Donadea

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A great little book I’ve been reading is The Forgotten Heritage of Kildare, and it contains snippets of information on many sites around Kildare. Naturally. `The book talks about the following:

The Aylmer name first appeared in Ireland at the end of the 13th Century. John Aylmer married Helen Tyrrell and because of this the Manor of Lyons came into the ownership of the Aylmer family. in 1588 Richard Aylmer of Lyons acquired the Barony of Oughterany from the Earl of Ormonde, and with that the Manor of Donadea. His son Gerald was made the first Baronet of Donadea, Co. Kildare in 1622.

The Aylmer family remained in residence at Donadea for over 300 years. The last member of the family to live in the castle was Caroline Aylmer, who died in 1935. Sir Richard Aylmer, 16th and present Baronet of Donadea, was born in Canada. He has made many visits to Ireland. The Land Commission acquired Donadea Castle and estate in 1936. The castle was dismantled and its contents auctioned. Donadea Demesne is now a forest park.

Sources: The Forgotten Heritage of Kildare By Ger McCarthy

Why I won’t (technically) be supporting The Gathering

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I was browsing the internet a while back and came across this project called the Ireland Reaching Our Project. It’s about looking up your local parish from where you’re from, and being able to trace your roots by using local sources. I actually signed up and became an administrator of sorts (not that I’ve done any work on it yet but I’ll get there) because I liked the idea. I’ve never been too into Genealogy on my own family myself, but I appreciate the idea that people from around the world can find out more about their family.

Then I found out this website was linked to The Gathering….

The Gathering is an initiative by the Irish Government to bring people of Irish descent (over 70million of them) back home during 2013. The idea is for local people or groups to organise events and invite their friends and family home. I immediately didn’t like the idea and still don’t. Many people, such as myself and  Gabriel Byrne, don’t like it, because it’s not so much about bringing people back to their communities or roots, it’s about them spending money. I have no problem with people coming over here to spend money and all the best to Discover Ireland and other such organisations who entice people to come over. The Gathering, in my opinion, is about using Genealogy  family History, heritage and even identity in an attempt to get people to come to Ireland to spend money. This I cannot support. What is your opinion?

Opinions Required

I’ve added a new page called ‘Map’ on the homepage of this blog and need feedback on it. Is it helpful? Too cluttered? Pointless or pointful?

Let me know, thanks!

Maynooth Harvest Festival

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Maynooth Harvest Festival is going to be on from this Thursday 13th until Sunday 16th and is going to be the greatest Maynooth Harvest Festival Ever!

For all you history heads, the highlight of the festival may be this:

3.00- 4.30pm Walk and Talk – Exploring Old Maynooth by Rita
Edwards, Maynooth History Group. (Meet at Geraldine Castle at
3.00pm and finish at Nuns’ Graveyard, Presentation Convent).

Here is an amazing shiny link to all the events.

A Brief History of Castletown

I’ve been reading ‘A History of Celbridge’ recently and am thoroughly enjoying it. It’s accessible, colourful and hey, fun. If more local history books were like this, the world could be a better place. They’re not though, so it isn’t, but at least this book stands out.

Castletown House is one of Ireland’s biggest landmarks. Described as Ireland’s ‘Largest and Earliest Palladian style house’, it certainly boasts an amazing sight upon first glance. The only pictures I can show you are one’s from the outside, because although you can get a great tour of the place courtesy of the OPW, pictures are not allowed. Hence me putting up useful links that have pictures inside!

I’m going to talk about the people rather than the building itself. I’ve often found it hard to keep track of the history, so I want to lay it out easy.

William Conolly is the most famous figure associated with the house. He actually came from a humble background; born in Ballyshannon Co. Donegal in 1662, the son of a local Innkeeper. He married Katherine, who brought £2,300 into the marriage. With this William invested much into land confiscated after the Williamite Wars. In fact, by 1703, he has spent over £10,000 on buying 15,000 acres of land. Their first home was in Kilcock, before moving to Castletown. In 1709 he acquired Castletown and the surrounding states of 1,890 acres for £15,000. By the year 1728 Conolly owned a staggering 148,487 acres of land, with a rental income of £14,926. One of the reason’s for this is because he was Irish and landlords would rather sell to him than other English landlords.

He studied law in Dublin, becoming a solicitor and barrister. In 1692 he was elected to the Irish parliament and in 1709 he was named Commissioner of the Revenue. Finally in 1715 he was appointed speaker of the Irish House of Parliament ((hence his name ‘Speaker Conolly’). These three positions allowed him enormous amounts of power.

When Speaker Conolly died in 1729, Katherine was 67 and had no children. Castletown was divided between her and their nephew William. She is known for being generous to the poor and her building projects: the Death House, the Collegiate College, Conolly’s Folly and the Wonderful Barn. When she died, her nephew William took over, and a couple of years later, he too passed and his son Thomas now inherited the estates of Castletown.

Thomas Conolly married Lady Lousia Lennox in 1758 and it is said that Castletown became the house it is under Louisa. She kept a careful eye on all that happened here and was involved in everything from the finances to construction. Her husband Thomas spent much of his life, ironically in debt. He supported the Act of Union and this ended his political career of more than 40 years in the Irish Parliament. Interesting to note that Leixlip Lousia Bridge train station is named after Lady Louisa Conolly.

After Thomas passed away, the estate went to Edward Peckingham, son of his niece, as Thomas and Lousia has no children. It is said he spent most of his time in London at Parliament. During the famine, he told the House of Commons in England to ‘throw political economy to the wind and listen to the starving people’. I already mentioned how another local landlord, the Duke of Leinster at Carton, was also benevolent in his actions during the Great Famine. Edward died in 1848, succeeded by his son Thomas, and HE spent most of his time on the continent, becoming good friends with Napoleon the 3rd!

Tom’s eldest son Thomas, inherited Castletown, but was killed in 1900 and the Estate was handed to his brother Major Edward Conolly. In 1956, his nephew, Lord Edward Carew inherited Castletown. In 1965 he sold the House to Major Wilson for £166,000. In 1967, the Honorary Desmond Guinness (who I’ve been fortunate to meet and gave a fascinating tour of his home in Leixlip Castle) purchased Castletown and land surrounding it for £93,000. It was finally purchased by the State in 1994.

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References: A History of Celbridge by Tony Doohan

The Wonderful Barn

The Wonderful Barn in my opinion, is the most impressive monument I have come across so far in all my studies of Irish Archaeology. Why didn’t they flash this image anywhere in college,and why doesn’t Kildare tourism use this more? It’s pretty unique (aside from two other similar structures nearby) to say the least. Built in 1743 by Katherine Connolly, it was a relief project to provide local people with employment during a famine at the time. It was supposed to be a place to store grain from the local clans of the O’Byrnes and the O’Tooles who visited the area looking for food. It’s a conical shaped building with an outdoor staircase of 94 steps wrapping itself around the seven story high  building. Grain was pulled up through the centre of the room and was spread on the floors to dry. The windows are made of oak and are unglazed to provide ventilation to the Barn. It’s easy to access being near the N4, but you’ll have to go through a field or two (there are nearby allotments nearby), but once you’re there you should have the place to yourself.

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References : A History of Celbridge by Tony Doohan

 

 

Heritage Week

Remember it’s Heritage week!

Here are the events happening in Ireland, just choose your county! In Kildare, you can get tours of Maynooth Castle, of Castletown House, Canal tours, bus tours to local towns, Forest Park tours, so there’s plenty to see.