Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Caroline greets Royalty

Prince Michael of Kent is attending the Battle of Jutland commemorations at HMS Caroline in Belfast.

His Royal Highness was greeted by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant for Belfast, Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster MLA, the Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP, and Gavin Robinson MP, are among those in attendance.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Kinnitty Castle

THE FAMILY OF BERNARD, OF CASTLE BERNARD, WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN THE KING'S COUNTY, WITH 14,629 ACRES

THOMAS BERNARD, of Oldtown and Clonmulsh, County Carlow, High Sheriff, 1708, married and left issue, his third son,

JOSEPH BERNARD, of Straw Hill, County Carlow, and Castletown, King's County; born in 1694; High Sheriff, 1730. His heir,

THOMAS BERNARD, of Castletown, married and had an only son,

THOMAS BERNARD, of Castle Bernard, Birr, County Offaly, whose son,

THOMAS BERNARD (c1769-1834), of Castle Bernard, was a colonel in the King's County Militia, and for more than 32 years served as MP for that county.
Mr Bernard married firstly, Elizabeth, daughter of Henry, 1st Baron Dunalley; and secondly, Catherine Henrietta, daughter of Francis Hely Hutchinson MP, with whom he had four sons and two daughters.
His descendent,

THOMAS BERNARD, of Castle Bernard, was Lord-Lieutenant of King's County and High Sheriff, 1837; lieutenant-colonel in the Army.

He died unmarried in 1882.


KINNITTY CASTLE, or Castle Bernard, near Birr, County Offaly, is a landmark structure in the area and enjoys commanding views across the surrounding countryside.

This striking castle was built ca 1833 by the Pain Brothers, important advocates of the Gothic Revival in Ireland and architects of Mitchelstown Castle.

An immense edifice, it displays architectural motifs typical of the style including tall chimney-stacks, gabled elevations, castellated towers and parapets, battered walls and labels to windows.


Built for Thomas Bernard, the estate has played an important role in the economic development of the nearby village of Kinnitty.

The castle was burnt by the IRA in 1922, though rebuilt in 1928 by the Bernard Family who, in 1946, sold to the 6th Lord Decies, who in turn disposed the property to the Irish State in 1951.

The Ryan Family acquired the Castle and Estate in 1994 and transformed it into a hotel.

The interior survives, much altered.

The Bernard family later lived at 30 Saumarez Street, St Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands.

First published in April, 2012.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Glen Walk


By Jove it was busy at Mount Stewart estate, County Down, today. The overflow car-park in the large field was almost full.

Of course the popular Jazz in the Gardens event has been taking place this afternoon.

My purpose, however, was to explore the Glen in the demesne.

The glen is off the beaten track.

It begins at a junction on the Red Trail, where there's a small bridge.

One can follow the little river along a track till we reach the estate wall or boundary, where a stone arch passes over the river.

At this point the glen terminates.


There are oblong stepping-stones here, though the river is low at the moment and they are unnecessary.

Other features include a little hump-backed bridge and a more recent bridge in need of repair.


I will return to the Glen again in order to search for a former church or chapel, which was in another field beside the Glen.


On my way back I passed the former estate piggery.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

HMS Caroline Video

HMS Caroline, a decommissioned light cruiser moored in Alexandra Dock, Belfast, will open as a museum ship on the 1st June, 2016.

Caroline was built in 1914.

Here's a fascinating video taken about five years ago:-

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Killeen Castle

THE EARLS OF FINGALL WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY MEATH, WITH 9,589 ACRES

This noble family was of Danish origin, but its settlement in Ireland is so remote that nothing certain can be ascertained as to the precise period.

So early as the 11th century, we find

JOHN PLUNKETT, of Beaulieu, County Meath, the constant residence of the elder branch of his descendants.

The successor at Beaulieu at the beginning of the 13th century,

JOHN PLUNKETT, living at the time of HENRY III, had two sons,
John, ancestor of the BARONS LOUTH;
RICHARD, of whom hereafter.
RICHARD PLUNKETT, of Rathregan, County Meath, who, with his son and heir, RICHARD PLUNKETT, by royal writs of parliamentary summons, was summoned to, and sat in, the parliaments and council of 1374; the one as a baron, and the other "de consilio regis".

