The estate of Brittas was time immemorial in the ancient family of DUNNE, anciently O'Doinn, chief of the name, and a sept of historic note.
The O'Doinns occur frequently in the works of James MacGeoghegan, in the Annals of the Four Masters, and the other Irish authorities.
RORY O'DOINN, Chief of I-Regan, died, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, in 1427.
He left a son,
LENAGH O'DOINN, Chief of I-Regan, who built Castlebrack, in the Queen's County.
He married a daughter of O'Nellan and had issue,
TEIG, of whom hereafter;The elder son,
TEIG O'DOINN, Chief of Iregan, wedded firstly, Ellen, daughter of "Lord Power", and had issue,
TEIG (OGE), of whom presently;eldest son,
TEIG (Oge) O'DOINN, Chief of Iregan, espoused firstly, Gormla, daughter of O'Connor Faile, and had issue,
Brien, dsp;He married secondly, Giles, daughter of MacGillepatrick, of Upper Ossory, and by her had issue,
TEIGH (REOGH), of whom we treat;
Edmund, of Park;
Donogh;The second son,
TEIGH (REOGH) or THADY O'DOINN, of Iregan, had a grant of English liberty for himself and his issue, in 1551.
He wedded a daughter of McMorrish, and had issue,
THADY or TEIG (OGE), his successor;The eldest son,
TORLOGH or TERENCE, of whom presently;
Donagh, of Gurtin and Balliglass, living 1570;
THADY (or TEIG OGE) O'DOINN, of Tenchinch and Castlebrack, appointed Captain od IRegan, 1558, made settlements of his estates in 1590, 1591, and 1593, and was living in 1601.
He wedded Elizabeth, daughter of James FitzGerald, of Ballysonan, County Kildare, and had issue,
TEIG (LOGHA) or TEIG OGE, or THADY, his heir;
Brian or Barnaby;
CAHIR or CHARLES, of whom presently;
TEIGH (LOGHA) or THADY O'DOYNE (-1637), of Castlebrack, surrendered his estate, 1611, and had a regrant of the greater portion in 1611.
He espoused firstly, Margaret, daughter of Shane O'Neill, who left him and married Cuconaght Maguire, and had by her a son, Teige reogh or Thady, dsp before 1635.
He married secondly, Ellis, daughter of Redmond FitzGerald, of Clonbolg, County Kildare, and had seven sons, who survived infancy,
Edmund or Edward, dsp before 1635;We now return to
John, dsp before 1635;
William, of Park;
Richard, in holy orders; Vicar-General of Kildare;
Rory or Roger;
CAHIR O'DOINN, alias CHARLES DUNN, LL.D, fourth son of Thady O'Doinn, Captain of Iregan, Fellow of Trinity College Dublin, 1593, Master in Chancery, 1602, MP, 1613, Vice-Chancellor, 1614.
He petitioned against the regrant of Iregan to his brother and got a grant to himself of Brittas and portion of the Iregan estates, which he bequeathed by his will, dated 1617, to his nephew,
BARNABY or BRIAN OGE DUNN (1590-1661), of Brittas, High Sheriff of Queen's County in 1623.
He obtained from CHARLES I a patent for a large estate in the barony of Tinnahinch, to hold to him and his heirs for ever in soccage, provided that he did not take the name, style, or title of O'DOINN, and that he should drop that same and call himself BRIAN DUNN.
He married Sybella, daughter of Sir Robert Piggott, Knight, of Dysart, and widow of Richard Cosby, of Stradbally, both in the Queen's County, and was succeeded by his son,
CAHIR or CHARLES DUNNE, of Brittas, who wedded Margaret, sister of John Coghlan, of Birr, and had issue,
TERENCE, his heir;Mr Dunne died in 1680, and was succeeded by his eldest son,
Mary; Peggy; Polly; Clare.
TERENCE DUNNE, of Brittas, captain in Moore's Regiment of Infantry, who fought for JAMES II and fell at Aughrim in 1691.
He espoused, in 1676, Margaret, daughter of Daniel Byrne, and sister of Sir Gregory Byrne, 1st Baronet, MP for Ballinakill, and had issue,
DANIEL, of Brittas;The fourth son,
EDWARD, of whom presently;
EDWARD DUNNE, of Brittas, married, in 1730, Margaret, daughter of Francis Wyse, of the Manor of St John, County Waterford, and had issue,
FRANCIS, his heir;Mr Dunne died in 1765, and was succeeded by his elder son,
Anastasia; Juliana; Margaret; Mary.
FRANCIS DUNNE, who wedded, in 1760, his cousin, Margaret, daughter and co-heir of Nicholas Plunkett, of Dunsoghly Castle, County Dublin, by Alice his wife, daughter and co-heir of Daniel Dunne (see above), and had issue,
EDWARD, his heir;Mr Dunne died in 1771, and was succeeded by his eldest son,
Alice; Frances; Katherine; Margaret.
