Thursday, 14 February 2019

Dromore Castle


The O'Mahonys were, in early times, powerful chieftains in the province of Munster, and had extensive estates along the sea-coast of counties Cork and Kerry.
Opposite Horse Island, off the former county, was their castle of Rosbrin, boldly erected on a rock over the sea; and its proprietor, in the time of ELIZABETH I, availing himself of the natural advantage that it possessed, led a life of such successful piracy, that Sir George Carew, when Lord President of Munster, was obliged to demolish it.
From old family documents, it appears that the ancestors of RICHARD JOHN MAHONY, of Dromore Castle, held for a long period the office of Seneschal of Kerry, even down to the time of the Commonwealth.
In 1639, MacDermot O'Mahony was confirmed as High Sheriff of Kerry by CHARLES I. Not long after, the O'Mahonys, true to their allegiance, suffered fine and confiscation, and finally sought in foreign climes the distinction denied them at home.
COLONEL DERMOT O'MAHONY, of Rosbrin, a faithful adherent of JAMES II, fought and fell at Aughrim.

His brother, DANIEL MAHONY, received the honour of knighthood from that monarch at St Germain's for his gallant conduct at Cremona, and afterwards for his good services in France, Spain and Italy, obtained the title of Count from LOUIS XIV.

This was the celebrated General Count MAHONY, of the Spanish service, so distinguished at Almanza and in Sicily as Commander-in-Chief of the Spanish troops.

A chief line of the great House of Mahony resident in County Kerry was

JOHN MAHONY, of Dromore Castle, who married firstly, in 1794, Miss Higginbotham, of Bath, who died without issue; and secondly, Miss Day, daughter of the Ven Edward Day, Archdeacon of Ardfert, of Beaufort House, County Kerry, and had issue,
DENIS, of whom presently;
He married thirdly, Miss Godfrey, daughter of Sir William Godfrey Bt, of Kilcoleman Abbey, County Kerry, by whom he had a daughter, Agnes, who wedded R C Hickson, of Fermoyle, County Kerry.

Mr Mahony died in 1817, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE REV DENIS MAHONY JP, of Dromore Castle, who married firstly, in 1827, Lucinda Catherine, only child of John Segerson, of West Cove, County Kerry, and had a son,

RICHARD JOHN, of whom hereafter.
He wedded secondly, in 1829, Jane, daughter of Sir John Blake Bt, of Menlo Castle, and by her had issue,
Rose; Margaret.
He espoused thirdly, in 1843, Katherine, daughter of Mathew Franks, of Merrion Square, Dublin, by whom he had one daughter, Mary Ellen.

The Rev Denis Mahony died in 1851, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD JOHN MAHONY JP DL (1828-), of Dromore Castle, High Sheriff of County Kerry, 1853, who was father of

HAROLD SEGERSON MAHONY JP (1867-1905), of Dromore Castle, County Kerry, who succeeded his father in 1892.

When Harold Mahony was killed in a bicycle accident in 1905, he left no heirs.

The estate passed to his sister, Norah Eveleen Mahony, wife of Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Hood TD JP, who, in turn, left the castle to her cousin, Hugh Bolton Waller.

DROMORE CASTLE, near Templenoe, County Kerry, looks out over the River Kenmare.

It was built in the 1830s for the Mahony family to a neo-gothic design by Sir Thomas Deane.

It was designed and built for Denis Mahony.

Work began in 1831, although the account books show that only a negligible amount had been carried out before 1834.

Building work was completed in 1839.

The house is in the castellated Gothic-Revival style, with an external finish of Roman cement with limestone dressings.

With the notable exception of the grand south-facing window with its pointed arch, the windows consist of pointed tracery contained within rectangular frames, a style characteristic of Deane's domestic work.

The entrance hall, which is in the form of a long gallery, takes up half of the area of the ground floor.

The west wing of the Castle takes the form of a round tower, with a spiral staircase contained within an attached turret.
Although Dromore Castle appears to have been built on the instructions of Denis Mahony, his father John Mahony had made the decision to build a large residence earlier in the 19th century, but apparently abandoned the attempt after his yacht, returning from London with lead for the roof and wine for the cellar, sank in the River Kenmare, in view of the site of the house.
Thereafter, no further work took place until Deane began building work for Denis Mahony in the 1830s.

Denis Mahony was a rector of the Church of Ireland and a keen proselytiser.

He is known to have set up a soup kitchen at Dromore during the time of the Irish Potato Famine, and preached in the chapel at Dromore to the hungry who came for food.

His proselytizing activities did not make him a popular figure in the locality, and in 1850 he was attacked in his church at Templenoe.

On returning to Dromore, he found a further angry group had uprooted flower beds, felled trees and were about to set fire to the castle; it is claimed that they were only stopped by the intervention of the local priest.

After the Rev Denis Mahony's death in 1851, the castle was inherited by his son, Richard John Mahony, who successfully ran the estate in addition to farming oyster beds in the bay.

When Richard Mahony died, the castle then passed in turn to his son, Harold Segerson Mahony.

Harold was an extremely successful tennis player, and indeed was the last Irish winner at Wimbledon.

His tennis court can still be found in the gardens at the Castle.
It was in the late 1800s, during Harold Mahony's time as head of the household, that Harold Boulton, best known for writing the lyrics of the Skye Boat Song, came to visit Dromore, and it is then that he is thought to have written the words to the popular song "The Castle of Dromore," published in 1892.
When Harold Mahony was killed in a bicycle accident in 1905, he left no heirs, and the castle was passed to his sister, Norah Hood.

She in turn left the castle to her cousin, Hardrass Waller, and the castle remained in the hands of the Waller family until 1993 when it was offered for sale.

Dromore Castle is now owned by an investment company who are attempting to restore the building.

Beyond the Castle's gardens and outbuildings, the majority of the Castle grounds are now owned by  the Irish forestry board.

The Kerry Way runs through the grounds, and there are various footpaths leading to the Kenmare River. Entrance to the grounds is through a castellated gatehouse, also by Thomas Deane.

Dromore Castle provided some of the filming locations for the 1988 film High Spirits.

First published in June, 2012.


Helena said...

You have a perfect perception of the Dromore Estate - and I was a friend of the Waller family
Jane and Jenny - daughters of Hardress Waller

so if you want more information

Bob said...

Slight correction.....the gothic gatehouse was built about 1849/50 and its design has been attributed to Benjamin Woodward, who had joined the Deane’s architectural practice in 1846.
Since Woodward designed only two gatelodges of this type, it is of considerable architectural importance. (The other was built about the same time at Annes Grove, Co. Cork, and has been refurbished.)

Peter said...

I spent Christmas there once with my family and Jane Waller when I was fairly young; perhaps '91 or '92 (making me 9 or 10 at the time). 'Twas rather cold!

Interesting to read a little more of the history of the place, thanks.