The History of the Barons of Drumahaire, Co Leitrim, Connacht, Ireland

The Barony of Drumahaire covers 117,087 acres and lies along the north bank of Lough Allen in North Leitrim. It spans the middle of Co Leitrim bordered on the west by Co Sligo and on the east by Co's Fermanagh and Cavan. It is in the Poor Law Union of Manorhamilton, with a small section in the PLU of Carrick-on-the-Shannon. It is in the Dioceses of both Kildare and Armagh, the Probate District of Ballina and covers the civil parishes of Cloonclare, Cloonlogher, Drumlease, Drumreilly, Inishmagrath, Killanummery and Killarga. The McTernan townland of Sheskin is in the civil parish of Killarga and the Catholic parish of Killargue. Drumahaire means "ridge of the two air demons".

The Barony of Drumagheire as it was known in olden days was part of the great Liberty of Meath (which extended far beyond its present borders of the modern county) granted by Henry II to Hugh de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln and Ulster. Henry, King of England has granted to Hugh de Lacy for his service the land of Meath with its appurtenances by the service of 599 Knights to hold to him and his heirs as Murcard Ha Mulacklyn held it or any other before him. And for increase to the gift all fees which he has or shall acquire about Dublin, while he is the King's Baliff (Governor), to do service to the King at his city of Dublin.

Hugh's great great grandfather, Walter de Lacy, had attended William the Conqueror in the invasion of England almost 120 years before. Walter's grandson, also Hugh, invaded Wales in the early years of Henry I's reign. The de Lacy's, therefore, are a prime example of a family for whom the art of war is the only legitmate pursuit of profit for anyone with noble ambitions. This was the knub of the chivalric code that emerged in the French heartland between the Somme and the Meuse from 900 onwards. It was not enough to live well. Any successful merchant or money lender might do that. One had to live nobly and one thing on which all the chroniclers are agreed is that the noble caste of knights knew how to fight.

Hugh de Lacy, however, incurred the King's wrath for in 1181 he married the King of Connacht's daughter, without Henry II's consent, and was stripped of the governorship of Dublin. Four years later, he was murdered by one, Malvo Miadaca, "a mean person", in revenge for the severity with which he treated the workman who had built his castle in Meath.

Hugh was succeeded by two sons, the eldest Walter, and Hugh. Hugh was constituted Constable of Ireland and obtained the Earldom of Ulster from King John for betraying John de Courcy, the ancestor of the present Baron Kingsale. But Hugh himself fell foul of that insacible King and was banished from the country. Walter obtained a grant of Meath and its Manors from King John.

Walter married Margaret, daughter of William de Braose, Lord of "the Kingdom of Limerick" in the reign of Henry II, 1307--1327. William had also inherited great tracts of land from his grandmother, the daughter of the Earl of Hereford. In 1209, King John sought hostages from his nobility, England having been placed under Papal interdict and the King fearing that Pope Innocent III might release the Barons of their oaths of loyality to the Crown. When John's commissioners arrived, Lady Maud peremptorily told them that she would not entrust any of her sons to a King who had murdered his own nephew, Prince Arthur of Britanny. Wereupon, the Braoses fled to Ireland. Another story has it that John punished de Braose for his cruelty in killing 3,000 Welsh. Matthew of Westminister relates another story:

The noblelady Maud, wife of William de Braose, with William, their son and heir, were miserably famished at Windsor, by the command of King John; and William, her husband, escaping from Scorham, put himself into the habit of a beggar, and privately getting beyond sea, died soon after at Paris.

Maud and William are said to have starved to death by the King at Windsor. Walter's brother, Gilbert de Lacy, succeded him in the great Irish seitgnory.

To understand the position and achievements of the great Norman leaders such as the De Lacy's and to grasp the true course of Irish history, we must bear in mind that these immense grants of land and Palatine privileges were largely speculative, in the sense that the subjects of the gift were seldom at the time of the grant in the King's possession or power, but had to be won and held by the sword of the donee and his followers. The description of the grant of Ulster to John de Courcy in the Song of Dermot shows that it was left to the grantee to make effectual his dominion over the lands given.

To one John he granted Ulster,
If he could conquer it by force;
John de Lacy was his name,
Who afterwards suffered many a trouble there.

