Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – At this the whole pack rose up into the air and came flying down upon her. Illustration by Arthur Rackham 1907. Like Alice I feel a bit overwhelmed by the information.

One of the sources of information about the Nihill branch of my family is the reminiscences of Sarah Jane Nihill who died 1 September 1915 aged 89 years and six months. Her recollections were dictated to Mary E. Hennessy nee Brooks (c. 1878 – 1926). Mary was not a blood relative but Sarah’s adopted niece. Sarah Nihill is my 3rd great grand aunt, the sister of my 3rd great grandmother.

Niall Sarah Chronicle 1915 09 11 pg 16
Obituary of Sarah Nihill from the Adelaide Chronicle of 11 September 1915

Sarah Nihill’s reminiscences are held by the State Library of Victoria as a typed manuscript (MS 9228 ). I have a copy through my 3rd cousin once removed, Rob Niall. There are also excerpts in the history of the Cudmore family, For the Love of the Land, compiled by Elsie Ritchie in 2000, at pages 67 – 70.

Sarah Nihill, as reported by Mary Hennessy, remembered

Daniel Joseph James Nihill, of Rockville, County Adare, Limerick, Ireland, who died at the age of 90 years, who could read without glasses and retained his perfect set of teeth until his death, had two sons, Paul the eldest and Daniel James, all Roman Catholics.

Paul married Lady Anna Maria Quin, daughter of Lord Dunraven, of Dunraven Castle, Adare and had one daughter, the Lady Anna Maria Dunraven Nihill, whose mother died at her birth and who was reared by her grandparents, the Dunravens.

Sarah then remembers that Paul became

a renegade, deserting his faith and embracing the church by law established, which gave the eldest son the power to take all his own father possessed if he remained a Catholic, even to the coat off his back if he so desired. Hence the reason for the family coming out to Australia. [ … ] About the time of his father’s death, remorse overtook Paul Nihill, he repented his act of deserting his faith, wrote a pamphlet of treason against the King and to save his life had to fly across the country. He had in his possession a small red Cornelian Cross, carrying a legend of a talisman against evil, which had been in the Nihill family for generations. It is surmised some time afterwards he returned and lived the life clad as a fisherman, amongst the village folk who knew him as a boy and man. At any rate a very sad silent fisherman appeared one day and lived at Larry and nancy O’Connor’s wee home.

One night a fire broke out at Dunraven Castle and the motherless infant’s life was in danger, with little hope of saving her, when a man clad as a fisherman rushed into the burning building and after a time appeared at an upper window.   All hope of helping him was out of the question.He leaped from the upper story.When they rushed to him the child was alive, but he was dead and inside where it had been hurriedly thrust, was the red cross against the child’s breast. Then his identity became known. The cross passed on to Daniel James Nihill and at last to Sarah Jane, the last of that branch of the family. and is now in my (M. E. Hennessy’s) possession, having been hung around my neck by my dear adopted aunt’s hands on my 18th birthday as a talisman against evil. So this is how the Rockville Estate passed from the family, having been willed by Paul to his child.

I can find no evidence for the existence of a Paul Nihill. The entry for Lord Dunraven in an 1828 Debrett makes no mention of a daughter Anne who married Paul Nihill (John Debrett (1828). Debrett’s Peerage of England, Scotland, and Ireland. [Another]. pp. 743–4.)

I have also found no written account of this fire at Dunraven castle.

Daniel James Nihill did have an older brother Patrick. Perhaps Sarah Nihill was confusing Paul with Patrick

Notices in the Limerick Chronicle have been indexed and digitised by the Limerick City Library.

I have confirmed the death of the father of Daniel James Nihill died in 1835. The Limerick Chronicle of 29 July 1835 reported:

At Rockville, near Adare, James Nihill, Esq. at the advanced age of 84 years.

His death at age 84 means he was born about 1751. On the 1840 South Australian census, James’s  son Daniel stated that he was born in 1761. The age on one or the other document must be incorrectly stated.

My second cousin twice removed, James Mansfield Niall (1915-1986),  wrote an article on the Nihill family history published in “The Irish Genealogist”, Vol.4, No.5, 1972, pp 496-505 titled Nihell of Co. Clare and Co. Limerick. I have a copy through his nephew, my 3rd cousin once removed, Rob Niall. The article states that Patrick died at his residence Ash Hill, Co. Clare, about 4th May 1822 member nmurp1708 wrote in 2009:

Barnalick House … was built shortly after 1784 when a James Nihill leased all 272 acres of “Baurnalicka” from Mary St. Leger. Nihill was a wealthy man who had leases for over 900 acres in Co. Limerick and Co. Clare. He built the house in the shape of a letter “T”. He called the house “Rockville House”. His eldest son Patrick lived on some family land in Co. Clare with his wife Prudence Dickson and their two daughters, Anne and Jane. Patrick died before his father in 1822 and when James died in 1831 the two daughters became heirs to all the lands including Barnalick. Anne married in 1814 a William Dodd and Jane married in 1829 a Thomas Davenport. Patrick had a younger brother, Daniel, who married in 1810 a Dymphna Gardener. He lived with his father James and no doubt looked after him in his old age. However when James died, Daniel had to move out of Barnalick and he and his family departed to Australia in 1835.
A survey done in 1840 gives an Anthony St. Leger as the owner of Barnalick estate with a Thomas Davenport and a Mrs. Dodd as the leaseholders under a Col. John Dickson as middleman.

There is a marriage notice for Patrick who married Prudence Dickson in the Waterford Herald of Tuesday 27 Sept 1791 (From

Married on Thursday morning in Limerick Mr Patrick Nihill to Miss Dickson, daughter of Mr Daniel Dickson, Woolen Draper. (Miss Prudence Dickson)

 Prudence died in 1847. Her death notice appeared in the Limerick Chronicle of 25 August 1847:

retrieved from

from Ireland Births and Baptisms (through

Name: Anne Nihill
Christening Date: 17 Feb 1793
Birth Date: 12 Feb 1793
Father’s Name: Patrick Nihill
Mother’s Name: Prudence

The baptism record of Jane Nihill, Anne’s sister, does not appear on Family Search indexes. Jane Nihill married Thomas Evans Davenport and it was at the Davenport’s house that Prudence died in 1847.

In the 1972 article published in “The Irish Genealogist” which I mentioned earlier, the following excerpt mentions Patrick and Daniel Nihill:

In August 1817 Daniel petitioned the Viceroy, the Earl of Whitworth, to remove the threat of a legal process for £50 to cover his guarantee for the appearance in Ennis of his brother Patrick to answer an unspecified charge. At the Summer Assizes in 1815 the case was adjourned for want of evidence, and finally at the Spring Assizes Patrick had not appeared (note 54). I do not know the result of this petition.

Note 54:  Limited family sources suggest that Patrick wrote an indiscreet letter possibly relating to the current state of relations between France and England.

I want to follow up on some of the items mentioned and try to find the original sources.