The Wakelys of Navan and Ballyburly - a discussion of a 16th Century Family
Elizabeth Hickey B.A.
Ríocht na Midhe, v, no.4 (1974), pp 3-19
I shall start this paper where in fact it did start - in a small Protestant Church in County Offaly. I had gone there with the intention of studying a piece of early 17th century sculpture. However, on the particular day on which I called, the Church was being prepared for a wedding. Outside, fresh gravel was being spread; inside the flowers were being arranged, wood was being polished. I spotted the effigy of a Tudor soldier mounted on a wall between 19th century monuments, but I felt that this was not the time to make a detailed study and I left him, looking rather like the steadfast tin soldier in the Hans Anderson tale, standing to attention and surveying the wedding preparations.
Next time I visited this church the belfry was down; there was a gaping hole in the roof, and the inside was desolate. 'The Protestant Dream' for good or for ill, had ended in another parish in Ireland. The Tudor soldier still stood, but he and the other monuments were all that were left.
In the paper I shall discuss the earlier monuments and, in particular, that one commemorating John Wakely and his son Thomas. I think their story is worth recounting. Many English soldiers established families in Ireland in Tudor times and their descendants both Protestant and Catholic, form a sizeable portion of the population today. Grass roots are never uninteresting.
Let us look at the monument. It is small; it is somewhat crude; and it is both arrogant and savage. But it is not without elegance and the inscription is mannered and affectionate. Here are the details. It is mounted on the south wall of the church and consists of three separate stones. The stone carrying the effigy of the soldier measures 63"x35". He stands upright dressed in doublet and padded hose; his spade beard sits into his ruff; his morion is placed firmly on his head. In his right hand he holds a tasselled lance; his left hand supports the harness of a cavalry sword. There is considerable character conveyed in this stance and bearing.
Mounted on the left is a larger stone measuring 68"x51". On this is carved the shield strapped to a leather mount embellished with two roses. The shield displays the arms of Wakely (gules a chevron between three cross crosslets argent on a chief of the last a stag's head caboshed of the first) quartered with the arms of Handcock (gules a dexter hand couped and erect on a chief, of the last three cocks of the first). Below is the crest, a dexter hand holding a hammer and the motto 'Tout viend hault'. (Col. Wakely informs me the family motto is 'Tout viens de haut'). The letters 'T. W.' and 'M. H.' standing for Thomas Wakely and Maud Handcock, flank the arms. The shield is interesting in that it is hung about with trophies of war. I know of no other such and it reminds us that truly the name of the game was war. Two plumed Irish helmets surmount the two top corners; a decapitated head is suspended beneath. This latter is depicted with the upstanding hair and large pointed ears which were the convention for the 'Irish Enemy' or the 'Wild Irish', and are well known to us from Derrick's woodcuts of the period.
Underneath these two stones a third stone carries an inscription, which I will give with contractions expanded and with punctuation added:
'HERE LIETH THE BODY OF MAUD HANDCOCK, DAUGHTER TO WILLIAM OF DUBLIN ALDERMAN, WHO DECEASED THIS LIFE THE 3RD OF MAY 1617. HER DEAR AND WELL BELOVED HUSBAND THOMAS WACKLEY OF BALIBURLY ESQUIRE SON TO JON WAKELY OF THE NOVAN ESQ CAPTAIN OF A 100 HORSE AND 100 FOOT IN THE BEGINNING OF QUEEN ELIZABETH'S REIGN OF FAMOUS MEMORY COVERNID THEM TO THE ADVANSMENT OF HER HIGHNESS SERVICE, CAUSED THIS MONUMENT TO BE MADE IN MEMORY OF HER, HIMSELF AND CATREN CUSACK ALIAS HANDOCK SISTER TO THE AFORSAID MAUD.
To recapitulate, we have here a monument erected by Thomas Wakely in memory of himself and his wife Maud Handcock, and in memory of his father John and his wife's sister, Catherin. His wife died in 1617 and was buried under it.
Who were these people who took the trouble to commemorate themselves thus in stone?
PART 1 JOHN WAKELY, SOLDIER
We first hear of John Wakely in Henry VII's reign. This was a period when, in furtherance of the king's policy of direct rule, through an English Deputy, numbers of 'New English' were being sent into the country as officials, as ecclesiastics and as soldiers.
