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The Dowley Briscoe Connection

SHORT HISTORY OF THE BRISCOES OF SOUTH KILKENNY

The Briscoes are important in that they preceded the Dowleys in Tinvane House and Tybroughney. Their story, like so many others, starts with the Act of Settlement of 1662 which gave land to soldiers in settlement of arrears of wages during the Cromwellian Invasion.

Cromwell came to Ireland in 1649 to put down the rebellion of 1641. Cromwell’s eventual victory precipitated one of the largest transfers of land in Irish history and consolidated the foundations of the anglophone aristocratic elite in Ireland. Sir John Ponsonby, from Haile in Cumberland, not far from the Briscoes was one of Cromwell’s soldiers and was rewarded for his military services with a knighthood and an extensive parcel of land in south County Kilkenny. Unlike many Cromwellian soldiers, who were content to realise the financial value of the lands they were granted, John Ponsonby aspired to build up a large estate in Ireland. He was enabled to advance his ambition by the acquisition of several parcels of land in the county, in which he was confirmed in possessed by the Act of Settlement. The largest of these, previously in the possession of the Anglo-Norman family of D’Alton, after whom it was named Kildalton, was located in the Suir Valley in south Kilkenny. Ponsonby signalled his intention of make this his place of residence and of creating an estate according to the English model he esteemed by building a large house and by renaming the estate Bessborough in honour of his second wife, Elizabeth “Bess” Foliott. His first wife was a Dorothy Briscoe from Cumberland. What happened to her is not clear but it confirmed the relationship between the Ponsonbys and the Briscoes.

Ponsonby also harboured political ambitions and, having served during the 1650s as sheriff of counties Wicklow and Kildare, he was elected in the early 1660s to represent County Kilkenny in the Irish parliament. Ponsonby was not a high profile member of the House of Commons, and the refusal of Charles II to authorise a further parliament during his lifetime limited his political opportunities. However, by the time of his death in 1678, aged 60, he had successfully established the Ponsonbys in County Kilkenny and on the Irish political horizon. The Ponsonbys went on to acquire land, titles and political position in Ireland. One Lord Bessborough was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at the outbreak of the “Great Famine” and died in office in 1847. By the 1870′s, the Earl of Bessborough owned 129 acres in Tipperary (mainly Tinvane), 23,967 acres in Co. Kilkenny and 10,578 acres in Co. Carlow. Both Mount Richard and Tinvane were “held from” the Earl of Bessborough. As all the Briscoe land was close to Bessborough, it is assumed that it was also “held from” the Earl of Bessborough.

The Briscoes of south Kilkenny

The Briscoes came to Ireland in the late 1600′s from Crofton Hall, Cumberland in the North East of England. Crofton Hall was located in Wigton, south-west of Carlisle. The family name at the time was spelt Brisco while all those in Ireland seemed to be spelt Briscoe.

The first Briscoe to settle in Ireland was Edward Briscoe (1651-1709) of Crofton Hall Cumberland. He was the son of John Briscoe of Wampool and settled in Tinnakilly, just north of Bessborough House and is buried in Fiddown. Many of the Briscoes were subsequently buried in the Ponsonby/Briscoe Mausoleum in Fiddown which confirms the association between the Briscoes and the Ponsonbys of Bessborough House.

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The Protestant Church in Fiddown where the Ponsonby and Briscoe families are buried

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The Ponsoby-Briscoe Mausoleum in Fiddown, Co. Kilkenny

Many of the male Bricoes produced very large families and over time they occupied many different properties close to Bessborough House on Ponsonby land. This would again confirm the close relationship between the two families. The map at the end of this section shows the relative position of these properties compared with Bessborough House. The Briscoe properties in south Kilkenny include, Tinnakilly, Garrynarea, Willmount, Tinvane, Clonmore, Cloncunny, Harristown, Muckalee, Tybroughney, Bleachville, Whitechurch, Garryricken, and Craigavine. Other members of the Briscoe family moved to Dublin, Waterford, Trim and Omagh while many emigrated to the US and Australia as well as moving back to England.

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Willmount House, Piltown, Co. Kilkenny

At a later stage, the original Briscoes may have been joined by other family members from Cumberland, as some of the families can not be directly traced back to the original Edward from Crofton Hall. An attempt to relate all the Briscoes of south Kilkenny is given in “The Briscoe Tree” in a separate section.

Edward had three daughters Judith, Rebecca and Mary as well as two sons, John and Henry. John (1682-1752) moved to Garrynarea near the Three Bridges and appeared to remain unmarried. Henry (1680-1737) married his cousin Abigail Briscoe and they lived in Tybroughney House. Henry was also known as “Henry of Backborough” which may be another name for Tybroughney. Henry and Abigail had seven children, Edward, John, Henry, Richard, Robert, Rebecca and Mary.

Edward (1713-1793) married Judith Bagnall and they had four children and the family remained in Garrynarea for at least three generations up to the mid nineteenth century. John (1715-1788) lived in Tybroughney Castle and later the Sandpits just north of Bessborough. John Briscoe (1715-1788) married Mary Jane Whitby which gave rise to a long line of Whitby Briscoes. John and Mary Jane had three children, Abagail, Edward Villiers and Henry Whitby.

It was this Henry Whitby Briscoe (1753-1808) that commissioned and was the first to live in Tinvane House. I would guess that the house was first inhabited towards the end of the eighteenth century. A census at the time describes the house as a four story building on forty acres. Henry married Ann Sneyd and they had nine children including Henry Whitby Briscoe (1777-1834) and Edward Whitby Briscoe (1795-1866) who was the originator of the Harristown Briscoes. Henry pursued a career in the army as well as being a Justice of the Peace. Henry’s brother Edward Villiers moved to Willmount on the Tybroughney Road just outside Piltown while Abigail married Edward Fitzgerald of Limerick.

The next occupant of Tinvane was Henry Whitby Briscoe (1777-1834). He was also a Justice of the Peace and married Alicia Whyte with whom he had seven children including another Henry Whitby Briscoe (1808-1881). This Henry Whitby Briscoe married Deborah Shaw and they had thirteen children. It was of this Henry that the people of Carrick are reputed to have said that he was afraid to throw a stone at any child in the town in case it might be one of his own. One of his thirteen children was another Henry Whitby Briscoe (1836-1878). This Henry Whitby Briscoe predeceased his father but not before producing three children, including Henry Whitby Briscoe (1865-1947) with his wife Caroline Ann Smyth. This was the final Briscoe in the Tinvane line as he was unmarried. He again pursued a military career and died in a military hospital in Montreal, Canada.

Edward Dowley purchased Tinvane in 1890/’91 from the Irish Land Commission, 25 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin. The first payment of £54-7-8 was due on May 1st, 1891. As the Briscoes were bankrupt at this time and the last Tinvane Henry Whitby Briscoe was unmarried and in Canada it begs the question as to which Briscoe represented the family in signing over the property to the Land Commission. My information suggests that it was the Henry Whitby Briscoe, son of Arthur Wellesley Briscoe, Leinster Road, Rathmines, Dublin. This Henry Whitby Briscoe was a barrister by qualification, but had joined the army and was drowned off Greece in 1917 when the ship in which he was travelling was hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat. The signing was said to have been completed in Gibraltar.

The Piltown Briscoes of the 1940′s

The final question I have, is where did the Briscoes who attended the Piltown Boys National School in 1946 come from?. The answer to this question is that Alfrred Whitby Briscoe of Piltown was one of the many children of Edward Whitby Briscoe of Mucalee House, Harrisstown, Co. Kilkenny.

As my family lived immediately opposite the Boys National School in Piltown, I would have attended this school from a very early age and some of my fellow students were Briscoes. The photograph from 1946 below includes three of the Briscoes who were attending the school at that time. These were Percy, Alfred and Noel.

The Briscoes lived in the old Piltown schoolhouse which was located beside the current Girls National School on Pill Hill. As Noel was the same age as myself, we became friends and I spent a lot of time in their house. I remember Mr. & Mrs Briscoe being a very pleasant couple but somewhat older than my own parents. They had a large family of which most were considerably older than myself. The others that I can remember were Henry, Mervyn and Christina, but there were many others. On one occasion I recall Mr. Briscoe telling me that his ancestors originally owned Tinvane.

The names of the children all reflected the Briscoe names in use over the years in the different families. As Garrynarea and Tinvane Briscoes had disappeared from the area at that time, it is reasonable to assume that the Piltown Briscoes are part of the Harristown Briscoes. The Briscoes in the photograph were the children of Alfred Whitby Briscoe (1902-1989).

