As so often with Irish gentry families, the genealogy of the earlier generations is fairly obscure due to the lack of surviving parish records or estate archives. The descent of the property is, however, fairly clear: it passed from Thomas Atkinson (d. 1738) to his elder son, John Atkinson (1682-1748), and then to John's son, Thomas Atkinson (1713-83). Thomas's son, John Atkinson (1754-1833) seems to have been the first of the family to be a JP, and was probably responsible for building the present house at Cavangarden, even though the date traditionally given for it is a couple of years earlier than the date of his inheritance.
The next owner was the exceptionally long-lived Thomas John Atkinson (1781-1881), who died just a few months short of his 100th birthday. He was the first of the family to receive a University education, and was also the first to serve office as High Sheriff. Although he was normally resident on his estate, he shared in the opprobrium heaped on absentee landlords because he rack-rented his tenanted farms and was robust in his dealings with tenants who defaulted. He outlived his son and heir and so in 1881 the estate passed to his grandson, Thomas John Atkinson (1845-1921), who was High Sheriff in 1893. Perhaps because his grandfather had made the family so unpopular locally that he was concerned for his personal safety, he chose to live near Dublin, and only visited Co. Donegal occasionally. His son, Thomas John Day Atkinson (1882-1949), who was a barrister, was seriously wounded in the First World War and thereafter undertook legal work for the general staff, including the representation of prisoners at courts martial. After the war he worked for the Irish Charity Commission until 1922, when he was attacked and shot in his home by republican paramilitaries. He then prudently moved to England where he took up a post in London for the rest of his working life. His three spinster sisters lived at Cavangarden until the last of them died in 1966, after which the family sold the estate, ending the family's 350-year association with Co. Donegal.
Cavangarden House, Ballyshannon, Donegal
At the rear are two and three-storey return wings and later extensions. The walls are pebble-dashed except for the pilaster strips at the angles, the central canted bay, and the basement, which are smooth rendered. The square-headed window openings have smooth rendered reveals and painted sills. Unfortunately the slate roof has been replaced with artificial slates and there are horrid stained timber replacement windows. The house is set well back from the road in extensive mature grounds and there is a long avenue to the south with a bridge across the Two Mile Water river near the road. The gable end of some farm buildings near the house has been decorated to look like a Gothic chapel.
Atkinson family of Creevy and Cavangarden
Atkinson, Capt. Charles (fl. c.1600). Reputedly the son of Sir Thomas Atkinson, kt., of Yorkshire, born c.1550. He was a Captain in the Army and settled in Ireland c.1575. He married and had issue:
(1) William Atkinson (d. c.1660) (q.v.);
(2) Andrew Atkinson; married Jean, daughter of Ambrose Crean of Sligo and had issue, from whom descended the Atkinsons of Rehins (Co. Mayo).
His date of death is unknown.
Atkinson, William (c.1580-c.1660), of Creevy. Elder son of Capt. Charles Atkinson (fl. c.1600) and his wife, born c.1580. Named as a burgess in the charter creating the borough of Ballyshannon, 1613. He married a Miss O'Cleary and had issue:
(1) Thomas Atkinson (c.1624-1702) (q.v.);
(2) John Atkinson;
(3) Robert Atkinson;
(4) William Atkinson.
He received a grant of land in Kilbarron in 1613 comprising the townlands of Creevy, Tullyhurk, The Cloghan, Ardpatten, Ardgillow, Cavangarden and Laheen.
He died about 1660.
Atkinson, Thomas (c.1624-1702), of Creevy. Eldest son of William Atkinson (d. c.1660) and his wife, born about 1624. Attainted by the Irish Parliament, 1689. He married and had issue:
(1) Thomas Atkinson (1655-1738) (q.v.).
He inherited the Creevy estate from his father in c.1660. In consequence of his attainder he was obliged to leave his estates and his house at Creevy was burnt in 1690; most of the estates except Creevy were restored to him in 1698, and he or his son made a new home at Cavangarden.
He died in 1702.
Atkinson, Thomas (1655-1738), of Cavangarden. Only recorded son of Thomas Atkinson (c.1624-c.1702) and his wife, born 1655. Attainted by the Irish Parliament, 1689 along with his father. He married Eleanor [surname unknown] and had issue:
(1) John Atkinson (1682-1748) (q.v.);
(2) A daughter; married Col. Francis Reynolds (fl. 1753) of The Mullins;
(3) Thomas Atkinson (1698?-1768); married, 1727 in Dublin, Elizabeth Howard and had issue; died 11 May 1768 and was buried at Ballyshannon.
He inherited the Cavangarden estate from his father in 1702.
He died in 1738. His wife's date of death is unknown.
Atkinson, John (1682-1748). Elder son of Thomas Atkinson (1655-1738) and his wife, born 1682. He married, 1710/11, Rebecca, daughter of William Wray of Ards (Donegal) and had issue:
(1) Thomas Atkinson (1713-83) (q.v.);
(2) William Atkinson (fl. 1753); mentioned in leases of land at Ardgillon, Ballyshannon, 1748-53;
He inherited the Cavangarden estate from his father in 1738.
He died in 1748. His wife's date of death is unknown.
Atkinson, Thomas (1713-83). Elder son of John Atkinson (1682-1748) and his wife Rebecca, daughter of William Wray of Ards (Donegal), born 1713. He married, 16 November 1752, Letitia (d. 1812?), daughter of George Knox of Rathmullen and Moneymore (Donegal), and had issue:
(1) John Atkinson (1754-1833) (q.v.);
(2) Rebecca Atkinson (1755-68); died 17 January 1768 and was buried at Ballyshannon;
(3) George Atkinson; married Anne Greenfield;
(4) James Atkinson; married [forename unknown], daughter of William Wray of Ards;
(5) Andrew Atkinson (1762-1825), born 22 January 1762; an officer of 33rd Foot, c.1780; eloped with and married, 4 July 1780 at Edinburgh, Jean (1764-1836), daughter of Sir Archibald Murray, 7th bt., and had issue three sons and four daughters; emigrated to America, 1785, where he established an indigo plantation that he called Prehen in the Spanish colony of East Florida; when East Florida was invaded by American 'Patriot' soldiers in 1813 he was made a captain in the Spanish army and placed in charge of the defence of the colony's frontier, but was overrun, and his plantation was destroyed and one of his sons killed; he later moved to Philadelphia where he died 8 November 1825 and was buried in the Trinity Churchyard; in 1911 it was proposed to remove his remains to the Washington D.C. Cemetery;
(6) Angel Atkinson (d. 1806); married, c.1783, as his second wife, Rev. Andrew Greenfield (1749-88), rector of Moira (Down) and poet, son of Capt. John Greenfield of Dalkeith (Midlothian), and had issue two daughters; died at Hillsborough (Down), February 1806; her will was proved in 1807.
He inherited the Cavangarden estate from his father in 1748.
He died 11 May 1783 and his will was proved the same year. His widow may be Letitia Atkinson who died in Aungier St., Dublin and whose will was proved in 1812.
Atkinson, John (1754-1833). Eldest son of Thomas Atkinson (1713-83) and his wife Letitia, daughter of George Knox of Rathmullen and Moneymore (Donegal), born 1754. JP for Co. Donegal. He married, 20 March 1776 in Dublin, Elizabeth (c.1749-1807), daughter of Andrew Hamilton of Ballymadonnell (Donegal), and had issue:
(1) Thomas John Atkinson (1781-1881) (q.v.);
(2) Mary Atkinson (b. c.1784?); married [forename unknown] Young;
(3) Rebecca Atkinson (b. 1787), born 14 January and baptised at Ballyshannon, 17 February 1787; married Andrew McIntyre (c.1767-1846); buried at Ballyshannon;
(4) Anne Atkinson (b. 1788), born 29 July and baptised at Ballyshannon, September 1788; married, 19 January 1822 at Ballyshannon, Thomas Jones (fl. 1835) of Ardnaree (Mayo) and had issue one son and three daughters;
(5) George Atkinson (1791-1857), born 16 October and baptised at Ballyshannon, 13 November 1791; married his cousin, Charlotte, daughter of Rev. Andrew Greenfield and Angel Atkinson, and widow of William Herdman; died 5 February 1857.
