Remembering David Hutton Bury of Charleville, Tullamore: quiet, unassuming and generous

Revd Canon David Hutton Bury slipped away on 7 February 2021 after a long illness. His leaving became him in the sense that he had lived his life quietly on his farm at Charleville, Tullamore. In later years he found a second role as a priest, and later canon, in the Church of Ireland, serving the parish of Geashill and Killeigh until December 2017. David Hutton Bury was born in 1944 and was educated at Wellington and Trinity College Dublin. At Trinity he was able to research his life-long enthusiasm for natural history and completed a thesis on the native woodlands of Charleville, so famous now with the great ‘King Oak’ and other fine specimens throughout the wooded demesne providing a setting for the fairy tale big house, called from early days Charleville Forest.

The great oak at Charleville between 400 and 800 years old – perhaps the oldest living plant in Ireland and the UK.

David was the only son of Major W.B. Hutton Bury (1914–82) and Mrs Bly M. Hutton Bury. The latter was a life member of Offaly History until her passing in her late nineties in 2018. At the time we recalled in a post that:

We want to express our sympathy to the Hutton Bury family on the death of our life member Mrs Bly Hutton Bury who had reached a great age. She was a jolly person to be with on the historical tours we had and one recalls that when the destination was reached in Clare or wherever a cigarette and sometmes a gin and tonic were favoured, She is seen in this picture with the late Fr Willie Cleary and taken at a Tullamore Show at Charleville. Her late husband (d.1982) Major Hutton Bury was a supporter of many Tullamore projects and of great assistance to this Society, as is their son David and family.’

We did not think that within three years we would be recalling the passing of her only son David.

Mrs Bly Hutton Bury (d. 2018) at the Tullamore Show in the early 1990s and  photographed here with the late Fr Willie Cleary, parish priest of Tullamore.

David Hutton Bury was a great grandson of Col. Edmund Bacon Hutton (d. 1904) who had married Lady Katharine Bury at Charleville in June 1873. She was a daughter of the third earl of Charleville and she and her other siblings were orphaned very young with the death of their mother in 1857 and father in 1859. One of her sisters was the ill-fated Harriette who died in a shocking accident on the stairwell of the castle in 1861 and her sister Lady Emily (d.1931) was the mother of Colonel Bury of Everest fame. Lady Katharine’s was the last Bury family wedding at Charleville Castle and was a great affair, and of which a photograph survives in the Biddulph Collection in Offaly Archives. The wedding and the coming of age of the fifth earl a few weeks earlier in May 1873 was the last great public celebration of the Bury association with Tullamore. It can be linked back to the first visit of Charles William Bury (later first earl, second creation) almost exactly 100 years earlier.

The wedding of Lady Katharine Bury to Col Edmund Bacon Hutton at Charleville Castle in 1873. Courtesy of Offaly Archives
Major Hutton Bury, died 1982.

Both David Hutton Bury and his parents were supporters of the work of this society from its formation in 1969. At this time Miss Haines and Mrs Potter (donors of the Fox diary of 1868 to Offaly History and now in the Archives) still occupied the gate lodge and shoots were still common on the estate. It was with a view to preserving Charleville Castle from harm that a lease was given of this gothic mansion in about 1970. The building had been vacant since 1912 as Lady Emily had been a widow since 1885, living mostly abroad, and her only surviving child (Col. Howard Bury) inherited Belvedere, Mullingar, in the same year of 1912. By the 1960s the castle was getting more and more difficult to safeguard from the adventurous youth of Tullamore, a few of whom were misguided. Old Colonel Bury was good enough to have the castle written up for Country Life by a cousin, Mark Girouard in 1962 – the year before his own death at the age of 80. Apart from the problem of minding a large country house that was not much lived in since its completion in 1812 it was also proving increasingly difficult to farm a large property so near Tullamore town. Yet in all the years since the 1970s Tullamore people have been permitted to walk the avenue of the demesne as far as the castle and to enjoy the natural life and tranquillity of the place. The Harriers Club and the Mucklagh Footballers, not to mention girl guides and boy scouts, have enjoyed the use of the grounds from time to time, while clubs in Mucklagh have had the benefit of support to facilitate the development of their facilities.

As a landowner and a churchman David Hutton Bury was ecumenical in all things and his father ‘the Major’, deceased now since 1982, is well remembered for the same characteristic. At David’s funeral service at St Catherine’s, Tullamore on 9 February Bishop Pat Storey described him as a “gentle, patient and caring person” with three great loves in his life – Christian ministry, the farm and trees. In her sermon at the funeral, held in line with Government Covid restrictions, Bishop Storey said the deceased had enjoyed a life well lived and left a wonderful legacy. “He was a generous person with his family and locally through the sharing of his land. He felt the land was borrowed not owned.” (Tullamore Tribune, 10/2/2021)

Canon David Hutton Bury with Bishop Pat Storey at an event in Geashill about 2015.

In the mid-1980s Offaly History was allowed to occupy the estate office at the entrance gate for its historical projects and it served as our base until we bought our own offices at Bury Quay in 1991–93. As such it was the springboard and foundation to all our activities today both at Offaly History Centre and Offaly Archives. This was soon after the ‘Great Exhibition’ marking the 200th anniversary of the balloon fire in Tullamore.

David Hutton Bury and the late William Wall, county engineer viewing the Charleville Estate Maps of c. 1840 at the Balloon Fire Exhibition in 1985.

The National Ploughing event was held at Tullamore for the first time in fifty years in 1987 and that event at Charleville laid the basis for the later NPA events in the town and also for the Tullamore Show held for a number of years at Charleville from 1991.

David Hutton Bury’s legacy to Tullamore and Ireland will have been to secure the fate of Charleville though all the ravages of the Celtic Tiger years and to hand it on to another generation in an age when we may act as better guardians of an endangered planet. Many is the happy memory the people of Tullamore have of walks on the avenue. In the 1960s many was the young swimmer in the lovely River Clodiagh flowing alongside the southern boundary of the demesne. No doubt not a few kisses were exchanged in the old grotto dating back to 1741 and which was then situated at the foot of the garden of the old house of Redwood, erected one hundred years earlier in 1641.

Canon David Hutton Bury at a heritage week event in Geashill in August 2017

That so much history has survived in the magnificent natural setting of Charleville Demesne we owe to a quiet man and his family living in a farm house on the estate and to his father, and the late Colonel Bury.

Our sympathy to David’s wife Mrs Inez Hutton Bury, his daughters Caryl, Rachel and Sarah and his wider family and friends.

From a story in the Irish Times by the late Eileen Battersby in February 2001. At the time the new Tullamore bypass was being planned for a route different to that finally settled and opened in 2009