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Holroyd-Smyth of Ballynatray

Above: Ballynatray House, near Youghal. See here for more on the Smyth family.

The Holrod-Smyth family were descendants of the Smyths of Ballynatray. Lady Harriette Holroyd-Smyth was a daughter of Charlotte, Countess of Mount Cashell, whose father was the last of the Smyths to own the property.

Lady Harriette & Patrick Fleming

Born in October 1849, Lady Hariette’s earliest memories were of an Ireland recovering from the cruelty of famine and disease. She had been raised by her father, the 5th Earl, between Mount Cashell and Ballynatray. Every summer, she accompanied her parents, brother and two sisters to the island of Jura in Scotland where the Earl indulged his deer-stalking passions for several months on end. They were invariably accompanied by the Ballynatray gamekeeper, Tommy Fleming, grandfather of Kitty, a personal favourite of Charlotte, Countess of Mount Cashell.

The Flemings were living on the mill-side at that time and still enjoying life ferrying people to and from Temple Michael. Tommy’s role was to keep the Earl calm when his temper boiled over as it was wont to do. On certain occasions, Tommy was sent back to Ballynatray to collect things – silver, foodstuffs, fruit and such like. One day in 1868, the Countess asked Tommy and his brother over. The brother was a handsome fellow by name of Patrick Fleming. The story runs that he caught the eye of the young Lady Harriette. During a hunt ball at Ballynatray some weeks later, Lady Harriette slipped out her bedroom window and united with Patrick on the avenue. They crossed to Temple Michael and made their way to Cobh and boarded a ship which was to take them to America. But then the cry went out and the elopement was discovered. A contemporary poem ran

Miss Moore-Smyth who ran away,
With Patrick Fleming from Ballynatray,
One foot on the gravel,
And one foot on the grass,
Is to be the sound that my True Love will pass’.

That had been the cue for Harriette to slide up the window and hop out.

The Holroyd Marriage & Cherrymount

After her failed elopement with Patrick, Harriette was brought home and married to a soldier by name of John Henry Graham Holroyd at the age of 23. The couple were then settled at Cherrymount, a hillside mansion overlooking Glendyne, and once the seat of the Parker family. The property, now a ruin, was later home to the distinguished Indian Army general, Sir Joseph Thackwell. . She had no real income and yet she defiantly tried to live in the style to which she had become accustomed with cooks, ladies maids, gardeners and so on. With her husband often away in Egypt, it must have been a lonely existence for her. Tommy Fleming often visited her with rabbits and fish to cheer her up. Harriette seems to have understood Ireland more than many of her peers. She was constantly writing to her husband for more money. Mixed fortunes came her way when her brother Richard died aged 28 and she became heir apparent to Ballynatray. At some stage she apparently had part of one leg amputated.

On 3rd June 1892, six months after her mothers’ death, Lady Harriette Holroyd and her husband assumed by Royal License the surname and arms of Smyth in lieu of Holroyd. Located so close to the British garrison town of Fermoy it is perhaps small wonder that all five of her pretty daughters married British officers. Lady Harriette groomed them well. There was in in-house dressmaker at Ballynatray ready to design a new dress to wow the right chap on any given occasion. Rather oddly, all the daughters married relatively late in life and had one child each. Their lives will be looked at in due course.

Colonel John Holroyd-Smyth, CMG

Colonel John H.G. Holroyd was an Englishman by birth, the youngest son of the Rev. James Holroyd of Whitehall, Essex, and Rector of Abberton. [1] As a young man, he served with the 65th Regiment (York and Lancaster) against the Maoris in New Zealand from 1864 to 1865 and won a medal. Although it was a bloody campaign, there seems to have been an almost chivalrous respect between the 65th and the Maori who called them the ‘hickety pips’ after their pronunciation of 65th – ‘hikete piwhete’. [2]  He was Worshipful Master of Youghal Masonic Lodge No. 68 in 1878, of which lodge the 5th Earl Mount Cashell had been Worshipful Master on six occasions between 1853 and 1866. He was married to Lady Harriette in 1872. Three sons and five daughters followed. The eldest son, Rowland (Henry Tyssen) was born in 1874 and succeeded to Ballynatray. The second son Charles (Edward Ridley) was born in 1882 and the third, William Baker, in 1885.

John Holroyd in Egypt

In 1882, John Holroyd went to Egypt to serve in Baker Pasha’s Gendarmerie. This was a police force commanded by Colonel Valentine Baker, a decorated veteran of the Crimean Wars. In 1874, Colonel Baker’s military career was nearly destroyed when he was arrested on a charge of indecent assault upon a young woman in a railway carriage. He was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and a fine. His fellow officers considered the trial a sham and insisted that his conduct, when judged by conventional standards, admitted of ‘considerable extenuation’. He never opened his mouth in self-defence but instead went to Turkey and commanded an infantry division of Mehemet’s army in his war against Russia. He was subsequently employed in an administrative post in Armenia before accepting an offer to command of the newly formed Egyptian army in 1881.

On his arrival at Cairo, however, the offer was withdrawn, and he only obtained the command of the Egyptian police. It was at this point that John Holroyd joined him. Their role was effectively to train the gendarmerie to be the reserve of the military forces. When the Sudan War broke out in 1881, Baker was sent at the head of 3,500 men to relieve Tokar. On their way they encountered the enemy under the Mahdist leader Osman Digna at El Teb. Baker’s men became panic-stricken and in the ensuing chaos were slaughtered like sheep. Baker, Holroyd and a few other officers managed to cut their way out, but their force was annihilated. British troops soon afterwards arrived at Suakin, and Sir Gerald Graham took the offensive. John Holroyd and Baker Pasha accompanied the British force, guiding them to the scene of their defeat. Baker was among those wounded at the desperately-fought second battle of El Teb but survived to command the Egyptian police until his death in 1887. For his efforts in Egypt, John Holroyd received the 3rd Class of Medjidie.

The Coshmore & Coshbride Hounds

He was a cavalryman through and through and enjoyed sports of every kind, particularly hunting. In the early years he probably hunted with the existing packs of Sir Nugent Humble, the Marquess of Waterford and his wife’s cousins, Percy Smyth of Headborough and Captain William Maxwell of Moorehill. After the death of Sir Nugent Humble in 1886, Henry Villiers Stuart of Dromana hunted that area identified with the Coshmore and Coshbride Hounds (CCH) and was succeeded by Mr. Curran of Clashmore. Colonel Holroyd-Smith formally established the CCH and settled the boundaries of the country. He was DL and JP for the Counties Cork and Waterford. He was invested as a Companion if the Order of St. Michael and St. George (C.M.G.). He commanded the Irish Militia Brigade at the Queen’s Jubilee 1897.

The Boer War & the Death of Colonel Holroyd

He was then promoted Colonel of the 3rd Battalion of the (Prince of Wales) Leinster Regiment, who staffed the Regimental Headquarters at Birr. When the Boer War broke out in 1899, the Leinsters were the first Irish regiment to volunteer for service, embarking for South Africa on 7th March 1900. He was accompanied by his second son, Charlie, and son-in-law, Herbert Martin. As Colonel of the regiment, John Holroyd was mentioned in dispatched and was sometime commandant at Stormberg. However, he seems to have suffered badly from his third war experience, returning to Ireland ahead of his regiment in 1901. He died on 29th October 1901 at the age of 55. His widow erected a memorial to him in St. Mary’s Church in Youghal:

To the memory of John Henry Graham Holroyd Smyth, CMD, DL, JP, Captain 65th Regt, Colonel 3rd Leinster Regt, son of the Rev. JJ Holroyd. Born 5th April 1846. Died 29th October 1901’.

The Captain – Rowley Holroyd Smyth

Captain Rowland Henry Tyssen Holroyd Smyth was born in 1874, eldest son of Colonel and Lady Harriette Holroyd-Smyth. His family knew him as ‘Rowley’; the populace as ‘The Captain’. As a boy he was schooled at Felstead School near Colchester; a letter he wrote to his mother in 1889 survives in the family archives. His father died when he was 27 years old and he went to assist his mother running the Ballynatray estate. He simultaneously succeeded as Master of the Coshmore and Coshbride Hounds. Hunting was probably the single most important thing in his life, perhaps connecting him back to a father who died before his time. His nephew Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton recalls: ‘Uncle Rowley always wore a Walter Gilbey bowler hat. He knew the stud-book from A to Z but I think not much else. He let Ballynatray go to rack and ruin so that latterly you could not go down the drive because of the rhododendrons that over-grew it.’ [3]

On 21 April 1902, six months after his fathers’ death, Rowley married Alice Ponsonby, a direct descendent of Sir John Ponsonby of Bessborough. Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton added: ‘ Aunt Alice was a superb rider and used to long rein and break the young horses.’ Alice’s lineage and immediate family are explored separately under Ponsonby of Kilcooley Abbey. She and Rowley had four sons – John, Horace, Bryan and Oliver – and a daughter, Mary.

Captain Rowland Holroyd Smyth hunted the C&Cs until 1915 when he sailed for the trenches of Europe with the 3rd Leinsters, the regiment his father had been a Colonel of during the Boer War.

