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George Bunbury of Moyle & Rathmore (1747-1820) MP for Thomastown


George Bunbury was the great-grandson of the first Bunbury to settle in Ireland. His grandfather, the first William Bunbury acquired the estate at Lisnavagh at the close of the 17th century. His father was Thomas Bunbury of Kill, a prominent magistrate and sometime High Sheriff of County Carlow, while his mother, Catherine Campbell hailed from Drumsna, Co. Leitrim, and was closely related to the great naval dynasty of Rowley as well as Sophia de Clifford, Governess to Charlotte, Princess of Wales.

Born on 24th November in the famine year of 1747, George was six or seven years old when he lost both his mother and his uncle, William Bunbury. The death of the latter ultimately left his older brother William heir to the Lisnavagh estate in Co. Carlow. His father was married again to Susanna Isaacs who, upon the death of her brother at the battle of Fontenoy, became the heiress of Hollywood House in Co. Down. Thomas and Susanna Bunbury had several more children, the Bunbury Isaac family.

George was educated at Mr. Hobart’s School and Trinity College Dublin. On June 27th 1768 Thomas took the Post-Chaise to Dublin ‘to put my son George into the College’. For the journey, he was accompanied by both George and the Rev Mr Benjamin Hobart (‘my son George’s schoolmaster of Carlow’). George was entered into the College as a Fellow Commoner on 28th June 1768. The following day, his father attended the sale of lands at Fryarstown but was outbid by Jonas Duckett.

George entered the Middle Temple on 6th September 1770. He acquired his BA in 1772.

In the autumn of 1773, his oldest brother William Bunbury was married in Swords to Katherine Kane, daughter and sole heiress of the prominent businessman and landowner Redmond Kane (aka O’Cahan). The wealth brought in by this marriage would do much to ensure the Bunbury family’s survival at Lisnavagh for at least the next 245 years. Meanwhile, George’s sister Letitia married George Gough and so became mother to the celebrated Victorian soldier, Field Marshal Sir Hugh Gough.

George seems to have lived at Rathmore, which his father had bought in 1750 off Margaret, Lady Viscountess Dowager Allen. Was he living there before his father’s death?

William was elected MP for Carlow in Grattan’s famous Parliament of May 1776. Shortly after William’s election, George was appointed Sheriff for the County, a position he held for the whole of 1777.

However, William was tragically killed in a horse accident near Leighlinbridge in 1778. After his death, his widow took the family to live in Bath until their eldest son, Thomas Bunbury, was old enough to come back and manage Lisnavagh. In the meantime, the property was managed by George and his older brother, Benjamin Bunbury of Killerig, a magistrate who made a concerted effort to settle the nerves of the Protestant Loyalist community in County Carlow during the run up to the 1798 Rebellion. Ultimately it was William’s posthumous daughter Jane who, by her marriage to John McClintock, would produce the future heir of Lisnavagh, William McClintock Bunbury.

12 February 1778: Draft mortgage made between George Bunbury, Ramore (Rathmore), county Carlow, esquire, of one part, and Sir Charles Burton, Pollardstown (Pollerton), county Carlow, of the other part. [1]

20 July 1779: Mortgage made between Sir Charles Burton, city of Dublin, of the first part, the Honourable William Cuffe and Joseph Hoare, of same place, esquires, of the second part, and Joshua Meredith, of same place, esquire, of the third part. Recites indenture dated 12 February 1778 made between George Bunbury, Rathmore, county Carlow, esquire, of one part, and Sir Charles, of the other part. In consideration of sum of £5,000 paid to Bunbury by Sir Charles, Bunbury demises various lands to him: the townland of Cardingstown otherwise Cardiffstown, part of the townland of Churchtown, the townlands of Brackenagh otherwise Brackinagh, Shane, Phromplestown and other townlands, county Kildare, for 1,000 years at annual rent of one peppercorn. This indenture defeazable by repayment of sum of £5,000 with interest by Bunbury to Sir Charles. Also recites marriage settlement (document number P1/0249). Also recites that Joshua Meredith obtained a judgement against Sir Charles in the Court of Common Pleas during Easter Term, 1779, for the sum of £1,509.9.8 plus costs. Sum of £806 is now due. Meredith has also advanced to Sir Charles the sum of £194. Sir Charles now releases the sum of £5,000 to Meredith with interest due to grow thereon. If Sir Charles repays to Meredith the sums owing, Meredith’s title ceases. [2]

TO be LET from the first of May next, for three lives or thirty-one years, the Houseand Demesne of PHRUMPLESTOWN, co. of Kildare, containing 51A. Said lands are situated on the turnpike road from Dublin to Cork, and within one mile of Castledermot, four of Carlow, five of Athy, and five of Tullow, all good market towns.—Proposals to be received by George Bunbury, Esq., Ramore [sic], Castledermot, or Benjamin Bunbury, Esq; Moyle, Carlow. April 5th, 1784. (Dublin Evening Post, 20 April 1784).

