James Roche Verling, (1787–1858)

View from Spy Hill, Cobh, co. Cork

James Roche Verling, (1787–1858), was born at Cove,[Cobh] co. Cork, on 27 February 1787, the second son in the family of five sons and two daughters of John Verling and his wife, Ellen [Eleanor] (née Roche), of Cove. He is John Roche’s nephew, and a first cousin, five times removed.

John and Ellen’s children were

  • Bartholomew Verling (1786 – 1855) of Cove
  • James Roche Verling (1787 – 1858)
  • Edward Verling d. unmarried.
  • Hugh Verling d. unmarried.
  • John Verling d. unmarried.
  • Ellen m. James Fitzgerald of Lackendarra, co. Waterford
  • Catherine m. Henry Ellis “Surgeon R.N.”

The Verlings were a wealthy and influential Catholic family long established at Cove. James Roche Verling’s eldest brother, Bartholomew Verling (1786–1855), was harbour master and Spanish consul there, as well as a landowner and magistrate. As was fairly common at the time, there were a number of different generations all taking the same forenames. Their grandfather was also Bartholomew Verling of Cove, and a younger first cousin, Bartholomew Verling (1797 – 1893) of Oxclose. He, in turn, named his son Bartholomew.

James was apprenticed to Sir Arthur Clarke, a well-known Dublin physician, and afterwards studied under Gregory at Edinburgh, where he graduated MD at the age of 23, with a thesis “De Ictero”. He was then commissioned as Second Assistant Surgeon to the Ordnance Medical Department on Jan 25th, 1810. The Ordnance Medical Department was quite distinct from the Army Medical Department, and a rather higher standard of medical education was required. He was first stationed at Ballincollig, Cork, and then proceeded to Portugal shortly after Albuera, in medical charge of a battery of Royal Artillery, and was at once placed in charge of wounded, including wounded of the Artillery of the King’s German Legion. He was present with the Artillery throughout the subsequent campaign, at the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo, Vittoria, Pampeluna, the storming of San Sebastian, the passage of the Bidassoa, Nivelle, Nive, and Bayonne. He marched with the Royal Horse Artillery to Paris, and received the Peninsula Medal with five clasps.

He was not present at Waterloo, but in July, 1815, was ordered with a battery of the Royal Artillery to St Helena. On Aug 8th he sailed from Torbay on “HMS Northumberland,”  which also carried  Napoleon and his entourage. Verling spoke both French and Italian, and, it is likely, he became personally acquainted with Napoleon on the voyage. The emperor seemed to be ready to talk with any of the officers who could understand him.

Longwood House, St Helena

After a two month voyage they landed at St Helena on 17 October, with the other passengers, he disembarked on the Atlantic island. The governor, Sir Hudson Lowe (1769–1844), another Irishman, appointed Verling his medical officer. After Napoleon’s favourite physician, Barry Edward O’Meara, quarrelled with the governor and was dismissed, it was Verling who replaced O’Meara at Napoleon’s residence, Longwood (25 July 1818). Napoleon refused to be treated by Verling, regarding him as ‘l’homme du gouverneur’. When Napoleon’s aide, Count Montholon, with whom Verling regularly conversed, suggested that he could become ‘l’homme de l’empéreur’ by agreeing to give Napoleon copies of his medical reports and not to pass on private conversations to Lowe (April 1819), Verling was uncooperative, though he always detested having to inform Lowe of what he learned at Longwood.

James Verling left St Helena, on the 25th April 1820, just over a year before Napoleon died (5 May 1821) Later he served in Malta, the Ionian Islands, and Nova Scotia. He was promoted to full Surgeon (1827), senior Surgeon (1843), and finally Deputy Inspector-General (1850), and appears to have served most of the last thirteen years or so of his carreer at the Royal Ordinance Hospital at Woolwich After his retirement in 1854, he returned to Cobh, by then, renamed Queenstown, where he died on 1st January 1858 at his home, Bellavista. It’s a rather pleasing irony that “Mr Bartholomew Verling [his eldest brother] was one of the deputation which waited on the late Queen VIctoria to obtain H.M.’s permission to change the name of Cove of Cork to Queenstown when she landed therein August 1849. “  according to Gabriel O’Connell Redmond’s memoir  of James Roche Verling in 1916.

View from Bellavista House, Cobh, co.Cork

It’s also rather pleasing that Bellavista still exists, but is now a hotel, and Chinese restaurant.

Verling wrote a diary of the daily round of events on St Helena  which passed into the hands of his nephew, Surgeon John J. Ellis, R.N.[ the sixth, and youngest, son of his sister, Catherine] , who took it to sea with him and lent it to a friend, who left it after him on board a ship in the China Sea. It fortunately was found by someone who recognising its value handed it over to Mr. Morgan, the British Consul, at Tientsien, in China. Consul Morgan thought it would be a good thing to present the Diary to the late Emperor, Napoleon the Third, and sent it to him by a French Naval Officer. The Emperor accepted the gift and had it deposited in the “ Archives Nationales” in Paris, where it now remains.

