- This family was descended from the MacDonnell family of Dunluce, county Antrim. In the late 17th century family members contracted a number of marriages with members of the O’Brien family of Dough and with the 2nd Viscount Clare. Captain James MacDonnell of Kilkee, parish of Kilfearagh, barony of Moyarta, county Clare, was the second son of Daniel MacDonnell and Penelope, daughter of Teige O’Brien of Dough. Power writes that in the late 17th century he first supported the Jacobite side and then switched allegiance. The forfeited estates of Viscount Clare were granted to a Dutchman, General Joost Van Keppel, Earl of Albemarle, but he was not interested in them and sold over 30,000 acres to a syndicate of Francis Burton, Nicholas Westby and James MacDonnell in 1698. In 1712 James MacDonnell bought more land in the parishes of Inchicronan, Kilmurry-Ibrickane and Doora from the Earl of Thomond. He built a house in the townland of Kilbreckan, parish of Doora, barony of Bunratty Upper, county Clare. He died in 1714 and was succeeded by his son Charles James who, in 1728, married Elizabeth, only daughter of Christopher O’Brien of Ennistymon, and their only son Charles married Catherine O’Brien, third daughter of Sir Edward O’Brien of Dromoland in 1760. Their home at Kilbrecken was destroyed by fire in 1762 and in 1764 they purchased lands in the parish of Killone, barony of Islands, from Edward O’Brien of Ennistymon, included the house known as New Hall. Charles MacDonnell died in 1773 aged 36. He and his wife had built an extension to New Hall. Power writes that “It is considered to be one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the county. It is a two-storey house with a pink brick façade. The design is attributed to Francis Bindon…” (see page 353). Two generations later the Armstrongs of Mount Heaton, county Offaly succeeded to the MacDonnell estate, William Henry Armstrong having married a granddaughter of Charles MacDonnell in 1809. The second son of this marriage, William Edward Armstrong, succeeded his uncle John MacDonnell in 1850, adopting the name MacDonnell in 1858. In the 1870s his estate amounted to 6,670 acres in county Clare. C.R.A. MacDonnell sold 3,485 acres of tenanted and 256 acres of untenanted land to the Congested Districts' Board in October 1912 for over £26,000.
Armstrong/Armstrong MacDonnell (Newhall)
- The Armstrongs of Mount Heaton share a common ancestry with the Armstrongs of Moyaliff, county Tipperary. By the beginning of the 18th century they were resident at Farney Castle, county Tipperary. Mount Heaton, county Offaly, came into the family's possession through the marriage of Colonel William Armstrong with a Heaton heiress in 1731. Mount Heaton (now known as Mount St Josephs) then became the main family residence and Farney Castle was given to William's younger brother, John Armstrong. In 1809 William Henry Armstrong married Bridget MacDonnell of Newhall, county Clare. Burke's Landed Gentry (1904) records that he sold Mount Heaton in 1817 and went to live on the Continent. In 1834 he sold his estate in Fermanagh and much of his estates in Limerick, Tipperary and England. The second son of this marriage, William Edward Armstrong, succeeded his uncle, John MacDonnell in 1850, adopting the name MacDonnell in 1858. He married Juliana, daughter of Sir Lucius O’Brien, Baron of Inchiquin. At the time of Griffith’s Valuation William E. Armstrong’s county Clare estate was concentrated in the parish of Doora, barony of Bunratty Upper and in the parishes of Kilballyowen, Kilmacduane, Moyarta and Kilfearagh, barony of Moyarta. Besides valuable MacDonnell properties in counties Clare and Limerick he also inherited large debts and advertised for sale over 5,600 acres including the Kilbreckan estate in December 1856 and also 139 acres in county Galway. Following the 1856 sale his county Clare estate was mainly located in West Clare near Kilkee. Despite the sale Colonel William E. Armstrong MacDonnell still owned 6,670 acres in county Clare in the 1870s. He died in 1883 and his son, Charles Randal MacDonnell, owned the house and over 500 acres of untenanted land in 1906. The estate was later sold to the tenants and Newhall house to the Joyce family of county Galway. The eldest son of Willilam H. Armstrong and Bridget MacDonnell was John Armstrong. Major William Armstrong of Farney Castle held land in the parishes of Holycross and Inch, barony of Eliogarty and Ballycahill, barony of Kilnamanagh Upper, at the time of Griffith's Valuation. In the 1870s Mrs L. Armstrong of Farney Castle owned 896 acres in county Tipperary. Farney Castle and other lands in the baronies of Eliogarty and Kilnamanagh, the estate of William Armstrong were advertised for sale in July 1884.