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Madam Uniacke. A fond memory

Liam Buckley

Madam Uniacke of Monasterevin House was a member of the famous Cassidys of distillery fame, circa the turn of the 19th century. The remains of the distillery still remain and can be visable as you approach Monasterevin from the Kildare side. The complex was taken over by Daniel Edgar Holmes who had a thriving business there until the 1960s. The plant had a unique steel turning machine, which specialised in very technical work and was in constant demand in England and Europe. But back to Mrs. Uniacke; she married a French captain, hence the strange name. They lived in Monasterevin House, on Main Street, Monasterevin. It is a beautiful house, overlooking a lovely garden, and the grounds border the River Barrow.
The world-famous poet, Gerard Manly Hopkins, used to visit Mrs. Uniacke’s sister at the house and wrote most of his poetry sitting on the banks of the Barrow in her company. In recent years Monasterevin hosted the annual Gerard Manly Hopkins Festival, but the event – which attracted visitors from all over the world – became too big for the small town, so now Newbridge hosts the festival.
Men and women of my vintage would remember Madame Uniacke out and about with her fine horse and trap. All the children of the town would run along behind the trap, while Madame Uniacke would throw out loads of sweets to one and all. Money for sweets was scarce for most children during the 1940s and yours truly really enjoyed the sweets from Madame Uniacke. Another thing that I remember from those days was that Madame Uniackewould send her ‘Man Friday’ to the Christian Brothers and the Convent of Mercy schools with buckets of hot soup. Paddy Nelligan, who lived on the Kildare Road near the town, used to bring the soup from Madame’s house to the schools at the midday break and mugs of the hot soup were very welcome. People talk of recession today, but if they were out in our day they would really know what poverty is. Thanks to the likes of Madame Uniacke our days were made brighter by the sweets and the hot soup.


Madam Uniacke of Monasterevin House was a member of the famous Cassidys of distillery fame. She is recalled here by Liam Buckley. Our thanks to Liam

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