The Armstrong Collection is divided into two parts: the papers, and the photographs.

Download Papers PDF catalogue Part 1 here

Download Papers PDF catalogue Part 2 here

Download Photographs PDF catalogue Part 1 here

Download Photographs PDF catalogue Part 2 here


Reference Code: P6/
Title: The Armstrong Papers – “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary
Dates: 1662-1999
Extent and Medium: 133 boxes, 2 outsize items (2522 files)


Reference Code: P6/A
Title: The Armstrong Photographs
Dates of Creation: 1867-1981
Extent and Medium: 85 boxes (2147 files)



Name of Creator(s): The Armstrong family of Moyaliffe Castle, county Tipperary, and the related families of Maude of Lenaghan, county Fermanagh; Everard of Ratcliffe Hall, Leicestershire; Kemmis of Ballinacor, county Wicklow; Russell of Broadmead Manor, Kent; and others.

Biographical History: The Armstrongs were a Scottish border clan, prominent in the service of both Scottish and English kings.  Numerous and feared, the clan is said to have derived its name from a warrior who during the Battle of the Standard in 1138 lifted a fallen king onto his own horse with one arm after the king’s horse had been killed under him.

In the turbulent years of the seventeenth century, many Armstrongs headed to Ireland to fight for the Royalist cause.  Among them was Captain William Armstrong (c. 1630-1695), whose father, Sir Thomas Armstrong, had been a supporter of Charles I throughout the Civil War and the Commonwealth rule, and had twice faced imprisonment in the Tower of London for his support for Charles II. When Charles II was restored to power, he favoured Captain William Armstrong with a lease of Farneybridge, county Tipperary, in 1660, and a grant of Bohercarron and other lands in county Limerick in 1666.  In 1669, William was appointed Commissioner for Payroll Tax, and over the next ten years added to his holdings in the area, including the former lands of Holy Cross Abbey and the lands of Ballycahill.  He established himself at Farney Castle and married Alice, daughter of Sir Thomas Deane.  Of his children, a son, John, married Juliana, daughter of Robert Carew of Castle Boro’, county Wexford, and became progenitor of the Heaton-Armstrong branch of the family.  A younger son, Thomas Armstrong, married Juliana’s sister, Mary, and established the Moyaliffe branch.

Thomas Armstrong (1671-1741), High Sheriff of county Tipperary, acquired the lands and castle of Moyaliffe (originally Mealiffe) at around the time of the death of his father, and settled in a small stone house built close to the ruins of Moyaliffe Castle.  The birth of seven sons and seven daughters necessitated the construction of the first of the many extensions which characterize the former family seat, also named Moyaliffe Castle.  Of his sons, five survived infancy.  The eldest, William, succeeded to the family estate; Andrew was apprenticed to a Cork mariner and set up as a merchant; John and Robert became clergymen; and George was apprenticed to a banker.  Of Thomas’s daughters, five also survived infancy and married into the Ellard, Dexter, Smyth, Lloyd and Bettridge families, becoming wives of attorneys and clergymen.

William Armstrong (1704-1768), Thomas’s eldest son, never married.  Described as a man ‘who seldom refused a request’, William entered into a number of ill-advised bonds and low-rate leases and left his financial affairs under the dubious management of his brother-in-law, James Dexter.  The catastrophic state of these affairs did not come to light until William’s death, when his brother and successor, the Reverend John Armstrong (1708-1781), found himself burdened with heavy financial responsibilities.  Many of the complicated legal cases into which John was forced to enter as a result dragged on for two generations.

Ordained in 1734, the Reverend John Armstrong served as Curate of Kilfaird from 1734 to 1737 and as Rector of Tipperary from 1737 to 1753.  He also acted as headmaster of the local Erasmus Smith Grammar school.  He married Frances, daughter of schoolmaster John Garnett of Tipperary, and had issue seven sons and four daughters, of whom two boys died in infancy.  Of the surviving sons, Thomas, Edward and Alfred entered the army, while William and Robert followed in their father’s footsteps and became clergymen.  Only one of the daughters, Anne, ever married, taking as her husband in 1793 William Bagwell of Shanrahan, county Tipperary.

