James Fennell
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James Fennell


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Track 1: James Fennell initially details the history of Burtown House and also the Fennell family history and the connection with Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator, is discussed. The family milling business is described. His grandfather, William James (Jim), was a young man when WWI broke out, and he joined the Royal Artillery regiment and survived the war. James notes that the photographs of Jim show an unsmiling man who, on his return to Ireland, discovered a different and a difficult place. The work of the Land Commission resulted in the distribution of 1,400 acres which comprised most of the estate. James’ great-grandfather, William James (W. J.), also served in the war, and he died in 1928. Track 2: It is believed that W. J. Fennell left the Quakers around the time of WWI in order to take up military duties. James explains that W. J. was married to Isabel Shackleton from Belan Lodge, Moone, Co. Kildare, and the connection with the Shackleton family is discussed. Some photographs of the family in Ireland and in India, where W. J. was stationed with the Army, are examined. The photographs feature members of the Fennell, Grubb, Davis, McElroy and Moore families of Quakers. James’ father, William, never really knew his own father Jim who did not marry until later in life, and James discusses the circumstances under which his father inherited the property and the difficulties owing to a lack of capital. He explains how William spent his entire adult life paying off death duties and he also explains how this was achieved. He says that from about 1920 the family kept a low profile, and the difficulties of living in an old house with a low income and a heavy burden of taxes are described. He also describes his father’s ‘factory’ which produced computers from the stables! Track 3: The changing beliefs of the Quakers and the breaking of the connection with them are discussed. James’ mother was Lesley Walsh, and she did not come from the Quaker tradition. James considers that his grandfather Jim must have been a determined and brave individual to have left his Quaker background and to work with artillery during the war. He discusses the work of his great-grandfather, Charles Turner (C. T.) Allen, and how he was swindled out of his business in India; a riches to rags story. C. T. appointed Rudyard Kipling to his first position as a journalist on his Indian newspaper. James discusses the modern Allen family achievements, and the influence of his family background and his childhood on his own work is also examined. He talks about the importance to him of capturing the vanishing character of older generations in Ireland. The short-sightedness of the destruction of Irish-made buildings in the last century is considered, with the subsequent huge loss to Ireland’s heritage.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The Irish Country House and the Great War


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

8.18 MB, 17.22 MB, 13.15 MB

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Product ID:



The Fennell family of Burtown House

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore