The Kennedys of Finnstown

The Nottingham’s neighbours during these years included the Forsters of Ballydowd Castle and the Kennedys (or O'Ceinneide) of Kishoge. One of the more celebrated members of the Kennedy family was the Protestant Sir Robert Kennedy, MP for Kildare, Chief Remembrance of the Exchequer and founder of Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow. He appears to have acquired the Kishoge property during the 1650s. In 1650, Finnstown Castle was in the possession of Sir Robert Kennedy’s Roman Catholic brother, Alderman Walter Kennedy. The Kennedy brothers appear to have had little time for one another, perhaps owing to their different religions. Following Sir Robert’s death in 1668, his lands at Kishoge (which included two houses with four hearths each) passed to his eldest surviving son, Sir Richard Kennedy, a successful barrister who was later appointed second baron of the Irish Exchequer.

Alderman Walter Kennedy died in 1672 and was succeeded in his Finnstown estate by his eldest son, Christopher Kennedy. However, the Kennedy family’s adherence to the doomed cause of the Jacobites proved to be their eventual undoing. The relative peace that existed during Charles II’s reign came asunder with the accession of his brother, James II, a fervent Roman Catholic. Britain was once again plunged into civil war – the Glorious Revolution of 1688 - as Protestants mustered around the Dutch Prince William of Orange and Catholics rallied to the Jacobite cause of King James. Once again Ireland bore the brunt of the violence with the major battles – the Boyne (1689) and Aughrim (1691) – taking place on Irish soil. James was defeated and exiled to France. King William III and the Protestants now held absolute authority throughout the British Isles and, in order to prevent any further outbreak of revolt, initiated a legislative campaign – the Penal Codes - that would effectively render the Catholic population of Ireland second class citizens for over 130 years. Catholics were forbidden the right to bear a weapon or own a horse. They were not allowed to vote in elections or buy land. Roman Catholicism was outlawed and proposals to castrate all practicing priests were seriously considered in the Irish House of Parliament. The age of the Protestant Ascendancy had begun.

An estimated 450,000 Catholics fled Ireland in the years immediately following the collapse of the Jacobite cause in 1691. Among them was Christopher Kennedy’s son, Colonel Thomas Kennedy, who served as Aide-de-Camp to Richard Talbot, the Catholic Duke of Tyrconnell during the Williamite Wars. After the Duke’s sudden death in 1691, Colonel Kennedy fled to Spain where he commanded a regiment in the service of Philip V. He married Elizabeth, a daughter of Marinus Van Vryberge, the Dutch Ambassador to England in the reign of Queen Anne. After the Colonel’s death in 1718, his son, James Marinus Kennedy, returned to Ireland and settled at the ancient family estate in Clondalkin. Like his father, he was much involved with the Jacobite cause and married a niece of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. For reasons presently unknown, he was murdered at his home in Clondalkin in 1763.