A talk given by Michael Brabazon at the Brabazon Family Reunion at Killruddery House on 13 September 2003

Good morning cousins and closer relatives.

I would like to commence by saying a big thank you, on behalf of us all, to our hosts, Jack and Xenia. Xenia has worked tirelessly to make this Reunion possible, and I'm so glad we've made a good showing - as representatives of the whole Clan - to ensure its success. Also, I would like to express our deep appreciation for all the work Ann Shevill has put into not just this particular project, but for her unwavering efforts over many years to bring the family together. And, finally, before I get going, could I ask for a very warm round of applause for Betty Meath and in memory of Tony who together have won the hearts of the Brabazons around the world.

I have thought long and hard how best to present this talk. I must admit to being a bit schizoid about the whole matter: on one hand, at ease amongst kith and kin, but on the other, feeling slightly uneasy in the company of other experts in the field. My solace is that we are all avid amateurs, and what maybe lacking sometimes in absolute academic accuracy is made up for by a vital enthusiasm that comes from intense personal meaning. And the search for meaning - as the psychologist Carl Jung maintained - is the key to life. Each of us can behold the same series of historical events, but attach different meanings to it. After all, our Family incorporates individuals from many walks of life, with a variety of religious and political affiliations and increasingly multifarious national identities. My marriage to Fumiko - a Japanese Buddhist - amply demonstrates the fact. Besides this, we are from a mixture of legitimate and illegitimate lineages, not to mention those in the grey area in between, as well as male and female Brabazon lineages. What then can bind us together?

What can we perceive in common from what is otherwise just a collection of historical actions and biographical detail? Each generation affects and is affected by the zeitgeist - the spirit of the age. I believe by the very fact of our attendance here this weekend we are looking for a point of unity, something that rises above our own individual path and, in so doing, gives a greater meaning to it. Most certainly, my own input is based on the hope that in a small way we - the Brabazons - can demonstrate our collective will to heal the past and lay down a marker of unity for future generations. By virtue of our ever-increasing diversity, the wider meaning then, for me, is our growing sense of, and celebration of, inclusivity. The wider the Family's parameters spread the greater the need for a renewal of our self-understanding. One important manifestation of this evolving spirit is service to the community. I hope I won't sound patronising when I say that in the Meaths - past and present - our family not only has a strong central reference point but most importantly an exemplary model of concern and work for the community, both at a local level and in a wider sense. I sincerely hope that my talk can realise its goal of telling a good story and that being one with a growing sense of moral purpose. To that end I have entitled it, 'A Tale of Two Brothers - Diversity and Unity.'

I suppose the way any incredible story commences - and ours is an incredible story - is 'In the Beginning'. And in our beginning was Jacques le Brabanzon, the Great Warrior, said to be a general in the invasion army of King William the Conqueror, and to boot, his standard bearer. Like any story from the mists of time, how do we know what is true and what belongs to the realm of mythology?

In actual fact, we have no historical documents regarding the person or life of Jacques, with the exception of the reference to him being included in the Roll of Battle Abbey, which is purportedly the record of the Normans who fought at the Battle of Hastings. I located a copy of The Roll, as I thought, in the British Museum and obtained permission to personally examine it. What a shocker when I found no name on it even vaguely like that of our heroic ancestor.

After frantically going up and down the list a dozen or so times, I asked the archivist what she thought - had the family been living a lie and, if so, why was Jacques' name on the Roll inscribed in the Cathedral at Caen? The reply was that although everyone spoke of The Roll, in fact there is a plurality of Rolls - some extant and some lost or destroyed - and the Museum had but one of them. Further, the list at Caen is a compilation of the Rolls plural. Fair enough. So although Our Roll is in the lost or destroyed category, it does appear to be accepted by all the official genealogical bodies.

Next question - are the Rolls veracious in themselves? The answer - not completely. Apparently, names of Norman wannabes or their fathers were added to the lists (by paying large amounts to the monks who prepared them): one might say the Jonnies-come-lately, but does that include Jacques-come-lately? My gut feeling is no, that I believe the inclusion is original, and the reason is to do with Jacques' racial and cultural origin. Although we tend to reiterate the laid down story that our ancestor was a Norman, in fact as a mercenary - and his appellation (which I'll explore a little in a minute), le Brabanzon, means he was a mercenary chieftain - he would have hailed from the Lowlands, in what is now Belgium. In fact, the village of Barbencon in the province of Hainault is the most probable genesis point. Jacques was therefore Frankish rather than Norman. Although King William reinforced his governing elite after the Conquest with additional continental families, these were Norman. He had employed Frankish mercenaries - and Bretons - to supplement his Norman knights: the Franks provided extra cavalry and the Bretons the infantry. Jacques, then, as a mercenary, could only have been in the actual invasion and unlikely to have been a later arrival. Furthermore, his descendants appear in English records as already established, Franks intermarrying with the Norman settlers, with no other bona fide ancestry than that of the Great Warrior. Indeed, for a mercenary to be included amongst the ranks of Norman nobility must have been an honour par excellence. And by turning the appellation, le Brabanzon, into a surname meant Jacques' descendants were displaying their past with pride. It is well known that the King paid his mercenaries very handsomely after the success of the Invasion and their leaders would have become, in a word, rich.

