The Farrell family




Children of Sarah


Other sources

  1. Dear grandchildren - family stories, by Eoin Hickey and Netta Kealy, 2010 (privately printed book, kindly donated by Eoin) [pages 85-86]
  2. Research notes by Elizabeth Hickey and her daughter Netta
  3. Lieut.-Col. J. Pennycuick, CB, KH, A Memoir, by W.S. Sampson (Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, winter 1974)
  4. 'The Pennycuicks', notes written and compiled by James A.C. Pennycuick and Janet Buchanan (.pdf file)

Family trees

Pennycuick FT
Family trees of the Pennycuick, McDonald and Farrell families


Other information

Sarah Pennycuick letter
Letter from Sarah Pennycuick, at that time in India, to Peter Shaw in Perthshire, October 1839 / January 1840

Document in the National Army Museum

Sarah Pennycuick, née Farrell
Sarah Pennycuick, née Farrell

Painting belonging to our family, probably 1840s

Among my direct ancestors are three clergymen: the Revs. Henry Stannard, James Byron Carr and James Farrell. The last of these was the father of a large family in rural Ireland at the start of the 19th century. His daughter Sarah married the son of a Scots laird at age 15 and travelled with him and his various regiments to inhospitable corners of Asia before returning to England, a widow at age 45.

I am extremely grateful to Eoin Hickey and Netta Kealy for much of the information about the Rev. James Farrell (snr.) and his family.1,i,ii Their mother, noted Irish historian Elizabeth Hickey, was a great-granddaughter of Sarah Farrell (through Sarah's last child, Charles E.D. Pennycuick), and did extensive research in the 1980s into the 'Irish connection' of the Pennycuick family, visiting churches and graveyards in Co. Longford with Netta, who has kindly sent me copies of her mother's notes.

Rev. James Farrell

James Farrell was born in 1759, probably in Tipperary, where his father John was a merchant. He attended Trinity College Dublin (TCD) in 1779,2 took his BA in 1783, and was ordained into the Church of Ireland in 1785 in Dublin by the Bishop of Dromore.ii (The Church of Ireland was the largest Protestant church in Ireland at the time, but still much smaller than the Catholic Church.) While at Trinity he was awarded a scholarship for his knowledge of the written Irish language, which at that time was more spoken than written. The badge associated with this class (called the Hibernici), an Irish wolfhound and a shamrock atop a mortarboard, appears on his gravestone (photo below). James's first posting was as a curate in Kilashee (5 miles east of Lanesboro) in 1790, and while there he married Maria, daughter of William Hogg of Gillstown. The first of their children were probably born at Kilashee. (See the map of Ireland - north for many of the locations mentioned here.) James's next posting was to Rathcline, where he was first curate (1806-13) and then vicar (1813-34).3

Hibernici badge
Badge of the Hibernici on James Farrell's gravestone

Photo kindly provided by Netta Kealy

Rathcline is a small village south of Lanesboro (or Lanesborough), on the border between the counties of Longford and Roscommon, at the north tip of Lough Ree. Soon after becoming vicar there, James wrote a chapter about Rathcline for the survey of Irish parishes published in 1819.3 His description makes sobering reading: the people, although "shrewd, sagacious and well conducted" were obviously very poor; the land was of inferior quality, and there was no school nor any demand for one. At the time of writing however, James was in discussions with the English landlord, Mr. James Lane Fox, regarding building a school-house. Extraordinarily (as it would seem today), there was "not at [that] moment a single Protestant family in the parish, except that of the rector, and a widow having two sons".3 The Roman Catholic inhabitants (some 1,800 of them) worshiped in a separate chapel, probably much smaller than the Protestant church. Into this somewhat unpromising milieu, James and Maria's large family were born.

It is not certain how many children there were: eight reached adulthood and least two died in infancy, but there may have been others, going by the signatures on the vestry minutes. Of the girls, Sarah (see below) and Catherine married soldiers, and Ruth a miller (who may have been related to her mother's family). Two sons, James and Maurice (see below) became clergymen. The three other girls, Maria, Annabelle and Lucinda, probably didn't marry, as they were named in their father's will, and perhaps later received small legacies. Their father and mother both died in 1834, and daughter Maria a year later: the three share a tombstone in Kilashee churchyard, Co. Longford.i

Sarah and Charles E D Pennycuick
Sarah Pennycuick, née Farrell, with youngest son Charles Edward Ducat

Painting (from about 1847) belonging to the Hickey family, courtesy of Netta Kealy

Sarah Pennycuick, née Farrell

Sarah was born in 1805 and married John Pennycuick by special license in 1820 at the age of 15, presumably while he was stationed in Ireland with the 78th Regiment. They moved to the family home at Soilzarie, Perthshire, which John's father (known as 'the Big Laird') had purchased 12 years before. Little is known about their family life, for example how much time they spent in Perthshire. In many cases Sarah travelled with her husband when he was stationed abroad, as can be seen from the birthplaces of the children, only two of whom were born in Perthshire (see page on the Children of John and Sarah Pennycuick for details). The family also had a home in Cheltenham, where the two youngest sons John and Charles Edward were at boarding school (Cheltenham College, which provided free education for the sons of British soldiers killed in battle). The census of 1851 shows Sarah, Margaret, Charles Edward, four Maltby grandchildren and four servants living at No. 18 Clarence Square, a fine Regency terrace north of the city centre.

