Turtle Bunbury

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Finnstown House, Lucan, County Dublin

This history was commissioned by the Finnstown Country House Hotel in 2003. It takes a chronological look at the events which had taken place on the site since the 15th century. Finnstown stands near Lucan and the modern town of Adamstown.

"Fyne's Town"

A legal record from 1547 refers to a property spelled "Fyne's Town" located just outside Lucan, County Dublin. 17th century maps spell the name "Fyan's Town". This implies that it was once a town belonging to a family called Fyne or Fyan. Some suggest the surname derives from the Latin word "paganus" for "countryman" or "peasant". A more likely derivation is that given by family historian Julian Foynes who maintains the Fyan's descended from a member of the 'Fayant' family who lived at the seaport of La Rochelle in France. "Fayant" (pronounced "Fyan"--or rather, "Fy-ann") was the Medieval French word for "beech tree". Between the 12th and 15th century, La Rochelle was the largest French harbour on the Atlantic coast, dealing mainly in wine and salt. The Fayants were probably closely involved as merchants in this trade. Following Strongbow's Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the late 12th century, there was extensive trade between La Rochelle and the Irish ports of Dublin and Drogheda. To support his theory, Foynes also points to the matter of pronunciation from the 15th to 17th century where Fyan is variously spelt Fyane, Fiant, Fyann or Fiane. In each case, the stress is on the second syllable, as with the French word "Fayant". (1)

The Fyans were citizens of high importance in Dublin in the 15th and 16th centuries. They lived along the Dublin Quays at Fishamble Street in a square tower known for many centuries as "Fyan's Castle" but later renamed Proudfoot's Castle. (2) One of the earliest references to the family concerns "William Fyane", who died along with Sir Thomas Butler of Dunboyne and other Meath men in a fight with Westmeath native Irish clansmen in 1329. John Fyan (sometimes Fian or Fyane) a merchant with connections to Dunboyne, Co. Meath, was Mayor of Dublin in 1472 and 1479, a time that coincided with the War of the Roses in England. Under the Tudors, Thomas Fyan was one of Henry VIII's city sheriffs in 1540 while John Fyan's great-grandson, Richard Fyan (Fiand) was Mayor in both 1549 and 1564. Richard's career can be traced in considerable detail and he is acclaimed by local chroniclers for his keen sense of hospitality. He died in 1584. His only daughter Anne was married to Robert Barnewall, 5th Lord Trimleston in 1558, shortly after the accession of Queen Elizabeth. Richard's only. In a document dated 1618, Anne's brother is referred to as "William Fyan, of Dublin city, merchant, aged 40 years" and seems to have died without issue.

It would seem that like many successful Dublin merchant families, the Fyans gradually rose to the rank of landed gentry and by the close of the seventeenth century, they appear to have acquired various estates north of the capital city. (3) Amongst these was the townland now know as Finnstown situated close to the River Liffey in the Parish of Esker. (4) The three principle demesnes - or stately homes - within the parish of Esker were Hermitage, Woodville and Finnstown. Hermitage is now a golf club and Woodville has been demolished. Only Finnstown House, located just west of the Lucan - Newcastle road, remains open to the public.(5) There were in addition two ruined castles in the parish - one at Ballyowen and the other at Finnstown. Again, only the Finnstown castle remains, albeit incorporated into the present day Finnstown House.

The Parish of Esker

Esker (ie: Eiscir, or the sandy ridge) is so called on account of its lands embracing a glacial ridge of sand and gravel running westwards across Ireland to Esker, County Galway. According to the Irish myths of the 2nd century, Conn of the Hundred Battles and Owen Mor agreed the Eiscir Riada (or Esker Ridge) should be the dividing line between their two kingdoms. In Celtic times, Esker formed one of the four royal manors in County Dublin, the others being Saggart, Newcastle Lyons and Crumlin.(6) At the beginning of the 13th century Esker's principal buildings were a manor house and a small medieval church dedicated to Saint Finian and dating back to perhaps 1100AD.(7)

In the late 12th century, John, Lord of Ireland (who became King of England) granted Esker's church to the Church of Saint Patrick (later St. Patrick's Cathedral). (8) The Royal Manor of Esker was subsequently leased to middlemen, amongst them William FitzGuido, the first Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral.(9) Others of influence in the Esker parish at this point include Sir Thomas Luttrell, granted Luttrellstown Castle by King John in the early 13th century, and Wirris Peche, descended from an old English family, granted the lands of Lucan by Alard Fitzwilliam in 1204. The Peche family built a salmon weir across the Liffey at Leixlip but, by 1327, their Lucan estate was in the possession of Robert of Nottigham, the Mayor of Dublin and ancestor of Lamerick Nottingham of Finnstown. To envision the landscape at this time, one might consider contemporary names such as King's Meadow, King's Mill, St. Finian's Garden and the Ash Park.(10)

Prior to the Henrician Reformation in the mid-16th century, land rents for Esker seem to have been shared between the powerful Fitzgerald family and various religious establishments.(11) In 1536, by an Act of the Irish Parliament, the English crown seized all monastic and church lands in Ireland. These lands were subsequently leased to key figures in the Irish system forming a contractual bond with the Royal House of Tudor that could not easily be broken. By 1540, all monasteries had been closed down and the church lands re-granted to those deemed worthy of royal patronage by the English administration in Dublin Castle. The lands of Esker were leased to private individuals such as Geoffrey Tweddell, a yeoman and soldier who lived at Ballydowd in the 1540s, and Alderman Patrick Browne, a merchant who resided at Kishoge and later built the castle at Irishtown in Dublin City.

Over the next sixty years, the Tudor armies of Henry VII's children - Queen Mary, Edward V and Queen Elizabeth - secured vast tracts of Ireland for the Crown. Native Irish resistance peaked with the rising of Red Hugh O'Donnell and Hugh O'Neill in what became the Nine Years War (1594 - 1603). Ultimately the decisive English victory over the Irish forces at the battle of Kinsale in 1603 paved the way for the whole-scale colonization of Ireland under the new monarch, James I (and VI of Scotland). The flight of the Earls in 1607 was the final nail in old Ireland's coffin, with thousands of Irish Catholics fleeing to Europe and resettling in France, Spain and Italy. Their lands were seized and parcelled out to those who had fought for England or invested in the Crown's War Treasury. During James I's reign, these new Protestant planters consolidated their hold of the Irish Parliament and began to gradually dispossess and disenfranchise the Roman Catholics.