The Reverend John Armstrong bore witness to a dramatic event during morning prayers on 6 June 1753, when a gang of armed men burst into St Mary’s Church in Tipperary and abducted Susannah Grove.  The clergyman’s courageous conduct in an attempt to prevent the abduction was witnessed by Lord Townsend, then Viceroy of Ireland, and impressed him so deeply that he promoted the Reverend John Armstrong’s eldest son, Thomas, to the rank of captain.

Captain Thomas Armstrong having predeceased his father in 1774, the Moyaliffe estate was in due course inherited by his younger brother, the Reverend William Carew Armstrong, known to his family and friends as Billy.  Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, he graduated in 1778, and was appointed first Vicar and later Rector (1789-1797) of Moyaliffe.  He also held the rectorship of Moylough in the diocese of Tuam, and the chancellorship of the diocese of Cashel.  His interest in architecture manifested itself in the construction of a new parish church on a medieval church site in nearby Killvalure, and a Georgian wing to Moyaliffe Castle, running at right angles to the main block.  He is also credited with some of the landscaping on the estate, including the planting of a parkland of oaks and beeches, and the establishment of a beech walk overlooking the Clodagh River (which was cut away in the 1960s).

In 1789, the Reverend William Carew Armstrong married the Honourable Catherine Eleanor Beresford, eldest daughter of the Most Reverend the Honourable William Beresford, first Baron Decies, Archbishop of Tuam, and granddaughter of Sir Marcus Beresford, first Earl of Tyrone.  Their three younger sons followed the by now familiar family tradition: Marcus Beresford and Alfred Thomas became clergymen, while George De la Poer secured a commission in the army (which he was later obliged to resign on account of drunkenness).  The three daughters – Elizabeth, Frances and Clara – never married.  The Reverend Marcus Beresford Armstrong was the progenitor of the Ballydavid branch of the family in county Waterford, where his eldest son, William, settled.  William’s only male child, Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong, was later to succeed to the Moyaliffe estate.

William and Catherine’s eldest son, John Armstrong (1791-1846), led the life of a gentleman as a landed proprietor and magistrate for Sligo and Tipperary.  Through his marriage in 1815 to Catherine Somers, daughter and heiress of Thomas Somers, he came into possession of estates in Mayo and Sligo, most notably the Somers family seat, Chaffpool, where he took up residence and set up improving the estate, which included the demolition of the old house and construction of a new one, complete with out-offices and landscaped grounds.  He also became involved in local politics, serving as Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant for Sligo and, in the parliamentary elections of the 1830s, acting as agent for the Tory candidate, Edward Cooper of Markree Castle.  John was well respected as magistrate, and during the famine was unanimously elected as chairman of the Upper Leyny and Tubbercurry Relief Committees.  He died prematurely on 2 December 1846 of typhus fever, which he is said to have contracted by getting caught in a downpour on his way to the committee meeting at Tubbercurry and sitting through the meeting in half-dried clothes.  The Sligo Journal paid tribute to him as a man who ‘fell a victim of his sense of devotion to the cause of charity.’

Like the previous generations, John and Catherine Armstrong had a large family of eight sons and two daughters.  The eldest son, William (b. 1816), was a Captain in the 47th regiment and served in the War of India.  He married in June 1848 a French woman, Mathilde Rose, daughter of Count de la Brosse, but died just eight months later in March 1849.  His only son, John, was born posthumously in May of that year.  The second son, Thomas (b. 1822), also served in India, where he died unmarried in 1847.  The third son, George (b. 1823), died unmarried in 1864.  The family estate then evolved upon the fifth son, James Wood Armstrong (b. 1827), Captain in the Royal Navy.  Like his father, James acted as both landlord and magistrate in Sligo but, although well-liked by his tenants, was considered harsh in the latter role.  In Tipperary, he improved the Moyaliffe estate and enlarged the family home by the addition of the Victorian façade.  The plans for its design were drawn up in 1864, the year James succeeded to the estate.  He became ill while attending a shooting party at the Templehouse demesne as a guest of the Perceval family in late November 1889 and died in the care of that family three weeks later.  To honour his memory, the Select Vestry of Tubbercurry Parish Church built the Armstrong Memorial Chancel as an addition to the church.  The family estates evolved on James’s younger brother, Captain Edward Marcus Armstrong (b. 1829), who as Lieutenant had fought in the Crimean War and was wounded in the Battle of Alma.  Having returned from the front, he married Frances Steele in 1863 and made Moyaliffe Castle his main home, dying there without issue in 1889.

