Friday 27 December 2013

The French Settlers in Ireland - No 3

[Editors Note.]

THE Editors of the Ulster Journal of Archaeology find that the subject of the Huguenot Refugees has excited considerable interest. They have received offers of literary assistance from many quarters, and have already had placed in their hands a number of curious and interesting documents belonging to private individuals, affording matter well worthy of publication. Others are promised, relating not only to the history of the French colonies established in Ireland, but to the previous history of the refugees before quitting their own country. Several private Journals kept by distinguished individuals, have also been placed at the disposal of the Editors; and they have opened a correspondence with gentlemen in various parts of Ireland, who are themselves descendants of French settlers.

They therefore hope to be able to collect a good deal of curious information with regard to this portion of Irish Ethnology. But they already find that the traces of many of the original families can now with difficulty be discovered. A great number of names have totally disappeared, and others have become singularly metamorphosed; while, even in the districts occupied by French families a couple of centuries ago, the traditions are fast dying away. In several cases it has been found that information respecting a family can only be obtained in England, Holland, or Geneva; and at this moment several gentlemen are at work making inquires in those countries. The Editors have, therefore, decided on postponing the continuation of the articles on the Huguenot settlers in Ireland, until next Number, in order to accumulate as many particulars as possible relating to each colony. Gentlemen residing in Dublin, Cork, Youghal, Innishannon, Kilkenny, Waterford, Portarlington, Dundalk and Lisburn, may materially assist the undertaking, by communicating any information they possess regarding the French families settled at these different places.

The Huguenot Colony at Lisburn.

(Concluded from vol. 1, p. 294.)


(Additional particulars.) The ancestor of the Dubourdieu family, Godefrey de Brius, a French knight, was created Lord of Bourdieu in Languedoc, by Philip, King of France, on account of the eminent services rendered by him to that monarch in the Holy War; hence the Turkish scimitar was adopted as his crest, and his family name was laid aside for that of the title. The Dubourdieu family early adopted the principles of the Reformation, and were distinguished supporters of its doctrines; several members having become ministers and elders in the church, and taking a prominent part in its management. We find that, in the year 1637, Armand Dubourdieu was pastor of the Sanoctal at the Synod of Alençon, and in 1644 at the third Synod of Charenton. James, Lord Dubourdieu, was elder in the church of Blangar at the same Synod. In answer to an appeal to the Synod, from the church of Bergerac, a resolution was passed: "That this assembly determines -- first, the province of Guyenne hath exceeded the stated rules in removing Monsieur Dubourdieu from the church of Bergerac without consulting that church; second, that whereas Bergerac is a church of no small importance, and its necessities very great and urgent, and M. Dubourdieu is exceeding successful in his ministry there, this Synod doth approve of his being in that station, and confirms him in the pastoral office of that church." --