So even if we accept that Jacques was at the Battle of Hastings, what is the truth, if any, that he was William's standard bearer? The battle plan at Hastings was an opening attack by the Breton foot soldiers on Senlac Hill, followed by an onslaught by the Norman cavalry, led by Duke William himself. The Frankish mercenaries were held in reserve on William's right flank, meaning that Jacques could not have been the standard bearer at the commencement of hostilities. However, in the heat of battle roles are taken-on and lost in a matter seconds. Of the different accounts of the Battle of Hastings, one of them maintains that when the Norman cavalry was routed at the first attempt to dislodge the English William's standard bearer either fell or dropped the flag which caused further panic amongst the retreating army - fearing the Duke had fallen. A mercenary leader is said to have galloped forward and retrieved the standard and, in so doing, turned the tide of battle. We will never know, of course, but this version of events ties in with the verbal tradition in the Brabazon Family - so I'm going for it!

Certainly, the Conquest is a cultural watershed experience in our family, in that although we retained the title of a mercenary warlord as our surname we actually became attached to one particular lord, the King of England, and his realms. This may well be the origin of, or at least the inspiration behind, our motto Vota Vita Mea - lives pledged to a particular group rather than running a self-serving militia. After all, we could simply have taken the money and run! And just a word on the motto: in those days a pledge was a religious undertaking, so the dual translation as 'my life is pledged or dedicated' or 'my life is a prayer' wouldn't have been at all ambiguous to the Normans. Medieval monarchy was to do with divine kingship, so pledging oneself to the king was in itself a religious act.

Before I move on in time, I'd like to add a few more details to the origin of our name. In the mid 11th century there was mass unemployment in the Lowlands, which, coupled with the endless feuds and rivalries in Europe, fuelled a burst of mercenary bands centred in the province of Brabant, of which our own name is a derivative. Jacques would have been the leader of such a band, hence the 'title' The Brabanzon. The fact that all this came about very shortly before the Norman invasion of England means that Jacques was the first generation of that name. When I visited the village of Barbencon (originally that would have been Barbanzon), the couple of local historians I was introduced to knew that the name of their village was derived from Brabant but couldn't understand why. They seemed very content with my plausible explanation that it was named after Jacques. The family at Barbencon was eventually raised to the nobility, being given the titles of baron and prince. The male lineage for the title of prince ran out in the 1500s but carried on through the female line and there are claimants to it today, the most believable, I was told, is of a Spanish nobleman by the family name of Nunez. However, the most famous carriers of the name are the Continental noble family of de Ligne, who have the title of Baron de Barbancon - as well as Prince d'Arenberg - and are descended from Isaac de Barbanzon who was born in 1075. Tantalisingly, they have no records of antecedents before Isaac, but his year of birth does gel nicely with the lifetime of Jacques. I don't think we'd be too far out if we surmise that Isaac may well have been the son of our own Jacques. After the Castle of Barbencon or Barbanzon received its name, the le would have been easily changed to de. In fact, in our own lineage the records sometimes switch between the two. One final word on the Continental connection, Betty Meath told me some years ago that the de Ligne family was evacuated to Killruddery in the Second World War. Interesting how things come together!

Jacques' lineage in England became established at Betchworth Castle in the county of Surrey, close to Dorking, with his son John being the first Brabazon recorded as living in England. The original Norman structure was added to later on, but the extant ruins are virtually all of the original building. If you do venture a visit take rough clothes and be prepared for golfers and nettles - I don't which know are worst! Apologies to any golfers here present - it's probably just the Betchworth lot! However, this leaves the obvious gap: where did Jacques reside if he was indeed in the conquering army? He is not mentioned in the Doomsday Book - the Norman inventory of England - as being at Betchworth or anywhere else. Again, we're in the realms of educated guessing and I think that he resided principally at Barbanzon to reinforce his fiefdom there whilst keeping a younger son in England to preserve the lineage - and therefore Brabazon influence - in the Norman heartland. After all, King William encouraged the practice of Norman families sending their second sons to the new Kingdom so that he could rule both sides of the Channel with blood-related hierarchies.

The records are scant from this time but the family was obviously moving from strength to strength, progressively adding to its holdings and family connections. The Betchworth period lasted until the mid 1200s when the family relocated its HQ to Eastwell in Leicestershire. Jacques' great grandson, Thomas, married into the de Moseley family of Leicestershire, and his son, Sir Roger, is the first generation to be recorded as at Eastwell and not at Betchworth. Although we undoubtedly benefited from the de Moseley marriage, the local records show that we were already landholders in the County and that, as such, Thomas was a pretty good catch himself.

