clayton Browne-Clayton, D.S.O., who had attended the Naas races the previous day.

March 24: The Irish horse Workman wins the 1939 Aintree Grand National under the jockey Tim Hyde for trainer Jack Ruttle and owner Sir Alexander Maguire.

April 22: Sporting a long coat of tomato-red tweed with a yellow cross-stripe, a felt pull-on and ribbed wool stockings, Lady Rathdonnell attends the Naas races on the same day that Lady Aberdeen is laid to rest at Haddow House, Aberdeenshire. Pamela watches Wm Shaw Taylor’s horse The Gripper win the Champion Steeplechase. Perhaps she tried her luck on the new slot machines that were introduced by the Tote in 1939.

According to his grandson Walter Higgins (November 2020), Thomas Willis was head gardener at Lisnavagh, possibly in succession to Charles Faulkner, in the 1930s. [38] Thomas was married on 1 September 1920 in the Parish Church, Killeshandra, to Mary Maude Finlay. Prior to Lisnavagh, he was head gardener on several estates in Ireland including Mount Juliet (Kilkenny), Mulhuddart (Meath) and Durrow Abbey (Laois). [39] Walter Higgins, who says the family had a sound knowledge of Lisnavagh and the Rathdonnells (not sure which one), sent me four photographs of his family at Lisnavagh taken between August 1933 and April 1941. From Lisnavagh, Thomas went to Farragh, Longford. In 2014, I received a letter from Caroline Flinter Cornellisen who lives in Crettyard, Co. Laois, a kin of the Faulkners who once worked at Lisnavagh. Her uncle William Faulkner had lately passed away and she requested a tree be planted for the Faulkner family on the estate. I then proposed we plant a quartet of trees – one for the Faulkners, one for the Centenary of the 4th Baron Rathdonnell’s Birth (23 November), one for the Franklin Expedition and one for the Fallen of the Great War. William Bunbury duly planted 4 oak trees in the Farm Walk on 6 May 2016 here – probably close to the Hon. Beau Biden.

August 4: Birth of Lady Rosemary FitzGerald, daughter of Gerald and Joane Kildare.

Sept 1: Germany invades Poland; the Wermacht and Luftwaffe will commit 600 massacres or mass executions over the coming moons.

September 8: Oscar Traynor appointed Minister for Defence, a portfolio he held until February 1948. As Niall Quinn observes, Traynor had been a goalkeeper in his younger years so the defence portfolio was well suited to his temperament.

Sept 17: Russia’s ill-prepared yet dominant Red Army invades Poland, sounding the death knell for Polish resistance to Germany in the west. Poland has crumbled by October 6. By the end of the war, between ¼ and 1/5 of Poland’s population will have been killed.




The 4th Baron Rathdonnell by Bassano, 7 March 1939

I wonder what my grandfather thought of war. His father’s only brother was killed at Kimberley during the Boer War so he must have understood the significance of fate; but for a sniper’s bullet, Billy Bunbury would have inherited Lisnavagh, and all would have been utterly different. Likewise, Pamela’s father John Drew had lost his only brother Alan Appleby Drew to war; he fought for the Cameron Highlanders and died at Neuve Chapelle in 1915. I visited his grave at Laventier 95 years later. At least he had a grave, poor fellow. The Hussars were not mechanized until 1938, a complicated and lengthy process.

By April 1938″, as the regimental history put it, “all the horses had left the Regiment, except for one charger for each officer. But the horses were not immediately succeeded by machines and for about nine months the Regiment knew a period of frustration and uncertainty, with only a few obsolete tracked carriers and half a dozen motor cycles and trucks in which to train itself”.

By early 1939 they had received some modern carriers and by August they had a number of Light Tanks and Bren carriers. But within a month Hitler’s armies would advance on Poland and War would begin. Like the Army, the Regiment was seriously under-equipped and its soldiers ill-trained for the new age. Major Massey was one of the cavalry officers assigned to give rapid training to the troops at Sandhurst in the early part of the war. Another was Geoff Milne who had been wounded early on. Neither were said to have been particularly popular, ambling around with their dogs and horses, as Sandhurst was traditionally a Guards haunt and none of these dashed horse chaps were any good.

The 15th/19th Hussars went to France in light tanks, in the same scouting role for which it had been raised two centuries earlier but took a pounding at Assche. After Dunkirk and the evacuation of this second BEF, the regiment re-equipped and re-trained in England. It subsequently fought all the way through France, Belgium and Germany in new Cromwells, as well as a Challenger, until the final Nazi surrender in May 1945. Much of the following is based on notes scribbled rather hastily while reading Guy Courage’s ‘The history of 15/19 The King’s Royal Hussars, 1939-1945’ (Gale & Polden, 1949) on a train headed south to meet Bill Harrington in 2005. I finally transcribed them with the aid of an iPhone voice recorder in February 2018; please note that some of the words may have been mistranslated by the iPhone. I haven’t had a chance to proofread but I am always game on for amendments, updates or further details on any of those mentioned.

It might make sense to read this in conjunction with Courage’s book (available to download via, my online interview with Bill Harrington. One day I hope to do a better job of collation. My father also holds a Gestetner [?] typewritten version of the regimental war diary from their 1944/45 campaign in northern Europe. It has pencilled comments by his father and may have been an early draft of the final official history. There is another edition of this, published by Gale and Polden in 1947, which covers the period from 3 September 1939 to 10 October 1945.


At 1100 on 3 September 1939 – an otherwise beautiful day – Neville Chamberlain wearily declared “a state of war exists between this country and Germany”. Radio Éireann reported that war had broken out at 2.00pm on 3 September. Éamon de Valera’s address followed at 7.00pm, in which he stated: “With our history, with our experience of the last war and with a part of our country still unjustly severed from us, we felt that no other decision and no other policy was possible. In reaction to the outbreak of war the government passed the Emergency Powers Bill, which gave the government new powers to retain Ireland’s neutrality.” From a British perspective, things cannot have looked all bad. For starters, they still had the world’s biggest empire, the world’s most powerful navy and the world’s largest merchant fleet, as well as the possibility to enlist millions of HM’s subjects from across the world. Conversely, Germany wasn’t quite as mega as posterity recalls. Of 135 divisions, only 16 were mechanized, of which ten were Panzer Divisions, while and the rest were on foot, bicycle or horseback.

Few among the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars were old enough to have fought in the Great War and thus few can have understood the implications of this terrible declaration. The regiment had been stationed at Binnigton near Scarborough during August but were relocated to their permanent barracks, the Cavalry Barracks at York, in the last week of August. From here they served as the divisional cavalry reconnaissance regiment for the 3rd Infantry Division. Bill probably joined them here at York and, while he seems to have been only part-time with the Regiment at this point, following the declaration of war, he became a full-time officer. At York, “tents sprang up like mushrooms on the grass” at the Square in front of the Officer’s Mess. The “glistening whiteness” of these tents was “soon dulled by camouflage paint”. More than 2,000 men crowded into the Barracks, many from No. 1 Dock Group. Here they heard the air sirens for the first time, just practice runs, but essential at a time when most people believed that this would be a war of incessant air raids.

By the evening of 2 September “over 300 reservists – all men trained in the days of horses – had rejoined [and] more than double this number were to join in the next week”. I presume Bill was among these. On 7 September “the last of the horses left the Regiment, when 21 officers’ chargers were dispatched to Melton Mowbray – the end of the friendship between man and horse which had for a hundred and eighty years inspired the work and play of the Regiment”. They sat about for the next few weeks, training, training, training, painting the new vehicles and waiting for the War Office to issue them with new equipment. A new battle dress arrived – designed to replace the traditional “pants, puttees and spurs”. The Colonel of the Regiment, Brigadier General A Courage, DSO, MC, visited the Regiment at the end of the month.

Sept 29: The King’s Hussars are deployed with the division as part of the British Expeditionary Force. They moved by train and road to Avonmouth. Oct 2: The government of Éamon de Valera passes the Emergency Powers Act.

Oct 3: In the early hours, the King’s Hussars set sail for France with the BEF, dropping anchor outside St. Nazarie in Western France. A storm in mid crossing bode ill but a clumsy man falling into the sea brought good cheer again.

Oct 4: German U-Boat 35 under the command of Kapitan Werner Lott disembarked 28 men at Dingle, Co Kerry from the Greek cargo ship Diamantis.

Oct 14: Royal Oak was anchored at Scapa Flow in Orkney, Scotland, when torpedoed by the German submarine U-47. Of Royal Oak‘s complement of 1,234 men and boys, 835 were killed that night or died later of their wounds.

Nov 7: Death of Lewis Kaye, who had been the livery-clad butler to the Rathdonnells since at least 1901, when he was at Drumcar. He was buried at Saint Mary Church of Ireland Cemetery, Rathvilly – see here. Only known as ‘Miss Kaye’ to my father (for long decades afterwards), his daughter Hilda Kaye was the housekeeper at Lisnavagh, working alongside John Brophy of Ballon, who had succeeded as butler. Hilda left in the late 1940s and died on 7 December 2003, aged 91 or 92, and was buried at St Mary’s, Rathvilly. Mr Brophy, who wore livery, had Marky Byrne as his heir. Mark Byrne of 1 Willow Close, Tullow, died on 3 February 2017 and was buried at St. Patrick’s Cemetery. Mark had a brother who worked for Flynn’s garage in Tullow.] Edward Hayes (1924-2012) was later butler at Lisnavagh from c. 1963 to c. 1971 but was employed by the Wilkinsons and only worked occasionally for my parents.

Nov 8: Georg Elser, a carpenter, narrowly misses killing Hitler when the Fuhrer leaves a Munich beer hall early, shortly before a deadly bomb goes off.

Dec 25: King George VI’s Christmas Day message quoted four lines of a poem by Minnie Haskins: ‘I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, “Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown ” And he replied, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of whom or whatever you conceive your God to be. That shall be brighter than the brightest light and safer than a known way.’

I asked my father if any of Lisnavagh’s staff served in the war. He replied: ‘I am not aware of any employees who served, which is perhaps strange as there was presumably an easy way for them to join 15/19th KRH if no other and at that stage there were over 50 employees; not even the girls. I had several local British Legion cases incl. a man whose name I forget (in files in the archive, he lived at the station) who told me amazing tales of Gallipoli. Tommy Doyle of Rathvilly was a naval stoker but that was after the contest.’



‘LADY RATHDONNELL AND MISS DIANA DREW ALSO AT BALDOYLE. Miss Drew is Lady Rathdonnell’s younger sister and they are the daughters of the late Mr. John Malcolm Drew of Eversley, Westmorland. Lady Rathdonnell hunts with the Carlow, and Lisnavagh, Lord Rathdonnell’s seat, is one of their favourite trysts. (The Tatler, Wednesday 10 January 1940) I suspect that is the camel hair coat, and it looks like Bill directly behind them. Fuller details of Diana Drew here.

Jan 1: Pamela and Diana attend New Year race meeting at Baldoyle and are pictured in The Tatler.

Feb 10: The Rathdonnells attends the Naas Race, where Pamela wears ‘a camelhair coat over a tweed costume.’ (Irish Independent, 12 Feb 1940). Presumably she was quite large at the time given that Pally was born nine days later!

Feb 19: Birth of the Hon. Katharine Alexandra (Pally) McClintock-Bunbury. She was perhaps nicknamed after the now defunct Alexandra Park Racecourse, aka Ally Pally, in London.

March 13: Assassination in London of Sir Michael O’Dwyer GCIE KCSI, Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab at the time of the Amritsar Massacre. In Ireland,

John Percy Phair was elected Bishop of Ossory, Ferns and Leighlin on 13 March 1940 and consecrated on 11 June. He held the see for 21 years until he resigned on 31 December 1961.

April-May: Katyn massacre commences with mass executions of nearly 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia prisoners of war by the Soviet Union, specifically the NKVD, in April and May 1940.

May 10: Brendan Bracken convinced Churchill that the Labour Party would support him as Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain’s successor, and that Lord Halifax’s appointment would hand certain victory to Hitler.

May 10: Battle of France begins badly for Germans when Luftwaffe lose 353 planes, primarily transport planes, its worst day until 1943. The King’s Hussars are among those fighting in France who lose many men during the German advance. Having left all its armour and vehicles behind, the regiment then took part in the Dunkirk evacuation. I will add further notes about the regiment’s progress shortly but, I don’t believe my grandfather was involved at this stage. His time would come in 1944.

May 15: Conclusion of Battle of Sedan after Germans break through the ‘impenetrable’ Ardennes with tanks, motorbikes, and a LOT of horses. The British and French response was hampered by the pre-war refusal of neutral Belgium to allow the armies of either nation to train on their land in anticipation of such an event. Aided by pervitin (a methamphetamine), the Germans push forward and achieve in 2-3 days an encirclement of France and Belgium that had been their goal throughout the First World War. Approximately 100,000 French soldiers died during the Fall of France. Lord Gort quickly realises a retreat would be the best response and begins plotting what will become Dunkirk.

May 18: 15/19 Hussars take a ferocious hammering at the battle of Assche in Belgium. Every man was killed, wounded or taken prisoner, excluding Second Lieutenant Lloyd-Mostyn who escaped overland in civilian clothes to Ostend where he caught a ship to England but, cruelly, the ship was torpedoed, and he drowned. Second Lieutenant Eustace Feilden Brace, aged twenty, became the regiment’s first officer casualty of the war when C-Squadron ran into German tanks at Wolverthem. He was the only son of Colonel H.F. Brace, DSO, MC, of Gonerby House, Hillfoot, Grantham, the former commander of the Hussars. [40] Another troop got stuck at Bologna with the Welsh Guards. They were wiped out by the Germans speed and utter domination of firepower. The effects were amplified because nobody knew how bad it was until the body count was totted up. A relentless barrage of horror stories followed, which was appalling for morale, especially as the shelling continued. Attempts to revive the spirit with sing-songs were hampered by German planes hovering overhead and firing bullets, while the paranoia of “spy fever” also frayed their nerves. All pigeons were shot in case they were carrying messages (as well as being good for the pot); Sergeant Diprose (?) shot one that tumbled into a chimney.

May 22-26: Siege of Calais where British troops ordered to draw German ire to relieve soldiers on beaches of Dunkirk and give Allies time to assemble some sort of fleet. Claude Nicholson, commander of the British defence, is among 3500 prisoners taken; he later dies in captivity. The event is covered in the Churchillian film ‘Darkest Hour.’

May 23: The Earl of Erne is killed during the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force to Dunkirk.

May 27 – June 4: Operation Dynamo, the evacuation from Dunkirk began. This is unfairly considered RAF’s poorest show as Hurricanes seemed so few and far between. The Allies lost thousands of men and over 230 ships, big and small, to Goering’s Luftwaffe, but those on the beaches were convinced the skies above were uncontested by the RAF. However, the RAF were in fact laying the foundations for the so-called Dunkirk miracle and did what they could to hinder the German air force four or five miles above or inland from the beaches so the soldiers could not see them. As well as low clouds, the sky action was hidden by vast plumes of smoke emanating from a burning oil depot. Having taken severe losses, the RAF managed to turn the tide, primarily due to their new Mark I Spitfires which made its debut at this time. They were up against the Messerschmitt 109E, a seriously cool but utterly underused mean machine, and some Heinekels; Willy Messerschmitt was a pal of Hitler and Heinkel apparently had a drop of Jewish blood so no surprises at guessing who got the bigger contacts.
Over the course of nine days, almost 340,000 troops (circa 225,000 British and 112,000 Allied troops) from the BEF were safely evacuated from Dunkirk in the face of a German blitzkrieg of tanks, motorcyclists and anti-tank guns. This says much about British pluck but also indicates that the German war machine was not quite as formidable as posterity recalls. For instance, despite the Luftwaffe obsession with them and their infamous screaming banshee wails, Stuka dive bombers were not all they were cracked up to be in terms of accurate aims, especially at moving ships. Nor did Adolf listen to Admiral Doenitz’s repeated call for more U-Boats. As such, the German admiral only had, at most, 14 U-Boats in the Atlantic at one time throughout 1940 which is why, despite Britain having over 17,800 ships at sea, and 167 convoys, only 127 ships were sunk. 127 was tragic, of course, but relatively speaking it was manageable. Nonetheless, Allied losses at Dunkirk included 11,000 dead and 40,000 captured.
Six weeks later, the RAF would transform their dodgy reputation by saving the UK during the Battle of Britain. (With thanks to Joshua Levine) I don’t believe my grandfather was involved at this stage. The 15/19 Hussars were part of Polforce (under Major General Curtis) assigned to protect the southwest ring, 4 miles from the German tanks. They found time to hold a memorial service in an orchard on Sunday.
“Amid the crash of a bombs and the noise of planes we prayed, each with his private thoughts. ” They marched to the beaches of Dunkirk. “It was an astounding spectacle, the like of which had not been seen before. Away to the left was Dunkirk itself, shrouded in a thick, black pall of smoke from its burning oil tanks and… [See page 42 of Courage’s book for more] … Seven of the regiment’s offices and 27 men were killed outright or died of wounds in the French campaign. Another four offices and 22 others were badly wounded. Six officers and 100 more were [missing? taken prisoner?] Back in England the men made their way to rest camps where they sank wearily into seats and were flooded by the horror and the losses, helpless as to the fate of those who had been taken prisoner. “But there was little hope and quickly we banish our hopes and looks to the future. ”

May 27: With Nazi swastikas now flying just 20km across the channel, British morale plunges to its nadir when Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary – a man who everyone assumes will soon be Prime Minister – suggests negotiations to five-strong War Council. He is overruled by Churchill’s sounder judgment.

June 4: Churchill delivers his famous speech to the House of Commons, which is actually very, very long, but includes the immortal lines: ‘We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender …’

June: ‘Carlow’s New Cinema, an enterprise nearing completion in Tullow Strret, will be officially opened for entertainment on Saturday 18th June. It will be known as “Ritz” the last word in super-cinema in the provinces.’ (Nationalist and Leinster Times). June 5: Major Sir Henry Floyd sets up the 15/19 Hussars HQ at Camp Bovington, to which officers and men came rushing down over the next 10 days – from Dorset, Wiltshire, Derbyshire, and Leicestershire. emerging from the French campaign.

June 10: Italy declares war on Britain and France. Over the next three and a bit years, the island of Malta would endure 3,340 air raids in which over 16,000 tons of bomb were dropped on the island; 1,468 people died (as opposed to 20,000 in the 1798-1800 conflict), 3,720 were injured; 50,000 made homeless. A further 707 British aircraft were lost defending the island.

June 14: German forces occupy Paris unopposed. 64.5% of Britain are now tuning into Churchill’s speeches on how to get out of this mess.

June 15: 15/19 Hussars moves to Rawmarsh, a town near Rotherham and Sheffield in Yorkshire. Here they became part of 3 Motor Machine Gun (MMG) Brigade, under the command of Brigadier H. By the end of June, they had acquired 72 Austin 10 hp cars, 15 15-cwt trucks, 17 three-ton lorries, 31 Bren LMG and Anti-Tank rifles, 18 Vickers machine guns and masses of ammunition. Bill Rathdonnell arrived at this time, a young lieutenant, fresh from Base Depot, along with Captain Sir TWA Frankland. Lieutenant Colonel WRN Hinde, the commanding officer, came out of hospital – he’d been wounded in Belgium – to resume command. B- Squadron came under the command of Major AD Taylor whose daring escape from France is appendixed in the Hussars book. Britain was mobilising 24/7; most of their tanks and other heavy weapons had been abandoned in France. They now had 33 officers in the MMG Brigade and 499 other ranks. Everyone was on high alert for German paratroopers and airborne landings, either as isolated rates or as a full-scale invasion. They were told to protect an area northwest of Sheffield. Again, spy fever was rife. The next 3.5 years were spent training to become part of the 9th Armoured Division.

June 18: Churchill warns the House of Commons: “What General Weygand called the ‘Battle of France’ is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.”

June 25: France surrenders to Germany.

Lady Kildare (née Joane Kavanagh) and Lord Fingall, at the Curragh, 1938.

July 2: SS Arandora Star, a British passenger ship of the Blue Star Line, sunk by a German U-boat with a large loss of life, 805 people. The ship was bound for St John’s, Newfoundland, and her internees for Canadian internment camps where 734 Italians and 479 Germans were to be interned. She was about 75 miles west of Bloody Foreland when she was torpedoed. In 2020, the Irish composer Neil Martin told me he found the grave of one of the Italian dead on an island off Donegal.

July 10-Oct 31: Battle of Britain – the RAF’s “finest hour” with men such as W/C Victor Beamish to the fore. At the start of July, with the fall of France, everyone was assuming the war was over. But Britain has not yet come to the peace table. Hitler disappeared to his retreat with Eva and his dog Blondie, and summoned his various heads of staff, one after another, for their advice on an invasion of Britain but there was no joined up thinking as he still believed Britain will negotiate even though Bomber Command was now bombing Germany. At last, he ordered the invasion to begin.
Britain’s successful defence was largely due to Hugh Dowding, the Scottish-born Air Officer Commanding RAF Fighter Command, overseas the development of the world’s first fully functional Air Defence System. This very slick system introduces such concepts as the Royal Observer Corps, vectoring, ground control, radar and high frequency direction finding. Henceforth, the British knew when the Germans were coming which was a massive game changer as not only could they now ensure that no fighter planes were on the ground when the Germans struck, but they could also send those same fighter pilots towards enemy formations.
When the battle began, the Luftwaffe had about 2,500 planes on paper, of which only 1500 or 1600 were available on any one day. Britain had nearly 1200 combat-ready planes, so it was by no means a major imbalance even if the Germans probably had a 2-to-1 advantage in terms of actual fighter plane numbers. To counter a possible invasion on the shoreline, Britain positioned tank traps, mines and barbed wire on beaches and other potential landing sites, and established a Home Guard (or Dad’s Army) to police specific parts of the coastline (thus negating the need for valuable soldiers in such areas). They also provided sandbags to protect buildings, as well as blackout blinds, and constructed air-raid shelters. Thousands of children and other vulnerable people were evacuated. Barrage balloons were floated to prevent bombers from flying low.
All this coincided with Churchill’s appointment of his friend Lord Beaverbrook as Minister of Aircraft Production in May 1940; he ensures that Britain is producing more airplanes than Germany by the summer of 1940. Indeed, production increased by over 80% on his watch, while he also completely overhauled the Civilian Repair Organization (CRO) so that bruised and battered planes could be quickly and completely restored.
In July 1940 Britain produced 480 single engine airplanes, primarily Hurricanes and Spitfires, while the Germans could only produce half as many Messerschmitt’s. Another key factor was the speed with which the British could repair their airfields. In the whole Battle of Britain, only one airfield was knocked out for more than 24 hours and that was largely because RAF airfields were grass and easily repaired after bombardments with sheaths of grass piled up in rolls on the side-lines waiting to be bulldozed in when the German bombers have gone.
And yet another factor is apparently the relaxed attitude of RAF pilots who were encouraged to stand down for 24 hours, stop talking shop and go party – unlike the Luftwaffe pilots who were obsessed with writing endless combat reports. What were the booster pills favoured by the RAF?! [41]

July (mid): The 15/19 Hussars move to Keele Hall near Newcastle-under-Lyne in Staffordshire, for three months training, especially in anti-gas training. The fleet increased with 24 armoured cars – Beaverettes and Humberttes. The squadron was called Sable Squadron. From Keele, the Hussars were detailed to protect the Welsh coast from Milford Haven to Llanelly and prepare to counter attack the impending invasion. It was tricky enough on the rubbly roads of 1940s Wales, especially in the Welsh mountains. Brigadier General A Courage, the colonel of the regiment, visited in July.

July 27: HMS Wren sunk while escorting minesweepers off Aldeburgh, Suffolk, and attacked by German bombers, with the loss of 37 lives, including Francis Kiernan of County Cork. August: A very wet month.

August 13: Adlertag (“Eagle Day”) signifies the launch of “Operation Eagle Attack”, the first part of Germany’s plan to conquer Britain. (The second part, Operation Sealion, is never put into practice). Nearly 1,500 German planes attack  ports, harbours, convoys and RAF (Royal Air Force) bases around Britain.

August 18: The Battle of Britain crescendos with an air battle known as The Hardest Day. There is no winner as such but the Germans lost 69 aircraft and the British 29.

Aug 21: Trotsky murdered in Mexico.

August 24: In the Battle of Britain, the German Luftwaffe withdraw Stuka dive-bombers in a veritable admission of failure, ten days after their attacks begin. German intelligence is very shoddy at this point and the Luftwaffe is failing to destroy the RAF which is a major headache for Adolf.

Aug 25: RAF bombing Berlin.

Aug 26: Kathleen Hurley (27) from Garryduff was one of three women killed when a German Heinkel (inadvertently?) bombed the Campile creamery in broad daylight.

Sept 6: SS Athenia, an unarmed passenger ship, becomes the first ship to be sunk in World War Two when it is torpedoed by a German U-Boat 250 miles north-west of the Donegal coast. 112 of the 1,418 passengers and crew perish; the ship had been carrying emigrants to Quebec, having sailed from Glasgow, via Liverpool and Belfast. [When Nazi start targeting neutral shipping, the game was up for neutral Ireland]

Sept 7: Blitz begins as Luftwaffe bomb London for 56 out of the next 57 days and nights. Tactically this means that the Germans are no longer trying to destroy the RAF so there is considerable division and confusion in Germany’s policy. Over 40,000 die in the Blitz, and perhaps 140,000 are wounded, as Germans drop 18,000 tonnes on London but relatively speaking this is not a lot compared to what Germany is in for … The 15/19 Hussars have a big scare on 7 September when the church bells rang in alarm and the code word “Cromwell” was issued, but the “flap” passed. The regiment had no involvement with the Blitz.

Sept 15: Battle of Britain Day – RAF knock many Luftwaffe planes out of the skies in a daylight attack by 1500 planes. By October 1940, the Luftwaffe had lost 1,735 planes to the RAF’s 915 since the Battle of Britain began – Hitler abandoned his plans to invade, leading to Churchill’s remark that “never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few”. The Blitz would continue, but Hitler now turned his attention east towards the USSR.

Sept: Bill and Pamela go The Curragh during a few days’ leave from his cavalry unit. Their photo appears in The Tatler on 18 September.

Lord and Lady Rathdonnell at The Curragh. The owner of that beautiful dwelling place, Lisnavagh, was on a few days’ leave from his cavalry unit, and put them in racing at that pleasant spot, The Curragh. (The Tatler, 18 Sept 1940)

Mrs. Bramwell, Bill’s aunt, and Viscountess Suirdale, racing together. Mrs. Bramwell is the wife of Captain H. Bramwell, an ex-Master of the Duhallow and the North Kilkenny. He re-joined his regiment on the outbreak of Lady the Suirdale, the Earl of Donoughmore’s heir in 1925. The Tatler, 27 Nov 1940.

Sept 21 – Oct 6: Summer Olympics (originally scheduled for Tokyo) take place in Helsinki.

Sept 26: William Joyce, Lord Haw Haw, is naturalised as a German citizen.

Sept (end): Major Sir Henry Floyd of 15/19 Hussars left for the Senior War Staff and C Squadron came under Major I. S. Balmain.

October: 15/19 Hussars sent to Uttoxeter for the winter, staying between Crakemarsh Hall, the Poor Law Institute and the racecourse (where B-Squadron was based). Over five uneventful weeks at Uttoxeter, the men trained in driver–mechanics, gunnery, wireless operations and signalling. Frankland left and Captain D.A.A. Dawes took over HQ Squadron. By 19 November “the period of hasty re-organisation and improvisation that followed Dunkirk was over. The Hussars were transferred from Uttoxeter to Rushden between Bedford and Kettering. They appear to have done a lot of moving about every three weeks …

Oct 18: ‘Heir to £10,000 Has Hotel Debts of £857 – A man was stated to have inherited £10,000 in August of last year. He was again before the bankruptcy court at Dublin yesterday and was questioned about payments, which he said he had made to a woman. The man, Anthony Drew. a young Englishman residing at a well-known hotel, agreed that he owed £857 in Eire, mainly to hotels in some of which he had been living with a Mrs Winterbottom, whom he had represented as his wife. Drew was questioned about payments said to have been made to Mrs Winterbottom through his London solicitors and agreed that nearly £4,000 had been paid over. He declared that the greater part was expended on his behalf.
Asked what he was doing in the country he replied. “Well I am staying here and intend to go back to England when I am able.”
Mr Justice Black: When did you come over?—Sept. 1939.
Mr Sherry – Rather an important month to come to this country for you.—Not particularly.
You know what I am suggesting?—Yes.
And I think it is time you ought to realise that your presence in this country is not of much assistance to hotels and haberdashers?—l think the hotels have not done badly out of me.
Drew told the judge that his father, the late John Malcolm Drew was a cotton printer. He (Drew) had been apprenticed to the business but had gone to the university which he left without taking a degree. The examination was adjourned.’ (Shields Daily NewsSaturday 19 October 1940, p. 3).

Nov 9: Death from cancer of an exhausted Neville Chamberlain, aged 71.

Nov 11-12: In battle of Taranto, 21 Fairey Swordfish bi-plane bombers took out half of Mussolini’s Navy in what was effectively Italy’s Pearl Harbour moment. The mission is organised by Dublin-born Admiral Andrew Cunningham.

November (mid-end): 15/19 Hussars still at General M. B. Burrows, DSO, MC. As such they were part of 4 Corps, initially concerned with protecting about half of England from Liverpool, the Humber and North Midlands through East Anglia between the Wash and the Thames into southern England as far south as Southampton. [From Courage, Chapter IV “Home Forces, Armoured Regiment. November 1940 – May 1944.]
The period between November 1940 and March 1941 marked a dull interim as the regiment officially armoured but they were still driving Austin cars and still had no tanks! As such it was a time of individual training while the wait went on and on and on. The first cruiser tanks didn’t arrive until March, which was an exceedingly long time to wait given that everyone was gagging at the bit to fight back. This was all the more so because on 19th November, their first night at Rushden, a bomb fell on the town, killing a number of citizens. In fact, the people of Rushden consequently viewed the regiment as a curse and there was a degree of local tension. This eased with the passage of time and the regiment’s 18-months sojourn at Rushden was ultimately “one of our happiest times in England.” However, glum times came with the realization that a new regiment was to be created, combining the best of the King’s Royals and the 10th Hussars. Six key officers, several NCOs and 63 other men were duly headhunted to this new regiment. The personnel changes meant many newcomers, with different skills, but 30% of these were deemed “unsuitable for service in an armoured regiment.”
By 25 November 1940 the regiment had 29 officers and 460 other ranks. Captain Dawes was promoted to Major and put in overall command of HQ Squadron while each of the three Sabre Squadrons (A, B and C) received a new captain. Lord Rathdonnell was among four lieutenants promoted to captain at this time, the others being C.D. Agnew, F.E. Allhusen and Lord P Crichton-Stuart (11th Hussars). Also promoted were Second Lieutenants G. Courage and R. F Daubigny, MC (who served with distinction in the French army in both wars). The regiment’s “tradesmen” now numbered 230, including 104 drivers and 80 mechanics. They had 52 cruiser thanks (each with 2-pr guns), 2 Besa MGs and 10 scout cars.

