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The Colleys of Castle Carbery, Mount Temple & Corkagh

Colley family at Mont Temple, circa 1882. Back Row: George Colley, Elizabeth (Bessie) née Colley & husband Frederick Copleston, Laura Colley.
Middle Row: Maud Colley, HenryFitzgeorge Colley, Edward Colley, Elizabeth (Bena) Colley (née Wingfield), Wingfield Colley.
Front Row: Constance Colley. Gerald Colley. Gertrude Colley, Florence Colley.

The story of the Colleys is a rip-roaring account from the first  dastardly Tudor to come to Ireland on Thomas Cromwell’s watch through to the sad finale for Corkagh, the Colley house near Clondalkin, County Dublin. Among those profiled are the novelist Elizabeth Bowen, the Titanic victim Eddie Colley and the ancestors of the actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes

See also here.


The Colley family have been in Ireland since the reign of Henry VII. After a suitably Machiavellian start, they gained respectability during the Elizabethan Age and established their roots at Carbery in north Kildare. The name nearly died out in the eighteenth century but was revived by the Hon. George Pomeroy, a grandson of the 4th Baron Harberton, who took on both the Colley name and arms in 1830. Meanwhile, a close branch of the Colley family gave rise to the Wellesleys and the Duke of Wellington.

Corkagh came into the Colley family through the marriage of George Colley and Edie Finlay, my mother’s maternal grandparents. Edie was the eldest daughter of Colonel H. T. Finlay while George was a grandson of the above-named Hon. George Pomeroy Colley and a nephew of the Victorian war hero Sir George Colley who was killed at the battle of Majuba Hill. George was born at Ferney, Stillorgan, County Dublin, but grew up at Mount Temple near Clontarf. His father Henry FitzGeorge Colley was prominent in Church of Ireland circles while his formidable mother Elizabeth ‘Bena’ Wingfield was a close kinswoman of the Viscounts Powerscourt and a granddaughter of the hymn-writer, the Rev. Thomas Kelly.

George and Edie’s marriage took place in 1909. Within the next five years they were to be subjected to much personal sorrow. Both of Edie’s surviving brothers were killed in the Great War while 1912 was to prove an annus horribilis for the Colleys with the death through illness of George’s sisters Florence and Constance and of his youngest brother Eddie who went down with the Titanic. Florence was the mother of Elizabeth Bowen. Another sister Gertrude was great-grandmother to the actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, while the elder sister Bessie married the first Chief Justice of Burma.

Faunagh went up for sale on 17th February 1916 while George and Edie moved into Corkagh to live alongside Edie’s father, Colonel Finlay. They brought with them a son Dudley and three daughters, Noreen, Veronica and Valerie. A fourth daughter Rosemary was bon at Corkagh that October while a second son Jock followed in 1918. Corkagh was also a temporary home to many of the Colley’s cousins, such as the Morris and Birdwood children. The Colleys themselves took short-term refuge in Italy during the War of Independence before returning to farm the land. George, who was deaf since early childhood, was an enthusiastic motoring man as were both his sons.

An abbreviated version of this story appears in ‘CORKAGH – The Life & Times of a South Dublin Demesne 1650-1960’ by Turtle Bunbury. Published by South Dublin County Council in May 2018, the book is available via the Local Studies Collection at the County Library in Tallaght, so people can either visit the Library or contact them at 01 4597834. See also here.
NB: Readers may also be interested in the catalogue of historic documents covering the history of the Colley and Bowen families as well as the historic documents covering the history of Corkagh House and Demesne itself. With thanks to Laetitia Lefroy and David Power, Library Assistant, County Library, Tallaght.

Dudley Colley, who took over the running of Corkagh in 1933, was a driver of considerable skill. Having successfully driven over Dublin’s Ha’penny Bridge in an Austin 7 during his student days, he went on to win the Cork National Motor Handicap in 1938 and the Sexton Trophy in 1948, as well as being Champion Racing Driver of the Year in 1946. The year 1947 was something of a rebuff to the horror of 1912 as three of the Colleys married including Dudley whose union with Patricia Burns introduced a new era of smart-thinking hospitality to Corkagh. The Corkagh dairy also promised much but Dudley’s premature death in 1959 spelled the end for the Colley era as the house and the bulk of the property was sold. That said, members of the Colley family still live in the vicinity. Finlay Colley, Dudley’s older son, lives at the Mill House, once home to the manager of the Gunpowder Mills. Meanwhile, Kilmatead House – or Little Corkagh as it was previously known – has been home to the Hone family, close relations of the Colleys, since the Second World War.


The Colley, or Cowley family, are thought to have originally hailed from Rutland in the English Midlands but had moved to Ireland by 1515 when a notorious chancer called Robert Cowley, George’s first-named ancestor, was made a Bailiff of Dublin. A former soldier in the Earl of Kildare’s army, Cowley managed to inveigle his way into favour with Thomas Cromwell at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1537, for instance, he wrote to Cromwell, proposing that they cultivate every field in Ireland because uncultivated land provided a refuge for the king’s enemies, a concept that helped fuel the passion to shire the Gaelic lordships of Leix and Offaly. [i.a] He became Master of the Rolls in 1539, for which he was rewarded with the priory of Holmpatrick, near Skerries in north County Dublin. Cowley fell from grace after Cromwell’s execution and was himself sent to the Fleet Prison for three years, dying in 1546.

The Colley (Cowly) seat at Carbery Castle, County Kildare.

Walter Cowley, Robert’s equally crooked heir was one of the key players in bringing the House of FitzGerald to its knees, when Silken Thomas was executed and his lordship and castles seized. Like the Normans and others before him, Walter believed that while Gaelic culture survived, the Irish would never truly embrace civility or general law and order. He was particularly keen that the English language be encouraged in Ireland. He also urged a ban on the wearing of Irish apparel and restricted Brehon law as much as possible. Like his father, he spent a stint in the Tower of London after he unwisely led a campaign to discredit Anthony St. Leger, Henry VIII’s Viceroy of Ireland. Having somehow clawed his way back, Walter was appointed Surveyor-General of Ireland shortly before his death in 1548.

In 1538, Walter’s son Henry Colley secured a 21-year lease on Carbury, or Carbery, Castle in County Kildare. He was subsequently granted the barony of Carbury in 1569. The area takes its name from Coirpre mac Néill, also known as Cairbre, a son of Niall of the Nine Hostages who is credited with establishing the southern Uí Néill in the Irish midlands. [i] The kingdom of Cenél Coirpri was centred on Carbury Hill, from where the headwaters of the Boyne arise. The river’s source is the Trinity Well on Carbury Hill where people still assemble on Trinity Sunday in May. Meilyr Fitz Henry, a grandson of Henry II and sometime Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, was awarded the barony of Carbury by Richard de Clare (aka Strongbow) in 1174. The castle later passed to Fitz Henry’s nemesis William Marshall whose wife Isabel was Strongbow’s only child, as well as a granddaughter of Dermot MacMurrough, the ousted King of Leinster. Prior to the Colley’s acquisition, the property was in the possession of the Bermingham family who built the original castle.

Derrick’s depiction of Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy of Ireland, leaving Dublin Castle. He hailed Sir Henry Colley as “valiant, fortunate and a good servant”  and as “a sound and fast friend to me.”

Sir Henry Colley, as he became in 1560, was a more morally grounded soul than his father and grandfather. Sir Henry Sidney, probably the most successful of the Tudor Viceroys of Ireland, variously hailed him as “valiant, fortunate and a good servant” and as “a sound and fast friend to me.” He served as Seneschal of the King’s County (now County Offaly) from 1570-1576, as well as Constable of the Fort of PhilipstownFrancis Cosby of Stradbally was Seneschal of the Queen’s County during the same period, as well as Contsable of Maryborough (Portlaoise), while Robert Hartpole was Constable of Carlow. Sir Henry Colley’s principal task was to keep the peace, which he achieved with such success that Sidney hailed him for being “as good a border-keeper as I have ever met”. In 1567 the government in Dublin granted him the site and lands of the White Friar’s monastery at Kilcormac which, founded in 1420, was one of the last to be built in Ireland. Colley’s 1567 deed described the property as ‘the site of the White Friars of Kylharmike, alias Kylcormock, in O’Molloy’s country; lands near Kylharmik, Kylbore in Kylharmick, Ballinrahin and Ballentulgan, Ahenlegan, the Hakeres near Kylharmik and the rectory of Kylharmik to hold for 21 years at a rent of £5 -7s -8d.’ [i.b.] The Kilcormac Missal, the liturgical guidebook used for celebrating mass, is now held by Trinity College Dublin and is one of the few relics of pre-Reformation times.

In April 1571, Sir Henry offered to banish or kill Rory Og O’Moore before his rebellion escalated out of control. Over the next seven years, the plantation of the King’s and Queen’s County nearly collapsed before O’More was finally subjugated in the wake of the dark deeds perpetrated at Mullaghmast in 1578. Described as “blind and helpless” in his later years, Sir Henry died in 1584. It appears that he was the man who built the castellated and multi-chimneyed Tudor mansion, now ruined, on Carbery Hill, after the Bermingham castle was repeatedly attacked and destroyed.


Three generations later, Dudley Colley (1621-1674) of Castle Carbery married Anne Warren and fathered a daughter, Elizabeth, as well as a son, Henry Colley (1648-1700). [ii] Elizabeth married Garrett Wesley (or Wellesley) of Dangan Castle, near Trim, County Meath. When it became apparent that both of the Wesley’s sons would die without issue, a search was initiated for a suitable heir to Dangan. [ii.a]

According to Elizabeth Bowen, Garret’s cousin John Wesley, the Methodist preacher, was offered the property ‘on condition that he give up preaching: these terms were refused.’[iii] Instead, the property passed to Richard Colley, the second son of Elizabeth Wesley’s older brother Henry Colley. [Henry Colley, the firstborn son, succeeded to Castle Carbury and married Lady Mary Hamilton, a daughter of James Hamilton, 6th Earl of Abercorn, who helped relieve the siege of Derry and served as an “extra groom of the bedchamber” for Charles II, before going on to co-found the state of Georgia in America. They were the parents of Mary Colley who married Arthur Pomeroy. [See below.]

The Duke of Wellington was, by birth, a Colley.

Richard Colley succeeded in 1728, on condition that he assume the Wesley name and arms. He was elevated to the peerage of Ireland under the title of Baron Mornington and his son Garrett was advanced to the dignities of Viscount Wellesley and Earl of Mornington. In the 1760s Garrett purchased the newly-built Mornington House on Merrion Street, Dublin, from Viscount Monck; he later sold it to Baron Cloncurry. Garrett’s third son Arthur, who was born at Mornington House in 1769, would become known the world over as the great Duke of Wellington who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte.[iv]


This is an as yet unidentified branch of the family, who descend from John Colley of Lee, Sussex. His eldest son Philip Wellesley Colley, BA (1847-1926) was educated at Stonyhurst, London University and the Inner Temple. Calle to the bar in 1872, Philip later lived on the site of Thoby Priory, Brentwood, Essex, as well as having an address at 80, Gloucester Place, London. He was a J. P. for Essex and Suffolk and married (1871) Lucy Agnes Petre (1846-1923), eldest daughter of the Hon. Henry William Petre of Springfield Lawn, Essex. (Being at Stonyhurst, I wonder if they were outcast for being RC!?) Reginald, their eldest son, had a daughter (Edmunda Mary) Amabel Wellesley-Colley (1907-1987), described as ‘ a devout Catholic and believer in missionary work in under developed countries,’ who became something of a renowned eccentric when she defended her colour choice with her yellow front door at 22 Royal Crescent, Bath in the 1970s. See here and here.

Philip (1887-1918) and William (1889-1942), the two youngest sons of Philip and Lucy, were notable sailors of the Whitewings class of yachts in Suffolk, commissioned by Arthur H E Wood (1870-1934). They were the youngest Whitewing sailors in AYC’s 1899 Ocean Race off Shingle Street – Philip and William Colley in Kipper, aged 12 and 10 (aka Kipper and Nipper). Their older brother John W-Colley won the race in Petrel by slipping past the luffing duel between Arthur Wood in Viva and Mr Walton in Wagtail. William won the MC in WW1, Philip died of gas poisoning a few days before the war’s end. He had been doing vital work work in Calcutta but evaded regulations and got back to UK in 1917 to sign up. In 1913 Lucy published privately her “Shinglestreet” about their sailing exploits among other things (aka Kipper and Nipper in the book).

William’s son Lt Philip Anthony Wellesley Colley (1915-1944) of Lound Hill, Louth, was educated at the famous Roman Catholic School at Downside, near Bath, on leaving which he entered the Nottingham Brewery, of which his uncle was managing director. He married the Hon Dora Valerie Patricia Canning, a daughter of Lord Garvagh, but was was killed while leading a detachment of Commandos on the morning of the invasion of Normandy on D Day. He was shot by a machine gun as 4 Commando stormed ashore. He was survived by an 18-month-old daughter. Dora remarried in 1950. His brother, Peter Wellesley Colley, was serving with the Irish Guards at the time of his death. Someone by name of Anne Plowden, nee Wellesley Colley, died at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, on 25 November 2016, aged 87, and was the wife of Geoffrey, mother of Henry, Richard, William and Sophie. (Daily Telegraph, 6 December 2016). (With thanks to Mike Wells, who is researching the Whitewings).


Meanwhile, an equally complicated change of name took place in the Colley family when they became the Pomeroys. This began in 1747 when Mary Colley, co-heiress of the Castle Carbery estate, married 27-year-old Arthur Pomeroy, a successful linen merchant, who would become Viscount Harberton. The Pomeroys trace their ancestry to Ralf de la Pommerai who lived at Chateau Ganne near Bayeux, Normandy, France. In 1066 he accompanied William the Conqueror during the invasion of England, for which he was rewarded with a whopping 58 manors in Devonshire, including their future headquarters at Berry Pomeroy near Totness. Later family members included Sir Thomas Pomeroy, a leader of the Western Rising against Edward V, who narrowly escaped execution but had to pay a huge fine.

Sir Thomas’s grandson, the Rev. Arthur Pomeroy, came to Ireland as chaplain to Arthur Capell, Earl of Essex, the incoming Lord Lieutenant, in 1672. He later became Dean of Cork and married Elizabeth Osbourne of Balintaylor, County Waterford. Arthur Pomeroy, who married Mary Colley, was the father of John Pomeroy, Archdeacon of Cork and patron of St Peter’s Church, Cork (1717-1725), where I coincidentally curated an exhibition on the maritime history of Cork in 2017-2018. (It was during John Pomeroy’s tenure that the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork, the world’s first yacht club, was established.) In 1716 the Archdeacon married Elisabeth, daughter of Edmund Donellan of Cloghran, County Roscommon, who bore him two sons, Arthur and John, both born in Cork. The brothers entered Trinity College Dublin on the same day in 1739, aged sixteen and fifteen respectively. John went on to become a Lieutenant General in the army and a Privy Councillor in Ireland, while Arthur became Viscount Harberton. Their father, the Archdeacon, died in the spring of 1725 and their mother Elizabeth married secondly Robert Carleton, Dean of Cork.

Ruins of the Tudor mansion of Carbury Castle on the borders of Kildare and Offaly. Photo: Tim Hone.

In 1750 Mary Pomeroy, the future viscountess, and her elder sister Elizabeth Colley, co-heiresses of Castle Carbery, endowed a school of forty children by the castle with a grant of twenty acres in perpetuity, plus £20 a year. Their aunts, Elizabeth and Judith, had built the school and its offices some time earlier.[v] The following year, the diarist Mrs Delaney described meeting the two sisters at a drawing room held at Dublin Castle by the Duke and Duchess of Dorset: ‘though not fine: they had no frippery whims in their heads, which now prevail so much that everybody looks mad!’ The sisters were invited to dine at Delville, the Delaney’s home at Glasnevin outside Dublin, but cordial relations had soured by February 1752 when Mrs Delaney wrote to her sister Mrs Dewes: ‘Yesterday Mr and Mrs Pomeroy dined here. I don’t like the latter at all, she is a dry stick of a thing, never commands anything, and shows great conceit of her own understanding. Mr and Mrs Pomeroy are a pretty couple! He is sensible, gentle, and good-humoured. The sisters have £3,000 a year between them.’

And yet, by May 1752, Mrs Delaney was singing Mary’s praises once more: ‘She is as sweet as she is sour, and had a very good-humoured well-behaved husband; they have a pretty little boy, whom they dote on, she lost a fine girl last year.’ She was far less impressed by Elizabeth Colley who ‘who is grown a shrivelled crab!’ Elizabeth found a husband in later life by name of Joshua Glover, whom she married in 1770. They were the last of the Colleys to live in Castle Carbery, where they were recorded as late as 1774, although Taylor the cartographer recorded the castle as a ruin in a map of the area drawn just three years later. According to one account, Mrs Glover ordered the roof removed after local land agitation.[vi]

The 2nd Viscount Haberton.

Arthur was Sheriff of Kildare by 1753 when he acquired a fine townhouse at No. 2 Kildare Street for £1,800. In 1760 he commissioned the architect Nathaniel Clements to build a new Palladian redbrick mansion close to Mary’s childhood home at Castle Carbery. The house, now known as Newberry Hall, was christened Newberry after the Pomeroy’s seat of Berry Pomeroy in Devon. Arthur served as MP for Kildare from 1761 until 1783 when he was created Baron Harberton. He was bumped up to Viscount Harberton in 1791. He served variously as a director of the Grand Canal Company and a trustee of the Linen Board of Leinster. He died in April 1798 while his wife died at their Dublin house in 1794. All three of their surviving sons became Viscount Harberton in turn, but died in relatively quick succession.

The 2nd Viscount came into serous difficulty during the 1798 Rebellion when rebel forces occupied Newberry, looted all the goods, drank the house dry and murdered the house-keeper and her daughter. The rebels were eventually cleared from the building by a detachment of Garryowen cavalry commanded by General George Gough whose wife Letitia (née Bunbury) grew up at Lisnavagh, County Carlow.

The murder of the housekeeper was especially shocking, as her daughter appears to have been subjected to a gang rape in front of her prior to her murder. (See Lord Shannon letters). Almost a year later, Saunders’s News-Letter (24 May 1799) reported:

‘On Friday laft, Adam Williams, Esq., High Sheriff, and Thomas Tyrrell, Esq, late Sheriff of Kildare, assisted by a party of the Edenderry yeomen, under Lieutenant Brownrigg, searched the neighbourhood of Carbery, and took up five men and two women, charged with the horrid murder of Mrs. Grattan and her daughter, the late Lord Harberton’s house-keeper.’

The Gloucester Journal, 3 June 1799 added:

‘The deceased were the only Protestants in the family, and were destroyed by their fellow servants last summer, and never found since. Among the men are the noted Henry Killmurray, the late Lord H.’s trusty servant and his son; the women were maid servants in the house.’

The Colley property was then divided between two of Lady Harberton’s grandsons – the elder brother inheriting the moiety of his great-aunt Elizabeth while Mary’s share, including the rents from the lands at Carbery, went to the younger son George on condition he revert to the name of Colley.


‘On Friday last, Adam Williams, Esq., High Sheriff, and Thomas Tyrrell, Esq, late Sheriff of Kildare, assisted by a party of the Edenderry yeomen, under Lieutenant Brownrigg, searched the neighbourhood of Carbery, and took up five men and two women, charged with the horrid murder of Mrs. Grattan and her daughter, the late Lord Harberton’s house-keeper.’
(Saunders’s News-Letter, 24 May 1799)


The Colley Family Tree by Esme Colley.


The Hon. George Francis Pomeroy was the third of six sons born to the Rev. Right Hon. John Pomeroy, later 4th Viscount Harberton (1758–1833). John, who entered Holy Orders, was a prominent member of the Royal Dublin Society and in 1814 he served on the committee that purchased Leinster House, alongside Henry Arabin and others. He also served as the RDS’s Vice-President from 1823 until his death in 1833.[vii] George’s mother Esther (née Spencer) grew up in Rathangan, where her elderly grandfather was shot dead by rebels during the 1798 Rising.

George Colley served at the Bombardment of Algiers in 1816. Painted by George Chambers.

George was serving as a Midshipman on board the 74-gun HMS Albion at the time of the bombardment of Algiers in 1816, after which the Dey of Algiers was compelled to liberate around 3,000 ‘Christian’ slaves and to sign a treaty against slavery of Europeans. For his service in the campaign George eventually received the Naval General Service Medal, with the “Algiers” clasp, in 1847. On 2 March 1819, he obtained a commission as a lieutenant on board Albion.[viii] By some accounts he finished up his naval career as a Commander.

George was a long-standing member and patron of the Mendicity Institution, originally founded in 1818 for ‘the suppression of street begging in Dublin’, and now Ireland’s oldest established charity. The institution’s patron was the Viceroy, its president was the Lord Mayor and the families involved included Bewley, Guinness, La Touche, de Vesci, and Orpen. By July 1821 G. F. Pomeroy was Secretary to the Managing Committee of the Association for Suppressing Mendicity. That month he was a co-signatory with J. T. Troy (Chairman) of a letter published in the Dublin Evening Post and addressed to ‘the Inhabitants and Visitors of Dublin’. In this letter, the association expressed that it ‘must once more appeal, and in the name of good sense and true charity protest against the too prevalent practice of public alms-giving, the prolific parent and nurse of Beggary. That this appeal may have its due effect, and that the Public may not, from mistaken feelings of benevolence, or erroneous views of the nature of the Association, continue thus to mar its objects, the Committee will state through what means they propose effectually to suppress Mendicity in this City, and will show, by a simple enumeration of the benefits which this Association has conferred upon Dublin and the Country at large, that it deserves grateful and cordial support from the former, and that it presents to the latter an example worthy of general imitation’. Members of the public who had been ‘molested by particular Mendicants’ were urged to contact George G Pomeroy directly.[ix]

In 1824 he was elected a life member of the Royal Dublin Society, having been proposed by John Boyd and Fenton Hort. He served on its Botany Committee from 1824 to 1828.

On 22nd July 1825 George was married at Lea Church, near Portarlington, in the Queen’s County (now Laois) to Frances ‘Fanny’ Trench, the second daughter of the Very Rev. Thomas Trench, Dean of Kildare (1834-1859) and a niece of Lord Ashtown. [x] Like so many of the families associated with Corkagh, the Trenches descend from a French Huguenot who moved to England in the wake of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Fanny’s brother William Steuart Trench, author of the thought-provoking ‘Realities of Irish Life,’ was land agent on the Shirley estate in County Monaghan in 1843 and then, after a stint in County Laois, on the Lansdowne estate at Kenmare in County Kerry after the Great Famine. He instigated the assisted emigration scheme as explained in Gerard J. Lyne’s book, ‘The Lansdowne Estate in Kerry Under the Agency of William Steuart Trench, 1849-72’ (Geography Publications, 2001): ‘He was vilified for shipping some 4,000 destitute persons from Kenmare to the United States and Canada. With a view to preventing further destitution he devised a set of iron ‘rules of the estate,’ regulating marriage and other intimate aspects of tenant life. His autocratic rule made him hated, but he and his son also conferred lasting benefits on the locality through afforestation, road construction, improvement of tenant housing and a program of urban renewal.’ In 1852 he returned to County Monaghan as agent to the Bath Estate in Farney, a position he held until his death in 1872. Remarkably he died naturally.

Following their marriage, George and Fanny lived in the village of Rathangan, County Kildare, near the Bog of Allen. The land came to them through George’s mother’s family, the Spencers. According to the biographer Sir William Francis Butler:

‘This quiet village, with its Quaker colony, remained for many years the home of the George Colleys. Seven miles west across the moorland was the estate, and twice a week, come rain or storm or sun, Mr. George Colley drove over the long stretch of country to visit it, coming back in the winter’s twilight to the old-fashioned home, ‘somewhat back from the village street,’ at the outskirts of Rathangan … Beyond the river, ten minutes’ walk from the house in which Mr. Colley lived, was the residence of his brother, Lord Harberton, ‘Spencer Farm,’ on the stairs of which the great-grandfather, Mr. Spencer, had been shot by the rebels in 1798.’ [xi]

In 1830, George adopted the family name and arms of his paternal grandmother Mary Colley, under Royal Licence and in conformity with the will of his uncle, the Rt. Hon. Henry, 2nd Viscount Harberton, who died in November 1829.

George and Fanny Colley had three sons – Henry FitzGeorge, John Thomas and (Sir) George, as well as two daughters, Maria and Elizabeth (Lily). Elizabeth Bowen reckoned it could not have been a ‘happy’ childhood for the children, describing Fanny as ‘a Plymouth Sister, a woman of hatchet countenance and intransigent so-called religious gloom.’ [xii] One son John would later flee to California while the future Sir George Colley apparently told his wife he ‘thanked nobody’ for his upbringing.’[xiii] A further insight into their family life can be gauged from Sir William Francis Butler’s biography of Sir George, published in 1889. He states that after George Francis Colley left the navy:

‘…he was, and remained during his whole life, under a strong religious impression, and it was somewhat against the grain that he consented to his third boy entering so worldly a profession as the army. Mr. Colley was a man of resolute character, not untinged with austerity. The pervading influence at home was the intense spirituality distinctive of Evangelicism at its best, tempered in this case by the mental vigour of the father and the more artistic and imaginative gifts of his wife. The household life is spoken of by those who remember it as having been one of unusual dignity as well as happiness — well ordered, full of interest, full, too, of courtesy and charm. But it was not a home in which the dancing-master was recognized.’

There were some upsides though, as Sir William F. Butler also observed. ‘Before he was two years old, little George Pomeroy was taken abroad on what, even so late as 1837, was called the ‘grand tour.’ In the first carriage, the father and mother with two children; servants and luggage in a second; a year in Paris, two in Germany, one in Switzerland, and then again in Paris; the children getting to speak French and German, seeing mountains, lakes, and art galleries. It would be difficult to find a wider groundwork for Education.’[xiv] Little George’s youngest sister Lily later stated that she was born in Switzerland in 1842

The famine years took their toll on the family finances to such an extent that George Colley sold Newberry in about 1851 to Edward Wolstenholme. George is thought to have inherited the property on the death of his father in 1833 although it had been constantly leased out. Wolstenholme is believed to have added the term ‘Hall’ to the name. The house, demesne and 583 acres of land were again up for sale in 1854 and 1857, while they were advertised for rent in 1861 and 1862. Newberry was briefly owned by William Morton Woodroofe, a commissioner for the peace of County Kildare from 1860, but was bought by the Pilkington family soon afterwards.[xv] The house is now owned by Wesley Carter.

Ferney courtesy of Patrick Kiersey of The Glebe , Blackrock – Summer 1952 © Patrick Kiersey

By the time of his eldest daughter Maria’s marriage to J. E. Vernon in 1857, George and Fanny were living at Leopardstown Park House, a Victorian house that now served as a nursing home, located by the Leopardstown roundabout in Stillorgan, Co. Dublin. [xvi] The Colleys were there from 1855 to 1859, after which they moved to nearby Ferney, a Georgian villa from c. 1790 that stood on 19 acres. The previous tenants of the single-storey-over-basement villa were the Scovell family, long-term lessees of the Tobacco Store (now the chq Building) and Custom House docks in Dublin. Ferney had been advertised thus in the Dublin Daily Express of 13 January 1862:

STILLORGAN.— TO BE LET, Lease. from 25th March, 1862, FERNEY, the commodious and very beautiful residence of the late Henry Scovell, Esq. It consists of spacious Breakfast, Dining, and Drawing Rooms, and a large number of other apartments, with excellent Stabling, Gardens, Green-houses, and Pleasure-grounds; charming views of sea and mountain, and every comfort and convenience for a nobleman’s or gentleman’s family. It stands on 20 acres of prime land, with Lodge entrance; is within five miles of the General Post Office, and at convenient walking distance from the railways. For terms, &c. apply to H. MACLEAN, House and Land Agent, 6, Westmoreland-st, Dublin.

Ferney was to be the Colley family home from 1862 until George’s death in 1880, despite a hiccough recorded by the Freeman’s Journal in 1866:

FIRE AT STILLORGAN.-The coach-house and stables at the rere of the Hon. Mr. Colley’s residence, Ferney, Stillorgan, accidentally took fire on Saturday night last. Inspector Egan and a body of police from Blackrock were soon on the spot, and with the aid of some civilians saved a large amount of property. The buildings were totally destroyed. The damage is estimated at nearly £200.[xvii]

Fanny Colley died at Ferney on 1 March 1871, aged 74.[xviii] George Colley lived on another eight years before he too died at Ferney, on 9 May 1879, aged 81.[xix] Ferney was later sold to the Darley family, who lived there for fifty years. The artist Rose Barton (1856–1929) sketched in the garden of the house in 1891. In 2020, Karen D’Alton recalled a walk through the grounds (now in Beechwood Court Estate) when there were still many surviving features, including ‘a little summer house (completely overgrown) and, in what now is the car-park, an octagonal building that was the stables and was used as a morgue for the hospital.’ She adds: ‘ There was a shallow lake on the grounds and they hosted ‘skating’ parties there [with] thousands of lanterns looped through the trees.’ The house is now the Setanta (St Loman’s) Special School (Beech Park). In March 2020 Setanta School relocated to Greenhills to facilitate the building of new schools on the site. They expect to be back in their new school building by the Summer of 2022.

A report on land ownership in Ireland from 1876 stated that he owned 4,819 acres in Kildare and Cork at that time. His effects were valued at less than £30,000 when his will was proved six weeks after his death at the Principal Registry, by oath of his firstborn son Henry FitzGeorge Colley of Lucan Lodge. Henry’s inheritance included the rents on the lands at Carbery for which his father had changed his name nearly half a century earlier.


George and Fanny Colley’s eldest daughter Maria Esther Colley was married on 17th November 1857 to John Edward Vernon, JP, DL, of Ballyhugh, Co. Cavan, and of 1, Wilton-place, Dublin. The service was conducted by Maria’s first cousin, the Rev. Frederick Steuart Trench, Rector of Athy. It took place in Taney Church, close to Leopardstown House, where her parents were living at the time.

Maria was Mr Vernon’s second wife; his first wife Harriet (née Leslie) having died in 1853. His father, the Rev. John Fane Vernon, grew up at Clontarf Castle, while his eldest sister Anna and her husband the Rev. Sir Nicholas Chinnery were killed in the Welsh Railway Disaster at Abergele in 1868. Also killed in that tragedy were two children of Harry Scovell, from whom Maria’s father leased Ferney.[xx] J. E. Vernon was ‘one of the three Land Commissioners appointed under the Land Act (Ireland) of 1881.[xxi]

The Vernons lived at Erne Hill, Belturbet, County Cavan. When J. E. Vernon died in 1887, he was succeeded by the barrister John Fane Vernon, the first-born son of his first marriage. Maria died in 1899, leaving two sons George Arthur Pomeroy Vernon, LL. D., known as Arthur, and Walter, and three daughters Anna-Lilian, Helen Rose (who married John Thomas Gibbings of Carrickmacross) and Blanche. Arthur married Mildred Blanche Bloomfield Trench.

LILY COLLEY (1842-1910)

George and Fanny Colley’s daughter Elizabeth Pomeroy Colley, known as Lily, stated that she was born in Switzerland in 1842 on the Ireland census of 1901. At that time, she was living in Clontarf West with her niece Florence Bowen, as well as her husband Henry and baby daughter Elizabeth. It is tempting to suppose that Elizabeth Bowen was named for this unmarried aunt. Elizabeth tells how Lily lived ‘in the midst of [the Colleys] at Mount Temple in the protracted hope that she might “help”.’ Further details follow in the Mount Temple section that follows.

Lily later occupied one of a hat-trick of houses at Shanganagh Terrace, on the south-side of Killiney Hill. Baba nicknamed it ‘The Anthill’, on account of all the aunts who lived there. The houses were five minutes from Ballybrack Railway Station and commanded fine views of both the mountains and the sea. In 1909 ‘Miss Colley’ announced that the property was available to let for August and September with the caveat ‘no children’.[xxii]

Lily Colley died unmarried at ‘Carbury’ in Minehead, overlooking the Bristol Channel, on the coast of Somerset, on 28 September 1910; Arthur Vernon was named as her primary beneficiary while her nephew George Colley was her second beneficiary and executor of her will.[xxiii]

The houses on Shanganagh Terrace remained with the wider family. For instance, Aunt Bla (aka Isabella Wingfield, the mother of Norah Morris) lived at No. 10 while Norah herself was living there when Eddie Colley wrote her five letters between 1907 and 1911. Among others associated with the property were Aunt Toots, Winifred Verschoyle and the Colley aunts Laura and Maud. Laetitia Lefroy recalls visiting as a child: ‘All I remember was elderly ladies emerging from various angles and having to remember to be quiet and answer when spoken to!!’


John Thomas Colley was born at Merrion on 31 July 1828 but died aged 27 in California on 27 January 1855, in the latter days of the California Gold Rush.[xxiv] Elizabeth Bowen believes he ‘fled abroad’ to escape from the ‘religious gloom’ of his mother. Nothing more is yet known of him but it is likely that he was the “Mr. John Colley, 23, Gentleman” from Ireland who appeared on the passenger manifest for the ship Liverpool arriving in New York in 1849, along with ten other well-to-do passengers identified as ladies, gentlemen, one servant and a doctor.


