“According to surviving tradition our family seems to have been centred in or near Coolbanagher since settling in Ireland.”
“I have heard from several sources that the first Lord Portarlington brought our family to Ireland as settlers. This would dovetail with other fact and tradition if we regard the expression "the first Lord Portarlington" as meaning Henry Bennet, Baron Arlington. Sir Henry Bennet obtained a grant of all the O'Dempsey estates in April 1664. These included the districts known as Emo, Coolbanagher, Coolagh and Portarlington. In the same month Bennet was created Baron Arlington of Arlington in the County of Middlesex. In 1666 he further petitioned the Council of Ireland, stating his intention of introducing English settlers upon the lands, which had been granted to him in 1664. He obtained a Charter creating a new Borough within part of the lands called Cooletoodera. In accordance with an enactment of the Parliament of Lord Orrery and the Duke of Ormond to the effect that the Governor and Council should be able to give new English names instead of the Irish names of places in order to efface all ancient recollections in Ireland, the new Borough received the name Port Arlington, or Arlington's Port. Soon after this Lord Arlington sold all his interest in the O'Dempsey estates to Sir Patrick Trant, an adherent to the cause of James II. On the defeat of that monarch the estate was confiscated, and after having been bestowed upon Rouvingy, one of William III's mercenary officers who was then created Earl of Galway, it was resumed under the bet of Reassumption in 1700, and finally after resumption, sold to the hollow Sword Blade Company of London (a trading company which bought 253,709 acres of resumed lands in Ireland). Some time after this a portion of the lands (which totaled about 12,220 acres) came into the possession of the Dawson-Damer family, that is, the first Earl of Portarlington. I have been unable to trace any planting of English settlers by this Earl, and personally am inclined to the view that our ancestors were brought over by Lord Arlington in 1666. It is doubtful that conclusive evidence on this point will ever be found.”
It appears that many of the Coolbanagher Holmes were gamekeepers on the Emo Estate making a connection with Lord Portarlington that is interesting in light of the speculation above. - KH
“The present Coolbanagher Church registers date from 1802; the earlier records having perished in a fire at the previous church, the ruins of which still stand at Shaen churchyard, about a mile away. There is a tradition so strong as to be virtually fact that Shaen was the previous family burial ground, and that the now destroyed Shaen Records contained particulars of Holmes family baptisms, marriages and burials.”
“The earliest direct ancestor I have been able to trace is BENJAMIN HOLMES, my great-great-grandfather [My Great4-Grandfather - KH], who died on October 16th 1837, aged 75 years, assuming his age to have been given correctly, he would have been born on or about 1762. He was married twice, his first wife being MARY BARLEY. She died on January 16th 1808, aged about 36 years. By his first wife Benjamin Holmes had at least five children, Thomas, born about 1797, Benjamin born about 1800, John born about 1801, Mary Ann, born 1st May 1802, and Jane born 14th August 1807. The year of his second marriage is not known, but was probably 1809. His second wife's name was Jane, and by this marriage he had eight children, one of whom, William Holmes of Garrymore, was born 23-7-1815 at Coolbanagher. Joined R.I.C· and was stationed at Killeigh. Married. Wife's name was Margaret. Had a son named Henry. On retirement he rented or purchased a farm at Garrymore (about a mile from Killeigh). Died at Garrymore 26-9-1893 aged 79. Jane Holmes died 26-5-1826 aged 39. Benjamin Holmes died,16-10-1837 aged 75. He is interred at Coolbanagher Churchyard in the family plot.”
“My great-grandfather, JOHN HOLMES [My Great3-Grandfather - KH], born about 1801, married ANN ARTHURS, daughter of Richard and Anne Arthurs of Coolagh on September 22nd 1831.
Ann Arthurs was baptised on 25th January 1807. They had five children, Benjamin, born 29th July 1832, Richard born, January 5th 1834, Ann Matilda born 27th July 1835, John (My grandfather) born 1st July 1837, and Thomas born 14th April 1839.”
“A further point worth remembering is that at that period and for years (at least 80 years) before, it is known there were Holmes's in and around Ballysax, Cherryfield, Lackagh, Monasterevan, Vicarstown, Capokill, and Coolbanagher. So, one might say the Holmes's were to be found all over the locality bounded roughly by Mountmellick, Stradbally, Athy and Rathangan.”
“BENJAMIN HOLMES, son of John Holmes above, born 29-1-18~2. at Coolbanagher.
Never married, was a noted practical joker. He and his mother went to America to try and trace a large sum of money said to have been left by an ancestor, whose identity I have been unable to trace. For some years he managed Clonsast farm for Sam Lee, brother of his sister-in-law. Latterly he lived at Brook House, Monasterevin with my grandfather, John Holmes, and he died there and was buried in Coolbanagher on July 2Oth 1903. Was his mother's favorite son. Said to have been in Canada about 16 times in all.”
“His brother RICHARD HOLMES, born 5-1-1834 at Emo Park, Coolbanagher. At this time his parents lived at the place known as Holmes's Hill, where traces of the now demolished house can still be seen. Married to Elizabeth Prentiss, daughter of an English gentleman who owned tea plantations in India. Wedding was at St John's, Fishamble Street, Dublin, (and, curiously both bride and groom were described as being of 29 Winetavern Street) on 24-November 1855.They only stayed in Dublin for the wedding. Richard Holmes died 23rd July 1897.”
“His sister ANN MATILDA HOLMES, born at Emo Park, 27-7-1835. Married a Mr. Kinsella, and later, after his death, married a Mr. Devon, by whom she had two children, Emily and Matilda. married William Eager, who became Principal Keeper, Irish Lights, and who died in Nth. Ireland. They had a daughter, Eileen Eagar who married.”
“Their brother [my great2-grandfather – KH] JOHN HOLMES, born 1-7-1837 at Holmes's Hill, Emo Park.
Married at Clonbulloge Church to ANNA MARIA LEE on or about 1868/9. After his father's death in 1852 and his mother's second marriage to Thomas Lenox of Monasterevan on or about 1855/56, he lived at Cottage Brook, Monasterevan. On May 24th 1858 at the age of nearly 21 he was apprenticed for two years to Michael Noud of Athy, proprietor of a coach building business. The fee for instructing him in "the art and trade of carpentry" was 9 pounds sterling. This included provision of "meat, drink and lodgings" during the said term. He worked for about 3 years in Canada, but whether this was before or after his apprenticeship is not certain. Later he was Clerk of Works in Moore Abbey Demesne. He had a serious illness in 1903 from which be was not expected to recover. It is said that Dr. Rice, who attended him, never forgave him for living, as he (the Doctor) had told people in the town that he was already dead. So low was his state of health! On or about 1911 he retired from Moore Abbey. He died on Monday, September 5th 1927 at about 11 am, after having been taken ill at about 4 am. On the Saturday before he had worked in the garden, of which he was very fond, until about 9.30pm when darkness obliged him to stop. He was a tall well-built man, fair-haired with a beard and moustache. He first met his wife at an auction at Portarlington. He had bought two pictures, and his future wife was sent over to him by her parents who were there too, to see if he would be willing to sell the pictures to them. He refused to do so, and the pictures are still at Brook House, Monasterevan. He didn't drive a car or ride a bicycle, and is described being even tempered, and fond of a joke. During his time at Moore Abbey he had several tradesmen under him, including a couple of carpenters, a slater, a plasterer, and a stonemason. He is buried in the family plot at Coolbanagher.”