‘Ballynatray was a very large estate and extremely beautiful,’ wrote Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton. ‘It was not good agricultural land, but the climate was almost Mediterranean. The fields were small and steep divided by banks and fuchsia hedges. Rhododendrons and gorse grow in profusion. Uncle Rowley was such a bad farmer and landlord that many of his tenancies fell in and, since only tenanted land had to be compulsorily sold under the various Land Acts, Uncle Rowley became one of the largest land-owners in Southern Ireland.’

‘Uncle Rowley,’ continues Eddie, ‘also owned some salmon fishing on the opposite side of the river to Careysville that was a famous reach of the Blackwater, belonging to the Duke of Devonshire, a distant cousin of my Uncle Tom, who had a half share with the Duke. I once stayed with my Uncle at Careysville and we caught six large salmon in one day. Lady Charles Cavendish of Lismore Castle nearby, formerly the dancer Adele Astaire, was fishing there at the time. A drunken gillie asked her to “do a step or two” and so she did, to please him, on the river bank.’

Captain Rowland Holroyd Smyth was Worshipful Master of Youghal Masonic Lodge No. 68 in 1932.

The Sale of Moore Park

For many years, the Holroyd-Smyths had lived between Ballynatray and the 800 acres of parkland at Moore Park. In 1903, with Wyndham’s Land Acts taking effect, Lady Holroyd-Smyth sought a buyer for the estate. In February 1904, The Times published an account from a ‘trustworthy authority’, in their Naval & Military Intelligence. It stated that the Government had concluded negotiations for the purchase of the extensive demesne of Moore Park, from Lady Holroyd-Smyth, ‘for military purposes’. Moore Park was thus sold to the British War Office to be used as a training camp. Artillery barracks were to be erected and the staff of the Cork district would be stationed there. The construction of an artillery range extending towards Clogheen was also being contemplated. The austere Georgian mansion of Moore Park itself, home to five successive Earls Mount Cashell, was destroyed by an accidental fire in 1908. The house was never rebuilt and the site now belongs to the Teagasc Agricultural Research and Development Centre.

By early 1900s, the Blackwater was once again a key waterway for transporting timber from Munster’s forests to the mines of England and Wales where they provided vital pit props.

Death of Captain Charles Holroyd-Smyth

Captain Rowland Holroyd-Smyth’s brother Charles (Edward Ridley) was born in 1882. He served alongside their father in South Africa during the Boer War. On the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, Charlie was a lieutenant in the Reserve of Officers. He re-joined the 3rd Dragoon Guards and shortly afterwards went to the Western Front. On November 16th 1914, The Times announced that the King had elevated Sir Douglas Haig to the rank of General. Several inches south and east of this report news was a mention of CE Holroyd Smyth, also raised, to the rank of lieutenant. In the ensuing four years he was mentioned in dispatches four times and awarded the MC for distinguished service. When reporting on his decoration on 31st March 1916, The Waterford News added that he was ‘well-known in Ireland as a fine rider and has won many point-to-points’. They published his portrait alongside the story. Charlie was also recommended for the DSO.

In 1917 he married Nora Layard of Bath. Her grandfather, Sir Austen Henry Layard, was the archaeologist, cuneiformist, art historian, draughtsman, collector, author and diplomatist, best known as the excavator of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud.

In March 1918 Charlie was given command of the 15th Durham Light Infantry. He was injured twice subsequently. In July 1918, The Times announced that Nora had been delivered of a stillborn son at East Hayes House in Bath. It was Charlie’s last chance to be a father. On Thursday October 1st 1918, The Times published its daily list of casualties. Seven fallen officers received short biographies. Among them was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Edward Holroyd Smyth, MC, Dragoon Guards. The 36 year old had died a week earlier of wounds received in action while leading the attack on Villers Guislain outside Cambrai on 18th September. He had served continuously on the front since 1914. The allied forces breached the Hindenburg line just days after his death. His widow lived on until July 1970 when she died aged 80 at the old Oranmore seat of Castlemaggarett in County Mayo. She was buried at Killucan in County Westmeath.

Charlie’s sacrifice was recalled by a memorial on the wall of St. Mary’s Church, Youghal:

‘In loving memory of Charles Edward Ridley Holroyd-Smyth, Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross, Captain Prince of Wales Own 3rd Dragoon Guards, temporary Lt Col 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. Died 25th September 1918 from wounds received in action while leading his battalion in the attack on Villers Guislain. Age 36.
Greater love hath no man than that a man laid down his life for his friends’.

Death of Lady Harriette Holroyd-Smyth (1918)

Lady Harriette passed away on September 14th 1918. It was an extraordinary and perhaps kind coincidence that she was not alive to learn of the fatal bullets that took her second son’s life just days later. She was buried in the family mausoleum at Temple Michael. As of 2020, the key to the mausoleum is in the safe keeping of the Rector of St. Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal. The late Kitty Fleming maintained that those entombed within are Colonel and Lady Harriette, her sisters Helena and Ada, her brother Richard, his wife Helen and baby Claude, and her mother, Charlotte, Countess of Mount Cashell. Lady Harriette’s father, the 5th Earl Mount Cashell, was buried at Kilworth. Her memorial in St. Mary’s of Youghal reads:

‘Sacred to the memory of Harriette Gertrude Isabella Holroyd-Smyth of Ballynatray, Co. Waterford, beloved wife of Colonel Holroyd Smyth and eldest daughter of Charles William, 5th earl of Mount Cashell and Charlotte Mary, his wife. Born 9th October 1849. Departed this life September 14th 1918.
I will say unto the Lord, Thou art my hope, and my stronghold : my God, in him will I trust’.

Troubled Times

Lady Harriette’s death spared her from witnessing the collapse of the entire social world she had known all her life. Ireland’s war of independence and the ensuing civil war inevitably left their psychological mark upon Ballynatray. In September 1919, the British garrison ran amok in Fermoy after one of their number was shot dead in an IRA ambush. They looted and burned the main businesses of the town. Battles were subsequently fought at Ardmore and Leigh’s Cross with constant skirmishes at Stradbally, Cloncoskerine, Tallow, Tramore, Bealica and Youghal itself. [4]

In terms of the Holroyd-Smyths, their nerves may have been somewhat shot by the destruction of so many of the houses they had known. Alice’s brother Tom Ponsonby was constantly dousing the flames of Kilcooley. On one occasion his butler heroically scared off a raiding party by standing on the roof and blowing The Last Post on a bugle. Her elderly uncle Horace Plunkett fared less well; his Foxrock home of Kilteragh was maliciously burned in 1923. Indeed, many of the houses the Holroyd-Smyths knew well – Bessborough, Mitchelstown, Moore Hall, Ballynastragh, Castle Bernard, Cappoquin House, Convamore, Desart Court – numbered among the two hundred houses across Ireland burned down during the Troubles of 1919 – 1923. Ballynatray was fortunate to survive unscathed. The family archives contain many newspapers from this time, particularly in relation to Horace Plunkett and Kilteragh. They also hold some interesting extracts from distinctly nationalist newspapers implying a policy of ‘know thine enemy’.

Of Geese & Clergymen

Mary Turton was the niece of Captain Rowland Holroyd-Smyth and his wife Alice. In her ‘Ballynatray Memoirs’, she recalled them as ‘both very eccentric’. The Captain – or ‘Uncle Rowly’ – had an Irish wolfhound, a pet goose and ‘always wore a bowler hat regardless. The goose had to be caught and shut up before he went off to a race meeting’. The Holroyd-Smyths were the only people who attended the Sunday morning service at Temple Michael. A clergyman was driven over from Youghal by the Captain’s chauffeur for the. Rowly ‘always kept summertime and the clergymen fitted in with his eccentric schedule’. There was never Holy Communion. A blazing fire was lit near to their family pew to keep them warm. At the Ponsonby’s church in Kilcooley, Mary Turton recalled, the family pew involved mounting some steps ‘so you could look down on the rest of the congregation’.

Aunt Alice ‘was psychic and had a friend called FitzGerald who ‘saw’ the previous residents of Ballynatray. She travelled in ‘a buggy drawn by a very good fast pony’ called Tommy who could cover the 70 miles across the Knockmealdown mountains to Kilcooley in a day. [5]  ‘They fished salmon out of the Blackwater which used to be sent to Harrods’. They maintained a shoot, largely for duck and snipe, although the Duchess of Devonshire, a close family friend, was of the view that when one beat the woods of Ballynatray the only animal that ever came out was a horse. The Holroyd-Smyths were fervent admirers of the horse. They both enjoyed racing horses, both as observers and participators. On 3rd September 1921, for instance, the Leinster Leader noted the Captain’s role as jockey during the afternoon’s racing at Waterford. His brother Billy trained at least one winner for him in the 1930s.

On with the Hunt!

Like his father and grandfather before him, the Captain’s chief passion was hunting. While he was fighting in Europe during the war, the Coshmore and Coshbride Hounds were maintained by Michael O’Brien. He subsequently ‘kept his own pack of hounds and ran a private hunt’, wrote Mary. ‘Their uniform was immaculate. I remember particularly the buttons on the coat that [his daughter] Mary [Holroyd-Smyth] wore. They also had a one-armed huntsman but eventually gave up because of the expense’. Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton recalled the old adage that ‘if you struck a bush at Ballynatray a horse jumped out.’ Rowley’s brother-in-law Major Watt had the United Hunt at this time and Rowley frequently sent his horses by train from Youghal to run with them.