Commander George and Francis Colley’s third and youngest son George Pomeroy Colley was born in 1835, raised in Rathangan and educated at Cheam, Surrey, where his headmaster, Dr Mayo, described him as ‘swift to take offence, prompt and vigorous in resenting it.’ He entered Sandhurst as a cadet at the age of thirteen, graduating top of his class in 1852. His biographer Sir William F. Butler writes:

‘George Colley at this time has been described to me by one who remembers him well in his seventeenth year. He was slight and well proportioned, but with a look of great physical strength. The features possessed the strongly moulded type noticeable in several branches of the Colley race; the brown hair fell upon a forehead already suggesting intellectual power. His chief interests at this time were the artistic and literary pursuits which always held their own, notwithstanding an arduous professional life, until in the stress of the last few years they were necessarily laid aside. On such topics he was, I am told, often full of talk — at other times silent and dreamy. Though finished in manner even as a lad, he himself seems in his boyish years to have suffered from a quite disproportionate sense of shyness. I can well imagine a boy conscious of considerable power feeling solitary and at a disadvantage amongst others, not from too little manner in the common sense, but from too much ability — gifts beyond what his social practice as yet enables him to express.'[xxv]

He enjoyed a distinguished career during the Kaffir War (1858-60) and the latter stages of the Second Opium War in 1860, including the attack on Peking in which the Chinese Emperor’s Summer Palaces were destroyed. An artist of considerable skill, he was something of an intellectual genius, mastering subjects such as Russian, chemistry and political economy during regular two-hour private study sessions before breakfast. Returning to Sandhurst to study at the Staff College, he again finished in first place and fetched up as an administrator of high repute in Africa. As private secretary during Lord Lytton’s Viceroyalty of India, he is regarded as the brains behind the occupation of Kabul and the Treaty of Gandamak (three weeks after his father’s death in Dublin). He also served as chief of the staff to Sir Garnet Wolseley when the latter was sent to avenge the Zulu victory at Isandlwana.

In 1880 Colley was knighted, promoted to the rank of major-general, and appointed both high commissioner for South Eastern Africa and Governor of the Natal. Among his staff was H. Rider Haggard, the adventure novelist whose books included King Solomon’s Mines, published September 1885. However, all his good deeds came asunder less than a year later when he was forced into a hopeless situation by the government politics in London that led to the outbreak of the first Anglo-Boer War. On the night of 27 February 1881 he and some 405 British soldiers occupied Majuba Hill, only for the force to be devastated by Boer marksmen. General Colley was among the first casualties. As Edward Mahon, Surgeon, later explained to Sir George’s brother Henry:

‘I saw him [the General] near the centre of the plateau on the top of the hill. They [the Boers] asked me to identify him, and this I did. He was only wounded once, and that through the top of the skull. Death must have been instantaneous. From the direction of the wound, he must have been facing the Boers when hit.'[xxvi]

Another 284 Britons were killed, captured or wounded in one of the worst military defeats the British ever suffered in Africa. Sir George is buried at Mount Prospect Cemetery, Natal.

Sir George’s wife Edith, known as ‘Tiger’, was a daughter of Major-general Henry Meade Hamilton, C.B. She was evidently an ambitious woman who had married for convenience rather than love. From Natal, George wrote: ‘She seconds me splendidly, and rows or laughs at the people who come to her with long faces or absurd stories.’ [xxvii] Family legend holds that she and he had a furious row the morning of the Majuba disaster. The truth is she was not with him at this time but contemporary rumours also proposed that she had written to him in advance of the battle, urging him into further action. This may be so but no such letters survive while letters she wrote to him on both 15th and 24th February 1881 suggest she did not ‘care a rush for any such rubbish as work or success’ and longed for his safe return. Lord Wolseley certainly suspected her motives while Sir Evelyn Wood remarked that her ambition for her husband ‘obliterates apparently every thought of the personal danger which he has undergone.’[xxviii]

After her husband’s death at Majuba, Edith briefly lived at Mount Temple where she formed a strong but short-lived bond with the future Florence Bowen. A decade later she married the widowed British industrialist Wentworth Beaumont, which gave her a new set of in-law’s that included the entrepreneurial 6th Earl of Donoughmore, the Virginia based philanthropist and steel magnate John Shaffer Phipps and the New York based fertilizer tycoon Billy Grace who became New York’s first Catholic Mayor in 1881. Her friends likewise included men such as Henry James. In 1906 Beaumont was raised to the peerage as Baron Allendale, of Allendale and Hexham in the County of Northumberland. Lady Allendale, as she had become, died in 1927.

A photograph of the elderly Duke of Wellington, a kinsman of Henry FitzGeorge Colley.


Henry FitzGeorge Colley was born ‘at Merrion Square’ on 1st July 1827 and grew up in Rathangan.[xxix] As the eldest son and heir of the Hon. George Francis Colley, he was a grandson of the 4th Viscount Harberton. His great-grandmother was a first cousin of the Duke of Wellington, a kinship greatly prided valued by the family during his formative years. The Iron Duke died in September 1852, a little over two years after Henry was recorded as a respondent at Trinity College Dublin.[xxx]

On 12 August 1858, Henry was married in Abbeyleix to Elizabeth Wingfield. Born on 16 August 1832 and known to the family as Bena, she was the eldest daughter of the Hon. Rev. William ‘Willie’ Wingfield (1799-1880), who served as Vicar of Abbeyleix, Co. Laois, for an impressive 44 years.[xxxi] Willie was the second son of the 4th Viscount Powerscourt by his second wife, Isa Brownlow, a daughter of the linen magnate, William Brownlow of Lurgan, Co. Armagh. [xxxii] The fun-loving clergyman arrived in Abbeyleix in 1836, shortly after the completion of the Semple Church, and later oversaw the reconstruction of the town’s Protestant church, dedicated to St. Michael & All Angels, under the direction of the architect Sir Thomas Wyatt. His time also coincided with the Great Famine and the development of Abbeyleix under the De Vesci’s. Much trusted by the family, he was joint guardian to Mervyn, the eight-year-old 7th Viscount Powerscourt, following the 6th Viscount’s premature death at the age of 29. He is recalled today by the Wingfield Memorial on the Ballacolla Road outside Abbeyleix which is inscribed: “In Memory of the Honourable and Reverend William Wingfield, Vicar of Abbeyleix 1836 – 1880”.

Bena’s mother Elizabeth Kelly was a daughter of the Rev. Thomas Kelly (1769-1855) of Ballintubber, Co. Laois, an evangelical hymn-writer and his wife Elizabeth (née Tighe). He was the founder of the Kellyites, and there are said to be members of this sect still in existence in Luggacurran in 2021, known locally as the Black Socks.

A portrait of Bena Wingfield’s grandmother, Elizabeth Kelly (née Tighe) by A. Pope, in either 1797 or 1791.

In ‘Bowen’s Court’, Elizabeth Bowen refers to a watercolour of Elizabeth Kelly ‘painted against a pink curtain’, which showed her with ‘the bloom of a rose … Her waist is said to have been no larger than the circumference of two oranges, and the blood of kings of Ireland flowed in her veins.’[xxxiii] Mrs Kelly died in 1856. The Rev. Kelly, Bena’s grandfather, founded the Kellyites and became known as Ireland’s Charles Wesley on account of the large number of hymns he wrote, including ‘The Head that Once was Crowned with Thorns’, ‘We Sing the Praise of Him who Died’ and ‘Through the Day thy Love has Spared us’.


Bena’s brother Captain Richard Wingfield served with the 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot and was caught up in the gruelling awfulness of the Indian Mutiny in the late 1850s, describing the events in a series of letters. He never fully recovered from his exertions. By his wife Isabella, a daughter of the Rev. Edward Guille of Jersey, he had a son, the Rev. William E. Wingfield, who was awarded a DSO in 1917 for his gallantry at the Somme. The Rev. W.E. Wingfield was father to Captain Mervyn Wingfield, DSO, DSC (1911–2005), the first British submarine commander to sink a Japanese submarine, and grandfather of the civil engineer Richard Wingfield who helped with the writing of this tome.


Bena’s younger sister Isabella was known to the family as Bla. In July 1871 she married Major Robert Tankerville Webber, Royal Welch Fusiliers, the scion of a family who had settled near Cork City in the early 17th century. Robert was the fourth son of Charles Tankerville Webber, QC, by his marriage to a daughter of the 3rd Earl of Kingston. Whilst living in India by the 1870s, Major Webber was listed as the owner of 1,814 acres in County Limerick. He retired from the army in 1888 and subsequently served as Chief Constable of Flintshire for over twenty years until his death in London aged 63 on 4th May 1909.[xxxiv]

The Webbers’ eldest son James served with the Royal Navy but died on active service in 1903. Their second son Mervyn Robert Howe Webber (1876-1944) was a captain in the 3rd Skinner’s Horse, a cavalry regiment of the British Indian Army. In October 1911 Robert was married in Jhansi, India, to Wyndham, daughter of the late Colonel Wyndham Hughes-Hallett, Indian Staff Corps.[xxxv] His battalion was sent to the Western Front, France, with the 7th (Meerut) Cavalry Brigade in late 1914, remaining there until their transfer back to India in 1916. They were then posted to the Loralai for service on the North-West Frontier, and also saw action during the Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919. He fetched up as Lieutenant Colonel and lived his final years at Littledene, Bransgore, Hampshire, having previously lived at Bryn Bellan Mold in Gwernaffield, Flintshire. When he died aged 68 in 1944, the Cheshire Observer described the son of the former Chief Constable of Flintshire as ‘a staunch Conservative and Churchman [who] took a keen interest in the Toc H Movement’, meaning the international Christian movement which formed a major part of the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association.

The Webbers’ third son Arthur Daniel Moutray Webber served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was closely affiliated with Bangor University in Wales. He would later stand as best man to his first cousin, the Rev. Winkfield Colley, as well as executor to the will of Winkie’s brother George Colley of Corkagh.

On 18th August 1909, just over three months after her father’s death, the Webbers’ eldest daughter Adelaide Isabella married Captain Ambrose Upton Gledstanes (1876-1957) of Fardross, County Tyrone. He rose to become a lieutenant-colonel in the 30th Lancers, Indian Army.

The Webbers’ youngest daughter Norah was married in Bombay (now Mumbai) on 22nd November 1911 to Captain George Philip Morris, eldest son of James Aloysius Morris, JP, of Ballinaboy House, Clifden, Co. Galway.[xxxvi] He was a direct descendant of the Morris family of Galway, one of the fourteen powerful merchant dynasties known as the Tribes of Galway. At the time of his marriage, George Morris was serving in the 30th Lancers (Gordon’s Horse), as was Norah’s brother-in-law Ambrose Upton Gledstanes. In 1913 Norah returned to Ireland on her own in order to give birth to their only son Tony and managed to visit her cousins at Corkagh in this time. Tony, who was born in Dublin on 5th June 1913, and his cousin Veronica Colley (later Hall-Dare), who was born on 14th April, would later claim a special bond on the basis that they shared a pram during this period.

Norah and Tony were en route from Liverpool to Karachi on board the SS City of Birmingham, a converted troopship, when they were torpedoed 90 miles south east of Malta on 27th November 1916. When the lifeboat they were being lowered into the sea on was snagged on the way down, mother and child were dumped into the sea. They spent two hours in the Mediterranean waters until rescued by a hospital ship. Norah later penned a vivid account of the event, which she posted back to her family in Ireland some months later. She and George remained in India for some time, where George rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and took command of the Royal Deccan Horse. Tony and his only sister Ruth consequently spent much of their childhood at Corkagh, particularly during school holidays.

Lt. Col. Tony Morris, who succeeded to Ballinaboy, served with the Royal Irish Fusiliers and was decorated with the Military Cross for an action in Palestine prior to the Second World War. He married Merle Bain, the daughter of Robert Davos Bain and Norah Kathleen Clark. Merle had previously married a highly-decorated submariner by name of Lieutenant David Verschoyle-Campbell, with whom she had a son, Dermot. David served as navigator on a submarine mission off the coast of Corfu, under Captain [later Rear Admiral] Anthony ‘Crap’ Miers, for which Miers received the Victoria Cross and David the Distinguished Service Order. David was the youngest Royal Navy officer to command a submarine and went on to be awarded a second medal for bravery. However, his fate remains a mystery as his S-class submarine, HMS Stonehenge, never returned from a mission into the Malacca Strait off Sri Lanka in 1944. There are no records of what happened to the vessel.

Tony and Merle had two sons, James, founder of Windmill Lane Studios and the long-term chairman of TV3, and Tim, who was part of the original team that built the studios and is now head and Director of Film and Television Drama in Windmill Lane Pictures. Both Tony and Merle passed away at Ballinaboy – Tony on 25th September 2003, Merle on 19th March 2014. James Morris’s wife Finola was notably born into the Vereker family, with whom the Colleys were also inter-married.

Ruth married Basil O’Brien (1915-1989), son of Francis O’Brien and Hilda Wild, with whom she had three sons and a daughter.


It is notable that Henry’s parents appear to have moved to Ferney in 1862 because Henry and Bena Colley were first recorded as living at Lucan Lodge, Leixlip, Co. Dublin, in July 1862, although they may have lived there before that. Situated on 21 acres, the house was said to hold ‘nine good Rooms, with Water Closet, beside Basement Storey’, as well as having a ‘coach-houfe, stable and other necessary offices, and a walled garden, stocked with fruit trees’ [and a greenhouse]. [xxxvii] Known as the Lucan Lodge Nursing Home, the house still stands today, surrounded by the Ardeevin housing estate. Contemporary newspapers confirms that at least six of their ten children were born at Lucan Lodge. These six girls and four boys were named Elizabeth (Bessie) (1859-1895), Maud (1862-1949), Florence (1864-1912), George (1866-1933), Laura (1867-1942), Wingfield (1868-1947), Gerald (1870-1923), Constance (1871-1912), Gertrude (1873-1934) and Edward (1875-1912). Details of each of these children follows below.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Henry took a keen interest in the church. He was prominent in both the Church Missionary Society (from as early as 1858) and the Church Education Society for Ireland (particularly during the 1860s and 1870s), as well as being on the Diocesan Board of Religious Education.[xxxviii] In 1868 he was recorded as Hon. Sec. of the Clergy Life Assurance Aid Society (for the United Diocese of Dublin and Kildare), of which the Archbishop of Dublin was President.[xxxix] Three years later, he was named on the managing committee of the eye-catchingly-named Institution for Imbeciles and Middle Class Lunatics of Lucan, under the chairmanship of Lord James Wandesforde Butler.[xl] They operated an asylum for the children of such unfortunates in the old hotel that had been built to accommodate visitors to the popular Lucan Spa the previous century. Henry Colley of Lucan Lodge was also recorded as a donor to famine relief in India.[xli]


Following the death of Henry’s father in 1880, the family moved from Lucan Lodge to a bigger but, as Elizabeth Bowen recalled, ‘sunless house’ at Ferney, Stillorgan, to the south of Dublin City. Having got the business of inheritance in order, they moved again the following year and this time settled in Clontarf, north of Dublin, where Henry bought the Mount Temple estate from a barrister by name of John Calvert Stronge, for £6000.[xlii] Stronge had built the large Victorian house – then known as Temple House – in about 1862, working with Belfast architects Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon. Sir John Stronge, as he later became, was Chief Magistrate of Police in Dublin at this time, as well as Solicitor for Inland Revenue in Ireland. Curiously he was also a brother of Pauline McClintock Bunbury, my paternal ‘grandcestress’ for whom Lisnavagh was built. Sir James Stronge later lived at Tynan Abbey, County Armagh.

Elizabeth Bowen recalled Mount Temple as ‘certainly sunny. It is a large, mid-to-late Victorian house with gables, narrow but many windows and an ornate brock front, beautifully placed, with lawns going down in terraces over a wide view of Dublin bay. Its downstairs rooms are spacious, good for family life. It stands, or stood when the Colleys acquired it, in a sufficient number of acres, its nearness to Dublin was convenient in many ways.’ [xliii]

An article in the Dublin Historical Record (1988) concurred that the Colley’s new home ‘was eminently suitable for a big family as it was large and surrounded by well-kept grounds. In addition, while Clontarf was still in Co. Dublin (the township did not become absorbed into the city until 1900), access had improved considerably. The horse-drawn tramline to Clontarf opened in May 1873 and passed by the end of the Howth Road. By the 1890s electrification was being considered and in March 1898 the electric service from Clontarf to Nelson’s Pillar was completed. In the later years of the Colley sojourn at Mount Temple there was also the train. The Dublin and Drogheda Railway line, opened in 1844, ran along the perimeter of the Mount Temple grounds. A station had at one time existed in Clontarf but it had closed. By the 1890s the population of the district had increased to about 5,000 or 6,000 and there was considerable demand for a station, the nearest station at which trains stopped being Raheny. Eventually in 1898 a station was opened at the Black Quarry on the Howth Road, which would have been highly convenient for the family.’[xliv]

In her books ‘Bowen’s Court’ and ‘Seven Winters’, Elizabeth Bowen paints a vivid picture of the life of the Colley family during the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the Edwardian Age that followed. As she observed in ‘Bowen’s Court’, ‘the Colleys are as much my family as the Bowens’. The Victorian household at Mount Temple was dominated by the matriarchal ‘Mrs Colley’, aka Bena, a woman of robust opinion and tremendous independence. The children sang in groups of three, a custom they continued as adults, and also performed amateur theatrics at home including, for instance, a play written by Winkie Colley while he was at Haileybury. Many years later, Elizabeth recalled:

‘Though Mount Temple had ended before I was five years old, I must have been old enough in its day to idealize, for I remember the house as being under a magic glass.’

She told of how the Colley girls were educated at Mount Temple by a Swiss governess who taught them to spoke French with:

‘… a prepossessing confidence and German a little … They read a good deal, delighted in conversation, revered and copied great pictures, had a feeling for music (though perhaps not much knowledge of it) and a persuasive touch on piano keys. In their love of the present, in their power of storing up memories, they were ruled by an innocent sensuousness. As a family they created their own society – the Colleys had a flair for family life. The sisters adored each other; the brothers were charming and funny, with a good deal of reserve – the emotional idiom of Mount Temple was perhaps rather more difficult for young men. The Colleys were good looking, with vivid, expressive faces in which the features were rather strongly marked – through the family ran fine dark eyebrows and a tendency towards the Wellington nose. Their colouring was of the kind called Irish – brown hair with a gloss on it, big-pupilled grey-blue eyes and fresh, glowing skins. They were spontaneous in feeling, manner and thought – in speech their spontaneity was so striking as to be identified (rightly, I think) with wit. The desertion and decay of Carbery Castle worked out – at least for this generation – well; the Colleys were unlike most Anglo-Irish families in not been tied to or conditioned by any place. They combined to make Mount Temple their present idyllic world. The Colleys were not … inhibited by proud fine-strung place-bound nervousness … the Colleys were the reverse.’

‘Mrs Colley’s temperament was dynamic. She was a very good woman with all those gifts through which wicked women most often succeed – she could enchant and affect people; her derision could reduce objects to dust and, with the authority of a delicious nature, she could be captious, arbitrary and sometimes, I am afraid, unfair – although her standards were of the highest and she could be also sincerely wise. Religious, happy and well-connected, she could afford to take an airy-derisive view of the world that lay outside Mount Temple gates. Denouncing the marriage-market, she refused to take her daughters into society: she considered it vulgar and ludicrous to “drag girls about” … A young man wishing to marry a Miss Colley – or in fact, even wishing to look at one – must be prepared himself to travel the whole way. Mrs Colley (contrary to all modern theories) was more closely bound to her daughters than to her sons – the sons, though without defections in loyalty, were more outside the sphere of her influence. For instance, she saw no reason to deviate, in the bringing-up of her family, from the strictness in which both she and her husband had been brought up – cards, dancing and theatre-going had been alike forbidden, in their otherwise very unlike homes. (For her own part, she admitted to having suffered, as a young girl, on her visits to Powerscourt where those pleasures reigned. This youthful embarrassment, besides accounting for the break made with the heads of both families, may have set up in Elizabeth Isabella her satirical bias against the world.). So, at Mount Temple ball and theatre-going were not permitted. But the sons – good-looking and popular and susceptible to the charms of the opposite sex – determined, while they continued to live at home not to avoid these pleasures. Their goings–off in white ties were unostentatious, and they would announce at breakfast the next day that they had “been to a circus”. No one pursued the matter.’

‘Mrs. Colley could, as a mother, hardly be called possessive, because that implies some assertion or fear or wish. She was rather, possessing – instinctively and almost without a check. Though her nature had not a touch of languor, though, in fact, she was vigour itself, with her children she was too wise ever to leave the role of one who se laisse aimer. Quick-minded and witty – in fact, clever – she was sturdily anti-intellectual: she denounced reading as a selfish and useless habit. “Whoever’s is this?” she would say with ringing contempt, if she found a book in the downstairs part of the house. So her daughters read upstairs in their rooms. She could not be called snobbish – in so far as snobbishness shows any wish to advance oneself through one’s friends – for beyond that rank to which she herself was born she felt that degrees of rank existed in fancy only. At the same time she was intransigent in any distinctions she chose to make: she would receive barristers, not solicitors – happily Henry Bowen was a barrister – she would countenance wine merchants (members of old wine families) but not brewers. The Church, the Army and (I suppose) the Navy were the only professions regarded as natural. Her husband’s poet Trench cousin, at that time Archbishop of Dublin, was a little too High Church for her tastes; at the same time, the John Wesley connection was discredited by his Dissent. Though, inevitably, a Unionist in politics, [she] took a low view of Union Peers –not on ground of their faulty patriotism but as their being people who received bribes. Her own family, in this matter, were irreproachable – the Lord Powerscourt of that time is said to have shot from his bed of gout to kick downstairs the government agent who was offering him promotion in the Peerage and a sum down on condition that he supported the Union. One Colley connection, a Trench, had, however, lapsed: Lord Ashtown did not stand well with the Colleys, though I do not know if were aware of this …’.

‘I think it says much for Mrs Colley that she did not repress personality in her children but, rather, seemed to develop it. She must have been one of those women – in my experience more often amoureuses than mothers – who have the power to give an increased stature to anybody they like, love, or are interested in. I doubt whether she understood her children – in fact, I believe she was shy of many of them – but she did, somehow, stimulate them. She insisted that they should have a quality. She detested “softness”, and said so many times.’ [xlv]

Also resident at this time was Henry’s sister Lily Colley, as Elizabeth Bowen also recounts:

‘She kept for her own use and drove round the roads a chubbed, pink-eyed white pony the family called “the Pig”. I remember Aunt Lily herself as having a bleached but determined air, and she could command, I understand from her nieces, a particular kind of martyred obtrusiveness. If the Colleys were a little in love with each other, Aunt Lily certainly was not in love with them. Her presence acted as a restraint: they all tried hard, but … For instance, on Sunday afternoons Aunt Lily withdrew to her bedroom to study Hebrew. But Sunday afternoons were, also, the time set apart by her nieces for cracking coffee with pokers and shouting with mirth – they, rightly, felt happy when they had been to church – and this cracking and shouting took place in the back drawing-room, immediately under Aunt Lily’s room.

Nothing stemmed Aunt Lily’s desire to do right. Like the Bowens’ Aunt Sarah Clarke, she took her nieces abroad – she not only chaperoned them but paid for them. She began, I believe, in rotation: the success of each trip could be judged by the nieces she took abroad again. Bessie had married young, so was out of it; strong-minded Maud was so very short with Aunt Lily that I doubt if Aunt Lily ever attempted her. Laura, who took with her gratitude, philosophy and a forgiving humour, was by far the greatest success. Handsome, spirited Constance was, like Maud, fierce with Aunt lily; very pretty Gertrude, through no fault of her own, attracted Italians, and Florence, I am sorry to say, behaved like a fiend: she could not forgive Aunt Lily for spoiling Italy for her. From the city of Florence, Florence stole out alone to find Mr Browning’s grave, lay a bunch of white violets on it and meditated there for some hours – leaving Aunt Lily frantic.’ [xlvi]

By the time he took up residence in Mount Temple, Henry Colley was a sick man. As his granddaughter Elizabeth Bowen explained, ‘he was attacked by an illness that kept him sad, silent and immobilized till he died’.[xlvii] In her fine history of Mount Temple, Bernardine Ruddy states that he suffered from locomotor ataxy, a chronic degenerative disease of the nervous system characterised by a lack of power to co-ordinate the muscles. Although he lived at Mount Temple, he was described as a non-resident in 1882 when he was acquitted in sixteen cases connected to land rents brought before the Maynooth Sub-Commission by tenants on his lands in Edenderry. He died aged fifty-nine on 24 November 1886.[xlviii]

Bena Colley, his widow, continued to live at Mount Temple and was the primary beneficiary and executor of his will, which was proven in Dublin on 7 January 1887. On the night of the 1901 Census of Ireland, she was staying with the family of her late husband’s kinsman, Thomas Sandes Trench, in Ballybrittas, Co. Laois. She gave her date of birth as 1833 in the same form.

She died on 18th November 1903, nearly seventeen years to the day after Henry. As her granddaughter Elizabeth Bowen recalled in Seven Winters: ‘She died, not long after Florence [Bowen] got better, of an illness that if admitted might have been cured.’ Bena’s eldest son George was Primary Beneficiary and Executor of her will, probate of which was granted on 15th January 1904. The Colley family sold Mount Temple the following year, by which time her children were mostly living in England, with just George, Gerald and Florence still in Ireland.


Known in the family as Bessie, Elizabeth Maria Pomeroy Colley was Henry and Elizabeth’s eldest daughter. Born on 8 October 1859, she was baptised in the Mariner’s Church, Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) on 17 November, with a Captain Brooke in attendance, a godfather perhaps. She became the first of her generation to wed when she married Frederick Selwyn Copleston (1850-1935) on 18th January 1883. He was the tall and ambitious son of the Rev. Reginald Edward Copleston, Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, and his wife Anne Elizabeth (née Sharpe). Fred’s brother, also Reginald, was Anglican Bishop of Colombo (1875-1902) and Calcutta (1902-1913) and had married Bessie’s cousin Edith, daughter of Richard Chenevix Trench, Archbishop of Dublin. Bessie had been one of the four bridesmaids at Reginald and Edith’s wedding at Nunn’s Cross Church, Killiskey, County Wicklow, in August 1882, so perhaps this is when Fred Copleston’s eye first lit upon her in a dress of apricot Indian muslin, with scarlet sashes and lace hats. And perhaps it was over breakfast at Broomfield that the concept of marriage first came to mind.[xlix]

Fred Copleston had previously worked on the forest demarcation in the remote jungles of Taungoo in Lower Burma (now Myanmar), becoming a Judge under the Land Acquisition Act by the time of Reginald’s wedding. In the spring of 1885, the freshly married man was appointed Commissioner of Excise and Stamps, and in the following year Bessie joined him when he was sent to Tenasserim and Pegu (now Bago) in Lower Burma as an Additional Sessions Judge. He reached Commissioner’s grade in 1890, and in 1894 he was sent to Mandalay as Judicial Commissioner of the recently acquired Upper Province of Burma.[l] Bessie Copleston died in Burma on 27 August 1895, of causes unknown, at the age of thirty-six. There is no obvious record of her in the contemporary press and her place of burial is as yet unknown. She left no children.

When the judicial unification of the two parts of Burma took effect in the spring of 1900, Fred Copleston was appointed the first Chief Justice of Burma, holding the Chief Court in Rangoon. He retired in 1902, in which year he was married again, in Rangoon, to Norah Margaret Little, the daughter of a medical officer from Burma. He died in 1935, leaving his widow and their two sons. Their eldest son was the Jesuit priest Frederick Copleston (1907–1994), author of the influential multi-volume ‘A History of Philosophy’, who achieved much fame for debating the existence of God with Bertrand Russell in a celebrated 1948 BBC broadcast. The younger son Ernest Reginald Copleston, CB, was born in 1910 and served as an Under-secretary to the Treasury in London.


Henry and Elizabeth’s third daughter Florence was born at Lucan Lodge on 13 June 1864. Along with her younger sisters Maud and Constance, she started at Alexandra College in October 1886. At that time the school was situated in the historic Earlsfort Terrace, across from the present day National Concert Hall. It was founded in 1866 by Anne Jellicoe, a Quaker educationist who went one step beyond the traditional governess-style education of Irish Protestant ladies by wielding the school into a pioneering force for women’s rights and education. At Miss Jellicoe’s behest, Florence and her sisters would have been educated in mathematics, history, classics and philosophy – all subjects traditionally reserved for boys only.

Bitha, aka Elizabeth Bowen, who spent much of her childhood with her Colley cousins.

According to Elizabeth Bowen, it was Mrs Disney (the wife of the Rev. Brabazon Disney, her Wingfield grandfather’s curate at Abbeyleix), who masterminded her parents’ marriage. Shortly after the lovely, bronze-haired Florence had left ‘Alex’ in October 1889, Mrs Disney introduced her to Henry Charles Cole Bowen of Bowen’s Court. He was the son of Robert St. John Cole Bowen and Elizabeth Jane Clarke. After what Elizabeth described as ‘minute examination’ by Bena, permission to engage was granted. The marriage took place on 10 April 1890 in the Church of St. John the Baptist, Seafield Road, Clontarf, and was performed by the Rev. E. R. Chenevix Trench, a cousin of the bride. They arrived at Bowen’s Court in darkness. ‘Florence, her eyes swimming, unable to speak, was seen in the flashes of lantern-light’, wrote Elizabeth. ‘She wore a long dark-red caped cloak, which has never been forgotten.’ That autumn’s chatter was dominated by stories of the O’Shea divorce and Parnell’s impending downfall.

Henry and Florence’s only child Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) was born on 7th June, 1899 at 15 Herbert Place, Dublin, and baptized in the nearby St Stephen’s Church on Upper Mount Street. The family spent their summers at Bowen’s Court, the tall square three-storey family mansion near Kildorrery in north County Cork. However, the house became so cold in winters that they relocated to their Dublin home on Herbert Place. However, Dublin also had immense dangers. As Elizabeth Bowen recalled in ‘Seven Winters’, Bena Colley once took a Clontarf cab into the city for ‘one of her Dublin days’ but ‘happened to call in at Herbert Place to find, without warning, Florence at death’s door. Mrs. Colley’s detestation of “softness” made her, as a rule, rather crisp with a sufferer … but this was a shock to her, and she took the matter in hand.’

By 1907 Henry was becoming increasingly unhinged. George opted to leave Mount Temple and took lodgings a few doors away so that he could be close to Florence and Elizabeth. Although Henry’s mental health was briefly restored, Florence was advised to leave him and relocated with her daughter to England. Before they eventually settled at Clyne House in Hythe, they stayed with family in Radnor Park, Folkestone, including their cousin Isabel Chenevix Trench, the widowed daughter-in-law of the late Archbishop of Dublin. Florence and George remained ‘close’; they corresponded and visited each other frequently. Both Florence and Elizabeth were staying at Faunaugh when Florence learned that she was riddled with cancer. Edie, who had lately discovered she was pregnant, declared that she would call the baby Florence. ‘Please don’t,’ said Florence. ‘It’s a very unhappy name.’ Florence passed away at Clyne House on 23 September 1912. Edie’s baby was born six months later and she was called Veronica not Florence.

Thirteen-year-old Elizabeth, now effectively orphaned, went to live with her aunt Laura Colley at Harpenden in Hertfordshire, where her Uncle Winkie was rector. She attended Harpenden Hall School before moving to Downe House School just as the war broke out in September 1914. Downe House was then located in Charles Darwin’s family home near Orpington in Kent; Elizabeth – known as Bitha by her school friends –would have learnt her science in Darwin’s old laboratory. She left at the end of the summer term in 1917 and later wrote about the school in a story called ‘The Mulberry Tree’. She moved to London in 1918.

Elizabeth Bowen in conversation with a gardener.

During this time, and for many decades to come, Elizabeth was a frequent visitor to her cousins at Faunagh, Corkagh and Kilmatead. She was approaching eighteen by the time Edie and George, her aunt and uncle, moved into Corkagh but it was a house she came to love, not least with Edie becoming something of a mother figure after Florence’s passing. Elizabeth adored the atmosphere at Corkagh, which she described as ‘cheerful, astringent and ultra-Colley … The entire Corkagh garden shows endless loving care: it has not a weed in it.’ That said, Edie’s eagle eye was not always welcome; Elizabeth’s cousin Valerie Hone would later recall how Elizabeth once washed Valerie’s hair in cloudy ammonia in order to vent her anger at being refused permission by Edie to meet a certain young man.

In 1923 Elizabeth married Alan Charles Cameron, son of Henry James Cameron, who would go on to become Secretary for Education for the City of Oxford. Her love triangle with Humphrey House was the source of some tittle-tattle in February 2021. She also enjoyed a close relationship with the Canadian diplomat, Charles Ritchie (1906-1995), who eventually served as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, as well as Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984), the former poet laureate when he was Press Attaché to the British Embassy in Dublin during the Second World War. At this time, she travelled a good deal between Britain and Ireland, reporting on Irish attitudes to neutrality and the British war effort to the Dominions Office and the Ministry of Information in London.[li] In November 1940, for instance, she gave this prescient assessment of the Irish belief in neutrality: ‘It may be felt in England that Éire is making a fetish of her neutrality. But this assertion of her neutrality is Éire’s first free self-assertion: as such alone it would mean a great deal to her. Éire (and I think rightly) sees her neutrality as positive, not merely negative.’

Publishing under her maiden name, Elizabeth Bowen was destined to become one of Ireland’s most celebrated novelists, with works such as The Hotel (1927), The Last September (1929), Friends and Relations (1931), The House in Paris (1935), The Death of the Heart (1938), Bowen’s Court (1942), The Heat of the Day (1949), A Time in Rome (1960) and Eva Trout (1969). BBC Sounds has a dramatised two-part version of ‘The Last September’ from 1996, written by Nigel Gearing and starring Anna Healy and Greg Wise, available here.

Elizabeth was invested as a Commander, Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 1948, a medal that would later turn up in my sock drawer, but that’s another story. The following year she received the Freedom of Kent from the Maids of Kent and an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Trinity College, Dublin; Oxford University followed suit in 1956.

