A History of Lough Rynn: Lord Leitrim Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Place of migration
Stayed in Ireland

William Sydney Clements (1806–1878) aka the 3rd Earl of Leitrim was best known as the notorious Lord Leitrim who was murdered for his mistreatment of his tenants.  

In 1839, he became known as Viscount Clements and also succeeded his older brother (heir to the family estate who died suddenly that year) as a Member of Parliament for County Leitrim. On his father's death in 1854, Clements succeeded as 3rd Earl. Some of his peers in the House of Commons named him 'the bad earl' on account of repeated accusations of his 'immorality towards daughters of tenants'. 

Over the next two decades, Lord Leitrim's overbearing behaviour as a landlord brought him much hatred from his tenants, Catholic and Protestant alike, whom he evicted with equal enthusiasm. In April 1878, after surviving various attempts on his life, Lord Leitrim was assassinated, along with his clerk and driver, near Cratlagh Wood while on his way to Milford (a village he owned in its entirety) from his home, Manor Vaughan, on Mulroy Bay. His assassination in 1878 was largely a result of wholesale evictions on his Donegal estates. But the final straw that motivated the individuals involved was an accusation that Lord Leitrim had debauched a young servant girl - a daughter of one of the assassins.

The assassins, Nial Shiels of Doughmore, an itinerant tailor, Michael Hegarty of Tullyconnell, and Michael MvElwee of Ballyworiskey, were from the remote Fanad Peninsula. (McElwee's father was involved in litigation with Leitrim with the result that McElwee was rendered bankrupt, and his house and farm were sold at auction in 1877. Michael Heraghty and brothers Thomas and Bernard McGranahan were arrested. The McGranahans were released from Lifford Jail due to a lack of evidence. Heraghty died of typhus in Lifford Jail. In 1960, a monument with a cross was set up at Kindrum honouring McElwee, Shiels, and Michael Heraghty as the men whose actions "Ended the tyranny of landlordism".

Leitrim was buried in Dublin at St Michan's church, amid scenes of great agitation. 

"The mob wanted to wreak their drunken rage on the dead body of the old Earl, as it was not enough that he had been murdered; and when they were disappointed in their charitable desire to throw the corpse into the street, they howled and yelled an accompaniment of brutal hate to the funeral service. It was a disgraceful affair, scarcely possible in any other latitude of the civilized world." [New York Tribune, April 12, 1878]

The murder forms a major element in the plot of the play The Home Place by Brian Friel [2005]. 

Additional Information
Date of Birth 15th Oct 1806
Date of Death 2nd Apr 1878
Associated Building (s) Lough Rynn Castle, Mohill, County Leitrim, Ireland St Michan's Church Dublin  
Father (First Name/s and Surname)


  • Clondavaddog Donegal, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 17th October 2019 06:22PM
  • Thank you for the very interesting Ancestor addition for William Sydney Clements (also known as the Third Earl of Leitrim).
    I posted above a local IrelandXO timeline link that adds a detailed account of the assasination of the Third Earl of Leitrim, an important local event in time which brought an end to his rein of tyranny and terror as a very vindictive and crual landlord throughout the north-western regions of Co.Donegal.
    All the very best,
    Seamus Callaghan (Kerrykeel)

    Clondavaddog Donegal, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 17th October 2019 08:15PM
  • Oh dear, he was such a bad Landlord. His poor tenants. We stayed at the Lough Rynn Castle Leitrim on our travels around Ireland in 2019 and it was a beautiful place to stay and we thoroughly enjoyed it. If only the walls could talk. (But I am glad that they didn't). Thanks for the information. 


    Saturday 3rd October 2020 10:42PM
  • Murder was too good for him & Adair should have got the same treatment.


    Monday 18th October 2021 12:15PM
  • Thomas and Bernard went to New Bethlehem, Pa. USA in 1880. Their brother John Bernard married to Susan Schiles was already there. 

