Clare County Library
Clare Genealogy

Donated Material: Family Histories

General Sir Thomas Kelly-Kenny

Title: General Sir Thomas Kelly-Kenny  
General Sir Thomas kelly-Kenny
Type of Material: Family History

Treanmanagh, Kilmurry Ibrickan; Kilrush; UK.

Dates: 1840 - 1914
Source: Various
Transcriber/Donator: Margaret Gallery

When I was growing up in Clare both my father and mother’s family had mixed political allegiances; politics was banned from discussion. My grandmother Maggie Quinn was Cumann na mBan and Fine Gael. We have her medal. My grandfather’s brother Edward Gallery died fighting in the Boer war. My mother’s maternal family were rabidly Fianna Fail; her granduncle Captain Sean Allen was executed for his IRA activities in Cork in the War of Independence. My maternal grandfather said that his grandfather was a unionist policeman. The ban on politics may have been wise.

As I grew older the Gallery family talked of their cousin who left them money to start businesses, General Sir Thomas Kelly Kenny. They called it compensation to my great grandmother for the loss of her son Edward. My great great grandmother Ellen Kenny was daughter of David of Treanmanagh and was the General’s aunt. As we researched my family I gathered information on the General with the help of Doctor Paddy Waldron’s extensive research. Here is my story; it shows a very different Ireland and Clare.

In 1824 Mary Kenny daughter of David Kenny of Treanmanagh married Matt the Manager Kelly, bank manager in Kilrush. They had a large family. Her fifth son Thomas Kelly was born on 27 February1840 in Kilrush, where they lived above the bank. Thomas went to boarding school in Carlow and later to Sandhurst. In those days many Catholics went into the army. Indeed on the Kenny side Thomas came from a military family. His uncle Mathias Kenny graduated with a medical degree from Edinburgh University in 1810 and then joined the army as a surgeon. Mathias served in the Peninsular Wars and is recorded at the battle of Waterloo. Matthias made his fortune and married a rich wife Anna Maria Pollard of Castle Pollard. He bought estates of 5000 thousand acres in Clare (near Treamnanagh) when the O’Brien estates were being sold off. Mathias’s brother David Kenny was a surgeon in the Indian army.

Thomas Kelly’s military career commenced when he was appointed Ensign without purchase in the 1st Battalion, 2nd (The Queen's Royal) Regiment of Foot on 2 February 1858 and was appointed to command the escort of General Sir James Jackson General Officer Commanding Cape of Good Hope. When Sir James Jackson was succeeded by General Wynward he was appointed ADC. He resigned this post on the outbreak of war with China in 1860 and accompanied his regiment to the Far East where he was appointed ADC to the Commander of the Queens, Sir Alfred Jephson. He held this post for the duration of the war. He was appointed Lieutenant by purchase on 12 October 1860, the day Pekin surrendered to the Allies and engaged in the China war at Sinho and at the taking or Tanku and Taku forts. He was mentioned in despatches and was decorated. He was appointed Captain by purchase on 20 July 1866. He was (acting) Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General (QMG) in Bombay from 25 May 1869 to April 1870 when he was sent to Abyssinia on the outbreak of war. He was in charge of the transport train at the front and was mentioned by Lord Napier in despatches for "zeal, energy and ability". In 1875 he graduated at the staff training college and received a medal in 1877.

Dr Mathias Kenny left his fortune to Thomas Kelly, his nephew, on condition that he take the name Kenny which he did in 1874 becoming Kelly Kenny.

While Thomas Kelly Kenny was active in his military career he also took a keen interest in affairs in Co Clare. He acted as JP for Clare (after Mathias Kenny’s death) as had his father Matt Kelly, his uncle Mathias Kenny and did his brother Matthew Butler Kelly. He was patron of the school at Scropul near Treanmanagh founded by his uncle Mathias Kenny. Local people wrote to him to intercede to get their family member transferred from a job in the postal service in England back to London. He took a close interest in his large extended family. Cecil Kenny recounts that while on active service he always wore black wool socks made from the wool of the sheep his brother Matthew Butler Kelly kept at Treanmanagh. He also said Doolough Lake was good for small trout fishing if you could survive the flies (I can attest to the evil propensities of the midgets in Doonogan down the road). Thomas Kelly was a keen shot and shot with the royals.

His family had a strong history of involvement in politics and local government. His mother's first cousin Richard Kenny was Vice Provost for Ennis in 1827 and also served as a grand juror; her first cousin Dean John Kenny of Kilrush and Ennis was an active figure in political and social reform in Kilrush and Ennis. His second cousin Father Matthew J. Kenny was one of the first two presidents of Clare Farmers association and a founder member of the Land League. His uncle Father Timothy Kelly was an active campaigner for famine relief as parish priest of Kilrush in the famine years. In the late 1840s his father Matt Kelly & Gallery and Kenny uncles and cousin were poor law commissioners.

