"The great territory
of Laois his of slender swords
Belongs to O'Mordha with bulwark of battle,
Of the golden shield of one colour."
In 1600 all the country of
Leix, except the town of Maryborough, was in the hands of Owny MacRory
O'More, the chief of the name. "The new planted inhabitants,"
according to the "Description of Ireland," 1598, "Have
been so molested continuallie with the multitudes of the first natives
thereof, and the O'Moores, and especially at this present, as that they
have in a manner recovered the countrie againe and expelled all the Inglysh
inhabitants saving 3 or 4 which contayne themselves within their castles
till they be relieved from Ingl.
These O'Moores was almost extinct, but they have increased againe chieflie
for lack of good government. The chief Towne is Marieborrow ruled by a
Portrie, and wherein is a Fort guarded with 150 Footmen or Sometymes 200,
as need requireth, and some few Horsemen."
The same intrepid Owny, son of Rory Oge and grandson of Rory Ceach O'More,
who "had been for some time," say the Four Masters, in recording
his death, "an illustrious, renowned and celebrated gentleman, was
slain by the Queen's people in an overwhelming and fierce battle which
was fought between them on the borders of Leix in the month of August
in this year.
"His death was a great
check to the valour, prowess and heroism of the Irish of Leinster and
of all Ireland. He was, by fight, the sole heir to his territory, and
had wrested the government of his patrimony by the prowess of his hand
and the resoluteness of his heart from the hands of foreigners and adventurers..,
so that there was not a village from one extremity of his patrimony to
the other which he had not in his possession except Port-Leix alone."
Owny O'More's untimely end weakened the resistence and shattered the hopes
of those remnants of the septs
of Leix that had survived Patrick Crosbie's "Settlement," and
the historic territory became again the prey of the "foreigners and
adventurers," whose power the "slender swords" of Leix
had almost finally crushed in the spring of the year 1600.
That part of the demesne lands of the O'Moores known as the Ballyfin estate
had been granted to Patrick Cosbie by Queen Elizabeth as a reward for
his services in the settlement referred to. Crosbie built a castle on
the lands, wherein he resided for a time but the place did not long remain
in the possession of the Crosbie Bart., having espoused the cause of Charles
1., was attained by the Cromwellians, which attainder was not removed
on the Restoration, and the King became entitle to the estate in 1663.
Ballyfin was then granted to Periam Pole, whose father, Periam, second
son of Sir William Pole, of Shute, in Devonshire, arrived in Ireland with
two brothers in 1660
WILLIAM POLE BUILDS BALLYFIN
Perim Pole's son and successor,
William, pulled down the castle erected by the Crosbies, and built a more
modern house on its site. This William Pole, married Anne, daughter of
Henry Colley, of Castle, Co. Kildare, by whom he had two sons, and four
daughters. He died in October, 1704, and was succeeded at Ballyfin by
his son, Periam, who rebuilt the mansion, which had been destroyed by
fire in his father's lifetime, and which comprises the north wing of the
Periam Pole died, unmarried, on the 24th April, 1748, and was succeeded
by his brother, William, who added extensively to the house in 1778, building
the eastern front: consisting of a hail, dining-room, drawing-room, library,
and other departments, besides several bedrooms. He also much improved
the appearance and beauty of the grounds by planting wood, sinking a lake
before the house, all contributing to justify the praise bestowed upon
it by a writer in the "Anthologia Hibernica,"
"From its pleasant situation," he says, "Agreeable walks,
and recesses in the wood which skirts the lake, ample
gardens, extensive demesne and deer-park, commodious offices and elegant
apartments. Ballyfin might justly be considered the most elegant country
seat in Leix."
PURCHASED BY SIR CHARLES HENRY
Williama Pole married, 13th
August, 1748, Lady Sarah Moore, daughter of Edward, fifth Earl of Drogheda.
