Johnny Madden (b. 1939)
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Johnny Madden (b. 1939)


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Track 1: The Madden family have lived at Hilton Park for ten generations. When it was bought in 1734, the estate stretched over 4,000 acres and Johnny Madden provides details of the purchase of the property at that time. He recalls his early memories of the house when his father was home on leave in the early 1940s. His grandfather, John (Jack) Clements Waterhouse Madden, had died before Johnny was born. His grandmother was Agnes Mary Tate of the Tate and Lyle sugar company family. His father, John William Ryder Madden, married Nita Mellor, daughter of General John Seymour Mellor who had served in the Boer War, WWI and WWII. He was Chief Constable of War Department Constabulary. Johnny’s great-uncle, Gerald Hugh Charles Madden, joined the 3rd Hussars in the 1890s, was sent to India on a twelve-year posting and joined the Irish Guards on its formation in 1900. The circumstances surrounding Gerald’s death from wounds inflicted in 1915 at the Battle of Loos are explained. Johnny provides some details about his grandfather, Jack, and of his political activities. He was Lieutenant-Colonel in the Irish Fusiliers and had a reputation as a disciplinarian. Johnny recounts an anecdote relating to Jack’s time as director of the Great Northern Railway. Johnny’s father John was the older son and he inherited the property which is very close to the border with Northern Ireland. Some issues relating to life there are discussed. Track 2: The possible threat of being burned out by the IRA during the War of Independence is discussed, as is Johnny’s grandfather Jack’s staunch Unionism. Johnny mentions a diary, kept by a member of the cadet branch of the family at Rosslea, which apparently includes some interesting information about the period. His personal interest in his family history is evident and he explains that he is fortunate to have so much documentary information available to him. He discusses his father’s military career in the Irish Guards from the 1930s onwards, explaining that John saw his first action as a member of the party which evacuated the Dutch royal family and cabinet. In 1941, he was a member of the raiding party at Boulogne, along with Jack Leslie of Castle Leslie. Johnny recalls some more details of his father’s career before he was wounded and invalided out. Details about the return of the family to Ireland, and the difficulties they encountered due to the state of agriculture at that time, are explored. His father’s innovations with regard to silage, forestry and bulbs, and the sense of responsibility he felt are described and Johnny also talks about the employment provided by the big houses. Track 3: The difficulties brought by the Troubles from 1968 onwards are discussed and Johnny talks about the cross-border social life and how this was affected. He emphasises the particular difficulties in 1972 and the demographic changes in the Border areas due to nationalist refugees from the North at that time, people of different customs and habits. He explains why his branch of the Madden name are now members of the Church of Ireland tradition, and the advantages to this membership in older times. Track 4: The photograph album of Johnny’s great-uncle, Gerald Madden, which has recently come back to Hilton Park, is examined and discussed. The photographs feature Gerald’s military involvement, including the Monaghan Militia, the Hussars and the Irish Guards. Other photographs are examined which are fortunately annotated with the names of the soldiers and also with some comments. Track 5: Johnny provides some detail about his great-uncle Gerald’s military career and his death in the Great War. Gerald was in command of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards in 1915 and was wounded in a shell hit. He died not long afterwards in November 1915. Gerald had one sister, Sydney, who married the Marquess of Ailesbury. Johnny’s father, John, became a close friend of Gerald’s son Denis, who died during WWII. Johnny himself also joined the Irish Guards. The responsibility felt by the commander of a battalion is explained by an anecdote told to Johnny by his father. He remembers Irish Guardsmen visiting their home after WWII, and how the regiment was very important to his father. He explains the bonding formed between these military men who had seen action together under fire, facing a common foe, and he says that the fact that his father had lost a leg during the war made him a driven man. He remembers a story, told him by his mother, of being in a Dublin restaurant and seeing the German ambassador there during the war, and how strange they found this at the time. Track 6: John Madden’s politics, or rather lack of them, are discussed. Johnny knows that his father approved of James Dillon, and he also speaks about his own personal view of politics. He sees himself as Ulster Irish, although he says that more recent Troubles have driven a wedge between people of his class from both sides of the border. He talks about the difficulties around the caring of an old house and the fact that, for this reason, he would prefer to be in the United Kingdom from a business and heritage point of view. His grandfather, Jack, who was staunchly Unionist and a covenanter, made his own submission to the Boundary Commission advocating that the waterways should mark the border. He says that his father was very proud to be Irish, as he is himself.

Additional information



Audio series:

The Irish Country House and the Great War


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

5.74 MB, 9.05 MB, 14.87 MB, 6.69 MB, 7.81 MB, 13.23 MB, 7.12 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



The Madden family of Hilton Park

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore