HISTORY OF THE FAMILY OF NISBET OR NESBITT IN SCOTLAND AND IRELAND
FROM MEMORANDA WRITTEN BY ALEXANDER NESBITT
OF LISMORE, CO. CAVAN, IRELAND, AND OF OLDLANDS, SUSSEX,
AND COMPLETED BY HIS WIDOW,
PRINTED FOR PRIVATE CIRCULATION BY ANDREW IREDALE,
13, THE STRAND, TORQUAY.
Footnotes (indicated by numbers in brackets) are not included in this version for technical reasons. Readers who need the full text are advised to purchase a copy of the original from the Society.
Of the Family of Nisbet in Scotland.
The surname of Nesbitt, or Nisbet, is taken from one or other of the places of that name
which are near the borders of England and Scotland.
One of these is in Northumberland, another in Roxburghshire, another in
Haddingtonshire, but that from which the family with which I have to do derived its name,
is the ancient Nesbyt, the modern Nisbet, near Dunse in Berwickshire. The name is
evidently derived from two Anglo-Saxon words, Nesse, Naes, or Naesse, rock, support,
headland, or cape, and Byht, a dwelling; the original settlement having no doubt been so
placed as to deserve such an appellation.
At what time it was inhabited by a race speaking a Teutonic tongue, there are no means
of ascertaining; the first mention of it in history, or record, is in the charter of donation by
David I, King of Scotland 1124-1152, to the Priory of St. Mary Coldingham (a dependency
of the great Abbey of Durham), by which he gives "Ederham et Nesetitam in perpeutam
elemosinam" to that Church. (1)
Other charters of Cospatrick, brother of Dolphin, Earl of Dunbar, and of Henry Earl of
Northumberland, son of King David, make or confirm the same gift. (2)
The Nesebite so given was, however, East Nisbet, not the West Nisbet, where the Castle
of Nisbet stands; this is clearly proved by the Charters of King David of the year 1147, (1)
and of Patrick Earl of Dunbar of 1261 (2) which the grant of Cospatrick, brother of Dolphin,
of Ederham and Disbet is confirmed, with the reservation of thirty shillings annually, while
in the latter it is expressly stated that that sum was to be received from Ederham and "Est
The monks of Coldingham had a feudal superiority over "Est Nisbet," but there is no
trace of their ever having claimed such over West Nisbet.
At the time of the grant of East Nisbet, West Nisbet was probably already granted to
some retainer of the King, but no known document shows who this was.
It would appear that, in the 17th Century, record or tradition still preserved the memory
of one or more generations of the family of Nisbet anterior to the time of William de
Nesebite (who as hereafter mentioned was living in the second half of the 12th Century), for
Sir Alexander Nisbet of Nisbet in a petition to King Charles II in 1662, asserts that he "and
his ffamily have constantly continued faithfull and loyall to yor sainted Maiestie and yor
Royall Progenitors above the space of six hundred yeares last past."
This would carry back the original settlement of the family in Scotland, to the time of
Malcolm Canmore (A.D. 1056-1092), when many Saxons and Normans, as is well known,
settled themselves in Scotland on the invitation of that King.
If conjecture may be admitted, we might fix upon Thor Longus, (3) or his Father, as the
probable grantee of West Nisbet. The former is one of the witnesses of the Charter of
Coldingham (1098), and he himself gave the Church of "Ednaham" (now Ednam) and a
ploughland (4), to the Monks of St. Cuthbert.
Two very curious documents of this Thor the Long have been preserved, and are printed
by Raine. (1) The first is a charter in which he states that Edgar, king of the Scots, had
given him "Ednaham desert," and that he, with the King's help, and his own money, had
settled (inhabitavi) it, and had there built a Church from the foundations; this Church and a
"carrucata" (ploughland) of land he gives to God, St. Cuthbert, and his Monks, for the (ie.
King Edgar's) brothers and sisters, and for the redemption of his dearest brother lefwin, and
for the health of his own body and soul.
The second document, the original of which is preserved in the archives of the
Cathedral of Durham, is in the form of a letter addressed to David Earl of Dunbar,
afterwards David I of Scotland, in this styling himself "omnius suus" he entreats his
"dominus carissimus" to confirm the above mentioned donation. As in this Alexander is
mentioned as King, it must have been written between A.D. 1107 and 1124.
A seal attached to this is of a pointed oval form, on it Thor is represented sitting,
holding a long sword, with the legend "Thor me mittet amico."
Thor appears to have had a son William, (2) who is a witness to two Charters of
donation by William de Veteri Poute, styling himself "Willielmus filiius Thor." As
Ernaldus, Abbot of Kelso, was also a witness, this must have been executed between 1124
and 1153. The first, however, who attached the designation "de Nesbite" to his name, would
seem to be William, who witnessed several Charters of donation to Coldingham between the
years 1165 and 1214; some of these must have been executed between 1188 and 1198.
This William may have been the son of William the son of Thor, or possibly the same
person, who, in the latter part of his life, followed the prevailing fashion
of using a territorial instead of a patronymical designation; his period being that in
which such changes of appellation became frequent.
It is about the same time that the earliest mentions are found in the Coldingham
Charters, of members of the neighbouring families of Swinton and Gordon with territorial
designations, and of these the earliest seem to be those (No. CXVI. CXVII. and CXVIII.) of
Patrick first Earl of Dunbar, (to which Alan de Swinton, (1) Richard de Gordon, (2) and
Adam de Gordon are, with William de Nesbite, among the witnesses.) These appear to
belong to the reign of William the Lion, 1163-1214. The two families of Swinton and
Gordon, as also those of Ridpath and Dunse, derive their names from baronies contiguous to
that of Nisbet; and all five families bear the same arms, viz., three boars' heads, erased, but
each of a different colour; the arms of Nisbet being argent, three boars' heads, erased, sable;
of Swinton sable and argent, with a cheveron or; of Gordon azure and or; of Ridpath argent
and gules, with a chevron engrailed, also gules; and Dunse, sable and or, with a chevron or.
It has been inferred from this similarity or identity of bearings, that those five families
were all descended from some common ancestor, and Lord Hales ("Origin of Scottish
Names") is quoted as having stated that a tradition to that effect existed. There is no
improbability in such a supposition, for it is quite possible that Thor Longus, or his brother
Lefwin, may have had several children, and that Thor's father may have been the patriarch
of the five families.
The similarity of arms among families not related, is usually attributed to their having
adopted those of some feudal superior, as in the case of so many Cheshire families, who bear
garbs, a part of the arms of the earldom of Chester; but such an explanation does not apply
here; boars' heads are not the bearing of any family of such local importance as to have
included lesser families to have adopted them, and these families - at least the Swintons,
Gordons, and Nisbets - held immediately from the Crown. (1)
The case seems to have had some analogy with that of the Teutonic tribes, who adopted
some animal as their ensign, much in the same way as the Indians of North America did
their "totem," such animals, witn coats of arms came into use, were displayed on their
bearings. Instances of this are to be found in the use of the horse by the Saxons of Kent and
Wessex and by the kings of Hanover; the lion by the Danes, Norwegians, and many of the
countries of South-eastern Germany.
That the boar should have been so employed is not surprising. The bravest and
strongest wild animal which inhabited the woods of the North is frequently
mentioned in Anglo-Saxon literature, and its image was the frequent ornament of the helmet
of the Northern warrior. So, in the poem of Beowulf, his companions, we are told,
Eofor-lic scion A boar's likeness sheen
On-ofer hleor bae'ron Over their cheeks they bore,
Ge-hroden golde; Adorned with gold;
F'ah and fy'r-heard. Variegated and fire-harden'd.
In the Welsh poem on the fall of Kyndylan, the last Welsh Lord of Pengwan (ascribed to
Llywarch, 6th century(?)) the Saxon invaded is spoken of as the wild boar. (2) Was the wild
boar a sort of national or tribal badge? It is, therefore, likely enough that a family of Saxon
or Norse parentage should blazon the boar on their shields, and there is no need to have
recourse to stories about the slaying of mighty boars to account for such a bearing.
It may be allowed to a Nesbit to suggest that the plain black and white of the arms of
that family may be indicative of descent from the eldest among those who first assumed
these arms; for as Fuller ("Worthies of England," chap. xvi.) tells us: "It is the rule general
in arms that the plainer the ancienter." Of colours, the same writer says: "Argent and sable
are conceived the fairest coat."
The successor, and probably the son of William de Nisbet, was Gilbert de Nisbet, whose
name is preserved by its occurrence on the seal attached to a charter still existing in the
possession of the Earl of Morton, by which his son Thomas de Nisbet and his wife Amabel
grant two acres of meadow in "territorio de Nisbet in Bradhalu."(1) On the seal appended to
one (or both) of these charters is the figure of a knight, mounted on a galloping horse, with
sword in hand. The helmet is square at the top, and the shield hung round the neck. The
legend is mutilated, but what remains reads - "Sig.....me filii Giberti." The missing letters
were, doubtless, "Tho," thus forming the name "Thomas." (2)
The omission of the designation "de Nisbet" from several other seals of the same period
may be observed on those engraved in Raine's History.
In another charter, printed in the Melrose collection (196), among the witnesses appear
Thomas de Nisbet and his son Philip. This is not dated, but believed to be of the time of
King Alexander II. (1214-1240).
Philip was, therefore, probably the son and successor of the first Thomas, and father of
the second, and not long in possession of the estate, as his name does not occur as witness to
any of the Coldingham charters, while the names of the two Thomases occur as witnesses to
between thirty and forty.
One of them, apparently the second, is occasionally styled Dominus Thomas, perhaps to
mark his having been knighted.
The greater part of these charters would seem to have been executed at the courts held
for the district called Coldinghamshire. One of these (3) is a judgment or a decision of the
"milites libere tenentes at omneo curie de Coldinghamshire, sectam debentes in plena curia
apud Eyton anno gracia M0CC0X0L," i.e., 1240. To this seals of William de Mordington,
William de Scremerston, Adam de Prendergast, and Thomas de Nesbyt are attached - these
four apparently acting for the whole "curia"; the "Vice comes," a ham, often appearing
among the witnesses. Thomas de Nesbyt may have been present at the courts as holding
East Nisbet under the Convent, or it may have been the practice that even the tenants "in
capite", should attend. Many of these documents afford curious glimpses of the social
condition of the time, as those (Nos. cccxxx. to cccxxxix.) which record the sale of serfs. In
one case Renaldus, the "prepositus" (bailiff), was sold with all his family and chattels, "tam
mobilius quam immobilibus," for twenty marks sterling. The sums paid for others varied a
good deal. Turkit Hog and his sons and daughters were sold for three marks, and Roger, the
son of Walter, with all his issue, for two marks.
The property belonging to the serf was, no doubt, an important element in the price; but
the charters seem to show that the monks were in the habit of profiting by their command of
ready money, buying at low prices from their needy neighbours, as several of them recite
that the sums of money had been received by the vendor "in magna necessitate mea."
One very curious document (No. cccxcvii.) refers to a trial by battle, John, formerly
swineherd, of Coldingham, granting to the monastery three and a half acres of land, and a
toft and croft, which Roger, son of Adam de Riston, had given to him for a duel which he
had undertaken, and in which he was victorious. (1)
No charter subscribed by Thomas de Nesbite of any later date than 1253 appears to be
extant, but there is one (cxxxvi.) from Patrick (3rd?), Earl of Dungar, restoring to the Prior
and Monastery of Durham the wardship and marriage of the heirs of "Estnesebith." One of
the subscribing witnesses is "Dominus Robertus de Nesebith miles." This would seem to
have been executed in 1261, as another bearing that date is executed by the same person,
and is to the same effect, with the exception that by it a payment of thirty shillings annually
and foreign (i.e. military) service is reserved to the Earl.
He was probably the father of Thomas de Nesbyte and of William de Nesbyte and John
de Nesbyte, who swore fealty to Edward I. of England in 1296, among the landowners in
Gilbert de Estnesebyt and "Johan le fiz de Adam de Estnesebyt del Counte de
Berewyck," also executed the deeds of fealty and homage in the same year.
One of the Coldingham charters (No. ccclxxxvi.) is subscribed by Thomas de
Estnesebyt. The date of this would seem to be about 1275.
