thomas_murray_prior

Thomas and Catherine Murray Prior

Andrew and Frances Murray Prior’s elder son Thomas Murray Prior Esq of Rathdowney m. Catherine Palmer. He was born at Rathdowney in 1773, and 'no doubt' baptised there.1) He was the 7th generation of the family to own Rathdowney, and the last.2). He appears to have been known as Thomas Prior though (see next paragraph) TLM-P appears to suggest he was known as Thomas Murray.

Thomas M-P was High Sherriff of Queen’s County from 1799, and a Member of the Irish Parliament for Lesburne and Bannow (remembering that this is still a time when only the wealthier male landowners voted in parliament and they could control multiple seats). He was buried at Newry, County Down (now in Northern Ireland) under the name of Murray on 5 November 1854.3) His wife Catherine was the elder daughter of Joseph Palmer Esq. of Cuffsborough, Queen’s County; he commanded a militia corps as a Colonel.4)

Catherine and Thomas married when young, doing so by eloping to [wp>Gretna_Green|Gretna Green]], the famous town in Scotland for runaways who could marry under the more lenient Scottish marriage law. Presumably to quash gossip, the couple had a later, conventional marriage ceremony in Donnybrook, Dublin.5) They had five children: two daughters who died young, Ellen and Catherine; and three sons (Thomas, Lodge Morres, and Hervey Morres).6) Their mother Catherine died in Dublin and was buried there in approximately 1802, when her youngest son (Hervey) was three years old.7)

A record in the Irish National Archives is of a complaint Thomas Prior made about a magistrate in 1829. No further details are given online - a task for anyone who can spend time in the Irish Archives in person!8)

This Thomas Murray Prior was the last to be able to describe himself as 'Esq. of Rathdowney'. Rosa Praed stated that the estates were 'bankrupt'9). While the estate was taken over by creditors, it was not a straight-forward process. Thomas's son entered into a legal agreement in 1827, 1845 and 1846 that appears - to my non-legal eye - to indicate that he put down a bond of £1,000 which he would pay if the other party (Richard Newcomen) could prove his title to Rathdowney. The document states: The true intent and meaning of the Bond you this day executed to me for the sum of one thousand pounds Sterling is that in case you shall not succeed in establishing your title to the Lands of Rathdowney in the Queens County that then & in such case s[ai]d. Bond shall be null and void and of no effect but in the event of your Establishing your title to said Lands that there and in such case same shall remain in full force as virtue in law.10)

More light is shed on this by an article on Laois houses. It claims that “Leet’s directory lists Water Castle as the seat of Thomas Prior esq in 1814, who had been living at Attavilla in Borris in Ossory in 176[?], when he was letting a mill in Rathdowney, and was sheriff of the Queen’s County for 1799, and Captain of the Rathdowney Infantry. Sadly in 1824 he was up in the Insolvent Debtors Court in Maryborough [later named Portlaoise].” 11) Presumably the estate was forfeited to pay for his debts.

This image of Water Castle in Durrow, Country Laois, illustrates the above article by laoishouses.wordpress.com. A recent photograph available on Google images suggests that the building is now derelict.

After his wife Catherine's early death, Thomas Murray Prior had a liaison with a working class woman, Mary Ann Thompson who lived in King's County. Robert M-P12) states that Thomas and Mary Ann were ‘possibly’ married; Thomas Bertram M-P refers to their marriage as a 'rumour'.13) Mary Ann Thompson later married William Lynch - , ‘perhaps bigamously’, if she was married to Thomas Murray Prior. Thomas and Mary Ann’s daughter Honoria adopted the surname Lynch and married Michael (often called Edward) Hankard.

Honoria and Michael Hankard's elder son, also called Michael, emigrated to NSW in 1881 with his wife Mary (nee Connelly) and their three daughters: presumably today they have numerous descendants in Australia.14) Robert M-P believed that another of Honoria and Michael’s sons, Thomas Hankard, threatened to add ‘Murray-Prior’ to his surname ‘but was dissuaded from this course’.15) Effective blackmail?

Thomas Bertram M-P records that Thomas had four other children before his liaison with Mary Ann Thompson. He gives no information about the children's mother/s, just that one line of descent was 'John and Annie Murray-Prior and their children Bertram and Coralie, of New South Wales.' and that he had 'No space for more details.' 16) Certainly space would be needed to summarise the career of John: a colourful one to say the least! click on John Murray Prior/Bertram Murray for more.

Sources: The common source for information about Thomas M-P appears to be John & John B. Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland: M to Z, London: Henry Colburn Publisher, 1846, p.1076. Robert and Thomas Bertram M-P supplemented their information with family knowledge/gossip. See also TLM-P's Imperial Family Bible; Maximilian Genealogy Master Database 2000.


1) , 3) , 7)
‘Questions to be answered by T.L.M-P’, 6pp Memoranda by the Herald Office, Somerset House, London re Burke’s Colonial Gentry.
2)
Patrick Prior, email to J Godden 14/9/21
4)
John & John B. Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland: M to Z, London: Henry Colburn Publisher, 1846, p.1076; Bernard Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Colonial Gentry, Melbourne: E.A. Petherick, 1891-95, p.49; Robert M-P, The Blood Royal of the Murray-Priors, ms written 1901-05, p.12, NLA; Thomas Bertram M-P, Some Australasian Families Descended from Royalty, ms, n.d. p.5, NLA.
5)
‘Questions to be answered by T.L.M-P’, 6pp Memoranda by the Herald Office, Somerset House, London re Burke’s Colonial Gentry; Robert M-P, The Blood Royal of the Murray-Priors, p.12, NLA; Thomas Bertram M-P, Some Australasian Families Descended from Royalty, ms, n.d., p.5, NLA.
6)
Robert M-P, The Blood Royal of the Murray-Priors, p.12, NLA.
8)
NAI REFERENCE: CSO/RP/OR/1829/654; File of papers relating to complaint made by Thomas Prior, Rathdowney, against constable Joshua Finlay; SCOPE & CONTENT: Letter from Thomas Prior, Rathdowney, Queen's County [County Laois], to William Gregory, Under Secretary, outlining his complaint against constable Joshua Finlay. Additional letter from William Wood, magistrates’ clerk, Borris in Ossory, to Prior, informing him that his complaint will be investigated. Also letter from magistrates Charles White, R[H] Fitzgerald and William Hamilton, assembled at the Petty Session’s Room, Rathdowney, to Francis Leveson Gower, Chief Secretary, outlining their report in relation to same; EXTENT:3 items; 8pp; DATE(S):3 Jul 1829-17 Aug 1829
9)
Rosa Praed, My Australian Girlhood, p.ADD
10)
NLA, M-P papers, Mss7801,Box 4, folder 20/1, special set 14
12)
The Blood Royal of the Murray-Priors, p.32, NLA.
13)
Thomas Bertram M-P, Some Australasian Families Descended from Royalty, ms, n.d. p.6, NLA.
14)
The more recent generations feature in Rita Young, From Royalty to us, unpublished booklet, 1984.
15)
Robert M-P, The Blood Royal of the Murray-Priors, p.34, NLA.
16)
Thomas Bertram M-P, Some Australasian Families Descended from Royalty, ms, n.d., p.24, NLA.
  • thomas_murray_prior.txt
  • Last modified: 2022/01/17 17:16
  • by judith