As all but one of Edward’s siblings were unmarried or had died without issue, and as his only nephew, John, had died in 1853, the property evolved on Edward’s first cousin once removed, Marcus Beresford Armstrong (1859-1923).  The eldest (and the only son) of the five children of William Armstrong (1826-1889) of Ballydavid, county Waterford, Marcus chose a military career and rose to the rank of Captain in the 8th Brigade of the Northern Irish Division of the Royal Artillery.  In 1888, he married Rosalie Maude (1868-1956), second daughter of Maurice Ceely Maude (1820-1904) of Lenaghan Park, Enniskillen, county Fermanagh.  Rosalie’s paternal grandfather, the Reverend John Charles Maude (1792-1860), rector of Enniskillen, was the fifth son of Cornwallis Maude, first Viscount Hawarden (1729-1803) of Dundrum, County Tipperary, from his marriage to his third wife, Anne Isabella Monck, sister of first Viscount Monck.

Captain Marcus and Rosalie Armstrong had four children.  The eldest, William Maurice Armstrong (b. 1889), known in his childhood and early youth as Maurice and later as Pat, followed the distinguished military tradition of his family, rising to the rank of Captain in the 10th Royal Hussars (the Prince of Wales’s Own).  He served in India until the outbreak of the First World War, when he joined the Expeditionary Force as part of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade.  On staff of Major-General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle at Mons and at the landing and evacuation of Gallipoli in the famous 29th Division, and later serving in Egypt, Captain Pat Armstrong was awarded a Military Cross in 1916 for gallant and distinguished service in the field.  He was killed on 23 May 1917 by a sniper while inspecting his troops in a front-line trench at Arras, France.  Following his death, the General commanding the Cavalry corps wrote: ‘I do not know of anyone of his age who had a more promising future before him, as not only did he love his profession, and show most of the qualities needed for him to shine in it, but he had such a charming personality that all he came in contact with loved him, and were able to show their best work when working with him or under him.’

Pat Armstrong’s eldest sister, Cornelia Ione Kathleen Armstrong (1890-1967) married in 1918 Sir William Lindsay Everard (1891-1949) of Ratcliffe Hall, Leicestershire, a brewer, pioneer aviator, founder of the Ratcliffe Aerodrome and MP for Melton from 1924 to 1944.  They had two children, Bettyne (1919-1989) and Patrick Anthony William Beresford (‘Tony’) (1922-2011), of whom the latter died unmarried.  Bettyne married as her first husband Major Denis Butler, ninth Earl of Lanesborough (1918-1998) and by her had two daughters, Georgina (1941-1947) and Denyne (b. 1945).  The marriage was dissolved by divorce in 1950.  She later married Richard Peter Michael Spencer and by him had a daughter, Serena, and a son, Richard.

Winona Rosalie Armstrong (1893-1982), known to her family as Jess, married in 1927 Captain William Daryl Olphert Kemmis (1892-1965) of Ballinacor, county Wicklow.  This distinguished family of solicitors and army officers was of Anglo-Norman origin and had arrived in Ireland from Wales in the seventeenth century.  One of its early representatives in Ireland, Thomas Kemmis (1753-1823), held a number of distinguished positions, including Crown Solicitor to the Treasury, Deputy Keeper of the Seals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland, and Solicitor to Civil and Military Departments of the Ordnance in Ireland.  He was succeeded by his third son, William Kemmis (1777-1864), a Crown Solicitor for the Dublin and Leinster Circuit.  William married Ellen, second daughter of Nicholas Southcote Mansergh of Grenane, county Tipperary, in 1805, and in the same year commenced the building of Ballinacor, which partly incorporated an old dwelling house known as Drumkitt Lodge.  His eldest son, William Gilbert Kemmis (1806-1881), died unmarried, and bequeathed the estate to his nephew, Colonel William Kemmis (1836-1900).  A Professor of Artillery at the Royal Military College, Woolwich, Colonel Kemmis was the author of several instructional text books.  He married in 1862 Ellen Gertrude de Horne Christy, eldest daughter and heiress of George Steinman Steinman of Priory Lodge, Peckham, and Sunridge, Kent.  Their eldest son, William, succeeded to Ballinacor, while the second surviving son, Marcus (1867-1945), became heir to his maternal grandfather and assumed the surname of Kemmis-Steinman.