Michael O’Brien duly formed the West Waterford Foxhounds from a mixture of hounds and harriers inherited from Major Villiers-Stuart and Jack Wall of Dungarvan. When the West Waterfords had their meet on Stephen’s Day 1923, 117 riders turned out. [6]

In the 1920s, Dermot McCalmont made known his intention to increase the Kilkenny Hunt’s available hunting ground by incorporating the East Kilkenny Hunt country. In response to this, Father Larkin, curate of Windgap, and several others formed the Kilmoganny Harriers. The pack combined their own mixed bag of beagles and hounds with a draft from the Captain’s private pack. [7]

Aunt Alice

‘Aunt Alice’ was also an enthusiastic steeplechaser. When of her horses was entered for the Grand National, she had the daunting Aintree fences replicated in the Park Field at Ballynatray. She herself trained the steed – and rode it, side-saddle. The horse successfully completed the course and came ninth in the Grand National. It was said that Alice ‘could sell an iron bedstead as a horse’ and that she once sold one on the simple basis that it had been ‘ridden by a lady’. As it happened, the lady was herself and she herself had ridden it through the streets of Youghal.

Billy Holroyd-Smyth & the Northolt Pony Races

Colonel and Lady Harriette Holroyd-Smyth’s third and youngest son, William, known as Billy, was born in 1885. He married a groom’s daughter by whom he had a son, Jimmy, and daughter, Daisy. Jimmy was married subsequently. His enjoyed a successful career as a racehorse trainer and was stud manager to Baron Alfons Rothschild’s Stud at Oroszvar, Budapest, from 1906 to 1922. Baron Rothschild’s was one of the major thoroughbred racehorse studs in Eastern Europe in the early part of the 20th century. According to the tabulated Stud Record Book from this era, this involved looking after fifty-two sires and forty-four mares. Each horse’s record lists family numbers, the five past generations of sires and dams, and details of foals, some with notes on performances. He operated in cohesion with the Austro-Hungarian Jockey Club. On Sept 30th 1933 there is mention in the London Gazette of a Lieutenant B.H. Holroyd Smyth resigning his commission in the Cheshire Regiment due to ill health. That same year, Billy won the Wellington Plate at Epsom while the stud hosted Wool Winder, second in the Derby to Orby. [8]

Billy returned to the England in the 1920s to set up his own training establishment for horses raced under Pony Club rules. Pony racing was much cheaper for owners than racing under Jockey Club rules. An article in the 1933 Sporting Life compares the costs. The estimated annual racing expenses under PTC rules were £150 compared with £600 in training fees, entries, travelling expenses etc. to race a horse under Jockey Club rules. However, with a middle class family earning £500 to £600 a year in 1937, owning and racing was still limited to the wealthy. One owner, Miss E B Jayne of Batchworth House, Rickmansworth, reputedly lost £8,000 (about £250,000 today!) in a single year’s racing in the late thirties. Northolt Park was the course of choice for pony racing. Billy enjoyed further successes in 1936 and 1937 with horses such as Raven Rock, Spindle, King Fish and Flaming Star. Located in northwest London, England, Northolt Park was founded in 1929 in what was then open country, a few miles from Harrow in the County of Middlesex. A beautiful, innovative and well planned course, it quickly became the successful national centre for the new sport of pony racing during the 1930s but, after the Second World War, was cleared to make way for a housing estate. Leonard Jayne mentions ‘W Holroyd-Smith’ three times in his book on Northolt Park, referring to him as ‘a leading trainer’.[9]

Isabella & Colonel Martin of Mayo

Colonel and Lady Harriette Holroyd-Smyth’s eldest daughter, Isabelle (Charlotte Sophie Wilmot) was born in July 1873 and married on 14th June 1894 Herbert Martin of the Leinster Regiment. Born in 1857, Herbert was commissioned into the army in 1878 and took part in the Zhob Valley Expedition of 1884 which opened the area to Europeans for the first time. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by 1899, he went to South Africa with his father-in-law, Colonel Holroyd-Smyth, and the Leinsters. He commanded the 1st battalion, of the Leinster from 10 May 1900 to the end of the War, seeing extensive service in the Orange River Colony, Cape Colony and the Transvaal. He survived to become Brigadier General on the Staff during the Great War and died on April 7th 1926. Isabelle died on 12th April 1924 at St Leonards on Sea. On December 20th 1922, The Times announced the engagement of their only son Aubrey W. Graham to Luilhi Joan, only daughter of Mrs. Prest, Thurston, Bury St. Edmunds, and the late W.B. Kingsbury of Colombo in Ceylon [Sri Lanka].

Helena & the Huths

Miss Helena Holroyd Smyth, daughter of Lady Harriette Holroyd Smyth and the Colonel Holroyd-Smyth, C.M.G., who married Percival Huth.

Colonel and Lady Harriette Holroyd-Smyth’s second daughter Helena (Anna Mary More) was born in 1876. On 27 June 1912, she married Major Percy Cuthbert Huth, DSO, SLI. He was the eldest son of the wealthy merchant banker, Percival Huth, by his wife Marian. P

ercy had grown up at Freshford Manor outside Bath on a small estate of 37 acres. When Percy’s sister Frances marries Lieutenant Cecil Aspinall in 1902, the children from the village school scattered flowers along the brides’ path from the Manor to the Church. After the wedding the couple drove away in a revolutionary new motor car. Percy was mentioned as having lately received an enthusiastic reception following his return from the South African Wars. Helena and Percy later lived at Fosbury Manor near Hungerford. [10] Upon the death of his father in 1913, Percy inherited a considerable share of his £84,000 fortune. The Huths left Ireland because of the Troubles. Gwen died on 26th February 1957 and the Major followed on 19th October 1960.

Helena’s only son, Lt Col. (Percival) Henry Huth commanded C-Squadron in the 8th Royal Irish Hussars during the Second World War and won MC and bar. He also served in the Korean War, commanding a squadron of Centurion tanks and was awarded a DSO in 1951 for his gallant heroics. [11] As a long-standing bachelor and high-ranking British officer, Colonel Huth was perfectly placed for the rather glamorous role of Queen’s Messenger. [12] The position required him to be ready to depart for a foreign capital at a moment’s notice. On his person, he would carry vital – and vitally secret – Foreign Office documents to be hand-delivered to a Sultan or President or British consulate somewhere in the world. The Colonel’s cousin Tom Vaughan recalls how a dinner party had to be postponed when Henry was suddenly obliged to proceed to the nearest airport without delay. In later life, the Colonel was married to Edith Marie (Molly). He spent his latter years working with Dromana Industries in Villierstown and died in 1987.

Gwen & the Butlers of Massachusetts

Colonel and Lady Harriette Holroyd-Smyth’s third daughter, Harriette Gwendolin, known as ‘Gwen’ was born in November 1878. She was married on 23 April 1905 to Thomas Percy Butler, second son of Captain Henry William Paget Butler of Co. Kildare. [13] She died on 21 march 1931 and he died two years later.

Their only son Major Tyssen Desmond Butler, Royal Welch Fusiliers, was born in 1906 and married Dorothy, daughter of George Salsotonwall West of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Major and Mrs Butler had two sons, George (Tyssen) and Richard (Percy) Butler who frequently visited Ballynatray during the 1950s and 1960s.

Sophie & General Allgood

Colonel and Lady Harriette Holroyd-Smyth’s fourth daughter, Sophie (Sophia Beryl Sheila) was born in September 1880 and married on 29th July 1914 to a young officer from Northumberland by name of William Henry Loraine Allgood, the sixth son of James Allgood of Nunwick, Northumberland, Rector of Ingham. Schooled at Eton, he had been commissioned in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps from the Militia in 1891. He saw active service in the Chin Hills expedition in Burma (1891-2) and later served in the South African War (1899-1902), where he was twice mentioned in despatches. It is likely that he met Sophie while stationed in Fermoy as an Adjutant with the 9th (North Cork) Militia Battalion of the KRRC (1904-8). He advanced to become Staff Captain of No 12 Dist (1909-11) and was serving as Assistant Commandant of the Mounted Infantry School, Longmore, up until the year of his wedding. He retired from the army on February 14th and, marrying Sophie at the age of 46, must have been all set for a decade or two of country living.

However, even as the newly-weds exchanged vows, war clouds were exploding overhead. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had just declared war on Serbia. Within a week, Germany, Russia, France and Britain and leapt into the foray. With his excellent training skills, Allgood was immediately recalled to command the Rifle Depot at Winchester and soon found himself commanding one of the new ‘Service’ battalions, 11th KRRC. He took the 11th to war in July 1915, taking part mostly in routine trench holding. The following April he was appointed to command the 45th Brigade of the 15th (Scottish) Division. He led them through the horrors of the Somme, Arras, the 3rd battle of Ypres and the German Spring Offensive until his relief on 22 May 1918. He was mentioned in despatches six times during the Great War. After the war, he spent two years in command at the Ripon Training Centre but, in August 1920, found himself involved in the Anglo-Irish war back in Sophie’s homeland. He commanded the Londonderry Infantry Brigade (August 1920-December 1921) and the 26th Provisional Infantry Brigade Dublin District (January 1921-February 1922). Brigadier-General Allgood retired for the final time on 16 February 1925. [14] Sophie Allgood died aged 77 on 19th July 1957. Her wily old war veteran of a husband survived her just five months, passing away at the age of 89.

