The Mulock family of Bellair/Baile Ard, Ballycumber, County Offaly. By Eamonn Larkin

Specially contributed to mark the Decade of Centenaries in Offaly #DecadeofCentenaries @DeptCultureIRL @DepartmentofCultureIRL Tourism-Culture-Gaeltacht @offalyheritage @offalylibraries

Bellair or Ballyard is in the Parish of Lemanaghan, in the Barony of Garrycastle and has an area of 1,198 acres and borders Hall, Westmeath in the north, Cappanalosset in the west, Moorock to the east and Springpark to the south. The dominant feature is the Hill of Bellair, which is visible from adjoining counties. The most striking feature of the Hill is the wonderful plantation of Beech and Fir trees which were planted on the instructions of Rev. Doctor Mulock. The Mulock or Mullock family were not planters, but were Irish landowners, who originated in the North of Ireland in the lands of Dal Araide.

Bellair House

The branch of the Mulock family that lived in Bellair and Kilnagarna originated near Ballynakill,  Meelick [Miloc] in East Galway. During Cromwell’s time in Ireland the Mulock family were encouraged to convert from Catholicism to the English Church to secure large farms in Westmeath. As a result the Chapel in Bellair House was removed and the Altar Rails were donated to the Catholic Church in Millane. They were lost in the fire in the Church but, fortunately, St Manchan’s Shrine was saved.

Thomas Mulock from Ballynakill, Galway married Elizabeth Mulock from Cheshire in 1650 approximately and their son Thomas [1655 – ] married first Frances Meares and had one son Jeremiah, secondly Margaret Conran. Their son Robert Mulock practised as a doctor in Moate before moving to Banagher. He married Katherine Homan and their son Rev. John Mulock inherited Bellair Estate from his uncle John Mulock [John of Liss].

Rev. John was born in 1729 and obtained a B.A. Degree from Trinity College. He married Frances Wetherall and had four children Hurd Augustus, John, Sarah and Frances Amilia. He later married his first cousin Anne Homan from Surrock, Westmeath and had three children, Thomas Homan, Mary and Elizabeth. He acquired lands in Surrock, Westmeath with this marriage. He is credited with improving large tracts of land and with planting the trees on Bellair Hill.  He also sponsored a dispensary and a school in Bellair to cater for the children of the families who were engaged in the Flax growing and linen weaving industry.        

Rev. John Mulock died in 1803 after leaving his estates to his son Thomas Homan Mulock.

Thomas Homan Mulock (1765–1843) was educated in Ballitore School. He married Catherine Frances daughter of Thomas Berry, Eglish Castle and Elizabeth Bury, Charleville Castle and a direct descendent of King Edward. They had no children. He demolished the old Bellair House which stood close to the present house. The new Bellair House was designed by Richard Morrison, with a three-bay entrance front, dominated by a deep arched recess with a concave surround beneath which the entrance door is set. It includes a single storey extension.  The design is said to be similar to Cangort House, Shinrone.   


Bellair House c. 1900

Thomas was given permission by his father Rev. John Mulock to build 50 slated houses in Bellair to accommodate the workers who were engaged in the Flax and Linen industry. The Agriculture and Manufactures Survey of the Kings County in 1801 by Sir Charles Coote described the plan for the village of slated houses to be very correct and not inferior to small manufacturing English Villages. More than 30 of the houses, including a Public House were built in Bellair Village and were known as “ Slate Row “.  

Flax was grown extensively and land was acquired on “con acre” for this purpose. Thomas Lowe, an experienced flax grower was brought to Bellair by the Mulock family to teach the locals about flax growing and the processes involved in creating linen. He was initially accommodated in the Gate Lodge, but apparently impressed his masters to the extent that he was given the tenancy to a farm of adjoining land. Here he experimented in the production of flax.

