Arthur Reginald 5th Baron Defreyne 1879-1915 sss

Photo part of The George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Arthur Reginald, or Reggie as he was known, had a testing childhood what with his mother Laura Octavia dying shortly after his birth and his father, Arthur French of Frenchpark House, subsequently remarrying. Reggie was presently sent to boarding school in England and here he found the regimental lifestyle so much to his liking that at the age of 20 he joined the military. Within 2 years he was a Lieutenant with the Royal Fusiliers at Hythe Barracks in Kent but before long would be wed in a union that greatly shocked his family. His new wife, a divorcee named Annabelle Angus, had come from modest stock – her father was a publican, and she herself was working as a barmaid when Reggie first encountered her at Banffshire Scotland. She also came into the marriage with a child from a previous relationship – a son that came to be remembered as Roland True, the convicted murderer who spent the majority of his life in Broadmoor Hospital – a facility for the criminally insane.

While the marriage was never legally dissolved the couple soon parted ways as Reggie, realising his blunder, left his regiment and sailed to the States in 1905. He travelled with the notion of joining the Northwest Mounted Police while a visit to his trailblazing uncle William French on the New Mexico frontier must also have seemed appealing to the young traveller. When he vanished shortly after his arrival into the States foul play was immediately suspected and a country wide hunt involving the British Consulate and American police was initiated, happily reported by the scandal hungry paparazzi. He was eventually discovered at an American military barracks in New York having registered as a private a week after arriving in the States. The nonplussed Reggie declared that he liked his new job and he proposed to stay in the army for the foreseeable future. Furthermore he vowed to never return to England.

His regiment subsequently transferred to South America and Reggie went with it disappearing from public life for a number of year only sending home occasional letters to his father, one of which tellingly referred to terminating his wife’s allowance. Upon his father’s death in 1913 Reggie bought his way out of the American draft and returned home as the 5th Baron Defreyne but alas he would not be home for long. The following year the Great War broke out and Reggie like many others of his age enlisted to fight for the cause. Unfortunately he would be killed on 9th May 1915 in Flanders alongside with his half-brother George Phillip French who fell in the same action. They were both laid to rest in the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery at Souchez, Pas-de-Calais in Northern France.

Reggie was succeeded as Baron Defreyne by his half-brother Francis Charles but in the following years the French family began to have less and less association with the village of Frenchpark. By now the French family lived primarily in London and the old residence slowly became more dilapidated as family finances and societal principles changed. The final furniture and fitting effects of the house were auctioned off on 4th November 1953 and the interior was dismantled. Despite objections by the President of the National Trust of Ireland and regional proposals to form an agricultural college for the locality Frenchpark House, which had housed the French family since the mid-17th century, was razed leaving the present day ruins that remind of past greatness.


Leitrim Townland tenant map 1895 sss


1 – Pat Higgins (minor)                                          41 – John Breslin (late Dominick Donlon)

2 – James Forde (Rep. Michael)                            42 – Thomas Connor

3 – Frank Forde                                                     43 – William Higgins

4 – Tom Browne                                                     44 – John Vesey

5 – Mary McDermott                                            45 – Martin McGarry

6 – Thomas Oates                                                   46 – John Peyton (Andrew)

8 – Peter McGarry                                                 47 – Ellen & John Higgins

9 – Thomas Owens                                                 48 – Catherine Higgins

10 – John McGarry (Cleggernagh)                        49 – James Keenan

11 – Bernard McGarry (Cleggernagh)                  50 – John Grady & Pat

12 – John Dyer (Rep. James)                                51 – John Killeen

13 – James Callaghan                                           52 – Thomas Keigher

14 – Catherine Oates (Deceased)                         52a – Peter Flanagan (subtenant)

15 – Thomas Henaghan                                        53 – Luke Raftery (Rep. Wid. Anne)

16 – Catherine Madden                                       54 – Francis Browne

17 – Bernard Staunton                                        55 – John Peyton (Patrick)

18 – Mary Scally                                                  56 – John Kane

19 – Pat Dyer                                                       57 – Bernard Mullaney

20 – Thomas Kane                                                58 – John Higgins (Rep. Wid. Higgins)

21 – James Forde                                                  59 – Bernard Moffit

22 – Owen Peyton                                                60 – Willima Corcoran                  

     -William Beirne – subtenant                          60a – William Corcoran (late Michael Walsh)

23 – Roger Forde                                                  61 – Michael Beirne

24 – Thomas O’Brien                                            62 – Martin Flanagan

25 – Thomas Keigher                                            63 – Margaret Conor (Wid.)

26 – James Armstrong                                          64 – Bertley Mullaney

27 – Bridget Lavin                                               65 – Andrew Webb

28 – Michael Carroll (Rep.)                                  66 – Martin Beirne

29 – Mary Higgins                                                67 – Peter Gara

30 – James Fahey and William Owens               68 – John Kerrane

31 – Pat Connor                                                   69 – Pat Raftery (Rep. Bernard Raftery)

32 – Robert O’Connor                                         70 – Pat Higgins (Cloonfinglass)

33 – Robert Connor & Pat Connor                    71 – Lord DeFreyne – BOG

34 – James & Thomas Creaton

35 – John Peyton

36 – John Peyton

37 – Pat Kirrane

38 – Thomas Oates (Mullen)

– Thomas Towey present occupier

39 – John Breslin

40 – John Lee

(Sourced from the DeFreyne Estate Papers NLI)



George French of Innfield sss


As the present political landscape sometimes illustrates the sheer antipathy of opposing parties to each other it is often interesting to note how these campaigns were fought out in the past

Take the Roscommon election campaign in 1770 when George French of Innfield offered his candidacy for the seat alongside an adversary in the shape of Edward Crofton. George had come from a political dynasty stretching back to his grandfather, John French who in 1695 represented Carrick-on-Shannon in parliament; his father Arthur having been elected to Knights of the Shire for Roscommon in 1722.

Crofton’s own ancestral stock appears to have descended from the Lawder family of Scotland who settled in Leitrim county in the 16th century but the election campaign involving George French was his first foray into the Roscommon political scene. This race for election though was one that would be remembered for the intense emotion and hatred that the two candidates had for each other. During a particularly animated debate between the two a vicious aspersion was slung from the hustings by Crofton, alleging fraudulent behaviour of a previous French administration while treasurer of the county. Such was the perceived insult to the family name felt by George that a peaceful resolution was not possible and he sent word of a challenge to Crofton. A duel was duly arranged to take place at the rear of Roscommon Castle ruins with pistols being the weapon of choice. When the time came Crofton fired the first shot striking his rival in the thick part of the thigh. George suffered a vicious wound with the blast nearly blowing off his leg which couldn’t be saved. The leg, once amputated, was carried to a nearby church and buried with George joining it just days later from massive blood loss.

This loss to the French family was great but further misfortune was to follow in the coming years. Georges, brothers John and Robert were both to drown during a crossing of the Irish sea in 1775, and in doing so left the estate in the hands of the unprepared Arthur.

The deceased George French left behind a widow bride and a young daughter, Sarah, who would become the great grandmother of Douglas Hyde, the first President of the Irish Free State.


A genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry and commoners of Great Britain and Ireland Burke 1838

John D’Alton, Memoir of the family of French De la Freyne, De Freyne, Frenshe, Ffrench etc, Dublin 1847

Skeffington Gibbon, The Recollections of Skeffington Gibbon from 1796 to the present year, Dublin 1829

Janet E. Dunleavy, Douglas Hyde- A Maker of Modern Ireland, Oxford 1991

Native Ireland