He never married, and the main beneficiary of his will was his first cousin Bartholomew Verling (1797 – 1893) of Oxclose. His estate was very large, just under £ 5,000 in England, and a further £6,000 in Ireland, or just over £ 10m. in modern terms.


A lot of Bartholomew Verlings

It became clear very early on that there was more than one Bartholomew Verling who were part of the story. John Roche’s will of 1826 left some very significant bequests to various members of the Verling family.

“to my niece,  Ellen Verling,  I leave  £1,000 £4 per cent, stock, with £30 a-year profit rent I leave on her brother Bartholomew Verling’s stores ;……..  I leave  £100 to my sister, Ellen Verling ; to my sister, Julia Enery, £100 ; to my nephew, Doctor Verling,  and his sister, Catherine Ellis, £100 each,”

From the will, it was clear that at least one Bartholomew Verling was John Roche’s nephew, and another nephew was a doctor. What wasn’t clear was whether this was one person or two. After some research, it became apparent that the “Dr Verling” referred to was Dr James Roche Verling, who was a naval surgeon of some distinction, and had been, for a time, Napoleon’s doctor on St Helena.

But there were also some early other pointers, The entry for the Verlings in the NUI Landed estates database [http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie] is as following:

Verling – In the 1870s Bartholomew Verling, Springfield Lodge (Oxclose), Newmarket, county Cork, medical doctor owned 883 acres in county Limerick and 110 acres in county Cork. He appears to have acquired his county Limerick estate post Griffith’s Valuation. Bartholomew Verling (1797-1893) was a naval surgeon of Oxclose, Newmarket, county Cork. He was the son of Edward Verling and his wife Anne Ronayne. The Verlings were established at Newmarket by the late 18th century.

The key to the whole question seemed to be an article written in 1916, and published in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 1916, Vol. 22, No. 110, page(s) 64­ – 71. It is titled ” Dr James Roche Verling”, and written by Gabriel O’Connell Redmond. Dr Redmond was the local G.P in in Cappoquin co. Waterford between 1880 and 1914.  He was a great grandson of Daniel O’Connell’s and also John Verling and Ellen Roche’s great grandson. In a pleasing way with numbers this makes him a third cousin, three times removed. He was a noted historian and antiquarian, and also the town’s columnist with the Waterford News.

So to start sorting them out.

Bartholomew Verling of Cove has two grandsons also called Bartholomew Verling who are first cousins. The elder Bartholomew Verling (1786 – 1855) of Cove is John Roche of Aghada’s nephew twice over. His mother is John Roche’s sister, Ellen, and his father is Mary Roche’s (nee Verling) brother, John Verling

The younger Bartholomew Verling (1797 – 1893) of Oxclose, is also a nephew of John Roche, but only as the son of Edward Verling and Anne Ronayne, – a brother-in-law, and sister-in-law. Edward Verling is John Verling, and Mary Roche (neé Verling)’s brother.

It all becomes clearer in the pedigree of the Verlings of Cove.

HMS Beresford in 1780, and 1797.

Henry Hewitt was described as the “Captain of the Beresford Revenue Cutter.” at the time of his daughter Jane’s marriage to Laurence O’Brien in Castletownsend in 1778. The following is from The Town and Country Magazine, and The Lady’s Magazine.

Domestic Intelligence.

21[August 1780] Captain Kearney, regulating captain at Corke, in a letter to Mr Stephens, of the Admiralty, incloses one from the master of the Beresford cutter to the collector of that port, of which the following is a copy.

Castle Townsend, Aug 13, 1780, Two O’Clock P.M.


By express this morning, we acquainted you with an engagement off the harbour, on which we sent out a hooker, which has since returned, and find the fleet seen off to be that which sailed from Corke for America yesterday, all safe. The engagement was between his Majesty’s ship the Biensaisant, and one of the frigates with her, and a French 74, which we have the pleasure to acquaint you is taken. They are now lying too off this harbour, shifting the prisoners on board the different ships. The French ship had 600 men, on hundred of which were killed or wounded, and eleven killed and wounded in ours:-  This is the account the officer that went out in the hooker brings us, but thinks it is the Compte d’Artois, but is certain she is a 74; and he towed a boat with some of the prisoners. Another ship, a privateer, was in fight with the Frenchman, but she is not now in fight


T. Hungerford, Surveyor

H. Hewitt, Master of the Beresford Revenue Cutter.

Castletownshend , co. Cork

To the Collector of Corke.

The Ambuscade was the frigate which is mentioned in the above dispatches.

From The Town and Country Magazine, Or, Universal Repository of Knowledge, Instruction, and Knowledge.  Volume XII, for the Year 1780, London. Printed for A. Hamilton Jnr near St John’s Gate.

The same report was in The Lady’s Magazine; Or, Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex Volume XI, 1780

and from the LONDON GAZETTE August 5 1797, the Beresford was still in action along the coast of Southern Ireland.

