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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Letters To / From USA

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Continued from previous page

Pat Purcell Papers.

Part 6-

Not We From Kings But Kings From Us.

Letter, Genealogical enquiry, Dated, May, 1931.

From: J. Hallam [ ? ],

Threadneedle Street, City of London, England.

To: Pat Purcell,

Town Hall, Carlow, Ireland.

(Continued extracts edited by Michael Purcell from 52 page letter.

Part six of a FAMILY CHRONICLE compiled in 1862 by Henrietta Maria Hickey.

Not many County Families in Carlow and other counties have sustainable pedigrees, they like to think they have but close examination of their pedigree chart may reveal a questionable "bastard" relationship to a well connected family on the British mainland.

Many the commoner with money purchased property in Ireland in poor times for land prices or was granted land for some service or other.

Their first inclination after settling in Ireland is to claim a blood tie with a titled or aristocratic family bearing a similar surname, all the better to lord it over their "gentry" neighbours.

The British resident of noble position is often surprised when contacted by their recently hatched Irish "cousin" by the introduction of a dubious bastard son, daughter or sibling of their own ancestor in order for the relationship to be acknowledged.

One such story concerning the Carlow Rochfort family has often been repeated and is worth recalling to memory.

It is said that the first of the Rochforts to settle in Carlow were stone cleavers, they lived in a straw roof cabin near a quarry in Clogrennan.

A son of this family was taken under the wing of Lady Beth a member of the Cheevers family of noble stock. She had the boy educated and practised in the manners of a gentleman to such a measure that the boy went to Oxford to complete his education.

One day while on a visit to London he was introduced to a lady of social standing and presented her with a purple silk kerchief. She was impressed by the young man and a romantic attachment developed between them. However her father doubted the young man's social affability and sought to make inquiry as to his background by sending his trusted manservant to accompany the young man to Ireland and report back what he saw.

Travelling to Ireland on the boat the young man confided in the servant telling him that  his Irish family were poor people of low standing and if the servant would return to his master with a good report he would in time make the servant rich enough to have his own servants.

The servant agreed but said he would not lie to his master.

They arrived by boat on the river Barrow to the young man's cabin in Clogrennan and the first sight the servant saw were two goats butting heads and the father sitting on a 3 legged stool peeling potatoes with his finger nails (for the Irish peasantry grew long nails to use for peeling potatoes). The servant turned away exclaiming he had seen enough.

He returned to London by the next boat. When he arrived he found that his master had taken seriously ill and was close to death.

He hurried to his bedside and told him that upon arrival at the young man's home in Ireland he was welcomed by not one but two butts (slang for butler) and saw the family cutlery the like of which he had never seen before in mansion or palace and there were two large boats for use by the family on the river that ran alongside the house situated in the countryside.

The father gave his blessing on the marriage, the young man secured the family wealth and purchased several thousand acres of land at Clogrenne from the Duke of Ormonde. He built a mansion with 52 rooms with 365 panes of glass, one for each day of the year and they lived contentedly among their Irish "aristocratic" neighbours.

I will not put the servant's name to paper for he too settled in Carlow with his new wealth and impressed all with his acquired gentlemanly ways whilst proclaiming his family connection to the highest ranks of British nobility with his pedigree charts on parchment with a mark for his fancied bastard grandfather.

Today his descendants trot about Carlow as if the blood of nobility flowed through their veins. Indeed it was a lady descendant of that same servant who first told me the story of the Rochforts saying one could tell from their appearance and manner that they were of ill breeding.

"She knew her own" never was it truer stamped on a persons forehead.

Our family motto " NOT WE FROM KINGS BUT KINGS FROM US" tells us all we need to know of our own family pedigree.

Cheevers family

In a footnote to the previous posting, "Not Us From Kings But Kings From Us" Henrietta Hickey added:-

"the Cheevers family held lands in Carlow, Wexford and Kildare. They were of Norman-French extraction whose ancestors came to Ireland with the forces of the second King Henry who led his army in response to a plea from Pope Adrian to surpress the barbarous Irishery and restore the Kingdom of Leinster to the McMurroughs . Knight Roger and Knight Henry de Cheevers of Devon and Cornwall were granted lands in Leinster. The family were dispossessed of their lands in 1650 by the English Parliamentarian Army [Cromwell], they were moved to poor land in the West of Ireland. The family motto in translation is "We Subdue Those Who Would Oppose Us”. Some of the family became members of the Society of Friends [Quakers], one of whom was a prominent Preacher. The family seat in Carlow was situated in Grangeforth at Tullow".

[note added in 2012 by Michael Purcell. The Browne-Clayton archive records that some of the Cheever lands ended up in the ownership of the Browne family of Browneshill.

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 Source: Michael Purcell c.2013


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