The Parents

Thomas Fitzgerald, 18th Knight of Glin, locally known as Tomas Geancach (Thomas Snub-Nosed) was born c. 1675 - 1680, the eldest son of Gerald (17th) Knight of Glin and his wife, Joan O'Brien, one of the daughters of Donough O'Brien, a prince of Thomond, from CarrigoGlinnell Castle, Co. Limerick. Gerald, known as the Knight of the Horses, was killed fighting for James 11 at the second battle of Windmill Hill after the Siege of Derry on the 10th May 1689. (13) By adroit legalistic manoeuvrings, Gerald, by a deed of settlement (5th December 1672) left all his lands to his wife, Joan, who after the Williamite wars, was left in undisturbed possession of Glin,(14) As a result no Williamite received a grant of them, (15) nor were they included in the return made by the inquiry commissioners in 1699. (16)

One of the most striking portraits at present day Glin Castle depicts Thomas Snub-Nosed (Cf. Fig. 1) In this, the first known portrait of the family (dated c. 1710) Thomas appears in his large wig and "has a remarkably sly expression",(16a) almost vulpine. He was foxy in appearance and in his dealings - a man of acuity with a quick temper when provoked. He had to be 'as there were rapacious people about, only too eager to annex portions of his estates had the opportunity arisen. Thomas may not have reached his 21st year when his father was killed. Like Gerald, Thomas was a Jacobite supporter but was probably too young to have played an active part in the war of the two kings. Following the capitulation of Limerick (1691) the position of known supporters of James 11, such as the Fitzgeralds, was precarious.

However, on the 12th March 1701 Thomas re-established his claims over the estate and the portions deemed to have been forfeited at an inquisition of July. 1696, for himself and his family, when a claim was entered on his behalf and on behalf of his siblings with the Trustees at Chichester House, Dublin (no. 1656) by their guardian, Jeremy Donovan. (17) This claim was originally 'Dismist for non-proof (18) but 'Allowed and Referred' (19) before the end of 1700. Thomas married (probably before 1700) Mary Fitzgerald (Cf. Fig. 2) daughter and co-heiress of Edmund Fitzgerald of Castlemartyr, Co. Cork and his first wife, Catherine Burke of Cahirmoyle, Co. Limerick, who died young. Mary Fitzgerald had a younger brother John who "was born around 1687". (20) So Mary must have been born circa 1685/6.

Mary was a fascinating person in her own right and much loved by the poets and people for her great generosity. Her portrait (cf. Fig. 2) painted c. 1710 shows a very handsome woman with long flowing hair and delicious orbs' (mammary glands) as the 18th century phrase had it. Mary and her brother John through their mother, were also heirs-at-law to John and Nicholas Bourke of Cahirmoyle, Co. Limerick and thus she was a very wealthy lady, on paper at least and had great expectations 'though at the time she made her will (1753) she was still 'entitled to a considerable sum of money' (21) from Castlemartyr and Ballinacurra, Co. Cork as well as from Cahirmoyle, Co. Limerick. After her mother's early death, her father re-married Alice Dillon by whom he had two daughters, living in 1700. (22)

On her fathers death Mary went to live in Cahirmoyle with her Bourke grandparents. These Bourkes were a junior branch of the Baron Bourkes of Castleconnell. John Bourke, Mary's grandfather died in 1701 (23) and left Mary a liberal dowry. Mary was courted by Thomas 'Snub-Nosed' and despite opposition from her Bourke relations who considered the Knight to be of a somewhat impetuous nature and believed (correctly as it turned out) that he would get into trouble with the authorities, she married him before 1700. Culhane wrote that 'the lovers eloped and were duly married. When the Bourkes asked the Knight why he had abducted Mary he replied that he did so because he could not in all Ireland get one better than she was.' (24)

She was to play a prominent and capable part in the history of Glin and was vividly remembered in local folklore well into the last century. She was known locally as 'an bean tighearna' (lit. 'the female chieftain') and the people referred to her by this affectionate term because like Lady Southwell, the seigneure of Rathkeale, (25) she distributed food to the starving people during the great famine of 1739- 40. (26) According to Culhane it was said that during the tenure of Thomas 'Snub-Nosed' and Mary 'no one knew hunger and poverty in Glin Parish'. (27) Thomas soon got into trouble with the authorities because of his family's claims to certain lands in Co. Kerry: these were at Aghrem and Glenalappa and at Gortdromsillihy and Burraguogine (modern Bauragoogeen) all in the parish of Murher, in the barony of Iraghticonnor, Co. Kerry between 1701 and 1732.

The Fitzgeralds claimed these lands as their property and maintained that these townlands were in fact in their holdings of Ballygoghlan and Tullyleague in Limerick county. while Trinity College Dublin, to whom the lands in dispute had been granted by Queen Elizabeth after her confiscation of the Desmond and O'Connor Kerry lands, disputed the Geraldine's claims. There was also at this time some doubt as to where the actual boundary lay between Counties Limerick and Kerry and to whom certain tracts of land belonged.

