(14)  William Coppinger Of Barryscourt


The MacMahon estates, in the County of Clare, now held by Mr. Coppinger, of Barryscourt, were once in great jeopardy, as the MacMahons had reason to fear a discoverer.  A very spirited, though ancient maiden,  a Miss MacMahon, resolved to extricate her family by becoming a Protestant.  Before doing so she consulted a friar upon the propriety of her intentions.  He very frankly told her, that if for the sake of lucre she changed her creed, that she would peril her soul.  'Here goes, then,' she cried, 'better at any time that the soul of an old maid should go to the devil, than that the property of the MacMahons of Clare should go to the Protestants.'  She conformed, and saved the property. Pity that so spirited a spinster never found a mate![1]

William was not the first-born of his parents, but his clever and promising young brother Stephen having died during the lifetime of his parents, on William devolved the task of steering his course through the shoals and pitfalls that beset a Catholic landowner in troubled times.  That neither he nor his father ever abjured their faith when the temptations to do so were so strong, is the great thing which redounds to their credit.  Both were very extravagant in money matters: lavish and prodigal in their hospitality; - though when this second William got old he would have tried to retrench.  Setting aside that portion of their lives which was passed in dealing with old encumbrances and creating fresh ones, so far as can be learned about the second William, he seems to have been a kindly, honourable, devout, and well-educated person - probably educated abroad - certainly very familiar with the French language.  His portrait, in his wedding garb, represents a fair, slender man of middle size; of course, clean shaven, with powdered hair, tied in a queue.  He has an oval face, neat, regular features, small blue eyes, a long straight nose, and a small mouth. His coat is pale blue silk, embroidered in silver, with Mechlin lace ruffles and Jabot.  His wife's portrait, taken evidently before her marriage, represents a very slender, fragile, sweet-looking girl, her blonde hair looped up in a classical knot of curls, well suiting her delicate Grecian profile.  Her bodice is of some plain dark stuff, with a dark red drapery thrown round it.  The painter seems to have rather striven after picturesque effect than actual representation of any fashion.  The girl's sweet young portrait, of the most Rousseau-like simplicity, contrasts strangely with her handsome, stately mother's ample draperies of blue satin, red velvet, and ermine, and her grandmother's long-waisted cloth-of-gold bodice, as with the jewels worn by both.  As that beautiful mother died before she was forty, both must have married very young.

William and Jane lived chiefly at Barryscourt, having a town house in Jones' Row, in Cork.  There are people now living who remember William in his old age, and when nearly blind, with long white hair walking up and down the Rosary Walk - a high walk which ran along the Avenue; - the mere bank still exists, but it's clipped yew hedges have vanished.  Up and down the old squire used to pace, saying his rosary, and followed by a man-servant, whose double function was to give the responses and to see that the blind man did not get off the "Rosary Walk," as the great orchards necessitated a man-trap or two - objects of great wonder and awe to the grandchildren.  As they sat with their books and toys in the dark wainscoted parlours, ensconced in the deep window seats, they used to see sundry venerable great-uncles, tall old men, coming frequently to their grandfather, all of whom were of course staunch Papists.

The tradition concerning the second William's marriage is that he was staying for hunting with some of his Butler kindred near Clonmel, when he met his distant kinswoman Jane McMahon, whom he married almost out of the nursery.

The following is an abstract of his marriage settlement:-

Abstract of Marriage Treaty, 3rd November, 1777.

Abstract of Marriage treaty of Wm Coppinger of Barryscourt, the younger, Esqre and Jane McMahon of Clenagh, spinster, concluded Novr 3rd 1777.  Parties to treaty Wm Coppinger the elder of Barryscourt, Co Cork, Esquire.

William Coppinger, Junr his eldest son and heir apparent.
Donat McMahon of Clenagh, Co Clare, Esqr now residing in Clonmell.
Jane McMahon, spinster, only sister of the sd Donat.
James Butler of Kilcommon, Co Tipperary, Esquire.
John Galway of Lota, Co Cork, Esquire.
In consideration of approaching marriage William Coppinger the elder secures £10,000 to trustees.  James Butler and John Galway passing penal bond for sum of £20,000, interest at 5 per cent.; Donat McMahon in like manner passes penal bond of £12,000 to trustees to secure his sister's portion of £6,000 at 5 per cent.