John was sent to Ireland as a cavalry officer in charge of 100 horse. He is mentioned in the State Papers as being a 'servant of my Lord of Warwick'.1 It is highly probable then, that he had served under Lord Warwick in the Low Countries previous to this. It is probable too, that he favoured a reform church; Lord Warwick was a zealous reformer.
John first appears in the official records of Ireland acting in conjunction with Feordorcha, Conn O'Neill's eldest son, the Baron of Dungannon. The matter is complex enough, but as it is typical of the times, it is worth recounting.
In 1542 Conn O'Neill was bidden to England to attend at court to have the Earldom of Tyrone conferred upon him. The expenses of the journey were assessed upon the captains of his country. One of these gentleman, Nellan Connelagh father to Tirlough Luineach, failed to pay and was called to Kilmainham to explain his failure to the Lord Deputy. He claimed that, in fact, the hundred cows that he owed for the Earl's journey had been taken from him as spoil by the Baron of Dungannon and John Wakely, one of the King's captains, whilst the Earl was in England. The Lord Deputy arranged for arbitration and promised, should it turn out that the cows had been unjustly taken from Nellan Connelagh, he himself would see them restored. Whereupon Nellan Connelagh promised faithfully that should the cows be restored to him, he would pay them to the Deputy. 2
It is likely that John Wakely was raiding in the course of duty. The English army consistently supported Feordorcha as indeed he supported them.
The following year John was in Limerick when an even more intricate case came before the Council. The Earl of Clanricard had died and: 'After the decease of the said Earl it came in doubt to us, which of his sons was Heir male of his body lawfully begotten, or whether any of them ought by right to be his Heir male. The Earl was first married to Grany, daughter of Mulrone O'Karwell, which marriage was solemnised in the face of the Church, as was proved before sufficient witnesses, whose examinations were subscribed by our hands; and they had issue Richard Burke. While that marriage remained in force the Earl married Honora, sister of Ulick de Burgh who is now also in the face of the Church. Subsequently the said Honora was divorced from him, but we know not whether the divorce lawful effected or not. Afterwards the Earl, in the face of the Church married Mary Lynche and Honora repudiated the marriage between the Earl and Grany, alleging that a long time before marriage the said Grany had been lawfully married to O'Molloghlen'.
It was arranged that, until the Heir could be proved, Ulick Burke, 'otherwise called Firzwilliam de Burgh', should have the Captaincy of Clanricard and in cases needing arbitration he was to have the assistance of the Archbishop of Tuam, the Mayor of Galway and two English Captains of 100 horse, John Wakely and Gyles Ovendon, who were sent with him straight away into Connaught, 'to receive hostages…and to assist and defend the same Ulick'. 3
Service in Ireland was not popular with Englishmen, but for those who persisted there were rewards. The monastic lands and rents were, at this period, at the King's disposal, and from this time onward we find John being rewarded with various leases of land and with spiritualities and temporalities of churches in Meath and Louth.
JOHN WAKELY OF THE NAVAN
Among the lease of land we find that in 1544 the site of the Priory of Crutched Friars of St John the Baptist, Kilkenny West in Westmeath was leased to 'John Wakely of Dublin'. 4
In 1547, however, lands in Meath were leased to 'John Wakely of Nowan Gent'. 5
It would therefore appear that he first came to live in Navan sometime between 1544 and 1547.
He held a lease of St. Mary's Abbey at Navan and established his home in the Abbey house and it is apparent that he would have liked to set up the 'House of Wakely' here. When he was in England in 1549 he sent back to Ireland for the survey of Navan Abbey 6, doubtless with a view to pursuing his suit at court. Two years later he was in England again, carrying with him a recommendation from Lord Justice Cusack and the Council in favour of the reversion of the Abbey, 'which he hath presently had for years. 7
One can sympathise with him in his wish to gain possession of this property. It was well situated within the Pale; near enough to Dublin and to Drogheda from whence passage could be taken to England; the property was substantial; the fishing was good; there were several mills and the view over the Blackwater was very pleasant.
