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.