Penny & Major Watt

Peg Watt at Naas races, The Tatler, 4 May 1938.

Colonel and Lady Harriette Holroyd-Smyth’s fifth and youngest daughter, Penny (Victoria Penelope Minna) Holroyd-Smyth, was born in November 1887. On 5th February 1908, she married Major Andrew Hubert Watt, MC (1881–1955), known as Hubie, latterly of The Grange, Middleton, Co. Cork. He served with the 3rd Dragoon Guards in the war and, a passionate hunting and racing man, was Master of Fox Hounds for the United Hunt Club for many years. A contemporary wrote:

‘The United Hunt Club is one of the numerous packs hunting in Co. Cork. The present Master, Major A. H. Watt, M.C., is idolized by the farmers, and rightly so, for he has a cheery word and a smile for them all as he hacks from covert to covert. He is a real worker and takes endless trouble during the summer months, visiting the coverts and directing what is to be done to them. The result is easy to see, for I never saw coverts in better order. The country borders on the Duhallow, but is more hilly, wilder, and is fenced with very narrow high banks, often stone-faced and with gorse growing on top of them. The going on the upland is excellent, but the valleys and glens between the hills often ride very heavy and take a lot out of one’s horse. Major Watt likes small hounds and has got together a pack of very busy workers, with excellent music. Flashy hounds, light of cry, would be quite useless in this country. The United field are noted for their forward riding and daring horsemanship, but I fear that on bad scenting days they do not always give the hounds and huntsman as much room as they would like. Sport has been good this season, in spite of the atrocious weather. The country about Watergrasshill is considered about their best and the coverts of Ardnaeheehy, Ballybrack, Templeboden, and Annacarton have been the starting-point of many a good fox-hunt’. [15]

The Watts were one of the earliest Scottish families to settle in Donegal after the Flight of the Earls in 1607. The Major’s father Andrew Alexander Watt lived at Thorn Hill, Londonderry, and was High Sheriff of the town in 1886, while his mother Violet Flora was the only daughter of George de Burgh of Millbanke House, Co. Kildare. [16] Penny and the Major had three daughters – Phyllis, Sheila and Penny. She died on Monday 5 April 1926 at St. Michael’s Broadstairs. Her funeral took place at Lansdowne Cemetery in Bath at 1:30 the following Thursday. Mourners were invited to send flowers to Powell and Powell in Bath.

After Penny’s death, Major Watt was married secondly to Peg, one of the Rohan family from Middleton. At Naas in June 1936, Peg Watt’s Appletoi win the coveted June Steeplechase, valued at 200 sovereigns. Peg later became a good pal of Sheila Anderton, née Dwyer. Willie O’Grady was among her most intimate friends.

Phyllis Watt and Master Rohan

Major Watt’s eldest daughter Phyllis, born in November 1908, was married to one of Miss. Rohan’s brother, a horse dealer from Middleton. By this marriage, Phyllis was mother to seven children including the property developers, John and Ken Rohan, and their sister, Doreen. Ken Rohan now lives at Charleville, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, built on land originally owned by Lord Orrery, third son of the Great Earl of Cork.

John Rohan bought the Woodhouse estate near Stradbally in County Waterford. He became master of the Waterford hunt in 1972.

Sheila Watts and Stratford Dennis

Major Watts second daughter Sheila Watts married twice. Her first husband was a colourful character by name of Stratford Hercules Denis from the Fort Granite near Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow. Born in 1899, he served as a midshipman at the battle of Jutland but left the Navy immediately after the Great War. He spent the ensuing years living without any visible means of support and had a reputation for being something of a cad. He was a brilliant jockey, a professional amateur, preferring the rough terrain of Ireland to the more orderly hunts of England. He lived on his wits rather than through any military connections and set himself up as a racehorse trainer. Despite his monetary troubles, he somehow managed to maintain a pack of hounds, which he kept down in the Grogan’s kennels at Slaney Park near Baltinglass. His mother was kept in the dark about this hobby although she was often to be found sniffing the air and wondering ‘what is that filthy smell?’ in relation to the hounds’ ‘dinner’, basking in the nearby waters of the River Slaney for preservation. The hounds were later given up although the pack was resurrected in the 1950s by Bill Rathdonnell, my grandfather, and moved across the Wicklow-Carlow border to Lisnavagh.

In February 1929, The Times declared that ‘S.H. Dennis – trainer of racehorses’ was bankrupt. Stratford swiftly moved from his home at Telscombe, Lewes, East Sussex to Hollywood in California where he recommenced training horses. However, ‘the coin fell heads when it should have been tails’ and Stratford had become embroiled in another economic dilemma by 1938. He was obliged to work his passage home on board a German trans-Atlantic steamer. He returned to Ireland in disgrace.

On Sunday March 18th 1939, Stratford and his brother Meade were talking in the gardens at Fortgranite when a servant girl came running out of the house shouting that that the German army had just marched into Czechoslovakia. Meade later recalled how ‘All the awfulness of the first World War passed before my eyes and I turned to my brother and I said ‘How very terrible, what are we to do!’ But Stratford looked at me and said ‘Thank God! At least I can now go and enjoy the Navy and salvage my reputation!’ Just days later he was appointed lieutenant commander on board HMS Caledonia. [17]

His subsequent war record was such that he was mentioned in despatches three times, receiving a DSC for his efforts in relieving the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk in 1940. He also won the Polish Cross of Valour in 1941. In May 1944, Commander H.S. Dennis had two bars added to his DFC for his role in the landing of Allied forces at Salerno and the invasion of Normandy.

In 1946 he was appointed Naval Attaché at Bangkok and, in 1949, became His Majesty’s Consul at Songkhla in Siam. These were heady years for the country now known as Thailand. On February 26th 1949, supporters of former Prime Minister Pridi Panomyong in the Siamese navy and marine forces launched a coup to overthrow the long-standing monarchy. Stratford was almost certainly consulted by the Government forces who swiftly and violently crushed the ‘Wang Lang Revolt’ within three days. [18]  On March 3rd 1949, a new constitution was proclaimed and Siam changed its name to Thailand. Sheila and Stratford were married on 14 October 1937. They had two daughters but subsequently divorced. Stratford married secondly Betty Helyar and had a son, Shane Patrick, and daughter, Ann Caroline.

Penny and Peter Anderton

In 1936, Major Watt’s youngest daughter Penelope, known as Penny, married Peter Anderton, only son of Francis Anderton and Lady Temple, of Sandgate, Kent. According to the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 21 November 1932:

Miss Penelope Watt, General and Mrs. Allgood’s reedy-tall, dark-haired, good-looking niece, has become engaged to Mr. Peter Anderton. Presented last season, she is but a year out of the schoolroom she shared in term-time with the daughter of near neighbours of her aunt—Major and Mrs. Burdon, of Bedale. With all of them she hunted with the Bedale, going as well to hounds, even in those days, as Miss Rhona Burdon. Although she often visits Charlcot, she spends most of her time in Ireland with her father, Major Watt, at Middleton Grange, in County Cork, and follows her father’s hunt, the United Hunt. Her fiance, who hunts too, is in Tipperary now, with Mr. Handley, the trainer—he rides for him. He is the son of Lady Temple and the late Mr. Francis Anderton, of Bolton Royd, Bradford.’

Peter and Penny had a daughter, Marjorie, and several other children. Marjorie had three daughters, Jane who married Matt Straker (SAS),  Julia (who settled in  Australia,) and Flossie (who married Hubie de Burgh).

Peter Anderton was married secondly to Sheila Dwyer (d. 2002), whose mother was a Montgomery from Northern Ireland. Sheila ran away from home aged 18 in 1939 and, having joined the Catholic Women’s League, spent the war driving a large Bedford lorry. She is believed to have started just behind the lines at El Alamein and then followed what was presumably the Eighth Army from there all through the invasion of Sicily and the battle for Monte Cassino before ending up in Venice. She and Peter had two daughters – Katherine, wife of the film producer Konrad Jay, and Maria O’Grady (1963-2017), the late wife of racehorse trainer Edward O’Grady.