Her ladyship died in 1780, and Mr. Pole in December, 1781, "both
universally and justly lamented by all ranks of people:
being the parents of their tenants, the protectors of the poor, the steady
and affectionate friends of their domestics; and whose urgbanity and hospitality
endeared them to all those of whatever rank who had the honour and pleasure
of their acquaintance."
Mr. Pole died without issue, and, being the last representative of his
family in Ireland, left his estate by will to his third cousin, by his
mother, the Hon. William Wellesley, younger son of Garrett, first Earl
of Mornington, who assumed the name and arms of Pole; and married, 17th
May, 1784, Catherine Elizabeth, daughter of Admiral John forbes, In 11821
he was created Baron Maryborough, and on the death of his brother, Richard,
in. 1842, he became third Earl of Mornington.
The Hon. William Wellesley Pole was the last of the Pole connections to
occupy Ballyfin. From him or his representatives, the historic estate
passed by purchase to Sir Charles Henry Coote, ninth Bart., who, previous
to the year 1826, expanded upwards of £20,000 in the improvement
of the house and grounds, converting the former into the splendid baronial
structure represented by the accompanying illustration.
This change of ownership brought Ballyfin into intimate association with
a name prominently identified with events in Ireland in the seventeenth
century, and with a family that has been closely belended with the history
of Leix during the past three centuries or more.
DEALS FORTH WOE AND DESOLATION!
The first of the Cootes who
settled in Ireland was Charles Coote, who formed his military habits among
the ferocious soldiery of Queen Elizabeth's time; and served as Captain
of Foot at the siege of Kinsale. In 1620 he was constituted Vice-President
of the Province of Connaught, and on the 2nd April, 1621, was created
a Baronet of Ireland.
Sir Charles Coote appears on the turbulent stage of the war of 1641 as
an avenging spirit, "dealing forth woe and desolation"; and,
while his bravery and military genius cannot be denied, his character
was disfigured and rendered detestable by several acts of revolting cruelty.
On the outbreak of the great rebellion he was commissioned to raise 1,000
men "to resist and suppress the rebels", and he subsequently
distinguished himself by his relief of Birr in 1642, and his surprising
passage through the dense wood of Mountrath on that occasion, having continued
48 hours in the saddle, and returning to camp without the loss of a single
soldier. The fame of this military exploit was perpetuated in the title
of honour afterwards, in 1660, conferred upon his son - the Earldom of
Mountrath, which title became extinct on the death of the seventh Earl
Sir Charles Coote married, in 1617. Dorothea, daughter and co-heir of
Hugh Cuffe, of Cuffe's Wood, Co. Cork, by whom he had four sons, viz.
- Charles, his successor; Childley, of Killester, Co. Dublin; Richard,
ancestor of the Cootes of Bellamont Forest, Earls of Bellamont, and Thomas,
of Cootehill, Co. Cavan. The four sons were awarded for their active part
in the Restoration by large tracts of confiscated lands, and were besides
promoted "for very distinguished services."
"It is not generally known,"
says the editor of the "Publications of the Georgian Society,"
"how great and shameless were the confiscations of Irish land under
the act of Settlement in 166 1-2. Thus to Thomas Coote are granted forty-four
townslands, besides the mountain of Slewgowrie in the barony of Tullagh
Gowin, viz. - 9,411 acres at a rant of £78. 8s. 3d., 4,205 acres
in Clonchee barony, 3,500 acres in other baronies of Cavan, about 9,000
acres in the adjoining Monaghan, other lands in Meath and Queen's Co.;
in all about 20,000 acres at a Crown rent of £150, approximately."
Sir Charles Coote met his death (some writers say he was shot by one of
his own troopers), in a desperate sally from the town of Trim on the 7th
Mar., 1642; and Parliament, on the 16th of the same month, declared its
consideration of his services, of the same month, declared its intention,
in consideration of his services, of bestowing upon his children the estates
in Leix forfeited by Florence Fitzpatrick. The intention of Parliament
was not carried into effect but Cromwell, on the 27th July, 1654 ordered
that the deceased baronet's family should be put into possession of the
Fitzpatrick lands, until the intention of the Legislature should be fulfilled.
