Extracted from a talk given to the Swinford, Co Mayo Historical Society - September 2001

George Brabazon
1720 - 1780

James Brabazon
1844 - 1920

Martin Brabazon
1913 - 2000

My name is Michael Brabazon and am resident in West Sussex, England. My father Martin was born in Johnsfort, Swinford in 1913 to Thomas, who died in 1944 and who was for a time a teacher at Kinaffe National School where his father, James, was the headmaster for 36 years, retiring in 1909. Indeed, the present school was built after James petitioned the Ministry of Education. His obituary in The Western People for 6th March 1920 reads 'During his whole career both by word and example, he was a safe guide' and also '...a dutiful and practical member of holy Church.' I cannot think of a better life exemplifying our family moto, Vota Vita Mea, which translates as both 'my life is pledged' and 'my life is a prayer'.
I have been visiting Swinford for some years now, the last occasion being for the interment of my father, Martin, in the family vault at Kilconduff in autumn 2000. He was the last of the Brabazons to leave Swinford, but hopefully with the ongoing contact between myself and the town we can claim an unbroken presence, shall we say, of interest from its very beginnings to the present day.
The history of the Brabazons and Swinford is so intertwined that in order to understand one you must appreciate the other - not unlike an old married couple; although, of course, that's just on hearsay. And one has to say that the relationship must be judged successful, having produced a community that despite the lean times is proud, prosperous and, moreover, growing in importance.

Origins in Ireland
The story of how we came to be where we were and the kind of people we are is as complex as for the rest of humanity, but the main strand of our past is written in the annals of Brabazon history commencing in the early 11th century in the province of Hainault, in the Lowlands, and progressing through medieval England and Tudor Ireland up to our settlement in Mayo.
Our history in Ireland commences with Sir William Brabazon, who ingratiated himself with Henry VIII, not least of all due to his jousting skills. He was one of the King's leading knights at the pageant held near to Calais at the famed meeting of Henry and Francis 1 of France, referred to as the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
When Henry embarked on his re-conquest of Ireland he appointed William Vice Treasurer and General Receiver of Ireland in 1534, and nine years later Lord Justice in the same year as he proclaimed himself - quite illegally, of course - King of Ireland. Sir William's exploits on behalf of the new English rulers do not make happy reading. He devastated parts of the country, subduing Charles Mac Art Cavenagh, being instrumental in the capture of the Earl of Kildare, and defeating the rebellion of the O'Connors and O'Mores in 1547. A fighter to the last, he died in a military campaign in Ulster in 1552, leaving two young sons; the elder, Edward, only 3 years of age on his father's death, was the progenitor of the Earls of Meath, and the younger, Anthony, who is my ancestor, became the Governor of Connaught in 1597, seated at Ballinasloe. He married Ursula daughter and heiress of Sir Nicholas Malby who had preceded him as Governor and who gave vast estates in the West to the Brabazons. Sir Nicholas' last will and testament, dated 1583, leaves his estate to Anthony, referring to him as "my sonn".
Sir Anthony's task at Ballinasloe was to subdue the Tribes of the West: not a particularly enviable remit, I think we'd all agree. Anthony certainly had no illusions about the uphill labour he faced. However, it is said that he went about his business by acting as honest broker between the feuding clans rather than by military conquest, which, if correct (and in support he did survive the O'Neill rebellion which devastated most of Protestant Ireland), would have drawn him into the social life of Gaelic Ireland and modified his own cultural upbringing. However, his grandson, named for him, was a priest-hunter, and vehemently so, but this was to change and change radically. In fact, this later Anthony stands at the beginning of a transformed Brabazon family culture, the ramifications going far beyond the bounds of our domestic situation.

