Killegy: Burial Place of Colonel Maurice Hussey of Kerries and Cahernane, Co Kerry

In 1917, a Kerry priest living in England described Killegy cemetery at Muckross as ‘a sombre spot in the extreme – I doubt if Muckross Abbey itself has got a more funereal aspect.’ He added, ‘most of those who lie buried there belong to another creed, many of them are strangers whom death has surprised in the midst of pleasure.’


‘The central feature of the spot,’ he wrote, ‘is a tiny oratory built of marble’:


The edifice was never used for any form of public worship – an inscribed tablet within it tells us that it was built as a tomb for Maurice Hussey of Cahernane who was buried there in 1714 at night, by his own sons, his body being clad in the habit of a Franciscan tertiary.


Maurice Hussey’s place in the history of Killarney was examined:


The great upheaval which preceded the establishment of Cromwell’s Commonwealth saw the fortunes of many an Irish price decline and fall. Among the rest, Charles MacCarthy, Prince of Desmond, lost his estates. Those parts which were adjacent to Killarney – Pallas, Ards, Crohane, Grenagh, Muckross, etc – were forfeited to Lord Orrery in order that he might thereby be enabled to pay his troops their arrears of pay. A purchaser was quickly found in the person of Maurice Hussey, gentleman adventurer, of Cahernane.


‘Hussey was a Catholic but it is not at all clear that he was an Irishman,’ continued the unnamed priest:


At any rate, the only relatives of his of whom mention is made among his papers were Lancashire undertakers such as the Crosbies, etc. The purchase price of the land was £100.  Now under the reign of Charles II we find Maurice Hussey as a Kerry landholder … Hussey remained a Catholic and a Jacobite as far as his conscience judged it expedient. We find him protesting his loyalty to the young Pretender and offering his services to head an Irish Brigade in the service of France or Spain.  At the same time he writes to Dublin and London giving full information of Jacobite plots in Kerry.[1]


Killegy Chapel, which inspired an unnamed priest to pen its history in 1917


Colonel Maurice Hussey


Colonel Maurice Hussey (1644-1714) of the Kerries and Flesk Bridge, Cahirnane, Co Kerry, soldier and politician, Lieutenant-Colonel of Roger MacElligott’s Regiment of Infantry, which formed part of ‘one of the oddest military situations in history.’[2]  He sat as MP for Tralee in the Parliament of James II in 1689.


Colonel Hussey purchased land at Cahernane from the MacCarthys and built a property with a walled-in garden known as ‘Hussey’s Garden’:


Florence MacCarthy More in 1684 conveyed the lands on the Lower Lake to Maurice Hussey.  This Florence was eldest son of Daniel MacCarthy More and Dame Sarah McDonnell.  He also granted Castlelough to his cousin-german Denis MacCarthy as he had only one son, and he was a Protestant.[3]


The Hussey family descended from Sir Hugh Hussey who came to Ireland temp Henry II and settled in county Meath.  Michael C O’Laughlin writes, ‘Hugh de Hoese came to Ireland with the Normans in 1180. The Hussey family of Edenburn, in BallyMacElligott Parish, is given as the Norman family that came to Meath at the time of the invasions and subsequently settling in Co Kerry.’[4]


The genealogy of Colonel Maurice Hussey is open to research.  His parents are generally given as Walter Hussey and Katherine Fitzgerald of Kilmurry. This Walter, son of Meiler (Meyler) Hussey of Castle Gregory and Frances Spring, was killed at Minard Castle when it was blown up in 1650.  Mary Agnes Hickson, however, in her Old Kerry Records (1872, p75) gives the children of this Walter and Katherine Hussey as Nicholas, John, Robert, Katherine and Frances.