Dec 12: Germans bomb Sheffield and the South Yorkshire coalfields. 785 people are killed, 589 seriously injured, plus thousands of buildings destroyed. The Fitzwilliam home at Wentworth had a narrow escape.

Dec 17: Birth in Dublin of my mother Jessica Rathdonnell, daughter of Gilbert and Noreen Butler.

Dec 24: All Star Concert held at the new Ritz Cinema in Carlow, with over 2,000 attendees. During the war years, when oil was scarce, the Rolls Royce at Lisnavagh was jacked up on blocks, to save the tyres. At this time, Lisnavagh bought a Ford van from Hennessy’s of Castledermot, the only means of transport for much of the 1940s which my father says he learned to drive in. As Dad explains: ‘The van was the only mechanical transport during the war but there was no petrol most of the time; I learned to drive it (after) the war. There were however traps and a sidecar as well as farm carts. A large four-wheeler went to Rathvilly, mainly to the station probably three times a week. And people rode around.’ (See my Maxol book for a look at rationing in the war).

Dad recalls that in the early 1940’s there were two steam engines at Lisnavagh; one in the farm which did threshing, etc. and the other in the sawmill (presumably because there was no fuel for the big Blackstone “diesel” engine). There was also a Hot Bulb engine in the farm engine room which he remembers working but ‘probably after the war.’ He remembers the CCC steam roller struggling on Germaines hill when he was a child.

The Carlow – Hacketstown road was only laid with tarmac in 1948 and our road some six years later. Mind you, as Andrew observed, the M1 Motorway in Hertfordshire (which opened in 1959) were built using steam-rollers. In April 2020, I was emailed by John Glynn who thought that one of the Lords Rathdonnell had owned his 1920 Marshall Traction Engine (IC 1603), which was made in Gainsborough. The steam engine was sold to Thomas Codd in 1920 but when he was apparently unable to meet the repayments, Rathdonnell intervened and purchased it. A man by the name of George Giltrap is thought to have drove and worked it. George is also said to have hauled timber with it from Thomas Butler’s Ballintemple estate in Ardattin. When the state’s Compulsory Tillage Scheme was in operation under de Valera from 1940 to 1948, they went in for extensive tillage at the time of Dev’s compulsory wheat growing when you’d get ‘the splendid price of 30 shillings a barrel’. As Bill Burgess recalled, Langham and the Baron had a ‘great discussion’ about it all.


Jan 2: The first bombing of Dublin in World War II occurred early on the morning when German bombs were dropped on the Terenure.

January: The government attempted to boost morale by awarding medals to those who had served with the British expeditionary force. Captains Taylor, Wilson and Allhulsen of the 15/19 Hussars all received MCs, while others were mentioned in despatches. These were to be the regiments sole token of recognition for five years. A further 2 DSOs, 2 MCs, DCMs and other medals were awarded for the same campaign at the close of the war.

Jan: A meeting takes place between Éamon de Valera and Sir John Maffey, the British representative in Dublin, by which the Lough Erne-based flying boats were permitted to fly across a four-mile stretch of neutral territory from Belleek in County Fermanagh to Ballyshannon in County Donegal and thereby gain access to the Atlantic Ocean. It strikes me that the Donegal Corridor, as it is known, is something that Dev’s 21st century PR team need to do more work on in terms of gaining the man a bit of credit. If it wasn’t for this deal, they’d have had to take the long way round by Fanad, which is considerably more even when heading for Iceland. There is also a Bismarck connection. My father tells me he heard on RTE an Irish Army man describe how crashed German aircraft were abandoned in the war; British ones, however, were recovered by them and the parts carefully transported to a field near the border from which they miraculously vanished next day!

January 7: Death of Bill’s great aunt Lady Grace Johnson-Walsh, Kate Rathdonnell’s youngest sister.

January 16: FMD diagnosed at Merklands Wharf Glasgow in cattle exported from Co. Derry. On the same date it was confirmed in Eglinton, NI and within a few days in Claudy, Campsie, Thermoyle, Every and Derry City and on 20 January in Bridestown, Kilmanagh Irish Free State (now the ROI). Subsequently the disease affected 556 farms in the Republic of Ireland, of which 5,912 cattle, 143 sheep and 198 pigs were diagnosed as infected and a total of 42,047 animals were destroyed including 27,942 cattle, 10,187 sheep, 3,310 pigs and 608 goats. [Foot and Mouth Disease in Ireland; History, Diagnosis, Eradication and Serosurveillance, by Patrick J O’Reilly; Michael.O’Connor; Anne Harrington; Sally Gaynor & Dianne Clery.]

Feb 5: The Duke of Gloucester inspected the 15/19 Hussars on parade. Battledress had now superseded the old service dress; the men wore black berets while the offices wore dark blue berets. The men presented a variety of rifles, pistols and sub-machine guns and attempted to look as “regimental “as possible.

March 1: The 15/19 Hussars receive the very first batch of Covenanter Cruiser Tanks, which had been purpose-built for home defence by a crew of four; they would be no match for the German tanks. As such, they were not designed for attack and much imagination was apparently required by men ‘trained in the field’ to who had to pretend their Austins were tanks. The tanks continually had to be sent off for “modifications”.

April 7 : A Luftwaffe bomb kills 13 people in Belfast. On 15-16 April, German bombers again struck overnight, killing at least 1,000 people and leaving almost a quarter of the population homeless in what becomes known as Belfast’s Blitz. [Another source says 700 people were killed and 400 seriously injured] The British government appeals to De Valera for help and he authorizes fire brigades from Dublin, Dundalk, Drogheda and Dún Laoghaire to give assistance. April: Marcus Rueff killed in Libya, alongside Captain Quentin Hurst, the son of Sir Gerald Hurst. April 15: A single Luftwaffe plane flew high above the barrage balloons of Derry City and dropped two 1000kg aerial mines, landing in Messines Park, a residential area built for ex servicemen in the Pennyburn area of the city. Thirteen people were killed.

May 10: Temple Church in London hit by bomb, damaging William Marshal’s tomb.

May 24: Hood sunk. Jack Leslie, who was a POW at the time, told me it was the worst day of the war for morale when they heard the news. On the same day, HMS Upholder sunk the 18,000 ton troopship Conte Rosso off the coast of Sicily while in convoy from Naples to Tripoli, with the loss of 1300 Axis troops. When we were building Oldfort, a water diviner named Des Hill came to divine around our house, in part because of our loyalty to Meike, a kindly and rather spiritual friend of my mother-in-law from Germany. When I drove him home, Des told me his brother was killed when Hood was sunk. The fatal shot was fired from Bismarck. Meike’s dad was second gunnery officer on Bismarck. When I got home from dropping Des off, Meike was on our doorstep waiting for someone to let her in!

May 27: Sinking of the Bismarck, with Meike Blackwell’s father among the dead.

May 31: Four German bombs hit north Dublin, damaging Áras an Uachtaráin and the North Strand area, killing 28 people. June: Britain now outproducing Germany in terms of tanks and ships.

June 4: Death in the Netherlands of ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II.

June 17: 15/19 Hussars rocked by the death of Captain F. E. Allhusen, MC, during gunnery training at Castlemartin AFV ranges at Lisney Head, Wales. How did he die? He had been promoted on the same day as Bill Rathdonnell.

June 22: Operation Barbarossa kicks off when Germany invades the Soviet Union. Most decision makers in Washington and London erroneously believe the Soviets will be defeated within six weeks. As Frank McDonough puts it, “Hitler didn’t even tell Mussolini he was invading Russia. He rang him the night before.” (Likewise, the Japanese did not tell Germany about their plan to attack Pearl Harbor, so clearly there was little trust between the Axis powers.)

July 1-15: 15/19 Hussars stationed at Burghley Park, near Stamford, for a fortnight and entrusted with the defence of three aerodromes from sabotage or innovation. At this time aerodromes were being [constructed?]

July 15-31: 15/19 Hussars based between Congham and Shingham near King’s Lynn, Norfolk, and on the Chilterns near Ashridge. By now they had enough tanks for realistic off-road training and their Austins.

Mid-July: The Germans have already advanced over 400 miles (640 km) east and are are now just 200 miles (320 km) from Moscow.




Pegasus Paddock, Lisnavagh, circa 2000.

The poet John Betjeman and his wife Penelope stayed at Lisnavagh from 25-27 July 1941. That same year, Betjeman was appointed British press attaché in neutral Dublin, Ireland, working with the civil servant Sir John Maffey. Betjeman is thought to have been involved with the gathering of intelligence and was reputedly marked for assassination by the IRA until an anonymous Old IRA man reprieved him because he enjoyed Betjeman’s works.

July 30: Death of Bill’s great aunt Elizabeth Roberts, Kate Rathdonnell’s sister.

August 9: ‘Sugar Rationing. Householders are hereby notified that sugar rationing under the above Order comes into effect on 9th August. 1941. On or after that date no shopkeeper may sell sugar to any householder who is not registered at his shop as a customer for sugar. A householder who usually purchases his sugar at the shop where he is registered for tea will without any further application by him be automatically registered by the shopkeeper as a customer for sugar. A householder who usually purchases his sugar at a shop other than that at which he is registered for tea must make special application to be registered as a sugar customer.’ (Northern Standard. 8 August 1941).

Aug 13: Pamela attending the Irish Oaks and pictured for The Tatler, alongside Patricia MacGillycuddy.

Aug 14: The Atlantic Charter, a joint declaration by Roosevelt and Churchill, provides a broad statement of U.S. and British war aims, with a focus on crushing Nazism. From Hitler’s perspective, this is a veritable declaration of war by the USA, which helps explain his stunning decision to declare war on the US four months later.

August: Morale of 15/19 Hussars boosted by the news that T.S.M. Briggs had escaped from a Polish POW camp and crossed Russia to get back to England. By now they knew the fate of most of their BEF comrades after Dunkirk. Colonel Anthony Courage’s wife organised a fund to send clothing, food and other parcels via the Red Cross to the POW camps; the needs of Hussar prisoners were said to be the best looked after of all.

Sept: 15/19 Hussars has No. 19 wireless sets fitted into the tanks, a great development in communication, enabling talk within the tank its self and between all the other tanks in the regiment. At the end of the month they had a 10-day “Exercise Bumper ” in Norfolk where the regiment gained excellent experience although there were still comparatively few officers and men who had actually seen action. They had another rather less successful “Exercise Marathon” on the Northumbrian moors around Hexham in October.

Pamela and Patricia MacGillycuddy at the Irish Oaks, The Curragh, August 1941.

Oct 2: Bock’s renewed advance on Moscow begins promisingly with the encirclement and capture of over 600,000 Soviet troops at Vyazma but bitterly cold winter will slay huge numbers of German soldiers over October and November, many perishing of frostbite.

October 9: Moscow in tremendous panic when state reveals that the city is not so strongly defended as it had previously suggested. Indeed it is now urging all citizens to dig in for a massive battle as the Nazi armies approach. Stalin opts to remain in the Russian capital; a reluctant Beira follows suit.

October: Balmain of 15/19 Hussars left for the Staff College and Major Sir E. H. Rouse-Boughton, Bt, a Great War veteran, was appointed to command C-Squadron. The whole Brigade was now under the overall command of Brigadier E.S.D. Martin (who had succeeded Lumsden). The men were very bored but put their trust in the belief that they would surely be required to fight soon… This transpired to be a misguided faith!

Oct 27: Franklin Roosevelt delivers his Navy Day address in Washington, DC, broadcast live over nationwide radio, stating: “I have in my possession a secret map, made in Germany by Hitler’s government — by the planners of the new world order. It is a map of South America and a part of Central America as Hitler proposes to reorganize it … That map, my friends, makes clear the Nazi design not only against South America but against the United States as well.”. This map was a forgery, orchestrated by the Canadian inventor-businessman Bill Stephenson, the most senior MI6 officer in the United States, in cahoots with Colonel William “Wild Bill” Donovan, newly installed as chief of America’s leading intelligence agency. And Roosevelt probably knew it. This was an impeachable offence on Roosevelt’s behalf but, from a British perspective, it had the desired effect as it helped to prod Hitler into his surprising declaration of war on the US on December 11. See ‘Our Man In New York’ by Henry Hemming (Quercus, 201).

November 16The SAS have a disastrous parachute landing in Egypt as part of Operation Crusader; of 55 men, 34 were killed, wounded or captured far from the target, after embarking in one of the biggest storms to hit the area in a generation. David Stirling is in charge, although a 2022 book ’The Phoney Major’ does not rate him highly.

Nov 28: Soviet counteroffensive recaptures Rostov. Germany on the back foot.

Dec 1: Rundstedt relieved of his command of German forces in Ukraine.

Dec 2: Some German detachments are now within 19 miles of Moscow. That is as far as they get.

Nov 30 and Dec 8 : About 25,000 Jews were killed in or on the way to Rumbula forest near Riga, Latvia, during the Holocaust.

Dec: Billy Fitzwilliam is notified that the Intelligence Corps will be moving to Wentworth for the duration of the war.

Dec 7: Japanese attack Pearl Harbour. Hitler was taken unawares by Pearl Harbor but was elated by the news. He also deduced that this was the ideal window of opportunity to turn his sights on the USA.

Dec 10: Sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse, two of Britain’s most powerful battleships by Japanese airforce off the east coast of present-day Malaysia. Among those killed is Admiral Tom Phillips, aka Tom Thumb, commander of Force Z during the defence of Malaysia.

Dec 11: A heavily medicated but functioning Hitler hosts a press conference at 3pm German time, so that Americans waking up and Japanese going to sleep can tune in. America was, in Hitler’s eyes, riddled with African-Americans, immigrants, and Jewish-Americans. His declaration of war on the USA can be seen as the moment Nazi Germany turned its sights on all Jews in central and Western Europe, such Jews now being classed as enemies alongside Roosevelt and what Hitler termed “the Anglo-Saxon Jewish-capitalist world”. Many of the Jews in Eastern Europe had already been accounted for. See Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman’s book, ‘Hitler’s American Gamble: Pearl Harbor and the German March to Global War.’ (Penguin, 2021)

Dec 1941-Jan 1942: A new policy from the top brass saw the 15/19 Hussar’s strength depleted once again as all experienced officers and men were snatched and sent to the Middle East and India. By the end of 1941 between 35–40 officers and 400 men had been drafted into other regiments. This was intensely discouraging for the regiment to see everything they had worked on in 1941 whittled away. The 9th Armoured Division was clearly just seen as a home defence unit, which, though noble, is akin to being the last kid chosen for a football team. “In many ways, the three years service in England which qualified us for the Defence Medal was the most trying time of the war.”


January 1: A and B Squadrons of 15/19 Hussars sent to garrison the aerodrome defence camp at Easton-on-the-Hill near Stamford for two long, snowy months during which time their manpower began to be depleted by high command.

January 5: Death in the Russian gulag at Orenburg, near the Kazakhstan border, of Brian Verscholye-Goold, a former Communist from Donegal and one of three Irish known to have died in Stalin’s camps. Jan 7: Defeat of Germany army in the battle of Moscow puts a major dent in German feelings of invincibility.

Feb 14-15: Fall of Singapore; Squirrel Green amongst those trying to hold back the Japanese advance down the Malay peninsula. About 80,000 British, Indian and Australian troops in Singapore became prisoners of war, joining 50,000 taken by the Japanese in the earlier Malayan Campaign.

Feb 19: Nearly 250 Japanese aircraft wreaked havoc on the lightly-defended town of Darwin in the largest attack ever mounted on Australia.

March 5: Execution of George Plant.

March: March, Major General B.G. Horrocks took over command of the 15/19 Hussars division from Major General Burrows. A and B Squadron were relocated to huts at Livermere Camp near Bury Saint Edmunds in Suffolk (the old Bunbury stronghold). Here they practiced training with infantry troops of the Kings Royal rifle Corps and an anti-tank Brigade, as well as more general practice.

Hotel Point de Vu in Malta after the Luftwaffe bombing of 21 March 1942. The Chapel of St. Anthony in the Lazaretto, where the submarines were based, was also destroyed following a direct hit by Luftwaffe bombers at this time.

March 21 (Saturday): A one-ton bomb falls in Rabat, Malta, killing six RAF pilots staying at the Pont de Vue, where I stayed with my brother and four pals during our four-day Malta War Tour in June 2018. The air ace Buck McNair, who narrowly survived, wrote a gruesome account of it, which Andrew read aloud to us on the balcony one evening. The six officers were called Baker, Booth, Guerin, Hallett, Waterfield and Streets. I briefly wondered whether we were perhaps the six spirits of those airmen reincarnated. In total, the Luftwaffe dropped 300,000kg of bombs on Malta on that “Day in Hell”.

March 22: Sir Standish O’Grady Roche, 4th Baronet, is commanding officer of the destroyer HMS Beaufort in 2nd Battle of Sirte. He earns the Distinguished Service Order and Croix de Guerre while protecting convoys near Malta.

March 28: St Nazaire Raid or Operation Chariot, a successful British amphibious attack on the heavily defended Normandy dry dock at St Nazaire in German-occupied France. British commandos undertook “the greatest raid of all”, turning an old destroyer, HMS Campbeltown, into a live bomb and using it to successfully ram and destroy the Nazi-controlled port and dry dock where U-Boats and Tirpitz, sister ship of Bismarck, would likely go for repairs. 169 of the 612 Commandos were killed and 215 became prisoners of war. Pamela had by then joined the WRNS, working with the RAF Coastal Command in Plymouth. My father adds: “My mother was thrilled when, aged about 15, I bought her an account of the raid, paperback, for Christmas. I believe she was in the plot room at Plymouth during the event. I first went to St. Nazaire in 1953, a huge dock and the U-boat pens horrific! Like so many of those raids it was hugely high-risk but so was the quest. Bismarck was heading there, one of the few docks big enough, when she was sunk.” Jeremy Clarkson made a film about it called ‘War Stories: THE GREATEST RAID OF ALL’, available on YouTube. (Thanks to GAK).

April 9: 6000b of bombs rain down on Malta. Four bombs hit the Rotunda at Mosta, including one whopper that plunged through the dome BUT did not explode, an event known as the Miracle of Mostar.

April 15: George V awards the island of Malta the George Cross for gallantry. April 30: Because of petrol rationing, all private motoring in Ireland was banned, and bicycle thefts soared overnight.

May: Winston Churchill and Dr Eratl (?) of Australia watched a 15/19 Hussars demo at Lakanheath. All the Covenanter tanks were sent off for modifications – most of which were not carried out properly.

May 18-28: Second battle of Kharkov, viscious battle in Ukraine.

May 30-31: Over a thousand RAF planes strike Cologne, dropping a new bomb every other second for an hour and a half. Miraculously, the city’s splendid twin-spired Gothic cathedral survived but the city itself was annihilated and, by the close of the war, over 20,000 of its citizens had been killed. Herbert Remmel survives.

June 4: Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich precipitates mass extermination of Jews. Approximately 60% of those killed in WW2 died in 1942.

June 4-7: Battle of Midway: US stops the Imperial Japanese Navy in their tracks, a victory as decisive as Trafalgar.

June 8: Birth of Lady Nesta FitzGerald, daughter of Gerald and Joane Kildare.

June: 15/19 Hussars move from Livermere Camp to huts at Weeting Hall, north of Brandon. Morale was briefly boosted by news that each Sabre Squadron was to be equipped with “a fifth Troop of Crusaders” but these never arrived and it turned out these had been redeployed for the Middle East as well! July 1-27: First battle of El Alamein.

August: 15/19 Hussars leave Weeting Hall – B-Squadron went to Cragside, a large house on a hill above Rothbury in Northumberland, a lovely town on the River Coquet, midway between Newcastle and the Borders.

Aug 15: A convoy of Royal and Merchant Navy ships carrying SS Ohio and a massive cargo of desperately needed oil makes port at Valletta’s Grand Harbour in Malta. In June 2018, I visited the Lascaris War Rooms in Valetta, an underground complex which served as HQ for those entrusted with the defence of the island during the war, with rooms assigned to the RAF, Anti-Airctrft Guns, Decoding, Combined Operations. By the time Italy declared war on Britain and France on 10 June 1940, it was apparent that Malta was absolutely key to the outcome of the war. This became particularly true when the Desert War raged between Rommel and Monty; Rommel was on the cusp of victory but he didn’t have enough fuel to complete the job. The Germans were desperate to get oil to him from their only oil-fields, located in Romania, but they couldn’t reach him without going within range of Allied submarines and airplanes based in Malta.
In May 1941, Rommel warned: ‘Without Malta the Axis will end by losing control of North Africa.’ However, Malta was also running so low on oil that its subs and planes were about to be grounded. A desperate remedy was called for. The British borrowed a 12,000 oil tanker, SS Ohio, from the Texas Oil Company, filled her up and sent her out from Britain on 3 August 1942 with a protective convoy of two battleships, three aircraft carriers, seven cruisers, 32 destroyers and seven submarines, the largest escort force yet assembled.
The convoy sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean on the night of 9/10 August. Bear in mind that Spain was then unofficially allied with Hitler, while France was also occupied by the Nazis, so the 1775km journey from Gibraltar to Malta was always going to be immensely nail-biting. Naturally the Spanish informed the Axis powers of what was going on the moment the convoy passed the Rock of Gibraltar and thereafter the German and Italians pummelled the convoy with everything they had. Over half the convoy was lost and SS Ohio was lashed to two if the destroyers for the final furlong. But amazingly she made it, arriving on 15 August, at which point Rommel’s forecast was essentially proven correct: the Axis powers lost North Africa and Italy itself was compelled to surrender just over a year later.
The final operations to bring the ship into Valetta were organised by Captain Jake Jerome, DSO, my father’s sponsor when he joined the Royal Navy, who commanded the 17th Minesweeping Flotilla (4 minesweepers and 7 motor launches) at Malta, ensuring the Grand Harbour was kept clear of enemy mines. He was the only son of Lucien Joseph J.R. Jerome (1870-1943), and Vivienne Fane Savile (1874-1912) and was married (26.07.1930, Oratory, Brompton, Kensington district, London) to Thelma Julia Madill (1901-1977), elder daughter of Charles Alexander Madill, and Mrs Madill, of St Louis, Missouri. Jake Jerome was awarded as DSO for his role in Operation Pedestal. He went on to be the first Commanding Officer and Director of the Irish Naval Service, from circa 1947 until retiring on 10/11/1956. Jake died in St Louis on 4 October 1982. I think he was in charge when the State brought WB Yeats alleged remains back to Ireland. (See his picture plus more details.) Admiral Andrew Browne Cunningham (‘ABC’), Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet, was born in Rathmines, Dublin in 1883. His father was a Professor of Anatomy at Trinity College, Dublin.
On the morning of 11 September 1943, Cunningham was present at Malta when the Italian Fleet surrendered. (He informed the Admiralty with a telegram; “Be pleased to inform their Lordships that the Italian battle fleet now lies at anchor under the guns of the fortress of Malta.”) He fetched up as 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope and died on 12 June 1963, 55 years to the day before our departure from Malta. He was present at both the Yalta and Potsdam conferences with Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.
When SS Ohio reached Malta on 15 August, she was carried into Valletta harbour, lashed between the destroyers HMS Ledburyand and HMS Penn. Lt.Cdr James Hamilton Swain (1905-1970), commander of the Penn, subsequently joined the Church of Ireland and became Rector of Maghera Union in L’derry (1953-1970) and Canon of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, in 1969. He is buried in St. Lurach Church of Ireland graveyard at Maghera. Perhaps, as Rohan Boyle proposed, he and ‘Baldy’ Hezlet pf Bovagh swapped Malta stories over sherry in the vestry; Baldy operated a submarine out of Malta and sank the Italian troop ship Esperia.

Aug 23-Feb 2 1943: Start of battle of Stalingrad.

Aug 26: Lt Col W.R.N. Hinde assumes command of 15/19 Hussars with Major W. Rankin as his second in command. (Was this Bill Rankin?) Oct 2: Twenty miles off the coast of Donegal, the luxury Cunard liner Queen Mary – converted into a troop carrier for the war smashes into her escort ship, the British cruiser Curaçao, with the loss of 338 men. Captain Cyril of Queen Mary, carrying an estimated 15,000 US troops, follows his orders and does NOT stop to rescue the men. Queen Mary is today moored at Long Beach in California.

Oct: Tide turning for 15/19 Hussars as the regiment’s strength rises to 650 and continued to rise steadily; there were nearly 900 men by July 1944.

Oct 23-Nov 11: Second battle of El Alamein.

Nov 1: ‘The Lady Pamela Rathdonnell’ becomes Acting Third Officer, WRNS, confirmed in 1944. See here. She works with the RAF Coastal Command in Rosyth and Plymouth before moving to Belfast later in the war.

Nov 11: RITZ CINEMA, CARLOW, presents. COUNT JOHN MCCORMACK. LAST FAREWELL CONCERT. NOVEMBER 11th. The stalls are now booked out. We have a limited number of balcony seats at 7/6p (seven shillings and six pence). Please book by Friday. Count McCormack may make a final farewell speech from the stage. Do not miss this historic occasion. [via Carlow Rootsweb]

Nov 20: Siege of Malta is effectively over.

Dec 7-9: Operation Frankton – Herbert ‘Blondie’ Hasler and 9 other marine commandos take five kayaks up the Gironde estuary (from a submarine) to Bordeaux in southwest France. (A sixth canoe was damaged while being deployed from the submarine and had to pull out). Only two kayaks reached Bordeaux where they set limpet mines and damaged five ships. Hasler and his Cockney accomplice Bill Sparks are the only two to come back alive – six were executed by the Nazis and two died from hypothermia. Their deaths were not in vain as the attack completely freaked the Germans out. Rohan Boyle’s grandfather would have known Hasler.



Pamela Drew sketch, 1943.

Jan: Major General J. G. D’Arcy, MC, took over command of 9th Armoured Division from Horrocks, while Brigadier H. R. Mackeson succeeded Brigadier Martin in command of the Brigade. The future was still “hidden in the fog of war” for the 15/19 Hussars but they felt they were finally “beginning to find our feet “. Major J. A.F. Binney (?) took over B-Squadron from Major Rankin.

Jan: Major John de Burgh fighting against Germany’s Afrika Corps in the North African desert. According to his obituary by Liam Kenny: ‘… his unit came face to face with a squadron of Rommel’s Panzer tanks in a battle for a position known as ‘Hill 286’. It was crucial to the security of the Allied lines and the Germans attacked it with ferocity. In the chaos of a night time battle John de Burgh and his crew were cut off from the rest of their unit. In a dash to break out he was wounded in the head and knocked unconscious. Despite his wounds he ran the gauntlet of gunfire and managed to break through to the Allied lines. His brave stand in an isolated position helped save the Allied lines from collapse in one of the pivotal battles in the north African theatre. For his courage in the field he was awarded the Military Cross, the first in a number of distinctions he gained through his insistence in leading his men from the front.’

Rosemary Butler with young Caroline and Richard. The Tatler – Wednesday 10 February 1943

Jan 31-Feb 2:To Hitler’s horror, the 6th Army of the Wermacht – which had captured Paris, and paraded through its streets in 1940 – was so badly trapped in Stalingrad that Friedrich Paulus surrendered. A massive psychological blow after his earlier failure to take Moscow. Hitler physically collapses in the wake of the surrender. Some say he developed Parkinson’s from this point.

Feb 2: End of battle of Stalingrad, from which Germans never fully recover. Growing panic about what the Reds will do when they invade Germany.

Feb 10: Rosemary Butler and children pictured in The Tatler.

Feb 15: Death of Billy Fitzwilliam, 7th Earl, at Wentworth, from cancer at the age of 70. His son Peter succeeds as 8th Earl Fitzwilliam.

Feb 28: SOE-trained Norwegian Commandos embark on Operation Gunnerside, the winter sabotage of the Vemork chemical plant in Telemark County of Nazi-occupied Norway.

March: 15/19 Hussars hold an “Exercise Spartan” near Bedford, after which the regiment moved to a hutted camp at Duncombe Park near Helmsley in the North Riding of Yorkshire. I think they were equipped with Cromwell tanks. [42]

March: ‘Three hundred and eighty Shorthorns faced the judges at the annual Royal Dublin Society’s Bull Show this year. The champion bull was “Prumplestown Gamecock [pictured],” a yearling owned by the well-known shorthorn breeder, Mr. J. F. Wright, whose brother secured the reserve champion ship with “Kilkea Double Event,” an April calf. Mr. J. F. Wright won the group award and his brother the reserve group champion ship. These exhibitors showed 32 bulls. Prices were high and bidding brisk at the sale. The highest price was 480 guineas for Mr. J. F. Wright’s “Prumplestown Ranger,” who was second in the Calved in April, 1942, class. Lord Rathdonnell only had to go to 300 guineas for Mr. J. F. Wright’s champion of the show “Prumplestown Gamecock.” (Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, Friday 19 March 1943)

March 16-27: Tom Butler, aka Major Thomas Pierce Butler, and the Grenadier Guards are fighting in the battle of the Mareth Line in Tunisia, for which he is later awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) for his gallantry. Most of his fellow officers are killed in the battle of Horsehoe Hill.

April 6: British Ambassador to Moscow, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, writes a letter to Foreign Office minister Lord Reginald Pembroke, in which he refers to an amusingly named Turkish colleague as per here. “We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when Spring is upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards.”

April 9: Newspapers report: ‘It is officially announced that Major Thomas Pierce Butler, of Chaldon, of the Grenadier Guards, is missing.’

April 13: Lieutenant Commander Robert Hichens, DSO and Bar, DSC and two Bars, RNVR, my father’s childhood hero, is killed in action.

April 30: The body of Glyndwr Michael aka Major William Martin is floated towards Cadiz as Operation Mincemeat enters its most unlikely phase.

