The Breakey Families of Balladia

The Breakey Families of Balladian (Dernalin)


Drumskelt[1], Ballybay, County Monaghan, Ireland



When Louis XIV, King of France, revoked the Edict of Nantes, sometimes called the Edict of Toleration, in 1685, John de Brequet and his cousins, William de Brequet and an unidentified brother[2], all Huguenots, fled from France to Holland, where they joined the military forces of William, Prince of Orange, and came to England in the latter’s “invading” fleet of 1688.


Consider the plight of the De Brequets in 1685.  They left France “at the eleventh hour[3]” to save their lives when the barbaric pogroms against the Protestant Christians (Huguenots) were being prosecuted (sic) by that “most Christian King”[4], Louis XIV, in league with the Jesuits, with a zeal and a fanaticism that is almost beyond the understanding and credulity of civilized man[5]. So desperate had the situation become and so hard pressed were they that, abandoning all that was near and dear, they fled into Holland with little more than the clothes they were wearing.


Alive, they could join with others of their faith and convictions in the fight for survival and freedom of choice[6], knowing there is strength in numbers and in organized resistance.  Moreover, they were men of integrity[7] and responsibility, craftsmen[8] skilled

In the manufacture of linen, an intricate and exacting art.  And, last but in no way least, they were Christian gentlemen[9], Protestant Christian gentlemen.


John de Brequet was very much in love with a French woman, a Roman Catholic, and she with him.  It was due her entreaties that the De Brequets, cousin and brothers, fled France (it was unlawful to do so) and escaped into Holland.  She was “in the know”, as we say, and knew they were in mortal danger.  Soon after they left, she was the unwilling and horrified witness to the murder of her own father when he tried to save an elderly and faithful servant, a Protestant, from a mob of “religious” bigots.  She was so filled with horror and disgust that she collected what jewels and money she could carry on her person, followed her lover into Holland, found him, renounced Roman Catholicism, and married him in all honor.  It can be said truthfully that all who spell their family name as we do owe their existance (sic) to that noble woman[10].


William de Brequet married an English woman from Shrewsbury while the troops were stationed in England.  The town of Shrewsbury is beautifully situated in a bend of the Severn River near the Welsh border.


William’s fleet anchored in Torbay on the south coast of Devonshire, 5th November 1688.  Meeting no resistance, troops and equipment were disembarked and moved north to the Salisbury Plain where they encamped while the prince of Orange negotiated with certain noblemen and the Posers in London.


The Salisbury Plain has been a favored spot for military encampments since time immemorial.  This descriptive statement was found in Macaulay’s History of England[11], “Though midwinter was approaching, the weather was fine; the way was pleasant; and the turf of Salisbury Plain seemed luxuriantly smooth to men who had been toiling through the miry ruts of the Devonshire and Somersetshire highways.”  The town of Salisbury in Wiltshire dominates the area, and Salisbury Cathedral, one of the finest in England, is situated there.  Moreover, William used the Cathedral for some of the audiences he held before going on the Hungerford, and a considerable number of his troops were camped there even while he negotiated in Hungerford and perhaps later.


William’s approach to London was through Exeter, Salisbury, Hungerford, and Reading.  He expected to meet resistance from the supporters of James II whom he was about to displace as King of England, etc., but here was none.  Instead, he was welcomed by the populace, virtually holding court in the cathedrals of Exeter and Salisbury.  He was determined to avoid bloodshed if at all possible, giving James II every opportunity to alienate himself from the few supporters he had left and to escape into France.  Moreover, he had the support of the majority in Parliament, the same Parliament that wanted to expel James II.  His arrival in England can scarcely be called an “invasion” in the usual sense.  He had issued strict orders to his troops forbidding pillage, rape or unnecessary killing and, since his troops were well disciplined, their conduct and behavior was a revelation to the native populace.  As a consequence, his troops were amply supplied with provisions and at reasonable prices.  This situation was all the more surprising since his army was composed of contingents from many different countries of Europe, all Protestants banded together for mutual assistance and protection.  His English regiments, of which he had several, were placed in the van since he reasoned they would arouse less antagonism than would the Dutch, Swiss or other foreign troops.


In 1961, we[12] traveled over most of the route followed by the army of the Prince of Orange in the southwest of England, from Newton Abbot to Exeter to Salisbury to Hungerford to Reading and on to London.  I have taken the Ordnance Survey Maps as my authority for the spelling of the place names.


