On Sunday 12th March a crowd of almost 100 heard a lecture by Council member Brian Mc Cabe on the history of Palmerstown House and its various owners. The event took place in the great hall of Palmerstown House which was, in fact, the venue where the original meeting to set up the Society itself was held, in April 1891.
The early history of the site and the area was outlined, including the origins of the name and the medieval land holders, the Flatsbury family, who lost their estates after the Confederate Wars in the 1640s.
The estates were then granted to the Bourke family, with roots in the west of Ireland, who established themselves at Palmerstown and rose to pre-eminence in the political and administrative spheres in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The most famous of this family was Richard Southwell Bourke, Sixth Earl of Mayo, who – at the early age of thirty – was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland by the Conservative Government in 1852. Because of his youth, he was immediately dubbed ‘The Boy Secretary’ but he was to go on to be appointed to the position on two further occasions under Tory administrations. The zenith of his political career came in 1869 when he was appointed Governor General of India.
Following his assassination in India in 1872, the Government decided to build a new house, on a new site, for his widow. Richard was succeeded by his son Dermot, who became the Seventh Earl and continued the family tradition of involvement in politics. Being appointed a Senator by the post-independence ‘Free State’ Government, his house became a target for the ‘Irregulars’ during the Civil War and the house was, in fact, burned in January 1923.
The house was rebuilt again, at public expense, but was soon sold to a Dublin outfitter, W.J. Kelly, who was interested in horse racing and who began to develop the estate as a stud farm.
This was continued by the next owner, Anne Bullitt, only child of millionaire Philadelphian diplomat William Christian Bullitt and his wife Louise Bryant. Between 1958 and 1964 Palmerstown Stud had no less than 110 winners in competitive races. In 1966 Anne made Irish racing history when she became to first woman to be granted a trainer’s license. She continued to live in Palmerstown, breeding and training horses for another thirty years, before surrendering her license in 1994.
On the eve of the Millenium, the estate was purchased by the late Jim Mansfield, who developed it as a country club, featuring a golf course designed by Christy O’Connor Junior, which became the home of the Professional Golfers Association.
Since 2014 the estate has been owned by the Comer brothers, Luke and Brian, who are further developing it as a luxury wedding venue.
Photos: Oliver Murphy
Text: Brian McCabe