In 1659, at the Synod of Londure, among those representing the Province of Lower Languedoc w a Isaac Dubourdieu, pastor of the church of Montpeilier, and it was resolved that, "In pursuance of an order of the same Synod, Messieurs Guilton and Dubourdieu are sent to Saumur to pacify some differences between the members of that church and Messieurs Amyrant and D'Huission. -- The nobles of the Dubourdieu family intermarried with those of De Saumarez and De Lavalade; and it was while holding this high position that it experienced the first shock of the fearful tempest which burst with such violence in the year 1685. At that time a judgment given by the parliament of Thoulouse against Isaac Dubourdieu, the pastor of Montpellier, and his son, obliged him to fly from France and take refuge in London. There he became a minister, and preached with so much zeal and effect that an authora writes of him:-- "Among them M. Dubourdieu, the father, holds a primary rank. You know that he was one of the best heads of our French Presbytery; what he was he was in Montpellier, that he is in London; wise, laborious, and entirely devoted to the refugee church, which he instructs by his frequent preaching, and still continues his exhortations though upward of ninety-five years of age." His declining years were cheered by the presence of his two sons, the elder of whom had lingered at Montpellier some months after his father's departure; and the danger to which he was exposed in so doing is thus mentioned in a letter from the Cardinal Archbishop Bonzi to the Duke de Noailles.b -- "From Montpellier, the 23d of January, 1683. * * * In the stay which I have made here, I have pursued the projects known to yon to obtain conversions; I have discovered that Bordieu (Dubourdieu) the son, a minister here, has some connections and attachments here which will facilitate his conversion, if he can be made to fear either a distant banishment or an order to depart out of the kingdom. If you think proper to send me a 'lettre de cachet' for that purpose, I am in hopes that upon showing it to him he will be disposed to listen to proposals, and that eventually, by an offer of an appointment of Counsellor to the presidial court (of Montpellier) with which the King will gratify him, having secret agents, it will not be impossible to gain him. He has merit, and will be a good acquisition." Notwithstanding these attempts he succeeded in escaping to England, where he became rector of Sawtrey Maines, in Huntingdon, where he died in 1728, at the age of seventy-two. His brother, John, still remained in France, and he, together with the widow of Lord Bourdieu, and her infant son, were the only members of the elder branch who escaped after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Their subsequent history has already been been given; but the following particulars (since obtained) relating to that son, may be given to complete what is known respecting the family. He was the Rev. Jean Armand Dubourdieu, and his piety and ability were so much esteemed among his countrymen in London, that on all occasions of vacancies occurring in their churches, he was requested to select ministers for them. He was also so distinguished as an orator, that he was called on to preach before the Judges at the Summer Assizes of Chelmsford in 1714. Amongst his countrymen his benevolence was so well known that a refugee had only to come to him to find relief; in him his persecuted brethren had a warm advocate; and his faithfulness in the ministry was such that he did not hesitate to raise his voice against the corruption of the time. He did not fail to allude (though in a Christian-like manner) to the apostacy of one of the Saurin family. His gratitude for the kind reception given him by the English Protestants was sincere and lasting; and, though belonging to the French church, his appreciation of the English is manifest from the sentiment expressed in the following passage:c -- "That this church, which hath hitherto been the bulwark and glory of the Reformation, and with which all the other churches abroad must stand or fall, may survive future ages, outlast this visible world, and never end but with commencing eternity!"

De Lavalade.

This family possessed large estates in Languedoc, the head of it having the title of Count de Lavalade. During the persecution of the Huguenots in France, they, like hundreds of their co-religionists, were tortured in the most cruel manner. Laval mentions the case of one lady of this family who, "having patiently suffered many exquisite pains, had at last her clothes turned up and was laid bare on a chafing-dish of coals!"d -- So much did the various members of the Lavalade family become dispersed that we can now trace the history of only three, viz.; the widow of James Seigneur du Bourdieu of whom mention has been already made, and the Rev. Charles, and Mdl'e. de Lavalade: the two latter escaped into Holland, where they resided for many years under the protection of the Prince of Orange. Here Mdlle. de Lavalade married Alexander Crommelin, brother of Louis, the founder of the linen colony at Lisburn,e who, when inviting over a number of his countrymen to settle in Ireland, selected M. de Lavalade as their pastor, and brought him with himself for that purpose. On his arrival in Lisburn, M. de Lavalade was installed in his new office, and held it for a period of upwards of forty years. He resided with his only daughter, Anne, who married Mr. George Russell in 1737.


Louis Roché was another of the French refugees who settled in Lisburn at the same time as Louis Crommelin, (being induced through his connection with him,) and was an extensive merchant there. His family consisted of two daughters, Mary and Alice: the former married Val. Jones, jun., Esq., and their descendants are now among the first inhabitants of Belfast.f The latter married Edward Masslin, Esq. These unions occurring in the same year appear to have been hastened by the declining health of their father, as he died immediately after, in the year 1726.


