Friday 26 July 2019

Clogher House
Carra , Co. Mayo

Clogher House in Co. Mayo was built in the 1770’s and existed for nearly 200 years until it was destroyed by fire in 1970. This house and estate were once part of a community of 'Big Houses' that existed in the Ballyglass area which included the Moores of nearby Moore Hall and the Blakes of Towerhill House. These land owning families were Catholic and in the 1860's the tenantry of Moore Hall, Clogher and Tower Hill would meet at mass in the nearby chapel at Carnacun. George Moore recalled that 'they all collected around the gateway of the chapel to admire the carriages of their landlords'. The Moore family pew was the first seat on the right hand side of the church with the Clogher pew behind it. However the landed families sat on the upper level of the church while the tenants sat in the main body of the church below them. Moore would also recall that the Clogher 'girls' Helena, Livy, Lizy and May used to sit there. He also fondly remembered going to Clogher to gather cherries and how his father George Henry Moore was impressed by the inventiveness of the Clogher 'girls' when they made a hearth rug for their dolls house from the skin of a dead mouse. In 1914, George Moore said that 'a last Lynch lives his lonely life in Clogher' and also suggested that Clogher would make a fine home for the Franciscans. He thought this course of action was a good idea as 'Lynch is a Roman Catholic: he has no children, what better could he do.' The 'last Lynch' as referred to by George Moore was James Fitzgerald-Kenney, who in 1913 stated that his ancestors, the Lynch Blosses, came to Clogher in 1720 from Castle Carra, a junior branch of the Lynch Blosse family baronets. They obtained leases of the Clogher estate, in the parishes of Burriscarra , Drum, Carra, Tagheen, barony of Clanmorris  in the County of Mayo, for 999 years from Sir Henry Lynch Blosse, 8th Baronet in 1788. James Fitzgerald-Kenney, in 1913, also referred to the old house of Clogher, inhabited by his ancestors up to 1780. He said that the Penal Laws at the time only allowed Catholics to live in houses of no more than one storey high so the laying of the foundations of the present Clogher House coincided with the relaxation of the these laws. The Lynch family of Clogher House had the rare privilege of having Papal authority to celebrate the ceremony of Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament in their house, it was said at the time to be a privilege enjoyed by very few.

A photo of the house possibly taken in the 1960's
from the Facebook page of Lost Buildings of Ireland who received it from William Fitzgerald Kenney
Originally a smaller house when first built,  a storm in January 1839 resulted in a number of changes being made to the structure. The roof of the mansion was torn off in the storm known as ‘The Big Wind’ despite it being covered in heavy stone slates. As Clogher was left roofless, the opportunity was taken to remodel the house, add another story while replacing the roof. In 1844 Samuel Nicholson described Clogher House as "amongst the largest and the best in the Country, and appears to be kept in excellent order". Clogher sat in a demesne of  640 acres, the structure was three-storey over part raised basement, with six bays on the entrance front incorporating a two bay break-front with tripartite pediment and fan lighted door-case. Internally, the house comprised of twenty-eight rooms incorporating a drawing room, library and chapel. The main reception rooms had ceilings of fine Adamesque plaster work and the front hall featuring an elaborate curved ceiling, which can be seen in some photographs below.

Some surviving photos of the entrance hall of the house where the circular ceiling can be seen
Copyright: The Architectural Archive

