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KILLYBEGS, CO. KILDARE

Killybegs
 NICOLA JENNINGS - 20 February 2007
The lands of Killybeggs were once part of the estates of the Dongans of Castletown. In Penders survey of 1659, after the confiscations, Killybeggs was held by Nathaniel Staughton, a Cromwellian adventurer, but subsequently restored to the Dongan family. In 1776 Robert Brooke purchased 88 acres of the Killybeggs estate. Four years later, in 1780, he founded Prosperous village as an industrial village, but the industry – cotton – did not succeed.
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 “In 1788 following Robert Brooke’s departure Charles O’Neill granted Killybeggs House and the demesne lands as held by Robert Brooke … to Edward FitzGerald and his heirs of Carrigoran, Co. Clare.”          “The lease was for the lives of Robert Brooke then late of Killybeggs, Mary Ledwich, otherwise O’Neill, eldest daughter of Charles O’Neill, and William FitzGerald, third son of Edward FitzGerald then aged about eight years, and for all lives to be subsequently added at a yearly rent of 159 pounds 7 shillings.”
From then until 1917 Killybegs, as it is now known, belonged to the FitzGerald family of Carrigoran, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare. 
According to Peader Mac Suibhne in ‘Kildare in ‘98’ there was a butler in Killybegs House named Corr from Co. Clare. On the night of the 1798 Rebellion he brought out all the arms in the house and all the table linen for bandages. In the Journal of Kildare Archaeological Society Vol IV the Rev. Canon Sherlock in an article on Clane - says that during the 1798 Rebellion Killybegs House was the residence of Colonel and Mrs. William FitzGerald. They were unmolested by the rebels but searched by the military. A male servant was hidden in a cupboard by a maid who stood in front of the small door. Fifteen years later, in 1813, William’s brother Crofton Vandeleur FitzGerald married, as his second wife, Harriet, daughter of Archibald Hamilton-Rowan of Killyleagh, Co. Down, Secretary of the Society of United Irishmen.                                                                                           
Augustine FitzGerald, William’s half-brother, had been created First Baronet of Carrigoran for outstanding service with the East India Company in 1822. William inherited the title on Augustine’s death in 1834. William himself died in 30th May 1847. The lease of Killybegs was renewed in 1849 to Lady Emilia Cumming FitzGerald, (nee Veale of Trevaylor, Cornwall), William’s widow. Emilia Veale was daughter and co-heiress of William Veale, of Trevaylor, Cornwall, and niece of Sir Alexander Penrose Cumming Gordon, Bart. She died aged 96 in Killybegs in 1881 and is buried in Clane Abbey Church graveyard.
To the memory of a beloved mother, Emilia Cumming, Dowager Lady FitzGerald, died at Killybegs, 16th December 1881, aged 96 years. Her end was peace. Looking for that blessed hope. Titus 2 v 13.
After her death the estate became the property of Sir George Cumming FitzGerald, her fourth and youngest son. He married, as his second wife, his first cousin Ellen Creagh FitzGerald. Her brother, Wilfred, was then made the land agent for Killybegs by George. Wilfred’s wife, Amy (nee Biddulph) wrote an account of the “Big Wind” during her stay there in 1903.
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Amy Fitzgerald
“The weather was bad in January. Wind and rain, but I do not remember suffering from the cold. The big old house with its thick walls and the huge fires we always had of turf and wood kept us very comfortable. We had a man, the gardener’s daughter and a coachman to work for us.
One night, I think it was the 6th of January after we had gone to bed, the wind rose and a storm such as I had never heard before or since started. The house which was four hundred years old rocked to its foundations. I tried to wake Wilfred who could sleep through anything, but when I told him the house was shaking all he said was ‘a house that shakes is quite safe’ and turned over and went to sleep. By this time I was too scared for anything and at last he became aware of the fact and sat up. Then he said, “By Jove it is a storm,” and suggested perhaps I would be happier if we went downstairs.
Putting on dressing gowns we went down, but first I went round to our maids room and looked in. She apparently was fast asleep with the bedclothes over her head. So we left her, and proceeded to the smoking room where we usually sat. Luckily the fire was still in and we made it up and then Wilfred suggested we would go down to the kitchen and bring up a kettle to make tea.
To get to the kitchen we had to go down stone stairs with a big window, having put everything on a tray and I with a kettle of water, upstairs again we went and just as we got to the last step into the hall there was an awful crash bang behind us and in came the whole big window. Even Wilfred took things seriously then and rushed me back into the room which was on the quietest side of the house. After making tea he decided I should lie down, so ventured up to our room and returned with blankets and pillows and made up a bed on the sofa for me and one for himself on the floor, and so it wasn’t so bad there I fell asleep. Early in the morning Mary opened the door to pull up the blinds and her shock when she found me there was funny.
“Oh, Lord, Mam, it’s been terrible. There are two or three big trees down.”
            I said, “It was all very well for you sleeping through the storm.”
            “Sleeping, M’am? I spent the night running to your door an then back under the bedclothes and saying my prayers.”
            When Wilfred got dressed he went out to find out how much damage had been done. First, into the yard where an old man called Case slept in a little house. He found him still in bed surrounded by bricks an slates with no roof at all, it had sailed away, but all old Case said was “Ah, Gor, it was awful, looking at the stars and lightening and worst of al I hadn’t a stint of whiskey in the house.” Having seen that Case was alright Wilfred started down the mile long avenue to the lodge where another old man lived, getting down was difficult as trees were everywhere, two hundred and fifty of them we found later, and Wilfred had to climb over them all the way and when he got to the gate there were two huge trees one on each side of the lodge but the lodge wasn’t touched. Old Mullally said he knew he would be alright. He had some Holy Water and was sprinkling it round all night.
When things were finally examined we found we had two tons of slates off the roof and you could see holes right through the chimneystacks. It was a mercy all of us were not killed. Near us in a cottage two little boys were killed in their sleep by a tree falling on their house.
In the grounds of Killybegs there was an ancient cemetery and on a bank on the side eight trees in a row came down all together with their roots in the air. That storm has ever since been known as the Big Wind. It blew down half the trees in the Phoenix Park in Dublin and many of the old houses and killed many people.
It took months before we got everything settled up again, and it took me quite a while to recover and it was a long time before we could ride down the avenue, before all the trees and branches could be got out of the way.”
Amy also collected sayings of James “Clock” Mullally who lived in the lodge. She and Wilfred spent two winters at Killybegs and when they had nothing to do, they used to walk down to the lodge and get James Mullally to tell them stories and then go home as fast as possible and write them down between them trying to remember as much as they could. Here is one:

