Monday, 3 August 2015

A Contested Settlement

One Family - A Tale of Division, Devotion and Restitution - Henry Macrory - Curly Burn Books

I bought my father this book for his last birthday. Whilst it contains something of the generational history of the McCausland family of Drenagh its emphasis is on the inter family court case and the preamble to same that threatened to divide the family for most of the 1940's. The prize was not insubstantial, the Drenagh Estate with the Lanyon designed five bay mansion house at its centre.

The basic facts of the case were familiar to me. The estate was entailed and when it was resettled upon Connolly McCausland's twenty first birthday in 1927 his father, (Maurice), caused a forfeiture clause to be inserted which became operative should a successor become a Roman Catholic or indeed profess that religion. Such an eventuality would, as drafted, not only disinherit the successor but also his heirs even if they did not profess to be Roman Catholics. This clause was repeated in Connolly's marriage settlement in 1932. Maurice was to die in 1938. In 1940 Connolly converted to the Roman Catholic faith. By virtue of the terms of the forfeiture clause Drenagh passed to Connolly's elder sister Helen and her family. Initially Connolly seemed to accept the situation but eventuality prodded by his wife he instigated proceedings that aimed to cause the forfeiture clause to be declared null and void.

Macrory says in his introduction that he has been at pains not to take sides. That being the case Helen and in particular her husband Lucius Thompson - McCausland come across as very reasonable and honourable individuals. The author's portrayal of Connolly and his wife Peggy is not descriptive of individuals who are quite as personable as the Thompson-McCaulands.

Mention is made of mole hills on the lawns of Drenagh. A bit of a zoological faux pas that. Thankfully moles are absent from the fauna of Northern Ireland.


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