History of Kinsalebeg
Walshs of Pilltown: Part 1

Sir Nicholas Walsh Senior


The Walsh family of Pilltown, Kinsalebeg Co Waterford were a prominent Pilltown and Waterford family from the 16th to the 18th century. The history of the Walshs of Pilltown essentially starts with Sir Nicholas Walsh Senior who was born in Waterford around 1540. The direct male line of the family ended with the death of Colonel Robert Walsh who was a great great great grandson of Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr.  Colonel Robert Walsh died in Bath, England in 1788. There were of course many other Walsh lines of descent which continued to the present day but the focus in this chapter of Kinsalebeg history is the direct male line of descent from Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr born circa 1540 to Colonel Robert Walsh who died in 1788. The intervening 250 years provided some of the most turbulent periods in Irish history and the Walsh family were hugely involved in many aspects of this period of violent confrontations.  They were to lose many family members and relations in the conflicts that arose between the Irish and the English in this period. The Walsh family had a number of residences in Kinsalebeg including Pilltown Castle, the Manor of Pilltown and Ballykeerogue Castle in Killrossanty Co Waterford. Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr also had an estate in Clonmore Co Kilkenny.

Pilltown Castle and Ballykeerogue Castle were both early residences of the Walshs of Pilltown. These two castles were part of the large Munster estates of the Earls of Desmond or Geraldines that were confiscated after the failed Desmond rebellion. They subsequently came into possession of Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr when the Desmond estates were broken up and the land was distributed amongst those who had helped in quelling the rebellion. Pilltown Castle was adjacent to the present day ruins of Pilltown Mills which is located close to Pilltown Church. The Blackwater River has a high tide inlet here which made it suitable for the industrial and indeed military activities which took place in that area over the centuries as it provided water access to the Blackwater and Youghal Bay. The Walshs also had a residence in Pilltown Manor which was approximately 300 yards from the castle in the Monatray direction. The entrance to Pilltown Manor was at the junction of the slip road leading to Pilltown Mills/Castle from the Pilltown Church side. Pilltown Manor itself was about 100 yards inland from the entrance and the gate pillars of the entrance still exist. The gate pillars on the main road are the only part of the original structure that remains. The rest of the manor was blown up in the mid 20th century due to safety grounds.

The Walshs of Pilltown spanned the period from the Desmond rebellions of the 16th century, through the 1641 rebellions incorporating Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland and the subsequent land confiscations and deportations. The Walsh family played a significant role in Irish history during this period ranging from Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr in his position as a Chief Justice in Ireland to his successors who were primarily active on the Irish rebel side of the many conflicts. Sir Nicholas Walsh Jnr, who was son of Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr, was involved on the rebel side in the 1641-1649 rebellion as were his sons James, Thomas and Pierce Walsh. Sir Nicholas Walsh Jnr was apparently killed during the siege of Dungarvan in 1643 and the Walsh leadership then passed to Thomas Walsh and later to his son Colonel Robert Walsh and so on down to the aforementioned Colonel Robert Walsh (the 2nd) who died in Bath in 1788.  We will start with an overview of the ancestry of the Walshs of Ireland together with the life of Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr.

Early Walsh History

The Walshs originated in Wales. There were a number of variations of the Walsh name in the earlier period including Waleys, Wallis and the Irish variations of the name included Breathnach, Brannagh, Brunnock and Brannick. The Walshs first came to Ireland around 1169 at the time of the Cambro-Norman (as distinct from the Anglo-Norman) invasion into Ireland. They arrived with leaders like Richard FitzGilbert De Clare, Earl of Pembroke more commonly known as Strongbow; Raymond Carew, also known as Raymond Le Gros; Gerald Fitzmaurice and Robert FitzStephen. The brothers David & Philip Walsh were two of the early Walshs to settle in Ireland. Philip Walsh was the more prominent of the brothers and distinguished himself in February 1174 in a naval battle with a Danish fleet of thirty five ships at Youghal. The Danish fleet under the command of Gilbert, son of Turgesius, attacked the army of Strongbow at Youghal. Some accounts1 have this battle at Dungarvan and the same account has the hero as David Walsh, brother of Philip. It was reported that:

“Philip Walsh, an adventurer from Wales, leaped with his drawn sword on board the Danish Admiral’s ship, and killed Gilbert, whereupon the Danes withdrew their forces, and the booty was forwarded by sea to Waterford” 2.

Philip Walsh married Eleanor, daughter of Sir Maurice de Burgh and their son was Hayle Walsh who built “Castle Hayle” or Castlehoel in the Walsh Mountains in Kilkenny. Hayle Walsh married Catherine who was a daughter of Raymond Le Gros. It is from this Hayle Walsh that the majority of the Walshs in Ireland were descended including Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr and the Walshs of Pilltown. There was a lot in common between the Welsh and the Irish as they both came from Celtic backgrounds. The Walsh descendants, as other invaders from Wales, were often seen as “English” by the Irish and “Irish” by the English over the centuries. The Walsh family, including the Walshs of Pilltown, proved to be well capable over the years of surviving in this difficult situation. In time the Walshs formed many separate Walsh clans including Walshs of the Mountain (Kilkenny), Walshs of Serrant, Walshs of Pilltown, Walshs of Ballygunner and the Walshs/Welshs of Canty/Woodstock – these last three in particular having family links.

Sir Nicholas Walsh Senior

Family Background:

 Nicholas Walsh of Pilltown was born in Waterford around 1540 and was the first member of the branch of the Walsh family that subsequently became known as the Walshs of Pilltown. They were sometimes described as the Walshs of Pilltown and Ballykeerogue. Nicholas Walsh was the son of James Walsh who was Mayor of Waterford City in 1539, 1547 and 1562 and who died about 1576. James Walsh’s brother Henry was also Mayor of Waterford in 1556 and their father Patrick Walsh had been Mayor in 1528 & 1532. Going back further we know that Patrick Walsh’s father, Richard Walsh, had also been involved in politics and so it is clear that many generations of the Walshs preceding Nicholas Walsh Snr had been active in political and business life in Waterford.

Ancestry of Walshs of Pilltown (Descendant Sequence):

Early Life of Nicholas Walsh in Period 1540 to 1575:

Nicholas Walsh’s father James, who had been Mayor of Waterford, died when Nicholas was relatively young. The young Nicholas was entrusted to the care of Thomas “Black Tom” Butler the 10th Earl of Ormond and thus started the lifelong close association between Nicholas Walsh and the Ormond dynasty. The Earl of Ormond arranged for Nicholas to be raised in Waterford by the family of Nicholas White. Nicholas White later became Master of the Rolls in Ireland which was the second most senior judge in the country after the Chief Justice. Nicholas White’s father was a steward of the Earl of Ormond. This close connection with the Butler family, more commonly known as the Earls of Ormond, was to play a significant role in the rise of Nicholas Walsh to the high positions he attained during his life. These close links were also a key factor in the extensive land holdings obtained by the Walshs in later years. Nicholas Walsh entered the legal profession and obtained his legal education at King’s Inns in Dublin and Lincoln’s Inn (1561) in the UK before returning to Waterford. Nicholas White had also been in Lincoln’s Inn in 1552 and was appointed Master of the Rolls in Ireland in 1572. Nicholas Walsh held the position of recorder of Waterford for many years and his earlier legal career was influenced by Nicholas White.

