(15)  William Coppinger


The last William Coppinger lived to be 84, and though a good linguist, musician, and accomplished gentleman, had neither the Celtic feelings nor engaging qualities of his brother John Coppinger McMahon.  He was a man of unblemished honour, and his whole life was devoted to paying the debts incurred by other people.  When his father died in 1816 he left Barryscourt and lived abroad in the best society, on very little.  His brother's death in 1830 gave him the McMahon estate, also desperately encumbered. He sold about £10,000 worth of it.  The two properties owed over £50,000, and when he died they only owed £15,000.  He was a great farmer, and did much to introduce highly-bred cattle.  He had short-horns at Barryscourt and red Devons at Ballylean, and won sundry medals.  At the age of 81 he went in for the All Ireland Challenge Cup and won it, and the gold medal 3 years running, and died soon after it came home.  He never married, though it was supposed more than once that one well-dowered lady would have cheered his hearth and redeemed his acres.  When he was young his parents specially courted over a distant kinswoman, a certain lovely Ally Butler.  She and her escort rode all the way from the borders of Tipperary and Kilkenny, and she came unto the shady court-yard of Barryscourt a radiant vision of youth, freshness, and joyous grace.  She was a brown beauty with dark hair, sparkling black eyes, and ruddy lips, and wore a whitish riding habit and a white beaver with waving white plumes, and rode a white horse. It must be nearly 80 years ago, and the tradition of her beauty and her garb still lingers about the old spot. However, the grave young man with the weight of generations of indebtedness on his shoulders did not seek to captivate her, and she married a mutual relative.

William Coppinger was what was unusual among Catholics, a Conservative in politics, though a great friend of the Tribune of the People, whose brother, John O'Connell of Grenagh, was married to his sister.  In early life he had taken a prominent part in the Catholic movement, and had been selected at aggregate meetings to set forth the sentiments of the assembly to Henry Grattan and the Dukes of Kent and Sussex, then favourable to the Catholic claims. The relief of religious disabilities however, satisfied all his aspirations.

The marriage of his sister to the Liberator's brother took place early in the century.  Daniel, known to fame as the Liberator, John of Grenagh, and James of Lakeview, afterwards 1st Baronet, and Maurice, who died young, serving in the West Indies, were the sons of Morgan O'Connell of Carn, near Cahiraven, and Kate O'Mullane of Whitechurch, Co. Cork.  Their father's eldest brother, a rich and childless man, provided for them.  Maurice O'Connell of Darrynane, well remembered in Kerry as Hunting Cap from his habitual head-dress, had Daniel educated for the Law at the great University of Louvain, sent him to the Bar, and left him the original family patrimony, leaving the large acquisitions he had made to it between his younger nephews John and James.  John was to have taken service in the Irish Brigade under his other uncle, Colonel, afterwards General Count Daniel O'Connell, but the Revolution prevented this.  The Liberator had vexed his uncle Maurice by marrying his cousin Miss Mary O'Connell of Tralee, when the rich man wanted him to make a wealthy and brilliant alliance, so, instead of making him his heir, he divided his means equally among his three nephews. Elizabeth Coppinger had £6,000, and her husband's uncle settled the reversion of over £2,500 a year on the young couple.  This property in Kerry has long since vanished in the Encumbered  Estates Courts.  The second daughter Mary, who had a like fortune, married her cousin Mr. Blackney of Bally Ellen, and died after giving birth to a still-born child.

This second son, John Coppinger McMahon, died in 1830, unmarried.  Under the provisions of his uncle the Abbé Donat McMahon's Will, he had assumed the name and arms of McMahon.

He was a very handsome, kindly, fair, slender man, a great horseman and dancer, and most accomplished musician.