To the same parliament and council was also summoned as a baron "Waltero de Cusake Militi", Lord of Killeen, whose heir general afterwards, as wife of Christopher Plunkett, was previously thought to have first brought the dignity of a parliamentary barony into this branch of the Plunkett family, but how erroneously may best be seen by reference to the writs of summons during the reign of EDWARD III, before alluded to.

The younger Richard Plunkett was father of

SIR CHRISTOPHER PLUNKETT, Knight.

This gentleman, as a recompense for the services he had rendered in the wars of Ireland, and as an indemnity for the expenses he had incurred, had a grant of a sum of money from HENRY VI, in 1426; before which time he was sheriff of Meath; and in 1432, was deputy to Sir Thomas Stanley, knight, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

Sir Christopher was created, ca 1426, BARON KILLEEN.

He married, in 1403, Joan, only daughter and heir of Sir Lucas Cusack, Knight, Lord of Killeen, Dunsany, and Gerardstown, County Meath, and became, in her right, proprietor of the Barony of Killeen.

He was succeeded by his son and heir,

CHRISTOPHER, 2nd Baron (who, in an act of parliament during the reign of HENRY VI was called "Christofre Plunkett le puisne Seigneur de Killeen").

This feudal Lord wedded twice: firstly, to Genet, daughter of Bellew, of Bellewstown; by whom he had two sons.

He espoused secondly, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Wells, LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND, by whom he had a daughter and two sons.

Sir Christopher died in 1462, and was succeeded by his elder son,

CHRISTOPHER PLUNKETT, 3rd Baron (1440-c1469); who had summons to parliament in 1463.

His lordship died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother,

EDMOND, 4th Baron (c1450-1510), who had a son and heir,

JOHN, 5th Baron, who was sworn of the privy council of HENRY VIII, and was found by inquisition to have had four sons,
Patrick, dsp;
CHRISTOPHER, heir to his brother;
Henry;
James.
The eldest son,

PATRICK, 6th Baron (1521-c1526), was succeeded by his brother,

CHRISTOPHER, 7th Baron, who succeeded to the titles and estates.

His lordship was an active and gallant nobleman, who discharged many high functions and commissions under the royal authority.

He sat in the parliament of 1509, and having married the granddaughter of the 8th Baron Slane, left issue, three daughters, his co-heirs,
Maude, m 3rd Baron Louth;
Catherine, m David Sutton;
Margaret, m Nicholas Aylmer.
He died about 1567, and was succeeded by his brother,

JAMES, 8th Baron (c1542-95), whose inheritance of the ancient family dignity was not opposed or questioned by the daughters, co-heirs of his deceased brother, and he took his place in the House of Lords in 1585.

In 1589, he enfeoffed trustees in his family estates, and was succeeded at his decease by his son and heir,

CHRISTOPHER, 9th Baron (1564-1613), who, when aged 31, sat in the parliament of 1613; and dying soon afterwards, was succeeded by his eldest son,

LUKE, 10th Baron, styled Lucas More.

This nobleman had a large grant of territory in 1613, and was created EARL OF FINGALL in 1628, JAMES I precluding the honour by a most flattering letter beginning thus:-
That having received good testimonies of the virtuous and many good parts of his right trusty and well-beloved subject, the lord Baron Killeen, being one of the ancient nobility of Ireland, His Majesty was pleased ...
The titles became extinct on the death of the 12th Earl.


KILLEEN CASTLE, near Dunsany, County Meath, is said originally to have been a Norman fortification, built for the de Lacy magnates, and held from 1172 by the Cusack family, beginning with Geoffrey de Cusack.

The castle was then held from 1399 by successors by marriage (to Lady Joan de Cusack), the Plunketts.

Killeen Castle was originally built by Geoffrey de Cusack around 1181. The date is carved above the doorway.

The castle fell into disrepair in the late 17th century, was leased out, and was not restored until around 1779, when parts of the demesne were landscaped and some of the estate features were added.


Significant reworking was carried out from 1803-13 under the supervision of Francis Johnston, and in 1841, much of the castle was demolished and rebuilt (using much existing material) by the 9th Earl of Fingall, in the style of a small Windsor Castle.

The two towers added have the dates 1181 and 1841 inscribed, and at the time of completion, it was claimed that Killeen had 365 windows.