Conversion to Catholicism and Irish Nationalism
Anthony Brabazon of Ballinasloe married Ellice Dillon from one of the Old English families, which had remained Catholic, in 1641. There are two versions of my ancestor's conversion to the Old Faith; the first says that it occurred on his marriage, but the other is more prosaic.
He is said to have been curious about his wife's regular evening disappearances and following her on one such occasion saw her enter a cottage. Peering in, Anthony saw his young wife kneeling at prayer attending a clandestine Mass, the sight of which induced a St Paul-like conversion. I rather like a good story, so I favour the latter version.
Whatever, Anthony's change of spiritual allegiance was the precursor to his joining - what was soon to become - the Kilkenny Confederation. From his base at Ballinasloe Castle he wreaked much havoc, firstly against the Dublin Establishment and later the Cromwellian Army. The ferocity of his actions, fighting literally to the bitter end in 1652, was as much, I imagine, due to a guilty conscience of his former anti-Catholic actions as to his military prowess. His guerrilla raids against Cromwell's lines of supply seriously hindered the English advance around the coast, for which - amongst other incidents - he was tried in absentia and sentenced to death. He had actually escaped a siege of his castle by swimming the moat under cover of darkness and made his way to Galway City, boarding a ship for Spain. He died in exile in Seville, the old royalist capital, two years later, probably in the service of the Spanish king in a regiment specifically for Irish officers. Anthony may have been defeated but he left a young son, William, who was later to take up the gauntlet in the army of King James. By his actions my ancestor at Ballinasloe had transformed himself from New English to Old English, and then, in common with the other Confederates, to New Irish. This then is the cultural watershed for my lineage, which has affected the fortunes of my family and those associated with us down to the present.

Acquisition of Land in Kilconduff Parish
For Anthony in exile in Spain there was to be no forbearance by the English: as a wanted criminal it was impossible to regain anything for himself. Nevertheless, a deal was struck - and I imagine that social and political strings were being pulled on our behalf, perhaps by our cousin Lord Meath and certainly by the Dillons - which restored estates to Anthony's wife and his son, William, thereafter.
They were given one-third the size of the original holdings on the understanding that the Dillons would raise William as a Protestant, which they most blatantly did not - at least not behind closed doors.
The law stated that rebels who surrendered themselves to the authorities within a stipulated number of days would be granted land equal to the area of one third of their original amount - but located elsewhere. It's obvious that Anthony fell outside this - being in exile - but the rules must have been bent in order to accommodate his wife and son, and the resultant grant of land made in the parish of Kilconduff and elsewhere in Mayo.
The first mention of my family being connected to the locale is the marriage settlement of Anthony's son William in 1679 to Mary Browne of the Neale. William is styled "of Tullinacurra" and in later documents he is "of Tullinacurra, Lough Maske and Ballinasloe". What is interesting is that later on Hercules Brabazon, who inherited from Sir William Brabazon, the 2nd Baronet, in the 1840s administered the Swinford estate through his nephew Harvey Trewythen Combe whose address was The Lodge, Tullinacurra, (demolished in the early 1900s). If there are sufficient archaeological remains, I'm sure the Combe house will date to the Stuart period.
William is then the founder of Brabazon residency in Swinford, and Tullinacurra, therefore, is the genesis of Swinford town.