[Here in the 12th century is where Dermot MacMurrough ask Henry II of England to help him get his kingdom back from O'Rourke. Dermot had abducted O'Rourke's wife who then defeated him in a great battle. As throughout history the looser gets out of town, Dermot ended up in England. At Dermot's request, Henry II sends in the Earl of Penbroke known in history as Strongbow. As is true so often in history, the one you ask for help is in fact the one that you should have kept your eye on. . . No link as yet, from the McTernan family to the O'Rourke with the first name of Tiernan. In a long stretch, if Tiernan O'Rouke is in our ancestorial line then the McTernan / McTiernan's have played a major role in Ireland's troubles in the last 800 years by being the root cause of it. The O'Rourke (Drumahaire line) Armoral Arms and Crest. Their family motto is: Serviendo Guberno, which translates to " To Serving the Helm". With a bit of a leap of faith and a stretch of history, our McTiernan line might be connected to Tiernan O'Rourke. This is as yet totally unproven.]

Another aspect of the conquest, which only recent historians have brought out clearly, shows us that the relation of Henry II and his early successors to his grantees, was that of Feudal Overlord, rather than that of Soverign (indeed Henry VIII is the first King of England to describe himself as King of Ireland). King John was Dominus Hibernas (Lord of Ireland) and is so styled in the grant of Connacht to Walter de Lacy, the brother of Hugh de Lacy the Younger in 1205.

To appreciate the situation of Henry II and his successors, it must be approached from the more central point of historians, such as Sir James Ramsay, who show that the Continental possions of the King, as head of the House of Anjou, were far more extensive than his English lands and that his title to Touraine, Maine, Brittany, and other Angevin states was far better, and his control and possission there far more effective, than in any part of the British Isles outside England proper.

As Henry was content to be Overlord of his various Angevin dominions, so he was content to be Overlord of such parts of Ireland as his Feudal Barons could conquer for him. These feudal ties were crucial and prevented the great Norman leaders from giving continued attention to Ireland, when (as in the case of the De Lacys) possessions in England or Normandy involved duty of service there.

Thus we see the De Lacys and others of the King's vassals in Ireland frequently summoned to his French possessions to help him in his wars or to put down revolt, and this meant a constant change of Irish govenors and adminsitrators.

Hugh de Lacy, the first of that name who came to Ireland, was one of those eminently fitted to reconcile the interest of the invaders and the native Irish. As already noted, he married an Irish wife, the daughter of Rederic or Rory O'Connor, King of Connacht. The chronicler Geraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales), although a FitzGerald, speaks glowingly of the liberality and courtesy with which Hugh won the hearts of the Irish people, and drew round him their natural leaders.

The first of the De Lacy name who appears in English history is Walter de Lacy (sometimes spelt Lascy or Lasci). Little is known of his origin except that he came from Lasey, or Lassy, in the Canton of Conde'-sur-Moireau, Vire, Normandy. Walter accompanied William the Conqueror into England in 1066 and acquired large estates on the Welsh border, the principal being Ewyas Lacy, Staunton, Lacy, and Ludlow. Probably, the grant of these lands entitled him to a Feudal Barony in England, though he retained the name of his Norman Seignory - at any rate, we find his descendents recognized as barons in England.

Walter's death is variously given as 1084, 1085 and 1089. Walter's brother, or cousin, Hbert also came over with William the Conqueror and possessed of the new Royal Barony of Pomefrct and many other Manors in Yorkshire. A descendent of Hbert's, John de Lacy, Constable of Chester, was appointed jointly with Richard de Bec, custodian of Dublin Castle, and John's grandson afterwards became Earl of London.

Walter de Lacy had three sons: Robert or Roger, Hugh and Walter, and a daughter, Emma or Emmeline. Robert or Roger succeeded his father as second Baron de Lacy, in Normandy, but after his rebellion against William II Rufus (1087-1100) ( in which his was joined by his cousin Robert de Lacy, Lord of Pontefract), his lands were seized by the Crown in 1091, and granted to his brother Hugh who became third Baron, and died sometime before 1121. The next brother, Walter was Abbot of St. Peter's Abbey, Gloucester, and died unmarried in 1129.

The fourth Baron was Gilbert, the son of Emma and nephew of Hugh, the third Baron. The name of Emma's husband is not known but Gilbert assumed the De Lacy name and succeeded to the Barony, an early example of acquistion fure uxoris: or perhaps rather the correct interpretation is that the possession of the feudal lands, in days when tenure was all important, entitled the holder to the feudal rank of Baron.

Gilbert was succeeded by his son Hugh as fifth Baron de Lacy. The English lands of his father seem to have been for a time in the King's hands, but they were recovered before 1163, and in 1165 Hugh had possession of more than 58 Knights with Richard de Clare in the first Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169.