Thomas's grandsons, a second Sir Roger would be the first Brabazon since Jacques to go down in the wider history of England and draw the family closer to personal service of the Crown. In the reign of Edward I, at a time when many judges were being dismissed for extortion and corruption, Sir Roger was making his way up the judicial ladder. He personally pressed the legal case for the suzerainty of the English crown over Scotland, and by the time be died in 1317, the Brabazon name was well-and-truly on the political and social map of England. The family holdings at this time must have been vast. I examined a bequest Sir Roger had made to the monks of Westminster Abbey - dated 1300 - of the manor house and lands of Belsize, just a fraction of the family estates. Anyone familiar with London will know the underground station of that name, Belsize Park. Actually, a lot of the land in the area is still owned by the Church of England, adding considerably to the financial worth of the Anglican holdings. It is from the perfectly preserved wax seal on this document that I obtained the earliest family version of our name, that is le Brabanzon. The other renderings are due to the monks - the clerks of the Middle Ages - using phonetic variations.

For me, the move of location is in itself is unremarkable, but it is the style of living that underwent a revolution. From a defensive castle at Betchworth, a symbol of remote power, remote from the community, our ancestors moved to a purpose-built manor house which stood at the centre of a walled settlement. Here we lived cheek-by-jowl with the people for whom we had responsibility. Brabazon children would have played with the children of the working families around them and the adults would have understood the lives of the families who served them. This sounds very patrician, I know, but it marks the end of the colonial era and the beginning of a new integrated English society. A preponderance of Brabazon spouses in this new era were taken from Leicestershire and the surrounding counties, a further indicator of a settled community life. It was from these inherent bonds which bound the families of the English midlands together and formed the base on which King Richard III launched his forces against Henry Tudor. Verbal tradition has it that Richard visited his favourite illegitimate son (how many did he have!) at the Brabazon manor house on the eve of battle. However, fate was not with us and John Brabazon perished at the decisive Battle of Bosworth on 22 August 1485; his body taken back the short distance to Eastwell for burial in the family chapel of St Guttlack's. Apparently, at the visitor information centre at the site of Bosworth there is a contemporaneous record of one of the Brabazons escaping the field of battle dressed as a milkmaid. Nothing is said of the fate of the poor maid, but she may well have saved the lineage with her attire.

Although the family HQ was to be moved to Ireland in the 16th century, Eastwell remained in the ownership of the family until it was sold by the second Earl of Meath in 1653, after the Cromwellian Wars. A decision was obviously reached to rationalise the family's estates at the expense of its English holdings. Eastwell was necessarily sacrificed to secure Killruddery. There is a townland in County Galway on what used to be Brabazon land, called Eastwell. So it remained in the hearts of our ancestors after they had relocated elsewhere. And I literally mean 'heart'. When Sir William Brabazon died in Ireland in 1552 his heart was removed - as requested in his will - placed in a leaden box and taken back to St Guttlack's for burial. Many of you will know that I have had a keen interest in Eastwell and the archaeological excavations of the manor house site. The results were very interesting indeed, but further digs were put on hold, the most important of which would be the search for St Guttlack's, apparently already located with underground scanning. What an absolute buzz it would be if we actually found Sir William's leaden box - a resurrection of heart in every sense!

Whilst I am on the subject, my good friend at Eastwell, the man in charge of the historical and archaeological society, David Stanley, has asked me to mention that he expects the Brabazon site to come onto the market in the near future. He harbours the hope that a Brabazon or Brabazons will regain the property. I know this may sound fanciful after so many centuries away, but the warmth of reception I received when I gave a speech at the launch of the Eastwell History book was overwhelming. I have to say I felt quite regal delivering my contribution from the pulpit with the gravestone of a William Brabazon before me and a Brabazon stone sarcophagus behind me - not to mention the Brabazon side chapel. What better memorial to the family than the praise of the community?

The Tudor Conquest of Ireland and the transplantation of the Brabazons to the new realm - like the move from Betchworth - has greater meaning than simply a change of scenery. Sir William Brabazon, sent to Dublin by Henry VIII in 1534 in the capacity of Vice Treasurer and General Receiver, became a leading member of the new Irish Establishment, leaving his community in Leicestershire, and like his antecedent Jacques, displayed all the qualities of a fierce and able warrior, but without regard to the new national community of which his descendants would become a very integral part.

From his grandfather fighting against the Tudors, William became one of their greatest supporters. He must have been very much a favourite of Henry VIII as he excelled at jousting, being one of the main English contestants at the historic meeting between Henry and Frances I of France at the so-called Field of the Cloth of Gold near to Calais. The name was drawn from the appearance of so many gold covered tents housing the assembled Courts. The king liked to surround himself with young knights who were supposed to revivify the spirit of Arthurian Albion. Who better then to champion Henry in Ireland than William - like Jacques, a standard bearer for a conquering king? To add, there may have been a further reason; that of existing Irish land ownership. There are a handful of pre Tudor references to names like Brabazon occurring in Ireland, one such record is for a John Brabesoun in Ardee in the year 1362. There is a John Brabazon at Eastwell at this time - is it the same person? The reason I pick on this particular reference is the co-incidence of the name with the town of Ardee. We are all aware, I assume, that the title of Baron Ardee preceded that of the Earldom of Meath by one generation - but why Ardee when, to my knowledge the acquisition of property by Sir William was principally in Dublin and its environs? Is this pointing to a more ancient connection to Ireland than we assume? I leave the question necessarily open but would be most interested if anyone is able to elucidate.

