The Beamishs of Delacour Villa

Postcard of Delacour Villa, Lissarda, Co. Cork
Austin O' Driscoll

Dunisky, or Dun-Uisce,which roughly translates to Fort of the water, was a civil parish which was adopted by the Anglo-Norman lordship of Ireland, then by the Elizabethan kingdom and used as land divisions they did not correspond to Catholic or Church of Ireland parishes. They were also used for Tithe, Census and taxation purposes. They were replaced by poor law divisions in the 19th century and later by District Electoral Divisions (DEDs).

Dunisky was a small parish consisting of 1,186 acres and referred to as one ploughland. It had its own church and graveyard known as Aghadoe Church, which was part of Kilmichael Parish at one time. The first reference was in a Cork Decretal letter of 1199. In 1437, the Church is mentioned in a tax list, in 1693 in The Cork Dioceses.  Griffith’s Valuation (1852-53) shows the ruins but by the late 1800s no sign of the church or graveyard was to be seen. KHAA erected a plaque on the roadside close to the church site in the early 1960s written in Irish … Teampall Acad Deo (Church of the lands of the pair of yew trees).

Delacour family

Delacour Villa is an imposing stately residence atop a hilly site at Dunisky. It is a French baronial-style house built in the mid 1700s by the Delacour family, on a O’Mahony stronghold. The Delacours came to Ireland in the 1600-1700s, fleeing from religious persecution in France. They were known as French Protestant Huguenots and it is estimated that 10,000 arrived in Ireland, of which 1,000 settled in Cork.

The name Delacour is translated to English as ‘Of the Court’, whether that meant that they were connected with royalty, we do not know but it certainly did not hinder them climbing up the social ladder. They did very well for themselves in politics, law, business and as landed gentry, ending up with thousands of acres in Cork and other counties, either owned or leased.

Earl of Bandon

Delacour lands were once part of The Earl of Clancarty Estate, with huge swathes of land granted and lost, depending what King or Queen you gave your allegiance to. Having lost his estate, Clancarty had lands restored by Charles II in 1660 and finally lost them in 1691 in the Williamite Wars.

A large number of forfeited estates were bought up by a company called The Hollow Sword Blades Company. (founded by a goldsmith, Sir Stephen Evance in 1691, which made hollow ground rapiers). The company was sold to a group of businessmen in 1700 who invested some of the company’s assets into banking and property. They bought hundreds of thousands of acres in England and Ireland. But by the early 1700s England and Ireland were in recession from an expensive war with France. The company imploded having to liquidate their assets and the land was sold at knockdown prices.

Part of the Clanclarty Estate was bought by Humphrey Massy of Macroom in 1709 and another part was purchased by Francis Bernard in 1703, who became one of the biggest landowners in Cork, and at one time owned over 43,000 acres. Francis Bernard (1663-1731) was a barrister, politician and later became a judge, did not acquire his estates by conquest but by his law earnings and added to by judicious marriages and buying at the right time. The first Earl of Bandon was created in 1800. Part of the Earl of Bandon Estate in Dunisky was leased to the Delacours in the 1700s who came from Mallow. The first reference to a Delacour was one Robert, no date of birth or death, no wife’s name just that he had one daughter Anne Jane Margaret Delacour and he held the office of the Treasurer of Co. Cork.

The Beamish Name

The first mention of the Beamish name was in 1108 in England. It has been spelt in many different ways. The name came from East Anglia. In 1590 a Thomas Beamish came to Ireland during the reign of Elizabeth 1 (1558-1603), settling protestants with grants in Ireland. The Beamish dynasty goes back to a lady called Catherine (no surname) she married a Beamish. She had four sons and a daughter. The lands granted to the members of the family in Co. Cork were confirmed to three brothers under the Act of Settlement in 1668.

Catherine’s son Francis Beamish, married Catherine Bernard in 1679; they had four sons and three daughters Richard, Francis, John, Thomas, Jane, Catherine and Elizabeth. Their eldest son Richard married Mary Townsend and they had one daughter and four sons, Jane, George, Captain William, Thomas and Reverend John born in 1698. Captain William Beamish married Alice Bernard in 1751. He gained the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy (died 1772), they had six sons and two daughters, Reverend Charles, Francis, Bernard, Rose, Richard, William, Mary, James, and Isaac.

William Beamish (1760-1828) married Ann Jane Margaret Delacour in 1789 and they had eleven sons and two daughters. Charles (died young), Hugh (died young), Godfrey (died young), Arthur (died young), Dorcas, Alice (died young), William Robert Delacour, Lt-Col North Ludlow, Richard, Charles (born in 1801), Francis Bernard and James Caulfield.
Charles Beamish was made a Freeman of Cork in 1824, he held the office of Justice of the Peace (JP) and was also a merchant.

When his father died in 1828 Charles assumed the role of Landlord of the Delacour Villa estate of some 1,681 acres, a pretty sizable amount of land. In 1830, Nicholas Colthurst MP for Cork died and Sir Augustus Warren was the candidate for the post but some thought he was not the best candidate. They approached Charles but he turned them down. Warren ran but failed to get elected.

Charles had an association with a Louisa Howard in the 1830s and they had three sons and a daughter, Ferdinand (1838-1920), Albert (1840-1920), Victoria (1842-1923) and Alfred (1846-1898). Records show Louisa got married in St Andrew’s Church Kilmurry in 1861, to John Stephenson.  In 1840, in an effort by the British Government to promote forestation, Charles planted 13,700 trees on the estate.

Breamish’s Line

The 1840s and 50s were the famine years,  a catastrophic time in Irish history with about one million people dying of starvation. Charles seen by many as a fairly good landlord, initiated road works – Beamish’s Line – road bridges and a family mausoleum – Beamish’s Tower – to provide employment for the starving labourers who had nothing.

Charles was a colourful outspoken individual and also regarded as an eccentric horseracing fan and even had his own racecourse in Dunisky. He advertised the venue for the races in 1851 thus: A better racecourse there cannot be and the view of every part of it is complete from a conical hill which rises from the winning post a natural amphitheatre large enough to accommodate 20,000 spectators and enable them to see distinctly every movement from every horse. (Source: Michael Galvin, To Make a Railway).

In 1853 Charles married Caroline Smith at St Peters Church, Cork. They had three daughters – Ursula (died in 1886), Darkey and Rose and one son, Charles Junior (1860 – 1878) who was buried in St. Andrews.

Charles Beamish was known to be a generous benefactor who subscribed to the building of St. Andrews Church, Kilmurry in c.1848, he also gave a monetary donation and stone from the quarry in Carrigdarrery for the building of St. Marys Catholic Church Kilmurry in 1860.
He was the chief instigator and driving force behind the Cork to Macroom Railway first mooted in 1852, he was on the committee that met in Farnanes Barracks and also one of the shareholders. There were two factions vying for the control and the position of the railway and were known as the Northern line promoted by Henry Leader and Joseph Colthurst and the Southern line promoted by Charles Tonson Rye and Lord Bandon, who won the battle to build the railway which opened in 1866.

Alas, Charles did not live very long to see it as he died in 1867. His widow Caroline remarried in 1868 to Isaac Stamers Heazle. It is believed that Charles was buried in what we now know as Beamish’s Tower. These were sometimes known as Follies which were used as decoration or were a mausoleum for burying the dead. It is thought that he was later exhumed and reburied in St Andrew’s, Kilmurry.

Comments about this page

  • It’s lovely to read the history of all these beautiful places.

    By Nora Murphy (01/06/2023)

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