It’s unclear, but unlikely, as to whether Henry Hewitt was still in command. But, given his likely age, he almost certainly was not.  Assuming he was about 50 years old at the marriage of his daughter Jane in 1778 [ using a 25y/o+ 25y/o formula], he would have been born about 1728. So in 1797, he would have been 69 years old. If he had been the same age as his son in law’s father who was born in 1717, he would have been 80 years old. So, one hopes, the Irish Customs Service had managed to find a slightly more youthful Captain than Great Grandpa Henry…

Admiralty Office August 1 1797

Copy of a Letter from Vice Admiral Kingsmill,  Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Ships and Vessels at Cork to Evan Nepean Esq. [ He was Secretary to the Board of Admiralty 1795-1804, and later Chief Secretary in Ireland, and later one of the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty]  dated  [HMS] L’Engageante, Cork Harbour July 5 1797


Please to inform my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that having Intelligence of a small Privateer being off Bally Cotton, I sent out Lieutenant Pulling, in the Mary Revenue Cutter, in Quest of her, and in a few Hours he fell in with the Beresford, coming from Waterford, just as she had captured the said Privateer, a chasse marée, named L’Acheron, of 28 Tons, out of Morlaix, carrying 1 Carronade Eight-Pounder and six Swivels, and 40 Men. She is just arrived here, and had taken Three Vessels, all of which I understand are recaptured.

I have, &c. R. Kingsmill.

The ship was decommissioned in 1819, and sold for scrappage in Plymouth, although the name lived on in more ships in the Royal Navy.

Hewitt – O’Brien March 20th 1778

Castletownshend, co. Cork

1778,  March 20th, at Castle-Townsend co. Cork, Laurence O’Brien, to Miss Hewitt, daughter of Henry Hewitt, Esq, Captain of the Beresford Revenue Cutter.

The Gentleman’s and London Magazine: Or Monthly Chronologer published in Dublin,  printed by John Exshaw in Dame Street.

Laurence O’Brien and Jane Hewitt are Henry Hewitt O’Bryen [1780-1836]’s parents, and John Roche O’Bryen‘s paternal grandparents, so in our case, great, great, great, great, grandparents. Jane Hewitt is also the reason for the Hewitt name occurring as a forename in the next four, or five generations

A Revenue Cutter was a Customs vessel and each cutter master was answerable to and received his sailing orders directly from the Collector of Customs of the port to which his ship was assigned. All crew pay, requests for supplies, arrangements for repairs to the cutter, and mission-specific tasking came directly from the port’s Customs House.

So great grandpa x 5 Henry Hewitt was a Customs Officer.

John Hewson of Ennismore

The following extract is from “Memoirs Of The House Of Hewetson Or Hewson Of Ireland.” by John Hewson published in 1901. It’s largely here because it makes me smile, but it’s also here because John and Margaret Hewson are the great great great grandparents of Mary I.E. O’Bryen, who is in turn a first cousin three times  removed.


John Hewson, Esq., of Ennismore, co. Kerry, named in his father’s will ; spoken of in the county of Kerry as the “Rich Foreigner.” Married 23 Oct. 1737 Margaret, then in her 19th year, of Royal descent (born 1718, died at Ennismore House 28 July 1809, aged 91 years), seventh dau. of Maurice Fitzgerald, Knight of Kerry, by his wife Elizabeth (whom he married 30 June 1703), second dau. of David Crosbie, Esq., and sister of Maurice, first Lord Brandon.

Ennismore, containing 1170 acres of land, was one of the residences of the “ Old Knights” of Kerry from about 1600 to the closing year of the seventeenth century, the “Grove,” near Dingle, being their principal one. In 1737 Mr. Hewson, upon his marrying the seventh of the nine daus. of Maurice Fitzgerald, Knight of Kerry, leased the whole estate from his father-in-law, and his descendants still continue to live there.

The appellation of “ Rich Foreigner,” by which Mr. Hewson was known in Kerry, is thus explained.  Down to the closing year of the eighteenth century, and even later, so strong was the clan feeling in this county, and so remote was it from the rest of the most “advanced ” parts of the island, that the people there always spoke of the inhabitants of any other county in Munster and the other three provinces as “ Foreigners.” An old Kerry gentle- man, not long since deceased, used to say that the Hewsons of Ennismore in 1750 — 1770 were the wealthiest “ foreigners ” of that day in Kerry, their foreign origin being simply their arrival in Kerry from the next county, Limerick, in or about 1730.

The roads in many parts of Munster at that time were very bad, and both gentlemen and ladies were obliged to save time and trouble by traversing them on horseback instead of using carriages.

There is an old Kerry tradition that it was on a journey of this kind from Ennismore or its neighbourhood that Miss Fitzgerald first made her future husband’s acquaintance. The horse that she was riding from that place into Limerick falling lame or casting a shoe, she and her attendant groom were at a loss how to proceed, when a young gentleman (Mr. John Hewson) happened to pass by on a good steed, the loan of which he asked her to accept, and walked by her side to the house of her friend in the county Limerick. The acquaintance led to an attachment and the marriage of 1737, of which the issue was numerous, and there arrived at maturity three sons and six daughters.