Donat McMahon hands over his Estates to be managed by his future brother‑in‑law.  The trustees declare that they accept trust and guarantee payment.  In case of Jane's widowhood, they guarantee to pay out of trust funds a jointure of £300 a year for her life on payment in full of her fortune, increase of Jointure to £400 a year.  If she bears children who survive her husband jointure to be increased to £500, payable half‑yearly; on getting her jointure she must renounce her third part of husband's personal property.

In case William Coppinger the younger should leave one or more daughters and younger sons, Jane McMahon's £6,000 goes to these younger children as he shall apportion it.  .  .  .  .

In the event of only one son, that eldest son to come in for the sums of £10,000 and £6,000 eventually.

Should Jane McMahon die without issue within ten years of her marriage her husband should have £3,000 refunded to Donat McMahon, if so much of it shall have been paid.

If so much shall not have been paid there shall then be a deduction out of bonds what will make it £3,000, Donat only being liable then to £3,000.  .  .  .  .

Donat McMahon contracts to give a power of attorney that William Coppinger the younger shall enter into and take possession of all Donat's Lands and Estates in Clare, with all rents, issues, and profits, out of which he shall undertake to pay Mrs. Lucinda McMahon, the mother of the said Donat McMahon, the dower which shall grow due and payable to her the interest on all mortgages and judgments affecting the lands of Donat McMahon, and pay to Donat £200 a year, first payment May 1; any surplus remaining in William Coppinger, Junr's, hands to go in payment of interest on his wife's portion.

Any further surplus to Donat.

Should there not be what will pay interest of Dowry the interest is to be considered as due and allowed to accumulate, as it is feared for some years to come the estate will not be equal to meeting charges.  Dower to Lucinda McMahon, £200 to Donat and interest on debts, unless debts can be reduced to 5 p. cent.  William Coppinger is to procure money at 5 p. cent. to pay off incumberances, or, failing to do so, to advance money of his own for the purpose at 5 p. cent.  William Coppinger further binds himself within a year of his marriage to procure the money at 5 p. cent., and failing this the trustees must pay interest on all the Judgment debts, only charging Donat McMahon the 5 per cent.

The terribly incumbered state of the property can be imagined when Donat McMahon only sought to get £200 a-year out of his property, of which the gross rental was that very year

£1,023.  5s.  6d.

Statute acreage,  10,326 acs. 2 rds. 7 1/2 pchs.
Irish           " 6,389 acs. 0 rds. 22 pchs.

The bride and bridegroom belonged to the same "Brahmin caste," as one might venture to style the Catholic gentry, during the 90 years the Penal Laws prevented any new Catholic rising to any considerable position or buying lands in fee-simple.  This couple were third cousins through their joint descent from a younger branch of the great house of Ormonde, through the Catholic Leader of 1641, Colonel Richard Butler, brother to the Great Duke of Ormonde.

A dispensation was easily procured and the marriage duly solemnised.  William Coppinger, husband of Jane McMahon, was not very old in years, but he was of a grave and dignified demeanour, and his wife was so very young she always looked up with almost filial respect, and seldom called him William, generally addressing him as Mr. Coppinger or Sir.  Irish grand-parents and elderly aunts and uncles were generally addressed as Sir or Ma'am, and many old folks are still thus addressed by their descendants.  The young bride had an only brother, an Abbé in Paris, and was his undoubted heir.  His estates were over 10,000 English acres, comprising the ruined Castle and valuable lime-stone estate of Clenagh, near New Market-on-Fergus, and two wild tracts of moor and mountain, with sundry outlying bits on the banks of the Shannon near Kildysart, where the Shannon and Fergus join to form a brackish lake 5 miles wide.  Four thousand English acres of this alone remain handed down, along with Coppinger's property, to their great-grandson.