Henry was up against the odds in Ireland. His gamble of splitting with Rome was by no means an assured success, in England or anywhere else. His greatest fear was that the Irish would resurrect the title of king for one of their leading families and ally themselves with France, or, indeed, offer the throne to King Frances. This led to a decisive push to usurp the Irish throne for himself and employ the necessary coup de grace to the ruling Fitzgerald Clan, led by the Earl of Kildare. Sir William gave his all on the battlefield and in the new administration seated in Dublin Castle, employing a dedication of purpose that must have burned almost like a religious passion. However, like all heroic figures there are the displays of the inevitable feet of clay. He managed to defraud maybe as much as one million pounds out of the English Exchequer by levying taxes on land he classified as Crown, which was tax free, and simply retaining the proceeds, at a time when the highest paid official in Ireland received £2,000 p.a.. He was also in charge of the dispossession of much of the monasteries' wealth, ordering the stripping of all their bells throughout Ireland which were to be sent to England for melting down, to be used by the military. However, none of the metal appeared to make its way out of Ireland: indeed it just 'disappeared'. What did our ancestor do with all this money on top of his salary? Undoubtedly much of it was used as additional finance for the demands of his work, but a lot would have gone into the family coffers. Again, the replication of Jacques' life - this time in the acquisition of a mercenary fortune - is not hard to distinguish.

A fighter to the last, Sir William died in a military campaign in Ulster in 1552, leaving two young sons; the elder, Edward, later Baron Ardee, only 3 years of age on his father's death, was the progenitor of the Earls of Meath, and the younger, Anthony, became the Governor of Connaught, seated at Ballinasloe. The younger son married Ursula daughter and heiress of Sir Nicholas Malby who had also been Governor of Connaught and who gave vast estates in this Province to the Brabazons. Indeed, at the beginning of the Cromwellian Wars the Brabazons as a whole constituted one of the largest land-owning families in Ireland.

Sir William's wife, Lady Elizabeth, who outlived her husband by 30 years, would have naturally become the major influence in the lives of the next generation of Brabazons. She was from the ancient de Clifford family, originally seated at Clifford Castle near Hay-on-Wye in Herefordshire and later in Kent, whose ancestry through different female lines has been traced back to many noble houses including that of the Emperor Charlemagne. The famous Leeds Castle in Kent was the seat of the Culpepper branch of the family, which was passed down in the female line to the Fairfaxes. It must have been Elizabeth who decided to seat the family in Ireland rather than England, and we can only guess at the reason or reasons why. Perhaps the vastness of their new holdings swayed the decision, but between Elizabeth's own inheritance - she was a co-heir - and the Brabazon's English holdings there were plenty of reasons to return to the homeland. Maybe it was at the bidding of the King, as the Cliffords were very much part of Henry's court, receiving from him the earldom of Cumberland. Whatever, both sons soon became Anglo-Irish, fully participating in the building of a changed Ireland. The lives, characters and approaches of those two progenitors set the courses of our ever-expanding Clan up to the present day.

One interesting reference I found to the family in Elizabethan times is in a book entitled The Twighlight Lords. The Queen played a balancing game between the protestant fundamentalists and the Anglo-Catholics, and tolerated Roman Catholics in high positions so long as they remained loyal. The young Viscount Baltinglass was one such person, who, to general surprise, staged a revolt after inheriting the title in 1580. Before he turned against Crown, he was at the centre of a circle of loyal Anglo-Irish Catholics - the Plunkets, Dillons, Aylmers, Nugents and, yes, Brabazons. And there were only two male adult Brabazons at this time, William's sons, Edward and Anthony. Immediately I read this, the Clifford connection dawned on me. Although Sir William was stoutly in favour of the Reformation, the Clifford family as a whole remained Catholic. Indeed, the present Baron Clifford is one of the leading Roman Catholic aristocrats; his ancestor the first Baron, Thomas Clifford, being part of Charles II's so-called CABAL, of which the C stands for Clifford (and just in case you ask, I can't remember the others). The northern English branch of the family remained both Catholic and loyal throughout the religious rebellion in the northern counties. So, although both sons at some point reverted back to the Established Church, the Clifford influence had made its mark on Brabazon thinking and behaviour, not least planting a sympathy for the beliefs of the native Irish population. This may well explain the younger son's approach to bringing the troublesome tribes of the West under Dublin control. Rather than employ a military solution, he is said to have ingratiated himself with the tribal leaders by acting as honest broker in helping settle inter-tribal feuds. Certainly, when the forces of O'Neill. swept over Ireland, Anthony Brabazon at Ballinasloe was one of the few Anglo rulers to be left unharmed.