A Thomas Neisbit had a charter from King Robert Bruce granting him twelve marks of
annual rent from the lands of Edringtonn, Co. Peebles. This was between 1314 and 1329.
(2) David II. granted the same lands to Thomas Neisbit, whether the same person or his son
there are no means of ascertaining. This Thomas is probably the same person as the
Thomas Nisbet mentioned in the Chamberlain's accounts for 1329 and 1330 (3) as receiving
twenty pounds "prolibus emendis ad opus Dom Regis de quibus respondebit." He was
probably attached to the Court of David II. Other payments to him appear in the
Chamberlain's accounts (4), in 1342, 1360 and 1365; one to Edna (Ada?) de Nesbyt
(perhaps his wife) for things bought "ad opus Regis."
The son of Thomas was probably Adam de Nesebith, of whom Nisbet (the Herald) (5)
says that he had a charter of Knockless from King Robert Bruce, to be held by the service of
one knight" faciendo regi servitium unius militis in communi exercitu."
This charter was between the years 1306 and 1330. Deuchar supposes him to have had
three sons - Adam, John and Thomas - but there seems to have been another son, Patrick; as
Patricius de Nesbyte appears in the inquisition respecting the will of Lumysden in 1364. (1)
In 1373 he was Sheriff of Berwick, as he so appears in the accounts of the Chamberlains
of Scotland. (2)
The first son, Adam, is believed to have succeeded Thomas in the possession of Nisbet,
and John to have been the man of that name who married a co-heiress of the family of
Dalziel, in Lanarkshire. In consequence of this marriage, the barony was divided, and one
moiety has since been known as Dalziel Nisbet.
From this marriage the Nisbets of Edinburgh (the ancestors of the Nisbets of Dirleton,
of Dean, and of Craigintinnie) descended.
The third son, Thomas, is supposed to be the Thomas Neisbit who had a charter of the
lands of Edringtoun, Co. Peebles, in the reign of David II. (3)
About the same period, one Robert, son of Thomas de Nisbet "de eadem," is
mentioned in a letter from King Edward III. to the Sheriff of York, dated 1332, (4) as
one of the hostages taken from Berwick-on-Tweed as security for the
fidelity of the town, and the King ordered that he and his companions should be sent to
Ramsay Abbey. As, however, the hostages are said to be "de liberis majorum et proborum
hominum dicta villae," we ought, perhaps, to read "de eadum" as referring, not to Nisbet,
but to Berwick. A William de Nesbyt is one of the "homines de Berewyce" who were sent to
Newcastle in the year 1336. (5)
In 1365, an Alexander de Nisbet appears in the Chamberlain's accounts as paying
ten pounds ten shillings "pro denariatis". Adam Nisbet appears as witness to many charters
of King David II., and was therefore probably attached to his Court. These date from 1364 -
1369. (1) In attestation of that by which the King confirms the grant of Ormystoun, & C &
C; by Alexander Lyndesay, of Ormystoun, to Alexander Cockburn, his name appears as"
Adam de Nisbet, dominus ejusdem" (2), and in the charter of Malcolm de Fauside that
person calls him "consanguinesas meus". His children seem to have been Philip, James and
Alexander. Of these James appears as a witness to a charter by George Earl of March to
French, of Thorndikes, between 1420 and 1434. (3)
Alexander had a grant of Twyndsheills, Hertfollings, and the two Chyrnsides in
Berwickshire, confirmed by King Robert III, between 1390 and 1406. (4)
Philip de Nisbyt witnessed a charter by George Earl of Dunbar to Henry Ogoul in
1373 (5) and one by King Robert II, confirming one by the same person in 1372, granting
Mordingtoun , in Berwickshire. (6)
In 1421, I find mention of a Philip de Nisbet, son of Robert de Nisbet in a charter
of that date --- a confirmation by William Dean, Prior of Coldingham, of the marriage
writings concerning a marriage agreed upon between Philip and John de Panton, of Panton.
It is not however stated who the intending bride and bridegroom were.
The issue were probably Adam de Nisbet, William and perhaps John and Thomas .
William is witness to a charter by King Robert III, in 1390. (7)
A John de Nisbet is mentioned in an inquisition of 1420 (8) as holding land in Upper
Ayton . He had a son John.
Thomas was Prior of Coldingham from 14-- until 1456, when he resigned that office
As a monk in Durham he was accused of incontinence, but was absolved from this charge by
the "compurgation" of twelve of his fellow monks.
The remaining members, thirty eight in number, also swore to their disbelief in his
criminality. (1) In 1440 he was "Custos Infirmariae". (2)
Adam de Nisbet is stated (by Nisbet the Herald) (3) to be designed of West Nisbet in a
charter of those lands in 1420. He appears as a juryman in the service of French, of
Thorndikes in 1430 (4) and he is one of those chosen by the Grand Assize in 1431 to make a
perambulation of the lands of Brockole and Buttenden. His children were Adam, and
perhaps Patrick and Alexander, and a daughter Elizabeth.
Patrick is, perhaps, the person of that name who subscribed to several inquisitions in
1430, 1444, and 1453 (5), and in these he is called Patrice of Nisbet; in 1453, Patricius de
Nesbit "de eadem;" and in 1444, "Patricius de Nesbit, dominus de Estnesbit."
It is possible that there was one Patrick of East Nisbet, and another, a son of Adam de
Nisbit, of West Nisbet.
Alexander de Nesbyt is one of the witnesses to the induction of John Oll to the Priory of
Coldingham in 1466, and is, perhaps, the same person as Alexander Nesbit de Swynewood,
who is one of the jurors on the inquisition "pro Thoma de Lummesdene" in 1453, and "pro
Alexander de Aldenerawe" of the same date. (6)
Elizabeth married Alexander Chernside. In 1481, a case came before the Parliament of
Scotland, in which Janet Hume, spouse of James Hume of Douglace (9th earl), complained
against Elizabeth Nisbet, Alexander Chernside and Patrick hume, for holding a court of
"purprusion" on the lands of Rathbourne. It was eventually decided that the court was held
without due authority.
Adam de Nisbet was, no doubt, the "Lord of Nisbet" who, with the Prior of Coldingham,
was deputed by Parliament in 1467 to return the rents of barons in the shire of Berwick for
taxation. He was on the service of Alexander Home, of Home, as heir to his father in 1456
(1), and had a charter to himself and his wife, Lucy Rutherford, of the lands of Auchintray
in 1502. (2) He had a son Philip.
On 16th April, 1529, Adam and Philip were denounced as rebels for assistance given to
Archibald, Earl of Angus. (3) This was immediately after the siege of Tantallon.
Adam was murdered by Mathew Hamilton, son of Robert Hamilton, of Mylneburne, and
Duncan Dundas, brother german of James Dundas, in Newlistoun.
Philip Nisbet, of that ilk, is mentioned in the records of Parliament as one of the lords of
the General Council held by King James V. at Perth, or Scone, in 1513. He had charters of
the lands of Brighamshiels to himself and his wife, Helen Rutherford, in 1505 and 1506. (4)
He had issue Sir Patrick Nisbet, George, and Thomas.
Sir Patrick married Isobel, daughter of David Hume, of Wedderburn, but appears to
have died without issue. (5)
George had, in 1513, a charter of half of the barony of Dalziel from John Nisbet, of
Dalziel. (6) He had issue Philip, Janet, and Agnes. Janet married Andrew Haig, of
Bemerside. (7) Agnes married John Murray, of Stanhope or of Rolmanno. (8)
George Nisbet was an actor in some of those turbulent proceedings which were so
frequent in Scotland. In 1556, he, together with John, son of Cuthbert Cranstoune, John
Edyeare, of Wedderlie, and others, were compelled to find "caution to underlie the law at the
next aire at Berwick," on charges of "convocation and searching for Archibald Douglas, of
Kilspendie, Provost of Edinburgh, for his slaughter, at the town of Aberlady, on 18th
Robert, Bishop of Dunkell, was one of the actors in the same affair. Two hundred and
eighty persons, armed, are said to have been collected. George Nisbet is styled "of that ilk,"
but in 1561, he, under the appellation of the Baron of Dalziel, Thomas Nisbet his brother,
John Swynton of Swynton, William Redpath of Redpath, are recorded to have found surety
to answer a charge of "convocation of wounding," committed on the lands of Rawburne,
belonging to David Spottiswoode. (1)
It does not appear at what date George Nisbet succeeded his brother Patrick, but in
1568, he, under the designation of "George Neisbit of that ilk," complained to the Privy
Council (2) that David Hume, of Wedderburn, had, with spears and other weapons, invaded
his house at ten o'clock at night, wounded his servant, Adam Cockburne, "with ane spier in
the hock," and compelled him to forsake his house.
As Hume or Home's sister (or daughter) had married George Nisbet's elder brother
Patrick, the quarrel, no doubt, arose out of some question about jointure, or some similar
matter. Another Nisbet appears at this time in the Register of the Privy Council, by name
David. His first appears as David Nysbet, of Dalziel, on the 10th September, 1567, when he
is "charged to pass and entir his persoun in ward (within) the Forth (fort) of Inchkeith."
On the 5th April, 1568, order was made by the same body for the payment to Johune
Hay, of Markallis, capitaine, and David Nysbett, Baroun of Dalziel, his lieutenant, of four
hundred and sixteen pounds, sixteen shillings, and nine-pence, for their services in a
garrison of horsemen on the Bordouries." He may, perhaps, have been a son of George.
A "Johune Nysbett" is mentioned in the same register as, with Margaret Sinclair, relict
of Johnne Sinclair, and others, holding "the tour, fortalice and hous of Hermestoun," and are
charged to deliver them up "under pain of rebellioune and putting to the hous."
At what time George died is not stated, but he, it would appear, was succeeded by his
son Philip Nisbet was living until about 1590. (1)
Fynes Moryson gives the following graphic account of the mode of life of a Scotch
gentleman at this period: "Myself was at a Knight's house who had many servants to attend
him, that brought in his meate, with their heads covered with blue caps, the table being more
than halfe furnished with great platters of porredge, each having a little piece of sodden
meate. And when the table was served, the servants did sit downe with us, but the upper
messe, insteede of porredge, had a pullet with some prunes in the broth. And I observed no
art of cookery, or furniture of household stuffe, but rather rude neglect of both, though
myselfe and my companion, sent from the Governour of Barwicke about bordering affaires,
were entertained after their best manner. The Scots, living then in factions, used to keepe
many followers, and so consumed thier revenues of victuals, living in some want of money."
It was, therefore, perhaps in Philip Nisbet's time, but more probably in that of his father,
that the cruel inroad of the English into the Merse took place, of which we have the
following account in Haynes' State Papers (2):-
"A.D. 1544, Sir Raff Evre, with the garrisons of the Middle Marches, Tindale, and
Riddlesdale, to the manner of 1,400 men, rode, and burnt Bon, Jedworth, and Angram
Spitle, with two other towns called Est Nesbit and West Nesbit, and won divers strong bastill
houses, and slew all the Scottishce men in the same, and the other townes aforesaid, to the
number of eighty, and brought away two hundred and twenty head of nolt, four hundred
shape, with moche insight goods, slayn eighty Scottischmen, taken thirty."
As, however, "Nesbitt" is mentioned in connection with Ancrum, it was probably the
Nesbit near Roxburgh which was thus burnt.
The children of Philip were George, William and Elizabeth.
The first was served heir to Philip on 23rd February, 1590. (1) His name occurs among
those who, in 1591, subscribed a "bond of association of Lordes,
Earls, Barons, Gentlemen, and others," to serve the King against the Earl of Bothwell
and other rebels."(2)
Elizabeth had a charge of one hundred pounds upon the lands and town (de terris et
villa) of West Nisbet, to which rent charge her brother, William
" Neisbit," was served heir on 6th February, 1592. (3)
William Nisbet, in 1608, is mentioned with the designation "in Newtounleyes," as
charged with the murder of Gilbert Wauchope in Goddiscroft, comitted in
"Cokburnesbpethscheillis" (the schielings of Cockburnspath), in August, 1608, in a record
printed in Pitcairn's Crim: Trials; and his borther, Philip Nisbet of that ilk, "unlawit in
2,000 pounds for nocht entrie of the said Williame."