He inherited the Cavangarden estate from his father in 1783, and was probably responsible for building a new house there, reputedly a few years earlier, in 1781.
He died, 'after a long and painful illness', 19 May 1833 and was buried at Ballyshannon. His wife died 16 November 1807 and was buried at Ballyshannon.
Atkinson, Thomas John (1781-1881). Elder son of John Atkinson (1754-1833) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew Hamilton of Ballymadonnell (Donegal), born May 1781. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin (admitted 1797; BA 1802). JP for Co. Donegal; High Sheriff of Co. Donegal, 1817. He had the reputation of being a tyrannical and exploitative landlord, although he was resident on his estates (except for the years 1834-38, when he lived in Dublin). He married, 1808, Elizabeth (c.1787-1860), daughter of Joseph White of Cheltenham (Glos), and had issue:
(1) Catherine Atkinson (1812-34), born 22 June 1812 and baptised at Ballyshannon; died unmarried at Liverpool, 11 July 1834;
(2) twin, Elizabeth Atkinson (1815-35), born 22 February 1815 and baptised at Ballyshannon; second daughter; married, 30 July 1835 at St Mary, Dublin, George Young of Darien, Georgia (USA); died without issue at 'Nassau, Georgia' (probably Nassau, Florida (USA)), 4 December 1835;
(3) twin, Letitia Atkinson (1815-92), born 22 February 1815; died unmarried, 19 June 1892 and was buried at Ballyshannon, 21 June 1892;
(4) John Atkinson (1816-79) (q.v.);
(5) Thomas Joseph Atkinson (1818-86), baptised at Ballyshannon, 8 October 1818; educated at Kings Inn, Dublin (admitted 1835); solicitor in Ballyshannon in the 1840s; Paymaster of East Kent regiment of militia, 1855-59 and later of 21st Foot, 1859-68 and 27th Foot, 1868-73, with honorary rank of Capt.; retired 1873; married, 7 April 1859 at St Peter, Dublin, Hester Jane (1841-69), daughter of Henry Francis Cullen of Rockwood (Leitrim), and had issue; died at Streatham (Surrey), 7 May 1886; will proved 8 July 1886 (effects in Ireland £6,052) and 24 July 1886 (effects in England £1,661);
(6) Charlotte Anne Atkinson (1820-96), baptised 17 April 1820; youngest daughter, married, 30 June 1853 at Ballyshannon, John Hutchinson Keogh (c.1829-86), son of William Keogh of Rockfield (Co. Dublin); died 22 December 1896 and was buried at Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin;
(7) George Atkinson (b. 1822), baptised at Ballyshannon, 3 September 1822; perhaps the man of this name who married, 1843 at Magheralin (Down), Anne Jordan;
(8) Joseph Atkinson (b. 1824), baptised 4 August 1824; perhaps died young;
(9) Rev. James Atkinson (1829-54), baptised at Ballyshannon, 3 April 1829; educated at Trinity College, Dublin (admitted 1845; BA 1850); ordained deacon, 1852 and priest, 1853; curate of Camus-juxta-Mourne (Derry), 1853-54; died of bronchitis, 2 March 1854 and was buried at Ballyshannon, 11 March 1854.
He inherited the Cavangarden estate from his father in 1833.
He died 25 March 1881, aged 99, and was buried at Ballyshannon, 30 March 1881; his will was proved 21 May 1881 (effects under £1,500). His wife died 23 May and was buried at Ballyshannon, 26 May 1860.