Scottish Daily Express, 14 May 1943

May: Black May: The Germans were reeling after 41 U-boats were destroyed in the Atlantic because of developments in sonar and radar technology, as well as the breaking of the German Navy’s Enigma code.

May: Word reaches home that Tom Butler, missing since March, has been taken prisoner.

May 10: A mine washes up on a beach in Co Donegal and explodes; 19 men and boys, aged between 14 and 33, who lived in Ballymanus near Kincasslagh, are killed by the blast.

May 13: Surrender of the Axis powers in North Africa

May 16: Allies bomb Rome; the Dambusters raid begins.

June 1: Rathdonnell Trashes Sledmere! On 1 June the 15/19 Hussars moved to Sledmere, home of the Sykes family! They were feeling rather wary because the instructions for moving their new Centaur tanks advised that they should halt them every half an hour to allow the steering brakes to cool! “Not an auspicious beginning”, opined regimental historian Guy Courage. The camp comprised of a lot of orderly lines of tents beneath the open, undulating Yorkshire Wolds, “perhaps the best farming land in England.” The regiment “much regretted the devastation” they inevitably caused but local farmers were “philosophical”. The month they spent at Sledmere “without doubt… did more than anything to forge the regiment into a sound fighting force.” Navigating the ponds, quarries and steep hills of the Wolds was the most realistic training they had experienced yet.

June: Rathvilly is among those places to send a contingent of Wolf Cubs and Scouts when 1,000 Boy Scouts and Girl Guides from all over Ireland parade in Lansdowne Road. Did Pamela lead them onto the pitch? (The Irish Times, Monday 14 June 1943.)

July: 15/19 Hussars move from Sledmere to Crowborough in Sussex where they practiced amid the trees and built-up areas of Ashdown Forest. This was a first-class camp, much welcomed.

July 5 – Aug 23: Battle of Kursk, probably the most important battle of the war.

July 10: Operation Husky begins with predawn airdrops on the south east coast of Sicily. By close of day, over 2600 ships had landed 8 divisions, comprising 80,000 men, 3000 vehicles, 300 tanks and 900 guns. There was 600 casualties, half of whom drowned. The Germans were utterly confused, having been hoodwinked into thinking their target was Greece, through Operation Mincemeat and other deceptions, while Hitler was cranked on speed at this time. The Allies had been very divided prior to the invasion. Marshall’s tactic to avoid answering Churchill was to ask the prime minister a historical question, something the old man could not resist answering at length, like, hey Winston, how did the Romans conquer Sicily?

June 13 (?): Rathvilly was among those places to send a contingent of Wolf Cubs and Scouts to the Lansdowne rally at which Lord Somers presided, and at which the late Johnny Golden attended. I imagine my grandmother might have been in the vicinity also. [43]

July 17: A British Wellington bomber of the 304th Polish Squadron, crashed at Ballickmoyler. The crew bailed out over Carlow.

July 25: Mussolini is sacked by the king and arrested; the tabloids write ‘Benito e Finito.’

July 27: 787 British bombers attack Hamburg.

July 29: Hamburg again attacked by over 700 RAF bombers. These attacks kill over 42,000 Germans and cause massive displacement across Germany.

August: 15/19 Hussars back north again, slumbering beneath “the grim peaks of the Pennine chain” where they created Brackenber camp near Appleby. By now, the new 75mm guns had arrived with sound high-explosion and reasonable armour penetration. Courage noted that all the practice meant there was now an excellent standard of shooting.

August 11: Birth of the Hon. Jane (Hermione) McClintock-Bunbury. The children were in the care of full-time nurses and governesses, irrespective of whether the parents were at home. Jack Langham was running Lisnavagh at this time, with some help from ‘Mother Drew’ and Di.

Aug 23: Russian victory at Kursk; Soviet troops go on to liberate Ukraine.

Aug 29: 15/19 Hussars sent to a dark, depressing pine forest called Shaker’s Wood near Mundford in Norfolk where they had live ammunition exercises and enjoyed “excellent Partridge and pheasant shooting to be had for five shillings a day.” However, petrol rationing restricted the amount of armoured training.

Sept 8: Formal declaration of Italian surrender at Armistice of Cassibile, Sicily. The armistice was actually signed on 3 Sept but the news of it was delayed until 8 Sept which, was good for Maltese morale as 8 September was also the date the Ottoman fleet turned home after the Great Siege of 1565. Based at a POW camp in Northern Italy at the time, Tom Butler recalled: ‘The whole camp went crazy and a free issue of marsala was handed round. Everywhere the wildest rumours spread like lightening. It was officially announced that Allied landings had taken place at Spezia ‑ Livorno and as far north as Genoa.’

September 9 Hitler sends 16 divisions in Italy. He was not prepared to abandon his allies in Croatia, Romania and Hungary. German army seize Rome and take 650,000 Italians as prisoner – 8000 Jews were rounded up in Rome, alone. At Tom Butler’s prison, he writes, ‘Germans arrived and proceeded to take over the camp having locked up all the Italian Officers in the local gaol.’ The prisoners were told they would be relocated to Germany as soon as possible and, sure enough, the first 800-900 were moved within a couple of days. Tom avoided being in that batch. The British and Americans press on but 22,000 Allied soldiers were be knocked out by malaria in Sicily, while a British field hospital in Sicily clocked 186 cases of VD on a single day .

Bill made it back to Ireland to join Pamela at the Bloodstock Sales in Ballsbridge in October 1943. They were pictured in Tatler on Wednesday 13 October 1943.

Sept: Major J.A.F. Binney leaves 15/19 Hussars for service in the Far East and Major the Lord Rathdonnell took command of B-Squadron. [I suspect this is when Bill Harrington’s interview would commence -When did he become major?] Alas this coincided with the discovery of another fault in the tanks – a simple crack in the idler wheel ball race housing in the Centaurs and Cromwells so the regiment was immobilised until this was put right.

September 12: Otto Skorenzy and special troops from the Waffen SS crash landed at the Gran Sasso ski resort in the Apennines, north of Rome, where they grabbed Mussolini and brought him back to Hitler’s Wolf’s Layer.

Sept 15-16: Assisted by friendly Italians, Tom Butler, aged 33, and Lieut. Mark Bonham-Carter, 21-year-old son of Sir Maurice and Lady Violet Bonham-Carter, scale a 15 foot wall topped with barbed wire at their POW camp in northern Italy. They begin the 30-day, 500-mile walk to British lines. Bonham-Carter is a grandson of Prime Minister Asquith. Tom’s account of their dramatic escape is here.

Late Sept: Hitler’s desperation to hold Italy means that he has now committed 37 divisions at a time when the Wehrmacht desperately needs as many men as possible on the Eastern Front. The Germans destroyed many aqueducts in Naples at this time and huge numbers died, but it transpired that Churchills plan to come in via Italy was probably the right choice.

Sept 29: Field Marshal John Prendergast Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort, VC (1886-1946), Governor of Malta (1942–44), together with Generals Eisenhower and Alexander, witnesses Marshal Badoglio signing the Italian naval surrender in Valletta harbour. Gort’s courage and leadership during the siege was recognised by the Maltese who gave him the Sword of Honour. Lough Cutra Castle in Galway was built by John Nash for the 2nd Viscount Gort but the Famine caused such financial turmoil the family were obliged to sell it … ultimately to General Gough, whose mum was a Bunbury! The 6th Viscount was succeeded by his brother who put the roof on Bunratty Castle and made it what it is today. The present Viscount Gort lives on the Isle of Man; his sister is presently a resident of Killerrig (June 2018).

Oct 15: Tom Butler and Mark Bonham-Carter reach British lines after 500 mile walk from Italian jail. Both men were officers in the Grenadier Guards. Tom’s account of their escape is here.

Oct: Bill gets back to Ireland to attend the Bloodstock Sales at Ballsbridge. He and Pamela were pictured in Tatler, studying the catalogue with Michael W. Conway, manager of Naas Racecourse in Co. Kildare.

October 13: One month after surrendering to the Allies, Italy declares war on its former ally, Nazi Germany. Listen to Paul Reed’s account of it here.

Oct-Nov: Peter Fitzwilliam engaged in the successful Operation Bridford, the seizure of 347 tons ball-bearings from Sweden by motor gun boats, brought out into the North Sea via the Skagerrak see channel. During the war, his wife Obby made parts for fighter planes in a factory near Slough.

Oct–Dec: 15/19 Hussars provides 300 men daily to gather sugar beet crops in Norfolk and Lincolnshire. It took nearly 3 months of hard labour, long days.

Oct 26: Tom Butler and Mark Bonham-Carter back in London and drawing much publicity after their daring escape. Tom goes ‘home’ to Caterham.

Nov 21-Dec 1: Tehran Conference with Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill.

Nov 26: Butch O’Hare, the fighter ace for whom O’Hare International Airport in Chicago is named, is shot down while leading the U.S. Navy’s first-ever nighttime fighter attack launched from an aircraft carrier. During an encounter with Japanese torpedo bombers, his Grumman F6F Hellcat was shot down. His aircraft was never found.

Nov 27: Death of Betty Scott’s brother William, aged 17.

Dec 9: Duke of Gloucester makes an inspection of 15/19 Hussars shortly before the sugar beet harvesting was completed. A number of the BEF veterans had by now been repatriated, including troopers W. Cantwell and V. Hailwood of B-Squadron.

Dec 20 (circa): 400 men from 15/19 Hussars permitted to go on leave over Christmas 1943; the rest are relocated to Whitby.




Pamela Rathdonnell (née Drew) in uniform, 1944. Rather bizarrely, this image also featured on a coffee mug here.

The Horsebox Garage is completed at Lisnavagh, designed for a 1930s Lancia 3-horse lorry. The garage was built from the granite in a high wall which ran from the west corner of the old house for some 120 feet towards the Lime Walk. (‘Why it was done, I know not,’ writes my father. ‘The box used to be in the farm, which was the chicken and which the egg, I know not.’) The wall divided the sweep from the lawns; there was a turret at the end with a door in it and a rabbit fence on into the Lime Walk.

Jan 1: 15/19 Hussars moved to Northumberland. B-Squadron (under Rathdonnell) went to Longframlington, not far from Rothbury, where they engaged in further training in gunnery, wireless, gas and weapons. At this point the prospect of action was certain and by the time they started training to combat mines, the invasion of Europe was clearly imminent. All depended on whether Hitler invaded Russia. Nobody knew what the future held and there was fear of more drafts and draining of the regiment, which was now in peak condition. They gradually turned to amphibious tanks and headed for France again in August 1944. Jan 7: Jock Colley killed when he crash lands his Tiger Moth in the Transvaal. Jan 17 – May 18: Battle of Monte Cassino. Mathew Parker called it the greatest mass nervous breakdown in history with 20,000 British deserters and 50000 US off sick. See Parker’s excellent website for more. Jan 19-21: Royal Navy’s X-Class Midget Subs drop two frogmen swimmers from the Special Boat Section off French coast to gather intelligence on Nazi fortifications, seabed topography and sand content ahead of D-Day. Among those involved with the Special Boat Section, are Ian Smith, Rohan Boyle’s grandfather (who joined the SBS quite late in 1944, October I think, having spent the previous six months with the partisans in Yugoslavia) and Anders ‘Andy’ Lassen, VC, MC, a cousin of Baron Michael Raben and a first cousin of Axel von dem Bussche, a German Resistance member who unsuccessfully tried to kill Adolf Hitler in 1943. Jan 24: 153 people killed when the Luftwaffe bomb the Red Cross ship, HMHS St David, off Anzio. Among the dead are fifteen members of the Royal Army Medical Corps whose names I track down, assisted by S. Raben, when we visit the Monte Cassino cemetery in May 2023. Jan 24: Bombs falling on the Italian palace of Caserta. Feb 15: A fleet of 142 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers, 47 North American B-25 Mitchell and 40 Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers drop 1,150 tons of high explosives and incendiary bombs on Monte Cassino abbey, reducing the entire top to rubble. Martha Gellhorn says she cheered on ‘like all the other fools’ when she saw the Boeing B-17 bombers blast the monastery to smithereens. The Allied soldiers were likewise cheered to see the monastery blown up – it has dominated the skyline like Sauron’s Eye since the campaign began – but the rubble actually made it easier for the Germans to defend when the Allies pressed forward with their attack in the dark, under fire, in ice-cold howling rains with low morale all along the Gustav Line. Feb 17: Death of Brigadier General Anthony Courage of 15/19 Hussars. He had been with the regiment since 1897 and colonel of the regiment since 1931 he was succeeded by Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode in April. At about this time the padre, Captain Rev E.D. Dawson–Walker, left due to ill health.

Lady Rathdonnell brought her young son and heir, Thomas [to the Leopardstown Races.] He is five and a half, and it was his first race-meeting. The Tatler – Wednesday 29 March 1944.

March: Pamela and Ben attend the Leopardstown Races; it’s Ben’s first race meeting. March 15: New Zealand troops oust German paratroopers from Rocca Janula castle at Monte Cassino. March 19: The 4th Battalion of the Essex Regiment under moustachioed old school Major Dennis Bennett successfully defend a counter attack by German 1st Parachute Division seeking to retake the Rocca Janula castle at Monte Cassino. After the Germans retire, the two sides have a brief ceasefire to bury the dead and a German with a brother in Brooklyn made pals with them all before they went back to shooting each other. April 5: As part of an ongoing cold war, the British government ceases telephone service to Ireland and ends distribution of newspapers there. Britain was concerned about leakage of military information to the neutral Ireland which still allowed Nazi Germany an embassy in Ireland. However, the Irish were also curtailing the Germans as per this account of John Patrick O’Sullivan from RTÉ – The History Show in Podcasts. April 27-28: Exercise Tiger, a rehearsal for the D-Day landings on the Slapton Sands of Devon, goes horribly wrong. Between a hail of friendly fire and a blitzkrieg raid by Nazi E-boats, almost 750 Americans were killed, more than died on Omaha Beach. Those who were recovered lie buried alongside Bill’s parents, the 3rd Baron Rathdonnell and his wife, in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey. The whole thing was hushed up until a Devonian chap called Ken Small fished out a US tank at Slapton Sands, got suspicious and unearthed the truth in the 1970s. The tank sit proudly on the beach today. April 29: Bill Rathdonnell and Bill Harrington escort Edith Lilian Moran to her wedding in Longframlington Northumberland, in a pony and trap. The groom is Corporal Leonard C. Whelpdale of the King’s Royal Hussars. The corporals of the squadron formed a guard of honour, making an archway of rifles under which the bride and bridegroom walked. Among them was Corporal Edwards who, as Luke Jennings observed, was killed near Argentan on the Regiment’s first day of action in August 1944, while Corporal Jacks was wounded at Ijsselstein in October on the same day as Luke’s father. [44] May 6: Billy Hartington married Kick Kennedy.

Terence Cuneo’s depiction of the Amazon Bridge, a bailey bridge, being heaved across the River Rapido during the battle for Monte Cassino.

May 12-13: Three companies of Royal Engineers sent out one to build a bridge across the Rapido river near Monte Cassino under intense fire. All three failed. On the second night, the commanders decide Robin Gabbett’s spot was the most promising of the three and assign the survivors of all three companies to work as one unit under Robin’s command and get that bloody bridge across. 15 sappers died, another 57 or so injured, but they got their bridge from one side to the other and that changed everything. In May 2023, we walked along that stretch of the Rapido, a fast-flowing river, almost baby blue in colour, with red poppies and wild oats growing along its banks. It was powerful to be there, to see the challenge that faced the Allies, with those endless mountains all around and the Germans lined up for hand-to-hand combat the moment they crossed, the Blackwatch fixing bayonets as the bagpipes wailed. May 18: After eight days of suicidal assaults by Polish troops under the command of Gen. Wladyslaw Anders, the Poles destroy the German defences and the battle of Monte Cassino is over. 1,018 Polish soldiers died and 2,500 were wounded. May: All Sabre Squadrons and Recce Squadrons training for a week at Hawick in Scotland, but then 9th Armoured Division was disbanded and its various infantry and gunners, effecting 15/19 Hussars, not sure how. May (end): 15/19 Hussars are told that after a year of training in British tanks, they are now to mobilise in Shermans. The regiment listened incredulously. They knew practically nothing about Shermans. They didn’t even know that Shermans were easily outclassed, outgunned and liable to become raging infernos the instant they were hit. Cromwells were far superior! However, at the time they thought Shermans were going to be just grand; they had a great reputation from the desert. Each squadron was given 19 tanks and an armoured recovery vehicle.  

A picture of the Omaha beach landings from the Irish Military War Museum near Collon, County Louth, home to the largest private collection of WW2 Allied and Axis vehicles and deactivated weapons ever assembled in Ireland.

June 3: Based in Belmullet, County Mayo, 21-year-old Maureen Sweeney reports a severe incoming storm from the Atlantic, prompting the Allied command to postpone the Normandy landings until June 6. Maureen died aged 100 in December 2023. June 6: D-Day. Operation Overlord – Normandy Landings begin with 24,000 American, Canadian, and British troops land. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel is in command of German forces and of developing fortifications along the Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an Allied invasion. The Allies dropped 179,000 tons of bombs on France in the weeks preceding it. The news of D-Day reached the 15/19 Hussars while the regiment was training in Scotland. They felt envious and anxious and longed for the call up. June 14: First Shermans arrive with 15/19 Hussars. Nobody knew how to drive them, but they quickly mastered it with an intense training course in Barnard Castle in County Durham. June 18: Bill Rankin goes to Normandy with 4CLY and Major M.S. Balmain became second-in-command of 15/19 Hussars. Major Pearson took over A-Squadron. June 22: 15/19 Hussars received a surprise order to advance to East Anglia; as squadron commander, Bill Rathdonnell would have had prior knowledge of this. The following day they went to Doncaster, where they spent the night on the racecourse, before continuing on south to a new camp at Fritton in Great Yarmouth. Then began three weeks of intense training in amphibious tanks and “all manner of strange device and weird equipment”. The regiment was now part of 79th Armoured Division, commanded by Major General Sir Percy ‘Hobo’ Hobart, a British military engineer. B-Squadron was to become expert in amphibious DD (Duplex Drive) Sherman tanks, training between an inland lake at Fritton and Lee-over-Sands on the Essex coast between Clacton and Brightlingsea. June 22: Death in Italy of Ian Blacker, 2nd Battalion, The Tower Hamlets Rifles, who is buried in the Assisi War Cemetery (C 9, Plot No. 7). A paramour of Dame Joan Hammond, the Australian soprano, he was a son of Sheelagh Blacker of Castlemartin House. After the war Mrs Blacker went to Italy to bring his body home for burial in the family plot in Yellow Bog cemetery, County Kilfare. On seeing where he lay, she changed her mind and said “ Let him lie with his 945 allied comrades who are laid to rest there.” He was a brother of Percy Blacker. June 23 – August 19: Frank McDonough argues Operation Bagration was the biggest game changer of the war, with the Battle of Kursk, the Battle of Kiev, the Dnieper-Carpathian Offensive, and the Crimean Offensive. The Soviets destroyed 28 of 34 divisions of Army Group Centre and completely wrecked the German front line in the biggest defeat in German military history. It was also the fifth deadliest campaign in Europe, with around 450,000 soldiers killed. Hitler’s resources are now utterly drained to meet attacks in the west, enabling the Allies to take France in September. Hitler seems to have had a heart attack and taken to bed at this time. Dr Morel is coming to the fore now.

July 5: 15/19 Hussars are officially mobilised, but they still had no fighting vehicles and were awaiting their D. D. Shermans, aka Hobart’s Funnies, which turned out to be just Shermans with a few additions, such as inflatable canvas screens to the hull and a pair of propellers in the stern. [45] When the screen was inflated, it formed a canvas box that enabled the tank to float – a clumsy dinghy capable of 4 knots in smooth water, that Archimedes would have approved of. There were numerous lessons in how to use the escape apparatus if required. The D.D. was “one of the most closely guarded secrets of the war” and thus there was some serious security at Fritton.

July 20: The Bielenberg’s intricately involved in Stauffenberg’s plot to kill Hitler. In early 1944, James von Moltke met Wild Bill Donovan in Istanbul and proposed that he could secure unconditional surrender of Germany and remove Hitler in a coup. His mission was rejected by the Allies but the July 1944 plot went ahead anyway. The Bielenbergs live near us, so we’ve always been interested in that story, via ‘The Past is Myself’ by Christabel. One of the most remarkable moments of my teenage years was when my mother suggested I drive over to Munny for lunch with Peter and Christabel – just the three of us – and Peter gave me a physical demonstration of how the briefcase was laid down in front of Hitler and then removed by a diligent adjutant.
As it happens, Mussolini met Hitler for tea and cake on the same day as the plot was unleashed and failed.
4000 people were involved, and, in its aftermath, the Gestapo rounded up and executed about 5000 people, including Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Hans Oster and the Rev. Dietrich Bonnhoefer, who were very slowly executed on 9 April 1945. ‘The old Admiral took a long time to die,’ remarked one witness, ‘so we helped him by taking him down and lifting him up again.’ Perhaps there was some recompense in the sounds of American guns coming ever nearer as Canaris died. Von Moltke was executed on 23 January 1945. People of goodness must have assumed a malign force was in control of the world when at least seven and possibly 10 attempts to kill Hitler failed. Anyone interested in the anti-Nazi movement in Germany should watch ‘The Restless Conscience: Resistance to Hitler Within Germany 1933-1945’ (1992), which investigates opposition to Hitler and his followers within his own country, an often-overlooked element of the European resistance. “Looking back to the roots of Germany’s underground effort to thwart Hitler’s rise, the film features many of the key players in the resistance movement and reveals what they risked in defying the powerful and prevalent Nazi regime, which controlled the nation for more than a decade.” In the late Paddy Ashdown’s book ‘Nein!’ about the German opposition within Nazi Germany, he tells of at least seven failed attempts to kill Hitler, with July ’44 being the most disheartening of all.

July 26: Red Army overpower District of Galicia in Ukraine; prominent Nazi Otto von Wachter relocates to Lake Garda in northern Italy.

July (end): Both A and B Squadrons of 15/19 Hussars practising beach landing and swimming the tanks in formation in the desolate plain of Lee–on–Sands; an impressive sight to see 35 tanks between the two squadrons sailing out to sea, wheeling in formation, coming into the beach and deflating at speed. In the lulls, they could hear the drone of flying bombs in the distance. As it happens, they did not use the D.D. tanks, which had been used for the very first time in rough seas on D-Day …. General Bradley did not believe in them. [That said, my father believes they did use them in a later river crossing by when they were much more dangerous as the secret was out!] Moreover, the regiment was no longer to be a Water Assault regiment! ,

July 31: 15/19 Hussars moved to Fornham Park near Bury St Edmunds.

July 30: Carlow claim their only senior honours to date when they won the Leinster football title but Kerry fisherman-publican Paddy “Bawn” Brosnan kept them from reaching the All-Ireland final. His second half goal put Carlow out of the All-Ireland semi-final by 3-3 to 0-10. Because of wartime circumstances the Leinster final was played in Athy. Carlow’s midfield won the Leinster title against Dublin. Check Frank O’Brien’s account of this here. When Carlow won the Leinster title in 1944 they were, as Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh told me, ‘as proud of that as any county who has won the All Ireland three, four or thirty times’. He recalls Carlow celebrating 60 years in 2004, as well as the 1954 one (below). ‘The time will come when Carlow will do what Tyrone and Armagh did in very recent times and win an All-Ireland for the first time. That hope always lives on’.

August: Hitler orders renewed construction on the Siegfried Line by 20,000 forced labourers and members of the Reichsarbeitsdienst (mostly 14–16-year-old boys). This defensive line was rather shoddily built during the 1930s, opposite the French Maginot Line, and stretched over 630 km from Kleve on the border with the Netherlands, along the western border of the old German Empire, to Weil am Rhein on the border to Switzerland.

August 7: Major John Madden (1913–1996) of Hilton Park is wounded at La Marvindiere, Calvados, France, with the result that he loses a leg and is forced to retire as Squadron Leader of No. 2 Squadron in the 2nd Armoured Battalion Irish Guards. See here, and below, for visual of the tanks in action just two days later as the Micks’ tanks travels through the ‘bocage’ from La Marvindiere to La Barbiere in order to relieve an 11th Armoured Division unit, the 3rd RTR.

Aug 7: 15/19 Hussars now have a dozen old Shermans and a medley of Cromwell and Centaurs.

Aug 10: Everyone in 15/19 Hussars takes two days leave, the first in 4-6 months for most. Aug 12: At 1930, the call to battle comes as the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars are ordered to France to serve as the divisional reconnaissance regiment for the 11th Armoured Division.. Nobody slept. The kit was packed, stores and ammunition stacked, billets hurriedly swept. They set off with nothing but their personal arms and their personal kit; all the tanks were left behind. The big question for all: what lies in store? I appear to be missing a page of my notes here for the period of 1 Aug – 20 August … at the end of which they ‘harboured’ one night in a wood very close to Rhoisin Beresford’s house by Argentan!

Aug 12: Death of Joe Kennedy junior, brother of JFK, when his Liberator bomber explodes over the North Sea.

Aug 18: R’s Regimental War Diary states that, two days after landing, he and his regiment spent the night of 18th August, 1944, “just west of Ecouché” and next day pressed on through a badly damaged Argentan. [NB: My father thinks his father “came out through St Malo” …]. They were in tanks – I know not how many, nor what type, but I met a tank expert by name of Paul Shepperd at the 2019 Chalke Valley History Festival, and he reckoned it was ‘almost certainly a Sherman M4.’ Notes are missing but they state: ‘… ran into Troop Leader, Lt J. R. D Sharpe. With wireless communication deteriorating (commonplace in the evening) and a general lack of experience, the squadron suffered badly; 8 of 19 tanks and 2 scouts cars failed to make it back. The only casualties were from Sharpe’s tank – Corporal Edwards was killed while Sharpe and three others were wounded. ‘A difficult and unlucky start for B Squadron.’

Aug 20: C-Squadron helped B-Squadron of 15/19 Hussars to recover all but two of their tanks. There was no enemy opposition. They moved through the burning Argentan, occupied by the Yanks, which had been badly damaged by air bombardment, and spent a rain-soaked night in an orchard near Le Bourg St Leonard.

Aug 21: Another manky, rainy day for 15/19 Hussars. The roads stank of dead cows and dead humans, the smells of battle. They drove onwards through steep, hilly wooded terrain, as part of the greater 29th Armoured Brigade. Rathdonnell and his men would have taken their turn as the advance guard, marching along those narrow, winding roads, with occasional cross country. They often encountered Americans whose uniforms looked so dangerously “like the German field grey in the distance or in bad light. ” C-Squadron was caught up in an enemy attack on Gacé [a commune in the Orne department in Lower-Normandy] – they were spotted by mortars which killed Sergeant Bray and wounded Trooper Lawrence.

Aug 22: A and B Squadrons of 15/19 Hussars were carrying a company from 1 Hereford (men not sheep!) on their tanks, clearing the woods around Gacé.

Aug 23: 15/19 Hussars have first serious battle. The regiment was part of 43 Wessex Division when it sought to cross the River Seine at the town of Vernon, which, unknown to anyone, was already in American hands. There was an old Roman fortress on the opposite side of the hill to Vernon. However, the enemy had an excellent hilltop position nearby with machine guns embedded. This was the fresh but week German 49 Division. When the Allied boats tried to set off on 25 August, they were blitzed in the water, and nobody could move. The hillside was rapidly obscured by smoke, and it was very difficult to see who was who. B-Squadron was much involved, crossing the river on rafts with tanks under smoke screens. They were under constant fire but amazingly they had no casualties and secured the place.

Aug 27: 15/19 Hussars cross the Seine by Bailey’s Bridge with rafts in the evening and set up camp amid a wet thunderstorm on a hill beyond Vernonnet.

Aug 28: B-Squadron assisted the 4 Somerset Light Infantry in an attack on Bois Jerome St Owen and Haricourt. This brought them into open, undulating country, which was somewhat different to the close orchards of Normandy. They fired a lot of ammunition but met with little opposition. The enemy was clearly retreating now that the barrier of the Seine had fallen. The regiment already had 140 prisoners. However, the regiment’s reconnaissance squadron suffered when Germans hidden in slit trenches amid the cornfields opened fire, killing Troopers Drake and Dakin (?) and Lieutenant RJ Pearce, and wounding Captain WWM Robb. Lieutenant B. J. Pearson and Trooper Elcock were also injured when their scout car drove over a mine. The regiment now reverted to the command of 11th Armoured Division and headed for Germany. They had lost one officer and five rank dead, with another three officers and eight rank wounded. 60 years later I met with Lord Harrington. “He was a terrific friend of mine, you know,” said he of my grandfather, with a long-chin grin and hopeful eyes. And, as of October 2021, I need to return to Guy Courage’s book to take up the story.

Sept 10: Billy Hartington, heir to Duke of Devonshire and husband to Kick Kennedy, killed in action, shot through the heart while taking on a crack squad of German SS troops in the town of Heppen, shortly after they had liberated Brussels.

September: The Great Bluff – Andres Lassen liberates Thessaloniki in Greece. As Seamus Raben puts it: ‘Highly out numbered by a heavy German presence in the city he sent a message to them via the Red Cross to surrender. He bluffed that there were 30,000 British troops out side the city ready for an assault. When in fact it was a small number of SBS commandos and a load Greek resistance fighters. The bluff worked and the Germans retreated. Andres ran the city for 9 days while waiting for a 6000 British Troops to arrive. What a dude.’

Sept 4: As they slogged through Belgium. fighting fierce and brilliant Nazi resistance, [the then Captain?] Rathdonnell’s segment of B-Squadron was on its own. They were, recalled Guy Courage, ‘now out of wireless touch with the Regiment owing to the distance and we did not know who was in possession of the town. [I’m as yet unsure which town this refers to] Eventually some men of ‘The White Brigade‘ were found who offered to guide us through the town. They asked Lord Rathdonnell to help them to attack a fort held by SS troops. To his dismay he found that the fort covered the Squadron’s route. But luckily it was abandoned and the Squadron reached its objective about midnight and seized the bridge.’