The Iceman Cometh

Claud Cockburn once noted that the Holroyd-Smyths had so much fish they could give salmon to their staff. They also exported salmon from the weir to England via Liverpool. A limiting factor on the sale of salmon was the distance of transport so the construction of an ice house in the woods by the weir became an integral part of the business. Ice was taken in sheets from frozen ponds in the Powlbee field and from the surface of the river where it had frozen. It was then neatly stacked in the icehouse’s partly underground chamber. The earth acted as an insulator for its walls enabling ice to be stored long term. The salmon was duly packed in these ice sheets and exported. This practice continued into the 1940s. The ice was also used for preserving fresh food for the mansion house kitchen as well as for cooling summer drinks and puddings. Ballynatray House did not have a fridge till 1975. [19]

Shark Attack

A rather more unusual dish they might have served was shark meat. On 1st April 1932, The Irish Times gave the following report:

‘The recent report of sharks in Ardmore Bay is not surprising as many people seem to think. It was early in March two years ago, so far as I remember, that a shark some twenty feet in length and about twelve in girth made its way up the Blackwater. It swam up the river for some three or four miles as far as Ballynatray, where it was shot by the son of the present owner, Captain Holroyd-Smith. As it was making for the sea it became entangled in the nets of the local salmon boats in the harbour, and was beached on the rocks near the lighthouse. March, of course is unusually early for these unwelcome visitors. Although, I believe, they are not man-eaters, they do a considerable amount of damage to fishing. During the War it was nothing unusual to see a triangular fin cutting through the waters round the south coast. Whales, too are regular visitors, and many older inhabitants of the little seaside resort of Ballycotton still remember the school of whales which was driven there by local fishermen. Ballycotton is, of course famous among deep-sea fishermen, and holds the record in size for many deep sea fish caught on rod and line. Perhaps, the most unusual of all fish to these waters was the tunny which was trapped in the salmon nets in Youghal Harbour about the year 1906’.

Captain John Holroyd-Smyth (1905–1944)

Captain Rowland and Alice’s eldest son, John (Rowland Chambre) was born on October 4th 1905. He may have been educated at the Imperial Services College where his younger brothers went but his name is not registered. He was at Westward Ho! in the former United Services College. He was a contemporary of Mary Turton who recalls how he drove her and his sister Mary around the Irish countryside before the war, perhaps to a race meeting or for a picnic with the Arbuthnots or Keanes. Sometimes he took them out on the water at Ballynatray in the motor boat. His sister was not allowed to drive as she had once driven into a cow lying in the middle of the road. His cousin Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton recalled him as a man of ‘every good quality.’

Shortly before the war he went to Malaya where he ran a rubber plantation. He subsequently joined the British army and saw action in Europe. He was in Greece in 1944 when Russia’s Red Army forced the German army to withdraw. However, in the ensuing chaos, civil war broke out between the communist resistance organization ELAS, who controlled much of the country, and a coalition government lead by Georgios Papandreou, a moderate democrat supported by the British. On 2 December 1944, mounting tensions over the post-war government resulted in a demonstration during which British forces opened fire, killing ten civilians. Athens exploded in armed clashes between Greek government forces, backed by British soldiers, and left-wing guerrillas. Eleven days later, on December 13th 1944, John Holroyd-Smyth was killed, apparently by a Greek Communist. His body was interred at British Military Cemetery at Faleron (or, more commonly, Phaleron) outside Athens. The inheritance that was to come to him duly fell upon his next brother Horace to whom we shall return anon.

Bryan Holroyd-Smyth (1908-1971)

Bryan (Hubert), the third of the four Holroyd-Smyth boys, was born on April 30th 1908. Like Horace and Oliver, he was educated at the Imperial Services College, located at Windsor since its amalgamation with the United Services College in 1906. [20] By all accounts a popular and modest man, Bryan’s liberal temperament inclined him to eschew the trappings of his social class and instead enjoy the company of any who took his fancy. Ireland in the post-war era was not sufficiently exciting for him and he moved to England and became a farmer just in time for the Swinging Sixties. According to his cousin Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton, he’ became a taxi-driver, died in the seventies, and to Mary Vaughan’s disgrace was buried in a “pauper’s grave”.’ He died in London on November 13th 1971. His bank of choice was Lloyds on Edgeware Road.

Oliver Holroyd-Smyth

After Horace’s death, Ballynatray passed to his cousin Major George Ponsonby while the representation of his family fell to his youngest brother Oliver. It is often tough being the youngest. For instance, when Oliver requested a bicycle from Santa Claus, he was given a second hand girls bicycle that he could not possibly have cycled without inviting serious abuse from his brothers.

By 1969, Oliver Grice Holroyd Smyth had addresses at both Ardmore in Co. Waterford and Pontoon lodge in Co. Mayo. Oliver was born on 15th May 1914, shortly before his father went to war. Like his brothers, he was educated at the Imperial Services College (1928 – 1932). He was considered an excellent shot and took part in the 1930 and 1932 Bisley VIII for the Ashburton Shield (Shooting). He then went to the Transvaal in South Africa and worked as a mining engineer with the Main Reef and Estate Company in the goldmines around Maraisburg and Paardekraal. When the Second World War broke out, he signed up with the 1st South Africa Irish Regiment. He saw action with Montgomery’s desert campaign in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and Libya, before being taken prisoner by the Germans at Sidi Rezagh near Tobruk.

After the war he moved to Jamaica and found work at the Blue Water Fishing Club in Westmoreland. According to his cousin Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton, he ‘later built a small fleet of motor fishing boats in the Caribbean.’ On Saturday 25th May 1958, Oliver was married at St. George’s Church in Savanna La Mar on the island of Jamaica. His bride was Miss. Ottilie (Iris Dorothea) Anquetil. Ottilie’s father had addresses at 39 Edwardes Square, London W8, and at Beechwood, Reigate in Surrey. [21]  The newly-weds lived at San Michele in Bluefields, Jamaica, for much of the ensuing decade where Oliver indulged his passion as a deep-sea fisherman. Their small house at San Michele consisted of two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a sitting-dining room and an acre of garden, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, with a swimming pool. They subsequently advertised the property at San Michele for let and returned to Ireland. Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton did not care for Ottilie: ‘a rich but spoilt girl from suburban Reigate’

Oliver and Ottilie went to live in a flat at Egerton Gardens in London. Ottilie died in London in the summer of 1985 ‘after a long and painful illness’. (Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton attributes her demise to drink). Oliver attended her funeral at Holy Trinity Church in Brompton. Somewhat debilitated by a stroke, he lived out the remainder of his years in London .

Mary Smyth and Frederick Courtney

On 5 December 1932, the Captain’s only daughter Mary Lavender Smyth was married at St. Michael’s Church in Chester Square, London, to Frederick H.D. Courtney. A spirited hunter who excelled at side-saddle she spent much of the 1930s at Ballynatray. Her childhood was nonetheless a rather unhappy period. Her parents were prone to lavish far more attention on horses and dogs than they were on children. And as the only girl with four brothers, she was somewhat starved of female companionship. Considered rather a glamorous young man by the ladies, Fred was the only son of Colonel and Mrs. F. H. Courtney of Burleigh Wood in Ascot. The Rev. W.H. Elliott officiated. The Captain walked his daughter up the aisle. The Times reported on the event lavishly. ‘The bride She wore a gown of parchment-tinted peau d’ane velvet, the close fitting bodice having long sleeves tight fitting to the elbow and very full above. A long, square-cut train of cream brocade fell from the shoulders, and her veil of old family Brussels lace was held in place by a semi-wreath of velvet gardenias. She carried a large sheaf of palest-pink chrysanthemums. Master John Martin and Sir Patrick Walker (cousins of the bride) were the train-bearers and they wore knickers of deep red-bronze velvet with frilled shirts of gold satin. There were two grown up bridesmaids – Miss Mary Chetwynd-Stapllyton (cousin of the bride) and Miss. Monica Elews. They wore ankle length dresses of gold panne velvet, a wide frill on the bodices giving a cape effect at the back and forming epaulettes on the shoulders. They had a double bandeaux in their hair of gold velvet leaves and carried sheaves of deep bronze chrysanthemums’.

Fred Courtney’s best man was Mr. T. St G Carroll of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. The entirety of the Holroyd-Smyth clan were present including all their cousins – the Tenterdens, Neaves, Dunsanys, Huths, Bruens, Allgoods and Delme-Radcliffes.A reception for relatives and intimate friends was held afterwards by Major and Mrs Arbuthnot at 42 Grosvenor Place. Mary Turton recalls ‘Aunt May gave us a good lunch beforehand at the Guards Club’.

Fred and Mary Courtney moved to Bicester where they made a small business from letting out horses for hunting with the Bicester Hunt. Mary rode side-saddle to win the Bicester Point to Point Ladies Race. However, the marriage between did not last long and the couple went their separate ways. When Fred began courting another young woman, he cheekily had the gifts he showered upon her billed directly to Mary’s account at Harrods.

Mary and Major Joe Vaughan

During the wartime Blitz, Mary provided invaluable assistance driving an ambulance through Chelsea. On one occasion, a bomb exploded on the back of the ambulance but Mary miraculously survived. During this time she met Major Joe Vaughan, a Roman Catholic from the Welsh borders born in March 1910. The Vaughan family had lived at the Courtfield Estate outside Ross-on-Wye in the gorgeous Wye Valley since the 16th century. His forbears were remarkable for their persistent refusal to conform to the Protestant religion with at least one forbear, Richard Vaughan, fighting under the banner of Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden.

Like many prominent Monmouthshire families, the Vaughans kept to the old faith through thick and thin. In the 19th century, many became senior figures in the priesthood. Cardinal Herbert Vaughan (1832–1903) proved an inspirational Archbishop of Westminster under Queen Victoria. Five of the Cardinal’s seven brothers also became priests – including Roger Bede Vaughan, Archbishop of Sydney, Fr. Bernard Vaughan, a famous Jesuit preacher, and John, auxiliary bishop of Salford – and four of his five sisters became nuns. [22] Another brother Reginald married Julia Shanahan, sister-in-law of Sir Patrick Jennings, an Ulster linen magnate who became a leading Australian politician.