Land ownership continued to be the principal bone of contention throughout the 17th century. In 1641 the Irish Catholics rose and the Confederate Wars commenced, pitting a fragile alliance of Irish and Anglo-Norman Catholic against the forces of English Protestant Republicanism.(12) Head-quartered in Kilkenny, the Confederate forces produced many admirable victories, including the conquest of north Kildare, but were ultimately unable to sustain the pressure. Following Cromwell's brutal suppressions of the garrisons at Drogheda and Wexford, a treaty was signed at Cahir Castle in County Tipperary. The collapse of the Confederacy enabled Cromwell to proceed with the confiscation of all property belonging to Catholics accused of complicity in the "rebellion". These lands were duly granted to soldiers who had fought in his victorious wars against the Royalist forces of King Charles I and the Catholics in Ireland.

The Brownes and the Nottinghams

In 1622, Joseph Browne, presumably a kinsman or descendent of Alderman Browne, is described as living at Finnstown, while Ballyowen Castle was in the possession of a gentleman named Christopher Taylor.(13) However, by the 1640s, both Ballyowen and Finnstown were held by a zealous Roman Catholic named Lamerick Nottingham.(14)

The Nottingham family came from England to Dublin in the early years of the Anglo-Norman conquest.(15) By the late 12th century they has established themselves as a family of importance. Robert Nottingham, a highly influential 'Merchant' , stood as Mayor of Dublin City for seven years between 1309 and 1322. In 1313, he was asked to contribute finances to King Edward II's war with Scotland (which culminated in the battle of Bannockburn).(16) In 1317, this same Robert Nottingham, as Mayor of Dublin, attempted to deflect the invading army of Edward the Bruce by setting light to the outer suburbs of the City. The ploy worked in that Bruce's army about turned for Leixlip but unfortunately the fire subsequently got out of control and burned a substantial part of Dublin's suburbs, including part of Christ Church Cathedral. (17) Curiously, Robert Nottingham was the one-time owner of Dublin's Lucan Castle (and the even larger Merrion Castle).

Lamerick Nottingham's first wife was a sister of William Sarsfield, the enterprising owner of Lucan Castle, and Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan and hero of the Siege of Limerick. (18)Thus the Nottingham fortunes must have at least partially rested with those of the House of Sarsfield.

Lamerick's second wife was a sister of a prosperous Dublin vintner, Robert Ussher of Crumlin. In his will he makes special provision for the latter lady on account of "her great charge of children". In all, he left fourteen children. His eldest son and immediate heir, William Nottingham, was living at Ballyowen in 1650. The Nottingham's lost their Irish lands during the Cromwellian conquest and Ballyowen was leased to a Captain Frances Peasley. However, at the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the estate of Ballyowen Castle was restored to Lamerick's second son, Captain Peter Nottingham, a former Confederate officer in the Duke of Ormonde's army. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Nottingham's forfeited Ballyowen to Colonel Thomas Bellew, later MP for Mullingar. (19)

The Kennedys of Finnstown

The Nottingham's neighbours during these years included the Forsters of Ballydowd Castle and the Kennedys (or O'Ceinneide) of Kishoge. (20) One of the more celebrated members of the Kennedy family was the Protestant Sir Robert Kennedy, MP for Kildare, Chief Remembrance of the Exchequer and founder of Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow. (21) He appears to have acquired the Kishoge property during the 1650s. (22) In 1650, Finnstown Castle was in the possession of Sir Robert Kennedy's Roman Catholic brother, Alderman Walter Kennedy. (23) The Kennedy brothers appear to have had little time for one another, perhaps owing to their different religions. Following Sir Robert's death in 1668, his lands at Kishoge (which included two houses with four hearths each) passed to his eldest surviving son, Sir Richard Kennedy, a successful barrister who was later appointed second baron of the Irish Exchequer. (24)

Alderman Walter Kennedy died in 1672 and was succeeded in his Finnstown estate by his eldest son, Christopher Kennedy. However, the Kennedy family's adherence to the doomed cause of the Jacobites proved to be their eventual undoing. The relative peace that existed during Charles II's reign came asunder with the accession of his brother, James II, a fervent Roman Catholic. Britain was once again plunged into civil war - the Glorious Revolution of 1688 - as Protestants mustered around the Dutch Prince William of Orange and Catholics rallied to the Jacobite cause of King James. Once again Ireland bore the brunt of the violence with the major battles - the Boyne (1689) and Aughrim (1691) - taking place on Irish soil. James was defeated and exiled to France. King William III and the Protestants now held absolute authority throughout the British Isles and, in order to prevent any further outbreak of revolt, initiated a legislative campaign - the Penal Codes - that would effectively render the Catholic population of Ireland second class citizens for over 130 years. Catholics were forbidden the right to bear a weapon or own a horse. They were not allowed to vote in elections or buy land. Roman Catholicism was outlawed and proposals to castrate all practicing priests were seriously considered in the Irish House of Parliament. The age of the Protestant Ascendancy had begun.

