By Jean Whyte, February 2012
The land where the village of Loughbrickland now stands and a lot more land in the parish of Aghaderg, Barony of Upper Iveagh and County of Down was given to Sir Marmaduke Whitechurch by Queen Elizabeth I in 1585… when he was told to set up an industry to clothe the army. The lands, of course, were probably confiscated from Catholic landowners who had been deemed disloyal to the Queen.
Sir Marmaduke had one daughter, Frances who inherited his estates. Frances married Viscount Dungannon ( also known as the Trevor family) whose home was at Lisnagade House, near here. That family name died out as there were no sons, but there were three daughters; one daughter, Rose married Nicholas Purcell of Loughmoe, Co. Tipperary, a Catholic landowner.Rose Trevor was probably not a Catholic by birth and we don’t know if she converted to Catholicism, but she kept in touch with her relations in the North – or they kept in touch with her, for she inherited some of the lands originally belonging to Sir Marmaduke through her mother and she brought them as a dowry to her marriage. She, in her turn had three daughters (and a son who died young) and each of them, in turn inherited a part of the Loughbrickland lands originally belonging to Sir Marmaduke.
It was one of Rose’s three daughters, Mary who married Colonel John Whyte of Leixlip Castle in 1704 . She was, as we have seen the great grand-daughter of Sir Marmaduke Whitechurch. So there is a Whyte family connection with the founder of the village of Loughbrickland who was the planted owner of the lands. So when Colonel John Whyte came into the lands through marriage, it was like the completion of a circle with the lands returning to Catholic hands.
But unfortunately the anti-Popery or Penal Laws were being enacted at the time when Colonel John Whyte married Mary Purcell; these meant that Catholics could not own more than a certain number of acres, and certainly not the number of acres held by Mary Purcell, so Colonel John Whyte probably could not officially admit to owning those lands around Loughbrickland or taking them over – he had enough trouble trying to hold onto his own lands at Leixlip, Co. Kildare.
But how did Colonel John Whyte come to be owner of Leixlip Castle and extensive lands and eligible to marry Mary Purcell, the ultimate heiress of Sir Marmaduke Whitechurch?
Well, that’s a whole other story and a fascinating one. But we’re concentrating on the Loughbrickland link for the moment.. So I’m going to stay with Colonel John Whyte. And tell you a bit about his life before he met and married Mary Purcell.Colonel John Whyte’s father, Charles had fought at the Battle of the Boyne with James II and, inevitably had had his lands confiscated. After his father’s death in 1697, John tried to get his lands in Leixlip back and was ultimately successful.
It could have been because of the provisions under the Articles of Limerick, it could have been because the Emperor had put in a good word for Charles (who had served under him in Spain, Colonel John’s father); or there were other known reasons for royal pardons such as kindness to Protestants in 1689-90 or being related to royal mistresses. We don’t think the latter applied in our case, but as my son Nicholas has pointed out that there were a lot of royal mistresses, so who knows?
This was the Colonel John Whyte of Leixlip who married Mary Purcell in 1704, and this is where the connection with Loughbrickland begins, for, as I said above, she brought with her some of the lands previously belonging to Sir Marmaduke Whitechurch.
But they didn’t move here straightaway. After all, Colonel John Whyte had a castle and a lot of property in the Leixlip area to manage. In today’s language, the Loughbrickland lands were just one more addition to his portfolio.
It must have been hard to know what to do in those days. The Penal Laws of 1703 which prohibited Catholics from owning land unless they became Protestant, probably prompted Colonel John Whyte to eventually sell his possessions at Leixlip in 1728 and 1732 and move to Loughbrickland where they either built a new house or extended what had been a steward’s house where Loughbrickland House now stands (it was known as Coolnacran Lodge in those days).
Colonel John and his wife Mary Purcell had just one son: Charles.
We found a document dated 1789 leasing the house and grounds to a Thomas Knox Gordon and John Whyte’s address is given as Dublin.
And he also leased the lands:
1790 Lease from John Whyte, Dublin to John Magill LBL – lands at Coolnacran, Term = 3 lives; rent £ 1.2.9 per acre + 2 fat hens per year.
John of Loughbrickland is important to our story because he knew the system and how to work it. He took a big step when the opportunity came under the Catholic Relief Acts of 1793. In 1794 we find acertificate that John Whyte had taken the oaths to qualify himself as a Roman Catholic. Once he had a certificate stating that he had taken this oath, he could benefit from the provisions of the Act. – he and his children had the right to vote, to claim or admit ownership of lands for longer than 31 years, raise mortgages, he was allowed to go to university (TCD) but not to hold a number of higher level offices in the state etc.
But most importantly, holding onto the land was now secured and he was also firmly registered as being a Catholic.
John of Loughbrickland married Letitia de Burgh, another formidable lady and they had 10 children, eight boys and two girls. John obviously encouraged his children to get on in the world and it is interesting that the four eldest boys (who died before he did) found careers in the army in France and in the West Indies and in the Indian civil service. They didn’t just hang about.
When John of Loughbrickland died in London 1814 his eldest surviving (5th) son was Captain Nicholas Charles RN 1784 – 1844.How much land was there? We’re not sure how much at that date, but records in 1868 show that the Whyte Estate comprised 1928 acres and probably included all the land within the village of Loughbrickland as well as farmlands in the townlands of Tullyear, Dooghary, Coolnacran Ballydown, Ballykeel and Drumnagally and others.
This land was let to tenant farmers. There was probably quite a good income and Nicholas Charles set about making improvements to the house and the estate; his wife was Mary Louisa Segrave and they had six children, three boys and three girls. And he also built a reputation as a good landlord and public servant.He was a Justice of the Peace from 1822, he became High Sheriff of Co. Down in 1830 – first Catholic to hold that position – and also was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Co. Down continuing the tradition of public service.
I’m just going to mention two of the areas in which he was particularly active in which he was helping others. One was related to the church and the other to the state.
I) He was obviously very aware of the tremendous support being provided by the Catholic clergy to their people and he started thinking about the chapel (St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in the village) as early as 1824 and wrote then to the Marquess of Downshire asking for a subscription which he got. The building of this chapel was in fact a highly significant event. Once the Catholic Relief Acts had been passed in the 1770s and 1790s Catholics were permitted to build their own places of worship, but they often found it difficult to get sites because most of the landlords were Protestant – as only about 5% of the land was owned by Catholics at this stage. This would explain why in many places in Ireland, the Catholic church is on the very edge of a village or town. But in Loughbrickland it is very different. Nicholas Charles also apparently gave land for a cemetery and some land for the priest to cultivate for himself.
ii) He was active in organizing and supporting the movement for reform of parliamentary representation and elections in the form of holding big meetings of Catholics and getting petitions to send to Parliament. In this way he was actively contributing to the movement which eventually brought in the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829:We are getting closer to our own times now – John Joseph (1826 – 1915) is next, the Whyte commemorated by a stained glass window in the church. We have a rather formal photograph of him in the House.
John Joseph’s name appears on leases from 1851. John Joseph came into the property when he was 18 and he didn’t really have the time nor opportunity to develop a career apart from managing the estate. His first wife died after giving birth to a daughter, Mary; with his second wife Caroline Ryan, he had 13 children, nine boys and four girls. He too was High Sheriff, JP and Deputy Lieutenant. He had to deal with the Famine, increasing poverty among tenants because of low yields and growing demands from tenant farmers to reduce rents and be allowed to purchase their holdings. He probably had a good income from his 1928 acres, but this was considerably reduced when the Land Purchasing Acts were passed in the 1890’s and much of his land was compulsorily sold to tenant farmers.
I think it must have been he who developed the ‘ride’ around the estate where the Boundary Walk now extends as it marks the boundary of the lands after the forced sale through the Land Acts, but I’m not sure. He was possibly a pillar of the parish – one of his daughters, another Caroline, was married in this church in 1904 with great festivities for everyone in the village; his eldest son John Nicholas was greeted by an arch over the Front Gate when he returned from serving in the Boer War – we have a photograph (though the PP was criticized for taking part in this celebration). This seems to suggest that the family was well thought of and had good relationships with those in the village.
There must have been sadness too. Three of John Joseph’s sons died in childhood:
Henry Marcus who is buried in the cemetery was the first Whyte as far as we know to be buried there in 1880 – died aged 11 of scarlet fever. Charles Edward had suffered from asthma and was sent at age 15 to Australia to school there in the hope that the better climate would help. But it didn’t and he died in 1883 . Then, Edward Joseph had an accident at school at age 16 damaging his spine and died at home apparently of ‘creeping paralysis’ in 1894. He is in our cemetery here. And two of his sons died in adulthood before their father’s death. Major John Nicholas, DSO, the eldest son, had a riding accident and his injuries eventually led to his death at age 42 in 1906 in London – he has a plaque in the church. Marcus Francis joined an Indian regiment – the Punjabis – and died of a fever in 1905 and is buried in India at Fyzabad – we have a photo of his grave sent by the wife of his commanding officer and a lock of his hair. He was aged 22 and also has a plaque in the church.
