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Family Manuscript of the O’Briens of Dromoland in Ireland and Blatherwicks in England

Henry O’Brien of Blatherwick, Sir Donough O’Brien, Donat O’Brien & Family
A manuscript record of the preeminent Irish O’Brien family written by Henry O’Brien and detailing his family’s history and landholdings as master… Read more
Published in 1758 by .
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Family Manuscript of the O’Briens of Dromoland in Ireland and Blatherwicks in England by Henry O’Brien of Blatherwick, Sir Donough O’Brien, Donat O’Brien & Family

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A manuscript record of the preeminent Irish O’Brien family written by Henry O’Brien and detailing his family’s history and landholdings as masters of Dromoland Castle and descendants of the High Kings of Ireland.

Oblong large octavo bound in mid eighteenth century panelled reverse calf with the flourished signature of ‘H O’Brien’ written directly onto the lower cover, only just distinguishable. An etched metal clasp hangs from the upper cover. The binding has recently been repaired with the result that the manuscript is now robust and easily readable. 

The text is written across 283 foliated leaves with a single unnumbered contents leaf preceding these, so 566 pages in all, around 95,000 words in total. Large circular crowned circular watermark to paper. Notes and calculations about tenancy payments in Limerick appear on the first pastedown with a few notes in shorthand and calculations below. The contents leaf opposite begins mid-sentence which suggests that the preceding leaf is probably missing. It is signed ‘H O’Brien’ with O’Brien identifying himself in the manuscript several more times in documents such as that titled: ‘Copy Deed of Exchange between Lord Carberry and me'. The manuscript is written in brown ink, with a margin demarcated in red ink which has been used to annotate the legal documents. The first half of the manuscript (about 250 pages) is entirely in Henry O’Brien’s hand. From around 1795 onwards (he died in 1811) O’Brien has used a secretary to transcribe a sequence of family documents though continuing to annotate the text himself. The last 10 leaves are water-stained which has affected legibility. Otherwise the manuscript is easily legible throughout.

In the early pages O’Brien used the manuscript it to record current tenancies and expenditures in the 1760s such as those at ‘The Castle and parts of the Lands of Mallmillea’, sometimes with additional marginal annotation and jottings: ‘Note this contains 211 Acre and ye Rent ought to be 160.16.... from 1762’. A list of ‘Debts in Ireland Nov’ 1768’ (folio 18) is followed by a more formal series of both historical and contemporary O’Brien family documents copied into this manuscript for safe keeping, alternating between much earlier items and even occasional forays into family history. 

O'Brien has included Donough O’Brien’s marriage settlement of 1677, an annotated version of the ‘Settlement by Sr Donat O’Brien 23rd April 1702’ and ‘A copy of the Will of Sr. Donat O’Brien (Dated 16 Nov.r. 1717)’ ff44-54. ‘Sir Donat O’Brien’s Title to Stonehall (f108) from 1686 was copied around 1770 with O’Brien often making notes of the date of his copies, occasional cross referencing texts as ‘see the Deed of the 23rd April 170. Fo. 18 in this book’. He also recorded the extent of his access to manuscript originals: ‘Copied from the Original Deed’ (f35v), noting the date: ‘Copied 16th Augt. 1765’ (f44v) and offering further explanation: ‘This Letter is in the Hand Writing of... and Signed by him’ (f56v). O’Brien even offers a short piece of ancient family history of the O’Briens in the 14th century. On the Stafford side O’Brien records the marriage settlement from 1704 that united his grandfather Henry O’Brien with Susanna Stafford and brought Blatherwick Park into the family. 

Henry O’Brien was the oldest son of Donat O’Brien and great-grandson via his second son to Sir Donough O’Brien, 1st Baronet of Leameneh, a man known as the wealthiest commoner in Ireland. It was Henry’s grandfather, an earlier Henry O’Brien who married Susannah Stafford, thus bringing the Blatherwick estates in Northamptonshire into the family. By outliving his brothers, Lucius and Stafford, Henry inherited both the Stafford estate and his paternal estates in Ireland - he lived most of his life in Blatherwick. 

The earliest Stafford/ Blatherwick document is a copy of an Agreement about ownership of the estate made by Sir Humphrey Stafford in 1586 with later documents including a copy of his great grandfather, William Stafford’s will, details of land holdings in Northants and a local history of ‘Blatherwick in the old Records...’ (f140) which is brought up to date in 1795 with details of a recent marriage as well as offering a ‘Perambulation of the Forest of Rockingham’ (f120). O’Brien copied his father’s 1770 will - Donatus O’Brien of Blatherwick - (f146), which he has annotated with subsequent family events, recording that his younger brother ‘L[ucius] O’Brien died 27 Oct 1791’ followed by his brother Stafford in 1795. As the manuscript becomes secretarial the focus shifts to a group of seventeenth century land transactions in Ireland such as ‘Declaration of Trust from Robert Dickson of the City of Dublin... to Donogh O’Brien... County of Clare’, 1678 but annotated by Henry O’Brien as ever: 

A comparison of these documents with The National Library of Ireland’s catalogue of the Inichquin Papers suggests that most of these documents do not appear within their collection.


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Date published 1758
Product code 7790


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