John O'Hart in Anglo-Irish Gentry, page 440, has extracts from the Acts of Settlement and Explanation passed in the reign of Charles II. from 1661 to 1665. From a number of extracts, of which one is the following, and a lengthy footnote, students of the Brett family in Sligo will find this interesting.

 

Assessors.--" In case some of the Officers and Souldiers, or some of their respective Assigns may prove to be refractory in paying their just proportion of the publique charge in Connaught, the following are appointed Assessors to determine the amount to be in each case paid:

 

Anglesey, Arthur, Earl of
Brett,* John, Esq.
Charges, Sir Thomas, Knt.
Conway, The Lord Viscount
Cooke,* Miles, Esq
Gorges, Doctor Robert
Kerle, Sir Richard
Kingston, Lord
Nicholl, Henry, Esq.
Orrery, Roger, Earl of
Petty, Sir William
Skeffington, Sir John, Bart.
Stanley, Sir Thomas

 

*John Brett and Miles Cooke : No nation presents so many melancholy vicissitudes, so many remarkable incidents, and so many sad reverses in its history as does Ireland ; and no other nation's history presents so many extraordinary anomalies, so many strange facts and episodes. Party spirit, Celt and Saxon rivalries, and sectarian jealousies, Clan war, Race war, and Class war, have at one period or another been the bane of our unhappy country; and yet we often find names representative of the most antagonistic prejudices strangely placed side by side. Here, for instance, amongst those Assessors we see allied the names of men who differed in everything but in loyalty to their Sovereign ; here we find representatives of the old Catholic families of the Bretts and the Cookes selected to adjudicate on the same commission with the Protestant Lord Kingston and Sir William Petty. Yet stranger still is their after story: Lord Kingston became the founder of an Earldom, and a junior branch of his family became the Viscounts Lorton; while from Sir William Petty, who was " the son of a clothier at Romney, descended the noble Houses of Shelbourne and Kerry, and, more lately, the Marquisate of Lansdowne.  

Of the descendants of Miles Cooke, here mentioned, some left Ireland for foreign lands, and died in the service of France and Spain; while a junior branch of the family, "with all lost save honour," eked out a precarious existence in Connaught, and, as a gifted author has said (speaking of the Irish Catholic Gentry): " If they were not more speedily trampled into the very lowest grade, was due, in first place, to their pride of lineage, which supported them in their assumption of a position which their fortune was quite inadequate to support ; and, in the second pace, to the sympathy of the native population, whose love for the 'old stock' was faithful through good and evil report, and who never denied the fallen gentleman the respect which his ancestors enjoyed." And in their humblest day this " pride of lineage" urged them to associate and connect by marriage with some of the best Catholic as well as Protestant families in Connaught ; as may be seen in the " Cooke " genealogy, recorded in p. 45 of this Volume. 

The Brett family lived at Derroon House, near Ballymote, co. Sligo, and were Squires of the Taaffes, who were Viscounts of Ballymote (as the Cookes were Squires of the House of Norfolk, in England). When Ireland was chosen as the battle-field on which the cause of King James II. was to be fought, at least five members of the the family served as Officers in His Majesty's Army, and another served as Deputy Lieutenant for the county Carlow ; while one member of the Brett family is recorded as being in His Majesty's service, namely-John Brett, who was M.P. for Sligo, in King James's Irish Parliament. The last legitimate representatives of John Brett were three daughters, of whom Mrs. Hemans makes the Irish Bard, Carolan, say, as in the following lines:


"Voice of the grave!
I hear thy thrilling call.

...

" But thou art sent
For the sad earth's young and fair,
For the graceful heads that have not bent
To the wintry hand of care I
They hear the wind's low sigh,
And the river sweeping free,
And the green reeds murmuring heavily,

And the woods-but they hear not thee I "

Carolan's "Prophecy" respecting one of the Misses Brett is related in the Percy Anecdotes of Imagination, thus:

" It is somewhat remarkable that Carolan, the Irish bard, even in his gayest mood, never could compose a planxty for a Miss Brett, in the county of Sligo, whose father's house he frequented, and were he always met with a reception due to his exquisite taste and mental endowments. One day, after an unsuccessful attempt to compose something in a sprightly strain for this lady, he threw aside his harp with a mixture of rage and grief ; and, addressing himself in Irish to her mother, 'Madam,' said he, 'I have often, from my great respect to your family, attempted a planxty, in order to celebrate your daughter's perfections, but to no purpose. Some evil genius hovers over me ; there is not a string in my harp that does not vibrate a melancholy sound when I set about this task. I fear she is not doomed to remain long among us, nay,' said he emphatically, ' she will not survive twelve months.' The event verified the prediction, and the young lady died within the period limited by the unconsciously prophetic bard."-See Carolan's " Prophecy," in The Poetical Works of Mrs. Felicia Hemans.