(7)  Stephen Coppinger

Handsome, genial, kindly Stephen Coppinger settled at Barryscourt, and lived to a green old age there, with children and grandchildren around him.  He made a claim to the Chichester House Commissioners, which is No. 2978, claiming an estate in remainder entail male in the lands of Ballincurrig and Ballyvolane, as the son and heir of Thomas Coppinger.  The deeds under which he claimed were two: one dated 31st October, 1676, in pursuance of marriage articles dated the 27th January, 1669; the other dated 6th April, 1676.  His claim was allowed.  At the same time his brothers John and Edmund claim under the same deed and the same entail; and both their claims were also allowed.  They are Nos. 2980 and 2981.  Letters of Stephen and his children, still in existence, give a very agreeable impression of him, and he has left a very pleasant tradition among his posterity.  His petition to the Court of Claims shows he was eldest son and heir to his father. From the handwriting and frequent French idioms, it is probable he was partly educated abroad.  He kept clear of the disastrous civil war, but he must have followed his father to France, for it was at La Rochelle that he married Joan Goolde.  It is said they were related through his grandmother, Ellice Goolde; and there is a tradition that Stephen Goulde, her father, got into trouble in the Jacobite days and fled to France.  Whether he was engaged in business there, or whether "The Town House of Paris," referred to in his wife's Will, was merely a private residence, cannot now be determined.  Husband and wife, at all events, belonged to the same group of Danish Burgher families in whose hands the city affairs of Cork seem to have been vested for centuries until the Protestant ascendancy replaced them by new English settlers.  Stephen was a very handsome, tall,  stout man, as his portrait testifies.[1]  It represents him as a man in the prime of life, dressed in a flowing powdered Queen Anne periwig almost as long as a Q.C.'s, a loose scarlet velvet coat, an ample blue waistcoat heavily laced with gold, and a profusion of Mechlin lace falling below the neckcloth.  His hair must have been nearly black, like the eye-brows and eye-lashes.  He has clear, well-opened blue eyes, and fair florid colouring that in Ireland goes with blue eyes and black hair.  His face  is well shaped and slightly aquiline nose, full well-cut lips, and well-moulded chin.  It is a handsome, genial, pleasant face, and suits well the broad chest and tall strong figure, and the quaint, rich garb.

Squire Stephen in those days cannot be acquitted of a touch of dandyism, though in later years he ordered his son to send him over fustian from England.  The portrait is seemingly the work of a French painter, and the wig and the clothes have a French cut too.  Directly from the last William Coppinger came a pretty little pair of razors of his, set in tortoiseshell, with C.S. in very curly letters on the silver mountings; and also a pretty little pair of double sleeve-links for fastening lace ruffles, still in existence.  They are very small; each is a crystal, set in pale fluted gold, and the curved and flourished C.S. appearing in gold cord under the stone.  Quite lately a crucifix and chalice from the Barryscourt mass box were found in a deed box among law papers and cattle-show prize cups.  The chalice was enclosed in a bag of very faded and dirty, but once splendid brocade - white satin with pink roses, and blue turn-cap lilies.  This chalice is very small, of French workmanship and silver gilt - the date, 1702,[2] was on a lump of lead in the stand.  The stem is fluted, and there is a pretty pattern of fruit and foliage raised on the base.  The patten is quite unlike those now made.  The crucifix is said to be Italian.  It is wrought iron, japanned black.  The figure is wrought with much artistic skill, and there are a death's head and crushed serpent at the base.  Like most mass crucifixes, it stands on three little steps.  The missal has disappeared; the old vestments were unluckily burned, as being too soiled and faded for use, and the alter stone has been given to the Parish Church of Barryscourt, Carrigtouhill.  The usual difficulty about Irish matters, even of 50 years' standing, is accuracy of date.  A tradition will live for generations vivid with life and colour - a bay horse, a white plume, a scarlet kirtle - but unless there is a law paper to fall back on, no date.  In Burke's Commoners there is the following synopsis of settlements: - "Stephen Coppinger, Esq., espoused at La Rochelle in 1700, Johanna, daughter of Stephen Goulde, of Cork," with the note: "Mr. Coppinger of Barryscourt has the minute of the contract of the marriage of Stephen, eldest son of Thomas, drawn the 13th of October, 1700, by Soullard, Notaire Royal, registered the 18th, sealed the 19th of the same month at La Rochelle dans le pays d'Aunois, en France," where Mr. Coppinger is designated "Seigneur de Ville toreau," which is equivalent in French to the Irish Ballyvolane (Bullstown). Volane more properly means ox.  The translation is sufficiently literal, however, and Seigneur is evidently used in the sense of Landlord or Laird.