Another family involved with the history of Clogher House was the O'Crean family, who were said to be of great antiquity. They possessed large estates in Co. Sligo but lost them during the time of religious persecution. The O'Creans formed alliances with many families and Henry Crean born in 1670, married in 1703, Catherine, daughter of Thomas Blake of Bolebeg, Co. Mayo. This union produced Andrew Crean, who in 1751 married Mary, daughter and heiress of Dominick Lynch, Newborough, Galway. Andrew assumed the additional name of Lynch. His only surviving son, Dominick Crean-Lynch married in 1784, Julia, the daughter of Martin Brown of Cloonfad, Co. Roscommon. Their eldest son, Andrew Crean-Lynch of Hollybrook married in 1811 Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Patrick Lynch of Clogher House and in 1818, Clogher House is referred to as the house of the 'late' Patrick Lynch. It is also recorded that Andrew Crean-Lynch bought the Clogher estate from his brother-in-law Patrick Lynch. Andrew and Elizabeth's union produced five children, Dominick born 1812 but died young, Patrick born 1814, Joseph born 1828 together with two daughters Mary and Ann. Patrick Crean-Lynch succeeded and lived at Clogher House. In 1828, an Edward Lynch of Clogher House is recorded as having died  followed in 1844 by Joseph Crean-Lynch who died aged only 17 years of age. His remains were interred at Thagheen Chapel near Hollybrook, Claremorris. During the Famine in 1847, it was said that no tenant of the estate died of hunger, however many did die of fever which then raged through the country. By the 1860's ,Patrick Crean-Lynch was in financial difficulties and advertised for sale both his Hollybrook and Clogher estates. Part of the Hollybrook estate was in the parishes of Kilbennan and Kilconla, barony of Dunmore, county Galway. The Irish Times reported details of the purchasers of some lots in this sale though other lots were adjourned. Patrick Crean-Lynch was a Justice of the Peace, District Lieutenant, High Sheriff and a Major in the South Mayo Militia. He married in 1845, Marcella, the daughter of Sir Michael Dillion Bellew, this marriage produced four daughters but no male heir. 
The tripartite pediment and fan lighted door-case 
Copyright: The Architectural Archive
In August 1870, one of Patrick's daughters, Helena Mary, married James Charles Fitzgerald-Kenney of Kilclogher, County Galway. so it was necessary that a marriage alliance was arranged between the Crean Lynchs and the Fitzgerald-Kenney's. This marriage produced a number of children beginning  in June 1871, when  Marcella Jane Antonia Mary de Kenne was born in Number 2 Merrion Square. She was followed by William, born in November 1872, who was baptised William Lionel Crean Nicholas De Kenne in December of the year of his birth. In February 1875, at No. 2 Merrion Square,it was reported that a daughter, Helena Julia Olivia was born to James C. Fitzgerald-Kenney and his wife. She was baptised Helena Julia Olivia Anna De Kenne at St. Andrews Church on Westland Row. On Sunday, September 24th 1876 at Merrion Square, the wife of James Fitzgerald-Kenney Esq. of Kilclogher, Co. Galway and Clogher House, Co. Mayo gave birth to a son.  However tragedy struck when James Christopher Fitzgerald-Kenney, the husband of Helena Mary, died on the 31st October 1877 at Clogher House. He left an estate valued under £14,000 and it is noted that he is late of Clogher House, Co. Mayo, Kilclogher, Co. Galway and No. 2 Merrion Square, South Dublin. He was aged 58 at the time of his death. In November 1877, a newspaper notice was published which advertised an auction at Clogher House to include the extensive sale of 183 head of cattle sheep and horses together with carriages, hay and farming implements. Also offered for sale was the entire furniture of the house noted as formerly being the residence of Major Crean-Lynch.  The auctioneers also noted that they have been favoured with instructions from the representatives of the late J.C. Fitzgerald-Kenny. The man who go on to have a successful legal and political career in 20th century Ireland , was actually born after the death of his father. In April 1878, James Fitzgerald-Kenney was born in No. 2 Merrion Square and it is noted on his birth cert that his father was deceased. He was baptised James Christopher de Kenne Fitzgerald-Kenney on the 9th May 1878 in St. Andrew's Church Westland Row.