The 12th and last Earl sold Killeen Castle and Estate, in 1951, to Sir Victor Sassoon.

Lord Fingall remained as manager of the stud farm established near the castle.

In 1953, Lord and Lady Fingall moved to a contemporary house built in the grounds, and most of the house contents were sold.

Sassoon died in 1961 and his heirs sold the estate on in 1963, to the French art dealer and racehorse owner, Daniel Wildenstein.

Lord Fingall moved from the estate to Corballis on the Dunsany estate, then The Commons.

He died in 1984 and is buried at Dunsany Church.

In 1978, the castle and estate were sold to the advertiser Basil Brindley, who continued the stud farm operation.

In 1981, the castle was burnt out in an arson attack, being left abandoned for many years.

The lands and buildings were sold again in 1989, to Christopher Slattery.

In 1997, Snowbury Ltd purchased the castle and its grounds, with a vision to create the estate that exists today.

Fingall arms courtesy of European Heraldry.    First published in April, 2012.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

McCutcheon's Field


I spent a half-day with about eleven other National Trust volunteers at McCutcheon's Field today.

This comprises several acres of coastline near Groomsport, at Brigg's Rocks and close to Sandeel Bay, County Down.

There's a leisure park here called Windsor Holiday Park.

The field comprises 9.17 acres and was donated by North Down Borough Council in 2000.

This stretch of coastline overlooks Belfast Lough and the County Antrim coast at the other side.

This morning we were cutting off gorse stumps, a task which needs to be done to hinder future re-growth.

We treated the remaining stumps with a herbicide.

As we sat munching our lunch, lots of swallows were swooping over the field. Terns and field buntings were also spotted.

I brought along a box of little flapjacks for everybody; and lunched on the customary cheese-and-onion sandwiches.


A rather smart new "kissing gate" has been erected at the main entrance to McCutcheon's Field.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Royal Visit


The Prince of Wales has arrived in Northern Ireland.

His Royal Highness was welcomed by the Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast, Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE.

In attendance were the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP; the Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Guy Spence; the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Mrs Arlene Foster MLA; and Gavin Robinson, MP for East Belfast.

The Duchess of Cornwall will join His Royal Highness in the Province on Tuesday, the 24th May.

Thereafter, TRH will undertake a joint official visit to the Irish Republic on Wednesday, the 25th May.

The visit to the Irish Republic is at the request of HM Government and follows a visit Their Royal Highnesses made there last year.

In Northern Ireland, TRH will host a musical evening at Hillsborough Castle, County Down, with the BBC Radio 3 presenter, Sean Rafferty.

Prince Charles will visit The Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) at the Queen's University of Belfast.

Their Royal Highnesses will also visit a number of successful local businesses, some of which work in the food and drink sector, as 2016 is the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink.
Food and drink is Northern Ireland's single biggest industry. On May 11th, The Prince of Wales attended an event at Fortnum & Mason in London to promote the Province's produce, as part of his work in supporting the food and drink sector.
In the Irish Republic, Their Royal Highnesses will celebrate the area's heritage by visiting Magee's, a local company which has been producing tweed in Donegal for 150 years.

At the Letterkenny Institute of Technology, His Royal Highness will meet local entrepreneurs. Her Royal Highness will visit a local school.

Finally, at Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, TRH will tour the gardens and meet children who have been learning about some of the conservation work which takes place in Glenveagh National Park.

Cregagh Glen


Cregagh Glen is a spot where the city of Belfast meets the countryside.

It is a property of the National Trust.

Parking is not particularly easy from the Knockbreda end, though I managed to find a place at a road off the dual carriageway; take care, however, if you park on the other side of the ring road.

This is a linear route, which returns by way of the same path.

My walk began at the entrance on the Upper Knockbreda Road.


I followed the path uphill through beautiful Cregagh Glen.

At certain points along the glen you can choose to follow the main path or a smaller path along the river Glen itself.

The path stays close to the edges of Cregagh Glen as it ascends through pools of sunlight cast by the trees.

Eventually you encounter a waterfall, and yesterday there were carpets of bluebells and wood anemones.


A sign points towards the former American military cemetery at Lisnabreeny, which is worth a detour.


At the top of the glen I crossed the busy Manse Road via a walkway and skirted the grounds of Lisnabreeny House, now a school.


