Annals of Westmeath, Ancient and Modern

James Woods

“Richard de Tuite, the founder of this family in Ireland came over hither with Strongbow, and obtained by the interference of that leader and by his own valour fair possessions in Teffia, including Sonnagh, Empor Castle was one of the witnesses to Hugh de Lacy’s grant of lands and churches to Abbey of St. Thomas the Martyr in Dublin, and when Meath the mensal demesne of the Irish Kings was erected into a palatinate this Richard became a palatinate peer, by the title Baron of Moyashill, which he transmitted to his posterity through many generations. He was killed in 1216 by the fall of a tower in Athlone, and was buried in the Cistercian Abbey of Abbeylaragh near Granard, which himself had previously founded, and where he had also raised a frontier castle. The lords Howth in early times held the manor of Killerock under the Barons de Tuite, the son of this first Baron de Tuite. Richard, the younger, to whom Henry the Third, in 1224, committed the custody of the castle of Clonmacnoise, marched eight years after, under the banner of William de Lacy into Upper Breffny, against the O’Reillys, by whose sept, however, the invaders were defeated with great loss, Richard de Tuite and Simon de Lacy being wounded. In 1244 Ricard de Tuite had military summons to a royal expedition against Spain. According to the “Four Masters,” he (styled the great baron) was killed in 1289 near Athlone by the resistance of the O’Melaghlins. John de Tuite, a nephew of Richard, had summons to serve with King Edward in 1362 in the war with Scotland, and he dying soon after was succeeded by his son, Richard, who sat in Parliament of 1310, as a Palatine Knight, was in 1311 required to attend that of Kilkenny, and in six years after was commanded to continue his exertions for the defense of Ireland against the enemy. In 1318 he was one of the officers under Sir John de Bermingham when that leader marched out the King’s power against Edward Bruce at Dundalk. In 1323 he was ordered to attack and pursue Roger de Mortimer, in the event of he taking refuge in Ireland. In the following year he was summoned to take part in the defense of Aquitaine; and in 1325 again sat as a Peer in Parliament. His eldest son, John de Tuite, lord of Sonnagh sat in that of Dublin in 1333, and in two years after was knighted. The eldest son of this Sir John died without issue male, when the family estates which were on an inquisition post mortem, nine manors, and about forty extensive townlands, vested in his brother, Thomas de Tuite and heir male, and who was in 1373, and subsequently summoned as a Knight to the great Council and Parliaments. Andrew Tuite was one of the great men of the Pale who signed the memorable memorial in favour of Lord Furnival in 1407. In 1556 Thomas Tuite of Sonnagh, and other Tuites representing the lines of Baltresna and Monilea, were summoned to appear in person with their men and horses at a general hustings against an expected invasion of the Scots in the North of Ireland. In 1622 Oliver Tuite of Sonnagh was created a baronet. Many members of the Tuite family suffered for their attachment to the Stuart Dynasty. In the Confiscations of 1641 alone they lost most extensive tracts in the counties of Meath, Westmeath and Longford, which were distributed to Robert Cooke and many others of the adventurers, called Patentees. In the clause of Wordy Monks from Charles II. for services beyond the seas, three members of the family are included, Captain Jasper Tuite, Captain Henry Tuite, and Ensign William Tuite. The last appears identical with Brigadier General, and was the son of Edmund Tuite, of Tuitestown by Mary, eldest daughter of Oliver Tuite, Baronet, in 1680. He by the style of William Tuite passed patent for 338 acres of land in Mayo. His brother Walter Tuite, of Monilea, served in the same army with his brigadier, and was attainted with him in 1691. He married Margaret, daughter of David O’More, Port Allen, by whom he had thirteen sons, eleven of whom fell in the campaign of 1691, leaving but two survivors to continue that line” (Archdall’s “Lodge’s Peerage,” 3, p. 26, 27) Brigadier-General William was taken prisoner at Aughrim, and with him was attainted in 1691, six others of this name. John Tuite, was ensign in Lord Bellew’s infantry.

