Castleisland District Heritage has kindly been granted access to Coolclogher House Visitor Book 1950-1961. Coolclogher House, otherwise known as South Hill, Killarney, Co Kerry, is an eighteenth century residence built on the former Herbert Estate, and designed in the manner of Muckross House. Its construction, according to former owner, Mr Hilliard, was in stages:
The house was built at three periods. The back in the 18th century, the middle is Georgian, I was told by an architect, perhaps about 1800. The front portion which this man said was Italian style, about the year 1840. This portion was built, Miss Herbert told me, planned on Muckross House, and of this I have no doubt. In the old portion of the house, the bricks, Sugrue the mason told me, were made in the Killarney brick works which father told me was near where the Cathedral is now built. I was told that Italians made the two white marble chimneypieces and one red marble ditto. There were fine coach houses, stables, and cow sheds. Two walled gardens beside each other, about one acre in all.
Names that come down from the early nineteenth century include Joseph Lindsay Wetherell Esq and John Leahy Esq. The Leahy family, who operated the nearby mill – the deed for which, incidentally, dated back to the 1600s – was associated with the house for more than a century.
The Leahy family rose in the world. The first was clerk in the Muckross Estate office and when the agent died he got the job, so Tom Greany told us. From that they rose in the world and attained promotion in the army.
The Hilliard family purchased South Hill in 1925 and changed its name to Coolclogher. In 1930, John Hilliard Esq of Coolclogher House auctioned ‘his select and famous herd of prize-winning Kerry cows, heifers and bulls’ at his Coolyduff Farm, Inniscarra. John Hilliard died in 1931 and the house was inherited by his son, Richard Marmaduke Hilliard:
My business was not farming, so I suffered in the farming. Circumstanced as I was I had to hold the house for some time at least. It was an experience to live in such a house for I was interested in that class called gentry, why they went broke, why they left the country. The Leahys left letters, title deeds, income tax papers, which taught me a lot, from which I made notes of some things but got rid of the lot by burning or giving the legal papers to Downing. It was getting more and more difficult to get domestic help. In the finish before I sold the house and lands in 1944, we had no help indoors.
Mr Hilliard recalled high ceilings and a house difficult to heat in cold weather. He also remarked on renovations:
Yesterday my grandson brought in a stone hammer of the type found at the copper mines in Ross Island. In 1929 two such hammers were found in a souterraine when levelling a tennis court at Coolclogher.
In 1944, Richard Marmaduke Hilliard Esq sold Coolclogher House to Mr Palmer, but by 1949, the property was up for sale again.
It was purchased by Mr and Mrs Jack Smith, formerly of Woodlawn, Killarney, with the intention of running it as a farm. However, they subsequently entered the hospitality industry and opened their doors to visitors from all over the world. During their residence at Coolclogher, Mrs Smith kept a Visitor Book, which offers a fascinating glimpse of society during this period.
The first entry in the book was made in May 1950 and the last in April 1961. A note in the front of the book made by Stella Casey de Ferrizhaue of Buenos Aires in ‘Agosto 1954’ reads: ‘Si empere recordarenios el delicioso home de Mrs Smith en la bellisimia Killarney.’
A cursory look through the book shows visitors from all parts of the world, from countries close to home (including Ireland) – England, Scotland, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland/Netherlands, Denmark – to further afield, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and, less frequently, Kuwait, Singapore, India, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Nigeria, Kenya, Hong Kong, South Africa, Ceylon, Malaya, Argentina and Jamaica.
The Visitor Book contained no space for feedback but it did not deter people from giving it. The first remark came in May 1950 from Reg Ninton, Hof Co BC, ‘The first visitors but not the last visit.’ Mrs I C Magrath from Streamstown, Westmeath found the accommodation ‘Excellent in every way,’ as did W C Magrath OBE of the same address, ‘most comfortable and up to date.’
Mr and Mrs Bytheway revealed they had ‘booked for one night and stayed five days,’ and Mr and Mrs Tarrant of Baggot Street, Dublin, found nothing but perfection: ‘Perfect place, perfect house, perfect food, in fact, first class perfect.’
Indeed, the feedback was unanimously positive, not one single murmur of dissent appears in the pages of the book. In the days before Tripadvisor, business repute was hard earned and spread by word of mouth: ‘This is not the last time my name will be in this book,’ wrote Mr Hyland, and Patrick M Cullen of Portadown described his condition on arrival and departure: ‘Arriving here, mens insana in corpora inseine – leaving, ‘mens sana in corpora senus.’
Mrs Kathryn Flaherty of Nebraska maintained that Coolclogher was ‘the nicest place on earth’ and Mr and Mrs Gilbertson of Liverpool did not want their visit to end, ‘it breaks our hearts to leave.’ Eleanor Manser, Alberta, Canada, reported that ‘No stone was unturned to make you comfortable.’