As for her father, Henry Cole Bowen, he died in 1930, at the age of 68. In September 2021, Martin Mansergh directed me to a newspaper cutting he had found from 27 May 1930, with an account of Henry’s funeral. “Besides being a landowner,” wrote Martin, “he was a barrister, who had been an examiner of titles to the Land Commission, author of a standard work on statutory land purchase in Ireland, as well as legal adviser to the Church of Ireland Bishops of Cork and Limerick. He got on well with his Catholic neighbours, some of whom helped to carry his coffin to Farahy churchyard. His special pride was the rising fortunes of his daughter, the novelist Elizabeth Bowen.”

Elizabeth inherited Bowen’s Court on the death of her father in 1930 but sold it in 1959. The 1961 Bulletin of the Irish Georgian Society reported that Bowenscourt was to be preserved, while photographs of the exterior showed it in good order. Alas, shortly afterwards, it was entirely demolished less than a year after she sold it. When she learned its fate, she remarked: ‘It was a clean end … Bowen’s Court never lived to be a ruin’. Elizabeth, who had no children, died at the age of 73 on 22 February 1973, a year and a day after my birth. I wonder if I met her as a babe in my mother’s arms. Alan Cameron, her husband, was my mother’s godfather.

The OPW ran an exhibition on her in neighbouring Doneraile Court in the summer of 2020.

Laura Colley with her niece Noreen Colley (later Butler).


Two of the Colley daughters never married. ‘Strong-minded’ Maud (aka Frances Maud Caroline), the second daughter, was born at Lucan Lodge on 21st November 1862 and educated at Alexandra College, along with Florence and Constance. In ‘Seven Winters’, Elizabeth Bowen mentions that Maud was then living near the Grand Canal in Dublin during the Edwardian Age and that she was ‘occupied with the conversion of Jews in Dublin, and other interests’. Elizabeth also describes her as ‘a notable storyteller, who continued, each Sunday, our own private serial’. When she died on 15th January 1949, Maud was the last of her generation of Colleys.

Born at Lucan Lodge on 22nd May 1867, Laura (Emily), the fourth daughter, was hailed by Elizabeth for her ‘gratitude, philosophy and a forgiving nature’. In her younger years she contracted tuberculosis and was sent to a specialist in London, which may explain why she does not seem to have joined her sisters at ‘Alex’. In ‘Seven Winters’, Elizabeth offers a further insight into the mind-set of Bena Colley when poor Laura was struck by ‘a bad haemorrhage’ while in London. ‘Mrs Colley, having rendered some sort of aid, said, “I’m afraid I can’t stay with you now, dear; I have to go out and have my photograph taken”. Fortunately, the girl survived both ordeals.

When her brother Winkie became curate of Harpenden, Hertfordshire, Laura went with him as his housekeeper at South View. She looked after her older sister Florence during the latter’s fatal illness and she was subsequently named as executor of Florence’s will (alongside her brother-in-law Henry Bowen).[lii] Laura returned to Ireland after Winkie’s marriage to Helen Brownlow. She died on 26th February 1942.

CONSTANCE COLLEY, M.D. (1871-1912)

‘Handsome, spirited’ Constance Helena, the fifth of Henry and Elizabeth’s daughters, was born on 30th October 1871. She joined Florence and Maud at Alexandra College in 1886, with records suggesting she studied English, Greek, Latin, history, geography, music and harmony. She remained at Alex until at least 1891 when she won Miss Porter’s Prize, alongside Helen Vernon.[liii] In 1896, it was noted that the scenery had been ‘most artistically arranged by Miss Constance Colley’ for a theatrical performance of ‘The Pair of Lunatics’ and ‘Second Thoughts’ at a Bowen’s Court charity fund-raiser.[liv]

Seven years before Constance started at ‘Alex’, the government passed the Royal University of Ireland Act 1879 which allowed females to take university degrees on the same basis as males. As Susan Parkes, observed in “Gladly Learn and Gladly Teach – A History of Alexandra College (1866-1966)”: ‘In the late 1800s, lecturers from Trinity College Dublin provided tuition for ladies on the Alexandra campus. And the first women to receive degrees in Ireland or Britain were Alex pupils — six of them successfully studied at Dublin’s Royal University from 1891 and at Trinity College Dublin, once it opened its doors to women in 1903.’

Constance was similarly inclined to fulfil Anne Jellicoe’s dream of bringing the status of women in line with men, although her chosen subject was medicine. In 1905 she was listed as one of the twenty successful candidates in the Third Examination (over five year) of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh; needless to say, there were not many women in her class.[lv] In July 1906 she must have been thrilled to see her name listed among the 23 successful candidates (from a field of 68) in the college’s Final Examinations, after which she was admitted LRCPE, LRCSE, and LPF and CG. There was only one other successful woman candidate, Mary Deborah Hancock of Surbiton. It’s not yet clear what her chosen subject was but the options were Medicine and Therapeutics, Surgery and Surgical Anatomy, Midwifery or Medical Jurisprudence.[lvi] She apparently graduated with a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) but I have yet to establish the relevant year.

By 1910 she was working at the Kingwood Sanatorium in the Chiltern Hills of Oxford. This was a private sanatorium for women that specialized in open-air treatment of tuberculosis. The sanatorium was established in 1898 by Dr Esther Carling (née Colebrook), the daughter of a former mayor of Reading, who also became its ‘kind and capable superintendent’. [lvii] It occupied a farm at Peppard Common, 10km from Reading and 6km from Henley-on-Thames. This gave her enough insight to write a letter entitled ‘The Psychology of the Consumptive’ in support of the work of Dr. Arthur Brock. The letter was published in the British Medical Journal on 16 July 1910.[lviii]

Constance was still working at the Kingwood Sanatorium when she was stricken with consumption on her return from a winter visit to Switzerland. She died unmarried at Folkestone, Kent, on 15 February 1912.[lix] Less than eight weeks earlier, the pioneering National Health Insurance Act had received Royal assent. Probate was granted at Dublin to her brother George Colley on 19 April, at which time her effects were valued at £5,983 11s 7d.[lx] Deep shock would set into the family when her younger brother Eddie Colley was lost on Titanic on 15th April, and her sister Florence was also dead within six months.

A portrait of Constance was hung in remembrance of her in the Jellicoe Hall of Alexandra College, her school, beneath which her nieces would sometimes sit in the early 1930s. The portrait vanished when the school relocated from Earlsfort Terrace to its present home on the school’s former sports ground in Milltown. [If anyone knows where it is, I would be thrilled to know more.]

As to the Kingwood Sanatorium, it had grown to 70 beds by 1914 when Dr Carling sold it to Berkshire and Buckingham County Councils and it became known as Berks and Bucks Joint Sanatorium. The money from the sale was used by the Maitland Trust to purchase a convalescent cottage at Barton on Sea. It remained under their jurisdiction until the founding of the National Health Service in 1948 when it became known as Peppard Sanatorium.


Sir Maurice Fiennes, 1962. An engineer of considerable skill, he was chairman of Davy-Ashmore in Sheffield from 1960. In May 1962 he was inducted as President of the Iron and Steel Institute, marking the first time that a plant-builder rather than a metallurgist or steel-maker had been elected to the office. He was knighted by Harold Wilson in recognition of his contributions to British engineering and exports. He married the equestrian and style doyenne Sylvia Finlay (no relation to the Corkagh family) with whom he had five children before their divorce in 1964. Sir Maurice’s second wife Erika was a daughter of Dr Herbert Hueller von Huellenried of Vienna, Austria.

Henry and Elizabeth’s ‘very pretty’ youngest daughter Gertrude (Theodosia) was born at Lucan Lodge on 17 June 1873, as noted in the Belfast Newsletter of 20 June 1873. She was educated at Alexandra College from October 1889 until at least June 1892. The school archives note her skill as a pianoforte player in 1892. According to Elizabeth Bowen, ‘through no fault of her own, Gertrude attracted Italians.’

On 9 October 1895, she married, take a deep breath, Alberic Arthur Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes. Alberic, a bank cashier, was the second son of, deeper breath, the Rev. Hon. Wingfield Stratford Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes (whose mother was a Powerscourt) and his wife Alice Susan Yorke, who was herself a daughter of the Very Rev. Hon. Granthan Munton Yorke and his wife Marian Emily Montgomery. Just to round out these catchy names, Alberic’s grandfather was the Rev. Frederick Benjamin Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes who became the 10th Baron Saye and Sele. [lxi] In 1897. Alberic’s brother Major Caryl Wentworth Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes married Kathleen Isabella Hawkins, a kinswoman of the Lesley-Ellis family, by whom he was ancestor to Emma Mant.

The Ealing census of 1901 places 27-year-old Gerturde and her husband Alberic, who worked with the Bank of England. They later lived in Bloxham where Alberic died aged 54 in September 1919, four years before his father. [Banbury Guardian, 1 January 1920] Gertrude Fiennes passed away at 46 Markham Square on 12 November 1934, aged 61, in the presence of her daughter Audrey Gertrude. It would have been her brother Eddie’s 59th birthday. She and Alberic had four children, three daughters – Winifred Joan (1897-1982), who married Captain Maurice Charles Prendergast Vereker, MC, Royal Horse Artillery; Audrey Gertrude (1899-1995) and Celia Mary (1902-1998), known as Molly, who married Noel Rooke, A.R.E. – and one son, Sir Maurice Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes (1907–1994). [lxii]

Sir Maurice’s eldest son was the farmer-photographer Mark Fiennes (1933–2004) who moved to Ireland in 1973 with his wife, the writer Jennifer Lash (1938–1993). They lived in West Cork and County Kilkenny for some years and produced a remarkable collection of children, namely the brilliant actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, the film director Martha Fiennes, the composer Magnus Fiennes, the film-maker Sophie Fiennes (who once visited Lisnavagh on a Ralph Laurent shoot), and the conservationist Jacob Fiennes. Ralph was educated by the Christian Brothers at St Kieran’s College, a Roman Catholic secondary school in Kilkenny, for a year, before he and Joseph went for a stint at Newtown School, a Quaker-run independent school in Waterford. It was particularly fascinating to my young daughters that ‘Cousin Ralph’ not only played Alfred in ‘The Lego Batman Movie’, but was also Lord Voldemort in the ‘Harry Potter’ films. [Ralph’s portrayal of Gustave H. in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is my own fave, while Joseph excelled as Fred Waterford in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’.] Indeed, Martha’s son Hero Fiennes-Tiffin kept up the family tradition by playing young Lord Voldemort in ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’. Martha’s daughter Mercy Fiennes appeared as the beloved Little G in ‘The Duchess’ (2008), alongside her uncle Ralph Fiennes and Keira Knightley.

Sir Maurice and Sylvia were also the parents of Lizzie (who married Lt.-Col. Richard James Heslop Randall), Maria (who married John Houlton Ewing Mocatta), Henrietta Celia (who married Stephen Molivadas) and Alberic George (Fellow, Royal College of Surgeons, who married Louise Emily Jane Bidlake).

Wingfield Colley’s Wedding.


William Wingfield Pomeroy Colley, the second of Henry and Bena’s four sons, was born at Lucan Lodge on 30 August 1868, the year Gladstone was elected Prime Minister. Educated at both prep and public school in England, he went on to Trinity College, Cambridge. He then joined the church and was curate of Harpenden, Hertfordshire, from 1904 to 1914, during which time he orchestrated the building of St. John’s Church to replace a tin church that had burned down some years earlier. His sister Laura, who lived with him at Harpenden, laid the foundation stone in 1908 although this is now sadly obscured by subsequent building.

His name appears in a visitors book from Scoil Acla, the irish language school on Achill Island, County Mayo, founded by Emily M. Weddall (1867-1952). The school was popular with those who wanted to learn the Irish language and experience the culture in its natural setting of Achill Island. In January 2019 I was sent a copy of a page from the Visitor’s Book by Maria Gillen, who runs a blog on Mrs Weddall. It includes the Rev. Colley’s signature, curiously written in the Greek alphabet and dated 23 August 1911. Maria said the rest of the book provided ‘a rather eclectic collection of names such Gaelic League members, Republicans of the time and scholars from Eastern Europe.’ Emily Weddall was a clergyman’s daughter

Veronica recalled him as ‘gentle, shy and quiet’ in an otherwise ‘rumbustious family’. He won over the children by treating them like grown-ups. ‘You could talk to him about all your interests and worries and he listened, as well as playing children’s games.’ He was also very popular with his siblings: ‘he was the one they would go to for tears to be wiped and tempers calmed!’

Memorial to Winkie Colley.

On 15 September 1915, he married Helen Isabel Brownlow, daughter of the Rev. Duncan John Brownlow, Rector of Ardbraccan, and Margaret Stuart Verschoyle of Tassaggart, Saggart, Co. Dublin. (Margaret was a daughter of John James Verschoyle and Catherine Helen Verschoyle, formerly Foster. See here).  His first cousin Arthur Webber stood as his best man. Family lore, as oft repeated by his daughters, Esmé and Betty, has it that it took Edie to get him to propose. She sent them on ‘endless walks together’ and after about the fourth push, he came good and popped the question while Helen was staying with George and Edie in Faunagh. Esme and Betty always maintained that they wouldn’t exist without Edie’s influence. Marriage had many advantages, not least that Helen was now able to drive him around; prior to this he went around his parishes on bike or foot. After his marriage, Laura returned to Ireland.

Wingfield, or Winkie as he was sometimes known, was subsequently Rector of Blisworth (1914-30), where he officiated at the wedding of Elizabeth Bowen and Alan Cameron in 1924; Betty and Esmé were the bridesmaids. Extant letters from his time as Rector of Bonnington, Kent (1930-1939) suggest he was much loved and admired by his parishioners, both for his theological knowledge and for the quiet help and comfort he offered in times of trouble. He retired to Wimbledon, London, where he died on 7 April 1947.

He was survived by his two daughters, Betty (Elisabeth Margaret) (1918-1991) and Esmé (Florence Helen) (1920-2006). They remained in Wimbledon until 1960 when they and their mother relocated to Killiney in south Dublin. Following Esmé’s passing in 2006, the Rev Ian Poulton delivered a eulogy in which he remarked:

‘Esmé, for me, was the last Victorian … [She] had a strong Victorian sense of responsibility that she must be good steward of all that she had. Saving was a great virtue allowing one to make wise and generous use of money. Frivolous expenditure was to be frowned upon; Esmé was extraordinarily generous to various causes while living a strict and frugal lifestyle herself. In accordance with the teaching of the book of Deuteronomy, Esmé believed that all good things came from God and were owed back to God … Esmé was deeply imbued with a Victorian sense of integrity; that one’s word was one’s bond and that honesty and transparency should characterize public life. Esmé rarely spoke of politics, but on one occasion she expressed a certain satisfaction that a politician with whom she shared a surname had been a consistent opponent of a taoiseach whom she particularly distrusted … Esmé and Betty and their mother must have been part of a small minority moving to Ireland in 1960, when some half a million people had left the country over the previous ten years. Esmé was a person of optimism and confidence. Even when advancing years prompted her to think that her house might be too large for her to cope and that the day might come when independence was not possible, Esmé never really engaged with the idea of moving. Sheltered accommodation was very fine and the places looked jolly nice, but they were for other people. I think Esmé was sustained by the hope expressed by Charles Dickens’ Mr Micawber “something will turn up” … Esmé had great trust in God’s providence and a great love for the hymns of her forebear, the Revd Thomas Kelly … Perhaps Esmé was the last Victorian, but her final hope was in a God far greater than the greatest Victorian.’

Christopher Hone was the executor of Esmé’s will while both he and Finlay were residual legatees, while Laetitia Lefroy had power of attorney. Her papers included a large collection of letters to and from her father; as well as letters from her mother to Betty and others from her Brownlow relations. There were also many identified photos, some of which Laetitia subsequently passed on to Jamie Brownlow in Lurgan, along with some Brownlow genealogical data and portraits. Laetitia retained papers relating to Wingfield and Helen’s generation, including Wingfield’s letters from his siblings, along with her mothers’ letters and diaries. Ally and I are also deeply indebted to Esmé who also left me enough money for us to both be able to buy laptops at a time when our funds were in short supply!

The Colley brothers: Rev Wingfield, Eddie, George and Gerald.


Born at Lucan Lodge on 31 March 1870, Major Gerald Henry Pomeroy Colley was the third son of Henry and Elizabeth Colley. Educated at Haileybury, he was made a captain in the 3rd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, in November 1893.[lxiii] In 1895 he was seconded while holding an appointment as aide-de-camp to Sir Henry Blake, KCMG, Governor of Jamaica.[lxiv] A member of the Inner Temple, he was also recorded as Inspector of Constabulary in Jamaica, although the precise dates of this service are not yet known.[lxv] He was still ADC to the Governor when attached to the staff of the Royal Irish Constabulary depot at the Phoenix Park in August 1897. As the Freeman’s Journal noted:

‘The Royal Irish Constabulary establishment has of recent years been made the training ground in very many instances for officers and men employed in different positions in the Army and Police Service in the Colonies. Capt G H P Colley, of the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, and nephew of the late General Colley, has been attached to the staff of the depot of the Royal Irish Constabulary at the Phoenix Park, where he will complete his instructions in the course of a few days. Captain Colley is ADC to the Governor of Jamaica.’ [lxvi]

‘Uncle Ger’, as the Colleys of Corkagh later knew him, subsequently became ADC to the Governor of Hong Kong. On 27 March 1900, the Freeman’s Journal noted that he had left Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) for England. On 9 April 1900, the Western Morning News reported that he had been selected for service in the South African Mounted Police. He served with his battalion during the Anglo-Boer War, for which he was awarded the Queen’s medal with five clasps and the King’s medal with two clasps for services. He appears to have transferred to the 2nd Battalion during the war. He remained in South Africa after the war and, perhaps assisted by his aunt Edith Beaumont (formerly Lady Colley) was appointed Assistant Military Magistrate of the Boksburg district in 1902.[lxvii]

As he explained in a letter of 10th February 1902, Boksburg included:

‘… the suburb of Vogelfontein -there are 219 houses including 9 houses of natives with a white population of 983 and coloured 189. Including the East Rand Mines, Native Refugee Camp within a radius of one mile of the Market Square, Boksburg, there are in addition 1,275 whites, 1,991 natives and 37 Asiatics. I have not yet succeeded in getting the figures for the native employees on the East Rand Proprietary Mines. The above figures represent the present population excluding the Mines and Refugee Camps. In normal times the population of whites will probably be double and the native treble the above figures.’

Ger was also recorded as an Assistant Magistrate in the Witwatersand district. On 15th December 1902, he reputedly sailed home from Capetown on board the Avondale Castle. That said he was later clocked as one of eighty officers and troops who returned on board the Union Castle liner Norman that docked at Southampton on 3rd January 1903.[lxviii]

On 20th June 1906 Ger married Dorothy (Evelyn) Addie, daughter of Colonel James Addie, a Scotch Episcopalian living in South Africa. Their only child Patricia was born at Balfour House, St Andrew’s, Scotland, in March 1907.[lxix] They appear to have returned to South Africa shortly after Patricia’s birth; Ger was recorded as Assistant Resident Magistrate, Civil Division, Johannesburg, in 1907. Major Colley then returned to Ireland where he was appointed Resident Magistrate for County Mayo in 1909. He was transferred to County Tipperary in 1911 and made his home at Kingswell House in Sadlierswells.[lxx] During this time he was a frequent visitor to his brother George at Faunagh.

On 25th May 1912, the Tipperary Star reported that Ger was ‘… about to proceed to British Columbia to look after the estates of … Edward Pomeroy Colley who was one of the heroes who sacrificed his life for others in the terrible Titanic disaster … When the sad news that [Eddie] had paid the penalty of his heroism with the foundering of the monster liner was made known, all creeds and classes in Tipperary and the surrounding district tendered their sympathetic condolences to a popular gentleman in a most trying time.” Ger set off across the Atlantic aboard the White Star liner Adriatic, departing from Liverpool on 5th July 1912. His heart must have been palpitating as the ship passed dangerously close to an iceberg two days before it reached New York.[lxxi]

Letter from Major Gerald Henry Pomeroy Colley to Fr. Aloysius Travers OFM Cap.

The no-nonsense RM was still stationed in Tipperary when the Great War broke out. He was not on the monthly army lists in August 1914 but the following month he re-joined the 3rd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, as a captain.[lxxii] By October 1915 he had been appointed a Staff Captain, in which capacity he inspected a parade and gymnastics display by the 15th Company (St James’s) of the Boy’s Brigade at St James’s Parochial Hall on Dublin’s South Circular Road on 14th April 1916.[lxxiii] In April 1916 he was also appointed a magistrate for the City and County of Dublin.[lxxiv]

During the Easter Rising of 1916, Ger was stationed at the Headquarters of the Irish Command at Parkgate, Dublin. It was from here that Major G. H. Pomeroy Colley, Royal Irish Regiment, wrote a letter to Fr. Aloysius Travers, the Capuchin friar, on 5th May 1916, declaring that he is ‘glad to say your kind offices will not be required to night’. He was referring to Fr. Aloysius’ attendance to the imprisoned rebel leaders. After the Rising, he and Major Price both requested Sir Roger Casement’s Mauser pistol from Basil Thomson, a detective at Scotland Yard. Thompson later wrote to Colley, ‘If it is in any way possible, I will see that you get one of Casement’s revolvers. One of them is bespoken for the Museum, and another has been promised to Major Price, but I do not think anything has been decided yet about the third one’.[lxxv]

A spooky story is told that on Easter Sunday, the Major telephoned his wife Dorothy to tell her that there was some trouble brewing between the Irish nationalists and the British authorities. Dorothy and a friend then went to Belgard Castle from where they could see Dublin city centre in flames. Meanwhile, George and Edie Colley were strolling through Corkagh when they heard the sound of a marching band and tramping feet making its way down the Naas Road and out through the rear gate of Corkagh. They rushed home to find the entire staff nervously huddled by the front steps of the house. They too had heard the band, and they were convinced that Corkagh was about to be attacked. And yet, not one of the men or women present had seen neither hide nor hair of the mysterious band. This story is not mentioned in the memoirs of Dorothy Stopford Price who recalled:

“When we got in xxx I had a telephone from Cyril [Dickenson, her cousin] ringing up from Corkagh asking for news. We could hardly hear one another so he said he would motor over & see us. Accordingly about teatime, their gray car appeared and out of it emerged Cyril, Aileen, George Colley, & Mrs Gerald Colley. She had not heard since yest morning from her husband Major Colley who is on the Staff & was anxious. He was at H.2 (The Royal Hospital) & surrounded by SFs too. They came in & had tea & told us all their news. That the SFs had a machine gun on top of the Rotunda, sweeping Sackville St, and that all the shops in Sackville St had been broken into & looted, that they had taken the Shelbourne, the Archbishops House & University Club, & were entrenched in Stephens Green. That all the Curragh camp had been brought up the soldiers were beginning to take things in hand. Mrs N. [Estelle Nathan, sister in-law of Sir Mathew Nathan, under-secretary for Ireland] rang up Sir M then & there & he said things were better, but 3 officers had been killed. He said he would find out about Major Colley & let us know later.”

Major Colley, 3rd Royal Irish Regiment, Special Reserve, was appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (D.A.A.G.) with effect from 30 September 1916.[lxxvi] The Adjutant General’s Department was concerned with discipline and, by extension, Courts Martial. As such he would have been responsible for organizing the executions of anyone given a death sentence. Fortunately, his appointment came after the 1916 leaders were executed – but only just! He does not appear to have been involved in any of the 24 executions carried out during the War of Independence.

On 12th July 1917 Field Marshal Lord French presided at a review of the Dublin Garrison at the 15 Acres in Phoenix Park; the Dublin Daily Express described the ‘enthusiastic approval’ of the onlookers as being virtually unprecedented. One of the twelve men listed alongside General Sir Henry Wilson and the Headquarters’ Staff was Major Pomeroy Colley, D.A.A.G.[lxxvii]

After the war, Ger returned to his duties as Resident Magistrate in Tipperary. On 4th September 1919, the court was in session to try seven young men accused of membership of Sinn Fein and the Irish Volunteers when a crowd gathered outside and began singing rebel songs and stoning the police and soldiers on duty. When one soldier had his helmet knocked off his head by a piece of brick, a cordon was drawn and the streets cleared by a series of baton charges.[lxxviii] Major Colley left Tipperary in 1922 and moved to England.

Kilmatead Lodge, where Ger Colley’s widow Dorthy is thought to have move after his death.

In February 1923, he attended the annual supper meeting of the Blisworth Men’s Institute, of which his brother Winkie was president.[lxxix] On 19th November he died aged 53 in a London nursing home of causes as yet unidentified.[lxxx] The newspapers are virtually silent about his passing, which renders his premature demise of greater curiosity. That said, the Rev. J Stringer delivered the following obituary to him as part of his sermon to the parishioners of Tipperary Church on 18th December 1923:

‘We have all heard this week with feelings of sincere sorrow, of the unexpected death of Major Colley. Though he had left Tipperary a year ago, we all feel he belonged to us, & he had many friends here.

One is not often privileged in life to meet many who could come anywhere near him for simple, unaffected goodness. I can truly say that “I thank God upon every remembrance of him.” Those who knew him best have the happiest memories of him, & feel that their life was all the richer for having known him. We admired his fearless goings out + coming in, doing his duty in days of great danger & stress to him.

We are grateful for all he did so kindly & thoroughly for the Church as Treasurer & Church warden, & especially for his unfailing service to the Choir.

Few of our men have given of their time & energy to help this Church as our friend did, & his going from this town was a real loss to all. Truly the memory of the Just is blessed, & it is well with him.’

Dorothy Colley, his widow, is thought to have briefly lived in the Mill House at Kilmatead, perhaps after Ger’s death, where the frontage of the old coach house still stands behind the house. She may also have lived at nearby Baldonnell House, which often took in the ‘overflow’ when Corkagh’s ten bedrooms were full.[lxxxi] A passionate horse enthusiast, Dorothy did much to involve her four nieces – ‘the Colley girls’ – in equine ways, instituting strict guidelines on grooming, stable cleaning and such like. Although the girls did what they could to avoid such hard work, they enjoyed riding and occasionally joined Aunt Dorothy on excursions to Phoenix Park. Their preference for larking rather than proper riding tested her patience no end. Patricia certainly spent some of her childhood at Corkagh, playing with her Colley cousins. Sometime after Ger’s death, she and her mother returned to Africa. Patricia married Kenneth Hastings Nethersole with whom she had two daughters, Shelagh Elizabeth (who married John Franklin Lisle Worsley) and June Rosalie (who married Philip John Hosford). Patricia, who died in 1992, frequently wrote to Edie, right up until the latter’s death.

Eddie Colley, who was fated to die when the Titanic sank on his birthday.


Edward Pomeroy Colley was born on 15th April 1875 and was destined to have the lousy distinction of being the only person on the Titanic who drowned on his birthday. Educated at Haileybury, he went on to study civil engineering at Trinity College Dublin, graduating on 23rd April 1897, shortly after his 22nd birthday.[lxxxii] By that stage, the Klondike Gold Rush was gathering momentum in the Yukon in north-western Canada and, perhaps inspired by tales of his uncle John Thomas Colley who died in California forty years earlier, Eddie duly headed west to assay British Columbia with his Haileybury friend Frank Dickinson, a brother of Cecil.

When the Anglo-Boer War broke out in 1899, Frank volunteered for service, ultimately playing a pivotal role in the episode that resulted in James Rogers winning a Victoria Cross.[lxxxiii] There is a suggestion that Eddie also served, which is based on the fact that three of the lots that he later surveyed on François Lake were obtained from the government through what was known as a South Africa War Script and were for Eddie’s personal use. Some of his land on the north-west shore of François Lake later evolved into the small town of Colleymount, which was named in his honour, as was Mount Colley, a 4037ft / 1230m mountain directly to the north of Colleymount.[lxxxiv]

In April 1901, he passed the Land Surveyors’ examination, winning the approval of the Board of Examiners (comprising the Surveyor General and five other surveyors) to practice in the province. He was henceforth called a “Provincial Land Surveyors of the Province of British Columbia”. He received a numbered commission and a seal and, when the time came to fill out his form for the 1901 Census of Canada, he proudly appended the initials “PLS” after his name. At that time, he was lodging in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. In December 1904, his presence was noted at a buffet supper hosted by the Victoria Ladies Hockey Club.[lxxxv]

In May 1905 Eddie Colley, PLS, was one of 500 people who attended a party for Sir Henri Joly de Lotbinière (1829-1908), the outgoing Governor of British Columbia.[lxxxvi] Shortly after the Governor’s farewell, Eddie was commissioned by the Provincial Government of British Columbia to survey four lots along the north shore of the 110 km (68miles) long François Lake for new settlers in the area.[lxxxvii] He and his crew set off with their pack train to the remote Yukon, taking the Bella Coola trail out to Ootsa Lake, just south of François Lake.[lxxxviii]

Edward Pomeroy Colley leaving Bella Coola, 1908.

He would repeat this journey every summer until 1911, going up the coast to Bella Coola, and then by pack train to the Ootsa and François Lake country, completing a few surveys along the way for the government, as well as for private parties. He had enough work to go on a surveying adventure for five months, then return to attend to his office work in a few months, and then have his winter free to zip home to Ireland. Indeed, his single survey practice enabled him to go back to Ireland every winter, which he did every year until his premature death.

As Jay Sherwood writes, ‘From 1905 to 1911 his surveying followed a largely similar pattern. He would leave Victoria in late spring, take the ship to Bella Coola, get his pack train (there is a set of three postcards of Colley’s packtrain in 1908, with one of these included in the biography of Colley in the PLS book) and head for the Ootsa/Francois country. Usually there were a few surveys along the route; some government surveys to do; and any other surveys that Colley could find, like homesteaders who needed their pre-emption surveyed, or people, like the Forbes’ whom he must have persuaded to purchase land in the area and have Colley survey a lot for them. Colley was not the only surveyor to work in this area, but he was the main one.’

Among those they encountered in 1905 was Harry Morgan, the first settler to stake out a homestead at Ootsa Lake.[lxxxix] They also presumably met, saw or narrowly avoided a miscellany of moose, black and grizzly bear, mountain goat, wolf and upland birds as they went. The adventure had finished by July 1905 because that month he sailed home for a holiday on board the Umbria, disembarking at Queenstown (Cobh) in County Cork on 16th July 1905.

He returned to Canada on the Campania in March 1906 and was back out in the Yukon that summer. At about this time he apparently opened a successful mining brokerage firm in Vancouver, speculating in mining stocks. In 1907, he was recorded as one of four tenants of the Hamley Building at 1001-1005 Government Street, Victoria. Constructed in 1885, the building was named after its original owner, Wymond Hamley, a past Collector of Customs for British Columbia, and was constructed on the site of the old Fort Victoria Garden. Eddie’s fellow tenants were another surveyor A. W. Harper, the jeweller J. M. Whitney, and the Dominion Express. The Hamley Building features in a film reel from 1907 made by William H. Harbeck who was hired by the Canadian Pacific Railway to ‘put Western Canada on the motion picture screen’. Astonishingly, Harbeck was also fated to die on the Titanic.

Eddie’s business interests were on both sides of the Atlantic and he frequently travelled between Europe and Vancouver, generally sailing into New York on one of the big liners and then making his way overland to Washington State, before heading north to cross the Canadian border. His niece Esmé Colley said he also ‘seemed to have interests in India’, although she was unsure what they were. As Laetitia Lefroy observed, ‘like a lot of them, he probably went to India at some stage in early life.’

He returned to the Ootsa Lake District in the summer of 1907 to oversee the first of several government surveys in North-Central B.C. This was at Ootsa Lake, for which he was paid $5418. His assistant in 1907 was Alexander Gillespie, BCLS, who later wrote a book entitled ‘Journey through Life’, which included a chapter about his season working with Eddie Colley.[xc] He wrote: ‘Colley was a very good chap to work for – very generous. He was Irish and nearly every year after coming out from, his survey work, he would take a trip home to Ireland’. As well as highlighting his popularity, Gillespie’s memoir shows that Eddie had a soft-spot for marmalade, and that he was perhaps not the most efficient organiser! (See Appendix 1).

Another of Eddie’s surveying partners during this period was Arthur Weldon Harvey (1878–1905). Born in 1878 in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, Arthur was educated at Dover College where his father, Colonel Charles Smith Harvey, was in command at the castle for a period. Arthur also had strong connections through his uncle, Sir Henry Weldon, who was a Pursuivant at Arms to Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V. Like Eddie, he moved to Victoria in about 1898, taking his commission as British Columbia Land Surveyor in 1905. Arthur carried out many surveys for the Provincial government in the vicinity of Atlin, the Skeena, Bulkley Valley, the Ootsa and Francois Lake districts, the Peace River district, and many other parts of the province. A keen mathematician and acclaimed British bridge player, he also had a reputation for considerable physical endurance.[xci]

Eddie seems to have voyaged to Europe again for the winter of 1907-1908 and was clocked on board the Lucania in April 1908. The following August, the Daily Colonist reported that he ‘he had not been heard from’ for some time. Nonetheless, the newspaper assured its readers that this was ‘not a matter for comment’ as he was ‘working in remote districts with which there is practically no communication’.[xcii] He was also surveying part of the Bella Coola town site that summer. On 8th November 1908, the same newspaper published the following story:

Close up of Eddie leaving Bella Coola, 1908.


E. P. Colley Tells How Country Tributary to Bella Coola Goes Ahead

The Ootsa Lake district, lying between Ootsa lake and Francis [Francois] lake, not far to the southward of the proposed route of the Grand Trunk Pacific, is one of the promising new sections of northern British Columbia, according to E. P. Colley, P. L. S. Mr. Colley ought to know for he has been in that country for four seasons in charge of provincial government survey parties.

