Cruise family genealogy

Of Rathmore, County Meath

Arms: Az. three escallops in bend betw. two bendlets and four escallops all ar.; also, Az. two bendlets betw. six escallops ar.

From the Dublin University Magazine (of September, 1854), and Rathmore and its Traditions (Trim: Moore, 1880), we learn that, in the early part of the fifteenth century, the Lord of Rathmore was Sir Christopher Cruys (now Cruise), who had, besides, many large possessions, amongst them the castles and estates of Cruisetown and Moydorragh, lying near each other in the barony of Morgallion, in the county Meath. Of Sir Christopher and his family a singular history is orally preserved among the descendants of the rural denizens of Rathmore in the olden time.

According to the tradition, Sir Christopher Cruys lived to a mature age unmarried; his nephews, therefore, entertained hopes of succeeding to all his large property; but late in life the good knight, losing his taste for celibacy, married a lady with whose beauty and amiable disposition he had been captivated. This marriage enraged his kinsmen, some of whom resided at Robertstown and others at Brittas, seats in the vicinity of Cruisetown. They testified peculiar hostility to Lady Cruys, whose conduct in all respects was most exemplary, and who lived in perfect harmony with her husband. In due time she gave promise of presenting Sir Christopher with a direct heir; and the disappointed expectants wickedly determined on destroying both the knight and the lady before the birth of the child.

It happened that Sir Christopher and his wife went to spend some days at the Castle of Cruisetown, which is no longer extant, but it was then a strong edifice, and stood beside an artificial mound near the now ruined church,[1] and in view of a small lake. One fine sunny day Sir Christopher induced his lady, for the sake of exercise, to walk with him to Moydorragh. Unfortunately they took no attendant; for, though well aware that the kinsmen were much displeased at their uncle’s marriage, the latter had no suspicion of the extent of their malevolence. The movements of the knight and the lady had, however, been watched by spies; and, on their return from Moydorragh, an ambush was set for them near the Castle of Cruisetown. Just as they came in sight of the castle, Lady Cruys perceiving the brightness of the day to be suddenly overcast by some peculiar kind of obscurity, looked up, and saw in the sky a terrific phenomenon, like the well-defined and dark figure of a giant, looking down upon them with a fiend-like aspect. Alarmed at such an unusual appearance, a nervous apprehension seized her mind, and she exclaimed in Irish (then the vernacular), “Oh, Sir Christopher! look up! see! some dreadful danger threatens us. That sign is a warning; let us hurry home—haste! haste!”

Sir Christopher tried to smile away her fears as mere superstition, telling her that the apparition was only formed by a cloud, though he must own it was a singular one; but, even supposing it supernatural, why should they believe it directed to them rather than to any other person in the neighbourhood? But Lady Cruys replied, “It is! it is, indeed, for us. See! the dark shadow of the figure has fallen upon us, cold and black. Hasten home! hasten home!”

As she was hurrying her husband forward, several armed men, led by his relatives, sprang from a thicket, and rushed towards them. The knight was armed with the small sword commonly worn. He drew it; and setting his back to a tree, defended himself as well as he could from the murderous attack, and said to his wife, “Run now! run for life—for my life as well as your own. On to the castle and send me help.” Lady Cruys fled with the speed of one who did run for life, but two of the assailants sprang after her with drawn swords. She had, however, a few paces’ advantage, which she kept, for terror winged her feet. Her cries, as she approached the castle had been heard, and the gate was opened at the instant she reached it—one moment longer of delay had been fatal, for the pursuers were then so near (says tradition), that just as the gate closed on the fugitive, one of them, making a blow at her, cut off a part of her mantle that streamed behind.

The poor breathless lady was scarcely able to give her orders to the domestics; but they quickly comprehended her; and, hurrying out at a postern, they sped to their master, whom they found left quite alone under the tree that had supported him, pierced with wounds, and covered with blood, but still alive, and in possession of his faculties.

They stanched the blood, and conveyed him gently to the castle. But he was mortally wounded; and only lived long enough to receive the rites of his Church, to give some directions, and bid a tender farewell to his disconsolate wife, in whose arms he expired.

The new-made widow felt that her husband’s life was not the only sacrifice sought; she knew that her own, and that of the unborn heir were at stake, and she resolved to do her utmost to save both, and defeat the cupidity of her enemies. To this end she determined on flying to England for safety; and, securing the title-deeds of Sir Christopher’s property, and as much of the family plate as she could. All the latter that was at Cruisetown she placed in a strong oak chest, with heavy stones in the bottom, and had it conveyed secretly by night out of the castle, and sunk in the neighbouring lake. To save the plate and papers at Rathmore was her next object; to attain which she must leave Cruisetown by stratagem, lest she should be intercepted. She kept the castle closely barred from all intruders, and despatched a messenger to Rathmore, requiring the attendance of the domestics at the funeral of their late master in Cruisetown Church. She then caused it to be reported that she was dangerously ill from agitation and over-exertion.