STUDENTS OF PILTOWN BOYS N.S. 1946
Back Row: Mickey Kinley, Percy Briscoe, John Hunt, Matt Talbot, Dan O’Brien, Finbar Doran, Leo Connell, Joe O’Shea, Mervin Briscoe.
Third Row: Bernard Kelly, Billy Quinn, Watty Keane, Tony Hawe, Pat Oakie, Tony O’Brien, John Oakie, Pat O’Shea, Paddy Murphy, Billy Hearne.
Second Row: Seamus Cuddihy, Alphie Briscoe, Frank Breen, ?. O’Brien, Noel Briscoe, Aidan Byrne, Joe Wall, Billy Murphy, Paddy O’Sullivan, Watty Walsh, Jimmy Talbot.
Front Row: Thomas Dowley (Beech Farm/Ballyknock), Leslie Dowley (Piltown/Tinvane), Richard Keating, Liam Grace, Mickey Halloran, Seamus Comerford, Kevin Ryan, Watty Walsh, Barney Knox.

BRISCOE PROPERTIES IN SOUTH KILKENNY (not to scale)

BRISCOE PROPERTIES IN SOUTH KILKENNY (not to scale)

Leslie J. Dowley
lesdowley@eircom.net

16 thoughts on “The Dowley Briscoe Connection

  1. James Louis Douglas Parminter

    I found your site very informative and it expanded my knowledge of the Briscoe family from which I too am descended, through my grandmother, Gladys Mary Briscoe, daughter of Henry Whitby Briscoe (died at sea Arcadian off Greece 1917 and Mary Zoe Robinson. Genealogy is my hobby (more an addiction). I live in the Philippines, but originally I am from Dublin and served in the Irish Defence Force for over 23 years.

    Reply
  2. Murray Waldren

    This may answer a couple of your questions.

    1. ALFRED WHITBY BRISCOE (son of EDWARD WHITBY Briscoe) was born 23 January 1902, and died 13 October 1960. He married CHRISTINA O’DONNELL.

    Children of ALFRED BRISCOE and CHRISTINA O’DONNELL are:
    i. EDWARD WHITBY23 BRISCOE, b. 14 June 1930, Thomastown, Ireland; d. 2003; m. JULIA MARY (SHEILA) PHELAN, July 1956, Waterford.
    ii. EILEEN P BRISCOE, b. 1931, Thomastown, Ireland; m. U, 1955, Waterford, Ireland.
    iii. KATHLEEN E BRISCOE, b. 1932, Thomastown, Ireland; m. U, 1955, Waterford, Ireland.
    iv. PETER A BRISCOE, b. 1934, Thomastown, Ireland.
    v. MERVYN WHITBY BRISCOE, b. 1935, Thomastown, Ireland.
    vi. CHRISTINA BRISCOE, b. 1937, Thomastown, Ireland.
    vii. ALFRED WHITBY BRISCOE, b. 1939, Thomastown, Ireland.
    viii. NOEL WHITBY BRISCOE, b. 1941, Thomastown, Ireland.
    ix. HENRY M BRISCOE, b. 1943, Thomastown, Ireland; m. MARY VERONICA GAULE.
    x. GWENDELINE M BRISCOE, b. 1946, Thomastown, Ireland.
    xi. ARTHUR WHITBY BRISCOE, b. 1947, Thomastown, Ireland.

    Reply
    1. Edrina Briscoe Conway

      Arthur Whitby Briscoe was not a son of Alfred Briscoe (my grandfather). Missing from your list is Frederick Briscoe and Hylton Briscoe.

      Reply
      1. Edrina Briscoe Conway

        As far as I am aware most of the family were born in Harristown, Co. Kilkenny not Thomastown as stated above

        Reply
  3. Edrina Briscoe Conway

    I found this very interesting and fascinating. The Briscoes in the photograph are my uncles. Percy is deceased now, but Mervyn, Alfred and Noel are still living. My father was Edward Whitby Briscoe. My name is Edrina Whitby Briscoe. We lived in Piltown for a while in the 70′s. The family history I have always known as my father was the eldest of his family and traced the family tree, but I really enjoyed seeing the photograph of my young uncles.

    Reply
  4. Seamie Briscoe

    Fascinating insight into the Briscoe family of that place and time. Interested in the comment that Edward Briscoe was the first Briscoe to settle in Ireland?
    Where does this leave the other ‘settled’ Briscoe’s throughout the rest of the country. There is no definitive trace of the family in this article to any other part of the country from Edward’s settlement, that is if he was the first Briscoe to come to Ireland?