Stephen Coppinger must have been back living in Ireland in May, 1716, for there is a map of 20 acres of Ballyvolane as set then by him to Daniel Bohilly annotated by himself. The acreage and denominations are duly set forth, the payment is not given.  The 20 acres 31 roods comprise the South Quarry Field, the North Quarry Field, the Course Land and Field, the Tenants' Gardens.  Then in 1722 Stephen Coppinger appears on the Encumbrance Roll, that true chronicle of the old estates.

Squire Stephen, on his return from the Continent, settled at Barryscourt, which he rented from the powerful Protestant Earl of Barrymore.  The Earls of Barrymore have passed away, but in respect of the Coppinger property in the Barony of Barrymore, there is paid a small head-rent to the representatives of purchasers of the Earl's lands.  Of what vital importance this Protestant protection was to Catholics may be gathered from Stephen's injunction to his sons never to forget the obligation, to be repaid even to the shedding of the last drop of their blood.  The old gentleman is prepared to give two practical proofs of this gratitude - first, in doing something Lord Barrymore wished about Stephen's own old estate of Killacloyne; and secondly, in directing his sons to conceal from Lord Barrymore the farming grumble he could not help pouring out into the ears of his first-born.  Letters are still preserved of Stephen Coppinger's, written during the summer of 1729, when young John Coppinger had accompanied Lord Barrymore to England, that the friendly nobleman might find him a well-dowered bride among the old English north country Catholic families, with whom he had much intercourse, owing to his Jacobite proclivities.  His seat, near Chester, was called Rock Savage, and there he brought Stephen's eldest son on this matrimonial quest.  In the series of letters addressed to "My deare Johny," handsome Stephen of the lace and velvet preaches frugality in every paragraph.  Poor Richard himself could not beat him on the beauties of economy.  However, the old gentleman is willing to reconcile God and Mammon, for in the household of the kindly heretic, John is strongly exhorted to practise his religion, to seek the divine aid by fervent prayer, and never to deny his faith.  The old gentleman plainly sets before him how with his large family  and encumbered estate, and the cost incidental to working the exhausted lands of Barryscourt, John must marry money unless he would be cruelly hampered all his life.  The old gentleman burns several kilns of lime, hopes to expend £500 on permanent improvements, and looks to the meadows and the two orchards to pay the rent; both terribly injured by that wet summer. Then he has the gout, his wife is constantly "perplexed with ye colic."  The small children are constantly getting ague from the salt marshes; still Stephen does not quite despond.  He sends a jocose message to my Lady that he will have merry days yet at Castle Lyons.  He also sends a reminder about a promised buck, and he describes the building operations of two neighbours - one a sea captain, more learned in ships than in stones.  He tells John how some of the young children are getting on very well with their singing, and gives sundry little family details.  His wife has been spending a month with her sister, Mrs Nagle, at Annakissy, where Cousin Joe had installed himself "with much a doe."  "Aunt and Uncle Nagle, Aunt and Uncle Ronayne come to Barryscourt.  Your Uncle Jack and your Aunt (from Granacloyne) all send you love and blessings," and all are deeply interested in the match-making.  Joan, the eldest girl, going back to Annakissy and returning sees Lady Barrymore's little boys at Castle Lyons.  My Lady evidently expected them to be taken to Barryscourt for a few days, but Stephen Coppinger fears the measles and spotted fever, and all the risks and perils that beset other people's small boys.  He talks in the friendliest way of the Protestant Bishop of Cloyne whom he has been to visit at Rossmore, and tells how the Bishop's lady and family had dined at Barryscourt before his arrival. He is most anxious for leave to keep firearms, a privilege then denied Catholics.  In a letter to the Knight of Kerry written by Maurice O'Connell of Darrymane (uncle to the famous Daniel) in 1780, when the Government were beginning to flatter the Catholics, he bitterly alludes to the earlier days and how, when Paul Jones was cruising off the the defenceless coast of Iveragh, when there were only 10 guns in the whole barony, and when a drunken freak of the pirates might have committed whole villages to the flames.  The pastures and orchards of Barryscourt were not exposed to the freaks of pirates, but it was a poor case to have no arms to keep off attacks of housebreakers and other bad characters. In one letter to his son the old gentleman says:-