On 14th December 1570 Nicholas Walsh was appointed second justice in Munster and in this capacity was a major support to Sir John Perrot who was President of Munster at that time. He later supported Perrott in the overthrow of the Desmond rebellion of James FitzMaurice FitzGerald 16th Earl of Desmond who rebelled against the crown authority of Queen Elizabeth I of England. The Desmond FitzGeralds were a Munster branch of a larger FitzGerald dynasty more commonly known as the Geraldines. The Desmonds were a permanent thorn in the side of the English authorities and their bitter rivalry with the Ormond Butlers was the source of centuries of conflict. The Desmonds were beaten by the Ormondes at the Battle of Affane in 1565 and the Earl of Desmond was imprisoned but this did not end the conflict.

 John Perrott returned to England in the summer of 1573 after disagreements concerning the reinstatement of the defeated Earl of Desmond. This left Nicholas Walsh as the most senior official of the crown in Munster at a difficult political time. Nicholas Walsh’s fears of a recurrence of hostilities between the Ormonds and the Desmonds was well founded as the Earl of Desmond escaped from prison in November 1573 and again took up command of his forces in Munster. The Earl of Desmond resumed hostilities against Ormond who again had the support of Nicholas Walsh. Nicholas Walsh apparently tried to impress the Earl of Desmond of the dangerous situation that would arise if he proceeded with his plans for a resumption of the rebellion but the Earl reputedly replied:

Before God, Mr Walsh, I do not intend it”.

 However in his role as second Justice in Munster Nicholas Walsh proceeded to furnish Lord Burghley, Secretary of State for Queen Elizabeth I, with a list of the misdeeds of the Earl of Desmond and it was only a matter of time before events caught up with the Earl. The hostilities stopped short of becoming an all out war and the parties eventually signed a nervous truce in March 1574 before the Earl of Desmond conceded defeat in September 1574.  After the cessation of violence Nicholas Walsh became one of the three commissioners who were responsible for running the government in Munster and his particular responsibility was the administration of justice.

Appointment as Chief Justice of Munster in Period 1540 to 1575:

The vacancy of President of Munster was filled in 1576 and Nicholas Walsh was appointed Chief Justice of Munster by Queen Elizabeth I. Another Desmond rebellion broke out in 1579 but Nicholas Walsh in his role as Chief Justice of the province was not directly involved in this conflict. The conflict ended when the Earl of Desmond was hunted down and captured in Tralee Co Kerry in November 1583 by the local Moriarty clan. He was beheaded and his head was sent to Queen Elizabeth, who put it on display on London Bridge, and his body was put on display on the walls of Cork. This was the end of another disturbing period of violence in Munster and in the life of Nicholas Walsh. The Desmond rebellions and the associated famine and plague had left Munster in a devastated state and it is estimated that a third of the province’s population died in this period. The Annals of the Four Masters described the situation in Munster as follows:

“... the whole tract of country from Waterford to Lothra, and from Cnamhchoill to the county of Kilkenny, was suffered to remain one surface of weeds and waste... At this period it was commonly said, that the lowing of a cow, or the whistle of the ploughboy, could scarcely be heard from Dun-Caoin to Cashel in Munster”.

Nicholas Walsh was again appointed as a commissioner for governing the province of Munster and he was also appointed joint governor of Co Cork in 1584. He was of involved in events surrounding the Plantation of Munster in his capacity as Chief Justice of Munster and joint governor of Cork. The Munster Plantation was the first large scale plantation in Ireland and commenced around 1580. It was in effect a punishment for those who had supported the Desmond rebellion against English involvement in Munster. The large Earl of Desmond estates and the land of other supporters was confiscated and given to English and Welsh colonists in the hope that they would provide a protection against future rebellions against English rule. The Desmond lands spanned the greater part of Munster from Waterford across to Kerry and comprised hundreds of thousands of acres. Nicholas Walsh found himself in a difficult position in the confiscation of land from those involved in the recent rebellions. Many of his relatives and friends were on the Desmond side of the rebellion and had their land confiscated in this period. In addition Nicholas Walsh himself had acquired land cheaply from rebellion supporters and was of course unwilling to hand this land over to English colonists. He was later to successfully challenge some of the grants of land to colonists and in the process he himself obtained control of large land holdings. There is no doubt that the various legal and governmental positions occupied by Nicholas Walsh put him in an ideal position to monitor and influence land confiscations and the subsequent re-distribution of this land.

Nicholas Walsh came into possession of significant lands and property in the Kinsalebeg area of Waterford and also in Kilkenny, Cork, Wexford and other parts of Waterford in the period from 1583 to 1609. The Castle of Ballykeeroge in Kilrossanty was granted to Nicholas Walsh in 15873 and he was also granted the Castle of Pilltown around this period. Both these castles previously formed part of the defences of the Earls of Desmond but were now in possession of Nicholas Walsh of Pilltown.

M.P and Speaker of the Irish House of Commons in Period 1585- 1586:

John Perrot returned to Ireland in 1584 and was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in succession to Arthur Grey. Perrot had been Governor of Munster at the time of the Desmond Rebellion but had left Ireland in 1573 as he had disagreed with the subsequent reinstatement of the defeated Earl of Desmond. One of his priorities, on his return to Ireland in 1584, was the completion of the plantation of Munster. Perrot quickly realised that the involvement of Nicholas Walsh in the plantation process was a problem due to the above mentioned sympathies and involvement with both sides in the process. He recognised however that Nicholas Walsh was a very capable official who had established a formidable reputation in Munster and would be an important ally in the period ahead. He summoned Nicholas Walsh to Dublin and in 1585 appointed him as Second Justice of The Queen’s Bench. This was one of the most senior positions of justice in Ireland. Nicholas Walsh was also elected as a member of Parliament for Waterford in the Perrot led Irish Parliament in 1585 and on convening of that parliament he was elected as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. The Irish Parliament of 1585 was not a great success due to a fundamental breakdown in trust between the crown supporters and the previously loyal Anglo-Norman gentry. They had often found themselves on opposite sides during the recent rebellions. Indeed Walsh’s own ambiguous position since the rebellion epitomised the difficulties involved and the Irish Parliament was dissolved in May 1586. Walsh made a long and impassioned speech to the House of Commons on the day the parliament was dissolved on 14th May 1586 in which he managed to rebuke both sides of the house for their lack of effort during the duration of the parliament. He had grown increasingly disillusioned with the effectiveness of English rule in Ireland which he attributed to the remoteness of Ireland from the levers of power in England.

Nicholas Walsh had no particular problems with the English form of government which involved a mixture of monarchy, democracy and aristocratic input in the form of institutions such as the House of Lords. However he believed that this power structure was a step removed from the reality of what was happening on the ground in Ireland and that the wishes of the Irish people would be better served with an Irish governed administration. He was therefore extremely disappointed in the failure of Perrot’s Irish Parliament which was largely due to the inability of the various Irish factions to reconcile their differences in the interest of having a more effective local Irish government. He articulated his feelings in his speech to the Irish House of Commons which included the following excerpt:

It is to be confessed that as the sunne giveth lyf to every growing thing, so doth it work his effect the more or the less, according to his neerenes or far distance from the same. And although her majestie be (as touching her authoritie) as present here as in any other wheare, yet do the subjects of this land often want the comfort of that person, which hath in her hands the distribution of reward and punishment, [which] can avayle much in the increasing of virtue and minishing of vice”.