Following in this family tradition, in 1879 the then Major Thomas Kelly-Kenny put his name forward for the April by-election in Co Clare. He was opposed by the Catholic clergy, withdrew his candidacy and did not go to the poll. Ignatius Murphy recounts in his history of Killaloe diocese that Bishop Ryan and his priests met in Ennis to discuss the merits of the various potential candidates and did not endorse Major H Kelly-Kenny (sic). The April 11th "Limerick & Tipperary Vindicator" says that the Bishop and many curates were pro Major Kelly Kenny as he was Catholic, locally born and a local landowner. Against him were his Liberal politics. The majority of the curates voted against him, the Limerick and Tipperary Vindicator reports: "A strong adverse expression on behalf of the Catholic curates who constitute a large majority overwhelmed the scales against Major Kelly-Kenny who not withstanding rumour to the contrary has withdrawn". The paper goes on to quote his resignation letter and also mentions that his cousin Matt Kenny solicitor of Ennis (a Unionist and later High Sheriff of Galway) was his conducting agent. The clergy later supported the O'Gorman Mahon as a home rule candidate. He was narrowly elected. Some of the curates' sentiments are possibly expressed by Father Matthew J Kenny in his post-election address. He expressed a wish for the downfall of the Liberal and Tory parties in Ireland and the end of Landlord Tyrannies.

Cecil S Kenny recounts that Major Kelly-Kenny put his candidacy forward for the High Sheriff of Clare and was put forward on the roll in 1880 (an appointment by the Lord Lieutenant from three candidates) but did not succeed.

Major Kelly-Kenny was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel on 26 July 1881, and Colonel in 1887, he was Assistant Adjutant General (AAG) and QMG from that date until 30 June 1889. Continuing in senior appointments, he was AAG and QMG, North-Eastern District from 1 July 1889 – 21 September 1892, where he commanded the training camp at Strensall Camp, Yorkshire. Later he became AAG Aldershot Garrison from 28 December 1893 – 12 March 1896 on the staff of the Duke of Connaught.
In the Second Anglo-Boer war of 1899–1902 he was, as a Lieutenant-General, General Officer Commanding the 6th Division of the South African field force. He was twice mentioned in despatches and received the Queen’s South African Medal with four clasps. He was involved in the relief of Kimberley, the battles of Paardeberg, Poplar Grove and Driefontein.

The General was a close friend of King Edward VII who treated him as confidential military advisor. In October 1901 he was appointed Adjutant-General to the Forces which post he held until 1904. This was at the King’s insistence; he liked him for his industry and administrative capacity and dislike of jobbery. However Lord Roberts (the commander in chief) did not share this opinion; the General was conservative about reform, the War Office was opposed to his appointment. The General did not work well with his colleagues who tried to get his powers reduced (which the king opposed). They then tried to move him back to command in 1902 offering him the command of the 4th Army Corp. This he declined. The King was happy about the General’s decision. In October when again it was suggested that he be transferred to an Army corps the King wrote to Mr Broderick saying that the Adjutant General was a most able officer with a thorough knowledge of his profession who would be a loss to the war office and that he was most surprised that Lord Hornby described him as reactionary when it came to reform. The War Office bowed to the King's wishes and left the General in his post until the reforms in 1904.

In June 21st 1904 he was conferred with the order of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross, K.C.B. In 1905 he attended the wedding of the Crown Prince of Germany with Prince Arthur of Connaught where the Kaiser decorated him with the order of the Grand Cross of the Red Eagle. (He had previously received from the Kaiser the order 1st class of the Red Eagle). In 1906 he accompanied Prince Arthur of Connaught to Japan as part of a mission to present the Order of the Garter to the Emperor. While on this trip and speaking with the Mikado, the Mikado remarked on how he had to improve the horses in Japan the breed being small. The General replied that "It is not always the big horses and the big men that do the best work" which compliment made the Mikado smile. On this trip the General received from the Emperor the Grand Cross of the Rising Sun. On his return to England he was created by King Edward VI Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. Documentation on his trip is held in the Jesuit Archives in Dublin, Ireland.

In his day the General was quite a celebrity appearing on cigarette cards commemorating his Boer war successes and marches. Sir Thomas was friendly with several members of the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales and Prince Arthur of Connaught and stayed in both Sandringham and Frogmore as a guest of the Prince of Wales on shooting parties. According to Cecil S Kenny he acted as confidential military adviser to King Edward VII and was on friendly terms with Queen Alexandra, who carved a tea table for him herself. He accompanied the French ex Empress Eugenie on a steam yachting trip around Ireland in 1909.

The General largely lived in the UK, where his clubs were Army and Navy and Arthurs. His father Matt Kelly built Doolough Lodge at Treammanagh in the 1850s having bought the leases at Treanmanagh from his brother-in-law James Kenny in 1849. He left this house to Thomas who then let Doolough lodge to his brother Matthew Butler Kelly JP, who is recorded as living at that address in Thoms. There are reports that royalty stayed at Doolough Lodge with the General. These have not been substantiated by consultation of the material in the Royal Archives, the Royal Archivist has confirmed that the Prince of Wales did not visit Ireland in 1906 and did not stay with the General in Ireland between 1903 and 1906. There is a report that George V stayed at Doolough Lodge during his visit to Ireland in July 1911. The Royal Archives have no record of this visit.