Like his father, William Henry Olphert Kemmis (1864-1939) followed a military career, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Artillery Militia.  He retired on the death of his father to take on the management of the Ballinacor estate, and married in 1888 Frances Maude, second daughter of the Reverend Charles Beauclerk.  Captain William Daryl Olphert Kemmis was the eldest of their three children. Having joined the Inniskilling Dragoons in 1912, he served in the First World War and retired from active service in 1923.

The youngest of Captain Marcus Beresford and Rosalie Armstrong’s children, Lisalie Maude Armstrong (1897-1990), also married in 1927.  Her husband, Odo George Henry Russell (1899-1980) of Broadmead Manor, Folkestone, Kent, was Major in the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment).  He retired from the army in 1936, but on the outbreak of the Second World War re-joined his regiment and was sent to France in October 1939.  He was wounded and reported missing in May-June 1940 and spent the remainder of the war in German prison camps, mostly at Spangenberg. He was released from captivity in the last days of March 1945.

Following the death of his only son, Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong made the decision to pass the Moyaliffe estate to his second daughter, Jess.  (The Mayo and Sligo estates had been sold to the Congested Districts Board in 1904.)  She and her husband divided their time between Moyaliffe and Ballinacor until the death of Captain Kemmis in 1965, when through a series of events Jess Kemmis lost ownership of both Ballinacor (which was inherited by her husband’s maternal cousin, Major Richard Lomer) and Moyaliffe, which was offered for sale to the Land Commission.  She was later able to regain possession of Moyaliffe Castle and 12 acres of the demesne, but not the surrounding farm.

As she had no children, and as the marriage of her younger sister was also childless, Jess Kemmis bequeathed Moyaliffe Castle and grounds to her distant relation, Robert George Carew Armstrong (1911-1983), of Natal, South Africa.  They were related through Jess Kemmis’s great-great-grandfather, the Reverend William Carew Armstrong, whose younger brother, the Reverend Robert Carew Armstrong, was Robert’s great-great-grandfather.  Following Robert’s death, the property passed to his eldest son, Graham Carew Armstrong (b. 1946).  It remained in the hands of the Armstrong family until July 1999, when it was sold to John Stakelum.

For pedigrees and further history of the Kemmis and Armstrong families, please refer to 1752-1756 and 1988-2005.

Archival History: The collection as it stands was held in various parts of Moyaliffe Castle until 1999, except for a small trunk of documents which was transferred in Jess Kemmis’s lifetime to the Bolton Library, Cashel, for examination and cataloguing which however did not take place.  In 1999, when Moyaliffe Castle was being prepared for sale, archival material preserved in the house was gathered together and transferred to the home of local historian Willie Hayes, Roscrea, county Tipperary, for safekeeping.  The material was inspected by George Cunningham, Vice-Chairman of the Governing Authority of the University of Limerick and noted antiquarian, who undertook the necessary representations with the university to have the collection permanently housed in its Special Collections at the Glucksman Library.  In the meantime, temporary storage for the material was arranged by Dom Laurence Walsh in Mount St Joseph Abbey, Roscrea.  The collection, including the small trunk of documents in the Bolton Library, was transferred to Special Collections on 3 March 2001.

Immediate Source of Acquisition: Donated by Susan and Graham Armstrong, Natal, South Africa, in 1999.  Additional material to the collection was donated by the Reverend Kevin Dalton on 21 October 2013 and by Graham Mark on 1 June 2016.  The archival history of these two subsequent donations is unknown.


