Conyngham, Melosina Anne Lenox- (1941–2011), traveller and writer, was born on 22 February 1941 in Ceylon (latterly, Sri Lanka). Her father, Gerald Hamilton Lenox-Conyngham, a tea planter in Wattegoda, in the south of the island, was descended from an Ulster ascendancy family and was a nephew of Sir Gerald Ponsonby Lenox-Conyngham (qv); her mother, Joanna ('Joan') Vernon Butler, from Maiden Hall, Bennettsbridge, Co. Kilkenny, was a sister of Hubert Butler (qv). As the world war escalated, a Japanese invasion of Ceylon was imminently expected, and Melosina (known as 'Melo ' to family and friends) and her mother were hurriedly evacuated to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (latterly, Zimbabwe), while her father served with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. A brother, Vere, was born in Rhodesia in August 1942, and the mother and two children spent the next two years near Durban, South Africa. In 1945 they visited Maiden Hall, and a sister, Eleanor, was born in 1946. When wartime dangers were more or less over, they returned to Ceylon, and Melosina's first memories were of school in a portable thatched wooden building in the garden.
She was sent to board at a finishing school, Brondesbury-at-Stocks, Hertfordshire, England, took some classes in French at the University of Grenoble, and spent many school holidays with various relatives in Ireland. Her education, though limited to what a conventional upper-class girl of that period would receive, did somehow prepare her for a life of travel and adventure, and for varied employment in several countries. She was, inter alia, secretary to the editor of a farmers' journal, a tennis coach in a hotel in Miami, Florida, a ski bum in Mount Snow, Vermont, and secretary for some years to a prominent antiques dealer, Sir Geoffrey Agnew, in London. Her parents retired in the late 1950s to her father's homeplace, Anaverna, Ravensdale, Co. Louth. When Melosina inherited Lavistown Cottage in Co. Kilkenny from an uncle and aunt, she decided to live there permanently from about 1973. For many years she rode to hounds with the Kilkenny Hunt.
She continued her travels, spending many months in far-flung places such as Afghanistan, Malaya and China, paddling a canoe to Timbuktu, and spending some time with former headhunters in Nagaland, India. Often her destinations were chosen on a whim and she regularly travelled alone. She also cultivated interests at home. Her parents were related to gentry protestant families throughout Ireland, and her interest in local and family history was particularly stimulated by her uncle Hubert Butler, who lived close to her in Co. Kilkenny. He had reinvigorated the Butler Society, and his niece was secretary for many years. She attended Butler gatherings in many countries, and put a huge amount of work into organising the Irish triennial gatherings of members of the society from 1976 to 2009. These events were highly successful, bringing hundreds of Butler descendants from all parts of the world to carefully planned visits, lectures and receptions throughout the country.
Her travels and interest in family history provided subject matter for a number of carefully crafted short articles, some of which appeared in the 'Irishwoman's diary' column in the Irish Times in the 1990s. She reached wider audiences from the 1980s as a contributor to RTÉ radio programmes, especially Sunday miscellany. Her unmistakably patrician voice and wry observations gave the sense that her life of connections and travel was a performance worthy of a lady traveller of the nineteenth century. Lenox-Conyngham, much more self-aware than some of her predecessors, poked gentle fun at fellow tourists and at herself as 'an intrepid lady traveller'.
Fascinated by diaries, she made good use of the family network of relatives and acquaintances as she drove round the whole country in a quest for unpublished examples. Her somewhat idiosyncratic selection of extracts in Diaries of Ireland: an anthology, 1590–1987 was published by Lilliput Press in 1997; it was described in the jacket blurb as a record of 'human behaviour recorded in its infinite variety … Elizabethan adventurers, fops, soldiers, widows, landlords, republicans, poets, hedge-school masters and literary lesbians seem to dance through 400 years of Irish history'. Her own unpublished diary, and a work on Irish 'big houses' in progress at her death, suggest that her contribution to Irish literature and historiography could have been greater if she had had a second lifetime in which to write about her first.
Her wry reflections on the cancer which eventually killed her are particularly moving. She was diagnosed around 2007, but after treatment and in remission resumed her travels, sending witty postcards to friends, and characteristically attempted to come to terms with mortality by writing carefully worded obituaries for her deceased friends and acquaintances. Anonymous but recognisably Melosina-esque obituaries appeared in the Irish Times, the Times and the Daily Telegraph until just before her own death. She died on 1 October 2011 in Waterford Regional Hospital; she never married. After a funeral service in St Canice's cathedral (Church of Ireland), Kilkenny city, she was buried in Ennisnag churchyard, Co. Kilkenny. Her niece Sophia Grene edited A life in postcards (2013), an anthology of Melosina's occasional essays. A substantial collection of family papers collected by Lenox-Conyngham was donated to Kilkenny Archives Ltd.