Colonel Maurice Hussey married Elizabeth, one of the seven daughters of Sir Edward Hales (1645-1695) – created Earl of Tenterden, Viscount Tunstall and Baron Hales of Emley in 1692.[5]  The offspring of Maurice and Elizabeth is given as Catherine Hussey (1676-1740) who married Justin McCarthy (1670-1748) of Castlelough, Killarney and had Randal McCarthy (1712-1765).[6]  Kerry Hussey, who married Martha, an only daughter and heiress of the Herbert family, died at Dooneen, Co Kerry in 1754.  Other sons mentioned are Edmond Hussey, alive in 1743; Maurice Hussey and John Hussey.  There is also record of Mary Hussey, daughter (or sister, in some records) of Col Maurice Hussey who married Robert Conway, 5th son of James Conway and Elizabeth Roche.[7]


Samuel Murray Hussey, in his Reminiscences of an Irish Land Agent (1904) describes Colonel Maurice Hussey as ‘an ancestor.’  He writes:


The Husseys spread away over the county, after having their lands forfeited under both Elizabeth and Cromwell, which was the most respectable thing to suffer in those times. In the reign of Queen Anne, Colonel Maurice Hussey sold Cahirnane to the Herberts, and there is a garden still called Hussey’s Garden in the property. He built a mortuary chapel for himself on the top of a small hill just outside the gates of Muckross, where his own grave near that beautiful abbey can be seen to this day. This Colonel Maurice Hussey resided for some time in England, and appears to have married an English lady; and it is odd that though a Roman Catholic he was trusted by the Governments of both William and Anne … He was, however, committed to ‘Trally jail’ on the fear of a landing by the Pretender, whence he wrote pleading letters, in one of which he mentions that his son-in-law, MacCartie, has taken the oaths of abjuration.[8]


Career and Correspondence of Col Hussey


On 26 December 1702, Colonel Hussey wrote to Dublin Castle from Flesk Bridge that ‘the Tories in this province are lately grown Highwaymen, that is most of them Horsemen.’[9]  In the same year he complains to Joshua Dawson, Castle Secretary, that ‘Tories are skulking up and down in couples but I have taken good care to prevent their getting into the mountains – the chief of the Rapparees were twice sett by twice their own number of soldiers from Rosse [Castle] yet they escaped.’


Colonel Hussey left Killarney in 1703 on the strengthening of the Penal Code. He had returned by 1708, the year of his incarceration in Tralee jail (as mentioned by S M Hussey above) with two of his sons. This was reported by Captain Hedges of Macroom on 1 April 1708:


Several Irish gentleman near this place had refused the Oath of Abjuration, and were prisoners at Tralee.  They were Sir Nicholas Browne, ‘called Lord Kenmare,’ Colonel Hussey and his two sons, McCarthy More, and others.’


Captain Hedges urged that they should be removed to Ross Castle ‘as they could be supported there by their friends and not put the government to any great expense.’[10]


In the following letter dated 1713, Colonel Maurice Hussey writes from Flesk Bridge, Killarney, to the Secretary at Dublin Castle:


Dear Sir – It was but the other day you and I parted, and yet we are since that time in a state of war abroad.  Mr Griffin being gone, and poor I, as you know, being confined with age and infirmity, and Bland and Brewster being afraid of their iron works being burnt up, the Rappe of Glenflesk, the sure refuge of all the thieves and tories of the country, are up by night and are guilty of all the violence and villanies imaginable, and it will also be so till nine parts of old O’Donoghue’s followers are hanged on the spot.[11]


Colonel Maurice Hussey died in 1714.  In his will he directed that he shall be buried in his vault at Kilugus (or Killegus):


I desire that my corpse may be attended by my neighbouring clergymen and a few friends; and this to be performed by night, if torches, lights and lanthorns may be had – in the habit of St Francis.[12]


A slab inside the oratory at Killegy is inscribed:


This Church of Killegy was built
As a Family Mortuary Chapel
By Maurice Hussey of Cahirnane
Late Colonel in the Army of King James II
At his Death in 1714
His Body was borne here by his 4 sons
And buried at Midnight by Torchlight.[13]


At some time after his death, the colonel’s sons sold Cahernane to Arthur Herbert of Currans and his wife Mary Bastable of Castleisland.


