Rynn in the 1700s
After Lord Leitrim
The 3rd Earl's will
Sydney's obvious heir to both lands and title was his nephew, Robert Bermingham Clements. Having rushed to attend the funeral and offer a substantial reward, the heir apparent was shocked to hear that he had been disinherited in 1875. If the 3rd Earl was concerned about anything, it was that his heir would he an absentee landlord. Robert fuelled his fears about absenteeism when he refused to marry an Irish Lady, like Lady Rossmore's daughter. Instead, he joined the Navy and married an Englishwoman, Winifred Coke, daughter of the Earl of Leicester. Lord Leitrim also disinherited his brother Charles and sisters Maria and Elizabeth. Only with his sister Caroline's family did he present an amiable face, if one can believe his brother-in-law's defence of him. Indeed it seems that Sydney had fallen out with most of his relations, and although he could do nothing about the hereditary title, all his property was left to a second cousin from Cavan, Colonel Henry Theophilus Clements. The only other people for whom the Earl retained some regard were, it seems, his loyal servants: in his will, he left £1,000 to his housekeeper May Heneghan and £20 to each of his female servants. He bequeathed £200 to William Kincaid, the coachman who had been in the Earl's service for 22 years and who had witnessed the assassination.
4th Earl of Leitrim
On hearing that he had inherited all the estates in Leitrim, Donegal, Galway and Kildare, Colonel Clements volunteered the Donegal estates to Robert Clements, the new Earl. This arrangement was later confirmed when Parliament passed the Leitrim Estate Act 1879. As it happens, Lord Leitrim did Robert an injustice. The 4th Earl went on to improve greatly the position of the tenants on the Donegal estates. Immediately after the killing, he was seen riding alone between Milford and Manorvaughan in an attempt to demonstrate his confidence in the tenantry. In a more salient gesture, he indicated his intention to undertake improvements around the estate and issued a declaration that arbitrary evictions would stop and that tenants would be supplied with seed to crop their land. He noted pragmatically, `without crops you cannot expect rents'. By August, he had offered to review rents and consider the question of `free sale'. Each tenant was allocated a portion of bog and guaranteed it would be his until it lasted. In a complete reversal of the 3rd Earl's approach, the new landlord allowed evicted tenants to return to their farms and re-housed others. He also promised to provide a house in Milford to shelter the poor and destitute so that they could avoid entering the workhouse. And it appears these initial gestures were no hyperbolae. In the following fourteen years, he initiated ventures to improve local business and built hotels and golf links to draw tourists. He also inaugurated a line of steamers to run between Mulroy Bay and Glasgow, via Derry, thus providing access to markets for the estate produce. On his death in 1892, he was buried near Mulroy `amid signs of mourning from the tenantry among whom he had lived and for whose benefit he had worked'.
5th Earl of Leitrim
The 4th Earl's son Charles, was only thirteen years old when he inherited his father's estates and title. After his father's death, he was sent to school at Eton and went from there to Oxford. Although he still held lands in Donegal (54,352 acres) and Leitrim (2,500 acres), the family home became firmly based in London at 37 Upper Grosvenor Street. Charles served in the South African Wars of 1899-1902 and in the First World War as a Major with the Iniskilling Fusiliers. During the War, he was known as `an epitome of aristocratic Ulster Unionism'. He commanded a UVF Regiment in Donegal and arranged to run guns from Germany on board his steam yacht, the Ganiamore. In 1917, he became Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
The heir presumptive until 1917 was Francis Patrick Clements, the third son of the 5th Earl. He joined the Navy but in May 1907, aged 22, he disappeared while staying in London and was never heard of again. In 1917, the Probate Court granted an application to presume his death.
Colonel Henry Theophilus Clements
The person who acquired Lough Rynn after Lord Leitrim's death and whose descendants inherited the estate, was Colonel Henry Theophilus Clements. He had been born at Ashfield, County Cavan and educated in England and on the Continent. He had an active public service career, holding the position of High Sheriff of Cavan in 1849 and of Leitrim in 1870; he was also Colonel of Leitrim Militia.
The Colonel is mostly remembered for his building work on the estate. He added a new wing to the Castle, turning the two-storey house into a rather more imposing residence. The new extension was designed by Sir Thomas Drew, RHA and includes a baronial hall, with its large ornate Inglenook fireplace, heavy plaster cornices and fretted ceiling and walls wainscoted in solid English oak. The extension was completed in 1889. Thereafter, the main hall floor of the house contained a main hall, baronial hall, chapel, reception room, living room and dining room. Two pantries, a kitchen, study, smokehouse and store were accessed by a separate entry. There were stores and a wine cellar in the basement and upstairs, fourteen bedrooms and four bathrooms.
Lough Rynn in the 20th century
By the end of the century, the tide was inexorably turning against landlordism of Lord Leitrim's type. The Land League Reforms and the movement towards Irish independence meant their time was gone forever. The Land Purchase Act of 1903 took the land back from the landlords. The Colonel's son John Beresford Clements inherited the estate in 1904. He had a distinguished career in the army and was stationed in India when the Great War broke out. He served in France and was sent home injured twice - once with frostbite, the second time with a leg wound. By the end of the war, he had attained the rank of Colonel.
According to one of his employees, Thomas Boyle, Henry was a `very good employer'. Although he spent most of his time at his Killadoon estate, near Celbridge, Co. Kildare, Clements with his family and their servants spent about a month at Rynn each year. Boyle recalls that there were 46 workers on the payroll at the time, including Mr Steward, the estate manager, Revd JG Digges, chaplain, Mr Hardy the steward and a housekeeper.
In addition to a weekly wage of ten shillings (about €0.65 or $0.60), all the married workers received a partly furnished house, grass for a cow or donkey, ground for sowing potatoes a good sized garden and turbary rights - and seven tons of good farm manure. Thomas recalls the workers' concern over Lloyd George's Agricultural Wages Act of 1917: they were sure that Clements would dismiss a lot of the men rather than pay the newly mandated rate of 27/6 a week. Apparently not one man was dismissed - and while there were new contributions to be made for house rent, grazing, etc, the deductions amounted to less than 5 shillings a week.
By 1952, when Marcus Clements inherited the property, nearly all of the original Lough Rynn Estate had been sold off by the Land Commission - mostly to descendants of the tenants of the previous century. The Clements' continued to live at Lough Rynn up to the 1970s, but on a much reduced estate.
Lough Rynn lay empty for many years after the last Clements, Marcus, left in the 1970s. In 1990, what remained of the estate was bought by Michael Flaherty, an Irish-American. Little of Lord Leitrim's legacy remains except for the buildings and grounds. The Castle, coach house and out-houses retain their external elegance and many of their original features have been restored. Although most of the ornaments and sculptures which graced the gardens have decayed or disappeared, many of the original trees survive and the walks and vistas have been revitalised for visitors to enjoy.