(1)  Stephen Coppinger


The Coppingers of Ballyvolane were among those old Burgher families of Danish origin who were once all powerful within the walls of Cork.  There is hardly a real Irish name for centuries among the Members of Parliament, Mayors, Bailiffs, and Aldermen, whose acts have been recently brought forward in the Council Book of Cork, learnedly edited by Dr. Caulfield.  Daughters of the family intermarried with such genuine native stock as the O'Briens of Kilcor, and O'Byrnes of Cabinteely, but from the 16th century to our own time the only Mrs. Coppinger of Ballyvolane who was of pure Irish blood on the father's side, was the Clare heiress, Jane McMahon, of Clenagh, who married the second last William Coppinger of Ballyvolane and Barryscourt, in 1777.  It does not appear when the Coppingers of Ballyvolane got the power which they so long possessed of appointing the Parish Priest of Shandon, which is referred to in Madden's Ireland and its Rulers, p. 184.  That power they exercised until Rome took up the right from the last William Coppinger, on the valid plea that he could not show cause or endowment, the endowment having been swallowed up at the Reformation.  The Right Rev. Dr. Delaney, Bishop of Cork, remembers the facts of the case quite well.  Owing to the absence of old parochial registration it is impossible to collect a detailed pedigree before the Reformation, and therefore it is proposed to follow the history of the lands - which affords us glimpses of the owners.  When the English rule was established in Cork, and the native Irish driven without the city, the Danish quarter - the "Oestmans Cantred" - was spared.  Balyvolane and part of the city property are within its supposed boundaries.  Old people can point out not far from some of it the site of Skiddy's Castle, the fortified tower of the powerful but now extinct Danish family who gave their name to Ring-a-Skiddy, i.e., Skiddy's Point, near Monkstown, Co. Cork.  For the present purpose it is enough to state that among the ancient possessions of this family still remaining there are bits of land in the North and South Liberties, and two townlands near Queenstown Junction, in the Barony of Barrymore, quite near Barryscourt, where the Coppingers in more modern times settled as tenants of the Earl of Barrymore, when they returned from exile after the Jacobite troubles.  These townlands of Killacloyne and Granacloyne are fee simple property, and, unlike the other lands in and near the city held in "free burbage," were held by knight service.  Ballyvolane, which is situated near the northern end of the long tunnel through which the railway from Dublin now approaches the City of Cork, was in olden times about one Irish mile distant from the north gate of that city.  Accordingly we find that in 1609, when the County of the City was being separated, for legal purposes, from the County at large, Thomas Coppinger of Ballyvolane is enumerated among the freeholders resident within three miles of the City walls, who for the future were to serve on City Juries.  (See Caulfield's Council Book of Cork.)  Besides the tradition that Ballyvolane was held by the Coppingers from a period antecedent to the invasion of Ireland by Henry the Second, there is a belief that proofs of this long tenure were produced in evidence in a trial which took place at the Cork Assizes between 1820 and 1825.  There was a trial between the father of the late William Coppinger of Barryscourt and the Callaghan family about the boundaries of a piece of land belonging to Ballyvolane in March, 1823, and another suit between John Murphy and the Corporation of Cork in 1821, concerning tolls and jurisdictions, in which the point of this latter trial turned on the exact distance from the ancient walls of the place where the tolls were to be levied.  It was quite near Ballyvolane.  The short newspaper report says: Several ancient Inquisitions were given in evidence, but the only one particularised is one of Lord Barrymore's to a portion of the Manor of Shandon. Either of these might be the case referred to.  The late Chief Baron Pigot, who had been an old member of the Munster Circuit, some years ago mentioned the circumstances of the production at some such trial of a very old Coppinger Inquisition going very far back, to a gentleman who related it to the writer. The impression left on his mind by Baron Pigot's information was that the title to Ballyvolane there proved was a title without patent, and went back to a period prior to the date of the first Charter of the Corporation of the City of Cork. 

The Following is an Abstract of the Four Inquisitions on Stephen Coppinger, who Died in 1600.

The protection and recognition of the dwellers in the Oestman Cantred, renders such an explanation quite feasible.  The reference to Ballyvolane in abridgment of Coppinger v. Callaghan says: "The ancient and respectable family of the Coppingers of Barryscourt, one of whom, a female, married one of the Dukes of Norfolk, were seised in fee of the lands of Ballyvolane in the North Liberties of this city.  The father of the present plaintiff, to whom they descended, conveyed them to his son."  The old edition of Burke states that an Inquisition of the time of James I. was produced in evidence in such a trial.  He, however, makes a mistake of 20 years in the date of the death of a Stephen Coppinger, mentioned in four Inquisitions now preserved in the Irish Public Record Office.  He died on the 2nd July, 1600, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, though the Inquisitions finding the descent of his estates from him to his second son, Thomas, were not taken until the reigns of James I. and Charles I. respectively.

