The estate started life as Tempo Dessell (dessell meaning sun worship), the seat of the Maguires.
Cuchonnacht Maguire organised the “flight of the earls”, which provided the English government with the opportunity to confiscate most of Ulster.
Brian, Cuchonnacht’s heir, was determined to make the best of the new situation and was one of the first of the grantees to settle on the new estate of 13,000-14,000 acres. Brian died in 1655 and achieved the remarkable feat of holding on to his land even under Cromwell.
Brian Maguire was succeeded in 1655 by his five-year-old grandson Cuchonnacht, who grew up to be an extravagant young man, spending well beyond the modest income his estate provided. He was a devoted Jacobite, and was appointed High Sheriff of Fermanagh by King James. He raised a regiment of infantry to fight for the King, and at the battle of Aughrim in 1691, Cuchonnacht was killed, along with most of his men. Because he died in arms against King William, he was declared a traitor after his death, and his estate was confiscated. The estate was then granted to the Earl of Belmore.
However, Parliament disapproved of the way William disposed of so much of the confiscated Irish land to his Dutch favourites. He was forced to cancel all the grants and a board of trustees was set up to hear all petitions.
Brian, the eldest son of Cuchonnacht, claimed that his father had only a life interest in the estate and succeeded in proving claim. As a result, Tempo Manor is one of of only a handful of Ulster estates to remain in the hands of the original Gaelic owners.
Brian Maguire was succeeded by his son Cuchonnacht, who died in 1739, and he in turn was succeeded by his brother Robert. Under the penal laws passed by the Protestant Irish parliament in the early eighteenth century, a Roman Catholic landowner was forbidden to bequeath his land by will. When he died, his land had to be divided equally among all his sons. However, if the eldest son conformed to the Established Church, he inherited the whole estate. The Maguires of Tempo were no exception. Robert conformed, and his younger brother, Hugh, did so a few years later.
If half the accounts of Hugh were true, he was a desperado to out-desperado anything in fiction. After serving in the Austrian army he returned to England, and in 1745 married a Lady Cathcart. This was her fifth marriage.
The “wicked colonel”, as Hugh was known, was notorious in his own day, and became a legendary villain for all time, because of his treatment of his wife. Far from being satisfied with half of her considerable income, he did his worst to frighten her into handing over a fortune in jewels, and the title deeds of her English property, the Manor of Tewin Water in Hertfordshire. When she refused, he abducted her to Ireland and kept her locked up for some years at Tempo. The room where she was kept, in what later became an outbuilding, can still be seen. There must have been a good deal of talk among the neighbours about his activities, but no one dared to interfere. Duelling was common, and Maguire was a noted shot. After his death, Lady Cathcart (by then well over seventy), was released, ragged, half-starved and almost deranged, and she was able to reveal the details of how her husband had died. The story was like the climax to a gothic horror novel. Having eventually forced her to tell him that the deeds were in a secret compartment behind the panelling at Tewin, Maguire hurried there, entered the room and climbed onto the table to reach the hidden door.