This is the full text of the “ Memoir Of The Late Madame O’Conor Don” part of “The Recollections Of Skeffington Gibbon, From 1796 To The Present Year, 1829;” . It’s very long, extremely bitchy, almost certainly libellous, point-scoring in the extreme, and hilarious. It does help having a few things explained in advance of the story.
The O’Conors are an Irish princely and noble family of Gaelic origin who were the historic Kings of Connacht and the last High Kings of Ireland before the Norman invasion in 1171. The O’Conor Don is the head of the clan or sept. The High Kings of Ireland were elected rather than simply following a line of succession, but there is a direct male line of succession from Roderic or Rory O’Conor, (Ruaidhri Ua Conchubair) who died 1198, right down to the present day.
and to help a little a description of some of the main characters
- Catherine Lavinia O’ Conor Don, (neé Kelly) is the subject of the memoir, described as “of the manor of Cloonalis, in the County of Roscommon “, and elsewhere as ” the superannuated Queen of the great O’Conor Don, of Cloonalis Castle, in the County of Roscommon.” She is the wife of a 4th cousin 1x removed of a husband of a 5th great-aunt.
- Dominick O’Conor Don, who died in August, 1798, Catherine’s husband
- Alexander (Sandy) O’Conor Don died 1820, her brother-in-law, he succeeded to the title on his brother’s death
- Owen O’Conor Don (1763 – 1831) was briefly M.P. for Roscommon following Catholic Emancipation. He succeeded to the O’Conor Don title and estates, following the death of Sandy O’Conor. He was Dominick and Sandy’s fourth cousin, and Patrick Grehan Senior’s brother-in-law.
- William French Kelly, Esq, a Roscommon lawyer, and coroner. Subject of a hilarious hatchet-job by Skeffy.
- Various members of the Dillon family are mentioned. The Lord Dillon referred to was Charles Dillon-Lee, 12th Viscount Dillon, (1745 –1813). Lieutenant Dillon was his eldest son, the Hon. Augustus Dillon who managed to combine commanding the 101st Regular Regiment, which his father had founded, with being the M.P. for Mayo.
The noble ruin of the house of O’Conor Don, called Ballintober, is within two miles of Ballymoe : the remains of its former greatness are, four ruinous, dark, and dismal-looking castles, built in the ninth century. These castles were fortified by a very strong wall, about forty feet high and eight feet broad, surrounded with a deep dyke, which, in former days, retained some depth of water. The only entrance into these castles was a small narrow gate, with a recess on each side for a sentinel, and one or two spike holes looking in different direction ; and on the storey over this was a strong set-off, with open gutters, from which boiling-water or lead was poured on such as came on hostile messages to assail the inmates. It was impossible to take this castle of the O’Conors by surprise, unless treachery were carried on by those intrusted with the protection of the palace and garrison. Previous to this castle being built, the royal residence was on the beautiful plains of Rathcroughan, from which the Connaught Kings got the appellation, according to the Irish language, of Reigh-Croughan.
In those days the monarchs were annually elected, as we do now-a-days Sir William Blink, or Bradley King, chief magistrates: so that the O’Neills, the O’Donnells, the O’Moores, the O’Haras, the O’Rourkes, and such other nobles of the island as offered themselves as candidates, were crowned, according to the choice of the people — which choice should be confirmed by the clergy, and the chosen anointed with holy oil, and crowned by the Archbishop of the diocese in which the election took place.
In later days, when Druidism was annihilated, and the Catholic Church, with all its magnificent splendour, established on its Pagan ruins, few were elected save those distinguished for their piety, magnanimity, and warlike valour in the field of battle. These virtues and great endowments were predominant in the illustrious sons and lineal heirs of O’Conor, which caused their return and perpetual election for two centuries previous to Henry the Second of England assuming any authority in this kingdom. During the Vice-royship of the Virgin Queen’s gallant commander,
Walter Devereux, he was raised to the peerage for signal services and graces special — thereby wrenching from the heirs of the ancient and noble family of the De Veres, the title of Earls of Essex : like the titles taken from the Talbots, the O’Briens of Clare, the Clancarthys, and a thousand others I could name in our own times.
However, in the words of the virtuous and lamented Mrs. O’ Noodle, of Doodle-do-hall, in her mild remarks on the castle-rack-rents, and the castle-all-spents of the notorious year, not of Grace, but of the auction year of 1800, several mighty titles, never before heard of, and then got up, she says, are vanishing with the memory of such revered worthies (as many of them have paid the debt of nature), and their sacred shrine is mouldering in the same grave with the Newalls, the Hempenstals, and the Jemmy O’Briens of their day. —
However, to return to the house of O’Conor : Lord Essex deprived them of the patronage of the church in this province, except one or two convents situated in their own private patrimony. Amongst these was the beautiful abbey of Cloonshanville, Kilteevin, Ballintober, and Tulsk ; but in the days of Oliver Cromwell, both the O’Conors of Strokestown and Ballintober suffered much tribulation, and were stripped of all their property except that miserable mountainous remnant given to the widow of Roderick O’Conor, who was beheaded at his own door, at Castlerea, and his wide domains given to a Cromwellian soldier of the name of Sandford, ancestor to that unfortunate young man who was cruelly murdered at Windsor, in Berkshire, a few months ago.
Roderick O’Conor,[This was actually General Daniel O’Conor who died in 1667] the last of that family who inherited the estates of Castlerea, in this neighbourhood, married the Lady Anne Birmingham of the illustrious house of Athenry, in the principality of Galway, by whom he had one son [Andrew O’Conor] , in whose person the direct line of royalty was preserved — and who, with his mother, lived in a wretched hut in a mean village called Screglahan, or Cloonalis, a short distance from Castlerea, Andrew O’Conor] married contrary to the wishes of his mother, Honora, the sister of Luke Dowell, Esq. of Mantue, near Elphin. This lady built the family residence now standing; she was the mother of Daniel O’Conor Don, who married the daughter of an apothecary in Dublin of the name of Ryan. Though I mention Mr. Ryan as undoubtedly a match much below the O’Conors, yet I must say he was highly connected with the grandsons of Sir Thomas Cusack of Meath, and- a respectable old family of the Nangles, who were murdered some years ago in the vicinity of Mullingar — which circumstance must be still in the recollection of many of my readers.
The late Dominick O’Conor, who died in August, 1798, was the eldest son by this marriage. He married the highly accomplished Miss Kelly, the eldest daughter of Robert Dillon O’Kelly, Esquire, of Lisnanean, or Springforth, near Strokestown, by whom he had no issue. Mr. O’Kelly had two daughters, co-heiresses : the eldest, as I have observed, married Dominick O’Conor Don of Cloonalis House, and the second eloped from the house of Cargins, (where she was on a visit,) with an attorney of the name of Nolan, from the neighbourhood of Tuam. No union could give more happiness to all parties than that of O’Conor Don with Miss O’Kelly, both claiming an equal alliance — he from the ancient princes of the island, the O’Conors ; and his lovely consort, paternally, from the great O’Kelly of Mullaghmore Castle, connected by marriage with the noble house of O ‘Moore — her maternal kindred those of the O’Briens, princes of Clare and Thomond, O’Conor Roe of Strokestown Castle, Lady Judith Dillon, the elder sister of James Wentworth Earl of Roscommon, and her mother. Miss Dillon of Lung, maternally allied to the Brabazons of Newpark, in Mayo, and the Talbots of Belgard Castle, in the County of Dublin.
Nothing was wanting but an heir to entwine the happy pair in every blessing — to enjoy the estate of Cloonalis, and a moiety of the Kelly estate near Tulsk ; however, God did not grant their desire in favouring the illustrious and fond pair with issue ; but from their piety and great urbanity, having always company and relieving the distresses of their fellow-creatures, no matter what their creed or what unknown country gave them birth, they were much admired.
Sheriff Sandes, in his days of poverty, partook of their munificence, as well as the Catholic Bishop, Doctor French of Foxborough, in his exile from Williamite persecution. Such amiable and cemented felicity never could be surpassed, said Mrs. Dillon, between man and wife, as I have witnessed with Madame O’Conor and her husband for upwards of twenty years that they lived together. O’Conor Don died at his country seat (I think) in August, 1798, and his respected relict in February, 1814, at her lodgings in Mary-street, in the City of Dublin. At his death, in addition to the rents annually arising from her moiety of the small patrimony of Springforth, to which she became entitled on the death of her father, her husband (O’Conor Don) left her as a token of his esteem fifty pounds annually, to be levied off the estate of Cloonalis ; besides, he made her over the lease of a house and about sixty acres of a handsome demesne on the immediate banks of the copious River Suc or Suck : it is the first residence on the banks of this great inland river, which takes its source and bursts most magnificently from beneath a peak or huge sand-bank in the rustic but rural village of Cloonsuck, at which place the estates of O’Conor Don, Viscount Dillon, Baron Mount- Sandford, Sir William Brabazon of Newpark, Arthur French, M.P., and Mr. Wills of Willsgrove, in this county, almost come in contact with each other.