An estimated 450,000 Catholics fled Ireland in the years immediately following the collapse of the Jacobite cause in 1691. Among them was Christopher Kennedy's son, Colonel Thomas Kennedy, who served as Aide-de-Camp to Richard Talbot, the Catholic Duke of Tyrconnell during the Williamite Wars. After the Duke's sudden death in 1691, Colonel Kennedy fled to Spain where he commanded a regiment in the service of Philip V. He married Elizabeth, a daughter of Marinus Van Vryberge, the Dutch Ambassador to England in the reign of Queen Anne. (25) After the Colonel's death in 1718, his son, James Marinus Kennedy, returned to Ireland and settled at the ancient family estate in Clondalkin. Like his father, he was much involved with the Jacobite cause and married a niece of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. For reasons presently unknown, he was murdered at his home in Clondalkin in 1763. (26)

Finnstown in the 18th Century

The 18th century proved to be something of a golden age in Irish history. Ireland had been in a state of almost perpetual war since the 1580s. Now it was at peace. Dublin was transformed from a grimy, war-weary Tudor timberland into one of the most glittering cities in Western Europe. Ireland developed as a relatively prosperous economical unit primarily through the industries of textile manufacture and agriculture. As trade links between the colony and the ports of Europe gradually expanded, so too the population of Dublin and its surrounding landscape began to increase. New administrative and judicial buildings were built in the main towns, alongside banks, churches, markets, tholsels and gaols. There was an intellectual and cultural flowering throughout the land, encapsulated in the fiery words and witticisms of Dean Swift, Oliver Goldsmith and Edmund Burke.

Perhaps the most symbolic legacy of this new Golden Age was the so-called Big House, the sumptuous mansions and castles built for the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and landed gentry who effectively ran the country from the King William III's victory at the Boyne until independence in 1921. By 1750, the area around Finnstown, served by the River Liffey, had become particularly desirable to the Ascendancy. Captain Robert Butler (d. 1763), a brother of the 1st Earl of Lanesborough, was living at Hermitage with his wife, a daughter of Robert Howard, Bishop of Elphin (and ancestor of the Earls of Wicklow). (27) John Hawkins (d. 1758), the Ulster King of Arms, occupied the former Foster stronghold of Ballydowd Castle but, following his death in 1758, the castle was dismantled to make way for a splendid rambling house, Woodville, built for Theophilus Clements, brother of the 1st Earl of Leitrim. (28)

In 1758, the first rumours emerged about the medicinal qualities of the springs at Lucan. Two years later, the celebrated Dr. Rutty of the Royal Society published a detailed account of the spa, citing over fifty cases of various diseases which he had personally seen cured by taking its sulphuric waters. The "petrifying tendency" of water was deemed most effective in the cure of skin diseases such as eczema as well as rheumatism. The Vesey family of Lucan were quick to capitalize on the discovery of the so-called "Lucan Spa", making it available to the public and erecting an enclosing wall to protect the spa from any potential deluges from the nearby Liffey. A hotel was built to cater to the massive crowds of invalids anxious to bathe in the spa. By the 1780s, the Lucan Spa was rivalling those of Tunbridge Wells and Leamington in terms of visitors. Concerts and balls were held at the hotel while the Leonard family of Brookvale, near Finnstown, hosted annual circuses and carnivals. Every Sunday, thousands of well-to-do Dubliners ventured out from the city on horses, coach, foot and jaunting cars (and later trams) on the short 8 mile journey to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Liffey Valley. Even one hundred years ago, a contemporary declared Lucan to contain "the finest inland scenery in the metropolitan county". (29) Much of the surrounding land was given to the growing of fruit and vegetables that would be taken by barge on the Royal Canal to the Dublin markets. (30)

Lucan continued to blossom as one of Ireland's most fashionable summer resorts with the building, in 1772, of Lucan House. The Palladian villa was actually designed by its owner, Agmondisham Vesey, in consultation with the architects Sir William Chambers and James Wyatt. (31) Another important house from this era was St. Edmondsbury, built in the 1770s for Edmond Sexton Pery, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Most of the present day houses in Lucan's Main Street, including The Mall, were built between 1800 and 1830, replacing a number of thatched cottages that stood here previously. A new chapel, St. Mary's Church, was built in the late 1830s.

The Grahams of Finnstown

For a period, Finnstown was held by John Graham and then his son Francis. I have not had an opportunity to study this aspect but in 2014 I was contacted by Bob Graham who alerted me to many references at the Registry of Deeds which I now include in an appendix to this story.

John Rorke of Finnstown

The Registry of Deeds (Book 626 Page 400 #436147) includes a deed dated 1 May 1811 in which Francis GRAHAM of Drumgoon Co Tipperary, Esqr transfers to John RORKE of City of Dublin 'the whole of the Town and Lands of Finstown and part of the Lands of Esker', measuring 255A 2R 20P and valued at £3299.8.3 'to hold for the lives of Graves ARCHER, Edwd ARCHER & Clement ARCHER'. The deed is sworn on 7 May 1811. (Thanks to Bob Graham).

The Rorkes appear to have held onto the property for some time because in 1837 Finnstown House is listed as being the property of "J. Rorke Esq.". (32) This is presumably the same John Rourke of Finnstown listed as being among 318 Special Jurors appointed to represent County Dublin in 1843. (33) Little else is known of John Rourke except that he was a solicitor with offices on Dublin's Upper Temple Street. (34) He was married with at least three daughters. The marriage of his daughter into the legal family of Mangan brought him into contact with the enterprising Bourne family who made their fortunes developing Ireland's transport system in the early 19th century.

On 4th January 1845, John Rorke's third daughter Christina Mary Rorke, married a lawyer, Thomas Lombard Mangan. Mangan was the second son of Thomas and Harriet Mangan of Piercetown House, Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Piercetown was built in about 1766 for gentleman farmer John Mangan and his wife Agnes of Rickardstown, Co. Kildare. (35) The property was leased from the Earl of Mornington, father of the "Iron Duke" of Wellington. In 1781, John's son, Thomas Mangan, married Elizabeth Odlum, daughter of Henry Odlum of Old Connell and Kilmury in the Kings' County. In 1818, their only son and heir, another Thomas Mangan, married Harriet Lombard and had two sons - George Thomas D'Israel Mangan and Thomas Lombard Mangan - and a daughter, Isabella. (36) The younger Thomas died aged 40 on August 12th 1862 at his fathers' residence, Piercetown, co. Kildare. (37) The Mangans also had a town residence off the North Circular Road at No. 50 Summerhill.