The Coppingers of Ballyvolane representing the McMahons of Clenagh, and both families being now represented in the female line by Minor John Coppinger O'Connell, the writer's son, she has strung together the few leading points of the history of this genuinely Celtic family to preserve them from oblivion.

McMahons of Clenagh.  Jane McMahon of Glenagh was the lineal descendant of a chieftain named Donogh-na-glaicé - the six-fingered - through his third son, Tiege McMahon, founder of the family of Clenagh.

The old chieftain's territories extended from 6 miles below Ennis to beyond Kilkee along the Shannon, with bits on the other bank.  He made his eldest son Chief of West Corcobaskin, now Moyarta Barony, the wild promontory by the Shannon's mouth and running up to Kilrush; and his second son Chief of East Corobaskin, the present Barony of Clonderlaw, between the O'Brien territories near Ennis, and his elder brother's wild western lands.  The third son got the estates, on which he or some of his people built the Castle of Clenagh, near New Market-on-Fergus, and the wild lands on the Shannon called the Tua-na-farné Estates - the name "Country of the Alders" applied to the district near Kildysart.  This was at the end of the 15th century.

This third's son's name was Teige.  His posterity were followers of the Eastern Chiefs, who generally threw in their fortunes with the O'Briens, of which powerful sept the McMahons were an off-shoot.  There were close alliances and intermarriages among the different O'Briens and McMahons, and the alliances made by the Clenagh family show that they held an excellent position.  In the reign of Henry VIII., Una' daughter of Torlogh of Clenagh, married Edmund Fitsz Maurice, Lord Lixnaw, afterwards 10th Lord Kerry, an ancestor of the Earl of Kerry.  Her unpaid dowry led to the sale of the estate two centuries later. Some time afterwards another Turlogh McMahon of Clenagh married the Lady Eleanor de Burgo, daughter of an Earl of Clanricarde, whose father or grandfather had been given by Henry VIII.  Brian Boru's harp, presented by the Pope to the Defender of the Faith.  It formed part of her dowry and long hung on the walls of Clenagh.  A Turlogh McMahon, in 1641, raised 100 men in the abortive Catholic rising.  A Tiege, in 1671, mortgaged the most valuable townsland on that portion of the McMahon estate, still retained by the present representative of the family.  In 1694 Donogh McMahon married Bridget Barnwall, daughter of Henry, second Viscount Kingsland, and Lady Mary Nugent, daughter of Richard, Earle of Westmeath.  She bore the Christian name of her grandmother, the Lady Bridget Fitzgerald, heiress of Henry, 12th Earl of Kildare, and widow of the famous Red Hugh O'Donnell, Earl Tyrconnell.  The McMahon property was conveyed in trust to a Protestant kinsman, Sir Donogh O'Brien (ancestor of the Inchiquin family), to Lord Kingsland, to the great Catholic lawyer, Sir Stephen Rice, and to Nicholas Barnswall, a kinsman of the bride.  Donogh McMahon was implicated in the Jacobite troubles, and fled to Austria some years later with his eldest son, Turlogh, alias Terence.[2]

The marriage of Jane McMahon with William Coppinger brought the McMahon property into the Coppinger family, and the unsold fragment, the Ballylean Estate, near Kildysart, has passed, along with the Cork lands of these Danish settlers, to the boy-representative of the second branch of the O'Connells of Iveragh, and of Charles Bianconi, the inventor of Irish car traffic.

Some time before the marriage the family re-visited Clenagh.  The Bridegroom elect was not there, being probably busy with his preparations, but his cousin Mr. Galway was there.  A wicked kinsman, Francis McMahon of Creeva, actually succeeded in carrying off the betrothed, but she was rescued by Mr. Galway and the peasants.  The heiress was actually carried into the middle of a bog, while a coach was waiting on the nearest road to carry her away.  Mr. Galway beat off the assailants, helped by the peasants, but was quite unable to carry the rescued damsel through the bog, so one huge, tall clansman, Murto McMahon, took her on his back and carried her to the coach, in which they drove her to Moyrisk, where her aunt, Mrs Macnamara lived.  His grandson and namesake, aged near 80, is now gardener to the writer at Ballylean, on which property a farm was let cheap to the athletic and valiant Murto the elder.

