Portmarnock by Éamon ÓMurchú


Kilmorna House, A Tragic Story

I published the following essay in 2013. It was written for the Presentation Secondary School yearbook 1988

Kilmorna House

About 5 miles east of Listowel there once stood the great Kilmorna House. It was owned by the O’Mahoneys Kerry. George O’Mahoney was step brother to Arthur Vicars. Sir Arthur Vicars was in charge of the crown jewels when they were stolen. In 1912.  When George O’Mahoney died. Kilmorna House and grounds passed on to Vicars’ sister. At once she offered Vicars the place, free of charge, for as long as he wished. Little did he know  the tragedy which would follow his stay at Kilmorna  House. Sir Arthur Vickers loved the house. It was everything that could be wanted by a man who adored high society.

It stood on 600 acres of the beautiful countryside in the deep west of Ireland.  Three lodge houses with painted roofs stood by stonewall entrances. These lodges are still standing and are occupied by local people today. Kilmorna House was built of brick, surfaced  with smooth Kerry Stone and, for most of the year, ivy climbed up its high walls. On the west side of the house a walk of  lime trees paraded down to the bank of the river Feale, rich in salmon and trout meandering and flowing through the estate. From the granite terraces to the house, the smooth lawns sloped gently down  through shrubberies and flower beds. The estate stretched from Shanacool Cross to Gortaglanna Cross, to the bridge which divides Duagh parish from Knockanure. From Shanacool to Kilmorna Station there were plantations of beech, oak and yew trees.

At the age of 53, Sir Arthur, to the surprise of many, married Miss Gertrude Wright of Kilurry house near Castleisland.
 There were over 100 local people employed directly or indirectly by Sir Arthur, who paid them wages above the average for this backward area of Ireland. The old people of Kilmorna today still remember the huge party that was organised for the local children by Sir Arthur at Christmas. He loved to ride about the neighbouring farms on horseback. He owned the only car in the district and, once or twice a week, he would drive to Listowel, handing out produce from the Kilmorna gardens and orchards to needy families, Protestant and Catholic alike. His wife  kept tiny Yorkshire terriers and in the event of the death of one of these creatures, a funeral was arranged and the workmen were expected to dress in black and look solemn.  

After the theft of the crown jewels, Sir Arthur, with bitter experience of the unreliability of safes, had built a strong room to house his wife’s jewels, Kilmorna’s silver ornaments, valuable books and family paintings when he was away from the house. It was natural that wild stories spread through  the countryside amongst uneducated peasant farmers. Could it be, asked some, that Sir Arthur really stole the crown jewels and had hidden them in Kilmorna’s strong room? It was thought that there may have been guns stored there also. The IRA considered him to be a spy and informer. Despite many warnings he refused to leave his beloved Kilmorna.

On Monday, 14 April 1921, Sir Arthur was still in bed at 10 o’clock when his wife rushed into the room to tell him that there were men with pistols in the house. He ordered  the servants to save as many valuable things as possible. His manager, Michael Murphy, told him the men said that they had only come to burn the house and that no one would be harmed.

By this time the army was on its way from Listowel, alerted by a message from Kilmorna Railway Station. The soldiers wasted precious minutes in a chase that was fruitless. In those minutes, Sir Arthur stood under the guns of the three men from the North Kerry Flying Column, his back pressed against a beech tree. It was there at 10.30 that he was shot three times in the chest and neck and twice in the head. The house had been burnt down as the men had run through it with blankets soaked in petrol.

The army wondered what might remain in the smoking ruins of Kilmorna so they blew open the strong room to find nothing.  It had been empty all the time..

The O’Mahoney’s Of  Kerry called in lawyers to formulate a claim for compensation against the British government, valuing Kilmorna House at around £15,000.  From Listowel, people came to gaze at the great black ruin. Their children played with the dismembered pieces of suits of armour they found lying on the terrace. Some wandered amongst the tiny headstones of Lady Vicars’ canine cemetery but mostly they stood looking silently at the devastation before them.

All that remains today in Kilmorna is Parnell’s tree – an oak tree was planted by Parnell 67 years ago. He said that he hoped that we would have Home Rule in Ireland before the magpies built their nests in the tree.

(By Irene O’Keeffe and Laura Doran)


They also Serve who only Stand and Wait

 This Animals in War memorial is in Hyde Park, London

It’s hard to get your head around these numbers. 16 million animals “served” in The Great War. Nearly half a million animals were killed in British service.


Some Animals Snapped by a Blog Follower


A Ballybunion Born Priest

Freeman’s Journal 17 April 1924

A zealous and devoted pioneer, priest in the archdiocese of Melbourne, the Rev. Father D. B. Nelan, P.P., died on Tuesday night of last week at St. Monica’s Presbytery, Essendon. For some time he had been seriously indisposed, and his death therefore was not unexpected. By his parishioners he was held in the greatest affection, and his demise is keenly regretted throughout his extensive parish. 

Deceased was one of a family of six to enter the religious life — four priests and two nuns. His brother priests, who predeceased the pastor of Essendon, were the Very Rev. Dean Nelan (Colac), Rev. Father John Nelan, and Rev. Father Daniel Nelan. Sister Mary Brendan (Convent of Mercy, Gee long) and Mother Austin (Presentation Convent, Elsternwick) are his sisters. The Sisters of Charity were in constant attendance on the deceased, and Sister Brendan was at her brother’s bedside before he died. The Rev. Father R. Collins, P.P., of South Melbourne, a lifelong friend, was with Father Nelan for the greater part of Tuesday. 

Father Nelan, who was close on 72 years of age, had given forty-five years of his life to the sacred ministry. Born in Ballybunion, North Kerry, Ireland, deceased studied in a classical school at Listowel, and completed his ecclesiastical studies in All Hallows College, where he was ordained in 1879. He was a classmate of his Grace the Most Rev. Dr. P. Delany, Archbishop of Hobart, and the Very Rev. Father T. Lynch, P.P., of St. Kilda. Arriving in Victoria soon after his ordination, Father Nelan’s first appointment was to North Melbourne, then known as Hotham. Father Nelan’s curacy ended at Kyneton, and he was afterwards appointed by Archbishop Goold as parish priest of Keilor.


Alan Quinlan shared this on Twitter

This was passed on by a friend …The victorious Tipp football team on their way home in 1920 after defeating Kerry in killarney…they stopped in mallow and bought a pig at the fair… see whats written on his belly!

One has to be careful about what one reads on Twitter. Anyone know is this true or is fake news?