Sept 5: ‘After a night spent in the same positions we made our final move in the approach to Antwerp, which the forward elements of the Division had entered on the previous afternoon. [46] Rathdonnell’s squadron found themselves under attack from an SS Division at Zonhoven, some 4 miles north of Hasselt, the capital of Limburg province in Belgium. Lieutenant Ted Deeming, of the 15/ 19th (who may have been with a Challenger A 30 tank and crew at the time) recalled:

“It was close country with lots of marsh and short fields of view, treacherous going for tanks and the fighting was severe and confused. The opposition was A/Tk guns of all calibres, at least 2 SP guns and probably a Panther tank, all located east of the road [3.5 miles north of the Albert Canal] The regiment inflicted many casualties on the enemy, destroyed two SP guns, four A/Tk guns and three tanks but lost twenty-one casualties themselves. Squadron Leader Lord Rathdonnell found himself 60 yards away from a Jagd Panzer IV. His gun jammed, the SP fired and missed and a bazookaman hit the Cromwell, but no real damage.” [47]

More explicit details are provided by Guy Courage:

‘Major The Lord Rathdonnell then ordered 3rd Troop to try to get round the village to the west to bring fire to bear on the guns covering the road: it was evident that we were not going to be able to get down the road until these guns were eliminated. But Lieutenant Ainslie soon reported that he had also come under fire from the village and from a wood a few hundred yards to the east of it. On this report, the Commanding Officer decided that the whole of B Squadron would be needed for this battle, and its position astride the road was therefore taken over by C Squadron.

Lord Rathdonnell then advanced with the rest of his Squadron southwards across country to the east of the road. The Squadron soon became heavily involved with more anti-tank guns, at least two SP guns and probably a Panther tank, all located east of the road. Severe and confused fighting took place here for the next two hours in very difficult conditions, and the Squadron suffered considerable casualties. It had, however, inflicted many casualties on the enemy, in addition to the destruction of two SP guns and four anti-tank guns of various calibres.

During this confused fighting Lord Rathdonnell attempted to outflank a SP gun which was firing at Captain [C.D.] Agnew. Unfortunately he was spotted, and on bursting through a hedgerow into the lane where the gun was, Lord Rathdonnell found to his consternation that it was much closer than he had judged and that the barrel had now swung round to point straight at him. A quick fire order produced no result: the gun had jammed. The German fired – and missed.

Lord Rathdonnell beat a hasty retreat, encountering a man with a bazooka on the way. The bazooka hit a wheel and the only damage was to an outside bin. The distance between the gun and the tank was later measured as sixty-eight yards – there is evidently something to be said for shock tactics! Afternoon was approaching and B Squadron was unlikely to be able to advance any further; it would have to regroup and sort itself out after the casualties which had been sustained. The enemy resistance too showed no sign of lessening …’ [48]

The story was also recounted in the brilliant book ‘Blood Knots’ by Luke Jennings whose father Michael Jennings, MC, a fellow officer of my grandfather, recorded this account in his diary:

“At Zonhoven, north of Hasselt, ‘B’ Squadron suddenly found themselves in the thick of a battle with an SS Division. We knocked out several tanks and guns. Basil Pearson was sniped and died in a few minutes. David Agnew’s tank was hit and he was concussed. He started crawling towards the enemy until he was rescued by Cpl Lucas, who won the Military Medal. An 88mm took a pot-shot at Bill Rathdonell’s tank but missed. Bill tried to fire back but his gun jammed. Meanwhile the colonel was weaving around in his scout-car, directing the battle. Frank Ainslie’s tank was stalked by a German who dropped a grenade in through the turret. He and Cpl Walker were killed.”

Courage’s book presumably tells what happened over the next six months, as does Bill Harrington interview.

[In April 2020, I was emailed by somebody called Zen who told me his late uncle Ben Sparrow served with 15/19th Hussars, joining Recce Troop around Antwerp from Sandhurst. Zen says he featured in the booklet ‘Push On 20’, written by the Recce Troop commander. He carried on after the war when they went to Palestine. Zen writes: ‘He told me there was a mass resignation of officers. Someone complained that army lorries were moving officer’s polo ponies, and this was banned by the socialists running the War Office. From what I recall, the officers were not over-concerned with being bombed and shot at, provided they could let off steam through polo. Those were the days!’ Captain Ben Sparrow later became master of the Western, near Penzance, and died on 3 April 2015.]

Sept 17-25: The 15th/19th participate in Operation Market Garden, Monty’s bold plan to cut through the German defences via the eight bridges which spanned the Dutch/German border and thereby form a buffer between Germany and Antwerp. Their goal was to clear both banks of the Scheldt estuary in order to open the port of Antwerp to Allied shipping, thus easing logistical burdens in their supply lines stretching hundreds of miles from Normandy eastward to the Siegfried Line. [49] However, the Allied advance halted with the British in possession of Antwerp, while the Germans still controlled the Scheldt Estuary. During Operation Market Garden, I Airborne Corps were commanded by Lieut-General Sir Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning (1896 –1965), aka the “Father of the British Airborne Forces”. He was married to Daphne du Maurier – their son Christian ‘Kits’ Browning was married to Olive Smith, Miss Ireland in 1961. Boy Browning got absolutely slated for his role in the Arnhem disaster, particularly in the film ‘A Bridge Too Far’, because he was the guy who said, “I think we might be going a bridge too far.” Daphne flew into a rage when she heard about this because she said he had said it was a bridge too far before the operation, not after it. Dirk Bogarde played him as a ‘rather effeminate, cheesy sort of character’ in the film who was not particularly concerned about these 8,000 men who died. Daphne said this was absolutely not the case.

Sept 18: While her husband is on the frontline, ‘The Lady Pamela Rathdonnell’ is confirmed as Third Officer, WRNS. See here. She was stationed in Belfast towards the end of the conflict

September 19: Battle of Hürtgen Forest marks start of a large-scale Allied offensive on the Siegfried Line. 24,000 American soldiers die in the battle, which evolved into the Battle of the Bulge.

Nov 6: Walter Guinness, 1st Baron Moyne, DSO & Bar, PC, the British minister of state in the Middle East, assassinated by the Jewish terrorist group Lehi. He had rowed for Eton alongside Billy Bunbury.

Nov 22: Pamela’s photo appears in Tatler. ‘Women in Uniform – Lady Rathdonnell Third Officer in the W.R.N.S., Lady Rathdonnell is the wife of Major Lord Rathdonnell, 15th/19th Hussars, who is serving with his regiment abroad. Lord and Lady Rathdonnell hove a son and two daughters. Lady Rathdonnell was Miss Pamela Drew. (The Tatler, Wednesday 22 November 1944)

Dec 16: Beginning of Battle of the Bulge, runs until 25 January 1945.

John Henry Foley’s statue of Viscount Gough as it was in Phoenix Park.

Dec 17: The Malmedy Massacre of at least 84 American prisoners by SS Kampfgruppe Peiper, including Joachim Peiper and SS general Sepp Dietrich. The British traitor, propaganda broadcaster and Colditz informer Roy Walter Purdy also reportedly worked with an SS unit during the battle of the Bulge; one wonders whether he was involved. His story is told by Robert Verkaik in ‘The Traitor of Colditz’. Listen here.

Dec 21: Siege of Bastogne begins. When German commander requests American surrender, Gen. Anthony McAuliffe responds ‘Nuts!’

Dec 1944: Merck Co. in Darmstadt destroyed by British air raids so Merck unable to produce Eukodal anymore, which gives Hitler serious cold turkey. His drug dependency had shot up since the July Bomb plot ruptured his hearing.

Bill Rathdonnell and his fellow B-Squadron Officers of the Hussars on a Humber scout car in Germany. L-R: Lieutenant S.R.M. Frazer, Captain Sutherland, Lieutenant R.F. (?), Captain the Earl of Harrington, Major the Lord Rathdonnell, MC (puffing a pipe at the back) and Captain Weatherby, MC.



Jan 1: In response to the massacre at Malmedy, American soldiers allegedly shoot sixty German prisoners near the Belgian village of Chenogne (8 km from Bastogne).

Jan 7: Hitler agrees to withdraw all forces from the Ardennes, including the SS-Panzer divisions.

Jan 13-Feb 6: Peter Fitzwilliam involved in Operation Moonshine, in which his gunboat delivered vital supplies to Sweden for onward movement to the resistance forces in German-occupied Denmark.

Jan 30: Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military transport ship, by a Russian submarine, leading to the deaths of perhaps 9,000 people. It is considered the greatest maritime disaster in history. The dead were primarily civilians and military personnel being evacuated from East Prussia and the German-occupied Baltic states,

Feb 8: Major Arthur Onslow Edward Guinness, aka Viscount Elveden, only son and heir of Edward Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, killed in action at Nijmegen in Holland by a V-2 rocket strike, at the age of 32. He was Rory’s grandfather.

Feb 11: American forces capture Manila.

Feb 13-15: Bombing of Dresden. I think of Dan Snow’s interview with Victor Greg, who was in a Dresden camp at the time, awaiting execution because he and his pal Harry had burned down a soap factory a few days earlier. Victor witnessed the bombing’s impact on women and children and had little hesitation in calling it genocide.

Feb 21: Major Darby Michael Kennedy (b. 1919), the youngest of the Kennedy siblings, is killed in action in the Netherlands while serving as Major in the 3rd Battalion, Irish Guards.

Feb / March: Anne Frank dies at Bergen-Belsen.

March 6: Death of Bill Rathdonnell’s great-aunt Helen Maria Bishop, née Bruen, sister of Kate Rathdonnell.

March 14: Battle of Remagen turns the Allies way with unexpected capture of the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine, likely shortening World War II in Europe.

March 27: The last V2 falls on London, a day before the Jewish Passover, killing 134 people.

Apr 1 – Jun 22: Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, sees more people killed in and around the Pacific island of Okinawa than die in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as US Army and Marine Corps forces battle the Imperial Japanese Army. Thousands of Okinawan civilians killed themselves, while huge numbers of soldiers were killed when enemy shells crashed into the coral around them, sending coral splinters flying through the air. Bill Harrington covered some of what happened to the Hussars in the opening months of 1945, while Allan Mallinson homed in on the regiment’s close call with the horrors of Belsen seven months later in his book, ‘Light Dragoons: The Making of a Regiment’. By this stage the regiment had advanced into what is today Lower Saxony in northern Germany, although I need to fill in the gap as to what happened between the Battle at Zonhoven in September 1944 and the following event. Over to Mr Mallinson:

April 2: “On 2 April 1945, the [15th/19th] regiment killed or wounded probably 150 Germans, many of them high grade officer and NCO cadets, under their instructors, from a training school in Hanover. Many prisoners were taken that day too, some no more than boys. Amazingly, in all this close-quarter and confused fighting the regiment took only one casualty – a troop leader, Lieutenant R.F. Leslie, who was shot in the leg during attempts to recover one of his bogged tanks. The day’s fighting had opened up the Weser Vale for the rest of 11th Armoured Division and was reported in some detail on the BBC war news. All now looked set for what promised to be the ‘final swan’.”
“When the regiment resumed the lead a few days later, it still looked as though the advance was to be no more than a mopping-up operation, but resistance began to stiffen perceptibly when the approaches to the River Weser itself were probed. The Luftwaffe, virtually swept from the skies by the RAF save for some dazzling but brief and largely ineffectual appearances of their new and noisy rocket-powered planes, now put in a series of determined attacks. One of Recce Squadron’s Dingo scout cars was hit and set on fire. Panzerfausts were about again too, this time with more accuracy.”
“Nevertheless a divisional bridgehead was established around Petershagen and the regiment was over and pushing on to the River Aller by 12 April. That day a curious event occurred which showed the utter confusion beginning to beset the Wermacht during their fighting withdrawal. The local German commander approached 11th Armoured under a white flag to ask for a temporary ceasefire. Some miles to the north was an internment camp containing 60,000 political and criminal prisoners, he said. Typhus had broken out in the camp and there was a very real danger that if the division continued on its presumed axis the prisoners would escape and spread the dreaded disease over a wider area. The German commander added that, of course, the Wehrmacht had known nothing about this camp: it was run by the SS at an obscure railhead called Belsen. [This was Bergen-Belsen, or Belsen, the Nazi concentration camp on the Lüneburg Heath] Would the British allow the local German forces to disengage and withdraw well north of the camp? In return the division would be able to take the crossings over the River Aller at Winsen unopposed.”
“In the event the precise terms could not be agreed. This was to cost the regiment dearly, for on 13 and 14 April they had to fight their hardest battle of the War to gain those same crossings. The attacks were supported by 1st Battalion The Cheshire Regiment and rocket-firing Typhoons. It was close-quarter battle again, this time against both determined and skilled opposition from, among others, German marines. Lord Rathdonnell, B Squadron Leader, won the MC for his part in directing the battle on the first day. During the following day’s fighting Sergeant J Burton won the DCM for quite exceptional leadership despite being badly wounded in the head. His troop lance-corporal, J. Finlinson, won the MM. Lance-Corporal A. Chambers won the MM for continuing to fight his tank and directing his troop’s fire though his own tank had been hit no less than five times by an ’88’. His driver, Trooper Fellows, was mentioned in despatches which described him, surely with monumental understatement, as having been “partially stunned”!’ By nightfall on the 14th the town had been taken at a cost of six killed and sixteen badly wounded.”

April 2: Captain Henry Charles Hugh Fitzherbert, aka Harry Fitzherbert, Irish Guards, 2nd Bn, is killed aged 36 when his tank is ambushed by Germans near Gildehaus. He is buried in Rheinberg, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. (See here) He was son of Eden and Dorothy Fitzherbert; husband of Sheelah Fitzherbert, of Rathfarnham; and father of Giles Fitzherbert (bon 1935).

April 7: Yamato, the flagship of the Imperial Japanese Navy, is sunk by at least 11 torpedoes and six bombs off Okinawa.

April 9: Death in action of 24-year-old Anders Lassen, a cousin of Baron Michael Raben. He had led a group of four men north to the shores of Lake Commachio, on the Adriatic, southwest of Ferrara, to eliminate some enemy posts that were causing a hold up to the advance of the 8th Army. Ian Smith, Rohan Boyle’s grandfather, was nearly one of the group. All four men died. Lassen was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

April 12: Roosevelt dies and Truman becomes president.

April 14: Potsdam, the spiritual home of the Prussian military, is bombed.

April 15: Bergen Belsen camp liberated by the British 11th Armoured Division. Approximately 60,000 prisoners are found inside, most half-starved and dangerously ill with typhoid as such like, as well as circa 13,000 unburied corpses scattered around the camp. Among those liberated is Hanneli Pick-Goslar, Anne Frank’s best friend.

April 15: Soviet army fires one million artillery shells, one of the largest barrages in history, onto the German positions west of the Oder outside Berlin. A suicide epidemic is underway in Germany amid widespread fears of Russian vengeance, brutality, and the collapse of the Reich. At least 7,000 kill themselves in Berlin, primarily women. Elsewhere, grandmothers trap babies to their bodies and plunge into cold lakes. Click here for a Dan Snow interview about this horrific era.

April 19: BBC Radio broadcast a shocking 11.5 minute report by Richard Dimbleby, the network’s military correspondent, about what the Nazis had done in concentration camps such as Bergen-Belsen.

April 28: Execution of Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci. Their deaths may have been orchestrated by Massimo ‘Max’ Salvadori (1908-1992), a British SOE agent of Italian and British descent. Salvadori’s parents were both anti-fascist activists and he grew up strongly opposed to everything that Mussolini stood for. As well as providing weapons for partisans, he encouraged the Action Party to cooperate with the Italian monarchy. Whether he pulled the trigger on Il Duce, or was in command of the agent who did, is unlikely to be revealed but he was the most senior British agent in the area at the time and he certainly had a hand in it. One prominent conspiracy theory about why Churchill wanted Mussolini dead is the idea that, early in the war, Churchill offered all sorts of deals, trading parts of Greece and France, to tempt the Italian leader to switch sides. These would have been deeply uncomfortable revelations had they emerged at Mussolini’s trial. Salvadori went on to serve as professor of modern European history at Smith College, Massachusetts from 1947-1973. By his wife Joyce Woodforde Pawle Salvadori, he had a son, Clement Salvadori of Atascadero, California and a daughter, Cynthia, who lived in Kenya. Joyce Salvadori was a first cousin Galbraith Lowry-Corry (Earl Belmore) of Castle Coole, Co. Fermanagh.

April 29: Hitler marries Eva Braun.

April 30: Soviet troops capture the Reichstag in Berlin; Hitler and his wife Eva Braun opt for suicide as Berlin falls. A quarter of the city was destroyed in the war. I visited the unmarked site where Hitler killed himself. Two dogs passed each other while I was standing there. Both of them growled.

May 2: Blackout restrictions lifted in UK. The blackout had been extremely tedious for people. You couldn’t read or write at night, and it was very easy to fall over on the street, whenever their world was plunged into darkness during Hitler’s war.

May 4: ‘A gorgeous afternoon with the cherry trees in blossom’, according to Lord Harrington. He and his immediate superior, Major the Lord Rathdonnell, were making their way around a coastal road in a scout car when, ‘all of a sudden, a big cloud of dust came up towards us’. Rathdonnell turned the Bren gun on the cloud ‘in case there was some nonsense’ when ‘out of the dust, a gentleman appeared in full dress, waving his sabre around his head and pointing furiously’. Lords Harrington and Rathdonnell followed the rider who galloped back down the road ‘absolutely flat out, his cloak filling out the road’. At length, they arrived in what transpired to be a Cossack colony, maintained by Germany for propaganda purposes, complete with wives and horses. The leader of the colony bade the two men to the Mess where he poured three glasses of vodka and said: ‘Let us drink, first of all … to the Horse’. Vodka down the hatch, the glasses were refilled. ‘And now, to the Horse’s nostrils’, said the Cossack, deadly serious. ‘And I can’t remember much more after that’, recalled Lord Harrington, ‘but we had the Horse’s eyes, the Horse’s teeth, the Horse’s head… until all the vodka went, and then we got on to kirsch and schnapps’. That evening the two officers returned to base and heard the news of the unconditional surrender to Montgomery of all enemy forces in North West Germany, Denmark and Holland. [Churchill apparently said of Montgomery, “In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable.”] The 15th/19th were just short of the Baltic when news of Germany’s unconditional surrender was received on the evening of 4 May. The Hussars were ordered to proceed north to the Flensburg fjord in Schleswig Holstein where the surviving German high command was based.

May 8 (circa): 15th / 19th Hussars reach the sea at Kappeln, twenty miles from the Danish border, having covered 500 miles in six weeks and very little of this had been “swanning”.’
Over the next two weeks, the Hussars gathered up hundreds of dishevelled German prisoners, along with some useful cavalry horses and showjumpers. One of the most popular lines from their German prisoners was to ask, ‘When will the war against Russia start, with Germany allied to Britain?’ It was a question Admiral Doenitz might well have asked himself. The concept of an alliance between Germany, Britain and the USA against Stalin’s Soviet troops was not without foundation. Several senior figures in the Allied Command saw it as, at the very least, probable. And for Hitler’s designated successor, that slim possibility emboldened his flagging spirits during the last days of the conflict in Europe.

For the next chapter in this saga, I would suggest you turn to my interview with the late Bill Harrington who served as Bill Rathdonnell’s No. 2 during the latter years of the Second World War, when they were closely involved with mopping up the last Nazi resistance around Lunenburg Heath, including the arrest of Hitler’s designated heir, Admiral Karl Doenitz. That story can be found here.

Captain Weatherby, MC, and Major the Lord Rathdonnell, ‘B’ Squadron, Dreggers, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, 8 May 1945, with two small boys.


Bill Rathdonnell and Capt. Weatherby disarming displaced persons in Germany.

May 8: VE Day marks the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces and thus marked the end of World War II in Europe. Euphoria grips Britain, released at last from the endless restrictions of war and blackout. The relief mingles with an ancient Bealtaine-inspired paganism as bonfires flare up and down England, Scotland, Wales and certain parts of Ireland. A bonfire is lit at Lisnavagh; a perfectly good rick of straw in the Cow Field, close to where Keith Caldbeck’s house is now located. Pamela sketched the occasion; the result is now at Oldfort and appears to show Jack Langham (with pipe) and two others.

May 11: Censorship brought in under the Emergency Powers Act was lifted.

May 15: Churchill delivers his Victory in Europe speech in which he berates de Valera:

‘…the action of Mr. de Valera, so much at variance with the temper and instinct of thousands of southern Irishmen, who hastened to the battlefront to prove their ancient valor, the approaches which the southern Irish ports and airfields could so easily have guarded were closed by the hostile aircraft and U-boats. This was indeed a deadly moment in our life, and if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland we should have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr. de Valera or perish forever from the earth. However, with a restraint and poise to which, I say, history will find few parallels, we never laid a violent hand upon them, which at times would have been quite easy and quite natural, and left the de Valera Government to frolic with the German and later with the Japanese representatives to their heart’s content. When I think of these days I think also of other episodes and personalities. I do not forget Lieutenant-Commander Esmonde, V.C., D.S.O., Lance-Corporal Keneally, V.C., Captain Fegen, V.C., and other Irish heroes that I could easily recite, and all bitterness by Britain for the Irish race dies in my heart. I can only pray that in years which I shall not see the shame will be forgotten and the glories will endure, and that the peoples of the British Isles and of the British Commonwealth of Nations will walk together in mutual comprehension and forgiveness.”

May 16: Éamon de Valera responds to Churchill’s victory speech during which Churchill took one last jab at Irish neutrality.

May 22: Eisenhower issued orders for the arrest of Doenitz and his entourage at Flensburg.

Pictured at the Derby by The Tatler, 20 June 1945

May 28: Staff-Captain Alexander Adrian “Bertie” Lickorish and fellow British intelligence officer, Lieut. Geoffrey Perry, capture Lord Haw-Haw (William Joyce) at Flensburg, on the Danish frontier. Joyce and his wife Margaret had been provided with false papers by the Gestapo and bolted for the Danish border. Joyce was captured in the birch woods of Flensburg when he inadvertently struck up conversation with the two British officers. Lickorish recognised his voice. Perry said he shot him in the thigh when he tried to escape. Margaret Joyce, who was also arrested, last saw him being carried through a frontier post on a stretcher. She rather incongruously shouted ‘Erin go Bragh’ (‘Ireland forever’) before she was taken to a separate jail in Belgium.

June 9: Pamela is in the crowd of 30,000 at Newmarket who witness Dante, the favourite at 100/30, defeated 25 rival colts to seize the Derby Stakes. It was the largest audience of any “wartime” Derby and was attended by the King and Queen.

June 18: Stalin falls off his white Arab stallion while practising for the upcoming victory parade, and opts to delegate the leadership of the parade to Zhukov, urging the general to ride the same white stallion. Stalin’s son informs Zhukov of the situation and Zhukov spends several days mastering the wild stallion.

June 24: Zhukov rides Stalin’s white stallion in the Soviet victory parade.

July 13: Belfast News-Letter announces that Lord Rathdonnell is to be awarded the Military Cross ‘in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in North West Europe.’

July 16: As so brilliantly depicted in the 2023 movie ‘Oppenheimer,’ the Trinity nuclear bomb test is conducted by the US Army as part of the Manhattan Project in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Socorro, New Mexico.

July 17: Potsdam Conference begins at the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, south of Berlin, to sort out what to do with Germany, Austria, Berlin and the defeated Nazis. Completed in 1917, Cecilienhof is a Tudor-style manor with 176 rooms, built for the womanizing Crown Prince Wilhelm and his new wife, Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Wilhelm continued to live there until January 1945 when he left to have his dodgy gall and liver treated. Cecilie fled in early February 1945 as the Red Army drew ever closer to Berlin. The Soviets seized it a few months later. I visited the palace on one of our war tours in November 2021 and so, on a single Sunday morning, I saw Stalin’s office, Truman’s office and Churchill’s office, which was also Atlee’s office as he replaced Churchill as prime minister nine days into the conference. It was a strange experience to stand in Stalin’s office looking at the heavy oak chair he once sat in, looking out his window to where a part of the Berlin Wall was once apparently visible in 1945. Truman had a nice little sitting area in his office, with a lovely view of the lake, while Churchill’s room had a fabulous roof that reminded me of Jamie McCallum‘s Comber Square theorem, but that is for another day. I listened to a recorded interview with the Potsdam interpreter who said that Stalin didn’t say much but was extremely well briefed and knew exactly what he wanted. On the other hand, Churchill was delivering oratory which made it quite tricky for the interpreter to convert his elaborate prose into a language that would not thoroughly confusing the Russians. At one point in the conversation, I think I read that Stalin proposed that they simply execute the top 50,000 Germans, so that’s where he was coming from. We were especially impressed by the wisdom of Joy Hunter, Churchill’s 19-year-old secretary, whose diary showed why such an intelligent young woman was secretary to one of the most powerful people on the planet. Charles de Gaulle was not invited to Potsdam.

July 25: Churchill leaves Potsdam for London to hear the results of the first General Election in a decade.

July 26: Attlee wins! Stalin must’ve been utterly gobsmacked that Churchill was no longer in power as Atlee’s Labour government is elected with a landslide majority and a mandate for radical reform. In laying the foundations of a welfare state, Labour pledges to build a new Britain and to wipe out the five giant evils’, namely want, squalor, disease, ignorance, and unemployment.

July 28: Clement Attlee returns to Potsdam with Ernest Bevin, his Foreign Secretary. Atlee had already been to Potsdam as an observer along with Churchill.

August 2: Potsdam Conference concludes.

August 6: Enola Gay drops the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

August 9: ‘Fat Man’ nuclear bomb detonates over Nagasaki; Soviet infantry, armour, and air forces launched the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.

August 12: Emperor of Japan informs the imperial family of his decision to surrender.

Aug 12 (Sunday): Lord Rathdonnell received the Military Cross from Field Marshall Montgomery on the same day Soviet forces advanced onto the Korean Peninsula. The Commander-in-Chief also presented ribbons to Lord Rathdonnell (MC), Sergeants Kennedy and J. Finlinson (MM), and Trooper White (BEM).

Aug 17: Hussars host a sports meeting.

Aug 26: Hussars hold final ceremonial church parade.

Sept 1: Polish Cemetery on Hill 513, Monte Cassino, opened.

Sept 2: Japanese representatives signed the official Instrument of Surrender, prepared by the War Department and approved by President Harry S. Truman.

Sept 8: Hussars hold regimental gymkhana and sports meeting near Kappeln Schleswig-Flensburg, in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

Rathdonnell arriving at the regimental gymkhana and sports meeting near Kappeln Schleswig-Flensburg, in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, 8th Sept., 1945.


Lord Rathdonnell at the Reins, 8th September 1945.


Lord Rathdonnell (left) on horseback, gymkhana, Germany, 1945. (Tyne & Wear Museum).

Sept 16: Death of Count John McCormack.

Nov 20 1945 – Oct 1, 1946: Nuremberg Trials – The International Military Tribunal tries 21 of the most important surviving leaders of Nazi Germany in the political, military, and economic spheres, as well as six German organizations.

December 6: Bill Rathdonnell and Major C Weatherby stand as godfathers by proxy to Viscount Petersham, the four-months-old son and heir of the Earl and Countess of Harrington, at his christening in Elvaston Church. Mrs. B. Marion-Crawford is godmother. Lord Harrington was one of their brother officers in the 15th/19th Hussars. [50] When the regiment was deployed to Palestine that same month, Bill Harrington went with them but I believe my grandfather left the army in 1945. The regiment went on to Sudan in 1947.

Christmas Eve: Beheading of the Gough statue in Phoenix Park. Box H9 of the Lisnavagh archives includes a file of correspondence relating to Bill Rathdonnell’s service.


The I.R.A. resumed operations, causing Irish President Eamon de Valera to declare war on the organization.

Operation Shamrock begins.

Jan: Ben McClintock Bunbury, my seven-year-old father, went across the Irish Sea to board at Aysgarth. His parents rarely saw him at this time but, as he genially explained, traveling was extremely difficult just after the war and many of his friends had few visits either. ‘Di and Golly did come. and had to get special petrol rationing coupons to do so; that is how difficult it was, and in old cars with worn out tyres! We only had two weekends a term anyway.’

Jan 3: William Joyce, Lord Haw Haw, is hanged at Wandsworth for High Treason.

March 5: Speaking at Westminster College in Fulton, Churchill declares: “From Stettin in the Baltic, to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

March 11: Having divorced the American heiress, Raffaele Van Neck, Edward, 7th Duke of Leinster, was married, thirdly, to Jessie Smither, aka Denise ‘Jo’ Wessell, another Gaiety girl and musical comedy actress. Formerly Lady Churston, she was a daughter of Alfred John Smither and Jessie Henrietta Pococke. The marriage took place in at Marylebone Register Office, London.

March 14: 11-year-old Prince Regent, an Irish hero and Naas veteran, wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

April 5: Tim Hyde rides Prince Regent into third place at the Aintree Grand National by Lovely Cottage. It was the first running of the National since 1940.

Peter Fitzwilliam and an unidentified lady at a dance in Lisnavagh, County Carlow, early 1948.

April: A column of lorries and heavy plant machinery moved into Wentworth Park as Manny Shinwell, the Minister of Fuel and Power, seized 98 acres of woodland in the park plus the beautiful formal gardens, requisitioned in September 1945 under the wartime Emergency Powers, and converted Wentworth into the biggest opencast mining site in Britain. Prior to this, the Nissen huts where the Intelligent Corps stayed during the war were used to house those made homeless by the bombing raids on Sheffield.

May 23: Pamela Rathdonnell gives birth to a baby daughter. The child passes away just three days later.

June 12: Peter Fitzwilliam and Kick Kennedy met for the first time at a ball at the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair. It was the first Season since 1939. Latin American dancing – the Rumba and the Mambo – was all the rage. The ball was a fundraiser for widows and dependents of Commando soldiers killed and injured during the war. The future Queen Elizabeth was among the guests. On that very same day, Gerald, Marquess of Kildare, was married, secondly, to was Anne, youngest daughter of Lt Col Philip Eustace Smith, MC.

Summer: During the wet summer of 1946, the hay is so endangered that all the civil service are sent down from Dublin to help on the farms! This is followed by the freezing winter of 1947.

August: Garret Moore recalled the first Tullow Show in 1946, revived for the first time since 1913, when he was a secretary and my grandfather turned up. Someone had to delineate a line and it required posts being hammered in. Lord Rathdonnell picked up the mallet and set off to hammer them all in himself. I think that’s what made grandfather a little different to many other aristos of his generation – his willingness, nay, eagerness, to get involved with all the physical stuff, banging in posts, driving tractors and such like. And likewise I keep meeting people who remember my grandmother as being very open and level with them – especially children – and sending people paintings of Rathvilly for their homes and such like.