This miserable dowry her old brother-in-law, the late Alexander O’Conor, refused to pay her, which, unfortunately for the heir presumptive, (the present popular and justly-esteemed O’Conor Don of Ballinagare,) [ great uncle Owen ] caused a long and protracted litigation between the parties, which amounted, in family incumbrances, legacies, and law expenses, to no less a sum than ten thousand pounds. The property was put up for sale at the Royal Exchange, in the City of Dublin ; and from what I understood no bidder was allowed to offer against the heir-at-law, Mr. Owen O’Conor, who undoubtedly was treated unkindly by his kinsman, Sandy O’Conor; indeed Madame O’Conor Don did not (or at least her base-minded advisers) escape the just censure of the public for the exorbitant expenses heaped upon a man, who, as his birth-right, was to have inherited the property on the demise of two aged bachelors, Sandy and Thomas O’Conor, men of high and noble birth, but from their eccentric, secluded, pecuniary difficulties and habits, hardly known beyond the walls of the smoky and despicable hovels in which they lived, and died a few years back. The stipulation at the sale, as has been before observed, was, that any person bidding against the heir-at-law was to pay five hundred pounds. This small barrier, however, did not prevent the late Henry Moore Sandford, Esq. of Castlerea, from bidding. He also joined the auction of 1800, for which he was created Baron Mount-Sandford, of Castlerea, in the County of Roscommon, which title, on the death of an old veteran of seventy-eight, sinks into the same grave of extinction with the Castlecootes, the Lecales, and many other of those worthies who have departed this life, without leaving so much as an heir to inherit the sinecures, useless stations, and biblical knowledge which they prodigally lavished and diffused amongst their starving and ragged tenantry. The long catalogue of their munificence — for who could sully their revered memories ? — I leave to more able and efficient biographers, who have more time, and I am sure more money, than I have, to describe.
After Lord Mount-Sandford lost his five hundred pounds in bidding against Mr. Owen O’Conor, who had his purse-bearer (Long Terence — or, what do I say ? — Long Jack Farrell, the Connaught Jew,) at his elbow, he became the purchaser of that part of Cloonalis, and the remainder of that estate is in his possession at the present time ; and which, were it not for the wanton and useless litigation that his enemies carried on to incur expense, might have come into his possession without one farthing expense, which was the intention of Daniel and his heir Dominick O’Conor, Esqrs., when they willed the reversion of those estates to their kinsman, the heirs of the ancient and romantic Ballinagare — a patrimony in the possession of that family for upwards of one thousand years ; and forsooth, that great pillar of new-lightism, Lord Lorton, in his sacred crusades, at a Brunswick Meeting, [the Brunswick Clubs were part of a campaign to deny Catholics the right to enter both houses of the British parliament. Numbering roughly 200 clubs and claiming 150,000 members between September 1828 and December 1829.] not many months back, was at no small loss, in his address to his brethren in piety, the Kilmains, the Clancarthys, the Farnhams, and the Gideon Ouseleys, to know (from his recent assumption or obscurity, as we must suppose,) who this rigid Papist (the O’Conor Don) was.
Strange times ! — how they are altered ! — a ruler in the county, and not know O’Conor Don. If those zealots had the modesty to look over their own pedigree — surely if not led on by some infatuation in diffusing those acrimonious discords under the semblance of enforcing religious knowledge upon the natives, suppressing the further growth of Popery, and propagating those disgraceful litigations that brought some of his Lordship’s auditors into great celebrity — they would find that O’Conor Don’s family had an inheritance in that county many centuries previous to the barbarous and merciless usurpation that unexpectedly threw the ancient patrimony of the magnificent Abbey of Boyle, and the other manors wrenched from the noble house of Coolavin, into the possession of his ancestors, now-a-days called the Kingston estates, in the County of Roscommon.
“After the lamented death of my husband,” said Catherine O’Conor Don,” I was forced out of my own house by Mr. James Hughes, to go on a visit to his family to a grand mansion, newly built, in the village of Ballaghaderreen, in Mayo.” “This Mr. Hughes,” added she, “ was my maternal kinsman, as one of the Miss Dillons of Lung, in an unguarded hour, eloped with his father, a struggling shopkeeper, from some part of Leitrim. “ —
However, though some time elapsed before this uncontrolable daughter was noticed by the Dillon family, they grew into opulence by their industry, and that was no small inducement in forgiving the imprudent alliance that some daughters frequently make to the great annoyance of their more respectable families. “ I did go to Mr. and Mrs. Hughes’s, “ said she, “ and only intended to stop a few days ; but, to my misfortune, I stopped there too long; I lent money which I never got back, and was dreadfully annoyed before I got out of their clutches. I blame Viscount Dillon for many of my misfortunes : he was left my guardian and protector, and chief executor in my husband’s will. He left the kingdom ; and, like many others of the nobility, became an absentee.”
On the death of the Honourable Miss Phibbs, who was the daughter of Lord Mulgrave, of Yorkshire, Lord Dillon married an actress of the Opera-House in London, by whom he had a second family. He took a house in Fitzroy-square, and from that period I never saw him till the autumn before he died. In the year 1813 he visited this country, merely to make new leases to his tenantry, where death, with that unkindness with which he assailed the immortal Sir John Calf, took him by surprise. Viscount Dillon was determined, like other people of fashion, to die in London, where he could be interred with that dignity and pomp due to his great ancestors ; but subtle death, more rogueish than a fox, took him in the mountains of Mayo, and put an end to his pious existence. His Lordship’s remains were deposited, in a wooden chest, in the Popish Abbey of Ballyhaunis, from which his splendid coffin was stolen by some neighbouring rustics, who took the mock-mounting to be pure gold. This incensed the Dowager in Fitzroy-square so much against the Irish paupers in St. Giles’s, that instead of twopence to each applicant at the great feasts at Christmas and Easter, the vulgar souls, called the Connaughtonians, only got one half- penny as Amen money.
“When I found my money,” says Madame O’Conor Don, “ expended at James Hughes’s, I came to live on my own estate near Strokestown, where I was haunted by my good nephew, Bob Nolan, and a priest called Father Bryan, There was no man so fond of making money by land and cattle-jobbing than the gay Father Bryan.” “ My life,” says she, “ was spared, but I was plucked of every thing portable. How things went on in the under part of the house I cannot say, as Bob Nolan managed as he thought proper; but one thing I do know, that I was continually tormented with vulgar and intrusive visitors. Father James Kelly and his niece chiefly lived in the house ; and a thousand others came daily, who represented themselves as being allied to me either by my father or mother. “ These are the comforts of an aged and lone gentlewoman, in the remote districts of Connaught — continually tormented by a gang of itinerant applicants and a group of naked paupers, each and every one addressing you as your cousin Kit, or your kinsman Pat. “ From this you will see I was heartily sick of the country ; but wait a little and you will feel for me,” says this excellent and much persecuted woman, in a letter to a friend in Dublin : —
“ In my old age and unhappy widowhood I put myself under the protection of my ungrateful nephew, Robert Nolan; but he changed his mind, and told me he had a wish to go into the army, and join a new regiment, called the 101st, under the command of the Honourable Augustus Dillon, then Member of Parliament for the County of Mayo. To this I gave my assent, and what pecuniary aid I could conveniently spare at the time. He mentioned to me a few days previous to his going off to Hull, in Yorkshire, which was the depot or head-quarters of the regiment, that he hoped I would not forget him in my will : I answered, from the many deceptions I met with since the death of my husband, that I should not hold myself responsible, by any promise or engagement ; that any friendship in my intentions or reminiscences at my death, depended solely on his own good conduct. “
“Well, then, Madame,” says he, “ will you resign your claim to the MacGuire estate in Sliverbane to me? “: I answered, “ Yes. “
Accordingly, he sent for a neighbouring quack Doctor, who sometimes performed the duties of a village schoolmaster, of the name of James M’Dermott, an expert writer. “A deed,“ adds she, “ as I thought to the purpose I intended, was written ; but it seems the gentry combined, and had two deeds. The mock document was read to me one night after dinner ; but what did I get to sign, while I was adjusting my spectacles, but a deed which conveyed all my real and personal estate, goods, chattels, plate, moveables, &c. &c., after I departed this life, to Robert Nolan, his heirs and assigns.” This false document was witnessed by an honest party that Bob Nolan selected, by special invitation, on the occasion, which was Mr. Anthony Dillon, a kinsman, and an ensign in the same regiment ; Fergus O’Beirne, a shop-keeper in the old rotten borough of Tulsk ; and Mr. James M’Dermott, who, from being a bleeding doctor, became an attorney-at-law.