Another of John Rorke's daughters may have been Anne Alicia Rorke, who, on 6th June 1862, married James Turpin Vanston at St. Peter's Dublin. James was born in 1840 in Maryborough (Portlaoise), Queens County (County Laoise), the eldest son of James Maurice Vanston (d. 1884) and his wife, Sarah Turpin (1812 - 1891). He migrated to the United States and died in Chicago on 24th June 1891 at the age of 51. Born in June 1835, Anne Alicia died aged 68 in Mesquite, Dallas County, Texas on 10 Oct 1903.

A third daughter may have been Charlotte Elizabeth Rorke who, in 1873, married Dalkey-born George Wilson Stanley (b. 1843). George was Company Secretary to Guinness before leaving Ireland in about 1916 to live in Croydon, England, where he died. His father, Edward Stanley, was a member of the Medical Board and the Meath Hospital in Dublin. However, this may be a long-shot as this John Rorke is said to have been an English teacher who wrote a book on astronomy and a poem of over 3500 lines, published in 1864.

Origins of the Nash Family

Why John Rorke was obliged to sell his home is unknown but the man who purchased the property in about 1860 was a Cork man of perhaps 33 years age named Thomas Nash.(38) His wife, Juliet, was a daughter of the great Richard Grainger, the visionary planner responsible for designing the city centre of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the 1830s and 1840s. Burke's Irish Landed Gentry (1912), which states that Thomas James Nash was in possession of Finnstown, suggests that he also held lands at Rockfield and Tullig in Co. Cork and at Seamount in Howth.

The Nash family originated in County Limerick where James Nash was living at Ballycullen in 1630. (39) James married Anne Harrold and had two sons - James, who succeeded to Ballycullen and was ancestor of the actor, J. Carroll Naish, and Patrick, from whom the Finnstown branch descend.(40) In 1690, Patrick married a daughter of Richard Purcell of Cork and settled near Kanturk. Their son John settled at Rockfield (or Ballyheen) in County Cork and married Mary Barry, daughter and co-heir of Jonas Barry of Cork. On 16th August 1733, Mary's sister and co-heir, Eliza, married Francis Yelverton and settled in the Blackwater Valley. (41)

John and Mary Nash's second son was Thomas Nash of Rockfield, Kanturk, County Cork. (42) On 21st January 1777, he married Barbara O'Callaghan, daughter of Denis O'Callaghan of Glynn, Co. Cork. Her mother Mary was a daughter of Robert O'Callaghan of Clonmeen, Co. Cork and widow of a wealthy Cork landowner, Henry Daunt of Kilcascan Castle. Thomas and Barbara had six sons. The eldest, John Nash, succeeded to Rockfield and remained an attorney until his death in August 1832. The youngest, James Nash, lived at Tullig House in County Cork's Mill Street and, on 29th July 1826, married Anne Cudmore, daughter of Christopher Cudmore.

image title

A True Magpie:
Richard Grainger, father-in-
law to Thomas Nash, is
regarded as the foremost
Victorian planner of

Thomas Nash of Finnstown

James and Anne Nash's eldest son was Thomas James Nash who, in Burke's, is described as being "of Rockfield (or Ballyheen), Tullig House, Seamount, Howth and Finnstown, co. Dublin". He was born on 8th June 1825, most probably in County Cork, where his parents were living. The death of his father, James Nash, on 23rd August 1849 left Thomas a wealthy landowner at the age of 24. Seven years later, on 8th July 1856 Thomas Nash married Juliet Isabella Grainger.

Juliet Nash's father, Richard Grainger (1797 - 1861), was an entrepreneurial master-planner from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and is celebrated for designing many of the city's finest 19th century neo-classical buildings. In 1831, determined to halt Newcastle's steady slide into industrial, disease riddled blackness, Grainger invested in a dilapidated 13-acre estate in central Newcastle and devised a spacious new centre for the city. He had his offices on Clayton Street and, for a short time, lived just outside the city in the former Hinde mansion of Elswick Hall, now a nursing home. By 1839, Grainger had built the Markets, the Monument, the Theatre Royal, Gret Street, Grainger Street and several cross streets. Unfortunately, by 1841, Grainger was bankrupt and it fell to other, less scrupulous individuals to cash in on his courage. He continued to work as a developer and planner until his sudden death at his Clayton Street office at the age of 64 on 4th July 1861. When he died in 1861 he owed £128,000 and had only £17,000 assets, although some property had been transferred to his eldest son, Thomas and it may be imagined that Juliet Nash received at least something in the will. Above his grave in Newcastle's St. John's church is this inscription: "A citizen of Newcastle needs no reminder of the genius of Richard Grainger - the principal street in the centre of the city is the most splendid and enduring monument to that genius". Richard Grainger's wife, Rachel, was a daughter of Joseph Arundel.

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An original Nash of Lucan bottle.
(Courtesy of Paul Doolin)

It is not known what condition Finnstown was in when the Nash's purchased the property. The estate is said to have been almost 3000 acres. It seems likely that Thomas commissioned an architect to redesign the front rooms of the house shortly after the purchase.

Richard Grainger Nash of Finnstown

Thomas and Juliet Nash had seven sons and two daughters. Upon Thomas's death in August 1887, the property and family business fell to his second son, Richard Grainger Nash. (43) Richard was born on 25th January 1860 and studied at Trinity College Dublin. It seems likely that Richard was the pioneering force behind the Lucan Dairies which were founded by the Nash family in the late 19th century. In 1902, the Reverend William Donegan described Lucan as "a thrifty village … independent of agricultural labour [with] more than £1,000 derived from industrial establishment [weekly]". He goes on to say: "There is a large and prosperous industry on the grounds of Mr. Nash, of Finnstown, for Lucan Mineral Waters. Mr. Nash is the proprietor also of the Lucan Dairies, branches of which are extensively working in the' city and suburbs of Dublin and in provincial towns". (44) The family's mineral water business peaked during the Edwardian Age with Nash's ginger beer, served in stone jars, proving particularly popular with the citizens of Dublin. Some of the original jars are on display in Finnstown today. The Lucan Dairies continued to prosper until the 1960s when purchased by the American company WR Grace (subsequently purchased by Unilever). Richard was also a keen inventor, and took out numerous patents during his life, including one for a bottle washing machine.