Rathdonnells at Dublin Bloodstock Sales, The Tatler – Wednesday 16 October 1946

Sept 21: Rathdonnell booked for dangerous driving at Lumville Cross Roads, near Athgarvan, County Kildare, and asked to appear in court in November.

October 16: Rathdonnells pictured by The Tatler at Bloodstock Sales in DUblin, buying yearlings.

Nov: Bill Harrington’s Revelry wins the Leopardstown Chase at Naas.

November: “OFFENCES UNDER TRAFFIC – NEWBRIDGE CONVICTIONS. At Droichead Nua District Court, before Justice Patrick D. O’Grady, Lord Rathdonnell, Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co Carlow, and Harold Herterich, Main Street, Droichead Nua, were prosecuted for alleged dangerous driving at Lumville Cross Roads on Saturday, September 21. Mr, A. E. MacMahon, solicitor, appeared for Lord Rathdonnell, and Mr. P. P. Wilkinson for Mr. Herterich. A plea of guilty was entered by both defendants, and, in defence, it was stated that visibility was very limited on the date in question and this had caused a slight collision between cars driven by defendants. The Justice imposed a fine of 40 – in each case.” (Leinster Leader, 23 November 1946.)




Jan 1: The National Coal Board took control of Britain’s 1647 mines. Among the family friends at this time was Robert Miles MacNish Porter, known as ‘Miles’, who farmed pigs, cattle and horses at Rath House, just west and downhill of Rathgall, from the mid-late 1940s but then went bankrupt.

McNish Porter outside Rath House 1947 – wife on horse with his two little girls, the boys belong to his older sister, Mary, standing beside him in the white blouse. Courtesy of Nicholas Herten-Greaven.

My father has childhood memories of McNish Porter, ‘but how long he was at Rath House is not clear and he certainly vanished in a puff of smoke, presumably to avoid creditors.’ R G Porter together with his father Fred and two uncles ran the Robert Porter Co. Ltd. of London and Liverpool. The Company was founded in about 1850 by the original Robert Porter and incorporated in 1903. They were beer bottlers, and not brewers. R G Porter owned the Bull Dog Brand Bass & Guinness trademark for many years; they were the main bottlers for Guinness (Dublin), as well as Bass in the 1910s and 1920s. Miles Porter joined the Royal Marines, albeit briefly just before the end of the war, and was in possession of a Colt 45; at one point in 1944 he was a Colonel, the equivalent rank of a captain R.N. This information came from Nicholas Herten-Greaven (Miles’s nephew) whose mother, Patricia Porter (one of Miles’s sisters) was married in 1939 to Herten-Greaven, with whom she had five children.

Carlow Hunt Ball at Lisnavagh, 1947


Tickets for the 1947 Carlow Hunt Ball were to be bought from Barbara Eustace-Duckett, wife of Hardy Eustace, at Castlemore, County Carlow. She was the daughter of the celebrated Mrs Hall, MFH of the Carlow Hunt and elder sister of Olive Alexander of Milford. Music was provided by Jack Murtagh and his Band. (See here.)

Nationalist and Leinster Times. January 21st 1947. CARLOW HUNT BALL. A correspondent writes that while the Carlow Hunt Ball at Lisnavagh, attracted an overflow attendance, it also attracted a spate of local comment, when it was learned that the Ball concluded with the playing of “God Save the King” instead of our own National Anthem. He thinks that this occurrence calls for an explanation from the Committee.


Nationalist and Leinster Times. 28th January 1947. READERS’ VIEWS. CARLOW HUNT BALL. Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, January 22nd, 1947. Dear Sir. Your correspondent should be more certain of his facts before he “calls upon the Committee” for an explanation. Our own National Anthem was most certainly played at the conclusion of the Ball. Yours faithfully, RATHDONNELL.

What the 4th Baron did not say in his letter was that, following the playing of “our own” National Anthem, the celebrants then gave a rousing rendition of “God Save The King”, a common event at Hunt Balls in Ireland up to the 1960s. My father, who was 8 years old at the time, told me that, while he was ‘quite rightly asleep when the ball ended’, ‘several anthems’ were probably played ‘at half hour intervals in an attempt to bring the party to a close’. Local bands were frequently asked to perform the British anthem but rarely did so, either because they were of a nationalist persuasion or because they did not know the tune.

Lord Rathdonnell dancing with Milly Pugh

There are pictures a-plenty of my grandfather dancing at such events with people like Lady Fitzwilliam, Tiggy McGillycuddy and the lovely Mrs. MacNish Porter. There was a sort of VIP event at the Lisnavagh Hunt Ball; my father, then ten years old, recalls seeing champagne on ice in the copper tub by the present day Oak Room, probably supplied by Thompson D’Olier & Co of Eustace Street, Dublin. Dad also recalls learning about Bertrand Guy D’Olier, a younger son of the family, who went to Kenya in 1923 aged 21 with his brother Edmund, and who was married, in Kenya, to Beatrice Maura Massy, daughter of Hugh Eyre Barton Massy of Stackallen, Meath in November 1926. Was she something to Major Massy? Bertrand, a pilot, was killed in a flying accident at Digby Aerodrome, Lincolnshire in 1928, aged 26; his widow Beatrice married John Hubert McKeever in 1933.

The Big Snow falls in January and February.

Feb: Ireland benefitting from the Marshall Plan (1947-52), experiencing inflation, as salaries increased considerably. This countered the effects of a temporary British ban on coal exports which brought the Irish railroad system to a standstill.

March: Death of the Very Rev. Andrew O’Farrell. Parish priest of Rathvilly since 1944. Born in Leighlinbridge, County Carlow, in circa 1885, he was educated at Maynooth and ordained in Carlow in 1910. He spent some years on the Australian and American missions before returning to minister as curate in Kill, Suncroft, Graiguenamanagh, Stradbally and Edenderry before moving Rathvilly since 1944. For a number of years Father O’Farrell acted as Chaplain to Killashee Convent, Naas, ‘where he was revered and loved by the Community and the general public alike.’ (Leinster Leader – Saturday 29 March 1947)

March 12: The Truman Doctrine pledges American “support for democracies against authoritarian threats.”

March 29: Bill Harrington’s Revelry falls in Aintree Grand National.  The race was won by 100/1 Irish outsider Caughoo, a Naas regular, owned by Dublin jeweller Jack McDowell.

April 8: Bill Harrington’s Revelry wins the Irish Grand National.

May 8: Death of Betty Scott’s sister Nancy, aged 18.

July 17: The “Customs Free Airport Act” established Shannon Airport as the world’s first duty-free airport.

July: Box H9 of the Lisnavagh archives includes a typescript log of the travels of the yacht which Lord and Lady Rathdonnell chartered in 1947.

I haven’t yet established when they set sail but it seems likely it was while negotiating with Evelyn Waugh (below) and perhaps shortly after this sale which was advertised in the Irish Independent on 14 July 1947:

“Sale by Public Auction Tomorrow (Tues.) 15th July, 1947, at 3 o’c. (S.T.), for Lord Rathdonnell, Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow – Surplus Machinery, including Marshall 48” Threshing Mill, Straw Elevator, Cart, Spring Van and Harness, Metal Rollers, Cultivators, Grubbers, four-wheel Waggon, 12 h.p. Portable Steam Engine, etc. R.W. Caldbeck, M.I.A.A., Auctioneer and Valuer, Tullow, Co. Carlow.”

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were married in November 1947.

A more detailed account of this sales notice appeared in the New Ross Standard on Friday 11 July 1947:

R. W. CALDBECK, M.I.A.A LISNAVAGH, RATHVILLY, CO. CARLOW. SALE OF SURPLUS MACHINERY, THRESHING MILL, STRAW ELEVATOR, FARMING IMPLEMENTS I HAVE received instructions from Lord Rathdonnell TO SELL BY PUBLIC AUCTION AT LISNAVAGH FARM YARD On Tuesday, 15th July, At Three o’clock, S.T., The following lots: Hayseed Barrow, Farm Scales, Metal Roller, pair of Front Wheels for Fordson Tractor, solid rubbers; Motor Seats and Doors, pair of Cart Wheels, newly felloed; 2 Mowing Machine Wheels (Pierce), Potato Sorter, Spring Dray Body, Chaff Cutter, Cake Crusher, Winnowing, Machine, Spring Market Van, Farm Cart, Drill Plough, two-Home Grubber, 2 Bodies Farm Carts, Ransome Wheel Rake, 6 Galvanised Feeding Troughs, 2 Spring Harrows (2 and 3 parts), Tractor Drawn Disc Harrow, Manure Distributor, Tractor Roller, Two-Furrow Horse Plough, Horse-Power Threshing Gear, 48- inch Marshall Threshing Mill in perfect order, Straw Elevator, Steel Churn (practically new), Butter Worker, 6 Cart Asles and Boxes. 4-Wheel Waggon, Side Car, 6 Iron Pigstye Gates, Fire Stoves and Grates, 2 Forecarriages for Binders, 12 h.p. Portable Steam Engine in good working order, except for Firebox,’ which needs repairs; 6 Horse Straddles, Set Van- Barnes, Odd Tacklings, several Driving and Cog Wheels for different machinery, heaps of Scrap Iron and Metal. Also Sweep Hay Rake, Spring Cultivator (14 Tines), Chaff Cutter, Samuelson Mowing Machine, Iron Sheep Rack, Small Pony Trap and Harness (good turn out). All lots to be paid for on day of Sale with 5% fees. R. W. CALDBECK, M.I.A.A., Auctioneer and Valuer, Tullow

To this my father adds:

‘Quite why so much rubbish was collected and offered for sale I know not; run out of money, not that it would raise much, maybe just a cleanout? I remember some of these items, and some remain to this day but maybe they were unsold or maybe there were more than one. That was, I think, the first time of three [occasions] that the steam engine was sold. My father told me he sold a steam engine three times over several years; there was one in the Haggard and another in the Sawmill. Not sure about the threshing mill and straw elevator but maybe more than one as they were in use until he bought a combine in 1953; the fourth Claas Super into Ireland, with 6 foot cut towed by a tractor, which I drove …’

August 1: ‘Sugar Rationing. Notice. The Minister for Industry and Commerce desires to announce that the distribution of brown sugar to the wholesale and retail trades will be discontinued with effect from 1st August, 1947. Sufficient white sugar is now available to enable current rations to be met fully in that form when the stocks of brown sugar held by the traders have been liquidated and arrangements are being made accordingly. It is not possible, however, to increase the weekly ration above three-quarters of a pound weekly or to increase the quantity of sugar which may be obtained on foot of permits held in any case.’

August: Gerald Kildare opens the doors of Carton House for a large party during the Dublin Horse Show Week. Guests dined on bacon and eggs, washed down with bottles of poteen, found in the cellars. It was to be the last time the FitzGeralds would host a party in the great mansion built 200 years earlier. Carton House was sold in 1949 to the Liverpool brewing magnate, Lord Brocket. His grandson Lord Charlie Brocket became a household name after his appearance in the 2003 edition of ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here’. Meanwhile, the Kildares relocated to Kilkea Castle near Castledermot.

August 27: Joane McMurrough Kavanagh, former wife of the Marquess of Kildare, was married, secondly, to Lt. Col. Archibald Macalpine-Downie, MBE (1906-1958), with whom she had one son, Andrew McMorrough Kavanagh.

Sept 19: The All-Ireland Football Final between Kerry and Cavan is played at the Polo Grounds in New York.

Nov 20: The future Queen Elizabeth II marries Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey.

Lisnavagh For Sale

I found this undated letter in my files, which was typed but I think is from Bill.

[*] Google Books has one record of the phrase “do you wonder I am bitter” – from a novel called “The Widening Mirror” by Denys Val Baker (1917-1984), published in 1949.

Dear Tony,
Great Wadd.
Thank you for your letter of 11th. Good to hear from you again, even if only on legal matters! I made no other agreement with Barnes; In fact I thought that was one of the advantages of selling to a tenant, that such things did not come into it. I agreed through Winch to sell the whole shooting match, such as I own, to Barnes for £5000. I don’t own any stock there, nor any equipment that I can think of, though possibly in level language that may mean something quite different. Presumably any “fittings” such as central heating, water laid on to the fields, etc would go with the house. There is a wayleave from the Weald Electricity Supply Co. but as it is only worth 5- a year I can hand it over to Barnes direct. I hope that answers your questions.
When your father wrote to me last month he said that if I really wanted to sell this house to let him know about it, and the approximate figure I wanted. So I think I had better let you know the ghastly details. It was built exactly 100 years ago, then the old house was pulled down. It is, I believe, early Victorian Gothic, though mercifully before that style had got into its stride. It is granite blocked, and two stories high all through.
I enclose feelthy [?] picture. Inside it has central heating, and our own brand of acetylin [sic] gas; the electricity is now only 3 miles away so can be put in easily. Besides all the usual entrance halls, usual offices, grand stair-cases, and whatnot, there is a drawing room, library, smoking room, and dining room. Upstairs the first part really comprises two ‘flats each with a large bedroom, a dressing room, a small bedroom, bathroom and lavatory. There is then another large bedroom and dressing room, and three bedrooms, for which there are two bathrooms and lavatories. There is a nursery, night nursery, and schoolroom, which could all of course be used as bedrooms as required.
The house is as far as I know in perfect repair. Outside there are about 8 acres of grounds, including a 3 acre walled garden, which I run at present as a market garden. The shooting I do not want to part with; there is excellent fishing, both salmon and trout in the neighbourhood – the trout free and the salmon fishing is let annually – this is on the Slaney. Hunting with Carlow, Coollattin, and one day a week Kildere.
I want to sell it with as little land as possible, but they’re is up to 50 acres which could conveniently go with it. I want £20,000 (is that all?!).
I am fairly lucky in that the house is at one end of the place, so that it would not be an island surrounded by my land, nor yet a nuisance to me. If I can sell It I want to build a smaller house on the place, but I want enough to build a damn good one. We are desperately pushed here, as you are in your country no doubt. We had a week’s good weather last week, but now nothing but gales; still a terrible lot of sowing to be done. As a year to come back to farming, I should think the last year would beat all – “do you wonder I am bitter”. [*] Let me know your news some time.

Neither my father nor I know who Tony is. Dad suggests ‘presumably a professional who helped him with Great Wadd but with a father well-endowed enough to cast a bid for Lisnavagh. (13 years later Reggie Roper, Mark’s father, told me he could get £75k for the whole place). The letter has no heading but it seems to be from Lisnavagh (‘this house’), a carbon copy of the one on headed paper? He puts his heading for Great Wadd but fails to do so for the latter part of the letter about Lisnavagh. “built 100 years ago” puts the date 1947, pretty grim times, unless you were going to start a pack of hounds!’ The letter seems to be about Lisnavagh (I thought it was about an English house, because of the reference to the Weald Electricity Company, but then he talks of the River Slaney …


In May 1947, the author Evelyn Waugh spent seven days in Ireland, visiting three mansions a day (as he told John Betjeman) with a view to purchasing one of them. The purpose of his visit is well explained by Patrick Ross in this review of Alec Waugh’s ‘My Brother Evelyn’ for Envoy (1967):

‘…Soon after the end of the war I chanced to be in Dublin, on leave from the Middle East. Here a telegram reached me from Evelyn, which read: ‘Kindly inspect Gormanston Castle which I intend to purchase Waugh.” I did so on a cold and foggy November night and the next day crossed to England where I stayed at Piers Court. Evelyn explained that he was anxious to escape from post-war England and from a neighbourhood which threatened to become over-industrialised. He asked me eagerly for details of Gormanston, which he had seen advertised for sale. He was attracted by the Irish legend of the foxes at Gormanston, which are said to bay around the Castle on the eve of its noble occupant’s death. Would they bay, did I think, for him?

I was unable to answer this question, or indeed to tell him much of the Castle, which I had been able to see only by the light of a flickering candelabrum. It seemed to me, I said, immense, hard to heat and to light and to run, and moreover cursed with an interminable and cavernous basement. ‘Splendid’, said Evelyn, ‘that will do for the children. We can batten them down below stairs.’ A few days later he and Laura went over to Ireland and inspected the Castle, which pleased Evelyn greatly. They decided to buy it – but luckily found out, just in time, that the strip of land between the Castle and the sea had just been sold to another buyer for conversion into a holiday camp.’

Thanks to Alexander Waugh who sent the above details. Under the eye of Billy Butlin, the holiday camp became Butlin’s Mosney in 1948 and was built to accommodate 2000 people! Gormanston was instead bought by the Franciscans and turned into a school. As Victoria Glendenning put it in an email to me in September 2015, ‘Waugh was part of the ‘Flight from Moscow’ – the kind of English people appalled by the radical new Labour Government in UK in 1945, and thinking that in Anglo-Ireland they would find good houses, hunting, ‘traditional’ values, and service, i.e. maids etc. Some stayed, some didn’t.’ As well as Gormanston, Waugh was very interested in Lisnavagh. The house appears to have been pre-selected for his viewing by the solicitor and novelist Terence de Vere White (later Victoria Glendenning’s husband, as well as literary editor of The Irish Times from 1961 to 1977).

The fact that John and Penelope Betjeman had stayed at Lisnavagh in July 1941 may have been relevant. Following a ‘luncheon with Lady Rathdonnell’, Waugh very nearly settled on Lisnavagh, which he described variously as ‘a practical Early Victorian Collegiate building’, ‘…quite unromantic, a machine for living in, 1845 baronial tudor, granite, yews’ [51] and ‘a large prosaic Early Victorian baronial mansion’. [52] Lisnavagh was up for sale for £20,000. Indeed, he went so far as to get headed paper written up with Lisnavagh at the top. ‘A pretty name – Lisnavagh – with the accent on the last syllable’, he wrote to Diana Cooper. At the time, the house had 22 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, 12 acres and a luggage entrance. However, Waugh complained, ‘the privations in Ireland are as bad as in England’. Jeremy Williams says that Mrs. Waugh liked the house also.

‘Obscure peers – RATHDONNELL. It is his house I am negotiating for. He has a daughter named ALLY PALLY M’CLINTOCK-BUNBURY. It (the house not Ally Pally) is a hundred years old exactly. It looks very English in this picture but its interior is good baronial architect William [no, Daniel! – ed.] Robertson.’ [53]

Other houses he considered included Viewmount in Kilkenny, Kiltinane in Tipperary (now Lloyd-Webber), Strancally Castle on the Blackwater and ‘and a fine ugly 1870 Italianate villa on Lough Derg called Slevyre, the home, believe it or not, of General Sir William Hickey.’ Ultimately, he decided not to move to Ireland. The Labour Government in the UK was ‘piling up repressive measures’ on those who left – the Flight from Moscow, I think it was dubbed – and he did not want to seem to be ‘flying from them,’ suggested one source. [54] Or maybe, as Victoria Glendenning puts it, it was simply ‘more hassle than he had imagined maybe, such as the value of standing timber at Lisnavagh. Trees weren’t just trees. (The man who bought Bowen’s Court from Elizabeth Bowen only wanted it for the timber and razed the house.)’ Two relevant letters from the Lisnavagh Archives follow below: LORD RATHDONNELL TO TERENCE DE VERE WHITE, 21 JULY 1947

To: Terence de Vere White Esq., 21 Nassau Street, Dublin.[55]

July 21st 1947.

Dear Mr. White,

Thank you for your letter of June 25th; as I think you were told, I have been away.

It does not seem to me that Mr. Waugh has made any serious attempt to value the property he requires. If you remember he made an offer through you of £10,000 on May 28th, and I told you at that time that it was an offer I would not consider. He has now added more land on which there is timber, a 30-acre wood and several more small items, all of which he appears to value at a further £1,000. I would like to point out — and you can if you like send an independent valuer to confirm this — that in the Cow Field alone there is more than £2,000 worth of timber as it stands, and in fact I should be extremely sorry to accept that for It. That does not even touch on the value of the timber in the Reservoir Wood. The increase in his offer would barely cover the increased acreage of farm land he wishes to take in.

For the property as defined in Mr. Waugh’s letter to you of June 17th I should require £20,000. I would give Mr. Waugh any reasonable guarantees with it as regards building or otherwise spoiling the outlook of his property, and also of course about the water.

Yours truly,



Piers Court, Dursley 250. Stinchcombe, Glos. 7 August

Dear Rathdonnell, White has sent me a copy of your letter of July 21st. I wrote when I first saw Lisnavagh that I was afraid it would be beyond my means & I have reluctantly decided that this first impression was the right one. It is true that in making my last offer I had not considered the value of the standing timber except as an amenity of the place. Had the offer been otherwise acceptable we might have adjusted it so as to leave most of the timber in your possession to cut when it suited you. But that would still leave an impassable gap between the price you ask & what I can offer. So I am afraid I must call it off. Thank you very much for all your hospitality during the negotiations. I hope you will give me chance of returning it when in England or in Ireland if I find a house there. My kindest regards to you both and to Ally Pally. Yours sincerely Evelyn Waugh

The above letter has ‘Answered 28/8/47’ pencilled on it, indicating a gap of nearly three weeks since Waugh wrote to Rathdonnell. My grandfather does not seem to have been overly concerned … or, at least, I note the following from the Tatler’s account of the Bloodstock Sales at the Dublin Horse Show on 20 August 1947: ‘Mr. Charles Sweeny was sitting in the rostrum quietly watching the bidding, and so was Lord Rathdonnell, who bought a colt by Wavetop during the week.’ (The Aly Khan was the biggest buyer that day, while Darby Rogers and Earl Fitzwilliam were also to be seen …)

Extract from Lisnavagh Visitor’s Book, 1948

Lisnavagh House, probably during the ice cold winter of 1947.



Jan 30: Mahatma Gandhi is shot dead by the Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse.

Feb 4: A hotly contested election campaign is won by Fianna Fail.


The Tatler (Wednesday 4 February 1948) featured a full page of photos by Fennell of the Earl Fitzwilliam’s Coollattin Hunt Ball at Shillelagh, with the following text for captions:

  • Cdr. Richard Connell with Lady Rathdonnell, who is the wife of the fourth baron
  • Mr. P. J. Hickey and Miss P. Lambert, who are followers of the Wexford Hounds
  • Mr. H. J. Longinotto, Secretary of the Surrey Union Hounds, and Miss J. Brandon
  • Miss V. Hartigan, daughter of Mr. Hubert Hartigan, and Mr. R. More O’Ferrall, were two of Earl Fitzwilliam’s house party
  • Mr. Braddell Smith and Mr. M. Doyne, who is the son of a former Master of the Coollattin Hounds
  • Mrs. R. Edge, Joint-Master of the Island Hounds, Wexford, with Mr. C. H. O’Morchoe and his mother Mrs. O’Morchoe
  • Earl Fitzwilliam, Master of the Coollattin Hounds, dancing with Mrs. M. P. Sheane
  • Mr. Bill Kendall and Lady Joan Philipps, who is the second of Lord Fitzwilliam’s three sisters
  • Lord Rathdonnell and Countess Fitzwilliam take the floor in a quick -step Fennell.

A rare photo of Peter Fitzwilliam and Kick Kennedy.

Feb 19: At this time, Earl Fitzwilliam and Kick Kennedy were planning their life together. On 19 February 1948, the day after Éamon de Valera’s Fianna Fáil was ousted from power after 16 years (and John A. Costello became Taoiseach of a coalition government, Kick joined the Kennedy family at Hyannis Port, their holiday home in Palm Beach, for the traditional winter break… It took her over two months before she confessed her plan to marry Peter Fitzwilliam to her parents on 22 April, breaking the news during a party at the Greenbrier Hotel. Her mother vowed that she would be disinherited and never seen or spoken to again if she went through with this. They were killed on their way to meet Joe Kennedy in France on 13 May 1948.

My grandmother subscribed to The New Yorker in 1947 and 1948.

March: Hugh Massey presented Pamela with a copy of Lt Col Peter Brush’s newly published ‘The Hunter Chaser – An Authoritative guide to breeding, making and training’. The inscription implies they were both in London at the time.

March 20: Bill Harrington’s Revelry came home eighth behind Prince Regent in the Aintree Grand National.

April 3: President Truman signs the Marshall Plan, named for Secretary of State George Marshall, who proposed that the US provide economic assistance to restore the infrastructure of post-war Europe.

April 7: Birth of Maurice FitzGerald, later 9th Duke of Leinster, eldest son of Gerald Kildare and his wife Ann.

April 8: Bill Rathdonnell is the Starter for the Coolattin Hunt Point-to-Point races. He is also one of the 15 stewards along with Peter Fitzwilliam, Lt. Colonel Mitchell (I.N.H.S. Rep), Colonel MacNish Porter, Captain S. R. F. Spicer (Emily Bunbury’s grandfather), Mrs Hall, MFH, Colonel J. N. Diggle, M.J. O’Brien, MH, and R. W. Hall-Dare, MFH. Major General M. E. Dennis of Fort Granite was the Judge while PJ O’Loughlin filled the roles of Clerk of the Course, Hon. Secretary and Treasurer. There was £125 of prize money up for grabs. Peter Fitzwilliam would be killed in a plane crash with Kick Kennedy just over four weeks later.

May 13: Kick and Peter die in plane crash.

June 26: Start of Berlin Blockade.

July 30: Birth of Rosebud, aka Pamela Rosemary McClintock Bunbury. July: Queen Victoria’s statue removed from Leinster Lawn, Dublin.

August 6: Birth of Andrew McMorrough Kavanagh.

August 9-14: Equestrian events at the 1948 London Summer Olympics, including dressage, eventing and show jumping. The UK does astonishingly badly, coming 7th with a solitary bronze medal. In response, the Duke of Beaufort establishes the Badminton Horse Trials,  combining dressage, demanding cross country and showjumping.

Rosebud’s Christening, 1948. In the photograph above left, Thomas is my father ‘Ben Rathdonnell’, Katherine is my aunt Pally and Hermione is my late aunt Jane Bunbury McLeod who passed away in May 2011. Other family photos from this occasion depict Tiggy McGillycuddy, Hardy Eustace Duckett, Barbara Eustace Duckett and two young boys of circa 10 years old, namely Donough McGillycuddy
and his cousin, Robbie Jocelyn. Robbie recalls that he was ‘sent down from the “Black North” for summer holidays and harvesting at Bishopscourt.’ Hardy Eustace (1899-1985), a godfather, was immortalised in the name of a racehorse who I lucked out on when he won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2004.



My father says there was a set pattern to the summers of his youth. The Derby, Henley, Glyndebourne and then either Cowes or the Dublin Horse Show. Like his own grandfather, Bill Rathdonnell was prominent on the executive and agricultural committees of the Royal Dublin Society. Every August, he would greet Sean T O’Kelly, the chirpy drink-swilling top-hatted President of Ireland, at the Dublin Horse Show. [56]

A photograph survives of the Presidential entourage at the RDS with the Baron in conversation with Sean T’s larger-than-life wife, Phyllis.

At a Hunt Ball hosted by the Co. Down Hunt after the Royal Ulster Show, he was pictured in the Tatler (16 June 1948) dancing with Viscountess Bury, daughter of the Marquess of Londonderry. During Dublin Horse Show week, Bill would hire 48 [or 49?] Lansdowne Road from the Coyle family of Renvyle fame, and the chauffeur, Walter Wood, drove them up for the week. (It was the second from the crossroads. My parents met old Mrs. Coyle there many years ago.) There was another hunt ball every night and most people would aim to attend five out of seven with everyone gathering at the Italian Embassy in Lucan for the final shebang. “Yes, but weren’t they the sort of balls where you all go home at midnight?” I wondered. “We certainly did not”, answered my father gruffly. My grandfather’s sunglasses would apparently get a little darker every morning.

He was also a member of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase (INHS) Committee and, shortly before his demise, he was appointed a INHS steward at Baldoyle Racecourse, the first of the Dublin metropolitan racecourses to close.

The Lisnavagh Pack gathers outside the Stable Yard at Lisnavagh, 1949.


Lord Rathdonnell’s Hounds prepare for a grand day out.


In 1948, Bill started his own pack, in protest against the Carlow Hunt where the formidable Mrs Hall was riding roughshod around the entire county. Known as Lord Rathdonnell’s Hounds, they were not recognised by the MFH Association because the Carlow Hunt, of which he was a Trustee, blackballed him. He is thought to have assembled the pack of perhaps ten or 12 couples from friends such as Bill Harrington and Peter Fitzwilliam, but I also seem to have notes that some came from the Pychley, Bache Cunard’s, Lady Kerr’s (Brecon, Wales) and other packs. As my father says, if you declare your intent to start up a pack, everyone else with a pack has two or three hounds they are longing to get rid of. My father recalls two long-haired hounds from Wales by name of Bomber and Beckford, as well as an elegant lady named Teacher who had a lot of pups. Bill hunted them everywhere but Carlow – not even Lisnavagh apparently? – and once ended up over the far side of Lugnaquilla.

Born in 1902, Bill Burgess of Tobinstown knew the 4th Baron Rathdonnell throughout his life. When Bill died in 2007, he was Ireland’s oldest farmer.

The late, much lamented Tom Purser, who worked at Lisnavagh, told me that when he was a young boy, he once found one of Rathdonnell’s missing hounds near Hacketstown, possibly at Constable Hill. When he returned the hound to Lisnavagh, Bill gave him a whopping £5 reward. Ian Lyon also recalled an occasion when my grandfather had been driving a tractor in a field at Lisnavagh when the Carlow Hounds appeared in the field. He went to open a gate for the hunt and stood by the gate when a horsemen galloped through and, much to Bill’s amusement, tossed him a half a crown coin.

George Hawkins, who was born in October 1914, vividly recalled an afternoon when Lord Rathdonnell’s Hounds came galloping past their land at High Park, Kiltegan. It had been a very bad year and George was trying to dig potatoes out of the field to supply to one of the Kelletts in Dublin. The kids from High Park were duly recruited, arriving in their football jerseys, and set to work scooping up ‘beautiful Kerr’s pink potatoes’ from the drills. At that point, Bill Rathdonell came thundering past along with Bill Burgess and John Burgess, headed for a fox covert above the field. George regarded it as an utterly hilarious scene, not least because Bill Burgess, his daughter Nora’s father-in-law, thought there was a football match in progress in the field. When I interviewed Bill Burgess circa 2003, he recalled hunting with the 4th Baron a good deal. He hunted all over Coolmanagah, High Park, rough country. ‘Ah, it was a reasonable pack’, Bill said.