After John Joseph, the eldest surviving son in 1915 was George Thomas. But George Thomas actually needed to earn his own living, since the estate no longer provided enough, once the lands had been sold, and he had a career that took him out of the country a lot. He was a doctor – qualified in the College of Surgeons 1893 and then worked as a doctor in Coolgardie Australia for 6 years from 1894, then in South Africa in the Boer War, took a further qualification in Tropical Medicine in 1902, worked in Nigeria, on a cruise ship, in France with the Royal Army Medical Corps and transferred back to Dublin because of his father’s serious illness in 1915. He then worked in Dublin and from 1918 on Spike Island in Cork.
He succeeded to the estate in 1915, married in 1916 and sadly died in 1919 and is commemorated in the church by a brass plaque and stations of the cross – leaving his widow Magda (who came from Cork) as tenant for life. They had one daughter Bunty. It can’t have been easy for Magda. There were Trustees in charge of the estate and everything had to go through them. Her income was very limited as the land holding was really too small to be viable. The agricultural land was let to local farmers – as it is to this day bringing in a small income which helps to maintain the estate.. But she lived a very active life, she was a Justice of the Peace, continuing the family tradition and managed the estate as best she could. She was active in the British Legion and I believe in other organizations supporting the army especially during WWII. Many in the village remember her driving intrepidly and sometimes apparently somewhat erratically in her little red car. She died in 1972.The surviving sons of John Joseph after George’s death were Thomas, William Henry and Maurice. Thomas died in 1931 – had been in the army and was unmarried. He is commemorated by a brass plaque in the church. William Henry – commemorated by the baptismal font – was then the heir apparent to the estate. He was my father-in-law but only long after his death. He too had had a very interesting life in the army in South Africa, in World War I at Gallipoli and in the Balkans where he was awarded the White Eagle of Serbia, and he also worked in rubber planting in Malaysia and lived from about 1930 onwards in Europe but died before Magda in 1949 in Rostrevor and so never came to live at Loughbrickland. He was the third Whyte to be buried in the cemetery across the road.
His son John Henry, my late husband, became heir to the Loughbrickland Estate in 1949 and took possession on Magda’s death in 1972. John Henry (I call him that to distinguish him from the other Johns in this story) was born in Penang, Malaysia, in 1928, came back with his parents to Europe in 1930, was educated mostly in England but spent most of 1939 in this area. His career was in teaching history and then politics, firstly at Ampleforth and then at Makerere University Uganda, University College Dublin (1961-1966), Queen’s University Belfast (1966 – 1984) and University College Dublin again from 1984-1990. In his academic research he investigated relationships between Church and State in modern Ireland and also factors underlying the Troubles. He participated in a range of groups dedicated to reconciliation. He died in 1990 in New York on his way to a Conference about Northern Ireland. He too is buried in the family plot in the cemetery.
In every generation the Whytes had sons serving their country in various ways and not afraid to go abroad to do so; service to the community can be seen too – in the provision of employment and support for local people for example; interacting with people from different backgrounds; taking a lead where injustice needed to be tackled; identifying issues objectively; providing a forum for reconciliation; defending the family rights and trying to ensure their security; giving support to those who offer us support – the church.
But nothing stands still and moving with the times, the present younger generation is trying to live up to the example of past generations of Whytes. They are not afraid to take up new occupations and to live abroad – Nicholas is a political consultant, William is a cryptographer and Caroline is a webmaster and also a musician and they currently live in Belgium, the USA and France respectively.
Obviously times are different, the old ways are not so relevant any more. But we can still develop foundations for the future, through for example offering possibilities for recreation and interaction. The Coach House was opened as self-catering accommodation in 2007 and the Gate Lodge was reconstructed and made available to the community in 2009. In collaboration with Banbridge District Council we established firstly the Woodland Walk – following the trail we as a family used to walk around the grounds near the house and then the Boundary Walk which makes use of the ‘ride’ or avenue of trees planted around the periphery of the estate probably by John Joseph when the present boundaries were established in the 1890s.
The walk puts us in touch with the past – with the generation of Nicholas Charles and his family, John Joseph and his children – and with previous inhabitants of these lands long before the Whytes or the Whitechurches, those who inhabited the raths or ring-forts of which there are two on the estate.
But what I like best is that from the furthest point of the Boundary Walk, on Johnston’s fort you get a cameo picture of Loughbrickland village nestling in a hollow with the tower and steeple of the Catholic church and its sister Church of Ireland church close together. I see this as symbolic of a shared past, in which the foundations of the present were laid by many people including the Whytes, and we all hope it is also symbolic of a shared future based on those foundations to which the Whyte family will continue to contribute as best they can.
Enjoy your stay!
View of the village from Johnston’s fort