Anglo-French Relations The Cloak of Secrecy A personal voyage of detection

Irish Despard Origins

From ‘Bantry in Olden Days’ by Richard S. Harrison (1992): ‘The rich fishing grounds of Bantry Bay and the coast of Beara had traditionally provided a considerable part of the income of the O’Sullivans. They probably did not concern themselves very much with capitalising the industry but were content to receive a tax on the profits from fish sales…An important attraction for English settlers whose interests were chiefly commercial was the massive availability of pilchards. Already in 1616 Sir Richard Boyle was investing in fisheries at Crookhaven….English settlers saw an opportunity to organise fishing and processing and commenced the fish export to France and other continental countries…..There is some evidence to suggest that as early as 1622, a pilchard fishery was being promoted in Whiddy Island and cargoes being sent to Enkhuisen in Holland……At least some people never ceased from thinking about the military significance of Bantry. Lord Orrery in 1655, in a letter to the Lord Lieutenant, saw the militarily exposed nature of the west Cork coast. The relatively easy access from France was seen as a potential threat to the established government. Doubtless not intending flattery, he described the inhabitants in these terms, ‘I am certain that there is not such a pack of rogues in all of Ireland as in the west of this country’!……The lands then in possession of Major Walters and owned by Lord Anglesey (Valentia/Annesley) and his successors slowly came under the control of Richard White of Whiddy, at first by rental and later by purchase. His family derived immediately from Knocksentry in County Limerick. His fortunes were to be derived from iron smelting at Coomhola (mountain east of Glengariff) and from tanning and the export of bark from the extensive oak forests that survived in the Bantry area. Rental from his tenants would have also contributed to his income. Large tracts of land leased by Hugh Hutchinson and John Despard came by lease into his occupation in 1712. Hugh Hutchinson, incidentally, between 1698 and 1728 was responsible for the building of Blackrock House that formed the nucleus of what is today known as Bantry House (which has breath-taking views of the bay).’



  1. Please don’t publish my name or email. I have not read everything here, so perhaps I missed this information, but the reason that the Despards in Ireland are traced only to the date you mention is that the family, as Huguenots had fled to Ireland from France after The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

    1. Thank you for that. However – from 1572 until 1692 there are no records showing the use of the Despard or d’Espard names in either Ireland or England. There are no records of the use of that name in France before that date. Balzac, writing in circa 1840 used that name in a coded fashion which I analyse in my article.

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