Sir General Thomas Kelly Kenny

Sir General Thomas Kelly Kenny(1840-1914) was the son of Matt Kelly, a Cragaknock Kelly and nephew of Father Tim Kelly. Matt Kelly was National bank manager, in Kilrush, in the mid 1800s. He lived above the bank with his wife Mary Kenny and large family. The General’s uncle, John Kelly ,was a corn merchant and shipowner in Kilrush. Thomas went to boarding school in Carlow and later to Sandhurst. Thomas became one of the top British Army Generals and a friend to royalty. 

Thomas Kelly’s military career commenced when he was appointed Ensign without purchase in the 1st Battalion, 2nd (The Queen’s Royal) Regiment of Foot on 2 February 1858.  He was appointed to command the escort of General Sir James Jackson General Officer Commanding Cape of Good Hope. When Sir James Jackson was succeeded by General Wynward, he was appointed ADC. He resigned this post on the outbreak of war with China in 1860 and accompanied his regiment to the Far East .He was then appointed ADC to the Commander of the Queens, Sir Alfred Jephson. He held this post for the duration of the war. He was appointed Lieutenant by purchase on 12 October 1860, the day Pekin surrendered to the Allies and engaged in the China war at Sinho and at the taking or Tanku and Taku forts. He was mentioned in despatches and was decorated. He was appointed Captain by purchase on 20 July 1866. He was (acting) Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General (QMG) in Bombay from 25 May 1869 to April 1870 when he was sent to Abyssinia on the outbreak of war. He was in charge of the transport train at the front and was mentioned by Lord Napier in despatches for “zeal, energy and ability”. 

In 1874 Thomas Kelly became Thomas Kelly Kenny as a condition of his uncle, Dr Mathias Kenny’s will. Mathias left his fortune to Thomas Kelly including 5000 acres in Clare. Thomas’s father Matt also owned land in Clare. Thomas was a popular and well regarded landlord.

In 1875  Thomas graduated at the staff training college and  he received a medal in 1877. He  was promoted from Major to Lieutenant-Colonel on 26 July 1881, and Colonel in 1887, he was Assistant Adjutant General (AAG) and QMG from that date until 30 June 1889. Continuing in senior appointments, he was AAG and QMG, North-Eastern District from 1 July 1889 – 21 September 1892, where he commanded the training camp at Strensall Camp, Yorkshire. Later he became AAG Aldershot Garrison, from 28 December 1893 – 12 March 1896, on the staff of the Duke of Connaught.
In the Second Anglo-Boer war of 1899–1902 he was, as a Lieutenant-General, “General Officer Commanding the 6th Division of the South African field force”. He was twice mentioned in despatches and received the Queen’s South African Medal with four clasps. He was involved in the relief of Kimberley, the battles of Paardeberg, Poplar Grove and Driefontein. These battles got a lot of contemporary coverage and the General was a well known figure. His image was on collectible cigarette cards.

The General was a close friend of King Edward VII who treated him as confidential military advisor. In October 1901 he was appointed Adjutant-General to the Forces which post he held until 1904.

While Thomas Kelly Kenny was active in his military career and assigned to many far flung postings,  he took a keen interest in affairs in Co Clare. He acted as JP for Clare as had his father Matt Kelly and as did his brother Matthew Butler Kelly. He was patron of the school at Scropul near Tiermanagh. He took a close interest in his large extended family. Cecil Kenny recounts that while on active service he always wore black wool socks made from the wool of the sheep his brother Matthew Butler Kelly kept at Treanmanagh. The General largely lived in England, but had a house at Treanmanagh, Doolough Lodge, built by his father Matt Kelly in the 1850s and left to him on his father’s death.

Thomas Kelly Kenny was a convivial man, a keen shot and good horseman. He transcended class boundaries, was friendly with both the British royals, including the Prince of Wales and Prince Arthur, Swedish and French royals, with whom he stayed to shoot or went on holidays. He accompanied Prince Arthur to the Crown Prince of Germany’s wedding in 1905 and in 1906 to Japan to meet the Emperor. He went on a trip around Ireland with ex Empress Eugenie of Frances on a steam yacht, with crowds seeing them off at Dun Laoghaire(then Kingstown). 

The General retired in 1907 and died at Hove on 26 December 1914. He is buried in Hove Cemetery.