He had been much abroad, and had an almost perfect knowledge of French and Italian, as his papers testify.  He had been a lieutenant in the Enniskillen Dragoons, travelled after the peace, and then settled on the remnant of the McMahon estate, where he built the old Shooting Lodge of Ballylean.  There had been no residence on this wild tract of the Country of Alders, and his memory is greatly beloved there still.  He made roads through the property, gave great employment, fenced, planted, and tried in every way to civilise the place and improve the condition of the people.  That he was very wild rather added to, than detracted from, his popularity.  He was quite young still and unmarried when he was attacked by anthrax near the eye, went to London for an operation and died there, rather unexpectedly. A kinsman, Mr. Callanan, who was much with him, saw that he had the consolation of religion, and he died quite resigned and repentant.  Very few men of his day, however, had a sincerer desire to improve the condition of their tenantry, or did more with little ready money.

On the death of William Coppinger, on the 6th day of November, 1863, the Clare property, which was in strict settlement, passed to his sister Elizabeth O'Connell, but he devised the Coppinger Estates, over which he had absolute control, to her eldest son Morgan John O'Connell, Barrister-at-Law, who had represented Kerry from 1835 to 1852, for life, with remainder to his heirs male, with remainder to Colonel John Coppinger and his brother; with remainder to Captain William McCarthy O'Leary, and their issue male successively.  He succeeded to the Clare property on his mother's death, November, 1864; and on the 21st February, 1865, married the writer, Mary Anne, daughter and eventual heir of Charles Bianconi of Longfield, Cashel, the inventor of the car system, which was the precursor of railways in Ireland.  They had issue one daughter Elizabeth Mary Agnes, born May, 1868, lived a month only; and one son John Charles Joseph William Coppinger O'Connell, born on the 19th of October, 1871. Morgan John O'Connell died July 2nd, 1875, and was succeeded by his little son, who now represents the Coppingers of Ballyvolane and the McMahons of Clenagh, in the female lines.

Will of William Coppinger of Barryscourt, made in 1838, in his own handwriting on a sheet of letter paper, and cancelled by him.  In possession of the writer.

"In the name of God amen, I, William Coppinger of Barryscourt, being on the point of undertaking a journey to London for the purpose of seeing my poor brother who is in extremely ill health, and not being able to foresee what may occur to myself during the voyage or my absence from home, I think it both prudent and proper to signify to my successors what is my intention with respect of my property.  Therefore, in the briefest manner possible, declare this to be my last Will and Testament, hereby revoking all others I may have at any time made or declared.  I leave my family estate and freehold property for lives, renewable for ever, in Barryscourt, to Maurice O'Connell 2nd son to my
sister  Elizabeth, subject however to all my judgments and other debts upon which . . . . . . . . paying

Piece cut out in removing
signature from other side.

Interest and which have among
these I parlarly
thousand pounds Irish
Coppinger of Middleton and his

brother Thomas Coppinger, but I leave him my estate upon the condition of the sd Maurice O'Connell[1] taking the name of Coppinger.  In default of issue male in him or his not surviving, I leave and bequeath my estate to his youngest brother John, third son of John O'Connell, he taking the name of Coppinger, and in the event of his not surviving and not having male issue, I leave and bequeath my estate, both fee simple and freehold, to my nephew Morgan O'Connell, eldest son of of my sister Elizabeth, witht changing his name but upon condition that his 2nd son or the failure of the 2nd  the 3rd 4th and 5th and 6th sons should take the name of Coppinger.  My Will is that these estates shod be to put to Nurse until the Inheritor arrives at the age of 21 yrs.  In virtue of which deed I hereby subscribe my name in presence of following witnesses Nov.1st 1829.

Boyle Travers,
Thos. Leahy,
Jas. J. Callenan.

For the purpose of carrying this my will and testament into execution I hereby appoint John O'Connell, Esqre of Grenagh, in the Co. of Kerry, Esqre and Thos. S. Coppinger, of Midleton Lodge, as my Executors.

The old gentleman long survived his intended heir, and as his nephew John became a Priest in the Dominican order, he had no nephew likely to marry except his sister's eldest son, to whom he was much attached, and who would have been well provided for had he inherited his father's Kerry property as well as the McMahon Estate in Clare.  Morgan John O'Connell is by oversight mentioned by only his first name in the cancelled Will.  He was over fifty years of age when he succeeded his uncle, having been born in 1811. He was one of the most popular Irishmen of his time.

