Tralee was in a ruined condition in March 1580 when the English arrived in pursuit of the Earl of Desmond. (The account of this in the state papers suggests that the Irish, or a faction of them, were responsible for the condition of the town.) Then, in the late 1580s as part of the Munster Plantation, the first English settlers came. The Earl was dead by then, killed and decapitated near Ballymacelligott in November 1583 after a long manhunt.
The leading settler was Capt. Edward Denny. Denny seems at first to have occupied another residence and not the Castle. In the second Desmond Rebellion, during the Nine Years War (1594-1603) the Dennys and the other settlers were driven out, and it was the middle of the 1620s before Denny’s grandson could occupy the Castle. The Survey published in 1622 contained the following: “We are informed that before the late wars there was a fair house built in the Abbey of Tralee by Sir Edward Denny and fifty other houses built by tenants, all distroyed in the time of the rebellion. Since the wars there have been erected on this seignory one dwelling house for the chief undertaker at Carrignefily by Arthur Denny, and seventy-nine houses and tenements of which number 32 are in the town of Tralee, being shire town of that county …”.
A generation later, after the 1641 (October) insurrection in the North of Ireland, Tralee Castle endured a sustained siege, which began in Februay1642 and ended only when those inside were evacuated during the late summer of that year.
Turning to the Jacobite-Williamite Wars of 1689-91, there is some doubt about where Colonel Edward Denny and Mary Maynard (wife) lived after the burning of Tralee in 1691. There are some deed memorials in our Registry of Deeds in Dublin (copies of original deeds) which give Col. Edward Denny’s address as Traly, not Tralee Castle. The Castle was burned down by the Jacobites in the autumn of 1691.
Could it be that the family resided elsewhere in the town for many years as the Castle was being reconstructed? Did they live in “the Abbey House in Traly” mentioned in the following deed memorial, Registry of Deeds, book 3, page 494, memorial no. 1306 ?: “the last will and testament of Edward Denny late of Traly in the County of Kerry Esq bearing date and published the sixth day of September one Thousand Seven Hundred and Nine … his Dear Wife Mary Denny … his Two Plow Lands of Barrow and the Abbey House in Traly and the Grounds thereunto belonging …”
The ambiguity about his address remains in a memorial of 1713, Reg. Deeds, book 11, page 340, memorial no. 4668: “A memorial of a Deed Indented Tripartite bearing date 13 November 1713, reciting that by Indenture or Deed of Settlement (of) 22 March 1699 Edward Denny of Traly (since deceased) …”. For good measure, yet another deed memorial, one of February 1726, between the son of Edward Denny and Mary Maynard, Edward Denny (husband of Letitia Coningsby and referred to a number of times as Edward Denny the Younger) and Edward Day, Merchant (grandfather of Judge Day), gives “Col. Edward Denny of Tralee …” (no mention of the Castle).
Jeremiah King tells us in his History of Kerry that the residence of the Dennys in 1678 is more a gentleman’s country residence than a fortification. He quotes the correspondence of Lord Orrery (Denny’s cousin) with Ormond, in which Orrery states that the only fortification in Kerry worth the name is Ross Castle. This seems to be corroborated int he grant of the Irish Parliament some years after the Jacobites burned Tralee: the resolution granted money to rebuild “the mansion house of Edward Denny, Esq. at Tralee”. The date of the grant was 28 November 1698.
The growing antagonism of Denny and Blennerhassett, neighbouring Tralee families, is worth bearing in mind when viewing deed memorials from this era. First, some background from the House of Commons (Ireland) Journals. In 1709 the Dennys (Edward the Elder, husband of Mary Maynard, and their son Edward the Younger) opposed the return of John Blennerhassett of Ballyseedy to the Irish Parliament (in the place of his deceased father), stating that Blennerhassett was “an infant of the age of sixteen years”. The appeal failed and this boy would become the Great Colonel John Blennerhassett and he would sit in Parliament for 66 years, becoming “Father of the House”.
Now, Col. Edward Denny the Elder died in 1712, just a few years after the appeal of 1709 against the “infant” John Blennerhassett’s election. Then in 1713 we find the marriage settlement which is the subject of the above memorial (Book 11, page 340, number 4668). The marriage is that of the same John Blennerhassett to Jane Denny, a daughter of Col. Edward and sister of Col. Edward the Younger. Three years is a long time in politics! But what we find of interest is that when Col. Edward the Elder made his will in 1699 he could not have known that the beneficiary would be a son of the house of Blennerhassett. The will did not specify a husband: it merely stated that £1000 would go with Jane to her husband, or be hers alone when she reached the age of eighteen and was still single. £1000 came with Jane to the marriage.
Arranging a marriage as a means to brokering some kind of detente between opposing families was nothing unusual in centuries past. What could be said in favour of a Denny-Blennerhassett alliance was that both were Whigs in a county with a distinctive Jacobite bias. There the resemblance ended, however. Blennerhassett fought for William and suffered confiscation for their trouble, while the Dennys were royalists and exiles for much of the fighting during the 1640s and probably the period 1689-91 as well. The Crosbies (Ardfert and Ballyheigue) and FitzMaurices (Lixnaw) leaned towards the Irish. The marriage settlement of 1713 did not end the growing antagonism. Instead what we see is a marriage alliance of the court-orientated Dennys with the old Jacobite family of Lixnaw. Lady Arabella FitzMaurice’s marriage to Arthur Denny (son of Edward the Younger), and her father’s creation as first Earl of Kerry, brought matters another step forward. Edward the Younger died in 1727. The Tripartite Agreement of 1727 (accession of George II) featured Arthur Denny, Blennerhassett and Crosbie. When Lady Arabella departed to Dublin following Arthur’s death in 1642, to become famous as Lady Denny, founder of the Magdalen Asylum, the division of Blennerhassett and Denny became plain for all to see. This happened in the appeal against the result of the Tralee election in 1743, when Sir Thomas Denny’s nominee was unseated on appeal by the son of the Great Colonel John Blennerhassett.
Sir Thomas Denny did not directly move into the Castle on inheriting the estate on brother Arthur’s death in 1742, but lived at Prospect Hall, near Killarney until about 1748. (Information from Sir Anthony Denny, 8the Bart., August 2011.)