\Vhen I was first asked to speak, I suggested as my topic 'A Gentlemen's Village: Seats and Estates of Doneraile'. Over the months, however, as I was preparing the lecture, it dawned on me that the families associated with the various estates were of equal importance to the estates themselves. Houses are never simply architectural units but first and foremost homes. Therefore I have taken the liberty of somewhat modifying my topic, which now reads 'Seats and Families of Doneraile'.
Before going any further, let us tackle the question why Doneraile? Why should we all want to sit in this room for an hour and listen to a lecture on some dreary old North-Cork corner? Where is Doneraile in the first place, some of you might even wonder. Well, to answer that question, Doneraile is one of the many small towns in the Blackwater valley and is situated some thirty miles north of Cork City and seven miles north-east of Mallow. It stands on the northern slope of a hill rising from the river Awbeg, which flows through the town cutting it into two sections. As to why Doneraile is so special as to deserve a good hour of your attention, the answer is simple: Doneraile is steeped in history. Within a two-mile radius of its main street, this little village has twenty-six gentlemen's seats, most of them still thriving. The purpose of this talk is firstly to explain how, why and when Doneraile became such a magnet to the landed gentry and secondly to visit some of these houses and the families who once occupied them. I have also taken the liberty to extend somewhat beyond the two mile radius to show you how many of these families expanded and spread throughout the district.
Doneraile is a very old town and its foundation can be traced back to 1130, when a clan called Deagha settled on the townland of Oldcourt, some three-quarters of a mile north-west of the town. Here they built a fort on a rocky elevation and called it Rosfoyle,'promontory on the cliff', which gradually changed to Dun Ar Aill, 'fort on the cliff'. The same clan also built forts in a place called Bo-bleacht. now the townland of Byblox, a mile west of the town - we will hear more about this place later When a plague destroyed a great number of people in the area, the chieftains decided to rnove the settlement to the place where Doneraile now stands In the course ot the thirteenth century Doneraile like many other small towns in the Cork region began to develop as a market town and appears as such on a list drawn up by the sheriff of Cork in June 1299.
The subsequent early history of Doneraile is closely linked with that of the family of Synan, who were of Welsh origin and came to Ireland with Strongbow. Some members of this family settled in Doneraile and wielded great power over the district from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. Their original dwelling-place was a fort near Byblox, from where they spread out and, by the time of Queen Elizabeth 1st. had built five castles and a number of manors in the area. The most important ones of these were Richardstown Castle, Castlepook and Doneraile Castle. Towards the end of Elizabeth's reign the Synan influence began to wane and during the reign of Charles 1st. they suffered heavy defeats and many members of the family were condemned to death or exile. However, the Synans did not disappear from Doneraile entirely; in fact, in 1642 they laid the foundation of the Red House, also called Doneraile House, on the Main Street. which they occupied until c. 1830 - more about this later. A branch of the family under the name of Crone also stayed in the district, and to this day there are a few Synans living in Doneraile. Of all the Synan castles, only Castle Pook still stands. A few years ago it was purchased by a Synon who returned to the area with the view to perhaps not restoring the castle but certainly to protecting it against any further deterioration
In 1636, Nicholas Shynan sold Doneraile and the surrounding countryside, in all some 12,000 acres of land, for £300 to Sir William St. Leger, Lord President of Munster. The St. Legers were of French extraction and derived from Sir Robert Sent Legere, a knight and one of the companions-in-arms of William the Conqueror. Sir William St. Leger was his direct descendant and the first of the St. Legers to live in Doneraile. His first purchase of land in this area was in 1630, when he bought the castle and lands of Kilcolman from Sir Walter Welmond and Sylvanus Spenser, a son of the poet Edmund Spenser, whose home Kilcolrnan Castle was. With this land deal and the purchase of the Synan lands six years later, Doneraile and most of the surrounding countryside became in effect the property of the St. Leger family and remained so for several centuries; in its heyday the estate would have consisted of some 28,000 acres.
When the St Legers first arrived in Doneraile, they used Doneraile Castle - one of the Synan strongholds- as their base. However, during and immediately after the great rebellion of 1641, the castle was sacked and burned a number of times. By 1645 it was so badly damaged that the St Legers decided to abandon it. They removed to a house situated on the present location of Doneraile Court, pulled down the remains of Doneraile Castle and used the stone to add to this house - there is a inullioned window in the basement which clearly originated from this castle. At around 1725 Arthur, first Viscount Doneraile, got Isaac Rothery to redesign the house, and the façade that we see today dates from that time.