The following note is of some interest in connection with Coppinger McMahon's succession.  Sir Bernard Burke, in kindly presenting the late Morgan John O'Connell with a drawing of his arms, wrote as follows :-

London, Burlington Hotel, W.,
2 July, 1868.

 Dear Mr. O'Connell,

                            Your letter has just reached me.  Be assured your position as representative of the property and heir general of the Coppingers of Ballyvolane shall be judiciously chronicled in my new edition.  The moment I return I will make a proper sketch of your shield of arms, including Coppinger and McMahon, to both of which you are entitled, but it must be the offering of a friend.  I would not allow you to be charged a fee for any consideration.

yrs. ever sincerely,
T. BERNARD BURKE,
Ulster.

The old squire of Barryscourt is buried not very far from the mansion house at Templecurraheen, a picturesque old graveyard on a hill near a ruined church.  It is said none but Catholics are buried there.  The first Stephen of Barryscourt was buried there, and the last William requested he should be the last laid in the family tomb. The original monument having become ruinous, he erected the present one.  The inscription states :-

This monument was erected by William Coppinger of Barryscourt, on the site of the former tomb of the Coppingers of Ballyvolane, in this Churchyard, to the memory of his beloved mother Jane, the last surviving female of the ancient family of McMahons of Clenagh, in the Co. of Clare, who departed this life the 31st January, 1833, aged 76 years.  Here also have been removed the remains of his father, who died 5th July, 1816, aged 75 years.  In this tomb also repose the ashes of his grandfather, grand‑uncle, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather Coppinger.

The last William Coppinger of Barryscourt was, according to his desire, buried in this family tomb.  It has been recently repaired and a few words inscribed on the side bearing the long list of the dead, commending his soul in the usual manner to the prayers of the faithful, and stating that his remains were laid with his forefathers in this their ancestral tomb.

May they rest in peace.

The following letter from Mr. Roche, the antiquarian, to Mr. Coppinger, may be of interest:

December 21, 1833.

My Dear Sir - I return the papers you left with me. John Coppinger's Will; marriage contract of Stephen Coppinger; list of inhabitants of Cork in 1651, with the miniature of the Young Pretender.  You told me that in some document allusion is made to W. Coppinger of Bordeaux as a kinsman by one of your ancestors.  I would much like to know by which of them.  Combining what I heard from the family with the information I could collect from your papers, I should suppose that Stephen, whose tomb is in Upper Shandon, was your common progenitor, leaving a younger son, William, father of Luke, whose son William established in Bordeaux in the early part of the last century.  I know he married about 1730.  The Duke of Ormond, whose burial your father recollected, was Charles, Earl of Arran, brother of James, the attainted Duke, and who, on the death of the latter in 1745 at Avignon, became in fact the third Duke and fourteenth Earl of Ormond, though he never, as I mentioned in the genealogy, assumed the title, nor perhaps was conscious of his right.  He died 17th December, 1758, when your father may have attended the funeral,[2] but his (your father's) grand-mother, Miss Butler of West Court, could not have been his niece or grand-niece, for none of his brothers left issue.  I therefore used the general term of cousin.  He had two sisters - the Countesses of Derby and Grantham, with another who died unmarried.  I would be glad to annex some account of the Galways of Lota to your genealogy, but your cousin's recollections on the subject are too loose and inaccurate to be relied on.[3]  The first Mayor of London was earlier I find than you supposed, 1207 - or 117 years before your ancestor.

Believe me, my dear Sir,
Yours most truly,
JAMES ROCHE.


[1] This nephew Maurice, a very clever boy, died at Oscott in 1836.

[2] There is an oft‑told family tradition that William Coppinger, arriving late at Kilkenny Castle before the funeral, had to sleep in the room from which the corpse had been removed to be laid out elsewhere in the castle, and got an awful fright thinking he saw the ghost!

[3] There is a singularly full Galway pedigree now in the possession of Miss Helen Archer Butler of Caher, County Tipperary, whose mother was a Galway lady.  The original was attested by Lord Clanricarde and Walter Butler, the attainted Earl of Ormond.



Contact us by e-mail   mailto:copinger@talktalk.net

This page was last updated on 31 August 2016 . 

Copyright © 2018   I. S. Copinger