Justice Nicholas Walsh went on to persuade Lord Deputy Perrot to outline the Irish problems to the Queen so “that this land be not henceforward an instrument without a sounding board”. Walsh was in a most diplomatic way trying to say that the rule of Ireland from the remoteness of London was not going to work. He was finding it extremely difficult to balance the sometimes conflicting roles of Justice of the Queen’s Bench, Irish, royalist, Protestant, closet Catholic, landowner, MP and Anglo-Norman sympathiser. Additionally many of his relatives supported the Irish rebel cause and many of them were Catholics.

Appointment to Irish Privy Council and Post Perrot Period 1587-1596:

When the Irish parliament was dissolved in 1585 Nicholas Walsh went to London for a period and on his return to Ireland around 1587.  He was appointed to the Irish Privy Council which would be similar to a present day Council of State. He also managed to confirm his ownership of the lands he had acquired at the time of the earlier rebellions. He had hoped that he would be able to return to his position as Chief Justice of Munster but the problems surrounding the land disputes of his earlier period in Munster made this appointment unlikely against and he remained in Dublin. Sir William Fitzwilliam replaced Sir John Perrot as Lord Deputy of Ireland and immediately set about removing Perrot supporters from involvement in his new regime. He managed to obtain a conviction for treason against Perrot in 1592 and also arranged for the expulsion of Nicholas Walsh from the Irish Privy Council. He threatened to put Walsh on trial at the Court of Castle Chamber for his support of Perrot but did not carry out his threat. Walsh was nothing if not resilient and Fitzwilliam restored him as a privy councillor later in 1592. Walsh also became increasingly involved as a judge in serious criminal cases which took place in what were known as The Courts of Assize or Assizes, including for example the assizes in Maryborough where he sat as a senior judge in 1693. Nicholas Walsh was sent back to Munster to mediate in the ongoing land disputes as William Fitzwilliam became increasingly aware of some of the benefits of having Walsh on his team such as his legal expertise, his local knowledge and his ability as a negotiator.

Appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and Knighted in 1597:

Nicholas Walsh was appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas on 15th November 1597. The Irish Court of Common Pleas was a senior court of common law in Ireland and was the equivalent of Court of Common Pleas in England. The Irish court system was based on the English system of law containing what were known as the Four Courts of Equity consisting of the Exchequer, Chancery, Common Pleas, and King’s/Queen’s Bench and were located in the area still known as the Four Courts in Dublin. The Chief Justice was the most senior judge in the Court of Common Pleas and was therefore one of the highest judicial figures in Ireland. The Court of Common Pleas was originally established around 1274 with Robert Bagot as Chief Justice and continued to function until it was merged into the new High Court of Justice in 1877. The last Chief Justice of the Common Pleas was Lord Killanin aka Michael Morris who held the title from 1876 to 1887. Killanin was appointed Lord Chief Justice of Ireland and the Court of Common Pleas was discontinued. The year of 1597 was a big year for Nicholas Walsh as, in addition to his appointment as Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, he was also knighted and became Sir Nicholas Walsh. He was officially referred to thereafter as Sir Nicholas Walsh of Pilltown and/or Ballykeeroge.

Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr during the reign of King James I in Period 1603-1615:

In this period Ireland was again embroiled in conflict as the Nine Years’ War had commenced in 1594 and continued until 1603 resulting in the deaths of over 100,000 Irish & English through war and famine. This war was fought between the English rulers and the forces of the Gaelic Irish chieftains of Hugh O’Neill and Hugh Roe O’Donnell and was a brutal and bloody war during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The poet Edmund Spenser, who was living in Youghal in this period, wrote that the victims "were brought to such wretchedness as that any stony heart would have rued the same". The subsequent defeat of the Irish chieftains in 1603 resulted in the exile of O’Neill and O’Donnell in what became known as the Flight of the Earls. Nicholas Walsh spent most of the period from 1598 to 1603 in Waterford and other parts of Munster where he assisted The Lord President of Munster, Sir George Carew, in the fight against the Irish rebels and effectively acted as the chief judicial officer in Munster. When George Carew returned to England the governance of the province of Munster was in the control of a number of commissioners which included Sir Nicholas Walsh, Nicholas Walsh’s brother in law Justice Garret Comerford, Sir Charles Wilmot, Sir George Thornton and Justice Saxey. Queen Elizabeth I, sometimes called the Virgin Queen or Good Queen Bess, was queen of England in this period. She was a daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn who was executed when Elizabeth was two years old. When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, around the time of the ending of the Nine Years’ War, she was succeeded by James I.

Sir Nicholas Walsh put himself out in a limb by ordering the Mayor of Waterford to publicly proclaim the accession of James I to the throne as King of England in 1603. No doubt he had been instructed to do so by the Lord President of Munster who, no more than a number of previous crown administrators, were somewhat dubious of Nicholas Walsh’s real allegiances. Nicholas Walsh believed that King James I would be sympathetic to Ireland and would be tolerant of religious differences. The Mayor of Waterford was obviously more sceptical of the motives of James I and refused Walsh’s request to proclaim the new king. The Mayor demanded that Catholics should be acknowledged and accepted by whoever succeeded Elizabeth and that King James I should implement his promises for religious tolerance in Ireland. The Mayor had the backing of the inhabitants of Waterford who had good reason to be sceptical of any election promises emanating from the English royal court. In addition they had doubts about Walsh’s real allegiances from his role and activities during the recent rebellions.  It was becoming increasingly difficult for Sir Nicholas Walsh to have a foot in both Irish and English camps. When the Mayor of Waterford refused to proclaim the king it fell on Walsh, as the official recorder in Waterford at the time, to proclaim King James I as the new king. It was not a good decision in the circumstances and Sir Nicholas Walsh was attacked by protesters in Waterford. He was lucky to come out of the city alive and he stated himself that he would have been killed except for the fact that he was related to many of the protesters in Waterford. The following description of events appeared many years later in Charles Smith’s history of Waterford4:

            There were some expectations in Ireland that King James I of England, who also had the position of King james VI of Scotland, would be sympathetic to Catholics when he succeeded to the throne of England & Ireland in 1603. He was a son of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots and indeed succeeded her as King James VI of Scotland in 1567. As King James VI of Scotland he had received financial aid from Pope Clement VIII and had also received the backing of Pope Clement VIII in his campaign to become King of England & Ireland as well as Scotland. One of the conditions of the support of Rome was that James I would not persecute Catholics but he reneged on this promise.  Rev C Meehan in his book on the Earls O’Neill & O’Donel10 outlined the religious situation in Ireland during the early reign of King James 1:

But, priests and people had formed the most erroneous ideal of King James; for they persuaded themselves, that the son of a mother whose blood sealed her devotion to the Catholic religion must have large sympathies with the professors of that faith ..... But pope and clergy were speedily undeceived, and taught that the monarch, from whom they hoped to receive so great benefit, was utterly destitute of principle, and faithless to his word”.

