The Massys of Killakee

by Frank Tracy

The Massy family lineage can be traced to Normandy where they were landowners in the ninth century. In 1066 members of the family, led by Hamon de Masci, were among the Normans who invaded England with William the Conquerer. Hamon de Masci was created a Baron by William and he and his relatives were granted extensive landholdings in Cheshire. Over time, the family surname was anglicised to Massey. Baron Massey established his seat at Dunham Massey near Altringham and thirteen successors, each named Hamon, resided there. Dunham Massey is now in the ownership of the English National Trust and is a major visitor attraction.

In 1649, Hugh Massy, a cavalry commander from Cheshire, was among the Cromwellian forces that landed in Ireland. From the time of his arrival in Ireland, his surname is recorded as ‘Massy’. It is this form of the surname that is used by his descendants. Following the Cromwellian campaign in Ireland, Hugh Massy was granted extensive landholdings in Co. Limerick and built a large mansion at Duntrileague, near Galbally.

In 1776 his great grandson, also Hugh Massy, was created Baron Massy of Duntrileague. Over the years the family extended their landholdings in Co. Limerick and in 1807 they moved their seat to Hermitage, a large estate at Castleconnell on the banks of the Shannon.

Killakee House

Killakee House

In 1826, Hugh Hamon 4th Baron Massy, married Matilda White, a daughter of Luke White, who was said to be the richest man in Ireland. Luke white had extensive landholdings throughout Ireland including an estate of 2,900 acres at Killakee, in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains where he built a magnificent mansion, Killakee house, which he gave to his son Samuel. Samuel White died without issue and the house and estate passed to his widowed sister, Baroness Matilda Massy and through to her son, John Thomas 6th Baron Massy.

John Thomas Massy inherited three large mansions, a shooting lodge, and 34,000 acres of land at various locations throughout Ireland. He lived an extravagant lifestyle throughout his long life and he retained his mansions (and his lifestyle) even after most of his landholdings were sold to tenants under various land acts. By the time of his death, aged eighty, in 1915 his estate was heavily indebted. After his death the family derived income for some years from selling off the contents of the various great houses, but eventually ran out of money. In 1924 the 6th Baron’s grandson, Hugh Hamon 8th Baron Massy, was evicted from Killakee House. Having declared himself ill and taken to his bed, he refused to vacate the house and was carried by the bailiffs from the house and deposited on the public roadway at the nearest estate gateway (now the entrance to Timbertrove on the Killakee Road). Killakee House was taken over by a bank in lieu of debts and, unable to find a purchaser, it was sold for its scrappage value and demolished in 1941.

Beehive Cottage where the 8th Baron Massy lived for his last 34 years

Beehive Cottage where the 8th Baron Massy lived for his last 34 years

Following the eviction, the bank reluctantly permitted the family to take possession of a nearby vacant three roomed gate lodge, Beehive Cottage. Hugh Hamon, 8th Baron Massy and his wife, lived in this cottage for 34 years until his death in 1958. His son Hugh Hamon (Hughie), joined the British Army in 1941 and saw action in WWII. He married an Irish woman and set up home in England where they raised a family of four sons and a daughter. The family of Lord Massy of Duntrileague are now ordinary people living ordinary lives at various locations in England where they have finally achieved that level of anonymity that we all know as normality.

Frank Tracy is the author of the history of the Massy family, If Those Trees Could Speak: the Story of an Ascendancy Family in Ireland, available from branches of South Dublin Libraries or to download from Source. You can listen to Frank speaking about the Massy family here. In association with Timbertrove Café, Frank is available to give free guided walks of Massy’s Woods to interested groups. You can contact him by email at