In February 1552 he was granted the following: 'Lease to John Wakely of the Novan, County Meath, gent, of a house and other buildings within the site of the Abbey of Navan, 3 water mills and a Salmon weir there. Horling park and other demesne lands of the Abbey, eighteen houses in the town of Novan with the customs of the same, cottages lately built without the wall of the town in Canon Rowe, land of Angevyleston, Trymmes land in the same 10s. chief rent out of Richar. White's land. 4s. 1d. out of one, Bottell's lands and 4s out of one Dyllon's lands in the same, lands of the Grange by Foughanhyll, Prests land in Knockamore, the lands of Deranston, Ballynevin, Rarthlogh, portion of a fishing weir upon the Boyne, 6s 8d. rent of the mill of Atholmoy by the Navan, a house in Slane, a house and lands called Chappell lands, lands in Balreske, five messsuages in Ardbracken, a messuage and land in Fynnockiston, a house in Sonnamore, a house in Ardmulghan and a messuage in Kellys; the rectories and tithes of Ardbrachan, Kylskryne, the Novan and Clonaduff, County Meath, parcel of the possessions of the said Abbey.
To hold for 21 years from 1552 at a rent of £92.8
Edward VI died in 1553 and we hear nothing of John Wakely during Mary's reign. However when Elizabeth succeeded, John made another attempt to gain the fee-farm of the Abbey. He was again unsuccessful, succeeding only in getting an extended lease. 9
In 1565 the Queen wrote to Sir Henry Sidney regarding her 'loving subject John Wakely' to grant him the lease in reversion 'in consideration of the good service heretofore done and hereafter to be done to us and our said realme of Ireland and elsewhere'. 10
JOHN WAKELY OF BALLYBURLY
His failure to gain possession of Navan Abbey was probably the result of decisions in high quarters. This was the period of the first colonisation of Leix and Offaly and it was more politic to have a soldier establish his family in border country than on the sheltered outskirts of a Pale town. In Edward VI's reign John had been given a lease of lands in Offaly, confiscated from the chieftain Brian O'Connor. 11
John Wakely was one of eleven 'undertakers' chosen in 1552 to inhabit this country. His lease was one of the most extensive and covered sixteen townslands in group, five hamlets and seven old ruinous castles. This was good land: 2575 acres are listed as arable, 726 acres as pasture; bog and moor and woodland made up respectively 1819 acres and 117 acres. 12
The lease was given to, John Wakely of the Navan gent, of the land of Ballyebyrle…in the lordship of Offaly, parcel of the possession of Brian O'Connor to hold for 21 years at a rent of £90'1'4 with a reservation (added in the Lord Deputy Saint Leger's hand) of all goshawks and tercels'.
He was expected to garrison and defend his own land and to supply men and materials for the fort at Daingean. It is improbable that he made his home at Ballyburly at this period, but he did strengthen or build a castle there. The Deputy, Lord Sussex visited it when he made a journey in 1557.13
There is a quality of awe in the description of the countryside given by one who accompanied the entourage. 'Saturday 17th July - my Lord Deputy removed to Rahe Doeh. This day we came by McCouehlan in a castle called Balla Casslan. The said McCouehlan was our guide… we came over two great bogs and through great woods and passes all day called-. At night the rebels burned Askele within a mile from our camp and also the suburbs of the fort of the Dengen into which they shot certain arrows. Sunday 18th July - The Deputy removed from Rach Doeh and came to Carbery Castle. He went to see the farm or castle of Dick Hunte,called Braclon, and William Dickson's farm and castle called Kilclonfert, where he dined; and from thence to the Dingen, and from the Dingen, to John Wackle's farm or castle, called-,and so (to) Carbery.'
A country where hawks and tercels abounded no doubt. In this year Leix and Offaly were made onto Shire lands and Sussex drew up an entirely new scheme of land holding, scrapping all the arrangements under which John Wakely and his fellow lease holders held land.
In this scheme land was given to many more persons and these were divided into three type, viz., gentleman of the Pale, officers and soldiers of the army, and native Irish. John Wakely retained Ballyburly and three townlands under a new lease. This was still a form of military tenure and we find him paid an allowance for his duties.14
In 1558 he paid £8'8 for one quarter as one of the warders warding the fort of Ballyburly. In Navan also his house was used as a place where corn, levied on the Pale for the upkeep of the forts, could be collected. 15
John was returned as M.P. for Navan in the first Parliament of Queen Elizabeth's reign - that controversial assembly which restored the Royal Supremacy over the Church: he was one of the Commissioners for Meath in the Year 1561, '63, and '66. 16 the Commissioners being that body of men entitled to call out the military when the Deputy was absent. These were the years of the northern wars against Shane O'Neill.