Sir Charles was succeeded by his elder son, Sir Charles Coote, second
Baronet, who followed in the footsteps of his sanquinary father in taking
an active and not less ruthless part in Irish affairs during the Commonwealth;
he acquired grants of land to an unexampled extent, most of which were
confirmed to him by the Act of Settlement. He was elevated to the Peerage
of Ireland, 6th September, 1660, as Earl of Mountrath, and was ancestor
of Sir Algernon Coote, sixth Earl of Mountrath.
This nobleman married, in 1721, Lady
Diana Newport, daughter of Richard,
Earl of Bradford, and, dying in August,
11744, was succeeded by his only son,
Sir Charles Henry Coote, seventh Earl of
Mountrath, and eighth Baronet.
The seventh Earl of Mountrath,
having no heir to his hereditary honours, obtained a new peerage by Letters
Patent, 20th July, 1800, creating him Baron Castlecoote, with remainder
to the Right Hon. Charles Henry Coote, eldest son of his kinsman, the
Very Rev. Charles Coote, of Kilferona - a creation which led to a great
legal argument before the Lords Committee for Privileges in 1856.
The Earl died on the 1st March, 1802, when the Earldom of Mountrath expired
while the ancient baronetcy and estates devolved upon Sir Charles Henry
Coote. of Ballyfin, a descendant of Colonel Childley Coote, of Killester
(second son of the first settler, Sir Charles Coote), and the Barony of
Castlecoote passed under the limitation above mentioned to the Right Hon.
Charles Henry Coote. second Baron Castlecoote, who died 22nd January,
1823, leaving an only son and successor; Eyre Coote, third Baron, Castlecoote,
who died without issue in 1827 when the Peerage became extinct.
The descent of the baronetcy upon Sir Charles Coote, of Ballyfin, may
be further explained. Colonel Chidley Coote, of Killester (second son
of the first Sir Charles), died on the 19th November, 1668, leaving issue.
His eldest son, Lieut. - Colonel Chidley
Coote, of Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, had, with other issue, an only son,
the Rev. Chidley Coote, of Ash Hill, in the same county, whose eldest
son, Robert Coote, of Ash Hill, married, in 1730, Anne, daughter and co-heir
of Bartholemew Purden, and died in December 1745.
His eldest son, Chidley, of Ash Hill, married, first, 26th October, 1752,
Elizabeth, daughter of Charles Coote, and sister of Charles, first earl
of Bellamount. He married, secondly, 31st August 1790, Elizabeth Anne,
daughter of the Rev. Ralph Carr, and died on the 6th June, 1799. His eldest
son, Sir Charles Henry Coote, of Ballyfin, succeeded his kinsman, the
last Earl of Mountrath, in the baronetcy (already mentioned) as ninth
Baronet, on the 2nd March, 1802.
Sir Charles Henry Coote, ninth
Baronet, married in 1814, Caroline, daughter of John Whaley, of Whaley
Abbey, Co. Wicklow, and had by her the following issue: Charles Henry,
John Chidley, who died without issue in 1879; Algernon, Robert Chidley,
Caroline and Melosina Catherine.
Sir Charles Coote's name will be long remembered for the remarkably able
statistical surveys of the counties of Leix and Monaghan that came from
his pen in the first years of the nineteenth century, and to his indefatigable
labours in the field of Irish Topography, agriculture and general improvement
Ireland owes much.
It is peculiarly appropriate that in the course of his "Survey of
the Queen's County" the fine description he presents of Ballyfin,
which was written (about 1801) before he purchased that estate, should
find a place in this article. It is well worth quoting:
"Ballyfin," he says "is situate on the side of the mountain,
between Cappard and the Gap of Glandine, from which latter place it is
about five miles distant. This magnificent demesne contains above 1,200
acres, all walled in; there are two capital capital approaches from Mountrath.