The children of George were Philip, Alexander, Edward, Thomas, and William.
Alexander had a charter of Newtounlees in 1613. (4) He had two children, James and
Elizabeth, to whom Thomas became guardian in 1615. (5)
James and his sister Elizabeth were served heirs to him 16th January, 1634. (6)
Edward and Thomas were concerned in the murder of James Carmicheal of Aucherty,
on 10th February, 1603 - probably in one of those frays so common in Scotland at the time,
and particularly on the Border. Mr Deuchar gives as his authority for this statement a
catalogue of charters in his possession and says that Thomas is described as brother german
In Pitcairn's Crim. Trials, a record of 1606 is published in which Edward Nisbet,
merchand burgess in Edinburge, and Thomas Nisbet, son to the Laird of Nisbet, are charged
with the slaughter of James Carmichael, son of the gudeman of Uderino. As the Laird of
Nisbet in 1606 was Philip Nisbet, this would prove that the Thomas in question was not the
brother, but the son of Philip.
Philip Nisbet was served heir to his father George on 19th March, 1601 (1) by a general
inquisition as heir "of the lands, the vill and territory of West Nisbet, of the moiety of the
lands of Otterbourne, of the lands of Nether Recleuch, and of the demesnes of
Mordingtoun." (2) He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Haldane, of Gleneagles, by
whom he had, according to Nisbet (Heraldry), Alexander, Philip, Thomas, and (Mr Deuchar
adds) Chaucery, (3) which, however, I apprehend, merely proves that this David had a son
Philip. The eldest son, Sir Alexander, pulled down a great part of the Castle of Nisbet
(though not the whole), and built the house which still exists. In 1630, he was
"Commissioner for the Baraunes of Berwick" in the Parliament of that year, and I believe, in
several other Parliaments.
According to Nisbet's Heraldry, he was twice married, his first wife being Katherine
Hay, daughter of Lord Yester, by whom he had several sons - Philip, Alexander,
Robert, John and Adam. His second wife was Katherine Swinton, only
daughter of Swinton of Swinton, by whom he does not appear to have had issue.
. According to Mr
Deuchar, he was only once married - viz. to Katherine Swinton, daughter of Robert Swinton
of Swinton, by Katherine Hay, daughter of Lord Yester. His authority for this statement is
Douglas's Baronage, p. 130.
According to Nisbet's "Heraldry" he was " most signally conspicuous for his bright parts
and dutiful loyalty to his sovereign, King Charles I . He was principal Sheriff of Berwick
during the peaceful part of that King's reign . He strenuously opposed the Covenanters, but,
they prevailing, he and his sons were forced to leave the country and join the King's army,
where they served with untainted loyalty and valour, to the loss of their persons and estates".
He goes on to state :- " The eldest son Sir Philip , was on his travels abroad , who , hearing
of his sovereign's troubles, came to England and offered his services to his Majesty, who
knighted him and gave him the command of a regiment . He was also Lieutenant -
Governor of Newark-upon-Trent when the Scotch Covenanters besieged it ineffectually . He
gave many singular proofs of his conduct and his valour in the service of his King in
England, till the state of affairs drew him to Scotland to join with the Marquis of Montrose,
and he continued with him until after the battle of Philiphaugh, when being apprehended, he
was no sooner known than an order was sent from the Committee of Estates for his
committment to Glasgow, and there he was tried for being in arms with Montrose, of which
they easily found him guilty, and gave sentence to lose his head, which judgement was
executed upon him at Glasgow, in company with Alexander Ogilvie, of Inverquharity, a
youth scarely twenty years of age, both unmarried, upon the 28th October 1646; as in the
history of those times by Dr. George Wishart, Bishop of Edinburgh, who says that the
Covenanters beheaded there three stout gallant gentlemen, Sir William Rollock, Alexander
Ogilvie and Sir Philip Nisbet, of an ancient family and chief of it next to his father, who had
done honourable services in the Kingdom of England, and had the command of a regiment
there. Alexander and Robert, both captains were killed in the field, following Montrose". In
the essay "On the Ancient and Modern Use of Arms",by Alexander Nisbet, the author of "
Heraldry " it is stated, in addition, (1) that Ogilvie and Sir Philip " were interred both
together in the Churchyard of Glasgow,where those of the name Nisbet in that town erected
a tombstone for the houour of their young chief, Sir Philip Nisbet,with his arms being
argent, three boars erased sable ".
Of the two younger sons the writer of Nisbet's "Heraldry " gives the following account :-
- " Mr John the fourth son, married and died in England, leaving a daughter who was
married to Mr Brown of Chirnside, a brother of Mr Brown of Blackburn. The youngest son
Adam, married Janet Aikenhead, grandchild to David Aikenhead, Provost of Edinburgh,
father and mother of the author of this " System of Heraldry ", who is the only male
representative of the ancient family of Nisbet ."
This account, as will be seen hereafter, does not altogether agree with that given by Sir
Alexander himself. (1) The estates of Sir Alexander were sequestrated, and, by 1642, had
passed into the possession of one James Mure, burgess and merchant of Edinburgh, who in
an inquisition of the 28th July of that year, (2) as owner of the lands and barony of West
Nisbet, comprehending the lands of Mungaswall, Reishill, Fluiris, Glouroverhin,
Wildinkhall, Nisbet, Nisbet-hill, Cruiklie and Wettie-wallis, all in the parish of Edrom.
These lands are in the same inquisition stated to be valued at twenty marks, and by the new
extent at twenty pounds .
Two petitions from Sir Alexander to Charles II after the Restoration, which are
preserved in the State Papers' Office, and are published in an abbreviated form in the
Calendars of State Papers (3) for the years 1660 and 1662 , contain his own account of his
misfortunes . The first runs as follows:-
"TO THE KING'S MOST EXCELLENT MAtie, "
" The humble Petico'n of Sir Alexander Nisbet, of Nisbet, Knt., showeth, That whereas
yo'r Petr. and all his children, kindred, and friends, have continued since the beginning of
the late troubles ever faithfull and loyall to yo'r Matie and yo'r Royall Father, of ever blessed
memory, for yo'r Petr hath suffered most sadly, both in his person and his estate, to the utter
ruine of himselfe, family and children . His eldest son Sir Philip Nisbet, having had a
regiment under your Matie's said Royall Father, within this kingdom, was sent by his late
Matie with a commission to the then Marquis of Montrose, and being ordered to returne
again prtly, the battle of Philiphaugh falling out at that time, he was taken there, and from
thence carryed to Glasgow, where he was beheaded for his loyalty. His second son being a
Major, and commanding a Party of Whitecoutes under the Marquis of Newcastle, was killed
at the battle of Yorke.
" The third , Col. Robert Nisbet, who served likewise under the said Marquis of
Newcastle, being in Carlile when it was rendered, did make his escape unto the said Marquis
of Montrose, with whom he constantly continued in all his fortunes, untill they were both
taken, and suffered death with him. That yo'r Petr hath been robbed of his fortunes and ever
since the said late troubles forced to fly into Ireland for a livelyhood although he be eighty
years of age. It being very well known to all Scotland, and most parte of the nobility of
England, That no family in Scotland of yo'r Petr Quality hath suffered more both in Bloude,
and means that yo'r Petr hath done. May it therefore please yo'r most Sacred Matie to take
into yo'r Royal Considerac'on the sad and afflicted condic'on of yo'r Petr according to Yo'r
Matie's accustomed Clemency and Bounty, And to grant unto to him the creac'on of a
Knight and Baronett, that so yo'r Petr may have some little thing to transport him into
Scotland, and to prosecute the Law against those who these many years last past, have most
injuriously deteyned yo'r Petr 's fortune, without any just or lawfull cause, and yo'r Petr ( as
in humble duty and Loyallty bound ) shall ever pray, " & c.
The second petition, written 1662, is as follows :-
" TO THE KING'S MOST EXCELLENT MATIE.:
" The humble Petic'on of Sir Alexander Nisbet of Nisbet in yo'r Matie's Kingdom of
Scotland, Knight, -- Showeth, That yo'r Petr and his ffamily have constantly continued
faithfull, and loyall to yo'r sainted Matie and yo'r Progenitors, above the space of 600 yeares
last past, And in particular for his constancy, and fidelity to his late Matie of blessed
memory, hath farr surpassed the suffering of any person of his quality wher in yo'r Ma'tie's
said kingdome as is well knowne, both as to the losse of all his children, his eldest, Sir
Philip, being beheaded ; the rest being Co'manders were slayne, and most part of his
relations, and his private Fortune ruyned by debts contracted in yo'r late ffather's, service,
when his estates were sequestered. That yo'r Pet'r being very aged, and infirme, hath
attended the Court ever since yo'r Ma'tie's happy restauration, thinking to have found out
some discovery for which hee should have petic'on'd yo'r Ma'tie as a comfort and subsistence
to him, for the short tyme he hath to live in the worlde, being already eighty two yeares of
age. But failing of that yo'r Pet'r is minded to returne home to look after his distressed
estate, and to prosecute the laws of the Kingdome against those who most injuriously detain
his Estate, and to end his days in peace and tranquility, with all humble and reverent
submission to providence of God, how low soever his poore condic'ion shall be. May it
therefore please yo'r soveraigne Ma'tie graciously to comiserat his sad and afflicted
condic'ion according to the bowells of the infinite and tender compassionate . . . naturally
inherent in yo'r Ma'tie To grant yo'r Pet'r the making of a Knight Baronett, if he can
find a loyall man for it, for paying his debts here, and for his speedy transport to follow his
occasion at his distressed home. And yo'r Petitioner shall ever pray," &c., &c.
The prayer of the petitions was at length granted, but not until the year 1665, as it
appears by a document in the Record Office.(1) This is a certificate by Sir William Maynard
that Robert Jocelin, of Hide Hall Co Hereford, has always been a loyal subject, is a justice of
the peace for Epsom, and has a £1,000 per year, and is of an ancient family. On the back is
endorsed "Sir Alexander Nesbit's baronet." This Robert Jocelin is the ancestor of the
Jocelyns, Earls of Roden, to whom the baronetcy has descended. How much longer Sir
Alexander lived, whether he returned to Scotland, and where he died, the writer of these
notes has not succeeded in ascertaining. It seems remarkable that he should have ignored
the existence of his two younger sons ; that of John Nisbit seems proved by the inquisition,
(1) by which Katherine Nisbit is found heir to her father John Nisbit, son of Sir Alexander
Nisbit of West Nisbit. The other son, Adam, is said to have been a Writer to the Signet in
Edinburgh, his, only son Alexander Nisbit, of the Heralds' College in Scotland, author of the
well known treatise on Heraldry, died without issue. Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, (2) says of
Nisbit, " Nisbett is a fine old place, with a well timbered park. There was an ancient castle
here, which now no longer exists." This is supposed to have been the castle of Rhodes,
mentioned in the fine old ballad of "Edom of Gordon." Burton refers the ballad to an
occurrence in 1571, when the Castle of Towie in Aberdeenshire was attacked by a Captain
Kerr, serving under the Laird of Auchendoune, a brother of Lord Huntley.
From Memoranda written by Alexander Nesbitt of Lismore , Co.Cavan,Ireland
Nesbitt, of Brenter & of Malmusoy, Co. Donegal
Later of Lismore, Co. Cavan
The great carelessness with which records and documents, whether public or private,
have been preserved in Ireland, makes the investigation of the history of families in that
country in the 17th century a matter of much difficulty. The paucity of written documents
preserved in Irish families is really surprising ; tradition was much trusted to, and with that
generation and the one which preceded it, the current of opinion was in the direction of
treating the study of family history, and of cognate subjects as an antiquated and futile
pursuit. Thus the thread of tradition has been broken, and much of what our grandfathers
knew traditionally, is lost to us. These causes have prevented me from ascertaining the
connexion of the various families of the name of Nesbitt, which have been established in
Ireland from the early part of the 17th century, with as much precision and certainty as
might be wished. A hundred years ago the task would probably have been comparatively
The chief families of the name which have existed, or now exist, are first, the Nisbets,
or Nesbitts of Tullydonell, Co.Donegal, afterwards of Dericairne, Co.Leitrim ; second, of
Woodhill or Ardra, Co.Donegal ; third, of Brenter and Malmusoy, Co.Donegal, later of
Lismore, Co. Cavan ; fourth, of Kilmacredon, Co.Donegal. There are many grounds for the
belief that the founders of all these families were nearly related ; for several generations
their descendants evidently considered themselves as kith and kin ; this is clear from the
recurrence of the names of many among them interchangeably as executors of wills,
trusteees of settlements, and the like.
