Dillon


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Here are some Dillon stories and accounts over the years:

Portlick Castle in Westmeath


The Norman family of De Lion (later Dillon) built Portlick Castle on the shores of Lough Ree in 1185.  During their heyday the family also had castles at Ballynacliffy, Littleton, and Ballynakill.  But Portlick was to be their base and stronghold for their period of supremacy of almost five hundred years.  The original building was remodeled sometime in the 16th century. 

The Dillon family, however, were devout Catholics who fought in the 1641 Irish rebellion and they were banished to Connacht by Cromwell.  After the Restoration in 1663, Thomas Viscount Dillon, the leader of the Mayo branch of the family, was able to recover the castle.  But his successor Theobald Dillon was killed at the battle of Aughrim and the family’s support for King James meant that, after his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne, many of them fled to Europe with the Wild Geese.  Garret Dillon was the last Dillon occupier.  In 1696 Portlick castle passed into other hands. 

Recently, the castle and period extensions have all been extensively renovated to a very high standard. Portlick castle is in fact the only medieval castle in Ireland which has been used perpetually as a residence.



The Dillons of Roscommon

The Dillon family which had settled in NW Roscommon and county Mayo were given the title of Earl of Roscommon in 1622.  Possibly the most famous of the family was the 4th Earl, Wentworth Dillon, who was a noted poet. 

When Patrick the 11th Earl died in 1816 there was a problem with the succession as he died without male heir.  From another Dillon line came Michael Dillon, a captain in the Dublin militia who had died at the Battle of Ross in 1798.  It took his son Michael James Robert Dillon over ten years to convince the House of Lords that he was entitled to the earldom.  He was, however, the last Earl of Roscommon and when he died in 1850 the title became extinct.


Arthur Dillon and His Daughter Lucie at the Time of the French Revolution

Arthur Dillon, a general in the French army, commanded the Dillon Regiment - which had been led by a Dillon for over a hundred years.  In 1777 he embarked for America with 1,400 men of his regiment, including four Dillon officers, to fight for France in the American War of Independence.  However, his downfall came during the French Revolution when he was accused of being a Royalist and followed Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to the guillotine. 

His daughter Lucie, then married and known as Lucie Dillon de la Tour du Pin, almost suffered the same fate. But she and her husband were able to escape to America.  They later returned to France when things had begun to settle down.  Her memoirs make fascinating reading (she has been called the chronicler of her age).  They were reassembled in Caroline Moorehead’s 2009 book Dancing to the Precipice.


Le Beau Dillon


Edward Dillon, nicknamed "le beau Dillon," was a particular favorite of Marie Antoinette.  He acted out in many of the games at the Trianon, where he played the “keeper” to Marie Antionette’s “farmer.”  The Comtesse de Boigne recalled the following incident in her memoirs: 

“Edward Dillon was beautiful, fat, and fashionable.  One day he performed in front of the Queen the figures of a quadrille which was going to be danced at the ball.  Suddenly he turned pale and fainted. He was placed on a sofa and the Queen had the impudence to place her hand on her heart to feel if it was beating. 

Edward revived and turned to her.  He apologized for his indisposition and said that, because of a wound incurred during the taking of Grenada, these weaknesses often came on him, especially when he was fasting.  The Queen gave him a broth and the courtiers, jealous of this little success, made out that he had got the better of her.” 


Dillon, unlike Marie Antoinette, kept his head during the French Revolution.   He later served in diplomatic missions abroad.  The Prussian King Frederick William III fell deeply in love with his daughter Georgina while Dillon was on diplomatic service in Dresden.



Luke Dillon in America

Luke Dillon and his wife Susannah were Quakers and were from county Armagh in Ireland.  Luke had come from a poor family and Susannah from a well-to-do family.  They eloped in 1710 and set off for America. 

They went first to the Quaker colony on Nantucket island off Massachusetts and then, in 1714, moved to Bucks county, Pennsylvania. 

Luke died three years later.  A descendant, Alfred Dillon, told the following story.  In the winter of 1717, Luke spent an evening at the local tavern, got drunk and rode home in a driving snowstorm.  On the way he fell from his horse and rolled into a ditch.  His body was not discovered until a thaw later in the winter.  His last child was born after his death and was named for
him.


Dillons from Ireland to America

James and Ellen Dillon led wandering lives.  Maybe they had not been married back in Tipperary.  Family tradition has it that James Dillon was an employee of the Going family, perhaps as a gardener or handyman, when Ellen had become pregnant.  In any case they left their baby daughter behind with the Goings when they decided to emigrate to Nova Scotia in 1842. 

James and Ellen later moved to Massachusetts when, at some time in the mid-1850’s they and their baby daughter were reunited.  But this reunion proved short-lived.  The daughter, having been given some money by her father, used it to buy a train ticket and ran way to New York. 

After Massachusetts, the Dillons headed west and lived in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Kansas.  James died in Smith county, Kansas.  Ellen went onto Washington on the West Coast after James' death and died in Yakima.




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