Joe Vaughan was a grandson of the Cardinal’s remaining brother, Frederick Baynam Vaughan (1844–1919). Frederick was a prominent magistrate in Hereford and Monmouthshire, as well as sometime Chamberlain to Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) and his controversial successor, Pope Pius X (1903–1914). In August 1871, Frederick married Caroline Ruth Pope of St. Louis, Missouri. She was a descendent [granddaughter?] of the Illinois politician and jurist Nathaniel Pope, and his son, General John Pope, who fought for the Union Army during the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln’s wife Mary was her cousin.

Frederick and Caroline Vaughan had six children. On 3rd March 1908, their firstborn son Charles Jerome Vaughan (1873–1948) married Florence Lister-Kaye (1885–1961), daughter of the mining magnate, Sir Cecil Lister-Kaye, 4th Bart, and granddaughter of the gamble-happy 6th Duke of Newcastle. Charles and Florence’s first child was a daughter, Henrietta, who died in 1918 aged nine of the Spanish Flu. Their remaining child was Joseph, subsequently husband to Mary Holroyd-Smyth.

The Smyths and Vaughans had much in common. Courtfield House was built in 1805, ten years after Ballynatray, and enclosed inside an extensive deer park. Both had a strong association with a mediaeval abbey, although Tintern Abbey was some 20 miles from Courtfield. The Forest of Dean had been a major a source of ships’ timber, just as the Blackwater forests had been. These coincidences may have provided some of the more enigmatic reasons why Mary and Joe were subsequently married. She wrote books under the name Mary Vaughan, including a history of her husbands family, ‘Courtfield and the Vaughans: an English Catholic inheritance’, published by Quiller Press in 1989. Mary’s conversion to Catholicsm at the time of her marriage would ultimately rule her out of the Ballynatray inheritance.

As Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton puts it: ‘Mary Lavender, the only daughter, was a brilliant rider and point-to-pointer. After previous matrimonial adventures she married Joe Vaughan, an intelligent and charming barrister and owner of the beautiful Estate of Courtfield on the Wye. They had four splendid sons, but unfortunately Joe had drink problems and died young.’ Joe and Mary Vaughan had four sons, named Patrick, Oliver, Richard and Tom Vaughan (author of ‘The Other Side of Loss’.) Joe passed away in 1972. Mary Lavender Vaughan passed away in 1989 – click here to see her memorial.

Buckshot & Hat Racks

In her youth, Kitty Fleming looked after the puppies for the Holroyd-Smyth pack. She recalled how the Captain would raise his finger conspirationally at her and the two of them would head up into the garden to attend to the puppies. His pack has a more practical purpose of keeping the deer in check. The deer were wont to swim over to Ardsallagh or up Cherrymount and annoy the beet farmers, ambling from clump to clump and nonchalantly having a bite each time as they do. Kitty, with the game-keeping blood of her forefathers in her veins, and Anthony O’Shea, would take the hounds across to Ardsallagh in a boat and unleash them. The deer would duly swim back to Ballynatray. However, if a deer persisted in misbehaving, it would swiftly become a hat-rack. The Captain used to make his own cartridges, stuffing them with buck shot before he went out after the buck deer. The excess shot was kept in a drawer. Kitty recalled how a barrage of this buckshot accidentally ended up in a fire, sending mini-pellets whizzing into her legs.

On Sundays, the Holroyd Smyths hosted a small hunt for those in the area who couldn’t hunt with the West Waterfords as that was still somewhat the preserve of those with tall hats. Besides which, hunting the west side of the Blackwater involved a long trip from the kennels at Dromana, as the picturesque ferry crossing at Villierstown was closed. Kitty recalls the roads around Ballynatray busy with jennets and donkeys gathered for the hunt. Trestle tables would be erected on the lawn in front of Ballynatray and then laden with sausages, sandwiches and cake.

Ballynatray in 1943

In Michael O Domhnaill ‘s topographical survey of the Barony of Coshmore and Coshbride, published on 6th July 1943, he described Ballynatray as ‘the property and residence of Captain Holroyd Smyth’. He also drew attention to the art collection, which included a number of family painting, and ‘a fairly extensive library’. At the time, the property consisted of 710 acres of grazing and tillage land and 300 acres of woods. There were twenty four full time employees. He further noted that shooting was ‘usually granted if sought’, with snipe, duck and woodcock in ‘fairly plentiful’ supply. ‘The grounds are laid out in a very artistic manner, and the scenery round about is really delightful. The deer grazing in the lawns, the colours of the various plants and flowers in bloom, the dark trees all add to the beauty of this place. Visitors are permitted round the grounds. The house however, is not open to visitors.’ [23]

Death of Alice Holroyd-Smyth (1945)

‘I don’t think that Aunt Alice was at all domesticated’, wrote her nephew, Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton. ‘Like her mother she was intellectual and used to write the chess problems for The Field in addition to quite good poetry. I think that Aunt Alice and Uncle Rowley lived selfishly for themselves although I dare say that marriage to her cousin was a full time job for my aunt. Anyhow they neglected their four children and did little for them. Probably there was very little money: they certainly gave none to their family. There were four sons, Horace, John, Brian and Oliver. They were educated at the Royal United Service College, Kipling’s “Westward Ho”.’

News of John’s death in Greece was published in The Times on December 23rd 1944. Less than two months later, on Friday 9 February 1945, The Times published news of another death. Alice Holroyd-Smyth (nee Ponsonby) died suddenly at Ballynatray on 4 February.

13 Steps & Your Number’s Up

The Captain was a superstitions man and had a particular abhorrence of the number ‘13’. When his son Horace once came home with a car that had the registration plate ‘13’, the Captain refused to get in it. Horace was obliged to change the number. The Captain’s superstition was not unfounded. There are thirteen steps on each section of the cantilevered staircase at Ballynatray. Furthermore, in one of those extraordinary twists that Ballynatray excels at, all five of the Captain’s children – John, Horace, Bryan, Oliver and Mary – died on the 13th day of a month.

The Captain also refused to discuss anything financial at the dining table, apparently on account of its association with Judas Iscariot. But perhaps he simply felt the subject of money lowering the tone. Another story from these times, unverifiable, concerns a body said to have washed up between the Boat House and the salmon trap during the Second World War. The Captain summoned a priest who looked at the man and shook his head and said ‘he’s not one of ours, not much we can do’. So they got the clergyman from Templemichael but he said the man wasn’t one of theirs either. The story runs that the unfortunate corpse was duly rolled him back into the water.

Smyth called Smite

An amusing story from this era was told by the late Commander Denis Pack-Beresford. He was interviewing a young woman who claimed to have formerly worked at Ballynatray. She told him: ‘Oh I was very fond of Mr. Smyth’, pronouncing the name to sound like ‘s–might’. The Commander replied: ‘I have often heard of shit called shite but I have never heard of Smyth called Smite’.

Moby Dick

In the 1950s, Youghal was a film location for John Huston’s film of ‘Moby Dick’. Huston was a close personal friend of Claude Cockburn who was then living in the town. Youghal was recreated to look like Massachusetts’ whaling centre while Huston rebuilt an old ship to match Herman Melville’s description of the Pequod.

Claud Cockburn, son of a Scottish Diplomat, was a renowned radical British journalist, controversial for his communist and Stalinist sympathies. He was the cousin of novelist Evelyn Waugh, who nearly purchased Strancally Castle, and a friend of John Huston, who filmed ‘Moby Dick’ in Youghal. Born in China in 1904 and reared in central Europe, he came to Ireland at the age of forty-three and lived between Brook Lodge in Youghal and Rock House in Ardmore. He had a weekly column for The Irish Times. His third wife was the author Patricia Byron, nee Arbuthnot. She was a great-aunt to Iona Murray of Myrtle Grove, Youghal. Claud Cockburn’s granddaughters include actress-director Olivia Wilde, BBC Newsnight economics editor, Stephanie Flanders, and Radio Nation presenter Laura Flanders.

Death of The Captain (1959(

Captain Rowly Holroyd-Smyth died on 15th January 1959 in his 85th year after a stroke at Ballynatray. His funeral procession went from Ballynatray to the graveyard at Templemichael and was ‘of exceptionally large dimensions and representative of all classes, reflecting the respect in which the deceased and his family were held’. The coffin, on which there were numerous floral tributes, was borne by relays of the estate employees of the deceased to its last resting place. As well as his three surviving sons and daughter, the chief mourners included his nephews, Major D. Butler and Lt Col Henry Huth, DSO; his nieces, Mrs Jerry Rohan, Mrs Anderton and Mrs Sheila Dennis and other relatives. The Misses Kitty, Rita, Anne and Colette Fleming were also present, as were all the local gentry of Maxwell, Keane, Ponsonby, Sheridan, Arbuthnot, Benson and so forth.