Atkinson, John (1816-79). Eldest son of Thomas John Atkinson (1781-1881) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph White of Cheltenham (Glos), born 14 December 1816. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin (admitted 1834; BA 1838; MA 1841) and Kings Inn, Dublin (admitted 1837; called to bar, 1840). Barrister-at-law. JP for Co. Donegal from 1861. He married, 15 April 1842 at St George, Dublin, Ellen (1823-1900), daughter of Robert Dean Mecredy QC of Carnew House (Down), and had issue:
(1) Thomas John Atkinson (1845-1921) (q.v.);
(2) Elizabeth Charlotte Jane Atkinson (1848-1911), born in Dublin, 14 November 1848; married Thomas James Jamison (1846-97) and had issue three sons and two daughters; emigrated to America, c.1868; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA), 9 October 1911;
(3) John Robert Atkinson (1849-65); died unmarried, October 1865;
(4) Ellen Theodosia Adelaide Atkinson (b. 1853); married, 20 May 1874 at Ballintra, Robert Mecredy (c.1830-87), solicitor, son of Robert Mecredy of Dublin, solicitor, and had issue two sons and two daughters;
(5) George Andrew Atkinson (1854-1927) of Skea Hall, Enniskillen (Fermanagh), born 29 April 1854; solicitor; coroner for North Fermanagh; married 22 March 1880 at Ballyshannon, Anna Marion Elizabeth (b. 1853), only daughter of Henry Berkley Gerahty, barrister-at-law, and had issue five sons and six daughters; died March 1927;
(6) James Law Atkinson (1856-97), born 24 April and baptised at Ballyshannon, 29 June 1856; Doctor of Medicine; married, 16 September 1889 at Ballyshannon, Margaret Rosaline (k/a Madge) (c.1865-98), daughter of W.C. Rogers of Ballyshannon, but had no issue; died 17 March 1897 and was buried at Ballyshannon, 19 March 1897; will proved 14 June 1897 (effects £144);
(7) William White Atkinson (1863-1900), born 11 February and baptised at Ballyshannon, 28 June 1863; died unmarried, 12 November 1900; will proved 9 March 1901 (effects £153);
(8) Andrew Hamilton Atkinson (1865-99), born 23 April and baptised at Ballyshannon, 25 June 1865; seriously assaulted on the public highway in Co. Donegal, for which he sought £1,000 damages, 1893; died unmarried, 11 March 1899 and was buried at Ballyshannon, 14 March 1899; will proved 11 April 1899 (effects £689).
He died in the lifetime of his father, 26 May 1879 and was buried at Ballyshannon; administration of his goods was granted 9 September 1879 (effects under £800). His widow died 12 May 1900 and was buried at Ballyshannon.
Atkinson, Thomas John (1845-1921). Eldest son of John Atkinson (1816-79) and his wife Ellen, daughter of Robert Dean Mecredy QC of Carnew (Down), born 14 February 1845. JP and DL (from 1891) for Co. Donegal; High Sheriff of Co. Donegal, 1893. He married, 20 April 1880 at Rathfarnham (Dublin), Elizabeth (1856-1938), daughter of Arthur Magee Day of Rathgar (Dublin), and had issue:
(1) Thomas John Day Atkinson (1882-1949) (q.v.);
(2) Charlotte Elizabeth Atkinson (1884-1964); lived at Cavangarden; died unmarried, 27 February 1964; President of County Donegal Historical Society, 1955; will proved 10 January 1966 (estate in England, £4,235) and 11 July 1966 (estate in Ireland, £17,684);
(3) Elizabeth Arthurina Atkinson (1886-1967); lived at Cavangarden; died unmarried, 7 November 1967; will proved 2 October 1968 (estate in England £8,441) and 11 November 1968 (estate in Northern Ireland, £251);
(4) Mabel Angel Wray Atkinson (1888-1911), born Jan-Mar 1888; died unmarried, 15 April 1911; administration of her goods granted to her father, 10 June 1911 (effects £45);
(5) Arthurina Josephine Atkinson (1891-1949); lived at Cavangarden; died unmarried, 16 April 1949; administration (with will annexed) of her goods granted to her sisters, 22 November 1949 (effects in England £3,753) and 22 December 1950 (effects in Northern Ireland £1,795).
