…Sing the lords and ladies gay
That were beaten into the clay
Through seven heroic centuries;
Cast your mind on other days
That we in coming days may be
Still the indomitable Irishry.
Under Ben Bulben – W. B. Yeats
In the above lines, the seven heroic centuries that W.B. Yeats calls all Irish poets to continue to celebrate, refers to the seven centuries of British and Norman rule that, by the Elizabethan age, had been polarized through rebellion and religion. After the Nine Years War and The Flight of the Earls, this ancien régime, which at one time included both Irish and English nobility alike, evolved into a powerful class of landed gentry that became known as the Protestant Ascendancy.
|MISS MEADOWS: "Who are those men who have just come ashore in that boat, and are giving themselves such airs? Peers?"|
MR BRIMBLECORN: "Landed gentry, I think."
By the end of the First World War, however, most of the great houses of
were in ruins; where manor homes and castles once stood, soon, only “a few
bleached stumps” remained standing (Bowen, xvii).
For the Radleys of Knockrour and many of the other families of the gentry, the decline had started with the agricultural disasters of the mid 19th century; before long, the garden parties and dances ended in the Encumbered Estates Court. By then, many of these families had put down roots that had been part of the island since the time of the Elizabethan plantation; through intermarriage with the native Irish elite and the great houses of the old Anglo-Norman families, many of these roots stretched even further back, to the Norman invasion and beyond.
The decision to leave
Ireland, for many of these families,
was a difficult one. When my great
grandfather, Richard Francis Radley Kelleher, announced his plan to immigrate
to Canada in 1914, my great grandmother, Mary O’Sullivan (who claimed descent
from the indomitable O’Sullivan Beare), went into what members of my family
have called a fine Irish rage; beginning
with tossing his life’s work of
transcribed music onto the fire, she staunchly declared, “If Ireland isn’t good
enough for you, then neither is her music!”
Now available through Amazon.com /Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.ca is the full history of one of these great families of
Ireland. With its discussion on the Purdons of
Ballyclough, the Barrys of Rathcormak, the Halls of Ballycunningham, the
Leaders of Mount Leader, the MacCarthys of Dooneen, the Twiss family of
Birdhill and many others, The Radleys of Knockrour provides both a record of the Radley family itself as well as a
thorough and intimate portrait of the landed gentry in Ireland.
Bence-Jones, Mark. “The Changing Picture of the Irish Landed Gentry.” Genealogical
and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of
Bernard Burke. Ireland
Elizabeth Bowen from “The Changing Picture of the Irish Landed Gentry.” By Mark
Bence-Jones in Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of
Cartoon, courtesy of http://www.pictorialgems.com/