"That from Maryborough is, perhaps, laid out with as much elegance
taste and happy design as can be seen; 'tis certainly in the greatest
style possible. The approach from Mountmellick is also very fine, but
not so modern; the former being but lately finished, after Mr. Pole's
own design. The full-grown timber and the view of an extensive lake, have
a fine effect.
"This lake, which is above
30 acres in area and appears to cover a much greater extent, is surrounded
with the grandest screen of evergreens and forest trees; the plantations
overtop each other, as the inequality of the ground favours the scene.
GARDENS IN THE ANTIQUE STYLE
"Beyond the western side
of the lake is a great bog, which the screen completely shuts out; for
the rising fround on which this plantation stands is very high above the
bog, and the clear horizon, as seen through this opening between the trees,
appears to be another vast lake, the effects of which a vista would here
"The deer-park is perhaps the most extensive in the Kingdom, and
the deer as wild as nature; there cannot be higher flavoured venison than
fed on this park, as there is every advantage of soil, heath, furze, fern,
nice vegetarian, shade and shelter.
"A mountain vivulet runs through a glen within the walls which sometimes
swells to a rapid stream; its banks appear to have been planted thickly,
as some full grown timber yet remain, and through the park is a considerable
quantity of ash and aspin. Very capital. drives are made through the inclosures.
"The gardens are in the antique style, and extensive; but from the
elegant taste Mr and Mrs Pole have already displayed in the late improvement
we may expect in a little time to see Ballyfin unrivalled in improvement
as it is in natural position.
"The house is composed of three sides of a square, and another extensive
range goes off to the southward; this is hid by a plantation, and in this
range are the kitchens and servant's apartments. The rooms on the ground
floor are very handsome and elegantly planned."
Sir Charles then proceeds to describe the luxuriantly beautiful nature
of the setting in the midst of which Ballyfin House makes such an arresting
picture. In the course of this he says: "the view from the windows
of Ballyfin House is of the grandest scenery that can be conceived in
an inland county; comprising extensive and highly-ornamental plantations,
the lawn, the lake, the lofty mountains of Slieve Bloom, and the Dysart
hills, with almost the whole range of the county, and certainly is superior
to anything else within its bounds."
He mentions "the neat chapel within the demesne, built and endowed
by the late Mr. Pole, and £100 a year salary is settled on the officiating
parson. A school was also established by the same gentleman, and the chapel
clerk is the master, for which he is paid £10 annually; children
are educated gratis and well taken care of."
The estate of Ballyfin lies
within the bounds of the parish of Clonenagh, in the barony of Maryborough,
a place of very remote antiquity. Here a monastery was founded by St.
Fintan, who became its first abbot, and here died, in the year 548, St.
Columba, his successor. The monastery ranked amongst the distinguished
seats of learning in Ireland in early Christian times. It was called the
Gallican school, from the great number of foreigners who came to study
there, particularly from Gall.
Amongst the "Lost Books of Erin" is the Leabhar-Cluanaeidhniech,
or Book of Clonenagh. This work, the compilation of the monks of Clonenagh,
was Dr. Comerford mentions in his "History of the Diocese of Kildare
and Leighlin," extant when Keating wrote his History of Ireland early
in the seventeenth century. Keating refers to it as amongst the books
"that are to be seen at this day," and he quotes many passages
from it in the course of his work.
It is of particular interest to observe that this precious historical
treasure was said to be preserved, at one time, in the splendid Coote
Library in Ballyfin House, and that, therefore, it may till exist.
PREMIER BARONET OF IRELAND
Sir Charles Coote, ninth Baronet,
died on the 9th October, 1864, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir
Charles Henry Coote, tenth Baronet, who died unmarried, 15th November,
1895. He was succeeded by his brother, the Rev. Sir Algernon Coote, eleventh
Baronet, of Ballyfin House.