The article goes on to describe the situation in Waterford in early 1603 when the people and the clergy attempted to seize back the Catholic churches:

“Meanwhile, intelligence reached Mountjoy [Lord Deputy of Ireland], from Waterford, Limerick, Cork, and elsewhere, that the cathedrals, churches, and oratories had been seized by the people and clergy, and that father White, vicar-apostolic of Waterford and Lismore, had, with approbation of the towns-people, and Nicholas Walsh, chief justice of the king’s bench, inaugurated this new state of things; hallowing St. Patrick’s on 11th April, the church of the Trinity on the day following, and singing High Mass there on Wednesday in Passion week”.

The above events alarmed Deputy Mountjoy and on the 4th May 1603 he arrived in Waterford at the head of an army of 5000 soldiers. The citizens at first refused to allow the troops to enter the town but after a sequence of events, including a threat by Mountjoy to kill Father White, Waterford eventually relented and Mountjoy’s army entered the town as described by Meehan:

The third of May, Mountjoy’s army entered Waterford; the citizens repeated their oath of allegiance; and the churches were made over to the Protestants, who, from the smallness of their numbers, had no real need of any such accommodation. From Waterford the lord deputy despatched letters to some of the other towns, commanding the Catholics to close the churches.”

The decade from 1603 was a comparatively peaceful period in Ireland and Sir Nicholas Walsh spent the earlier part of the decade providing Lord Deputy Mountjoy with legal advice in the prosecution of leading rebels in Munster area. In 1605 Walsh obtained by patent various additional estates in Kilkenny and Waterford some of which were limited to what was known as “tail male” (ie male descendants only) and the remainder limited to his son Nicholas Walsh Jnr also in “tail male”. The Ormond Papers5 also reference a number of land transactions involving Walsh in the period up to 1609 which confirms the importance of the relationship between the now Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr and the Ormond dynasty. The various judicial positions of Walsh put him in an ideal position to monitor land movements and problematic land holdings. He would have been aware of the difficulties being encountered by Sir Walter Raleigh in his estates around Youghal which was just across the harbour from his Kinsalebeg land holdings.

Nicholas Walsh Senior spent the remainder of the decade on the legal circuit in Munster and South Leinster until his resignation as Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1612 due to age and failing health. He had spent a period around 1609 as treasurer of King’s Inns in Dublin in succession to Sir James Ley and he was succeeded as treasurer of King’s Inns in 1610 by Robert Barnewall. It was recorded in King’s Inns history that Walsh was obliged to solicit additional assistance in his role as treasurer due to advanced age and growing infirmities. This may have been the reason why younger people were elected to the office of treasurer in later years. Nicholas Walsh left the finances of King’s Inns in good shape with a balance of £11 3s 0d in the coffers after receipts of £93 19s 2d and expenditure of £82 16s 2d.

Marriages of Sir Nicholas Walsh Senior

 Nicholas Walsh Senior firstly married Catherine Comerford and their children included Nicholas Walsh Junior who went on to inherit his father’s estate and title. After the death of his first wife Sir Nicholas Walsh Senior subsequently married Jacquet Colclough about 1580. She was born on the 15th September 1555 and was the daughter of Sir Anthony Colclough (1520-1584) and Clare Agard. Sir Anthony Colclough, who was a son of Richard Colclough and Eleanor Draycote, married Clare Agard, daughter of Rt. Hon. Francis Agard of Tinterne Abbey Wexford. This was Sir Anthony Colclough’s 2nd marriage having previously been married to Thomasina Sutton. Anthony Colclough originally lived in Bluerton, Staffordshire in England and came to Ireland around 1540 and became a Captain in what were known as Queen Elizabeth I’s Band of Pensioners regiment. Anthony Colclough was granted Tinterne Abbey in Wexford in 1575.

There were no children from the marriage of Nicholas Walsh and Jacquet Colclough.  Nicholas Walsh Senior also apparently had a daughter Joan outside the above marriages. Joan Walsh married William Sweetman, Baron of Erley, whose land was confiscated by Cromwell and who was transplanted to Connacht. Children of the marriage of Joan Walsh and William Sweetman included John, Edward, Piers, Francis and Nicholas. The following entry in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquarians of Ireland, 5th Series Jun 19066 outlines:

He (William Sweetman, Manor of Erlestown) married in accordance with a settlement made 20th April, 1604, when he was but nine years of age, Joan, illegitimate daughter of Sir Nicholas Walsh, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, by whom he left five sons, John, Edward, Pierce, Francis and Nicholas. He was living in January 1661/2, when he and his son, John, petitioned the King for restoration of their estate, then in the hands of Captain Baker.”

            The above etching of the coat of arms of the Walsh & Colclough family has the following notes written beneath:

Sir Nicholas Walsh Knight & Chief Justice of the Common Pleas & of ye privie councell of Ireland deceased the 12 of Aprill 1615. He had to wife Jacquet dr of Sr. Antonie Colclough of Tinterne but had not issue by her.”

The note refers to the 2nd wife of Sir Nicholas Walsh senior, namely Jacquet Colclough of Tinterne.

Land Ownership of Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr of Pilltown

Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr built up substantial land holdings and property in the late 16th and early 17th century particularly in the period after the collapse of the Desmond empire in Munster. This land was mainly in the Waterford and Kilkenny area with most of the Waterford land in and around Kinsalebeg. The Civil Survey of 1654-1656 gives the most accurate details of the land holdings that had been accumulated by Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr in Waterford during his lifetime. This is a number of decades after the death of Walsh but the land holdings would not have changed significantly in the intervening period. The Civil Survey was completed after the 1641 rebellion with all the consequent land confiscations and expulsions.  The Civil Survey lists the various land holdings of Sir Nicholas Walsh Junior, described as Sir Nicholas Welsh of Ballykeroge Kt Ir. Papist deceased, eldest son of Sir Nicholas Walsh Senior deceased. Nicholas Walsh Jnr was killed in Dungarvan over a decade earlier so the land would have been in the possession of his son Thomas Walsh when the survey commenced. Thomas Walsh was the eldest son of Sir Nicholas Walsh Jnr and a grandson of Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr.

The Waterford land owned by the Walshs of Pilltown was primarily in the parishes of Kinsalebeg (3307 acres), Ardmore (280 acres), Clashmore (300 acres), Stradbally (770 acres) and Killrossanty (996 acres). The total West Waterford land holdings of the Walshs of Pilltown were therefore close to six thousand acres in 1650. They also owned substantial amounts of land in other areas such as Clonmore in Kilkenny. The following is a breakdown of the Waterford land in possession of Sir Nicholas Walsh Jnr (deceased) on a townland basis according to the 1654-1656 Civil Survey. The parish and townland spellings are as per the original Civil Survey and are generally self explanatory but current townland names are indicated in brackets where relevant.