It is my hesitant belief that George lived in a house just down the Slaney from Lisnavagh at Rathmore Park during this time and he also had a place at Granby Row in Dublin. In 1782, he placed Lisnavagh up for rent for 14 years.

In October 1782, he was one of over 100 Freeholders of the County who signed a note expressing their ‘utmost remorse’ to Beauchamp Bagenal that he was stepping down as their representative in the Irish Parliament in Dublin and urging him to rethink his position. (Dublin Evening Post, 1782).

In his will dated 1786, Benjamin Burton Doyne of Altamount House sued his wife Anne Stepney for her Portion of £200, part of which he wished to assign to George Bunbury Esq. As of 4 March 2020, I am seeking to help Norma Owens of the Headford Lace Project to establish the relationship between George Bunbury and Benjamin Doyne? Or does anyone out there know of any reason why Doyne may wish to sue his wife for her Portion and assign part of it to Bunbury?

In 1787 he was listed as one of the Barrow Commissioners appointed by Act of Parliament, as was his brother Benjamin. (Dublin Evening Post, 4 September 1787).

The Lisnavagh Archives contain a map of ‘lands commonly called the Commons in the County of Kildare, the estate of George Bunbury, drawn by Christopher McCarthy and dated 1st June 1790.

MP FOR THOMASTOWN (1786-1796) & GOWRAN (1797-1800)
In February 1785, George was one of three Bunburys who called for a meeting at Carlow Court House to discuss the ‘Question of Attachments’ although I am frankly not sure what that means. The reference was published in Saunders’s News-Letter on14 February 1785: ‘WE the undernamed Freeholders of the County of Carlow, being now in Dublin, and understanding that the Question of Attachments will shortly be debated in the House of Commons, think it our Duty to request a Meeting of the Constituents of said County, at one o’clock, on Thursday next, in the Court-house in Carlow, to give such Instructions to our Representatives as shall be thought necessary.—Dublin, Feb. 12, 1785. Beauchamp Bagenal, John Rochfort, Thomas Whelan, George Bunbury, Robert Eustace, jun., Joseph Bunbury, Henry Bunbury, T. Perkins, Thomas Gurly, F. Hawey.’

In 1786 George was elected for the “close” borough of Thomastown alongside Patrick Walshe. This seat was owned by Lord Clifden, a Government supporter, and thus George was obliged to obey Clifden’s political instructions. In 1789, for instance, he voted for the Regency – an unusual stance from Clifden’s point to view but perhaps he thought it prudent to vote for the apparent powers to be. The following year he was among those who voted to elect John Foster as Speaker – a useful decision in light of the subsequent marraige between George’s niece Jane Bunbury and Speaker Foster’s cousin John McClintock.

In 1790 George was re-elected MP for Thomastown, alongside George Burdett, a brother-in-law of the Earl of Farnham (Barry) who lived at The Heath House in Queen’s County. For his pains, George Bunbury was rewarded an annual payment of £500 by Lord Clifden. However, Clifden’s opponents harangued George and his type for being “the confidential depositaries of his Lordship’s power, not the honest discharges of a constitutional trust”. In the election of January 9th 1797, George Bunbury of Moyle was unanimously returned as MP for Gowran, Clifden’s other borough, again alongside George Burdett. (Dublin Evening Post, 12 September 1797. [From 1796-1800, Thomastown was represented by George Dunba, not Bunbury as sometimes stated, along with Patrick Wlash (1796) and then James Kearney of Blachfield (1797). George Bunbury’s victory in Gowran in 1797 was considered particularly galling as Clifden owned not “a single foot of property” in Gowran. In 1800, George did as his master compelled and voted for the Union. He simultaneously resigned his seat to Verny Darby, Esq, and in April 1800 he accepted instead the office of Escheator of Ulster. [3] [4].

Among his fellow MPs was John Lloyd who represented ‘Innistiogue’ from 1783 to 1800, serving alongside George Ponsonby from 1790 to 1797 and Henry Tighe from 1797-1800. John Lloyd’s son Thomas was killed at the head of his regiment at the passage of Nivelle in south-west France in 1813.