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Richard Grainger Nash was
an inventive soul. Among the
many patents he took out was
one for a bottle washing machine.
(Courtesy of Paul Doolin)

On 17th February 1909 the 49-year-old milk baron married his cousin, Caroline Browell Jeune. By a curious coincidence, Caroline''s great grandfather was Michael Nash, a younger brother of Thomas Nash of Rockfield who married Barbara O'Callaghan in 1777. Michael, who died in 1804, was a barrister in Dublin with offices on Merrion Square and Baggot Street. His youngest son, William Nash (1797 - 1871), lived at Lonesome Lodge outside Mallow and, in 1824, married Ellen O'Mahony, a granddaughter of Daniel O'Connell's favourite son, Captain John O'Connell of Derrynane. William and Ellen had five sons and a daughter, also called Ellen. (45) A true product of the Victorian age, Ellen Nash (born 1836) was raised in Bath by her grandmother and educated by a selection of governesses who taught her languages and music. In 1855 a 38-year-old Corkman named Paul Lawless returned from his self-imposed exile in Australia with a view to finding a wife. In due course, he met Ellen and the couple were married at St Saviour's Church, Bath, on 4th November 1858. The service was presided over by Paul's brother, the Rev. John Lawless-Pyne, and Ellen's brother, the Rev. William Nash. The newlywed Lawless's then embarked on a hunting-based honeymoon that took them from London to the highlands of Scotland and across the Irish Sea to County Cork. In 1861 Paul returned to Australia with his wife and settled in the outback at Boobyjan in the recently created British state of Queensland.

By 1864 Ellen had given her husband four children; the eldest daughter was the mother of Richard Grainger Nash's wife, Caroline. The following year, Paul's health began to deteriorate rapidly and so the Lawless family boarded the "Colonial Empire" at Sydney and set off back around the Cape of Good Hope to Ireland. In August 1865 Paul Lawless died at Youghal. An unusual monument above his grave in the cathedral in Cloyne depicts herself and her late husband separated by a large emu and a kangaroo. In 1922, Ellen died at the age of 86. Her eldest daughter Caroline married Colonel Evan Browell Jeune, JP, a Devonshire landowner who owned a sugar plantation at Branyan near Bundaberg in Caroline's native Queensland. The Jeune's had one daughter, Caroline, and it was she who married Richard Grainger Nash in 1909.


I have a loose family connection here in that my wife's grandfather Eric Craigie was intimate with Finnstown during his youth. Eric's father John 'Jack' Craigie was secretary to the Rev Nash who owned Lucan Dairies at Park Gate Street. He lived with the Nashes at Finnstown. From there Jack went on to set up his own dairy herd at a house called Beryl in Glasnevin. he converted the large garden to cattle byres where he housed the animals in the winter months and uduring the summer grazed them at Harristown,a farm in north Dublin that his parents purchased from the Congested District Board in 1896. Jack and his brother Robert started their own business in 1901 and were later joined by their brother George who had been fihhting in the Boer War. George proposed renaming the dairy after a village in South Africa where he was 'bottled up waiting for fresh troops from England'. The name of the village was Merville. By that stage, Jack was a regular follower of the Ward Union Staghounds, of which Eric was later Master.


image title

The celebrated hill-climber Dick Nash driving The Terror. One of Dick's
frequent companions was Arthur Conan-Doyle's son Adrian.

Richard Grainger Jeune Nash

Richard and Caroline Nash had one son, Richard Grainger Jeune Nash, born on 17th January 1910, and a daughter, Juliet, born on May 13th 1913. On 17th May 1914, just over a year after Juliet's birth, Richard Grainger Nash died aged 54. Thus, when the Great War broke out across Europe in August 1914, the heir apparent to Finnstown House was four-year-old Dick Nash. In October 1917, Dick's widowed mother married the Rev. Charles Follis, Rector of Carbery and Canon Of Kildare, by whom she had a daughter. The young Nash family were then dispatched across the Irish Sea to England where they grew up near Weybridge in Surrey. It would seem that Mrs. Follis arranged the sale of Finnstown House in about 1918. The Rev. Follis died in February 1925.

Young Dick was amongst the first pupils to enrol in the new public school set up at Stowe in Buckinghamshire by Clough Williams-Ellis in 1922. One of his exact contemporaries at Stowe was Hollywood's finest gentleman actor, David Niven. That both boys had lost their fathers when young may have given them a common bond although Dick does not feature in Niven's excellent auto-biography, "The Moon's a Balloon". During the 1920s, Dick embarked on a career as an automobile engineer, taking advatage of the great Brooklands race track which lay near his home, Hanger Hill, in Weybridge. On October 24th 1932, Richard G.J. Nash, driving his Frazer Nash, "The Terror", at 32.44mph, set the fastest time ever by a car up Brookland's Test Hill at 7.45 seconds. "It was estimated that Nash's car, which used twin rear tyres, breasted the hill at some 50mph, and certainly, it was air-bourne for about 30 ft after reaching the summit, a truly hair-raising experience in view of the many trees. Nash's time of 7.45 seconds has never been beaten." (46)

On 10th February 1938, Dick married Gladys Spencer, eldest daughter of George Spencer of Maydor, Park Avenue, Bromley, Kent. The couple had a son Richard, born on 31st December 1947 and, like his father, educated at Stowe. His last known address was given as The Beeches, 69 Hangar Hill, Weybridge, Surrey. Dick died on 18th December 1966 aged 56. His mother, Mrs. Follis, died four months later on 26th April 1967 aged 88.

Dick's younger sister, Juliet, was married on 6th November 1943 to Stafford Mannion, son of Thomas Mannion of Park cottage, Bebbington, Cheshire. Stafford died on 1st September 1951. Juliet Nash returned to visit Finnstown House in 1988 for which occasion the Hickeys kindly threw a small party.
1918 - 1987 at Finnstown.