Captain William Brabazon 1650-1731
William - as I have said - was supposed to have been raised a Protestant by his mother and Dillon relatives, who outwardly had conformed. The reality was very different. As he would have had little or no memories of his father, being just an infant at the time of his exile, it must have been his mother and grandparents who instilled in him the political and religious faith of the New Irish. William became a Captain in the army of King James, fighting at the Boyne in 1690, Aughrim in '91 and finally at the following doomed siege of Limerick, being one of the Jacobite representatives negotiating the surrender treaty. As with his father before him, he faced his kinsman the Earl of Meath, a leading supporter of William and Mary. Indeed, the negotiators of the Treaty of Limerick had Brabazons and Dillons sitting on both sides of the table.
Perhaps no wonder then that the resultant document shocked the Establishment in Dublin and Westminster with its lenient terms, which were later annulled. After the war, Captain William settled down to estate management and cattle rearing, neither in Ballinasloe or Tullinacurra, but at Partry on the shores of Lough Mask.
In a list of Catholic officers drawn up in 1693 William is registered in Mayo, along with members of the Fitzmaurice family who were later to become his in-laws from his second marriage in 1717. The Fitzmaurice seat was at Coolnaght near Claremorris, the other side of the Lough, and the family had been vehemently opposed to the New English influence from the beginning. The choice of Partry seems logical from both an administrative and political stance: firstly, it was located in the middle of Brabazon holdings, facilitating universal access, and secondly, it was in Mayo, one of the counties where Jacobite officers had immunity under the Treaty of Limerick. However, there must have been a final move to what is now Swinford towards the end of Captain William's life, as according to the plan of the Brabazon vault at Kilconduff - dated 1827 - the 'Old Generation' is buried therein, which has to refer to William and his wife Catherine Fitzmaurice, dating the vault to at least 1731, at which time his eldest surviving son George was only 11 years old.

The Inheritance to the Younger Family
Captain William had two sons by his first marriage to Mary Browne, Anthony and George: the former conformed to the Protestant Church, either for personal gain or political expediency, and lived at the family home in Creagh, Ballinasloe, and the latter remained steadfastly Catholic residing at Partry with their father. Anthony became the High Sheriff of Galway in 1721 - 1722 shortly before his demise in 1724, brought on by drink related illnesses. Basically, he was squandering the family fortune, so something had to be done to preserve the estates in another's keeping. A deal was struck between all parties which transferred the estates in his ownership to a family trust and thence to the children - George and Malby - of the second marriage of Captain William. This despite the fact that Anthony the High Sheriff had a son William, whose most famous descendant is Aubrey Brabazon the now deceased racehorse trainer. In return for the transfer of property to his half siblings, the family ensured the material wellbeing of Anthony's widow, Margaret Malone, and son.
After the death of Margaret, their house at Creagh was demolished and the wooden pillars taken to Newpark to be utilised in the construction of the new Brabazon House.
What about the second son, George? I imagine that as the Penal Laws were beginning to bite the transfer of property to a Catholic from a Protestant was impossible, which meant neither Captain William himself nor his second son could take possession. Captain William ensured that his sons at Swinford - another George and a Malby - were raised as Church of Ireland, so that there was no danger of further losses from the family's dwindling lands. The elder George, it is thought, produced a male lineage which remained in the locale of Ballinasloe, dying out in the male line with the Brabazon-O'Shaughnessys.

Planxty George Brabazon
Before I move onto the next generation I would like to mention the two tunes (planxties) - and one a drinking song - by the names of George Brabazon written by the great harpist/composer O'Carolan. On all the explanatory notes it says that they were written for our George of Brabazon Park, Swinford. However, I think there is a problem of age. When O'Carolan died in 1738 George was only 18 years of age, which means that either he was very precocious and had access to his inheritance before legal maturity or the planxties were written for someone else. And the only other person it could have been was the older George Brabazon at Lough Mask, who is either not recorded on official genealogies or is erroneously written in as dying young with no offspring.

The Catholic Tradition
Captain William was vehemently Catholic as were his wives, in-laws, daughters and the older George. The Brabazon vault was erected in the Catholic graveyard at Kilconduff during the time of the Penal Laws. Later on, Malby, the younger son at Swinford married Charlotte Le Merchant from an old Catholic, Jacobite family in Guernsey. The question that must be asked is, How Protestant was George of Swinford, the builder of the Mansion House? I have heard a story that a hiding place for Catholic Mass requisites was found therein. I don't know if anyone can confirm this story, but if it is veracious it would be proof positive that George remained a secret Catholic.
Certainly there were no attempts to either build a Protestant church or bury the Brabazon dead anywhere else except the Catholic cemetery. Further, one of George's sons William was married by a Catholic priest, Fr John Fitzmaurice, and one of his daughters, Sarah, married Ousley Higgins MP who was also Catholic.