The breakfront and steps to the house
Copyright ICHC
On June 14th, 1894, Harry James Christopher Kenney died aged 20 as the result of an accident. He was the second son of the late J.C. Fitzgerald Kenny of Kilclogher Co. Galway and Merrion Square Dublin. He was described as popular young gentleman and was returning from the Ballinrobe Racces when the accident occurred. He had attended the races and had won two events but his lifeless body was found the following morning on the roadside near Clogher House. His horse standing on the roadside with its reins still in the hands of the deceased. After mass was celebrated in Clogher House, the cortege left the house at 3pm for interment in the family vault at Drum, a graveyard found within a mile of Clogher. It was reported that the house was' literally besieged during the days of mourning , and was a telling proof of the affectionate regard in which this old Catholic family is held, the room in which the remains were laid, was constantly thronged with the old and young of the neighbourhood'. As the coffin was borne out of Clogher House ' the vast multitude around gave expression to their feeling in a loud burst of sorrow. The large cortege of carriages, cars and the numerous peasantry that followed the remains, filled the avenue from the house to the entrance gate'. The coffin was carried all the way to the graveyard on the shoulders of the tenantry who wore white scarves. Present at the funeral was the Archbishop of Tuam, a number of clergy from surrounding parishes and the Monks of Errew Monastery. Later in the month, a letter appeared in 'The Western People' owing to the false rumours regarding the death of Harry and stated that his death was as a result of a fall from his horse. It was also stated that the victim had a weak heart from childhood and was prone to sudden faintness or dizziness which may have caused the fatal fall.However the rumour that abounded at the time was that Captain Blake of nearby Towerhill and Harry had been drinking at the local pub in Carnacon. Captain Blake stated that he wished to marry Harry's older sister, Harry let it be known that the Blake family were not thought of as being suitable to marry into his family. A number of hours later Harry was found dead on the side of the road near his home.
The Rear Facade of Clogher House
Copyright ICHC
Prior to 1894, there appeared to be good relations between the Fitzgerald-Kenney's and their tenants. However one year later in 1895, there were a number of hearings for ejectments to carried out on the estate for the recovery of rent arrears due to Mrs. Fitzgerald-Kenney of Clogher House. In the 1901 census the house is listed as being owned by Helena Fitzgerald-Kenney and that it extended to 28 rooms.  Residing in the house at this time is Helena, a widow aged 53, her daughter also named Helena aged 24, son James aged 22, a practicing barrister together two servants. It is noted that all Helena's children were born in Dublin. In May 1903, Helena Fitzgerald-Kenney late of Clogher House died and  the probate of her will was granted to James Fitzgerald Kenney B.L. in the amount of £ 1,335 16s 2d. Clogher House and its lands passed to her son James. By 1911, James Fitzgerald-Kenney is still living in Clogher House with another sister Marcella who is a Local Government Board Inspector. In 1920, a long running dispute between the tenants of the estate and James Kenney came to sad conclusion. From 1913 there had been constant trouble around the Clogher estate and the RIC had to provide protection to the Fitzgerald-Kenney family members. James Fitzgerald-Kenney had refused to sell any of his lands to local tenants after which, the locals resorted to a boycott of the estate. The manager of the estate Michael  O'Toole had nine children and could not afford to stop working for the Fitzgerald-Kenneys and received a warning from the tenants of the estate.  As a result O'Toole and another man named Michael Ferrangher were attacked and beaten. O'Toole died of his injuries but Ferrangher survived for a short period before he succumbed. Michael Ferragher had worked on the estate for 26 years prior to his death as a coachman. The suspects who were thought to have carried out the beating were eventually released without charge. The families of the deceased men received compensation for their loss, yet the murders remained unsolved to this day.