In 1570 he was Sheriff of King's County, as Offaly was now called, and was one of the Commissioners appointed to set out the bounds of the county and execute martial law within it .17
In 1561 he must have been in action against Shane O'Neill in the North, for following a treaty concluded between that chieftain and the Earl of Kildare we find there was a discharge of Captain Nicholas Bagenal's and Captain John Wakely's bands. 18
This did not mean however that these officers retired. A muster roll of November on the following year shows John Wakely as commanding four officers and fifty horsemen. 19
It is interesting to study the following account which gives us an idea of the composition of a horse regiment of this period in Ireland: 'Captain Wakely. For his stipend iiiis. His peticaptein ii s. his guydon (standard bearer) and trompeter at xix d. le pece diem an Lti horsemen at ix d. le pece per diem for vi months and xv dais beginnings the first of June and ending the last of November following the somme of iiiicxxvi li s. vi d. 20
Captain Wakely was owed £462"6"6 in all.
The army in Ireland was paid in English specie and £160 of this appears to have been borrowed back immediately from John for we find the following entry in the accounts of Sir William Fitswilliam, the vice-treasurer: 'Boroed monye defrayed towards the chardges of therle of Kyldare and Shane O'Neyle into England videlicet of Sir Henry Radclyf Knight cc li courant money of England cclxv li. xxii s. iiii d.
Henry Colleye c li.
John Wackley clx li.
Sir George Standley Knight, the somme of ix li.
Total vciii xx vi li. xiii s. (£586"15"4)
This famous journey taken into England by Shane O'Neill was in response to an invitation from the Queen that he visit her at court in Greenwich. Shane insisted that he be accompanied by the Earl of Kildare. He was paid £2000 in all for his expenses.
The same account book noted that John Wakely was to be paid £13/6/8, 'for the price of a horse given to MacGuyre, by order of the Lord Lieutenant and Counsell for his better furniture in the Queen's Majesties servyce'. This would have been Sean Maguire, chief of the Maguires from 1540-66 who served with the Queen's forces against Shane O'Neill. 22
JOHN WAKELY, HUSBAND AND FATHER
John was married twice, firstly to Catherine Rawson and secondly to Anne Plunkett, daughter to Oliver Plunkett, first Lord Louth. He died in 1570 and was buried in Navan Abbey where his son Thomas erected a monument over his grave. The Church of Navan Abbey had always been the Parish Church of Navan and remained in use as such after the dissolution of the Abbey.
The monument was still to be seen at the end of the 17th century when a note in Bishop Dopping's visitation describes it thus: 'On ye tomb in ye upper Chapel, Hic jacet venerabilis vir Johes Wakely Armiger at Caterina Rawson uxor ejus, quorum animabus propitietur Deus, obiit 2 9br an di 1570. Ego Thomas Wakely et Maud Hankore hoc fieri fercerunt', which may be translated, 'Here lies the much respected John Wakely, soldier and Catherine Rawson his wife, upon whose souls God have mercy, died 2 November the year of Our Lord 1570. I Thomas Wakely and Maud Handcock have caused this to be made.' 23
I think from this memorial we may assume that Catherine Rawson was Thomas's mother.
Anne Plunkett, John's second wife, remarried after his death, Gerard Wellesly of Dangan in Meath. 24
John left at least four sons, three of whom we know were soldiers.