The Mansion House
Without the construction of Brabazon House by William's son George there would have been no attendant accumulation of personnel in the area and no Swinford as such. So we have in William the founding father - if that doesn't sound too patrician - of the town and a new dispensation for my lineage. I know that it has been generally regarded that George was the first of the line here, probably due to his construction of Brabazon House in the 1770s. Indeed, George's address before the construction of the Mansion House was still Newpark; its exact location no longer known. The new House was a fine Georgian construction, but hardly of the grandeur or opulence of other country seats. In fact, the move to a larger domicile was driven by the pressing requirements of a very large family, the whole project dominating George's later life and finances, rather than social display. Once the House had been completed Brabazon Park was created, the name often being used interchangeably with Newpark, although it only ever was a part of the townland of Newpark. My family correspondence shows the use of Brabazon Park as an address becoming more generally used in the residency of George's son Anthony.

Sir Anthony Brabazon Bart. (17445-1803)
Sir Anthony Brabazon, the first baronet (created 1797) of Brabazon Park and eldest son of George, inherited from his father in 1780, only a few years after the completion of Brabazon House. From 1770 he had actually been living in Dublin; initially as a young man entering Society, especially to find a suitable wife.
However, matters were to take a different turn than planned, commencing from George's refusal to agree the required sum for a marriage contract for Anthony with his prospective bride's father, one Colonel Madden. George was assailed with irate correspondence from his wife, son and in-laws, but he remained steadfast in his refusal, commenting on the number of children he had to fend for, which meant in reality the construction of the new family abode - the Mansion House. In fact, the relationship between father and son broke down and as far as I can see they stopped direct communication. How then did Anthony find his spouse? Well, actually he didn't fare too badly in that respect in that he ended up with two. And to explain how he managed it, I will have to refer to the mores of the day. It was not unusual in Georgian times for young men of the higher social order to take wives from outside their social circles and later on to contract a second marriage with ladies of their own standing. What's more it was common for the offspring of both unions to be brought up together, with the only difference being in their rights of inheritance. The marriage laws that we are used to today commenced from the Marriage Act of 1753 in England & Wales, being taken up much later in the rest of Britain and Ireland. No bans were required and no minister of religion needed to be in attendance but if they were ceremonies could be conducted quite literally anywhere. The legal ages of marriage for men and women were 14 and 12, respectively.
By the time Anthony took Ann Molyneux as his wife in 1776 he already had two sons William and George Charles by his first wife. Even his society marriage was one referred to as clandestine, again not uncommon even in the highest families. As he was still without sufficient funds from his father to contract a marriage in the 'correct way', he took the well-trodden path of a no-bans, no frills arrangement, requiring only a small payment to a licensed cleric. We have a painting in the family of Sir Anthony on horseback in front of Brabazon House with his two wives and one of his sisters (probably Catherine, the grandmother of General John P Brabazon) on the front steps.
The composition is symbolic, placing his society spouse on the top step with her hand against the building, his sister a few steps down, and at ground level his first wife.
Anthony, having been estranged from his father and under the influence of his Bingham relatives in Dublin, became very much an establishment man, the apotheosis of which was in the acquisition of a title.
In Anthony's case it was a baronetecy in 1797, which were notoriously purchased, but still requiring the right social contacts. As part of this revision of family tradition from 1641 he despatched his eldest son William, by his first wife, to be educated at Oxford for the Anglican clergy.
They say in America 'What goes around comes around', and it did in a big way for Anthony, in that his son not only refused to join the ranks of the establishment clergy but actually converted back to the ancestral faith of Catholicism, becoming a United Irishman sometime after.
History was repeating itself from Anthony of Ballinasloe, and this Anthony didn't like it. William's allowance was cancelled, as was his place in the family. However, he was not a soul to be deflected and learnt the shoemaking trade to earn his living. One must remember that at the time Britain and Ireland were abuzz with news of the French Revolution, and the ideals of egalitarianism were taken up across the social board, led in Ireland by Lord Edward Fitzgerald who had renounced his title in Paris. William returned to Swinford and later played a part in the 1798 Rising, being an associate of Anthony Corley in whose inn General Humbert stayed. It is interesting to note that Sir Anthony remained in residence at Brabazon Park during the Rebellion, although he had time to escape. In fact a letter from his heir to the title, William John Brabazon, to his sister Sarah, says that he has managed to procure a carriage which he is sending from Castlebar and that they should leave immediately. It may well be that Rebel William was vouching safe for his family.