The De Brequets were enrolled in Schomberg’s French Cavalry.  Duke de Schomberg was second in command of the entire expedition but the French Cavalry was Schomberg’s own.


Frederick Armand, Duke de Schomberg, was a member of the Ducal House of Cleves and a military leader of great distinction.  He, too, was a Huguenot and left France in protest over the way the Protestants were being treated, thereby resigning the truncheon of a Marshall of France and forfeiting his estates.  He joined William of Orange in Holland and was placed in command of the cavalry, several regiments of which were composed almost entirely of his countrymen in exile.  The De Brequets were enrolled in the regiments of cavalry, thus placing themselves in position to become subjects of William and Mary when they were crowned jointly King and Queen of England.  The British Parliament voted Schomberg citizenship on 8 April 1689, and 100,000 pounds sterling to compensate him for the lost of his estates.  Duke de Schomberg was killed when leading a charge at the Boyne.  He was in his 80th year, a most remarkable man.  The Orangemen of Ireland still observe (1961) the anniversary of the Boyne though those in Eire must go up into North Ireland to do so.


William’s expedition met with very little resistance, James II promptly abdicated and left for France, the English Parliament quickly accepted William as the new king, and the Huguenot regiments were disbanded.  Then, on page 211 of Samuel Smiles’s book, we read:  “The Huguenot regiments had been disbanded almost immediately after the abdication of James and his flight into France.  So soon, however, as the news of James landing in Ireland reached London, measures were taken for their re-embodiment, and four excellent regiments were at once raised – one of cavalry and three of infantry.  The cavalry regiment was raised by Schomberg, who was its colonel, and it was entirely composed of French gentlemen, officers and privates.”


The De Brequets were enlisted in this regiment of cavalry.  Shortly after being re-embodied, it was sent to Belfast in North Ireland, where it was joined by three regiments of Enniskilleners, then marched southward to Dundalk.  It is said the De Brequets liked the country they were passing through and decided to settle there as soon as their enlistments expired.  The little army decided to go into winter quarters at Dundalk and await reinforcements and better weather.  By this maneuver, they successfully pinned down the Jacobite army of 20,000 men which lay at Drogheda.


Schomberg’s French Horse was ordered into Ireland in 1689.  On arriving in Ireland, each man had to buy his own horse and furnish his own equipment.  Only gentlemen with some wealth could have done that.  The Rev. David Agnew states in his book, “Protestant Exiles from France”[13], “Schomberg’s Regiment of Horse arrived in Ireland after the surrender of Carrickfergus and proved itself to be an admirable corps…”

“At the Royal Review of the 9th July (O.S.) the strength of the regiment was reported to be 395 men.” (Page 182). “Old Schomberg wrote from Dundalk, 12th October, 1689, “When we arrived (in Ireland), I had not more than 6,000 men, no equipages, and the officers of the army not one horse.  I was happy that the troops found horses to buy; these did not answer our necessities.”  Apparently, some took horses without bothering to pay for them foe he continued his letter stating, “Among those who took some horses there are Frenchmen; and, I believe, people are very glad in the letters that they write from hence to lay the blame upon them.  I do not take a side either way.  Others can inform your majesty that the three regiments of French infantry, and their regiment of cavalry do their duty better than the others.” (page 188).


Schomberg’s French Horse was heavily engaged in the Battle at the Boyne, 1st July 1690 (O.S.), the unidentified brother falling there.  John de Brequet, a non-commissioned officer, was among the first to go to Schomberg’s assistance when he was shot from his horse during the heights of the battle.  The cousins, John de Brequet and William de Brequet were mustered out soon after the Battle and settled near Ballybay in County Monaghan. William de Brequet and his English wife settled in Lisgillin in 1690 and built the house in October of that year.  At the house warming in Lisgillin and at the suggestion of the ancestors of the Dalys of Drumskelt, William de Brequet was presented with a set of white dinner delf.[14]  John de Brequet built Balladian House in 1692.  His French wife lived in Dublin while the house was being built learning to speak and use the English language.  Balladian became a great center for the manufacture of linen.  Some years later, the Breakeys of Lisgillin (They had anglicized the spelling of the name on becoming subjects of William and Marry) removed to the adjoining townland of Drumskelt and built Drumskelt House in 1717.  Breakeys lived in Drumskelt House continuously from 171 until 1959 when it went to the Presbyterian Church by the will of Robert Breakey (1885-1959).  Edward Cosgrove is the present (1969) owner.


