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 Leinster Leader November 10 1962
Lyons House, Straffan, one of the great stately homes of Co Kildare, was this week taken over by the University College Dublin, authorities in preparation for its transformation into a seat of learning. The estate, proud reminder of another age, will from to-day (Thursday) house the Agricultural Faculty of U.C.D.
All last week hundreds of bargain-hunters swarmed over the building for the final clearing out of the furniture and household effects. And the remaining staff were packing their bags, ready to leave. For the men employed on the estate there is a chance of jobs with the new owners, but for two elderly ladies who, between them, have worked for over eighty years, it was a sad departure.
60 Years There
Eighty-years-old Miss Annie Down, head housekeeper, got her first glimpse of Lyons House almost sixty years ago. Since then she has been a faithful member of the household staff, serving the Cloncurry family for the best part of a life-time.
With Miss Elizabeth Miley, the head housemaid for twenty years, she left on Wednesday, before the U.C.D. authorities arrived.
Miss Down, born in Southsea England became a servant in the London house of Lord Cloncurry when she was still a young girl. She came to Ireland with the family, worked in Lyons as a kitchen-maid.
“It was all very different then”, she said during the week. “Of course we used to travel backwards and forwards for the London Season, and then used to go to Co. Mayo where Lord Cloncurry had fishing and shooting lodge. But best of all I liked Lyons”
One of her most vivid recollections is of the disastrous fire which destroyed the servants’ wing in 1918. “The fire began early in the morning, and the whole wing had been burned down before it was brought under control” she recalled. Luckily, we all escaped in time, and the wing was restored the following year”.
Sparkling Parties
At that time, Lyons was one of the finest houses in the county. The staff then included a valet, butler, chauffeur, coachmen, grooms, hall boys, ladies’ maids, housemaids, five in the kitchen and three in the laundry. Apart from this there was a steward and a big staff on the estate. This was a period of grandeur and sophistication in the history of Lyons and Miss Down recalls the sparkling parties given at the time. “It was particularly exciting during Horse Show week or Punchestown Races” she said. We often had as many as fifty guests in the house during these events”.
Miss Miley was born at Harold’s Cross, Dublin and began work in Lyons as a laundress. When her employment was terminated during the week, she had reached the position of head housemaid. They recalled how, after the death of Lord Cloncurry, in 1928, the mansion was taken over by his brother, Mr. Frederick Lawless, of Blackrock, Dublin, who died within twelve months.
The running of the estate was then taken on by the Hon. Ms Kathleen Lawless and she continued to do so until her death in July 1957. Her cousin, Mr. Geoffrey Mark Winn, of Yorkshire, England took over then, and it was he who negotiated the sale of the house and estate to U.C.D. for £100,100.
Started at 12
Another long-standing member of the staff was Mr. James Tankard (62), Boston, Straffan, who had fifty years service. At last week’s auction, Mr. Tankard was in charge of the parking arrangements to facilitate buyers. When he first was employed at the estate, as a boy of 12, his job was to keep crows out of the cornfields. “I worked from six o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night” he recalls, “and I was paid four shillings a week”.
Mr. Tankard, whose father and grandfather worked at the estate before him, became ploughman and ploughed with horses up to about seven years ago, when a range of new farm machinery was bought. Was there a future for him at Lyons House under the new owners? “We have been told that there will be jobs here, but as yet we have received no definite word” he said. “We can only hope”.
New Homes
The Misses Down and Miley have no definite plans. Miss Down said she is going to stay for a while at the home of a friend, Mrs Elizabeth Herbert, Landscape, Nangor road, Clondalkin, widow of the late gardener at Lyons Mr. Lancelot Herbert. Miss Miley will be staying at the home of her cousin Mr. John Morton, Main Street, Rathcoole.
The remaining five members of the estate staff were mostly old hands. Mr. Paddy Forde had been employed there for forty-eight years, Mr. Patrick Treacy for over forty, Messrs Michael Murphy and Gerry O’Connor for over twenty years each, and Mr. Andy Ryan for ten years. They all echoed Miss Down’s words: “We have many happy memories of this place, and we certainly regret leaving”.

The departure of long serving staff members from the Lyons Estate is marked by the Leinster Leader in November 1962.The estate was purchased by University College Dublin.

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