By torchlight the relatives and tenants of Sir Christopher Cruys crowded the small church to witness the obsequies of the murdered man, whose widow was then announced to be dead. While their attention was thus engaged, another funeral train, composed of trusty men of Rathmore, issued silently from the postern, bearing a coffin covered with a pall, but pierced throughout with holes to admit air to the poor trembling mourner, who lay within as a corpse. To any who questioned them on their road they replied, that they were conveying the remains of Lady Cruys to Rathmore, as she could not be interred with her deceased husband on account of the family feuds.

Gently, but speedily, was the journey performed; the coffin was taken into the Castle of Rathmore, and its faint and cramped inmate lifted out, and tended by eager hands. But no time was to be lost—scarcely was she recovered from her fatigues, when she hastily selected the principal parchments, and packed them for conveyance; then collecting the plate, she saw it nailed closely down in the coffin, which was carried into the Church of St. Lawrence, and laid in a ready-prepared grave, amid the tears of those who believed it to contain the corpse of their beloved lady.

Day had not yet dawned when Lady Cruys, closely disguised, stole away from Rathmore, accompanied by one female domestic, and bearing with her the title-deeds, her jewels, and a sum of money. She reached Dublin, and embarked on board a vessel bound for London, where she arrived in safety. And there she gave birth to a daughter, whom she named Mary Anne; and immediately notified, in due form, the facts of her own existence, and the birth of her child, to the kinsmen of Sir Christopher, and asserted the right of his posthumous heiress. But strong in the possession of the property they had usurped, they laughed to scorn the claims of a helpless widow and infant in another country.

Lady Cruys endeavoured to obtain redress from the English courts of law; but her resources were soon exhausted, and her exertions were barred by poverty. Years elapsed; the young girl grew up, the heiress of large estates, but inured to an inheritance of unmitigated want and care. Mother and daughter were reduced to so low an ebb, that they were compelled to support themselves by the labour of their hands. But Lady Cruys had instructed Mary from childhood in all her rights, teaching her the names and descriptions of the several portions of her estates; and the dispossessed heiress had amused herself at her toils by composing on the subject of her inheritance a simple song in Irish, in which language she and her mother always conversed as their native tongue.

At the period to which the narrative has now reached, Sir Thomas Plunket, of Killeen (county Meath), happened to be in London. He was the third son of Christopher Plunket,[2] first Baron of Killeen. Sir Thomas belonged to the legal profession, and when in London frequented the Temple. One day, when in the Temple Gardens, and leaning over the parapet that divided them from the strand of the Thames, he observed a young and lovely girl, in poor attire, but with an air of gentle blood, washing clothes in the river, and then spreading them on a large stone. She was singing to a plaintive air a song, the words of which he found to be Irish. He listened with surprise and attention, and soon discovered that the singer was describing her own circumstances.

This is no fiction. A portion of the song has been preserved, solely by oral tradition, for upwards of 400 years. We have collected it in fragments from among the Rathmore peasantry, in its native Irish, from which we have made the following translation, adhering as closely as we could to the metre of the original. As a poetical composition this song has no merit; but the descriptive epithets attached to the different names are even still applicable. Of the places mentioned in it many are recorded in patents, inquisitions, etc., as being held along with the Manor of Rathmore by the descendants of Mary Cruys.


From the original Irish.

Ah! blessed Mary! hear my sighing,

On this cold stone mean labours plying;

Yet Rathmore’s heiress might I name me,

And broad lands rich and many claim me.

Gilstown, Rathbeg, names known from childhood;

Fair Johnstown, hard by bog and wild wood;

Ra-taaffe (Blackwater near it floweth),

And Harton, where the white wheat groweth.

Kilskier, with windows shining brightly;

Teltown, where race the coursers sprightly;

Balreask, abundant dairies showing,

Full pails and churns each day bestowing.

Thee, Ballycred, too, mem’ry prizes;

Old Oristown to mind arises;

Caultown, near bogs, black turf providing;

Rathconny, in its “Baron” priding.

The Twelve Poles, Armabregia, follow;

Kilmainham, of the woody hollow;

Cruisetown, with lake by sunbeams greeted;

Moydorragh gay, ’mid fair roads seated.

