The assassination in 1856 of Valerio, the fourth Count Magawly of Temora, Kilcormac and of Parma. By Michael Byrne

On the road to Birr, and not far from Kilcormac, are the classical gate piers of Temora – all that is left now of the home of the family of Magawly family. This Catholic family owned much of Kilcormac and, after a long legal battle, had the benefit of the articles of the Treaty of Limerick and were able to retain some of their lands. Temora may have been built in the 1750s or 1760s and the naming of the house possibly had an eye to the poem, Temora, of 1763 by James Macpherson. The illustrious history of the Magawly family can be recalled in the memorial inscription in the Catholic church in Kilcormac, placed there a few years after the completion of that church in 1867. The family had been obliged to sell the last of their landholding in 1852, but the pressure was on from the mid-1840s when the process servers were sniffing about. Money problems may have gone back at least 100 years earlier to the 1740s and 1750s when much of the Magawly landholdings were sold by way of long leases. The house itself was occupied by the Free State army in the early 1920s and destroyed by arson about 1930.

Temora on the 1838 OS sheet

The contributor of the article on ‘The Magawlys of Calry’ in Westmeath, first published in 1904 and now a little-known article, signed himself as ‘D’ and was possibly Fr Mathew Devitt, S.J. of Clongowes Wood.

Courtesy of the Photographic record of Kilcormac and Killoughy (Ferbane, 1999).

The introduction to the June 1904 issue of The Clongownian, the Clongowes school record, first issued in 1897, referred to Leslie Stephen’s work on the Dictionary of National Biography (new edition 2004) and, in particular, Stephen’s efforts to keep contributors at their work ‘by steady and remorseless dunning’. The Clongownian was seen by its then editor, Patrick Connolly, SJ, as a dictionary of biography – the stories of its past and present members of the school.  The June 1904 issue contained an article on the family of Magawly with particular reference to the fourth Count Magawly who was a young student in Clongowes in the years 1817–23 and was assassinated in Italy in 1856. The author of the Magawly article acknowledged the assistance of, among others, Father Edmund Hogan, S.J. (of placename study fame).

Temora House c. 1904

Three years later, in the June 1907 issue of The Clongownian, mention was made of Edward Magawly Banon, a great grandson of Count Francis Magawly, regent of Parma. Banon attended the Jesuit school of Tullabeg, near Tullamore in 1881–88 (amalgamated with Clongowes in 1886). Magawly Banon contributed to the same 1907 issue a two-page article on his adventures in the arctic snows of Alaska in search of gold. The history of the two families, the Magawlys of Temora, Kilcormac and the Banons of Broughal Castle, also close to Kilcormac, is closely linked. The account of the assassination of 1856 would have been known to King’s County/ Offaly readers in the 1850s as the story appeared in the King’s County Chronicle on 26 March 1856 and was borrowed from the Morning Post. The circulation of the story may have been facilitated by the colourful character, Myles Gerard Keon, who had worked for some years on the Morning Post and whose mother was a fifth daughter of Patrick, the second Count Magawly. Myles Gerard Keon was a son of Myles Keon of Keon Brook, County Leitrim and was educated at Stonyhurst before taking up journalism. He knew Temora well because, being orphaned young, had lived there for a while with his younger sister Ellen Benedicta.

Magawly Cerati Palace in Parma

Francis Philip, the third count, was born in 1788 and in 1814 was appointed prime minister of Marie Louise in the duchies of Parma, Placentia, and Guastalla. Marie Louise (1791-1847) was the eldest child of Francis 11 of Austria and the second wife of Napoleon. While retaining important posts Magawly was replaced by Marie Lousie’s new lover in 1816 (1).

Marie Louise (1791-1847), second wife of Napoleon. The marriage was initially by proxy. Philip Magawly served her as prime minister and an adviser.

Magawly retired from the Austrian diplomatic service in 1824. He lived at Temora, in King’s County until his death in 1835, aged 48. His return to Ireland would suggest that his European career had ended early, and besides he was independently wealthy (at least for a time). He had married Clara Mazzuchini who was a grandniece of Pope Benedict XIV. Magawly with his foreign title and Vatican connections carried some clout on the Catholic question in Ireland. He had a brother Awly who served as a priest in Kilcormac in the early 1820s. The third count had at least two sons, Valerio born in 1809 and Patricio born in 1810. Both were educated at Clongowes and Valerio also at Stonyhurst. Valerio, the eldest, succeeded as fourth count in 1835 and was appointed a magistrate in 1838. He appears to have spent all his time at Temora until, possibly compelled by financial circumstances, he returned to Parma in 1845 where the reign of Marie Louise continued for two more years. Prior to that he had served on the King’s County Grand Jury for a time and must have been one of the earliest Catholics to do. The option to serve was there from the time of the 1793 Relief Act. Michael Bernard Mullins, son of the contractor and engineer, Bernard Mullins of Ballyegan, Birr, was probably the first Catholic High Sheriff in King’s County since the Coghlans in 1689-90, and served in 1839. Valerio Magawly was no stranger to law and was admitted to the King’s Inns in 1827 and duly qualified. His financial difficulties were largely inherited from his father and included litigation with a previous family solicitor over a fraudulent claim. Personal issues also loomed large with several still born children.