I am not going to dwell on the St Legers or Doneraile Court to any great extent because they are not the focus of this lecture. Suffice it to say that by the beginning of the 18th century, the St. Legers were well established in Doneraile, where their influence was enormous. Because of their presence, Doneraile became a borough under a charter granted by Charles II in 1679, and was empowered to return two members to the Irish Parliament. Thus, in a short period, Doneraile was transformed from a modest market town into a gentlemen's village. The town went through a major facelift, and is today an excellent example of a formally planned early eighteenth-century settlement. We are lucky to have a surviving estate map drawn up of Doneraile in 1728. It is not quite clear whether this map was an accurate survey of early eighteenth -century Doneraile or simply an aspiration plan for its development, but whatever the case, the town structure is easily recognisable 270 years on. The main focus of the map is on the north sector of the village with a church, fair green and mill on one side and the St. Leger estate with its castle and impressive gardens on the other. The estate is screened off by large groves of trees, and this sector of the settlement is connected to the rest by a bridge. The principal residential area consists of a long main street intersected by one large lane and several small ones. The largest residences, substantial two- and three-storied houses, are all located on the main street, while the lanes consist of smaller, single-storied dwellings and, in the peripheral areas, simple cabins. In 1750. Smith records in his Ancient and Present State of the City and County of Cork that 'Doneraile [is] one of the most pleasant and beautiful villages in this kingdom ... [and] is indebted for the greatest part of its beauty to the fine house and extensive improvements of Hayes St. Leger esq.'
As we have seen, the arrival of the St Legers in Doneraile brought great prosperity to the district; it also attracted a number of landed families to choose Doneraile as their home. Many of the original local families equally benefited from the new prosperity of the village and were able to improve their situation. One of these families were the Crones, the branch of the Synan family referred to earlier on, who were long settled in the vicinity.
One member of this family, John Crone, married Sarah Gething, niece to Arthur, First Viscount Donerail, and his nephew. also called John, became a wealthy attorney whose clients included the Viscounts Doneraile. He married Frances Fennell of Limerick in 1747 and their eldest son. Robert Fennel Crone. was born eleven years later .The relationship between father and son was a very close and affectionate one. When Robert was sent to school in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, the two kept up a close correspondence, of which the following is an example - please note that at the time of writing this letter, Robert was only ten years of age:
Dr Dada, It ,gives me pleasure to hear I am to travel with my uncle Crone to Doneraile next Christmas. We shall break up for Christmass the 10th of desember] my Uncle tould me my mare would Come with the horses/] Mr & Mrs Hardwood desire there best Compliments to you!] there is no more niísc so must conclude ~youre Loving son Robert Crone.'
In 1785 Robert married Martha, daughter of James Norcott of Springfield, Buttevant. They eventually had five sons and five daughters and the ever-growing family needed a large home to accommodate them. In 1793 Robert secured a grant of the townland of Byblox from Roger Langley whose family had occupied the site for nearly 100 years and who made the drastic decision to give it up in order to disinherit his eldest son.
Within the same year Robert built Byblox House on the site. Robert died suddenly in the prime of his life and after his untimely death the house passed to his eldest son, Major John Crone, who made Byblox famous for extravagant parties and hunt balls. Unfortunately, he went one step too far in 1844, when he hosted a grand dinner party with music and dancing at Byblox on the night of the burial of his near relative, Mrs. Mary Hill, of Graigue. This evoked the fury of the local rector, Henry Somerville, who began a campaign against the wasteful habits of the local gentry from his pulpit. He also clashed with Major Crone over the bequest to the poor of Doneraile by his grandfather, when the Major was unable to supply the rector with a satisfactory account of how the money had been distributed. What ensued was an unpleasant court case and permanently strained relations between the rector and his landed flock, which culminated in Lord Doneraile and other gentlemen of the area abandoning the church in Doneraile in protest.
