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Smyth of Headborough

The Smyths of Headborough House near Lismore, County Waterford, descend from Sir Percy Smyth of Ballynatray. William Smyth, who owned the property circa 1700, was an older brother of Richard Smyth of Ballynatray.

William Smyth of Headborough

It is not known when the Smyth family acquired the property but William built a house on a hillside, overlooking the spot where the River Bride flows into the Blackwater. He married his cousin Anne, daughter of Richard Smyth of Bridgefield in Co. Cork. [i]

Their eldest son, Major Boyle Smyth (1692 – 1730) was returned as MP for Youghal in Queen Anne’s short second parliament of 1713. A Tory, his name was on the black list drawn up in the build up to the Hanoverian Succession. Headborough ultimately passed to Major Boyle’s brother, Captain Percy Smyth. Captain Smyth married Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph Jervois of Brade, Co. Cork. A son, William, and three daughters followed. Esther, the middle daughter, married James Bernard, MP, of Castle Bernard and was mother to Francis, 1st Earl of Bandon. Anne, the youngest daughter, married the imaginatively named Hibernicus Scott of Lisnaleen, Flaxford, Co. Cork.

Percy Scott-Smyth

Captain Percy Smyth was succeeded at Headborough by his only son, William. He married Elizabeth Fowke, daughter and co-heir of Digby Fowke. The marriage had no surviving children. William’s eldest nephew Francis was already in line to inherit Castle Bernard and become Earl of Bandon. Thus the property passed to William’s next nephew, Percy Scott-Smyth, eldest son of Anne and Hibernicus Scott. Percy’s sister Anne married the Rev. Edward Spread, Rector of Youghal, while his only brother, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Scott, served in the 18th Foot but died unmarried in the West Indies.

Percy married Sarah Kingston, daughter of Samuel Kingston of Bandon, Co. Cork. Her mother was a daughter of Robert Gookin, sixth in descent from Sir St Vincent Gookin, co-author with Sir William Perry of The Great Case of Transplantation, a little known pamphlet from 1655 which criticised the transplantations in Ireland.

Percy and Sarah had two sons, William and Percy, and four daughters of whom only Esther, the youngest, survived long enough to marry. Indeed, short lives seem to have been the fate of this generation for when Percy died in 1826, his son and heir William did not long survive him.

Reconstruction of Headborough

As such the lands of Headborough passed to Percy’s second son, also Percy. He dropped the Scott from his surname and joined the Church of Ireland. On 4th September 1827 he married Catherine, daughter of John Odell of Carriglea, Co. Waterford. Her mother, also Catherine, was a daughter of Dr. Matthew Young, Bishop of Clonfert. Shortly after the marriage, Percy extended the original 17th century country house at Headborough to its present proportions. As well as renovating Headborough, he also built a summer residence, later the Monatrea House Hotel. The Rev. Smyth died in 1846 leaving an only child, Percy.

Percy Smyth (1839–1910) of Headborough

This next Percy Smyth of Headborough and Monatrea was a boy of six when his father died. Fortunately his mother, a Bishop’s daughter, survived until May 1882, by which time he was married with five children. He obtained a BA, sat as a JP and was High Sheriff of Waterford in 1872. In the summer of 1865 he married Mary, eldest daughter of Robert Perceval Maxwell of Finnebrogue and Groomsport House in County Down.[6] Mary’s mother Helena Anne was the only daughter of William Moore of Moore Hill, Tallow, Co. Waterford. Percy and Mary were to have rather a poignant end for they died within three days of each other in March 1910. On returning from Mary’s funeral across the mountains between Youghal and Knockanore, he disembarked from his carriage to lighten the load for his horses. The exertions of the climb, combined with the emotions of the day, gave him a heart attack. Thus he died on the way home from his wife’s funeral.

The Perceval Maxwell Connection

Percy and Mary left five surviving children, namely Percy Robert Edward (1870), Cecil Ernest (1871), Robert Riversdale (1875), Ethel Maud and Louisa Mary Kathleen. This was to be the last generation of the Smyths of Headborough.