Sir William John Brabazon Bart. 1776-1840
William John's correspondence from Dublin talks in negative terms of Lord Edward Fitzgerald and of the Rebels' "dark and infamous plots". He is quite patently of his father's establishment position. How then the complete volta face in his later life when he became an MP for Mayo (1833) representing Dan O'Connell's Party? Indeed, not only was he, I understand, one of a handful of Protestant landowning MPs in O'Connell's party, but wrested the seat from the powerful Browne's with the support of the Catholic Church. At his acceptance speech, Sir William drew heavily on his Catholic ancestry, mentioning in particular the battlefield of Aughrim; that is, the part played by Captain William Brabazon. The influence of his elder half brother, Rebel William, was probably the major factor in this turnaround. However, in Sir Anthony's favour, he refused (as the R.M.) to comply with a request from the authorities in Dublin to restrict the activities of his younger brother Counsellor Edward Brabazon, who was defending many of the accused rebels.
The accomplishments of Sir William's developments of Swinford town are standard local history: the post office, courthouse, etc. But perhaps his boldest move as a landlord was to grant leases on houses for 999 years or in perpetuity, virtually making them freehold.
Due to this policy Swinford boasted a town of slate-rooved houses long before others in the West as the owners were putting money into what was now their property.
His death in 1840 has been mythologised as the result of choking on a chicken bone. It may have been that such a convulsion brought on a heart attack, but this certainly isn't mentioned in the newspaper reports. He had been subject to bouts of ill health since the early 1830s, which by the end of the decade had worsened. His last bout of illness, which from the symptoms sounds like a heart condition, began in London earlier in 1840 when he was attending the Westminster Parliament and he was advised to return to Brabazon Park to recover. After a morning ride around his demesne he sat down for breakfast, only to be found slumped over his meal a short while later by his butler. He was the last of the true Brabazons at the Park.

The Inheritance
Ironically, the Brabazons are best remembered in Swinford in the person of General Brabazon, the last of the family at the Mansion House. I say ironically in that not only was his family name not Brabazon but Higgins, but more than that his politics were also Higgins, which meant Unionist rather than Nationalist. When the unmarried Sir William died in 1840 he left a will referred to by one of the lawyers involved as - and I quote - 'this scandalous document'. 'How so?' you will no doubt be wondering. (A bit of scandal is always enlivening!) Well, besides the main inheritance, other clauses left amounts of money to Sir William's four illegitimate children, but not a thing to the Higgins family. I leave you to draw your own conclusions! In fact, if the main beneficiary failed to honour the residency clause in the bequest, then the illegitimate offspring stood to inherit the estate. Unfortunately, the copy of the will which used to be in the family archive has been lost, leaving only legal discussion documents regarding it. So although my elderly Cousin Eileen can recall many times chuckling over the inheritances of the four illegitimate children, she cannot remember their names.
Nevertheless, one imagines that there may well be an awful lot of Brabazon blood in the district, albeit travelling under a variety of names!
If the Higgins were not the intended Brabazons of Brabazon House, then who were? Sir William actually left all his estates to his nephew William Sharpe, the eldest son of his sister Anne.
Within a few years though, the new William Brabazon - he had to adopt the Brabazon name upon inheriting - died of Malta fever and the property passed to his younger brother Hercules Brabazon Sharpe, who then became, as a French friend once commented to me, Brabazon deux fois. So why weren't the Sharpes in the Mansion House thereafter? The will stipulated that the inheritor would have to spend 6 months of every year in residence at Brabazon Park or forfeit the estate, and Hercules had more of a liking for the Mediterranean climate, not least of all due to his health.
His legal advisors had argued about what 6 months actually constituted: lunar months? Continuous periods of 6 months? A carry over of time from one year to the next? But at the end of the day Bwab, as he was known using the fashionable French R in common with his cousin General Brabazon, was more interested in his art and music than estate management, which he left to his nephew Harvey T Combe. Besides his Brabazon inheritance, Hercules also came into the Sharpe's English estates in County Durham and Seddlescombe, East Sussex, not far from the small town of Battle, the site of the Battle of Hastings.