Mr. Colley has just come in for the winter and speaking of the Ootsa lake district yesterday he said:

“There is plenty of good land in that section, though it is not as well known yet as other parts on account of its remoteness from transportation. There is a little fir along the banks of Francis lake, but it cannot be called a timber country. Generally speaking it is partly open and partly, covered with patches of poplar. These are seldom more than 9 inches in diameter, so the ground is easy to clear. Comparatively little agriculture has been accomplished as yet. For one thing there is at present no market for the produce, and in the second place with existing transportation facilities it takes the settlers pretty nearly all summer to get in their supplies. The best way to get stuff in is by Bella Coola and the freight’ rate is 10 cents a pound.”

“I don’t think wheat growing has been tried yet, that is of the ordinary kinds, but Russian wheat, barley, rye and the hardy cereals generally do exceedingly well.”

“There are from 35 to 40 settlers in the country, about two-thirds of whom are permanent and winter on their places. At present they make a little money by wintering horses, feeding them on hay they grow on their places. In this way some of them are doing pretty well.”

The Costa country is reached by trail from Bella Coola, a distance of 225 miles, and a large portion of this is over an Indian trail which is the reverse of good and requires rebuilding. The people up there are hoping that the government will come to their assistance in this respect. The people of Bella Coola, however, are doing what they can to improve the route, and it is much easier to get in to the country than it was. For the first four days’ journey from Bella Coola there are road houses where sustenance for man and beast can be obtained. Also they have established a ferry at Canoe Crossing, which is of great assistance.

Mr. Colley and his party made a record trip out, coming, down to Bella Coola in 10 days. They reached Vancouver in 17 days from the day the left.’

Public Accounts records show that for the 1908-09 fiscal year Eddie Colley received $5000 from the BC government for surveys in the Bella Coola district, along with $75 for surveys related to the site of Bella Coola town. He also received $3,400 for surveys in the Ootsa Lake area. The next year he received $11,248.75 for surveys in the Ootsa district. Although he made a few surveys along Francois Lake, most of the work was still around Ootsa Lake.

Eddie was back in Ireland by January 1909 when he stood as best man to his brother George. That summer he began surveying lots along the northeast shore of Francois Lake. (If one was to follow Highway 35 south from Burns Lake to Francois Lake you would see the ferry crossing of the lake and then the road to Ootsa. This line divides Francois Lake into approximately four quadrants.) In addition to the lots that he surveyed, Eddie made a traverse survey along the lake that connected these lots, as per Eddie Colley’s map of November 1909, an extract of which shows his survey of the Forbes lots at L1017 and L1018, along with the next lot he surveyed, about one mile further west along Francois Lake. (The MPs are mile posts, while the numbers are intermediate stations.) Frank Forbes was a former ship officer of Scottish origin while his stepbrother Duncan Stewart Forbes was a master mariner. Since they were not pre-empting the land, they had to pay for it. Frank paid in a couple of years and received title but Duncan did not follow through, so the BC government is listed as the owner in Colley’s notes. Frank would accompany Eddie on his expedition in 1911. He lived and worked in the Seattle area for many years. His wife died in 1925. Then, in the mid-1930s, during the Depression, Frank decided to leave Seattle and go live on the property that he owned at Francois Lake where he remained until his death in 1955.

By 15 December 1909 Eddie had returned to Vancouver where he stood as best man once again, this time at the marriage of Arthur Harvey of Victoria to Gertrude Hickey, daughter of Mr and Mrs P. Hickey of Victoria. They rounded out the occasion with a luncheon in the Vancouver Hotel.[xciii] During his 1910 expedition to Ootsa, he ran into fellow BCLS surveyor Frank Swannell in the field. In late September, Swannell noted that they passed Colley’s surveying outfit which was working on Ootsa Lake. On October 10 at Ootsa Lake he again ‘met Colley’s outfit heading for Bella Coola and get [sic] 25lbs flour and some rice and prunes.’

For 1910-11 he received $10,225.55 for surveys around Francois Lake and $3,612.10 for work around Ootsa. This was his main year of surveying around Francois Lake. For his final year, 1911-12 fiscal year, he received $8,712.15 for surveys in the Ootsa area and $1,286.62 in the Francois Lake area.

Eddie sailed for Ireland again and on 2nd April 1911, the night of the Census of Ireland, he was recorded as a guest of his brother George and his wife Edie at their home Faunagh, on Orwell Road in Rathgar, Dublin. Edie maintained that Eddie’s slightly crooked, lop-sided face – visible in early photos – made him particularly memorable but, to the children of his brothers and sisters, he was always considered a man of mystery. His niece Elizabeth Bowen likewise recalled ‘beloved’ Eddie as ‘my favourite uncle because he was the funniest, and when the Titanic news came I could only remember him balancing the brim of his bowler hat on the tip of his crooked nose with the upward expression of a performing seal’. A week after the census of April 1911, he sailed on board the Lusitania from Queenstown to New York. That summer he returned to Ootsa Lake, surveying lots around the junction of the Tahtsa and White Sail Rivers to the south. He also formed a partnership with A. W. Harvey and it is probable that he worked for the Grand Trunk Pacific railway at this time.

In December 2016, a BC land surveyor by name of Jay Sherwood sent me a blueprint summary map showing the surveys that Colley made on the north side of François Lake between the present ferry landing and the outlet of François at the Stellako River between 1909 and 1911. Colley made and signed this map in December 1911; it was the last one that he did as he left for Ireland shortly afterwards. Jay also sent an image of the cover page and sketch map from one of Colley’s surveys along François Lake. On this journey Eddie was accompanied by Frank Forbes.

Eddie was back in Ireland again by Christmas 1911 but the following four months were to be both mournful and fatal for him. It began in February 1912 when, following the death of his sister Constance, he went to England to look after her affairs. On 3rd April 1912, he visited his sister Florence and her daughter Elizabeth at Clyne House in Hythe.[xciv] Five nights later, he caught a performance of George Bernard Shaw’s play ‘Man and Superman’ at the Criterion Theatre in London’s West End on Easter Monday, 8th April. However, it was now time for him to return to Vancouver where he had apparently been hired to work as a consultant for the prominent British Columbia industrialist, railway and mining magnate James Dunsmuir (1851-1920). As such, the day after the Shaw play, he headed south-west to Southampton where he boarded a White Star ocean liner that was about to embark on its maiden voyage to New York City. He checked into room E-58, a cabin located against the starboard side of the third smokestacks boiler casing. [xcv]

The ship was the unsinkable Titanic. Astonished by its size, Eddie’s first reaction was to pen letters to his cousin Norah Morris (nee Webber), who he apparently befriended in India, and his sister-in-law Edie Colley. Both letters were posted when Titanic called into Queenstown (Cobh). To Edie, he wrote:

“This is a huge ship. Unless lots of people get on at Cherbourg and Queenstown they’ll never half fill it. The dining room is low ceilinged but full of little tables for two, three and more in secluded corners. How I wish someone I liked was on board but then nice people don’t sit at tables for two unless they’re engaged or married. I wonder my blue blood didn’t tell me that? … They also have a restaurant where you can pay for meals if you get bored with the ordinary grub. Our most distinguished passengers seem to be (famous English journalist) WT Stead, WW Astor (an error, intending JJ Astor, then reputedly the richest man in the world), Charles M Hays (Canadian railway magnate) and EP Colley (himself) … Oh and the Countess of Something [aka Noelle Martha Leslie, the Countess of Rothes], but her blood is only black-blue. (Give me good red corpuscles, I seem to know more about them. And they circulate faster.) … We nearly had a collision to start with coming out of Southampton. We passed close to a ship that was tied up alongside the Oceanic and the suction of our ship drew her out into the stream and snapped the ropes that held her and round she swung across our bows! She had no steam up so had to be pulled back by tugs and we had to reverse. The name of her was the New York in case you see it in the papers. It proves conclusively the case of the Hawke and Olympic…”

During the voyage, Eddie was one of six men who formed a circle with the American socialite, feminist and interior designer Helen Churchill Candee. The group became known as “Our Coterie” and included three New Yorkers – Col. Archibald Gracie, playboy Clinch Smith and architect Edward Kent – as well as Bjornstrom Steffanson, a Swedish military officer and Hugh Woolner, a British businessman. Others on the periphery included Major Archibald Butt, President Taft’s military aide, and the painter Francis Davis Millet.

In her memoirs ‘Sealed Orders’, penned for Collier’s Weekly just days after her harrowing escape, Miss Candee described Eddie’s arrival into the group as follows:

“‘Hey! Colley!’ shouted Kent to a roly-poly young man who responded. ‘Come join this band of brothers. Colley is a cousin of Old King Cole, a jolly old soul.’ Colley looked happy as a grig, although his words were few.” [xcvi]

And later on,

‘I was joined by Colley, the gay little Irishman who rarely spoke but by some magic spread warmth and jollity, without chatter.” [xcvii]

Eddie was in the restaurant with Miss Candee and her coterie shortly before the White Star liner, its boiler room already perilously aflame, hit the fateful iceberg. By some accounts he had previously attended a concert in the first-class reception area on D-Deck, although Miss Candee recalls:

“A hot toddy made us happy and jolly to an unusual degree, and Colley called merrily, ‘set ’em again? Yes? That is just the right answer to my remark. Here, Steward.” In the near distance I saw a little commotion on the Captain’s table, everyone standing. Gracious but firm, Mrs. Widener was saying goodnight.” [xcviii]

Eddie appears to have retired to his cabin just after 11pm and was never seen again. The day the ship sank – claiming the life of over 1500 passengers and crew – was also his 37th birthday. His body, if recovered, was never identified. Archibald Butt, Francis Millet, Clinch Smith and Edward Kent also vanished in the night. Also among those who went down with the Titanic was Charles M Hayes, president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. There is room for speculation as to whether Mr Hayes and Eddie were travelling in the same entourage or whether it was pure coincidence that they were on the same boat.

Memorial to Eddie Colley.

Eddie Colley never married but it is believed he had a romance in Victoria of which he feared his family would disapprove. Apparently several women wrote to his family after his demise claiming to have been either his girlfriend or fiancée. As next of kin, his oldest brother George was in charge of sorting out his affairs although it is thought he did not leave a will and there was surprisingly little left in his estate. The letter he wrote from Titanic to Edie Colley was inherited by her daughters who sold it some years ago. His letter to Norah Morris reached her home in India on 26th April and ultimately came into the possession of his niece, Esmé Colley, daughter of the Rev. Wingfield Colley. When Esmé died in 2006, Finlay Colley and Christopher Hone, her cousins and residual legatees of her estate, inherited the letter, which they generously offered on long-term loan to the Titanic Exhibition at the Heritage Centre in Cobh. The letter is now prominently displayed along with some background information on Eddie and the Colley family.

His surveying work in Canada was taken up by Vilhelm Schjelderup, BCLS.[xcix] Like Eddie, he came in through Bella Coola, although this was the last year for that route as the Grand Trunk Pacific was being constructed through the Grand Trunk area. Schjelderup, who has a photo album online from his surveying in 1913, set up a survey practice at Burns Lake and remained there until the early 1930s.

Eddie Colley is recalled by three memorials at the parish churches in Clondalkin, Hythe, Kent and St. John’s Church, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, where his brother Winkie was then curate. As the Luton Times and Advertiser reported of the Harpenden memorial on 22nd November 1912, the Rector of Harpenden ‘solemnly dedicated … three new oak doors leading to the vestry and a brass tablet’, inscribed:

‘To the glory of God and in loving memory of Edward Pomeroy Colley, born 15th April 1875, entered into the life beyond, 16th April 1912 through the sinking of the steamship ‘Titanic.’ These doors were given by his three brothers. ‘So he bringeth them unto the haven where they would be.’ The doors are partly carved, the workmanship being that of Mr. W. Freeman, organist of the church.’

George Colley with his daughter Noreen, my grandmother.


Born at Lucan Lodge on 6th March 1866, George Pomeroy Arthur Colley was the eldest son of Henry FitzGeorge Pomeroy Colley and his wife Elizabeth Isabella Wingfield. Having contracted measles at the age of two, he became stone deaf. As his niece Elizabeth Bowen recalled in ‘Seven Winters’: ‘He had been left deaf by an illness when he was very young, but he lip-read and, quite apart from the lips, read character and sized up a situation with almost disconcerting exactitude.’ His parents duly sent him to a special school for the deaf in Wales, to which his younger brother Winkie would escort him while en route to Haileybury, his prep school in Berkshire. Although George never used sign language, by the age of eighteen, he could lip-read so well that he went to Trinity College Dublin where he studied civil engineering, attaining a BA in 1887 and graduating with a Master of Arts.[c]

George’s engineering degree was particularly useful to his foremost pastime – motoring. He was, in the words of his son Dudley, ‘an ardent automobilist’. His niece Elizabeth Bowen concurred: ‘His great interest was motor cars; he kept the earliest kind, and I remember going for dreamlike drives with him.’ George’s father was also reputedly an early ‘automobilist’, as indeed was his wife and both his sons. George was actively involved in the Royal Irish Automobile Club, which was founded in January 1901, right up until his death in 1933. He drove an Argyll, the front-radiatored Aster-engine motorcar in which he is said to have first visited Corkagh. As Dudley recalled:

‘Father started motoring in 1903, and he had toured the length and breadth of Ireland, and a great deal of the Continent before the death of King Edward. He did not go in for competitive motoring to any extent but I have found one contemporary account of a hill climb in the beautiful Glendhu Valley in which he won his class with a ten h.p. Argyll in 1905. In those days, of course, the idea of a hill climb was to find out which car could climb the chosen hill under its own power, and not as to-day when it is the fastest possible ascent that counts.’

‘There is no evidence that my father did much mechanical work, other than the usual running repairs but he was a trained engineer, having passed through the Engineering School of Trinity College. Among his collection of books, I have found many finely drawn designs for steam engines, such as were popular in Victorian mechanical textbooks.’ [ci]

By 1905 one of his greatest concerns was his sister Florence who was confronting the ever-deepening psychiatric problems of her husband Henry Bowen. George was then living in a bachelor’s lodging on Herbert Place, a few doors up from the Bowen’s home at No 15. According to the Bowens only daughter Elizabeth, George had a calming influence on her parents. Her father enjoyed many a long walk with George around the roads of Dublin or along Sandymount strand. After Florence’s eventual flight to England with Elizabeth, she wrote to George frequently with news updates and they remained close until her premature demise in 1912.

Edie Colley (née Finlay) on her wedding day.

Meanwhile, married life also hoved into view for George by the autumn of 1908 when he was engaged to wed Edith Maud Olivia Finlay, aka Edie, eldest daughter of Colonel Henry Thomas Finlay of Corkagh. Born at Corkagh in 1881, Edie was fifteen years his junior.[cii] Perhaps driven by the death from dysentery of her brother Harry in the Anglo-Boer War, she harboured ambitions to become a nurse and spent close on two years in London.[ciii] However, she left, before completing her training, after the death of her mother in March 1902 when she returned to Corkagh to help her father look after her younger brother, Bobby. She would ever after be something of a medical authority, albeit of the type who believed an aspirin gargle and a hot water bottle were the best remedy unless you were a boy, in which case a glass of whiskey was the answer. As her daughter Valerie once told me, ‘she would have performed open heart surgery on the kitchen table.’ There is a notion that she took up a nursing post at the Baggot Street Hospital in Dublin. Valerie maintained that her father was crank-starting a car one day when he received a horrible knock on his elbow that obliged him to make haste for the aforesaid hospital wherein he met the nurse who was to become his better half.

Valerie’s sister Veronica was more inclined to attribute the union to George’s love for motorcars. ‘In the early years of the century, motorcars were just getting popular. Well, they had just been invented really and my father was always interested in machinery of any kind, like my two brothers were. There seemed to be a little club of young men who were interested in cars and bought them and got together and went out on excursions. I think he must have met my mother in that sort of way. She spent a lot of her time sitting on a bank at the side of the road while all these young men could think about was their cars that wouldn’t start. My mother wasn’t interested in anything like cars; none of the girls were really. They didn’t have windshields or anything and the girls all wore veils, big hats and veils and special coats you put on because the roads were very dusty. The girls couldn’t do anything except go along and sit by the side of the road while the boys mended the cars. She was never very interested in cars … He was a bit older than her when they got married but she was prepared to take him on and she looked after him very well. They seemed to be able to communicate in some curious way.’

On 26th October 1908, George’s 42-year-old eyes were evidently drawn to an advertisement in the Irish Times that simply read:

“SALE THIS DAY AT 3 O’CLOCK. FAUNAGH (Formerly known as Orwell House), ORWELL ROAD, RATHGAR.”

He duly bought the house at 75 Orwell Road where he and Edie were to live until their move to Corkagh in 1917. The couple were wed in Clondalkin on Wednesday 20th January 1909, with George’s brother Winkie as the officiating clergyman. Three days later, following his return to Harpenden, Winkie wrote about the wedding to their sister Laura:

My Dearest Lore,

I was so glad to get your Letter, & to hear that you had arrived all right. It will be nice to have you back again when you can come, but I am sure Floss [Florence Bowen] is only too glad to have You, till she is properly settled in her new house. I am sorry she has had to move again, after being so comfortably settled in the new home: but perhaps it was just as well, on account of Bitha [Elizabeth Bowen], and expenses do mount up in such cases. I wonder if you have heard anything about the wedding, from Maud or Eddie.

I have been too busy for any letters till today. It was a nice quiet wedding – not many people in Church: only the party at the house, numbering about 14, and a few people from the village. We had the organ and the wedding march, and the one from Lohengrin. [Wagner’s Bridal Chorus] I did the ‘marrying’ part of the Service, and George did his part very well, considering the difficulty of it all to him. It was a good thing I was there, as he understood me better than he would have done the Rector. Eddy made an ideal best man! Maud arrived at the church by motor with George & Eddy from Dublin and the happy couple motored straight back to Kingstown afterwards. Sleeping the night at Chester. I don’t know their address at Cannes. They must have got there by now. They have taken a very nice house at Rathgar: quite up to date in every way. Telephones and hot water laid on in every room!

In the afternoon 12 of us went to the Opera at the Theatre Royal, Moody Manners were doing “Cavalleria” and “Pagliacci”, which was splendidly done. Then I went on to the aunts at Killiney & had dinner with Aunt Emily & Aunt Toots, first seeing Aunt Lily. They were glad to see me. Then I caught the North Wall night boat and arrived here at ½ to 10. Since then we have had our Sunday School treats. There are several more looming in distance.

Miss Popplewell went on Tuesday. Your Bible Class will be glad to see you back, but a holiday will do them good.

Corkagh House is very nice. Col & Mrs Finlay, everyone kind and hospitable.

Love to Flossie & Bitha from your very loving brother,


Faunagh House, Rathgar, was home to George and Edie Colley.

For the first six years of married life, George and Edie lived at Faunagh. At the time of the 1911 Census of Ireland, their household comprised a Protestant butler, a Catholic chauffeur, as well as a Chauffeur’s assistant, an English cook, a housemaid, a kitchen maid and two nurses, one of whom was presumably to look after baby Noreen. George described himself as a ‘landowner’. Also in Faunagh on that census night was George’s youngest brother Eddie who was fated to die on the Titanic a little over a year later.

Hindered by pronounced buck-teeth and ‘difficult’ gingery hair, Edie’s most powerful attribute was unquestionably her strength of ‘character’. She also proved a very good wife for George. As Laetitia Lefroy writes: ‘It seems that my grandparents could communicate quite efficiently but neither my mother nor aunt knew how.’ Between 1910 and 1918 the Colleys had six children – Noreen, Dudley, Veronica, Valerie, Rosemary and Jock. ‘My father was very nice and gentle’, recalled his daughter Veronica Hall-Dare, ‘but even though he was stone deaf, he made his presence felt. He coped with deafness, not very well, but he was very affectionate. He was very sensitive in many ways. He couldn’t really take part in family life with the six children. When we were all talking together, he would try to watch us, to see what we were saying but he couldn’t follow it. We had to learn to try and tell him what we were talking about. After a bit, he rather gave up. He read a lot.’

A notable amount of their social life at Faunagh was spent going to the theatre, perhaps compensating for the prohibition on such thespian antics under the more austere regime of George’s mother. Their neighbours included the Hely family who lived at Oaklands, formerly home to Hugh Brown of Brown Thomas, which was later substantially extended to become St Luke’s Hospital. The house boasted ornate plasterwork and cornicing of a type where, as a family friend put it, ‘the cherubim and seraphim continually do fly.’ Charles Wisdom Hely ran a print and stationary business on Dame Street, and was to be the butt of some of James Joyce’s satirical scorn in ‘Ulysses.’ Wisdom Hely’s daughter married Captain J. M. W. O’Rorke, DSO, and also lived at Oaklands. Their son Dennis was at Stowe with Jock and they were great friends. Whenever Jock called around to visit the O’Rorke’s, his car would be quietly whisked around the back of the house and washed. Alas, both young men were fated to die in the war. Dennis had a younger brother called Maurice, who married Ruth Ann Henshaw, while their sister Joy married Dr Gerald Dockeray, M.D., F.R.C.P.I., pathologist to the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.

George’s hearing precluded his service in the war although he assisted the RIAC’s Ambulance Service Corps between 1915 and 1919. He was also a patron of the National Children’s Hospital on Harcourt Street at this time. His Finlay in-laws were also very active, not least Bobby and George Finlay, both fated to die on the Western Front. In February 1915, it was noted that the household of Mrs Finlay, Edie’s stepmother, at Corkagh had contributed miscellaneous mufflers and mittens to a clothing appeal for the British Red Cross Society, in conjunction with the St John Ambulance Brigade.[civ] The following spring, the Freeman’s Journal noted that ‘Mrs Colley [ie: Edie] … has been untiring in her efforts in the interests of all those in her widely-spread districts.’ This was in connection to the distribution of Certificates of Honour by the Grand Priory of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem to those who had for service in ‘the cause of humanity’, aka the war effort. Edie and her father oversaw the awards at the Public Library that had been erected in Clondalkin in 1910 through the munificence of Andrew Carnegie.[cv]

By the summer of 1915, Colonel Finlay was alone at Corkagh, impoverished, depressed and mourning the death of his second wife, as well as his son Bobby. That autumn, George and Edie Colley took the plunge and moved into Corkagh with their four small children, Noreen, Dudley, Veronica and toddling Valerie. The move prompted Edie’s brother George Finlay to send her a supportive letter from the Western Front; at this time, being the eldest son, George presumably assumed he would inherit the land on the death of his father. However, he was killed in action at the Somme eight months later.

15/10/15 2nd Royal Irish Regt

My Dearest,
Yours of the 29th Sept arrived yesterday, the mails are being delivered a bit more regularly
The sensible straightforward way you put things cheered me up a lot & I am beginning to see that after all your flit to Corkagh is not such a sacrifice as I first imagined.
I gather George is going to take over the house & place upon a long (?) lease, five years at least I suppose. I wonder if he intends taking over the land at Kilmatead as well, or if Dad will keep the latter as his own lands.
From what you tell me I xxxxx understand Dad is very badly off indeed & as you say he cannot afford to live anywhere except with you – this I feared was the state of things, though, as you know, he would never tell me exactly how his financial affairs stood, except very generally. Emily I presume left him nothing – indeed why should she have? [cvi]
It is indeed a delightful thought to think of you & family living at Corkagh once again, you will make the house absolutely delightful I am confident, & (?) !, & how I hope you will all like living there & not long to be back at Faunagh again. For anyone with a little money to spend Corkagh ought to be a joy, there is such boundless material to work upon & with.
I don’t expect you will have much difficulty in letting Faunaugh, indeed at any time except the present you would get a nice fat rent for it almost for the asking – but even now I feel there are dozens of people who would give their for the little place, it is so charming & so convenient for anyone with a job in Dublin.
You will miss the constant stream of friends & relations which you always had there, but I can’t say I am altogether sorry for this, they kept you far too much upon the hop & you were undoubtedly over doing things.
There are thousand of things I want to know about, but will wait until you are all xxxxx more settled down. No more now
p.s. tonight we return to the “ditches” once more for another 6 days,it has been pouring all day & I fear we wont exactly enjoy ourselves up there. Did I tell you Delaney (?) was buried in his dug out the other day? He had the luckiest of lucky escapes & was dug out with no broken bones, only bruises & a severe shaking.
Galvey & Croso are at home with jaundice.
G F (?)
LL 24/02/17

Faunagh went on the market in February 1917 and was purchased two years later by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists) as a base for Redemptorist students attending the National University of Ireland.[cvii] For the next sixteen years until his death, George Colley effectively ran the farm at Corkagh, in conjunction with a steward, looking after both farm and house accounts and, his preferred pastime, ensuring all the machines and cars were running smoothly. Much of his time was spent in the Kildare Street Club and the Royal Irish Automobile Club; his children frequently waited for collection in the lobby of the latter in the days of Mr Armstrong the porter.

‘My mother was an extremely nice, very lovable person,’ recalled Veronica Hall-Dare of Edie, ‘but she was also very strong-minded and rather dominant. We lived with her father too so there were two men and they both depended on her. She was really the guiding light in our household. My grandfather was always kind but he didn’t have much to do with us and my father couldn’t really take part in the family. We were all very close together in age and the house was always crammed with people. There were nine of us -my grandfather, my parents and the six of us – and we always had people staying and all the servants.’

Colonel Finlay continued to live at Corkagh with the Colley family until his death in 1936 at the age of ninety. ‘Corkagh was a very noisy household,’ recalled the late Veronica Hall-Dare, one of his granddaughters. ‘Granddady would be sitting in his study and we were supposed to keep quiet then. He was managing Corkagh himself at that time.’ As well as his own pack of mongrels, he had to contend with the Colley’s pack; each one owned a dog. The so-called ‘Corkagh terriers’ would race around inside the house until the Colonel roared ‘Verdooosh!’, a Boer word he’d learnt in the war, and everyone, girl and dog alike, fled from the building. Veronica’s daughter Laetitia Lefroy grew up listening to stories about Granddaddy. ‘Everyone was devoted to him and he used to read aloud to any who would listen – only classics. He was fond of Jorrock’s expressions such as ‘Black as night and smells like cheese’. He was also obliged to teach his grandchildren not to crack nuts in the doors because it upset the alignment of the hinges and scraped the door.

The ladies was three flights up while the gents and the staff lavatories faced each other on either side of the door to the Rose Garden. The gents nearer as there was a sink between. The staff lavaory had a chipped enamel sign on the door that said ‘Staff Only’ and was a very rudimentary affair. Neither gate lodge had a loo or running water at this time. On the plus side, Corkagh could boast of electric lighting long before it became ubiquitous.

A group photograph taken on the occasion of a Horse Show being held at Corkagh in 1929.
Fromt Row (Left to right): Jock Colley, Rosemary Colley and Valerie Colley. 2nd Row: Aileen Williams, Bitha Cameron, Edith M Colley, Geo. P. A. Colley. 3rd Row: Audrey Fiennes, Noreen P. Colley and Veronica M.P. Colley. Back Row: Alan Cameron, Maurice Fiennes, G. Dudley, James Phirbes, Jack Williams, Mary Bird Wood and Col. Thomas Finlay.

The children regularly walked to church at St John’s in Clondalkin. The younger generation invariably sought refuge in the gallery where good behaviour was not so strictly required. Otherwise they sat in one of the front pews which were reserved for the Colleys, the Maudes of Belgard Castle and, later, the Claytons of Cheeverstown. (The gates to Cheeverstown were almost directly opposite the Corkagh gates on the Naas Road).

‘As a family, we all went to the country church near us every Sunday,’ recalled Veronica. ‘You just had to put on your raincoat and go to church, hail, rain or snow! We were so bored. None of us knew what it was all about. My mother never gave us any instruction about it. I think one of us thought that she ought to do something about it, so she got us a book of bible stories. Nobody had any idea what these had got to do with going to church! Nowadays everything is different, and children are more involved, handing out service sheets as you go into church and reading the lessons. I would have died if we as children had to do that sort of thing! Now they seem to take it in their stride, and they do it so well. But we did go very regularly to Clondalkin church. The services were so dull because they were so afraid of the religious images. There were no decorations at all.’

The family would also sometimes attend Taney Church, Dundrum, where George Colley’s aunt Esther Vernon had been married in 1857.

Hotel Angst, 1905.

Hotel Angst, Bordighera. Italy, where the Colleys lived while the Troubles engulfed Ireland.

During the Irish War of Independence, Colonel Finlay joined the Colleys when they decamped to the more convivial setting of northern Italy, where they remained for nearly three years, all funded by George Colley. They may have gone on account of Edie’s bronchial chest problems; as it happens, she smoked all her life and lived to be 95. George returned to Ireland on occasion, to check on Corkagh and presumably to say hello to his son Dudley who had started prep school by then. Veronica Hall-Dare recalled this as the era in which Mussolini was ‘punishing his bold subjects’ by making them swallow large dollops of castor oil, the consequences being most keenly felt in his victim’s bowels. Although they spent a summer in Como, which they adored, their principal base was the resort of Bordighera in north-west Italy, a favoured destination for English tourists since the 1860s when former Prime Minister Lord John Russell headed up the guests. In Bordighera, the Colleys rented the top floor of the Hotel Angst, a huge white and blue, heavily decorated building on the Via Romana, which overlooked the town and the sea beyond. The hotel was built by Adolf Angst, a Swiss German, who was born on 3rd April 1847.[cviii] Surrounded by old trees and bougainvillea, the Angst was one of Bordighera’s grandest hotels, a showpiece of the Italian Riviera, hailed as the world’s first six-star hotel. Queen Victoria was scheduled to stay there in 1900 but cancelled at the last minute and went to Ireland instead. During the war, it was converted into a field hospital but it had resumed its hotel role by 1919.

My mother found some photographs from this era including a newspaper cutting which commended Miss Noreen Colley, my grandmother, for her ‘superb rendering of the poodle in the Bordighera play’ – “at Poggia Polenta”, a reference to Villa Poggia Ponente, the residence of Lady Cavendish. Nina Cavendish Bentinck had married the Earl of Strathmore and their daughter Betty Bowes Lyon often called in to see the Colleys at Hotel Angst. She once confided in Edie that she was in a very deep quandary. The Duke of York had fallen for her and she wasn’t sure if marrying him would give her a happy life. She did marry her prince and, following the abdication of Edward VIII, her husband became George VI and she became his queen, although she may be better known to some readers as the late Queen Mother.

‘We could walk down to the bottom of the hill to the lake,’ recalled Veronica, ‘and take a paddle steamer, which went round the lake.’ Ginny Mustard adds that other pastimes her mother enjoyed reminiscing about were the ‘happy hours spent by the wall hurling oranges from the trees at passing nuns.’ One of their minders insisted that the Colley girls walk behind any statues they passed in order to keep their innocent eyes averted from the naked offerings at the front of these classical gems. Elizabeth Bowen was among the visitors to Bordighera; she ostensibly went to help look after her younger cousins, aged between two and nine at this time, but she was also on the run from a persistent suitor. Other visitors included Visitors to Bordighera included Audrey Fiennes and Winnie Foley, who is assumed to be a kinswoman through the Finlay-Foley marriage. Winnie’s goddaughter Rosemary (aka Tinkie) would later confess how her dread of Winnie brushing her very long and curly hair compelled her to hide to try and avoid the agony.

Elizabeth Bowen herself evidently did not have a tremendous time in Bordighera, according to a letter she wrote to Charles Ritchie some years later:

I was reading the Balbec hotel part in A l’Ombre de Jeunes Filles en Fleur when I suddenly remembered the (at the time) appalling hotel at Bordighera where I had spent a winter, 3 years before, with the Colleys. Never was I more bored and depressed – never have I been since – than during that Bordighera winter. But I afterwards saw this was a case of what Proust says about boredom being (subsequently) fruitful.

When I visited Bordighera in 2011, I was unaware of the name of the hotel where the Colleys stayed. I found the English Church where I presume they prayed and sang and gossiped back in the early ‘20s, although the gate was chained shut so that’s as far as I got. I spent six hours in Bordighera, chugging in from Monaco via Ventimiglia on a train that I could probably have outrun if I hadn’t eaten so many mussels the night before. At the back of the town I found tall colourful houses with shutters on the outside. Tree-lined streets and useful vias with elderly women strolling on their lonesome and the occasional noisy motorbike roaring past. The thwack of tennis balls and a barking dog. I took a beer in the Hotel Elisa and strolled down to the grey, stony beach where my grandmother and her sisters must have swum ninety years earlier, thinking of Castor oil and burning mansions. Six fishermen were silhouetted on the pier as the broad sun slowly sank. I had another beer in one of the restaurants lining the concrete promenade that runs along the beach, listening to German men hollering from the ocean waters. They were probably naked. Elsewhere lithesome beauties tottered awkwardly on the rocky shore, wincing as they walked. The aqua-green Trenitalia train screeched into the station behind us like an army of tortured nymphs who had escaped from the depths of Hell, while I ordered a risotto from an uninterested woman in denim. When the next train left the station, I was on board.

When Adolf Angst died in 1924, his son Max Nadenbousch took over the hotel. The Nazis occupied it during the Second World War and reputedly trashed it before they left. It’s still standing today although, as I say, I missed it because I didn’t know its significance. I think I’d have remembered its odd name if I’d passed it. I might even have hurled an orange at a nun for old time’s sake. Most of the grand hotels of Bordighera have been converted into condominiums since and it sounds like the Hotel Angst is headed the same way. My cousin, the Rev James Mustard, saw it some years ago and said it was covered in scaffolding as a conversion got underway. I am reminded of that excellent film ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ starring the Colley’s cousin Ralph Fiennes as the concierge Gustave H.

Another perspective of the Hotel Angst in Bordighera.