The morning after, it seems, this precious and roguish parchment was sold to a neighbouring pawn-browker, or money-lender, of the name of Jack Farrell, who, as that voracious class of persons always assert,advanced the uttermost farthing; which, on the whole, was only a few hundred pounds, of which young Nolan was in need to equip him for the regiment, previous to their going to Canada. “Thus,” says this unfortunate old lady, “ in the 78th year of my age, was I plunged in law with Jack Farrell, a man of low birth, who in his early days kept a chandler’s shop in the very neighbourhood in which I was born.” “ Had Mr, John Farrell, “ adds she, “ when in negotiation with my nephew, come to me, I would have satisfied him instantly with respect to the fraud carried on, to the no small injury of both parties. “
This litigation was brought to a record in the Court-house of Roscommon in (I think) 1812, on which occasion Lieutenant Dillon, to his great annoyance, was summoned from Halifax to attend, which, by order of his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, he was obliged to obey. Mr. Dillon, after giving his evidence with brevity, and indeed integrity, was most unmercifully assailed in the cross- examination by Mr. Farrell’s bar of lawyers; nor was he treated by those of his kinswoman, Madame O’Conor Don, with less clemency, for, notwithstanding all his trouble and expense, he never received so much as one sixpence — although he was threatened with dismissal from the service in a few months afterwards, and that in the most unjustifiable manner.
Most of my readers must recollect the sanguinary duel that took place in the autumn of 1813, in the Isle of Wight, between Lieutenants Maguire and Blundell, wherein the unfortunate Mr. Blundell, who was only a few days married, was mortally wounded ; and, strange to say, Mr. Dillon, who neither aided nor assisted, was thrown into prison for four months for not preventing the duel, as being the highest in authority in the garrison at the time. I have known several duels to take place, but I never knew an instance where any of the parties concerned suffered so much, and that so unjustly, as Mr. Dillon. All these unexpected misfortunes he suffered solely on account of Mr. Nolan’s deed of sale to Mr. Farrell. “ So help me God,” said this worthy young gentleman when I saw him in London in 1810, “ had I known that I was to endure, so much trouble and misfortune when I parted the regiment in Halifax, I would have committed suicide on leaving that hospitable and charming country. “
Mrs. Mary Davis of Castlerea, in her youthful days the beautiful and accomplished Miss Dillon of Bracklon, was cross-examined by Mr. Farrell’s lawyers in a manner that excited her feelings so much, that she was obliged to be carried out of Court — particularly on some letters that she wrote, perhaps carelessly, to Mr. Nolan, (previous to his joining the army,) being read. In one of those letters, it seems that Mr. Nolan got a pressing invitation to come to the chamber of a married lady. They may be false ; perhaps Mrs. Davis never wrote such a letter ; however, as the lady which this letter alluded to is I hope in a better world — for the sake of the family with whom she was connected, and not for her own, as in many respects they were a disgrace to society — I forbear commenting upon the disgraceful conduct and execration of such unpardonable levity in either of the females.
Much to the credit of Mr. Fergus O’Beirne, when examined on this great trial he confessed that he was aware, previous to his putting his signature to the fraudulent document, of Mr. Nolan’s intentions to impose on his aunt, with no other view than to obtain money from Mr. Farrell to purchase uniform and other requisites, in order to make that appearance in the regiment his rank as a gentleman and an officer required. Madame O’Conor, I may say, gained the suit, but not without great expense, and losing the small townland of Cloonart, near Tulsk, which was awarded to John Farrell, in lieu of the money he advanced.
Unquestionably, the whole transaction was a gross fraud upon an old lady, whose life, from the day of her husband’s death till the moment of her own happy release from this earthly vale of misery and voraciousness, was nothing but a scene of litigation, fraud, and exorbitant exactions; she was often assailed by many of her needy and remote kindred by the most virulent, unjustifiable, and acrimonious insolence that ever fell from the lips of a foul-mouthed Billingsgate — even the attention of her own cousin, Tom Dillon of Belgard Castle, did not escape their censure; and a most daring ruffian, the son of a pedagogue called Jack- of-the-Wall, from near Loughrea, who married an ideot of the name of French, and getting to be a hackney quill-driver in an attorney’s office, called himself no less a personage than William French Kelly, Esq., had the audacity to write her a most insulting letter, couched in language too obscene to meet the public eye. This Kelly married a sort of a milliner of the name of Davis, who in her early days was bound apprentice in Dublin, chiefly through the bounty of the benevolent Madame O’Conor and some other friends — though (said Madame O’C.) I never laid my eyes on this fine woman till, at the solicitation of my maid, after repeated calls at my lodgings in Dorset-street for assistance, I ordered her to be shewn to the back-drawing-room, to hear what she had to communicate. She said so much, about her kindred with the Dillons, Plunketts, Beggs, and her Cromwellian cousins, the Davises of Cloonshanville, that it would puzzle a public reporter to get at either ends of her discourse.
“ The atrocities of her ancestors,” said the Connaught Queen, “ in the Abbey of Cloonshanville, in putting the inmates to the last torture, and demolishing the noble edifice to that ruinous state in which it appears as you pass the French- Park road, is still fresh in the minds of the natives of that county. Was I not a credulous and a weak woman to believe her ? What good could be expected from the progeny of such persecuting ancestors, who slew the priests of the most High God, while in the very act of offering the sacrifice of the sacred and holy Eucharist in the sanctuary raised by the voluntary contributions of the people? “
“ They got, “ added she, “ the spoils and ransacking of the church — that church God ordained to be the house of prayer, but which those despoilers turned into a den of thieves. But where are they now? Have they not vanished, and the ill-gotten fruits of their oppression gone into strange hands ? “
Nothing remains of the great bulwark of the Cromwellian greatness but an old thatched hovel, with its mossy and weather-beaten end close by the road side ; its front, which is adorned with two small windows, overlooks this old demolished convent, which is the depository of all that was mortal of those brigands who espoused the cause of that fanaticism of which the humane usurper himself was the high priest. The noble ruin of Cloonshanville, which has sternly outlived the various vicissitudes and persecutions of many ages, deserves no mean pre-eminence amongst the collections compiled by a celebrated author, which he designates as The Antiquities of Ireland.
“ But, pardon me, “ said this excellent woman, “ for following Mrs. Margaret Davis, or Kelly, not into the Convent of St. Denis, but Cloonshanville. Here I leave her,” added she, “ among the bogs of Loughbally, and return to the eminent rogue — not lawyer — her husband, who tormented me with petitions and recommendations of his integrity and fidelity; and if I employed him in any situation as deputy agent, or to look over some papers that a person of the name of Leonard, an attorney, left unsettled at the time of his death, which was premature and sudden, many of them would be returned without being settled. “ This is the case (in general) with many of those honest persons ; and, according to the recent confession of old superannuated Lord Eldon, thousands of them profess to be lawyers, though their judgment is far from deciding with equity — to the great injury of the public, they fill situations of trust, profit and emolument, which they are by no means competent to fill from their want of legal knowledge.
Poor Mr. French Kelly was the last, I am sure, that should disgrace the list of attorneys’ clerks — for if perjury, open fraud, and the basest forgery that ever was attempted to be put forth as a genuine document, is to be discountenanced, this French Kelly, by his proneness to ardent spirits, spared (in his death) Jack Ketch [an infamous English executioner] the trouble of alarming that clutch of blue pigeons that we see flying on the slapper of Newgate getting a sudden jerk, with many a deserving object : Fauntleroy or Jemmy O’Brien were hood-winked in adroitness of their profession when compared to the heir-presumptive of Jack-of-the-Wall.
“ He and his wife followed me, “ says Madame O’Conor, “ to Strokestown, in the County of Roscommon ; and feeling for their great poverty, I ordered my door to be opened to receive them, not thinking they would have the impudence to stop more than one night. Far from this, however, they soon made themselves masters; and I was only a lodger in the house for which I paid rent and taxes. My servants began to miss some sheeting and table-linen, but previous to any report being made to me of these things, one of my trunks had been broken open, and a large sum of money, which my steward, Francis Bannahan, paid me the day before, taken therefrom, as also some family papers ; which honest Margaret Davis, by way of introducing herself into high life, brought to a gentleman allied to the O’Conors, which he owned to me he had in his possession. Some time after Lady Hartland, and many others in and about Strokestown, took a dislike to visit me, in consequence of this French Kelly and his wife being admitted into my house. “
“ At this time he went to the Most Reverend Doctor Thomas Troy, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, and got £500 in my name. He then got himself sworn an attorney of the Courts of Justice. This,” says she, “ I overlooked, as I did not wish to hang the villain. But will you not be surprised when I tell you, that he furnished me with a bill of costs to the amount of £2000. What he did for it I am at a loss to know, save his attention in the suit against Jack Farrell, for which he was doubly paid before he drove a quill. “ “In this way, “ says she, “ I was tormented, paying one knave to upset the villainy of another. This bill was taxed by Master Ellis, who reduced it to £1500. “
“ My counsel, Mr. Boyd, who afterwards married the brisk widow of the late Earl of Belvedere, recommended me an attorney, whose name was Killikelly, of Middle Gardiner-street, Dublin ; but who was managing clerk to this attorney ? — William Davis, the brother-in-law of French Kelly. The news that passed, of course, reached my enemies ; but between party and party, paying to this one and the other, I was as poor as Job. William Davis introduced himself to me, by saying he would do all in his power to set aside the rogueish intentions of his sister and brother-in-law, if I only gave him my dividend arising from the effects of William Kelly, who kept a flour and whiskey-shop in the town of Strokestown, to whom I lent £500 ; but on commencing business as a wine-merchant in Gardiner-street, he called a meeting of his creditors, served me with notice of his bankruptcy, and to this moment I have not got so much as one shilling of that sum — nor do I expect it. William Kelly married a Miss Laughing from some part of the King’s or Queen’s County — and a pretty joke it was, for they laughed me out of my £500. “
I have to add, that after Madame O’Conor Don’s death, Mr. Kelly paid Davis the few pounds to which, as a creditor, the deceased lady was entitled. Mr. William Davis was maternally allied to the unhappy woman who, in her old age, was a prey to various annoyances and gross impositions; and to convince his kinswoman of his attachment to her person, Mr. Davis proposed a comfortable lodging, which he considered would suit her. To this the weak woman assented. This was the unfurnished upper part of a house, No. 4 or 6, kept by an attorney of the name of Webber, in Gloucester-place.