This is more especially the case as regards the families of Brenter, afterwards of
Lismore, and of Kilmacredon, the founders of which, Andrew and James, were probably
brothers. Their connexion with the Scotch families I have not yet succeeded in clearly
elucidating ; there are no means of obtaining complete lists of the children of the younger
sons of the Lairds of Nisbet, but the correspondence of Christian names, and of arms, make
it in the highest degree probable that the traditional accounts of the near connexion are at
any rate approximately correct. The fact that Alexander Nisbet had, as he states in his
Petition to King Charles II in 1660 had taken refuge in Ireland, is a corroboration
of the account : as nothing can be more
probable than that, having relations established in the remoter parts of Ireland, he should
seek their hospitality in his misfortunes.
The earliest mention of any one of the name in Ireland which I have yet found, is that of
Andrew Nesbitt in an inquisition, (2) of the 16th year of Charles I . ie 1641, on Neale
O'Mighan, who it is stated held two balliboes of the quarter of Kilmacredon and Dromeany,
from Andrew Nesbitt, since the date of the letters patent to the Earl of Annandale ( John
Murray of Broughton ) A.D. 1621, and that the said Andrew was assignee to the said Earl.
The patent here referred to was probably a confirmation of an earlier grant, for as early as
1611 a letter was sent from the Council (4) to the Lord Deputy, ordering him to assist the
Laird of Broctoune in the plantation of " Bullagh and Bannough " ( ie., Boylagh and
Banagh, two baronies in Donegal ) (5) In the same year Alexander Conyngham
( ancestor of the Earls and Marqueses Conynham ), became incumbent of the parish of
Inver, in which Kilmacredon and Dromeany ( now called Drummeenanagh ) are situated ; in
1630 he became Dean of Raphoe. He married Marian, daughter of Murray of Broughton,
and had by her a numerous family ; one daughter Alice, married a Nesbitt ( according to the
pedigree of the Nesbitts of Woodhill given in Burke's " History of the Commoners," it was
Alexander Nesbitt, ancestor of that line ). I do not know what evidence there may be in
proof of this marriage, for I have not succeeded in finding in any contemporary documents
any mention of such a person as Alexander Nesbitt. That one of the Nesbitts married a
Conyngham seems probable, for in the next generation are to be found an Albert in the
family of Nesbitt of Tullydonell, (1) who is probably the Albert of Londonderry, who died in
1675, and another Albert of Tubberdaly who died in 1709, and seems to be of the Woodhill
family. Of the Brenter family is another Albert, who was probably born about 1670 ~ 1680,
and was the son of Andrew Nesbitt of Brenter. All these there can be no doubt were named
after Sir Albert Conyngham, who under William the Third was made Master-General of the
Ordnance in Ireland.
The occurrence of the name in the several families seems a strong argument in favour of
the consanguinity of the members of these families.
There can be no doubt that when Murray of Broughton undertook the
" plantation " of the district of Donegal, of which he had obtained a grant, he induced
kinsmen and friends in Scotland to join in the undertaking, and there was probably some
relationship between the Nisbits and the Laird of Broughton, (2) which led to their settling
in Donegal rather than in any other part of Ulster then "planted".
The earliest seals of Irish branches of the name which I have yet met with, viz.: those
attached to the will of Andrew Nesbitt of Brenter in 1708, and to the marriage settlement of
Thomas Nesbitt of Brenter, and also of Kilmacredon, with Jane Cosby in 1713, both bear as
arms three boars' heads, the arms of the Nisbets of Nisbet, the first has as a crestan arm
holding a truncheon ; the second, an open hand. Both seals have the appearance of being of
a much older date than the documents to which they are attached. (1)
Seals with the same arms and crests are attached to deeds executed by Thomas Nesbitt
of Brenter, afterwards of Lismore, and William Nesbitt of Drumalee, in 1713 and 1714. I
have no doubt, therefore, that the Nesbitts of Brenter and Kilmacredon bore the crest of the
arm and truncheon, and those of Woodhill, Drumalee, and other branches of the family, the
open hand ; both were probably borne in allusion to the settlement in Ulster, of which
province the bloody hand is the well-known ensign. None of these seals have mottoes. ( See
Appendix, Note A. )
The Andrew Nesbitt mentioned in the inquisition on Neale O'Mighan appears to have
associated with himself a James Nesbitt, probably a brother, and to have eventually divided
the grant or assignment of land with him.
Census returns of the plantation of Ulster, probably made in 1659, were recently
discovered at Lansdowne House; in these Andrew Nesbitt, James Nesbitt, and Captain John
Nesbitt of Tullydonell, are mentioned, and are the only persons of the name in the county of
Donegal, as " Tituladoes," meaning; it is to be presumed, those holding titles to the land they
The object of the return was evidently to ascertain whether the settlers or "Tituladoes",
had fulfilled their engagements as regarded the establishing of certain numbers of English or
Scotch on their lands.
The "Drumranny" of this census is no doubt the "Dromeany" of the inquisition on Neale
O'Mighan, the townland of Drimmoriagh (1) or Drummeananagh in more modern times, a
part of the quarter land of Brenter ; " Killingroan" is apparently Kilmacredon, a half quarter
containing five townlands. Both are in the parish of Inver, were fourteen English or Scots,
and twenty-six Irish, and on that of Largimon, in the parish of Killcorr, seven of the former,
and twenty-seven of the latter.
Andrew appears as the "Titulado" of Killingroan and of Largimon, and in conjunction
with James of Drumranny. Both Andrew and James would appear to have had sons, or
grandsons, named Andrew, for among the officers who had served before 1649, occurs the
name of Andrew Nisbitt, (2) then of Brenter, made a will bequeathing Kilmacredon in trust
for his son Andrew, and made mention in it of the children of the late Captain Andrew
Nisbitt, probably the officer mentioned above, who being young, and a subaltern in 1649,
had not entitled himself to any large arrears of pay, and apparently an uncle of the testator
Andrew, who was probably a grandson of James. Captain Andrew was doubtless the owner
of Brenter, and the father of Thomas Nesbitt, afterwards of Lismore. He was dead before
1692, as in September of that year administration of his effects was taken out by his widow,
Anna Lyndsay, his eldest son not being of age.
Captain Andrew left, besides Thomas , four sons,(2) Albert, (3) Robert, (4) William, (5)
Thomas, the elder son, in 1701(3) then described of Brenter, but residing at
Grangemore, in the County of Westmeath ( near Tubberdaly, in King's County, where a
family of Nesbitts lived, with whom he was nearly connected ), married Susan Lyons of
Ladistown. He settled his estates of Brenter and Malmusoy, the first containing nine
townlands, and the seven, comprising in all more than 4,000 statute acres, on the issue of
the marriage. By this marriage he had one son, Charles Robert, who died without issue
between 1727 and 1737.
In 1713, Thomas Nesbitt married for the second time, his wife being Jane , the eldest
daughter and heiress of Arnold Cosbie, of Stradbally, in the Queen's County, and of Dorcas
Sidney his wife, she being a cousin of Sir Philip Sidney, and at one time a maid of honour
to Queen Elizabeth.
The Cosbies, of Stradbally, from whom the Nesbitts, of Lismore, descend in the female
line through Jane Cosby, the daughter of Arnold Cosby, were among the daring and
adventurous leaders of the forces, which, under Henry VIII., Mary, and Elizabeth, were
employed under the English Viceroys in dominating the Irish chieftains who sought to
establish their independence, and few were more conspicious or more active than the
Cosbies, the first three generations of whom fell in battle with the Irish.
The name no doubt originates from the parish so-called in Leicestershire, but I do not
know that there is any evidence that the ancestors of the family at any time were lords of the
manor. In their pedigree, (1) the first person named is Francis Cosbie. When and under
what circumstances Francis Cosbie first came to Ireland is not known. He was appointed
under Queen Mary, by her sign manual on 14th February 1558, General of the Kernes of
Leix, then recently made shire ground by the name of Queen's County. Elizabeth granted
him the friary of Stradbally, with its possessions in Ballaghmore, & c. He married Mary
Seymour, daughter of the Protector Somerset, widow of Sir Henry Peyton ; by her had three
sons, Alexander, who inherited the estates ; Henry, who died before his father settled in
Ireland ; and Arnold.
Secondly, Francis Cosbie married Elizabeth Paulnes ; by her he left one daughter,
Catherine, married to Archibald Moor ; she died without issue.
Alexander, the eldest son, married in 1570, Dorcas Sidney. He was killed at Stradbally
Owen MacRory O'Meara, having sought permission to pass with his men over
Stradbally Bridge, and the request being refused by Cosbie, O'Meara advanced to enforce
his object. Alexander Cosbie, learning of his advance, proceeded to defend the bridge,
taking with him his eldest son Francis, who was married the previous year to Helena
Harpole. The two wives, Dorcas and Helena, are said, in a manuscript attributed to the late
Admiral Cosby, to have taken up a position in the window of the Abbey to watch the
conflict, where for some time they beheld their husbands bravely maintaining their ground,
until Alexander Cosbie, as he was pressing forward, was shot dead. The Kernes were
hereupon disheartened, and meditated flight, when Francis, fearing he would be deserted,
leaped over the bridge, with a hope of saving himself, but he had no sooner cleared the
battlements than he also was shot, and fell dead into the river, when Helena Cosbie is
reported, with a revolting coolness of mind, to have directed the attention of her mother-in-
law to the circumstance of her father-in-law having been shot before her husband, as a legal
assertion of her right to power.
Francis Cosbie, who was thus killed at Stradbally on the same day as his father, left one
son by his wife Helena Harpole, who died young.
Arnold the third son of Alexander Cosbie and his wife Dorcas Sidney, followed arms as
his profession, and in 1580 was serving in one of the Irish regiments in the Low Countries at
the same that Sir William Stanley traitorously surrendered the town of Deventer to the
Spaniards, carrying over with him the greater part of the Irish. Cosbie remained with Sir
William upon the subject of the surrender of Deventer, as a letter written by him from
Utrecht to Sir William is mentioned in Oldy's Diary (1) as one of the articles in a MS
miscellany, found, it would seem, by Henry, Earl of Derby. His conduct seems to have been
highly meritorious, as a pension of 3/- per day, no inconsiderable amount in those times,
was granted to him. (1).
In 1589, Captain Cosbie is mentioned among the Captains about to serve under Lord
Unbridled passions, however, brought this fair beginning to a tragical and shameful
ending. In 1591 he quarrelled with Lord Bourke of Castle Connell, in consequence of some
report that the latter had spoken injuriously of him.
Lord Bourke appeared at first reluctant to give him satisfaction, alleging his rank as a
peer, but he gave way upon that point, and they met early on the 14th January, on
Wandsworth Common, without seconds. Lord Bourke was found desperately wounded, and
conveyed to a house in Wandsworth, where he died two or three hours afterward, having, in
the hearing of the Earls of Essex and Ormonde, accused Cosbie of having attacked him
while he was unbuckling his spurs,and thrust his rapier twelve inches into his breast, and
afterwards given him twenty-three wounds with his dagger.
Upon this evidence, Cosbie was, on the 23rd January, tried for wilful murder at
Southwark, and found guilty, and on the 27th of the same month executed at Wandsworth
Townes End, having been attended on the scaffold by Doctor Fletcher, Lord Bishop of
These particulars are derived from two tracts, the (it is believed) unique originals of
which are preserved in the Library at Lambeth Palace, which have been re-printed by Mr.
The first is entitled " The most horrible and tragicall murther of the right honourable,
the vertuous, and valorous Gentleman, John, Lord Bourgh, Baron of Castle Connell,
committed by Arnold Cosbie, the fourteenth of Januarie. By W. R. a servant of the said Lord
Bourgh. - Printed by R.R., 1591." This is written in an extremely bombastic style, and with
the utmost virulence against Cosbie.