Some of the correspondence of Colonel Hussey, ‘who was amongst those who took a leading part in the closing wars of the 17th century and who endeavoured to save his estates by passing them to friends’ survives.  Transcripts of a number of letters to his cousin Crosbie and others can be read on the Castleisland District Heritage website.[14] The second volume of Mary Hickson’s Old Kerry Records contains some of his correspondence (1710-1712) and correspondence is also found in the Crosbie Papers.


[1] ‘Scraps from Killarney’s History: The Story of Killegy,’ Kerry News, 3 December 1917.  Rev John Quinlan wrote the following about ‘the quaint ruin of Killegy’ (Kerryman, 30 April 1949):  ‘John O’Donovan, after giving its description, dimensions, restoration (?) etc gives it as his opinion that it is the surviving chancel of a much larger edifice.  There is certainly a local tradition that at some stage, the Muckross Franciscans adopted and adapted it as a mortuary chapel and cemetery for the deceased brethren.  This view is extremely probable.  It is, however not ‘liked’ by the people.  This may possibly be due to the burial there of that notorious double-dealer Colonel Maurice Hussey of Cahirnane in 1714.  There was another queer individual died that same year, a notorious apostate who may easily have figured in the martyrdom of Blessed Oliver Plunkett and who lived at no great distance from Killarney.  If you can recall a well-known evicted Muckross tenant of a generation ago – Johnny Hannon – well it was Johnny that I heard mention it with furtive hesitation.  As I am on gruesome topics I may as well recall that Jonathan Eaton the executioner of Robert Emmet was for a period employed at Muckross.  He subsequently went to Valentia Island where he was likewise held in execration – so much indeed that following his death his skull was treated like a football.’  The executioner of Emmet is generally given as Thomas Galvin and Bernard (Barney) Moran.  Moran’s grave is said to be in Leigue Cemetery, Kilmore, Ballina, Co Mayo.

[2] In January 1688, King James II, feeling secure on the throne of England, began to look to the continent where there were brigades which earlier Stuarts had relied.  These included Irish officers, survivors of those who had gone to the Low Countries in the summer of 1674.  Three regiments were formed in early 1688 and taken into the service of Louis VIV King of France to be sent into England for the protection of King James from invasion or civil war.  Regiments were to be principally Catholic.  The three regiments consisting of two thousand men were named after their colonels, Roger MacElligott (1650-1702), John Hales and John Wauchope.   MacElligott’s Regiment was composed chiefly of Irish Catholics and was formed on 3 March 1688.  It consisted of thirteen companies comprising some 765 men.  MacElligott was colonel, Denis MacGillicuddy was lieutenant-colonel, adjutant was Tadhg MacCarthy an Duna.  The regiment became known as The Kerry Regiment of Infantry.   In England, James II was preparing to abandon his throne and his regiments, while his son-in-law William of Orange was preparing to take his place.  The regiment was disbanded on 8 January 1689.  MacElligott was later made a prisoner of war and held for seven years in the Tower of London and elsewhere before being allowed to go to France in 1697 where he became Colonel of the Regiment de Clancarty in the Irish Brigade.  Roger MacElligott, born  in Ballymacelligott in 1650, married Catherine Fitzgerald, daughter of the Knight of Kerry, by whom he had three sons who became officers in the Iris Brigade, one of whom was Captain in Clare’s regiment, was killed at Fontenoy.  In the same battle his brother won the Cross of St Louis.  He died at St Germain-en-Laye on 20 August 1702.  (Ref: ‘A Kerry Jacobite in England 1688,’ Irish Examiner, 8 January 1975).

[3] Kerry Sentinel, 28 November 1896. ‘In 1738 and 1740 Hussey’s sons were obliged to sell the estate to Arthur Herbert as very probably Herbert had denounced them as Papists.’

[4] Families of Co Kerry, Vol II, 1994, 2000, p82,

[5] Some sources, including Illustrations, Historical and Genealogical (1855) by John D’Alton name his wife as Clare, daughter of Sir Edward Hales, Earl of Tenterden.  Archdeacon Rowan states (Lake Lore) that the colonel married a daughter of Captain John Wilson.

