Thomas Moore: A Discourse on his Paternal Ancestry

Kerry historian Jeremiah King described how, after the subjugation of Leix by the English, Sir Arthur Chichester transplanted some of the O’Moore family into Kerry in 1608, ‘lest the White Moors should be extirpated.’


In the following century in the county Kerry, one John Moore was born, father of Thomas, Ireland’s nineteenth century bard.


Moore from The Poetical Works of Thomas Moore Complete in One Volume (1850)


So much is known.  The task of adding more to John Moore’s Kerry history is hampered by the bard himself, who stated he knew little of his paternal ancestry and had no recall of hearing his father speak of his parents.2


Thomas Moore died in 1852.  About fifty years later, a move to erect a marble statue of him in Dublin caused a correspondent of the Kerry People to write about ‘Thomas Moore’s Connection with Kerry’.3 He wrote:


Thomas Moore visited Ardfert in the late 1820s and his travelling companions were no less personages than the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne of that period.  When the inhabitants of the Cathedral village learned of the arrival of their illustrious visitors, young and old flocked to see them.4


The visit, part of a tour of southern Ireland which may well have included Castleisland, took place a little earlier than stated, in 1823.5


Michael Pierce, a local classical teacher in Ardfert, private tutor to the then youthful William Talbot Crosbie and his brother John, was accepted as their guide, ‘In their new acquaintance they found a man able to enlighten them on facts and traditions of which they were totally ignorant’.6


The party visited Ardfert Cathedral and the graveyard, where at the tombs Moore ‘uncovered his head, the movements of his lips showed silent reverence’.  They also visited the Franciscan Abbey, whose founder was one of the ancestors of the Marquis of Lansdowne.


Sketch of Moore by Daniel Maclise in an 1821 edition of Irish Melodies


The following day, the group travelled to Lixnaw and Listowel.  ‘Moore’s father hailed from the neighbourhood of Listowel’ stated the correspondent, ‘where a few descendants of the family still reside.’


On arrival in Listowel, Moore was ‘importuned by his relatives’:


The poet’s first cousin – a Mr Garrett Moore, a well-to-do farmer in those days – introduced his three sons, fine strapping fellows, who were delighted to meet their illustrious relative … Moore received them kindly.


The correspondent concluded, ‘During his short sojourn at Listowel, the Irish Nightingale must have visited the spot and the river where he laid the scene of one of his most charming and most romantic songs, ‘By Feale’s Wave Benighted’.’7


Some fifty years after this informative letter to the Kerry press, Listowel writer Bryan MacMahon (1909-1998), in a lecture delivered in 1952, the centenary of Moore’s death, informed his audience that Moore’s father came from Newtown Sandes (otherwise Moyvane), narrowed down in more recent times to the townland of Cloonbrane.8


Commemorative Stamp issued in 1952 after a portrait by Sir Martin Archer Shee


It is open to discussion if Cloonbrane might be described as ‘the neighbourhood of Listowel’.


John Moore hailed from ‘the neighbourhood of Listowel’


Notwithstanding, it may be accepted with a good measure of certainty that John Moore (1741-1825), father of Thomas Moore, hailed from North Kerry.9


Thomas Moore left no direct descendants to substantiate his Kerry origins because the deaths of all five of his children occurred in his lifetime.  As he wrote in his diary in March 1846, ‘The last of my five children is gone and we are left desolate and alone, not a single relative have I in this world’.10


Despite Moore’s despair, he did have some family, albeit spread far and wide.  A niece, Mary Ann Moore, daughter of an unnamed brother, left Dublin for Philadelphia as a child.  In 1965, Mrs Charlotte McMillan of Forest Hills, New York, paid homage to the birthplace of her famous great granduncle.11


He also had a niece, Ellen Scully, daughter of his sister Catherine Moore and her husband, John Scully Esq of Dually, Co Tipperary.12


Moore also had nephews and nieces on his wife’s side, the offspring of his wife’s sisters, Anne Jane Dyke and Mary Ann Dyke.13


Thomas Moore died at Sloperton Cottage, Wiltshire – his country retreat for 35 years – on 25 February 1852.  He was buried in St Nicholas’ Churchyard, Bromham, Wiltshire.


His widow died at Sloperton Cottage on 4 September 1865.



Sloperton Cottage



1 King added that the family of O’Moore was of the race of Ir and not of Heber or Eugenian descent.

King’s statement also given in O’Hart’s Irish Pedigrees or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation (1892), Vol 2, ‘Captain Sir Thomas Crosby, Knight’.

2 Moore did make reference to an uncle, Garret Moore, the only member of the family with whom he was acquainted. 

3 The Moore Memorial Fund, initiated by the Irish Packet, sought to substitute the ‘strange effigy in College Street which insults the memory of Ireland’s National Poet … Thomas Moore has been allowed to remain quite too long without any appropriate and enduring monument to his memory in his native land’ (Freeman’s Journal, 29 March 1904).

4 Letter to the Editor from J O’Keeffe, Pembroke-street, Tralee, ‘Thomas Moore’s Connection with Kerry’, Kerry People, 30 April 1904.5 The route of Moore’s tour was Kilkenny, Cork, Killarney, Limerick, Roscrea and Dublin (  The following newspaper notices plot some of Moore’s movements in August:

‘Mr Moore the poet arrived in Dublin on Monday from England’ (Belfast Newsletter, 1 August 1823).

‘The Marquis of Lansdowne, accompanied by Thomas Moore Esq, will leave town this morning for Killarney’ (Dublin Journal, 30 July 1823).