-          Parish of Kinsalebegg (3,307 acres) in townlands of: Monetory [Monatray] 900 acres, Newtowne [Newtown] 168 acres, Piltowne [Pilltown] 190 acres, Rath 253 acres, Glistenan [Glistenane] 148 acres, Kilmeedy 300 acres, Dromgallane [Drumgullane] 300 acres, Knockebracke [Knockbrack] 140 acres, Lackendarry [Lackendarra] 66 acres, Kilmaloo 300 acres, DLoughtan [D’Loughtane] 214 acres and Kilgabriell [Kilgabriel] 328 acres.

-          Parish of Ardmore (280 acres) in townlands of: Croskea [Crushea] 180 acres and Garranaspucke [Garranaspic] 100 acres. Note: Over the centuries Garranaspic has periodically moved between Kinsalebeg and Ardmore in historic records.

-          Parish of Clashmore (300 acres) in townlands of: Currimore & Clashmore 300 acres

-          Parish of Stradbally (770 acres) in townlands of: Islandbogg 190 acres, Ballyvoile [Ballyvoyle] 300 acres, Durrow & Sanacoole [Shanacoole] 120 acres, Knockedromlea [Knockdrumlea] 80 acres and Millerstowne [Millerstown] 80 acres.

-          Parish of Killrossinta [Kilrossanty] (1,002 acres) in townlands of: Ballykerogmore [Ballykeroge] 306 acres, Ballynevogy [Ballynevoga] 256 acres, Glandallagan [Glendalligan] 300 acres and Gort Iviccary [Gortavicary] 140 acres.

Death of Sir Nicholas Walsh of Pilltown

Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr had one last controversial card to play when he converted to Catholicism days before his death on 12th April 1615. He was publicly buried as a Catholic much to the consternation of the government of the time and of course much to the delight of the Catholic Church for which it was a major propaganda coup.  It is understood that “Black Tom” Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond who was supported by Nicholas Walsh in his battles with the Earl of Desmond in Munster, also converted to Catholicism before he died in November 1614. Justice Garret Comerford, 2nd Justice and Chief Justice of Munster & brother-in-law of Nicholas Walsh, who was a legal contemporary and close colleague of both Sir Nicholas Walsh and “Black Tom” Butler Earl of Ormond was also understood to have died a Catholic in 1604. In later history it was generally acknowledged that these three Irish born contemporaries, who had been pivotally involved in the turbulent political time of the late 16th and early 17th century, had conformed to the Elizabethan Reformation and the acceptance of the Protestant religion as this was the only avenue open to them to attain high judicial or political office or to maintain land or estates. According to a Clodagh Tait book12 on deaths and burials in Ireland, 1550-1650, the mayor and sheriffs of Waterford were “summoned to appear before the Bishop of Waterford and the Lord President of Munster” to explain the great demonstration surrounding the Catholic burial of Sir Nicholas Walsh but there is no record of any consequences.

 Sir Nicholas Walsh Senior of Pilltown had a long and distinguished life which was often steeped in controversy. It was marked by a remarkable political ability to maintain relationships on all sides of the political and religious divide during the turbulent and violent period in which he lived. He was no doubt a man of great ability and persuasion who earned considerable respect from his peers and contemporaries. A bardic poem was composed in his honour by Ó Maoil Chonaire, which celebrates Walsh’s tenure as a chief justice, and excerpts from this poem are included in the appendix. It celebrates the judge as an incorruptible judge, unyielding to bribery and with a committed determination to eliminate all forms of injustice. Samuel Rowlands, a noted writer and poet of the 16th and 17th century, also dedicated some of his poems to Sir Nicholas Walsh including a religious publication which included the poems “The Betraying of Christ, Judas in Despaire, The Seven Words of our Savior on the Crosse, With Other Poems on the Passion” (with spellings as per the original). This particular publication by Rowlands had the arms and crest of Walsh on the reverse of the title page.

Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr is sometimes confused in historical records with his son who was also Sir Nicholas Walsh. This is particularly true in stories concerning the alleged “forged commission” from King Charles which was reputed to have been instrumental in triggering the 1641 rebellion in Waterford. These “forged commission” events happened over twenty five years after the death of Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr and were in fact events associated with his son Sir Nicholas Walsh Jnr. Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr was buried in the old French Church in Greyfriars Waterford otherwise known as the Holy Ghost Hospital and the Old Franciscan Friary.

Luke Wadding (1588-1657) refers to the burial of prominent Waterford people, including Sir Nicholas Walsh, in the French Church in Waterford. These burial references are in Wadding’s Annales Minorum9 which was written in Latin and later translated by the historian Canon P Power. The reference to the burial of Sir Nicholas Walsh is as follows:

In the larger chapel, on the Epistle side, rested the bodies of the most illustrious Lord Richard Poer, Baron of Curraghmore, an active defender of the Catholic Faith, and his wife, the no less illustrious Lady Catherine de Barry, daughter of Viscount Barrymore of Buttevant. On the Gospel side, in the tomb of the founder, was recently interred Sir Nicholas Walsh, Knight, one of the chief judges of the kingdom in the Court of Common Pleas. In the large chapel of the second church, or the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin, are the tombs, of carved stone, belonging to the most illustrious Barons of Dunhill and Kilmeaden, founders of the chapel. In the centre of the same chapel, at the right hand as you enter, that is, at the Epistle side, rises, in the form of an arch in the wall, the tomb of the Waddings”.

An article in the Decies Journal7 Vol IV of January 1977 titled “Notes on Burials in the French Church Part 1“ by Julian Walton also gives additional details of some burials in the French Church as listed by Luke Wadding in Annales Minorum. The article by Julian Walton includes the following etching of the interior of the Holy Ghost Friary or the French Church as it was more commonly known as. This etching shows the original position of the burial monuments but the monuments themselves no longer exist. We include the burial references and etching here with acknowledgements to Luke Wadding, Canon P Power and Julian Walton.

Sir Nicholas Walsh was not of course without his enemies particularly on the native Irish Catholic side. In those quarters he was obviously seen as a traitor who had little sympathy with the Irish cause or the Catholic religion during his distinguished career. The following is Julian Walton’s record of the views of Don Philip O’Sullivan Beare on Sir Nicholas Walsh as recounted in the Decies Journal7:

Don Philip O’Sullivan Beare did not share Wadding’s admiration for Sir Nicholas, of whom he wrote in his “History of the Catholics in Ireland”: “Then died Nicholas Walsh, a notable Judge of the heretics in Ireland, who because he was a heretic and behaved savagely towards the Irish, obtained a position of great dignity among the English. Growing old, and fearing the approach of death, he obtained with tears the mercy of the Catholic Church”.

Various Historical References to Sir Nicholas Walsh Senior

Grant of Ballykeerogue Castle in 1587:

Sir Nicholas Walsh got a grant of the Castle of Ballykeerogue, Co Waterford under the Queen’s Letter of 12th May 1587.