The 1920's and 30's were troubled times in Ireland for both agriculture and big houses. Finnstown was owned by the Waldron family and was also, like many other big houses, rented out for a period. After the Second World War, Finnstown was purchased by the Crowley family who made their fortune through canning meat during World War Two. The Crowleys still farm the land today but sold Finnstown House and the immediate grounds and fields to Christopher Keogh and his family. During the 1960's, the Keoghs hosted several hunt balls for the Ward Union and many of Finnstown's visitors today have fond memories of these occasions. In 1986 the Keoghs sold to the present owners, Eoin and Nora Hickey, who on St. Patrick's Day 1987 opened up as Finnstown Country House Hotel. Eoin Hickey hails from the same family that produced two of the greatest artists of the late 18th century. Thomas Hickey, the artist, and John Hickey, the sculptor, were the sons of a Capel Street confectioner.

Appendix 1: Graham Records in REGISTRY OF DEEDS, DUBLIN

Book 358 Page 439 #241717

17/18 June 1784

Francis LOWNDES of Finstown, Co Dublin, Gent
to John GRAHAM of HollyGrove????, Co Ferm, Gent
and James JOHNSTON of Snow Hill, Co Ferm, Esq
Part of the Towns and Lands of Finstown & Esker

215A 2R 20P

To Hold during the lives of Thomas CHAMNEY, Willm CHAMNEY, John CHAMNEY sons of John CHAMNEY of the town of Drogheda Esqr

Witnessed Patrick CORBETT City of Dublin Attorney at Law
Robert ACHESON City of Dublin Attorney at Law
James JOHNSTON Surgeon (Son of the above)

Sworn 23 June 1784


Book 389 Page 139 #253909

10 July 1786

John GRAHAM of Finstown, Co Dublin, Gent
and James JOHNSTON of Snow Hill, Co Ferm, Esq
to Francis LOWNDES of Cravelstown, Co Meath, Gent

Part of the Towns and Lands of Finstown & Esker

215A 2R 20P

Witnessed Wm GRAHAM Gent Son of the said John GRAHAM
James JOHNSTON Son of the said James JOHNSTON
Robert ACHESON of City of Dublin, Attorney

Sworn 27 March 1787


Book 389 Page 140 #253910

9 Aug 1786

Francis LOWNDES of Cravelstown, Co Meath, Gent

to John GRAHAM of Finstown, Co Dublin, Gent

Part of the Towns and Lands of Finstown & Esker

215A 2R 20P

To Hold during the lives of Thomas CHAMNEY, Wm CHAMNEY, John CHAMNEY sons of John CHAMNEY of the town of Drogheda, Co Meath, Esqr

Witnessed Robert ACHESON of City of Dublin, Atty at Law

Nathl LOWNDES son of Francis

ffrancis MANNING of Drakestown, Co Louth, Gent

Sworn 27 March 1787


Book 387 Page 489 #263068

5 June 1788

Francis LOWNDES of Cravelstown, Co Meath, Gent

to Jno GRAHAM of Finstown Co Dublin, Gent

All that part of the Town and Lands of Finstown late in the possession of Thomas GALLAGHER

40A adjoining to the other part formerly granted to Jno GRAHAM

Leased to CHAMNEYS

Witnessed George BARNES City of Dublin Gent Atty


Sworn 7 June 1788


Book 473 Page 581 #340085

25/26 June 1799

John GRAHAM of Finstown Co Dublin, Esqr

to Charles Conway COSTLEY

All that the Towns and Lands of Finstown and part of the Lands of Esker

255A 2R 20P

Remainder illegible.

Sworn 28 June 1799


Book 512 Page 406 #334674

9 Mar 1798

John GRAHAM of Finstown Co Dublin, gent

to Frans GRAHAM of Finstown aforesaid, gent, third son of the said John GRAHAM

60A plantation meadow (bounded) on the east by the road leading from Esker to the Grand Canal, on the south by a part of the said lands of Esker called Mofsley Field and part of the lands of Finstown called ?, and on the north by the meadow called the North meadow and part of the lands of Cale Doram lands and partly by the road leading to Esker to Finstown.

Witnessed by

James GRAHAM of the city of Dublin apothecary

William GRAHAM of the city of Dublin attny at law


Sworn 4 Apr 1802


Book 542 Page 439 #358518

24 Feb 1802

John GRAHAM of Finstown Co Dublin

to Fras GRAHAM of Drumgoone Co Fermanagh


Whole of the Towns and Lands of Finstown

Part of the Lands of Esker

255A 2R 20P

To hold during the lives of Graves ARCHER, Edwd ARCHER & Clement ARCHER

Subject to grant to Chas Conway COSTLY for three lives renewable forever on CCC paying the rent

Sworn 27 Feb 1802


Book 626 Page 400 #436147

1 May 1811

Francis GRAHAM of Drumgoon Co Tipperary, Esqr
to John RORKE of City of Dublin

The whole of the Town and Lands of Finstown and part of the Lands of Esker

255A 2R 20P


To hold for the lives of Graves ARCHER, Edwd ARCHER & Clement ARCHER

Sworn 7 May 1811


1. Other variations on the name Fyan include Faghan, Paghan (Poyne, Pyne), Phaghan (Fyans, Foynes), Fyanthe and the well-known Dickensian name, Fagan.
2. The castle, used as a state prison in the 17th century, was described about 1590 as a "sqware towre, fowre storie hie, 38 foote sqware one waye, and 20 foote another waye, towe spickes or lowps in the loer storie, and windoes in every of the other rowmes, the wall fowre foote thicke and 42 foote hie, and the grounde firme, eight foote hie from the chanell within the castell". However, whilst still called Fyan's Castle in 1610 (Harris, Ch. 3), by 1678 it was known as Proudfoot's Castle in honour of George Proudfoot, merchant, a cousin to James Barry, first Earl of Santry, who inherited it from his father, Alderman Richard Barry, merchant, and Sheriff of Dublin.
3. In County Meath there are two townlands called Fyanstown, one in Kells, the other in Teltown.
4. Esker lies between the parish of Kilmactalway and the Liffey and is bounded to the west by the parishes of Aderrig and Lucan, and to the east by the parishes of Clondalkin and Palmerstown. There were a total of six townlands in the Parish of Esker in the 17th century, the others being Ballydowd (ie: O'Dowd's town), Ballyowen (ie: the town of Owen), Coldcut, Kishoge (ie: the little wicker causeway) and Rowlagh (ie: the red land). Five further townlands were subsequently created: Esker North and South, Glebe Hermitage, St. Edmondsbury and Wodville.
5. There is also reference to a large house near Finnstown, with seven hearths, occupied first by a Mrs. Drape and subsequently by the Countess of Fingal, but further information on this building is elusive.
6. "Rural Settlement in Medieval Ireland: The Royal Manors of Newcastle Lyons and Esker in South County Dublin", by Anngret Simms. (Villages, Fields & Frontiers: Studies in European Rural Settlement in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods, B.K. Roberts & R.E. Glasscock). This paper was presented at a meeting of the Permanent European Conference for the Study of the Rural Landscape, held at Durham and Cambridge, England, 10-17 September 1981, BAR International Ser., 185 (Oxford, 1983), 133-53.
7. It is possible Finnstown takes its name from its association with Saint Finian.
8. The church fell into disrepair in the late 16th century and was subsequently demolished.
9. The Crown also granted lands at Liscaillah near the Esker manor for the purpose of enclosing cattle. Amongst those connected with the parish at the close of the 13th century were William le White, Thomas de Coventry, Nicholas de Berkeley, Henry of Kishoge), Adam of Esker and Dermot of Ballydowd. Dermot, may have been descended from MacGillamocholmog (modern, Coleman), a son-in-law of Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, who supported the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland and was awarded lands at Newcastle Lyons, Esker and Greystones. It is believed his Esker lands were centred on the castle at Ballydowd.
10. By the 16th century, Lucan Castle was in the possession of the Fitzgerald family. In 1517, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, wife of Garret Og, the 9th Earl of Kildare, died in the castle. After the attainder of the 10th Earl the manor was leased to Matthew King, Clerk of the Check of the Army, on condition he lived there himself or placed in it liege men who would use the English tongue and dress, and hold no communication with the native Irish. In due course, King sold his interests to Sir William Sarsfield.
11. Such establishments included St. Mary's Abbey, the Priory of the Holy Trinity, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Hospital of St. John, the Guild of St. Anne in St. Audeon's Church, the College of Killeen and the Church of Esker.
12. The New Model Army dispatched to Ireland is estimated to have numbered 10,000 men.
13. Ballyowen Castle was built in the 1400s. The 1640 Hearth Tax shows it had 5 hearths (ie: chimney stacks), making it a substantial dwelling, yet by no means as large as those castles in Dublin with 12 hearths. The castle tower and about half of its shell still stands today.
14. The Protestant Archbishop Bulkeley accused Lamerick of showing much hospitality to the clergy of his church. (A History of the County Dublin: The people, parishes and antiquities from the earliest times to the close of the 19th century, Vol. 4.8, Francis Elrington Ball (1902-1920). At the time of his death in 1648, Lamerick also held the King's Mill in Esker and the lands and castle of Nangor on Clondalkin.
15. " Nottingham - The Virginian Connection", Cedric T. Nottingham (Eastrea April 2003).
16. Patent Rolls. Ed.II.
17. Dublin, Peter Somerville-Large (Hamish Hamilton, 1979).
18. William Sarsfield's ancestors came to Ireland soon after the Anglo-Norman Conquest. His great-grandfather, Sir William Sarsfield, was knighted in 1566 when, as Mayor of Dublin, he commanded a troop in the relief of Lord Deputy Sidney's wife, then under siege in Drogheda by Ulster tribesmen. He subsequently acquired Lucan Castle and rose to prominence in the political elite before his death in 1616 aged 96. The family were stripped of their estates during the Cromwellian years. In the 1660s, Lamerick Nottingham's brother-in-law William Sarsfield began to make a name for himself amid royal circles in London. His wife, Mary, was rumoured to be a "natural daughter" of Charles II by his mistress, Lucy Walter. This would have made her a full sister of the rebellious Duke of Monmouth. However it seems Mary was in fact a daughter of Lucy Walter by subsequent "illicit relations" with Lord Taafe, later Earl of Carlingford. William died prematurely and the Lucan property passed to his younger brother, Patrick, the famous Jacobite general created Earl of Lucan by James II. After the surrender of Limerick in 1691, Patrick joined James II in France where he was promoted to the rank of Marshal. In 1693 he fell mortally wounded at the battle of Landen, exclaiming "Would to God this had been for Ireland".
19. Colonel Bellew lived at Ballyowen until his death in 1733. His younger daughter married Henry White, ancestor of the Earls of Westmeath. Without a Bellew male heir, Ballyowen subsequently passed into the possession of the Rochfort family. By 1900, all that remained of the castle was a tower with a modern farm at its base. Today, the castle is the site of a shopping centre central to the Ballyowen, Rochfort Downs and Earlsfort housing estates. Remains of the old castle doorways, windows and stonework have been incorporated into the shopping centre.
20. The Forsters were an old Dublin mercantile family who specialised in weaving, knitting and malting.
21. Formerly known as Ballygarney, Newtownmountkennedy was considered one of Ireland's most advanced and extensive agricultural estates by the outbreak of the 1641 Rebellion.