Content and Structure

Scope and Content: This collection contains material created and generated by the Armstrong and Kemmis families during their ownership of Moyaliffe Castle, county Tipperary, and includes both administrative records and personal documents.  Seventeenth-century material is scarce and limited in the main to leases of small pockets of land in counties Tipperary and Limerick.  A more unusual item from this period is the satirical manuscript poem On the Bill of Conformity (2137), attributed to Henry Hall, one of only sixteen known copies in the world. Eighteenth-century administrative records are mainly of financial and legal nature and arise from the badly managed affairs of William Armstrong (1704-1768), which affected his brother, the Reverend John Armstrong, who succeeded to the estate.  Of personal items, the collection of early eighteenth-century sermons (375-427) attributed to the Reverend Edward Armstrong, the Reverend John Armstrong and others is of particular interest.

The nineteenth-century administrative material relates predominantly to the management of the Moyaliffe estate, and the succession to, management and eventual disposal of the family’s estates in Mayo and Sligo.  There are also some clerical records of interest, most notably material relating to tithe wars of the 1830s (758-766 and 789-813), and the state of dilapidation of the Mansion House of the See of Tuam discovered after the death, in 1819, of the Most Reverend Honourable William Beresford, first Baron Decies, Arch­bishop of Tuam, whose daughter was married to John Armstrong (1791-1847) (850-860).

By far the most voluminous, and perhaps the most interesting, part of the collection is that relating to the twentieth century.  The administrative records in this section are in the main concerned with the management not only of Moyaliffe Castle but also of Ballinacor, county Wicklow, home of Captain William Daryl Olphert Kemmis.  There is also a large quantity of material relating to Moyaliffe Stud (1547-1595), and to the problem of succession to the Moyaliffe and Ballinacor estates following Captain Kemmis’s death without issue in 1965 (1812-1834).  On the personal side, the extensive correspondence of Rosalie Armstrong and her daughter Jess provide a unique insight into the genteel Anglo-Irish lifestyle and the irrevocable changes wrought upon it by the onset of the First World War.  Of unique significance are the letters of Captain Kemmis to his father (1475-1479), and the letters and diaries of Captain William Maurice (‘Pat’) Armstrong  written during the First World War (1209-1212, 1414-1418), providing first-hand accounts of events as they unfolded in the various theatres of war.

The twentieth-century material was roughly arranged by Jess Kemmis, who also appears to have destroyed some of it for personal reasons.  Items thus lost included letters written by her niece, Bettyne Spencer (née Everard), to justify her actions during the Moyaliffe Castle dispute (for which see 1821-1831).  The letters were destroyed by Mrs Kemmis because she felt her niece’s views to be wrong.  Also missing are Jess Kemmis’s diaries for the years 1955-1982 which she is known to have kept assiduously with the view to their permanent preservation within the family papers.

Jess Kemmis provided many explanatory notes and dates relating to the Armstrong Papers and the people and events to which they relate.  These notes, which can be found scattered throughout the collection, should be treated with due caution as most, while well-intentioned and often helpful, can be misleading or inaccurate, written as they were in advanced old age.

System of Arrangement: The material in this collection has been arranged into two parts.  Part one comprises documents pertaining to the Armstrong family of Moyaliffe Castle and has been arranged into eight series (A-H) to follow the succession to the estate from Captain William Armstrong (c. 1630-1695) to Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong (1859-1923).  Under each section, documents have been divided into sub-series according to their form (financial records, leases, correspondence etc.) or creator (wives, daughters and younger sons), and listed chronologically by date.

Part two comprises seven series.  Series A contains papers relating to the Kemmis family of Ballinacor, county Wicklow, and follows the same generational arrangement as Part one.  This series incorporates papers created and generated by Jess Armstrong, who married Captain William Daryl Olphert Kemmis in 1927.

Series B comprises papers relating to the South African branch of the Armstrong family, who inherited the Moyaliffe estate following the death of Jess Kemmis in 1982.  The material in this section is arranged according to the same principles as Series A.

Series C comprises documents which it has not been possible to attribute to any particular family member.  The material has been divided into sub-series according to their form (leases, wills, appointments etc.), and listed chronologically by date.

