The Flemings, Barons of Slane
Trace the family's ups and downs between Slane and Anticur
It is a 'brave step' from the hill of Slane in Co Meath to Anticur, near Dunloy in County Antrim, but those two places are linked in an interesting way in the history of the family of Fleming, Barons of Slane.
As would seem obvious, the word 'Fleming' denotes an inhabitant of Flanders and it is thought that the family came to Ireland at the time of the Norman invasion. In 1175 Richard Le Fleming built a castle at the western end of Slane hill and, three generations later, Simon Fleming was created Baron of Slane.
The family’s links with Co Antrim began a great many generations after that, when William Fleming, the 19th Baron Slane, married Anne, daughter of Sr. Randal McDonnell, the first Earl of Antrim. It was their grandson, Colonel Christopher Fleming, the 22nd Baron Slane, who became the first Lord Slane to reside at Anticur, in what he called Fleming Hall, the name still given to the house today.
This 22nd Baron Slane was a supporter of the Jacobite cause and sat as one of the peers in the Irish Parliament called by King James II in 1689. He commanded a family regiment in support of James II and, at the head of this regiment, fought at the Siege of Derry and the famous battles of the Boyne and Aughrim.
He was, of course, attained by the Williamite side and his estates at Slane, valued at £25,000 a year, were taken from him and given by King William III to Ginkel, his commander, who won the battle of Aughrim. Lord Slane was imprisoned and his wife was to be given £200 a year during her husband’s life and £800 a year after his death.
Still faithful to his King (the family motto was 'May the King live forever'), Lord Slane, when he was eventually released from prison, followed the exiled King James to France, where he resided with him in great poverty until 1708.
In that year, there seems to have been a dispute among James’s followers and Lord Slane considered that he had been badly used by the Jacobite Court and returned to England. By this time Queen Anne was on the throne and she restored Fleming to his honours, but not to his estates.
He was, however, allowed a pension of £500 a year and a regiment on the Irish Establishment. It was said that in 1713 he was advanced to the dignity of Viscount Longford, but this is unlikely as no patent was issued. Indeed it seems that the newly-restored Lord Slane sought the help of his kinsman, Randal MacDonnell, the 4th Earl of Antrim, and he settled him in a property of the Antrim family at Anticur.
Lord Slane died at Fleming Hall in 1726. He was buried with the Earls of Antrim in the MacDonnell family vault in Bun-na-Margy friary at Ballycastle. He had no male issue, his only child being a daughter, Helen, who resided in Paris and died there unmarried on 7 August 1748.
It was a nephew of Christopher who assumed the title as 23rd Baron Slane. He was William Fleming, son of Thomas Fleming of Gillanstown in County Meath and he took up residence in Fleming Hall, Anticur. William had a son Christopher, who became 24th Baron Slane and lived his entire life at Fleming Hall. He was the last Lord Slane and died at Anticur in 1771.
His only child was a daughter, who married Felix O’Connor from County Donegal. After the death of her father and husband, Mrs O’Connor sold Fleming Hall and moved to Craigs, Finvoy, and later to America.
The house and farm were purchased by the Leslies who sold it in 1847 to the Richards, from whom it came into the possession of the Wallace family, who still reside there today. The lovely old house still reminds us, by its name, of the illustrious family who once inhabited it and of a period in Irish history long since forgotten.