The Carlow Hunt at Lisnavagh, New Years’ Day 2024, on which day Tom Bunbury received the brush.


The dairy system was installed in the farmyard at Lisnavagh in 1948. It was originally located in the granite building immediately left as you enter the farmyard but relocated to its present location, next to where my sister Sasha ran her Farm21 enterprise in circa 2016. My father has fond memories of Jim Lawlor, armed with a milk yoke, coming across from Germaines. A generation earlier, Atty Dowling’s father called it the Crucifix when he crossed the fields with a wooden plank over his shoulders and a bucket of milk at either end. Throughout the 1950s, most of the milk went to the Dublin City Dairy but when they placed a 20-gallon quota on their intake, ie: 5 cows only, dairy-farming became less viable. Any milk over and above the Dublin City quota was sold in Goresbridge for a much-reduced price.

My grandmother was passionate about Shorthorns, and she named all the milk cows. One of her favourites was ‘Princess Maud’. Liam Norris, son of the cowman, recalls how she took him out to take photos of them. He has one taken in Kinsellagh’s Hill and another in the Gamekeepers.

The Tatler, Wednesday 13 July 1949



Several steps undertaken to deregulate the Irish economy, such as permitting the sale of white bread of prewar quality.

Alec Kilpatrick bought Galloway Braes as a four-year-old in Ireland from Lord Rathdonnell. Galloway Braes was regarded as one of the best staying chasers of the 1950s.[57]

April 14: ‘Miss Nora Walsh, of 14, Oak Green, Southcourt, Aylesbury daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Walsh, Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, Eire, was attired in a grey pin-striped costume, with spray of pink carnations, for her marriage at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph, Aylesbury, on Saturday. The bridegroom was Bruno Eas [?], 7 Chiltern Street, Wendover, son of Mr. and Mrs J Elas of Poland. (Bucks Herald – Friday 22 April 1949)

Lady Rathdonnell gives her elder daughter, the Hon. Katharine McClintock-Bunbury, a little advice before a children s event.’ Carlow Pony Show, The Tatler – Wednesday 21 September 1949

April 16: At midnight 26 Irish counties officially leave the British Commonwealth. A 21-gun salute on O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, ushers in the Republic of Ireland.

June 2: The Ireland Act is passed in Westminster, declaring the special relationship of Irish citizens to the United Kingdom and guaranteeing Northern Ireland’s status within the UK.

July: Rathdonnells attend the Irish Derby at the Curragh, won by the Aga Khan’s Hindoostan, and are photographed in The Tatler on 13 July 1949.

Sept: ‘CARLOW HORSE SHOW IS BRILLIANTLY REVIVED – After a Lapse of 25 Years Lady Rathdonnell gives her elder daughter, the Hon. Katharine McClintock-Bunbury, a little advice before a children s event. ‘ Pictured in The Tatler – Wednesday 21 September 1949.

Sept 21: Ireland become the first foreign team to beat England at home in football when they win 2–0 in a friendly Goodison Park, Liverpool, the home of Everton. It is a triumph for Oscar Traynor, the former minister, a champion of soccer and head of the FAI. In London, Pamela paints “A Calm Start” (Windemere and Winthorpe)” now in ‘Sasha’s Bedroom’ at Lisnavagh.


Christmas Card drawn by Pamela Rathdonnell, 1950.



March 1: Rathdonnells pictured in attendance at Coolattin Hunt Ball in The Tatler of Wednesday 1 March 1950.

May 24-27: The Rathdonnells attended the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society’s Show on the Balmoral Show grounds at Balmoral. Diana joined them and was pictured alongside Pamela in The Tatler, which magazine also observed:

‘Lord and Lady Rathdonnell, who left after tea to motor back to their home in Co. Carlow, were also there. She was wearing a green velvet cap with her long black coat.’

June: ‘Lord and Lady Rathdonnell, who left after tea to motor back to their home in Co. Carlow, were also there. She was wearing a green velvet cap with her long black coat.’ (The Tatler, Wednesday 14 June 1950).

June 25: Korean War begins when North Korea invades South Korea following clashes along the border and rebellions in South Korea. Three days later, North Korean forces captured South Korea’s capital, Seoul.

Aug 2: Death at 83, Montpellier-terrace, Cheltenham, of Pamela’s uncle, Captain Ivo Peart Robinson, late The King’s Own Regiment. ‘Funeral service at Cheltenham Crematorium to-morrow (Saturday).’ Gloucestershire Echo, 4 August 1950.

Sept: Pamela pictured with Mr. Lonergan and Mr. and Mrs. Dermot McGillycuddy at the Louth Hunt Ball. The Tatler – Wednesday 6 September 1950.

Social & Personal, Irish Independent, 16 September 1950

Sept 17: On their son’s 12th birthday, Bill gave Pamela a copy of Damon Runyan’s “All This & That” for her 40th birthday. It was inscribed “H – 40 – Love – R”, H being short for ‘Horsington’, his name for her.

Nov 2: Death of George Bernard Shaw, playwright and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Pamela and Diana Drew pictured at the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society Show in The Tatler, 14 June 1950


April 12: Ireland’s Minister for Health, Dr. Noel Browne resigned following confrontation with the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland over what became known as the ‘Mother and Child’ controversy.

April 30: The first demonstration of television in Ireland was held at the Spring Show in the RDS, Dublin.

May 30: Arctic Prince stormed to victory in the Epsom Derby on 30 May 1951. Bred and owned by Joseph McGrath, the horse won in front of a capacity crowd that included 24-year-old Princess Elizabeth.

May 30: Irish General Election ultimately leads to Éamon de Valera being reappointed Taoiseach of the 6th Government of Ireland, a single-party minority Fianna Fáil government.

July 12: James Joseph Kerrigan was conferred with Honorary Doctorates of the National University of Ireland by Eamon de Valera (as were Chester Beatty and the poet Padraic Colum on the same day. Mr Kerrigan was the man who developed cortisone, which was first produced commercially by Merck & Co. in 1948-9, and he became chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors of Merck Co., Inc., of Railway, N.J., manufacturing chemist. Mr Kerrigan would rent Russborough that summer;. My friend Michael Kerrigan, a grandson of JJ Kerrigan, found footage and photos of this time a few decades ago, and made this film. The first 15 minutes of the film includes much on Russborough, with wonderful sight of thehorses galloping in front of the house, women in tweed skirts, children scampering and the clay tennis courts. Russborough was bought by Sir Alfred Beit in 1952.

Aug 17: Bill’s good friend Paddy Leatham was killed in a riding accident. The Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail of 18 August 1951 added:

‘Major Patrick Leatham,whose death in the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, as a result of a riding accident, is announced to-day, was in the 10th Royal Hussars. For the Hon. Mrs. Cecily Leatham, a niece of Lord Camrose and Lord Kemsley, it is the second riding fatality. Her father, Lord Buckland of Bwlch, died in 1928 after falling from his horse. Early last year Major Leatham bought Seagry House. Chippenham, Wilts, the scene of a fire in 1949 when Clare, Countess Cowley lost her life. Seagry House adjoined his property at Seagry Manor.’


Swingtime at Lisnavagh House.


Robert Williams, Steward, Lisnavagh

Robert Williams succeeded Mr. Giff as steward in the ‘50s. His daughter Beth Williams was at Disraeli School with Edith Ruddock (née Keppel), a daughter of Anne Keppel.  Bill Burgess had a poor opinion of Mr Williams, who ‘wasn’t too long in it’. ‘You’d be far better not to be next to or near him, I can tell you that much’, opined Bill. He then regaled a story where a herd called Pat Murphy had a cow in the Covered Yard at Lisnavagh who calved late at night. Murphy lived at Knocknagan and walked across to the Lisnavagh farmyard and found the twins. When the men went in at 8 o’clock next morning, Williams met them and said “Pat, your cow had a bull calf’. ‘Begod’, says Pat, ‘I was here and she had two’. Williams had already gone in and taken the calf out and sold it on. Apparently, his wife was worse. ‘Lord Rathdonnell was at Duffy’s in Hacketstown one day,’ said Bill. ‘He was amazed by the thousands of eggs piled up. ‘Tell me, my lord’, says Duffy, ‘the biggest eggs I get come from Lisnavagh’. At that time my sister was buying eggs for the Lord’s breakfast and Mrs. Williams was selling the eggs to Duffys. Mr. Williams is thought to have been an Englishman who previously worked at Birr Castle. He was at Lisnavagh in 1957.


The Lisnavagh Archives contain a letter to the 4th Lord Rathdonnell from Aubyn Robinson of Caroe & Partners, College Street, Westminster, 1947, setting out the options for Lisnavagh – reduction in size, new-build or a move to another house; together with various shapes and sizes of drawings, some of them very rough, in connection with the reduction of the house to its present size. One of them marks in red the part of the house which stood over the basement (actually the servants’ quarters), and in the end the decision was taken to preserve – with modifications – that part of the house, enlarging as necessary the rooms in it, and demolish the ‘grand’ rooms in the other part of the house. [Aubyn Robinson was Lady Rathdonnell’s uncle, and he and she master-minded the reduction of the house. Lady Rathdonnell (née Pamela Drew) was a noteworthy painter, and her ‘before-and-after’ watercolours, which gave the architect his general steer, are framed and hanging in the house. The actual work of reduction was carried out by the late Allan Hope (1909-1965) and his Dublin firm of architects, who have presented their drawings in this connection to the Irish Architectural Archive, Merrion Square, Dublin. In addition, the archive has copied all or most of the outsize drawings, by Daniel Robertson and others, kept in the studio at Lisnavagh.

In 1951, Pamela orchestrated the complete redesign of Lisnavagh House, pulling down two thirds of the original Victorian structure. Once the decision to reshape the house was taken, my grandmother went at it with full steam ahead. ‘Rejuvenate the Positive’ was her New Year’s resolution. ‘Only the Best Will Do’, she scrawled in her notebook. My brother William subsequently transcribed these notebooks and was struck by the fact that there were no regrets. Moreover, every single change had been carefully planned. The simple brief was “to produce a 40 room hunting lodge out of a 80 room romantic rambling chateau’. The book is peppered with Grannyisms – ‘bash a hole’ … desultory destruction … and talks of her dancing to a radiogramme until 3am some night. Her uncle Aubyn Peart-Robinson and Dublin architect Alan Hope helped redesign house.

After the bombing of the House of Commons in 1941, Churchill had opted to rebuild it in its original configuration – despite the fact that it would not accommodate all the members of the house. His rationale was ‘We shape our buildings thereafter they shape us’. John O’Brien was a carpenter at Lisnavagh in 1951 – left his signature on the bake house loo. Or am I confused as I have a note that Rosebud found some timber with the name Matt O’Brian etched on – he was father of John O’Brien. THE IRISH TIMES carried the following advertisement on Friday 11 April 1952, which was repeated in short on Sat 19 April and in full on Sat 26 April.

JAMES H. NORTH & CO., Ltd. Sale Thursday 15th May. Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow. Furniture, Schiedmayer Pianoforte, Sèvres Chandelier, Porcelain, Paintings etc. Owing to extensive alterations of the residence we have been instructed by the RT. HON. LORD RATHDONNELL to dispose of a residue of Furniture, Pictures, etc., of which the following is a basic résumé – Schiedmayer Grand Pianoforte; SUITE OF LOUIS XV GILT FURNITURE of Settee, 6 Single and 6 Armchairs, pair of Gilt Foot Stools; interesting Louis XVI Carved and Gilt Settee, pairs of Gilt Chairs, Carved Gilt Mirrors, Console Table, Mahogany Dining Table on pod. Settees. SÈVRES CHANDELIER, pair Sèvres Chandeliers, pair Sèvres and Ormolu Candleabra, large Sèvres Clock, Suite of Damask Curtains, with gilt and caved wood cornices; Occasional Tables, Tallboys, Chairs, etc.; usual Bedroom Furnishings of Toilet Tables, Chests of Drawers, Washstands, etc. PAINTINGS include Large Painting of Reclining Figure by GUERCINO: ‘Set of Four Paintings’; ‘The Life of Our Lord’, after Pannini; pair of Classical Landscapes by ORIZONTE; also other paintings after VANDYKE [sic], Lely, Massot, Montanini, etc. FURTHER DETAILS IN FUTURE ADVERTISEMENTS. JAMES H. NORTH & CO., Ltd. MIAA, Auctioneers, 110 Grafton Street. Tel. 77309 and 72532. Established over a century.

On 14 May 1952, Pamela wrote ‘Ghastly Auction by Messrs. North, very wet, much given away’. The next line in her book was ‘June: House cut in TWO’. Betty Scott told me Jack Halpin had eight men helping him take down the bulk of the house. My father reckons it was only four and that they, like Jack, had learned the art of demolition in London after the war. Most of the house came down by hand but machines came in to carry the rubble away. Andy Verney has a theory that the terraces became compacted at that time by those machines, so much that they are now prone to flooding.

According to my father, Bill would draw the wages of Jack and his three accomplices every week, just like he drew wages for all the other farm hands. There was no contract like with present day builders. My father reckons Jack got £10 a week ‘for self and supervision’. Some of the stone from the old house certainly went down the Front Avenue; Andy Verney says you can see it poking up ever now and then. Some may have gone down the Back Avenue to the Gate Lodge although Andy says that when he arrived circa 1964, one of his first tasks was to rebuild that road and they got their granite from over by Haroldstown. Jack Halpin’s widow lived over by Mount Wolsey until her death some years ago; their field has lately been converted into a development of eighteen houses.

In 1952 there was a court case known as Rathdonnell (Lord) v. Colvin in which the 4th Baron (aka “the tenant for life of an oversized mansion”) volunteered to carry out necessary rationalisation works. He was generously given leave to do so by the court, and the expenses of so doing were declared then and there to qualify as a ‘salvage’ payment, so as to give him a charge over the interests of the remaindermen concerned. Quoted in “Law of Restitution in England and Ireland” by Andrew Tattenborn (Cavendish Publishing, 2001) page 207. Bill Burgess told me that some of the timber from Lisnavagh became window frames in an extension of the Burgess’s house. ‘The rates’, lamented Bill, as to why the house was felled. ‘And I was under the impression that they didn’t get much by doing that’.

The west face of Lisnavagh House, County Carlow, Ireland, in the midst of the seismic operation that reduced the house in size by nearly two thirds. The man in the trilby is the 4th Baron Rathdonnell (my grandfather), standing with my late aunt Rosebud. The four men pictured are presumed to be Jack Halpin with either Matt Brien of Ouragh [sic]; Tom Neill of Station Road; Mick Byrne of Newcestown; Brian McCutcheon of Templeowen and / or Mick Gorman of Parc Mhuire. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Halpin and Tony Roche).

Above (L-R): Jack Halpin; Lord Rathdonnell (?); Rosebud (aka Rosemary McClintock Bunbury, who had a birthday party at this time); Matt Brien; Tom Neill of Station Road; Mick Byrne of Newcestown. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Halpin and Tony Roche).


Above (L-R): PJ Roche (facing away); Betty Scott, an O’Toole who apparently worked at Lisnavagh House; Jack Halpin (holding hat); tall woman who worked at Lisnavagh; Brian McCutcheon of Templeowen; Mick Gorman of Parc Mhuire; Matt Brien of Ouragh. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Halpin and Tony Roche).


Lisnavagh House during the reconstruction, with Pamela Drew, aka Lady Rathdonnell, seated in the foreground to right.



Lord Rathdonnell’s hounds ceased in 1952, the year the bulk of the main house came down.

January: Like his father and two grandfathers, Benjamin (my father) went to Charterhouse where he was also in Saunderites. He started in January 1952 and left in December 1956. My brother William was also in Saunderites, leaving in 1984.

There was a summerhouse down the Yew Walk at a Lisnavagh, near the cross part. It was a small thing that rotated and my father merrily recalls spinning on it with his sisters and making sure that they made the nanny so dizzy that she nearly fell off. In the 1950s, my grandfather decided to plant Christmas trees in the area, so he did not have to maintain it. He put Christmas trees in the wall garden too. The spinning summerhouse was sold to young Corona North (née Lecky-Watson) and reinstalled at Altamont, although my father thinks it must have been pretty dilapidated by them. I wondered if there are any photographs of it?

Jan 10: St Kevin, an Aer Lingus C47 Dakota travelling from Northolt Aerodrome in London to Dublin, crashes into a mountain in Wales, killing all 23 people on board.

Feb 6: George VI dies and Queen Elizabeth II ascends throne.

May 28: The Aga Khan’s Irish-bred Tulyar won the Derby, one of six English Classics that year, setting a record for a single season’s earnings in England. At the end of that season, the Aga Khan sold Tulyar to the Irish National Stud for £250,000, a world record price at the time.

Sept: ‘A South African financier and former M.P. for St. Pancras, London, Sir Alfred Lane Beit, has purchased Russborough, the famous early Georgian mansion overlooking the Poulaphouca lakes near Blessington. The property was owned by Colonel Denis Daly, who bought it in 1931 and has since restored it.’ Leinster Leader, 27 September 1952, p. 1.

Sept 30: Lady Cecilia Wachman (35), well-known horse breeder, is killed when she apparently falls over the stair banisters at Dunboyne Castle and strikes the chandelier. She is the wife of Mr. Norman H. Wachman, owner of The Bug, sister of the Hon. Ginger Wellesley, horse trainer, Clonbarron Stud, Athboy, County Meath, and a daughter of the late Earl Cowley. Her mother died in a fire at their home in Wiltshire in 1949. See here.

October: Britain became the third country to successfully test an independently developed nuclear bomb after strategically and ideologically aligning itself with the United States. Construction work begins on the subterranean Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker.

December 5-9: LONDON FOG. Nearly 12,000 people die during four or five days of intense smog. If ‘The Crown’ TV series is to be believed, this was a time when the young Queen Elizabeth II nearly called for Winston Churchill’s resignation.



Jan 16: SIngin’ in the Rain released in Ireland with Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Jean Hagen all excelling. O’Connor won a golden globe for his extraordinary workout in ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’, above, all the more remarkable for his 80 ciggies a day habit at the time. Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds had forebears from Donegal and Derry, while Mr O’Connor’s father was a circus strongman from Cork.

Jan 20: Truman hands over the White House to General Eisenhower.

Jan 31: 133 people drown when the car ferry Princess Victoria sinks in a ferocious gale off the Co Down coast.

March 5: Vincent O’Brien’s dominance of the British racing scene continues with Knock Hard’s triumph in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

March 28: Early Mist went to Aintree and fulfilled Jimmy Rank’s premonition by becoming the first of Vincent O’Brien’s three Grand National winners.

June 2: Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

July 27: Korean War ends with an armistice.

September 3: Death of Bill’s great-uncle (and Kate Rathdonnell’s brother-in-law), Sir Hunt Henry Johnson-Walsh, 5th Bart.

December 26: Bill attends the funeral of Ann Reid-Scott who was killed while hunting with the Kildares near Dunlavin on Christmas Eve. She had arrived at Ballynure to visit her parents four days earlier. She left two small sons, David and Malise. Ginger Wellesley and his wife Toby (née Kennedy) divorce.




The Queen and Sir Tom Butler, The Sphere on 30 June 1956.

Jan 11: Ginger Wellesley marries Nancy Joan Hilliam, second of four wives; marriage annulled 1955.

March 13 – May 7: The Battle of Dien Bien Phu symbolises the end of the colonial era as the French are literally hounded out of Vietnam. Listen to excellent account of the battle when Dan Snow talks with Katie Puckrik and Tom Fordyce for ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ here.

April 10: Royal Tan wins the Grand National by a neck at 8-1 to give Vincent O’Brien back-to-back wins in the coveted steeplechase

April 11: Carlow defeat Armagh to reach their only National Football League finals to date, but were beaten by Mayo 2-10 to 0-3.

May 9: Mayo defeat Carlow to win the National Football League at Croke Park. Was this the match my naughty aunts attended!!

June 2: Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Scheme begins.

June 12: The IRA makes an audacious raid on Gough military barracks in Armagh; it marks the re-awakening of IRA activity in Northern Ireland and a re-arming that leads eventually to the 1956-62 campaign.

June 23: The Queen reviews the Grenadier Guards in the Home Park of Windsor Castle as part of the Regiment’s celebrations of the tercentenary of its foundation as the Royal Regiment of Guards in 1656. A photograph of the queen beaming at Sir Tom Butler, the regiment’s lieutenant colonel, appears in The Sphere on 30 June 1956.

Appalling weather and an unusually late harvest in 1954 lead to very late cubbing season and a poor season for hunts generally.

In September 2012, a lady called Marjorie McCullagh recalled to me how my grandfather used to go to their place on the Dublin/Meath border – I didn’t catch the name of it – to collect parts for a Clark combine harvester which her husband kept. He would always arrive up early enough to breakfast with them. One morning he brought my father, then about 12 years old. Marjorie said her own son Ian, then three, was having a tantrum when Rathdonnell and son arrived, standing at the top of the chair screaming and ripping his clothes off. The Baron apparently glanced up at the toddler and advised her: ‘Treat them like a pony – I have four of them and they get used to it’. Presumably that was the same combine harvester that Paddy Delany was out cutting the fields of Lisnavagh when, as he told me in the summer of 2012, my grandfather would arrive at his side at 3am and tell him to dismount, he’d take over from here, go home and get some sleep. Paddy says he was often filling sacks of wheat while my grandfather loaded and raised the bit on the back of the combine harvester, working till three or four o’clock in the morning. He also worked for Major Philpotts at Russellstown Park where the agent once gave him a couple of bottles of stout. ‘My God, Paddy, I think you may be drinking beer there, are you?’ asked my grandfather, when he saw him, ‘There’s no thinking about it,’ replied Paddy.

November 12 (Friday): Death of Bill’s cousin Henry Arthur Bruen of Oak Park, a nephew of Kate Rathdonnell.

‘The death occurred on Friday 12th November of Captain Henry Arthur Bruen, Oak Park, Carlow. The late Captain Bruen was educated at Eton and was a graduate of Sandhurst, the Military College. In 1907 he was gazetted to the 15th Huzzars and served with the Cavalry Regiment during the 1914-18 World War. He afterwards returned home to farm the extensive Oak Park estate which, as a model of good husbandry bears the imprint of his orderly mind and progressive methods. He was considered an authority in all branches of agriculture. He gave good employment to a large staff , many of whom are housed on the estate. He served as a member of the Committee of the Royal Dublin Society for many years and was associated with the old Carlow Show Society. Captain Bruen was a member of the Kildare Street Club, Dublin and the Cavalry Club of London. He was President of Carlow Golf Club. He is survived by his wife and daughter, Mrs Patricia Boyse, Slaney Lodge, Enniscorthy. The remains were removed from St. Brigids Hospital to St. Mary’s Church on Saturday. Following a Service the funeral took place to the family burial place on the Oak Park estate, an unfinished temple some distance from the house. The plain oak coffin was carried from the church to the motor hearse by employees. The funeral proceeded at walking pace where the coffin was transferred to the house and a further Service was taken. The coffin was then transferred to a farm drea and drawn by a farm horse to the burial ground. The attendance included Commander Martin Bruen R.N. Lord and Lady Kildare, Lord Rathdonnell, Sir Standish and Lady Roche, Viscount de Vesci, Sir Walter Couchman, Lt. Browne-Clayton, General Sir Charles and Lady Broad, Baron de Roebeck, Sir Thomas Butler, Countess Fitzwilliam, General Dennis, Captain John Rochfort, Captain Oliver Hardy Eustace-Duckett, Robert Harvey-Eustace, Brigadier and Mrs Booth, Colonel William Duckett, Colonel. and Mrs E. Pike,Commander Denis Pack-Beresford, Colonel Philpotts,Colonel Mitchell, Commander C. Skrine, Lt. Colonel Rupert Beauchamp Lecky, Major Bishop,Captain H.C.P. Hamilton, Major Stanley Barret, Lt. Colonel Archibald Macalpine-Downie, Mr Hope Bagenal, Captain J.B. Blackett, Dermott McMurrough-Kavanagh, Mrs Olive Hall. Isobel Lecky-Watson, Colonel J. Farrell, Colonel K. Alexander,Major H. Bramwell, Major John Alexander, Major Bishop, Mr Patrick Governey, Chairman of Carlow Urban Council. Dr Joseph Kelly, Carlow, Mr M Ruddle, Provincial Bank, Mr P. Atcheson, Bank of Ireland, etc etc etc….’

Transcribed by Mary Corcoran from the Carlow Nationalist reporter’s notebook November 2009.



On Saturday 20 March 1954, The Argus and The Mercury, two Australian newspapers carried the following story:

‘Royal portrait. London, Friday. Artist Pamela Drew, who in private life is Lady Rathdonnell, with a historic home in Ireland and four children has been commissioned by Sir David Eccles, British Works Minister, to paint the Queen’s night departure in the Airliner Canopus on the start of the Royal tour. She spends part of the year in Ireland and the rest living in London’s Chelsea on a strict budget of £5 a week earned by her brush.’




A Lockheed U-2 in flight

Carlow’s Year of Champions 1955 – Denny Hyland set new Irish pole vault record, Ernie Jones won the Irish PGA Championship and Tess Delaney captured the Leinster Senior Girls Singles. Eire Og is also founded this year.

March 5: Elvis Presley makes his television debut on “Louisiana Hayride”.

March 25: Tom Butler succeeds his father Sir Richard Butler as 12th Baronet Butler of Clogrennan.

March 26: Quare Times triumphs in the Aintree Grand National to give Vincent O’Brien an extraordinary hattrick of consecutive wins. This was also a win of sorts for Naas as all three of his Grand National winners raced on the track, and two of them won.

April 5: Winston Churchill resigns as Prime Minister, due to ill-health, at the age of 80. Anthony Eden succeeds next day.
April: On Eisenhower’s watch, the CIA established the Groom Lake test facility in Nevada for Project AQUATONE: the development of the Lockheed U-2 strategic reconnaissance aircraft, aka the “Dragon Lady“, which had to be conducted in absolute secrecy. This evolved into Area 51, a restricted airspace that now covers 23 by 25 miles (37 by 40 km). When locals started seeing strange things in the sky, it suited the Americans to let rumours fly about UFOs as it might confound the Russians. They then deployed deception tactics to such an extent that they had pilots in gorilla suits flying planes with fake propellers on them so that anyone who saw them would literally not be able to believe their eyes … my grandmother would have loved all this. Area 51 is where astronauts test walked in craters created by nuclear explosions, as if on they were on the moon, inspiring a zillion conspiracy theories. At one stage, the powers that be deliberately crash landed an aeroplane into Area 51 with a nuclear bomb on board, to see what the results were, which is the grown up version of a toddler sticking his finger into a plug socket. Dan Snow had a good chat about it in 2023 with Annie Jacobsen, author of ‘Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base’, listen here. May: ‘Sir Anthony Weldon, who recently purchased Rathdonnell House, where he expects to take up residence shortly, is visiting the district this week.’ (Derry Journal, 13 May 1955).

May 8-29: Anew McMaster’s Presentation for An Bord Fáilte of “The Pageant of St. Patrick” in Croke Park, Dublin, as part of the An Tóstal Festival. The script was written by Michael Mac Liammóir [Alfred Wilmore] and the pageant was directed by Hilton Edwards.

July 13: Ruth Ellis is hanged for murder in London, becoming the last woman ever to be executed in the United Kingdom.
September 3: Little Richard records “Tutti Frutti” in New Orleans; it is released in October.
September 15: Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel Lolita is published in Paris, by Olympia Press.
September 18: The United Kingdom formally annexes the uninhabited Atlantic island of Rockall.
September 30: James Dean is killed when his automobile collides with another car in California.
October 19: Ireland play Yugoslavia at Dalymount Park. Archbishop McQuaid had banned Ireland playing Yugoslavia, a ‘Godless country’, in 1952. In 1955, supported by Oscar Traynor, the players break through Legion of Mary wall and 22,000 watch Ireland lose 4-1.

October 29: Champion cyclist and active IRA member Joe Christle heads a group of radical students from University College Dublin who forced their way into the Pillar, locked themselves inside and unfurled a huge canvas banner of Kevin Barry. Nov 1: Vietnam War begins. December 14: Paddy Mayne killed in a car crash.



The real crisis of 1956.

Population of Carlow county drops to its lowest level since census-taking began, at 33,888.

Nationalist 1956. ‘Thanks. Will you kindly allow me space to offer my sincere thanks to all my friends in the district who in consideration of my blindness so kindly subscribed to the purchase of a radio set for me. Especially Mrs Lillis, Lunclone and Mrs Bradley, Janeville, who so kindly collected for the purpose. I am more than grateful, John Aughney, Newtown, Bagenalstown.’ (Transcribed by M. Purcell.)


In March 1956, Patrick G Dawson, MIAA, Auctioneer, of Tullow, ran an ad for a Clearance Sale at Lisnavagh “of useful lots of Household Furniture, Building Materials, 40 lots of Poles etc’. The sale which took place at 2 o’clock sharp on Wednesday 14th march was “by instructions from Rt Hon Lord Rathdonnell”. Up for grabs were:

“Round mahogany table, veneered rosewood table, walnut veneered writing table, oak table with flap and drawers, plaster plant-stand, beech bed, washstands and ware, mahogany and other dressing tables, French marble mantelpiece, new bedroom suite including bed with interior sprung mattress and walnut finish, small dining table and chairs, kitchen cabinet, lino, electric cooker, chesterfield suite, oak wardrobe, kitchen dressers, large kitchen press, turf or coal range, press bed, counter scales as new, small churn, 2 open presses oak and mahogany, pram and go-car, boy’s set of trains, steal girder (27ft 8 in), 2 heavy wooden beams (approx 26 ft long), 700-gal sectional steel tank (100-gal), galvinised tank with ball cock, iron cistern, Barford steam boiler, lare and small windows, including mullioned windows some panelled doors, some lots of timber moulding etc. fireplaces, flue liners and pipes, heavy two-part door, stubbed and ribbed. Revolving Summer house, trap and harness, 40 lots of poles suitable for fencing etc. and various other lots. Terms: Strictly cash evening of sale”.

It is notable that the washstands and linos are all piled into the listing alongside mahogany tables and chesterfields, one upon t’other, and that there seems to have been no concept of “original Irish” or “late Victorian” in the description. April 19: Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin arrive on a diplomatic mission to Britain. Lieutenant-Commander Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb, OBE, a Royal Navy frogman, vanishes during a reconnaissance mission for MI6 around the Soviet cruiser Ordzhonikidze, berthed at Portsmouth Dockyard.