Series D, E and F comprise maps and atlases; paintings and drawings; and postcards and letterheads, respectively, arranged chronologically by date.

Series G comprises press cuttings, arranged into sub-series according to their subject matter and listed either alphabetically by surname or chronologically by date.

In August 2016, material donated by the Reverend Kevin Dalton and Graham Mark was added to Part 1 of Vol. I of the catalogue and minor errors in the original catalogue were corrected.  As a consequence, the following files have been added, renumbered or changed in their content: 31A, 337, 439A, 439B, 448-449, 457A, 458, 462A, 462B, 463A, 464A, 464B, 474A, 477A, 552, 757A, 794, 813A, 832, 837, 850-859, 859A, 860, 865A, 918-919, 927-928, 934, 951A, 951B, 952A, 958, 962A, 995, 1003-1005, 1028, 1058, 1065-1068, 1071A, 1138, 1141A, 1142, 1182, 1205, 1209-1213, 1216, 1246-1257, 1262, 1265, 1270, 1272-1276, 1278, 1281-1283, 1288-1295, 1300-1306, 1314, 1315A, 1320-1321, 1329-1330, 1332, 1334, 1340-1343, 1343A, 1345, 1345A, 1346A, 1391, 1394A, 1397-1398, 1398A, 1399, 1400A, 1402, 1402A, 1431, 1434, 1435A, 1437A, 1437B, 1438, 1457, 1459, 1461.


Conditions of Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access: Unrestricted access to most items.  Files 2053-2086 contain personal information relating to people living or presumed living and are closed until 2042 to protect individual privacy.  These files have been identified in the descriptive catalogue.

Conditions Governing Reproduction: Standard copyright regulations apply to all items.  For photocopying or reproducing material, please consult with the staff.

Language/ Scripts of Material: English, except for 1002, which is in French, and 1423, which is in two different Arabic scripts.



Existence and Location of Originals: Files 15, 90, 352, 357, 360, 363, 366, 368, 453, 457, 467, 469, 583, 598, 600, 609, 680, 775-776, 779-782, 784, 793, 795-796, 798-799, 804-806, 808, 812, 815, 818-819, 821-825, 827, 829-835, 837, 920-934, 957, 1001, 1319-1322, 1325-1326, 1328-1331, 1333-1335, 1337-1343, 2063, 2130 and 2133 comprise in full or in part photo­copies of originals.  The reason for the absence of the originals is unknown, as is their present location or status.

Related Units of Description: For photographs of the Armstrong and related families, see P6A in Special Collections.  For additional material concerning Captain William Maurice (‘Pat’) Armstrong and his military career, and for a suggested re-sequencing of file 1205, see P41 in Special Collections.  Captain Armstrong’s uniforms and other related wartime memorabilia are on display at St Mary’s Famine and War Museum, Thurles (  A small collection of letters addressed to the Reverend William [Carew] Armstrong of Moyaliffe, Thurles, regarding the collection of tithes in county Kilkenny, is held in the National Library, Dublin, MS 49,441 (1-7).   For researchers interested in the wider Armstrong family, provides a useful starting point.



Note: The spelling of personal and place names appears in the catalogue as it appears in the documents, with the modern day equivalent provided in square brackets whenever possible.  Researchers are advised to consult the IreAtlas Townland Database at for further assistance.

Owing to the similarity of personal names from one generation to the next, individual family members are referred to by their full name and title, for example the nephew of William Armstrong (1704-1768) is at all times referred to as the Reverend William Carew Armstrong (1752-1839).  For the last generation of the Armstrongs to live at Moyaliffe, pet names have been applied to differentiate between family members.  Thus, Winona Rosalie Armstrong (later Kemmis) is referred to as Jess, to differentiate her from her mother, Rosalie Armstrong, and her mother-in-law, Frances Kemmis.  Similarly, Captain William Maurice Armstrong is referred to as Pat Armstrong, to differentiate him from his father, Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong.  For the Kemmis family, Captain Kemmis refers to Jess Armstrong’s husband, and Colonel Kemmis to her father-in-law.


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