Of Robert Fennel Crone's ten children, four ever married. Of these, only two had children: Major John Crone, whose son, Robert, died at the age of eighteen, and the second-youngest daughter, Martha, who married Captain Charles Croker of Lissa and had two daughters. The younger, Jane, who married her cousin. William Croker, lived at Byblox for nine years as a young widow, but the time of hunt balls and extravagant parties was long over. Her grand-daughter, Eleanor Weldon, recalls:My grandmother could not afford much in the way of domestic help - the kitchen was in the basement & the dining room upstairs, a long way off & my father said sadly the food always arrived in the dining-room. aftcr its long often slow journey,stone cold.The Crone connection with the house was finally broken in 1902, wvhen Jane lost her only son in the Boer War at the age of 19; seven ears later she sold Byblox to Eustace Morrogh-Bernard and moved to Limerick
Another family with a long-standing connection with Doneraile were the Creaghs. They are descended from the O'Neills of Thomond who in a battle against the Danes in Limerick wore laurel branches to their helmets, thus earning the name O'Craoibh (branch), of which Creagh is the anglicised form. From the eleventh to the sixteenth century the family was settled in County Limerick, where, in 1312, John Creagh. of Adare. was Mayor of Limerick. The date of arrival of the Creaghs in Doneraile is not clear. but one branch of the fainily appears to have settled in County Cork by the sixteenth century: Christopher Creagh was Mayor of Cork in 1541, and a man of great influence and power amongst the native Irish. His direct descendant, John Creagh, was ancestor of the senior branch of the family, the Creaghs of Ballyandrew and Laurentinum. His secomid son, Doctor John Creagh, was living in Doneraile at least as early as 1760, when the followimig advertisement appeared in the Cork Evening Post: 'Wanted, a servant to manage a small garden. If he is a single man, well recommended, and not corpulent. he may hear of a place by applying to Doctor Creagh of Doneraile. Dr. Creagh married twice, first a Miss Ruddock of Wallstown by whom he had one child, Catherine,to whom we will return later.His second wife was Judith Ussher from Co. Waterford,and by her he had another daughter, Mary, who in 1779 married Kilner Brazier of Lizard, Co. Limerick.Their son, George Washington Brasier-Creagh, was ancestor of the Brasier-Creaghs of Creagh Castle. This house, originally called Castle Saffron, and standing beside a well-preserved tower-house, one-time stronghold of the Roche family, became a Creagh property in1788, when Dr. John Creagh leased it from Mr. William Love. The original house was built by John Love before 1750 and is said to have contained rooms with plasterwork by the Francini brothers.Creagh Castle, as it became known was destroyed by fire towards the end of the eighteenth century and was rebuilt in 1816 by William Brasier-Creagh, incorporating the old front of the original house, which gives the building a somewhat earlier look. The two bay addition on the south side of the house was built in 1911 to provide a larger drawing room and is in exactly the same style as the original block. William's brother, George, also made many improvements to the estate, including the spectacular Gothic entrance gates and gate lodge, which were built in 1827. Doctor John Creagh had a younger brother, Michael, who leased the townland of Laurentinum from Lord Doneraile and built on it the main seat of the Creaghs. shortly after his marriage in 1741 to Catharina Parker. Laurentinum House was originailly three-storey in size, but the top storey was taken down in the late l840s or early l850s and the house reroofed. The new roof has a very low hip and wide projecting eaves and gives the house a somewhat nineteenth-century feel.
Catharina and Michael had one son, John who drowned in the Awbeg when young. Michael seems to have lost his wife at around the same time as he remarried in 1745. His second wife was Mary sister and heiress of Captain Richard Gethin, and he was succeeded by his eldest son, Arthur Gethin Creagh who in 1770 married Isabella. daughter of William Bagwell. MP, of Clonmel. Co. Tipperary. They had five sons and five daughters, and three of their children are of particular interest. The second son, the Rev. John Bagwell Creagh. built a house known locally as the Hermitage on the townland of Ballyandrew. This is an ancient towniand. where Druids are said to have had their sanctuary near the medicinal well before St. Patrick came to Ireland. This townland came into the possession of the Creagh family by the marriage of John's grandfather. Michael Creagh, to Miss Gethin. but it might have had an earlier connection with the Creaghs as well, because the area is famous for two ghosts. both related to the Creagh family: the first one of these is known as the dog of the Creaghs: the second is the ghost of a Miss Creagh. who, when her lover had been killed by her father, came by an untimely death.
