The Blands of Parknasilla

Introduction

It was another James Stopford who gave consent to a deed of release to Nathaniel Bland on June 24, 1731. On December 4, 1732 Rev Dr Nathaniel Bland obtained his grant of the area, the grantors were described as ‘Rt Hon. Clotworthy Lord Viscount Massareene, and Philip Doyne, with the consent of James Stopford.’

The link with these three gentlemen is Elizabeth Smyth. Her father, the Rt Rev Edward Smyth, Bishop of Down and Connor married secondly the Hon Mary Skeffington. She was the daughter of Clothworthy Skeffington, 3rd Viscount Massareene. Elizabeth married James Stopford on February 24, 1726.

In 1762 he was created Viscount Stopford and Earl of Courtdown. His sister, also Elizabeth Stopford, was the third wife of Philip Doyne.

Nathaniel Bland’s father, the very reverend James Bland came to Ireland in 1692 as chaplain to William III’s new Lord Deputy in Ireland, Henry Sidney.

The Blands of Parknasilla

The Early Blands

Rev James Bland, was the son of John Bland of Sedbergh. Not long after arriving in Ireland he married Lucy Brewster. He and Lucy had three children, Lucy, Francis and Nathaniel. Lucy died in 1709, aged 14 and is buried in Killarney.

Francis succeeded his father as vicar of Killarney and there was a representative Bland vicar of Killarney for over a century. Nathaniel Bland was a Judge of the Prerogative Court of Dublin. He was also the Vicar General for the Diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe.

Three years after he took possession of the land, his neighbour Lord Orrery wrote to the Countess of Sandwich
“They talk to me of my leases in Kerry and I languish after the Champs Elysees de Paris. They show me plans for potato gardens and I am roving in thought midst the groves of Versailles”

Nathaniel Bland had no such trouble, for his estate in the Barony of Dunkerron South was a little bit of paradise, even reminiscent of Lord Orrery’s France.

“The Parknasilla Hotel in the 1950’s was’, according to architect Neil Scott, ‘the South of France for anybody with money in Ireland.’ Eimear Mulhern maintains that the hotel demesne today ‘is nicer than the South of France.’ It was her father Charles J. Haughey’s favourite hotel in the world and Haughey was a noted connoisseur of the finer things in life.

 

The Blands

Nathaniel Bland

The Church of Ireland bishop of Ossory, Richard Pococke, visited the area in 1758. He was a traveller, who published accounts of his visits to the Middle East, Scotland and England. He went in search of Dr Blands house, which was a summer residence located between the Sneem River and the Owreagh River. He found the house known as ‘The White House’ abandoned by its owner, in favour of Parknasilla, a fine Georgian Residence a little further east. The bishop trotted up to the front door but found there was nobody home. Luckily, Judith Chambers was in better luck over 200 years later when she visited Parknasilla for the BBC’s ‘Wish you were here.’

Nathaniel Bland’s first wife Diana, was the daughter of Nicholas Kerneys or Kemis of County Wexford. They had two sons, John and Rev James. It was to Rev James that Nathaniel left the bulk of his estate and we shall return to him presently. John served in the army at Dettingen, Fontenoy and Clifton Moor. He left the army to tread the boards. He was the author of a novel Frederick the forsaken, but he could easily have written an autobiography and called it “John the Forsaken”, but he was disinherited by his father and was cut out of the pedigree for treading the boards. Nathaniel’s first wife Diana died and he married secondly Lucy Heaton, a daughter of Francis Heaton of Dundalk in County Louth. They had three sons Francis, Nathaniel and George and three daughters Lucy, Hester and Dorothea.

The Blands of Parknasilla

Francis Bland - and his daugther Dorothea

Nathaniel’s son Francis, by his second marriage, was a captain in the army and gave it up to become and actor in Thomas Sheridan’s company in Dublin. He fell in love with Grace Phillips, a Welsh actress, and married her in 1758. They had several children. Grace was the daughter of the Rev Phillips of St. Thomas’s Haverfordwest. Sometimes Grace used the stage name, “Mrs Francis”. Nathaniel had the marriage annulled on the grounds that his son was below the age of twenty-one and had not sought his permission. Nathaniel died in 1760 just before the birth of Francis and Grace’s child, a daughter, in 1761. She was christened Dorothea and known as Dorothy, although she referred to herself as Dora and acquired a surfeit of names.

In 1774 Francis decided to leave Grace and his family and marry an heiress. This time he chose the well-to-do Catherine Mahony from Kerry. Dora became an actress and was also known by her stage name, Mrs. Jordan. She was seduced by her actor manager in Dublin. Shortly afterwards she became pregnant and fled to England and fell in love with Richard Ford , a handsome lawyer, who was knighted some years later. She lived with Ford and had three children by him. When he failed to do the decent thing and marry her, she left him. She became mistress to William Henry, Duke of Clarence and third son of George III in 1790. He became William IV upon the death of his brother George IV.

The Blands

Dorothea Bland story and legacy

They lived together in Bushy House in Teddington, near Hampton Court from 1797 until 1811, when he took a new mistress. Their children, ten in total and all illegitimate, were known as the FitzClarences. The boys were ennobled, the eldest was made Earl of Munster. The girls married well namely two earls, a viscount, the younger son of a duke and a general in the British army. The Duke pensioned Dora off. She was swindled out of money by a son-in-law. In the end she moved to France and settled in Saint-Cloud where she died on July 3rd 1816. The former leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister in the UK, David Cameron, is a descendant of Dorothy Bland and William IV. He is fifth cousin twice removed of Queen Elizabeth II, courtesy of Dora.

One of William IV’s first acts as King was to send for the leading sculptor Francis Chantrey and commission a work. It took the sculptor several years to finish the marble bust. The subject is shown life size with two of her children. It is now in Buckingham Palace.

When Nathaniel died in 1760, his son Rev James Bland, inherited the estate. Derryquin Castle was probably built during his reign. Opinion is divided as to the exact date of the Castle. James is described in the pedigree as “of Derryquin Castle”.

His son Francis Christopher Bland, DL, JP, married Lucinda Herbert on 15 March 1798. Francis Christopher was on friendly terms with Daniel O’Connell “The Liberator”, from neighbouring Derrynane.

The Blands

James Franklin Bland

His son James Franklin Bland was born in 1799. Under him the Derryquin estate witnessed its golden years and was self-supported. His sister Frances “Fanny” Diana married Thomas Harnett Fuller of Glasnacree and their son James Franklin Fuller was to become the architect of the new Parknasilla hotel in 1897.

James Franklin Bland was succeeded in turn by his son Francis Christopher. This Francis Christopher joined the Plymouth Brethern. They were also known as Darbyites in Ireland after their founder John Darby. The dowager Lady Powerscourt also came under their influence and the Brethryn were proud of the gentry they attracted. Francis Christopher became so concerned with the salvation of Ireland and England that he neglected his estate and devoted his energy to preaching. Land agitation was rife in Ireland at this juncture and it was unfortunate that Bland decided to absent himself. The Estate inevitably went into rapid decline.

Part of the Derryquin Estate was sold in 1873 with the remainder being offered for public auction in 14 lots in 1891. Derryquin Castle was bought by the Warden family and inherited by Colonel Charles Wallace Warden. He was the polar opposite of the Blands and was despised locally. He evicted tenants and employed “foreigners” from Scotland. He practically boycotted the village shops, preferring to have his provisions sent over from “Fortnum & Mason” in London. But Nemesis was to strike Col. Warden in 1922. The current head of the Bland Family is Sir Christopher Bland, chairman of BT.