Thomas was of age when his father died and as 'Thomas Wackley of Ballebyrley alias Wacklestone, King's County gent. son and Heir of John Wakely late of the same, gent.' was granted livery of his estate in 1571. 25
George was a minor at the time of his father's death when his wardship and marriage were granted to Hercules Rainsford who was treasurer of the Deputy's household. Curiously he too is described as, 'son and Heir of John Wakely', but his time his father is described as, 'late of the Navan, Co. Meath'. 26
Christopher appears to have accompanied his Mother to Dangan and made his home there; he possibly married into the Nugent family, for we find in 1600 he was granted the wardship of a Thomas Nugent, with the proviso that the ward be educated at Trinity College, Dublin. This proviso, and indeed the granting of the wardship, tell us that Christopher conformed to the State Church. 27
John is mentioned together with his brothers George and Christopher in a document of 1590 where they complain about a lease of Louth Abbey originally granted to their
Christopher lost both his eyes from a shot from a Scottish arrow on 1596 and was granted a pension of 2/8 per day which was still being paid in 1620. 29 We know George was a soldier from a letter from Archbishop Loftus who, writing to Secretary Walshingham, commends the bearer of his letter as, 'Captain George Wakely, the son of John Wakely, who was a valiant captain in Ireland'. 30
There may have been more than four sons. An interesting letter written from Newry in 1597-8 comes from a Richard Wakely and describes conditions in Newry on a snowy February morning when insufficient money arrived to pay the troops. The angry soldiers snowballed the paymaster who was fortunate to escape with his life. Richard Wakely writes rather ruefully that, on account of this, he fears that all Irish-born may be cashiered and he includes himself here. 'The commisary's arrival here to make several observations in his musters, how many English, how many Palesmen and how many mere Irish, doth put us all of Irish birth in a mistrust that you will cashier us all and supply the bands in our stead with the supplies that are come of (the) English. This is the best construction we can make of it, but the mere Irish do not stick to say that they are used but to serve our turns, but they will provide for themselves, if there be no better regard had of them'. 31
It is not clear why, in the year of his father's death, 1570, George, a minor, should be described as 'son and heir', and the following year Thomas, obviously the elder, should be granted livery of Ballyburly as 'son and heir'. The fact that one document mentions The Navan and the other document mentions Ballyburly is not, I think, the explanation, for Thomas in fact inherited both properties.
It is quite possible that John Wakely and Catherine Rawson were divorced. Church divorces were common enough at that period and being annulments they created endless difficulty by making the second wife's eldest son the legitimate heir, and leaving all the first wife's children illegitimate.
Primogeniture was not as strictly applied in the new King's County, where allowance had to be made for the Irish tenants who held land and, used to Irish law, recognised all sons as legitimate. If the conjecture is right, that there was a divorce, this may be the reason that, in the document on livery, Thomas is 'Thomas Wakely of Ballyburly, son of John Wakely of Ballyburly'.
1. Calendar of State Papers, Ireland, 1549, p 103.
2. Carew, 1543, p 208.
3. Carew, 1544, p 213
4. Fiants of Henry VIII, 1544, 428
5. Fiants of Edward VI, 1547, 30
6. C.S.P.I., 1549, p 99
7. C.S.P.I., 1551, p 118
8. Fiants of Edward VI, 1551-2, 943. (I think the date should read 1552. He held the Abbey for 21 years with an extension of 40 years which would bring the lease to 1613 when Sir Arthur Savage was given a lease.)
9. C.S.P.I., 1565, p 274
10. Sidney State Papers,1565-70, 2, Irish Manuscript Commission.
11. Fiants of Edward VI, 1550-1,687
12. Dean White, Thesis, Library, T.C.D., The Tudor Plantations, p. 253
13. Carew,1557, p. 267
14. Historical MSS, Commission, 77, de L'Isle1, pp. 374,383,366
15. Historical MSS, Commission, Irish Privy Council Book, 1556-71, p.49
16. Fiants of Elizabeth,6786.381, 542, 953
17. Fiants of Elizabeth, 6786
18. C.S.P.I.,1561,p. 182
19. Historical MSS. Commission, Salisbury, Vol. 2, p. 43
20. Irish MSS. Commission Fitzwilliam Accounts, 1560-65, p. 42
21 Idem., p. 61
22. Idem., p. 642
23. Funeral Entries, Vol. 5, p. 26
24. Fiants of Elizabeth,1571, 1851
25. Idem., 1570, 1764
26. Idem., 1600, 6405
27. Cal. Patent Rolls, Elizabeth, Vol. 11, 1590
29. C.S.P.I.,1588-90, p. 304
30. C.S.P.I., 1597-98, p. 58
THOMAS WAKELY OF BALLYBURLY
Thomas Wakely in 1571 was a man of property. He had a family home and extensive lands in Meath and a wide acreage in the King's County. Here he also garrisoned a fortress on his lands.