‘Kilkenny, Aug 2. On Wednesday afternoon the Most Noble the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, accompanied by Erin’s bard, Thomas Moore Esq, arrived at the Hibernia Hotel in this city.  They occupied the time before dinner in walking through the city and viewing the splendid monument of ancient architecture.  On Thursday morning, they proceeded on their route to Killarney’ (Dublin Journal, 4 August 1823).

‘On Friday the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne accompanied by Thos Moore Esq arrived at Conway’s Family Hotel, George’s Street, Cork, and yesterday morning the Marquis and Marchioness with their retinue set off for Killarney.  In the course of the day, Mr Moore proceeded to Cove to visit a near relative and came up this morning.  We understand that this distinguished gentleman leaves town in a day or two for Ballygiblin, the seat of W W Becher Esq and from thence goes to the Lakes of Killarney’ (Belfast Newsletter, 8 August 1823).

‘Cove was crowded with fashionables on Sunday. The attactrion was our distinguished countryman, the great lyric poet of the age, Thomas Moore Esq, who visited a near relative at present stopping there’ (Freeman’s Journal, 8 August 1823). 

‘The Marquess and Marchioness of Lansdowne accompanied by Mr Thomas Moore arrived last week in Cork from whence they proceeded to Killarney to view the Lakes and to visit the estates of the Noble Marquess in the County of Kerry’ (Morning Advertiser, 9 August 1823).

‘The public of Limerick are deprived of seeing Mr Kean and Mr Warde in consequence of the want of a theatre.  They intended to appear here for a few nights.  Mr Kean has been on a visit with Mr Moore at the Marquis of Lansdowne’s in Kerry’ (Dublin Journal, 11 August 1823). 

‘The Marquis of Lansdowne and Mr Moore have arrived at the Lakes of Killarney’ (Westmeath Journal, 14 August 1823).

‘The Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne are expected in Limerick this day (Friday) from Killarney’ (Dublin Journal, 15 August 1823).  

‘On Saturday evening Mr T Moore arrived in town from Limerick, having parted there with the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, whom he had accompanied so far from Killarney.  During his visit to the Earl of Kenmare, Mr Moore was waited upon by a Deputation of the gentlemen of Killarney, requesting him to fix a day to dine with them on the romantic island of Innisfallen; but the shortness of his stay in Ireland would not allow him to accede to their request’ (Dublin Journal, 18 August 1823).

About the 20th August, Moore attended the Horticultural Society of Ireland’s annual autumnal show of fruits and flowers at the Rotunda.  By the end of August, he had departed Ireland:

‘It was erroneously stated in our last publication that our celebrated countryman, Thomas Moore, had left town upon a visit with other distinguished characters to Lord Cloncurry at Lyons.  The fact however is not so.  We regret to learn that the poet and patriot of whom Ireland may at the present day be most proud has taken his departure for England, in company with his noble friend the Marquis of Lansdowne’ (Dublin Journal, 27 August 1823).  

6 ‘Some of the O’Moore family were transplanted to Kerry where also by a curious coincidence we find was located the Crosbie family’ (O’Hart’s Irish Pedigrees or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation (1892), Vol 2, ‘Captain Sir Thomas Crosby, Knight’).

7 See p14 of By the Feale’s Wave The Romance of Thomas, Earl of Desmond and Catherine McCormack A Legend of Port Castle, Abbeyfeale (2019), ‘Thomas Moore is said to have composed Desmond’s Song during a visit to Kilmeany (Kilmorna) House in Listowel’.

8 Cloonbrane (Clounbrane, Cluanbrean), a townland adjoining Moyvane North townland in the parish of Murher (or Murhur) in which location is the village of Newtown Sandes (otherwise Moyvane).  An article in the Kerryman (‘Murhur Church and Cemetery’, 10 June 1988) stated ancestors of Moore were buried in Murhur Cemetery.

9 John Moore married the considerably younger Wexford-born Anastasia Codd (1770-1832), daughter of Thomas Codd, ‘Honest Tom Codd’ of Cornmarket, Wexford.  They married in 1778 and lived in Cornmarket for some time before moving to Dublin where John Moore was a shop keeper and a barrack master.  Thomas Moore was born in Dublin in 1779.  

The family burial place, St Kevin’s Church, Dublin, records some of Moore’s siblings: Sacred to the memory of John Moore Esq formerly barrack master of Island Bridge in the county of Dublin who departed this life December 17th 1825 aged 84 years.  Here is also interred Anastasia Moore (Alice Codd) his beloved wife, who departed this life May 8th 1832 aged 58 years.  Also six of their children who died young; and their beloved daughter Helen, who died February 18th 1846, deeply mourned by her brother Thomas Moore, the bard of his much beloved country – Ireland.

10 Moore married actress Elizabeth (Bessie) Dyke on 25 March 1811.   Their children were Olivia Byron, Anne Jane Barbara, Anastasia Mary, John Russell and Thomas Lansdowne Parr.  

11 See Irish Independent, 22 October 1965.

12 John Scully and Catherine Moore were married in 1811.  Catherine Scully died in Dublin in December 1834.  John Scully remarried in 1835 to Bridget Kennedy and had issue.  He died in 1842 (my thanks to Marie Huxtable Wilson, Tralee, for this research).  The fate of Ellen Scully is not known though it is worth noting the case in chancery in 1833 of Francis Christopher Bowen and Ellen Bowen nee Ellen Scully and Mary Joyce Codd.

13 Anne Jane Dyke (1799-1827) married William Henry Wood Murray Esq (1790-1852) of Edinburgh and Mary Ann Dyke (1794-1857) married actor John R Duff (1787-1831).