"Be sure, doe not be trapped or caught by these English women, there are a great many bites among them, take special care and consider your future happiness in this world and for ye next, by always sticking close to yr devotion and principles, for, if ye neglect yt on the least, God will neglect and abonden ye, and soe you'll be misery in this life and in ye next."

Nothing can have been kinder or wiser seemingly than Lord Barrymore's conduct, when acting as full plenipotentiary he arranged the marriage between Mary Blundell of Crosbie and John Coppinger of Ballyvolane.  Her father's diary is preserved, and he seems to have had much petty persecution for his faith, but to have been well befriended by his Protestant neighbours.  His seat of Crosbie was quite near that of his namesake and co-religionist, Mr. Blundell of Ince, near Liverpool.  The present family descends from Mary's younger sister, as this Nicholas Blundell of Crosbie had no son, and Mary's son died young and unmarried.  One can read between the lines, and see the young Irishman had been indiscreet enough to fall in love with the young lady, to which circumstance his father attributed her portion, being only £3,000.  Squire Stephen did not care much for the reversion, but would have dearly loved a little  more hard cash.  His prophetic warnings were fulfilled; no grandson of his lived to be Squire of Crosbie, but what he fancied was that Mrs. Blundell might die and Nicholas Blundell marry again and have a son.

The following is an extract from a letter of Stephen Coppinger's, dated July 7th, 1729, to his son :-

"I had proposals made me here, ever since, from Mr. P. Creaghe, who I believe will give 3,000£ with his dar [daughter] he has such a minde to be concerned with us. She is a very pretty girle; she was lately with her mor [mother] in Corke, yr mor [mother] and Molly went to pay them a visitt the day after she came from Annakissy.  There is Mr. Harrold's dar [daughter].  He engage, if ye stay 2 yeare longer sheele be about 13 years of age, heele give 6,000£, and if he dies without more children, as in all likelyhood he will, ye girle woud be worth yt att leaste 20,000 in cash besides anything else, and ye know yr far [father] and grand far [grandfather] and all the world covett nothing more.  In shorte, I only say all this before ye yt may be easy and not soe impatient as to go headlong to worke - ye longer ye stay unmarryd the better yr fortune will be.  Noebody ought to be more uneasy than I, for I assure you I never will be well pleased till I am cleare out of debt, and yt I see you once fixed in a virtuous familly  .  .  ." 

Later on, the old gentleman alludes to public gossip.

"Mr. David Rochford came to Corke on Saturday.  I had yr letter by him, but will be impatient till I heare from ye from London and from Rocksavage.  There is no greater noyse [noise] in Corke then yt [that] my Lord got ye a fortune of 10,000£, yts Mr. Phillip Woolfe gave itt out as I writt in my laste, severalle ask'd me whether I had any acctt. [account] of itt, I gave them ye ear and sayd, my Lord may doe with ye as he pleased." 

The Rev. T. Elliot Gibson, author of an interesting study on Lydiate Hall and Church, in which he draws largely on the diary of Nicholas Blundell, has given the writer the following particulars.  Unluckily, the diary stops one year too soon.

"Mary Blundell, who married Mr. Coppinger, was the eldest daughter (of Nicholas Blundell), and had several suitors for her hand before she took Mr. Coppinger; notably Ralph Standish, Esq., of Standish Hall, near Wigan, who afterwards married one of the noble family of Howard."