A lane passes Lisnabreeny House, once the home of the Robb family; briefly a youth hostel and army headquarters; before restoration as part of Lagan College.


The old garden is now replanted with broad-leaves and a children's den in the natural play area.

I ambled for some distance further along the country lane before turning back and retracing my footsteps.

Fermanagh DLs

APPOINTMENT OF DEPUTY LIEUTENANTS

The Viscount Brookeborough, Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, has been pleased to appoint:- 

  • Mr Ernest Fisher, Irvinestown, County Fermanagh
  • Mr Hamish Logan, Ballinamallard, County Fermanagh
  • The Rt Hon John Henry Michael Ninian Earl of Erne, Crom Castle, Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh
  • Mr Anthony Rasdale, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh
  • Dr John Graham, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh
To be Deputy Lieutenants of the County, his Commission bearing date the 1st Day of June, 2016. 

Signed: Lord Lieutenant of the County

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Vegetarian Ulster Fry

The Belmont GHQ Ulster Fry, made with Quorn butcher-style sausages especially for National Vegetarian Week.

Mount Stewart: Floor Restoration


The National Trust seeks to raise funds for the restoration of the central hall floor at Mount Stewart House, County Down, ancestral seat of the Marquesses of Londonderry.

The floor was originally laid with local Scrabo stone.

Scrabo stone was also used for the portico, window surrounds, string course and balustrades of the house.

Scrabo stone fireplace at Belmont GHQ

The central section of the hall floor was arranged in a radiating pattern; whereas in the two apses it was laid in squares and octagons.

The original stone floor is beneath the black and white vinyl tiles and it remains in fair condition.

The new project will involve lifting the vinyl tiles, removing the bituminous layer below; and stabilizing or replacing any stones that require it.

The estimated cost for this task is £250,000.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Ballyquintin Day

Mount Stewart estate map

Four of us met at the old schoolhouse in Mount Stewart estate this morning for a day at Ballyquintin Point.

Traditional NT omega signs

Ballyquintin is a 64 acre farm set amid rolling drumlin countryside at the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula, beside the Ballyquintin National Nature Reserve.

The property is located in one of the most secluded parts of Northern Ireland and is great for walking with spectacular views across the Strangford Narrows to the Isle of Man, and of the Lecale coast stretching south towards the Mourne Mountains.

A path, suitable for wheelchair use, leads to an old 2nd World War lookout tower.

The land is let for farming and is managed to provide habitats suitable for the Irish Hare and a number of species of bird that are declining nationally.

An increase in the quality and quantity of the hedgerows is particularly important towards achieving this aim.

Our task today was to weed young hawthorn hedgerows.

Monday, 16 May 2016

M&S Response


I have received a reply from Marks and Spencer regarding my remarks about Tastes of the British Isles:-

Thanks for contacting Steve Rowe about our Tastes of the British Isles range.

I’m a member of our Executive Office, and I hope you don’t mind that I’m replying on Steve’s behalf.

I’m sorry you’ve been disappointed with the packaging and logo for this range, and I appreciate you’ve been a loyal customer of ours.

We’re very proud of the Northern Irish suppliers we work with, and all our packaging is clearly labelled with details of where each product is sourced from.

We’re actually due to make some changes to this range, and we’ve used customer feedback to help us do that.

Tastes of the British Isles products that are labelled as being sourced from Northern Ireland will soon have an amended logo featuring a shamrock alongside the rose, daffodil and thistle.

Some similar products from Northern Ireland that are recognised as inherently Irish, like Irish pancakes, will feature a Taste of Ireland shamrock logo instead.

We’re due to introduce these changes in our next printing run, so it shouldn't be too long before you notice them in our stores.

In the meantime, we’re grateful for you getting in touch with your thoughts on this range.

I hope we’ll continue to see you in our stores, and I thank you again for contacting Steve.

Kind regards
George Mason
Executive Office
Your M&S Customer Service

Ardress Transformation


Ardress House in County Armagh was built about 1680 as a plain, two-storey farmhouse, one room deep.

Between then and ca 1810 the house was extended and evolved in four stages into a substantial gentleman's country house.

The façade of the garden front, which faces south, shows three of the principal building stages: the dining-room wing to the left of about 1810; the drawing-room gable in the middle of ca 1780; and the original right-hand gable of ca 1680 with its elegant, curved wall screen added about 1810.