Letter from Sir Thomas Colclough to Sir Nicholas Walsh on 19th January 1594:

The following is a letter from Sir Thomas Colclough to Mr Nicholas Walsh, 2nd Justice, Queens Bench in 1594. Nicholas Walsh was at this point married to Jacquet Colclough, daughter of Anthony Colclough and brother of Thomas Colclough. This letter from Thomas Colclough to his brother-in-law Nicholas Walsh describes the capture of a Mr Whitty of Ballytigue by Spanish pirates and the information is sourced from Calendar of State Papers:

My good brother, I heartelie commend me unto you. There is a Spaniard in the Bay of Greenore, which is a spie (as it is here thought). And upon Thursday night last, in the evening, sent XXtie of his men ashoare, and did take Mr. Whitty of Ballytigue as prisoner, and carried him aboard with themselves, and there doe keepe him, and doe saie that they will carrie him with them into Spain; And besides that, they have done many mischiefes hereabouts. And therefore, I though it my duty to signify this much unto you, and doe think very necessary that you would procure the Mayor of Waterford, to man oute a shipp to take him, which would noe doubte be very great service unto her Majesty, and well thought of.    I did write to Wexford of it, and have sent their answer herinclosed to you. And thus with my hartie comendations unto you and my sister, I comitt you to God, Tintern the 3 of May 1594.

Your Loving brother, Thomas Colclough.”

Miscellaneous Letters of Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr from 1592 to 1600:

The following are some miscellaneous letters from/to Nicholas Walsh Senior during the Nine Years War. These are random selected letters but they give an indication of the situation on the ground at the time as seen from the viewpoint of Walsh. They also give an indication of the descriptive writing style of Nicholas Walsh and by all accounts his speaking style was similarly colourful. Nicholas Walsh was in the Irish Privy Council from 1592 and was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas from 1597. The details below are mainly extracted from the Cecil Papers: December 1608 or The Calendar of State Papers for that specific period.

(1)   1598 January 2nd, Waterford – This 1598 letter was from Justice Nicholas Walsh to Sir Robert Cecil who was Secretary of State during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I: “The ways betwixt Waterford and Dublin are held by the rebels. As the Lords Justices cannot therefore ascertain the state of those parts, thought it needful to signify the same to Sir Robert. The number of rebels daily increases, though they were somewhat discouraged upon the arrival of the late forces sent for Munster. They labour to have assistance of men and munition from the King of Spain and from Tyrone. Wishes for the speedy arrival of further forces of Her Majesty, which will stay a number of doubtful men. "And if God Almighty hath decreed that this war will end with a general famine, it will be more comfort for the English soldier to come when there shall be some relief for him, than upon trust only of victuals out of England; and the Irish rebels have ever gained more safety by wastefulness than by habitation. The chief counsellors of the Munster rebels, Doctor Cragh and James Archer, can hardly keep them in unity, and I do assure myself that with small labour they will be brought to division, after it shall be seen that Her Highness's army can any long time hold the field."

(2)   1598 October 30th, Waterford – This letter is from Sir Nicholas Walsh to the Lords Justices Loftus and Gardener in 1598: “I am to deliver you such advertisements as I have since the revolt of James FitzThomas and his brother, with other Munster rebels. The whole Province is in manner risen, some of them of good countenance giving way, and other (as they sent hitherward) dissembling with the rebels until they may be assisted with Her Majesty's forces, and excusing this their course by the dissolving of the Lord President's army before the coming of the Lord Lieutenant hither, the cowardly abandoning of their houses by the undertakers, and lastly the relinquishing of them by my Lord Lieutenant, [and] a general denouncing of all those to be prosecuted that do not rise with them. No county in Munster [is] freed from secret conspiracies, in such sort as all places are unpassable for any faithful subject, and in especial for all that wear hose or breeches, after the English manner. In Leinster I doubt not but your Lordships have heard of Mountgarretfs certain revolt; with whom [are] divers of the highest calling in the counties of Kilkenny and Tipperary, and some in the county of Wexford. It is delivered unto me from one secret to Mountgarretfs counsel, that he hath three daughters, whereof one is to be bestowed upon him that the rebels have named Earl of Desmond, another upon the Earl of Kildare, and the third upon Onie M'Rory. He pretends his sudden stirring to be for unkindness received at the Earl of Ormonde's hands, and so [to] have protested to Ms ghostly father upon his knees; but I do find that ambition to be Earl of Ormonde by the support of Tyrone is his chief motive. He expects for greater forces from Ulster, and hath the townships in so great hate, as it is secretly given out that, ere it be lung, we shall hear of some secret attempts towards them, and especially to Kilkenny, Thomastown, and Ross. The height of the waters do (sic) as yet hold the western rebels from invading the county of Waterford, or such at least as they shall not list to spare, and the Viscount, with his, comes from the county of Kilkenny. If Her Majesty's forces be not the sooner landed, many a doubtful subject will revolt; and some, that would be firm, will either make fair weather with them, or be quite undone. I beseech your Lordships, let not my advertisements be publicly read, as from me in this Council, because I fear my life, which is threatened even in this city, among my kinsmen and friends; yet may they be (if your Lordships shall think it good) sent into England, as that which is either very manifest, or signified unto me from men that love myself, and are some of this wicked alteration. James Archer, whom they nominate Father Archer, is a chief stirrer of these coals, and promises to many the coming of forces from Spain."— Waterford, 1598, October 30.”

1598 November 7th Dublin - The following is the Dublin response to the above letter of Nicholas Walsh: “The Lords Justices Loftus and Gardener and Sir Geffrey Fenton to the Privy Council. Upon receiving Sir Nicholas Walsh’s letter, the copy whereof is sent in the general despatch, they sent for the Lords, Sheriffs, and chief gentlemen of the counties of Dublin and Kildare, to assemble at Dublin this day, to consider of a course for some provisions to be made for the soldiers intended to be laid at Naas under the Marshal. The Lord of Howth, with the rest of the county of Dublin, appeared accordingly, but for the county of Kildare there appeared none. The Earl of Kildare wrote this day, excusing his not coming by reason of a fit of sickness fallen upon him yesternight. Send copy of his letter, leaving his excuse therein (which they much dislike) to their Lordships' consideration.

Have just received an advertisement from Colonel Egerton, lying in garrison at Dundalk, that he heard about the borders of the landing of seven ships in Lough Swilly, who are given out to be Spaniards, and amongst them one great ship supposed to be sent before by Tyrone into Spain. The advertisement goeth further, that Tyrone, hearing of these ships, made thither in great haste, being before determined to draw to the borders of the Pale. Hope by their next to give more certainty thereof, "only we find that this bruit, spread abroad by the Irish, doth much harm to the service." —Dublin, 1598, November 7”.

(3)    1600 March 4th Waterford – The following letter in 1600 was from Sir Nicholas Walsh, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, to Sir Robert Cecil, Secretary of State: “Being imbarred to go to Dublin by land, by reason that the highways are held by the rebels, and especially near Laghlin and Catherlagh, and missing any passage by sea at Waterford, I was fain to ride toward Wexford, where I remained some 12 days, detained by contrary winds. From thence have I advertised the Lords Justices of the state of Munster and Leinster, and how much the people were seduced by the late libel or letter sent by Tyrone to the inhabitants of the English Pale, and how meet it were to be answered in their names, with the privity of the Council. And, albeit I took as great care as might be that my letters should not be intercepted, by hiding of those, and causing them to be sewn in his old ' truise' [trews], which, for the raggedness thereof, none would covet, and by leaving other letters of private matters and of less moment more openly, yet have I heard nothing, neither of them nor of the messenger; those having been sent away more than a month since, whereby I doubt very much of his miscarriage. And therefore have I made bold to acquaint your Honour with some parts thereof, material in mine opinion to be made known. I have, among other things, advertised their Lordships of a letter received by me from a gentleman of the county of Wexford, a student of the laws and of good credit, discovering a conference had by him with that viperous traitor, James Archer, whom they call Father Archer. The original letter I sent to the Lords Justices, and herewith I do transmit a copy thereof, which I then reserved for myself [wanting, but see No. 136 of Vol. CCVII. part 1]. I do since understand from some of the Englishry born in this land, who have for a time accompanied the rebels of the Irishry, that they have in Leinster, at the Garkhill near Laghlin, brought forth their Irish books, importing what lands the several stirps of the Irishry have had before the conquest, and leaving the charge and expenses thereof unto them, and because they have disclosed their purposes, if they might prevail, to exclude all the ancient English gentlemen from their possessions, [?and] those [that] have forsaken them, and submitted themselves to her Majesty's clemency.