The authorities were unable to restrain Thomas because of his influence in the area and this dispute, in which the Trinity tenants were the real sufferers, lingered on with benefit only to the legal eagles, until after Thomas died in 1732. As late as 1738 the Fitzgeralds still claimed Bauragoogeen. (28) Thomas was an active Jacobite supporter and a quatrain has been attributed to him (among others) which shows his sympathies. This verse, addressed to a lady of the Browne family named either 'Aibigil' (29) or 'Gobnait' (30) reads:

'A Ghiubnait Brown aduirt ná féadhfínse
Ainm an Phrionsa a thabhairt gan Treason liom
Cuir ceathair ar dtúis is dúbail aon air sin
I mbéal blasta na n-údar ghlaoigh ar luich' (31) (Trans.)

O Gobnat Browne I told you that I could not name The Prince without treason
Put four in front and add twice one to that
In the sweet tongue of the authors name a mouse.

Explanation of epigram: 4 + 2 = 6 (The Irish word for six is 'Sé'. The Latin for mouse ·is 'mus' hence Sémus = James). There is also some evidence that Thomas 'Snub-Nosed' in the period 1719-22, was believed by the authorities to have been associated with a projected Spanish - Jacobite invasion, involving the exiled Duke of Ormonde. (32) As this is the subject of a forthcoming work on Irish Jacobitism 1685-1766 by Éamonn Ó Ciardha, I refer the interested reader to this work.

The Knights of Glin did not reside in (old) Glin Castle after its' capture in 1642. About the year 1675 Gerald of the Horses had a large thatched - house built near present day Glin Castle. (33) This was known as Glin Hall when Thomas and Mary lived there. (34) Although some of its rooms must have been substantial Samuel Molyneaux made no mention of it when he visited the area in 1709. (35) It was partially destroyed by fire in 1740, (36) but by October 1742 (37) it had been repaired or perhaps replaced by another fairly ordinary - looking house.' (38) The fact that at least four family portraits as well as one sixteenth-century Italian painting survived the burning of Glin Hall in 1740 suggests that the fire did not consume the whole building.

The home of Thomas and Mary was a favourite meeting place for the poets and the great Aogán Ó Rathaille wrote one of his best known elegies for Thomas' son, Gerald, who died young - probably sometime in the second decade of the 18th century - 'Créad é an tlacht seo at cheannaibh Éireann' which has been translated by Fr, P.J. Dineen and T. 0' Donoghue (39) and more recently, in his own inimitable style, by the late west-Limerick poet, Michael Harttnett. (40)

Besides Gerald, who was probably the eldest son and certainly dead by 1730, Thomas and Mary had four other sons, of whom we treat, and two daughters:

1. Ellen, who married c. 1731 John White of Rathgonan, Co. Limerick and a convert to Protestantism. (41) This marriage was not successful and a feud developed between John White and the Fitzgeralds concerning Ellen's dowry and other moneys, amounting to 'a large sum of Money', alleged to have been advanced to her brother, Edmond. (42) According to Hickson, who is tantalizingly vague Ellen 'had her own share of trouble in the penal days' (43) and she refers to 'legal documents' then extant, which referred to these misfortunes and added 'The whole (Glin) family, with the exception of Mrs. Robt. Fitzgerald, suffered cruelly in the penal times. (44)

2. Catherine, the youngest daughter, married twice, first to Thomas Freke Crosbie (d. April 1751) of Tubrid, Co. Kerry and had issue and in 1752 she married, as his second wife, Robert Fitzgerald, M.P. for Dingle and the Islands and a judge of the Admiralty Court and who later (for one year) became Knight of Kerry. Until Catherine's death (April 1759) her husband, known generally as 'Counsellor Fitzgerald' and in his family as 'Holy Bob' played a large part in saving Glin from bankruptcy and ruination - a difficult role which his Glin brothers-in-law did not always appreciate. Thomas 'Snub-Nosed' died sometime after Trinity Sunday 1732. (45) This date is confirmed in a verse of an elegy on him written by the Clare poet Aindrias MacCruitín (Andrew McCurtin) which opens 'D'iombuan dligheadh céile do'n Ghleann' (46) Thomas was also lamented in verse by Domhnall Ó hEicthigheirn (Donal Ahern) which opens:

M 'ochlansa Tomds fa dhion sa bhfeart an (t) ara do ba fhoranta diorach glan, Is díomá é do lucht fain na tire ar fad

A gcoiméad fá cheart-lar na lige is creach' (47)


Alas that Thomas lies under the roof of the tomb that high blooded charioteer who was valiant, direct and clear, His being held under the centre of the flagstone, Is (a cause of) disappointment and of ruin for all. The mendicants of the whole country.

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