Hercules Brabazon Brabazon 1821-1906
Hercules has been described as a model landlord, and as far as I can ascertain he made virtually no profit from the Swinford properties. He belonged to the Bohemian artistic circle of his day, using his inherited fortune - I do mean fortune - to finance his peripatetic lifestyle and assist less fortunate painters and musicians. One of his proteges was a young German pianist, Emil von Sauer, who eventually became part of Liszt's company of young performers. A story told by Sauer in his memoirs recalls when they first met at a soirée in London in 1882, followed by a trip to Europe and finally an introduction to Franz Liszt.
The young Sauer had been financing himself since his arrival in London by playing at fashionable Victorian gatherings, rather like the background music in a bar. It was at one such occasion that Hercules attended, and was immediately drawn to actually listening to the pianist, that their friendship was first formed.
They talked for hours, ending up in the early hours at Hercules apartment in Morpeth Terrace, at the rear of what is now Westminster Cathedral, picking their way through the stacks of music scores that littered the floor, Hercules being a pianist and composer as well as a painter. As dawn broke, Hercules asked the young German if he would like to travel with him to Spain and Italy that very morning. This may seem a little impetuous, but such was his nature, being famed for his early morning appearances at the front of the house with a small leather case containing a few personal items and his precious watercolour paints, hailing a hansom cab with instructions such as, "Cairo, my good man!" Whatever the foreign destination might be the cabbies simply drove him to Victoria Railway Station where he would catch a train/boat to France and points south or east thereafter.
On the morning he and Sauer set off, the shout would have been "Seville!" Upon arrival in the old royalist capital, Hercules arranged a recital for Sauer to play before the Spanish King through an old friend in the Court. You can imagine how nervous the young German must have been, but this was not the end. After a successful performance Hercules arranged a public recital and organised the publicity personally with himself and Sauer fly-posting the city! For two evenings the main hall in Seville was packed and Sauer's reputation took-off. But even this was to be only the prelude to an introduction to Liszt to whom Hercules had access through the former's mistress in Rome, the Princess Wittgenstein. Liszt immediately took to Sauer and brought him into his circle. The friendship between Liszt and HBB became quite close and the new piano he chose for Hercules was the one my elderly Cousin Eileen - still living - learnt to play on in her younger years.
Eileen is actually HBB's great great niece, the inheritance having passed to her line of the family, the Combes, as Hercules was without wife or direct heir. However, I rather think that what Winston Churchill wrote about General Brabazon is also applicable to Hercules: "Though he had always remained a bachelor, he was by no means a misogynist." These two family lines appeared to be running on parallel tracks: both the Higginses and Combes had changed their family names to Brabazon, the eldest sons had both died young and the second sons failed to produce any heirs.

