William Butler, a trader from the County of Kilkenny in Ireland, arrived in Cadiz in 1730, aware of the opportunities afforded in the 18th century by virtue of the sea route to the Indies protected by Spanish national interests. William belonged to a Butler family from whom there are many descendants in Andalusia and other regions.
This family from Ireland came to be closely linked to Andalusia, particularly along its coastline, through settling in merchant seaports: Cadiz, Malaga, Huelva and, of course, Seville connected to the sea thanks to the river Guadalquivir. In the locations in Andalusia and elsewhere family members had been creating a trading network not just locally but also for ports in other Spanish regions, in England and in Ireland and in territories in the New World. The network reached its highest point in the 18th century and naturally coincided with the Indies routes, a golden age for some of the Andalusian ports, Cadiz above all others as it was the spearhead of the trade monopoly granted for the overseas territories.
Although Butler descendants have dwelt for more than 300 years in Andalusia, their roots are in Ireland and their collective memory still holds Ireland as the mother country.
The Butler family goes back to the 12th century when Anglo Norman knights were sent out from England to join battle at a time of strife among the native Irish tribal kingdoms. One such knight was Theobald Fitzwalter, grandson of Hervey from Normandy who had come to conquer England in the 11th century. Theobald was the first of the family to hold the office of royal cellarman or butler, the buticularius of the King, that word in Latin from which the surname Butler is derived as the office came to be hereditary.Their feudal territory was Kilkenny and beyond. Important members of the Butler family were Anne Boleyn, who married King Henry VIII and whose father, Thomas Boleyn, was the son of Lady Margaret Butler, the daughter of Thomas Butler, the seventh Earl of Ormonde which means among Butler descendants was Queen Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII by his unfortunate wife Anne Boleyn. There was also James Butler, the second Duke of Ormonde, who was in command of the English troops whose Admiral Sir George Rooke besieged Cadiz in 1702 in the course of the war of Spanish succession which involved France among other European countries and following the war it was Philip of Anjou, the French candidate for the Spanish throne and grandson of King Louis XIV, who succeeded to the Spanish throne.
Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I aimed to limit the power among the inhabitants of Ireland, both the native Irish families and the “Old English” feudal landholders, and did so aided by the force accorded to them by the advance of Protestantism in Ireland among the English landed classes and land redistribution, thereby provoking strife.
Among the clashes which caused confrontation was the Kilkenny Confederation whose objective was to defy English Protestantism and which was defeated by Cromwell in 1651. The defeat of the Catholics of the Confederation brought down the curtain wall of Kilkenny Castle, bastion of the Butler defence and rendered ineffective from then on.
That date marked the diaspora of the Butler lineage and among the Kilkenny citizens despoiled of their properties and obliged to leave the city for the small town of Ballynakill were James Butler ( Translator’s Note : in Spanish records referred to with his mother’s surname Donovan following his own, James Butler Donovan sic ) and another important personage, Michael Langton.
James Butler Donovan, in exile at Ballynakill, became a baker to keep his large family. There was only one son, William, born in 1715, by James’ first marriage, which was to Anne Langton. William Butler came to be known in Spain as William Butler Langton. James’ second marriage after Anne’s death was to Jane Archer, the cousin of his first wife, and by her had four sons and two daughters: these were Thomas, Nicholas, Mary, George, James and Anne. Thomas and his sisters stayed in Ballynakill. Willam kept up the connection with his half brother and the three half sisters who lived in Ireland after the death of their father four years after settling in Cadiz.
The others, including William, had migrated to Cadiz, for Spain, as mentioned, and Cadiz in particular, was a preferred destination especially as from 1717 onwards Cadiz was the spearhead for the Indies route. The city easily accepted migrants from Spain especially at this time when the Indies route was at its zenith.
Later on, James, the youngest of William’s half brothers, was sent to Cadiz by the family and there his name was hispanised to Diego Buteler Archer. He was to learn about marine trading and went on to Buenos Aires in 1765 where he took over from his half brother George who then returned to Europe. James-Diego settled in Cordoba, a growing Argentinian city well-placed for trading up-country, and there he married Vicenta Sarsfield in 1774 by whom there was a family of four sons and two daughters and there are numerous descendants.
It is certain that the forbears of the Ballynakill Butlers were illustrious. Although unable to trace every detail of every generation of the family their descendants in Cadiz retold the story of how they had been dispossessed. Research by another Spanish Butler descendant, a Butler historian resident in Granada, shows James was the son of Theobald of Ballykeife, himself a descendant of Edmund Butler of Neigham who died in 1491: Edmund was an elder brother of Piers Butler, the 8th Earl of Ormonde.
William Butler migrated to Cadiz as a young man in 1730 to learn commercial practices, attracted by the business possibilities of overseas trade.
The Butlers, like all the other foreign traders, among them French, Genoan, English and others, decided to settle and establish themselves on a permanent or temporary basis as trader-merchants in ports and create a network of families with different family members strategically placed throughout Europe ( Ireland; in Cork and Waterford and Galway: England; in London and Bristol and Gibraltar: Spain; in Cadiz and Seville and Málaga and Gran Canaria : America; in Xalapa and Havana and Buenos Aires : Spain; in Cadiz and Puerto de Santa María and Puerto Real and San Fernando and Rota and Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Gibraltar.)
Traces of those traders who were Butlers or connected to the Butlers are to be found in archives at Xalapa in Mexico and in Chile, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, and obviously in the national archive general de indias at Seville. One of the first incomers to settle in Cadiz and who resided at Xalapa was Antonio Butler, patron of Ambrosio Bernardo O’Higgins who rose to be Viceroy of Peru, after serving as factor to Antonio’s company and then being sent to the viceregal Spanish territory of the River Plate. Ambrosio had entered Antonio’s firm upon arrival in Cadiz in 1751. His son Bernardo, who lived in Antonio’s home when first he came to Cadiz, was to be renowned as the one of the great liberator of Chile and their national hero.
William joined the important firm of Carew, Langton & Co which had been founded by Nicholas Langton, his first cousin who had married Francisca, the daughter of Lorenzo Carew, in business since the beginning of the century at Cadiz.
William spent a great part of his life unmarried, almost certainly because of the impossibility of forming a family and at the same time running his business. At a mature age he married María Josefa O’Callaghan, of Hispano-Irish extraction, from La Graña, at El Ferrol, the daughter of Julián Ramón O’Callaghan and Clara Everard and a niece of Diego Murphy. María Josefa was the grand daughterof Lieutenant General Reynaldo MacDonnell, one of the “Wild Geese ”. María Josefa and William married on 15th November 1761. Named as witnesses were their brother-in-law and brother, Julián Ramón O’Callaghan and Patricio Noble, Irishmen who had settled in Cadiz. Although they had only one son, William Butler 0´Callaghan, the next generation made up for it with a large number of Butler descendants.
The Butlers created businesses, taking part as shipowners, shippers and chandlers and exporters and importers in such commercial activities as marine insurance, advances in the value of cargoes and they dealt in products such as sugar cane, tobacco, wool, salmon, lard and wines and for which different companies were founded at notarial offices in Cadiz, all of which are documented in the Archivo Histórico de la Provincia de Cádiz
William lost his fortune when one of his ships was wrecked on the Indies route, as recorded in his will signed on 6th April 1771. His wife María Josefa O’Callaghan also took part in this type of business venture after she was widowed and had to run the family business herself.
William, in common with the practice of other members of the Irish Catholic community, gave part of his increase in wealth to good works. The will signed in 1790 by his widow María Josefa O’Callaghan, executor and guardian of their son and heir, José María Butler O’Callaghan, informs us that her husband had died in Cadiz on 17th January 1772, when their son was only three.
Their son married Clementina Murphy, of Hispano-Irish extraction. As the codicil signed by María Josefa in 1801 shows, and in which she was named sole excecutrix on behalf of her son José María Butler O’Callaghan, she was a widow for many years of her life, the matriarch of the family, but the quantities of documents, it is to be supposed both of a personal as well as of a business nature, and which accumulated in a chest at her home in Cadiz in the calle Jardinillo, since then renamed calle Cervantes, all have been lost with the passage of time.
In spite of the diaspora caused by the loss of the commercial monopoly with America and the arrival of Napoleon’s French troops in the Bay of Cadiz, some of the Butler clan decided to stay on in Cadiz.
One of the grandsons, José María Butler Murphy married Dolores Butler Carmona and their daughter Sofía married into a family from Burgos, whose surname was García de Arboleya y Duval : of two brothers in that family, Francisco and Fernando, the latter was a notable jourmalist and the founder of the important Cadiz newspaper in the 19th century, “ El Comercio ”.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.