The second, printed for William Wright, 1591, is entitled, " The manner of death and
execution of Arnold Cosbie, for murthering the Lord Boorke, who was executed at
Wandsworth Townes End, on the 27th Januarie, 1591, with certain verses written by the
said Arnold Cosbie in the time of his imprisonment, containing matter of great effect, as
well touching his life, as also his penitence before his death."
The verses in question, which follow, are by no means without merit, and are said by
Mr. J. Payne Collier to be amongst the earliest examples of blank verse in the English
language. These are headed :
ULTIMUM VALE TO THE VAINE WORLDE
An Elegie written by himself in the Marshalsea, after his condemnation
Breake hearte, be mute, my sorrow's past compare,
Cosbie complains no more, but sit and die.
Tears are no token of such dreriment
As thy true griefe pours to the angelic heavens
O great Commander of this glorious round!
The workmanship of Thine immortall hand!
Thou that dost ride upon the Cherubims,
And tunest the deepe in dreadfull harmonie,
Cast down Thine eie upon a wretched soule;
And from Thy throne of grace, great Jacob's God,
Raine mercie on me, miserable man!
Falne into snares of sinne, and shameful death,
From thee, sweete Saviour, Saviour of the worlde.
O worlde, vaine worlde, inconstant and unkind,
Why hast thou bred me, nurst me, brought me up,
To see this daie of sorrow and of shame?
Cosbie complaine, Captains and men of warre
With whom I whilome spent my careless daies,---
Daies dated but to this, to end in shame.
Farewell! adieu to you and all the rest
That follow armes, and armes and life adieu !---
From armes and life I passe, drencht in the pit
Digde by my desperate hands, hands full of blood.
Bleede heart to think what these accursed hands
Have perpetrated. Pardon, heaven and earth,
And gentle Lord, misled by my amis,
Fouly by me sent to thy longest home,----
O pardon Cosbie's cruel minde!
His mind enraged, and gentle bloud by wrath
And furie tainted and empoisoned ;
Why do I kill my doleful dying hearte
With this sad rehearsall of this heavie shame?
O death, rocke me asleepe! Father of heaven,
That hast sole power to pardon sinnes of men,
Forgive the faults and folly of my youth,--
My youth misspent in waste and wantoness,
And for sweete Jesus' sake, forgive my soule
Fouly defild with this above the rest,--
This wickedness, this hard unworthy deed!
And, lastly, you whose fame I have defild
My kin, my countriemen, friends and allies,
Pardon! O pardon! such as , men to men
Can give, I beg for wronging you in all,--
For shaming you, in this my wretched end,
The fruitless crop, the mead of my desertes,
My bad, my base desertes. Sweete friends, forget
My name, my face, my fact,O blot me out,
Out of the worlde: put me out of your thoughts,
Or if you thinke, O thinke I never was;
Or if your thinke I was, thinke that I fell
Before some forte, dome holde in Belgia.
With this suppose, beguile your sorrows, friends;
Thinke that I fell before the canon's mouth,
Even in mine honor's height; that blessed day,
When in advancement of my name I left
My counytrie's ennemie in his base revolt.
O wretched man! to talke of honor's height,
Falne so basely into the pit of shame,
The pit of death. My God, my God, forgive me!
Whose honor I have stained, and laws infringe ;
And thou my soveraigne, mistris, and my Queene!
Brighte starre of Englandes globe! forgive my fact,
Nor let it touch that royall princely hearte
That Cosbie hath misdone so hainously.
The circle of my time is compressed,
Arrived to the point where it began :
Worlde, countrie, kin and friends, farewell, farewell !
Flie thou my soule to heaven, the heaven of blisse !
O bodie ! bear the scourge of thine amisse."
Dorcas Sidney, the widow of Alexander Cosbie, married secondly Sir Henry Zouche.
Alexander Cosbie had by his wife Dorcas four sons :
1. Francis the eldest, as before stated, was killed on the same day that his father was
killed, 19th March,1596. He left by his wife Helena Harpole, one son, William, born in
1596. At the burning of the Abbey that year the child William was saved by his nurse, who
carried him away, but he died young, and was succeeded by his Uncle Richard.
2. Richard, Alexander Cosbie's second son, to repair the loss occasioned by the
burning of the Abbey in 1596, obtained under the commission of James I a new patent of the
same import as the old one, as a remedy for defective titles, and this patent is still extant.
Being Captain of the Kernes, Richard was determined to avenge the death of his father
and his brother, and dared the O'Mearas to a pitched battle.
The contending clans met more than once ; in the Glen of Augenhily a most bloody
conflict ensued, terminating in the victory of Cosbie.
He married Elizabeth Pigot, daughter of Sir Robert Pigot, much to the disapproval of his
mother Dorcas. From Richard Cosbie descend the Cosbys of Stradbally.
Charles, the third son of Alexander Cosbie, married one of the Loftus family.
Arnold, the fourth son of Alexander Cosbie, was born in 1591, and is said, in the
account of the family published in Burke's " Commoners," to have settled in County Cavan ;
he left a son William, who served in Colonel Cole's regiment of dragoons. His name
appears in the list of the officers who served in the King's army before 1649, as a Captain,
£689 15s 9d being allotted to him. (1) After the restoration, in compliance with the Act of
Settlement, he filed a schedule of his claims, a copy of which, no doubt in his handwriting,
is in my possession ; in it he states that he was entitled to fifteen townlands in the barony of
Tullygarvey, part of which had been assigned to him for his services, and part purchased
from soldiers in his troop in " Colonel Cole's regiment," ie. the Enniskillens. In this
schedule the acreage of each townland is returned, and the rent usually at the rate of about .
. . . . per acre Irish, the payments in kind, muttons, pigs, fowls, and days' labour, and the
name of the tenant, in almost every case an Irishman ; only one tenant is returned for each
The total rent of the townlands is returned as £ . . . . . and a quit rent of the half of
this sum was imposed, which is still paid by me, to whom they have descended. This estate
was granted by letters patent to William Cosby in 1666.
William Cosby probably lived at Drumury, not far from Crossdoney, Co. Cavan.
His eldest son, Arnold, succeeded him in his estates, and in 1691, in right of his wife,
obtained Lismore, Co. Cavan, and coniderable property in townlands, on the decease of
Richard Lewis, and his wife Jane, whose niece, also Jane, Arnold Cosby had married. I have
not as yet succeeded in ascertaining what the maiden name of Jane was.
Richard Lewis and his wife both appear to have died in 1689, in which year according
to Macaulay, " the people of Cavan emigrated in one day to Enniskillen. The day was wet
and stormy, the road was deep in mire."(1) There is reason to believe that there was a
younger son Edward, as the register of the parish of Kilmore records on the 6th April, 1703,
the baptism of Barclay, son of Edward and Catherine Cosby, and on the 8th May, 1705, of
Catherine, daughter of the same. These children, I apprehend, died young, as I find no
further notices either of them or their parents. Edward Cosby I believe lived at, and
probably built, Castle Cosby, a house of moderate size near Lismore.
Arnold Cosby became a Colonel, probably in the Enniskillens, or other local corps; in
1698 he was sovereign of Cavan, in 1718 High Sheriff of the County. His eldest daughter
Jane, as has been stated already, (2) married Thomas Nesbitt of Brenter, Co. Donegal,and by
this marriage Lismore and the rest of the Cosby estates, townlands in the barony of
Castleghan, of which the Manor of Rossudden forms a part, passed into the possession of
James Lucy in right of his wife, Margaret, sister of Jane Lewis, but after having been for a
hundred years in other families, reverted to my family, and is now in my possession.(3)
Arnold Cosby had three daughters :--
1. Jane, his heiress, married to Thomas Nesbitt.
2. Margery, married to Robert Nesbitt.
3. Anna, died an infant.
From the marriage settlements of Thomas Nesbitt and Jane Cosby in 1713, it appears
that Thomas Nesbitt was in possession of considerable sums of ready money, ( a somewhat
remarkable circumstance for an Irish gentleman at the beginning of the last century),
which he advanced to pay off debts of Arnold Cosby's; and all the considerable estates of the
latter in Cavan, upwards of six thousand statute acres, were settled upon the issue of the
The estates of Brenter and Malmusoy, in Co. Donegal, which had been settled by
Thomas Nesbitt upon the issue of his first marriage with Susan Lyons, were on his marriage
with Jane Cosby re-settled on the issue of his marriage with the latter, subject to a life
interest in favour of his son Charles Robert, issue of his first marriage.(1)
Arnold Cosby would seem to have lived until 1722, (2) and Thomas Nesbitt to have
resided with him.
Soon after his marriage Thomas Nesbitt was admitted to the freedom of the corporation
of Cavan, of which he was sovereign in 17--. By his marriage with Jane Cosby he had
seven sons and seven daughters, of whom hereafter.
In 1715 Thomas Nesbitt was returned to Parliament as member for the borough of
Cavan, which he also represented in the Parliament of 1727.
In 1720 he was High Sheriff of Cavan, and about that date he began to build the
existing house of Lismore, Thomas Nesbitt died in April, 1750 and was buried at Kilmore.
His brother Albert would seem to have been a man of considerable ability and force of
character, the book in which he entered copies of some of his important letters has come into
my possession, and contains much of interest. It begins on 31st July, 1740, and ends at the
time of his death in 1753.
He was at that time, as he has been described, an eminent merchant in London, and had
been in partnership with his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Gould ( under the firm of Gould and
Nesbitt ), who, it appears from the Gentleman's Magazine, died at Bath on the 30th March,
1738, being then Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.
In 1747 Albert Nesbitt writes that he has been in business for thirty years, but I have no
means of ascertaining where or when he first began business, or how he first made his way
He married, in 1729, Elizabeth (according to the Memoir of the Gould Family), or, by a
release executed by her in 1775, her name would appear to have been Margaret, the
daughter of John Gould, Esq., of Hackney, M.P. for Wareham, a member of a family
amongst the first of the mercantile families of London. One of the Goulds was one of the
first Directors of the Bank of England, another a Director of the East India Company, and
almost every male of the family seems to have been in Parliament.
Besides Elizabeth Gould, who married Albert Nesbitt, there were three other sisters,
Frances, married to Sir Henry Cairnes ; Sarah, married to Thomas Pelham, afterwards
Chancellor of the Exchequer ; and Mary, married to Alexander Nesbitt, a younger brother of
Albert Nesbitt's ; after his death she married,
secondly, Henry Gore in Fleming's regiment. All the sisters seem to have had large
In 1741 Albert Nesbitt was returned to Parliament for the borough of Huntingdon, and
was a supporter of Sir Robert Walpole.
A letter of his dated 27th January, 1741, to one of his adherents in that town, mentions
an interview with the Minister, and his having obtained the promise of a small office for one
of his constituents. From that time until the end of his life he was always in Parliament,
usually for one of the Cornish boroughs, Saltash or St. Michael's.
In a letter of his dated 15th of April, 1748, addressed to Lord Sandwich, he bears
testimony to the honourable conduct of Lord Edgcumbe ( afterwards created Earl of Mount
Edgcumbe ) in his transactions relating to seats in Parliament ; he states that he has known
Lord Edgcumbe intimately for twenty years.
About 1749 he began to purchase land in Sussex, though at first with reluctance, for in
1750 he writes in a letter addressed to Mr. J. Collier at Hastings, about a property belonging
to a lady, a Miss St. Ledger, who had inherited it from Lord Doneraile ; and later on he
mentions another property, Etchingham, belonging to a Mr. Warburton, which he
contemplated buying ; he was not disposed to pay very highly for it, as he writes, " there
being a great deal of timber, which I should not know what to do with, and a very dirty
country, where I could not spend a month or two with pleasure." Later on he refers to
another property in the neighbourhood of Winchelsea.