In the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries there were branches of the Tuite family located at Tuitestown, Mullingar, Monilea, Moygullen, Cooksborough, and in county Meath. In 1641 allWestmeath rose in arms. The following were supplied with arms and munition of war from Dublin:- Walter Nugent, of Rathaspic; Robert Nugent, Carolanstown, Finea; Andrew Tuite, Robert Tuite, Oliver Dalton, Richard Dalton, Sir James Dillon etc. Andrew Tuite of Tuitestown, played an important part in the Confederate Army from 1641 to 1652, for which he was attained and his property confiscated in the baronies of Moygoish, Moyashel and Corkaree. Lady Mabel Tuite was also attainted, as were Sir Oliver Tuite, Thomas and others of the family. Edmund Tuite, of Tuitetown, was also attainted in 1641, and forfeited his property. In the war of the Revolution many members of the Tuite family espoused the cause of the faithless Stuart, James the Second, for which they were attained, and forfeiting their estates, General William Tuite was killed at the battle of Aughrim. Walter, of Tuitestown, held a commission in the same army, and was attained with his brother. 6th William and Mary. Walter of Monilea, with his sons, Walter William and Theobald, were also attainted under the same Act, as was Janet, who was ancestor of the branch who resided at Moygullen.

The history of the Tuite family from the invasion to the commencement of the present century, and said to be written by the late J. C. Lyons, Esq., J.P. Lediston Mullingar, was published a few years ago. In that work it is stated that the head of the family or heir presumptive of the property, was foully murdered in his bedroom at Sonna House, in the month of January, 1786. The affair was wrapped in mystery, and no clues could be ever got to discover the perpetrators, but the general believe at the time was that it was the result of domestic treason. The late owner of the property, H.M. Tuite, was a good landlord, and did all in his power to promote the prosperity of his tenants. He was no absentee, and it was a favourite saying in the locality “always at home like the Tuite of Sonna.” He was the first in Westmeath to to contest the county on Liberal principals, which he did in 1829. He was a good employer and benevolent to his labourers, and the break up of the establishment was a great loss to the poor of the vicinity.

In Lyon’s “Grand Juries of Westmeath” we find that a Sir Henry Tuite of Sonna, married in 1728, Mary Rochfort, sister of the notorious Earl of Belvidere, by whom he had one son, George, born in 1729. Sir George succeeded to the title and resided at Sonna. He was murdered on the 12th February, 1783, while sitting in his study about ten o’clock at night. He had a small favourite King Charles spaniel lying on a chair beside him, whose brains were beaten out as well as his master’s by some blunt instrument. There was not any robbery committed, neither were the papers in the study disturbed. The murder was never discovered, and it was supposed the assassination of the baronet was the result of domestic treason. A hammer was found in the adjacent pond besmeared with blood, which is supposed to have been used by the assassin. Hugh Tuite, born 1747, entered the army, was the 14th Light Dragoons, and attained the rank of Captain in the 39th regiment of foot, in which he served twelve years at Gibraltar, three years of which was during the blockade. He there made a prisoner of Baron Von Helmstadt, and received his sword. Mr. Lyons, in his “Anecdotes of the Westmeath Gentry,” relates that Captain Tuite attended one of Lady Ormond’s parties shortly after is retirement from military service, and there met Captain Arthur Wellesley, afterwards Duke of Wellington, who was aide-de-camp to Lord Westmoreland, the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The Captain was engaged at a card table with Lady Ormond as his partner, when he observed some young gentlemen and officers highly entertained and smiling at each other. He soon saw from the direction of their eyes that he was the object of their mirth, and turning sharply round to ascertain in what manner he has been so fortunate as to contribute to the evening’s amusement, he found Captain Wellesley behind his chair diverting himself and the company with his queue, the end of which he had at that moment most unfortunately a tight hold of. Captain Tuite stood up, he was a tall and powerful man, and took the facetious aide-de-camp by the neck and lifted him completely off the ground, gave him an angry shake, and dropped him without uttering a word. In a short time Captain Wellesley, accompanied by another officer came up to Captain Tuite, the former much agitated and apologized for the unwarrantable liberty he had taken with him. Captain Tuite drew himself up to his full height and replied, “as the apology has been as public as the office, I forget it, sir,” and made his bow.

The late Hugh Morgan Tuite was born in 1795. He represented this county from 1826 to 1830, and from 1842 to 1847. He died in 1868.

Moyashel, possessed by Nugent, of Dardistown, and Edward Tuite, late slain in Connaught of Killenan.

Cookesborough: Cookesborough lies about four miles from Mullingar, on the road to Delvin. Its ancient name was Moygullen, and was for a long period in possession of a branch of the Tuite family. In 1641 Tuite of Moygullen was attainted, and his lands confiscated and handed over to John Cook, the late proprietor, died in 1876. He bequeathed his estate and other valuable property to a son of the Earl of Longford.

