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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

09 March 2009

Major General Lord Blayney


Andrew Thomas Blayney, the 11th Baron Blayney was a Major General and commander of the 89th Regiment of Foot, ‘Blayney’s Bloodhounds’ a troop that fought with distinction against Napoleon.

Research turns up such interesting tidbits. My husband’s family is Irish. Anyone with that middle ‘y’ in Blayney is related to him (and me by marriage). Imagine our pleased surprise when my online research uncovered the Major General.

According to the Blayney family genealogy, a book written and published privately by Chester Blayney, Andrew Thomas, Lord Blayney was born in 1770 and entered the army in 1789. The portrait shown here is dated 1802. His military service continued through 1814. That may account for the fact that in his later years he enjoyed "an evening with friends and a bottle (or five) of wine rather than the company of women." He did marry, in 1796 , a neighbor, Mabella Caledon, the daughter of the first Earl of Caledon. She is described as “a most excellent woman and much beloved.” They had at least one child, a son, who inherited the title in 1832 and was the last Baron Blayney

While in the Army, Blayney served in Malta, Majorca, Egypt, the Cape of Good Hope and Buenos Aires, all before his regiment was sent to Malaga where he was taken prisoner in 1810. He remained a prisoner until 1814 when the war ended. He worked with equal zeal on his responsibilities as a baron, both before and after the war, doing his best to improve the town of CastleBlayney as well as taking an active interest in politics.

He was a colorful character, considered “an original thinker.” Writing about his visit to Lord Blayney at Blayney Castle, John Burges says of a visit in 1825. “I could fill pages with …pleasant days and night I spend with this dear man.”

In another section he writes. “He was very much put out of sorts by bores and whenever one arrived, he immediately desired the servant to say he had gone to Belfast.This Belfast was a most picturesque cottage on the bank of a lake where he repaired to.

"On this occasion as we sat charmed with the scene around us, the dash of oars assailed our ears. Says I , ‘O! Lord Blayney. They have found us out.’ ‘No Jack’ says he, ‘All’s right’. When in a moment appeared the boat and the maiter d’hotel bringing with him everything useful to dress a good dinner..”

Lord Blayney was fond of "dressing a good dinner" as you will see when I post again and tell you about the book he wrote describing his four years as prisoner of war. The title is "Narrative of a Forced Journey through Spain and France as a Prisoner of War in the Years 1810 to 1814" and I'll have some details from a review of the book that is as entertaining as anything Blayney wrote.

All except the last paragraph of this post is a repeat. It was first posted November, 2006. My next post is the long ago promised follow-up

In the meantime does anyone want to share some interesting branches in their family tree?

15 Comments:

Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

How wonderful to be able to go back so far and in such detail, Mary. My known family history doesn't go much earlier than Ellis Island, two generations before me. Still, I cherish the stories of my mother's father, an angry teenager sent here to visit relatives when his father remarried someone he didn't like. Grandpa used to tell my mother he remembers oiling his ice skates, to return to Russia. But he didn't. He loved his new country, lied about his age to join the army (it was World War I and they were offering citizenship to immigrants who joined) and never looked back.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

It's so wonderful, Mary, to have an ancestor who was such a vibrant character himself in the same era you write about!

I'm a descendant of Felix Mendelssohn, of which I'm particularly proud this year as the world celebrates the bicentennial of his birth. And there's musical talent on the other side of my family. I had a great-great uncle who was one of the renowened voice teachers of the 20th c., numbering many stars of the Metropolitan Opera among his pupils. He died in the 1980s, I think, at the age of 105 or so.

And I have a great uncle who was a U.S. army colonel and was among the first liberators of the concentration camps. He also ran a displacement camp after the war; I think there's now a street named after him somewhere in Germany.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Pam, I love Ellis Island stories. I was able to visit once before the restoration was complete and loved the old untouched buildings more than the renovated ones. Such a feeling of history there (aka ghosts of immigrants past.)

Amanda I have just started listing to Mendelssohn again after a piece on NPR reminded me of how much I enjoyed his music before I got into audio books (in the car).

In the near history, my Dad and three of his four brothers fought in WWII -- my Dad in the Pacific (a Marine) and the rest in Europe. It's my grandmother I think of and how hard it must have been for her all those years.

All the Saccardi men came hom, which is amazing, though one was listed as MIA after the Battle of the Bulge.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Oh, I love hearing about Major General Lord Blayney!
And everyone else's ancestors.

In 1836, my great great grandfather,Joseph Batt, brought his wife and 8 children to America from Alscace Lorraine. My great grandmother was 3 mos. old. There was a terrible storm at sea and Batt prayed to the Virgin Mary that if she would see his family safe from the storm he would build a shrine in her honor in his new land. The storm subsided and my great great grandfather built the shrine. Our Lady Help of Christians Church still stands in Cheektogawa, NY.

My husband's grandfather came to the US through Ellis Island at age 17 with only the name of a person who was supposed to meet him (but didn't show up). Eventually a sister also came to the US, but when his youngest brother, who was 3 years old when Pio was 17, wanted to leave Italy, immigration was closed to the US. So Gerardo went to Argentina. In 1984 or 1985, Gerardo came to visit his brother, the two had not seen each other for over 70 years. The event was covered by local TV here and my husband, my kids and I were in the shot.

My dad (who also had been in WWII) worked on the famous LSD experiments the Army undertook in the 1960s and which got such awful publicity in later years. My dad always said the only adverse reactions were those soldiers who received placebos.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Great stories, Diane. In years to come all of our descendants will add us to the list -- the "famous" romance writer of the family. I think we lose sight of how rare success is in our field.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Oops. Make that Cheektowaga, NY!!(outside Buffalo)

4:16 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Mary, what a great post! Lord Blayney sounds like a real character and it must be so nice to be able to trace your family name back to him.