Albert Nesbitt appears to have been a very kind-hearted man, as well as a thorough man
of business. In 1750, in a letter written to the Right Honble. Nathaniel Clements, father of
the first Lord Leitrim, he says, " I come now to answer a paragraph in your letter which a
little perplexes me. I have refused many gentlemen, and several friends both of England and
Ireland, to take any young gentlemen into my house. I have now six in my counting-house,
two of them my nephews, and another nephew in France breeding up for business, whose
Father, now dead, has not left any sons of his a shilling, as I hear, consequently I must not
see them starved if they deserve my care. This is one side of the question, and but little
what I could say on that head, but I will not be tedious. I come now to the next, much more,
my friend, his family and mine have lived in uninterrupted friendship from Father to son
many years, and shall Albert Nesbitt refuse Nat Clements an act of friendship of the
strongest kind, the care of a child? it cannot be but something must be said to paliate this,
that others may not be offended whom I have refused. Mrs. Henry for one, she and Joe have
pressed me much lately. "I have no particulars of my poor brother's affairs yet, but fear from
something I have lately heard that they are bad."
In 1737, or 1738, he bought from his eldest brother, Thomas Nesbitt, his
estates in Donegal, and on the 21st of November, 1749, he writes a characteristic letter
to his agent, Mr. Hamilton of Mount Charles, about them, in which this passage occurs, " As
soon as you signified to me that you wanted a power of attorney from me, I sent it to you,
and now you write some tenants can't pay as there was a bad Herring Fishery, others are
pleased to say they don't intend to defraud me of my rent, and one says he will pay one year's
rent if I forgive him all arrears. Sure, Sir, this is treating me like a child ; such stuff I never
heard of in my life. You desire to know my sentiments. My sentiments are what you and
everybody go by, that is, to suffer no arrears, to demand my rent, and if they are not willing
to pay, to compell them to pay, as never any good came by letting tenants sink in arrears---
that is a certain truth confirmed by experience ; it is much better to have lands waste than to
have them occupied by people who will not pay rent. I must once more beg you will oblige
every person without distinction to pay my rents by fair means if to be done so, if not use
such other means as are usual in such cases. I am afraid my affairs are too small for your
consideration, or you would not have accepted such answers to be given you, as you have
communicated to me."
Albert Nesbitt's death occurred on 12th January, 1753, according to the Gentleman's
Magazine, " suddenly in his chariot."
He left an only daughter, Rachel, who married 7th February,1756, Richard Bard
Harcourt of Pendley, Herts ; she died at Brighton 14th January, 1814, at the age of eighty-
two, leaving one son, Henry, and one daughter, Elizabeth, who married 12th June, 1800, her
cousin , Charles Amede'e, eldest son of the Marquis d' Harcourt in Normandy.
Albert Nesbitt had settled the estates in Donegal, which he had bought from his eldest
brother Thomas Nesbitt, on his daughter Rachel, by whom , or by whose son Henry, they
Robert, the third son of Andrew Nesbitt by his wife Anna Lindsay, married Margery
Cosby, the second daughter of Arnold Cosby ; the marriage license was issued in 1713, (1)
in the same year in which his eldest sister Jane was married to Thomas Nesbitt . He appears
to have died before May 10th, 1744, for in a letter of that date Albert Nesbitt ( his brother )
in writing to Mrs. Margery Nesbitt refers to her " late husband." A Robert Nesbitt was
admitted to the Freedom of Cavan in 1719, and died in 1742, (2) and is probably the same
person . I do not know whether there was any issue of the marriage.
William, fourth son, of Andrew Nesbitt and his wife Anna Lindsay, was made free of
Cavan in 1727, and died about 1756. He may be the William Nesbitt, who in 1724 had a
license to marry Letitia Nesbitt, probably the Lettice mentioned in the will of Albert Nesbitt
of Rubberdaly, made on 5th January, 1709, in which Thomas Nesbitt is named as one of the
Alexander, the fifth son of Andrew Nesbitt and his wife Anna Lindsay, probably held
some office under the Crown, for in 1743 Albert Nesbitt ( his brother ) writes to Nathaniel
Clements about obtaining a pension for his " brother Alick;" in this he succeeded, for among
the " King's letters," (3) in the records in the custom house in Dublin, is one dated 18th July,
1744, placing Alexander Nesbitt on the Civil List for a pension of £200 per annum, and this
was afterwards increased by £100 a year. He married Mary Gould, a daughter of John
Gould, Esq., M.P. for Wareham, and died 1774. (?)(4)
Cosby Nesbitt, the eldest son of Thomas Nesbitt by his wife Jane Cosby, was born in
1718 ; he married Ann, daughter of John Enery of Bawnboy, Co. Cavan, by whom he had
four sons and four daughters ( of whom hereafter).
In 1739 he was admitted to the freedom of the corporation of Cavan, and in 1750 he
was returned to Parliament for that borough, for which he continued to sit until his death in
1768. He was High Sheriff of Cavan in 17--. He died in April, 1768, and was buried at
Robert, second son of Thomas Nesbitt and his wife Jane Cosby, was born 1719.
Arnold, the third son of Thomas Nesbitt and his wife Jane Cosby, was born in 1721. He
married in 1758, Miss Thrale, sister of Henry Thrale of Streatham (1) He represented
Winchelsea in Parliament, and added largely to the influence that his Uncle Albert had
acquired in that Borough ; later, in the year 1774, he represented Cricklade, having
successfully opposed the celebrated John Wilkes. He was a partner in his uncle Albert's
From letters still extant he seems to have left very considerable debts at the time of his
death, which appears to have taken place shortly after 1779.
A portrait of Arnold Nesbitt, by Gainsborough is in my possession ; and one of his wife
was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and was bought at the sale of the pictures belonging to
General Phipps (2) by the late Marquis of Hertford, for six hundred guineas.
Albert, the fourth son of Thomas Nesbitt and his wife Jane Cosby, also entered his uncle
Albert Nesbitt's counting house. In the " London Directory " for the year 1757, the firm
appears as Arnold Nesbitt & Co., 8 Bishopsgate Street. He is said to have married a Miss
Alexander, fifth son of Thomas Nesbitt and his wife Jane Cosby, appears also to have
entered the counting house ; in 1772 the firm was described as Arnold, Albert and
Alexander Nesbitt ; in 1773 the business was removed to No. 18, Aldermansbury. In 1776,
Albert and Alexander would appear to have been dead, or ceased to be partners, as the name
of Arnold alone appears in the " London Directory."
William, sixth son of Thomas Nesbitt and his wife Jane Cosby, was born in 1732 ; he
married Mary Blackwood.
Andrew, the seventh son, died young.
Of the seven daughters of Thomas Nesbitt and his wife Jane Cosby:--
1. Jane, married to a Mr. Burrowes of Stradone, Co. Cavan.
2. Margery, married to Robert Burrowes of Stradone, Co. Cavan.
3. A daughter, married to Mr. Benson Cooke.
4. A daughter, married to Mr. Sneyd.
5. Rachel, died unmarried.
6. Anne, died young.
7. Bessy, died young.
Of the four sons and four daughters which were the issue of the marriage between Cosby
Nesbitt and Ann Enery:-
Thomas, the eldest son, was a Colonel in the army, M.P. for Cavan. He married Louisa,
the youngest daughter and co-heiress of John Daniel de Gennes.
The family of de Gennes was of great antiquity ( one Johannes de Genis appeared as a
witness to a charter either of the 11th or the 12th Century (1) taking its name from the
parish of de Gennes, in the bishopric of Rennes, in Brittany. Very little, however, is known
about them; the family was not rich or important, and several of its members having
become Huguenots, they expatriated themselves in the 17th Century, and thus broke the
thread of connection with their ancestry.
Two of the family, Jean and Philippe, appeared at the muster of men-at-arms in 1392 as
"Ecuyers," and another, Pierre, in the like capacity at the muster of 1416. (2)
In 1695-7 a Monsieur de Gennes commanded a squadron of French men-of-war in a
voyage to Africa, Brazil, and the Straits of Magellan, an account of which was written by T.
Froger; an English translation of the book was published in 1698.
A river entering the French Bay was named de Gennes river, in honour of the
The Pe're de Gennes, who was born in 1687, was a somewhat celebrated preacher, a
priest of the Oratoire ; he espoused the cause of the "
Convulsionaires"and wrote in their favour . I have been unable to find any information as to
when the Huguenot members of the family left France; the earliest notice I have of any of
them in this country is of Grace de Gennes, whose will was proved in the Prerogative Court
of Canterbury in 1697 ( I believe). She was a widow, and left two children, daughters, one
Grace Burrell, married to a Mr. Walford, the other Mary Burrell, unmarried.
It would seem to be probable that she was an English woman named Burrell, who had
married an emigrant Huguenot.
Some of the family settled in Holland, and afterwards in Surinam or Berbice, where they
possessed some large plantations named Helvetia and de Gennes, which continued in the
possession of their descendants until late in the last century.
One of this family established himself in this country, and left a family of four sons and
two daughters, vis., John Daniel, David Antoine, Rene, Joseph Michel Rene, who died 28th
January, 1764, and Paul; Anna Marie died December, 1767, and Marie; all of these would
appear to have died unmarried except John Daniel de Gennes. He entered the British Army,
and held a commission as Major in 1719, he was Lieutenant-Colonel in 1727 in General
Read's regiment of Dragoons.
He was married at Sunbury, Middlesex, to "Mrs.Frances Dorvall" on 1st September,
1720,(1) by her he had issue --
Judith Susanna, Baptized 1730; she married George Frazer of Banagher Castle on 19th
Moses, baptized 1731, died 1734.
Mary Anne, baptized 1733; she married Thomas Tenison of Castle Tenison.
Joseph James, baptized 1734, died 1759.
Caroline, baptized 1737, married in 1765 to John Lyons of Ladistown.
Louise Frances, baptized 1744, married in 1767 to Thomas Nesbitt of Lismore, Co.
Cavan. John Daniel de Gennes lived during the latter part of his life at Portarlington, where
a colony of French emigrants had established themselves , and formed an agreeable and
An excellent school was established there, and very many of the Irish nobility and
gentry in the last century there received their education, among others my father and some,
or all, of his brothers.
John Daniel de Gennes purchased some land in the neighbourhood - the estate of
Clonsast ; part of his purchases he bequeathed to his daughter Lousia , and moiety is in my
Clonsast lies on the skirtsof the bog of Allen. The huge mass of peat which forms the
bog rises above it to a thickness of thirty to forty feet, and after very wet weather the peat
occasionally breaks away and covers the subjacent land with broken masses to the depth of
several feet. Not many years ago this happened, and at least ten acres were thus covered, the
appearance being not unlike that of an eruption of lava. This estate is remarkable as being
the place of retreat of an Irish saint of very early date, St. Braghan, having then been a
"cluain," viz., lawn, a green oasis in the bog. A spring of pure water is known as St.
Braghan's well, and there are some remains of the foundations of a small chapel, and a stone
called after the saint, on which he is said to have pillowed his head, and left an impression
there. St. Braghan was of royal birth.
That portion of the de Gennes family which did not become Protestant, and remained in
France, continued to exist for some generations at Dinan, but the only information which I
have been able to obtain about them is derived from two letters in my possession, one written
from Dinan on the 18th April, 1788, by Mr. R. Grenville (H.B.M. Consul). In this he states
that a de Gennes was a Captain in the second ( English ) or Queen's Regiment of Foot, and
had been with Lord Stair in Paris in 1720, an that the same, or another of the family, was
Envoy at Paris in 1746.
The other letter was written from Dinan in 1793 by Louisa de Gennes, and addressed to
Mrs. Lyons; in this she speaks of a niece Henriette who had married " Louis Ferron, Qui
avait la survivance du Chevalier de Maux, lieutenant du Roi, de notre ville." Louis Ferron
and his son were at that time refugees at Rattinguen in the Palatinate. Mademoiselle de
Gennes also mentions that she had three sisters who had been nuns for forty or fifty years,
and who, having been expelled from their convents, were living with her.
End of memoranda written by Alexander Nesbitt of Lismore, Co. Cavan, and continued
by his widow Cecilia Nesbitt.
Thomas Nesbitt of Lismore died in 1820, and was buried at Kilmore, Co. Cavan.
John, the second son of Cosby Nesbitt by his wife Ann Enery, entered his Uncle
Arnold's counting-house. At what date he became a partner is not known, but it must have
been before 1778, as at that date he appears to have been a partner in the firm. He was
member for Winchelsea,(1) in 1793 he was living at 19, Grafton Street, and he also resided
at Heston, near Bromley.
