The Ffrench Connection

The Ffrench family were originally one of the fourteen tribes of Galway. Charles Ffrench became Chief Magistrate of Galway in 1444. His son became the Mayor of Galway in 1538. His mark is still left as he contributed to the building of a side chapel in the Franciscan Abbey and he also added a wing to St. Nicholas Church. His son Robuck was elected Mayor of Galway in 1582 and later his son Edmund became Mayor of Galway in 1606.

At this stage Castleffrench was known as Clogher and was owned by an O’Kelly Chieftain. John Ffrench who was a brother of Edmund, purchased Castleffrench in 1636. Jasper, son of John, took it over but he was dispossessed by Cromwell and the estate was given to Dr. Fennell. Jasper Ffrench repurchased the estate in 1671 from Ellen Fennell, the doctor’s widow and he rebuilt it. Sir Charles Ffrench, who was the Mayor of Galway, became Baron in 1779. He died in 1783 and his widow became Baroness. His son did not obtain the title although he was the legal heir, because he was a practising Catholic. Catholics at this time did not receive titles. When she died, her son became Baron and his son Charles became the third baron in 1786. Thomas became the fourth Baron and Martin the fifth. The Ffrench’s were a highly distinguished and respected family and became very prominent in business and in banking in the early part of the 19th century in Galway and Tuam.


In 1845 Tuam bank suffered a setback due to the manager’s disappearance. Lord Ffrench mortgaged the estate to put the bank back in business in 1850. It was purchased by the Thorngate family and they later sold it to the Churchers. After about fifty years the honourable John Ffrench and his wife Lady Sophia Ffrench, who was Italian and had such distinguished friends as Pope Pius XI and President Eamon De Valera, purchased Castleffrench in 1919. Their son Peter Martin Joseph became Baron in 1955 and lived there with his wife, Lady Sophia Cayley Ffrench until 1983, when the castle was purchased by John and Elizabeth Mitchell from Loughrea. Peter Ffrench died on January 16th 1986. John Mitchell died tragically in a boating accident on Loughrea lake in 1985. His wife resided in the castle until 1989 when she sold it to an English couple, Leo and Christine Austin. The castle was sold in 1998 to Bill Baglione.