A Kerry Funeral 1792

Lady Arabella Denny

We all know the importance of Kerry funerals but surely Lady Arabella Denny’s instructions and arrangements about her funeral are unusual to say the least.

Wikipedia tells us that ‘Lady Arabella Fitzmaurice Denny (1707–1792) was an Irish philanthropist, and founder of the Magdalen Asylum for Protestant Girls in Dublin in 1765’.    Arabella was born in Lixnaw, the daughter of Thomas FitzMaurice, 1st Earl of Kerry.  She was the granddaughter of Sir William Petty and her nephew William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne (Kenmare) became Prime Minister of Great Britain.  We are told that  ‘as a young girls she ran a basic medical dispensary for the tenants of her father’s estate (Lixnaw)’.  She married Colonel Arthur Denny M.P., for Kerry.  After she was widowed at the age of thirty five she moved from Tralee to Dublin and continued her charitable work there.  Apparently she had a horror of being buried alive, thus the unusual instructions in the first line of her will

‘Extract from the will of Lady ARABELLA DENNY, who died in 1792’:

“I desire that I may be put in a leaden coffin, and my jugular veins opened, and then enclosed in an oak coffin and conveyed to the Church of Tralee, on a hearse with but one mourning coach.  Two servants and the driver of each carriage to be allowed their expenses on the road, the servants 4/4 and the drivers 2/8 per day for fourteen days only, being full time for their return”

An Extract from The Kerry Magazine 1856[1]                Funeral of Lady ARABELLA DENNY

‘About the same time, the remains of this estimable lady (in a word, one of the most amiable women in Ireland), who died in Dublin, (at Lisaniskea, Blackrock), arrived in Tralee, of a summer’s Sunday evening, conveyed in the first hearse that ever reached Tralee, marked ‘Fowler, Dublin’. The corpse was privately waked in the Church that night and interred next day in Tralee Church in the DENNY Vault, attended by a large assemblage of all classes.  The most remarkable circumstance attending the funeral was the ‘wailing of the twelve mourners.’  There were twelve widows, who each received two suits of black yearly and donations at festivals, from her ladyship, since the death of Col. ARTHUR, her husband.’

      [1] J. C. Notes and Queries. Kerry Archaeological Magazine, vol. 2, no. 10, 1913, pp. 98–102. www.jstor.org/stable/30059669.


  1. Michael O'Carroll Michael O'Carroll
    February 7, 2017    

    That lady’s predecessor hanged the poor Spanish sailors that surrendered after the “Spanish Armada” and who sough refuge out by Fenit, in Tralee Bay.

  2. marian fitzgerald marian fitzgerald
    February 7, 2017    

    Kay as always you have the most amazing information thanks for sharing.
    best wishes Marian X

    • Kay Caball Kay Caball
      February 7, 2017    

      Marina, thanks – I love the quirky ones myself.

  3. con kirby con kirby
    February 7, 2017    

    Though an “amiable lady, she still went for the “jugular”

  4. Michael O'Carroll Michael O'Carroll
    February 7, 2017    

    That lady’s predecessor hanged the poor Spanish sailors that surrendered after the “Spanish Armada” and who sough refuge out by Fenit, in Tralee Bay.


    Fenit: The sloop Nuestra Senora del Socorro (75 tons) anchored at Fenit, in Tralee Bay on the coast of Kerry, where she was surrendered to crown officers. The 24 men on board were taken into custody and marched to Tralee Castle. On the orders of Lady Margaret Denny, they were all hanged from a gibbet.

    • Kay Caball Kay Caball
      February 7, 2017    

      Michael- apologies. I had Dún an Óir in mind. As a Fitzmaurice seems to have married into the wrong family two hundred years later. It can happen.

  5. Mary Cogan Mary Cogan
    February 7, 2017    

    I love the detail of the mná caointe. I didn’t realise that gig came with mourning clobber and all thrown in

  6. Michael Dunne Michael Dunne
    February 8, 2017    

    Was it Queen Victoria introduced some measures, perhaps laws, to prevent people overspending on the funerals of their loved ones?
    Apparently the excesses were worst among the poor as this extravagant behaviour was in attempts to seek elevated status. Only the wealthy should engage in such activity.

  7. Ken Duckett Ken Duckett
    February 8, 2017    

    Hi Kay,
    I’ve been tracking back on my Great Grandmother Margaret Halloran married in Lixnaw who’s mother
    was a Fitz Maurice so I wonder if they are related. I believe the parents moved to the Kerry area from Limerick
    County to Addergown and Margaret was born in 1834 and married my G grandfather John Hanlon in 1867.
    What do u think?
    A very interesting post,

    • Kay Caball Kay Caball
      February 9, 2017    

      Ken, thank you for your comment.If your ancestors were from the Lixnaw area, then most probably they were at some stage related to the Lords of Kerry & Barons of Lixnaw – this goes way back to the time of HenryII who granted land to the Fitzmaurices in the 12th century. They also had a branch in Limerick – A younger son of the 20th Lord of Kerry, William Fitzmaurice, (cousins to the Fitzgeralds) then bought Springfield castle. His son, John, built a very large 3 story early Georgian mansion attached to the existing buildings. The Fitzmaurices occupied Springfield Castle until Sir Robert Deane married Ann Fitzmaurice, the sole heiress, in 1780. He was awarded the title Baron Muskerry in 1781 and the title Lord Muskerry has stayed at Springfield Castle to this day. The castle was burnt in 1921 during the war of Independence and rebuilt by “Bob” Muskerry the 5th Baron in 1929.
      You would have to do some ‘digging’ to get to the actual relationship! I am very interested in these Fitzmaurices as i am currently researching/writing a book on Francis Thomas 3rd Earl of Kerry, an improvident spendthrift who died in 1818. After 600 years in North Kerry there was little left, ‘the Old Court was in ruins, the Fitzmaurice estate, noce larger than the barony of Clanmaurice was sold’. His cousin the 3rd Marquis of Lansdowne inheirted his title. My co-author Tom P. Moloney will be concentrating on cataloguing the acquisition of the land they were granted or acquired and how it was sold or gambled away in the space of 50 years and I will be doing the ‘social’ side of Frnacis Thomas and his older wife Anastasia Daly.

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