In tracing the history of the family, too much importance must not be attached to spelling of names; nor to when or how the Danish Copenher passed through Cophynger into it's present form with one p or two p's.  The old lawyers took all sorts of liberties with James Copinger's claim of 1688, whose one p signatures are most legible, is of two p's in his claim.  Stephen, of Ballyvolane and Barryscourt, of whom there are several equally legible signatures in existence all with two p's, is Stephen of one p in his claim of l688.  Killacloyne is spelt certainly three if not five ways in the one set of Inquisitions, at least there are three certain variations which may be made into five, as you interpret the old scribe's letters as Mc - Ma -Na.  Consequently, spelling must be rejected as a guide, and we must follow the clue of the lands.  The name appears through the 13th and 14th centuries.  A Stephen, Alderman in 1319, is stated, in Rossmore Pedigree, to be probable ancestor of the present clan.  There are Mayors, and Members, and Aldermen, and traces of the marriages of daughters of the family at early dates; but as they appear to have been nearly as numerous and quite as clannish as the native Irish, it is impossible to give a connected narrative.  The above Inquisitions of Stephen Coppinger all agree in stating that the eldest son, William, was 30 years of age and married at his father's death, so he must have been born in 1570.  He is stated to have been married - but to have died without male issue, in December, 1606, and to have been succeeded by his brother Thomas, aged 28 at that time.  In a short Inquisition, he is declared married - "maritatus;" but in the long and particular one he is declared a bachelor - "non-maritatus."  Now, if Thomas was not married in 1630, when the last Inquisition was taken, he could not be the father of the chief of the name, born in 1609, and buried in Shandon, whose funeral inscription is particularly legible.  There is not a stop or a dot in the whole set of parchments, but if we apply " not married" as designating him at his brother's death in 1606, he would probably be father to Stephen, born within three years.  There was some curious dodging going on about Killacloyne, because the jury who held the Inquisition, at Bandon Bridge, in 1630, "know not of what person or persons the lands were held;" whereas, at an Inquisition on the same persons and place, held likewise at Bandon Bridge, on the 22nd of October, 1624, the title is fully and clearly made out by the production of the actual parchments by which the lands were held.

With reference to the Inquisition of the 22nd October, 1624, it may be observed that there was no Lord David, son of William, between the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 17th centuries.  David, son of William, was living in 1317. Oddly enough, in 1767 the two islands and a fishing weir are described as forming part of Killacloyne, but the rest is called Granacloyne.  These lands are stated to be held of David Lord Barry, but it is not stated when, how, or where the Cork citizens got into Lord Robert de Clavilla's shoes.

In the Inquisition held at the King's Old Castle in 1631, the Lord de Clavilla and the six silver pennies disappear off the scene, but the lands are stated to be held of David, Earl of Barrymore, as of the Manor of Carrigtouhill.  The trace of the six silver pennies and the homage, probably equivalent to the tenure of knight service, disappear after this, and Killacloyne is designated as simply held in fee.  Whether Coppinger's garden was in the North or South Liberties is not easy to decide.  Parka-na-Copperig, Coppinger's Fields, in 1688, are described as near Douglas, and probably it was the same place,  A piece of Tillage ground or land might get laid down into grass in 80 years, and change its name.  Coppinger's Stang comes from the French word "étang," a fish pond, and there is a tradition of a lost bit of land where nets used to be dried.  In 1822, there was a suit at law between Coppingers and Callaghans about a bit of land near a pond in part of Ballyvolane, Mr. Coppinger being the victor.  It was very likely this identical bit.  The old gentleman had certain visionary ideas of claiming some long-lost lands to which he believed some old parchments gave him a claim; but he was persuaded not to make the attempt.  Unfortunately, many of the documents mentioned by Sir Bernard Burke's father, in his History of the Landed Gentry, are not now to be found, nor is there a trace of sundry others, mentioned elsewhere.  Dr. Caulfield says that the late Mr. Sainthill, a well-known Cork antiquarian, was once driven down by the late William Coppinger to Barryscourt, then only used as a dairy-house.  It was a Sunday afternoon, and the dairy girl's bonnets and shawls were thrown down on some old chests in a desolate room.  The old gentleman flung them off and opened a chest that was unlocked; on the very top, Mr. Sainthill discovered a parchment with the signature of Queen Elizabeth.  He was hurried off by the impatient old squire before he could investigate further.  Burke, in 1833, mentions a Don d'Aubaine from Louis XIV., to the widow of William Coppinger, a brother and fellow refugee of Thomas, who died in exile for King James, and the marriage contract of Thomas's son Stephen, who settled at Barryscourt.  There is in existence a letter from Mr. James Roche, the well-known antiquarian banker of Cork, to last William Coppinger, returning him, December 21st, 1833, the enamel miniature of Charles Edward, as a very young man, given by the Stuarts to one of his McMahon ancestors; and John Coppinger's will, marriage contract of Stephen Coppinger, and list of the Catholic inhabitants of Cork in 1652.  The miniature has happily been preserved, but of the papers there is no trace.


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This page was last updated on 25-Mar-2002

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