General John Palmer Brabazon 1843-1922
To go back now to Sir William's succession at the Mansion House; how was it that the Higgins family became the resident Brabazons, especially as they had specifically been ignored in Sir William's legacy?
The sequence of events that I pieced together from the family papers and known history commences with Sir Anthony's bequest of properties to his nephew Hugh Higgins, the son of his sister Catherine Brabazon and Luke Higgins. Hugh changed his name by Royal Licence to Brabazon in 1852, at which time he was already the de facto resident of Brabazon House. The House itself had been mortgaged, probably from the outset, and it would appear that a deal was struck between the mortgage companies, Hercules and Hugh Higgins for the latter party to take over the property. By this means the 6 months residency clause in Sir William's will would have been negated, leaving General Brabazon to later pursue a military career.
What kind of person was General John Palmer Brabazon? He was said to be very charming, generous and gregarious, very much the Victorian dandy. His physical resemblance owes more to his Brabazon blood than Higgins', but his politics were fixedly Unionist.
He was a friend of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII and mentor to Winston Churchill. In fact Churchill's preference for Anglo-Irish military leaders - their idiosyncratic way of thinking - I imagine in part was fashioned by his emotional attachment to Bwab. Always a colourful character, one of his notable confrontations with the powers-that-be was over the small growth of hair under his lower lip - in military parlance, a beard. And as beards were forbidden for army officers he was finally commanded to shave it off. This he did, but also half of a very bushy moustache, making quite a noticeable appearance on the Regiment's parade ground.
On another occasion, whilst stationed in South Africa during the Boer War, he reported to the Committee of Imperial Defence that he mistrusted the weapons supplied to the cavalry (he was commanding the 10th Hussars) and that his preference was for shock tactics using tomahawks. His description of a cavalry charge under these conditions - and I quote - 'proved paralysing to the imagination of the commissioners'.
In 1860 his elder brother Captain Luke Brabazon of the Royal Artillery died in the so-called Second Opium War in China, being executed along with a French priest on a bridge just outside Beijing. After the death of their father Captain Hugh Brabazon whilst on a mission to find the body of Luke in 1864 Bwab came into the family inheritance. He retired his commission in 1870 as Captain and returned to Swinford to run the estate, which already in dire straits was to be exacerbated by the second famine.
You have to bear in mind that the Higginses had only ever had a small part of the Brabazon lands and properties, so any downturn in economic fortune could prove disastrous. He returned to full military duties in 1873 and managed to build his army career as well as keep an eye on matters back home.
However, all of his plans to assure the economic viability of his property holding came to naught, and he finished his life in London as a member of the Court of George V, dying in 1922. I have tried in vain to acquire a copy of General Brabazon's Bequest made in 1913, the foundation document of the Brabazon Park Trust which was held by the Charity Commissioners in Dublin. It was unfortunately lost in 1992 in transit to the National Archives, along with other documents.
I rather think that the estate was financially fatally wounded and some kind of a deal was struck with the government to hand it over for local benefit. Certainly, General Brabazon's social pull would have gone a long way in facilitating such a hand-over.
I have been told by two different sources that before finally moving to England at the turn of the century he removed family remains from the vault in Kilconduff and translated them to the Protestant church.
I have satisfied myself that the majority of those buried in my family vault were left where they were, so I can only surmise that they were Higgins' remains, and perhaps not least Catherine Brabazon, his grandmother. He had four sisters and tracing any possible descendants is one area of research I still have to address.

That then was the finale of the Higgins-Brabazons, and after Hercules' demise in 1906 the Combes disposed of their holdings; the inheritor being Harvey T Combe, Hercules' nephew, who had married one of the Lamberts of Brook Hill, and who passed on the remaining English estates to their son, also Harvey Combe. My kinswoman Eileen Barber in London is the daughter of the latter, and she in turn has a daughter, Robin Wells, the mother of Patrick and Robert Wells.
What then of the male Brabazon family lineage?