Thomas C. Breakey also states that his ancestor, William de Brequet, had the townland of Lisgillin for very many years at £ 0-1-11 per acres. (14,1.c.) [sic]  William Breakey, Junr., was doing business at Lisgillin in 1764.  See the old deed dated 18 July 1764.  This old deed between the Rev. Robert Smith of Dillon, Barony of Lakale, County of Down of the one part and William Breakey, Junr., of Lisgillan (sic), Barony of Cremorn, County Monaghan of the other part was found in the Registry of Deeds in Dublin, 10 May 1968.  It had been registered 30 June 1767.  Isaiah Breakey of Derry, Merchant, and William Daly of Ballybay, Gentleman, all of County Monaghan, were witnesses.


Edward P. Breakey, PhD


Sumner, Washington


March 1969



Transcriber's note:


According to Mundane and Mundane in At the Ford of the Birches (1999, p. 7), no townland by the name of Balladian “is mentioned on any of the old maps.  The original name was ‘Dereneling’, as stated on Jackson’s Survey Map.”


[1] For the relative location of these townlands, see the Ordnance Survey Map, 6 inches to 1 mile, Sheet 18, County Monaghan, Ireland, Edition of 1910.

[2] The brother was killed during the Battle at the Boyne, 1 July 1690 (O.S.).  I have been unable to learn his name.

[3] These words are those of Thomas C. Breakey of Drumskelt.  M.S. in library of Presbyterian Historical Society, Church House, Fisherwick Place, Belfast.

[4] It was none other than the Pope in Rome who addressed him thus.

[5] He, Louis XIV, had vowed that he would exterminate the Protestants (Huguenots).  See Samuel Smiles’s book The Huguenots, published in London in 1868, and other writers on the subject.  We Protestant Americans of the 20th Century, who number Roman Catholics among our best friends, find it difficult, indeed, to think such a situation ever existed.  Also, see Weiss, History of the French Protestant Refugees.

[6] Freedom of choice included much more than the right to worship God according to the dictates of one’s conscience.  While religious freedom was the paramount issue of the time, others were also agitating the minds of men.  For example, the guilds or trade unions had become most tyrannical.  Craftsmen were being told what they could produce, how much and of what quality.  Such artisans as would not submit, were liable to have their looms broken, their dwellings gutted, and to be themselves expelled with their families beyond the city walls.  Thousands of Walloons left the low countries for England during the reign of Edward III (often called the father of British industry), to escape from this form of tyranny.

[7] “The Huguenot’s word was as good as his bond, and to be as ‘honest as a Huguenot’ passed into a proverb.  This quality of integrity—which is essential in the merchant who deals with foreigners whom he never sees—so characterized the business transactions of the Huguenots, that the foreign trade of the country fell almost entirely into their hands.”  Quoted from Samuel Smiles’s book the Huguenots, pages 134-135.

[8] “It is computed that about 100,000 French manufacturers and workmen fled into England in consequence of the Revocation (1685) of the Edict of Nantes, popularly known as the Edict of Toleration, besides those who took refuge in Switzerland, Germany and Holland.  The principle emigrations into England were from Normandy and Brittany.  The whole Protestant population of Coutances emigrated, and the fine linen manufacturers of the place were at once extinguished.”  Quoted from Samuel Smile’s book, the Huguenots, page 250.

[9] To be a gentleman in 17th Century France meant being well born, a man of fine feelings, good education and social position.  Gentlemen stood next to the nobility socially, enjoyed the right to bear arms, and were usually the owners of real property.  In Samuel Smiles’s book, The Huguenots, page 189, we read, “The flower of the army which William landed at Torbay on the 15th of November, 1688, consisted of Huguenot soldiers trained under Schomberg, Turenne and Conde.  The expedition included three entire regiments of French infantry and a complete squadron of French Cavalry.”

[10]See the “Memoirs” of Thomas C. Breakey of Drumskelt.  M.S. in the library of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Church House, Belfast.

[11] Macaulay’s History of England, Vol. II, Page 408, Harper & Brothers, N.Y., 1876.

[12] Nettie C. Breakey and Edward P. Breakey

[13] “Protestant Exiles from France” by the Rev. David C.A. Agnew, London, 1871.

[14] Thomas C. Breakey’s “Memoirs.”  M.S. in the Library of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Church House, Belfast.