LADY RATHDONNELL is the only woman member of the Society of Aviation Artists and is also a member of the Society of Marine Artists; she paints under her maiden name, Pamela Weeks [whoops!], and specialises in aeroplanes and steamships. Lord and Lady Rathdonnell have five [whoops] children. (The Tatler – Wednesday 14 November 1956)

‘ARTIST AND R.A.F. Last year Pamela Drew (Lady Rathdonnell of Lisnavagh) spent about three months in the Middle East and Kenya making a pictorial record of the R.A.F.’s activities in those areas. She visited Cyprus, Aden, Port Sudan, British Somaliland, Jordan, the Canal Zone and Kenya, and the results of her travels can be seen in a London exhibition open to the public (admission free) until July 1. The exhibition (at the Imperial Institute, South Kensington) was opened on June 8 [1956] by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Dermot Boyle.

The C.A.S. spoke of his pleasure at being asked to open the exhibition and at meeting the artist again: she had been the only artist to paint the R.A.F.’s Coronation review in 1953, and she was one of those people who seemed to get everyone interested in her work. She had flown in some 14 different types of aircraft during her tour.

Daily Express, 7 June 1956

The exhibition, which numbers 122 works, is of great variety, and whilst the emphasis is upon aircraft, the artist does not over- look the vital work of the ground forces: there are also some impressive portraits. Pamela Drew has used both oils and pastels for her interpretations of R.A.F. life—and these cover a wide range of activities, such as flight servicing, forest patrols, aircraft refuel- ling and re-arming and tracker-dog searches.’ [58]

“Pamela Drew held a most impressive exhibition of paintings and drawings devoted to ‘The R.A.F. in the Middle East and Operations in Kenya.’ From this unfeminine theme her industry and ready gifts of ‘seeing’ a picture projected aerial views of Cyprus, Aden and Kenya with a sensitive appreciation of surface contours over which the R.A.F. thrust wings as ‘The Intruder’.” (The Studio – Volumes 151-152 (National Magazine Company, 1956, p. 94)

‘AN exhibition of oil paintings and pastel drawings, ” The Royal Air Force in the Middle East and Operations in Kenya,” is to be opened by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Dermot Boyle, at the Imperial Institute Gallery, South Kensington, at 11:30 hrs on June 8. The exhibition, by Pamela Drew, represents the results of a three months’ tour made last year throughout Cyprus, Jordan, Iraq, the Canal Zone, Aden. British Somaliland and Kenya. Most of the 120 pictures deal with R.A.F. subjects. Pamela Drew painted the official picture of the Coronation Review at Odiham which now hangs in Fighter Command Headquarters and is a founder member of the Society of Aviation Artists. Visitors to the Society’s exhibition last year will recall two fine studies by the same artist of Valiants against a stratospheric blue background.’ (Aeroplane and Commercial Aviation News, Volume 90, Aeronautics 1956), p. 260.

“The Imperial War Museum has recently purchased for the Art Department three paintings by Miss Pamela Drew (Lady Rathdonnell of Lisnavagh) relating to the operations against the Mau Mau in Kenya.” (The Museums Journal, 1958, Vol. 57, p. 97).



Pamela on the front page of Social & Personal, 1959


When Betty Scott told the Baron that he had missed a bit on the back of his shoes, Bill responded “A good soldier never looks back”. In about 1956, Bill sold the house at Oddfellows opposite Lisnavagh’s Cow Field to Irene Lyons, sister of late Bill Burgess and aunt of William Burgess who lives there today. Mrs Lyons was born Irene Lucie Cranston Burgess. In 1921, she was secretary to Percy Mcready, publisher of ‘The Motor News’, ‘The Irish Cyclist and Motor Cyclist’ and ‘More Bulls and Blunders’. That same year, she met her husband, Francis T.B. Lyon, who was on a temporary transfer to TP & R Goodbody, Tobacco Manufacturers, of St Catherine’s Avenue, South Circular Road, Dublin. (At the time, he worked with Cope Brothers of Liverpool, Tobacco manufacturers, owned by Goodbody’s).

In 1927, Francis and Irene moved to British Leaf of Canada, Chatham Ontario, where their son Ian was born in Dec 1930. On or around 20 Dec 1931, Francis became seriously ill. He died on 27 December aged 33. Irene and Ian returned to Ireland and lived in Dublin but spent a lot of time in Tobinstown. In or around 1947 Irene returned to live in Tobinstown full time. Their son Ian Lyon lives in Canada.

July 3: Lord Rathdonnell’s Tuberg entered in the Carne and Kilmore Maiden Hurdle at Wexford.

August 13-Sept 26:  Pamela and Bill hosted Jacqueline Day (née de la Cherois) and her children Nicholas (4.5) and baby Jacqueline. The elder Jacqueline signed the Visitor’s Book. The younger Jacqueline changed her name to Angélique and later wrote an excellent book of Mary Delaney’s letters entitled ‘Letters of Georgian Ireland’ (Friar’s Bush Press, 1993) which provide an interesting insight into life in Co Down in the 1750’s. I befriended Angélique Bell in 2020-2021 through email enquiries to the Donaghadee Historical Society in County Down, which was relevant to my Maxol / McMullan researches. She thinks their mission to Lisnavagh involved a nanny; my father notes that one of their last nannies, presumably for Rosebud, was Nanny Smith from Caledon, Co. Tyrone, and known as “Sergeant Major” to Betty. The family were on a general jaunt round Wexford and Carlow and Jacqueline was struggling to look after the children after the luxury of so many staff in Kenya. Raised at the Manor House in Donaghadee, Jacqueline married India-born, Malaya-bred Fred Day, an elected representative for the Kinancops area of Kenya’s White Highlands, not far from the Tatham-Warter’s place in Naivasha. Jacqueline was unable to adapt to the white society in Kenyan and left the country with her children in 1961. Fred stayed on and commuted between Ireland and Kenya for the remainder of his days. The electrification and rewiring of Lisnavagh was overseen by John FitzGerald, a well-known businessman and merchant in Tullow, whose son Des I hope to meet when he is next back from Sydney. The late Seamus Magrath recalled an art competition at the Tullow Show in which Pamela Rathdonnell entered a Spitfire. He says she came second and never entered again! I guess she can take heart from that ditty about Elvis Presley coming second in the Elvis lookalike contest.

Sept 6: Death of James J. Kerrigan, chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors of Merck Co., Inc., of Railway, N.J., manufacturing chemists, after a long illness, in Roosevelt Hospital. He had rented Russborough in the summer of 1952.

Oct 23 – Nov 4: Hungarian Uprising against the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic (1949–1989) and the policies caused by the government’s subordination to the USSR, lasts 12 days before being ruthlessly crushed by Soviet tanks and troops on November 4. Earlier that summer, the engagement of Baron Gabor Kende and Rosa Doyle was announced.

Nov 14: The Tatler publishes Pamela’s photo, alongside this caption: ‘LADY RATHDONNELL is the only woman member of the Society of Aviation Artists and is also a member of the Society of Marine Artists; she paints under her maiden name, Pamela Weeks [whoops!], and specialises in aeroplanes and steamships. Lord and Lady Rathdonnell have five [whoops] children.’ (The Tatler – Wednesday 14 November 1956)




The late Lydia de Burgh who knew both my grandparents in the 1950s had lots of inside information on the eventual split between Bill and Pamela which saw Major Massy banished from Lisnavagh circa 1953, presumably for misbehaving.

Nita Madden painted by Lydia de Burgh, 1950.

In late 1956, she became embroiled in the Suez Crisis and one of her paintings is of the RAF Venoms from the Middle East Air Force, which were used in action from 31st October 1956 to attack Egyptian airfields. One of her key patrons to clear her passage over the Middle East Air Command is believed to have been Sir Dermot Boyle (1904–1993), Marshal of the Royal Air Force, and the Chief of the Air Staff who deployed British air power during the Suez Crisis in October 1956. He also defended the RAF against the views of Duncan Sandys, the Minister for Defence, who believed that the V bomber force rendered manned fighter aircraft redundant. Marshal Boyle was born in Rathdowney, Co. Laois.

There is much of exceptional interest to my immediate family about the affairs which both Pamela and Bill enjoyed during the 1950s. When you examine any of the players, you can completely understand why they acted in the manner that they did. These were complicated times and the war had played hell with many things. But for now these tales shall remain mostly unstated, perhaps whispered within the family but not on show for the wider world. [One wonders if Pamela and Bill stayed together because of the general disdain for divorce. It was not until 1955 that divorcees were able to enter the Royal Enclosure at Ascot.]


A Christmas card sketch by Pamela Drew from 1957 showing her husband, son and three daughters.



Jan 9: Two months after ordering an end to the Suez operation, Anthony Eden resigns as Prime Minister on grounds of ill health. Eden’s addiction to the amphetamine wonder drug Benzedrine helped undo him. Harold Macmillan succeeds.

Jan 30: Ginger Wellesley marries Marina Isobel Sherlock Eustace, his third wife. In 1969, they will divorce and he will marry his fourth wife, Valerie Pitman, a cousin of my mother.

July 3: Lord Gough statue blown up in Phoenix Park.

Feb 6: Clearance sale at Lisnavagh. See details in Wicklow People, here, or in newspaper extract below.

Sept 28: Hurricane Carrie, the strongest tropical cyclone of the 1957 Atlantic hurricane season, dissipates over Ireland. Was this the hurricane that flattened the Cemetery Wood by the river at Acaun in 1957?

Oct 25: Death in Dublin after an attack of appendicitis of Edward Plunkett (Lord Dunsany), former Etonian pal of Billy Bunbury, who wrote hundreds of published short stories, as well as successful plays, novels and essays. He was chess and pistol-shooting champion of Ireland, and travelled and hunted extensively. Sir Tom Butler becomes Lieutenant Colonel in command of the Grenadier Guards. He visits Thailand as military advisor to the Thai army, reviewing troops and inspecting military installations.




Wicklow People – Saturday 2 February 1957. Robert Williams is referenced in the details.

It’s cheering to know that we once had a brewery in the family, or at least a bit of a brewery. The 2nd Baron Rathdonnell had been chairman of the Great Northern Brewery in Dundalk since at least 1916 and possibly from as early as 1898. In about 1957, the 4th Baron was appointed a Board of Director to the brewery which was bought by Smithwick’s Ale of Kilkenny at about this time and subsequently by Guinness. Up until 1960, the brewery had produced stout and ale. However, in response to an increased demand for lager at that time, Guinness converted the brewery into a modern lager operation and recruited German master brewer, Dr Hermann Mender. My father recalls going to the brewery with him and seeing the great vats and possibly Dr Muender too. The brewer was working with local ingredients to create a lager. Various names were considered for the brand, including Atlas, Cresta and Dolphin, before they settled on Harp Lager, which first went out as a bottled beer in 1960, soon after the 4th Baron’s death, with the Brian Boru harp as its emblem. Within 12 months, Harp was on sale throughout Ireland and in 1961 it was launched nationwide in Britain. The Dundalk Brewing Company is now the second largest brewery in Ireland after St James’s Gate Brewery. Happily, I presently own a cask of whiskey made on the same site as the Great Northern Brewery.




Feb 6: 23 Manchester United players, staff and supporters killed in Munich when British European Airways flight 609 crashes on its third attempt to take off.

April 18: Death of to Lt. Col. Archibald Macalpine-Downie, MBE, father to Andrew McMorrough Kavanagh, aged 51. He and Major Richard Brookes went missing while rowing in Holy Loch, Argyll, and were presumed drowned. Archie’s wife Joan was the former Duchess of Leinster. Major Brookes was an uncle of Fiona Meiklejohn.

June 4: Hard Ridden, trained by Mickey Rogers, became the first Irish-trained Derby winner in fifty years.

July 25: Lord Carlisle statue blown up in Phoenix Park.




Jan: C.I.E.’s Director and General Manger, Frank Lemass – a brother of revolutionary, politician, and taoiseach, Sean Lemass – oversees the closures of the railway lines from Sallins, Co. Kildare, to Tullow, Co. Carlow, and from Harcourt St., Dublin, to Shanganagh, Co. Dublin.

March 6: Roddy Owen wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup under Bobby Beasley.

Gerald FitzGerald, Duke of Leinster, goes into partnership with the flamboyant air ace, Tim Vigors, and founded Vigors Aviation. Vigors, a legendary bloodstock agent and former owner of Coolmore Stud, is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the modern Irish bloodstock world. He inherited Coolmore from his father in 1968 and later became partners with Vincent O’Brien and Robert Sangster before he was eventually bought out. He died in 2003 at the age of 82. Based at Oxford Airport, Vigors Aviation trained pilots and held the UK agency for Piper aircraft. Lord Kildare, as he was then, was technical director and later managing director. In order to fund the business, he sold Kilkea Castle in 1961 and permanently left Ireland. With Leinster House and Carton already gone, Kilkea was the last of the three great Geraldine houses to be sold. In 1962, Vigors Aviation became CSE Aviation and Gerald became its chairman. The company was eventually sold in 1986.



African art by Pamela Drew

On 7 Feb 1959, the Illustrated London News publishes a full page of four drawings by Miss Pamela Drew with the following text:


“The poaching of game and the illicit traffic in ivory, rhino horns and skins has long been a headache of the Kenya Game Department and by 1952 had reached such proportions that special measures were being considered when they had to be shelved owing to the Mau Mau emergency. After 1955, however, a planned drive against this poaching came into operation; and Mobile Field Forces went into action with an operational headquarters at Voi, in the Tsavo National Park, where Mr. David Sheldrick, Warden of the Park, is in overall command. An aircraft of the Kenya Police Airwing, based on Voi, keeps track of the movement of game over thousands of square miles; and there is radio communication between the sections, the aircraft and the H.Q. The operation proved its worth very rapidly, and in one month (December 1956) 43 poachers were caught and 41 convicted, sentences ranged between three and sixteen months, fines between £10 and £100, and 105 skins, thirty-five elephant tusks and five pairs of rhino horns were recovered.





Drawn by Miss Pamela Drew. Pamela’s thoughts are on ‘Straospehere, Space and the First Artist on the Moon’ but the death of Lord R leads to her return to Ireland and a new focus on civil aviation. She continued to pioneer the use of aluminium. She exhibited two works at the seventh exhibition of the Society of Aviation Artists in 1959 which one critic noted that her work “No. 111 Squadron, R.A.F., Aerobatic” discouraged some beholders because it has been freely drawn on aluminium sheeting. We think it conveys the sweep and scale of the manoeuvre successfully.” On the other hand, the Aeroplane and Commercial Aviation News, Volume 97, p. 16 (Aeronautics, 1959) wrote: “Pamela Drew has a problem picture of an independent airline operating company’s hangars and aircraft, seen through barbed wire. She also has an interesting experiment which, perhaps, does not quite come off, of a fighter painted on polished aluminium.”




Meanwhile, Bill took up a spirited romance with another lady with whom he apparently planned to elope in 1959. To the shock of many, he died of a brain tumour aged 44 on 12 October 1959. The following extracts tracing his last three weeks, were transcribed from the 1959 farm diary, which I came across while helping the next generation of Bunbury gals clear out the Lisnavagh cellars on 25 November 2023. The writing appears to be my grandmother plus at least one other, probably Pally

Monday 21 September – Yearling Sales – Dublin. Rosebud to London (Lawnside). Tuesday 22 September – Carlow Hounds, cub-hunting.

23 September – Yearling Sales. Jane to airport, for Millfield.

24 September – R in bed, 

25 September Lime spread in Rath Field about 3 ½ tons per acre. R in bed.

26 Sept – R in bed

27 Sept – R in bed.

28 Sept – R to Dr Brian Mayne. X rays Dr MacDonogh & into Portobello Nursing Home

29 Sept – P Doyle ploughing Forge Field. [Paddy Doyle – ed.]

30 Sept – P Doyle ploughing.

2 Oct – Slight rain early

3 Oct– Straw drawn from Schoolhouse Field. Carlow Hounds cub-hunting – no scent

4 Oct – SE wind freshening & hot sun – hazy 

5 Oct – Christy not in – bad knee. P Doyle ploughing in Forge Field. Three loads of straw to finish Schoolhouse Field. Straw drawn from Car’s [sic] Hill.

R moved into Richmond Hospital (St Lawrence’s) to have his head examined by Mr Lannigan and Mr A Moony

6 Oct –  ??  load of blocks for house. Straw from Carr’s Hill. P Doyle ploughing all day in Forge Field. Rain from 1130 in showers, dull all day. Lofts are tidied while raining. Hall chimney swept.

[Notable how busy they are, while R lies awaiting his end – ed.]

7 Oct – Potatoes from Sally yard – 2 loads to stables. Linseed meal from Hacketstown. Highly concentrated vitamilo is ordered.

8 Oct – R had further examinations by Mr Lannigan and Dr A Mooney.

[No further entries until …]

12 Oct – Daddy died, Richmond Hospital. 

14 Oct – 6 hurdles to Leopardstown. Ben came home from İstanbul.

15 Oct – Golly and HJMcB [Jane] arrived

16 Oct – 4 men in graveyard preparing R’s grave. Last load of straw in

17 Oct – Wild rainy day, 4 men completing grave

18 Oct – Rainy day. Daddy’s funeral. Herse from Dublin – magnificent & loyal turnout in rain through village. People from everywhere were there. 

19 Oct: Ploughing in Forge Field. Potatoes from Sally Yard. 

His death record states that the cause was ‘encephalitis’, an acute inflammation of the brain, which is generally caused by either a viral infection or the immune system mistakenly attacking brain tissue. The ‘place of death’ is hard to read on his death certificate but the above diary confirms that it was Richmond Hospital. His death was registered by W. Barick [sic?] of St Laurence’s Hospital, North Brunswick Street, Grangegorman, which is known today as the Richmond Surgical Hospital, now the Nurse’s HQ. In 2018, my sister Sasha Sykes installed a reception desk at the Richmond, comprising a copper leaf screen, with a pool below the desk full of delphiniums hydrangeas and larkspur. [59] My father recalls receiving a letter from his mum, written about 6 October, to say his father had “gone to have his head examined which we all thought he should have done years ago”. Dad adds: ‘I have no idea whether she knew how serious it all was.’ I am consistently surprised by the number of people who tell me how saddened they were by his passing. One man wrote to me in November 2010, saying ‘I remember the day your Grandad died and the sorrow it caused. I went to say a prayer at his grave last year and we had a picture of his headstone here.’ Paddy Delaney of Tobinstown Cross told me he was immensely fond of the Baron. It was one of the darkest days of his life when Tom Kerins the agent arrived into Carr’s Hill, where he was digging potatoes, and informed them that the Baron had succumbed to a brain tumour aged 44. Paddy and I were drinking hot poitin at the time he told me this. Katie Daly he called it, and t’was damned good too. He went quiet for about 20 seconds after he told me this and appeared to be on the verge of weeping. ‘He was a great man to work with’, he says. ‘And a great man to work for. He would give you a hand like any man’. When he was young, my Tobinstown neighbour Ned Doyle had a part-time job as the Baron’s chauffeur, driving a Peugeot. He was due to go full time work when my grandfather died unexpectedly. He told Ned he would be back from hospital shortly but, as Betty Scott said, he came back in a coffin. Ned said he was very fond of him. When Major Massey took command, he put Ned to work bushwhacking between the trees which was such a come down after being a chauffeur that he emigrated to Birmingham. Between 1950 and 1960, over 500,000 people emigrated from Ireland. Bill’s account book for the National Irish Bank suggests he had spent a good deal of time at the Kildare Street Club in his latter year. He was buried in Rathvilly on Remembrance Sunday 1959. Bill Burgess recalled a certain rumpus at the funeral when the Catholic labourers from Lisnavagh were prohibited from entering the church. (That said, Betty Scott, who worshipped my grandfather, and her mother went in anyway * ). Bill Burgess remembers the parish priest of Rathvilly at the time, and maybe a dozen men came down as far as the bridge and met the funeral procession coming up and walked up with it. The men wanted to carry the coffin to the church door, but they had to get permission from the Bishop to carry it. [* Betty also told me that two of her Abbey uncles once attended the funeral of an uncle in, I think, a Protestant church, and that their punishment from the Bishop was that they had to walk to his palace in Carlow every day for a week.].

George Bunbury.

The late Michael Deering, who became a Fine Gael councillor for Rathvilly, told me he was great pals with my grandmother and claimed that a bonfire burned at Lisnavagh for two weeks after his death. ‘Lord Rathdonnell (44), the fourth baron, of Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, has died in Dublin after a short illness. Lord Rathdonnell, who was a breeder of shorthorns, also took an active interest in racing.’ Belfast Telegraph – Wednesday 14 October 1959

Four days before Bill’s death, a 93-year-old woman named Florence Margaret Tottenham (1866-1959), known as Dotty, died at her home in Ballycurry, Ashford, County Wicklow. As a young lady, she had known the Remarkable Arthur Kavanagh.

It was the same year Cary Grant beat off the dust-croppers and cosied up to Eve MarieSaint in ‘North by North West’.

There is a story of how the Baron’s Model-T Ford was stolen soon afterwards by a fellow from Crookstown (arf, arf) that I would like to investigate.

My father, who was far away at sea at the time, succeeded as 5th Baron Rathdonnell at the age of 21. He would make his way home from the Eastern Station via Istanbul.  His inheritance seemingly included several, if not all, of the pubs in Rathvilly. In the early days Dad thought about converting them into restaurants but Paddy Falloon advised him to have nothing to do with it.

My father recalled two farmers who were also especially helpful to him at this time, namely Edward Wright (who farmed the land at Kilkea, opposite Bushfield, later farmed by Homer Scott) and his distant kinsman George Bunbury of County Tipperary. Edward’s brother, Fred, farmed ‘foreign’ cattle at Prumplestown and was a member of the Lisnavagh syndicate; his wife sold my parents Patch the terrier dog who was around in my early childhood. By chance, my other grandfather Gilbert Butler studied agriculture for a time under Edward Wright. My father subsequently asked Major Massy to return to Lisnavagh and assist him in the running of the estate.

Following the 4th Baron’s funeral, his widow had a large granite boulder, inscribed with an ‘R’ for Rathdonnell and the dates of his short life, installed over his grave. Our neighbour William Burgess remembers the rock being brought in on an old 1950s loader. It was evidently some performance to get it in. It is there for all eternity now, me thinks.



We will keep trying, of course, but I don’t think any of us will ever be quite as wonderfully bats as Granny. I found this in the Bristol Evening Post – Tuesday 21 June 1960.

An aerial photograph from the early 1960s shows the farm at Lisnavagh when the Stallion Yard and the rather pristine looking Piggery buildings were still in existence. These were cleared soon afterwards, primarily to make silage. My father was still putting silage into the Covered Yard in 1966, when my pregnant mother summoned him to take her (and a soon-to-arrive William) to The Rotunda. The doors on the entrance to the main yard are no more and the area where the Lisnavagh Timber Project shed (and, from 1976 until circa 2005, the Sheep Shed) is bare ground. In the summer of 1961, shortly before this photo was taken, there was also a tall chimney. Some claim it could have been seen from Rathvilly but my father maintains this was impossible because the hill on which the Reservoir Wood now stands would have blocked the view, with or without trees. Perhaps it was visible from Hacketstown. In any event, that same summer Dad recruited the under-water demolition team of HMS Undaunted to come to Lisnavagh and fell the chimney. This photograph probably matches one taken of the House and was hung in the Back Hall at Lisnavagh for many years.

Feb 29: An earthquake near the Moroccan city of Agadir leaves between 12-15,000 dead.

May 12: Prince Aly Khan, one of Peter Fitzwilliam’s best pals, died following a car smash in Suresnes, a suburb of Paris, in which his pregnant fiancée, Bettina, survived with a minor injury to her forehead, but lost the child. Initially buried on the grounds of Château de l’Horizon, his remains were removed to Damascus, Syria, on 11 July 1972, and he was reinterred in Salamiyah, Syria. April 15: The Daily News (London) carried this story of Caroline Dalgety:

AMONG THE PARIS MODELS ‘AN’ OH SO ENGLISH VOICE THEY were all supposed to elegant in the way only Frenchwomen can be: Sixteen models from the top Paris houses, here to provide Gallic beauty during French Fortnight. But from one of them came the oh-so-English voice of 21-year-old Caroline Dalgety. Only two years ago, Caroline, and ex-deb and cousin of Lord Rathdonnell, was washing cars in Kensington for pin-money. Last winter she decided to “stop playing around,” and walked into Jacques Grife’s salon. “I was lucky and they hired straight away,” Caroline told me yesterday. “Now I feel much more poised and confident–and of course working in Paris gives you terrific kudos.I think probably I’lI try America next.” Caroline was chosen to represent Paris in London Baroness Dangel, organiser of the show. “Nationality doesn’t matter.” she explained. “But being well-bred is very important.”

June 21: The Bristol Evening Post of Tuesday 21 June 1960 carries this story on Pamela.

The First Woman on The Moon? If the Royal Air Force should ever be equipped with space rockets, 50-year-old Lady Rathdonnell aims to be the first woman to make a trip to the moon with them. In fact she has already applied to the Air Ministry to reserve a seat. This is not quite so absurd as it sounds. For Lady Rathdonnell, better known in the art world as painter Pamela Drew, has flown many thousands of miles in all types of RAF aircraft, from the latest jets to heavy piston-engined bombers. Although she is a former Wren, aircraft are her favourite subjects and she has wandered round the world painting them whenever and wherever she can find them. “I am simply mad about painting aircraft,” she says. “But you must go in the air to do a good picture” Once she did some drawings perched in a helicopter more than 2.000ft. up. She worked in Cyprus and Suez during the crises there, and she flew in a Vampire jet on patrol over rebel territory in the Aden Protectorate. She even did paintings and drawings of the R.A.F. hunting Mau Mau bands. To carry out these works she spent 10 weeks with a parachute strapped to her back flying over dense forests. In rather more comfort, Lady Rathdonnell painted in 1953 the RAF Coronation Review at Odiham for the Air Ministry, and the Queen’s departure from London Airport on her Commonwealth tour. The wife of an Irish peer, and the mother of four, she was made an accredited war artist by the Air Ministry in 1955.

Sept: Death of George Parker, Drumcar, whose brother Frank ran sawmill at Lisnavagh:

G. PARKER, DRUMCAR The death which took place at the residence of his daughter. Willistown, Dunleer, of Mr. George Parker, Drumcar, Dunleer, has occasioned sincere regret. Aged 79, deceased. who had been ill for some time, was a native of Warwickshire, England, but came to County Louth, along with his parents at the age of 12. For many years he was in the employment of the late Lord Rathdonnell, being rated very highly as a tree planter and timber cutter on the big estate. He also worked for some time with the present owners of the property, the Brothers of St John of God, before his retirement a decade ago. A keen cyclist in his younger days, and a very interesting conversationalist, the late Mr Parker was predeceased by his wife (who was a native of Cavan) twenty years ago, and is survived by five sons, two daughters, two brothers and three sisters, to whom sympathy is extended. He was father-in-law of Mr. Harry McGrane. Willistown, Present Vice-Chairman and a former Chairman of the Dunleer Branch of the NFA. The funeral took place to Drumcar, with the service being conducted by the Rev. Canon Bothwell, Drumcar. Chief mourners: George, John and Sam (London) Harry (Clondalkin), and Frank (Bangor) sons; Mrs. Lucy McGrane, Wiilistown, and Mrs. Violet Pook, Plymouth (daughters); Albert (Drumcar) and Frank (Carlow), brothers; Mrs. Emily Still, Kent; Mrs. Annie Raynor. London; and Mrs: Gertie Free, Tinahely. Co. Wicklow. (sisters). The attendance Included Mr. P. Kelly. Sec. /Org., County Louth N.F.A., and F. Cavanagh. Executive. do. (Drogheda Independent – Saturday 24 September 1960, p. 13)

By 1960, the Irish National Hunt Committee had decided to replace the somewhat higgledy-piggledy hurdles of its racecourses with a standardised hurdle for all Irish racecourses. Ash was the timber of choice because, as hurlers know well, ash breaks safely rather than into jagged edges that might stab a human or a horse.  The contract to supply the specialist timber for these hurdles was awarded to Major Hugh Massy, manager of the Lisnavagh Estate. He seems to have worked with Dick Kelly, a senior figure in the racing world and in RDS jumping enclosure. Dick had two sons who were a little older than my father – Ted, a vet, and Martin, who worked as a racecourse steward. For the next twenty years, mature, true-grain ash trees were plucked from Lisnavagh’s hedgerows and then converted into hurdles at the estate sawmill by Frank Parker. As well as the original hurdles, Lisnavagh also provided all replacement ‘spare parts’ in the form of bundles of ash through into the 1980s. Dad says he often drove to places like Naas and Punchestown, delivering these bundles. Frank Parker was a die-hard Protestant which is why my father was so surprised when I told him that the sawmill made the camogie sticks for Betty Scott’s team once upon a time. Mick Cullen, father of Paddy Cullen, was among those who worked with Frank in the Saw Mill. (Paddy Cullen worked for Bill Burgess before moving to Carrowmacbrian, Rathlee, Easkey, Co. Sligo.)

Oct 25: Death of Harry Ferguson, environmental pioneer, aircraft designer, inventor of the Ferguson tractor and revolutioniser of mechanised farming. He was from Dromore, Co Down.

Fair Missile, which ran in the Rathdonnell colours, with Tos Taaffe up. He was by Fairford out of Miss Yen, one of the few broodmares my grandfather owned. Trained by Danny Morgan, he was an also ran in the Osberstown Maiden Hurdle at Naas in March 1960, won by Winning Fair, who went on to win the 1963 the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. [i] He then ran on two consecutive days in Killarney, latterly in the Dunlop Handicap Hurdle of 1 mile 5 furlongs under DJ Morgan. [ii] He may have been sold by the time he went to England where he was an ‘also ran’ in the Barnstaple Novices Steeplechase at Newton Abbot in September under G. Foster.[iii] Fair Missile was last in a two mile chase at Wincanton on 8 December. [iv] He was back at Newtown Abbot for the 2-mile Halwill Novices Chase, under W. Fisher, where he came third to Rueil and Sarah’s Boy at 20-1. [v] At some point the horse won and Granny telegrammed my father a notice of victory which was posted on the board in the officer’s mess on Girdle Ness. He was then obliged to buy his fellow officers a round of drinks.