Clarence Square
Clarence Square, Cheltenham

Photo: Google Street View

No. 18 is the house with the red front door

Some letters which Sarah sent while in India are preserved in the National Army Museum,5 and they give an insight into her life and character - one example is shown left. Dated 1839 and 1840, the recipient is Mr. Peter Shaw at Finegand near Blairgowrie, the agent in Scotland who dealt with matters concerning the house at Soilzarie. At that time army officers had to purchase their promotion, and the family needed the funds to secure John's promotion from major to lieutenant-colonel (which he finally purchased in 1840), so selling the family home seemed the only option. Sarah (described elsewhereiv as an "imperious" and also "enterprising" lady) writes with charm and a certain authority, together with a wonderfully sunny outlook in what were certainly difficult living conditions. "This is one of our very hot months, but I am too happy to feel heat or anything else just now." [October 1839] The letters are in fine, small handwriting, often with later portions of the text written at right angles over earlier portions, to save postage. My cousin Stuart Sampson has transcribed these - a quite extraordinary feat of scholarship and patience! In the event, Soilzarie was not sold at that time, and the Brigadier gave instructions in his will (dated June 1848, seven months before he died) for Soilzarie to be sold after his death.

Grace and Favour


'Grace & Favour' booklet describing the apartments at Hampton Court Palace

Fatefully, Sarah did not accompany her husband on his final trip to India in 1848, but stayed with her family in Cheltenham.4 In January of the following year, her husband and son Alexander were killed at the Battle of Chillianwala. Sarah later travelled out to the battle site, where she erected a memorial tablet on the grave of John and Alexander. She also had memorial plaques erected in Holy Trinity Cathedral at Sialkot, and in Cheltenham Minster.6 A few months after the battle, Gen. Sir Charles Napier, Commander-in-Chief of the British army in India, visited Sarah in Cheltenham to express his condolences and give her the Brigadier's medals.7

In May 1851, Sarah moved into 'Grace and Favour' apartments in Hampton Court Palace. These apartments were made available to the widows of soldiers killed in battle. Pages 21 and 28 of the useful booklet (right) give details.8,9 At first she lived with a "large household of children [Margaret and probably James Farrell - the booklet mentions that he lived at the palace for a time], grandchildren and servants"; in 1861 with Margaret and five [Maltby] grandchildren and four servants; by 1871 with just Margaret. Sarah Pennycuick died in Hampton Court in 1878 and is buried in St Andrew's churchyard, Hove, Sussex.

James Farrell


Rev. James Farrell (1803-1869)

by S. Solomon, ca. 1854 (PD)


The eldest son of the Rathcline vicar, James Farrell junior also attended TCD, obtaining his BA in 1823 and MA in 1832.2 He almost certainly knew the Rev. Henry Stannard, my paternal grandmother's great-grandfather, as they took their MA there in the same year. James was ordained in Ireland and after serving at various parishes in Ireland and England, travelled as a missionary to Australia, where he became vicar of Trinity Church in Adelaide in 1843. He married the widow of his predecessor there, Grace Montgomery Howard, in 1845. (This was perhaps an expedient move: earlier that year he had appeared in court on charges of indecent assault of a servant girl, charges which were later dropped.) In 1849 he was appointed the first Dean of Adelaide,10,11 where he presided at the wedding of his nephew James Farrell Pennycuick in 1861. At the age of 63 it seems he accidentally swallowed arsenic, and his health deteriorated. He travelled to Malvern in England, hoping the waters there might cure him, but died in 1869.


Sarah's younger brother Maurice attended TCD in 1822 at age 15, taking his BA in 1828 and MA four years later (the same year as his brother, and the Rev. Henry Stannard).2 He also headed for the priesthood, becoming the rector in Woughton-on-the-Green, near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.13,14 It seems he was also curate at Rathcline in 1833 - perhaps standing in for his father?ii He is named as an executor in the will of his brother-in-law Brig. John Pennycuick in 1848. His son Maurice Foster Farrell became a barrister at the Middle Temple.15