Loretta Fitzpatrick of America prayed that ‘God continue to bless this lovely place of quiet, peace and good companionship’ while D Haslam of Belfast added a touch of humour: ‘Like General McArthur, We shall return.’ Mrs Listyland of Birkenhead put it simply, ‘Unrivalled.’
The book illustrates many visiting religious from far and near, Rev Francis L King of Philadelphia among them who also expressed his compliments in Latin. A few names here will illustrate: Francis J Walsh Litt.D, from Immaculata College, PA; Sr M Teresita OP from Mt St Masy’s Newburgh US; Rev Fr R Ryan from Seattle; Rev Wm W Sheldon, Phila PA; Rev Joy, SJ, Mungret, Limerick; Rev Michael Acton, Lake View, Milltown, Galway; Rev Edw J Davis, OL of Victories, Boston; Rev J O’Brien, St Melo College; Rev L Farrow, Fishponds, Bristol.
Rev Fr Frederick OFM Cap, Irishman, was on Catholic Missions in N. Rhodesia and Rev George Murphy, Holy Trinity Church NY, wrote, ‘Only the blessed Mother and blessed Martin could have directed us to such a delightful place.’
The book shows many returning guests including the McFarlands from Blackstone Hotel, Chicago, and many from various professions, such as Dr and Mrs T C V Nolan, Mount Prospect, Dublin, Elaine Bamforth, Moira House School, Eastbourne; Ha Hynes and Tony O’Malley, journalists from the Sunday Independent Dublin; Mr and Mrs Blundell of the Midland Bank UK, and Helen A Lindell, Texas Technological College. Fellow hoteliers also feature in the book including the Hartnett family of Hotel Dubois, PA.
A sign of the times is the number of those with military titles, including General and Mrs Hanford Macnider, Mason City, Iowa; Col and Mrs Paul Hayes, Heidelburg; Col and Mrs B Wilson, Paris; Col W D Hall, Camberley; Col Frank Collins and sons HQ3AF (USA) London; Lt Col Adams, Hazel Hill and Major M Ryan, Santa Maria, Nenagh.
The titled and honoured also appear. Sir Edward and Lady McTiernan and Miss Mary McTiernan, Warrawu, Sydney were visitors in 1953, and the Hon Fred H Uhl, Greatneck, NY stayed in 1956, whose party included Mike Dunne Uhl and John T Flynn, Bronx, one of whom seems to have been a Justice of the Supreme Court. Bae R Liebert MBE was a visitor from Australia.
Taking time out to enjoy the local attractions included fishing and golfing. One comical entry by a family from Hoylake was ‘Mr Trout (6lb) caught by Ken Smith netted by Bill Dunning.’ Members of the Leasowe Golf Club, UK, also appear in the book.
Some names or addresses invite curiosity, like G T Cadbury, Bournville, Birmingham, Mr and Mrs Cronin, The Palace, 18 Gardiner Place, Dublin, Osborne of Craddoxtown House, Naas and R A Hoey of Juliastown House, Drogheda. The name Monique de Jallerange has a wonderful ring!
Few locals appear in the book but Denville Fleming of Clounalour, Oakpark, Tralee left his name on record. Neighbouring county Cork features, including the Bowen-O’Regans of Tivoli and the Levingston family of Crosshaven, who were frequent visitors.
It is clear from some of the entries that Coolclogher was the meeting point for families from different parts of the globe, for occasions that can only be imagined. There were many compliments about the food served at Coolclogher, one person from Hoylake wrote, ‘Gained a stone!’
The last entry came from the Gill family of Liverpool. D Gill wrote, ‘British by birth, Irish by blood, departure date 3 April 1961.’
It is clear from such wonderful feedback that behind the scenes, Jack and Ellen Smith and their team put in enormous effort to maintain such a standard. This is borne out by Máire Smith, daughter of the proprietors, who as a young girl in the 1950s, played an active role in the running of the hotel. She served meals, cleaned bedrooms, and helped with the laundry and general running of the establishment. She has fond memories of some of the guests, like a lady from India, whose colourful dress had attracted the young Máire, and who allowed her to select the sari to be worn each day.
Máire describes her mother’s approach to the hospitality industry:
Most of the guests came through Cooks Travel Agents or American Express Travel Agents. When the Booking Voucher arrived a few days before the guests, it would sometimes state ‘VIP.’ This would always annoy mam, who would remark, ‘Everyone who comes through the door is a VIP.’