This family possessed large estates in Guienne, in France, at Agenois. The title held by the head of the family was Seigneur de Melromez, as stated in a MS. document entitled "Agreement to be made, 9th Nov., 1570, between Noble Gerard de Geneste, Signeur de Melromez, of the town of Sarlat, so much in his name as being husband to Marguerite Paraiziare, living in the seigniorial house of Melromez in Agenois;" as also in another entitled, "Declaration of lands and lordships of Melromez given to the King, 18th June, 1645, for the sake of his possessions in Guienne, to the Treasury of France, by Jacob de Geneste, Lord of Melromez, and for the possession of the three-fourths and the other one-fourth belonging to Gabriel de Geneste's father.g Of the several members of this family, Louis alone adhered to the Reformed faith, thereby forfeiting his large estates at Beargues, about five or six leagues from Cajare, from which he took the name Louis Geneste Pelras de Cajare. After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes he fled to Holland, and entered into the service of William, Prince of Orange, in whose army he held a commission, and whom he accompanied to England and thence to Ireland, where he served in the regiment of Lord Lifford at the battle of the Boyne and the other engagements of that time. After the pacification of Ireland he settled at Lisburn, where he resided for some years. In 1724 he went to the Isle of Man, and remained there for seven years; but again returned to Lisburn with his family, consisting of two sons and a daughter; namely, Louis, Daniel, and Marguerite, the grand-daughter of whom was married to Jean Baptiste Shannon, Esq., of Belfast, a lineal descendant of the celebrated Colbert. Louis Geneste was too far advanced in years to undertake a journey to his native land, but his feeling of affection for it was still strong, and he wrote to his younger brother (who had saved his life and property by recanting) to inform him of his son's intention of visiting France. This led to an affectionate correspondence between them, part of which is still extant. The letters from France are signed "Pelras." -- His eldest son settled in the Isle of Man, and although he made many efforts to proceed to France, for the purpose of inquiring respecting his property, he was unable to accomplish it. However, after the Decree of the National Assembly professing to restore their forfeited estates to Protestants, his son went to France to prefer his claim; but found many difficulties in the way. In June, 1792, he thus wrote to his family: -- "All matters relative to the fugitive Protestants are enveloped in darkness, and the clerks and persons attending at the different offices seem disinclined to draw aside the veil. Indeed it appears to me, as well as to my friends here, on making the needful inquiries at the offices, that it is their wish to suppress such information as would tend to throw light on the subject." Hoping, however, that he might be the means of "opening a door for the benefit of the heirs of Protestant refugees, which, by the chicanery of those vipers in office, has been closely barred up, and that in direct contradiction to the liberal terms of the Decree," he wrote to the President of the National Assembly, mentioning the difficulties he had met with at the different offices, and his inability to obtain the Table of Forfeited Estates, agreeably to the intention of the Decree, 19th Article. This letter was transmitted to the Minister of Justice, and he subsequently wrote to that official himself, and then waited on him, when he was received with politeness. The Minister apologised for the neglect of his predecessors in office in not obeying the Decree, and mentioned that he had given orders for printing the list of Forfeited Estates; but that this being a voluminous document it would require a fortnight to complete it: and, in the meantime, handed him a written order for access to the manuscript. By means of this he was able to ascertain the situation of his father's estates; and his anxiety to visit them was so great that he left Paris for Bordeaux before the expiration of the fortnight, with the assurance that the list would be forwarded to him. He had hardly reached Cajare when he was arrested on suspicion of being a spy, and it was not until after a minute inspection of his papers and letters of introduction that he was set at liberty. M. Pelras and his son, an Abbé, chanced to be present during the examination, and to his great surprise the latter accosted him thus:-- "We are your nearest relations. The late M. Pelras of Cajare was brother to my father, and, consequently the same to your grandfather, of whom I heard that he had left this country, as well as another brother." He dined with the Abbé and met several of his nearest connections. "After dinner," he continues, "the Abbé proposed going with me on the following day to Beargues, the ancient estate of the family, a moiety of which was in possession of his father, and mentioned that the remaining part of the paternal inheritance had been held by the late M. Pelras of Cajare, and, being sold by him, had passed through several different hands. The Abbé promised to procure at Beargues (as they could not be obtained elsewhere) every document I might require relating to the estate and family of my ancestors. I accordingly arranged to accompany him; but in the afternoon he excused himself, saying his attendance in his parish was indispensably necessary, and that he was sorry it so happened. I told him my time would not admit of any further delay, and that I must return the following morning to Figeac on my way back to Bordeaux." At last, finding all endeavours to procure further intelligence fruitless, he returned to England, and died there leaving many descendants, among whom we may particularize the names of Stowel and Geneste, well known to the Christian world.

De Blaquiére.

The estates of this family were situated in Guienne, and the title borne by the head of the family was that of Seigneur de Blaquiére. One individual settled in London, and became an eminent merchant; and his sons held a high position there. Another branch of the family was induced to settle in Lisburn, in consequence of the marriage of a Mdlle. de Blaquiére to John Crommelin, nephew to Louis.