It is from the bifurcation of these two brothers that the Brabazons are descended, and in many ways the psychology of whether one is from the older or younger sibling is still of importance, I believe. To speak honestly and on a personal level, my line being from Anthony of Ballinasloe, I do regard those on the Meaths' side of the family as I do my elder brothers. The subdivisions in a family lineage are as much to do with subdivisions of psychological approach to life as they are with more overt matters, such as inheritance. The initiated will detect in this my free employment of Adlerian psychology - but let me not be side-tracked, there's time for that afterwards.

I'd like to juxtapose the Ballinasloe-Brabazon Park lineage with that of the Earldom. Although it may not have been fully appreciated at the time, the two brothers, Edward and Anthony, were to start family journeys down very different paths. For the older line, Dublin Castle and Killruddery with close links to England were the norm, whereas the younger line were very quickly absorbed into a society that was a admix of independent Old English and native Gael. The growing differences in lifestyle and approach to Irish matters generally were due to increasingly separate social environments and the resulting intermarriages with families of differing social outlooks.

The final division of opinion between the two sides was brought on by the angst of the third generation at Ballinalsoe - another Anthony. In 1641 he married Ellice Dillon from one of the Old English families which had refused to abandon Catholicism and in so doing - or as a result of - converted to the Roman faith. Nowadays, fair enough; those days, a political bombshell. 1641 just happened to be the year of the formation of the Killkenny Confederation, which in the West brought together the Old English and the native Gael in a fight against the English Crown. One can imagine the internal struggle of this younger Anthony: he is on the one hand brought up still in the tradition of a Tudor overlord but, on the other, has become entwined in the community of the West, geographically and religiously separated from Dublin society. Anthony had actually been a priest-hunter - and had caught some of his prey - before his Dillon marriage: he now applied the same fervour in an opposite direction. He is not just at theological odds with his Meath cousins, but is pitted militarily against Edward, who became the 2nd Earl in 1651. Each side now dedicated to its own understanding of how to serve the family's wider community of Ireland, found the same force of character opposing it. However, the dynamic of history didn't leave matters so terribly uncomplicated, as all this was to become merely the scene-setter for the Cromwellian Wars.

The King, Charles I, facing increasing problems in the 1st Civil War with Parliament, looked to Ireland for assistance. The 1st Earl of Meath, William, was one of the party sent by the Dublin government to Oxford in 1644 to offer support to Charles. For his trouble, he was captured and incarcerated in the Tower of London, shortly to be joined by his son Edward. One of the recurring Brabazon tight spots. They were released in a prisoner exchange programme. I noted in an account of the trial of Charles I that some of the main evidence used to support the charge of treason against him were the official documents brought over from Ireland.

However, in order to contemplate a diversion of the Irish military a peace would have to be made with the Confederate rebels, a step implacably opposed by Edward. The same extreme force of dedication and vision on both sides of the family - in Anthony and Edward - is evident. What they must have thought of each other's stance, one can only guess, but - and taking into account the Brabazon sense of irony if not the ridiculous - they must have raised a smile or two when the tide of events threw them both on the same side - Royalist and Confederate against Cromwell's New Army. Their new found unity was further strengthened when they both had their estates sequestered in 1652. In that year, Anthony 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. Ballinasloe Castle would have been one of the last strongholds to fall to the invading forces. He died two years later in the service of the king of Spain, serving along side the future Duke of Tyrconnell, and Edward drowned in a shipping accident off Holyhead in 1675. Both were gone but definitely not forgotten by their descendants.

Indeed, the next generation proved to be worthy successors in the War of the Two Kings: Anthony's son William became an officer in the army of King James II and Edward's son, also an Edward, the 4th Earl, had his own regiment in King William's forces! They were pitted against each other from 1689 to 1691 at the Boyne, Aughrim and the siege of Limerick. Not only was the Earl wounded in the last conflict, but his cousin Charles perished. If Charles had survived the siege he would have been made Earl of Limerick. One would have imagined that the surrender would have been an unforgiving affair, taking into account presumed personal and corporate animosities - but not the case. The lenient terms of the Treaty of Limerick so shocked the government that ways were sought to annul the more liberal parts of it, leading eventually to the Penal Laws. Captain William Brabazon, Anthony's son, was one of the Jacobite delegates with Patrick Sarsfield, along with a cousin from the Dillon family. The Dillons, like the Brabazons, had family members on both sides of the conflict and I imagine there were many others so divided. The fact that Catholic officers were given the right to return to their estates to carry on life as normal has to say a lot for the strength of these family ties. This may be the real reason, I suggest, behind the treaty's leniency, and one not recognised in official histories. Both sides contained influential kinsmen who were equally committed to the national community, and its partial destruction benefited no one. In fact, the tone for such behaviour was set by the great Duke of Ormond, head of the Butler family, who was the main figure in the Irish administration during most of the reign of Charles II. Although very much of the established church, he maintained close contact with his many Catholic relatives and tempered his rule with a magnanimity towards their 'side'.

