Tyndall of Leighlin Carlow's genius
by Norman McMillan and Martin Nevin, Carlow Regional Technical College
article is based principally on the researches of the first of the authors into
all the biographical material on Tyndall in the Royal Institution of G.B. and
the local researches of the second author. A considerable number of people have
been interviewed and Tyndall's extensive correspondence have been reviewed. Any
extracts in Tyndall's extensive writings relating to Ireland have also been
study forms an essential part of the research presently being undertaken by the
authors and others on the Tyndall Commemorative Exhibition Committee. This
article, aims to assess those important aspects of Tyndall's life in Leighlin
and his relationship with his family home, which have not been covered in his
biography. (Ref 1).
name Tyndall, has Northumbrian origins, and certainly John was convinced that
his own family derived from that region, as later in his life he got much
pleasure from staying with Sir William Armstrong (Ref 2) in the Tyne Valley,
where he was regaled with stories of his family origin. Genealogy was a
preoccupation of John's and he believed that he was a descendant of William
Tindale the martyr who was burnt to death in 1536. He wrote, "It is a historic
fact that some members of the Stenchcome branch went to Ireland in 1672 and
planted themselves permanently there. To this may be added the tradition amongst
us all — and here the wish of the Irish to establish an ancestry must be taken
into account — that we are descended from the martyr." (Ref 2).
Certainly William (I) was a family name, as we find from John Tyndall
who wrote: "Family tradition and sufficient documentary evidence connect the
Irish Tyndall's with the Tyndall's of Gloucestershire and with the stock to
which belonged William Tyndale the martyr. Some members of the family (amongst
whom special mention is made of a William Tyndall) crossed over from
Gloucestershire in the course of the 17th century. Along the eastern coast of
Ireland in Wexford, Waterford, Carlow and Dublin — are scattered a few
descendents of these men.
Tyndall's grandfather, also named William, possessed a small landed property in
Wexford, whence he removed to Co. Carlow, taking up his above in the little
town, or rather village, of Leighlin Bridge, where he added to his means by
acting as an agent to William Steuart. (II). William Tyndall and his
eldest son, John, were both men of warm temper and unbending will. A difference
of opinion on some point now not known was so aggravated by these peculiarities
of temper and character, that the father on his death bed revoked his former
will, and left his property to two sons of a second marriage.
eldest son, John, had very young married the daughter of a farmer from the
neighbouring village of Ballybrommell.
Prospect Hall, Protestant Road, Coolcullen, House of
Tyndall's grandfather William
since supported himself by making shoes and selling leather. His prospects being
anything but bright, he joined the Irish Constabulary when it was first
established, and was attached to the service for many years: some of which were
spent by him and his young family in the so-called barracks at Nurney, where he
was superintendent of the small local force, consisting of some 10 or 12 men. He
afterwards returned to Leighlinbridge and there resumed and carried on to his
death in 1847, his old trade of shoemaker. His wife's name was Sarah Macassey.
She is said to have been a woman of refinement and culture somewhat beyond her
station, characterised by her gentleness, her quiet courage, the strength of her
affections and her fondness for poetry, which she transmitted to her children.
Five children were born of the marriage, three of which died in infancy; the
remaining two were John, the future man of science, and a sister, Emma, some
years his senior." (Ref 3). Sarah's background has emerged from correspondence
between Tyndall and his mother. He wrote enquiring:
think you told me that the name of your grandmother's father was Malone, and he
cut her off with a shilling for marrying out of connexion. Your great
grandfather Malone, was I think you told me, a man of property and that he
divided his properties amongst his sons. I think you told me that Janeville
belonged to him: is this the Janeville near Ballybrornmell? Excuse me bothering
you with these questions. They may be of interest at some future day. Did not my
grandfather Tyndall own some property at Coolcullen, (III), and did
he not take his property from my father: and did not Lord Frankfort, afterwards
obtain the property by lawsuit?" (Emphasis added).
which his mother gave a full reply, which explains the confusion:
grandmother's family were people of wealth and property; their name was Malone.
But my grandmother marrying out of meeting she was denied by them. Her father
left three townlands one each to her brothers: Ballybrommell (IV) to
William, Ballintrain (V) to Thomas, and Killkay (VI) to
Pim — I believe that is Nehemiah — and to my grandmother one shilling. This
however never altered the affection of her husband for her, and they had
abundance while they lived. They had one son, and that was my father, and she
reared him as she was herself reared as a Quaker, and I went along with him to a
meeting where Mrs. Leckie, first saw me." (Ref 4) Tyndall's father was a staunch
Orangeman as we discover from Mrs. Tyndall.
