Journal Volume 1 1992
Old Greystones and Ancient Rathdown (continued/11)
About the time of the opening of the railway link with Dublin in 1856 attention began to focus on the attractions and advantages possessed by Greystones as a seaside resort, or watering place, to use the term current at the time. Some few years were to elapse however before the owners of the land and others interested in the district fully realised its potential and possibilities. The land in the immediate area was all owned by two families, both of them of some note, and it was the development of the two estates of Burnaby and La Touche that was the chief factor in the making of modem Greystones. Samuel French, who was a solicitor, wrote in his booklet on Greystones that the lands of Rathdown granted to the Welshman Richard Edwards and his wife at the Restoration continued in the possession of their descendants until they were purchased by the La Touche family. ‘The titles of the present La Touche and Burnaby estates are', he says, 'rooted in these grants and letters patent of King Charles the Second' (71). I'll not attempt to outline the history of the La Touches here. because Judith Flannery's history of Delgany parish and the La Touche family is now readily available. I read in a recent issue of the Bray People that Eamon O'Brien's study of the Burnaby family has appeared in a Roundwood journal; but as few of you may yet have seen it I'll say a brief word about the Burnabys and their connections.
The famous Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-1885) is the subject of a notice in the Dictionary of National Biography and of at least four separate biographical studies. Born in Bedford, he was the son of a clergyman and he joined the Royal Horse Guards (The Blues’) in 1859, attaining the rank of colonel in 1881. Soldier, adventurer, traveller, balloonist and writer, his brightly-written Ride to Khiva (1876) at once made him famous. In a year it reached its eleventh printing and about the year 1881 a cheap (sixpenny) 'people's edition' appeared with a note: ‘the 50th thousand'. Burnaby married in 1879 Elizabeth, only daughter and heiress of Sir St Vincent Bentinck Hawkins Whitshed, Bart (72) of Killincarrig House (now the Woodlands Hotel), and by her had one son, Harry St. Vincent Augustus Burnaby. The colonel, who was killed in action in 1885, was lord of the manor of Somerby in Leicestershire, hence Somerby Road in Greystones. What is said to be the oldest house on the Burnaby Estate, Khiva, Whitshed Road, derives its name from Colonel Burnaby's book. He also wrote a less well-known work: On Horseback Through Asia Minor.
It's a pretty well-established fact that the railway station was built exactly across the boundary line between the La Touche and the Burnaby estates, so that neither owner could have a grievance. Indeed that same boundary used to be marked on the seafront and elsewhere by rows of wooden posts. If time permitted I'd tell you about the extension of the railway line from Bray to Greystones between 1854 and 1856, and about the difficulties encountered in tunnelling through Bray Head, when the services of the celebrated engineer. Isambard Kingdom Brunei (1806-1859), had to be retained. I picked up a bit of the local lore when living in Bray thirty years ago. My wife and children and I used to visit then an eighty-year-old man, James McGarry, retired principal teacher of St Peter's National School in Little Bray, whose paternal grandfather, a stone mason, worked on the building of the tunnel. John Vance, the Bray shoemaker now in his seventies, was a pupil of Master McGarry's school, and he says that all the McGarrys (of James's family) were stone masons. The authoritative work on the railway line is the Dublin and South - Eastern Railway by W. Ernest Shepherd (Newton Abbot. 1974).