We all know that Gloucester-place is situated at the lower end of Gloucester- street, in the City of Dublin, and within one door of the straggling end of Mecklenburg-street ; built on that low swamp, stolen by degrees, and the assiduity of some efficient port-surveyors or civic and turtle Aldermen, from the rolling waves of the ocean. The back of Summer-hill is inundated during the winter months, and the chief part of the spring of the year ; not only this — the front of the house looked into a fulsome pool of stagnated mire, and a common dairy-man’s cow-yard, in which, to add to its diversified and fragrant attractions, was a few amorous and squeaking goats, and one or two vicious and ungovernable donkeys, besides the continual growl of a half starved and filthy watch-dog ; the rear view was somewhat more amusing, and better calculated to enliven and rouse the drooping nerves of a religious, disconsolate, and persecuted old woman of eighty-four. The back drawing-room was metamorphosed into a bed chamber for the accommodation of the superannuated Queen of the great O’Conor Don, of Cloonalis Castle, in the County of Roscommon.
Any person acquainted with the localities of the unfinished end of Gloucester street, know that I do not exaggerate when I say, that the waste space (which forms no enchanting vista) at the back of the few houses in Gloucester-place, is without exception one of the most riotous, obscene, and disorderly districts (except the notorious principality of the Great Mogul, well known in our police reports as Mud-Island,) in the vicinity of the Irish metropolis. A row of filthy huts was joined to the splendid chamber selected for the happy repose of the amiable and highly-accomplished Catherine O’Kelly, the widow of a gentleman by birth, urbanity, and education, with the small patrimony that rapacious edicts, sequestration, proscription, sanguinary revolutions, and rapine left. Here was Madame O’Conor Don lodged by Mr. Davis, who, we might suppose, had no mercenary views, in a neighbourhood such as I have described, surrounded with sweeps, tinkers, and various receptacles for women of ill-fame, who, when the morning star threw light on their abandoned infamy, took refuge in the abominable cells with which Lower Gloucester-street and the vicinity of Aldborough House abounds. O what a neighbourhood selected for the residence of the nominal Irish Queen ! Her guardians, of course, were interested for her longevity, and in supporting her high birth and the dignity due to her illustrious ancestors !
Amongst the list of Madame O’Conor’s relatives and visitors in those obscure lodgings, were the Earl and Countess of Roscommon, Viscount and the Honourable Miss Dillon of Fitzroy-square, who were then in Ireland — the Countess D’Alton Begg of Mount-Dalton, in the County of Westmeath — Lady Mount-Sandford and Miss Oliver — the Catholic Archbishops of Dublin and Tuam — the Catholic Bishops of Elphin and Killala — the Dowager Lady Hartland and the Honourable General Mahon — the Misses Cheevers and Fallon of St. Brandon — Mrs. and Miss Dillon Hearne of Hearnesbrook,. in the County of Galway — the O’Conors of Ballinagare, Mount-Druid, and Tomona — Mrs. Henry French of Cloonequin-House, and Miss Moore — Mrs. and the Misses Grace of Mantua-House — Mrs. Spaight and Mrs. Fairclought of the County of Clare — Mrs. and Miss French of Rocksavage — Mrs. and Miss Dillon of Roebuck — Mrs. O’Shee, Mrs. Colonel O’Moore, Major, Mrs. and Miss Nugent, Mrs. General Taylor, Mrs. Palles, Mrs. O’Moore Farrell of Ballina — Mrs. Nangle, Miss Cusack, Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Hilles, Miss O’Neill, Doctor and Mrs. Harkan, and the Misses Egan — besides her own immediate kindred, the Kellys of Tycoola, Turrock, Cargins, Screggs, and many others — the Lady Crofton of Sligo — Mrs. Mahon of Annaduff — Mrs. Lyster of Newpark, and the Honourable Mrs. Butler, at one time the handsome Miss French of Frenchpark-House, who first married the late Daniel Kelly, of Cargins, Esq., in the County of Roscommon.
I leave the reader to conjecture, if a lady so highly connected and so universally known as Madame O’Conor Don, was not worthy of better treatment from those who solely lived on her bounty ; and what often astonished me, not a soul she ever placed confidence in, from her husband’s death till her own frame yielded to the same fate, but deceived her, with the exception of her last maid, whose name was Bridget Hogan, and a native of Tomona, near Tulsk, in the County of Roscommon. She often told me that her steward (Francis Banahan) and Bridget Hogan were the only friends or domestics that did not deceive her.
“ You may rest assured,” said this humane and benevolent lady, “ that any of my relatives who are in a hurry with my life (thinking that they might gain something by my death), I will live to deceive, with the blessing of God, and I will bequeath my property to charitable purposes.” Her friends, however, advised her to give up her apartments in Gloucester-place, not only in consequence of the neighbourhood not being as respectable, and the lodgings as genteel, as they wished, but because the wife of William Davis, a woman of the name of Biddy Gibbs, who lived as nursery-maid with Mr. Jones, was continually quarrelling with her mother-in-law, Mrs. Mary Davis, a relation of Madame O’Conor’s, and whom she obliged with a bedchamber at her expense.
Between Mrs. Biddy Gibbs and Mrs. Mary Davis, the house was turned into a jackco-maco-den, or a temporary bear-garden. Indeed, I recollect one inclement snowy night, when poor Mrs. Davis, who was undoubtedly born a gentlewoman and had seen better days, was obliged to run for her life to my own humble fire-side, and remain there for some days, till Mrs. Crean Lynch (of Mayo) and Mrs. Matthew O’Conor advanced her money to take her home. I never heard Mrs. Davis speak unkindly of her son; but her daughter-in-law, Biddy Gibbs, she represented as an imperious, insolent, and litigious woman. “ To expect,” said she, ” that she was a woman of education, would be impossible ; she was a woman of no better pretensions than the generality of those little housemaids that we see giggling about Saunders’s News-Letter office, in Dame-street.” “The agreement,” said Madame O’Conor, “ between William Davis and my landlord, Mr. Webber, (whom I understood to be nephew or kinsman of that opulent stationer, Luke White, of Luttrelstown,) is, that I am to pay him quarterly. The time is coming to a close — send for Gibbon — let him pay him, and take his receipt ; at the same time he may tell the gentleman to let his lodgings at the quarter’s end, as I am going to live in another part of the town. “ I did so accordingly, and got Mr. Webber, who lived in the under part of the house, to give me a receipt; but on telling him of Madame O’Conor’s intentions, he seemed not to relish it much, and made answer in that austere, disrespectful manner that the generality of attorneys are in the habit of doing when they have the profitable end of the bargain in their power : —“ I insist. Sir,” said he, “ that your Connaught Madame shall not quit this house till I get a quarter’s rent in advance, as it is my agreement with Mr. Davis, who took the apartments, that I must get a quarter’s rent or three months’ notice. “
What passed between us, on handing Madame the receipt, it was, of course, my duty to mention. The amiable old lady paused a little, and looked stedfastly at a most beautiful and sanctified model of the Messiah and the Virgin Mother, which hung opposite where she was seated on an old fashioned, but rich, sofa, on which she frequently reposed when her frame began to get weak. “ O, yes, “ said she, “ he must have it — any thing to get shut of the French Kellys and the Davises ; William Davis is at the bottom of that extortion — he and Biddy Gibbs wish to remain here three months longer, rent free; do, Gibbon, pay that Mr. Webb or Webber — the sooner I web away from that gentleman lawyer the better.” She sent me out to look for genteel apartments — but observed, do not let me be gaoled up in a lonesome part of the town, now that my resources (save my annual dowry) are purloined and exhausted at law, endeavouring to protect my life and property against my spurious and knavish kindred — the very worst and most dangerous enemies a man or a woman ever had are their own needy relatives. They affect friendship, but they are dissembling and designing blood-thirsty hypocrites. Have we a stronger instance of it than in that villain Crawley, who was executed here a few years back, and the ” Bloody Bodkins,” who immolated eighteen of their own family, and then set fire to the family mansion.
“ However,” said she, “ poor William Davis, I am sure, would do nothing to injure me.” I saw lodgings in Upper Dominick-street, at the house (if I don’t mistake) of a Mrs. Collins. We agreed on the rent ; but I told her that I would not take them solely on my own responsibility; if a lady whom I knew, and who was honourably interested for the aged lady who was to occupy them, approved of the agreement, every thing would be adjusted to her advantage. I consequently called on Mrs. Major Nugent, who was the maternal kinswoman of O’Conor Don, and who on every occasion paid the greatest attention to his honourable relict. On being shown to the sitting room where Major, Mrs. and Miss Nugent were seated, after apologising for my intrusion, I imparted the purport of my mission. Mrs. Nugent, with that well-known courtesy and urbanity with which her cultivated and noble mind was endowed, addressed her daughter in the following words : — ” Put on your bonnet, Kitty Nugent, and let us have your opinion of those apartments that Mr. Gibbon is going to take for your kinswoman, Madame O’Conor Don.” Miss Nugent seemed to like the lodgings, but when I made the matter known to the old lady herself, she disapproved of that street, as being too far from Denmark-street Chapel, to which she wished to live as near as she possibly could. In consequence of this we declined Mr. Collins’ house, and took apartments at (I think) No. 40, Mary-street. To this house her furniture was moved in August or September, 1813, and in which she lived until February, 1814, when she suddenly expired.
She was generally attended by the late Doctor Harkan of Sackville-street, but a trifling dispute took place between Madame O’Conor and him about a bill or bond, in which he requested her to join, but she sternly refused. After the Doctor left the drawing-room she sent for me, but I could not be admitted for some time, as Bishop Troy, and Mrs. Hearne of Hearnesbrook, were with her ; however, after they took their leave, her maid mentioned that I was at her command whenever she was pleased to see me. She answered, “ Do let him come in, as I wish to say something to him on business. “ When I entered the drawing-room I was surprised to see her look so well and so full of spirits and vivacity. “ Doctor Harkan,” said she, ” has been here ; you know I esteem him as a man eminent in his profession ; but, let me tell you, I never sent for him without paying him : as to put my hand to paper for him or any other person I never will— I got enough of that work while lodging at James Hughes’s. Great as I respect him, and indeed he is a worthy man, I will not condescend to any such thing.” Hearing some company coming up stairs, I walked into the back drawing-room and did not see her for two or three days after, when I was sent for to order some wine from Mr. O’Connor of Cook-street. When I entered the room, Mrs. Captain Palles and some other ladies were in conversation with her. The only observation she made was— “Order me the usual complement of port wine, and see if Hogan (alluding to her maid) is in want of any thing.” — this was on a Thursday. With some difficulty, the snow being very heavy at the time, I obeyed her orders. In the evening she complained of being very low in spirits, but took no further notice ; the morning following Mrs. Dillon Hearne and her daughter called to inquire after her health, and observing a little change in her constitution rather inclining to debility, they proposed sending for a Doctor. “ Doctor Harkan and I,” said she, after the ladies had left her, “are not now, I fear, on friendly terms ; he wanted me to join him in a small bond of three or five hundred pounds, I can’t say which : it would be an infatuation in me, even under more auspicious circumstances, to do so; I never will put my signature to any document but my will or confession. “ —
Then, in an attitude of contrition and solemnity, looking at her favorite portrait of our Saviour, she exclaimed, ” What is the world to me : my God, my God, do not forsake me in my old age.” At the suggestion of Mrs. Major Nugent, Doctor Sheridan of Dominick-street was sent for, who prescribed some of these useless lotions which the generality of the profession give when the hand of death is raised against us. A few days previous she had written her confession, which from her earliest age she had been in the habit of doing, and afterwards reading, while on her knees, to such of the Priesthood as were recommended by the Bishop of the diocese in which she might happen to reside. I called on Saturday evening, and found her seated in an arm chair, in company with an old lady, a Mrs. Keogh, the mother of a respectable solicitor of that name from the barony of Athlone.
“ I thank you, Gibbon,” said she, ” for your attention ; I know you wish me well, and in such commissions as I troubled you with I found you a trust-worthy person. My time in this world cannot be long ; I find myself getting weak and my appetite is vanished. A Mr. Maxwell, a man of integrity and great reputation in his profession, has orders to be here on Monday to take instructions for my last will ; you may rest assured I will not forget you. I am about leaving the whole of my landed property for charitable purposes with trustees, at the head of whom I shall place that worthy Prelate Bishop Troy, to see my that my desires be carried into execution. The poor and the needy shall be cheered and made comfortable, as well as such of my friends as have displayed integrity towards me. I do not know any person that claimed kindred to me who did not, when an opportunity occurred, deceive me.”
At this time she seemed greatly affected and shed tears profusely. When she recovered from the pressure on her mind, which I think arose from her fear of being called from this world without leaving her property settled to her wishes, Mrs. Keogh, who had remained silent, and was taking some coffee, laid down her cup, and, addressing Madame O’Conor Don, asked her was she going to forget both her nephews, the Nolans ? “ Yes, ma’am, “ was the reply ; “ they have forgot themselves; at least, one of them has forgot the family from whom he is naturally descended, and the other is solely under the contronl of a seraglio of abandoned women. Mrs. Keogh, do you wish me to contribute for the propogation of vice and bastardy ? “ “ Pardon me, Madam, “ replied the Dowager of the House of Keogh, ” I was not aware of that.” “ The records of the Courts of Justice and the denouncements of the Clergy, “ said Madame O’Conor, “ will convince you if you doubt my word. “ “ I think,” said she,” with the assistance of God, I will live to see all I am possessed of divided amongst the poor. Think of my aunt Dillon of Belgarde Castle who lived to be 99, and I am getting as good health and live as regular, if not more so, than ever she did. “ “ True, Ma’am,” replied Mrs. Keogh; “ but it seems every generation is abridged in their maturity and longevity.” “Indeed, “ said Madame O’Conor Don, ” I have not been the same since I heard of Lord Dillon’s death — a man so strong, and of so good a constitution, to be cut off so suddenly ; however, he has left his family happy, with a competence to support their dignity.” “ His favourite daughter, “ says she, “ died at the Dillon mansion, Oxfordshire, some time ago, and his youngest was lately married to a Reverend Gentleman, brother to the Duke of St. Alban’s. “ “ The Beauclercs, “ adds she, “ are descended from that profligate libertine Charles the First, by the celebrated Nell Gywnn, the favourite mistress of that satire writer, Fielding. Both he and Miss Dillon have no small claim to the stage ; therefore glass windows are too brittle to crack at each other. His Lordship told me that his daughter, Lady Webb, is a rigid Catholic ; while the children of a Frenchwoman that he lately married are, on the contrary, the most bigoted Lutherans. You see (looking at Mrs. Keogh) how hard it is to find even that union which one would expect (from the fanaticism of the times) in the offspring of one parent. As for the dear man himself, it is hard to say in which faith he departed this life. He was the first apostate in the noble house of Loughglin ; and was beyond thirty when smitten by the new doctrine of the reformation. Is it any wonder then, that the recollections of Popery was haunting his mind when the voracious gout had a hold of his heart and the pit of his delicate stomach. “
“ One Parson Palmer,” says she, “ offered his pious services a few hours previous to this accomplished peer closing his eyes on all that was dear and valuable to him in this world ; but whether the revered Viscount felt satisfied that Doctor Palmer’s recommendation was an unnecessary passport at that awful crisis, or that the sorrowful and humble contrition of his own heart would be of infinite more importance, I cannot say ; and from what little Tom Hughes tells me, who is the very focus of information in these mountainous districts (called Costello and Keich-Currin), his Lordship passed off without a groan, and without the aid of priest or minister.” “ He had his faults, “ adds she, “ but on the whole he was an accomplished worthy man.”
Madame O’Conor turned the conversation, by saying that Mr. Kelly of Cargins, who called upon her that day, told her, in the course of conversation, that her friend (Lord Dillon) had the most splendid funeral that ever graced the obsequies of any nobleman in that country. “ Yes, “ says she, “ now-a-days they carry their pride into the very grave with them; all these silk robes and fine linen should not be thrown into the mire of the grave ; the expenses incurred on these occasions should be reserved for more meritorious objects — the houseless widow, the hungry orphan, the hoary-head and feeble old man, the abandoned female should be reclaimed, and dissuaded from her wicked life, and from seducing her yet unpolluted victims, and the unemployed (those disposed to work) encouraged — all these objects are worthy of our commiseration.”
