The Supples were an old Anglo-Norman family, descended from Philippe de Capella (or de Capel), one of the original mercenaries to participate in the Cambro-Norman invasion of Ireland. Philippe came to Ireland with Robert FitzStephen in 1167 and took part in the successful Norman conquest of Cork. Sometime before 1182, FitzStephen, as lord of the surrounding manor of Inchiquin, rewarded Philippe with the grant of an estate along the Little Dissour River at Killeagh. The principal evidence supporting this grant actually comes from the diary of Earl of Cork, written when he himself had become Lord of Inchiquin. On 8 April 1636, he notes: ‘Mr. William Supple [of Aghadoe] showed me the deed of his lands made by Robert FitzStephen unto his ancestor Philip de Capella’. Although this deed has not survived, legal records from the early 14th century also hold that the Capel or Supple family held their land under a feoffment of Robert FitzStephen to Philip de Capella.
After the failed Desmond Rebellion of the 1580s, the Supple family suffered serious financial loss when Edmund Supple, a Catholic, was obliged to mortgage 1150 of his 5200 acre estate to raise money to replace stock seized by the marauding armies of both English and Irish. Most of these mortgages went to the Dean of Cloyne, a FitzGerald, who duly forged all necessary documents to verify that these same lands had been sold to him and not mortgaged.
Edmund died in about 1604, leaving a minor heir, William Supple. His life story represents an intriguing case study for the colonisation of Ireland for this Catholic child was adopted by the Boyle family, and subsequently raised to become a classic 17th century Protestant gentleman. [i]
At this time, English policy dictated that minor heirs of Catholic landowners be raised as Protestants. Thus, wardship of the heir of Aghadoe devolved upon Richard Boyle, lord of the manor of Inchiquin and 1st Earl of Cork. He duly took young William into his care at Lismore, County Waterford. In 1613, Boyle sent the boy to England to live with his brother John Boyle, a clergyman, and finish his education. By 1616 William was attending Cambridge University. The Boyles seem to have been genuinely fond of William who, educated as a Protestant, adapted to their world with ease. He returned to Ireland in 1620, a useful propaganda tool for the government, a native convert to Protestantism. He may have subsequently been employed as some sort of agent or middleman for the Boyle estates in Munster. In early 1622, for instance, he escorted Boyle’s 15-year-old daughter, Sara Boyle, on a journey from County Louth to Lismore.
In 1622, William married to the Earl of Cork’s niece, Kate Smyth of Ballynatray, County Waterford. His subsequent admission as a freeman to the town of Youghal, may be taken as further proof of Richard Boyle consolidating his patronage over the young Killeagh landlord. Supple did not escape the scorn of his peers. A few months after his marriage, his face was disfigured when attacked by an Englishman with a cudgel. The Earl continued to act as Supple’s patron for many years.
On 11 January 1634, he wrote: ‘My necc Katherye Smyth’s son was Xtened at Ballynetra by my daughter, Countess of Barrymore, Sir Richard Smyth and my self, and named Boyle Burt: God bless him’. On 31 December 1634, he noted:‘I sent my poor cozen Crips 20s to Ballynetra, by my Cozen Kate Supple’. And as late as Christmas 1637, the Earl noted in his diary a gift of six lace handkerchiefs ‘by my niece Kate Supple’.
It must have been during William and Kate’s time that a new mansion was built at Aghadoe. Although the house has not survived, it is shown in detail on a map of 1700 and appears to have consisted of a straightforward central block with two gabled wings. William and Kate probably lived in quarters affixed to a 15th century tower-house while the new house was built. The tower-house has also since vanished but a splendid ivy-clad sheela na gig that once graced its walls survives. A stone representation of a female exposing her genitalia, it appears to have had a talismanic function against evil in pagan times.
In 1630 William Supple was appointed a famine commissioner for Co. Cork. The following year, he obtained a royal license to hold a Tuesday market and two fairs each year at Killeagh on June 1st and November 1st. By 1642, he had secured a more influential position when he became sheriff for Co. Cork. Aghadoe’s relative proximity to Youghal may have protected the castle from desecration when the Confederate Wars broke out. William was certainly resident at Aghadoe in May 1643. During the ensuing wars, he fought for the Boyles against the Irish Catholic army. By 1649 he held the rank of major in the Parliamentarian Army and was commander of the English garrison in Youghal. He died in the early 1650s and was succeeded by his son, another William Supple. William and Kate Supple also had an unnamed daughter who, as the first wife of the Catholic landowner, Sir William Fitzgerald of Glenane, bore Fitzgerald’s eldest son around 1657.
The younger William Supple continued to forge a close alliance with the Boyle family, serving as Sheriff of Cork City in 1681. He was a direct ancestor of the De Capel Brookes, Bart, of Oakley. The Supple (or Capel) family continued to hold the Aghadoe estate until the 20th century.
With thanks to Noel Hayes and the Genealogy Roadshow.
[i] Copyright © 2005 Shane Supple Singer Songwriter Youghal Cork Ireland. All rights reserved