Horace Holroyd-Smyth  (1905-1969)

On December 12th 1944, Horace turned 39. The following day his elder brother John was killed in Greece. Suddenly the Ballynatray inheritance was destined for Horace. Horace was born shortly before Christmas 1905, the second of four boys. Christened Henry Horace Digby Holroyd-Smyth, he was known as Horace, probably on account of his mothers’ favourite uncle, Senator Horace Plunkett. Like his younger brothers Bryan and Oliver, he was educated at the Imperial Service College outside Haileybury, staying in Lawrence House.

In 1930, like Raleigh centuries earlier, he voyaged to northern Chile. In Santiago he took employment as a mining engineer with the Compania Salitrera Anglo-Chilene, later the Anglo-Lautaro Nitrate Company. This was a decade in which domestic copper production accounted for nearly 50% of world production. Little was exported and Chile supplied about two-thirds of the metal that entered the world market.

Horace remained in Chile until 1945 when, following John’s death, he became heir apparent to his father. Elizabeth Bowen described inheriting a big house as somewhere between a raison d’être and a predicament. Horace was 54 when he succeeded to Ballynatray in 1959. Horace was a draughtsman by profession and his office was never darkened by the presence of a ‘wretched telephone’. He was 5 foot 11, clean-shaven and had a fondness for corduroy. His mind was creative and orderly. He enjoyed writing. He had a passion for fishing. His detailed accounts of the daily fishing tally would have impressed even the Great earl of Cork. He kept a pack of hounds at Ballynatray; Kitty was also a keen horsewoman. He ran the estate with a workforce of six men and one woman, Kitty Fleming, tending to a small herd of cows and a flock of sheep.

In her memoir ‘WAIT FOR ME! Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford Sister’, Deborah Devonshire recalled how Horace used the billiards table at Ballynatray for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The remains of each meal still on the table as the next one arrived. He drove to grand country house dinners on a battered old tractor dressed in a dinner jacket. When the hunting season ended he entertained himself by playing the recorded sounds of a hunting horn on a gramophone.

The Sad Story of Kitty & Horace

When the Captain died, Kitty Fleming went to help Horace run Ballynatray. ‘Catherine Mary’, as Horace always addressed her, was a granddaughter of Tommy Fleming, the Mount Cashell’s gamekeeper during the 1860s.[28] Her ancestors had been ferrying people across the river at Ballynatray for centuries. Kitty was born and raised in Ardsallagh; he mother Margaret may have been an O’Keefe of Ardsallagh. At Ballynatray, she had to contend with the housekeeper Mrs. Walsh (known as Corky), ‘a very good woman’ who had come into the Smyth’s service with the Captain’s marriage to Alice Ponsonby nearly sixty years earlier. Kitty sagely decided to play second fiddle. Another relic of the older times was James the Butler. Like the seven wise virgins, he would ritually trim all the lamps and candlewicks every day. There was silver everywhere that had to be cleaned of dust daily with a whisky brush. Indeed, James insisted that the entire house be swept free of all dust on a daily basis. This was no mean feat in the days before the vacuum cleaner but James had an old trick whereby one simply covers the selected floor in wet tea leaves, direct from a teapot. They duly sucked in all the dust and then, hey presto, you swept all the leaves up.

Kitty was young, pretty and capable. She was also determined that Horace should retire. At the age of 64, the running of the 2000 acre estate was exhausting him. There was no light in the house, only limited electricity and certainly no telephone. If a phone call had to be made, Kitty would go up to her mother’s house at the Glebe. ‘Stay for some tea!’ her mother would say. ‘I can’t, I’ve to get back down and help Horace pay the men’. Every day, brown envelopes arrived from the Irish Government demanding Horace pay more rates – for his roof of his mansion, for the mountains of his demesne. Horace sold some good shooting lands around Knockanore and Dunmoon to pay off the rates. But still the nasty brown envelopes came pedalling up the avenue. At length, Horace phoned his cousin John Rohan, who was by then in the building business, and offered to leave him the house and 850 acres if John helped fix the roof and renovated the building. John said he could only afford to fit a new roof to stop it from leaking. Horace accepted this and said he would leave the house to John in his will.

But there were still happy times in between. On one occasion, Kitty won £50 on the prize bonds and lay down on the ground and waggled her legs in the air to celebrate. And they frequently drove off to fish for a few days at Ballyderoyne, a beautiful salmon pool near Kilworth. It was Kitty’s hope that Horace might secure an estate manager to run Ballynatray on their behalf. None of Horace’s brothers had any sons so the lineage of the Smyth family was in danger of dying out after nearly four hundred years.

In 1969, Horace asked ‘Catherine Mary’ to marry him and she said yes. They were to marry in St. Paul’s, London. Ten days before the wedding his brother Oliver returned from Jamaica and a conversation took place between the two men at the summer house in Ardmore. What was said between the two men was of an exceedingly black nature. Oliver appears to have told Horace two things. Firstly, you can’t leave Ballynatray to John Rohan because he’s a Catholic. Secondly, you can’t marry Kitty Fleming because she is our half-sister. Horace returned to Ballynatray frustrated and angry. Within a week, he was found shot dead beside a dead stag out on the estate. He was not well known as a shooting man. His death was taken to have been ‘accidental’. It was 13th September 1969.  It’s unlikely whether anyone will ever know whether he took his own life, or if it was an accident. Meanwhile he had changed his will and left the house to the Ponsonby’s of Kilcooley Abbey, County Tipperary.

Horace was buried alongside his mother. His funeral was the last service that took place at the family church of Temple Michael. When the Church of Ireland could find no cleric to occupy the post of rector, they sold the Rectory with three acres to Kitty’s cousin, a retired nurse from America, for £1100. In his will, of which Kitty was one of the executors, Horace left Ballynatray to his cousin, George Ponsonby. In time, Kitty would erect a memorial to ‘The Sons of Captain Rowland Holroyd-Smyth’ in Temple Michael. She poignantly concluded the inscription with a line from one of Thomas Campbell’s poems, ‘To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die’.

Kitty Fleming died in Marymount Hospice on Thursday January 8th 2015 and was cremated in Ringaskiddy the next day. Her story inspired John Arnold to write the following for the Evening Echo on 22 January 2015:

“Last Sunday I paid a visit to Templemichael cemetery in West Waterford. The ancient parishes of Knocanore, Glendine and Kilwatermoy are for many decades united into a single entity – the unity of the three is well symbolised by the shamrock. The little plant so favoured by our Patron Saint even gives its name to the local GAA Club, The Shamrocks. Templemichael was itself an ecclesiastical parish in its own right. The cemetery is seldom used nowadays. It had been completely overgrown with trees, bushes and briars forming a thick undergrowth making it practically impossible to see most of the ancient headstones. The local Heritage group took on the project of transforming the burial ground and over the last two years tremendous work has been done here in making it tidy. The ruins of the Church of Ireland building dominate the cemetery. Built in the 1820’s on the site of a former religious settlement it was used for religious worship up until 1969. Roofless and windowless now it’s hard to imagine that just over four decades ago it was still in use as a place of prayer. Nearby is Molanna Abbey where the Norman Raymond le Gros is buried. Across the mouth of the Blackwater from Templemichael is the impressive bulk of Ballinatray House. It looks down on ‘ the grand old Blackwater’ just as Castlehyde does some fifty miles upstream near Fermoy. This is the hub of the vast tract of land granted long ago to Walter Raleigh. Later it came into the ownership of Richard Boyle, the Earl of Cork. Eventually close on fifteen hundred acres came into the possession of one Richard Smyth who died in 1681. Remarkably this family retained their ancestral acres here on Blackwater-side for close on a further three centuries. The Smyths were related or connected or married to all the ‘great and good’ of the Anglo Irish ascendancy in Waterford, Cork, Kerry and Tipperary and indeed further afield. Marriage partners came from the Halls and Houses of England too as ‘like married like’. In 1868 when Lady Harriet Smyth had the temerity and romantic notions to run away with handsome Patrick Fleming – he worked on the Ballinatray estate, she made it as far as the boat in Cobh. Before the anchor was raised the couple were discovered and dragged off the boat. For her troubles Lady Harriet was married in 1872 to an English soldier (later Colonel) John Holroyd. The couple lived in Cherrymount House near Glendine before assuming the roles of Master and Mistress of Ballinatray. Some say Patrick Fleming was exiled to America while others say he stayed around and often gifted lady Harriet salmon and rabbits when Colonel John was away in the Army -maybe he went to the States later. In 1892 John and Harriet assumed the Smyth name and thus the Holroyd-Smyth dynasty commenced. Generations of the family -both Smyths and Holroyd Smyths are buried in Templemichael cemetery. As I went over the stone stile last Sunday I thought that maybe, just maybe I might see signs of a recent burial here in the grave where Horace Holroyd Smyth, the last of the line living in Waterford, had been interred in September 1969.”

Kitty’s eldest brother William was a school teacher, married a doctor and moved to Australia. One sister Margaret married a doctor and lived in Scotland. Another was in Canada.


With thanks to the late Kitty Fleming, Neill Malcolm, Henry Gwyn Jones, Nicola Cunningham, Nick Oldnall, John Arnold, Harriet Bridgeman, Arabella Hartwell and David Butler.