The diary of Mr. Nicholas Blundell, 1702 - 1728, is being prepared for publication.

Mary Coppinger died before her father.  In Sefton Church, on a fine marble tomb in the Blundell Chapel, is the following:

"Here lieth the body of Mrs. Mary Coppinger, who died 6th of August, 1734, aged 30 years." 

In the introduction to a Cavaliers' Note-book, published by Longmans, in 1880, will be found an account of the Blundell family of Crosbie.  The cavalier is William Blundell, grandfather of Nicholas, who was Mary Coppinger's father. Nicholas married Frances, daughter of Marmaduke Lord Langdale.  The second daughter of this couple, Frances, married Henry Pippard, whose son Nicholas took the name Blundell, and was ancestor to the present Colonel Blundell.

Stephen sent his son, when all was settled, an enamelled watch, which has quite a history.  It was left to him by a kinsman Thomas, who left an enamel miniature of the Blessed Virgin, of like value, to his sister Mary Ronayne.  John probably gave it to his first wife, and certainly gave it to his second wife, for in 1768 she bequeaths it with other gifts to her husband's nephew, William of Barryscourt. Stephen acted very liberally by his son, for he settled on him Ballyvolane and £500 a-year, with the reversion of all the old property.  Barryscourt he left to his second son.

Stephen lived to a green old age, and though his son John was not quite so "sparing" as his venerated parent would have wished, the old squire was able to provide most respectably for his children.  The letters already referred to, and one written by John to Billy, his brother, on Joan's death in after years, throw a kindly light on the family scene and their fondness for each other.  There is no trace whatever of little Betty beyond her aptitude for "synginge."  She must have died young.  Theresa was quite young when her father died, and was not married till after John's death.  The old gentleman having given up the old family place with £500 a-year to his eldest son, lived and died at Barryscourt, and was succeeded by his second son William.

Stephen died among his children, having seen some grandchildren pretty grown.  He was not buried in his grandfather's grave in Shandon, but in a tomb in Temple Curraheen, not very far from Queenstown Junction.  It is quite near the old family property of Killacloyne.  Here most of his posterity were buried, but the old tomb becoming ruinous, the last William Coppinger of Barryscourt rebuilt it.  Unfortunately, he did not preserve the engraved slabs, and instead of copying the actual inscriptions, contented himself with stating the relationship to himself of the five generations whose remains lay beneath.

Marriage Settlement on Joanne Coppinger 7th October 1706.

[1] Unless when the contrary is stated the portraits and valubles referred to are in the possession of the writer.  On the late Mr. Coppinger's death, several of the portraits were sold; the nine remaining ones are at his Shooting Lodge, Ballylean, Co. Clare. on the estate brought to his family by his mother, Jane McMahon of Clenagh, last Mrs. Coppinger of Barryscourt.


Stephen Coppinger of Barryscourt.
William Coppinger of Barryscourt, his grandson.
Mrs. Coppinger of Barryscourt, née Jane McMahon of Clenagh, wife of said William. 
Mrs. McMahon of Clenagh, née Lucinda Esmonde, with her little son, afterwards Abbé Donat McMahon.
Stanislaus McMahon of Clenagh, husband of Lucinda.
Sir Walter Esmonde, Bart., father of Lucinda McMahon.
Lady Esmonde, née Hon. Joan Butler of Caher, mother of Lucinda.
Mrs. Butler of West Court, née Galway, aunt to above-named William Coppinger.


Late William Coppinger of Barryscourt as a boy with his hair in the back; cipher W.C. and mounting gold.
Miniature on parchment of a Lord Caher, temp. Charles I., in a Vandyke dress and steel gorget, ancestor to Joan Butler (Lady Esmonde).  Sévres enamel miniature of Charles Edward.
All originally in possession of late Mr. Coppinger of Barryscourt.

[2]  Date 1702 was written on a piece of lead inside of chalice stand.

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

This page was last updated on 31 August 2016. 

Copyright © 2024   I. S. Copinger