The Lawrences of Lawrencetown
By Dr. P. K. Egan
Two Brothers, John and Walter Lawrence, came to Ireland in the train of Perrott, in 1571. Walter appeared in Ballinasloe in 1584. John married the daughter of an OMadden and acquired Ballymore - how is not quiet clear. There was an OMadden attainder and half of Ballymore was Crown land in 1641. The Lawrences were dispossessed by Cromwell and never got back Ballymore, although they were restored to Bellevue (Lisreaghan).
Johns son, Walter, married the daughter of a Government Official, John Moore of Cloghan Castle. Their son, John, married in succession the daughter of John ODonelean of Ballydonelan, the grand-daughter of Feardorchadha OKelly of Aughrim, last chief of Hy Many, and the grand-daughter of Sir John McCoughlan, last chief of Delvin McCoughlan. So the family was predominantly of Irish stock.
Walter was the son of the third marriage and he again had a son, Walter, who died in 1706, when his sons, John and Peter, were minors. John conformed early. Peter had a rather distinguished career in the British navy, reaching the rank of rear-admiral. For a long time he managed to avoid conformity. Great pressure was placed on their mother Mary, Archdeacon of Gortnamona, to conform but she refused.
John married an heiress, Mary Scott, and by her inherited wealth from plantations in the West Indies, which gave his son, Walter, the opportunity to build a large mansion and fill it with art treasures from Italy. He was a cultured man, a friend of Canova, and a visitor to Voltaire at Vernay. He published at least one play in Italian, La Virtuosa di Teatro.
In 1782, he raised a corps of Irish Volunteers known as the Bellevue Volunteers. He was a co-treasurer of the Independent Electors 1783, delegate to the National Congress in Dublin 1784 and a dedicated volunteer to the end. In the very year, 1792, when the authorities determined on the destruction of the Volunteers by the establishment of a militia, Walter Lawrence erected the huge trophy in Coade pottery over the doorway of his mansion in memory of the Bellevue Corps with the defiant motto, Pro Rege Saepe, pro Paria Semper. Perhaps, about the same time he built the memorial gateway which also stands and has inscribed upon it in Latin, "Liberty after a long servitude was won on 16th April, 1782 by the armed sons of Hibernia, who with heroic fortitude, regained their ancient laws and established their ancient independence."
He died in 1796, leaving a son, Walter, who had a family of seven boys and seven girls. This was the last generation to inherit Bellevue. The 19th Century was for them a period of financial decline. The property, which was comparatively small, 2373 acres in 1876, was heavily encumbered. In 1912 there was a great sale of the art treasures. By then most of the land had been sold to the tenants. A final sale in the nineteen twenties was followed by the demolition of the mansion. No member of the family in the male line is now alive.
The Bellvue Volunteers and the "New" Gate at the Western end of his Demesne.