People who planted an acre of Flax were awarded four Spinning Wheels and those who planted five acres were awarded a Loom. The industry provided full employment for the residents of Bellair and met its first recession in the 1770s and was recovering when the 1798 Rebellion broke out. The arrival of steam driven mechanical machinery finished the hand loom industry and the Famine left many families with no option but to emigrate to America. The population of Bellair dropped from 414 in 1841 to 266 in 1851.                                                                                                                                                                      

Thomas Homan Mulock died in 1843 and is buried in Liss. He left his estate to his nephew Thomas Homan Mulock Molloy [1798 – 1889], a son of his sister Elizabeth and Laurence Bomford Molloy from Clonbela near Kilcormac.

Thomas Homan Mulock Molloy, later known as Thomas Homan Mulock [1798–1889] B.A., M.A., M.B., M.D., J.P., He was educated in Trinity College and he assumed, by Royal Licence, dated 14th February 1843 the name and arms of Homan Mulock. He married on 5th February 1828 in Liss Church, Frances Sophia Berry, daughter of John Berry, Cloneen, Kings County, a granddaughter of the Earl of Charleville and a lineal descendent of Oliver Cromwell.  They had fifteen children. Thomas Homan Mulock was J.P. for King’s County and he served as High Sheriff for the County in 1849. Following the Famine years, many of the tenants had emigrated to America or died, the estate was in poor condition. At this time also, the family started to move away from Bellair,  with many of the boys travelling to Australia. The remaining  family left Bellair in 1854 and went to live on he continent.        

Bellair House was rented to Robert Holmes, Captain Henry Ward, Rev. R.H. Dunne, Richard Goodbody for his honeymoon in the Summer of 1871 and to Robert Mooney. During this time Joseph Revington was Land Steward on Bellair Estate.

Thomas Homan Mulock died aged 92 on 25th June 1889 and is buried in Liss. His wife Frances Sophia died on 12th August 1863 and is buried in Leghorn, Italy.                           

Their son, William Bury Homan Mulock J.P., D.L., I.C.S., 1841–1921. Educated in Trinity College and was appointed to the Indian Civil Service. He served in Bombay in various roles including Inspector of Education and Senior Collector and Magistrate. He retired in 1889 and succeeded to his father’s estates.               

The estates were in poor condition, and he carried out many improvements. According to his diaries, he had the farm buildings rebuilt, all the fields cleared of rocks, fern and brambles. He replaced the old hedges with stone walls and tilled the land. He employed 16 labourers at 7 shillings a week. He also had three farms in Westmeath, Knockdomney 100 acres, Killenboylegan 40 acres and Balnagarbary 30 acres which were the source of much agitation regarding the distribution of the land locally. A force of 30 to 40 Police Officers had to be stationed in Moate to protect the land and the elderly Herd. The movement of cattle and machinery between the three farms and Bellair had to be escorted by Police Officers.                             

William Bury Homan Mulock  made an agreement with the Land Commission in 1910 to dispose of the farms under the Land Acts of 1908/9. His Bellair tenants also acquired their holdings under the same Land Acts. In 1918, ten years after becoming a Landlord without tenants, he described himself as living like an English squire, without fear of malicious injuries, cattle drives and burnings. He also explains that the Corn Production Act 1917 compelled occupiers to cultivate 10% more of their land than they cultivated in 1916 and in 1918 they were compelled to till a further 5%. The Agricultural Wages Board raised the Farm Labourers wages to 22 shillings and 6 pence per week and the Government doubled the Valuation of the land and increased the Income Tax assessment, making it difficult to make a profit.                                                                                          

Mulock was High Sheriff for King’s County and he died in 1921. In his will he left Bellair House and remainder of the Estate to his niece, Lady Hester Nina Nutting, but she refused it and gave it to her niece Sheila Claude Beddington Wingfield, Viscountess Powerscourt.

William’s brother, Francis Berry Homan Mulock was educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen and Trinity College. He entered the Indian Civil Service after passing an exam in 1869 and arrived in India in November 1871. He served in the North West Province and retired in 1898. He married Ethel Annie Braddon, daughter of Edward Nicholas Braddon, Premier of Tasmania, 1887 -1894, and author of the Australian Constitution in Bangalore, Bengal, India on 14th August 1878 and they had three children, Frances Ethel, Edward and Nina  Hester.   


