Smyth/Smythe of Westmeath

There was a Smyth, whose eighteenth-century house, Glananea, in County Westmeath, had such a flamboyant triumphal arch at the entrance to his demesne that he became known as "Smyth of the Gates". Growing annoyed with this name, he sold the arch to a neighbour, whereupon he was dubbed "Smyth without the Gates".

Landowners in Co. Westmeath, circa 1870s
Information from Westmeath- contributed to that site by Jean Rice
  • 8. Arthur Smyth, address Whinning, owned 239 acres.
  • 9. Mrs. Frances Smyth, address 70, Pembroke-road, Dublin, owned 500 acres.
  • 10. Hon. Leinster Curzon Smyth, address Drumcree, owned 4,431 acres.
  • 11. Ralph Smyth, address Newtown House, Drogheda, owned 901 acres.
  • 12. Robert Smyth, address Gaybrook, Mullingar, owned 6,287 acres.
  • 13. Robert Smyth, address Portlick, owned 459 acres.
  • 14. Capt. Thomas Smyth, address Ballynagall, Mullingar, owned 9,778 acres.
  • 15. Sir William Smyth, address Southsea, Hants, England, owned 147 acres.
  • 16. Wm. Edward Smyth, address Glananea, Drumcree, owned 1,256 acres.
  • 17. W. Barlow Smythe, address Barbavilla, Collinstown, owned 2,108 acres.
  • About Westmeath - Smyth - and Portlick Castle

    "The ancient territory of Westmeath also called "Machaire Chuircne". This territory still retains its name and was formed into the barony of Kilkenny West but it appears from references to St. Munis that the church of Forgnaidhe was in Cuircne, from which it may safely be inferred that it extended northwards as afar as the Inny. On viewing the localities we shall find that it was bounded by natural meres. It was bounded on the west by the Shannon where it expands itself into Lough Ree; on the north by the Inny; on the north-east and east by the River Inneóin, now called Dungolman river and on the south by a stream now called Athbreen which takes its rise in the bog of Shurock and flows through the townlands of Dunlom, Ballycloghdoo,

    Ballysallagh, Killeenatoor under the hill of Bruidhean da choga, Ballyboran, Coolunck, Twyford, Annaghgortagh and so on to Lough Ree in to which it falls a short distance to the south-east of Friar's Island. On the shores of Lough Ree many battles between the Danes and the Irish were fought.

    This stream according to tradition divides Cuircne from Calraighe Meig Amhalghadha and Breaghmhaine. From this it appears that the territory of Breaghmhaine did not extend further to the north than does the present barony. Another evidence of its extent in the eastern direction can be derived from the situation of Calraighe presently.

    The territory of Cuircne was first the inheritance of O' Tolairg but that family becoming extinct or feeble, it fell into hands of Mac Carrghamhna; this family was in turn dispossessed by the Dillons who were likewise dispossessed by Cromwell. The barony of Kilkenny West was granted to the Dillon family in the twelfth century. The modern family is descended from Henry de Lion who arrived in Ireland in 1185 at the behest of King John. He built his house and chapel at Drumraney and in the centuries that followed the Dillions founded a number of castles and tower houses in the barony of Kilkenny West. Most of them are no longer extant except for Portlick Castle" (Walsh 1915, 86).

    "In the barony of Kilkenny West, the ruins of Cainneach's oratory are still pointed out in the townland of Kilkenny as also the remains of the castle. Near the ruins of Cainneach's chapel still springs a well called Tobar Chainnigh, which is fast losing its sanctity. There are also some ruins of a monastery in the same townland which Sir Henry Piers states to have been an establishment of the Knights Templars and which was founded according to Lodge, Peerage i. 145 by Thomas, great, great, grandson of Sir Henry Dillon. He came to Ireland in 1185, a priest and was buried therein. The monastery includes the abbey walls which were torn down and the old church was uprooted to make way for the present protestant house of worship DM. i 526. In this parish are also the ruins of the castles of Ballynakill, Littletown and Ballynacliffy and the nunnery of Bethelem" (Walsh 1915, 10).

    "In the parish of Bunowen, in the townland of Portlick, there was a castle, said to have been built by the Dillions and repairs by a Mr. Smyth who occupies it at present. "Port Lice" which means "Bank of the Flags" is said to have received its name from a flag on the bank of the lough on which women used to beetle clothes. The people here remember that the ancient name of the barony of Kilkenny west was "Cuircneach" and that it was the county of the Dillions, the ruins of whose castles are pointed out at Ballynacliffy, Littleton, Ballynakill and Portlick"(Walsh 1915, 4).