There is reason to believe that John Nesbitt was made heir to his Uncle Arnold, after the
two natural sons of the latter, Colebrooke Nesbitt and Arnold Nesbitt, had been provided for.
The estates belonging to Arnold Nesbitt were the Winchelsea estates, land in
Huntingdonshire, sugar plantations in Jamaica, and an estate in the island of Grenada, in the
West Indies; but at Arnold Nesbitt's death it appears that his debts amounted to upwards of
one hundred and twenty thousand pounds, a considerable portion of which was due, I
believe, to the Crown, and a suit in Chancery was instituted.(2) Some arrangement was
finally arrived at and a provision secured to John Nesbitt, who had at that time become a
bankrupt, but he did not live long to enjoy it, as it was only a short time before his death,
which occurred in 1817, that the business was concluded.
John Nesbitt was doubtless considerably hampered in his business by the condition of
his Uncle Arnold's affairs, and there is also reason to believe that the manner of his life, and
the society in which he lived, did not contribute to improve his circumstances in a financial
point of view. It was a hard thing on his nephew, the late John Nesbitt of Lismore, the
second son of his brother Thomas Nesbitt, that he allowed him to enter his counting-house at
a time when he himself must have been aware that he was on the verge of bankruptcy. I do
not know at what date John actually became a bankrupt, but it must have been previous to
the year1802. There is a private copy-book of his letters, dated 1792, and among others one
dated January, 1811, written to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, asking his assistance in
obtaining some post, either in H.R.H.'s household or otherwise. To this the Prince promised
that he would do his utmost to help him, but that he could not undertake to give him a
situation in his household, as he did not intend to increase it beyond taking two Equerries,
and that he, not being a military man, was incompetent for such a post, and that he did not
think anything else in the household worth his acceptance, the salaries not being large, the
expense of dress, & c., very great, and much attendance requisite, but that John Nesbitt
might be assured that when the Prince became Regent he would not forget him, and that he
should have the most sincere pleasure in giving him a situation that would be comfortable
and agreeable. Later in that year it appears that the Prince Regent directed his secretary,
Colonel MacMahon, to call on Lord Wellesley, (1) and to request in his name that John
Nesbitt should be appointed Consul-General to Brazil, in the place of Sir James Gambier,
who had returned. Lord Wellesley answered that H.R.H.'s desire should be complied with,
that he knew John Nesbitt well, and had a sincere regard for him, but that he begged to
submit that Gambier had come home on leave of absence, and had not yet resigned,
but that he should not be permitted to hold the situation, and remain at home; he also
questioned as a point of delicacy the propiety of a person who had been a bankrupt holding
such a position. The Prince considered this objection ungenerous, and that it must be
waived. Lord Wellesley then found there were precedents for it, that a Mr. Moody and
others in similar circumstances filled similar employments. His Lordship positively
promised the appointment when vacant to John Nesbitt, and also that he should be first on
his list for the first vacant situation. (2)
In December the same year, there is a copy of a letter addressed to the Prince Regent, in
which John Nesbitt writes that owing to Lord Wellesley's being no longer in office, though
H.R.H. had spoken to Lord Castlereagh on his behalf, his kind wishes and interest had been
unsuccessful ; and he goes on to say," I presume once more humbly to obtrude myself on
your R.H.'s notice, and most earnestly to solicit your attention to my case. I am the more
emboldened to do so from the kindness, I may almost venture to say friendship, with which
your R.H. has honoured me for about thirty years, and which has been my chief consolation
in unmerited misfortune. A late melancholy event in my family makes me now more urgent
; I rely on the goodness of your heart to pardon me, and that your R.H. will do me the justice
to-believe there's no man in the universe more attached to you, or would be more happy in
again having opportunities of proving the fidelity with which he has the honor to be, with
the most profound respect,
Sir, your R.H.'s
and faithful Hum bl servant
In 1814, at the request of the Prince Regent, John Nesbitt was appointed
Commissioner to His Majesty's Board of Hackney Coaches. In a letter addressed to the
Prince Regent, he writes, " I shall be happy to take any situation you may think fit for a
faithful servant who has been honoured by your favour, and has been near twenty years in
Parliament, and never applied for any favour."
John Nesbitt owned a very fine collection of pictures ; among others the famous " Blue
Boy " picture by Gainsborough, which was considered his masterpiece.
The story of how he became the possessor of this picture is well known to the present
members of the family. It is referred to by Mr. Thornbury in his " Life of Turner," the
eminent painter, in these words :- " Many years ago there resided at Heston a Mr. John
Nesbitt, a man of substance, and in his younger days a companion of George, Prince of
Mr. Nesbitt once possessed Gainsborough's " Blue Boy " and in this way. He was
dining with the Prince of Wales : " Nesbitt," said the Prince, " that picture shall be yours ;"
at first Mr. Nesbitt thought the Prince was joking, but finding that he was decidedly
serious, Mr. Nesbitt made all suitable acknowledgments of his R.H.'s generosity. The next
morning the " Blue Boy " arrived, followed in due time by a bill for £300, which Mr.
Nesbitt had the satisfaction of paying. I heard him ( Mr. Nesbitt), many years ago, tell the
story at my father's table."
This anecdote is also contributed by the Rev. H.E. Trimmer, vicar of Marston-on-Dove,
in Derbyshire, whose father was in holy orders at Heston, at the time of John Nesbitt's
residence there. The Rev. Mr. Trimmer is said to have expressed an opinion that the Prince,
having bought the picture, had not paid for it, but being pressed for payment, got his friend
and companion to pay for it in the way mentioned .
The theory that the "Blue Boy" bought by the first Earl Grosvenor, and now in the
possession of the Duke of Westminster, is the same picture as the one formerly in the
possession of John Nesbitt is erroneous. This version is to the effect that after the death of
Mr. Buttall, an ironmonger in Greek Street, Soho, whose son had sat to Gainsborough for
the figure, the "Blue Boy" was bought by John Nesbitt, and that the picture was afterwards in
the hands of Hoppner the painter, who is said to have sold it to the first Earl Grosvenor.
Now the first Earl Grosvenor died in 1802, whereas Hoppner had the "Blue Boy" in his
possession in 1806, if not as late as 1808. He died in 1810.
There is no doubt that the history of the Grosvenor picture is very obscure.
In the year 1871, there was still living at Heston, near Bromley, a woman, who, though
over eighty years of age, was wonderfully strong and active and in possession of all her
faculties; she had been a working housekeeper to John Nesbitt, and her sister held the same
situation for the remainder of the time he lived at Heston. Her maiden name was Salmon,
but her married name was Shortland . From her statement, clearly given, there is no doubt
that the "Blue Boy" was John Nesbitt's favorite picture in the house at Heston. She also
mentioned other pictures, " Daniel in the Lion's Den," and the "Flower Girl," as also having
been in the possession of John Nesbitt when living at Heston, as also several other pictures,
whose names she could not remember. The old woman described the "Blue Boy" correctly,
and she also identified the picture then in the possession to Mr. J. Sewell as being the "Blue
Boy" picture that formerly belonged to her master at Heston. She mentioned that just before
Mr. Nesbitt left Heston, two strange gentlemen came from London and looked over the
house with her master. They took down and closely examined the " Blue Boy" picture, and
it remained down until it was taken away shortly after.
Three vans came from London and took away the chief of the furniture and pictures,
and a neighbouring farmer, by name Temple she believed, but was not
certain, took away what remained "Chelsea way," nor did she know where Mr. Nesbitt
himself went to.
She described him as a tall, thin, and gentlemanly looking man, much younger looking
than he was said to be. She spoke of another Mr. Nesbitt coming frequently, who on several
occasions had high words with her master who once denied himself to him when he called,
when accompanied by an officer in the army,(1)
The men who came to see the house and pictures were described by Mrs. Shortland as
one looking older than Mr. Nesbitt, and the other a young man with a peculiar and impudent
face. This corresponds with the description of the Halls, father and son, who afterwards had
at least three of the pictures that came from Mr. Nesbitt's house at Heston in their
possession, namely the "Blue Boy", the "Flower Girl", and "Daniel in the Lion's Den".
Mr. William Hall, senr., was a silversmith, and his son, also William began business as
an auctioneer, having his sale room at the back of his father's premises in High Street,
Mrs. Shortland mentioned that the "Blue Boy" picture had chalk markings at the back
of the canvas, which marks were still on it at the younger Hall's sale in 1858, and were
doubtless the R.A. exhibition marks of 1770, when the original " Blue Boy" picture
Mrs. Shortland also stated that the picture came to Heston in a large crate or case, and
was hung in the centre room on the ground floor, where it remained till it was taken down as
before described. She said she had an impression that it came from the Palace, and if so no
doubt from the Prince of Wales. The pictures belonging to John Nesbitt were sold on the
25th May, 1802, at his residence in Grafton Street, by Mr. Peter Coxe, and among others the
"Blue Boy" picture was sold, or more probably bought in, at £68, when it was worth many
times that amount. A landscape with figures, also by Gainsborough, was sold for £87.3s.
In 1806, or 1808, the "Blue Boy" picture appears to have been in the possession of John
Hoppner, the artist, who like John Nesbitt, was a great favourite of the Prince of Wales, but
whether it was in trust for sale for him is not known, but under the circumstances is very
There is reason to believe that John Nesbitt was not able to regain possession of his
favourite picture, his circumstances up to the time of his death being much embarrassed, and
that at the death of Hoppner the picture passed into the hands of the Halls, father and son.
The collection of pictures belonging to John Nesbitt must have been a fine one, judging from
the notice in the Times newspaper of the 25th May, 1802.
The "Blue Boy," after the Hall's sale in 1858, came into the possession of Mr. J. Sewell,
who, in writing to Alexander Nesbitt of Lismore, mentions that Mr. R.J. Lane, R.A.E. , the
great-nephew of Gainsborough, after having carefully
examined the picture then in his ( Mr. Sewell's ) possession, wrote to the latter as
follows: " I have gone through the papers ( Notes and Queries), and I have carefully
examined the picture. The colouring clearer, the character of the face far more pleasing, the
minutest touches of the subordinate parts palpably Gainsborough's. The comparative
smoothness of the painting of the face ( it is as your catalogue says a boyish countenance
forcibly expressed, and as rich in fine fresh colouring as Murillo) might suggest the hand of
Dupont his nephew, who worked for him, but would not interfere with the integrity of the
work as Gainsborough's. Mr. Lane then went on to say that Mr. Tomlinson had applied to
him on the subject, but that he could not then give his opinion, as he had not seen the picture
in his ( Mr. Sewell's ) possession, and that he advised Mr. Sewell to ask the then Marquis of
Westminster to have the two " Blue Boy " pictures hung side by side at Grosvenor House, so
strong was he in his opinion of the superiority of the " Blue Boy " in Mr. Sewell's
In 1870 Mr. J. Sewell wrote to Alexander Nesbitt as follows : " The Westminister " Blue
Boy " is now on exhibition at Burlington House, and I offered mine for exhibition at the
same place, but it was declined, not on its merits, for there it has nothing to fear, as the fear
is all on the other side, but lest offence might be given to picture lenders generally for such
exhibitions, when the pedigree was not absolutely proved of a rival picture."
From letters still extant it would appear that John Nesbitt retained possession of his
house at Heston as late as the year 1815.
After selling his house in Grafton Street, he bought a house in Bolton Street about 1802.
He died in 1817 unmarried.
Albert, the third son of Cosby Nesbitt and his wife Ann Enery, was a Doctor of Divinity
and Chaplain to the Prince of Wales, afterwards George the fourth ; he died unmarried.
Cosby, the fourth son of Cosby Nesbitt and his wife Ann Enery, died young.
Four daughters were also born of this marriage :-
1. Jane, married to James Young of Lahard, Co. Cavan, by whom she had
one son, who married a Fleming of Co. Cavan, by whom he had two
1. Mary Anne, married the Rev. G. Mackarness, afterwards Bishop of
Argyle and the Isles.
2. Jane, married to the Rev. --------Meynell.
2. Mary, married to William Moore of Tullyvin. In the report on Irish
plantations made in 1622 Tullyvin then belonged to the Moores.