Ballycumber House c. 1900

 Francis and Ethel purchased Ballycumber House and Estate in 1898. Their son Edward was born in Tregarth, Tasmania on 20th October 1881. He worked for the Diplomatic Service and married Elsie Mabel Hume Henderson on 5th June 1910 in London. He died in Kensington, London in 1946. Their daughter Nina Hester Homan Mulock was born in Aligurth, North West Province, India on 27th November 1882. She married Harold Stansmore Nutting in London on 6th August 1913. They had three sons, John Victor, Edward Christin and Harold Anthony. John and Edward were killed on active service in World War 2 and Anthony, later Sir Anthony Nutting is credited with negotiating the withdrawal of British Soldiers from Suez with President Gamal Abdel Nassar of Egypt in 1954. Nina Hester died in 1961 and her husband Harold passed away in 1972.      

Her sister Frances Ethel  was born in 1878 and died in 1963, she married Claude Beddington on the 16th October 1900 and they had three children. Frances Ethel had two books published, Book of Reminiscences and All that I have met. On a visit to her parents in Ballycumber in 1905, Frances Ethel, or as she was known in London society, Mrs Claude Beddington, learned that a son of a foreman in the Athlone Woollen Mills, had a wonderful tenor voice. It was arranged that the young John McCormack would come to Ballycumber and sing for Mrs Beddington and her mother. So impressed was she with him that she arranged with others for him to travel to Milan to train with the great singing teacher, Sabatini. John McCormack quickly made his fortune, but he never forgot the help Mrs Beddington gave him.                                           

Claude Beddington, served with the Westmoreland and Cumbria Yeomanry in World War 1 and died aged 72 in World War 11 when his boat The Orca was machine gunned from the air off the coast of Wales.

Their sons Guy Claude born in 1902 in Middlesex, London, died of Tuberculosis in Munich in 1925 and Niall born in 1912 in St Marylebone, London, died in Switzerland on 16th January 1935.

Their daughter Sheila Claude was born 23rd May 1906 in Lymington, Hampshire and died in 1992. She married Mervyn Patrick Wingfield, 9th Viscount Powerscourt, from Enniskerry, Wicklow. He was High Commissioner of the Boy Scouts and Sheila was High Commissioner of the Girl Guides. Sheila was a writer and poet and had many literary works published including Beat Drum, Beat Heart. Her books, Real People and Sun Too Fast won her literary acclaim. They had three children; Grania Sybil Wingfield was born in1934 and married Hercules Ralph Hume Langrishe and lives in Co Meath.

Mervyn Niall Wingfield  was born in 1935 and married Wendy Ann Pauline Slazenger in 1962.  He succeeded to the titles, 10th Viscount Powerscourt, 4th Baron Powerscourt and 10th Baron Wingfield. He later married Pauline Van from San Francisco in London in 1978. Mervyn died in Thailand on 25th July 2015.

Guy Claude Patrick Wingfield was born in 1940 in Valdamere, Paget, Bermuda and died in Applegate, Placer County, California in 2017.

Because of Sheila’s poor health, and the effects of being captured by the Germans during World War II on Patrick’s health, they sold their estates. Powerscourt in Wicklow was sold in 1963 to the Slazenger family and Bellair to Patrick and Elise Dunne- Cullinan.

Patrick Dunne Cullinan had lived in Knockdrin Castle, near Mullingar from 1946 to 1961, when he sold the castle and land to a German couple. He was a noted horse man and owned a number of successful racehorses. The most successful was Royal Day, Galway Plate winner in 1967and 1969. He also served as President of the Royal Dublin Society from 1970 to 1972. In his younger days he acquired some fame as an actor and played the part of Denis O’Hara in the Irish produced film, Irish Destiny. He sold Bellair Estate in 1976 to Cornelius Barrs. The estate is currently for sale.