His background was one of loyalty to the Crown and we find him accepting his position and entering on the duties that went with it. He was appointed a Commissioner for the King's County when the necessity arose.1 This was frequently enough during the next thirty years - the years which encompassed the Desmond rebellions in the south; the Baltinglass rebellion on the borders of Offaly; and the last great rebellion of Hugh O'Neill in Ulster.
Important lines of communication between Ulster and Munster lay through the passes of Offaly. In 1599 Tyrone sent troops through Offaly in Leinster and Munster and many of the Lords of the Pale rose to his support. The story we are concerned with is best told from the records of the time:
Nov. 18th 1599. Sir Robert Napper, Chief Baron of the Pale to Sir Robert Cecil.
'I also note that in the Pale the breaking out of these septs, as the Berminghams, and now the Husseys all the Daltons divers of the Darcys; and even now Garrett Oge's, of West Meath, being a neighbour to one Mr Wakely, and being entertained as many time before kindly in his house, upon a sudden took his castle, and put them there to the sword, and Wakely himself being wounded by hap escaped at a window.' 2
Dec. 1599. The Lords Justices Loftus and rest of the Council t the Privy Council.
'The Connors on the northern frontiers have taken Mr. Wakely, an English gentleman of the Pale, and a loyal subject prisioner.' 3
Jan. 1600 A view of the last certificate made to the Earl of Essex at entering into his Government and sent to the Lords of the Council, of the state of the province of Leinster…Offaly, the King's County - 'This county, being likewise possessed by the English, is wholly wasted in the lands thereof by the O' Connors, but the fort of Phillipstown is left for her Majesty and most of the other castles are kept by the owners.
'The forces of these O'Connors, of their own nation, together with the O'Molloys and the O'Doynes, are last certified to be 450, whereof in horse 12; but since that time, Ballybirly, a strong castle of one Wakely who at his own charge kept the same with a strong ward, hath been betrayed and himself taken prisoner in it.' 4
Thomas was worth a ransom and no doubt one was paid for his release. However in the fifty odd years of his tenure and in view of his obvious determination to hold on to his particular piece of the Queen's Pale, he must have come in conflict many times with the Irish enemy. The trophies shown embellishing his arms may be the helmets and head of particular chieftains he overcame or, they may be representative of the general warfare in which he has no doubt frequently engaged. His fort was most likely modelled on that of Dangan, i.e. some sort of fortified bawn or enclosure; the remains of a strong high wall can still be seen at Ballyburly.
THOMAS WAKELY OF THE NAVAN
If Thomas's life in Offaly was that of a frontiersman, his home in County Meath was on the whole secure. Northern incursions into the Pale may occasionally have caused alarm in Navan, but musters of soldiers were frequent enough to be reassuring. Thomas was returned as M.P. for Navan in 1583 and 1585. He continued to lease lands in Meath and still held various grants and leases in County Louth.
At this period the Anglo-Irish of the Pale were often highly critical of government policy and jealous lest their ancient rights should be lost to the 'New English'; Lord Dunsany, a near neighbour of Wakely's, put it thus to the Council, 'that the captains and men of war had all the milk and the Palesmen were no longer respected'.
One wonders then how Thomas regarded himself and what the neighbouring gentry thought of him. It is probable that Thomas regarded himself as a Palesman. A family genealogical tree puts the Wakelys as being in Ireland from 1462, and apart from this, Thomas's father had married into the Plunkets, a powerful Pale family, and he himself was married to one of the Nugents, a member of an equally strong Pale sept.
Thomas's first wife was a daughter of Sir Nicholas Nugent' Second Baron of the Exchequer. Sir Nicholas was uncle to the Baron of Delvin and lived near Navan and we find him acting as fellow commissioner with Thomas on many occasions. It was undoubtedly a good match when contracted.
Sir Nicholas, however, was a man of strong opinions and was one of those who came into conflict with the Deputy, Sir Henry Sidney, over the imposition of cess- a tax to support the army. In 1580 a more serious matter arose when he was implicated in what was called 'The Nugent Rebellion'. His case became a cause celébre. Sir Nicholas was tried at Trim, found guilty and publicly hanged. It is doubtful if he was guilty and naturally feelings on the matter ran tremendously high. Thomas married to his daughter, cannot but have found himself involved but we have no record of his feelings on the matter.