Still could I speak of townlands many;

Three score along the banks of Nanny;

Twelve by the Boyne, if it were pleasure

To dwell on lost and plundered treasure.[3]

Such was the song of the dispossessed heiress of Rathmore, sung on English ground, in the fifteenth century; and, by a singular coincidence, brought round in the revolutions of time, the same song was again sung, on English ground, under similar circumstances, in the seventeenth century, by a second unfortunate heiress of Rathmore, a lineal descendant of Mary Cruys. But let us not anticipate.

Sir Thomas Plunket, being himself a native of Meath, was well acquainted with the story of the Cruys family, and with the names of the principal lands, and at once guessed that the young singer must be the lost heiress. He courteously addressed her in Irish (thus conciliating her confidence at the outset), told his name, intimated his suspicion of her real rank, and offered his services. Poor Mary, delighted with this gleam of hope, brought him to the humble dwelling of her mother, who, eager to interest in her cause a man of his importance, showed him all her parchments, and gave him proofs of the identity of her daughter as heiress of Sir Christopher Cruys. Sir Thomas undertook to exert himself for the restitution of the estates; stipulating, however, that if his efforts proved successful, he should be rewarded with the (no longer empty) hand of his fair client. It were to be wished that he had wooed in a less business-like and gallant manner; but he was past the heyday of youth, and was a widower.

He conducted the cause with so much ability, that he brought it to triumphant issue, and married the enriched heiress. He attained the dignity of Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, in Ireland; and he and his lady fixed their residence at the Castle of Rathmore, which thenceforward became the family seat of their descendants, known as the Plunkets of Rathmore. Doubtless, the plate submerged at Cruisetown, and buried at Rathmore, soon saw the light again, after the restoration of the right owner. A memorial of a visit (perhaps the bridal visit) of Mary and her husband to the seat of Lord Killeen (ancestor of the Earl of Fingal), the father of Sir Thomas, is still extant in the demesne of Killeen.[4] It is the base of a cross, sculptured with ecclesiastical figures, bearing no date, but inscribed with the names of—

Thomas Plunket.

Mary Cruys.

It was the amusement of Lady Plunket, after her happy settlement at Rathmore, to sing for her friends and family the simple Irish song that had attracted the attention of Sir Thomas, and had been (under Providence) the means of her good fortune. Thus it became popular in the neighbourhood, and was long preserved in memory, though now extant but in fragments, never before (we have reason to believe) committed to writing.

Sir Thomas died in 1471. In the churchyard of Athboy is a sculptured tomb, without date or inscription, but bearing the effigies of a knight and lady: it is said to be the monument of Sir Thomas Plunket, and his wife, Mary Cruys. They were the parents of two sons and three daughters: of the latter, the eldest, Ismay, marrying William Wellesley (or Wesley, as then spelled), has the high, though posthumous, honour of being a direct ancestress of the great Duke of Wellington, who was tenth in descent from her, and eleventh from Mary Cruys, whose story derives an additional interest from her illustrious descendant.[5]


[1] In this dilapidated church is a sculptured and emblazoned tomb of a branch of the Cruyses of a later date than the epoch of the story, being of the latter part of the seventeenth century. It commemorates Walter and Elizabeth Cruys, and their son Patrick, and his wife, Catherine Dalton. The two latter are also commemorated by a rude stone cross in the churchyard.

[2] He obtained the lands of Killeen by marriage with the heiress, Genet Cusack.

[3] Of the places named in the song, Gilstown and Rathconny are near Rathmore; the allusion to the “Baron” of Rathconny is forgotten. Rataaffe, Balreask, Caultown, and Ballycred (now Knightstown), are in the vicinity of Navan, but not all in the same direction. Rathbeg, near Trim; Johnstown, near Clonmellon (Barony of Fore). Near Kells are Oristown, Kilskier, and Teltown; the latter, the ancient Tailtean, was famous for horse-races from the reigns of the pagan kings for many centuries. Kilmainham, Cruisetown, Moydorragh, Armabregia, and the Twelve Poles (a plot of ground), near Nobber. The Nanny Water is in the S. E. of Meath.

[4] Killeen Castle, the seat of the earls of Fingal, was founded by Hugh de Lacy, in 1180. It is two and a-half miles from Dunshaughlin.

[5] The pedigree runs thus: Ismay Plunket and William Wellesley, of Dangan, Meath, had a daughter, Alison, who married John Cusack, of Cussington, and had a son, Sir Thomas Cusack, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, whose daughter, Catherine, married Sir Henry Colley, of Castlecarbury; and their son, Sir Henry, marrying Anne, daughter of Adam Loftus, Archbishop of Dublin, had a son, Sir Henry, whose son, Dudley, left a son, Henry, whose son, Richard, took the name of Wellesley, by the will of his cousin William Wellesley, and had a son, Garrett, Earl of Mornington, father of the great Duke of Wellington.—See the “Wellesley” pedigree, infra.