The fam­i­lies who owned Glen­dalough House saw fas­ci­nat­ing times. Au­thor, lec­turer and ge­neal­o­gist Seán Mur­phy of Windgates in Bray re­cently de­liv­ered an il­lu­mi­nat­ing lec­ture on them to the Kil­macanogue His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety. This is the full text of his talk

Wicklow People - - NEWS -

THE BARTONS trace their Ir­ish ori­gins to Thomas Bar­ton, an El­iz­a­bethan soldier who set­tled in Ul­ster in the late six­teenth cen­tury. The fam­ily pros­pered in suc­ceed­ing cen­turies, es­tab­lish­ing branches in Coun­ties Fer­managh, Done­gal, Kil­dare, Tip­per­ary and Wick­low.

‘French Tom’ Bar­ton laid the ba­sis of the fam­ily’s in­volve­ment in the Bordeaux wine trade in the 1720s, which con­tin­ues to this day.

In the 1830s, Thomas John­son Bar­ton, son of Hugh Bar­ton of Straf­fan, pur­chased the Glen­dalough or Drum­min es­tate near An­namoe, which had formerly been owned by the Hu­gos.

While the Bartons were a typ­i­cal con­ser­va­tive Protes­tant gen­try fam­ily, we will see that one mem­ber, Robert Bar­ton, be­came an Ir­ish re­pub­li­can.

The Childer­ses were a York­shire gen­try fam­ily which es­tab­lished an Ir­ish con­nec­tion in the late 19th cen­tury, through mar­riage ties with the Bartons of Glen­dalough House.

The ori­en­tal scholar Robert Cae­sar Childers mar­ried Anna Maria Bar­ton, daugh­ter of Thomas John­son Bar­ton, while his sis­ter Agnes Alexan­dra Childers mar­ried Anna Maria’s brother Charles Wil­liam Bar­ton.

Trag­i­cally, both Robert Cae­sar and Anna Maria would die of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, leav­ing five young chil­dren, Henry Cae­sar, Robert Ersk­ine (known as Ersk­ine), Sy­bil, Dul­ci­bella and Con­stance. The Bartons gen­er­ously took the young­sters to Ire­land to live with them at Glen­dalough House.

Like his dou­ble first cousin Robert Bar­ton, Ersk­ine Childers would be con­verted to the Ir­ish na­tional cause.

Hav­ing se­cured a de­gree from Cam­bridge Univer­sity in 1893, Ersk­ine Childers en­tered the British civil ser­vice as an ad­min­is­tra­tor in the House of Com­mons. At this stage he was com­pletely at­tached to the im­pe­rial ideal and vol­un­teered for mil­i­tary ser­vice dur­ing the Boer War.

In 1903 Childers pub­lished ‘The Rid­dle of the Sands’, which warned against the de­vel­op­ing Ger­man naval threat to Britain and has been dubbed ‘the first spy novel’.

Childers mar­ried Mary Alden ‘Molly’ Os­good, a mem­ber of a prom­i­nent Bos­ton fam­ily.

In­di­cat­ing a grow­ing rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion, Childers sup­ported Home Rule and in 1914 was in­volved with Molly in the Howth gun run­ning us­ing their yacht the As­gard, a gift from Molly’s fa­ther.

When World War I broke out Childers felt obliged to join the war against Ger­many, serv­ing in British naval in­tel­li­gence. Robert Bar­ton also fought in the war, in which two of his broth­ers, Charles and Thomas, died.

Af­ter the war Childers’s po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion quick­ened and with his cousin Robert Bar­ton he moved to sup­port the strug­gle for an Ir­ish repub­lic free of British rule.

Dur­ing the War of In­de­pen­dence in 1919-21, Childers was an ex­tremely ef­fec­tive pro­pa­gan­dist for the re­pub­li­can cause, even though he was sus­pected by some on ac­count of his back­ground.

Bar­ton and Childers were key par­tic­i­pants in the ne­go­ti­a­tions lead­ing up to the sign­ing of the An­glo-Ir­ish Treaty of 1921. Bar­ton was one of the Ir­ish del­e­gates who signed the Treaty un­der a threat of re­newed war from the British, but joined Éa­mon de Valera in op­pos­ing the agree­ment when he re­turned to Ire­land.