And now - I know you've waiting for this - the happy ending. Some years ago I was idling my way through our family papers [the property of Eileen (Combe) Barber] when I came upon correspondence between the next generation down - Captain William's son Anthony and the 6th Earl, Chaworth, the 4th Earl's nephew. They were obviously as thick as thieves, as Chaworth sends on the best wishes of their society friends in Dublin and says they are all asking when he will next pay a visit. The smell of alcohol almost oozes from the paper. Unfortunately, Anthony went a bit too far and died an untimely death in 1724 brought on by excessive drinking. Nevertheless, family unity had been restored and the two branches carried on good relations thereafter. In fact, the Ballinasloe lineage split at the next generation with the younger part of the family transferring to Brabazon Park, Swinford and the older part becoming what I generically refer to as the Westmeath Brabazons.

And whilst on the subject of alcohol, I'll mention the famous song and tune, Planxty George Brabazon composed by the famous blind harpist O'Carolan. (Actually there are 2 planxties of the same name.) The song, the first air, is a drinking song written for O'Carolan's patron but he left no notes to say who exactly this George Brabazon was. The assumption has always been that it refers to the builder of Brabazon House at Swinford, but this presents a potential problem of age, as this George would have been 18 years old when O'Carolan died in 1738. The only other candidate, and one not hitherto recognised, is the brother of the Anthony at Ballinasloe, just discussed, from the older family. Although recorded on official genealogies as dying young, we have records in our family collection showing that this older George definitely survived into adulthood and, to boot, there are letters identifying previously unknown/unrecorded Brabazon children for whom this older George appears to be the only possible father. The fact that it is a drinking song also fits with his older sibling's life-style. For want of anything else, or because of its applicability, this is the closest we have to a family anthem. I will quote a few lines:

Oh! Brabazon, long may you live, brightly blooming
The darling of all, easy, open and free
Thou guide of the cup, while the wine is consuming
How happy's the circle that's favoured by thee

Then fill up again! See our cups are all sinking
We'll sing and will dance while his health we are drinking

To his mansion I'll go, where still pleasant I've found him
Oh, may blessings on blessings for ever surround him

Obviously a man who knew how to stand his own round!

After Anthony's death, his widow, Margaret Malone, was assured a secure abode and income by the rest of the family, but they appear to have produced a lineage which was subsequently written out of official genealogies. The only extant documentation I am aware of that records any offspring are two letters - again in my family's papers - talking about 'young Billy'. This ties in with a plethora of Brabazons - including Aubrey Brabazon's family and Dr Bill Brabazon's in New Zealand - descended from a William Brabazon of that time from the West, and obviously of a high social rank. The fact that this section of the Ballinasloe family is Church of Ireland is explained by the fact that Anthony had converted to CoI due to the problems with the anti Catholic property laws. His in-laws, the Malones, were of an old Gaelic ancestry seated in Westmeath and had conformed well before Anthony and Margaret's marriage.

In fact, around this time there are many 'lost' lineages, due to the way official details were gathered and the nature of Georgian marriage. Whereas Anthony's line is omitted due to the former, his good friend the 6th Earl may have descendants due to the latter.

The genealogical records at Dublin Castle were obtained from the head of each family, with no real check on the total veracity of the return. This was compounded by the lax marriage laws. It was quite common in the Georgian and pre Georgian periods for young men from higher placed families to contract marriages-of-sort with partners from lesser backgrounds and then make an 'official' marriage later on. The laws we are now familiar with didn't apply until the 1750s in England and Wales (the Marriage Act of 1753) and the rest of the UK at times thereafter - hence the tradition of running away to Gretna Green. Before then no bans had to called, no minister of religion had to be present, the ceremony could be held literally at the roadside or in a tavern, the bride could be as young as 12 and the groom 14 and no parental permission was required. If such a liaison wanted to be refuted or ignored, there wasn't a lot a bride from poorer origins could do about it. However, Georgian gentlemen would not uncommonly bring up their legally unrecognised progeny with their later legal heirs, all carrying the family name and being treated the same accept in regard to property and titular rights of succession. This culture norm was to be abandoned in Victorian times when, I imagine, much of the irregular family histories were lost.

