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, St Michan's Church Dublin  
Father (First Name/s and Surname)    


A History of Lough Rynn: Lord Leitrim Ireland VIEW SOURCE


  • 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

Buildings Associated with this Ancestor