By the close of 1922, the Colleys were back at Corkagh, as Veronica Hall Dare recalled:

‘As a family, we all went to the country church near us every Sunday,’ recalled Veronica Hall-Dare. ‘No instructions were given. You just had to put on your raincoat and go to church, hail, rain or snow! We were so bored. None of us knew what it was all about. My mother never gave us any instruction about it. I think one of us thought that she ought to do something about it, so she got us a book of bible stories. Nobody had any idea what these had got to do with going to church! Nowadays everything is different, and children are more involved, with all those service sheets that are handed out as you go to church and that sort of thing. Nowadays the Rector at Zion gets them involved with things like reading the lessons, and they do it so well. I would have died if we as children had to do that sort of thing! Now they seem to take it in their stride. But we did go very regularly to Clondalkin church. The services were so dull because they were so afraid of the religious images. There were no decorations at all.’ The family would also sometimes attend Taney Church, Dundrum, where George Colley’s aunt Esther Vernon had been married in 1857.

During the Irish War of Independence, the Colonel joined his daughter Edie Colley and her family when they decamped to the more convivial setting of northern Italy, where they remained for nearly three years. It was always understood that they went on account of Edie’s bronchial chest problems; as it happens, she smoked all her life and lived to be 95. Veronica Hall-Dare recalled this as the era in which Mussolini was ‘punishing his bold subjects’ by making them swallow large dollops of castor oil, the consequences being most keenly felt in his victim’s bowels. Although they spent a summer in Como, which they adored, their principal base was the resort of Bordighera in north-west Italy, a favoured destination for English tourists since the 1860s when former Prime Minister Lord John Russell headed up the guests. In Bordighera, the Colleys rented the top floor of the Hotel Angst, a huge white and blue, heavily decorated building on the Via Romana, which overlooked the town and the sea beyond. The hotel was built by Adolf Angst, a Swiss German, who was born on 3rd April 1847.[cix] Surrounded by old trees and bougainvillea, the Angst was one of Bordighera’s grandest hotels, a showpiece of the Italian Riviera. Queen Victoria was scheduled to stay there in 1900 but cancelled at the last minute and went to Ireland instead. During the war, it was converted into a field hospital but it had resumed its hotel role by 1919.

My mother found some photographs from this era including a newspaper cutting which commended Miss Noreen Colley, my grandmother, for her ‘superb rendering of the poodle in the Bordighera play’. This was accompanied by the words “at Poggia Polenta”, a reference to Villa Poggia Ponente, the Bordighera residence of Lady Cavendish and her grandmother the Duchess of Portland. Nina Cavendish Bentinck had married the Earl of Strathmore and their daughter Betty Bowes Lyon often called in to see the Colleys at Hotel Angst. She once confided in Edie that she was in a very deep quandary. The Duke of York had fallen for her and she wasn’t sure if marrying him would give her a happy life. In any event, she did marry her prince and, following the abdication of Edward VIII, her husband became king and she queen, although she would arguably become better known as the Queen Mother.

Visitors to Bordighera included Audrey Fiennes, Winnie Foley and Elizabeth Bowen; the latter went to help with her younger cousins, aged between two and nine at this time, and to get away from a persistent suitor. Winnie Foley, who is assumed to be a kinswoman through the Finlay-Foley marriage, went along to help look after the youngest Colleys. Her goddaughter Rosemary (aka Tinkie) would later confess how her dread of Winnie brushing her hair, which was very long and curly, compelled her to hide to try and avoid the agony. One of their minders insisted that the Colley girls walk behind any statues they passed in order to keep their innocent eyes away from the naked offerings at the front of each of these classical gems. ‘We could walk down to the bottom of the hill to the lake,’ recalled Veronica, ‘and take a paddle steamer, which went round the lake.’ Ginny Mustard adds that other pastimes her mother enjoyed reminiscing about were the ‘happy hours spent by the wall hurling oranges from the trees at passing nuns.’

According to one of her photograph albums, Veronica Hall-Dare entered ‘my first school’ in September 1922. This suggests that the Colleys had returned home from Italy before Benito Mussolini’s march on Rome in late October 1922. When I visited Bordighera in October 2011, I was unaware of the name of the hotel where they stayed. I found the English Church where I presume the Colleys prayed and sang and gossiped back in the early ‘20s, although the gate was chained shut so that’s as far as I got. I spent six hours in Bordighera, chugging in from Monaco via Ventimiglia on a train that I could probably have outrun if I hadn’t eaten so many mussels the night before. At the back of the town I found tall colourful houses with shutters on the outside. Tree-lined streets and useful vias with elderly women tottering on their lonesome and the occasional noisy motorbike roaring past. The thwack of tennis balls and a barking dog. I took a beer in the Hotel Elisa on the off-chance that was where the Colleys once stayed. I didn’t know the name of the hotel at the time. All I knew then was the Poggia Polente connection.

I strolled down to the grey, stony beach where my grandmother and her sisters must have swum ninety years earlier, thinking of Castor oil and burning mansions. Six fishermen were silhouetted on the pier as the broad sun slowly sank. I had another beer in one of the restaurants lining the concrete promenade that runs along the beach, listening to German men hollering at one another from within the ocean waters. They were probably naked. Elsewhere lithesome beauties tottered awkwardly on the rocky shore, wincing as they walked. The aqua-green Trenitalia train screeched into the station behind us like a gang of tortured nymphs who’d just escaped from the depths of Hell, while I ordered a risotto from a disinterested woman in denim. When the next train left the station, I was on board.

When Adolf Angst died in 1924, his son Max Nadenbousch took over the hotel. The Nazis occupied it during the Second World War and reputedly trashed it before they left. It’s still standing today although I missed it because I didn’t know its significance when I was in Bordighera. I think I’d have remembered its odd name ‘Hotel Angst’ if I’d passed it. And I might even have hurled an orange at a nun for old time’s sake. Most of the grand hotels of Bordighera have been converted into condominiums since and it sounds like the Hotel Angst is headed the same way. My cousin, the Rev James Mustard, saw it some years ago and said it was covered in scaffolding as a conversion got underway. I am reminded of that excellent film ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ starring the Colley’s cousin Ralph Fiennes as the concierge Gustave H.

By 1924 the Colleys were back at Corkagh, as Veronica Hall Dare recalled: ‘Corkagh was a lovely place to grow up. There was a lake, with little islands in it, and a tennis lawn where we used to play. There was always a motorcar about the place. My grandfather and father were both car owners and we also had a sort of chauffeur who knew all about cars. After that both my brothers went absolutely mad. From my earliest years, anything like a motorcar sent them wild. They started off with amateur motor racing, and there was a field in Corkagh where they could practise. They were known as ‘The Oily Boys’. The place was crawling with their friends, wretched young men who didn’t want to take us to dances because it would interfere with the cars! From a very early age they all had cars running on the roads. In those days, you didn’t have to have a licence or anything. You could take any old banger out on the road if you wanted to.’

When the Clondalkin paper mills closed in 1922, many were abruptly stripped of a living. Edie apparently started a soup kitchen afterwards and united with a family called Hamilton who set up a rug-making industry for the local women.

Among Edie’s closest friends was Dolly Trench (née Mary Adelaide Lambert) who lived at nearby Kilcarbery with her husband John Arthur Burdett Trench (1884-1945) and their four sons, Charlie, Desmond, Roderic and John. As deaf as George Colley, Dolly also communicated by sign language. Her eldest son Charlie Trench (1915-2010) frequently came over to play with the Colleys and to join in their lessons. In 1928 the Trench’s moved to their family pile at Clonfert, County Galway, leaving Kilcarbery to be run by tenants. However, Dolly and her younger son John (O’Hara) Trench returned in 1949. Trained at Cirencester, John Trench was now a respected farmer and he subsequently provided considerable help to Dudley in running the farm. As the Colley finances dwindled and Derek Fisher, the last Corkagh steward, was ‘let go’, serious consideration was given to the notion of John Trench running both farms. This concept continued into the Galvin era when Sir John Galvin bought Kilcarbery as well as Corkagh. Laetitia Lefroy, who enjoyed a close friendship with John Trench, recalls an old, well-trodden path across the field from Corkagh to Kilcarbery. John Trench later moved to Perth, West Australia, where he married Jan Bonthorne, had three children, David, Peter and Kate, before his death on 19th January 2013.

On 7th July 1926 George Colley wrote a will, appointing Edie as his executor along with his first cousin Arthur Daniel Moutray Webber of Baldonnel House and Cyril Dickinson, whose address was given as The Golf Hotel, Greystones. Born in 1877, Cyril Henry Dickinson had been at Trinity with George and was the Irish 880-yard champion in 1897 and 1898, as well as the Irish one-mile champion at in 1897. His brother Frank has been in British Columbia with Eddie Colley during the 1890s. As a cadet sergeant in the Dublin University Officers’ Training Corps, Cyril was among those honoured for his part in the defence of Trinity College during the Easter Rising. In his book ‘Defending Trinity College Dublin, Easter 1916’ (Four Courts Press, 2020), Rory Sweetman reckons Trinity was in real danger and would have fallen but for the New Zealanders and other colonials who defended it. Cyril’s brother Charlie was also intimately involved in the defence of Dublin while their sister Mabel Dickinson helped produce sphagnum moss bandages for use on wounded soldiers.

Messrs. Webber and Dickinson were also appointed guardians ‘with my wife of my infant children.’ This was duly lodged with the solicitors William Fry and Robert Erskine of 14 Lower Mount Street, Dublin. George lived on for a little over five years before his passing on 23rd February 1933 at the age of 67. As his son Dudley recalled: ‘My father, who had been in failing health for some time, was stricken by a partial paralysis, and after a short struggle had died peacefully. My mother was left with a large family and a 300-acre farm, mortgaged to the barn-roofs, and suffering from under-stocking and under-cultivation.’[cx]

Colonel Finlay, who outlived his son-in-law by three years, continued to support the local church up to his 83rd year.[cxi] He died at Corkagh on 4th April 1936, in his ninetieth year, and was buried in St. John’s Church. With no male heir, the colonel’s eldest daughter Edie inherited Corkagh House and Estate. This seems as suitably random an occasion as any to reveal that Corkagh’s telephone number at this time was Clondalkin 20. Edie was nicknamed ‘Baba’ by her eldest grandchild, Jeffry Lefroy; the rest of her grandchildren and, in time, great-grandchildren followed suit. Curiously, while she is referred to as ‘Mummy’ in their early photograph albums, all of her children called her Edie from quite an early age.

‘Baba [Edie] was a keen gardener’, recalled Laetitia Lefroy, ‘and at Corkagh there was lots of scope and before my time there were several people working in the garden! She had pots of seeds, cuttings etc all over the house. She was known as a ‘character’! She knew all the families on the estate and most in the village – until quite late in life she remembered all the births and tragedies and was respected. She was often called upon to intercede with the parish priest by Catholic parishioners in difficulty – particularly in relation to pregnancies and marital matters. I understand she built up quite a strong relationship with him, which, being a Protestant would not have been usual in those days. She kept a diary but it tended to only chronicle the daily weather. She was an incorrigible matchmaker; she was not daunted or reproachful when one plan didn’t work – she just set about another!’

Edie Colley passed away at the Peamount Hospital, in Newcastle, Co. Dublin, on 25th April 1975.[cxii] Most of her letters, including those sent by her brothers from the war, subsequently passed via Valerie to Christopher Hone. Veronica also had copies of many of these, which are now with La.

In 2014, Laetitia Lefroy reported that the headstone inscriptions for George and Edie Colley were so crumbled that it had to be rubbed; the sculptor made out what he could but left question marks for the dates under George Colley that he couldn’t make out. It subsequently emerged that Edie’s date of death had been re-inscribed 15th April – an ominous day in the family annals! – rather than 25th April but Laetitia subsequently had it re-inscribed correctly.

NB: The photograph of Baba, taken shortly before she went into the Peamount, shows her sitting with photographs of her husband, sons and brother Bobby around her. La writes: “When I see it I just smell talcum powder!”

Elizabeth Bowen, Madeleine, Humphry House and Noreen Colley at Bowen’s Court 1938.

NOREEN BUTLER (1910-1997)

George and Edie’s eldest child Nora Helen Colley was known to the family as ‘Ti’ or ‘Tiger’, to friends as Noreen and to me as ‘Granny Butler.’ She was born on 14 April 1910 at Faunagh, Rathgar, where she spent the bulk of her first six years.

It is believed that Noreen and her sister Veronica went to Toromore School in Walmer, Kent, on their return from Bordigehra. Dudley may actually have started there before them, while the rest of his family remained in Italy, before he headed on to Repton. One of the earliest records of the Colley siblings involved their performing alongside the great Dame Ellen Terry (1847-1928) in a charity matinee called “The Shoe” that took place at Walmer Castle on 23 and 24 August 1922. The event was a fund-raiser for the Deal and Walmer War Memorial Hospital Fund. Ellen Terry played the Olde Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, while twelve-year-old Noreen was cast as Lucy Lockett, her sister Veronica as Georgie Porgie, and their youngest siblings Jock and Rosemary as Jack and Jill. This was part of a fete opened by Katherine, Duchess of Westminster, with the Earl of Beauchamp also in attendance.

Noreen then went to Downe House, possibly starting at a time when it was located not far frm Walmer in the village of Downe, near Orpington. Established as a school in 1907, this was the house where Charles Darwin and his family once lived. Elizabeth Bowen attended it during this time, with her beloved Miss Wills, but, as the numbers grew, Down House began bursting at the seams and the school relocated to near Thatcham in Berkshire in 1922. Many new buildings had been erected over the previous decade to accommodate the growing number of girls but these had to be removed under the conditions of the lease. They were duly dismantled and conveyed by train and traction engine to Berkshire where they were ingeniously re-erected. Noreen may have moved with the school and she was certainly in the Berkshire school there from Michaelmas Term 1925 to the end of Michaelmas Term 1927.

Noreen Colley (later Butler) at Brittas, County Offaly.

Noreen’s performance as Lucy Lockett and the Bordighera poodle evidently gave her a taste for thespian antics although it is arguable she had no option but to appear in the Chorus of Elders when ‘The Alcestis of Euripides’ was staged at Downe House in 1925. The following year she starred as Leander in a short play called ‘The Limit’ and as Tess Trelawny in ‘The Chums of St. Agnes’. Such skills may have been to the detriment of her studies as she fetched up second from bottom of her Upper IV class with 35%; her 61% in English was her solitary score above 50% in eleven subjects. Her results were by no means any better in the summer of 1926; and she remained second from bottom with an average of 34%. [cxiii]

As the eldest daughter, Noreen became something of a society girl, attending endless dinner parties during her twenties at which a constant stream of young men was laid out for her. Attending all those house-parties was a full-time job in itself as she was obliged to provide detailed reports to her mother as to who she danced with and whether any of the men had expressed an ‘interest’. It was to take some time before she found the right man but the wait was worth it. Watching such social antics at work compelled all three of her younger sisters to marry as quickly as possible for fear that they would be subjected to the same. They weren’t immediately successful; whenever Jock and Dudley’s friends came to Corkagh, the Colley girls would line up with cocked hats and long legs on show but, to their disappointment, the ‘Oily Boys’, as they became known, were always much more interested in what was under the bonnets of the cars. Noreen’s love for such machines was not improved when she was taken for a spin in an airplane by an adventurous young pilot who yelled back at her mid-flight, “D’ya wanna do a loop?” to which she replied “I’d rather die”. Alas for her, the pilot interpreted her words as “I’ll give it a try” and so round and round they went.

In 1933 the Downe House School Magazine recorded that Noreen was now ‘helping to “market garden” at Corkagh’, while Veronica was working at an office in Dublin and Rosemary was specializing in music. Four years later, Noreen wrote to her school to explain that she was ‘too busy’ to visit England that summer. She had just formally started work as an investigator for the British Legion although, the magazine noted, ‘it would be truer to say that she is at last going to be paid a small salary for work she had done for some time past for the ex-Service men in and around Dublin.’ She had also organised a monster fete that lasted two days.[cxiv]

With a little help from her cousin Elizabeth Bowen, Noreen found love with Gilbert Butler, a Kilkenny farmer who was, as it happened, also a cousin of Elizabeth through the Clarkes of Graiguenoe, County Tipperary. Born on 16th February 1910, he was the second son of George Butler (1859-1941) and his wife Harriet Clarke. This branch of the Butler family descend from the Barons of Dunboyne and lived for several generations at Priestown, County Meath, a stone’s throw from the Colley’s Wellesley kinsmen. Two of Gilbert’s great-uncles fought at the battle of Waterloo while a third, the Very Rev. Richard Butler, Vicar of Trim, was a brother-in-law of Maria Edgeworth, author ‘Castle Rackrent’. Gilbert’s grandfather John bought Maiden Hall, Bennetsbridge, County Kilkenny, in 1852 and, upon his death, it passed to Gilbert’s father George.

Gilbert and Noreen were married on 24th February 1940 and honeymooned in Paris. Valerie designed and made the red velvet bridesmaids’ dresses that she and her sister Rosemary wore at the wedding. The newlyweds then moved into a corner of the farmyard at Scatorish, near Maiden Hall, which they renovated as a family home. Within less than a year, Gilbert’s father died and Maiden Hall passed to Gilbert’s elder brother Hubert Butler (1900-1990), the renowned essayist; Hubert’s published works include Escape from the Anthill, The Children of Drancy and In the Land of Nod. Hubert’s only grandson Tom Crampton was appointed Global Chair of Digital at Edelman in October 2018, while his other grandchildren include Susanna Crampton, the Zwartable sheep guru and author of Bodacious – The Shepherd Cat, who holds the fort at Maiden Hall.

Gilbert became one of Ireland’s foremost farmers and went on to serve as President of the Royal Dublin Society. His only son James was born in 1942 and farmed Scatorish for many years before passing it on to his eldest son Thomas who now lives at Scatorish with his wife Annabel (née Hewat) and their two children. Thomas’s mother Gilly descends from the Becher family who had been settled in County Cork since the Elizabethan Age. Thomas’s brother Johnny Butler lives in Japan with his wife and two sons.

Gilbert and Noreen’s only daughter Jessica was born in 1940 and married Benjamin McClintock Bunbury, 5th Baron Rathdonnell, of Lisnavagh, County Carlow. Valerie later recalled how her sister Noreen had turned up at the Butler-Rathdonnell wedding at Scatorish in 1965 sporting a hat that looked like ‘an inverted waste-paper basket with a plant growing out if it’. Finlay Colley apparently went one better and said the plant was a weed. At any rate, Noreen’s hat fared a little better than that of their cousin, Grace Butler, which was eaten by Sylvia, Valerie’s pet Dalmatian. The Rathdonnells have three married sons – William, who now runs Lisnavagh; Andrew, a landscape architect; and Turtle, the historian and author of this work – and a daughter Sasha Sykes, one of Ireland’s leading contemporary designers.

Noreen Butler died on 11th October 1997 and Gilbert followed just over five years later on 17th February 2003, a day after his 93rd birthday. They are buried together in the churchyard of Ennisnag by the King’s River in County Kilkenny.


Veronica Maud Pomeroy Colley, George and Edie’s second daughter, was born on 14th April 1913. That was her sister Noreen’s third birthday, and a year and a day after her uncle Eddie drowned in the Titanic tragedy. Known to her siblings as ‘Pearly’, Veronica became seriously ill with ear trouble just a few months after her admission to Downe House in September 1927. She was sent to a nursing home in London where a mastoid operation was greatly complicated by the onset of meningitis and septicaemia.

‘Before the operation,’ she recalled, ‘my parents were warned, with much sympathy, that if I survived it I might be deaf or mentally impaired. Who can imagine what thoughts went through their minds as they sat by my bedside watching me? So pale, so still, so apparently lifeless.? Then I moved, just a little, then turned my head slowly and whispered to my mother, “Listen, He’s playing ‘Danny Boy.’” And sure enough, the barrel organ man was playing The Londonderry Air. “Danny Boy, the pipes are calling you,” which was one of my favourite songs. My parents were joined by the surgeon, doctors and staff who had worked so hard to save me to rejoice at this evidence that I was living, and neither deaf nor witless. They had been told earlier that prayers were said for me in seven churches and countless homes and they agreed that it had been touch and go and were deeply appreciative of the help they had received from Above.’

She later told her daughter Laetitia how she could hear Edie repeatedly saying ‘She can hear, she can speak’ and Georgeher father, who was deaf, also shouting for good measure. Perplexed and exhausted by all this palaver, Veronica didn’t say another word for several days and slept a good deal but she was indeed on the mend. Given that this was before the arrival of antibiotics, she was exceptionally lucky to recover although she remained poorly for a year after the operations and became partially deaf. ‘Danny Boy’ remained a very special song for the remainder of her life.

The Colley girls’ school reports.

Confirmed in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, Veronica then rejoined her two younger sisters at Corkagh, where a ‘very musical’ French governess was awaiting, although there was much ‘catching up’ to do. Her parents had bought her a puppy on the way home, which was promptly christened Danny Boy. Her siblings were instructed to neither annoy or excite her, while she was also severely restricted in terms of how much reading she could do, to the extent that even when she returnedwent to Alexandra College, she was only allowed stay few hours. She later maintained that she would have had ‘a better life’ if she had been allowed a proper education.

The French governess, who ‘moved in literary and artistic circles during the weekends when she was free’, became attached to an older man, a multi-linguist called David O’Connell, who wrote for The Irish Times under the name of ‘Cormac’. They married and lived in a flat on Baggot Street, to which Veronica would go to learn French. This was the era of intellectual soirees hosted by such people as Mrs Norman Redding and the young teenaged Veronica found herself mingling with such icons as W. B. Yeats, Maud Gonne (‘draped in black – she stood out’), Mícheál Mac Liammóir, Hilton Edwards and AE Russell. The latter ‘was always very welcoming, a very nice man; he once took me down to the Gate to show me some pictures he had bought.’

In 1928, the sixteen-year-old was accepted into Alexandra College where the headmistress was Mrs Preston, although Veronica maintained that the ‘very gracious’ Miss White was still ‘the queen … but not teaching.’ The following year, aged seventeen, she insisted on going to Ms Galway’s Secretarial College in Dawson Street,largely to avoid the ‘marriage market’ that her older sister Noreen had been dispatched into. She initially worked as a secretary and ‘general dogsbody’ for the Irish Sweep but became quickly bored by the unpredictable hours and the difficulties of getting the last bus home. ‘I had to walk up to the main road to catch the bus,’ she recalled. ‘It was a country bus, and it wouldn’t wait a minute for you. I used not to get home until half-past eleven at night, and it meant walking home along country lanes in the dark.’ She next found work as a temporary secretary with the theatre, which she enjoyed greatly. ‘I had some lovely jobs – two at the Gaiety Theatre, one at the Theatre Royal, which was music hall in those days – and a fortnight with an interior decorator in Grafton Street.’ There was also a stint with a solicitor. ‘He was just switching over to a dictating machine and didn’t know how to work it. I didn’t either and I spent the whole fortnight trying to get the thing working. I was quite good at shorthand.’ Harry Kernoff (1900-1974) was doing some set designs in both the Theatre Royal and the Gaiety at the time, so it is assumed this is when he drew Veronica’s portrait in crayon and graphite.

By 1933 she was one of four young women working at the Times Library in Switzer’s. Two years later, on 10th July 1935, twenty-two-year-old Veronica became the first of the family to wed when she married Pat Lefroy, aka Jeffry Arden Patrick Lefroy, at St. John’s Church, Clondalkin. She was given away by her brother Dudley with the other three Colley girls in attendance as bridesmaids, along with Veronica’s cousin Margaret Birdwood (one of the Finlays, still alive in 2018) and Phoebe Lefroy, a long-standing friend of the family who spent part of her choldhood across the fields at Baldonnell.

Phoebe Lefroy also happened to be a cousin of the bridegroom but did not meet Pat until he came a-courting to Corkagh. [cxv] Phoebe was renowned for having ‘sophisticated boys toys as her father wanted her to be a son!’ In the 1940s, she and her parents lived at Gortmore, a pretty house in Dundrum, which – like Faunagh – later became a religious home. After Phoebe’s father died, the house was sold in 1944 and became ‘Gort Muire’, the residence of the Prior Provincial of the Irish Province of Carmelites. [Prior to their move to Dundrum, the order’s priests and students had been living at Ardavon on Orwell Road in Rathgar.] Phoebe and her mother moved to Cedarmount, at the back of Knockrabo school, where Kathleen was said to be bursar. Phoebe was a driver in the army during the war and longed to be a farmer. She eventually bought a farm and land in Ballymore Eustace but her uncle died soon after and her mother inherited the Lefroy’s Longford mansion at Carriglass so they sold up and moved to Carriglass. Phoebe, in turn, would leave Carriglass to Pat’s son Jeffry Lefroy. Phoebe was Laetitia Lefroy’s godmother.

The Lefroy marriage introduced another Huguenot dynasty to Corkagh. Given that the first Lady Rathdonnell was also a Lefroy, and that one of Pat’s direct ancestors was the reputed lover of Jane Austen, I hope to write a broader piece on this family one day.  Phoebe Elizabeth Lefroy (1740-1777) of this family lived at Livorno and was married in April 1767 to Count Del Medico Staffeti of Carara, Tuscany, owner of the Carara marble mines made famous by Michelangelo &c. Does this explain why there were Carara mantelpieces in Ireland? Was there one at Lisnavagh, the house built by Lady Rathdonnell’s brother-in-law! There are lots of photos of the Lefroy family, past & present, via “Lambert Stamp” at this link. 

Pat Lefroy was President of the Huguenot Society from 1971-1974, as well as a Director of the French Hospital (La Providence) in Rochester, Kent. Their honeymoon began in the West of Ireland and was followed by a lengthy journey overland across Europe to Sohag in Upper Egypt where Pat was working with the Egyptian Secondary Schools. With child, Veronica then returned to Corkagh to give birth to their son Jeffry on 24 May 1936. Pat remained in Egypt, although he returned to visit Corkagh after Jeffry’s birth.

As his daughter Laetitia recalled, Pat Lefroy loved Corkagh. ‘He loved its history, the family atmosphere and often during holidays or times between work, he wanted to be there.’ As a historian with an interest in genealogy, he was ‘very perturbed’ by the family’s lack of knowledge about Corkagh’s past, so he spent a lot of time filing papers, as well as researching, identifying and naming many of the portraits. [cxvi] The bulk of the family papers were taken out of the National Library of Ireland by Colley Dudley in 1948 and given to Fry, the solicitor. This coincided with Dudley’s marriage and  Baba handing Corkagh over to him. Laetitia Lefroy, Pat’s daughter,  also worked closely with the South Dublin County Council library, who had acquired most of the Corkagh and Colley papers by the autumn of 2020. The collection has been catalogued and is now Googleable. See here for more. Pat Lefroy  also wrote a history of the Lefroy family, with a detailed genealogical directory, that was privately published in 1958.

In about 1937 Pat was appointed one of His Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools in England and the family moved to Sheffield where their only daughter Laetitia was born on 18th September 1937. They were friendly with Maurice and Sylvia Fiennes, Veronica’s relatives, who were living nearby. When Valerie came over to stay with them, she also spent a short time with the Fiennes and helped look after when their small daughter Lizzie.

With the outbreak of war, Pat disappeared on active service for the bulk of a decade, ultimately becoming a Lieutenant Colonel of the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons, as well as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). Meanwhile, with Sheffield under attack from the Germans, Veronica returned to Dublin. Thereafter, Jeffry and Laetitia were effectively raised at Corkagh.

‘Although it was a time of shortages, we were certainly not starved,’ recalls Jeffry Lefroy. ‘Auntie Val always saw to it that there was plenty of vegetables, chickens and eggs etc. We had a governess called Miss Wall who taught them basic ABC and arithmetic ‘and how to make things such as an embroidered map of Ireland, which, needless to say Laetitia was much better at than me. One evening, after Miss Wall had gone home, Uncle Dudley had Laetitia on his knee as she was proudly showing off her spelling abilities to the assembled company. C a t … cat. D o g … dog. N u r s e … nurse. P a i l … bucket!’

Laetitia adds that they also ‘followed the family tradition of climbing out the schoolroom window onto the roof of the Back Passage, and then shutting the window so the teacher couldn’t get at us and we were free to do what we wanted. Discipline was not a strong point at Corkagh – an air of disapproval the worst!’

In about 1941 Jeffry and La were dispatched to their ‘first proper school’, namely Park House on Morehampton Road, Donnybrook. ‘Our journey,’ recalls Jeffry, ‘consisted of catching the bus on the Naas Road at Clondalkin, stopping at Aston Quay and crossing to Westmorland Street where we caught another bus to take us to the school. We did that, to and fro, five days a week.’ Sometimes Veronica went in with them and then, as she put it, she would ‘hang around Dublin until they were ready to go home on the bus.’ [At this time, she was working with the charity SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association).] However, Jeffry believes their double-bus journey was ‘, mostly unaccompanied, and no-one thought a thing about it. How things have changed!’

Back at Corkagh, Jeffry and La were ‘mostly left to our own devices, playing a lot in the yard and on the farm with its odd assortment of farm workers. Ploughing was done with a horse and a one-legged ploughman called Jack who amazingly managed to balance the operation by fitting his wooden leg neatly into the furrows as he went along behind the plough … Cometh the hour, cometh the man!’

Another Corkagh character who Jeffry recalls was Louis Cabina, the estate carpenter. ‘When repeatedly asked by two inquisitive children, “what are you making today, Louis?”, he invariably answered in a broad Dublin accent, “a whim-wham for a goose’s bridle”.

During the ‘Emergecy’ years, the Red Cross occupied the Round Room at Corkagh, from where the nurses packed up first aid supplies and held get togethers for other official duties. Half the School Room was also separated off for use by ladies from the village although quite what they were doing is not recorded. Possibly they were involved with making lace or crochet pieces but none of the family living in 2021 could recall such things. Laetitia confessed she was ‘more interested in not doing lessons and being in with the Red Cross,’ not least as she had her own nurse’s uniform.

Sometimes Jeffry and La would hitch a ride on Strawberry, the Corkagh pony, which used to take the milk-churns to and from the gate on the road. The pony, observes Jeffry, had ‘the subsidiary role of sometimes taking Uncle Dudley on the milk float to the Buttery at the Hibernian Hotel in Dublin – to meet with his friends including Ken Besson (the owner) for the occasional convivial evening.’

Pat Lefroy sent a request to Corkagh that his children should be taught how to ride. ‘It fell on deaf ears’, says Jeffry. ‘Strawberry had a habit of kicking and biting while being saddled, and Queenie the donkey had an equally obnoxious habit of scraping us off any nearby wall.’ Instead, we much preferred going for rides in Uncle Dudley’s Frazer Nash sports car.’

At length, as Jeffry put it, ‘our idyllic childhood came to an end when our lives took different paths.’ While he went to Aravon, a private preparatory boarding school in Bray, Co Wicklow, Laetitia was educated at Corkagh by the local school mistress.’ ‘Laetitia had a very scrappy education once Jeffry went to Aravon,’ said Veronica, to which Laetitia remarks: ‘How right! Nobody twigged I couldn’t read until I was 13! Still can’t with comfort.’

[Jeffry was reputedly the first baby to fly from Baldonnell, a short walk across the fields.]

Meanwhile, Veronica was getting used to life back at Corkagh. While she always enjoyed discussing philosophical issues, and appreciated anyone that took her seriously, she maintained that it was simply ‘not done’ to discuss money, politics or religion at Corkagh, except possibly by the men in smoking room.’

Christopher Hone, Veronica’s nephew, concurs. ‘There may well have been a reluctance to discuss politics which I think reflected a difficulty, possibly experienced by many landed gentry families, in coming to terms with the impact that the changing political landscape in Ireland was having on their lives. And yet I think the Colley family was more egalitarian than many other such families and that the differences between the Colley children and the children of those that either worked in the house or on the estate, who all played together, only really became important when the former were packed off to school.’

After the war, Pat Lefroy resumed his job as a school inspector and was posted to East Yorkshire where he bought a house in Bubwith, near Selby. He remained an inspector of education for the remainder of his working life, having moved into adult education by 1959. ‘He was often away from Monday to Friday as he had such a huge area to cover,’ recalls Laetitia. ‘They hardly knew each other after so much separation and great adjustments had to be made. These were difficult for all and as Ma said in one of her reminiscences, ‘the children always saw Corkagh as home’… we all returned to Corkagh for most Christmases and large parts of the summer school holidays.’ On return visits to Ireland over Christmas, Pat always attended the Christmas Eve service in St Patrick’s Cathedral because he adored the sound of the trumpeters playing in the hymn ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing.’

When Pat was moved to Oxfordshire, Veronica went to work as a part-time secretary to the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford in the mornings and with the mobile County Library in the afternoons. Following her parting of the ways with Pat in about 1960, all this gainful employment enabled her to buy a cottage in Wheatley, Oxford, circa 1969-1970, where she worked as the local GP’s receptionist for a period. She also wrote a number of stories at this time, some of which were published in women’s magazines. Among her friends in the Oxford era was her distant cousin Brian Pomeroy (1912-1991), a descendant of the 4th Viscount Harberton and son of Major Francis Knox Pomeroy (1876-1962), Connaught Rangers, and his wife, Helen (née Cinnamond). Educated at Rugby School, Brian served as a director of Smith St. Aubyn & Company. In 1940, he married Lucy Margaret Hayne, daughter of Robert Hayne, with whom he had two sons, Tom (Thomas Pomeroy), born 1941, and Simon Robert Valentine Pomeroy, born 1943, and a daughter, Louise Pomeroy, who married Sir Ian Heathcoat-Amory, 6th Bt.