Hermitage House is a good example of early nineteenth-century vernacular style. There are one or two other examples of this style left in North Cork, hut none in as good a state of preservation as this one. The original dwelling house, which existed before the Hermitage was built, now forms part of the courtyard to the rear of the house. This was the home of the Atkins family who are interesting in their own right. Richard Atkins. who lived in the house in the early eighteenth century, married Anne. only daughter of the O'Sullivan Beare. Richard was killed by a fall from his horse returning from Hunting, and his only child,John Atkins, was an ancestor of Thomas Davis.
There is another house of interest near the Hermitage. This dwelling, Saffron Hill Cottage. was built by the Rev. Edward Sayers, who was appointed curate of Doneraile in I 708. It later became the home of Kilner Brasier, who married Mary, daughter of Dr. John Creagh of Castle Saffron, and most of their children were born at Saffron Hill. One of them, George Washington Brazier-Creagh, lived here up to the time of his marriage and before succeeding to Creagh Castle. He afterwards sold the property to Viscount Doneraile, whose mother-in-law, Mrs Lenox-Conyngham. lived here between 1852 and 1861. The second child of interest of Arthur and Isabella Gethin Creagh was their eldest son, Michael. He lived for a time at Kilbrack Cottage, which is said to be the oldest inhabited house in Doneraile. It is of a complex structure, being originally a three bay, single-storey cottage. The roof was originally thatched and the house adorned with an ornamental bargeboard but both features have now disappeared. A fourth bay was added to the facade early on and a one-and-a-half-storey extension was built to the rear. A severe landlord, Michael became unpopular with his tenants, and in 1829 he became a target of an assassination attempt by the \Vhiteboys, now called locally the Doneraile Conspiracy, the idea of which was to get rid of three landlords, Michael Creagh, Vice-Admiral Henry Evans and George Bond Lowe. On a January night that year, Dr. Norcott of Cottage, Doneraile was returning from a party with his daughter, when two persons fired at his carriage, wounding the coachman and footman, and sending several bullets through the carriage. In a court case which followed, it was revealed that Dr. Norcott's carriage was fired at by mistake because it closely resemnbled that of Mr. Creagh's. The prisoners had a lucky escape as well:,they were initially sentenced to be hanged, but the sentence was afterwards altered to transportation for life. From 1835 to 1849, Kilbrack Cottage was the home of the Very Rev. P. Sheehan, Parish Priest of Doneraile (not to be confused with the famous author Canon Sheehan, who lived at Bridge House. Doneraile, some fifty years later). According to local tradition, he was forbidden by Lord Doneraile to have two horses on his carriage and in an act of defiance harnessed two mules to it instead. In the l860s. the house was owned by Edmund Boycott, brother of the infamous Captain Boycott.
The intended assassination of their eldest son frightened Michael's parents, and, anxious to move to the safety of the Main Street, purchased and demolished Doneraile House, the home of the Synans, in 1830. Here they commenced the building of a large townhouse, starting with a coach house, an attractive cut-stone building with limestone arches, which was completed in 1832. Creagh House a five bay, two-storey townhouse over a high basement was finished some five years later. Although it might not appear so from the outside, this house was built for serious entertainment. The reception rooms are huge and noted for extravagant plasterwork; they were linked across the main hall to form a ball room on big occasions. Elizabeth Bowen, who was related to the Creaghs by marriage, refers in her book. Bowen Court, to parties and wedding dejeneurs for over 200 guests at Mrs Creagh's in the 1870s. Creagh House has another claim to fame, and here we come to the third child of interest of Arthur and Isabella: their second daughter married Matthew Shaw, and one of their children, Isabella, married the famous English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, who no doubt visited his wife's grandparents at Creagh House during his trips to Ireland. The Creaghs occupied the house until 1892, when it was leased to Edward Croker, JP. until his death in 1910.
Laurentinum, the main family seat, remained in the Creagh family until December 1847, when it was sold in the Landed Estates Court to Stephen Fagan. The Creaghs of Doneraile subsequently emigrated to Australia and the name has disappeared from Doneraile.
