Select Hennessy Miscellany

Here are some Hennessy stories and accounts over the years:

Hennessy and Hennessey Today

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O'Hennessys in County Offaly

ancient homeland of the O’Hennessys was the Kingdom of Ui Failghe in the Irish midlands.  They shared with the O’Holohans the lordship of Clann Cholgan in northern Offaly near the border with Westmeath.  Their territory comprised what is now the barony of Lower Philipstown, a district adjoining the hill of Croghan near Kilbeggan and lying adjacent to the O’Connors in northeast Offaly.

An O’Hennessy branch was located nearer to Dublin, their chief being located at Gailenga Beg on the northern side of the river Liffey on the borders of Meath and Dublin.  However, this branch, as well as many of the Offaly O’Hennessys, was dispersed by the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1170.

O’Hennessy families are still to be found in the area around Kilbeggan. 
They also spread into Tipperary and Clare, in the later county adopting the name of Hensey and subsequently Henchy.

Charles Hennessy Departed Cork for the Continent

Charles Hennessy was born in 1699 to a well-connected family in the Blackwater valley in county Cork.  The family was connected to the Nagles and other old English families whose fortunes had changed with the new political situation at the end of the 17th century.

Charles emigrated to Ostend in 1730 and was helped there by a close network of Irish merchant families involved in butter, hide and general trading.   These emigre Cork families were generally of an old English background, but had been displaced from the prominence they had once enjoyed as Cork merchants by the ‘new English.’  They were consequently seeking new opportunities.

He was initially involved in provisioning ships with butter and later became involved in the tea trade purchasing teas from the East India Company and managing to export it to England without the inconvenience of paying duty.  In this he again was relying on his extensive Irish network.  Over the years his business interests became quite extensive into shipping, grain speculation.  He rode various mishaps deftly and died on a visit to Cork in 1758.  His family continued the business into the next generation.

James Hennessy and Marthe Martell

Richard Hennessy’s son James (sometime known as Jacques), born in Ostend in 1765, married Marthe Martell, the daughter of Frederic Gabriel Martell of Veuve Martell, an existing brandy producer in the Cognac region in 1795. 

During the turbulent period of the French Revolution, the Martell and Hennessy brands combined as a duopoly to dominate the brandy market.When James died in 1843 he left a fortune that was as large as any of the long-established wine merchants in Bordeaux.

Although the Hennessy and Martell families were united by marriage and friendship, their business relationship was never formalized.  Still, in the 1920’s, they divided up the global market between them – the English market being allocated to Martell and America to Hennessy.  This anti-competitive arrangement lasted until 1947.

Richard Hennessy, Convict to Australia

Richard Hennessy of Clonmel in Tipperary was convicted of stealing a horse and given a life sentence to Australia. He was transported on the Mangles, arriving in Sydney in late 1822.

He left behind a young family in Ireland.  His wife Mary either died before his transportation or soon after.  It meant that his children were left to fend themselves.  His daughter Mary Ann was only twelve at the time and the youngest child Catherine just four years of age.  And times were tough in Ireland then.  Mary Ann, Maurice, William, and Catherine did eventually join their father in Australia.

Richard was listed as
a shepherd for William Bowman of Bathurst in the 1828 census.  He received his Ticket of Leave in 1834, but died in 1839.

Reader Feedback - Hennessys from Ireland to Australia

My ancestor James Edward Hennessy migrated from Offaly about 1840 on the Westminster with his brother John.  He was about 28 years of age.  The landowners who were raising sheep required laborers, and the Australian Government instituted a bounty system where sponsors were paid twenty pounds for each laborer or worker they brought to the country. 

James was to work for a Mr. Colstick at Merri Creek station, just northwest of Melbourne, but many of these arrangements did not happen.  He married in 1842 at St Francis Catholic Church in Melbourne to Anne Lovell from Devon.  

Marie Hannaford (

David Hennessy in New Orleans

David Hennessy came to New Orleans with his family in the 1840’s from Ireland during the potato famine.  During the Civil War he enlisted in the Union army, serving under the command of Algernon Badger.  This man was to become influential in the lives of both David and his son David Jr.

When Badger became the commander of the Republican Metropolitan Police in New Orleans after the war, he brought in the elder Hennessy to the force.  However, David sr. was gunned down in a barroom in 1869.

Though only a boy of eleven, the younger Hennessy began working as a messenger for the Metropolitans after his father’s death and went on to pursue a career in police work.  As a young detective, David jr. made headlines in 1881 when he captured a notorious Italian criminal Giuseppe Esposito. In 1888 he was promoted to superintendent and chief of police.

However, David Hennessy had made enemies with the growing Italian community in New Orleans and he was shot down on the street on the night of October 15, 1890.  His assassination led to a sensational trial. 

A series of acquittals and mistrials angered locals and an enormous mob formed outside the prison the next day. The prison doors were forced open and eleven of the nineteen Italian men who had been indicted for Hennessy's murder were lynched.  The March 14 1891 lynching was the largest known mass lynching in US history.

The Hennessys in South Africa

Tilly and Nellie Hennessy were the eldest of six children of John and Mary Hennessy.  They grew up in London.   Tilly had an amazing flare for music and at the age of 16 was appointed organist of the Brompton Oratory.

In 1891 at the age of 18 years Tilly and her sister Nellie two years younger were sent from London to Kimberley to stay with an aunt who kept a pub.  In the diamond-boom town of Kimberley in those days there was a pub on every corner.  On discovering that they were expected to work in the pub as barmaids, the two girls ran away and found refuge at the Dominican convent.  Tilly taught music and Nellie taught dancing.  They put on many concerts and operettas to raise money for the Catholic cathedral building fund.

In 1896 their mother and the rest of the family migrated from England and joined them in Kimberley.   The family were all in Kimberley when the Boer War broke out three years later.  They were confined within its perimeters during “the siege of Kimberley” which commenced in October 1899 until the relief column broke through the lines in February 1900.   They were subject to all privations of water rationing and were reduced to eating horse and donkey meat.

Their cousin Alfred Hennessy, who was later knighted for his services as founder of the Royal Automobile Club, had accompanied the family to South Africa but remained in Cape Town.  He took out the first driving licence in Cape Town and his car carried the number plate CA 1.  He drove his CA 1 car until a few days before his death in 1963 at the age of 88.  The CA 1 number plate was then handed over by his family for the use of the mayors of Cape Town

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