Convent Piers, in his history of Westmeath, tells us that there was a Bethlem Convent (which is situated on the eastern bank of the Shannon, a few miles north of Athlone) of the Oder of St. Clare, which was plundered by the English soldiers from the garrison of Athlone in 1641, towards the end of the first year of the war of the Confederation. The Mother Abbess was a daughter of Sir Edmund Tuite, Tuitestown, near Mullingar, (Greenpark), but this did not prevent the expulsion of the nuns, or the sacrilegious destruction of their house. The religious reassembled at Athlone under the same Mother Abbess, and the soldiers who burned and plundered the convent were attacked by the people as they were retreating, and almost the whole party, to the number of sixty, including the captain and some of the officers, were put to death. The convent was situated in a picturesque spot close to the bank of Lough Ree.

In 1482 Richard Tuite was prior of the abbey of Tristernagh (“King”, p. 214).

An inquisition, taken on the Wednesday next after the feast of Corpus Christi, 34th King Henry VIII, finds that Thomas Tuite was the last prior, who was seized of this abbey, with a church and belfry, a dormitory, hall, three chambers, a kitchen, and two stables within the precincts, annual value, besides reprises, 12d.; also of eight messages, one hundred and twenty acres of arable land, eight of meadow, forty of pasture, and forty of moor, in Laghsewdy.

The last prior of Ballymore, or Lough Seudy, was Thomas Tuite, who was compelled to surrender the monastery, with all its property, to the Commissioners of Henry VIII. An annual pension of £4 was promised to the prior payable out of the churches of Moyvore and Clonkyshe. The nunnery at the same time was suppressed and the religious dispersed. While the convent lasted it paid three marks annually to the Bishop of Meath.

In the reign of Henry II. (1172) Sir Gilbert de Nugent, with his brothers, Richard, Christopher and John, came in the expedition to Ireland in company with Sir Hugh de Lacy. The county of Meath, which at the period comprised Westmeath, or the ancient kingdom of Meath, was given by his Majesty to De Lacy, to hold to the Crown by King’s Service, and Sir Gilbert de Nugent, marrying his sister, Rosa, obtained with her as her marriage portion the barony of Delvin (except the village of Torrelack, belonging to the Abbot of Fore), which large tracts of land he distributed among his brothers and others. He died in 1202 without issue surviving, having had two sons, Adam and Hugh, who both deceased without issue during the lifetime of their father. Richard, the second brother succeeded, whose only daughter and heir married, Richard le Tuit, and carried the barony of Delvin into the family of John or James (supposed to be Tuite), into which she married, and it so remained until brought back by inter-marriage of Sir. Wm. Nugent, of Balrath.

Battle of Rathconnell (Another account) compiled from “Gilbert’s History.”

In 1641 all of Westmeath rose in arms. The following were supplied with arms and munition of war from Dublin :- Walter Nugent, of Rathaspic; Robert Nugent, Carolanstown, Finea; Andrew Tuite, Robert Tuite, Oliver Dalton, Richard Dalton, Sir James Dillon, Sir Thomas Nugent, Thomas Dillon, M. Talbot Thos. Tyrrell, Edward Tyrrell, Barnaby Geoghegan, with is brother Art, Thomas Geoghegan, Charles McLoughlin,  Awley McGawley, and his son Redmond.

Some of the above gentlemen had 200 men each under their command, and as there were no garrisons in the county at the time these only acted on the defensive. Many of these named who obtained arms, used them against their friends. Captain Barnaby Geoghegan was informed that the Puritans of Offally, under the command of Sir John Giffard and Captain Digby, intended to march into South Westmeath to murder and pillage.

In 1642 the people of Connaught offered little or no opposition to the Cromwellian freebooters, and the only men of note who opposed them were Con O’Rorke, Anthony Brabazon, and Edward Kelly, who lived near Athlone. Unfortunately, at the period named, the Western chiefs were not united, and the disunion that prevailed amongst the people paralysed all efforts to rout from their midst the enemies of Faith and Fatherland. If united they would have driven them into the Atlantic, as the Danes were driven six hundred years before into the Irish Sea by the chivalrous King of Munster. The Puritans at th eteim in the Province of Connaught were weakened, and had Ormond, Dillon, and others interested in maintaining the authority of Charles the First sent a force to oppose them they would have easily routed them from Connaught. The condition of the province was made know to the Council of the Confederation. In this confused state of affairs General Preston offered his services to march to Connaught and attack the Puritans, but he would not risk his life and reputation unless he has an army under his command sufficient to copy with the enemy, otherwise he would undertake the expedition. He, however, appointed his son Don Diego to take his place. Orders were sent to Sir James Dillon, Governor of the counties of Westmeath and Longford, that he should have a sufficient force in readiness to relieve the besieged Province. Don Diego, MacThomas, Roger O’Morre, and other chiefs and volunteers were encamped at the time near Kilbeggan.