Before his marriage, he also had an illegitimate daughter by Eliza Robinson of Garvanagh, servant:
(X1) Eliza Ann Atkinson (b. 1874), born 13 September and baptised at Ballyshannon, 30 September 1874.
He inherited the Cavangarden estate from his grandfather in 1881, but lived chiefly at Rathmines (Co. Dublin).
He died 5 August 1921 and was buried at Ballyshannon. His wife died 22 June 1938 and was buried in Mullinshea Cemetery; her will was proved 21 June 1939 (estate in Ireland, £1,848) and 1 September 1939 (estate in England, £628).
Atkinson, Thomas John Day (1882-1949). Only recorded son of Thomas John Atkinson (1845-1921) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Arthur Magee Day of Rathgar (Dublin), born at Rathgar, 4 March 1882. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin (BA) and Kings Inns (admitted 1902; called to bar, 1904). Barrister-at-law (KC 1924); Secretary to the Irish Charity Commissioners, 1919-21; Registrar of the Railway Rates Tribunal, 1922-40 and engaged to conduct various inquiries on behalf of the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Health in the 1930s; co-author of The law of carriage by railway, 1928. Before the First World War he also acted as a land agent and was a keen amateur cyclist. He was an officer in the Dublin University contingent of the Officers Training Corps (2nd Lt., 1910) and served in the First World War with 5th Battn, Royal Irish Fusiliers (Lt.) and 31st Infantry Brigade (Capt.); he was wounded in action in the Dardenelles, 16 August 1915 and transferred to the general staff. He was awarded the OBE, 1919. In 1922, he and his wife claimed compensation from the Irish Grants Committee for a violent assault by paramilitaries in 1921 in which he was shot in the hand, and from 1923 onwards he lived at Caterham (Surrey) and later at Paignton. JP (from 1905) and DL (from 1921) for Co. Donegal. He married, Jul-Sept 1918, Cicely Helen Burrington Hawkshaw JP (1898-1981), daughter of Cdr. Hugh Burrington Hawkshaw, and had issue:
(1) Angela Cicely Atkinson (1919-38), born Oct-Dec. 1919; died aged 18 and was buried at Caterham, 15 September 1938;
(2) John Hawkshaw Atkinson (1928-31), born Oct-Dec. 1928; died aged 2 and was buried at Caterham, 19 June 1931;
(3) Elizabeth Gillian Hawkshaw Atkinson (1935-2014), born Jan-Mar 1935; married and had issue two children; died 3 November 2014.
He inherited the Cavangarden estate from his father in 1921 but lived at Caterham (Surrey) from 1923. His heirs sold the Cavangarden estate in 1967, after the death of his sisters who lived there.
He died at Paignton (Devon), 11 December 1949; his will was proved 9 March 1950 (estate £9,950). His widow died 10 November 1981.
Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland, 1912, p. 18; A. Rowan, The buildings of Ireland: North-West Ulster, 1979, p. 130; M. Moulton, Ireland and the Irish in inter-war England, 2014, p. 212;
Location of archives
No significant accumulation is known to survive.
Coat of arms
Can you help?
Here are a few notes about information and images which would help to improve the account above. If you can help with any of these or with other additions or corrections, please use the contact form in the sidebar to get in touch.
- Can anyone provide additional or more accurate information from deeds or other sources about the earlier generations of the Atkinson family?
- Can anyone provide portraits or photographs of members of the family whose names appear in bold above?
Revision and acknowledgements
This post was first published 27 October 2016 and updated 15 December 2016.