As can be seen from the black-and-white photograph, the façade was rather ugly in appearance before its remarkable transformation by the National Trust.

The various stages were quite obvious and discrete in appearance; the curved wall to the right was obscured by a lean-to glass-house.


Today the garden front has been completely transformed by a much-needed facelift.

Lime render and white paint gives it a uniform appearance.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Ardress Visit

The garden front in 2016

This is a good time of the year to visit County Armagh, Ulster's orchard county.


The apple blossom is flourishing, as I saw today at Ardress House, a property of the National Trust.

Ardress is well signposted from the M1 motorway, at junction 13 or 14; as is The Argory, only a few miles from Ardress.


I had made up a round of fresh egg and onion sandwiches and brought tea as well.

The house is having a face-lift at the moment, mainly on the east or entrance front.


I sat at a bench in front of the house and had my sandwiches, prior to passing though Reception and into the farmyard.

I don't think I've ever been to Ardress before, and it was delightful to walk into the farmyard and see the chickens contentedly wandering about.

Little packets of seed can be bought for 10p in order to feed them, as I did.

Our tour of the house began at about one forty-five and our guide today was Joan, a former schoolteacher, who was particularly informative about most items on display.

The garden front ca 1960

When the Ensors sold Ardress in 1960 they left virtually no furnishings, so the furniture and paintings are all from other properties, including a considerable number of oil-paintings on loan from the Earl Castle Stewart.

The late-18th century drawing-room has remarkably fine plasterwork by Michael Stapleton.

The dining-room, though joined by a later extension, is inaccessible from the house, so you walk outside through the courtyard in order to enter it.

A number of Lord Castle Stewart's paintings hang here.

At the conclusion of the tour we left via a sort of French window at the garden front.

Thereafter I went for a stroll through the garden and along The Ladies' Mile walk, before driving home.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Tastes of British Isles?


I cycled into central Belfast this morning in order to get some groceries in Marks and Spencer's Donegall Place store.

The food hall is in the basement and has extended considerably since the early 1970s, when M&S opened.

Indeed, Marks and Spencer are to be complimented for their loyalty to the Province throughout the worst years of The Troubles.

There's a handy separate entrance for the food hall at Donegall Place.

I happened to be browsing at the Pies aisle when I spotted several items with a little logo emblazoned Tastes of the British Isles.

We have the English Rose; the Scottish Thistle; and the Welsh Daffodil.

However, Northern Ireland and its shamrock or flax-plant is excluded.

As one of my friends has pointed out to me, the problem could be that these products are also for sale in the Irish Republic alongside those labelled as "Tastes of Ireland", aimed at an audience there which includes products produced in Northern Ireland.

My friend remarked that their advertising team really ought to have thought this one through, as obviously the island of Ireland is, geographically, part of the British Isles.

This was poorly done from a sensitivity perspective and very silly on their part.

It would be fitting for Marks and Spencer to issue an apology to the people of Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Gibb's Island Visit


About a dozen of us met at Gibb's Island this morning to complete a few tasks.

Gibb's Island is connected to the mainland by a sort of causeway.

It is about two miles south of Killyleagh in County Down and it used to be part of the Delamont estate.

Today we were cutting shoots of mostly dead gorse around the island.

We didn't burn it though; we took it away instead.

We lunched at sea-level and I enjoyed a superb, home-made, summer fruit and white chocolate scone, courtesy of NCS.

Brackenber: 1957


Malcolm Lennox has sent a photograph of Brackenber House, Belfast, my old preparatory school, in 1957.

Do you recognize anybody?

First published in January, 2010.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Emo Court

THE EARLS OF PORTARLINGTON WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN THE QUEEN'S COUNTY, WITH 11,149 ACRES


MARMADUKE D'OSSONE, the founder of the Dawson family in England, was amongst the soldiers of fortune in the train of WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.

From him lineally sprang,

RICHARD DAWSON, of Spaldington, Yorkshire (20th in descent), who married Anne, daughter of Sir Henry Lowther, Knight, of Lowther Hall, Westmorland, and from this marriage descended,

WILLIAM DAWSON, the first member of the family whom we find in Ireland.