"I do also herewith send unto your Honour a true copy of a summons sent by Tyrone and the supposed Desmond to the Lord Barry, together with the like of their clergy, threatening excommunication from the Pope to all that will not join with them, whereby their wicked devices may be deciphered. And, albeit the Lord Barry and some other Lords and chief gentlemen of Munster do continue for Her Highness against those wicked rebels, yet, inasmuch as most of their followers are risen, and [have] taken arms with them, I hold it, under your Honour's reformation, very necessary that the President appointed for Munster be hastened over, as also the other forces to be sent to the rest of the parts of this kingdom, with store of victuals, the lack whereof is like enough to be a great help (sic) to the overthrow of the rebels." Prays God to "beat down these cursed caterpillars, to the comfort of all Her Majesty's faithful subjects, who now are called out and most hatefully prosecuted by those miscreants." Sends copy of a letter from [John] Lord Power to the Earl of Ormonde, containing intelligence regarding Tyrone and the rebels of Munster.—Waterford, 1599 [-1600], March 4. Signed. Seals. Endorsed:—Received at London, the 12th.

4)   1600 March 7, Waterford – The following is a letter from Sir Nicholas Walsh to Sir Robert Cecil.  Enclosed was an apparent letter from the Earls of Tyrone and Desmond to Lord Roche requesting his support on the Catholic side of the war:

“Sir Nicholas Walsh, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas to Sir Robert Cecil. Encloses copy he has received of a letter from Tyrone and the supposed Earl of Desmond to Lord Roche, whereby (as in the rest) their most traitorous intentions are manifested. " Those rebels, before the writing hereof, are removed westward toward Muskerry in the county of Cork, which is a very wooded country, through fear (as may be thought) of Her Majesty's forces under the Earl of Ormonde, who, with the Earl of Thomond, is drawing toward them with a strong army."— Waterford, 1599[-1600], March7.”

[Postscript.] "The rebels have done nothing memorable in Munster since the coming of Tyrone thither, saving the taking of some preys and burning some villages belonging to those that refused to adhere unto them. And by that time Her Majesty's forces shall play their parts, I make myself sure the rebels of Munster shall be not only otherwise weakened, but also like to starve this next summer for want of food."


“Hugh, Earl of Tyrone ["O'Neill"], and James [FitzThomas, Earl of] Desmond, to Lord Roche: Let it be known unto you that the Lord Bishop, the clergy, and the Earl of Desmond and we came near you hither, and that we are all of one resolution and mind to entreat you to take our parts in the behalf of God, and for our conscience and country sake, to appear presently before us, to yield us sufficient security, as you ought, henceforward to be at our counsel and direction; and we will likewise secure you to spence (sic) with you henceforward as becometh. And if you do not so, in respect we intend to erect the Catholic religion, and exalt the general good of this realm of Ireland, with God's furtherance, we and all our partakers will labour against you, if you adhere not unto us. At Glamwyerie, this certain day to perform our wills, in Muskerricurcke, the 21 of February, 1600.”

Assistant to President of Munster & Patents to Estates from 1599 to 1605:

According to King James’s Irish Army List 16898:  “In 1599 Sir Nicholas “Welch” was one of the Councillors appointed by the Lord Deputy to be assistant on the President of Munster, and his services are detailed in the Pacata Hibernia”. It also stated that “In 1605 the above Chief Justice, Sir Nicholas Walsh, obtained by patent various estates in Kilkenny and Waterford, same being thereby limited to himself and his wife in tail male, remainder to Nicholas Walsh, junior, the ‘natural or reputed’ son of said Sir Nicholas, in tail male;” It also indicated that two of the Walshs were Captains in King James’s army of 1689 as it stated “Both the above Captains, Valentine and Peirs, were of the aforesaid Sept, distinguished as ‘Walsh of the Mountains.’ The former [Valentine] was attained in 1691, described as of Piltown, County of Waterford, as was Piers, of Guning, County of Kilkenny ...”

Religious Beliefs of Nicholas Walsh

As a politician and chief justice in the late 1500s and early 1600s it was politically obligatory that Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr should be a Protestant as Catholics were persona non grata in this period. There were always some doubts about Nicholas Walsh’s true religious beliefs and as already stated he died a Catholic. The following interesting comment appeared in Falkiner’s 1906 publication “Remembrances of the State of Ireland, 1612 11– text and spellings are as they originally appeared. It outlines the suspicions of Walsh’s true religious beliefs by indicating that he attended Protestant religious ceremonies but his wife apparently did not. In addition the entry outlines that Mass was said in his house nearly every Sunday:

Of the L Cheef Justyce of The Comon Pleas in Irelande: A man of lyttell hurte, that lyves wythout offence to any, yet suspected to be a papist and a secret frend to assist popery. And although hym selfe in the tearme tyme doth use to follow the L deputy to church, yet his wyf could neuer be brought to Church. And an offynce belongynge to the courte of common pleas that is in hys gyft namely the keapinge of the sealle, he hath bestowed of a most obstynat knowne papist and such a one as almost evry Sunday through the year hath a mass sayd in hys house.”

Poem for Sir Nicholas Walsh

A poem was once dedicated to Sir Nicholas Walsh, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, in honour of the excellence of his judgements. The poem was based on an Irish 8th century judgement of Niall Frosach ( ‘Act of Truth’) concerning a young woman and her fatherless child. The structure of this Bardic poem is an apologue or moral fable and was written in the late 16th or early 17th century when Sir Nicholas Walsh was still alive. The composition of the poem is attributed to poet Tuileagna (Mac Torna) Ó Maoil Chonaire. It was addressed to Sir Nicholas Walsh, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and Speaker of the third parliament convened in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Perrott's parliament of 1585–6. The poem was titled Labhram ar Iongnaibh Éireann and was published in Tomás Ó Raghallaigh's Filí agus Filidheacht Chonnacht (1938).  The poem was originally written in Irish and contains 43 verses in total. The fact that Walsh was chosen as a subject for this Irish poem probably indicated that he spoke the Irish language and had an interest in Irish culture. The abstract and translation in English is courtesy of the Royal Irish Academy via the journal ÉRIU. We include a few random verses of the poem here followed by the translation.