” Woe unto you. Scribes and Pharisees, you lay burdens on the people that you yourselves would not touch with your fingers ; you go round the sea and land to make one proselyte ;” “and when you have him bought over, by bribe or otherwise, you make him tenfold more the child of hell than when you took him under your especial care. “
“ In no country in Europe,” says this excellent and refined-minded woman, “ are the poor so shamefully and so ungratefully neglected as in Ireland : pass the streets and the hamlets, and the chief object that attract your notice is a group of half-starved and naked paupers.” “ I think, “ adds she, “ Mr. Kelly has a strong notion to purchase my moiety of the Lisnaneas estate. He is in want of turbary for the house of Cargins ; and with that commodity he can be abundantly supplied on my patrimony, in the immediate neighbourhood of his own residence. “ After a short pause : “ Indeed, Mrs. Keogh, “ says Madame O’Conor, ” I never see young Dan Kelly that I don’t think of his uncle Dennis Kelly, who was shot by Whaley of Stephen’s-green. He was the second son of my dear relation, Ignatius Kelly, by his kinswoman Miss Kelly of Turrock, in the Barony of Athlone. He was intended for the bar ; but unfortunately he and Whaley, the son of the celebrated Burnchapel Whaley, and the brother of Lady Clare, met at a house in College-green, notoriously known as the Hell-Fire Club, where, it seems, this blinking Whaley insulted Mr. Kelly so grossly, that the foolish youth, who was only turned twenty at the time, insisted that he should fight him ; and from the room in which the dispute occurred they proceeded to the Barley Fields. “
“ Kelly, who it seems was in a state of inebriation, fired first, but was instantly shot dead by Whaley. His body was twenty-four hours in a stable, at the back of Stephen’s-green, before any of his friends knew of the melancholy transaction, which plunged his ancient and numerous relatives into the deepest affliction. I felt sincerely for both his sisters. Lady Crofton of Sligo, and Mrs. Lyster of Newpark, near Athlone. Whaley was brought to the bar of justice, as it was insinuated he took a deadly aim at his victim ; but Whaley’s faction, the FitzGibbons, the Beresfords, and others of that party ran high in those days, and he was acquitted. He was tried afterwards for killing a poor coach-driver, at his own door in Denzil-street ; but it seems the deceased’s widow compromised the atrocity for thirty pounds. “ “ Mr. Whaley “ adds she, ” treated his amiable wife unkindly. He, however, has another bar to appear before, where neither bribe nor faction will avail him anything, God grant he may meet more mercy than he showed the poor innocent and justly esteemed Denis Kelly of Cargins.“
I took my leave, for the last time, of this noble-minded and excellent lady. I left her, Mrs. Keogh, and her own maid together ; and I thought she seemed in better spirits than I had seen her for some time. This was on Friday evening; and the urgency of business calling me away, I had not an opportunity seeing her again, as she died on the Monday morning following. I certainly imagined she would live many years longer. — But, alas ! death is certain, but the time and place uncertain. Her faithful maid, Hogan, and the other servants, found her dead in her bed, about nine o’clock in the morning, which was the usual hour to go in to her bed-room.
The Most Reverend Doctor Troy was sent for immediately, as it was understood she had willed her property to him for charitable purposes, much on the same plan as that of Lord Dunboyne and the Netterville munificence. His Lordship locked up all her trunks, plate, papers, &c. &c.; but on French Kelly presenting a will, made, as he insinuated, in his favour in 1811, Bishop Troy (very injudiciously, I must own,) came with him to Madame O’Conor’s apartments, handed him all her keys, papers, and property. French Kelly immediately ordered her remains out of the bedroom, and locked himself up there for some time, where he obtained possession of all her plate, private letters, and family papers, to which he had no claim whatever — it was a barefaced robbery, for of all other men in existence, the same notorious imposter was the last whom she wished to possess her property, or know any thing of her private affairs. This I assert in the face of the world as truth, and many who are still alive can confirm it to be so. William Kelly, or French Kelly, or what you will, is gone to meet his reward, to another and I hope a better world ; but his honest and conscientious widow, Margaret Davis, is still in the land of the living — and I dare her to contradict me : I saw the good woman praying in Marlborough-street Chapel a short time ago — I hail her contrition. We sinners must pray, and do penance hard, or we perish. Did Ireland, or any other Christian country, ever witness more atrocious fraud than that carried on to persecute and embitter the last moments of one of the most noble-minded women that ever graced the honourable circle in which (during her husband’s lifetime) she moved, and to which (it will be acknowledged even by her worst enemies) she was an ornament. God forgive her tormenters.
Many of them are ” gone to that bourne from whence no traveller e’er returns,” and I hope met with more clemency than they shewed the nominal Connaught Queen under the cloak of friendship. A long catalogue of false, and indeed spurious relatives, pervaded and haunted her, and like an epidemic contagion kept close to her heels wherever she went, and were as familiar at her door in the metropolis, as they were in the mountains of Costello, or the fens of Strokestown ; they availed themselves of her age, weakness, and the other infirmities incident to the human frame between sixty and eighty-four. During that period she was a prey to the grossest and basest imposition. Many of them were most assiduous in their allegiance and fidelity towards her Majesty, as they were pleased to call her ; and in particular that impure combustible of the most glaring and flagitious fraud, William French Kelly, Esquire, who, previous to his being sent to that receptacle for honester folks, his Majesty’s gaol, assumed the title of an attorney. This Shylock goes on his bended knees, unsought and unsolicited, to swear to be faithful, to all intents and purposes — not to himself, poor soul, for he was heedless in that way — but to Catherine Lavinia O’ Conor Don, of the manor of Cloonalis, in the County of Roscommon.
Surely any person who reads the aforesaid abridged sketch of the lamented and recently created attorney’s life, must say that he fulfilled those sacred engagements. Notwithstanding his robbing her of five hundred pounds, by which he had himself rigged out, to the no small astonishment of those who knew him in his ragged full dress in Mass-lane, and enrolled his immortal name on the list of attorneys, he took every other disgraceful advantage in low pelf; and the robbery that took place in her house at Strokestown, when a large sum of money was taken out of her trunk, with a family deed of no consequence, save to the heirs in possession of the estates of Ballintober or Cloonalis, from what I understood from Madame O’Conor Don some time after, a gentleman (in no small estimation in that salubrious county) confessed that he got the deed which was carried off with the rest of the stolen property. The person who delivered him that document was the wife of French Kelly or her mother; and is it not obvious (besides several other substantial proofs) that the persons who stole the family deed also took the money that was deposited in the same locker.
But what need I dwell here, or lay any stress on the reader, in supporting my assertions of the villainy of the insidious gang who assailed with vituperation and the most insulting acrimony Madame O’Conor Don, and particularly that wholesale monopolist in rapine, Mr. French Kelly, into whose hands the whole of her personal property fell immediately on her departure from this life, and also her last confession, of which the monster at the time boasted, with a 25s. note attached thereto. I hope the great and merciful God has forgiven so base a wretch ! — Is it not heinous in the sight of all men of honour, virtue, morality, or feeling, to think that any man, let him be ever so base, worthless, or void of those noble feelings with which at intervals the most reprobate characters are endowed, would retain and exult with impunity in having that confession in his and his worthless wife’s possession. O God ! who sees and knows all our evil thoughts and manifold transgressions, forgive the malignant perpetrators of so wicked and revolting an outrage against thy laws. The twenty-five shilling note pinned to her confession, her maid told me, was for the Rev. Mr. Walsh of Denmark-street, in the City of Dublin, who was many years Madame O’Conor’s Confessor. —
The late Mr. Nolan of Queensforth, in the County of Galway, the nephew of Madame O’Conor, who was heir-at-law, and French Kelly, who married the niece of Paul Davis, Esq. of Cloonshanville, near Frenchpark, decided their severe contest about the old lady’s property at a record in Roscommon, in March, 1815. French Kelly produced a will, if I do not mistake, purporting to be made in 1810 or 1811 ; and I have some reason to think that Madame O’Conor did put her signature to some document favourable to this French Kelly, as she thought him very faithful to her at the time ; but on finding him and ***** gross impostors, and having the audacity to insult her in her own house, she changed her mind, and instead of their being her favourites and friends, became her most inveterate enemies, and continued at law until the unfortunate lady’s death, which was chiefly owing to the forged or false deed of conveyance that her nephew (Bob Nolan) imposed upon her, and sold as genuine to the late John Farrell of Ballyglass, in this county.
From the general character, however, of French Kelly, which was any thing but creditable or supported with integrity, while harboured out of charity in the house of the lamented lady, who in her old age was a prey to such a merciless and rapacious rabble, there was another transaction which the unfortunate knave was guilty of, and that was a glaring and obvious erasure in expunging the name of some friend of the parties at the time, and substituting that of Mr. William Kelly, who now carries on the business of a wine merchant in Gardiner-street, in the City of Dublin.
These little forgeries corresponded with many other flagitious rogueries detected in this precious document. It was perceivable that Mr. French Kelly, like many others who are endeavouring to support a bad cause, engaged the whole strength of the Connaught Bar; amongst whom was Counsellor Boyd, and a great puff he was, just going to get married to the rich and disconsolate widow of old Rochford, commonly called the Lord of the Lakes or Belvedere. This was a strange change in Mr. Boyd, who was the leading Counsel of Madame O’Conor against French Kelly and others for years.