This gentleman was collector of the revenue for the counties of Down and Antrim, and the port of Carrickfergus, in the reign of CHARLES II.

He wedded Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Jardine, of the ancient family of Applegirth, in Scotland, and was father of

EPHRAIM DAWSON, who having purchased Portarlington and other estates in the Queen's County (now known as Laois), took up his residence there, and represented the county in parliament in the reigns of GEORGE I and GEORGE II.

He espoused Anne, daughter and heir of Samuel Preston, and granddaughter of John Preston, of Ardsallagh, County Meath, by whom he left an only surviving son,

WILLIAM HENRY DAWSON (1712-79), MP for Portarlington, 1733-70, and, after his father died, MP for Queen's County, 1761-8, who married, in 1737, Mary, eldest daughter of Joseph Damer, of Dorset, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
Joseph;
William (Rev);
Samuel;
Ephraim;
Mary; Martha; Anne.
Mr Dawson was elevated to the peerage, in 1770, by the title of Baron Dawson, of Dawson's Court, Queen's County; and was advanced to a viscountcy, in 1776, as Viscount Carlow.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN, 2nd Viscount (1744-98), who was created, in 1785, EARL OF PORTARLINGTON.

His lordship wedded, in 1778, the Lady Caroline Stuart, daughter of John, 3rd Earl of Bute, and had issue,
JOHN, his successor;
Henry;
George Lionel;
Lionel Charles;
William;
Caroline Elizabeth; Louisa Mary; Harriet; Anna Maria.
  • John Dawson, 1st Earl (1744–1798);
  • George Lionel Henry Seymour Dawson-Damer, 5th Earl (1858–1900);
  • Lionel Arthur Henry Seymour Dawson-Damer, 6th Earl (1883–1959);
  • George Lionel Yuill Seymour Dawson-Damer, 7th Earl (b 1938).
The heir apparent is the present holder's son Charles George Yuill Seymour Dawson-Damer, styled Viscount Carlow (b 1965).
The heir apparent of the heir apparent is his son Henry Dawson-Damer (born 2009).




IN THE LATE 19TH CENTURY, IT WAS CONSIDERED THAT AN OFFICIAL IRISH RESIDENCE BE FOUND FOR THE PRINCE OF WALES, LATER KING EDWARD VII. EMO COURT WAS ONE OF THE HOUSES CONSIDERED.

The building of Emo Court (also known as Emo Park) began ca 1790 for John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington, whose name is recalled in Dawson Street in Dublin. 

The 1st Earl was interested in architecture, and invited James Gandon to come to Ireland, where he is best remembered for designing the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin. 

Emo Court was built to replace an earlier building on a nearby site known as Dawson’s Court, and is the only country house designed by Gandon.




The house is two storeys over a basement with attics forming end towers at each end of the building. 

The entrance front has a seven-bay centre with a pedimented Ionic portico. 

On each side on the end towers, there is a panel of Coade stone, on one side representing the Arts and on the other a pastoral scene.

In the Arts panel, James Gandon can be seen with the plans of Emo Court in his hand.

Heraldic tigers stand imposingly at the entrance steps.

The house had not been completed when the 1st Earl died in 1798, and the 2nd Earl was continually short of money, but managed, in 1834, to engage Louis Vulliamy, a fashionable London architect, to complete the dining room and garden front portico. 

However, the house was still unfinished when the 2nd Earl died in 1845. 

It was left to the 3rd Earl in 1860 to commission William Caldbeck, a Dublin architect, to finish the drawing-room, rotunda and library.

He added a detached bachelors’ wing which was joined to the house by a curved corridor.

The Portarlingtons used Emo less and less, till the 1st World War.

Thereafter, it stood empty for a decade, until 1930.
In 1930, the house was bought by the Jesuits to use as a seminary, and it underwent inevitable changes to adapt it to its new life: The wall and mahogany doors between the rotunda and drawing room were removed to provide a chapel; the library became the refectory; the dining-room became the conference room.
The marble columns in the library were dismantled and removed; statues and a marble Rococo chimney-piece were carefully put in storage in the basement; and other changes were made to turn the home into an institution.
 
In 1958, dry rot was discovered and the well-known Dublin architect Michael Scott suggested that the house be demolished to make way for a new building.

This did not happen, and repairs were made and central heating installed.