One of her neighbours in Wheatley was Lt. Co. Derrick Hall-Dare, OBE, a grandson of Robert Westley Hall-Dare of Newtownbarry House, Bunclody, County Wexford. He was born in Thomastown, County Kilkenny, in 1900, and raised in Cliff House, Rathfarnham (now the Whitecliffe estate). By his first wife, Olive Mary Bishop, he had two daughters, Ann Griffiths and Jane Wright.[cxvii]

On 2nd December 1972, a year after Olive’s passing, Derrick and Veronica were married. They were wed for thirteen years before Derrick’s death in 1985. Veronica then relocated to Weymouth, which she enjoyed very much except for the difficulties of travelling to keep in touch with family and friends as she did not drive and Weymouth was not close to any of the main lines or airports. In 1996, she took the bold decision to ‘return to roots’ and moved to a Churchtown, Dublin.

Veronica always kept a five-year diary, writing about four lines every night before she tucked up for a sleep. Her daughter Laetitia found them all going back to 1955 and right through until December 2009 when she went into the Marlay Nursing Home in Rathfarnham, Dublin. Veronica died on 12th January 2012, in her 99th year. Her ashes were placed in the grave of her grandfather, where Laetitia added her details to the headstone. Laetitia also seized the opportunity to have several family headstones cleaned at this time.

Jeffry Lefroy graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, with a Bachelor of Arts and pursued a career in the army. After a stint in the Irish Guards, he was accepted for a regular commission in the Royal Irish Fusiliers (later the Royal Irish Rangers). He remained in the regiment until 1976, retiring with the rank of major, and is now a trustee of The Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum in Armagh. A keen supporter of the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland, he followed in his father’s footsteps to become a Director of La Providence. He was also closely involved with the management of Bishop Hodson’s School, Elphin, Co Roscommon, for thirty-five years He inherited the Lefroy family seat of Carriglass Manor, County Longford, which he and his wife Tessa (née White) ran for many years.[cxix] Jeffry had also enjoyed a career as a film extra, appearing in films such as ‘Becoming Jane’, about a reputed romance between his ancestor Tom Lefroy (later Lord Chief Justice of Ireland) and the novelist Jane Austen. Jeffry and Tessa have two sons, Langlois (known as Jeff to his friends, and Jeff the Fish to Soho Radio listeners) and Edward.

Laetitia’s ‘scrappy’ education included a year at Park House when she was five or six, followed by three different schools in five years when they lived in England. Then came a stint at Alexandra College before she went to Trinity College Dublin and earned a diploma in social science. She later attended Birmingham University where she secured professional qualifications for social work. She worked for many thirteen years in England – in Bristol, Oxford and then an eleven thirteen-year run as a childcare officer and, later, as team leader in social services, in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. She returned to Ireland in 1972 and lived in Kilmatead Cottage, during which time she helped look after her elderly grandmother, Edie, who was then at the Peamount Hospital. She was appointed to the Irish subdivision of Barnardo’s children’s charity where she became best known for the key role she played in establishing the Adoption Advice Service in 19778.[cxx] She was involved in many other projects connected to social work, counselling, child services and improving family life and care, including Children First and the Hope project, started in 1975, to help homeless teenage boys.[cxxi] An active member of the Irish Association of Social Workers and Public Relations Officer from 1979-81, she co-authored ‘New Families’ with Charles Mollan; the book was published in 1984 by Turoe Press. She was also a member of the Review Committee on Adoption Services set up by the Minister for Health in 1983. She subsequently worked as a volunteer at the Citizens Information Centre in Dundrum from 1997-2006, and as its Supervisor from 2003-6 during which time it moved from a single rented room to a suite in the Dundrum Town Shopping Centre. She remains a trustee of the French Huguenot Trust and the Berwick Home Charity. She celebrated her eightieth birthday in September 2017 with a lively tea party in the Kildare Street Club, hosted by her brother Jeffry and his wife Tessa. La Lefroy, as she is known in the family, was interviewed by Maurice O’Keefe for his ‘Irish Life and Lore’ series

Colley Family Reunion for launch o Turtle Bunbury’s Corkagh book @ Happy Pear at Clondalkin Round Tower in June 2018. (Photo: Cathy Weatherston).
Back: Finlay Colley, Robbie Dunphy, Tim Hone, Marie Lawlor, William Bunbury.
Middle: Tessa and Jeffry Lefroy; La Lefroy; Ally Bunbury; Turtle Bunbury; Jessica Rathdonnell; Sasha, Ben Rathdonnell.
Front: Elinor Sykes; Jemima Bunbury; Bay Bunbury; Rosie Bunbury.

Colley Siblings: Dudley, Jack, Noreen, Valery

VALERIE HONE (1914-2010)

George and Edie’s third daughter Valerie Edith Pomeroy Colley, known as Val, was born at Faunagh on 19th October 1914. Valerie had briefly joined her sisters at Tormore school, Upper Deal, East Kent, but was so miserable boarding that her parents took her out and she never boaded again and eschewed Downe House in favour of Alexandra College. Her photograph album includes a snap of Wellington Dormitory in the school.

She once told me her greatest day was in 1936 when she was presented to the then Queen Elizabeth (“a relation”, claimed she) before being taken for a drive by the Aga Khan. Nearly as impressive was a gin-filled afternoon with the actress Coralie Carmichael who was due to star in a stage version of Wuthering Heights at The Gate that evening. “I remember she played Nellie Dean in several different accents” chuckled Valerie. Along with Veronica and Rosemary, Valerie was an enthusiastic supporter of the newly-opened Gate theatre and its co-founder Mícheál Mac Liammóir. ‘We were absolutely mad about the Gate,’ recalled Veronica. ‘Mícheál was so lovely, so handsome when he was young man. We went to everything. I remember the very large Lord Longford standing waving his tiny little moneybox. Coralie Carmichael was lovely – really beautiful – and she and her mother ran the coffee shop when the Gate moved from the Peacock Theatre into the Rotunda.’ At this time Coralie hatched a plan to mate her dog with one of Valerie’s Corkagh ladies. ‘Coralie came out to Corkagh and they paired successfully. After that Coralie came out to Corkagh quite frequently, and she once stayed with us.’ Years later, this union was recalled in a letter from Mícheál Mac Liammóir to Veronica in which he asked, ‘how could anyone, even a bitch, fall in love with that dreadful little Carmichael dog?’

During the Second World War, Valerie was very actively involved in the Irish Red Cross. In later years she would work closely with the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. On 27 March 1947, she married Captain William Patrick Hone (1886-1976), the scion of a family applauded for their ability to wield paintbrushes and cricket bats with equal dexterity. Pat Hone, as he was known, was the third son of the celebrated Irish cricketer William Hone of Temple Hill and Palermo on Killiney Hill Road, County Dublin. Born in 1842 and educated at St Columba’s College in Dublin, Pat himself captained the celebrated Gentlemen of Ireland cricket team.

The Hones were directly descended from the eighteenth-century painter Nathaniel Hone, a founding member of the Royal Academy. The first-named member on a family tree that Pat’s son Christopher Hone has begins with another Nathanial Hone of Marlborough who served in the Parliamentary Army, married Ruth Blisset in 1632 and died in 1665. Nathaniel and Ruth had two sons. The first one, whose name is not included in the family tree, remained in England. The second one, Samuel Hone, was born in 1636 and, having joined Cromwell’s Army, arrived in Ireland in 1649 where he was rewarded with a grant of land in Carlow. Samuel subsequently sold the Carlow land and settled in Dublin, thus becoming the first of the Hones to settle in Ireland. In June 2018, shortly after the ‘Corkagh’ book launch, I met Kieran White, a good friend of Pat’s son Christopher Hone and the late Tony Colley, who suggested the family might also descend from Galeon Hone, glass designer to King Henry VIII; given Evie Hone’s affinity to stained glass, I certainly would not rule that out. As Christopher says, ‘I suppose ther name might be taken by any family who were sharpeners of knifes or swords (as distinct from wits). It would be nice to find that he was an ancestor, who kept his head.’

Pat Hone’s eldest brother Joseph Maunsell Hone founded the publishing house of Maunsell & Co. and penned many notable works, including the ‘Life of W.B. Yeats.’ Pat was also a first cousin of the world-renowned stained glass artist Evie Sydney Hone (1894-1955), who in turn was a relative of Edie Colley through the Finlay family. Born in 1886 and educated at Trinity College Dublin, Pat served as a captain in the Royal Engineers during the Great War and was awarded the Military Cross. He became the much-needed tenant of Kilmatead House in about 1944 and, following his marriage to Valerie three years later, she duly joined him there. The house had been leased earlier in the century to the Hamilton family, cousins of the family, including Major Edward Hamilton of Coolgreany fame (see under Finlays) and his nieces Blanche and Nora, a noted amateur watercolourist. They had two pugs, Bitsy and Diana who famously wore little jackets replete with pockets to hold handkerchiefs to wipe their constantly dripping noses.

Valerie was Pat’s second wife, his first being Mary Collis, eldest daughter of William Stewart Collis, JP, with whom he had a son Oliver Blunden Hone (1917-2005) and two daughters, the striking Paloma (1919-1975) and the bohemian poet, novelist, and playwright Leland Bardwell (1922-2016).[cxxii] Following postings overseas with Imperial Airways and BOAC, Oliver was one of the first executive staff members of the fledgling Aer Lingus. Pat and Mary moved back from India to Ireland in the 1920s and initially settled at Leixlip House in County Kildare. Mary Hone died in April 1941.

Valerie, who later moved to the Cottage by Kilmatead House, told me she did not wear white at her wedding because she was to be Pat’s second wife. Instead she wore a soft lime green gown and recruited a fashionable French milliner to make her hat. The French lady said, ‘Well, I can make you a normal hat or I can make you a leetle bit of nonsense. Which would you like?’ Sixty years later, Valerie reckoned that the ‘leetle bit of nonsense’ was tremendously well received at the Peamount Hospital in Newcastle where she was a frequent visitor. Valerie and Pat had planned to go to Spain on honeymoon but, with the Spanish on strike, they followed Noreen and Gilbert’s lead and headed for Paris instead.

Their only son Christopher (Patrick) Hone was born on 3rd June 1949 and has lived at Kilmatead for most of his life. Corkagh would be demolished before he was a teenager but he has manifold memories of the old house where his grandmother Edie, known to him as Baba, lived.

‘Baba’s quarters on the first floor held a certain mystique. They had a sort of oriental air with Chinese vases, probably mostly damaged and repaired with sticking plaster and Copydex, a milky adhesive in use in the 1950s. One of my clearest memories is that every Christmas we would repair to Corkagh after morning church in St John’s Clondalkin and open our presents in the library. When that practice suddenly stopped following my Uncle Dudley’s death, Christmases would never be quite the same.’

Valerie Hone passed away on 20th October 2010, a day after her 96th birthday. Her husband had died many years earlier, when Christopher was only 26. However, as Pat had retired when Christopher was a boy, father and son fortunately spent ample time together. Christopher was the twelfth member of the Hone family to attend St Columba’s College in Rathfarnham. From there he studied physics at Trinity College and engineering design at University College Dublin. In the ensuing decades, he has mainly worked in the related fields of medial physics and radiation protection. Initially based at St Anne’s Hospital, Dublin, he has spent most of his career with the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland. He was also responsible for commissioning the first radiotherapy unit to be established in Padhar Hospital in Central India and has worked for the International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations agency, on projects to upgrade radiation protection standards in a number of African, Asian and East European countries. He retired from the RPII in 2009. His wife, Mary (née Jennings), a graduate of University College Dublin and the London School of Economics, has also worked extensively globally, especially in Africa and Asia. She continues to share Valerie Hone’s interest in gardening and has restored and further developed the gardens at Kilmatead where she and Christopher now live. Their son Timothy was born in 1995. Christopher inherited his interest in old cars from his uncle Dudley Colley and now Tim has likewise inherited the genetic love of engineering and vintage cars.


Know to the family as ‘Tinkie’, Rosemary Pomeroy Colley was the youngest of the four sisters. Born at Corkagh on 4 October 1916, she was educated at Downe House from the Summer Term of 1930 to the end of the Michaelmas Term of 1931. Her results were no better than her elder sister Noreen; 56% in English and 55% in music were her only scores above half-marks.[cxxiii] By the Michaelmas Term of 1931 she had joined Valerie at Alexandra College in Dublin where she remained for the next three years. Her school friends included the late Cicely Hall, who, along with her son Robin Hall, an antique dealer, created a 2.5 hectare botanical garden at Primrose Hill, Lucan, which is now highly regarded for its snowdrops.

In 1933 she was apparently specializing in music. Four years later she was noted as a Pitman instructor in Dublin.[cxxiv] In 1943 she went to work for the BBC in London where, as a producer in the features department, she helped to produce the War Report. She initially stayed as Elizabeth Bowen’s guest but, having fended off the advances of H. G. Wells, this era came to a close when Charles Richie, Elizabeth’s secret lover, took a shine to her. She subsequently lived in a flat above the Volunteer Pub on Baker Street, possibly sharing with her future sister-in-law Eileen Lennon; the flat below was occupied by Dylan Thomas who, returning from the bar, would crawl past her door and up the stairs night after night after night. It has been suggested that Rosemary’s departure for London during the war inspired Elizabeth Bowen’s short story “Sunday Afternoon” (1942).[cxxv] The story is set in a place strongly reminiscent of Corkagh, close to Dublin and with the same view of the Wicklow mountains.

Another fan was the poet John Betjeman who evidently shared a laugh with her. ‘My affection to Rosemary Colley’, he wrote in one of his letters, addressee at present unknown. ‘Stands Corkagh still under the grey Dublin sky? While Clondalkin station waits the ghost of a train down to Kingsbridge. Does Rosemary remember Mrs Madan? ‘Wasn’t she decoratin’ the church and didn’t she fall off the Holy Table?’ How Penelope and I laughed about those dear old Church of Ireland days!’[cxxvi]

Betjeman served as Press Attaché to the British Embassy in Dublin from 1941 to 1944. A frequent visitor to Corkagh, he and his family arrived into the Clondalkin neighbourhood in July 1941 when he rented Collinstown Park. This large Georgian mansion belonged to Major Thomas William Kirkwood (1884-1971), a polo player who grew up at Woodbrook, County Roscommon, before moving to Collinstown with his wife Harriet, a daughter of the Jameson whiskey family. During his time in Ireland Betjeman became an unlikely champion of the upcoming poet Patrick Kavanagh who responded by penning a poem in honour of Betjeman’s baby daughter Candida, who was born in Collinstown. The late Anthony Cronin recalled how Betjeman once treated Kavanagh to lunch at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin and offered him a job as a spy. “After giving it some thought,” said Cronin, “he turned it down. I’ve always thought that was a mistake.” Collinstown Park later became a community centre but was subsequently knocked down.

Rosemary Colley was married on 5th July 1947 – just over three months after Valerie and ten weeks after Dudley – to Captain Nicky Crocker. He hailed from an exceptionally talented bloodline. His father Henry J. Crocker was an actor, while his mother, the film actress Viola Compton, was a younger sister of the writer Compton Mackenzie (‘Monty’), author of ‘Whiskey Galore’ and ‘Monarch of the Glen’, and co-founder of the Scottish National Party. Viola’s siblings Frank (Francis), Ellen and Virginia “Fay” Compton were also actors; Fay was much favoured by J.M. Barrie of ‘Peter Pan’ fame. The family were also closely related to the actors Leslie and Arthur Howard.

Nicky had been married before but they became estranged during the war in which he spent many years on active service – probably with the 2nd Battalion, King’s Own Royal Regiment – in North Africa, and possibly in the Middle East. They had parted ways, without children, without complication, enabling him to start anew with Tinkie. They had three children – Virginia Helen Crocker (known as Ginny, married to Ted Mustard), born 25th May 1948; (Henry) Alistair (Nicholas) Crocker, born 23rd December 1949; and Roderick (John), known as Roddy, born 11th May 1954, who worked with the BBC. [cxxvii]  Tinkie continued to work as a producer for the BBC, ultimately becoming Head of Children’s Hour and Woman’s Hour for the BBC West Region. Meanwhile, Nicky was the first producer of ‘Any Questions?’ and served as the Head of the BBC Natural History Unit for thirteen years.

Jock Colley in uniform.

JOCK COLLEY (1918-1944)

During the Second World War, thousands of pilots died in training accidents. Among these was George and Edie’s youngest child, Henry John Colley, known as Jock. He was born on 28th June 1918 and educated at Stowe School, Buckingham, from September 1931 to April 1935. A keen motorcycle racer, he was also, like his father and brother, an inventive engineer. ‘If you came by the back way into Corkagh, you always had to get around lots of machines which both my brothers had everywhere’, recalled Veronica Hall-Dare. He competed in the Dublin University Club’s Grafton Cup Trial in April 1939, from behind the wheel of an Alvis 12/50.[cxxviii] His Alvis was acquired by the late Bobbie Newell in 1948 and it is still actively used by its current owner, Mark Brennan. Jock’s nephew Christopher Hone drove in it to the Prescott Hill Climb with Bobbie some years ago.

‘Jock was such fun to be with,’ said Veronica. ‘He was such a loss. One feels he would have been a wonderful uncle for the boys.’ He was also very interested in ‘nuclear stuff’. ‘Everyone loved Jock,’ agrees Laetitia Lefroy. ‘Attractive, witty and clever, he made an impression to all he met.’ Through his contacts in Guinness he was able to get his small nephews and nieces lifts on the barges that plied the Grand Canal. He was also an enthusiastic photographer and filmmaker (as was Dudley) and took many photos of the family children.

With the outbreak of war in 1939, Jock and his old school friend Dennis O’Rorke joined up together. On 27th March 1943, Jock married Eileen Patricia Lennon, the beautiful daughter of Joseph John Lennon. Eileen shared a flat in London with Rosemary for a while during the Elizabeth Bowen era. Jock made up his mind to marry her the moment he set eyes on her and theirs was a very deep bond. As her daughter Nicola recalled, ‘She was very much in love with Jock and the whole family was such a pleasure for her.’ As George Colley simply would not countenance arguments at home, Corkagh was, recalled Eileen, ‘a happy house’.

On 7th January 1944, 25-year-old LDG Aircraftman Colley was learning to fly with the Royal Air Force in South Africa when he crashed landing at Randfontein in the Transvaal. It is not clear what happened. He was flying solo in a de Havilland Tiger Moth bi-plane, a reasonably tricky aircraft to fly, and he may have stalled and spun in, or perhaps there was an engine failure. Charles Ritchie described him as ‘a lamb to the slaughter’ in his diary when he heard the news eleven days later.[cxxix] Jock’s own family had only just heard the news. Captain Dennis O’Rorke was killed in action in 1943. ‘It was a shocking time’, recalled Veronica.

Jock Colley as a boy.

Christopher and Mary Hone visited his grave near Johannesburg, South Africa, with their son Timothy in what Christopher described as ‘one of the most moving experiences in my life. Here were the mortal remains of this young uncle I had heard so much about but never met.’ Jock is commemorated on a plaque in St. John’s Church, Clondalkin, dedicated to those who lost their lives during the Second World War. His devastated widow Eileen determined to get on with life and was married secondly and happily to a South African architect by name of Bernard Wiehahn. They settled at Hamper Mill near Watford, London, where Bernard ran a well-established architectural practice with his brother-in-law, Dennis. They had two children Dennis and Nicola whom she once brought over to Ireland to holiday at Toddy’s house on Valentia Island in County Kerry. Known as The Revenue, Toddy’s house was the old Custom House (presumably not a spot Daniel O’Connell’s family frequented) but is now sadly dilapidated. Eileen continued to correspond with Baba as well as her sisters-in-law although she found it very hard to see Rosemary because of their memories of Jock. Christopher Hone stayed with the Wiehahn’s for a number of weeks when he moved to London in the early seventies to take up a teaching job and a connection between the two families continues to this day.

DUDLEY COLLEY (1911-1959)

Born on 19th September 1911, George Dudley Pomeroy Colley inherited a love for motor racing and automobiles that both his parents and his grandfather nurtured. As he explained in his acclaimed motoring book ‘Wheel Patter’ (1951), he was ‘born into an atmosphere of motoring. The walls of this old country house, instead of being adorned with the usual hunting scenes and trophies of the chase, have rows of early photographs of high, stilted cars, bowler-hatted and bewhiskered drivers, and ladies of the family in enormous dust veils. The lumber lofts still hold ancient steel- studded leather-bound tyres. Even the tractor driver on the farm still refers to a spare wheel as a Stepney.’[cxxx] He may also have been inspired by his Great-Aunt Olivia Foley, a sister of Colonel Finlay, who was also a sister-in-law of the engineer and inventor John Henry Knight (1847-1917) of Barfield, Farnham, Surrey, who co-built one of Britain’s first petrol-powered motor vehicles in 1895.

Dudley was educated at Repton and, before that, at Tormore near Walmer-Deal in East Kent. ‘Even at school,’ recalled his sister Veronica, ‘he managed to secrete a car in an old shed, and hammered away at it from about 6 a.m. before school started.’ Like both his father and his uncle Eddie, Dudley studied engineering at Trinity College Dublin. As a student, he achieved the remarkable feat of being the only person in history who has managed to drive across the Ha’penny Bridge. The plot was hatched by Trinity students at the bar of the city’s Dolphin Hotel after which Dudley managed to steer his sufficiently narrow Austin Seven Chummy Tourer at the second attempt, running backwards down the approach steps on the first. As he wrote:

‘Accordingly, it was arranged that I should park my Austin in a narrow lane near the foot of the bridge; the others would patrol the quays on each side and occupy the attention of any stray policemen or officious citizens. At a given signal on a horn, I was to cross. Just like that. As my first attempt, I misjudged the speed necessary to surmount the steps; the Austin stalled half way up, and I was forced to bump all the way down again backwards. I made no mistake the second time, and was over and bouncing down the steps at the other side before anyone realised what was going on. I vanished up a side street and home by devious means. It wasn’t a particularly clever thing to do, and certainly didn’t prove anything; but even now, almost twenty years later, I still have a tiny glow of satisfaction in the knowledge that I was the first – and, I hope, the last – to cross the Metal Bridge by car.’ [cxxxi]

Many students witnessed the event but sadly there were no photographs. He was the Honorary Treasurer of the Dublin University Motor-cycle and Light Car Club, which organised trials around the country; he competed in both motor-cycle and light car races. He later drove what was to be one of the very few original Austin Seven Ulster Sportscars ever made. ‘There are plenty of replicas made from Austin 7 saloons and more recently from collections of bits,’ adds Christopher, ‘but a real one is a very rare and highly sort after machine.’ In 2019, Christopher chanced to meet a Canadian dentist who had been one of the later owners of this same vehicle, which he bought in Holland. The car is now thought to be back in Northern Ireland.

Vans from the Corkagh Dairy.

Dudley was in his third year at Trinity when his father died in 1933. He duly abandoned his ambitions for a career in engineering and reluctantly took over the running of the farm. Edie would hand the property over to Dudley in about 1954. Despite his hesitancy, Dudley’s engineering prowess proved very useful when it came to repairing broken vehicles and structures around the place. He also installed a water-powered turbine to create a mini hydro-electric scheme that provided electricity for Corkagh House. long before it became ubiquitous. He built up a dairy herd and set up the Corkagh Dairies to supply the Clondalkin area during the 1930s and 1940s. Ever the engineer, he established one of the first mechanised bottling plants in Ireland; Corkagh’s milk was cannily promoted by ‘Connie the Corkagh Cow’ and distributed by a fleet of Model Ford Ys. However, like most Irish estates, Corkagh was hard hit by the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the late 1940s. Meanwhile, Dudley’s sister Valerie, who had studied housecraft at Alexandra College, took on running the domestic side of Corkagh.

However, Dudley’s mind was never far from his true love, motor-racing. As Wilf Fitzsimmons wrote in his foreword to the 2008 reprint of ‘Wheel Patter’:

‘This was the era of the GN cycle car and of course Frazer Nash, both chain-driven and hugely popular with a large number of enthusiasts indeed – who came to be known affectionately as the Chain Gang. Surely Dudley Colley typified the very essence of their attractive, if somewhat unconventional breed.’

In 1936 Dudley co-founded the Midget Racing Car Club of Ireland, along with Count Cyril McCormack, Cyril Murray (Car Rentals), George Reddy and Leo Manthorpe. He established a racing circuit at Corkagh behind the ash-pit, where the Famine Commemorative Arboretum now stands. Dudley also built a number of Midget racing cars, as well as a beautifully constructed little tractor, based on the Austin 7, which he made for Finlay and Tony. His nephew Christopher Hone now owns the tractor as well as one of Dudley’s Midgets which Tony had started to restore shortly before his death.

His favourite car was a Frazer Nash (named after its founder Archibald Goodman Frazer-Nash), which he bought from Ainsley Verschoyle of Athy. Ideally suited to all manner of motorsport, the “Nash” duly competed in many of the hill-climbs, reliability trials and races on the road circuits for which Ireland was then famous. He was aided and abetted by the mechanic Mick Burke who worked at Joe Kelly’s Red Cow garage at Clondalkin at the time. Dudley was a well-known performer in motor competitions in the Dublin area by the time he competed in his first long distance race, the Phoenix Park Grand Prix, on 11th September 1937. He came eighth, a respectable position given that the Nash experienced various engine problems during the race. The Irish Motor Racing Club then presented Dudley with a small silver plaque as a memento of his first major race.

On 22nd April 1938 he won the Cork National Motor Handicap in his Frazer Nash by the narrow margin of three seconds. The 52-mile handicap formed the first of the Irish Derby meeting of the Irish Motor Racing Club at Cork. There were a dozen starters, most of them being in vehicles that were long since familiar features at Irish motor races. Seven of the eight who completed the course finished within two minutes of Dudley, including Miss Dorothy Stanley Turner, the solitary woman competitor.[cxxxii] The Northern Whig filed this report on Dudley’s triumph the following day:


Driving the 1,500 c.c. Frazer-Nash that was entered by C. H. Gates, of Klldorrey, G. D. P Colley, a member of the Dublin University Motor Cycle and Light Car Club, yesterday won the National Motor Handicap, the first of the three races which make up the Irish Derby Meeting of the Irish Motor Racing Club at Cork. Confined to drivers’ resident within Great Britain and Ireland and cars of under one and a half litres cubic capacity, the race formed a pipe-opener to the two International events which will be contested on Carrigrohane Circuit today. Colley averaged 72 miles an hour and, with a handicap of four minutes, he won by the narrow margin of three seconds. In second place, with a thirty second handicap from Colley, came another Dublin drive, David Yule, in supercharged car of two-thirds the engine size of the unsupercharged Frazer-Nash. When it first took to the road this car was a Morris Minor. It has been reconstructed to such an extent that it is now termed “Cox-Morris-Yule” and its honours are shared by the Dublin engineer who reconstructed it, its original maker and the driver. In third place was another well-known Dublin driver, Charlie Manders, in an un-supercharged [German] Adler of approximately the same size as Yule’s car. Yule averaged approximately a mile an hour less than the winner, and Manders was 5 1/2 miles an hour slower.’[cxxxiii]

In June 1938 the Leinster Motor Club organized a veteran car competition on the Tallaght Circuit in which Dudley participated, along with some friends, driving a 1911 Renault and a 1911 Model T Ford. Two months later he sped uphill for the Craigantlet Hill Climb.[cxxxiv] In April 1939 he drove a Ford in the Grafton Cup Trials hosted by the Dublin University Club; his brother Jock drove an Avis in the same trials and they both won first-class awards.[cxxxv] On one occasion his mother and sister were hunched around a radio, listening to his race with such focus that his sister knitted a two feet long sock.

Dudley Colley at Castle Carbery, 1947.

During the Second World War, usage of motor vehicles in Ireland was firmly restricted because of fuel rationing and many such cars were garaged. Dudley took up horse riding and hunting, and helped set up the Local Defence Force. On 26th November 1945 Elizabeth Bowen wrote to Charles Ritchie from Bowen’s Court:

‘Reggie Ross Williamson [attached to the British Representative’s office] having a car, kindly picked me up … and drove me out to [Corkagh] … As we drove down the avenue from that upper gate he said, ‘How do you feel, coming back here?’ I said, ‘Why?’ and he said that, though he loved Corkagh he thought it the most melancholy house in Ireland. I must say it never struck me like that. Peculiar, yes. … I had a hornet in my bedroom which got into my hair, and at dinner I swallowed a fish bone, which got wedged in my throat and made me feel quite feverish the whole evening. It is so like darling Corkagh to have a bone the size of a whale’s vertebra inside an apparent fillet of plaice. The idea, apart from the feeling, of anything stuck in my throat rattles me and fills me with animal fear. I felt my eyes glazing, as the evening went on, and my manner became madder and madder. The family took it all rather calmly, saying that the fish bone would in the course of time, they were sure, dissolve into glue …’.[cxxxvi]

With the end of the war, the cars returned to the racetracks and the sport enjoyed a boom. Driving his now 20-year-old Frazer Nash, Dudley accumulated enough points by the close of 1946 to become Champion Race Driver of the Year. Two years later he became the first winner of the prestigious Walter Sexton Memorial Trophy, an Irish racing/hillclimb championship run under the jurisdiction of the Royal Irish Automobile Club. In 1950, British Pathé filmed Joe Kelly, owner of the Red Cow garage at Clondalkin, winning the Enniskerry Hill Climb. The footage included some shots of Dudley, complete with pipe, alongside Mr Kelly.[cxxxvii]


On 16th April 1947, the 35th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy, Dudley Colley married Patricia Burns. Born in 1913, (Ann) Patricia was the younger of two daughters born to William and Annie Burns. The census recorded in April 1911 suggests that William was, at that time, a 45-year-old farmer running a farm at Castlefield, Templeogue / Knocklyon, in south Dublin. The census says he was born in Westmeath and that he was living with an older sister, Emily Burns, who was a Baptist milliner, as well as Jane Winter and Emily Mitchel, his aunt and niece.

BURNS—SMART. On December 26, 1911, at St. Ann’s Church, Dublin, by the Rev. Canon the Hon. B. J. Plunket, M.A., William Burns, Castlefield, Templeogue, to Annie Smart, third daughter of the late Henry Smart, of West Calder, N.B.
Midlothian Advertiser, Friday 29 December 1911.

William seems to have sold the substantial possessions of his farm at Castlegrace by auction as per an auction noted in the Irish Independent – 22 January 1920.

Tony Wilkinson kindly directed me to a headstone at Lewis Capaldi’s hometown of Whitburn in West Lothian, Scotland, which suggests Anne Smart was the third daughter of Henry Smart, and that she died in Dublin on 7th September 1932, aged 57. Her sister Helen Smart married Albert Stewart and died in Dublin in December 1930 or 1936, aged 42 (I think?). A brother Henry died in Seattle in 1938. Not sure if its connected but there’s a Henry Smart, clerk, of Belfast living in Galway in 1911, who could be Annie’s father. And what of Henry Smart, a Catholic miller, recorded here in 1901?

After their mother’s death in 1932, Patricia and her older sister Doreen Burns (1913-1996), known as Toddy, lived on Elm Green in Castleknock, County Dublin. Meanwhile their widowed father William Burns moved to Kingswood House, Clondalkin, from which Patricia sometimes took a shortcut through Corkagh to St John’s Church. (Her antics caught the eye of the young Colley boys.) William Burns died in 1946, after which the sisters moved to a small cottage on Peamount Road near Newcastle. However, it was not long before Patricia married Dudley.

Patricia Colley (née Burns) at Castle Carbery, 1947.

Their marriage record names William’s father as Thomas, while his 1911 census lists him as being born in Westmeath. This may conflict with my earlier belief that the Burns sisters were the great-granddaughters of Gilbert Burns (1803-1881), the Scots-born nephew of the poet Robbie Burns, and a cousin of the diplomat Sir Alexander Burns who was assassinated in Kabul in 1841. Gilbert’s aunt Agnes Burns, the eldest sister of the aforementioned Scottish bard, had a strong connection to Ireland. Her husband William Galt was land steward to the Fortescues of Stephenstown, Co Louth, and she is buried in Dundalk. Gilbert grew up in East Lothian (then Haddingtonshire) outside Edinburgh where his father was land steward on Lady Blantyre’s estate at Grant’s Braes. His oldest brother was William Burns (1792-1878), a stocky bright-eyed Lowlander whom Dubliners described as a dead ringer for Robbie Burns the poet. In 1822 William moved to Dublin and established an agency of the Dunbarton Glass Company in Meeting House Lane, off Mary’s Abbey. Two years later he married Jane, daughter of Peter Callanan, County Galway, with whom he subsequently lived in Portarlington and had seven children. In 1826 the 36-year-old joined forces with the Glaswegian merchant Alexander Findlater, a close friend and excise officer of the Bard, and they began trading from the Scotch House at 7 Burgh Quay, Dublin, as the ‘The Irish and Scotch Whiskey Store’. In 1836 he co-founded the Dublin & Glasgow Sailing and Steam Packet Company, alongside representatives of the Guinness, Findlater and Jameson families.

Meanwhile, in 1834 Gilbert Burns teamed up with his brother William Burns, Alexander Findlater and either William or Bruce Todd to co-found the Todd Burns’ department store on Mary Street, Dublin. As chance would have it, the store incorporated part of the old Finlay & Co. Banking House. In 1856, Todd Burns supplied much of the platforms, seating, tablecloths and other furnishings used for the Crimean Banquet in the present-day CHQ Building. Gilbert married Jemima Ferrier (1819-1906) and they either built or renovated a house just outside the gates of the Phoenix Park in Castleknock, Dublin, called Knockmaroon Lodge. Knockmaroon (sometimes Glenmaroon) and Knockmaroon Lodge stood on either side of the main road and were joined by a Venetian-style bridge over the road down to Chapelizod. As Winifred Letts, whose mother was a Ferrier, later remarked: ‘The Ferriers and Burns grew up together at ‘Our Knockmaroon’, as we called it, as it was close-by’.[cxxxviii] Indeed, Jemima’s father Alexander Ferrier lived in nearby Bellevue Park. He was a co-founder, with his brother James, of Ferrier & Pollock, a wholesale silk and haberdashery firm which was originally based on Fishamble Street but later moved into the Powerscourt Townhouse on South William Street. James Arthur Weir, later chairman of Weir & Sons jewellers, was an apprentice at Ferrier & Pollock. Undoubtedly the finest legacy of Ferrier Pollock concerns the Dublin writer Brendan Behan, who, asked to define the difference between prose and poetry, replied:

There was a young fellah named Rollocks
Who worked for Ferrier Pollocks
As he walked on the strand
With his girl by the hand
The tide came up to his knees.