The first witness called to prove this will was John Davis, an attorney, and the first cousin of Mrs. French Kelly. This champion of the law seemed (from his testimony) to injure the cause of his honest friend and colleague more than render it any substantial service. The next who came to support this lame-legged testament were the two Mr. Finnigans : their trade (as they confessed, which caused a general laugh) was that of tinkers ; they lived in the same house in Moore-street, in the City of Dublin ; they occupied the under part — the remainder of the house was let to weekly tenants. —
Well, Mr. Finnigan, have you any recollection of being called one evening to witness a will ?
— I have.
Where did the person reside?
— At the Pipe Water-Office in Dorset-street, and within a few doors of Granby-row.
Who was the person that received you when you went there ?
— On going there I accompanied a tenant of mine, Mr. French Kelly, who introduced me to an elderly lady as his landlord.
Did Mr. French Kelly mention your name to the lady ?
— I think he did.
What did he say ?
— As well as I recollect, he mentioned to the lady that I was Mr. Finnigan.
Was the lady young or old ?
— A very old lady, and as far as I could perceive, a high bred woman, entirely beyond the common run that shopkeepers meet in the course of business.
What hour might it be ?
— About eight o’clock in the evening.
Did you get any refreshment there?
— Yes, cake and wine.
Did the lady seem quite sensible of what was going on ?
— Apparently she did.
Did you delay long there ?
— Only a few minutes.
Who was there at the time ?
— Mr. French Kelly, my son, myself, and the lady whom we met there.
Did you all come away together ?
— No ; Mr. Kelly remained after us.—
This witness was cross-examined by Mr. Daniel, of Mountjoy-square, who was Mr. Nolan’s leading Counsel.
Your name is Finnigan ?
— Yes, Sir.
What business do you follow ?
— I am a tinker, genteelly called a brazier.
Have you resigned business ?
— I have.
You made your fortune, I suppose ?
— No, Sir ; I have been rather unfortunate, I failed in business.
Now, Mr. Finnigan, as a gentleman, will you tell those highly respectable gentry in the Jury box how often you were in the Sheriffs’ Prison ?
— I almost forget, Sir ; I think three times. —
Now, Mr. Finnigan, upon your honour, how many glasses of raw whiskey did you take the day you were called to sign the late Madame O’Conor’s last will and testament ?
— I do not recollect.
How many glasses do you take this cold weather to ease your cough ?
— Sometimes two or three rope-dancers (a laugh), according as the wind blows, or in other words, according as my friends and myself raise the wind.
The evidence of the other Finnigan was much in the same strain, and of no importance to be recorded, except that they both swore to their signatures, and that the old lady signed the will in their presence, as Catherine O’Conor Don.
The next witness called on behalf of Mr. Nolan, was the Most Rev. Doctor Thomas Troy, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, and being sworn, said he knew Madame O’Conor for many years ; saw her when very young, with her aunt Dillon, at Belgard Castle; saw her afterwards very often, while at school in King-street Nunnery ; was very intimate with her some years before her death; the lady’s intentions were to bequeath her property for charitable institutions ; told him she had no will made ; he resigned her keys, and such property as was in her apartments, to the gentleman who calls himself French Kelly, a few hours after the lamented lady’s death, as he shewed him a will, which he represented was made some years back in his favour, and observed that he was sure she forgot that such a document was extant, as they were not on good terms for some time before her death. This witness was not cross-examined.
Mrs. MacDonnell of Coonmore-house, in Mayo, was the next witness on behalf of Madame O’Conor’s nephew. She knew Madame O’Conor Don from her childhood ; she was allied to her father through a connexion with the Dillon family ; she never heard so base and so bad a character of any person as that given by the late Madame O’Conor of the gentleman who calls himself Mr. French Kelly, and who now claims her paternal property.
By Counsel — Is that long back, Madame, since you got this character of this mighty heir of the Connaught Queen ?
— Two days previous to her death.
Did you see the lady as late as February, 1814?
— I did.
Where did she reside then ?
— In Mary-street.
On your oath, Madam, did she tell you of her trunks being robbed in her house in Strokestown ?
— She did.
What did Madame O’Conor say she lost out of her lockers at the time ?
— In a small paper parcel she tied up twenty-five or thirty pounds in bank notes, and put them into a small trunk, in which were some gold and loose silver, private letters, and a family deed; the trunk was moved, and the lock broken, and the trunk left back in the place.
How near Madame O’Conor Don’s bed-chamber did Kelly and his wife sleep ?
— In the next room.
Who did the lady suspect for the theft ?
— Mr, French Kelly.
On your oath. Madam, did she tell you so ?
— She did.
Did she tell you that she consulted any person about the robbery ?
— She did, her Counsel, Mr. Boyd.
From the bad character that she gave of Mr. French Kelly, don’t you imagine that he is the last man on this earth she would leave her real and personal property to ?
— I am convinced he is.
You have no hostility to Kelly or his wife, any more than to do justice ?
— Not the least ; from their bad treatment to her I must own I don’t like them, as, from the various complaints Mrs. O’Conor Don made of their infamous conduct towards her, it could not be supposed that I could like them ; but let it not be understood that I have any personal hatred towards the Kellys. I hold any improper character in the same contempt, no matter what claim they might have on my friendship or kindred.
Do you recollect, Mrs. MacDonnell, that your kinswoman told you of any other money of hers that French Kelly turned to his own use ?
— I do ; five hundred pounds he obtained from Bishop Troy of Rutland-square.
The cross-examination of this witness by Mr. Vandeleur and Mr. Crampton, did not in the least elucidate any thing to shake her excellent testimony; and her answers to both counsel were marked with judicious humility and unbiassed integrity. This lady is the widow of the late Myles MacDonnell, Esq. of Doo Castle, in Mayo, and the eldest daughter of the late James Hughes, Esq., by Miss Kean of Keansbrook, near Carrick-on- Shannon, in the County of Leitrim. Mr. Hughes was maternally allied to the Dillons of Lung, Bracklon, and Belgard Castle, in the County of Dublin, as also to the Brabazons of Newpark, in Mayo, a junior branch of the ancient and illustrious house of the Earls of Meath.
The last witness on this interesting trial was Mrs. Hilles, the wife of James Hilles, Esq., a merchant in Abbey-street, in the City of Dublin. Mrs. Hilles is the only daughter of Francis Coyne, Esq. of Clogher, near Boyle, in this county, by Miss Farrell of Corker, and the niece of John Farrell of Bloomfield, Esq. Mrs. Hilles knew the late Madame O’Conor since she was at a boarding-school in a nunnery in the town of Galway; O’Conor Don and she went there for the benefit of bathing during the summer months, and Madame 0’Conor called in her carriage to see her ; the high compliment paid her she never forgot ; consequently, whenever she knew her to be in Dublin she always paid her a visit, at least once a week — sometimes oftener; a more amiable woman she never knew, nor a woman in her advanced state of life endowed with more humility and munificence to those in distress, or urbanity in her manners and deportment; in her whole frame was combined a multiplicity of those rare virtues seldom to be met with in this age, and yet she never knew any woman more unjustly persecuted or more virulently assailed by those who claimed her kindred; her idea was that those persons felt quite unhappy that their victim lived so long, that they might fight dog fight bear; and indeed her opinion was verified in the action now before the Court.
She saw Madame O’ Conor two days previous to her death, and sat some time in her bedchamber ; she found her in every respect as sensible in her conversation and as strong in her memory as at any other time that she happened to talk on her affairs ; she told her she had the form of a will written, wherein she was leaving her property (with the exception of trifling legacies) for charitable institutions, to be distributed by Doctor Troy and his successors; she reprobated the insidious conduct of French Kelly and his wife, and some others of her own kindred, whose base fraud plunged her in a wanton litigation with my uncle and others, which left her going to her grave poor and pennyless, so much so, that she could hardly procure the common necessaries of life, or keep a man servant as a protection to her in her old age.
Mr. Daniel asked her if she knew Mr, French Kelly ?
— She said she never saw him but once, according to her recollection.
Mrs. Hilles, be so kind as to tell the gentlemen in the Jury box what you knew of him on that occasion ?
— The Monday morning on which Mrs. O’Conor died, (having heard of it from a lady in Liffey-street Chapel,) I and a Miss O’Neil, now Mrs. Burke, of the County of Galway, proceeded to the deceased lady’s lodgings; her maid admitted us to the drawing-room, where the corpse was laid on a table, without a human being in the room. I expressed my surprise at seeing the remains of a lady who was only a few hours dead removed from her bed- room. Her maid replied, that French Kelly ordered her to remove the corpse, as he wished to examine her trunks and papers. I threw myself, said the worthy woman, on a sofa, being so much oppressed at what I heard ; so help me God, (save the last view I had taken of all that was mortal of my own parent,) nothing ever so touched my feelings at the moment than seeing the remains of as amiable and honourable a woman as ever breathed, a prey and under the merciless persecution of so unfeeling a wretch ; even after death put an end to her sufferings on this earth, to see all that remained of her puissant greatness and high lineage insulted with impunity by so worthless and rapacious a knave. After shedding tears for the misfortunes of the object before my face, and reflecting how uncertain our views and expectations were in this world, in which melancholy sensibility I was joined by Miss O’Neil and the maid, who seemed to feel the same pangs of overwhelming grief; and after sitting and undergoing for some time those melancholy and sad reflections generally felt on those occasions, Mrs. Harkan of Sackville- street was ushered in, accompanied by a young lady ; next walked in the defendant, French Kelly, who, on entering the room, did not notice any person seated there, and behaved in the most rude and insolent manner, going up to the fire, throwing up the filthy skirts of a threadbare great coat, and putting his back to the grate, began to amuse his wicked thoughts by shaking his leg, on which was an old top boot that seemed to have seen better days on their former owner.
