THE NEW ROSS CONNECTION Two Irish women, Lady Eleanor Butler and The Hon. Sarah Ponsonby are known to history as the Ladies of Llangollen. In 1780 the two aristocrats caused controversy when they ran away together. They would spend the rest of their lives in Llangollen, a town in north Wales. Their relationship scandalised and fascinated their contemporaries. Over the years, numerous distinguished visitors called upon them. Guests included Shelley, Byron, Wellington and Wordsworth, who wrote a sonnet about them.
Eleanor Charlotte Butler (11 May 1739 – 2 June 1829) was a member of the Butler family, the Earls (and later Dukes) of Ormond, as the daughter of Walter Butler, de jure 16th Earl of Ormonde and Eleanor Morres. Her family, whose seat was Kilkenny Castle, considered her an over-educated bookworm. She was educated in a convent in France and so spoke French.Sarah Ponsonby (1755 – 9 December 1831) was orphaned as a child and lived with relatives in Woodstock, County Kilkenny. A daughter of Chambré Brabazon Ponsonby and Louisa Lyons, she was a second cousin of Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough, and thus a second cousin once removed of his daughter Lady Caroline Lamb.Their families lived 15 miles (25 km) from each other.
The pair had been close since the orphaned Ponsonby had Butler as a teacher but their “intense” relationship was unacceptable to their families. With Butler unmarried at the age of forty, her aristocratic, Irish Catholic family was planning to put her into a convent. At the same time, Ponsonby’s Anglican, Anglo-Irish guardians were trying to marry her off. Rather than face the possibility of being forced into unwanted marriages, they left County Kilkenny together in April 1778.
Their families found them and forcefully tried to make them give up their plans—but in vain. They moved to Wales and then sent for Sarah’s servant, Mary Caryll, who lived with and worked for them for the rest of her life. Mary died first, and they were all three buried in the same plot with the same grave marker.MARY CARRYL or Carroll was originally from New Ross and worked in Woodstock House. She acquired the nickname Molly the Bruiser after a row with a footman in Woodstock during which she threw a candlestick at him. She served the ladies with absolute dedication for over 30 years.SOURCES: various