    Bob Reinsel

    Tuesday 19th October 2021 08:21PM
  • "The mob wanted to wreak their drunken rage on the dead body of the old Earl, as it was not enough that he had been murdered; and when they were disappointed in their charitable desire to throw the corpse into the street, they howled and yelled an accompaniment of brutal hate to the funeral service. It was a disgraceful affair, scarcely possible in any other latitude of the civilized world." [New York Tribune, April 12, 1878]

    Wow, see the media at work whitewashing crimes of colossal scale by the Earl, and demonising normal people who were simply defending themselves and expressing their rightful rage at this utter piece of scum.

    No mention in the journal of why his victims wanted to treat him like that. He is the blameless victim, they, the brutes. No - they must just be savages. Naturally drunk, of course - nothing drove them to drink, did it?  No - they (all of them) decided to just randomly get drunk and attack a poor, helpless old man - a gentleman - presumably just because they were Irish, and no other reason - that's just how Irish do. That's the article.

    "The old Earl" - the poor, vulnerable, underdog (who owned the entire area and abused his privilege for rape, eviction, neglect, and all the other crimes he wrought on those with less means than today's average homeless person. A man who inherited everything he ever had, and earned nothing but disgust and outrage. We reap what we sow (and sometimes we get reaped for it!).

    Pour encourager les autres

    A Byrne

    Wednesday 20th October 2021 09:09AM
  • Despite the outrageous behaviour of this man ( if one can rightly assign the term to such a scoundrel) the act of murder carries consequences. Note even the New York Newspaper cited was more interested and sympathetic to the Earl than to his victims,call due to the street justice enacted upon him. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi understood this, and non violent civil disobedience had been used, the mass of public opinion would no doubt been in the favour of those oppressed. It takes more courage to take the blues from policeman and thugs than to use a pistol on a tyrant. MLK and GHANDI proved that, and their influence rings true today. Using violence and terror as policy leads to the murder if Police in front of their families and the bombing in Omagh.


    Thursday 21st October 2021 07:30PM
  • All acts carry consequences - murder, rape, eviction, being a parasite, stealing the patrimony of an entire community and culture, living a life as insulting as possible to your "underlings" does - as this cretin found out. The death of this arsehole was a consequence - not a cause. He was wrong, they were right. They restored justice denied. Ugly, but not their fault - simply consequences of his actions. They did not act, they responded. If it had been my daughter raped by him there wouldn't have been a corpse left to defile, you can bank on that.

    Martin Luther King and Ghandi didn't free Ireland from the likes of Clements and the thousands of other "Lords" and "Ladies" who preyed upon Ireland for centuries. Warriors and those who aided them did. That is why you have an army today. Otherwise, just lie down and invite the English back.

    I deplore violence, but a few well-aimed shots does simplify matters such as these.

    Happily the foreign newspapers did not win the bigger war and four fifths of the emerald Isle became officially Irish again despite the perverse "official" narrative spewed out by the establishment media of the day that whitewashes the parasitical elites such as this prick simply because the psychopaths who own the newspapers dine with them.

    I say this as a diaspora mote, not a native - and defer to the experience of those closer to the danger. But they don't all agree, either.


    A Byrne

    Friday 22nd October 2021 09:53AM
  • The 2 April 1878 civil registration death record for William Sydney, Earl of Leitrim, can be accessed from the link at:…

    The Certified Cause of Death reads:

    “From gun shot wounds inflicted by some persons unknown to the jurors and we further find that the Earl of Leitrim’s death was hastened by the violent blows inflicted on his head by some heavy weapon causing fracture of the skull.”

    The cause of death was reported to the Milford Registration District Registrar, David Christie, by Robert Ramsey, coroner for County Donegal.

    The death record further shows the Earl died in Woodquarter.

    Dave Boylan


    Friday 22nd October 2021 01:11PM

Some communities associated with this ancestor