Bearing this in mind, I noted with interest in the Complete Peerage the biographical details for the 6th Earl, Chaworth, mention his first marriage was to his aunt's chambermaid. Although the entry is at pains to emphasise - I quote - 'with whom he never lived', it is silent on the matter of progeny. Whether there is a link here to the controversial person of the Honourable John Brabazon I don't know, but the fact that Chaworth left £200 in his will to an unknown William Brabazon is indicative of another family. Some time ago I was in correspondence with an elderly Brabazon in Epsom, Surrey, who claimed descent from this John Brabazon of County Cork. Since then this mysterious figure has become the subject of much family discussion, with more than one line claiming descent from him. I even recall in my misspent youth meeting a friend of a friend whose additional Christian name was Brabazon who came from this line, although the details he gave me at the time, of course, meant nothing. Like my original correspondent, they all claim that John was from the Meath family, albeit written out. According to my initial source, the break of John from his family was to do with his adoption of the Wesleyan confession. He became a follower of John Wesley, the story goes, and settled in Co Cork as a penniless farmer. I have to say the scenario is definitely characteristically Brabazon! However, this would place John's life in the latter part of the 1700s, not the early part of the century. Indeed, I believe his birth year has been discovered as 1743. Whatever, my gut feeling - for what its worth - is that he was the semi-legitimate (if one can say that) offspring - son or grandson - from one of the Georgian Earls. As a personal illustration, my own branch of the family is from this very Georgian arrangement, with my ancestor William being the eldest son of Sir Anthony Brabazon, baronet of Brabazon Park, Swinford, by his first morganatic union. He also split with his father over the matter of religion, Anthony being of the established church and William reverting to Catholicism at the volatile time of the United Irishmen, of which he was a member. Once again, Brabazon dedication-cum-intransigence to the fore!

The Swinford Brabazons, the on-going line from Ballinasloe, would have maintained close contacts with the Meaths, not least in regard to common interests in politics and the military. Sir Anthony and his successor Sir William were both very much part of the Dublin scene centered on Dublin Castle. Sir William became an M.P. for Mayo in 1835 in Dan O'Connell's party, winning the support of the Catholic archbishop due to his outstanding achievements in developing the local community. A real local hero whose will named his four illegitimate children as his co-heirs if his nephew became an absentee landlord. At the same time Lord Ardee, William Brabazon, later the 11th Earl, was Liberal M.P. for Co Dublin and his father, the 10th Earl was active in the House of Lords. At times all were actually pulling in the same direction, trying to improve the general situation in Ireland. The same spirit of generosity and service carried on into the succeeding generation, with Sir William's nephew Hercules Brabazon Brabazon, the famous painter and the 12th Earl, Reginald, described always as a great philanthropist. Both managed to give away large amounts of their families fortunes. Hercules not only made a loss in managing his Irish estates - gaining forever the description of model landlord - he also acted as generous patron to many struggling painters and musicians. One such protégé was Emil von Sauer for whom he arranged an introduction to Franz Liszt through Liszt's former mistress in Rome, the Princess Wittgenstein. The upshot was that Sauer was accepted into Liszt's magic circle, subsequently becoming a recognised pianist in his own right. HBB's reputation for funding the arts was such that he needed no introduction at their first meeting. From this time, Hercules and Lizst became very good friends, due in large measure to Hercules' talents for playing and composing; Liszt chose Hercules' piano which was passed down in the family - my cousin Eileen learning to play on it as a young girl. This same spirit of vision and magnanimity was a constant dynamic for the 12th Earl and his wife the Countess Mary. Their combined works are legendary, from the local environment in Bray through national concerns in Ireland and Britain to Australia. The list of their philanthropic projects is almost endless: orphanages, laws for the protection of children, involvement in the Scouting Movement, creation of parks and the London Green Belt, employment societies, hostels for the lower paid, etc. etc. At the last Reunion, I understand that a visit was paid to Brabazon House, run by the Brabazon Trust, originally constructed in 1902 from a donation of £2,000 from the Countess. Designed as it was to house elderly ladies, her only stipulation was that some room be reserved for younger women to brighten the place up. One wonders if she retained any depressing personal memories.

Whereas Hercules' wider community was that of international artistry, Reginald's was the Empire, being founder of Empire Day which has evolved into Commonwealth Day, the same vision of a community of nations still its driving force. When I attended Tony Meath's funeral some four ago now, the composition of interest of the mourners very much reflected this on-going Brabazon interest in the community. I can't think of a finer epitaph.

At the same time that Hercules was the landlord of most of the Brabazon estates around Swinford, General John Palmer Brabazon, his close kin and also a Brabazon in the female line, was the official resident of Brabazon Park. He is still a much respected figure in Swinford having done his best to keep his estates together without being an oppressive landlord. One of his notable successes was the fight he had to get the railway put through Swinford, joining many small towns of Mayo directly to Dublin. The Northern Railway Company was favourite to get the job with a scheme which would have missed out the minor stops, like Swinford. Captain Brabazon - as he then was - bought blocks of shares in that company and virtually gave them away, thereby devaluing them in the eyes of potential investors. The Northern Company commenced legal action, but the victory - shady as it might have been - went to the Captain and Swinford got its station. The newspaper, the Mayo Constitution, decried his actions as "ungentlemanly", which would probably have increased his standing in the locale.

