Select Conway Miscellany
accounts over the years:
- Conway Origin in Wales
- The Conways of Botryddan in Flintshire
- Ragley Hall in Warwickshire
- Irish Origins of Conway
- Conways from Kerry to America During the Famine
- Young Conway, A North American Ballad
- Conways and “The Family” in Arkansas
Conway Origin in Wales
Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names, the
described the river:
through a fertile vale of the same name and enters the Irish Sea at
The Conways of Botryddan in Flintshire
The Conways were of
English origin, supposedly descended from Sir William Conyers, the
War’ who had been high constable of England under William the Conqueror.
Henry Conway, a professional soldier who had served the English
to north Wales around 1390 and married Ellen (or Angharad), the
daughter of Sir
Hugh Crevecoer, the English lord at Prestatyn in Flintshire. His son Richard succeeded as the lord of
Richard’s grandson Jenkyn, who died in 1432, established
himself at Botryddan. He married a Welshwoman, Marsli the daughter of Maredudd ap
Hywel ap Dafydd
of Cefn-y-fan. By the time of Queen
Elizabeth’s accession in 1558 the Conway family had become firmly
as an integral part of Flintshire society.
John Conway who died in 1578 was the
great great grandson of John ‘Aer Conwy Hen’ who had died almost a
earlier. He sat for the borough of Flint
from 1562 to 1567.
Ragley Hall in Warwickshire
In the reign of Queen
Elizabeth Sir John Conway came from Wales to marry the heiress to Arrow
Alceston. He then bought Ragley and its
lands. It was Sir John’s grandson, the
first Earl of Conway, who engaged Robert Hooke to design the Palladian
that can be seen today.
The building was not completed until the middle of the
18th century. James Gibbs designed the
baroque plasterwork in the Great Hall in 1750 and Wyatt added the
well as decorating the Red Saloon and Mauve Room.
When Edward Conway the 1st
Lord Conway died in 1679, ownership of Ragley Hall passed to his cousin
Seymour who became Francis Seymour-Conway.
A later Francis was given the title of Marquess of Hertford in
his services to his country in governing Ireland.
A descendant who made a
notable contribution to the art world was Richard Seymour-Conway, the
Marquess. He never visited Ragley and
lived his entire life in Paris. Both he and his father were avid
and he devoted his life and income to buying pictures to add to his
collection. The 4th Marquess was by all
extremely bad landlord and left Ragley sadly neglected.
Ragley faced mixed
fortunes until the 1950’s when the 8th Marquess worked to restore the
to open it to the public. Ragley had
not been fully occupied since 1912 and was used as a hospital during
Irish Origins of
The Irish origins of Conway are
various. It is the anglicised version of
at least four separate Gaelic names:
meaning “yellow hound” first found in the parish of Easky in Sligo.
- MacConnmhaigh from condmhach
“head-smashing” in Munster (or more specifically Thomond which
covered mainly Clare and Limerick).
- and MacConmidhe
meaning “hound of Meath” in Tyrone and Derry.
The MacConways were a sept of importance in
Thomond up to the end of the 14th century.
They were among the septs which rallied to O’Brien’s standard in
1317. The death of Gillananaev
described as a professor of music in Thomond, was recorded in The Annals of the Four Masters in 1360.
O’Conways were Bishops of Kilmacduagh in Galway in the early 15th
century. And Father Richard Conway was
one of the intrepid Jesuits who did so much to promote
the counter-reformation in Ireland in the early 17th century.
Conways from Kerry to
America During the Famine Years
Thomas Conway left Kerry in his native Ireland amid the
horrors of the famine of 1847-48 and came to America to earn money to
his family (he did not have enough money to take his family with him). Through unbelievable frugality he sent
sufficient money to support his family for the following three or four
years. They also saved enough to buy
passage to America.
His wife Mary, his son James and three little sisters
from Tralee to Montreal. Conditions
were very bad aboard that ship (not for nothing were these vessels
coffin ships). About the time the boat
was entering the St. Lawrence River Mary became ill.
Some nuns on board cared for the three little
girls but Mary died before the boat docked.
It is said that she was buried in a cemetery in Montreal.
and dreams were shattered. As for his
son James, his dreams were shattered also. One of his dreams of America
be able to attend school, a privilege denied him under the English
Ireland at that time. However, there
must be someone to care for the three little girls and the 11-year-old
the only one to do it while his father worked 12-15 hour days.
moved to Iowa in 1860 and married.
A North American Ballad
Young Conway, a
native North American ballad, originated in the Renfrew county region
Ontario in Canada.
It concerned a young Irishman, Michael Conway, who for
unknown reason was attending a Polish social gathering.
Feelings of national heritage began to run
high at this function, together with a misunderstanding from a joke,
fight broke out. Knives were drawn and
as a result of a direct hit on the head from a hatchet, this young man
following lines from Young Conway described
the fight and his death.
“Our hero he was sitting there a’crying out for
He sprang upon those cowardly dogs his comrades to release.
dogs were angry, blood was their delight;
They all powered onto Conway, it was a
Now seven to one it was not fair; they fought him to his
But Conway young and manfully he fought them to displease.
The second time
they caught him they stabbed him o’er and o’er,
And then a blow from a tomahawk
laid Conway on the floor.
From nine o’clock that evening till six o’clock next
His body lay upon the floor; it was as cold as clay.
They carried him to St.
Michael’s church, they laid him in the ground,
And of the friends who were
gathered there not a dry eye could be found.”
Michael Conway died on December
17, 1885 and he was buried in his home town of Douglas.
There is a family plot which shows Michael
Conway dying on this date at the age of twenty-seven.
“The Family” in Arkansas
“The Family” was the name
given to a powerful group of Democrats who dominated Arkansas
the years between statehood in 1836 and the start of the Civil War in
roots of The Family stretched back into the territorial period, when it
coalesced around territorial delegate Henry Conway, the scion of a
Tennessee family. In 1827 Conway was
mortally wounded in a duel with Territorial Secretary Robert
his former patron and the most powerful political figure in Arkansas at
The killing of Conway exacerbated the schism in Arkansas
Crittenden and his supporters, who became the basis for the Whig
Arkansas, and the followers of the slain Conway, staunch Democrats and
supporters of Andrew Jackson who portrayed themselves as champions of
Among the latter group were Conway’s younger brother
James; his cousins,
Elias and Wharton Rector; and another cousin, Ambrose Sevier. Sevier was elected to the remainder of Henry
Conway’s term and served in that capacity until Arkansas became a state
The political alliance of Conways, Rectors, Sevier, and
Johnson soon came
to be referred to as “The Family.” The
results of the first state elections in 1836 confirmed The Family’s
in Arkansas politics.
James Conway was elected the state’s first governor,
Ambrose Sevier was chosen by the state legislature to be one of the
first U.S. senators, and Benjamin Johnson was appointed by President
Jackson to be the state’s first federal district judge. That same year,
Benjamin Johnson’s brother, Richard M. Johnson, was elected vice
the United States on a ticket with Martin Van Buren.
Elias Conway, the youngest brother of Henry
and James, served two terms as Governor between 1852 and 1860.
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