"Though his lot was caste in the lower levels of life, Tyndall's father was a
man of superior intelligence, remarkable for his firmness and independence of
character, his logical facilities, his great love of reading, especially in
historical and controversial subjects, his purity of life, and his rare
integrity, In spite of the quickness of temper alluded to, he gained the respect
and confidence of all who knew him, among Catholics and Protestants alike. He
was an ardent politician and an Orangeman, and a member of the Brunswick Club.
He had in his possession a fragment of a flag which had fluttered at the Battle
of the Boyne. By unreserved intercourse, he inspired his children with the
sentiments he himself entertained." (Ref 4).
Certainly Tyndall's uncle William was also a fierce protestant. He was a mason
who was a member of the Tullow lodge. whose son's Caleb sash the Car low
Regional College has in its possession. We have been told by Mrs. E. Breen of
Bagenalstown that when Caleb married a Catholic girl from this town a certain
Miss' Elizabeth Robinson (VII) and was married by a priest, the
father shut him out of the family and even refused him entry to his dying
mother. Caleb later crept up the lane while the funeral of his mother was taking
place and took a photograph of this ceremony.
what has been said, it is clear that Tyndall was very much in the poor
protestant Irish tradition. His family were hard working settlers, with a strong
religious and political views who were committed to education as a means of
advancement of their position, and whose family genealogy was therefore a matter
of real pride.
I — The
present William Tyndall, who lives at Coolcullen, carries the name from his
father, grandfather and great grandfather who was John Tyndall's (father of the
Professor) brother. There is however some doubt over what exactly was the
relationship between William and the professor as both appeared to be about the
Steuart Lodge, Leighlinbridge now the home of Mr. J. Lennon is a house somewhat
reduced in size from the Steuart's time.
Prospect Hall. Protestant Road, Prospect, Coolcullen, Carlow was a property of
110 acres which apparently Lord Frankfort was able to obtain because of failure
to make a yearly payment to a certain Mr. Roberts of 2s. 6d. an acre. This Lord
was an absentee landlord who acted through agents in Ireland. (Letter from Mrs.
L. C. Tyndall to Canon Wilcocks, of Bagenalstown on 23 January, 1903). Mr.
Robert Stedmond, Coolcullen, confirmed that the ruin which is adjacent to the
land of Mr. Butler of Prospect House, Prospect, Coolcullen was called Prospect
Hall. The present property is 68 acres but this is part of an original holding
which was divided between the Butlers and Agars. This house was a fine three
storey house with sloping roof and barn which was lived in by the Butler's until
30 years ago when the new house was built. The slates of the old house were used
for the new house.
Ballybrommell House is now occupied by Mr. Tom Bradley and family and is a
property formed by the amalgamation of two properties. From the present owner we
discovered that a Church of Ireland family the Garretts lived here in the
eighteenth century. It is probable that the Malone children were born in the
middle of that century and that William Malone (Jnr.) was left the property in
the 1770's or 1780'a. In those days it would have been a property of well over
100 acres. It is a fine granite house with several outhouses. Eve (Ref 1) and
Mrs. M. Doyle in her "St. Lasarian's Leighlin" state that Tyndall's mother was
from Ballinabranna. It would appear that this is incorrect.
Ballintrain House is at present empty. This house is a granite house with a new
roof which according to locals has just been sold by Seamus Quirke. It stands on
some 100 acres.
Kilkea House (note spelling different from Professor Tyndall's mother used) is a
property of 200 acres but the old house is no longer occupied although it still
has a roof. The last occupiers, some thirty years ago of this fine granite house
were the Roche's. In Pim Malone's time there was no barn built on to the house.
The present occupiers are Mr. and Mrs. George Salter and family.
Elizabeth Robinson. Died in 1938 aged 71. Grandmother of Mr. John Byrne, retired
Principal of Kilkenny Vocational School who lives in Michael Street, Kilkenny.
It should be noted that the sisters Miss Olive Robinson and Mrs. Dorothy
Paterson of Groomport Rd., Bangor are not related to Caleb's wife. They once
lived in Montgomery Street, Carlow and their father was manager of Leveston Pry.
They moved to Tullow Street when he became manager of the Atlantic Tea Packing
Co. (No. 142). These ladies have rendered great assistance to the Tyndall
research, financial and other. Photograph at top of article was donated by the
two sisters. We believe that this is an original and is probably the only one of
- The Life and Work of John Tyndall - Eve & Creasey. MacMillan & Co.,
- Letter of J. Tyndall to Mrs. Tyndall, Gorey, September 8, 1863. Part of
Mrs. Tyndall's Collected Biographic Papers at the Royal Institution. Code a
— Same papers, a15.
— Letter J. Tyndall] to Heinrich Debus, January 6, 1893.
Source: Carloviana Vol. 2. No. 27 1978/79. p.22-27