My Mom is half Cherokee and half Creek. I found her grandfather's name in the Cherokee removal rolls. My grandmother used to tell stories about her parents walking back from Oklahoma after the removal. Apparently many of the people forced to march from Alabama did so.

My father's mother's family came to this country in 1892 from Wales. I am in the process of researching the how and the why. My father's father's family also immigrated here in 1890. My great grandfather married my great grandmother in Wales, but he was English. So my father was 3/4 Welsh and 1/4 English. The thing is, my grandmother received correspondence at some point about an inheritance of some sort, an estate in England, but she refused to answer it because it was addressed to my late grandfather and because someone told her the inheritance was nothing but a money pit looking for a sucker to pay the estate taxes. The correspondence disappeared when my grandmother died, but I would LOVE to be able to find out more. My father's last name was Bolton.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

What a wonderful story, Mary! I have an ancestor, Moses Grant, who was in the Boston Tea Party. His son, Samuel (my several times great-grandfather), married Maria Broome, whose father, Jacob, was a delegate from Delaware to the Constitutional Convention. I wrote a story about them for a family history project when I was in high school.

Amanda, what's the name of your great-uncle the voice teacher? As someone actively involved with a young artist training program, I'm particularly interested! Also my great-aunt study voice at the precursor of Juilliard in the early part of this century.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

I love hearing about everyone's family. And Mary, you make a great point about our descendants/relations perhaps pointing to us in years to come. I wonder if they'll burn some of our correspondence, the way Cassandra Austen did!

Tracy, my great-great-uncle was Samuel Margolis. He taught Robert Merrill, Jerome Hines, and many, many other opera greats, although perhaps his biggest challenge was when he was hired to coach Gertrude Lawrence to at the very least stay on pitch when she made her Broadway debut in The King and I. He and his wife Mary (who had passed away, I think, by the time I met him) lived in an apartment diagonally across from Carnegie Hall that was furnished in lots of gilt and red velvet. It was like time traveling to what (as a teen) I imagined belle epoque Vienna must have been like. I sang for him when I was 16 and he said I had a voice, but it needed training (well, yeah). He offered my parents a significantly reduced rate for lessons 2x/week, but they turned him down (thereby blowing my chances) because they thought a relative should have given me the lessons for free. I always disagreed with that. But I didn't have the money to afford "Uncle's" lessons on my own. I do have all my grandmother's opera gloves, though, and her opera glasses. He had his own box at the Met, so my paternal grandparents got to see everything.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Your great great uncle was Samuel Margolis? How cool is that! As a retired opera singer whose voice teacher was part of the New York scene for years I heard wonderful things about Samuel Margolis. And I have heard and met Robert Merrill and Jerome Hines.

The thing about being a voice teacher is that once one spends years learning the craft it is hard to give it away for free. For a long time I tended to charge far too little for lessons. One of my student's father was a physician and he insisted that I raise my prices because in addition to my degrees I had performed opera all over Europe. He said if you don't value your skill, neither will they. I always thought that was an interesting way to look at it.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

"Every life is a novel" (a quote from my critique partner Marsha) and these posts prove it.

There have been constant interruptions this morning so I will not have the follow-up post ready until around 4:00 EST. Sorry

9:30 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Louisa -- what a small world! In the mid-70s (oh, yikes, I'm dating myself) the $60/lesson twice a week offer that "Uncle" made was kind of pricy for us, even though I'm certain he charged his celebrity students a whole lot more! Maybe my parents really couldn't afford it, but deflected that issue by claiming that they thought "Uncle" should have given me lessons, gratis.

Although my parents did, I never expected "Uncle" to give away his skills for free. Why should he? Just as I bristle now when a relative expects me to give them a free copy of one of my books just because we have some of the same DNA. As an actor I'm always expected to work for free or next to nothing, despite all the years (and money) I put into studying my craft, because we performers (and writers) are supposed to love what we do so much (and we do!) that for some reason people don't think they they should pay for it, or as much as it should be worth. Can you imagine asking an accountant, attorney, or surgeon to work for free, just because they love their jobs?

Anyway, I sang in a performance last night, one of the two trained (though not by Margolis) voices in the cast. But I never had opera chops. I've got a more Broadway sound. Last night, though, I had to sing ABBA melodies! My big solo was "Thank you for the music."

9:45 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Dating myself right along with you, Amanda. I was in high school in the mid-seventies and yes 60 dollars WAS a lot of money. It is very likely your folks used that to deflect the prohibitive cost.

You are so right! I can't tell you how many people thought I should sing at weddings, do concerts at their church all because we shared DNA. I've studied voice for over 30 years. I have three degrees and studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Surely that is worth something.

Wish I could have heard you sing. I'll bet it was wonderful! I sang with a girl in high school who now works on Broadway. She was even nominated for a Tony. Her name is Rebecca Luker, although I think she works under her married name now. She's a real doll and has an amazing voice.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Louisa, I have heard Rebecca Luker sing on Broadway numerous times and she is both lovely to look at and wonderfully talented, although our paths have never crossed. As far as I know, she's still performing under that name.

Your own musical background is quite impressive! And definitely worth something!

11:29 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

How funny! I am so glad you got to hear her sing. She is as sweet and kind as she is lovely and talented. We sang in our high school choir and madrigal singers together. Rebecca actually has some CDs out too and they are quite good!

I have always said I have been extremely lucky and my voice has taken me places I never dreamed I would go.

12:18 PM  

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