We do know, thought, that he disapproved of William Nugent his wife's first cousin and the leader of the rebellion, for years later he made a deposition informing against William regarding the oath of supremacy,5 and a second deposition reporting a visit William made to his house.6 This second deposition gives us an interesting description of Thomas Wakely at home in the Abbey house. Here is Thomas writing of himself: 'I Thomas Wackley, of the Navan, gentleman, in discharge of my duty do testify that upon the first Tuesday of this month of September, in the afternoon, there came into my orchard at the Navan the Lord Trymleston and his eldest son; Mr Dillon, of Proudstwn; and one Flynglas, a gentleman; with whom I being in company showing them that courtesy in my orchard which I thought meet for me, upon a sudden there came into the orchard William Nugent… and I do further testify that yesternight my wife having been at Kilcarne, told me at her coming home that her sister, William Nugent's wife, made a challenge to her against me that I had accused her husband.'
The deposition becomes rather involved as the two sisters defend their respective husbands, but it shows us Thomas and his wife living among their neighbours and quarrelling with their relations in a homely enough fashion. (William Nugent's wife was a half-sister of Thomas's wife.)
Another interesting document from the same year gives us an outside opinion on Thomas's match with Miss Nugent.7 This somewhat spiteful piece of writing was directed against Archbishop Loftus and the marriage alliances that he had arranged for his family. Written in 1592 it says that, 'Jane Lofthouse a young child in minority is assured to John Wakely, a young child also in minority, son and heir to Thomas Wakely of the Navan Esq. Married to a gentlewoman of the Nugents surname, daughter to the late Baron Nugent executed. The same Thomas sole possessor of the monastery and whole possessions of the monastery of the Navan reported to be worth 3001 a year. By this link the Archbishop is safely allied with the Wakeleys and Nugents to stand with him in use and turns of friendship, as upon occasion serving he shall list to use or require them.'
Thomas's second wife was Maud Handcock, a sister of Mathew Handcock of Dublin, Alderman and Lord Mayor of the city and a member of a wealthy merchant family. It was Thomas and Maud who raised the monument to Thomas's father John and his wife Maud Rawson in Navan Abbey.
Maud Handock died in 1617 and over her burial place Thomas erected the monument now in Ballyburly church.
Thomas married a third time, his third wife being Grace Coleman, daughter to Richard Coleman, chief remembrancer of the Exchequer. Their children bore the names of Patrick and Mary. Patrick, as a name, reminds us that the early seventeenth century was a period when the gentry of the Pale were beginning to realise their 'Irishness', as apart from their 'Englishness'.
'Thomas himself died in 1623 and his death is entered thus in the Funeral Entries:
Thomas Wakely of Ballyburlie d. 26th Jan. 1623 m 1. Maud Handcock d. of - Handcock and sister of Mathew Handcock of Dublin Alderman by whom he had issue John, Gerrat, Martine, Katherin, Margaret, Anne. 2nd wife Grace d. of Richard Colman. iss. Patrick and Mary.'
Above this entry the arms of Wakely are painted, quartered with the arms of Handcock and Coleman.
As his Nugent wife is nowhere mentioned we must suppose that there was a divorce from her. As I have said, Church divorces were common enough, generally on the grounds of consanguinity, which was very wide at this period. As husbands and wives were almost invariably related, a divorce was very easily obtained, In this case both Thomas and his wife had mothers who were Plunkets. Curiously enough a Handcock pedigree tells us that Maud Handcock's brother the Alderman married as his second wife a daughter of Sir Nicholas Nugent. It is quite possible that this was Thomas's first wife who, following the divorce, married his new brother-in-law.
The great difficulty in these cases was the dispossessing of the first wife's children as heirs to their father's property. In this case, John was not dispossessed; he was simply entered in the herald's book as the second wife's eldest son and remained the legitimate heir. The Ballyburly property was effectively transferred to him by a marriage deed.
John did not marry his childhood sweetheart, Jane Loftus. Any doubt regarding inheritance may well have upset the archbishop who was notably conscious of the value of property.
John, however, married young, for it was in 1597, only five years after the document describing him as 'a young child in minority', that his father applied for a licence to alienate the lands of Ballyburly to his son and heir John for a jointure for his wife Mary Lutterell.9
Thomas's lease of the Navan Abbey property was up in 1613 and it is probable that he made his home at Ballyburly after this and was buried there with Maud Handcock.