    Reply
  5. fredrick whitby briscoe

    I seem to be the missing link leslie. I Was born in 1942 .I was the ginger one .then Hilton was the last one. Not sure what year he died .but you did great job Leslie.where did u get the school photo.I grew up with all this group it brought Great memories back thanks a lot. Freddy

    Reply
    1. Liam Doyle

      Great to see the 1946 photo of Piltown N.S. pupils and Freddy Briscoe’s reply. On freezing cold winter mornings, Freddy was in charge of stoking up an apparatus which threw out some heat to the rest of the classroom. Freddie used make sure he overloaded it with coal so that the apparatus belched out smoke in clouds, resulting in a classroom evacuation and a halt to all lessons for half an hour!! We had some fun at Mr. Mulqueen’s ( Principal )
      expense in those heady days of the mid 1950s.

      Reply
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  7. Tony Whelan

    Hello Leslie

    My Great Grand mother was Eugenie Eliza Briscoe 1855 to 1944. When growing up, I was always fascinated and interested in stories from my mother and her sister, who lived with Eugenie in Henry Street in Waterford City until the time of her death. They have fond memories of Eugenie and can recollect stories from her of when she grew up in Tinvane House in Carrick on Suir. I would also strongly recommend the Morrison Briscoe connections as mentioned by Dale Hart – it is very in depth and detailed. My mother & Aunt still live in Waterford City & I live near Annestown in Co. Waterford – we have not gone very far from our roots in Carrick. Thank you for filling in a few more blanks and updating me on more details from my family history – it is greatly appreciated – well done.

    Tony

    Reply
    1. Janet Todd (nee Shannon)

      Hello Leslie and hello Tony Whelan- new found relative!
      Eugenia Eliza Briscoe is ALSO my great Grandmother, she married Edward Shannon. Their son John Joseph Shannon is my Grandad. I have a picture of Henry Street which my Dad, Patrick Edward Shannon, says must be the house Tony refers to. My Dad is 92 on Jan 6th 2017. Edward and his wife Catherine (sometimes called Kathleen or Kitty) moved to England in 1927 and went on to raise 6 children here. I have Edward’s passport with a stamp for 1944 when Dad says he went back when his Mum, Eugenia died. Sadly,I know nothing about Eugenia’s life, or the fact that her sister lived with her in Henry Street and would be thrilled to find out anything more.
      Thankyou so much for compiling the Briscoe family line, it has answered many questions I had.
      Kind regards Janet Todd (Shannon)

      Reply
  8. Tom Briscoe

    The Mervyn Briscoe you can see in the school photo (back right) is still alive and kicking. He’s my granddad and he currently lives in Coventry, England.

    Reply
  9. Joanna Algeo

    My ggg grandfather John Briscoe lived in Banagher, Co Offaly where he died in 1886. Any ideas on his origins? I don’t know the names of his parents but I think there was a connection with Arthur Henry Briscoe (son of an Edward Briscoe) who lived in the Kildare area and died in 1897.

    Reply
  10. Vanessa Briscoe

    So intresting to read , wish I knew more about my grandads parents to find connection with the Briscoe’s who lived in Dublin. Great read though.

    Reply
  11. D James

    This is wonderful! Late in life I’ve started to investigate ‘the Irish Connection’, and am currently reading Memoirs of the Kilkenny Hunt, and the exploits of Henry Whitby Briscoe (1808-1881) as Master (1770-76) though I gather he took the Curraghmore hounds before that (1859-1870). Cringed as to why he didn’t throw stones at children….! I’m not a Briscoe, but descended from the Shaws, with whom there were at least two marriage connections. Henry Whitby’s wife was the daughter of Robert Shaw, Rector of Kilkenny – and grand-daughter of William Shaw, whose sister Rebecca married William Briscoe, close neighbour, in 1755. Sandpitts was their family home for a while, leased from the Ponsonbys, so I was intrigued to find John Briscoe died there in 1788 – was he visiting, or did he actually live there? I’m troubled by the marriage of Judith Briscoe, daughter of Edward Briscoe (of Crofton, died 1709), because Richard Shaw’s will is online, and I am very doubtful he was the son of William Shaw ( who fought at the Battle of the Boyne). Richard Shaw’s will (especially the lands he is bequeathing to his widow and children) clearly shows him to be descended from the ‘Shaws of Clonmel’ – earlier than our family, as ‘Cromwellian adventurers’. You will likely find that Judith’s eldest son was Robert Shaw, Mayor of Clonmel three times, rather than Robert Shaw of Sandpitts (we were not nearly so successful in the 18th century!) – which is why I find out more about my ancestors through their marriage connections! Many thanks again, it’s been extremely useful.

    Reply

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