William Coppinger of Barryscourt.  The married life of William Coppinger and his young wife was very happy, and from old letters, &c., she seems to have been very fond of his sisters and to have been greatly beloved by them.  She had four children who lived to grow up.  Though her brother principally resided in France he sometimes came over, and the tie between them was very close and tender.  It had been hoped her husband's prudent management might have saved the Castle of Clenagh and a good part of the estate for her second son, but the hope was a vain one, and the mortgage was foreclosed.  To a woman of strong family affections and much family pride, it must have been a very bitter moment when the home of her fathers passed away from the race, especially as her second son bore her name and arms.  She was a particularly charitable woman, an excellent housekeeper, as her receipts book testifies, but lavish in all things, and very fond of entertaining.  Debts and difficulties accumulated, and there were large charges made for her children.  They received the best and costliest education, and were all skilled musicians and excellent linguists.  The boys were first at a Protestant school near Cork, where Daniel O'Connell was for a time their classfellow, and then went to a famous Catholic private school at Harrow, kept by a very handsome, affluent, and dignified priest of the old school, Rev. Dr. Collins.  Many English boys of high position were his pupils and the friends of her eldest son, even when he advanced in life.  From an early date this eldest son was manfully striving to get the family concerns into some sort of financial order; his father's loss of sight in his old age rendering his help all the more needed.  It was probably that truly Irish mixture of family pride and family affection which led William Coppinger, Jane McMahon's husband, to give her brother a peculiarly splendid funeral when the poor Abbé died in the most embarrassed circumstances.

Dr. Richard Copinger, whose father was agent to the Barryscourt Estate soon after, was then a student in the Irish College, and related to Dr. Caulfield, the well-known historian of so many southern towns, as follows :-

Though after Abbé Donat McMahon's death no means were found to warrant such expenditure, his remains were incased in a set of coffins, one of which was a leaden chest enclosing a cedar shell.  The outside coffin was covered with Genoa velvet, with a silver escutcheon and heraldic devices.  The velvet was of the most costly kind.  He was placed in a vault in Perè-la-Chaise, in which were also the remains of many French nobles.  It was said at the time it was the intention of his friends to have had the remains brought to Ireland and interred in their ancient tomb, but others said this design would never be carried out.  He still remains there in the pomp of the tomb.  His obsequies were carried out with immense splendour.  Hundreds of wax tapers burned for several days and nights around and on his catafalque, the Archbishop of Paris attended the funeral ceremonies.  The extravagance displayed was one of the topics of the day among the Irish, as it was known that the Abbé had no means, and was extremely lavish and profuse with any money he ever had or could get from Ireland.  Some friends and relatives came from Ireland, but no one ever knew who paid the undertaker.

The Abbé had apartments in the Sorbonne, so he probably had some connection with it.  His books show he was devoted to classical lore and historical and theological studies; they are nearly all French, Latin, and Greek.  Though extravagant in money matters, he was a man of pure and virtuous life, handsome, courteous, and learned.[3]

His sister was his heir, and on the death of her second son, John Coppinger McMahon, her eldest son, William Coppinger, was the eventful inheritor.

[1] Mr. Coppinger, of Barryscourt, was one of the first commoners in the Empire, and was the head of the oldest branch of the Coppingers.  He was one of the very few commoners who retained Catholic advowsons.  The power of presenting a Catholic rector to the parishes of St. Peter and Paul, and of St. Anne Shandon, in the City of Cork, was in the gift of Mr. Coppinger, and the right was exercised.  In the last century it was the custom of the Catholic bishops to ask the representative of the Coppinger family for the nomination, which was usually given to them.  In 1820, the right of nomination was disputed by the Bishop Murphy, and was the subject of an ecclesiastical suit at Rome, when it was formally decided that the right had existed in the Coppinger family for centuries, and the claim was confirmed.  The family papers in the possession of the representatives of this ancient house, are well calculated to throw upon the social history of the Irish Catholics during the last century. - Note by Mr. Owen-Madden.