3. Nancy died young.
4. Bessy died young.
(1) The other Mr. Nesbitt was probably his nephew, John Nesbitt, son of his brother
Thomas of Lismore; and the officer another nephew, a brother of John Nesbitt's, by name
Alexander Nesbitt, afterward General Nesbitt.
Thomas Nesbitt of Lismore left by his wife Louisa de Gennes five sons and one daughter
1. The eldest son, Cosby Nesbitt of Lismore, who succeeded his father in the family
estates, married Elizabeth Hancox. He died without issue in 1837, when the estates
devolved upon his brother John Nesbitt.
2. John Nesbitt, second son of Thomas Nesbitt by his wife Louisa de Gennes, married
in 1812 Elizabeth Tatam, daughter of William Tatam, Esq., of Moulton, Lincolnshire ; by
her he had two sons and two daughters. He was a merchant in London, a J.P. and D.L. for
Cavan, High Sheriff of Cavan in 1840. He died in 1853.
3. Alexander, third son of Thomas Nesbitt by his wife Louisa de Gennes, born 8th
December, 1778, a General in the army, married Jane Gregory Blake; he died 1849, having
had issue by his wife Jane Gregory Blake, one son and three daughters:-
1. Cosby Lewis, Lieutenant-Colonel 60th Rifles, born 1st April, 1806, died
at the Cape of Good Hope October1st,1853.
1. Louisa Katherine, born 1897, married P.P.Savoye, Captain Horse Artillery
French Army, died 1872, leaving issue two daughters:-
1. Pauline, married M. Eugene Scherer.
2. Marie, married M.Masson.
2. Katherine Sophia, born 1810, married Andre' Bohn, Captain Foot Artillery
French Army,died 1894, leaving issue one son and two daughters:-
1. Albert, married Anna de Viv'es.
2. Jeanne, married Rudolph de Turkheim.
3. Amalia, predeceased her mother.
3. Maria, born 1814, married M. Edmond Scherer, Senator in the French
Chamber, died 1883, having had issue three sons, who predeceased her, and two daughters
1. Louisa, married M. Lucien de la Rive.
4. William, fourth son of Thomas Nesbitt by his wife Louisa de Gennes,
married Mary Samuel, daughter of Captain Samuel, R.N. He died without issue.
5. Thomas, fifth son of Thomas Nesbitt by his wife Louisa de Gennes, was in
the East-India Company's Service ; he married Ann Davis, by whom he left issue two sons
and one daughter :-
1. Thomas, a merchant in London, married Harriet Dobel, and left
issue several sons and daughters. His fourth son Allan succeeded to
Castleraghan in 1886, a portion of the family estates in Cavan, entailed on the
male line only.
2. John Albert of Fort Hill, died unmarried.
1. Louisa, married to Samuel Moore, leaving issue one
daughter, Frances, married to E. Neville.
1. Frances, the only daughter of Thomas Nesbitt and his wife Louisa de Gennes,
married Mr. Moore, by whom she left one son Samuel, married to his cousin, Louisa Nesbitt.
John Nesbitt of Lismore, who succeeded his brother Cosby in the family estates in Co.
Cavan in 1837, left by his wife, Elizabeth Tatam, two sons and two daughters :-
1. Cosby Thomas, born 30th August, 1814 ; he died unmarried in 1856.
2. Alexander, succeeded to the family estates on the death of his eldest brother, Cosby
Thomas. He married 5th of June, 1856. Cecilia, third daughter of Captain Frederick Franks,
R.N. He died without issue 21st June, 1886. He was a D.L. for the County of Sussex.
1. Frances, eldest daughter of John Nesbitt of Lismore, born 17th March, 1813, died
unmarried in 1884.
2. Mary Anne, second daughter of John Nesbitt of Lismore, born 3rd March, 1826,
married James E. Burrowes, son of Thomas Burrowes of Stradone, Co. Cavan; by him, who
died 1859, she had one son, Thomas Cosby, born in October, 1856. On the death of her
brother Alexander Nesbitt of Lismore, she succeeded to that portion of the family estates in
Co. Cavan not entailed on the male line only ; she died in 1887, and her son, Thomas Cosby
Burrowes, succeeded his mother in such portion of the estates as she had inherited on the
death of her brother Alexander Nesbitt.
In 1885 Thomas Cosby Burrowes married Anna Frances, daughter of the Honble.
Richard Thomas Maxwell, son of the sixth Baron Farnham, and sister of the present Baron
Farnham. By this marriage two daughters have been born :-
1. Eleanor Mary Cosby, born 19th July, 1886.
2. Rosamond Charlotte Cosby, born 14th July,1891.
Pedigree of Nesbitt of Lismore
Andrew Nesbitt, of Brenter, Co.Donegal ( presumed to be the son of Thomas Nesbitt,
and grandson of George Nesbit, of Nisbet in Berwickshire, Scotland, who died 1590 ),
assignee from the Earl of Annandale of the estates of Brenter and Malmusock, Co. Donegal,
was father of Andrew Nesbitt, who served in the army of Charles I, in Ireland, and died
1692, having married Anne Lindsay ; he left issue five sons, viz :-
1. Thomas, of whom hereafter.
2. Albert, an eminent merchant in London, married, 1729, Elizabeth, daughter of
John Gould of Hackney, M.P. for Wareham ; by her he had one daughter :-
1. Rachel, married to Richard Bard Harcourt, of Pendley, Herts, and she
carried into the Harcourt family the estates of Brenter and Malmusock, purchased by her
father Albert Nesbitt from his eldest brother Thomas Nesbitt.
Albert Nesbitt sat in Parliament for the borough of Huntingdon and St.Michael's ; he
3. Robert, married Margaret, younger daughter of Arnold Cosby of Lismore, in 1713 ;
he died, leaving no issue, in 1743.
4. William, married Letitia Nesbitt of Tubberdaly in 1724 ; he died about 1756.
5. Alexander, married Mary, daughter of John Gould of Hackney M.P. for Wareham
he died without issue.
The eldest son.
THOMAS NESBITT of Brenter and Malmusock, residing at Grangemore, Co.
Westmeath, High Sheriff of Cavan 1720, married in 1701 Susan Lyons of Ladistown, by
whom he had one son, Charles Robert, who died unmarried. In 1713 he married secondly
Jane Cosby, eldest daughter and heiress of Arnold Cosby of Lismore ( son of William Cosby,
grandson of Arnold Cosby, great-grandson of Alexander Cosby of Stradbally, and of Dorcas
Sidney his wife). By this marriage Thomas Nesbitt came into possession of Lismore and
other estates in Cavan. He died in 1750, having had issue by his second marriage ( with
seven daughters ) seven sons :-
1. Cosby, of whom hereafter.
2. Arnold, a merchant in London, he married Miss Thrale, sister of Henry Thrale of
Streatham. He represented Winchelsea and Cricklade in Parliament. He died without issue
3. Robert, born in 1719.
4. Albert, a merchant in London, married Miss Matishall.
5. Alexander, a merchant in London, died before 1776.
6. William, born 1732, married Mary Blackwood.
7. Andrew, died young.
1. Jane, married a Burrowes of Stradone, Co.Cavan.
2. Margery, married Robert Burrowes of Stradone, Co. Cavan.
3. A daughter, married to Mr. Benson Cooke.
4. A daughter, married to Mr. Sneyd.
5. Rachel, died unmarried.
6. Anne, died young.
7. Bessy, died young.
The eldest son.
COSBY NESBITT of Lismore, M.P. for Cavan, born 1718, succeeded to the Cavan
estates on the death of his father in 1750. He married Ann, daughter of John Enery of
Bawnboy, Co. Cavan ; he sat for the borough of Cavan in 1750, which he continued to
represent until his death on the 16th April, 1786. He was buried at Kilmore, and had issue (
with four daughters ) four sons :-
1. Thomas, the eldest son, of whom herafter.
2. John, a merchant in London, M.P. for Winchelsea, died unmarried 1817.
3. Albert, D.D., Chaplain to the Prince of Wales, afterwards George the Fourth. He
died unmarried in 1822.
4. Cosby, died young.
1. Jane, married to James Young of Lahard, Co. Cavan.
2. Mary, married to William Moore of Tullyvin, Co. Cavan.
3. Nancy, died young.
4. Bessy, died young.
The eldest son.
THOMAS NESBITT of Lismore, Colonel in the army, M.P. for Cavan, married Louisa,
youngest daughter and co-heiress of John Daniel de Gennes of Portarlington, Colonel in the
British Army, and had issue ( with one daughter) five sons. He died 1820.
The eldest son.
COSBY NESBITT of Lismore, who succeeded his father in the estates in Cavan ; he
married Elizabeth Hancox, and died without issue in 1837, when the estates devolved on his
brother John Nesbitt.
2. John, J.P. and D.L. for Cavan, married in 1812, Elizabeth Tatam, daughter of
William Tatam, Esq., of Moulton, Lincolnshire ; by her he had ( with two daughters ) two
sons. He was High Sheriff of Cavan in 1840, and died in 1853.
3. Alexander, born 8th December, General in the Army, married Jane Gregory Blake ;
he died in 1849, having had issue ( with three daughters) one son:-
1. Cosby Lewis, Lt.-Colonel 60th Rifles, born 1806, died unmarried
1. Louisa Katherine, married P.P. Savoye, died 1872.
2. Katherine Sophia, married A. Bohn, died 1894.
3. Maria, married Edmond Scherer, died 1883.
4. William, married Mary Samuel, daughter of Captain Aamuel, R.N., died without
5. Thomas, in the East-India Company's Service, married Ann Davis, he left issue (
with one daughter) two sons :-
1. Thomas, married Harriet Dobel, leaving issue several sons and
2. John Alvert of Fort Hill, died unmarried.
1. Lousia, married Samuel Moore.
1. Frances, only daughter of Thomas Nesbitt of Lismore, married Mr. Moore, by
whom she had one son :-
1. Samuel, married Louisa Nesbitt.
Cosby Thomas Nesbitt succeeded his father John Nesbitt in the estates in Cavan in the
year 1853. He was born 30th August, 1814, died unmarried in 1856.
2. Alexander Nesbitt succeeded to the family estates in Cavan on the death of his
brother Cosby Thomas, he was born 9th July, 1817, he married 5th June, 1856 Cecilia ,
third daughter of Captain Frederick Franks, R.N. He died without issue 21st June , 1886.
1. Frances, born 17th March, 1813, died unmarried 1884.
2. Mary Anne, born 3rd March, 1826, married James E. Burrowes, second son of
Thomas Burrowes of Stradone, Co. Cavan ; she succeeded , on the death of her brother
Alexander Nesbitt of Lismore in 1886, to the portion of the estates in
Cavan settled on the female line ; she died in 1887, having had issue one son :-
THOMAS COSBY BURROWES, born in 1856, who on the death of his mother
succeeded to such portion of the estates as she had inherited. He married in 1885 Anna
Frances, daughter of the Honble. Richard Thomas Maxwell, and grand-daughter of the sixth
Baron Farnham, by whom he has issue two daughters ;
1. Eleanor Mary Cosby, born 19th July, 1886.
2. Rosamond Charlotte Cosby, born 14th July, 1891.
Quarterly. First : Argent, three boars' heads erased sable -- NESBITT.
Second : Argent, a chevron between three leopards' faces sable ; on a
canton or , a saltire vert between a cross-crosslet in chief
gules ; a lizard erect in dexter, a salmon hauriant in
sinister, and a dexter hand couped at the wrist gules in
base ; a crescent for difference ---COSBY.
Third : or, three foxes passant gules --- DE GENNES.
Fourth : or, a pheon azure --- SIDNEY
A dexter cubit arm in armour, the hand grasping a truncheon.
MOTTO.--- " Je maintiendrai."
SEAT. ---- Lismore House, Crossdoney, Co. Cavan.
Note A. - This refers to the old tradition of one of the Irish Kings who when sailing
with his court over a lake in Ulster came in sight of an island . The King declared that the
island should belong to the man whose hand first touched it. The courtiers threw themselves
into the water to swim to land ; one of them, O'Neil, seeing he had no chance of reaching it
first, cut off his left hand, and flung it on to the land over the heads of his competitors, and
the island in consequence became his property.