Mourners arriving at Glasnevin Cemetery for the burial service of Michael Collins in 1922.
 Future Minister for Justice James Fitzgerald-Kenney of Clogher House, Co. Mayo is on the far left. 
In 1918, James Fitzgerald-Kenney proved counsel for Mr. Edward Martyn of Tulira Castle, Galway in an injunction that he took against a local farmer that was trespassing on this demesne. In 1934, it was reported that Miss Helena Fitzgerald-Kenney had placed her beautiful and ancient residence at the disposal of the Mayo Branch of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children for the branch's annual general meeting. Helena J. Fitzgerald-Kenney was a member of the Mayo Executive of the I.S.P.C.C. and was a council member of the N.S.P.C.C. During Christmas 1949, an invitation was extended from Miss Helena Fitzgerald-Kenny for Midnight Mass to be celebrated at Clogher House. The mass was held in the drawing room which was transformed into an oratory for the occasion. The congregation was made up of staff and people from the area surrounding Clogher.  After his mother's death Clogher was home to James Fitzgerald-Kenney, Cumann na nGaedheal TD for South Mayo 1927-1944 and Minister for Justice 1927-1932. He had inherited Clogher through his mother’s family and made it his home until his death in 1956 together with his siblings. He was educated in Clongowes Wood College and University College Dublin were he graduated with a BA in 1898 and was called to the Irish Bar in 1899. He built up an extensive practice in Dublin and on the Connaught Circuit and was called to the Inner Bar in 1925. He joined the Irish National Volunteers in 1914 and was for a time an Inspecting Officer for South Mayo. In 1927, he was elected to the Dail, and shortly afterwards, following the shooting of the first minister for Justice, Kevin O'Higgins, he was appointed Secretary to the Minister for Justice. After the elections of September 1927, James was re-elected for South Mayo and became Minister for Justice. After his retirement in 1944 from politics, he resumed his legal practice and eventually retired to his farm at Clogher. James Fitzgerald- Kenney died aged 78 in 1956 in a Dublin hospital and his remains were removed from Dublin to Carnacon Church near Clogher with burial taking place in Drum graveyard near the house. James was predeceased by his brother, in August 1954, the death occurred of William Lionel Fitzgerald-Kenney at Clogher House. After his father's death and being the eldest son, while still a minor, he inherited his father's property at Kilclogher and Keelogues near Glenamaddy, Co. Galway. In 1900, he sold all his property having previously married in 1896, Josephine Delmas, the daughter of one of the foremost and best known lawyers, Delphin M. Delmas of San Francisco. William emigrated to California in 1902 to be near his wife's relatives and lived there until he returned to Clogher House in 1949 where he lived until his death. James surviving sisters continued to live at Clogher House after his death. In October 1957, James's sister Helena died , the chief mourners at her funeral were her sister Miss Marcella Fitzgerald-Kenney and Mrs. John Sweetman from Kells.  The Kenney-Fitzgerald family association with Clogher came to an end with the death of Marcella Fitzgerald-Kenney, who died in 1965 at the County Hospital in Castlebar. All the family members are buried at the nearby Drum graveyard.

James Fitzgerald Kenney
As a result of the death of the last Kenney-Fitzgerald sibling to live in the house, two years later in 1967, the contents of the Clogher were offered for sale at auction. This included the contents of the library that extended to over 3,000 books together with both Celestial and Terrestrial globes. The contents of the house was obviously extensive as it took four days to conduct the sale. In the auction catalogue from 1967, the following rooms and area's in the house are mentioned,  the Library, the back drawing room, entrance hall, inner hall and staircase, four bedrooms and the top floor which had a full size billiard table. The house had an extensive library as the sale of its contents accounted for one full day of the four day auction. The books amounted to 3,000 copies that covered topics such as history, law, architecture,  medicine, agriculture, forestry, gardening, travel, trade and religion. There were books written by George and Maurice Moore who had lived on the neighbouring estate together with books by Douglas Hyde and Yeats. There was a copy of ' The Trials of George R. Fitzgerald and others held at Castlebar , taken from the notes of  a Gentleman' dating from 1786. The architecture books appeared to contain a number of volumes regarding designs for ornamental cottages, rural cottages,  small villas, labourers cottages and farm cottages. Some of the medical books dated from the mid 1600's and a large number of books dated from the 1700's featured in the sale, which means they predated the house. As the books were so numerous, a large quantity were not listed, with some being sold by the shelf. The library also had a collection of maps which included an Atlas with geographical and historical accounts of the empires printed for Daniel Brown in London in 1721. There were also fifty sheets of maps of the maritime aspect of County Mayo. After the auction the house was sold to a timber merchant but unfortunately having survived the turbulent 1920's in Ireland,  in January 1970, Clogher House was destroyed in a fire. At the time the house stood on 200 acres having once been surrounded by a demesne of 640 acres. Despite the efforts of fire brigades from Claremorris and Ballinrobe the house was reduced to ruins. It was said that strong gales on the night of the fire hampered efforts to save the house. Clogher was unoccupied at the time and was looked after by a caretaker who lived nearby. Today the house languishes in ruins and is slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Clogher House after it was destroyed by fire in 1970


  1. David - another excellent article which has been well researched and very informative. As a blow in to this county I enjoy these historical and architectural gems and as the custodian of one of the few listed and occupied houses it adds to my knowledge.

  2. Pity there was no one to take over the estate after Marcella died and everything sold off. Did she have no one to leave it to. Such a shame to see it the way it is today. So sad.