EDWARD DUNNE JP (1767-1844), of Brittas, General in the army, Deputy Governor and High Sheriff of Queen's County, 1790, MP for Maryborough.
He took an active part in suppressing the Irish Rebellion of 1798, at which time he commanded the Pembrokeshire Fencible Cavalry.
General Dunne wedded, in 1801, Frances, daughter of Simon White, of Bantry House, sister to Richard, 1st Earl of Bantry, and had issue,
FRANCIS PLUNKETT, his heir;General Dunne was succeeded by his eldest son,
EDWARD MEADOWS, successor to his brother;
Robert Hedges (Rev);
THE RT HON FRANCIS PLUNKETT DUNNE JP DL (1802-74), of Brittas and Dunsoghly Castle, County Dublin.
He was a Privy Counsellor, a Major-General in the army, Lieutenant-Colonel, Queen's County Militia MP for Portarlington, 1847-57, and for theQueen's County, 1859-68.
General Dunne held office as Clerk of the Ordnance, 1852, and was Private Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1858-9.
He died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,
EDWARD MEADOWS DUNNE JP (1803-75), of Brittas, Barrister, who married, in 1835, Marianne, daughter of Langford Rowley Heyland, of Glendarragh, County Antrim, and Tamlaght, Lieutenant-Colonel, Londonderry Militia, and had issue,
Edward Eyre, 1836-48;Mr Dunne was succeeded by his only surviving son,
Alexander Dupré, 1838-55;
FRANCIS PLUNKETT, his heir.
FRANCIS PLUNKETT DUNNE JP (1844-78), of Brittas, High Sheriff, 1878, who wedded, in 1873, his cousin, Frances Jane, daughter of the Rev Robert Hedges Dunne, and had issue,
Francis Plunkett, died young;Mr Dunne, leaving his estates to be equally divided between his two surviving daughters, ALICE MAUDE and KATHLEEN PLUNKETT, who sold the estate of Brittas in 1898 to their uncle, Robert Hedges Plunkett Dunne, on whose death, in 1901, these ladies succeeded, again, to Brittas and Dunsoghly Castle.
ALICE MAUDE, of Brittas;
KATHLEEN PLUNKETT, of Brittas.
Francis Plunkett Dunne was succeeded in the male representation of his family by his cousin, Charles Henry Plunkett Dunne.
BRITTAS CASTLE, near Clonaslee, County Laois, was a castellated house of sandstone with limestone dressings, built in 1869 by Major-General Francis Dunne, to the design of John McCurdy.
The Dunnes were influential in the form and history of Clonaslee, as evidenced in its planned form and also from a number of ruins in the area.
The former residence of a branch of the family remains in ruins one mile from the village at Clara Hill.
Also, near the east bank of the Clodiagh River, stand the ruins of Ballinakill Castle, built in 1680 by Colonel Dunne.
Throughout the 18th century, Clonaslee prospered due to its location on an important highway across Laois leading onto Munster.
The proximity of Brittas - the seat of the Dunnes - was also influential as the power of this family had by now grown beyond that of a native Irish chieftain.
In 1771, Francis Dunne, then head of the Dunne Family, became a Roman Catholic and built a thatched parish chapel in the village. This was located close to the site of the present church.
The Dunne family continued to finance the construction of landmark buildings in the village:
The parish Church was erected in 1814 under General Edward Dunne (known locally as 'shun-battle Ned' because of his rumoured refusal to fight at the 1815 battle of Waterloo).When the main residence in Tinnahinch was blown up in 1653, the Dunne chief had to build anew. At this time there was a low thatched lodge located at Brittas.
Major-General Francis Plunkett Dunne built a Neo-Gothic mansion at Brittas in 1869. It was extended ten years later by Millar & Symes.
It is claimed that General Dunne obtained loans from Germany to build the castle, and rental income from his tenants was used to repay the lenders.
The gate piers of the grand house still remain on the western edge of the Green. The walls and windows give an idea of the house's architecture.
It was three storeys high and the roof was originally thatched. On the wall over the main entrance, the family crest is still visible, depicting an eagle and a drawn sword.
The last of the family to reside in Brittas House were the Misses Dunne.
The house had extensive gardens, shrubberies and out-offices. The links with Clonaslee village, and the remains of the Brittas estate are strong.
The expansive demesne grounds contain many splendid trees – remnants of the larger plantations. Lawson's cypress, copper beech, yew, sycamore, cut-leaved beech, and oak that covered much of the townland of Brittas over a century ago.Brittas Lake – which has recently been restored – was originally constructed as a reservoir for the house. Its banks are stone lined and water was pumped from the Clodiagh River.
Brittas Castle suffered a fire fire in 1942 and, despite the best efforts of the Tullamore fire brigade, it was destroyed.
First published in September, 2012.