When Percy’s third and youngest son ‘Rivers’ Smyth died in 1946, he left Headborough to his cousin Patrick Perceval Maxwell. The Perceval-Maxwell family had already come into Moore Hill outside Tallow on the death of William Moore in 1856. Fifteen years earlier, William’s sister and sole heiress, Helena, married Robert Perceval (1813–1905) of Finnebrogue and Groomsport, Co. Down. Helena and William were the children of William Moore, son of another William Moore and nephew of the 1st Earl of Mount Cashell. On 25th July 1839, two months before he married Helena, Robert assumed by Royal licence the additional surname and arms of Maxwell.

Robert’s father, the Rev. William Perceval, lived at Kilmore Hill in Waterford while his grandfather, Robert Perceval, was Professor of Chemistry at Trinity College Dublin and served as Physician General to the British forces in Ireland during Lord Talbot’s Viceroyalty (1818 – 1821). An Oxford graduate, the younger Robert served as a Major with the Royal North Down R.M. Together they owned some 5000 acres of Waterford, Cork and Tipperary, as well as 40 acres of urban property in the city of London known as Moore Park, Fulham. In 1869, Robert succeeded to his uncle’s estates in County Down. ‘Thus, at mid-life, he was the proprietor of 6,644 statute acres in the south of Ireland and 8,469 statute acres in the north, bringing his total Irish acreage to 15,113 and his rental income to £13,881’. (PRONI). Helena died on 22nd January 1888 and Robert on 10th June 1905. Their eldest son John William succeeded to Finnebrougue and also seems to have had an address at Tyrella. The second son, William, succeeded to Moore Hill and nearby Saperton but died at the age of 40 in 1917 while serving as a Captain with the 9th Battalion of the KRRC. His brother Henry Spencer Perceval Maxwell (1861–1937) duly succeeded. Henry was agent for the Marquess of Lansdowne’s Kerry estates from 1898 to 1923. Mary, the eldest of his seven sisters, married Percy Smyth of Headborough. Henry’s grandson, Johnny Perceval Maxwell, is owner of Moore Hill today.

River Smyth’s widow Lyna Smyth continued to live at Headborough until 1952.

In 1929, Patrick married Magdalen (‘Madge’) King-Hall, journalist and author of ‘How Small A Part Of Time’ and ‘The Life And Death Of The Wicked Lady Skelton’. This was subsequently made into a film, ‘The Wicked Lady’, starring Margaret Lockwood and James Mason. Born in 1904, she was the younger daughter of Admiral Sir George King-Hall. After the marriage, Patrick went to work for the Sudan Cotton Plantation Syndicate. In 1932 the couple returned to England and for a few years lived in London before moving to Co. Down, where they raised three children and Patrick ran a farm. ‘How Small A Part Of Time’, published in 1946, is based on the 18th century lives of Anne and Eliza Coughlan of Ardo House, near Ardmore. Her tragic novel ‘Tea At Crumbo Castle’, published in 1949, was set at Strancally Castle. [ii] Patrick and Magdalen moved to Headborough after the death of Lyna Smyth in 1952. Patrick died in 1968 aged 67. Magdalen died in 1971 aged 66. They are buried in a fountain churchyard nearby.


[i] The arms of the Smyth of Headborough feature a bend of silver between two azure unicorns’ heads and three gold lozenges. Their crest is formed out of a ducal coronet or, a demi bull salient sable, armed and golden. Their motto is ‘Cum Plena Magia’. Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland also lists branches of the Smyth family as resident of Ballyrane House, Killinick (County Wexford); Barbavilla (County Westmeath); Glananea, Collinstown (County Westmeath); and Termonfeckin (County Westmeath).

[ii] Magdalen King-Hall – Biography, edited by J.T. Quain, from material supplied by Richard Perceval Maxwell.