THE BALLLYBURLY STONES, THE WAKELY MONUMENT
Having discussed the 16th-century Wakely at length I should like to return to a discussion of the monumental stones which started this paper.
We have given the history of John and Thomas Wakely and of Maud Handcock as far as we can trace them in contemporary records. The inscription also mentions Maud's sister, 'Catren Cusack alias Handcock'. Catherine Handcock was married to George Cusack, third son of Sir Thomas Cusack, Lord Chancellor of Ireland in King Edward VI's reign and Queen Mary's reign. George's younger sister, another Catherine, was married to Sir Henry Cowley of Carberry Castle.10 The ruins of this very fine castle cum house still stands on a hill a few miles from Ballyburly.
Sir Henry was the official who, more than any other man, planned and implemented the settlement of Offaly.
One can see from these alliances how much family interests and Crown policy were often co-incidental. The monument itself is highly original and bears the marks of having been carved by John Cusack, a stone carver of the period and another son of the Lord Chancellor. The Escutcheon, slightly off the vertical as if hanging, the ribbon-like capitals, the miniature effigy are all typical of his work.11
It is first mentioned as being at Ballyburly church in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary which was published in 1837. This tells us that Ballyburly church had lately been renovated; it was probably during this renovation that the Ballyburly stones were mounted in their present position.
TWO OTHER ANCIENT STONES
There are two other ancient stones at Ballyburly Church which are worth discussing before I close this paper. Outside the door on the left a slab has been mounted in a recess. This appears to have the bottom portion broken off; it measures as it stands 14½" at the top and 14" at the bottom by 44" long. Carved on it is a ring-headed cross flanked by two objects of the Passion of Our Lord, viz. The ropes which tied Our Lord to the pillar and the ladder. The stylisation is 16th or 17th century and it probably belongs to the Celtic revival that we have mentioned. I had wondered at first if this was a coffin lid and if it and the monuments inside had been brought from Navan Abbey when this was finally demolished at the beginning of the 19th century; but I have found no evidence to support this theory.
Above the door of the church a stone is mounted carrying the arms of John Wakely quartered with those of his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Oliver Lambert of Painstown. Underneath is the inscription 'Joannes Wakely edifida has aedes anno secundo regni regis Jacobi Secundi anno domini 1686'.The style of carving is very similar to that on a stone at Derrydolney House, also in Offaly and I think must have come from the same stone-carver's yard. I do not think it is necessarily in its original position and the rebuilding may refer to work done on Ballyburly House rather than to the church.
The monuments, as I have said, are all that is left of the history of this family and I trust now that the church is no longer in use that they will be preserved.
I should like to thank the following persons for their interest and for their practical help in composing this paper: Mr. Donal Begley, Mr.James Comyn, Q.C.; Canon C.C. Ellison, M.A.; Rev. C. W. Finney, M. A.; Ms. Kathleen Hart, B.A.; Mrs Katherine Hickey,B.A.; Dr. Beryl F.E. Moore, Miss Helen Roe, M.A.; Mr G.Slevin, Chief Herald of Ireland; Mrs Stone of Ballyburly, Mrs Ruth Vandeleur, Lt.-Col. D.V.L. Wakely, Mr.W.G. Wakely, Miss Geraldine Willis, B.A.
1. Fiants of Elizabeth, 1572,2117,1574,2444,1576,2958,1587,5126
2. C.S.P.I.,1599, p. 000
C.SS.P.I.,1599, p. 000
C.SS.P.I., 1600, p.000
C.SS.P.I., 1591, p. 441
C.SS.P.I., 1592, p. 580
C.SS.P.I., 1592, p. 535
Funeral Entries, Vol 5, p. 26
Fiants of Elizabeth, 1797, 6098
Hickey, 'A Monument to Sir Thomas Cusack,' Riocht na Midhe, 1971
Hickey, 'The Marwarde Stone', Riocht na Midhe, 1973
Bagwell, R., Ireland Under the Tudors.
Ellison, Rev. C. C., Some Aspects of Navan History.
White, Dean Gunter, Tudor Plantations, A Thesis in Library of Trinity College, Dublin.
Source: Riocht na Midhe, Records of Meath Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. V, No. 4, 1974.