Philip Francis , the third Count Magawly

 Valerio had the misfortune to be assassinated in 1856 by members of the Young Italy freedom party. Keon’s published account of the assassination ran as follows:

Dublin Evening Post, 22March 1856:

‘We have learned that the unfortunate gentleman, Valerio, Count Magawly Cerati, late of Temora, King’s County, where he had resided for several years fulfilling his ordinary duties as an Irish country gentleman, as a magistrate and a grand juror, has been assassinated at Parma. He will be long remembered by the poor in the neighborhood as a protector to whom they looked up with respect. On the evening of March 4th as the Count was walking home from the Theatre accompanied by his wife and sister he was suddenly set upon by two young beardless ruffians armed with pointed files. The courage and devotedness of his wife freed him from one of the assassins, but he fell at the hands of the other a scion of the “Young Italy” party. The motive of the murder is that two of the 20 ruffians who were confined in the Central Prison, of which he was Inspector, for their connection with the assassination of the Prince of Parma in July 1854, having lately made their escape and the irons of four prisoners having been found sawn asunder, the rules of the prison which had been relaxed in their favour, were again put in force. The assassins have effected their escape and there is little hope of their capture unless through the interference of the British Government whose subject Count Magawly was. The Magawly family of whom the Count was the last resident in this country, are amongst the British subjects enjoying the foreign title with the assent of our Sovereign, are a family of great antiquity in Ireland, where they were styled Prince of Calry in the countries now known as Meath and Westmeath, where they were proprietors of large estates until the reign of Wm. and Mary when remaining firm in their allegiance to James II, the greater portion of their lands were confiscated. In 1694 the Emperor Charles VI, conferred upon Field Marshal Philip Henry Magawly (who married Margaret D. Este of Austria) the dignity of Count of the Holy Roman Empire, with the rank and privileges of a grandee of Spain.  Francis Philip, the father of the late Count married in 1808, Clara, the only child of Guiseppe Count Mazzuchini, Guido Bono, daughter and the sole heiress of the Count Cerati of Parma. He was accredited in 1812, Envoy from Pope Pius VII, to Napoleon and was subsequently Regent to the Duchies of Parma and Placentia until these Estates were apportioned to the ex Empress, Marie Louisa in 1815. He was her Prime Minister until 1823 and was also Chamberlain to Francis I of Austria who conferred many favours on him. In 1824 he returned to Ireland and took up residence at the family mansion, Temora, Kings County, and lived there until his death in 1835, when he was succeeded by his eldest son Valerio, the late Count. In 1845, unfortunately for himself, this lamented gentleman returned to Italy where the services of his family were at once appreciated and rewarded. He held the responsible post of Mayor of Parma, with the rank of Major in the Army during the eventful years of 1848. He was afterwards appointed Chamberlain to the Archduchess Regent and Director to the Central House of Detention. His remains were interred on the 9th inst., in the Church of the Holy Trinity at Parma, the last resting place of the Cerati Family.’

Murdered in 1856 by the Young Italy Party

Valerio’s eldest son Francis, born in 1832, notwithstanding money problems, was educated at Clongowes in the years 1846 to 1850 and succeeded as fifth count in 1856 following the murder of his father. Francis died in Philadelphia in 1860 (aged 28) and his wife, Rose Connolly, in 1870 (She was a daughter of Alexander Connolly, probably of the Cloonagh merchant family.) Their son, Valerio Christopher, born in 1854, was educated at Stonyhurst. In 1880 he married Ellen Falkenburg of Philadelphia and had three children, all of whom predeceased him with the result that the male line became extinct. His eldest son, Valerio Awly, was killed in action in 1917 and his second son died without issue before 1957. Unlike his predecessors the second son of the sixth count, Robert Louis, was educated not at Jesuit schools but instead at Eton and Cambridge. The family portraits were presented to the National Gallery, Dublin in 1947 by the American wife of Edward Magawly Banon, the one-time Clongowes boy and later a mining engineer (1868-1944).