[1] Tyssen Sowley Holroyd, Colonel Holroyd’s brother, was born in Colchester on 11 January, 1838 and first commissioned into Her Majesty’s Army at the age of 14 on 9 August, 1852. The petition was written on his behalf by his father James John Holroyd, the Rector of Abberton. Tyssen’s purchase of the rank of Ensign in the 34th Regiment of Foot was granted for a sum of £450 by the Commander in Chief on 12 January, 1855. Less than six months later on 8 June, 1855 he was promoted to a lieutenancy in the same regiment. Later in 1855 Holroyd was with his regiment in the Crimea where he took part in the siege and taking of Sebastopol and the assault on the Redan on 8 September, 1855. During the Indian Mutiny (1857-58) Lieutenant Holroyd, while with the Gwalior contingent, was wounded during actions of 26,27 & 28 November at Cawnpore. He took part in the capture of Meangunge, the siege and fall of Lucknow, the relief of Azimgur and the defeat of rebels by Sir R. Kelly in Nepal. Tyssen Holroyd received the Crimean War Medal with clasp for Sebastopol, the Turkish Crimean Medal and the Indian Mutiny Medal with clasp for Lucknow. Other overseas service included Malta (March 1862 – October 1863), Gibraltar (October 1863 – June 1866), Canada (July 1866 – October 1867) and India again (April 1868 – November 1869). He purchased his captaincy in the 34th Foot on 29 January 1861 and exchanged into the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Foot in March of 1862. He seems to have retired or resigned from active service sometime after November 1873. He reappears in March 1875 as a Captain and Honorary Major in the 3rd Volunteer Battalion (Essex Militia) Essex Regiment. Promoted Major & Hon. Lt. Col. on 26 April, 1890 and finally Lieutenant Colonel on 12 August, 1893. He disappears from the Army List after October 1898. Tyssen Sowley Holroyd may have married Mary Ann Jane Corbett in 1872.

[2] For example, as described in The York and Lancaster Regiment, Vol 1, p 112, when pickets from the 65th went into the bush at night, they would identify themselves to the Maori and ask them if there would be fighting that night. If the reply was something like ‘Not tonight – too wet and cold; we’d better get some sleep. Good night, Hickety Pip.’ both sides would honour the agreement. If there was going to be an attack, they would be given warning, then be expected to fight like any other regiment. On other occasions, during a lull in fighting, there would be a temporary truce and the Maori and men would exchange food and tobacco and the Maori would point out where they had carefully buried and neatly fenced off, the bodies of 65th men. On another occasion, when the 65th led an assault on a pa, a Maori shouted out for the Regiment to lie down, because they wanted to fire at the following regiments. The request was ignored.

[3] Extracted from ‘Some Personal & Family Memories Recorded in My 78th Year’ by Eddie Chetwynd-Stapylton, which was kindly forwarded to me by Harriet Bridgeman in September 2018.

[4] The Struggle For Freedom In West Waterford, Domnall O’Faoláin (Published Online: 12 September 2003)

[5] Courtfield & the Vaughans, p. 50-51.

[6] Captain Jack Wall hunted the WWs for the greater part of the period between the wars. Ion Villiers Stuart, the master from 1923, built new kennels at Dromana. Ion Villiers Stuart retired in 1937 when Miss Anne Hickman, only 20 years of age, came to live at Fortwilliam and hunted from there for 3 seasons and then on her own account for a year. Miss. Hickman was joined by Miss Anne Gregory, a niece of the famous Lady Gregory, although both volunteered on the outbreak of war. Ion Villiers-Stuart filled the breach until 1940 when RJ Mulcahy from Ardfinnan became master. The WWF’s first lady master was Miss Dorothy Musgrave of Tourin (1927 – 31). She rode side-saddle and, on her great mare Home Chat, had 34 Point-to-Point wins to her credit.

[7] Hunting in County Kilkenny, Caroline Corballis, Castlefield 1999.

[8] Brigadier General Baird’s Wool Winder won nine races. He was only beaten once as a three-year-old. Unfortunately the ‘once’ was the Derby, where jockey Otto Madden gave him a bad ride. However, he took the St Leger with ease. Wool Winder was later a successful sire in Austria. Other prominent horses include Roi Herode, Prince Olaf, Wombwell (won Hardwick), Marcovil, Javelin, and mares Academie, Brington Coronea, Csacska, Frau Godl, Frugal, Petiote, Pianola, Sagace, Sans Tache.

[9] Leonard Jayne, Pony Racing, Including the Story of Northolt Park. See also The National Newspaper Library at Colindale, N London, has copies of ‘The Pony’, a magazine about Pony Racing published in the mid-1930s. In the back of the book, he lists the PTC winners and these include:

1933 Champion 2 Year Old Plate (6 furlongs) Mountain Flight 9st (10-1)
Owner & Trainer: W H-S.
Jockey: J L Nolan.
14 ran, time 1m18.6

1933 Northolt Summer Cup (1 mile)
Princess Torby 8st 1lb (3-1 co-fav)
Owner: Mr John Waddell. [chairman of the racecourse company].
Trainer W H-S.
Jockey: Percy Serby. [champion PTC jockey in 1934 (63 wins), with JL Nolan runner-up. Serby later trained ponies.]
15 ran, time 1m44.6

1934 The Alexander Handicap (6 furlongs)
Norah Austin 9st 2lb (10-1)
Owner: Captain Rowland Holroyd-Smith.
Trainer: W H-S.
Jockey: A Every.
17 ran, time 1m18.4

1935 The Alexander Handicap (6 furlongs)
Whitchurch Maid 7st 10lb (100-8)
Owner: Major A C Abrahams.
Trainer: W H-S.
Jockey: A Harris.
19 ran, time 1m18.9

1936 Champion 2 Year Old Plate (6 furlongs)
Mountain Flight 9st (10-1),
Owner: Major A C Abrahams.
Trainer: W H-S.
Jockey: F MacFarlane.
13 ran, time 1m19.4

[10] This house was later owned by the Hon. Erskine Guinness. From: ‘Fosbury’, A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 16: Kinwardstone Hundred (1999), pp. 222-26. Date accessed: 13 November 2006.

[11] See: United States Army in the Korean War – Ebb and Flow (November 1950 – July 1951), Billy c. Mossman, Centre of Military History, United States Army, Washington, .c., 1990.

[12] The role of Queen’s Messenger dates back to 1485 when Richard III appointed John Norman to hand-deliver some secret documents for his monarch. During his exile, Charles II appointed four trusted men to convey messages to Royalist forces in England. As a sign of their authority, the King broke four silver greyhounds from a bowl familiar to royal courtiers, and gave one to each man. The symbol of the Service therefore became a silver greyhound. On formal occasions, the Queen’s Messengers wear this badge from a ribbon, and on less formal occasions many messengers wear ties with a discreet greyhound pattern while working. The current number of Messengers is not readily available; a Parliamentary question in 1995 put the number then at 27. Modern communications have diminished the role of the Queen’s Messengers, but as original documents still need to be conveyed between countries by ‘safe-hand’, their function remains valuable. (Wikipedia).

[13] Burke’s Peerage, Butler Bart.

[14] John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies.

[15] Fox-hunting in Ireland, by A.P Pollok, taken from ‘Fox-Hunting – Volume VYY’ (The Lonsdale Library) by Sir Charles Frederick.

[16] The Major’s elder brother Captain Samuel Watt (1876 – 1950) was a keen polo player and represented Ireland on the International Polo Team for four years. Samuel Watt’ son Major Terence Watts married Alice, younger daughter of Lord Charles Cavendish-Bentinck, DSO, and was killed flying on active service on 17 July 1942.

[17] General Meade Dennis went on to serve as principal artillery commander in Montgomery’s successful campaign against Rommel’s army in North Africa.

[18] Pridi, an intellectual left-leaning Thai who led Thai resistance to the Japanese during the war, fled to China and died in Paris at the age of 83. In 1986, his ashes were spread into the Gulf of Thailand in a state ceremony.

[19] Bowe, Irish Arts Review, Spring 2003.

[20] The United Services College (USC) had originally been an off-shoot of Haileybury when USC was set up in Westward Ho! in the 1870s. Rudyard Kipling was a pupil there. At the time, the ISC comprised several ‘houses’ close by to the school buildings in Windsor. The school buildings were adjacent but the school itself was not on ‘campus’. The residential houses were nearby, Lawrence House being literally across the road from the classrooms. Haileybury School was near Stevenage and had little to do with Windsor until they amalgamated in World War Two and ISC left Windsor. Given the beginnings of USC in some ways the schools had gone full circle. In the 1920s Haileybury Junior School was established in Windsor a short distance from ISC itself. The manor house used remains to this day.

[21] In 2002, 39 Edwardes Square was home to Elizabeth Janson, Countess of Sutherland.

[22] Mary Vaughan, Courtfield and the Vaughans: an English Catholic inheritance (London: Quiller Press, 1989); John George Snead Cox, The life of Cardinal Vaughan (London: Herbert & Daniel, 1910)

[23] ] I.T.A. Topographical and General Survey, Natural Features, Antiquities, Historic Associations, Etc. of the Barony of Coshmore and Coshbride, 1943.