“Now that’s prose” said Behan “if the tide had been in, it would have been poetry”.

Gilbert Burns remained at Knockmaroon until his death on 9th October 1881 aged 71; he is buried in the Church of Ireland graveyard in Castleknock. His brother William died in Portarlington on 11th June 1878 aged 86 and is buried in Mount Jerome. Jemima Burns and her two unmarried daughters, Mary (1843-1926) and Isabella (1845-1929), moved to Berkshire, England, where Jemima died on 5th October 1906 in Woodlands, Wokingham, at the age of 87. Gilbert and Jemima also had two sons, Robert (1847-1891), known as Robin Burns, and Dr. Theodore (Gilbert Alexander) Burns (1860-1937). According to Winifred Letts, the Ferriers ‘were either foes or friends of their Burns cousins … Mother was very proud of Robin (the eldest) but he got a bit spoilt and was called ‘wild’.’ Robin’s younger brother Dr Theodore Burns was ‘much steadier’ and worked as an anaesthetist under the eminent surgeon and appendicitis expert Sir Frederick Treves. The brothers were both very musical. I thought Robin’s son was the William Burns who married Annie Smart, a Scot, and became father to Patricia and Toddy but this is now in doubt. [cxxxix]

The friendship between the Burns and Findlater families continued into the present century when Dudley and Patricia’s son Tony went on a tour of Scotland with the late Alex Findlater to search out their mutual Scottish roots. Tony did much of the design work for Findlater Wine Merchants (1974-2000) including the cover of Alex Findlater’s book, ‘The Story of a Dublin Merchant family.’

1947 was also the year in which Patricia’s cousin Paul Besson bought the Russell Hotel on the corner of St Stephens Green and Harcourt Street; Audrey Hepburn would be one of the first guests. Since 1939 Mr Besson had also run the hugely popular Royal Hibernian Hotel on Dawson Street, Dublin. Both hotels would later be run by Paul’s son, the legendary hotelier Ken Besson (1915-1981), who conceived and financed the ‘Festival of Dublin’ in the 1950s and is also credited with kick-starting the Clarenbridge Oyster Festival in 1954.[cxl] He lived for a time at Baltiboys House near Blessington, County Wicklow.

At this time, Edie was known to those working at Corkagh as “Mrs Pom” or, more formally, as Mrs Pomeroy Colley. When Patricia married Dudley, she became known as ‘Mrs Duds’. The timing of Dudley’s marriage was also fortuitous in that it followed just three weeks after his sister Valerie’s marriage to Pat Hone. Given that Valerie had hitherto managed domestic affairs at Corkagh, her departure for nearby Kilmatead allowed for a smooth transition as Patricia and Toddy took the helm. The big old kitchen was abandoned in favour of the Butler’s Pantry and the Aga was duly moved up. Boosted by the Burns sisters’ links to the hotel industry, there was a stronger focus on taking in paying guests, primarily young men.

Toddy had been a nurse in England during the war, after which she returned to Dublin to work in Baggot Street Hospital. A pillar of the church in Rathcoole, Toddy also managed to be caterer to the Royal College of Surgeons during her time at Corkagh. The obstetrician Alan Browne, a friend of the family and a member of the RCSI, recalled: ‘Everybody loved Doreen. She was the sort of person who was far more than a catering manager. When people – often foreigners – had troubles of one sort or another, they would often have a chat with Doreen. She was the sort of person who came to the rescue by listening to them and calming them down.’ With her earnings, Toddy bought a house on Valentia Island in County Kerry to which the Colley family often ventured during her long summer holidays. One of Christopher Hone’s outstanding memories of this era was of Elizabeth Bowen, who became a good friend of Toddy, standing with a gin and tonic in one hand while she tried to help Toddy to paint a door in the newly acquired Valentia house. Christopher recalls her ‘solemnly asking Toddy and my mother if it was all right that the paint was coming through the key hole.’

Elizabeth Bowen at Bowens Court.

At about this time Elizabeth Bowen visited Corkagh with her close friend, the Belgian poet and novelist May Sarton, who later described her visit:

‘Elizabeth herself had spent a year at [Corkagh] when she was seventeen, going to art school in Dublin; so it had been “home” for a while at a time when she was very much at a loose end. [Corkagh] is set among gently rolling fields; a park dotted with oaks, and it has … none of the stark grandeur of Bowen’s Court. Besides, it has been lived in by large families and was warm, cluttered, a little dilapidated, full of Victorian furniture, children’s tricycles in the hall, and altogether an extremely casual atmosphere. As Elizabeth’s friend I was warmly welcomed by Edith Colley, a charming old lady with very blue eyes, who had her own parlour on the second floor, and lived there in the big house with her son and his wife and children. The son’s passion was racing cars. I never did really “connect” with that generation, I’m afraid.’ [cxli]

May Sarton actually wrote a rather fabulous letter from Corkagh on 4 October 1954, sent to her friend Louise Bogan, which reads as follows:

‘Dear Louise, I really still feel like a ghost, transparency for clouds to wander across, so out of my own orbit that I hardly know who or what I am. It is a pity that we cannot go, you and I, for a walk across the soft green meadows towards the very gentle hills in the distance and disappear into your Ireland. Indeed, indeed I wish you were here to set the edges of everything blazing sharp for me. And then you would love this house – it is Elizabeth’s aunt’s house, older than B[owen)’s Court, really more beautiful under its layers of dirt and crumbling wallpaper, also because of the casual dilapidated air, more homey. I always’ love being in a large family, the partings and meetings at every meal, the escape into this room at the top of the house where I resume work at some very imitation poems. But I have to discover who I am in this way and there is really no other way for me, even if it all gets thrown out tomorrow.

The scene from this window is all I have been dreaming of – the great silvery changing skies, moving across and darkening the long expanse of fields, punctuated by cows and the pools of shade under each enormous tree, and off in the distance the gentle curve of the hills. Every window looks out on something wonderful – down the stairs on the landing one looks down at a formal rose garden enclosed in high stone walls. I rather often go out and walk across the lawn to another garden which is built along the sides of a brook, really a magical place, quite hidden from the house with all the charm of a secret.

We had a wild drive here on Saturday – five hours of fast driving just avoiding the cows, pigs and dear donkeys, as E. is a rather absent- minded driver, through rain and wind-it’s – it’s quite cold and I am glad of a heavy sweater most of the time. And it, was so strange to land like that out of nowhere and walk into the enormous hall, entirely lined with stuffed deer heads and mounted horns – everything unbelievably shabby and run-down with two huge untrained black retrievers leaping and barking and what seems like hundreds of “family” to greet. I like E.’s Aunt Edie very much, humorous, gentle, and wise behind a rather vague exterior. Last evening we sat in her window (an upstairs drawing room, the walls entirely covered with photographs and family portraits, the curtains at the long windows in shreds) watching the children play tennis on the court below and, had a long talk about Elizabeth. I love to see E. in this family atmosphere, where she spent much of her childhood and where she is still “Bitha” and taken for granted, tensed and criticized. And she and I get off now and then alone, yesterday to a very grand lunch at the Russell, all surrounded by the Horse Show grandees and officers in uniform-and then to the Zoo (my idea) but there I did miss you very much and the lions were not up to Bronx standards. But we did see some very furry gibbons happily living on an island, sitting in the willows eating oranges, like a Japanese print.

I have a good poem in mind but have been letting off steam or something with a short recalcitrant one which is no good, only I had to finish it off somehow first. I was rather homesick for a while – it did all seem rather strange. And everything is very helter skelter so one feels a bit lost at first like a newborn babe. This morning one daughter and son went off on an ancient racing car with a boat attached behind; at eleven (when we go down for mid-morning coffee), another daughter and her husband, very elegant for the horse show, said their goodbyes and were off for the day. Now there are only two little boys . left, and the dutiful.unmarried sister who takes care of the gardens; Elizabeth, her aunt, the old Biddy who does all the work, and me. Sometimes I feel the sadness of all this beauty going quietly to pieces – for it is a very beautiful house, but really awfully dirty and délabrée – and there will never be any money to set it to rights again. So I think the aunt must suffer and feel she is holding up a collapsing thing. Her husband was too generous and gave a lot away, and then, times have changed. The Anglo-Irish are no longer “the ascendancy” but only poor relations who are allowed to stay on. Not even the Irish can hate them any longer.·A brash up and coming middle-class is on the way, as one sees by the hideous suburbs. But I can see why Yeats mourned the passing of the aristocrat and the peasant; their values are linked. The sense of life is in them-Darling, how are you?’ [cxli.a]



May Sarton also penned this fine poem in 1955.

The Walled Garden at Clondalkin 

For a long time they merely left it there.
They were too full of pity and distress
To breathe again that choked and choking air.
The rusty gate closed on a wilderness.
The walled garden, an old dying princess
From a lost country, had grown very strange.A snow of petals fell on the rich loam,
Caroline Testout, Star of Holland, Night,
Ladies in waiting in a spacious room,
Those roses dressed in small clouds of light.
All, all destroyed, invaded, overthrown,
The formal beauty gone, formal delight,
And none to reclaim now, to heal, save
Order and beauty buried here alive.

‘Where are the roses gone?’ they whispered, shaken,
On those rare, sad occasions when they stood
Remembering the safe land of childhood
And saw this feverish ruin, overtaken
By squitch and groundsel and the woody nightshade.
‘Where are the goldfish, where the pond?’ And fled,
As children do, this world grown out of range.
‘The times have changed. We cannot help the change.’


By the time of May Sarton’s visit, the walled garden at Corkagh was on a long lease to Bernard Karstel, a Dutch market gardener, who took over the running of it, along with his mother and wife Joanna. On 31 August 1953, for instance, the produce heading to the Dublin market included sixty peaches, three chips of kidney beans, five dozen cauliflower, one chip of tomatoes, one chip of cucumbers and seven chips of apples. However, the garden did not wholly impress May Sarton.

‘We were taken almost at once to visit the walled garden, where peacocks strutted on the high broken wall and screamed their desolate screams. It had all become a ruin and finally the Colleys had rented it out to Dutchman, a market gardener, who showed us around, proud of his leeks and cabbages, opening the door to the greenhouse with a flourish to show off his peaches, just ripening there. But there was something sad about it – the overgrown dried-out pool in the centre that had been a goldfish pool, the breaking up of formal flower beds. The Anglo-Irish and are not having an easy time these days keeping estates going without garden and servants, hanging on by the skin of their teeth. It gave me much to ponder – did their laissez-faire attitude stem from the hard facts that there was so much in need of mending or care and so little help to be had that finally people gave up trying? The racing car represented the new world.’

Dudley and Patricia had two sons Finlay FitzGeorge Colley (born 1948) and Anthony William Pomeroy Colley (1951-2009), known as Tony.

Dudley died suddenly aged 47, after a short illness, on 25th February 1959. [cxlii] His premature demise lead to the sale of the Corkagh Estate, excluding Kilmatead and its immediate environs. [cxliii] Baba moved to the Cottage by Kilmatead House while the remaining Colleys of Corkagh – Patricia, Toddy, Finlay and Anthony – moved into the nearby Mill House, where Finlay Colley, an acclaimed plantsman, now lives with his partner Robbie Dunphy. Patricia passed away in April 2005.

Dudley and Patricia’s younger son Tony Colley, the noted cartoonist, was also a popular figure in motoring circles, contributing articles on motoring and vintage cars to the Sunday Business Post as well as magazines such as Auto Ireland and Irish Car & Travel. Tony passed away in 2009 and is survived by three children Dudley Colley, lead singer with The Dudley Corporation; Jeff Colley, editor of Passive House Plus magazine and Marketplace+; and Amy Adams. (See Appendix 2).


The Colley family may have have kept an eye on the lacemakers of Clondalkin, who helped create Haute Couture outfits for the internationally renowned Irish fashion designer, Sybil Connolly in the 1950s and 1960s. See the 2021 film, ‘Clondalkin’s Tangible Threads – Irish Crochet in the World of Haute Couture. (Thanks to Rosaleen Dwyer)

A reasonable question, asked after the publication of my ‘Corkagh’ book, is what caused the financial struggles in the early-mid 1900s for the Finlay family? Having consulted with some family members, my conclusions are as follows:

Like a lot of landed gentry families, the Finlays were not particularly business oriented or adept at generating wealth. As Laetitia said of Colonel Finlay: ‘Granddaddy had no concept of money and finance.’ Nor did they really have anything to supply an income aside from the land, house and whatever salary the men were paid by the army. The colonel was entitled to four lots of ground rent, but, after his death, nobody was able to ascertain where these lands lay and no money ever arose from them, despite Edie heading out on various excursions to track them down.

When the family decamped to Italy for three years, the farm was probably not worked intensively and so income dropped. Reduced rents may have been a factor, and perhaps the early deaths of the Finlay brothers also played a part in the sense that if they hadn’t died, they might have contributed to the farming/organisation. That said, most of the family debt appears to have been accrued long before this. The after-effects of pre-war land sales may also have impacted. During the Great War, with the Finlays away, the land was managed by stewards, without supervision, who were most likely selected for their local knowledge rather than expertise. Staff likewise tended to be chosen from a local family, or from families working for other family’s, such as Jeffry’s nanny, Maureen, whose brothers worked for the Verschoyles. ‘They were not paid a lot as someone would have to know the going wages,’ says Laetitia. ‘I think they did get things “in kind”.’

The rents charged for Kilmatead tenants were ‘uneconomic’ as they were essentially family ‘connections’ who needed a home, such as the Hamilton girls. Kitty Hayward, who didn’t pay her rent for Rockfield, was another ‘friend’ who was loosely expected to garden in lieu of debt. Other property such as the gate lodges, men’s lodgings in yard and the Kilmatead cottages were all occupied as part of the employment arrangements; one assumes wages were adjusted accordingly.

Neither the Finlays, not the Colleys were spendthrifts. As Laetitia says: ‘Their lifestyle was never “grand”, nor did they mix much with wealthy big house people. Baba seemed to know the history and people in smaller ‘big houses’ whose interests were mainly local. Of course they were not horsey or interested in “style”.’

Edie’s more business-like husband George Colley brought some wealth to Corkagh but that was swallowed up quickly with the dairies, bathrooms, repairs etc. He also paid for the Italian adventure which must have been ratehr costly. Small wonder that he had very little left when he died, before his father-in-law, although he did leave legacies to Edie and their six children. He never owned Corkagh – and he probably would never have done, as it passed directly to Edie.


One close friend of the Colley family at this time was the Great War poet Winnie Verschoyle (née Letts) who was closely associated with the ‘Aunt-hill’ on Shanganagh Terrace during the 1950s and 1960s. The connection came through both Esmé Colley’s mother and Merle Morris’s first husband. Although born in Manchester, England, Winnie spent most of her childhood holidays in Dublin. The Ferriers, her mothers’ family, lived at Knockmaroon Hill by Phoenix Park, and were connected by marriage to the Burns family, of whom Patricia Burns would marry Dudley Colley in 1947. Winifred attended school at Alexandra College from the age of sixteen.

Along with her mother and her sister Mary, she came to live in Dublin permanently in 1904, following the death of father, the Reverend Ernest Letts, taking a house on Glenart Avenue in Blackrock. That same year, a poem she wrote entitled ‘The Wind’s Call’ appeared in the Westminster Gazette in 1904 although she would later state that her first poem was called ‘Blackberry Time’. (The latter appeared in the Spectator in September 1910 as ‘Thim that thravels on their feet’). She wrote a series of novels, poems, children’s books and plays, two of which were staged at the Abbey theatre in 1907 and 1909. Her 1913 book of poetry Songs from Leinster contains a whole section of Wexford poems, including ‘The Harbour’. In 1914 the family moved to Dal Riada on nearby Avoca Avenue.

During the war, she worked as a nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment at the 2nd West General Hospital in Manchester and, back in Dublin, with the Linden Auxiliary Hospital in Blackrock. She later trained as a masseuse (now called physiotherapist) at the Dublin School of Massage and joined the Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps, working as a masseuse in Alnwick Camp, Northumberland and in the Military Orthopaedic Hospital in Blackrock.

Such experiences inspired ‘Hallowe’en and Other Poems of the War’, published in 1916, which probed the dark side of a nurse’s life, the indifference to death and the futility of the war. In one particularly remarkable poem entitled ‘The Deserter’, she expresses empathy for a man who is to be shot because he ‘could not face the German guns / And so he turned and ran away’.

In 1926 she married William Henry Foster Verschoyle (known as Will or Willie), a widower who had lost two sons to the war. They lived between 19 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, and Kilberry, just north of Athy County Kildare. During their social visits to the capital city in the 1930s, the Colley girls often stayed with the Verschoyles on Fitzwilliam Square; Veronica Colley (later Lefroy) occasionally stayed when she missed the last bus home during her days working at the Irish Sweep. Winnie owned a small dog called Roguey that her great-niece Oriana Conner, who lived at Fitzwilliam Square, used to take for walks.

After Will’s death in 1943, Winnie went to live at Faversham in Kent with her two sisters. She returned to Dublin permanently in the mid-1950s and bought Beech Cottage on Ballinclea Road, Killiney, close to the Finlay-Colley stronghold at Shanganagh Terrace. She spent most of the next quarter of a century in Killiney and passed away at the Tivoli Nursing Home, Dún Laoghaire, in 1972. She is buried in Rathcoole, County Dublin. [cxliv]


Less than five months after Dudley’s death, Patricia, his widow, placed the main house and the remaining estate lands up for auction – excluding parcels of land at Kilmatead. The house and 248 acres were duly purchased by John Aloysius T. Galvin, an Irish-Australian mining and shipping entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector.[cxlv] The lands were managed on his behalf by Captain Cyril Harty from County Limerick. John Galvin had a great passion for horses, with two ranches in California, and show jumping in particular. His eldest daughter Patricia Galvin was on the United States team that went to the Rome Olympics and emerged as the top woman dressage rider in the world.

As well as rearing a herd of prize-winning cattle at Corkagh, John Galvin briefly operated a show-jumping stud, Tramore Stud (sometimes spelled Treemare) at Corkagh, which was run by Captain Harty and included one of the first riding schools in Ireland. Captain Harty was a founder member of the Irish army show-jumping team and a member of the first Irish team to win the Aga Khan Cup. His son Eddie Harty rode and trained the horses, including Iris Kellett’s celebrated Harlequin, on which he came ninth when he competed at the Rome Olympics in 1960. Eddie later became one of the leading National Hunt jockeys of his day and won the Grand National on Highland Wedding in 1969. His brother John rode San Michelle in the Tokyo Olympics. Another brother, Cyril ‘Buster’ Harty, trained and rode San Pedro to victory at numerous shows on the west coast of America, while Herbert Harty was in charge of the young horses at the Treemare Stud and travelled with yearlings to the Saratoga sales in the USA. After the Mexico Olympics in 1968, a number of ‘Corkagh’ horses were donated to the Irish Army.

Stables were apparently constructed in the Corkagh farmyard and various barns were used for food and equipment storage and an indoor exercise yard. Part of a barn was converted into extra-large stables, or loose boxes, for Harlequin, San Michelle and San Pedro; these are still almost intact. Also still surviving is the tack room where the saddles and bridles were stored. The horses were exercised on a circuit reaching right round the house and outbuildings and up the hill towards the Naas Road. What is now the Famine Commemorative Arboretum was used as a jumping arena.[cxlvi]

Unfortunately, Corkagh House was demolished in 1960 while some of the mature trees and hedgerows were also felled to create large tracts of arable land. The garden and glasshouses fell into disrepair although some fine barns and outbuildings remain intact to this day. After Elizabeth Bowen visited in May 1962, she wrote to her paramour Charles Ritchie:

‘I had a nice 2 days, Friday to Sunday … with Edie and the Colley relations – living around the by now rather Italianate-looking yard at Kilmatide [sic] …. Corkagh has been completely pulled down, razed to the ground, by the people who bought it: the stables and farm buildings they are using as a horse farm. The (physical) disappearance of Corkagh is a shock: in a way, I had known it almost as long as Bowen’s Court.’[cxlvii]

The lands at Corkagh were farmed until 1983 when Dublin County Council acquired 468 acres. Dublin County Council gradually converted Corkagh into a beautiful public park and recreation area, complete with woodlands, water features and fishing. It was officially opened to the public in 1986.[cxlviii]



‘Journey Through Life Biography of Alexander Gillespie (1890-1948)’, p. 48-53.

Well, I said goodbye to Nellie at the beginning of May and we left for Bella Coola. There were about 12 of us in the party, which was to divide into two parties when we got into the Interior. We were to travel by pack horses on the old Palmer Trail of the Bella Coola valley – the old trail that Sir Alexander Mackenzie travelled when he made the first overland trip across Canada to the Pacific in 1792. The reason this was called the Palmer Trail was that after the Waddington massacre, when a party of Indians fell upon Waddington’s survey party and wiped them nearly all out, Palmer was sent to try and bring some of them to justice.

We were delayed for about two weeks in Bella Coola and I made my first survey, a cannery sight [sic], a few miles down the Inlet and Colley also did some survey work.

Our delay was caused by the fact that the pack horses could not as yet get sufficient feed along the trail and, as the only food they could get was what they could pick up during the night when they were turned loose after the day’s work, they had to rustle pretty hard to get a “belly full” to put it in polite cowboy language, and when the feed is scarce, they wander far before morning, and time is lost rounding them up.

The 24th of May was a great day in Bella Coola in those days, and the Indians from all the nearby villages congregated there for the celebrations, the squaws wearing their brightest colours, and the young bucks and settlers in their best bib and tucker. Sports of various sorts where the chief events, and were very well organized, I remember, by a chap called Southerland, who was at that time one of the moving spirits in Bella Coola, and was the owner of the pack horses that Colley hired for the summer.

One of the sporting events that day was the hundred yard dash, in which the contestants carried the colours of some fair lady. Southerland came to me and said, “I want you to run for the prettiest girl in the Valley.” This sounded interesting, so I said I would, and was taken over and introduced to an extremely pretty little Norwegian girl and I could well believe that Southerland had not exaggerated. I made up my mind to win.

I took off my boots, and with motley strong lined up at the starting point, at the crack of the pistol I was off. The field was rather rough, but to my surprise, I stumbled across the line a winner. The prize was a plated cake stand, which, midst much cheering, I duly presented to the little girl. The win was evidently popular, except to a strapping young Norwegian, who became rather aggressive and insisted he could beat me, if I would race again. However, I laughed it off and told him once was enough.

Immediately after the 24th of May celebrations, we loaded up the packhorses, and started up the valley. There was a good road up to the head of the valley and the scenery was very pretty, with some very nice farms interspersed, with some beautiful stands of timber, some of the trees being magnificent. There is, or rather was, a large Norwegian settlement in Bella Coola Valley at that time, and some of the log houses constructed by then were works of art.

There was quite a gathering to see us start, and all along the trail, whenever we passed a house where there were children, when they heard the tinkle of the pack horses’ bells, they would rush out to see us pass. It was always quite an event in the Valley, the arrival of Colley and the departure of his pack train. He was very popular, one reason being that he always bought all his supplies at Brynjolfson’s big store in the Valley.

As we approached the head of the valley, the road gradually developed into a trail, which soon was zigzagging steeply up the end of the valley. It was a long hard climb for the packhorses, which were all loaded to capacity, as they were carrying not only our food and supplies, but blankets, tents and survey instruments. All the party had to walk and, as we climbed out of the valley, we found that holding onto the horse’s tail was of great assistance.

At the summit, we were probably at an elevation of 4000 feet. The view was magnificent, as snow-capped peaks, wooded ridges and deep valleys were stretched out before us. The big trees had given place to scrubby jack pines – we were now on the Interior Plateau. The trail passed by Anaham Lake, where there was a fairly large Indian village, crossed what is now Tweedsmuir Park and finally came out, after crossing large rivers, two of which we had to swim the horses, at the foot of Ootsa Lake.

Here again we had to swim the horses; after this crossing was to begin in earnest. It had taken us nearly a month to get in, but we had made one or two small surveys on the way. A good deal of time was lost getting the packhorses in the morning, two of the men having this special job, they had always to be up as soon as it was daylight.

It had been very pleasant coming in, tramping along all day behind the old packhorses. The weather was fairly good and there was a wonderful smell of Balm of Gilead and Pines and spring was in the air. No flies had yet put in an appearance.

But no sooner had we crossed Ootsa Lake than they descended on us – the small black fly and mosquitoes were to be a curse to us all summer, as we had no protection, not a veil, or any dope to keep them off. The only thing we had was a piece of bacon rind, which we carried on a string round our necks, and every half hour or so, we would rub it over our faces, hands and arms. It was not a pleasant way to keep them off but it gave us some relief. At night we built smudges (smoke fires) in our tents when we went to bed, and in an atmosphere so thick that one could hardly breathe, and the tent hermetically sealed, we would get to sleep.

This was 1907. Only one settler had taken up land between Ootsa Lake and François Lake, one Tommy Morgan, and he was a [?]uaw man. North of François Lake, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, now the Canadian National, was being graded.

Land stakers were travelling through the country, staking land for speculators, a few promoters were staking land, and some would-be settlers were coming in and staking land to buy. It was to survey in these lands that we had come.

Most of the land stakers had come in by Hazleton and Fort Frazer. The lands had mostly been staked the year before, and notice published in the B.C. Gazette and described in this manner: “I, so and so, apply to purchase the following described lands, commencing at a stake planted on the South side of François Lake, about 5 miles westerly from the East end of the lake, at the mouth of a small creek, thence South 80 chains, thence East 80 chains, thence North 80 chains, more or less, to the South shore of François Lake, thence 80 chains more or less to the point of commencement.’

Our job was to find that stake, or the approximate position, and then take an observation on the North Star and proceed to run the lines, making careful notes of the sort of country the line followed and classifying the land as First or Second Class land. The price the purchaser would pay would be on this classification, either $5.00 per acre if First Class, or $2.50 for Second Class. Where possible, these surveys were tied in to previous work, so that the country could be mapped with a certain degree of accuracy, but the result of these scattered surveys was rather a patchwork quilt pattern.

I did not like this rather pottering survey work in comparison to our Triangulation and Topophotographic work in Alaska.* The grub was very poor, as no luxuries could be carried on the packhorses. Colley had a weakness for marmalade, so that was about our only luxury. Rice, beans, bacon, flour, tea, prunes and marmalade, were what we lived on all summer. The cooking was done on the camp fire and bread made in a frying pan. Even these necessities ran low before we were through and rice, and bacon were about all we had at the end.

I have never been in a country with less game, but the lakes were full of fish. We never caught many, except on one occasion, when we came to a stream almost choked with trout – some sort of migration was taking place from one lake to another. It must be a usual occurrence, as the Indians came to catch them there, judging by the wickerwork traps lying about, some very old.

We put a potato sack propped open with a willow bend around the opening, one of us stood on each side, holding the sack, the others beat the pool with long switches and driving the trout thus into the sack. When we thought enough were in, we lifted it out and dumped them on the bank. We got more than we could eat.

Another time when we got some good fish, was when I was surveying an Indian Reserve. An old Indian man arrived from somewhere, and was rather inclined to be haughty. However, I gave him a plug of tobacco and from then on he was my friend. Every day we were there, early in the morning, he would bring us a huge trout or white fish. These we used to bake in a Dutch oven, or reflector, and very good they were. One day we had a Lynx to eat, and found it quite good – rather like chicken.

What help to put my party on short commons was the fact that, one day it was a wet, miserable sort of day, with the mosquito very bad and we arrived back late in the evening at our camp to find the place almost completely wrecked. The supply tent was down and lying in the middle of the desolation, was an old pack horse on his back, his legs pointing to Heaven and his tummy blown out like a balloon. The bean sack was nearly empty and beans and rice were scattered everywhere. The old brute was bloated, and the only thing was to beat him unmercifully, till he got on his legs. Then we had to chase him round the place, thumping him for nearly an hour. Needless to say, we did not spare him, as our tempers were none too mild, being tired, hungry and wet. However, he recovered.

About the middle of July, the mosquitoes disappeared, but the black flies stayed with us till about sometime in September. The Fall was really beautiful in that country. The ducks began to come down from the North and we saw flights of geese and wild swans. The nights were chilly and the air clear and bracing. We were all as hard as nails, having been tramping ever since Spring.

If we had had good food, the life would have been ideal. If only we could have got some fresh meat even. Why there was no game, I could never understand, as there was feed everywhere – it was a wonderful country for feed – great huge open meadows and scattered clumps of poplar and spruce. It was very pretty and parklike, with old game trails – but the deer and bear had gone.

It was about the end of October before we started for the Coast and civilization. We were travelling light – the packhorses were fat and strong. The trip out was uneventful, till we got down into Bella Coola Valley.

Then we came to Hickman’s Chalet. One of the Hickmans had been with us in charge of the packhorses. He was a wonderful packer, considering he had only one hand, and he also was a good rifle shot, as was proved by two huge Grizzly Bear skulls, which he showed us, in one of which there were two bullet holes between the eyes. Hickman told us the bear was charging him when he shot and it almost got him before it fell at his feet. It was at Hickman’s Chalet that we had our first fresh meat for months, and sat on chairs at our table. We had been looking forward to the event for days.

One day – it was a hot, still, muggy afternoon, very oppressive – as we walked behind the pack train, carrying our coats, we noticed a peculiar roaring sound in the distance, high up on the mountainous side of the valley. After a while, we could see that a terrific wind was blowing and trees were being blown down like ninepins. Presently, we noticed that it was coming down the side of the mountain and getting nearer. We whipped up the packhorses and made them trot. The wind was now getting into the big timber, which was crashing down. By this time, we were running for our lives, the horses on the gallop. We must get into the open, as the din by now was pretty terrible. Colley and I were at the tail end. I happened to look back over my shoulder and saw a huge fir was coming down between us. Colley saw it and I jumped over the bank to the river. I ran for my life and the tree crashed down behind me.

We eventually got into a clearing and held the horses, but the storm was over as quickly as it started and the temperature became very cold, and soon we were in a snowstorm. That night we slept in an old barn and next day arrived at Bella Coola. Here we got the only mail we had had. Colley had not sent down to Bella Coola for supplies, only once over to Fort Fraser.

Needless to say, I had numbers of letters from Nell, and was “flabbergasted” to find that we were to be married in December. I had somehow thought we were to be engaged two years. It was all very exciting, but I would hardly have time to brush up my old top hat and get used to wearing a collar.

It was always very exciting getting back to civilization. One of the things we found hardest was getting used to sleeping in a soft bed, as when one has been sleeping on the ground for six months, a soft bed is not comfortable. In camp, we simply rolled down our blankets on our waterproofs sheet, after removing any particularly sharp rocks. We never cut brush or made any attempts to make a softer bed and sleeping bags had not come into general use as they have today.

In Bella Coola, we had the usual wait for a boat. I was rather touched one day, when one of my men said to me – “You know if it hadn’t been that this was your first survey, we never would have stayed on the job, but we didn’t want to let you down, and we wanted to see you do well.” It was very decent of them, as it had been a hard trip, with poor food, and their pay was only $50 per month with bored, what there was of it.

We arrived in Victoria in due course and Nell was at the boat to meet me. It was nice to see and talk to her again. I think I made a feeble protest about being married so soon, but of no avail – December 11th was to be the fateful day.

I had a good deal of work to do in the way of making maps and preparing plans of my survey, before Colley finally paid me off with a good fat cheque. He told me that this was the first season that he had made some money, as usually he did not make very much out of it. This was very gratifying, as we worked very hard for him.

* Jay Sherwood adds: “In his autobiography, Gillespie states that he did not particularly like the type of surveying that Colley did, describing it as “rather pottering survey work”. This was in comparison to the project work like the Alaska Boundary survey that Gillespie did before spending the summer with Colley. However, I think this work was fine for Colley’s own purposes. He had his own single survey practice which enabled him to go back to Ireland every winter.”

With thanks to Robert Allen, BC Land Surveyor, and Jay Sherwood (

APPENDIX 2: ‘TONY COLLEY – A TRUE GENTLEMAN AND A MOTORING LEGEND’ by Brian Foley (Historic Racing Car Association)

The death has occurred of Anthony William Pomeroy Colley (Clondalkin), aged 58, after a long fight against cancer. He was in his usual great form last Christmas as he chatted about more motorsport and motoring adventures this year, but little did we know then that we would be attending the Thanksgiving Service for The Life of Tony Colley on the day of this year’s Gordon Bennett Rally, June 6th.

Tony was a well-known and popular figure in motoring circles, contributor of articles on motoring and veteran and vintage cars to ‘The Sunday Business Post’ and numerous magazines including ‘Auto Ireland’ and ‘Irish Car & Travel’. He worked in advertising and trained as a graphic artist. His cartoons were published in various newspapers and magazines, including ‘Fleet Management’ and he also produced cartoons and graphic designs for a variety of commercial, sporting and other promotional purposes. Only recently he designed a new logo for the Irish Motoring Writers’ Association, of which he was a member. He once decorated a large commercial aircraft in vinyl for a sporting promotion, working against the clock during the night on the tarmac at Dublin Airport.