The Creaghs were very closely linked to other powerful Doneraile families. The first one of these were the Stawells. This family is of Norman origin and possessed considerable property in Somersetshire. One of them, Sir John Stawell, was one of the Undertakers for the re-peopling of Munster in the time of Queen Elizabeth. He did not remain long in Ireland. as he was dissatisfied at not receiving the amoumit of land that he was led to expect would be his share, but a considerable number of Stawells returned to Ireland in the early seventeenth century, in all probability with Sir Walter Raleigh. Prominent amongst them was Anthony Stawell of Wraxall. who settled in the neighbourhood of Clonakilty and became tenant of Sir Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork. One of his grandsons, Jonas Stawell, later migrated to Ireland and eventually inherited his grandfather's property there, becoming the founder of the Coolmain branch the family. This line died out towards the end of the nineteenth century.
Anthony Stawell of Wraxhall had a brother, Thomas, who followed him to Ireland after the death of his wife in childbirth, Thomas's son, Jonas became Archdeacon of Ross and had two sons: Anthony, who founded the Kilbrittain branch of the family, and Jonas, from whom the Mallow and Doneraile Stawells are descended. However, Anthony also had a Doneraile descendant, his great-grandson, William Stawell, a Councillor-at-Law, purchased land in Doneraile in 1788 and built Kilbrack House. This late eighteenth-century house incorporates a kitchen and back stairs which appear considerably older and are possibly part of an earlier, two-storey thatched house that we know stood on the site before the present house was biult. William Stawell married Catherine, daughter of Dr. John Creagh of Creagh Castle, who became famous for a diary which she kept for over thirty years and in which she recorded all the news of the district. William Stawell died without issue in 1830, and the estate was left to his nephew, the Rev. Francis Stawell. The house remained in the Stawell family until 1893.
We now return to Jonas, ancestor of the Doneraile branch of Stawells. It is not known at what date lie left Kinsale for Mallow but he appears to have settled here by the time his son George married Anne Dodsworth in 1700. Their grandson, Jonas, was born in 1769 and is mentioned in his father's will, which states: "Whereas an ample provision is already made for my dear eldest son Jonas by his mother's and my marriage settlement. I only leave him a silver cup and cover. as a token of love." In 1805 Jonas married Anna Elizabeth. daughter of the Right Rev. William Foster, Lord Bishop of Clogher. Her uncle, John Foster, was the last Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. On his marriage, Jonas received the property of Oldcourt in Doneraile from his father. He first appears to have occupied an older house, which now forms part of the present courtyard, but nine years after his marriage commenced the building of a large house on the site. The foundation stone was laid on 2 May 1814 by his son, George, and the house was completed within the same year. In the early nineteenth century there were extensive formal gardens in front of the house and these were decorated with numerous statues of Greek gods and heroes. Jonas Stawell appears to have got a bit carried away with his statues because in his time Old Court was locally nicknamed 'Greece'. The StaweIls occupied the house until 1853, when it was sold in the Encumbered Estates Court for £3,000 to Mr. James Morrogh.
Jonas Stawell, the builder of Oldcourt, had a younger brother, George. who in 1803 bought the hands and house of Crobeg, built by Luke Hazard in the 1790s. George greatly added to the house and generally improved the estate. He married in 1801 Elizabeth Longfield of Longueville and by her had four sons and five daughters. On 9th. April, 1823, while George was away, ten Whiteboys arrived at Crobeg, demanding admittance. With great courage, Elizabeth addressed the attackers from her bedroom window and was able to talk them out of their intention to rob the house. She was, however, greatly frightened by her experience, and two weeks after the incident Catherine Stawell of Kilbrack noted in her diary that "on 22 .April 1823, Bess Stawell and the dear family of Crobeg left it for Castle Mary; they do not intend to return until the country is restored to tranquillity" Their exile did not last long: by early 1824 they were once again established at Crobeg, where they remained for another hundred years. The Stawells, like the Creagbs, later abandoned Doneraile for Australia.
Another family closely connected to the Creaghs were the Norcotts. This family came to Ireland in Cromwell's time and was originally called Northcote. The first of the family mentioned in Irish records is John Norcott who was sent here as a minister in 1658. His third son, William settled in Springfield in Buttevant and William's grandson, Arthur, purchased Park House in Doneraile. This building appears in Taylor and Skinner as 'Ballingrane' with the occupant given as Mr.Hennessy.