Hugh seems to have had a sister, Rosea, whom he married to Gilbert de Nugent, first Baron of Delvin, which is now represented by the Earl of Westmeath. Hugh died in 1186 and by his first wife, Roheis, or Rose de Monemue (Monmouth), he had four sons, only two of which are noted. They were:

  1. Walter, who succeeded him in the Barony of De Lacy and in the Seignory of Connacht and Meath. Walter married Margaret, daughter of William de Braose, a realitive of Strongbow and had a son Gilbert who died in his lifetime. Gilbert left two daughters who divided his lands upon his death. They were:

    1. Margaret, obtaining chiefly the lands in Westmeath
    2. Matilida, the lands that now form the modern counties of Leitrim, Meath, Dublin and lands in Connacht.

  2. Hugh, created Earl of Ulster in 1295 by King John.

The Lordship of Connacht, like that of Meath, was considerably greater than the present province of the same name.

Sir Robert Preston was created Viscount of Gormanston in 1478, making it the oldest Irish Viscountcy. He was Lord Deputy of Ireland in the reign of Edward IV when the King's son, Richard, Duke of York - who was murdered in the Tower of London by Richard III - held the sinecure post of Lord Leiutenant. The Gormanstons suffered somewhat in the 16th century for their adhesion to the Catholic cause and temporarily lost their lands to Lord Deputy Skiffington, now represented by Viscount Massereen and Ferrard.

The Gormanstons survived the plantations of Elizabeth and James I, but espoused the forlorn cause of James II who was dethroned in 1689. The seventh Viscount Gormanston was indicted for high treason and outlawed in 1691, although he had died the month before the publication of the ban. Ninty-nine years later, the family were restored in blood and thrive to this day.

Gilbert de Lacy, whose daughter and heir, Margery, married John de Verdun. (alias le Botler, or Butler, a collateral branch of the Butler family who are now Marquesses of Crmond and Viscounts Mountgarre;) As the grand daughter and co-heir of Walter de Lacy, Lord Palatine of Meath, Margery took the Barony of Drumagheire into the de Verdun family and was succeeded in 1275 by her son, Theobald. He was summoned to Parliament in 1295 as Baron Verdun and was one of the Lords that set their seals to a letter sent to Pope Boniface VII, asserting the right of Edward I, aka Longshanks, known as the Hammer of the Scots to supremacy of the kingdom of Scotland. He died in 1309 and was succeeded by his second son and namesake.

Theobald junior married twice, Maud, daughter of Edmund, Lord Mortimer of Wigmore, and Elizabeth, daughter of John de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, and died in 1316, having four daughters as his heirs.

Joan, the eldest married Thomas de Furnival, 3rd Baron Furnival, and brought extensive estates in Ireland and Straffordshire, but their son, William, who died in 1383, was the last in their male line and the estates passed to thier daughter Joan, wife of Sir John Talbot, the great English commander in France, of whom Shakespeare speaks in Henry V.

Sir John Talbot was created Earl of Shrewsbury in 1442 and Earl of Waterford in 1446, but the Irish estates passed into the hands of the Crown in 1536 during Henry VIII's reign after an Act of Resumption, esentially an Act stripping absentee Irish landowners of their lands and titles.

The Barony of Drumaghiere and other lands were granted [actual grant] by Charles I in 1636 to Nicholas Preston, 6th Viscount Gormanston. The Prestons sprang from a properous family of Lancashire merchants, some of whom, early in the 14th century, settled in Ireland and acquired lands there. Roger of Preston, father of Robert became a Justice of the King's Bench (Ireland) in 1326. Robert was to become Chief Justice, Keeper of the Great Seal, and Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The marriage into the Baronial de Bermingham family was an illustrious one. That family had come over to Ireland with Richard Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, during the first Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland.

Margaret was descended from Thomas Multon of Egremont, Cumberland, whose mother was Eleanor, daughter of Richard de Burgh, second Earl of Ulster. The Prestons were therefore catipulted from being merely wealthy merchants into the ranks of the Anglo-Irish nobility, and we find Robert Preston, the first Baron of Gormanston, and the first of this family treading the chivalric path to glory and honors.

Sir Robert Preston was knighted in the field in 1361 by the Duke of Clarence, and at his death in 1396, left hugh estates in Co's Meath, Kildare and Dublin. A year later, the Earl of March - heir to the Throne, knighted Christopher, Sir Robert's son, but he was shortly afterwards imprisoned at Trim Castle for treason for his alleged part in the uprising against Richard II in 1399. It may have been this short imprisonment that led to a first meeting with Jenico Dartas.

Jenico Dartas was an avid supporter of King Richard and Constable of Trim, for Jenico's daughter, Jane was to marry Christopher's son and namesake. Jenico Dartas is an arresting figure who jumped out of the dull annals of 15th century Ireland and rides across the stage in all the valour, gaiety and color of late medieval Europe. Jenico, which almost every generation of Gormanston Viscounts have used as a forename, came to Ireland as a young man in the train of Richard II in 1394.

