Between Lord Hawarden & Dundrum House Hotel

Clonoulty-Rossmore Vintage Club booklet for 12th Vintage Rally at Clonoulty, August 19, 2012, pp 35-37


Most readers will have heard of Maude of Dundrum and how he was one of the jury responsible for finding Fr. Nicholas Sheedy P.P., Shanrahan guilty of high treason in 1766, following which the priest was hanged in Clonmel. Maude is reputed to have died from a terrible itch.

When the Dublin-Cork railway was being built in the middle of the 19th century the contemporary Lord Hawarden gave the company 22 miles of free passage through his lands as a result of which the railway line went to Cork via Dundrum and Limerick Junction rather than through Cashel and Mitchelstown. The pay-off for the landlord of Dundrum was a private waiting-room at Dundrum Station and a warning bell in Dundrum House when the train left Gouldscross travelling south or Limerick Junction when travelling north.

By the middle of the 19th century Lord Hawarden, the Earl of Montalt, had an estate of over 15,000 acres. Most of it had been owned by the O'Dwyers of Kilnamanagh until 1651 when it was confiscated by the Cromwellians. Towards the end of the 1870s the so-called Land Wars began when for the first time the authority of landlords to control the land was questioned. At this stage about eight-hundred familes in Ireland owned 50% of the land.

Land League

Through the efforts of the Land League, which was formed by Michael Davitt in 1879, and introduced a very effective 'boycott' campaign, and the co-operation with the Home Rule Party under Charles Stuart Parnell the Land Act of 1881 was passed. This gave rights to the tenants for the first time and even though it didn't achieve the main aim of the Land League, which was a change to tenant ownership of the land rather than land reform, it did pave the way to that very end in the Wyndham Land Act of 1903. This facilitated the transfer of land to the tenants through purchase funded by low-interest, long-term Government loans.

These developments plus the fact that Lord Hawarden's eldest son and heir to the estate, was killed in India made him feel less secure in Dundrum and more inclined to see the attractions of a sell-out to the Land Commission, who were willing to purchase estates and divide them up among the tenants under a rental-purchase agreement.

The result was that the Land Commission took over the Dundrum Estate in a deal that was completed between 1905 and 1908. The land was divided into farms of 30 acres, each containing 20 acres of good land and 10 acres of lesser land. Villagers in Dundrum got 3 acres statute measure.

When all this was done the Land Commission found itself with a big house, Dundrum House, with 108 acres and a lesser house, the Rectory, which had been the agent's house

Presentation Sisters

At this time the Presentation Sisters at Thurles were looking for more accommodation for their orphanage. This institution had started by a chance development. In 1868 on a fair day at Thurles a small girl had wandered into the Presentation Sisters and her name was Betty Barry. She didn't have much information obout herself and nobody came to claim her. So, following consultation with Archbishop Leahy, the nuns gave her a home and this was the start of a small orphanage because in the course of time the sisters got requests from families to take in more girls and in due course they had a small orphanage. 

Later the sisters fitted out a building as a proper industrial school and the following year had it certified by the Department of Education to accommodate forty-five children. In 1876 a new building was erected to accommodate sixty children and they were to remain there until 1908.
By the time Dundrum House came on the market, the Presentation Sisters had come to the conclusion that their industrial school did not have the necessary facilities for dairy and poultry keeping. Dean Innocent Ryan od Cashel is reputed to have drawn the sisters' attention to the possibilities of Dundrum House as alternative accommodation for their school and the sisters decided to purchase it.

To do so they had to go deeply in debt. The price put on the place by the Land Commission was £4,000. The sisters paid down £1,500 and the remainder of the purchase price was to be met by an annuity such as the other tenants of the divided Estate agreed upon. A determined attempt was made in 1917 to cancel the debt incurred by the purchase. In September of that year 'a grand bazaar and Fancy Fete' was held in the convent grounds in Thurles over a week. It was a great success and realised the fine sum of £1,800.

The sisters arrive in Dundrum on July 8, 1908 and were given a hearty welcome by the locals. Fr. Matt Ryan called to welcome them and the following day Mass was celebrated for the first time in the place. On July 23 the children arrived, having travelled by train from Thurles to Dundrum. They marched in procession from the station, carrying banners, to Dundrum House, where the Te Deum was recited. At the express desire of Archbishop Fennelly, a College of Domestic Economy was also established at Dundrum and it was opened on October 1 of the same year..

The Orphanage

While the sisters ran the orphanage, the Department of Education laid down the rules and regulations. It appears that the greatest number of children there at any time was eighty-five. The sisters got a subvention from the Department for the children, which had to pay for food, clothing and other expenses. It wasn't very generous, no more than anything else in the State during the thirties, forties and fifties. At one stage the capita grant was 5/- (25c) per week. So, it wasn't a very profitable operation.