Little more can be gleaned of the early history of the Perrin family than that they held large possessions in the fertile district of Nonére, in France. A few mutilated fragments of old French MS. papers are all that now remain among its representatives in Ireland, and these afford but scanty information. The following passage translated from one of these would seem to indicate that the MS. when complete had contained various interesting particulars. It commences thus:-- "In a sunny vale, not far from the banks of the Garonne, surrounded by swelling hills, the first steps of the great barrier between France and Spain, was situated a small and picturesque village. There was the residence of the Curé, there the village church, with its well-proportioned spire gracefully shooting towards the sky; while the residences of the villagers, clustering around, bore an appearance of neatness and comfort which, at the epoch we are speaking of, the traveller would have elsewhere vainly sought, for many a long mile through France. A little sparkling mountain stream danced gaily down the main street, if indeed the expanse between the two rows of cottages could be called by that name; and at the middle of its course deepened into a pool, beside which, from a broad stone pedestal, sprung a massive cross. It might be three o'clock, one Autumn day of the year 1725, that this pedestal was occupied by a man of striking and impressive appearance. Above a massive forehead waved long locks of silvery hair, the only covering it had; the form was large and well-proportioned; the deep chest and broad shoulders indicated one whose earlier powers must have been of no common order. He was speaking in grave, earnest, and, occasionally, impassioned tones, to a groupe of the villagers which was every moment increasing; and he again and again referred to a small volume which he held open in his hand, and from which he quoted long passages in a manner that showed he held its words in deep reverence. That volume was the Bible; the speaker was Délas the celebrated Huguenot preacher. On one of his missionary journeyings he had reached and spent some days in this remote district. Among the listeners was one whose wrapt and earnest attention was not less striking than his personal appearance. He was in the vigour of early manhood, of thirty years, or thereabout; his form stalwart, yet lithe and graceful; his black hair clustered under a small hunting-cap, which from time to time he reverently touched, when a name or a word uttered by the preacher claimed such an act of homage. His dress was that of an ordinary country gentleman of the age and place; the respectful bearing of the villagers towards him marked that his station was more exalted than theirs; while the air of proud affection with which, from time to time, some aged sire among them gazed upon him, showed that the relation between them was not the too common one of tyrant and slave. He was indeed the representative of a family whose boast had always been the love of their tenantry. Amongst all the traditions of the Comtes de Perrin scarce was there a murmur of ill-will or strife subsisting between them and their retainers; while many noble deeds of self-devotion on the one part are related from the time when all his band fell one by one around the prostrate corpse of the old crusading lord, which they unanimously refused to leave, as still recorded in the great tombstone dedicated to their memory, in the churchyard; and on the other part of uncalculating munificence, and of resolute resistance to every invasion of their rights by King, or Church, or neighbouring Seigneur. Everything bore witness to the unbroken traditionary love, handed down on both sides from sire to son as their most precious heir-loom. -- Yes, such was the station, such were the advantages, which to thy ardent soul, in its pursuit of truth, weighed but as dust in the balance, O! Louis Perrin, when, resigning rank and honours and wealth, thou wentest forth from thy ancestral home, and cheerfully became a penniless exile: amid the scorn of the worldling and the wonder of the careless, thou, and all thy house in thee, bade an eternal farewell to the land to whose glories they had contributed, and whose" * * * * * * [Here the manuscript becomes illegible]

It appears from some fragments of the Comte du Perrin's correspondence that many enticements were held out by the King to induce him to change his religion; but all without effect. An unrelenting persecution then commenced, to which he makes frequent allusion in his letters: one of his friends was sentenced to the galleys for three years. He at length contrived to escape from France, and settled in Lisburn for several years; subsequently removing to Waterford. His descendants have become honoured members of the Irish Bar. One of the family was long known as an excellent French teacher in Lisburn, and the author of a good grammar of that language.

To be continued...

[a] Apologie des Réfugiés, pp. 98, 100.

[b] Family Papers of De Noailles in the library of the Louvre, quoted in the "Bulletin de la Société de I'Histoire du Protestantisme Français. -- Tom. I., p. 114.

[c] Dubourdieu's Sermon, preached at the Chelmsford Assizes, in 1714, 

[d] Laval's History of the French Reformation, Appendix, p.7.

[e] See ante, vol. I., p.214.

[f] Bruces, Bristows, &c.

[g] "Registry of the confiscated estates of the Religious Fugitives," in the Rue de Clerü, near the Gros Cheret.

The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 2, 1854.

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