The General retired in 1907 and died at Hove on 26 December 1914. He is buried in Hove Cemetery having left strict instructions in his will that he did not want a military funeral.

Cecil S Kenny records that one of the last things he did was to visit his cousin Lieutenant Bertram Maurice Kenny in hospital, where he was seriously wounded. The General was proud of the family connection with Lieutenant Kenny's father his third cousin William Kenny (judge, privy councillor and unionist MP) to whom he left £1000 in his will. Interestingly in the 1916 witness statements in the Bureau of Military archives Sean Fitzgibbon says that Sir Thomas Myles wished to put forward Kelly-Kenny as leader of the Irish Volunteers.

The executors of his will included his nephew, Matthew Devitt, a Jesuit priest and his nephew Thomas O'Gorman of Cahircalla, to whom he left the bulk of his large estate, with some small bequests to other family including to my granduncle George Gallery and to my great grandmother Minnie Taaffe Gallery money for her children except George. Before he died he had sold his lands to the tenants under the land purchase Act 1909. This sale ended 300 years of Kennys in Treanmanagh.

A collection of his personal papers inherited by Fr. Devitt are now in the Irish Jesuit Archives.
I have found in my research no living male Kenny descendants and no living male Kelly descendants of this line. There are many in the female line but the only Kenny descendants I know of still living in Clare are my own family. Should any reading this like to get in touch I will be happy to hear from them.


1. Confirmation of his birth New Zealand Tablet, Volume XXVIII, Issue 2, 11 January 1900, Page 4 and manifest for his trip from Liverpool to Ellis Island on the Mauretania on 23–29 January 1909: [1] [2] (line 13, question 29).
2. Burke, Bernard; Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1912). A genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry of Ireland. Harrison. p. 368. See also Landed Estates Database. An incorrect name is given for his father in Kelly-Kenny, GENERAL SIR THOMAS, G.C.V.O., Catholics Who's Who, F. C. (Francis Cowley) Burnand.
3. See Kenny's obituary in the British Medical Journal, 10 October 1874, p.480.
5. The West Australian, Perth Wa, 28th December 1914
6. “Scropul National School 1860 - 2012?, published by OAC,
7. Correspondence with the Department of Education held in the Jesuit Archives
8. Dunboyne collection of newspaper clippings on Clare, Lord Dunboyne, NLI
9. The Diocese of Killaloe, 1850-1904, Ignatius Murphy published 1994
10. Dunboyne collection of Newspaper clippings on Clare, Lord Dunboyne, NLI Dublin
11. The Diocese of Killaloe 1850-1904, published 1994, page 225,out of print
12. Clare Elections, Limerick and Tipperary Vindicator, April 11, 1879
13. The Clare Elections, Kieran Sheedy. 1993
14. The London Gazette: no. 27360. p. 6400. 1 October 1901.
15. London Gazette, 21st June 1904,
16. The Garter Mission to Japan, Lord Redesdale
17. The Garter Mission to Japan, Lord Redesdale, page 26, Bibliolife, 2009
18. correspondance in National Archives Dublin, correspondance in Jesuit archives and royal diaries in Royal Archives Windsor
19. Clare Champion (published 10 June 2011, web version undated)
20. Matthew Butler Kelly will 1910, Jesuit archives
21. Houses of Clare, Hugh W.L. Weir, Ballinakella Press, Whitegate, Co. Clare, 2nd edition, 1999, p.103.
22. Obituary in The Times Monday, 28 Dec 1914; pg. 9; Issue 40736; col C. His place of death is incorrect in the New York Times of 27 December 1914 [3].
23. The Times, Wednesday, 30 Dec 1914; pg. 11; Issue 40738; col F; Court Circular.
25. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1915.
27. Houses of Clare, Hugh W.L. Weir, Ballinakella Press, Whitegate, Co. Clare, 1986, The references to the royal visit to Doolough Lodge in this book have not been verifiable from other sources.
28. The Boer War; Thomas Pakenham; Cardinal, 1979; ISBN 0-7474-0976-5
29. The Great Boer War, Arthur Conan Doyle, London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1902
30. Mitford's Japan: The Memoirs and Recollections, 1866–1906, of Algernon Bertram Mitford, the First Lord Redesdale by Mitford, Hugh Cortazzi, Algernon Bertram Mitford
31. Genealogies of Kenny and Lysaght, Cecil Stacpoole Kenny, manuscript NLI Dublin
32. Wikipedia article on Sir Thomas Kelly Kenny
33. King Edward VII, a Biography Part II, Kissinger publishing 2004
34. General Sir Thomas Kelly-Kenny GCB GCVO 1902-1914 at Website of Surrey Regiment (British army)
35., Clare Champion (published 10 June 2011, web version undated
36., Anglo Boer war containing extracts from many books which mention the General and a letter written from him to Lord Roberts in 1900.

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