Select McGuinness Miscellany

Here are some McGuinness stories and accounts over the years:

Magennis, McGuinness, McGinnis, and Guinness Today





Dundrum Castle

Dundrum Castle in county Down had been built by the Anglo-Norman John de Courcy in 1177, but captured from them by the Magennis clan sometime in the 1400’s.  They were probably responsible for the construction of the stone curtain wall of its outer bailey at that time.

Phelim Magennis surrendered the castle to the English in 1601.  It was briefly recaptured at the time of the Irish uprising in 1641.  But then Oliver Cromwell took it back and dismantled the whole structure in 1652.  All that is left of the castle today is a large part of the circular central keep and some portions of the outer curtain wall which surrounded it in the past.

The Death of Lassara

At the time of the Irish uprising in 1641, Conn Magennis was the Magennis clan chief at Iveagh in county Down. During the winter a wandering harper had stayed with the Magennises, entertaining them each night with his playing by the glow of their campfires.  With the advent of spring and early summer he lingered on and one morning met Lassara, daughter of the Magennis, who had become fascinated by his music.  He invited her to go away with him to his island keep in Lough Ochter, away from the strife of the impending uprising.

He had previously approached her father Conn for her hand in marriage but had been refused.  Lassara nevertheless agreed to go with him.  It was arranged that at dawn on the following day, when she heard his harp playing, they would meet and journey to Nun's Island where they would be married.  At daybreak the next day, they met as arranged and made their way to Nun's Island, intending to proceed from there to the harper's home at Ochter Island.

At dusk that evening, they reached the Clanrye river and, taking a skiff that was moored to the bank, made their way down river to Nun's Island.  Even in the fading light, however, they were spotted by a keen-eyed English sentry as they passed Narrow Water Castle.  When he received no reply to his challenge, the sentry fired, killing the harpist who fell overboard into the dark depths of the river.

Lassara collapsed with shock into the bottom of the boat and was carried to the bank a little further on.  There she was rescued by the soldiers from the garrison, only to be imprisoned when they identified her as the daughter of Conn Magennis.  She was kept in the dungeon of the castle, her only comfort being that she could still hear the music of her murdered harpist as dusk fell each evening. The warden now began to pester her for her favours and threatened to have her killed unless she consented to marry him.

One night, when the warden came to her cell and opened the door, she slipped past him and ran up the back stairway to the battlements, pursued by the furious Englishman.  She then leapt from the battlements to join the harpist near the spot where he had perished just a short time before.

Conn learned of the fate of his daughter Lassara and subsequently led the clan from their territory to Narrow Water Castle, which they captured after a fierce battle.  The lecherous warden was said to have chosen to throw himself into the river rather than face death by the vengeful sword of the Magennis.

It is said that in winter-time, when storms rage round the ancient battlements, the harpist's music can be heard above the howling of the wind, while the sad ghost of Lassara Magennis floats down from the top of the castle.  The harp notes fade away and finally cease as her apparition sinks slowly into the depths of the river below the ancient and blood-stained castle of Narrow Water.

The Guinness Family and Celbridge

In 1722 Richard Guinness arrived in Celbridge in county Kildare and was employed as a land steward there by Archbishop Arthur Price of the Oakley Park estate. One of his duties was to supervise the brewing of beer for the workers on the estate.  It was also in this year that Dr. Price took over James Carberry’s brewery (formerly Norris’s pub and now the Village Inn).  It was thought to have been the first house of the Guinness family in Celbridge.

Arthur Guinness, his son, was born in Celbridge in 1725.  He was named after the Archbishop who had left both father and son £100 in his will.  Arthur Guinness brewed his first beer at James Carberry’s brewery in Celbridge.

At the age of 31 Arthur Guinness had a small brewery in Leixlip.  In 1759 he arrived at St. James’ Gate in Dublin where he established one of the world’s most famous breweries

McGuinness and Variants Coming to America

Shipping records show Irish immigrants coming to America mainly as McGuinness or McGinness.  But they generally adopted the spelling of McGinnis in America.



From John to Walter Fletcher McGinnis

Out of Ireland there came in the early part of the 18th century John McGinnis.  He came from Antrim and settled in Pennsylvania.  From him to Walter Fletcher McGinnis covered a period of seven consecutive generations of the family history:

  • John McGinnis, the original immigrant
  • James McGinnis
  • Edmond McGinnis
  • Edmond McGinnis Jr.
  • Dr. Ira Edmond McGinnis
  • Dr. James Allen McGinnis
  • and Walter Fletcher McGinnis.
Twenty one members of the McGinnis family served in the Revolutionary War.  At least two of the family were on the US fleet that landed at Vera Cruz, Mexico during the struggle with the Huerta government.

Dr. James McGinnis from Indiana came to Kansas in 1854 when he was just eighteen years old.  A true pioneer, he took an active part in the early development of Butlercounty.  He was one of the leaders in organizing a vigilance committee who meted out summary justice to some of the outlaws in the early history of the county.

Walter F. McGinnis, born there in 1860, became interested in the oil business in his thirties.  He believed that Butler county had oil under its surface.  In 1912 he began taking oil leases in the county.  The big result came with the completion of the test well on the Stapleton estate in the fall of 1915. That well revealed the presence of oil in profitable quantities at a depth of from 525 and 700 feet to 2,500 feet

Benjamin McGinness's Travails

In May 1843 Benjamin McGinness left his farm in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania and started with his family in wagons for Illinois. They arrived at a point near Nauvoo in Hancock county two months later. They halted there with the intention of purchasing land.

Here misfortune overtook him.  He fell into the hand of land sharks who sold him land to which they could give no valid title.  The real owners appeared in a short time and took steps to take it from him. He with the majority of the settlers around Nauvoo were finally driven over the Mississippi River by a mob.

They took their weary march across the prairies of Iowa for Council Bluffs.  Here he and his family arrived in due time and remained two years. Still impressed with the idea of moving west, Benjamin pushed on to Salt Lake city where he arrived in about 1855. He remained there a short time, then went on to California, finally settling in San Bernardino around 1858. Here he found an arid country.  But the climate was all that could be desired so he settled there.

In 1869 he started on a visit to his old home in Pennsylvania. He traveled by wagon until he met the Union Pacific railroad, near Cheyenne in Wyoming. From there he could go much faster.  He spent the fall and winter among his friends and early in the spring of 1870 returned home.

Broken down in health from the long journey and exposure on the plains, he never fully recovered and died that year in San Bernardino

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