[i] Belfast Telegraph – Saturday 05 March 1960, p. 10
[ii] Belfast Telegraph – Wednesday 20 July 1960, p. 10
[iii] Torbay Express and South Devon Echo – Thursday 22 September 1960, p. 11.
[iv] Daily Mirror – Friday 09 December 1960, p. 26.
[v] Daily Mirror – Saturday 05 August 1961, p. 17; Sunday Mirror – Sunday 06 August 1961, p. 19.


Sept 16: Hurricane Debbie makes landfall in Ireland, causing extensive losses to barley, corn and wheat crops and killing 18 people – 12 in the Republic and six in Northern Ireland.

October 27-28: “You pluck the chicken one feather at a time, and people don’t really notice,” Benito Mussolini is said to have remarked. And so it was with the manner in which Russia and the US de-escalated a major 16-hour stand-off either side of Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie. Soviet T55s on one side, American M48s on the other. The direct hotline between Washington and the Kremlin was not yet in place but RFK, to whom JFK had delegated responsibility, managed to communicate with Khrushchev and slightly blamed him US General Clay (hero of the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift) … the two sides realised they needed to dial it back without alarming anyone in Berlin, and with maintaining their own credibility, so they peeled the tanks back two at a time …



Some of Pamela’s good friends fought and died in the Congo. Here is some rare footage of an armoured car in motion at that time: Pathe. Oct 26: An extraordinary letter from Kruschev to JFK at the height of the Cubam Missile Crisis.



June 4: Mr Profumo resigned after confessing that he had lied to the House. The Lisnavagh dairy was closed, and Bill Norris the Cowman headed on.

Carlow Nationalist, July 1963. Million $ Handshake. This week I shook hands with a millionaire in Rathvilly , Co. Carlow. He is Kansas industrialist Mr. George McGrew who is spending a few weeks at Lisnavagh House, the home of the late Lord Rathdonnell. Mr McGrew has rented the 130 years old house for £1,000 a month, and with him are his family and a number of friends and business associates – about 12 in all. A staff of eight has been hired to look after them. Head of a radio component company, Mr McGrew says he would like to start a similar concern here, but he has no definite plans in mind at the moment. If such a factory materialised it would employ around 250 people. Mr McGrew likes the idea of siting a branch of his company here because of our labour situation, low operating costs and lower tax rates. He is enjoying his visit to Rathvilly and has given indications that he might return. “We are more like guests here than tenants” he said. (Transcribed by M. Purcell. My aunt believes the McGrews may have introduced mint juleps to Lisnavagh).


My parents wedding in Kilkenny in October 1965, with bridesmaids Eleanor Grene (née Lenox Conyngham), Ginny Mustard (née Crocker), Rosebud McClintock Bunbury, Rita Craigie (née Kinahan).



My father laid the concrete around the Dutch Barn at Lisnavagh, installing two or three drain covers that he purchased from the Tonge & Taggart foundry on South Wall or Ringsend. The drains probably cost £3.10.0. each. Following the State Funeral of Winston Churchill, Sir Tom Butler was in charge of receiving the coffin into the Tower for loading on a barge to carry the remains up the river Thames to Waterloo Station.

Carlow Nationalist – Death of Mrs Olive Hall. Mrs Olive Hall (87) of Kellistown House, Carlow who died at her home last week was one of Ireland’s most remarkable women. She had the unique distinction of having been Master of the Carlow Foxhounds for the record span of 45 years. She became Master in 1920, the fourth Master which that famous pack had had in 157 years. (John Watson 1807-1869, his son Robert Watson 1869 -1904, W.E. Grogan 1904-1920, and Mrs Hall 1920-1965, her daughter Barbara Eustace-Duckett 1965-1965, her other daughter Olive Alexander 1965- ?). Olive Hall was the widow of Major William Charles Hall and daughter of Sir Standish O’Grady Roche Bt. of Ahade, Tullow, Co. Carlow. She bred many fine hounds, among them a Peterborough champion, and with Isaac Bell, another famous sporting personality who died recently, she developed blood-lines which are the accepted breeding in many packs today. She was born in 1877, and was a descendant of Sir David Roche Bt., famous Master of the Limerick Hounds from 1861 to 1879.Her love of hunting began at an early age and she was regarded as an outstanding side-saddle rider of her day. In addition to hunting she also excelled at salmon fishing and gardening. She last rode to the hounds in September, at the age of 87. She was much loved by her staff whom she always treated with kindness and consideration. The oldest member of Mrs Hall’s staff present at the funeral was Mr. Frank Bingham who has served the family for more then 43 years. Mrs Hall is survived by her daughters, Mrs O.H.Eustace-Duckett of Castlemore, Tullow and Mrs J. Alexander, Milford House, Carlow, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The eighty-eight wreaths included one each from Queen Elizabeth II of England and another from The Queen Mother. Note from Michael Purcell 2010. Olive would come into our shop and we always addressed her as Lady Hall, ( she never objected or corrected ) I remember I was a bit disappointed to find out following her death that she was just a”plain” Mrs !. Mrs Hall was a tall, heavy-set woman and there is a story told of one of the stable-hands ( a small man ) passing a remark to her when she returned from a hard days hunting, he said to her ” I think the horse is sweating excessively Mam” and she replied “don’t be ridiculous man, so would you be sweating excessively if you just spent the last five hours lodged between my thighs”. When Mrs Hall died in March 1965 her daughter Mrs Eustace Duckett of Castlemore, took on the Mastership in September. She died shortly afterwards, then Mrs Alexander, Mrs Hall’s other daughter, Mastered the Hunt for that season. In 1966 through lack of followers it was decided to close the Hunt. The Hounds are on loan to the Galway Hunt.

October 1965: My parents are married shortly before (Sir) Richard Butler marries Diana Borge and Corona Lecky-Watson of Altamont marries Gary North.

December 1965. The Nationalist and Leinster Times. Death of Mrs Barbara Eustace-Duckett. The death of Mrs Barabra Eustace-Duckett took place at her home in Castlemore, after a long illness. Daughter of the late Major and Mrs Hall, Kellistown, deceased was a member of the Carlow Hunt for many years. On the death of her mother last spring, she was unanimously appointed Master of the Carlow Hunt. Her interests were not confined to hunting, She was one of the foremost breeders in the country of Labrador Retrievers and the prefix”Castletown” was well known not only in Ireland but also in Great Britain, Canada and the U.S.A. She was also secretary of the Retriever Field Trials Association and acted as a judge on many occasions. She is survived by her husband Mr. Oliver Hardy Eustace-Duckett, her daughters, Mrs O’ Lambert, New Ross; Mrs K. Carvill, Castlemore and her sister Mrs J. Alexander, Milford, Carlow.



50th Anniversary of Easter Rising. It has been said that there was such a large turnout of the “survivors” of the General Post Office Garrison from 50 years before, that one wag remarked” the G.P.O. survivors is it, ! bejapers to hold that crowd it’s Croke Park you’d want ” (M. Purcell).


Kildimo was bred at Lisnavagh by Lady Rathdonnell
(née Jessica Butler) … this probably isn’t quite the right place to show him but he was a wonderful hoss and he needs to go somewhere so this will do for now!


Pamela was commissioned by the Port of London to paint Chichester coming under Tower Bridge in the Gypsy Moth. The original is in the Bond Room of the Port of London Authority. I think she later painted an Inter-Continental plane at Heathrow in 1974? It was her dream to go to the moon. And to watch undisrupted racing.

Robert Caldbeck returned in about 1968 at the request of Frank Parker, who had retired as Forester and was going to “downsize” to a house in Pairc Muhir in Tullow. Their surplus belongings made about half a sale so we sawed up a lot of the spare timber lying around the Sawmill Paddock to make up the day, as it were. He turned out to be a highly amusing auctioneer with a babble that had all in fits as he made his way through the various bedroom bits and pieces; it was one of the most amusing afternoons I have ever had!” [60] The cheque issued to Lord Rathdonnell was £579.7.4 – enough to have bought a substantial motor car at that time.



September 13: Death of Horace Holroyd-Smyth at Ballynatray, ending the Smyth era of ownership after 400 years.

November 28: The 400 year reign of the St. Leger family of Doneraile comes to an end when the estate was handed over by the Trustees to the Land Commission for £57,800.




With thanks to Betty Scott, Ben Rathdonnell, Jessica Rathdonnell, William Bunbury, Ian Lyon, Liam Norris, Victoria Glendenning, Alexander Waugh, Luke Jennings, the late Bill Harrington, the late Atty Dowling, the late Bill Burgess and others, including those listed separately in endnotes below.




[1] Mary Izat married Frank Pilditch and had a son David.

[2] Katherine Izat (d. April 2005) married Michael King (d. 2003) and had two sons, Duncan (who died c. 2002-3) and Graham, and a daughter, Deborah.

[3] Alan Izat (d. 2000) married Joan Kinnear (d. 1998) and had two sons Anthony and (Norman) John. I have been in contact with John Izat ( since 2nd June 2004. He confirmed that his grandfather, hitherto “N. Izat” was in fact “Norman Izat”.

[4] Ranulph de Glanville married Daphne Pethides and bore Susan, Sarah and Christopher Michael.

[5] Geoffrey de Glanville married Angela Benison [6] Robert de Glanville married Joan Davidson and was killed in action in 1941.

[7] Joan de Glanville married Vivian Sauvagny and had a son Philip.

[8] Moira Dorothea de Glanville married E.M.C. Wait and had a daughter, Angela Jean, and son, Jonathan.

[9] The Times, Friday, Nov 26, 1937; pg. 19; Issue 47852; col D

[10] Thanks to Jonathan Smith, Archivist and Modern Manuscript Cataloguer, Trinity College Library, Cambridge.

[11] George Gossip writes: ‘Catherine may have been Katherine Hotham. They drank two and a half magnums of champagne between seven people yet still claimed sobriety. I know about Lady St. D (a widow whose son was a much younger undergraduate). He must have been very precocious. Also Sneyd but cannot find anything about Brent. I have identified most of those mentioned but I wonder if you can throw light on any of the following, who were also up at Cambridge in 1934 or involved with those who were. “Battie” written in inverted commas. He may have been involved in training athletics. Or about Paul Bentley, Paddy Bowden, J Bruce, Burnaby, Dobie or Doble, the Dusheridges, Frazer, Guillebrand, Joscelyn (a girl), Ronnie Manson, Peate, Roesler, Jack Thomson, Scherine, Slazenger, Stanton (at least that is what it looks like), Swan or Swann. Also mystified by someone called Rudy or Rudolph, an aesthete who was also a serious collector of Old Master drawings, and JP who is frequently mentioned so must have been a close friend.’ The Book of Matriculations and Degrees 1912-42 (classmark: UA Degr.41-3), includes the following men at University in the period 1933-6:

  • Batty, Gerald Leslie Staunton, Trinity College, matriculated 1932
  • Bently, Paul Rothwell, St Catharine’s College, matriculated 1932, BA 1935
  • Bruce, Robert Julian Thomas, Trinity College, matriculated 1934, BA 1936
  • Doble, Theodore Douglas, Non- Collegiate student, matriculated 1933
  • Slazenger, Ralph Chivas Gully, Trinity College, matriculated 1935, BA 1936
  • Stanton, Hugh Cyril, Sidney Sussex College, matriculated 1932, BA 1935
  • Stanton, William Hugh Foster, Non-Collegiate student, matriculated 1931, BA 1934
  • Swan, David Sheffield, Selwyn College, matriculated 1932, BA 1935
  • Swann, Bernard George Frederick, Christ’s College, matriculated 1934, BA 1937
  • Swann, Frederick Charles, Non-Collegiate student, matriculated 1932, BA 1935

A list of Colleges is online at Also click here for a useful glossary of Cambridge terminology.

[12] Sonia was the daughter of Maj. Gen Nikolai Golejewski, known as ‘Koka’, Assistant Chief of the Russian Imperial General Staff. He was the subject of an exquisite silverpoint drawing by John Storrs and died in Moscow in 1958. Her mother was Honor Grove (1883- 13 December 1944), known as Dode or Kiddy, daughter of Sir Walter John Grove, 2nd Bart, and Agnes Geraldine Fox-Pitt. Nikolai and Honor married on 30th May 1911 and had two daughters, Kira and Sonia.

[13] Thanks to Estelle Maher.

[14] Lieut-Col F. W. B. Smart. M.A., as he became, had been the Cambridge-educated Modern Language Master at Charterhouse, taught French and German at the school as early as 1905. He was housemaster of Robinites from 1919 until 1932.

[15] The Times, Saturday 21 December 1935, page 3

[16] The Usshers grandson Patrick Ussher advises me that the Usshers later lived in Cape Town but used to spend the Cape winters in England. Lancelot also built a house in Melbourne. It is presumed they were pals of the 4th Baron although he didn’t take on Lisnavagh until the following year. Or perhaps they were guests of the 3rd Baron, or even leased the house for Horse Show week.

[17] Source: UA Graduati 12/193. Thank to George Gossip, Alexandra Browne (College Archivist and Records Manager, Trinity Hall, Cambridge) and Ms Jacqueline Cox (Keeper of the University Archives, Cambridge University Library).

[18] Rathdonnell Senior must also have spent some time in America. On 7 September 1936 he recalled in a letter to Bill how he once ‘went through the Delaware Gap southward by the Lehigh Valley RR [Railroad]’

[19] Born on 15 July 1916 in the Long Island hamlet of Melville, New York, Gerry was the son of Sumner Gerard, a businessman of Huguenot descent, and his wife, Helen Coster (another family Bill stayed with). Gerard Avenue in The Bronx is named for the family. Initially educated at Groton School, a private school near Boston, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1937 and a Master of Arts in 1939. He had an eventful war, fetching up as a captain in the intelligence division of the Marine Corps. In 1942, he flew with Churchill to Moscow to meet Stalin. After the war, he briefly worked in the family’s real estate business, Aeon Realty (with interests in Manhattan, Long Island, and New Jersey) but then moved to Montana where he owned the Bar 7 Ranch in Ennis, Montana, and another ranch at Dillon. He also had mining interests in Billings. A Republican, he was a Member of the Montana House of Representatives from 1954-1961 and a Member of the Montana Senate from 1962-1966, being Minority Leader of the latter in 1965-1966. An active benefactor of marine biology, he sponsored many underwater archaeological expeditions. In 1944, he married Louise Taft Grosvenor, with whom he had five children. They divorced in 1966 and he was marred secondly to Teresa Dabrowska. He died in Vero Beach, Florida, in 2005. As chance would have it, my friend Alex Blackwell went sailing with Ambassador Gerard in Jamaica in the late 1970s. ‘It was a “memorable” day,’ Alex recalled in a WhatsApp message to me in January 2021. ‘I came on board his beautiful yacht, had a banana and a beer and promptly got seasick and passed out on deck. when i woke later I was as red as a cooked lobster. Terrible sunburn.’ [See also Gerry’s letter of February 1937, on this page]

[20] No. 113 was bought by the Buckley School in the 1960s to connect it to a property on 74th street that the school had owned since the 1920s. Unfortunately, the school does not have a record from who it was purchased or who might have owned it or lived there in 1936. (Thanks to Tom Stanton).

[21] Rathdonnell to WRMcCB, August 27th 1936.

[22] Letter from Rathdonnell to Courage, August 28th 1936

[23] Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Ireland. 6. September, 1936. My dear Son, Nothing to report here, unless it is continual bad weather. Long drenching showers is the order of every day. Lisnavagh got none of the hot weather that I experienced at Cambridge. The hay comes in slowly as weather permits; there is a good lump of silage at the bottom of Kinsella’s Hill. None of the corn has been brought in yet and until some threshing can be done there are no oats or straw: all the carefully made reserves have been used up. It has been a bad summer, like 1930. Good job there were reserves to use. The worst of building up reserves is that people think there is any amount to waste. ————— 7 September. Thank you very much for your letter from Sault. I wish I were with you. I have always wanted to do that Lake voyage. Don’t run away with the idea that Cambridge University wants staring up. You are the party that wants that. A bad smash up in the Ards TT race. A car got into a skid in Newtonards (between the railway bridge and the square) and charged the spectators, killing 10 people and injuring money. Dixon won the race again and Hall was second phone, I think, the third time. Langham is on leave until the 17th. Nothing more now to relate. I told Dowdall to get The Scut in and cleaned up for you to to ride when you come, but he is only grass fed; there are no oats until threshing can be done. Anyhow, if you do not want him, he can be turned out again. All best love, Son, from Your loving Dad

[24] To: The Hon. W. R. McClintock Bunbury, (The initial address was Messrs. Thos Cook & Son, 360 Boylston St., Boston, Mass., USA. This was changed to c/o Amos Pinchot Esq., St?yelys Betts Cottage, Long Island, NY. Amos Pinchot (1873-1944) was an American reformist and lawyer. His wife Gertrude was the eldest daughter of shipping magnate Robert Bowne Minturn, Jr.; they were divorced in 1918 and Amos married, secondly, the New York born magazine writer Ruth Pickering; their daughter Mary Eno was one of JFK’s lovers. I have no idea why R was staying with them. On January 24, 1938, Pinchot’s eldest daughter Rosamond (by Gertrude) took her life at the age of 33. Amos is buried in the Pinchot family plot in Milford Cemetery in Milford, Pennsylvania. The letter then went c/o Sumner G[rady?], 30 Rockefeller Plaza, NY. The postage marks suggest it didn’t actually reach him until at least the 25 September.

[25] The Letters Between Bernard Berenson and Charles Henry Coster, Leo S. Olschki, 1993.

[26] See for more.

[27] Ethel Roosevelt Derby (1891-1977), was the fourth and youngest daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. On April 4, 1913, she married Richard Derby, a surgeon. Known as The Queen of Oyster Bay and The First Lady of Oyster Bay by its Long Island residents, Ethel was instrumental in preserving both the legacy of her father as well as the family home, “Sagamore Hill” for future generations, especially after the death of her mother, Edith, in 1948.

[28] See ‘Bunty: Remembering a Gentleman of Noble Scottish-Irish Descent’ by Halwart Schrader (Veloce Publishing, 2019): “The fascinating biography of David Scott-Moncrieff, alias `Bunty’ – a colourful personality, an enthusiastic car expert, a charming entertainer, and passionate vintage car addict. Bunty’s favourite marque was Rolls-Royce, and, for some time, he claimed to be the No 1 in the Rolls-Royce second-hand car trade worldwide. He also owned world-famous race cars and heaps of worn-out hearses (to be rebuilt), supercharged Mercedes classics, and even an antique Steamer. Here, you will meet them all, along with some of his many admirers who had the courage and pleasure to enter the passenger seat. A well-known personality on the classic car scene and in the motoring trade, this is his long-awaited biography, written by someone who knew him well. Halwart Schrader travelled to England to meet Bunty on many occasions, and has written this biography in full co-operation with Bunty’s son, Humphrey Scott-Moncrieff

[29] Gerald and Joane had two daughters, Rosemary and Nesta, and lived at Ballyragget, Co. Kilkenny where Gerald was joint Master of the North Kilkenny Foxhounds until 1940. They also had During the Second World War, he served as a Major with the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoons before head injuries invalided him from the army. He was subsequently Master of the West Percy Foxhounds (1945-46) and the Portman Foxhounds (1946-47). He and Joane were divorced in 1946, in which year he married secondly Anne, daughter of Colonel Philip Eustace Smith, MC, TB, of Rothley Crag in, Northumberland. By this marriage he had two sons Maurice and John.

[30] WILKIE. At the Nelson Hospital, Wimbledon, on Sept. 10, to Mr and Mrs Wilkie (formerly Kitty Blackett), a daughter. Both doing well. Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette – Thursday 14 September 1939. Not necessarily the same Kitty!

[31] The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1929-1940, edited by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld & Lois More Overbeck, p. 501.

[32] UL4154 and GFN10 are one and the same car; Rolls Royce always refer to the cars by chassis numbers they never alter but registrations can be lost / removed etc.

[33] With thanks to Brendan McCoy, Ian S. Elliott and Bozi Mohacek (Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society).

[34] The Times, Tuesday, Sep 28, 1937; pg. 17; Issue 47801; col C

[35] The Times, Wednesday, Sep 21, 1938; pg. 13; Issue 48105; col A.

[36] Major Patrick Magor Leatham was born on 15 September 1914. His sister Honor was my father’s godmother. They were the only children of Captain Cecil Maxwell Leatham (6 Sept 1875 – 11 Sept 1941) of the Norfolk Regiment, and Dorothy Grace Magor. Cecil was a son of Samuel Gurney Leatham and Annie Gertrude La Trobe-Bateman. Cecil’s younger brother was Admiral Sir Ralph Leatham (1886 – 10 March 1954), K.C.B., K. St. J, U.S. Legion of Merit, French Legion of Honour, Croix de Guerre, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Bermuda 1946-1949, World War I 1914-1919, World War II 1939-1946. Another of Cecil’s brother was Eustace La Trobe Leatham (1870 – 1 Sept 1935), a Vice Admiral in the Royal Navy, A.D.C. to King George V 1919-1920, Captain of the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth (1919-1921) and veteran of the Battle of Jutland. Eustace was awarded the Order of Crown of Belgium, Legion of Honour, Order of St. Anne (Russia) and Order of the Rising Sun (Japan). Dorothy was a daughter of Richard Blamey Manuel Magor). Cecil and Dorothy married on 19 April 1911; Dorothy died on 12 April 1960. Major Leatham served in the 10th Royal Hussars. On 6th April 1940 he married Cecily Eveline Berry with whom he had three sons – Simon Patrick Leatham, Philip William Leatham and Jonathan Grant Leatham. Major Leatham died on 17 August 1951 in a riding accident.

[37] Patrick Hone, History of Cricket in Ireland.

[38] The 1901 Census lists both the Giff and Willis family living together in Kildavin at … I suspect these are connected to the Willis family recorded at 14 Barrett Street, Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) during the 1911 census (with the same Anne listed in Kildavin in 1901) … 14 Barrett Street was also the residence of William Egan, a soldier in the Royal Irish Rifles, who was a witness in the 1916 trial of Sir Roger Casement.

[39] Mount Juliet [birthplace of his daughter Annie Frances [Birdie] (04/10/1921) – the mother of Walter Higgins – and his son William Maxwell (12/03/1923)]; Mulhuddart, Co Meath [birthplace of his 2nd son Charles Henry (07/07/1925) and a 2nd daughter Iris Maude (03/04/1927)]; and Durrow Abbey [birthplace of two more daughters, Mary Elizabeth (05/11/1928) and Sydney Patricia (28/05/1932).] His daughter Mary Elizabeth Willis, who was born at Durrow in 1928, was at a school in Tullow. Walter Higgins says the family had a sound knowledge of Lisnavagh and the Rathdonnells (not sure which one). Walter’s parents met at the Bonds estate in Farragh, Longford, in 1946 where Mr Higgins’ father was the steward.

[40] Eustace Brace was a grandson of Frank A. Brace, one of the principals of the firm of Brace, Windle, Blyth and Co., of Goodall Street. His great-aunt Ellen Brace was for many years a member of the Walsall Education Committee and a governor of Queen Mary’s Schools. [Walsall Observer, and South Staffordshire Chronicle – Saturday 15 June 1940]

[41] From notes gathered by listening to James Holland’s fine lecture from Malmesbury.

[42] Officially Tank, Cruiser, Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M),[a] was one of the series of cruiser tanks fielded by Britain in the Second World War. Named after the Oliver Cromwell, this was the first tank put into service by the British to combine high speed from a powerful and reliable engine (the Rolls-Royce Meteor), and reasonable armour. However, the originally proposed dual-purpose high velocity gun could not be fitted in the turret and the medium velocity dual purpose gun fitted proved inadequate. An improved version with a high velocity gun became the Comet tank.

[43] The Irish Times, Monday June 14th 1943.

[44] Longframlington Bride – A very picturesque wedding took place at the Parish Church, Longframlington [Northumberland], on Saturday, April 29, when Miss Edith Lilian Moran, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R. Moran, of Wardle Terrace, Longframlington, was married to Corporal Leonard C. Whelpdale of the King’s Royal Hussars, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Whelpdale, of Lincoln. The bride, given away by her father, was a charming figure in a gown of white satin and lace, silver and white shoes, with veil and orange blossom, the veil being lent by Mrs. Faulkner, of Gateshead. She also wore a gold and diamond cross, the gift of the bridegroom,and carried a bouquet of red tulips. The bride was attended by her youngest sister, Miss Winifred Moran. She wore a lovely gown of shell-pink crepe-de-cbine with feathered head-dress to match, silver slippers and long white mittens. She carried a posy of pink and white tulips. The best man was Cpl. Thos. Seggar, also of the King’s Royal Hussars. The bridegroom and best man wore khaki battledress. The service was conducted by the Vicar of Longframlington, the Rev. W. Dick. Appropriate music was rendered by Trooper J. Goodier, of the King’s Royal Hussars. On leaving the church, the bride was presented with a silver horseshoe by her young cousin, Miss Isabel Lowes. The bride was driven to the church in a pony and trap by Major the Lord Rathdonnell and Lieutenant the Earl of Harrington and afterwards to the New Inn, where the reception was held. The corporals of the squadron formed a guard of honour, making an archway ofrifles under which the bride and bridegroom walked : Corporals K. Atkin, R. Davies, D. Jacks, L. Todd, A. Eyton- Jones, S. Reynolds, F. Edwards, G. Bateman, F. Swingewood, L/Corporal D. Pethard. Morpeth Herald, 5 May 1944

[45] The tanks were known as Hobart’s Funnies – DD tank (from “Duplex Drive”): An amphibious M4A1 or M4A4 Sherman or Valentine tank fitted with a large watertight canvas housing able to float and reach the shore after being launched from a landing craft several miles from the beach. They were intended to give support to the first waves of infantry that attacked the beaches. The Valentine version was used only for training.

[46] Extracted from ‘The history of 15/19 The King’s Royal Hussars, 1939-1945’ by Guy Courage (Gale & Polden, 1949), p. 98.

[47] The Black Bull, Patrick Delaforce, p. 147-148. Deeming is referred to by Bill Harrington.

[48] Guy Courage, ‘The History of 15/19 The King’s Royal Hussars, 1939-1945’ (Gale & Polden, 1949), p. 105.

[49] MacDonald, Charles B. (1990) [1963]. “Chapter IX:The Approaches of Antwerp”. The Siegfried Line Campaign. United States Army Center of Military History. CMH pub 7-7-1. Retrieved February 5, 2007

[50] Young Sisters See Infant Viscount Christened – In christening robes 200 years old, Viscount Petersham, the four-months-old son and heir of the Earl and Countess of Harrington, was christened Charles Henry Leicester, at Elvaston Church, yesterday, by the Bishop of Chester Dr D. H. Crick. Interested spectators were his sisters, three-years-old Lady Jane and two-years-old Lady Avena Stanhope, dressed in white coats and red shoes. Lady Harrington wore a brown mink coat and toque to match. The Earl, who is with the 15/19th King’s Royal Hussars in the Middle East, was unable to be present. SILVER CUP Estate employees and Elvaston children were given a holiday, and after the ceremony guests were entertained at Elvaston Castle, where Mr. Jim Booth presented the infant Viscount with a silver cup on behalf of the estate staff and tenants. The baby was introduced to Mr. William Parry who, at 84, was the oldest guest. The godparents by proxy were Lord Rathdonnell and Major C. Weatherby, Lord Harrington’s brother officers, and Mrs. B. Marion-Crawford. They were represented by Major T. P. Barber, Capt. J. A. E. Drury-Lowe, and Miss Priscilla Aldridge respectively. Among those present were Mrs. L. Lillingston, Lord Harrington’s mother, Mrs. H. Seaton, his grandmother, Mrs. T. P. Barber, Mrs. J. A. E. Drury-Lowe, Mrs. Cedric Boyd, Major and Mrs. R. K. Knowles, Lt.-Col. and Mrs. R. Gordon Morrison, Capt. and Mrs. N. Pearson, Miss Hilda Crossley, and Mrs. H. T. Ann. Derby Daily Telegraph – Friday 7 December 1945.

[51] The Letters of Evelyn Waugh and Diana Cooper, Ticknor & Fields, 1992, p. 97.

[52] ‘Irish Voices: An Informal History, 1916-1966 (Pimlico, 2000), by Peter Somerville-Large, p. 249; ‘Mischief in the Sun: The Making and Unmaking of The Loved One’ (Whitston Publishing Company, 1999) by Robert Murray Davis, p. 71.

[53] The letters of Evelyn Waugh, p. 250.

[54] Evelyn Waugh: 1924-1966 (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 2001), by John Howard Wilson, p. 139.

[55] Terence de Vere White’s worthwhile correspondence was sold during his lifetime to Howard Gotlieb at Boston University, and is now in The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre, part of the Mugar Memorial Library at Boston University. In September 2015 Laura Russo, Manager of Public Service and Donor Relations at the centre advised: ‘The Terence de Vere White Collection consists of 24 boxes and 1 package containing manuscripts of his novels, nonfiction, plays, short stories and poems, printed materials, photographs, personal and professional correspondence (re: Trinity College Historical Society and Irish Times), memorabilia, financial materials, legal materials, artwork, subject files and notebooks. The Collection is available to researchers by appointment, Monday through Friday, 9 AM – 3:45 PM. The Director and Curator here at the Gotlieb Center is Vita Paladino.’

[56] Born in 1882, Sean T had been galloping about the GPO as one of Jim Conolly’s assistants when the Baron was a two year old. In 1919, Sean T was sent to Versailles with George Gavan Duffy to argue for recognition of Irish independence. He followed Dev during the split – going against his brother-in-law Richard Mulcahy – and seems to have followed Dev in just about everything ever after except the Presidency, into which post Dev followed him. The transfer of office from Sean T to Dev took place in 1959).

[57] Alan Yuill Walker, ‘The Scots & The Turf: Racing and Breeding – The Scottish Influence’ (Black & White Publishing Ltd, 2017).

[58] Flight Global, 1956, here.

[59] The Hardwicke Fever Hospital, the Richmond Surgical Hospital and the Whitworth Medical Hospital were known legally as the House of Industry Hospitals, or collectively as ‘the Richmond’ until 1945, when the name was changed to St. Laurence’s Hospital.

[60] We also know about the cost of advertising the sale (2 adverts in The Nationalist cost £2.17.6; 2 adverts in Wicklow People cost £2.12.8; 2 adverts in Irish Times £1; and 2 adverts in the Independent £1) which shows, surprisingly, that an ad in the national papers was cheaper than one in a local paper.