Sir Algernon was twice married, first, on the 12th February, 1847, to
Cecilia Matilda, daughter of John P. Plumptre, M.P., and by her (who died
in 1878) had the following issue:- Algernon, Charles, Plumptre Charles
Methuen (Rev.), John Pemberton Piumptre, Orlando Robert, Cecil Henry,
Herbert Chidley (Rev.), and Catherine Cecilia. He married, secondly, 25th
September, 1879, Constance, daughter of T.H. Headlam of Wavertree, by
whom he had a son, Ernest Headlam, and a daughter, Cecilia Constance.
The eleventh baronet died on the 20th November, 1899, and was succeeded
his eldest son, Sir Algernon Charles Plumptre Coote, twelfth Baronet,
Premier Baronet of Ireland, who married, first, 28th August, 1873, Jean,
daughter of Captain John Trotter, of Dryham Park, Herts, by whom he had
the following issue:- Ralph Algernon, John Methuen, Bernard Trotter and
Ethel Jean. Lady Coote died on the 15th April, 1880, and Sir Algernon
married, secondly, 21st April, 11882, Ellen Melasina, daughter of Philip
Charles Chenevix Trench, and by her had three sons and two daughters -
viz.: Charles, Chenevix, Arthur Philip, Maxwell Henry, Ella Cecilia and
Sir Algernon's second son, John Methuen, O.B.E., late District commissioner,
East African Protectorate, married, 24th September, 1912, Leonora Wray,
daughter of the late John Townsend Trench, and has issue: Joanna Frances
and Diana Jean. His third son, Bernard Trotter, O.B.E. Commander, R.N.
(retired), Director of the Civics Institute of Ireland, married, 3rd April,
1907, Grace Harriet, daughter of the late V. Rev. John Joseph Robinson,
D.D. Warden of St. John's College, Winnipeg, and has the following issue:
Denis Ivor, Flight Lieut., R.A.F.,; Patrick Bernard, Squadron Leader,
R.A.F, and Ann Patricia.
The first-named, Denis Ivor, married, 22nd April, 1933, Olive Sheelagh,
daughter of Hugh C. Bischoff, of Woodhayes, Woodlands, Southampton; Patrick
Bernard, married, 1st June, 1933, Muriel, daughter of Major General A.M.S.
Elsmie, C.B., C.M.G., and has issue: Anne Patricia.
Sir Algernon Charles Plumptre Coote died on the 22nd October, 1920, and
was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Ralph Algernon Coote, thirteenth
and present Baronet, Captain, late 17th Lancers, who married, 12th April,
1904, Alice Matilda Mary, daughter of Thomas W. Webber, D.L. of Kellyville,
Leix, and has issue two sons - viz.: (1) John Ralph, Lieut. Commander,
R.N., who married, 14th December, 1927, Noreen Una, only daughter of Wilfred
Tighe, Rossanagh, Co. Wicklow, and has issue: Christopher John and Terence
Eyre; and (2) Thomas Charles, who married, 14th June, 1932, Zuilmah Paton,
daughter of W.P. Sheriff..
ACOUIRED BY PATRICIAN ORDER
Sir Ralph Algernon Coote was
the last representative of his line to occupy Ballyfin House. Some years
ago the estate was purchased by the Irish Land Commission, while the noble
mansion and portion of the demesne were acquired by the Patrician Order,
a distinguished Irish teaching brotherhood who have long been associated
with successful educational work in this historic district. In their hands
some structural additions have been made to the house. Its architectural
beauty has, however, been carefully preserved, and nothing has been lost
in the change of ownership to deteriorate from the graceful lines of the
building that Sir Charles Coote, ninth baronet, expended a fortune in
The Coote Arms are:
Argent, a chevron sable, between three coots close, proper.
Crest: A coot, close, proper.
Mottoes: Vincit veritas; Coute que coute.