Arthur probably purchased the house around the time of his marriage, and extended the house by adding the kitchen wing. He later moved to the Hermitage to make way for his son, another Arthur, who married Mary Evans of Carker in 1816. This Arthur also added to the house by building the part containing the dining-room. His grandson. yet another Arthur, was born in Park House in 1875 and later went to USA. He died at sea on his return to Ireland, and some twenty years later his mother sold Park House to Mr. Cogan, whose descendants still occupy the house. The first Arthur, who had purchased Park House, had a nephew, Hugh Norcott, who sold the family estate of Springfield to Lord Doneraile and went to live in Doneraile at Carker Beg (or Lissa). This house was built by Andrew Nash c. 1750 and the estate remained in the Nash family until 1801, when it passed to Vice-Admiral Henry Evans as part of the marriage portion he received upon his marriage to Elizabeth Nash. Hugh had been leasing the property from the Nashes and the lease was renewed by Vice-Admiral Evans.
During Hugh's occupancy, in March 1823, the house and surrounding outbuildings were burned by the Whiteboys. Returning from a dinner party, Hugh noticed a flash of fire in the direction of his house, and hastening to the spot, reached it just in time to save his cattle that were locked up. The outbuildings, dwelling house and the furniture were all lost, and the fire was so great as to be seen many miles distant. One of the soldiers alerted to the rescue operation found a man's hand near the house, and when the police made a search through the neighbourhood, they discovered a man named Hickey, with his hand off, hiding in a cabin nearby. He had been for some time employed as undergardener to Mr. Norcott, and had been much liked by the familv. His hand was shattered by the bursting of a blunderbuss, when he fired at Mr. Norcott's servant boy, who rushed out on discovering the house was on fire. Mr. Hickey was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged at Carkerbeg, on a field opposite the house he had burnt. On the day of the hanging the following April, he was conducted to the place of execution by a great number of gentlemen on horseback, including Lord Domieraile, Michael Creagh, George Stawell, and others. He then addressed the people in Doneraile, pleading them to abandon the wicked work they had on hand, and be advised by their clergy. Having been embraced by his brother, he was duly hanged. Carker Lodge was rebuilt by Hugh Norcott's mother. and the next occupant, Captain Charles Croker, added the back extension and planted a number of trees. His wife, Martha Crone, did not like the name Carker Lodge, and it was changed to Lissa, after the Island of Lissa near which Captain Croker had taken part in a fight against the French.
Hugh Norcott of Carker Lodge had two younger brothers. The first one of these, James, married Dorcas, daughter of Arthur Gethin Creagh of Laurentinum, while the second, Dr. John Norcott, married Mary Spiers and settled in Doneraile in a house called Cottage. It was described as a nice thatched cottage, well kept. and with a good garden. Dr. Norcott remained in the house until his death in 1841, although he appears to have had a number of unpleasant experiences during his long occupancy there. In February 1823 the house was raided by Whiteboys, who demanded 30 shillings and robbed Dr. Norcott of his watch, which he got back by paying them a £1. Six years later Dr. Norcott and his daughter were shot at by the \Vhiteboys, as mentioned earlier on. One of his sons, James, lived at the Hermitage in the 1820s and 1830s, and one of his granddaughters married Sampson Stawell of Crobeg in 1896. One branch of the family also occupied Dromdeer House until 1844, when Richard Barrett purchased the interest for £3,500 Curiously enough, the Norcotts. too. evenruallv emigrated to Australia.
The next family of interest is that of the Evanses. This family of Welsh origin came to Doneraile towards the end of the eighteenth century and became inextricably linked with the townland of Carker. It originally belonged to Captain Nicholas Green but passed to the Evanses when Captain Green's daughter Bridget married Nathaniel Evans of County Limerick. Nathaniel built the family seat. Carker House, shortly after his marriage, and his descendants became one of the largest landowners in the area, second only to Viscount Doneraile. Perhaps unavoidably, they as a result became the focus of the attentiomi of the Whiteboys. Accordimig to a popular local story, the Whiteboys raided Carker House in the early days of March, 1823, when Mrs. Evans was alone in the house. She told the masked men of some good old wine in the cellar, which no one knew of but herself, and when the Whiteboys ordered her to go and fetch it, site went into the basement, stripped herself of her dress, and squeezed herself through a small opening in the cellar wall. On her way to Doneraile to her husband and the military, and dressed only in her undergarments, site passed the rebels on the road who took her for a ghost and fled in terror.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, Carker House was the seat of Nicholas Green Evans. I have already mentioned his brother, Vice-Admiral Henry Evans, who received Carker Lodge upon his marriage to Elizabeth Longfield. His daughter, Eliza, married Arthur Gethin Creagh junior, of Creagh House, and Eliza is the Mrs. Creagh that Elizabeth Bowen was referring to as a great woman for elaborate parties.