[6] Note in a genealogy of the MacCarthy’s given by James Hardiman in Irish Minstrelsy (1831), Vol II, p419, Hussey’s daughter’s name is given as Esther.

‘Randal MacCarthy sold Castlelough in the Reign of Geo II to Crosbie.  The Egerton MSS of the eighteenth century says ‘Randal had several sons who were bred to low trades, and were all uneducated paupers, some now living.’  From a story of the O’Falvey family deeds and wills we are led to believe that Randal MacCarthy More and the Husseys were obliged to surrender their estates to Crosbie and the Herberts to save themselves from the discoverers’ (Kerry Sentinel, 28 November 1896).

[7] Mary (Hussey) Conway had an only son Edmund, who married Christian Rice in 1741 (d1799 aged 89) daughter of Edward Rice of Ballingolin (Burnham) who married the heiress of Thomas Shortcliffe of Castle Gregory, and had two daughters Lucy, died unmarried 1799 aged 52, and Mary who married John Hurly Esq who had two sons Rev Robert Conway Hurly rector of Killiny, Co Kerry and John Hurly who married in 1814 the daughter of Col Hugh Hill and left issue.

In Jeremiah King’s History of Kerry, he notes: ‘Shortcliffe. Morris and Edmond FitzGerald, sons of Edmund FitzJohn, forfeited Behinagh, Glandyne and other lands in 1641, which were divided between John Carrick, a Cromwellian Commissioner for surveying forfeited estates, and Captain Welstead, a Cromwellian officer, ancestor of the present Thomas Welstead Esq JP of Ballywalter, County Cork.  Captain Welstead sold his grants in Kerry to Anthony Shortcliffe, also a Cromwellian officer, whose name in old records is variously spelt Shiercliffe or Sutcliffe.  Thomas Shiercliffe was the owner of a considerable property around Castle Gregory.  The name is frequently spelt Shortcliffe in old records.

This record of 1679 comes from Mary Hickson’s Old Kerry Records: ‘Thomas Welstead who is described as a soldier also obtained a large grant of lands in Cork. He appears to have sold his estates around Castle Gregory to Anthony Shortcliffe, whose descendant sold or bequeathed them to his brother-in-law John Rowan, whose son or grandson sold to the grandfather of the present owner the Rt. Honourable Lord Ventry.’ 

[8] In J R O’Flanagan’s Recollections of the Irish Bar (serialised in Dublin Weekly News, 1866) is given a discourse on the name of Hussey, from which the following is taken: ‘The Husseys were long known as Barons of Galtrim.  This was the family name of the subject of the present sketch, Chief Baron Walter Hussey, who took the name of Burgh but why or for what cause is not very well known ... Walter Hussey Burgh was born in 1743 in the south of Ireland, probably in the county of Kerry where a branch of the Husseys occupied a position of respectability – Anthony [sic] Hussey of Flesk Bridge, having sat in parliament of the borough of Tralee.  Walter was educated at Mr Young’s school in Abbey-street and graduated in Trinity College Dublin.’

[9] Introduction to The Poems of Egan O’Rahilly (1900) by Rev Patrick S Dinneen.

[10] Southern Star, 27 June 1931. 

[11] Brewster of Brewsterfield The Rise and Fall of Brewsterfield House Glenflesk Co Kerry c1675-1985 (2020) contains information about the ironworks.

[12] As given in Lake Lore (1853), by Archdeacon Rowan (Ch VI, ‘Killegy Church and Colonel Maurice Hussey’ pp133-148) and Kerry Evening Post, 26 October 1898 by his daughter, Miss Rowan.  The Archdeacon adds that he could never find out to which of the once numerous branches of the Hussey family the colonel belonged and that he left no direct representative.  ‘His nearest and most confidential relatives were of the Crosbie family, and he obtained in right of his wife, daughter of a Captain John Wilson, a pension on the Irish establishment while he is also said to have had some dependence on Herbert, Earl of Torrington.’

[13] Documented in In Search of Sarah Reynolds, A Tale of Muckross House (2016), p17.  Details about the erection of the plaque cannot be found.