Austin Crowe recalls the time the orphans were in Dundrum. He believes they were aged from about two up to sixteen years and were all girls. They took walks in procession on Sundays and wore uniforms. They held an annual picnic and used to borrow a pony and cart from the Crowes to transport containers of sandwiches to the picnic place. They also had a playground, which was spacious and well-equipped. In general, Austin believes the children were well-looked after. On Presentation Day, November 21, the children used produce a play and present a concert of music and song. The children were usually well coached. The nuns used encourage art and help the children develop their social skills.

I have some memories of my own from the time of the orphanage. I joined the Cashel Lions Club in 1968 and one of the earliest projects I got involved in was our Christmas visit to the orphans in Dundrum. We used show them a film and have a party of goodies and drinks afterwards. My memories are a bit hazy but it was always in the dark of December and I seem to recall that the lights in the building were rather poor. Hopefully we brought some joy to the orphans.

The sisters taught the children a program laid down for industrial schools. We learn that in 1908 the INTO were worried lest the nuns open a primary school at Dundrum and they sent a deputation for Archbishop Fennelly in September, who gave them a promise that there would be no primary school there. Austin Crowe recalls that his mother used to supervise examinations in the school.

The industrial school continued in this way until the 1970 Kennedy Report had a look at the system and recommended that the children be integrated into the wider society. The result was that they started attending the local primary school in Knockavilla and they continued attending until 1974, when a decision was taken to bring an end to the kind of institutional care offered in Dundrum and move the children into smaller living units in Fethard, where they were facilitated by the Presentation Sisters there.

For some years after arriving at Dundrum the parish clergy of Knockavilla acted as chaplains to Dundrum Convent. Rev. James Comerford appears to have been the first chaplain to be officially appointed and he received his appointment in 1914 and was there until 1918, when he died and is buried at Mullinahone. He received £30 per annum plus his breakfast and dinner in the convent.

College of Domestic Ecomomy

The Presentation also opened a College of Domestic Economy soon after moving into Dundrum House. It occupied the buildings around the archway to the right of Dundrum House, with the date 1908 on it.

It was run the Department of Agriculture and it taught girls how to run their own homes through teaching farmyard skills such as poultry minding, laundry, butter-making, dressmaking, cooking, etc It catered for girls, who had completed their primary education and they resided in the place. Their accommodation was in converted stables and they numbered about twenty-five to thirty.
At one stage Muintir na Tire used to sponsor Domestic Science courses during the summer holidays at Dundrum House.

Looking at Dundrum House from this distance it might appear that the Presentation Sisters were in a good financial position with income coming from two Government departments and the produce from 108 acres of land. But impressions can be false.

The initial price purchased an empty building and the two separate accommodations had to be fitted out. The conversion of the stables for the College of Domestic Economy also cost money. There were ongoing costs in the maintenance of the buildings.

The Government's subsidies for both schools were hardly sufficient to meet the running costs of the school and the costs of food, and clothing for the orphans.

The farm of 108 acres might appear a valuable asset but it was overstaffed with workers, many of whom were inefficient retainers rather than efficient contributors to the running of the place. It too was probably running at a loss.

The College of Domestic Economy closed about 1969 because it was running at a loss and it was too difficult to keep going. Austin Crowe gives another reason, which may have been contributory. According to him the number of girls attending had declined, with a resulting loss of income. He adds that his belief is that the school was no longer sophisticated enough for the demands of the day.

With the farm also losing money there were several meetings during the early seventies on the future of the place. The closedown of the Domestic Economy school and the changing public attitudes towards the kind of institution run by the Presentation Sisters expedited decision making.

A decision was made to sell and the purchaser was a Dutchman, named Mr. Kalmthcut. The sisters handed over the key to the place on July 1, 1975, having moved the forty orphans still in residence to Fethard for a new kind of living, which was facilitated by the Presentation Sisters in that town. The Presentation Sisters had been at Dundrum for 67 years.

Austin Crowe purchased Dundrum House in November 1978 and opened up Dundrum House Hotel in 1981.


A farm manager, Mr Dexter, came to Dundrum in 1750 from England to work for Lord Hawarden. He produced a curious breed of cattle by selection from the best of the hardy mountain cattle in the area to produce the Dexter breed. The smallest native breed of cattle in the British Isles and Ireland,

Dexter are a hardy, dual-purpose cattle, producing excellent beef and milk, an ideal suckler cow for conservation grazing.

After selling Dundrum estate, Lord Hawarden, who was an old man at the time, lived for a while in the estate agent's house, later the Rectory. Before moving he sold off the furniture in Dundrum House and later moved to a house in Kensington. Some of his descendants were MPs. Another descendant, Fr, Maude, is reputed to have become a priest and became a member of Brompton Oratory.lic.