Pray, Madam, said one of the lawyers, did the attorney affect no more grief for the loss of a lady who seemed so interested for him than what you describe ?
— If whistling denote grief, said Mrs. Hilles, it was all I could recognise.
You never saw the new squire before or after ?
— No, Sir, until within these few minutes, when I saw him in this Court.
Mrs. Hilles underwent a long cross-examination by French Kelly’s lawyers — I think Mr. North and George French of Eccles-street, (the latter confessed afterwards that he was afraid to attack her.)
The chief of the cross-examination was to shew the Jury that Mrs. Hilles was personally hostile to Mr. French Kelly, in consequence of the able part he had taken respecting the false deed of conveyance that Robert Nolan sold to her uncle, Mr. John Farrell of Bloomfield. All, however, was useless.
Mrs. James Hilles gave the most luminous evidence that ever was given in the Court-House of Roscommon ; and the present inheritor, Mr. Robert Nolan, late of the 101st regiment, is much indebted to her, or the estate of Lisnanean would at this present moment be in the possession of the attorney’s clerk, French Kelly, of the town of Loughrea, or his heirs.
Not only what I have described, but other invaluable and legal information respecting the frauds of the French Kellys and Co. was also obtained through Mrs. Hilles. It is obvious that from the aversion that Madame O’Conor Don had for the Nolans, as well as the French Kellys and the Davises, that it was not her intention to leave so much as one farthing to any of those I have mentioned ; but as she died intestate, it was of course natural to suppose that her nephew, Mr. Kelly Nolan of Queensforth, had the best claim to her property, which he obtained, to the no small rejoicing of a crowded Court.
The Honourable Mr. Justice Johnston was the presiding Judge ; Mathew O’Conor, Esq. of Mount-Druid, was the Foreman of the Jury, who were highly respectable; and amongst whom were John Young of Castlerea — Mark Low of Lowville — Thomas Nolan of Castlecoote, Esqrs., and indeed eight other gentlemen of equal respectability.
If the unfortunate French Kelly followed the humble avocation in life to which he was brought up — and had not, through the folly of his vain and ambitious wife, who had nothing on earth to boast of but being descended from the Dillons and Davises, two unfortunate families who had a long pedigree and a short rent-roll, and what was worse, by tracing them to their remotest origin, were only placed in this kingdom as the immortal Hudson Lowe, who, if we believe my friend, Barry O’Meara, was lower than many honest men would wish to be, as a watch on the natives, and if they exceeded the mild edicts or bounds prescribed, had them hung or shot genteelly at their own door or on the next gibbet, until the good- natured vultures of some neighbouring havoc or demolished ruin picked the flesh off their bones, for fear (as we must naturally surmise) that those spectres, which were so prevalent in those days of sanguinary rapine, would increase the epidemic contagion that unfortunately raged, aided by the many other privations in all parts of this country, and in no district more so than in those parts of Roscommon under the humane governorship of the Dillons and the never- forgotten Davises —
if this Jack-of-the-Wall, commonly called French Kelly, as I have observed, followed his daily and nightly labour, earning his penny per sheet amongst his brethren on the scriveners’ grazy bench in any of the nests of literature in town, the unlamented limb of litigation would not add to the long list of Radford Roes who put the country to the frequent expense of a parish coffin, to have their remains deposited in the family vault in his Majesty’s gaol of Newgate, or, for the benefit of the fragrant air, in Bully’s Acre at the sign of the platform on Kilmainham common.
I have observed before, that Honora O’Conor, the daughter of Dowell, of Mantua, near Elphin, was the lady by whose exertions the house of O’Conor, now extant, was built; unquestionably the site selected reflects no small honour on the lady’s memory, as it embraces several natural advantages. The mansion is situated on a verdant lawn, secluded by a handsome round fort from the intrusion of strangers : the fort in itself is a cooling and delightful shade, covered with drooping willows, reclining majestically into the River Suck, which swells in all its magnitude, and throws its radiant rays on this antique residence, delightfully adorned and protected by the mature oak, sycamore, and various shrubs of evergreen which spontaneously co-operate to beautify with their fragrant and never-fading mantle the castle terrace and serpentine walks in and about the house of Cloonalis.
“ Though Honora Dowell,” said my father, “ was no welcome guest to her mother-in-law, the
Lady Anne Birmingham O’Conor Don, still her fortune, only a few hundred pounds, enabled them to improve their small and mountainous patrimony and build a respectable house in place of a low smoky hovel in which they resided, after being expelled from their ancient and noble seat at Castlerea.” “ Lady Anne O’Conor, “ added he, ” of the puissant house of Athenry, and the matrimonial niece of the great O’Brien, Prince of Thomond and Clare, was a very imperious woman, and wished her son to be married to the heiress of O’Moore of Cloughan Castle, and though the Dowells possessed the chief of the estate of O’Flanagan, called the Mantues and the Callows, a large tract of low swamp and a deep moor, which in rainy weather and during the winter months forms into a beautiful lake and almost inundates some miles in the vicinity of that riotous district, well known as Loughaughreagaugh, I must own they were connected with respectable families, such as the Dillons of Belgarde Castle, and the Graces of Gracefield, in the County of Kilkenny. “
Even so, the O’ Conors Don felt somewhat indignant at the connexion, which I am sorry to say proved unfortunate, and was verified in the deportment, intemperance, and austerity which the lady shewn after her marriage, and on no occasion more so than on her insulting, at her own table, her husband’s kinsman, Daniel O’Conor Don, the last Prince of the house of Ballintober, who lived a single life, and was maternally allied to the Burkes of Meelick and the Butlers of Thomastown, to the latter of whom he bequeathed the residue of his former domains, such as Ballintober, Toomana, Endfield, Carraghreagh, Bracklon, and some other manors in the vicinity of that ancient and majestic ruin of royalty called the Castle of O’Conor, leaving the hereditary estates to strangers. This caused that memorable law suit, so long pending, between the O’Conors and the Butlers, and which undoubtedly would have terminated in favor of the O’Conors, were it not for the foolish conduct of the late Sandy O’Conor, who died a few years back at his favorite hut near Castlerea.
The dispute originated between two factions, about a Priest of the name of Magrath, who was fosterer to the O’Conors Don, and whom they wished to possess the extensive Parish of Ballintober : on the other hand they were vehemently opposed by a resident of the parish, who wished (and who could blame him ?) to have his own kinsman and namesake Parish Priest. In this manner, unfortunately for the O’Conors of Ballinagare, the county was convulsed — so much so, that cannon were ordered from the Castle of Dublin. The Rev. Mr. Magrath was brother to a tanner of that name who lived in the town of Castlerea, and who, on his marriage with a woman of the name of Compton, the daughter of an old English pensioner, embraced Protestantism, in lieu of which the leathern neophyte got leases from the Sandfords and the Frenches of Frenchpark of some farms in that neighbourhood, by which he accumulated some money. His grandson, a worthy gentleman, is Rector of Shankhill in the County of Carlow, and many others of that family are much respected; however, Sandy O’Conor was sent to prison for the outlaw and battery which he foolishly raised in the country, where the Cloonalis and the Corristoona factions, with Big Roger Conor and his sons at their head, were arrayed against each other. Prince Sandy stood his trial and was acquitted, as the Protestant aristocracy of the county — the Mahons, Sandfords, and the Cootes of Castlecoote, felt more for the weakness of his mind and the deficiency and gross neglect of his education in his early days, than any determination to visit such ludicrous absurdities with further coercion than sending him home to be placed under the protection of Molly Egan, a good natured woman, who nurse-tended the Prince many years. When one Ledwich of Ballymahon, in the County of Longford, found his Majesty’s troops with a few cannon in that country, he availed himself of calling in their aid to dispossess a little squire in the mountains of Dunmore, of the name of Geoghegan, on pretence that his ancestors had mortgages on one or two marshes, for centuries in the possession of the great O’Geoghegans. The unfortunate Geoghegans fled in all directions, and, from being mountain squires and village rulers, became itinerant paupers. I recollect myself seeing the honorable ex-heir of Dismal Glen, long Ned Geoghegan, who had what are vulgarly called bow legs, and was many years a plucker in, or a sort of enticing serjeant in this district. I have only to add, that it was by the insult Honora Dowell of Mantue gave old Daniel O’Conor, that the heirs of Cloonalis and Ballinagare lost the Ballintober estates, which for upwards of one thousand years were in the possession of that illustrious and esteemed family, who, in all the privations and revolutions that oppressed them, never changed the religion of their forefathers for the novelty and whimsical fanaticism of the times.