    "At the outbreak of the rebellion of 1641 the townland of Bunowen was the property of Pierce Dillon and Thomas Dillon. In a patent of the year 1669 we find granted to certain persons named Goodwin "The castle, towne and all the forfeited lands of Bunowen" AG. 184. Bunowen included the subdivision of Tullimore ["Tulach mór" or "great hill"] with a mill, Bogganboy ["Bogán buidhe" or "yellow soft ground"] and Agghacurra [perhaps "Achadh coradh" or "field of the weir", as it was situated by the river side]" (Walsh 1915, 4).

    The Dillon family fought on the side of the Irish in the 1641 rebellion and suffered during the Cromwellian settlement when they were transplanted to Connaught. The family supported King James in the Williamite and Jacobite wars after which many of them fled to Europe with the Wild Geese. After the Restoration in 1663, Thomas Viscount Dillon, Leader of the Mayo branch of the family recovered it. His successor Theobald Dillon was killed at the battle of Aughrim. The Smyth family got possession of the place early in the eighteenth century.

    Bence-Jones describes Portlick Castle as follows:
    "An old keep with a battlemented later wing. In the nineteenth century, the seat of Robert Ralph Smyth and then of his nephew, Robert Wolfe Smyth" (Bence-Jones 1988, 233).

    "Portlick Castle; 3.5km north-west. Late medieval tower house built by the Dillions and occupied by them until 1696, when Garret Dillon was attained under the articles of Limerick. Portlick was then granted to Thomas Keightly, a member of King William's privy council of Ireland, who sold his interest to William Palmer of Dublin. The indenture reciting the property for sale to William Palmer included: "The lands of Portlick, Whinning and Cartron one third past of the great island (Inchmore), the houses, edifices, orchards, gardens, mills, mill seates, water, water courses, boggs, loughs, mountains, heaths and fishing wyers". William Palmer held the property for seven years but by 1703 Keightley's grant was repudiated and the property, which reverted to the Crown, was sold to Robert Smyth, a descendant of the Smyths of Barbavilla and Drumcree. On the death of Robert Ralph Smyth the property passed into the hands of his son Michael. In 1756 Ralph Smyth inherited his fathers property. By 1763 the property was up for rent and by 1773, for sale. After his death in 1782 the property was to fall to his sister Jane Rogerson. At this time there were fourteen claimants to the estate from other branches of the family. However, a local woman named Maggie Gerity came forward with a son Robert Smyth, born in 1776, claiming he was the son of Ralph Smyth and heir to Portlick. Maggie Gerity produced her father-in-laws will granting the castle to his male heir and son Robert Smyth who then became owner (O' Brien 1990, 34).

    The last Smyth of Portlick was a Robert Smyth who married Agnes Glesson of Athlone and they had one daughter Harriet. It was intended that the house would fall to her stepson but he was killed in the 1939-1945 war. Her husband Norman Wallard Simpson died in 1955 and the castle was sold the following year (O' Brien 1990, 35).

    "The back of the Portlick Castle shows the Dillon tower house as a severe rectangular block adjoined by a plain Georgian range, two storeys by seven bays. The tower, probably fifteenth century, is of impressive bulk. Four storeys high, it incorporates within a regular plan four projected corner towers. These appear on the exterior only as the thinnest of loops with small first and second floor mullion windows in the central block, giving a harsh defensive character to the castle. The Georgian wing added by the Smyths is gabled and rough-cast, with sash windows on both floors and a centrally placed staircase. About 1860 further changes were made to the castle by Robert Ralph Smyth, who added a large castellated block across the front of the Georgian wing. Portlick's entrance front now reads as two towers joined by a low two bay Georgian link.

    The new "tower" is a two storey rubble block with stepped battlements and large mullioned windows divided into the traditional late Georgian proportions of a Wyatt window. The original tower has a machicolation chute projecting above the original entrance and many small mullioned windows which appear to have been added during the Victorian rebuild" (Casey and Rowan 1985, 303).

    In 1841 the townland of Portlick had forty-five houses and a total population of 220. Ten years later these figures had dropped to six houses with a population of thirty-two.

    There are a number of notable houses in the vicinity of the forest including Portlick Castle to the south-east; Whinning House within the forest site on the south-west; Lough Ree Lodge to the south-east and Killeenmore House to the north-east. No information was gleaned on these houses except for Portlick Castle discussed above."

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