In 1969 the Jesuits left Emo, and the house was bought by 
Major Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley-Harrison RM (retd)


Major Cholmeley-Harrison had already employed the services of Sir Albert Richardson and Partners, the firm of architects, to restore his previous houses in London and Co Waterford, and at Emo they rose to the occasion.
Over a period of twenty years, Emo Court was restored to its former glory, even more glorious than before: The marble columns and chimney-piece, the magnificent doors, floors and walls were restored to a neo-Classical beauty; the entrance hall was painted in trompe-l’oeil to represent the plaster decoration that Gandon had planned but which was never carried out.
All of this was assisted by the discovery of Gandon’s original drawings for the house, which are now in the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin. 

Major Cholmeley-Harrison presented Emo to the Irish state in 1994.

He continued to reside in the private apartments till he died, aged 99, in 2008.

Portarlington arms courtesy of European Heraldry.   First published in 2012.

Killynether Visit


I spent half a day at Killynether Wood yesterday.

Killynether, comprising 42 acres of woodland, was acquired by the National Trust in 1937.

It's one of the oldest properties in Northern Ireland.

It lies roughly between Newtownards and Comber, County Down.

About ten of us were gathering and burning branches and cuttings from a hedge which runs beside Killynether Road.


There's a whitewashed house here, and a large field with three black horses.


There's also a large pond.

We lit two bonfires and burned the branches.


Tomasz and several others had brought along some food, including Nick's delicious smoked spare ribs from his own pig; and sausages with small potatoes and onions.


These were cooked in a heavy pot on the embers of the bonfire.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Ballyconra House

THE VISCOUNTS MOUNTGARRET WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY KILKENNY, WITH 14,073 ACRES


This is a branch of the noble house of BUTLER, Earls and Marquesses of Ormonde, springing from

THE HON RICHARD BUTLER (1500-71), second son of Piers, 8th Earl of Ormonde, who was created VISCOUNT MOUNTGARRET, in 1550. 

He married firstly, Eleanor, daughter of Theobald Butler, of Nechum, County Kilkenny, and had one son, Edmund.

He wedded secondly, Catherine, daughter and heir of Peter Barnewall, of Stackallan, County Meath, and had Barnewall, who died unmarried, Pierce, and other issue.

His lordship espoused thirdly, in 1541, Anne, daughter of John, Lord Killeen, from whom he was divorced in the first year of his marriage.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

EDMUND, 2nd Viscount (c1562-1602), who married Grizzel, daughter of Barnaby, 1st Baron Upper Ossory, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD, 3rd Viscount (1578-1651), who wedded firstly, Margaret, eldest daughter of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, by whom alone he had issue, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

EDMUND, 4th Viscount (1595-1679), 

Earls of Kilkenny (1793)



Viscounts Mountgarret (continued)


The current heir presumptive is the present holder's brother, Edmund Henry Richard Butler (b 1962). 
Piers James Richard [Butler], 18th and present Viscount,  is de jure 27th Earl of Ormonde and 21st Earl of Upper Ossory following the death of the 7th Marquess of Ormonde in 1997. 


BALLYCONRA HOUSE is a seven-bay, two-storey over basement house with dormer attic, dated 1724, on an L-shaped plan, possibly originally a mill owner's house with two-bay two-storey side elevations, and single-bay two-storey double-pile return to north-west. Now in use as offices.

This is a well-appointed substantial house representing an important element of the early 18th century architectural heritage of County Kilkenny.

It may originally have had associations with the nearby Ballyconra Mills, though its primary significance was for the connections with the Butler Family, Viscounts Mountgarret, late of Ballyragget Castle (1495) together with the Cahill family.

Ballyconra is located on a slightly elevated site.

This house makes an important impression in a landscape dominated by late 20th-century industrial ranges.  

The house is said to be haunted by the ghost of Edmund, 12th Viscount Mountgarret and first and last Earl of Kilkenny, who died in 1846 and was the last Mountgarret to live there. 

Following Lord Kilkenny's death, the house was occupied by Michael Cahill, agent to the 13th Viscount, by whose descendants it was afterwards acquired.

The Mountgarrets' other seat was Nidd Hall, near Ripley, Yorkshire; sold in 1968.

First published in February, 2012.   Mountgarret arms courtesy of European Heraldry.