”…another night sure I went over to see Mr. Malachie Coats you might hear tell of him and Mr Bonning shure he was the finest teacher ever we had round these parts. Sure they were fine gentlemen in those days – and it came on a terrible night and I had about three miles of a road to get home. Says Malachie to me,
 ‘Tom,’ says he. ‘You’ve no need to go home tonight – sure I’ll give you the best room in the house – with that he give me a grand supper and a few bottles of stout – and after smoking my old pipe he takes me up to a grand room with a fire at my head and
 ‘Tom,’ says he. ‘I hope you’ll sleep easy and have a good night.’
‘Never fear,’ says I.
 With that I took off me old britches and rolled meself into bed. But sure I hadn’t been there very long when I heard the most awful buzzing. Glory be to God it was awful and they were there striking matches up and down the wall. The Devil such a fright I ever got and sorra a wink of sleep – till coming towards morning I turned over on my old stomach and was just dozing off when one of them crawled off the wall and saving your presence gave me the terrible smack behind – and when I lit the bit of a candle without the word of a lie – the door was open. Says Malachie to me the next morning
‘Did you have a good night?’
            ‘Malachie,’ says I. ‘ You’ve a fine daughter Louisa and I hear you’ll give her ten thousand pounds in the Royal Bank. But if you were to give me Louisa and the ten golden sovereigns I wouldn’t sleep in that room again tonight.’
           ‘Tom,’ says he. ‘If you stop tonight I can give you a better room.’
But the Devil a fear I made me way home and there’s no doubt Louisa was a fine girl.”
 
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Killybegs in 1908
And another:
 
“Well the Priests are speaking terrible shtrong agin the whisky these times and sure the whisky you get in Prosperous wouldn’t poison the Devil. Well I’ll tell you now how onst I was the means of turning Pat Hamilton agin the drink. Pat and I many years ago the two of us wint to Newbridge for a bit of a spree at a wedding sure wasn’t she a cousin of Pat’s and coming home faith Pat was so drunk sorra a fut further than Thomastown could I get him – and I began to think to meself what at all should I do with Pat - I got a holt of him and dragged him over the ditch and propped him up against a tombstone where no harm could come to him. I went on a bit on the road – when thinks I to meself – Pat has two shillings in his pocket and only a penny have I to get a drink. Back I goes and takes the two shillings out of Pat’s pocket and I put in the penny in its place maining of course to give it back to him the next day but sure the next morning when Pat wakened up he got the awfulest fright – for sure didn’t he think he had risen from the dead and sure he thought it was Jim Foolies ghost that had taken the two shillings to keep him from drinking any more and put a penny in its place and since he never drank a tint from that day to this and of course I did not like to tell him it wasn’t Jim’s ghost took the money for fear he’d start agin.”
 
Killybegs House was originally a three-story house with a later addition of a bow-fronted extension. It was built of red brick, brick apparently made on Robert Brooke’s own land. A field beside the place where the house once stood was called the Brick Field. George, who already spent much of his time in Cornwall, died in 1908. On his death the baronetcy became extinct. His widow Ellen remarried Richard Donne Lee James and spent the rest of her life in Chyan Hall, Gulval, Penzance, Cornwall. In 1917 Killybegs was purchased by Mr. Patrick Curry. By 1958 the house was roofless and in a ruinous state. The stairway was taken to Dublin, the marble mantelpieces sent to America and Killybegs was finally demolished.
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Killybegs in May 1958
 
Nicola Jennings. 20th February 2007.
Great article on Killybegs by Nicola Jennings granddaughter of Wilfred FitzGerald - with fabulous photographs of a house that has long been demolished.

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