Henry lived in the neighbouring village of Shanballyniore, but he also built a house in Doneraile.This was Ballysheera, where he lived sporadically until 1814, after which his nephew, Ralph Westropp Evans. resided here before succeeding to Carker. Henry also had another nephew, John, who in 1846 'engaged to lay out £250 on a slated dwelling-house'. The house was completed in 1847 and John Evans intended to occupy it himself, but his three sisters, whom he had expected to keep house for him, insisted on settling in England, where one of them, Emma, died in 1909, aged 101. John sold his interest in 1850 for £100 to his cousin, Commander Nicholas Evans, who added a wing to the house and enlarged the out-offices in 1852. His son, Francis, inherited the house in 1884 and six years later changed its name from Newtown House to Newtown Park. Francis was the founder of the Doneraile Cricket Club in 1865, making it the oldest cricket club in die county.
Carker House remained in the family until late last year when Mrs. Evans died at an advanced age.
Another family which greatly benefited from the prosperity in Doneraile were the Hills. They were descended from the Hills of Little Pipe, Co. Stafford and arrived in Ireland in the mid-seventeenth century when William Hill, Captain of Cavalry in Cromwell's army, was sent here with the Parliamentarv forces and bore an active part in variouis campaigns. He left an only son, also William, ancestor of the Hills of Doneraile. They were not landowners in their own right but worked as agents, first for the Viscounts Doneraile and later for the Evanses. They also became indirectly related to the St Legers in 1769, when Arundel Hill married as his first wife Mary Crone, grand-niece of Arthur, first Viscount Doneraile. The familly seat of Graiguie House was built by Arundel Hill for his eldest son, James, possibly upon his marriage to Mary Norcott in l799. During his life, James enhanced the estate by planting a number of trees and establishing extensive gardens. His wife died in 1844, and it was on the day of her funeral that her near relative, Major John Crone. infuriated the local rector by hosting an extravagant party at Byblox. The Hills occupied Graigue until the end of the nineteenth century.
James had a half-brother,William. He built the second Hill seat, Donnybrook, where his eldest son, Arundel. was born in 1807. Arundel married in 1844 Elizabeth Georgiana, daughter of Jonas Stawell of Old Court. and the two died within 17 days of each other in September 1866, when the eldest son and heir, Jonas, was still a minor. The house was let by the Court to the Rev. Dr. Croke, then Parish Priest of Doneraile, and later Archbishop of Cashel. who leased the house and farm to Mr. E. O'Connor for a number of years. When Jonas reached majority, he took the place up for some two years but spent most of that time away, travelling for his health in the Channel Islands and South of France. Unable to improve hs health. Jomias returned to Donnybrook to die .Mr O'Connor managed the farm for Jonas during his last days and his son, John O'Connor, later purchased the property tinder the Ashbouirne Act.
The Hill family disappeared from Doneraile at the turn of the twentieth century. They are buried in a vault in the protestant churchyard in Doneraile, but the existence of this vault remained unknown until a few years ago when .a descendant of the Hills came to search for his roots. By pure coincidence, on the day of his arrival, the vault collapsed and the Hills were discovered!
The last family I am going to mention are the Grove-Whites. This family I have chosen for a particular reason, which I will come to later on. The ancestor of this family, Ion Grove, originally of Hendon, Middlesex, rented Cahirduggan Castle, near Doneraile, from Lord Roche in 1603. One of his sons, William, purchased vast tracts of land in the area in 1628, but as the Irish gentlemen who had sold them to him had been involved in the rebellion of 1641, the Government, after the Restoration, claimed the right to redeem this land. In order to protect his property, William granted his interest in it to his eldest son, Major Ion Grove, in 1666. Among the townlands granted to him was Kilbyrne, which in 1667 he made a gift of to his only brother John 'in consideration of natural affection which he bore to the said John Grove'. John's only daughter, Grace, married James White, and was the ancestor of the Grove White branch of the family.