Childers, who was sec­re­tary to the Ir­ish del­e­ga­tion, strongly op­posed the agree­ment on the grounds that it con­ceded too much con­tin­u­ing British in­flu­ence in Ire­land, but was un­able to per­suade his col­leagues not to sign it. Civil War en­sued in Ire­land, with Michael Collins lead­ing the pro-Treaty Free State govern­ment and Éa­mon de Valera lead­ing the anti-Treaty repub­li­cans. Both Childers and Bar­ton took the re­pub­li­can side, and found them­selves tar­gets of the new govern­ment.

Childers had the mis­for­tune to be cap­tured by Free State forces dur­ing a se­cret visit to Glen­dalough House in Novem­ber 1922. Be­cause he was found in posses­sion of a small gun, a gift it is said from Collins, Childers was sen­tenced to death by a mil­i­tary court un­der emer­gency pow­ers and ex­e­cuted by fir­ing squad in Beg­gar’s Bush Bar­racks in Dublin on Novem­ber 24, 1922.

While not per­mit­ted to see his wife Molly be­fore his death, Childers was al­lowed to speak to his son Ersk­ine ju­nior, the fu­ture Pres­i­dent of Ire­land. Childers asked his son to for­give those re­spon­si­ble for his death, as he had for­given them, and sec­ondly to prom­ise that if he en­tered pol­i­tics he would not speak about his fa­ther’s ex­e­cu­tion in pub­lic.

As the cen­te­nary of the Civil War ap­proaches, we should keep these words in mind, not­with­stand­ing the duty of his­to­ri­ans to at­tempt bal­anced his­tor­i­cal reap­praisal.

Childers’s widow Molly re­mained de­voted to his mem­ory and died in 1964.

The al­le­ga­tion against Childers of be­ing a British spy while pos­ing as an Ir­ish re­pub­li­can is not sup­ported by ev­i­dence. Sim­i­larly, a re­cent at­tempt to cast Childers’s wife Molly as a British agent is wide of the mark and a taint on the mem­ory of a fam­ily which has sac­ri­ficed much in ser­vice to the na­tion.

Robert Bar­ton left ac­tive pol­i­tics when the Civil War ended in 1923, but later sup­ported de Valera’s Fi­anna Fáil party. As well as con­tin­u­ing to man­age the Glen­dalough House es­tate, Bar­ton took an ac­tive busi­ness role in his later years, serv­ing with the Agri­cul­tural Credit Cor­po­ra­tion, Bord na Móna and the Hos­pi­tals Trust Board.

Late in life Bar­ton mar­ried Rachel War­ren of Bos­ton, whose mother Gretchen was a sis­ter of Molly Childers.

Gretchen and Rachel were fa­mously painted in a joint por­trait by the artist John Singer Sar­gent in 1903.

Rachel had ear­lier been mar­ried to the ar­chae­ol­o­gist Sa­muel K Lothrop and both had served as US in­tel­li­gence agents against Ger­man ac­tiv­i­ties in South Amer­ica dur­ing WWI.

Rachel Bar­ton died in 1972 while her hus­band Robert Bar­ton passed away in 1975. Glen­dalough House then passed to a mem­ber of the Childers fam­ily and was later sold.

To­day, Glen­dalough House and its 1,500-acre es­tate op­er­ate as a hospi­tal­ity, leisure and cor­po­rate venue. Set in a beau­ti­ful moun­tain­ous part of Wick­low, Glen­dalough House is truly one of Ire­land’s most his­toric dwellings, and will al­ways bring to mind the na­tional roles of mem­bers of the Bar­ton and Childers fam­i­lies.

LEFT: Ersk­ine Childers Snr. ABOVE: Glen­dalough House, An­namoe, be­fore later al­ter­ations. RIGHT: John Singer Sar­gent’s fa­mous paint­ing of 1903.

LEFT: A mod­ern bot­tle of Château Lan­goa-Bar­ton, on which can be seen a ver­sion of the Bar­ton coat of arms.

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