22. In 1650 Kishoge was occupied by Gerrard Archbold and some eighty other inhabitants.
23. Alderman Kennedy had his town residence on Dublin's High Street.
24. Sir Richard had a residence in Ballydowd but his principal residence was Newtownmountkennedy House, originally built in 1670 but rebuilt after it was destroyed by fore during the Williamite Wars. Sir Richard's male line became extinct following the death of his grandson in a duel in 1710,
25. Or more properly, "Plenipotentiary from the States of Holland to the Court of England".
26. J. T. Gilbert, A History of the City of Dublin, Vol. 1, Chapter VI (1854).
27. Hermitage was built earlier in the 18th century by Major General Robert Naper, MP for Athboy, a son of Colonel James Naper. Later occupants of the house include Sir Lucius O'Brien, a prominent advocate of free trade, and the barrister James Fitzgerald, sometime Prime Serjeant of Ireland. In 1905, its owner, Mr. J. Crozier, founded a golf club; the wooden clubhouse was used to house wounded soldiers during the First World War. Hermitage House is now used to house the administrative side of the club, and the locker rooms, bar, and catering facilities are in a more modern clubhouse, built in 1970.
28. Lieutenant Colonel Theophilus Clements later succeeded his father as Deputy Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. In 1783, he entertained the Duke of Buckingham, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, at Woodville. He died in 1795. The house was abandoned after Irish independence and stood empty for more than 40 years until occupied by the painters, Eva and Letitia Hamilton. After their death, the house was demolished.
29. A History of the County Dublin : The people, parishes and antiquities from the earliest times to the close of the 19th century, Francis Elrington Ball, Vol. 4, 4:3 (1902 - 1920).
30. Other Lucan families were employed at Sisson's Linen Mill near the present day Bleach Green.
31. Vesey, ancestor of the Viscounts de Vesci, inherited the Lucan estates from his grandmother Charlotte Sarsfield. She was a daughter of Lamerick Nottingham's brother-in-law, William Sarsfield. She married Agmondisham Vesey, son of the Archbishop of Tuam. In 1921 the Vesys sold Lucan House to the Cromer family. It was subsequently occupied by Charles O'Connor-Don and Flight Lieutenant LWB Teeling before its purchase by the Italian Government in 1954. A celebrated venue for living it up during Horse Show week in times gone by, it is now home to the Italian Ambassador of Ireland.
32. Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837). Other Rorkes are listed as living in Clondalkin at this time.
33. Freeman's Journal - 2 November 1843.
34. Amongst the evidence pointing to this conclusion is the following article from The Connaught Journal, published on Thursday, May 28, 1840:
COUNTY AND COUNTY OF THE TOWN OF GALWAY TO BE SOLD THE FEE SIMPLE ESTATE OF KILLAMORAN, Containing 81 Irish Acres Plantation Measure, situate in the Barony of Kiltarton, and County of Galway. Also the interest in the Lease of certain Premises at Newtownsmith, called the STORE at the Bowling-green, in the Parish of St. Nicholas and county of the Town of Galway, held under the Governors of Erasmus Smith's Schools, for an unexpired term of 28 years from the 1st of May next. Proposals in writing will be received by William Kelly, Esq. Barna Lodge and by John Rorke, Esq., Solicitor, No. 20, Upper Temple-street, Dublin; from either of whom statements as to titles, &c., may be had.
In other instances he is described as John Rourke and his address given as 23 Upper Temple Street. Clearly Temple Street was his office but whether his country residence was Finnstown is not yet known.
35. Agnes was a daughter of Elias Corbally of Rathingen, Co. Meath.
36. On 7th June 1845 George Mangan married Mary Theodocia Mecredy (Leinster Express 1831 - 1852). On June 3rd 1856, Isabella, married Richard Edward Bourne, Barrister-at-law, of Ashbourne, Co. Meath. The wedding took place at St. Thomas's Church, Dublin. (Cork Examiner, 6th June 1856). Richard's father, Frederick Bourne, was a successful entrepreneur who made his fortune building roads and supplying public transport in the early 19th century. In 1820 he built a small town with an inn, a hotel and other small businesses by which he hoped to make money from travellers. He named the town after himself and his favourite tree; hence "Ash-bourne". The arrival of the railway saw the Bourne family fortunes dwindle although Richard and Isabella established their residence in what is now the Ashborune House Hotel. His son and heir sold up and returned to England in 1899.
37. Cork Examiner, 18 August 1862
38. It was also in 1860 that Joseph Shackleton of Ballytore, Co. Kildare, bought a corn mill at Anna Liffey in Lucan. Joseph was a cousin of the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Along with two other mills bought ten years previously, he began what was to become a flourishing industry, keeping many Lucan families employed until its eventual closure in 1998. The famous Lily of the Valley Flour was produced at Anna Liffey, as well as semolina, ground rice and wheatmeal The Shackletons owned several houses in the Lucan area including Cannonbrook, once home to the architect James Gandon.
39. The name of this family is spelt in old documents variously as Naash, de Naash, de Naish, Naish and Nash.
40. James was confirmed in his lands at Ballycullen by a grant dated 14 Charles II (1674).
41. Francis and Eliza Yelverton's son Barry Yelverton (1736 - 1805) was one of the most popular leading lawyers in the late 18th century, standing as Attorney General (1782), Chief Baron of the Exchequer (1783) and Viscount Avonmore (1800).
42. John and Mary Nash's eldest son and heir, John Nash, was an attorney and married three times. His first wife, Elizabeth, was daughter and co-heir of William Nugent of Clonlost, County Westmeath, a descendent of the Earl of Westmeath. The marriage produced three daughters of whom the second, Catherine, married Robert Courtenay, JP, of Ballyedmond, Co. Cork, and was grandmother to Richard Hugh Smith Barry, ancestor of the Smith-Barry family and sometime Admiral of the Royal Yacht Club. John Nash's second wife, Mary Carbery Egan, gave him a fourth daughter, Amelia, who married Captain Richard Griffin of the Clare Militia and so became the ancestress of the Nash-Griffin family. In 1794 John married thirdly, Lady Mary Esmonde, fourth daughter of Sir James Esmonde, 7th Bart. However, when he died in 1802, John Nash died without male heir.
43. The eldest son, Thomas, died aged 22 in April 1880.
44. Lucania: Topographical, Biographical, Historical," Ch. II, Rev. William S. Donegan, C.C., 1902.
45. The second son, Florence, served in the army and later became an engineer. Another, the Rev. William Nash, was Rector of Somerby, Lincolnshire, married a daughter of John Gregory, Governor of the Bahamas, and was father to Major General Sir Philip Nash, KCMG. The youngest son, Robert, was lost at sea in 1860 while serving as a Midshipman with the Royal Navy.
46. History of Brooklands Motor Course 1906-1940, W. Boddy (Grenville, 1957).