Grace and James's great-grandson, John Grove White, is a popular character in local folklore, being described as 'a small man, handsome, with black eyes and a very fiery temper, took offence quickly, and prone to fight duels.' When a young man, 'John went for a walk with Miss ffowlke of Curraghnahinch. He managed to entice her on to a shaking bog, where he left her, and told her he would not take her off, unless she gave him a kiss. He got the kiss, but she never forgave him.'
Apart from being a bit of a womaniser, John was very much a man's man, serving several years in Southern India, in campaigns against Tippo sultan, and was obviously worried about the effect the years of rough living might have on his success with women. In one of his letter to his mother, dated 25 February 1785, he writes: 'Should Billy Freeman come out here, write by him to me. His sister, A Mrs. Stirling, with whom I am well acquainteal is an amiable woman. She is the only European woman I have ever been in cornpany with since left Bengal, from which, I suppose, you will judge, that if ever I get home, I shall cut an uncouth figure amongst women.' Nevertheless he appears to have had no trouble findmg a wife and married in 1791 Mary, daughter of Anthony Chearnlev of Salterbridge. Having succeeded to the Kilbvrne estate he returned home but, finding the estate in the hands of tenants, and being annoyed at some fine timber having been cut down by his mother during his absence, he leased some land and spent £3000 building a house at Flower Hill. After the Napoleonic Wars, the price of land collapsed but John's landlord refused to lower the rent, which gave John no choice but to abandon the place.
John's only child, James Grove White. succeeded to Kilbyrne in 1825. The old dwelling house had been burnt by the \Vhiteboys in 1823, and in 1828 James commenced the building of a new house, Kilbyrne. The masons were paid '8s. per week subsistence, till the work be finished 'and the house was built slowly, over a number of Years, and used as a place to collect rents. During this time James and his family lived at Parson's Green, Clogheen. Co. Tipperarm', the home of his father-in-law. The family eventually moved to Kilbyrne and over the years the house was added to by various members of the family, first by James's son, and later by his grandson, Colonel James Grove-Wh.ite, who, as many of you will know, was the author of Historical and Topographical Notes on Buttevant, Castletownroche,Doneraile, Mallow, and Places in their Vicinity a book which took decades to compile. He is my main reason for selecting this family to end my lecture with. As a writer compiling a book on the history of houses of County Cork I owe a great debt to Colonel Grove-White. His book is an invaluable source of information on North Cork history, a lot of which has now disappeared from local memory. Without his work my task would be a lot harder.
As we have seen, Doneraile's reputation as a gentlemen's village began to wane towards the end of the nineteenth century. Practically all of the families we have met in the course of this lecture either died out or sold their properties and left the district, some moving to neighbouring counties, others following the more drastic path of emigration. However, their memory is still very much alive and stories of them are ever-popular and often repeated. Their homes also seem to have survived the ravages of time surprisingly well: of the twenty-two houses introduced in this lecture, only six have disappeared. Eleven are still occupied as family homes, one, Donerai.le Court, is currently unoccupied and under restoration, and another four are derelict or semi-ruinous but salvageable.
Doneraile is at the moment going through an important period of transition. It is becoming a satellite-town of Mallow and new employment opportunities in the district promise to bring new wealth and prosperity to the town. The ongoing restoration of Doneraile Court gives a promise of future tourism potential, and at the same time the locals in Doneraile have started to take an increased interest in community development, with a special emphasis on the historical significance of the village. With its colourful past, Doneraile has the potential to become a wonderful example of not what might be lost but what might be preserved and, indeed, gained; of how the old and the new can prosper in close proximity, and benefit from one another. Its rich history is not simply a thing of the past, it is a fundamental part of the fabric of the town and, if nurtured well, will remain an essential part of its future
Many thanks to both Anna-Marie Hajba and Michael O'Sullivan for giving me permission to publish their work on my web-site. I urge surfers to honour the copyright of both the text and the drawings.