de Renzi, Sir Mathew
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Sir Mathew de Renzi was born in Cologne, Germany and was a cloth merchant in Antwerp. In 1604, he moved to London, but shortly became bankrupt and fled via Scotland to Ireland where he arrived in Dublin in 1606, penniless. He immediately set about becoming a landowner and made important establishment contacts in Dublin such as Sir Arthur Chichester, then Lord Deputy. A polyglot (fluent in Latin, Italian, English, German, French and Spanish), he also learned colloquial and classical Irish from the Old Irish family of MacBruideadh from the Thomond area of Limerick. This was a strategic move on De Renzi’s part, so intent was he on acquiring land in a Gaelic lordship. Having travelled around Ireland to the port towns of Galway, Limerick and Waterford, he arrived in West Offaly sometime in 1612. The area, known as Delvin MacCoghlan, roughly equating to the barony of Garrycastle, comprised the modern day towns of Ferbane, Banagher, Cloghan and Shannonbridge. He acquired around 100 acres in Clonony, living in Clonony Castle, and in direct opposition to Sir John (Seán Óg) MacCoghlan, the hereditary chieftain of the area. He had many disputes with Seán Óg and dispatched letters to the Lords Deputy in Dublin outlining his various grievances.
De Renzi’s 100 acres in the midlands grew to over 1000 in the following years. He also had properties in Westmeath, Wexford and Dublin. In around 1620, he sold his interest in Clonony, became a government administrator in Dublin and was knighted in 1627. Not much is known of his marriage, but that he had two sons, Mathew (d.1712) and Francis DeRenzy. In 1630, he purchased lands in the vicinity of Tinnycross, County Offaly on behalf of his eldest son. Mathew Jr subsequently sold his interest in these lands in 1704 and title passed to the Cox family of Ferns. Sir Mathew died in 1634 at the age of 57. Mathew Jr commissioned a memorial to him in St Mary’s Church Athlone in 1635. When the church was rebuilt in 1820, this memorial was re-inserted at the rear of the church where it can still be seen today.
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de Renzi, Sir Mathew
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Lisa Shortall, March 2018
Loeber, Rolf, 'Civilisation through plantation: the projects of Sir Mathew de Renzi in Harman Murtagh (ed.), Midland Studies: essays in commemoration of N. W. English (1980)