The Lineage Continues
I will now revisit the eldest son of Sir Anthony, Rebel William (1772-1837), who is in fact my own ancestor. So the Brabazons never actually left Swinford, only the Big House. In fact, placed in the continuum of my lineage Brabazon House is simply one of our domiciles that we brought into existence and which we then deserted. The over-association of my family with that one building has led to the erroneous belief that there were no Brabazons here before its construction and none after its vacation.
Rebel William actually produced a large family, but it was only my own line which remained in Swinford; my great great grandfather James (1800-1875) being his eldest son and his eldest my great grandfather, also James, the headmaster at Kinaffe National School.
It was the latter James who moved from Swinford town to Tullinacurra to take up the headmastership: his house eventually being purchased from my two great aunts, one a teacher at Cloongalorn, by the Murtaghs. The two family inheritances - shoemaking and education - which preserved down the generations were both our bread and butter and also the symbols of Rebel William's self-determination and principled stand for what he believed to be right.
The craft of shoemaking only finally died out with my father. Even my great grandfather in his retirement would insist on repairing the family footwear: A man who was also a classical pianist, played the oboe and composed his own music.
His chosen academic subject was mathematics, which he used in his amateur astronomy - a pastime he shared with his good friend Joe Mellett. His patriotism was directed towards the support of the church and the education of a new generation - in fact, two new generations - whereas his younger brother, another William, being a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, wisely left for the USA.
My grandfather Thomas (1875-1944) along with his siblings, were schoolteachers, as are my two elder brothers, Kevin and Terence, in North America. Indeed, Thomas was if anything more dedicated to the Church, hovering on the brink of training for the priesthood, but entranced by my grandmother Bridget Nolan at the last moment. He was not one, though, to blindly accept what ran counter to his own view of life: my father recalls him berating a member of the local clergy for openly supporting the Blue Shirts fighting for Franco. Thomas' surviving brother, James, left for Boston, entering what is affectionately known as the Irish Mafia and one of his sons, Paul Brabazon, became a close friend of the Kennedys.

He was particularly close to Joe Junior who died in a flying mission over Germany in World War II, and is mentioned in the young Kennedy's biography entitled 'The Lost Prince by Hank Searles (1969)'.
. Paul, who was a ship's captain brought young Joseph's personal affects back to Boston and was met by old Joe Kennedy at the harbour. Another sibling in this family was Paul's sister Elizabeth, a nun, who taught mathematics in a Boston convent school and due to her later parochial and charity work also had ties with the Kennedy Clan.
My father Martin was the youngest surviving child of Thomas and Bridget and the only son to leave a male lineage. He served in the Enniskillen Fusiliers as Sergeant Major, fighting in the Burmese jungle and had many a story to tell, as with any old soldier. However, one of his proudest memories was his friendship with Mahatma Ghandi's chief (Sikh) bodyguard in Bombay who rescued him from certain death at the hands of a mob of Congress wallas.
The Sikh's knowledge of Irish history absolutely astonished my father and he learnt that the adoption of the green, white and orange of the Indian flag was inspired by the Irish tricolour. After being given their secret password, my father was the only British soldier who could walk in safety at any hour through the town.
Martin's childhood memories of Swinford were a mixture of the home, the hard times and also the War of Independence. His eldest brother, James, was a youth member of the IRA who narrowly escaped being machine-gunned by the Black and Tans and his uncle John James was a leading local member of Sinn Fein.
He also recalled his grandfather giving his barn to the Co-op to store their food and supplies, and his father walking through the night to collect money for a recently widowed neighbour. In passing on these memories, he bequeathed to me an ethos of sacrifice for the community, a pride in what my family had done and a desire to ensure our traditions were never lost.
I have tried my best to convey that tradition to my son James Martin who has been brought up with an acute sense of his ancestry and his belonging to Swinford, as I am now doing with my daughter Bridget Hisako. Like all parents I am very proud of his achievements, not least of all his Cambridge degree in modern history. I hope it won't be too presumptuous of me to employ the republican imagery of the phoenix: We shall rise again. Or alternatively, in the words of my deceased great aunt Elizabeth Brabazon when I would comment on her excellent health for a lady in her 90s, "Michael, you just can't keep a bad thing down!"