The Cromwellian army reached Athlone without meeting any opposition, and relieved some garrisons on their march with men and munitions of war. Sir James Dillon offered no opposition to the enemy. In fact it was believed at the time he was playing into their hands. He sent orders to the inhabitants of the barony of Clonlonan to send 60 barrels of oats to Athlone for the horses of the Roundheads to be given up to Major Greenfield. Otherwise they would  burn and destroy the whole barony. The poor people complied, and their horses that carried the oats were seized on by the Major for the service of Cromwell. The promise of protection given by Sir James Dillon was shamefully violated.

The Puritans on receiving the oats and seizing on the horses sallied forth, and slaughtered in cold blood many of the inhabitants, after which they burned their houses and carried off their property.

Amongst the gentry who were slain on that occasion was Christopher Magavley, and it was said that Dillon connived at the outrages, as he remained in his own house while they were going on and took no part to prevent them.

The only apology he offered was that he was sick. It was Dillon’s duty to inform the Confederate leaders of the movements of the enemy, but in this he wretchedly failed, as he concealed from them his own movements as well as those of the Puritans. The Cromwellians having rested themselves and relieved some besieged garrisons in the West left a force of 4,000 men to guard them, and started for Dublin with 2,000 foot and 200 horse. Sir James Dillon informed the Confederate Captain that the Puritans took the Tyrrellspass road to the Metropolis and afterwards said that they went to Mullingar. Dillon, as Governor of Westmeath and Longford, ordered his lieutenant, Brian Farrel, to march with his force to the bog of Rathconnell, about two miles east of Mullingar.

The Irish when too late learned of the march of the enemy to Mullingar. Weak in numbers, and wretchedly provided with food, the Irish hastened to Rathconnell and placed a small garrison there in the Castle with their colours to defend it. Some musketeers were placed in position, but more important points were left exposed.

Sir James Dillon drew up his force close to the bog. Some of the soldiers refused to obey Dillon’s orders without instructions from their own colonels. The wary enemy drawing towards them observed the position of the Irish army, and they saw an open passage for them to pass thorough which Dillon did not man with defenders, and to secure this passage the Puritans placed 100 musketeers on the very brim of the bog between Sir James Dillon’s force and their comrades. Three or four troops of the Irish horse command by Captain Brien came to draw the Cromwellian musketeers on when the horse might come between them and the bog. The gallant Captain giving a wheel round to bring his party by degrees to the intended spot was shot dead on his horse by a musket ball levelled at him by one of the enemy. The Irish on seeing their intrepid leader fall retired. The enemy advanced, and in the retreat which followed many of the Irish were shot down. The men posted in trenches by Dillon, not knowing what had happened, fought bravely till their ammunition was exhausted, and then they had to resort to stones.

Father Rowan, a brave saggart arron, who was in one of the trenches, preformed prodigies of valor, but seeing his companions flying away in every direction, he, too, sought safety in flight.

When the scenes above narrated were going on Sir James Dillon and his followers remained on the verge of the bog, and did not render the slightest aid to their companions in distress.

Flushed with victory, the Puritans pursued the Irish for three or four miles until nearly every man of them was killed. They then returned to the castle, and attacked the little band of defenders, who offered little resistance as their powder magazine exploded, and they had no means of resisting the besiegers.

Andrew Tuite, of Tuitestown (Greenpark), in the rout, was taken prisoner, and handed over to a mounted Roundhead to take charge of him. Fortunately for Tuite, he had a pocket pistol, and drawing it from his girdle, he presented it at his guard, who let go his horse, and Tuite, having a good steed, turned round and galloped off for his own castle, and escaped.

The Irish lost in this skirmish 25 colours, and the castle, arms and ammunition, and many gentlemen were killed, amongst whom were Captain Brien, Adam Cusack, son-in-law of Andrew Nugent, Donore, and MacRoss Farrell, of Longford, Colonel Anthony Preston, son of General Preston, and others were taken prisoners and brought to Dublin.


Cookesborough lies about four miles from Mullingar, on the road to Delvin. Its ancient name was Moygullen, and was for a long period in possession of a branch of the Tuite family. In 1641 Tuite of Moygullen was attained, and his lands confiscated and handed over to John Cooke, Lord Wharton, and the Duke of York. Adolphus Cooke, the late proprietor, died in 1876. He bequeathed his estate and other valuable property to a son of the Earl of Longford.


From D’Alton’s King James II, Army List.