[2] Col. W.F. Butler, author of the Great Lone Land, states in an article in the Contemporary Review: "They were a Great People, that the uncle of Mary Hamilton, Lady Kingsland, commanded a regiment of Imperial Cuirassiers - in which one of her brothers-in-law was killed fighting the Turks at Critzka - and that Barnwalls and Hamilton fell also at Marsiglia, Malplaquet, and Sauverne.  Mary Hamilton, Lady Kingsland, was the daughter of a niece of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, a connection very valuable to Papist kindred."  Sir Donogh O'Brien, the Protestant kinsman who, by pretending to seize, really saved the lands of Clenagh, had a son married to Katherine Keightley, a niece of Queens Mary and Anne; her mother, Lady Catherine, being a sister of their mother, Lady Anne Hyde.  As Lord Kingsland, brother to Donogh McMahon's wife, was married to one of the beautiful Hamiltons, and as Barnwalls and Hamiltons held commands in the Austrian service, Donogh naturally entered it too when forced to fly from Ireland.  This Donogh died an Austrian colonel in 1753.  The boy, Torlough, took service abroad, followed Marie Theresa's husband to Tuscany, was military Governor of Pistoja, and married one of the McMahons of Monogha, who had followed the Stuarts to France.  Their son, Stanislaus James Maximilian, returned to Ireland, which his father never seems to have re-visited.  This father's younger brother Henry had managed Clenagh in their absence, and his son and namesake, Henry, gave up quiet possession. Stanislaus gave them Brian Boru's harp, in gratitude for their faithful trust.  From McMahons it passed to the MacNamaras, and then to the Cunninghams, one of whom gave it to Trinity College, Dublin, where it may now be seen.

The first Henry's wife had been an O'Brien of Arra, which made it doubly precious in their eyes.  Stanislaus was a very handsome man - tall, dark, slender, with regular features and sad, dark eyes.  His portrait is dressed in dark brown and cloth-of-gold, He married the beautiful Lucinda Esmonde, only child of Sir Walter Esmonde and Joan Butler, Lord Cahir's daughter. They had two children, Abb_; Donat, painted as a lovely little fair-haired, blue eyed child at his mother's knee; and Jane, wife of William Coppinger. The handsome  young couple truly loved each other, but Stanislaus died soon, literally of worry.  Lady Lixnaw's unpaid dowry, the multitudinous mortgages, the loans at heavy interest - portions at six per cent. - jointures and charges, of which five were running together, and three generations of enforced absenteeism had crippled the estate.  Stanislaus mortgaged Clenagh, and the mortgage was foreclosed in his son's lifetime. The Hon. John Butler of Kilcash, his wife's kinsman, was appointed guardian to the children, who were to remain with their mother.  Stanislaus died at Cregg, now the seat of Mr. Lalor, in 1757.  His wife's father, Sir Walter Esmonde, then lived there.  She spent most of her time in Clonmel, where she had rented the old house over the westgate.  Her husband's Will cut off the next-of-kin, which was not to be wondered at, as this Francis McMahon of Creeva - nick-named Rutty - a fire-eating squire, whose ill deeds are still remembered, had tried to push him down from the top of the ruined Castle of Clenagh.  There was an old house in which their people had lived since Colonel Donogh broke down the stone stairs of the Castle before his flight to Austria, so that no other man's foot might tread it until his return; but he never returned.

[3] It is probable Donat McMahon was not quite so absolutely without means as here represented, as may be seen from proceedings which were instituted on the 4th November, 1790, in the Court of Chancery in Ireland, by William Coppinger, as the executor of Donat McMahon, against John Butler, Lord Dunboyne, John Meagher, Arthur Creaghe, and Thomas Edmond Weir, executors of Stephen Creaghe Butler, deceased, and others, when it was declared by a decree dated 7th July, 1802, that William Coppinger, as such executor, was entitled to the sum  of £1,828. 19s. 1 1/2d., with interest till paid, and the same was deemed to be a charge upon the lands in the report in the cause mentioned.  These were lands in the counties of Meath and Tipperary. -  W.A.C.



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