He was a friend of Edward, Prince of Wales, at the same time that Hercules was connected to the court in his capacity of art teacher to the Princess Louise. So, along with the Reginald's duties as Militia ADC to the Queen, the Brabazons were at the top in triplicate! Besides an illustrious military career, Bwab, as he was affectionately known, was young Winston Churchill's mentor, mentioned in his autobiography, My Early Life. I wrote to Lady Churchill in the '70s asking if she could provide any more details about General Brabazon's life. She replied with a very pleasant letter, unable to give me anything further, but confirming that Sir Winston thought very highly of him. I'm sure that the close relationship between Churchill and Moore-Brabazon - later Baron Brabazon of Tara, a descendant of the 7th Earl - in the wartime Cabinet must have been in part coloured by Churchill's friendship with Bwab. Due to a slip of the tongue in the wrong company, Moore-Brabazon had to resign from the Government - not a situation that would arise today, they'd just blame someone else - much to the disappointment of the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, he was awarded his title which enabled him to continue in politics, most notably in the inception and development of the famed Bristol Brabazon aircraft, which - contrary to a popular myth - did get off the ground, and more than once. Although it was doomed to failure with the coming of the jet engine, its place in aviation history as the first jumbo liner was assured. Actually, the purpose-built hanger used for its construction was the only one large enough to accommodate Concorde.

Hercules, like General Brabazon, was unmarried and without direct heir, so the inheritance went to his nephew Harvey Combe. I must add that what Churchill wrote about General Brabazon also holds good for HBB: "Though he had always remained a bachelor, he was by no means a misogynist." Besides the Irish estates, the holdings included the main seat at Oaklands in Seddlescombe, East Sussex, just five miles from the small town of Battle, the site of the Battle of Hastings. Full circle indeed! My cousin Eileen is the last of the Combes to be born at Oaklands, and has one daughter and two grandsons. She retains fond memories of her visits to Killruddery with her grandmother and of receiving Lord Brabazon of Tara at their London apartment. I have to mention that although she speaks very highly of the 12th Earl, she always adds, "But I'm not sure about the Duty and Discipline Movement". Obviously our bohemian blood coming through. Although removed from the male Brabazon line several times the name still lives on as an additional first name down the generations.

Before we conclude our story we need to take a brief look at the geographical spread of the Brabazon Family. Up to the beginning of the 1800s our ever-expanding family was still very much in Ireland and of Ireland, but this was to change very rapidly when we entered the turbulent new century. The pressures of over population, the Great Famine, and the opportunities offered in the Empire all contributed to the outpouring of Brabazons from the Mother country, along with millions of others of course. Brabazon contributions to its new communities have carried on apace. Australia and North America have been the two main resting places for overseas Brabazons. Ann Shevill's grandfather from the Meath lineage became one of the founding members of the Qantas airline. Ann herself, as we know, has been very active in the Anglican community, as have other relatives, and her cousin Charles is a District Court Judge, married to a judge. Francis Brabazon is an Australian author very much concerned with spiritual matters and Dr Tara Brabazon - one of our academics - is also making a name for herself in the field of publishing. Dr Bill Brabazon in New Zealand, a descendant of Anthony of Ballinasloe, served his community well as a GP for many years. In Canada there is a Brabazon Mountain, the history of the naming of which I still don't have and would be grateful if anyone can help me. There appears to be an extant line of Brabazons in Argentina, its progenitor, John Brabazon, most likely one of the Westmeath Brabazons. Relatives in New England have been a part of extended Bostonian society for two centuries. My cousin Sister Elizabeth Brabazon pioneered the community work of nuns in the parishes of the Boston archdiocese. Further south, my brother Kevin has worked devotedly for the African-American community in Harlem, New York since the mid '70s. Overall, the number of Brabazon lines in Australasia and the Americas is quite overwhelming, with family members represented in just about every walk of life. This is not to forget the family in England, which is just as much a part of the diaspora as further flung places, albeit in closer proximity to the genesis point. Although you could argue that we are ones who came back to the very Old Country.

My apologies for not producing a longer list of the Family's global endeavours as I know you've all got a story to tell. It is with this in mind and the growing diverse nature of the Clan which calls for projects such as this Reunion and Ann Shevill's Newsletter to bring us and our experiences together, in person or via the Almighty Net. Dwelling on this - how to create an ongoing meeting place - I hit on the idea of the Brabazon Archive website. I have brought with me copies of a CD displaying the embryonic site which represents about two months of dedicated work by my good friend, Ted Slade, a retired computer programmer. We have the structure organised and have started to flesh it out with material I had to hand plus contributions from other family members. The site will include a noticeboard for the relatively free flow of information, greetings and ideas between kin and interested outsiders. I say relatively as due to the growing numbers of loonies and vandals, I have been advised to route all e-mail traffic via myself - the e-mail address being on the Home Page. I do hope it hits the right spot and inspires you all to send me your own contributions. We go live very shortly!

Well, I'm sure by now you've heard enough of my voice to last you the weekend, so I'll conclude with a quote from Lord Brabazon of Tara from his autobiography:

"When made a Peer I did not want to part with the name of Brabazon, for, enscrolled as it is on the rolls of the Battle of Hastings, it is in my opinion a glorious name." And may I add, 'And so say all of us!'

Thank you for listening so patiently