Scene of the assassination in 1856 in Parma. Courtesy of the Clongownian.

The Magawly story bears out the comments of Kevin Whelan in his article ‘An underground gentry? Catholic middlemen in eighteenth-century Ireland’ where he sought to construct the mentalité of a neglected group, the descendants of the old Catholic landowning families. Undoubtedly the Magawlys achieved prominence in European service, but their Irish property and income were not significant. The Temora house property was small and reportedly of poor building quality. But equally the discreet house (as with the founding of Tullabeg and Clongowes) rather than the ostentatious mansion may have been the order of the day. By the time of the fourth count’s accession in 1835 he was destined to lose his Irish estate at Temora and take a job as governor of a prison, presumably secured through family connections, but not in the same league as the achievements of his father before his return to Ireland in the 1820s. For the Irish Catholic gentry, such as the Magawlys, the Banons, the Sherlocks (of Rahan Lodge) and the Hussey Walshs of Kilduff. the process of assimilation with their landed Protestant neighbours was complete by the end of the nineteenth century. The monument in Kilcormac Catholic church recalls a glorious past uncommon in Ireland after 1700 and may also account for the wonderful pieta in that church. The recital on the memorial that the town of Frankford was called after Frank Magawly, son of the first count Magawly, did not save the name change back to that of the older and more historic name of Kilcormac in 1903.

Next time you buy Parma ham remember old Magawly and the Kilcormac connection

The Magawly memorial in Kilcormac Catholic church and Valerio foully assassinated in 1856

Note on Philip Magawly from Wiki 26 6 2021


Filippo Francesco Magawly Cerati , born Philip Francis Magawly de Calry ( County of Offaly , 10 December 1787 – Dublin , 30 August 1835 ), was a naturalized Italian Irish politician .

He was born in Temora, a village in central Ireland near Tullamore , to Count Patrick and Countess Jane O’Fullon. On the death of his father in 1802 , he moved with his brother Awly to Parma, where a branch of his family had already settled.

Duke Ferdinand I of Bourbon had him educated in the Lalatta College. From an early age he disengaged public offices during the French government. In 1804 he inherited the assets of his paternal uncle, Count Charles Edward, colonel of the Austrian army, and in 1808 he married Chiara Mazzucchini di Viadana , daughter of Giuseppe and Countess Fulvia Cerati. On the death of Count Antonio Cerati , his wife’s uncle, in 1816 he inherited the estate, also assuming the surname.

After the fall of Napoleon , the French government ceased in Parma on February 14, 1814 and a provisional government was established. The prefect retired to Piacenza , which had remained in France. From 9 March the provisional government was also extended to Piacenza. On the basis of the Congress of Vienna in 1815 , the territories of the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla were assigned to the Empress Maria Luigia , with the exception of the lands located on the left bank of the Po .

Pope Pius VII sent Philip Magawly Cerati to Paris for a diplomatic mission aimed at probing the intentions of Bonaparte’s victorious allies. He was invited by the Emperor of Austria to go to Vienna , where he had talks with Metternich , to whom he explained his government plan for the duchy that had been assigned to Maria Luigia. He participated in the Congress of Vienna as an envoy of Pope Pius VII.

On 6 June 1814 Metternich proclaimed a provisional regency in Parma in the name of Maria Luigia and on 30 June he appointed Count Ferdinando Marescalchi as imperial commissioner. On August 6, 1814 , Count Filippo Magawly Cerati succeeded him as Minister of State, and immediately provided for the reorganization of the State according to the plans already established with Metternich. Maria Luigia took effective possession of power only on March 17, 1816 . He appointed Magawly Cerati president of the extraordinary Council of State, judge of the Constantinian Order of St. George [1] and his intimate councilor of state. Magawly Cerati worked to build several important public works, including the bridge over the Taro(designed by Antonio Cocconcelli and built by a Milanese company), and obtained the return to Parma of some of the works of art removed at the behest of Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 1823 he returned to Ireland and settled in Dublin, where he remained, except for a brief trip to Parma in 1828 , until his death at the age of only 48. He was known for being a highly cultured and eclectic man, passionate about history and scientific topics. Together with Gerolamo Gottardi, professor of pharmacy at the University of Parma , he developed a new method for extracting sugar from honey. He was an excellent connoisseur of English, German, French and Italian literature. In addition to his native language , English , he was fluent in Italian , French and German , and was enrolled in the Accademia dei Filomati .

Via Filippo Magawly, a street in the San Lazzaro district, is named after him in Parma.