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Blennerhassetts of Kesh

 

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BLENNERHASSETTS OF KESH

The name Blennerhassett has long gone from the Kesh area but the village owes its origin to the settlement established by this family in the early part of the 17th century at the time of the Plantation of Ulster. The Blennerhassetts built what is now known as Crevenish Castle, which they called Castlehasset and established English workmen and tenants about them which they brought from their home near Norwich, in the county of Norfolk in the East Anglia region of England. Note 1

One of the original proposals for the Plantation of Fermanagh was that of 40 individuals, chiefly of Norfolk and Suffolk, who were willing to invest £40,000 in taking all of the available Plantation land in the county. This included the lands from Lower Lough Erne to the sea now in Donegal. They intended to have a market town, "… on the south side thereof at Bellike, and from thence, three miles nearer the sea, to erect a strong corporation." (Ballyshannon) They requested additional land along the coast "for the necessary use of the inhabitants of that corporation for bringing in or transporting their commodities." They said they would erect 40 manors and requested 60,000 acres, "… the Loughe, Islands therein, Fishings, and the sole command thereof … " They promised to bring in 1,000 able men and wished to have Sir Thomas Chichester (brother to Sior Arthur) and six assistants for a year to get their Plantation set up. A list of applicants follows of whom only a few obtained grants. Note 2

Before becoming established in East Anglia the Blennerhassetts had lived in a village of the same name in Cumberland about twenty miles to the southwest of the city of Carlisle. The village of Blennerhassett today consists of a pub, post office and a village school with a small scattering of houses.

In this area the name Blennerhassett is mentioned as far back as 1180 and there have been numerous spellings of the name e.g. Blenderset, Blinenhaysete and Blenerhaisath to name just a few. The family name began as a placename e.g. John of Blennerhasset and evolved into John Blennerhasset. The Blennerhassett seat was at Flimly Hall near the village. Most modern versions of the name include two t’s at the end of the name and this has been explained as stemming from a desire not to have an unlucky, thirteen letters in their surname. In Irish records the name is spelt with two letter ts at the end while English writers have sufficed with one t. The Blennerhassett name in modern times is associated with the Blennerhasset Report which was published in 1976 as a review into the efficacy of the drink-drive legislation, first introduced in 1967. The family also has considerable links to the Norwich Union Building Society and Assurance Company.


Note 1:
Quite a number of East Anglian names survive in the Barony of Lurg and Fermanagh generally e.g. Eves, Barton, Archdale and Vance to name a few.

Note 2:
PP144-6. An Historical Account of the Plantation of Ulster at the commencement of the seventeenth century 1608-1620 by Rev George Hill. Irish University Press 1970. Hereafter "Hill’s Plantation."

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Contributed by John Cunningham

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