To begin with, they were courtiers, which in the age of Queen Elizabeth implied a life of tilting, voyaging and subjugating the Irish and the native Americans. Sir Anthony Denny, father of the first Denny settler in Ireland, was considered to have sufficient fortitude to be entrusted with the task of informing Henry VIII that his death was nigh. He was Henry’s executor, and groom of the stole. Sir Anthony married one of the ladies-in-waiting at the court. Her name was Joan Champernowne, of Devon, whose sister Catherine was the mother of Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert, both of whom were very prominent in the suppression of the first and second Munster rebellions of the 1570s and 1580s. Mary Hickson tells us that the mother of the Champernowne sisters was a Carew, aunt of that seeker after old land titles, Sir Peter Carew, whose energeticl pursuit of claims in Idrone, Co. Carlow, instigated the rebellion of 1568/9. Therefore, Sir Edward Denny, the first Irish settler of his family, who made Tralee Castle his home after its owner, the Earl of Desmond, was killed, was first-cousin to some of the leading land buccaneers of the day. On his father’s side he was equally well connected. Joice Denny, Sir Anthony’s sister, married William Walsingham, and their son was the famous Sir Francis Walsingham, eminent statesman under Queen Elizabeth and international spy master. He was first-cousin of Sir Edward Denny of Tralee Castle. Sir Edward was friendly with Sir Philip Sidney, who married Sir Francis Walsingham’s daughter Frances. Frances would marry secondly, to Robert Devereux, the ill-fated favourite of Queen Elizabeth.
Intermarriage with the ladies of the court continued. The first settler, Sir Edward, married one: Margaret Edgcumbe from Cornwall. So did their son Arthur Denny. Arthur’s wife was Elizabeth Forrest.
The first settler’s brother was Henry Denny. Henry stayed in England and married Honora Grey de Wilton. Grey de Wilton was responsible for the massacre at Dun an Oir in West Kerry in November 1580. Denny and his wife Honora Grey de Wilton were ancestors of Sir George Fleetwood, Cromwell’s lord deputy of Ireland in the early 1650s, another powerful connection for the family at Tralee Castle.
As a servant of crown policy in Ireland the first settler, Sir Edward Denny joined with Black Tom Butler, Earl of Ormond, to subjugate the Earl of Desmond. And then Sir Edward was given a portion of Desmond’s estate, that around Tralee. The descent in the family of Sir Edward (d. 1599) changed to a brother, or the son of a brother, on a few occasions. We come to that in a moment. The original estate around Tralee was 6, 000 acres, but it grew to 30, 000 acres, and then it contracted considerable, when some of it was given to the Cromwellian family of Bateman, and again in the early nineteenth century. In the 1670s Sir Edward married Mary Maynard, and a considerable Maynard estate in Tipperary transferred to the Dennys at that time. Thomas Denny succeeded in 1742 and more Maynard property seems to have transferred to the Dennys then, this time by inheritance when the Maynard heiress died in London. Now to the succession in brothers’ families. Thomas succeeded his brother Arthur who died in 1742. Thomas was predeceased by a number of sons, and his successor was Barry, the son of his brother Rev. Barry Denny. Barry became Sir Barry in 1782. He was a popular colonel of a volunteer corps at the time of Britain’s fight with her American colonies, but the estate ran up big debts and parts of the estate had to be sold off in the early nineteenth century to satisfy these. Judge Day was by then in control. How this happened was as follows. In 1794, the second Bart., named Barry like his father, was killed in a duel and he was succeeded by his brother Edward. In the following year Robert Day, future Judge, got his daughter, Elizabeth Day, married to Edward. In the next century the succession again changed to a brother, this time when Edward and Elizabeth’s heir, Edward, failed to marry. His brother Henry of Churchill provided the line of the subsequent baronets.
The story of Denny Street is the nineteenth-century history of Tralee and the county. The street was laid out after the removal of the Castle in 1826, an account of which is published in the Limerick Leader. A chimneypiece of the Castle has survived, with the Denny coat of arms and motto carved on it. It was retrieved by the Denny contractor William (“Billy Jack”) Nelligan, and years and years later given by him to Francis McGillycuddy Denny, of 17 Denny Street who lived in the last house of the street, near the later CYMS. Nelligan found the chimney piece somewhere near the Central Hotel, which stood at numbers 8 and 9 Denny St., the same side of the street as number 17. Francis McGillycuddy Denny was the son of Rev. Anthony Denny (rector of Tralee 1831-61), and his rent-collecting office later became Hussey, Denny and Huggart Estate Agents. This company later moved across the street to become W. H. Giles Auctioneers and Estate Agents.
Barry Denny was created a baronet in May 1782. The chimneypiece contains the Denny crest: the baronet’s hand with five ears of corn, and twelve cross crosslets. The motto reads: Et mea messis erit (the harvest also shall be mine). The chimneypiece has been in the possession of the present Bart., Sir Anthony Denny, 8th Bart., for many years. I saw it at his home and he loaned a picture of it to me for my book, The History of Tralee, Its Charter and Governance.