Original text of poem (partial):

Labhram ar iongnaibh Éireann

mar a-deir an deighléigheann          

teacht tar iongnadh inse Cuinn,

an inse fhionnghlan áluinn.


A fhir lenb ionmhuin iath Néill,

tír chaomh na dtulach dtaoibhréidh,

cúis diomdha duid ar gach bhfear

gan cuid dá hiongna d’áireamh.


Is é an crann - ná ceil ar neacht -

Giuistís Bhails na mbreath ndlightheach;

‘s is é an bláth barr gach feasa

o chách i n-anm aighneasa.


Is é toradh cubhra an chroinn         

congbháil chirt agus chomhthroim,

gan bhreith idir truagh is tréan

do bhreith ar luagh ná ar leithsgéal.


Tógbhaid leo - ni beag an bhreis -

dod ghlór, a Ghiuisdís Bhaileis,

lán a gcluas is a geroidhe,

mar ghrádh don chnuas chumhroidhe.


Breath chlaon ar chomha na ar chrodh

an Giuisdís Bhails ni bhéarodh,

acht fírbhreath niamhghlan nach náir

do mhínleach chiallmhur chomhráidh.


Sgaoilfidh Nioclas do nós Neill

meirligh Bhanbha an fhuinn fhóidréidh;

ar mhínleach an cheirt do chrom,

ceilt a fhírbhreath ní fhéadfom.


Translation of poem (partial):


Let us speak of the marvels of Ireland;

good scholarship recommends that on

the wonder of the island of Conn,

the fair, pure, beautiful isle.


You to whom the land of Niall is dear,

fair country of soft-sloped hills,

you would have cause for dissatisfaction with every poet

were he not to detail some of her wonder.


The tree - conceal this from no one -

is Justice Walsh of the righteous judgements;

and the blossoms are the best of counsel

presented in court proceedings.


The fragrant food of the tree is the maintenance of

right and justice whereby no judgement between

the wretched and the powerful is tainted by bribe or bias.


They learn, no small profit to them, all that their

ears and hearts can absorb of your pronouncements,

Justice Walsh: a token of their love for the

fragrant fruit.


Justice Walsh would not give a corrupt judgement

for any consideration or wealth: his, rather, is a

true blue blameless judgement from the best of

intellectual discourse.


Nicholas will scatter the thieves of the fertile land

of Ireland even as Niall did [the demons];

he has dedicated himself to the cause of justice;

we cannot conceal his righteous judgements.


Summary of Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr of Pilltown

Nicholas Walsh Senior was the first member of the branch of the Walsh family that became known as the Walshs of Pilltown. His immediate ancestors were from a distinguished Waterford political and business family. His father, uncle, grandfather and great grandfather had been Lord Mayors of Waterford. Nicholas Walsh came under the influence of the Earl of Ormond early in his life and this relationship was to form a major role in his subsequent life and career.  Nicholas Walsh received his legal training in King’s Inns, Dublin and in Lincoln’s Inn, London from which he returned to Ireland in 1561. He lived through what was undoubtedly one of the most violent periods in Irish history. The latter end of the 16th century was dominated by a series of rebellions and invasions with the Desmond-Ormond conflicts being very much to the fore in Munster. Associated with these bloody conflicts were the twin terrors of famine and disease which left Ireland and Munster in particular in a disastrous state at the end of the 16th century.

Nicholas Walsh was undoubtedly an ambitious individual and during his life he attained a number of senior legal and political positions including: 2nd Justice in Munster, Chief Justice of Munster (1576), Commissioner for Governance of Munster, Joint Governor of Cork, 2nd Justice of the Queens’s Bench, MP for Waterford & Member of the Irish House of Commons, Speaker in Perrot’s Irish House of Commons (1585), Privy Counsellor in Irish Privy Council (1587) and finally Chief Justice of the Common Pleas (1597). He was knighted in 1597 and was subsequently known as Sir Nicholas Walsh of Pilltown or Sir Nicholas Walsh of Pilltown and Ballykerogue. Nicholas Walsh built up a large landholding during his life with a large part of this estate in Kinsalebeg with Pilltown Castle and Pilltown Manor operating as a base for the Walshs of Pilltown in the following centuries.

Nicholas Walsh established a reputation for being an astute political figure with a capacity to resolve difficult political issues. He managed to maintain relationships on all sides of the political and religious divide in what was undoubtedly an extremely difficult period in Ireland. He earned a reputation for being a diligent and hard working judge with a strongly held sense of justice and a determination to eliminate injustice. He was raised by the influential family of Nicholas White as his own father died when he was quite young. White was a senior judge in Ireland and was an influence and support in the early legal life of Walsh. The close links between Nicholas Walsh and Thomas “Black Tom” Ormond, Earl of Ormond, was another major influence on his life. This relationship was beneficial to both parties and it continued throughout their lives until their deaths within a year of each other in 1614-1615. Any analysis of the life of Sir Nicholas Walsh has to bear in mind the violent and complex situation in Ireland during this period. It could be said that Nicholas Walsh took a pragmatic line in trying to balance the various political, religious and judicial issues of the time. He was strongly supportive of the monarchy and the rule of law as it existed in this period and he showed little sympathy with the various Irish rebellions during his life. Towards the end of his life Sir Nicholas Walsh grew extremely disillusioned with the effectiveness of English rule from London and campaigned strongly for more direct rule from Ireland. It would have been one of the great disappointments of his life that the Perrot led Irish House of Commons of 1585 failed due to the inability of the various political interests to come to a satisfactory working relationship. The descendants of Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr of Pilltown later decided that any form of political discussion with England was largely a waste of time and they plunged whole heartedly into rebellion as the only avenue for progressing Irish independence from England. The history of the descendants of Sir Nicholas Walsh Snr is covered in the second part of the history of the Walshs of Pilltown.


1 ^                     Ancient & Present State of County and City of Cork by Charles Smith. Published 1774.

2 ^                      Journal of Waterford & South East of Ireland Archaeological Society Volume 4.

Published 1899.

3 ^                      Source Grattan-Flood published 1901.

4 ^                      The Ancient and Present State of the County and City of Waterford by Charles Smith. Published in 1746.

5 ^                      Ormond Papers NLI (Documents D3330 of 7th Sept 1603 and D3439-3441 of 14th Jan 1609)

6 ^                      The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquarians of Ireland 6th Series, Volume 2 No. 3. Published 30th Sept 1912

7 ^ a b                      Decies Journal Vol IV of January 1977 article titled “Notes on Burials in the French Church Part 1 (Luke Wadding’s Record)” by Julian C. Walton.

8 ^                      King James’s Irish Army List 1689 by John D’Alton. Published in 1861.

9 ^                      Annales Minorum Vol 3 by Luke Wadding. Published 1635.

10 ^                   The Fate and Fortunes of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone & Rory O’Donel, Earl of Tyrone by Rev C.P. Meehan. Published 1870 (2nd Edition).

11 ^                   Remembrances of the State of Ireland, 1612 by Barnaby Rich. Edited  by Caesor Litton Falkiner in 1906. NLI ref: Ir 94106 f 1

12 ^           Death, Burial and Commemoration in Ireland, 1550-1650 (pp17) by Clodagh Tait.

            Published 2002.                   

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