According to Sir Jonah Barrington’s tell-all memoir, George Bunbury ‘changed sides and principles, and was appointed Serjeant in 1799 opposed Union, and supported it’. (“Historic memoirs of Ireland; comprising secret records of the national convention, the rebellion, and the union; with delineations of the principal characters connected with these transactions”). Was he really Serjeant? His sister Jane was of course married to a senior figure in the Serjeant’s office, John McClintock of Drumcar.

In 1806 George Bunbury of Bunbury Lodge was one of 43 gentlemen of Carlow issued with a Game Certificate by the Distributor of Stamps for County Carlow from 25th March to 1st August 1806. (Finns Leinster Journal, Wednesday, August 20, 1806.

In 1814, George wrote a letter to James Johnston, North Cumberland Street, Dublin, regarding lands in Straboe that he was seemingly willing to spend a whopping £30,000.

Moyle, March 20th 1814
As Mr Bennet is gone to the County (City?) Cork with his sister in law’s funeral, Mrs Bennett has desired me to ans[wer] your letter of the 26th Inst. I shall give £30,000 for the Lands of Straboe, provided their [sic] is a satisfactory title to it, maid [sic] out Mr Fisher of York St, my Atty (attorney) will be in Town in [a few?] days & will inform you of his arrivals.
I am, Sir, your Humble Servant,
Geo. Bunbury

The 1132 acre townland of Straboe is just beside the smaller townland of Killerig (where the Bunburys first settled), with the River Slaney as its south-eastern boundary. You enter it when you cross the Slaney on the R727 (on our way from Lisnavagh to Carlow), or when you follow the R726 towards Rathmore and Rathvilly. There’s an old motte called Motabower tucked in there right at the R727/R728 junction, as well as a rath of some sort just to the south. The western edge of this townland crosses the R418 towards Duckett’s Grove and stops just before the Killamaster Airstrip on the R418.

These were lands that George’s father Thomas of Kill had coveted 60 years earlier. On 8 April 1764, Thomas Bunbury wrote in his diary how he had set out from Kill for Dublin ‘with a design to Purchase the lands of Rathdaniel which with Straboe & other lands are to be sold on Thursday the 12th inst by Decree of the high court of Chancery’. They may have been something to the Bunburys of Johnstown. However, Thomas did not manage to purchase either property, returning to Kill on April 13th. He was evidently disappointed, stating that he had ‘offered £6400 for Straboe & £9300 for Rathdaniel’ which he felt was ‘more than value for them’. In the end the properties were purchased by Sir William Mayne (1722 – 1794) ‘who has part of the Allen Estate by his marrying one of Lady Allen’s daughters’.

The high cost may be explained by this ad in the Dublin Evening Post, 9 January 1806, if these relate to the same lands.

“CARLOW. TO LET, from the 25th of March next, for three lives or 31 years, that part of the lands of STRABOE, in the possession of James and Robert Eustace, Esqrs. containing upwards of 500 acres, on which a very large sum has been lately expended in valuable improvements —Straboe is well known to be the best feeding [seeding?] farm in the county; situate within two miles of Castle-Dermott and three of Tullow—will be let in the whole or divisions not less than 100 acres.
Proposals in writing to be made to Robert Eustace, Esq]. Newstown, Tullow.
Patrick Doyle, the Steward on the premises, will shew the lands, and the intended divisions.”

It has been suggested that George was cleverly seeking to pump £30K of cash into land assets before the State started seeking donations to fund the Iron Duke’s campaigns against Napoleon who was on the rise again at this time? There is nothing obvious in the Lisnavagh archives re Straboe so I’m wondering if old George was outbid?!

If so, it was most likely by the Ducketts who were, I believe, connected to the Eustace family at this time. In his letter of 1814, he referred to Launcelot Fisher, solicitor and attorney, who was based on York Street. In 1817 Mr Fisher was subsequently involved with a further chunk of unidentified Eustace land in Carlow that may well have also been Straboe, as per this notice in the Dublin Evening Post, 18 November 1817:

‘To be SOLD, for Payment of Incumbrances, a Fee-Simple Estate, situate in the most eligible part of the County Carlow, containing upwards of 1080 A. now producing £858. 15s. 7d. yearly, and will rise very considerably on the fall of old lives, a great part ofthe Estate being held under old leases. There is abundance of Limestone and Turbary. Proposals, in writing, to be made to Major Eustace, Castlemore, Tullow, or Launcelot Fisher, Esq. York-street, Dublin, where Rentals may be had, and every satisfaction given as to title.’

In about 1852, Griffith’s Valuation shows nearly all of Straboe townland as owned by John Dawson Duckett. The Duckett family were based at Duckett’s Grove to one side of Straboe and also had Newtown and Philipstown near Rickardstown on the other. JDD’s father William Duckett married Elizabeth Coates, daughter of the Dublin banker John Dawson Coates, bringing masses of money on board – enough to do up Duckett’s Grove and expand the demense. In 1852, Straboe was one of the townlands allegedly “cleared” of tenants who had voted for Ball and Keogh rather than McClintock Bunbury (George’s nephew) and Bruen (who won anyway).

With thanks to Liam K and James Grogan.


George died unmarried at Moyle in May 1820, aged 71. (27) The death of George Bunbury, Esq., ‘of Ramore’ was noted in both Saunder’s Newsletter of 9 May 1820 and the Freeman’s Journal of 10 May 1820. The two papers also observed: “Mr. Bunbury’s brother died during his Representation of that county, and he was himself Member of the Irish Parliament for many years.”

LEONARD & ors TO ADAMS, 1809 [Basic details and name but would need to do a better transcription as it is long and complex]
John Leonard of Newton county of Kildare Esquire the Elder and Deborah Leonard his wife John Leonard the younger only son of John and Deborah and Caroline Adams daughter of Benjamin Adams of county Cavan. Seized of the lands at Moheen, Monenitmelancy Barony of Gowin in county Kilkenny, Moone of county of Kildare lease made 1752 Jeosia Beale. Jno Malone of county Kildare James Malone, Jeds Swan and James Eustace of Hacketstown county of Carlow William Barrett, John Read,
Indented Memorial of lease dated 20th March 1785 Sarah Leonard to John Leonard and Samuel Leonard, Charleton Leonard of county of Kildare – the said Samuel Leonard since dead, deceased 22nd April 1796. John Fletcher and Saragh his wife lands of Narrabeg in the county of Kildare. Thomas Disney was plaintiff and John and Samuel Leonard defendants date January 1809 Leighlin Bridge in the county of Carlow 9th July 1806 Gro Bunbury of Rathmore in the county of Carlow John Whelan of the first part and Jno Leonard the elder of the other part Knocknacrue in the county of Kildare James Young and John and Samuel Leonard. Thomas Ramsay, Rob Robinson, Beaumont Astle of Tullow otherwise Tullophelan in the county of Carlow.
2 April 1770 Benjamin Burton Doyne to Walter Nulbank. William Elliott, Edward Westlby, Richard Mercer Luke Mercer Richard Townsend John Smith etc. etc. Whitstone
Rathmore [not sure if this is part of the above deed or not now?]
Captian Kemmiss, Hacketstown and also that part of the lands of Tullowbeg, mearing and bounding on the North and west by that part of said lands then or late in the possession of the Rev. Richard Brough and Mr Jno Brough on the south by the high road leading from Tullow to Castledermot.

With thanks to Peter R Bunbury, Michael Purcell, Jack Storey, Sharon Oddie Brown, Bill Rowley, Donough Cahill, John & Audrey Arthure, Roger Nowlan, Anne Buckley and Brendan Morrissey.
[1] Details of mortgage included in description of document number P1/0252. [Burton Family Papers – P1/0241].

[2] Burton Family Papers – P1/0252. It is noted that this deed was registered at the Register Office, city of Dublin, on 21 July 1779 in book 325, page 308, number 220599.

[3] “Generous compensation for boroughs which would no longer be represented helped to weaken opposition to the Union. Compensation totalled £1,260,000 and was paid to supporters and opponents alike – the Marquis of Downshire, against the Union, got £57,000 for 7 seats he controlled. Examples of ‘Union engagements’ include: for Sir John Blaquiere (the promise to make him a peer was not kept) £1,000 a year for his wife and daughter, £700 annual pension for himself and another £300 a year from 1803; sinecures of between £250 and £800 a year for 27 MPs; eleven MPs who were lawyers were promoted or were given other judicial rewards; and £300 a year for Theobald McKenna, a pamphleteer, for his literary services”. From ‘The Act of Union’, Jonathan Bardon, ©The Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis, 2003.

[4] E.M. Johnston, History of the Irish Parliament 1692-1800; George Dames Burtchaell, Genealogical memoirs of the members of Parliament for the county and city of Kilkenny (Sealy, Bryers & Walker, 1888)].