He presented a TV motoring programme ‘Ignition’ on City Channel and Country Mix on 106.8 radio, and did numerous voice-overs for radio and TV adverts. He had bit parts in a number of films including ‘Michael Collins’ and the RTE TV programme ‘The Whistle Blower’. He was a natural MC, an entertainer who always got the best out of everyone and enlivened many a function with his special brand of charm and wit.

Tony Colley grew up on the family farm close to Clondalkin, which was once a quiet Co. Dublin village. His father Dudley campaigned a 1934 Frazer Nash in Irish speed events and was the first winner of the prestigious Sexton Trophy in 1948, which was the Irish racing/ hill-climb championship run under the jurisdiction of the RIAC. Dudley’s many racing successes included victory in the 1938 Cork Grand Prix (handicap event) in which he was timed at 95.3 mph at the wheel of the Chain Gang car, thus named for its chain drive transmission. He wrote a most entertaining book “Wheel Patter” covering a bygone cavalier era in Irish sporting and general life. Dudley Colley died in 1959 at the age of 48. In 2003 Tony updated and personally re-published his late father’s book

Tony and his brother Finlay restored the Frazer Nash, with help of Bobbie Newell and David Dunn, whilst Tony motored about in his first car, a 1949 Morris 8 which Finlay had bought from Jim Boland in Clondalkin. Others later involved in voluntary work on the car included Dave Miller and Sam Stretton, with Paddy McClintock providing quips of wisdom and tipples of vino. Tony first raced the Frazer Nash in 1975, at Mondello Park, and later in English as well as Irish events for several years, also competing in long distance road events at home, in France and Italy.

Two years ago, he had a narrow escape without injury at Donington Park when a loose petrol pipe caused a fire which engulfed the speeding car. He loved the old brown Frazer Nash, which he always referred to as ‘The Nash’ and one of the highlights of his year was the Annual Frazer Nash Dinner in the UK. Tony’s racing exploits also included driving David Dunn’s 4.5 litre Bentley in the classic event at Le Mans in France in 2003, and competing with his friend and mentor ‘Daithi’ in a 1936 Lagonda. Daithi and Tony teamed up to compete in the Killarney Historic Rally in a ‘Jagnette’ (the Daithi creation was an MG powered by a Jaguar engine), and won two class awards!

He drove his 1911 Renault in veteran cars events at home and on the Continent. Last year he took the little Renault to France where it ran trouble-free and literally like clockwork. Also last year he fulfilled an ambition by competing as a co-driver on the famous London-Brighton run. His favourite event was the Gordon Bennett Rally, which he always enjoyed in the company of his many friends in the Irish Veteran and Vintage Car Club. Whilst his first love was old cars, Tony thoroughly enjoyed test-driving the latest new cars at home and abroad, and writing about them. He travelled far and wide to Grand Prix races, and especially enjoyed the historic car races at Monaco. When money was scarce he once travelled to Monaco on the back of a motorcycle.

He was quite a colourful character, always game for the craic whilst remaining the quintessential cultured gentleman. He revelled in the James Joyce culture of old Dublin, and was a regular participant in the famous Bloomsday celebrations. He equally enjoyed the folklore of Kerry, where he had a holiday home. He was multi-talented, gifted in mimicry, a born raconteur, a delightful rascal and great company.


Ruins of the Tudor mansion of Carbury Castle on the borders of Kildare and Offaly. Photo: Tim Hone.

[i] The Ó Ciardha sept of the Southern Uí Néill (anglicized as Carey and Keary), Lords of Carbury, are first mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters in 952.

[i.a.] Robert Cowley to Cromwell, 1537, TNA, SP 60/4/32; Montaño, The Roots of English colonialism in Ireland, p.99.

[i.b] ‘The Carmelite Order in Pre-Reformation Irealnd’, Peter O’Dwyer, O.Carm., Gort Muire, Dublin. First Published in Carmelus, Volume XVI, 1969.

[ii] After Dudley’s death, Anne was married secondly to a Mr O’Shea. She died in 1727. Anne’s brother John Warren was attainted.

[ii.a] Was this after the death of George Colley of Rathangan, second son of Dudley Colley of Castle Carbery, and his wife Susanah alias Wynam who has a momnument erected ‘out of the charge and filial affection’ dated 1710 in the graveyard at Castle Carbery?

[iii] Elizabeth Bowen, ‘Bowen’s Court’ (1942), p. 283.

[iv] The Wellesley-Colley family descend from John Colley of Lee, Sussex. His eldest son Philip Wellesley Colley, BA (1847-1926) was educated at Stonyhurst, London University and the Inner Temple. Called to the bar in 1872, Philip later lived on the site of Thoby Priory, Brentwood, Essex, as well as having an address at 80, Gloucester Place, London. He was a J.P. for Essex and Suffolk and married (1871) Lucy Agnes, eldest daughter of the Hon. Henry William Petre of Springfield Lawn, Essex.

[v] Robert Downes, ‘A Sermon Preached at Christ-Church, Dublin, on the 25th Day of March, 1750’, Volume 12 (S. Powell, 1752), p. 35-36.

[vi] Kelly, M. ‘The Last Days of the Colleys on Carbury Hill’. J.K.A.S. XVII: 96-8.

[vii] As well as John Pomeroy, the committee who acquired Leinster House for the RDS comprised of John Claudius Beresford, Jeremiah D’Olier, P. Digges La Touche, John L Foster, Henry Arabin, Nicholas P Leader, and Richard Verschoyle. See: Henry Fitz-Patrick Berry (1847-1932), ‘A History of the Royal Dublin Society. (Longman’s, Green & Co., 1915), p. 104.

[viii] Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 5, 1819, p. 117. I’ve had quite a hunt for GF Pomeroy’s actions in British News Archive but without success. The earliest I can get is his promotion to lieutenant on Albion (alongside Thomas Dilke) on 2 March 1819, which appears in The Navy List (don’t be fooled by the 1816 date given by Google!) and newspapers such as New Times (London), 7 April 1819,p. 4. His Algiers medal is still in Ireland, as of September 2021.

[ix] Dublin Evening Post, Thursday 26 July 1821.

Ruins of the Tudor mansion of Carbury Castle on the borders of Kildare and Offaly. Photo: Tim Hone.

[x] Drogheda Journal, or Meath & Louth Advertiser, 27 July 1825.

[xi] Sir William Francis Butler, ‘The life of Sir George Pomeroy-Colley’.

[xii] Elizabeth Bowen, ‘Bowen’s Court’ (Longman’s, 1942), p. 284.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Sir William Francis Butler, ‘The life of Sir George Pomeroy-Colley’.

[xv] Northern Whig,19 August 1854; Irish Times, 11 September 1861; Dublin Daily Express, 10 September 1862.

[xvi] Anglo-Celt, November 21, 1857. Leopardstown House was later home to the Talbot-Powers.

[xvii] Freeman’s Journal, 13 November 1866.

[xviii] Wexford Constitution, 8 March 1871.

[xix] Belfast News-Letter, 16 May 1879.

[xx] Anglo-Celt, November 21, 1857. The Anglo-Celt noted that she was ‘the eldest daughter of the Hon. George Colley, of in the county of Dublin.’

[xxi] John O’Hart, ‘The Irish & Anglo-Irish Landed Gentry’, 1884.

[xxii] Dublin Daily Express, 15 July 1909.

[xxiii] Dublin Daily Express, 1 October 1910; Notice to Creditors – Dublin Daily Express, 11 November 1910.

[xxiv] Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent, 2 August 1828.

[xxv] Sir William Francis Butler, ‘The life of Sir George Pomeroy-Colley, K. C. S. I., C. B.,C. M. G., 1835-1881; including services in Kaffraria–in China–in Ashanti–in India and in Natal’ (1889).

Ruins of the Colley mauseoleum at Carbury Castle on the borders of Kildare and Offaly. Photo: Tim Hone.

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Ian Beckett, ‘Victorians at War’ (A&C Black, 2006), p. 26-28

[xxviii] Ian Beckett, ‘Victorians at War’ (A&C Black, 2006), p. 26-28

[xxix] Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 7 July 18.

[xxx] Trinity Calendar, October 1850.

[xxxi] Richard Wingfield, ‘Faces from the Past: The Rev William Wingfield (1799-1880)’ via the Wingfield Family Society newsletter.
[xxxii] Limerick Reporter, Tuesday 17 August 1858.

[xxxiii] Elizabeth Bowen, ‘Bowen’s Court’ (Longman’s, 1942), p. 282.

[xxxiv] Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 5 May 1909.

[xxxv] Cheltenham Looker-On, 8 July 1911.

[xxxvi] The engagement notice appeared in the Dublin Daily Express on 30th June 1911.

[xxxvii] Lucan Lodge was described in 1804 as being ‘within five miles of town, near the Spa, and oppofite Colonel Vesey’s beautiful demefne. There are nine acres of excellent land, partly inclosed with a wall and ornamented with shrubbery and plantation, on which there is a convenient Houfe, confiding of eight apartments, befides the under story—coach-houfe, stable and other necessary offices, and a walled garden, stocked with fruit trees.’ (Saunders’s News-Letter, 20 November 1804). In Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary, the property is stated to have belonged to Captain T. P. Poe). Lucan Lodge was put up for lease, with 21 acres, in May 1859, for £100 a year; the house was said to hold ‘nine good Rooms, with Water Closet, beside Basement Storey’, as well as having ‘a walled-in Garden and Greenhouse.’ Applications to Charles William Hamilton of 40, Dominick Street. Mr Lumsden at Lucan House will show the Premises. [Saunders’s News-Letter, 25 May 1859. It was still being advertised in July 1859 so the Colleys presumably moved in after that. The house was also the subject of a curious story in the Ballymena Observer (18 August 1860) in which it was given the nickname ‘Disappointment Hall’.

[xxxviii] Cork Constitution, 15 May 1885. With thanks to Jennifer Byrne.

[xxxix] Saunders’s News-Letter, 12 June 1868.

[xl] Dublin Evening Mail, 22 November 1871.

[xli] Dublin Daily Express, 16 April 1861.

[xlii] ‘Mount Temple, Clontarf’, Bernardine Ruddy. (Read to the Old Dublin Society 13th February 2008). In 1880 John Calvert Stronge sold Mount Temple and ‘all that part of the Hollybrooks called Mount Temple by estimation 22 acres five perches Irish Plantation measure’ to Henry FitzGeorge Colley of Ferney, Stillorgan for the sum of £6,000.

[xliii] Elizabeth Bowen, ‘Bowen’s Court’ (Longman’s, 1942), p. 284.

[xliv] Dublin Historical Record, Vol. LXI, No. 2 (March 1988).

[xlv] Elizabeth Bowen, Bowen’s Court (London, 1942) p 285-287.

[xlvi] Ibid, p. 287.

[xlvii] Ibid, p. 287.

[xlviii] ‘Mount Temple, Clontarf’, Bernardine Ruddy. (Read to the Old Dublin Society, 13 February 2008) . GRO Death certificate 24 November 1886.

[xlix] Belfast News-Letter, 19 August 1882.

[l] Obituary to F. S. Copleston, Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser, 30 October 1935.

[li] ‘Complexity of era defined Irish neutrality in war’ by Diarmaid Ferriter, The Irish Times, 4 Feb 2012, via
[lii] Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 23 November 1912, p. 4.

[liii] Dublin Daily Express, 29 June 1893.

[liv] Cork Constitution, 28 September 1896.

[lv] Edinburgh Evening News, 20 July 1905.

[lvi] The Scotsman, 25 July 1906.

[lvii] ‘The Lady Named Thunder: The Biography of Dr. Ethel Margaret Phillips (1876-1951)’, Clifford H. Phillips (University of Alberta, 2003), p. 175.

[lviii] Constance Colley, ‘The Psychology of the Consumptive’, British Medical Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2585 (pp. 174-175).

[lix] Dublin Daily Express, 20 February 1912.

[lx] Calendars of Wills and Administrations 1912.

[lxi] The ‘Fiennes’ surname had actually died out in the late eighteenth century, by which time the descendants of William Fiennes (1582-1662) had become known as ‘Twisleton’ through the marriage of his eldest surviving granddaughter to a parliamentary colonel. It was the eccentric Rev. Frederick Benjamin Twisleton who, having unexpectedly inherited the title of Baron Saye and Sele, added the Wykeham-Fiennes monikers. Ranulph Fiennes, the explorer, descends from the 11th Baron of Saye & Sele whose grandson – Ranulph’s father – was Lt.-Col. Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 2nd Bt., known as Colonel Lugs because of his ears, who was killed while commanding the Royal Scots Greys, Royal Armoured Corps, during the Second World War.

Trivia boffins may also wonder at a version of the nursery rhyme which runs ‘Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross / To see a Fiennes lady upon a Fine horse’, suggesting it was written for Celia Fiennes, a sister of William Fiennes, 3rd Viscount Saye and Sele (c. 1641-1698) of Broughton Castle, Banbury. Alas, there is no corroborative evidence to support the case.

[lxii] The Vereker’s children were John, Jeffrey, Margaret and Brenda (Mills).

[lxiii] Belfast News-Letter, 18 November 1893.

[lxiv] Dublin Daily Express, 13 February 1895.

[lxv] ‘Selections from the Smuts Papers’, Volume 2, June 1902-May 1910, by W. K. Hancock, Jean van der Poel, p. 371.

[lxvi] Freeman’s Journal, 7 August 1897.

[lxvii] South Africa Magazine, June 7, 1902, “Domestic Announcements”.

[lxviii] Hampshire Advertiser, 10 January 1903.

[lxix] Dublin Daily Express, 22 March 1907.

[lxx] Dublin Daily Express, 28 January 1911. He made his home at Kingswell House in Sadlierswells Townland in the South Riding of the county.

[lxxi] ‘Iceberg Encountered’, Dundee Courier, 20 July 1912, p. 5.

[lxxii] Birmingham Daily Post, 21 September 1914.

[lxxiii] Dublin Daily Express, 14 April 1916.

[lxxiv] Dublin Daily Express, 5 April 1916, Larne Times, 15 April 1916.

[lxxv] PRO MEPO 2/10670. Casement’s Mauser now forms one of the exhibits in the Royal Ulster Constabulary Museum in Belfast. With thanks to Jeremiah Hurley, Edward Cooper, Paul Conroy, Stephen Mather and Paul Horan.

[lxxvi] Dublin Daily Express, 20 December 1916.

[lxxvii] Dublin Daily Express, 13 July 1917.

[lxxviii] The Catholic Press (Sydney), Thu 20 Nov 1919, p. 18.

[lxxix] Northampton Mercury, 16 February 1923.

[lxxx] Weekly Freeman’s Journal, 24 November 1923.

[lxxxi] Phoebe Lefroy also lived for a time in Baldonnel House and moved in the same social circle as the Colley girls; she was a bridesmaid at Veronica’s wedding.

[lxxxii] Belfast News-Letter, 6 May 1897.

[lxxxiii] Letter from C. H. Dickinson, 4 Dec 1899, quoted in Records of the Old Haileyburians who fought in the War in South Africa, ‘The South African War Supplement’, p. 18. Information on ‘James Rogers (1873–1961)’ by Anthony Staunton, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988.

[lxxxiv] British Columbia, Surveyor General; Plan 5T30 “Sketch Map to show position of Trail from Bella Coola to Ootsa Lake with alternative routes.” 1907. E.P. Colley, B.C.L.S. With thanks to Susan M. Hughes (American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Association).

[lxxxv] Daily Colonist, 25 December 1904, p. 16.

[lxxxvi] Daily Colonist, 14 May 1905, p. 16.

[lxxxvii] This line continued in service, latterly under B.C. Telephone Co., until the early l960s.

[lxxxviii] Jay Sherwood, ‘The Ootsa Lake Odyssey – George and Else Seel – a Pioneer Life on the Headwaters of the Nechako Watershed (2017).

[lxxxix] June Wood, ‘Home to the Nechako: The River and the Land’ (Heritage House Publishing Co, 2013), p. 22.

[xc] A copy of Gillepsie’s book is in the Library at the University of British Columbia.

[xci] Historical and Biographical Committee, B.C.L.S. Proceedings, 1940. Arthur Weldon Harvey, PLS (1878–1905).

[xcii] The Daily Colonist (British Columbia), August 6, 1908, p. 7.

[xciii] The Daily Colonist, Newspaper, British Columbia, Canada, December 17, 1909, p. 10.

[xciv] ‘The other bereaved resident is Mrs. Cole Bowen, (Edward’s sister Florence), of Clyne House, North Road (Hythe) whose brother, Mr. (Edward) Colley, was a passenger in the unfortunate liner. Mr. Colley did not live at Hythe but three weeks ago today (Saturday) he was on a visit to his sister at Clyne House.’ (Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate and Cheriton Herald, 27th April 1912).

[xcv] He prepaid £19, 11s, 9d for first class ticket number 17387, and then had to pay a final of £6 for his contract ticket number 5727. Presumably, because of season-changing.

[xcvi] Helen C Candee, Sealed Orders, Colliers Magazine, May 1912.

[xcvii] Ibid.

[xcviii] Ibid.

[xcix] “Mr. V. Schjelderup, in Ranges 3 and 4 Coast District, continued the surveys made in this district during the past few years by the late Mr. E.P. Colley, who lost his life in the Titanic disaster.” Detail courtesy of Jay Sherwood.

[c] Dublin Daily Express, 19 December 1887, p. 5.

[ci] Dudley Colley, ‘Wheel Patter’ (Loft Publications, 2003), reprint, p. 2.

[cii] Belfast Morning News, 21 March 1881.

[ciii] It was thought she trained at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, but they did not take probationer nurses under the age of 23. The hospital checked their records in June 2017 just in case she had slipped through.

[civ] Dublin Daily Express, 27 February 1915, p. 9.

[cv] ‘The first a series of meetings in connection with the distribution of certificates of honour, was held in the Carnegie Library, Clondalkin, on Friday evening. Col. Finlay, D.L., presided. During the evening the certificates of honour were distributed by Col. Finlay, assisted by his daughter, Mrs Colley, who has been untiring in her efforts in the interests of all those in her widely spread districts.’ (Weekly Freeman’s Journal, 1 April 1916, p. 5)

[cvi] xxxxx means something crossed out; (?) means the word was illegible.

[cvii] The Redemptorists renamed Faunagh ‘Marianella’ after the Neapolitan residence of Saint Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori, the order’s founder. The house was demolished in the 1960s to make was for Marianella, a new Redemptorist seminary, which opened in 1969. In 2015, faced with declining numbers, the Redemptorists sold the house and land for a reported €40 million and it has since become a major upmarket residential development.

[cviii] Adolf Angst may have inherited the business from an earlier generation. Bradshaw’s lists a M. Angst operating a hotel in Bordighera as early as 1863 when Adolf would have only been 16.

[cix] Adolf Angst may have inherited the business from an earlier generation. Bradshaw’s lists a M. Angst operating a hotel in Bordighera as early as 1863 when Adolf would have only been 16.

[cx] Dudley Colley, ‘Wheel Patter’ (Loft Publications, 2003), reprint, p. 111.

[cxi] On his retirement from the Select Vestry of St. Johns in April 1929 the committee expressed ‘much regret on his retiring and thanked him for his help and generosity to Clondalkin parish’.

[cxii] Peamount Hospital was founded in 1912 by the Women’s National Health Association as a Tuberculosis (TB) Sanatorium. With the decline in the incidence of TB in later years, more accommodation became available for other services.

[cxiii] Details courtesy of Downe House School magazine, 1925-1927.

[cxiv] Details courtesy of Downe House School magazine, 1937.

[cxv] BARUMITE’S STYLISH WEDDING IRELAND Lefroy-Colley. Mr. Jeffery Ardern (Pat) Lefroy, elder son of Mr. and Mrs. G. F. Lefroy, of Orchard House, Pilton, Barnstaple, was married in Ireland on Wednesday in last week. Mr. G. F. Lefroy is, as is well-known, the principal of Messrs. Seldon and Lefroy (solicitors), of Bridge Chambers, Barnstaple, and is Clerk of the Lynton Urban District Council and the Georgeham Parish Council. He is a prominent Churchman. The Archbishop of Dublin officiated at the ceremony, which was observed in St. John’s Church, Clondalkin. There were many prominent Irish guests, and the wedding was very stylish. The bride was Miss Veronica Pomeroy Colley, second daughter of the late Mr. George Colley and of Mrs. Colley, and a grand-daughter of Colonel Finlay, of Corkagh House, Clondalkin, Co. Dublin. The Archbishop was assisted in the ceremony by Canon G. A. Chamberlain and the Rev. C. B. Price, of Clondalkin. The bride, who was given away by her brother, Mr. Dudley Colley, was charmingly attired in a gown of white satin, with long sleeves of tulle, embroidered in silver to match a silver halter collar. Her tulle veil was draped over a halo of white satin, and she carried a choice bouquet of white roses. She was attended by five bridesmaids, the Misses Noreen, Valerie and Rosemary Colley, her sisters, and Misses Phoebe Colley Lefroy, cousin of the bridegroom, and Margaret Birdwood, cousin of the bride. Their dresses were of ice-blue lisse, and their halos were of blue and silver. [Mr. Timothy Lefroy, the bridegroom’s brother, was best man.] A wonderful touch of colour was added by their bouquets of delphiniums. The reception was held at Corkagh House, Clondalkin, among the guests being Mr and Mrs. G. F. Lefroy, Mrs. Dewar, Mr. and Mrs. B. St. G. Lefroy, Col. H. Lefroy, Mrs. Upton, Col. and Mrs. Birdwood, Mrs. Cameron, Mrs. Collingham, Mr. Webber, Col. and Mrs. Norris. Lord and Lady Holmpatrick, Miss Ainsworth, Lady and Miss Shaw, Gen. Sir George and Lady Franks, Mrs. and Miss Gaisford, Mr. and Mrs. Verschoyle, Mr. and Mrs. Cowper, Sir Haldane. and Lady Porter, Dr., Mrs., and Mr. E. Lennox, Capt. and Mrs. Daly, Mr. Everard, Provost of, Trinity College and Mrs. E. J. Gwynn, Mrs and Miss B. Gregg, Mrs. Synnott. Mrs. and the Misses’ Clarke, the Misses Hamilton, Mr., Mrs., and the Misses Hamilton. Subsequently the bride and bridegroom left for West Ireland, where the honeymoon is being spent, the bride travelling in a frock of dusty pink marocain, a brown marocain coat and a brown hat, trimmed with pink. North Devon Journal – Thursday 18 July 1935, p. 2

[cxvi] The papers are thought to have been taken out of the National Library by Dudley Colley in 1948 and are presently held by Laetitia Lefroy

[cxvii] Pat Lefroy also married again, his second wife being Christine May Smale, daughter of Frederick Charles Smale, MA, of Okehampton, Devon. After Christine’s death, he was married thirdly to Jean Armitage.

[cxviii] Pat Lefroy also married again, his second wife being Christine May Smale, daughter of Frederick Charles Smale, MA, of Okehampton, Devon. After Christine’s death, he was married thirdly to Jean Armitage.

[cxix] Tessa White was at Downe House from 1954 to 1959.

[cxx] The Barnardo’s team comprised of about fifteen members of staff at the time. There was an office, a play bus with two Montessori directresses, a driver and assistant, five social workers based in Dublin and one in Donegal, Sligo, Cork and Mullingar. As it expanded and various administrative and organisational changes within Barnardo’s developed more staff were appointed at all levels and, before I retired, The Republic of Ireland was a Division in its own right, not a subdivision.

My work changed and developed in many different ways during my 14 years. Various projects were formed, connected with many aspects of family life and care. One of my on-going projects was with homeless teenage boys. Started in 1975 & called Hope by a group of young volunteers. They soon found they were out of their depth and I joined them in a supportive capacity. The project developed to get better, though run down accommodation, and, grant aid for a paid manager. We supplied a full time social worker. By the time I retired, this service was ‘mainstream’; the Health Board asked a group headed by an auxiliary bishop to run the service and I was in the management group.

[cxxi] ‘I was also heavily involved in the organisation, Children First, which was set up in 1974 to challenge services and service givers, lobby and educate in the needs of children and parents. We courted publicity, ran conferences, had quarterly newsletter etc. I was vice chairman and chairman 1981-4 when it was closed as, by then, there were many others taking the same role in different aspects and this resulted in the participant’s often having to duplicate their work and ideas. Charles Mollan, with whom I wrote New Families, was a founder member of Children First.

[cxxii] Leland Bardwell was the mother of the Donegal-based composer John McLachlan.

[cxxiii] Dublin Daily Express, 6 October 1916, p. 1.

[cxxiv] Details courtesy of Downe House School magazine, 1933, 1937.

[cxxv] Bowen, Elizabeth, “Sunday Afternoon” (1942). The Bell Index. Paper 463.

[cxxvi] John Betjeman Letters: 1951-1984, edited by Candida Lycett Green (Methuen, 1995), p. 569.

[cxxvii] Ginny and Ted Mustard are the parents of the Rev James Mustard, Canon Precentor of Exeter Cathedral (2017), and his sister and Clare. By his marriage to Christina McMillan, Alistair Crocker is father to Ursula and Roberta. Roderick married Irena Kurowksa and has a daughter Alexandra.

[cxxviii] Northern Whig, 17 April 1939, p. 14.

[cxxix] Charles Ritchie, ‘The Siren Years: A Canadian Diplomat Abroad 1937-1945’ (McClelland & Stewart, 2011).

[cxxx] Dudley Colley, ‘Wheel Patter’ (Loft Publications, 2003), reprint, p. 2.

[cxxxi] Ibid, p. 37.

[cxxxii] ‘Thrills and Spills’ by Councillor Kieran McCarthy

[cxxxiii] Northern Whig, 23 April 1938. The single seater Adler, which came third, was a well-known car but, for a number of years, it languished in the open on a Wicklow hillside until rescued by Christopher Hone with the late Tony Colley’s help. It subsequently changed hands a number of times and has now been fully restored. Barry Manders (Charlie’s son) told Christopher that his father achieved considerable success racing Adlers both here and abroad. On one occasion, having won an important race in Germany, no less a figure than Adolf Hitler apparently came up to him and said “Well done Paddy”.

[cxxxiv] The race was for less powerful cars, running parallel to the Irish Motor Derby, an international 1500 cc race, which was also held in County Cork that year.

[cxxxv] Northern Whig, 17 April 1939, p. 14.

[cxxxvi] Glendenning, Victoria, ‘Love’s Civil War’, (Simon & Schuster, 2008), p. 79.

[cxxxvii] Dudley appears at .39 at Joe Kelly is the man on the right as-you-look-at-it.

[cxxxviii] Letts, W.M., ‘Knockmaroon’ (London: John Murray, 1933) 3. In her book of memoir essays, Winifred Letts states that the house had been bought by her great-grandfather for “his wife, his son and his innumerable daughters”. That son, Alexander James Ferrier, subsequently married Euphemia Laurie. See Knockmaroon House, College Road, Fingal.

[cxxxix] Letter from Winifred Verscholye (Letts) to Alex Findlater’s aunt Doris, dated Jan 25. Beech Cottage, Killiney.

[cxl] Ken Besson married Delphine Peard and they bought a large house ‘Castlesize’ in Sallins, County Kildare. They had one daughter, Caroline. See ‘Kenneth George Besson’ by Mairtin Mac Con Iomaire, School of Hospitality Management and Tourism, Dublin Institute of Technology (2009).

[cxli] May Sarton, ‘A World of Light: Portraits and Celebrations’ (Open Road Media, 2014).

[cxli.a] Susan Swartzlander, ‘That Great Sanity: Critical Essays on May Sarton’ (University of Michigan Press, 2002), pps. 33-35.

[cxlii] On 15 May 1956, Elizabeth Bowen wrote to Charles Ritchie from Bowen’s Court, as quoted by Victoria Glendenning in ‘Love’s Civil War’, (Simon & Schuster, 2008), p. 234: ‘‘A fascinating thing about my Corkagh Colley relations – not only Edie but her daughters and daughter in law – their houses are pigsties (full of charm but pigsties) but their gardens immaculately kept. The entire Corkagh garden (surrounding the house) shows endless loving care: it has not a weed in it. Whereas, the rooms … except that vases of flowers are always fresh and beautifully done, rearing their heads above the slatternly ruin. Not that I am not, as you know, loving and always devoted to Corkagh.’ Elizabeth’s suggestion that Corkagh’s interior was unkempt was somewhat uncalled for. The house may have been rather dusty in places, and the sheen of its fabrics had inevitably faded, but those who remember Corkagh consider her description a little harsh. It would certainly not have impressed either her cousin Valerie or Patricia who looked after such domestic matters.

[cxliii] Dudley’s executors were his son Finlay and his brother-in-law Gilbert Butler. In view of Finlay’s age, he was represented by William Fry, solicitor, while his cousin John Trench Croasdaile of Portrush, Co. Antrim, offered advice.

[cxliv] Bairbre O’Hogan, who has done some research on Winnifred Letts, is the niece of Jeffry Lefroy’s former nanny, Maureen Daly (née Lynch), who was in turn recommended to the then Veronica Lefroy by Winnie herself. As Laetitia Lefroy recalls: ‘We grew up with Winnie Letts poems, with drawings on our bedroom walls in Yorkshire. ‘The dandelion lights its spark’, ‘To a May Baby’ (Jeffry was a May baby; the poem is dedicated to Peter John Dobbs) ‘Tim, an Irish Terrier’ etc.’ The illustrations were by Kathleen Verschoyle, Winnie’s stepdaughter. It is notable that her Kent home at The Old Vicarage, Ospringe, Faversham, was near the old Grueber gunpowder mills. Thanks also to Winifred’s great-niece Oriana Conner (Manch House, Ballineen, Co. Cork) for granting permission to include two Winifred Letts poems here. The Daniel Conner Library of Manch House is availble via Inanna Rare Books in County Cork here.

[cxlv] Although he is often described as ‘Sir John Galvin’, his title was, in fact, Tan Sri, the second-most senior federal title in Malaysia, which was awarded to him by the new independent state of Malaysia in circa 1963.

[cxlvi] Details kindly provided by David Cotter.

[cxlvii] Glendenning, Victoria, ‘Love’s Civil War’, (Simon & Schuster, 2008), p. 386. Letter dated 7 May 1962. Elizabeth refers to Kilmatead as the ‘former dower house of Corkagh’ but Laetitia Lefroy states that people were always corrected when they referred to it as the dower house. It was, advises Laetitia, Little Corkagh.

[cxlviii] During the 1990s, John Jackson, a professional geologist, led a campaign to have the National Museum of Ireland’s Folklife and Geology Collections transferred to Corkagh Demesne. Initially in storage at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the two collections were then being kept at St Conleth’s Reformatory School in Daingean, County Offaly. In due course, the Irish government invited presentations from a range of bodies, such as Shannon Heritage and Mayo County Council, to form a partnership to house the Folklife Collections. Ultimately Mayo won and, in 2001, the Folklife division moved to its present home in the Museum of Country Life at Turlough Park House outside Castlebar. Beggars Bush Barracks now houses the stored geology and the wider Natural History collections.


For assistance on my book ‘CORKAGH – The Life & Times of a South Dublin Demesne 1650-1960’, I offer my immense thanks to Laetitia Lefroy, a daughter of the House of Colley, for her enormous assistance on this project. And also to Dave Power, for his consistent advice and his deft identification of typos and punctuation errors, and to David Cotter for his guidance along the way. I also offer manifold thanks to the following for assistance both great and small, yet vital in equal measure.

  • Robert Allen (Canada Lands Surveyor, Sechelt, BC)
  • Kevin Akers
  • Shirley Arabin
  • Richard Bomford
  • June Bow
  • Dr Alan Browne
  • Ally Bunbury
  • Dr David Butler
  • Jennifer Byrne (Representative Church Body Library)
  • Jane Caiger-Smith (Archivist, Downe House)
  • Emma Coburn (Surrey Archaeological Society)
  • Petra Coffey
  • Dudley Colley
  • Finlay Colley
  • Oriana Conner
  • Amy Colley
  • Annie Coulson
  • Alan & Glenys Crocker
  • Alistair Crocker
  • Roddy Crocker
  • Karen Dalton (Poff)
  • Gillian Dean (Alexandra College Library, Dublin)
  • Chris O’Donoghue
  • Nolene Dowdall
  • Rosaleen Dwyer (Heritage Officer, South Dublin County Council)
  • Harry Everard
  • Alberic Fiennes
  • Alex Findlater
  • Roger Finlay
  • Sean Galvin
  • Kieran Groeger
  • James J Hackett.
  • David Hasslacher
  • Rebecca Hayes
  • Graham Hickey (Dublin Civic Trust)
  • Christopher and Mary Hone
  • Paul Horan
  • Charles Horton
  • Dominic Lee
  • Danielle Joyce (Archive Assistant, Cheltenham College)
  • Don Lowe (DesBrisay family researcher)
  • Kieran McCarthy
  • Major Robin W B Maclean TD (Curator, The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum, Edinburgh)
  • Ralph McGarry
  • Anna Melia
  • James and Finola Morris
  • Mary Mulhall
  • Brida Mulligan
  • Jane Munro (Keeper, Paintings, Drawings & Prints, The Fitzwilliam Museum)
  • Ginny Mustard
  • James Mustard
  • Isabella Rose Nolan
  • Maria O’Brien
  • Christopher O’Donoghue
  • Bairbre O’Hogan
  • Elizabeth Randall
  • Jessica Rathdonnell
  • Charles Richards (Mendicity Institution)
  • Jay Sherwood
  • Glen Thomas
  • Sarah Vernon
  • Aidan Walsh
  • Kieran White
  • Caroline Whitlock (Stowe School)
  • Nicola Wiehahn
  • Philip and Susie Wingfield