He followed the King's fortunes to the bitter end, but eventually rose to into high favor with Henry IV and went back to Ireland. He is known in history as Richard II's Gascon squire, although he was probably Flemish: D'Artois. Richard was born in Bordeaus and Jenico became Sereschal of the Gascon capital. It is not known how Jenico met the King, but it is possible that he was already in Gascony when John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, led an English force over the Pyrences in 1385 and established the House of Avis on the Portugese throne in the person of King John. In the followiing year, the Duke was invited to take the Crown of Castile and he sailed for Spain. He failed, was bought off, and renounced his claim, through his second wife, in 1387.

The Duke of Lancaster was paramount in the English government at the time and it may be that Jenico returned to London with the Prince after the unsuccessful expedition to the Peninsula. Jenico had a leading command in Richard's army into Ireland in 1394. On his arrival, the King sent out the Earl's of Rutland, Huntington and Nottingham and one "JD' to subdue the Irish in Kilkenny and Carlow. The "JD" who made a successful journey against the enemies and prayed 400 cattle seems to be Jenico Dartas, grandfather of the first Viscount Gormanston.

Richard II spent the Christmas of 1394 at Dublin Castle where he received the submissions of the most important Irish chiefs, no more than a paper submission of course. Jenico Dartas rceived lands at this time "because of his excellent service against the Irish of Leinster and for his constant loyality" Grants of land were one thing in medieval Ireland; securing profit from them another.

Jenico's loyality was to be severly tested from 1397. Roger, Earl of March and Ulster, the King's cousin, was heir to the Throne after the childless Richard. The King had made March his Leiutenant in Ireland and had sent him to restore English authority there. While fighting a guerilla war in Co Kilkenny, Lord March was surprised at Callistown on June 10, 1398 and killed.

King Richard's fury knew no bounds. First he set his nephew, Thomas Holland, Duke of Surrey: " The Duke of Surry did many valiant deeds in Ireland, and one Jenico, a German by nation, slew, captured, or brought into submission many of the Irish". The King himself arrived in Waterford in June 1399, a fatal error, for no sooner had he left England than Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry V, whom Richard had exiled, eldest son and heir of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, landed at Ravenspur and marched on Chester.

The English Baronage flooded to Bolingbroke's banner. Richard, powerless in Ireland, sent the Earl of Salisbury ahead to raise an army at Conway, his English army in Ireland dissolving by the day. The King himself arrived at Conway several weeks later to find only his loyal Salisbury, the Bishop of Carlisle, two chaplains, and Jenico who advised the King to flee to Gascony to regroup. But the King's nerve was gone and he left for Flint Castle, with only 12 companions, where he proposed to surrender to Henry Bollinbloke. The scene is played out in Shakespere.

Jenico lay awhile in Chester Castle, cooling his heels but it seems that Bolingbrooke, by now Henry V, admired his prisoners's loyality to his fallen Prince and determined to turn that loyality to the advantage of the new House of Lancaster. Jenico joined the King on campaign to Scotland in 1400 followed by a great tournament in London, in which Jenico and Sir John Cornwall challenged a French and an Italian Knight in the lists and won. Jenico returned to Ireland where he was made Constable of Dublin Castle. In 1404, he was made Admiral of Ireland.

In 1404 or 1405 he married Joan Taafe - of the family who were to supply many U.S. politians. This rich widow brought him even greater wealth. With the accession of Henry V, Jenico remained in high favour and was made Governor of the King's wars in Ireland, while his warlike Monarch went on to subdue France after the Battle of Agincourt. He died in 1426, probably over 60, leaving a son after whose son the male line died out, and a daughter, Jane, who married the Prestons and whose blood still courses in the veins of the present 17th Viscount Gormanston.

The career of Jenico Dartas, the Gascon Squire, makes a gallant story, marked by romantic fidelity, valour, and determination. He strongly resembles the Norman Conquistadores before him and the Elizabethan adventurers who followed him. Indeed, had the English been able to find a dozen Jenicos in Ireland and given them the resources, the fortunes of the English colony might have been very different.

Rev. Valentine Farrell is the great, great grandson of Edward Anthony John Preston, 13th Viscount Gormanston, 8th Feudal Baron of Drumahaire and has written a book, "Not so much to one side" which is a local history of Moynalty, his birthplace.

Twelve generations of the Preston family have been the Barons of Drumahaire since 1636.

Felix Landzianowski of Poland is the brother of Anton Landzianowski the  grandfather of Ilonka Landzianowski at

Preston family Blazon of Arms and Crest.

A great Preston home page with an enormus amount of family data on all the Prestons, US, England and Ireland by F. Preston.

The Peerage explained.

Return to the beginning