Máire recalls one particular guest who did not appear in the Visitor Book:
His Excellency Gerald Patrick O’Hara, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland (1951-1954) arrived in his chauffeur driven car. It was all very hush-hush, not even the priests at the Cathedral knew. If he had gone to the Great Southern Hotel ‘the world and his wife would have known.’ I have a photograph of all of us with His Excellency taken on the morning of his departure.
Máire remembers an orchard at the back of the house richly loaded with fruits and berries of all kinds, an apple house where the fruit was laid out with artistic care, a coach-house with ornamented walls for saddles and bridles and the metallic name plates of the horses, a piggery with quaint cauldron. The family produced their own milk and made their own butter. Máire drew water twice-daily from the well and recalled how the white coating on the surrounding trees from the lime mill gave the area a ghost-like look.
On this subject, Máire recollects the ghost of Coolclogher House, heard many a time on the back staircase. On one occasion, after a visit from the ghost of the house, her mother waited outside the house until her father came home. After one scare too many, the family held a special Mass to aid the restless spirit.
‘Jack Smith’s Flu’
Tom and Eileen O’Sullivan of Mill Road, Coolclogher, worked for the Smith family in the house and on the land. Theirs was the first wedding Máire had ever attended, and after the celebrations, her father a little tipsy, Máire was given the task to drive her parents home. The next day, everyone was told that Jack Smith had the flu. A hangover subsequently became known in the family as ‘Jack Smith’s flu.’ Máire’s late sister, accomplished musician Áine Nic Ghabhann of Caragh Lake, had her first introduction to a musical instrument – the accordion – in the cottage of Mrs O’Sullivan, mother of Tom O’Sullivan, the bridegroom.
Another of Máire’s fascinating recollections is the Elizabeth Baring album of watercolours. Beatrice Elizabeth Grosvenor inherited the Kenmare estate after the death of Sir Gerald Browne, the seventh (and last) Earl of Kenmare, and sold the house out of the family in 1957. During a clean-up of Killarney House, she gifted the Elizabeth Baring album to her housekeeper, who later gave it to Mrs Smith, in appreciation of the gift of a second-hand cooker.
Máire had her own association with Killarney House. The property was purchased by building contractor John McShain of Philadelphia. In the 1960s, Máire and her sister Áine were often invited to entertain Mr and Mrs McShain and guests with music recitals and singing:
When Áine first started entertaining the guests at Killarney House, playing the Irish harp and singing, she was joined by Noel Kingston of Kingstons Pub, Killorglin. He had a very fine Tenor voice. After a time, Noel decided to emigrate to the US and so I was recruited to join Áine. We were required to come in long evening dresses. The guests were all in evening wear, the ladies in beautiful gowns and the gentlemen in dinner suits and patent leather shoes. All very genteel. There was always a Guest of Honour … I can’t remember them all but I recall two gentlemen, Seán Lemass (Taoiseach 1959-1966) and his wife, and Sean T O’Kelly (President of Ireland 1945-1959) and his wife.
Máire’s father Jack, and her grandfather George, worked at St Finan’s Hospital, Killarney (then known as the Killarney Lunatic Asylum and Killarney Mental Hospital). One of her father’s roles was to transport the remains of misfortunates by cart to a (then) unmarked graveyard at Aghadoe for burial.
The Smith family sold up in 1962 and moved to Caragh Lake.
The property and lands attracted a German buyer, Maris (Ireland) Ltd, who planned to invest £40,000 in a textile factory there but the project was subsequently abandoned.  Next in residence were William and Maura Lane-Joynt, who spent about thirty years in the house. In 1993, Coolclogher House on 53 acres was up for sale with a guide price £300,000. It was sold for £420,000 in June 1993 to Noonans Solicitors, Limerick, in trust, for ‘its new owner from Abbeyfeale.’
Over the last number of years, owners Maurice and Mary Harnett have lovingly restored the property. Coolclogher House Manor is open to the public as luxury holiday rental accommodation – see coolclogherhouse.com.
 Information given by Richard M Hilliard, Boulard, Muckross, Killarney in 1974 (Muckross Research Library Ref 60.278).  Further reference, Coolclogher An Industrial Townland Includes Sketches of the Leahys of South Hill and the Herberts of Cahernane (2009) The Herberts of Currans and Cahernane Includes Sketch of the Leahys of South Hill (2011).  Muckross Research Library Ref 60.278.  Muckross Research Library Ref 60.278. Mr Hilliard continued: ‘Outdoor labour was getting more expensive too, and the cost would make it still more expensive for the country gentleman. Luckily for father good old furniture was cheap when he bought the house in 1925 as the departing gentry were selling off their effects before leaving the country.’ Mr Hilliard also remarked on staff and planting at Coolclogher: ‘Hegarty, the grandfather of Pat Doody, head gardener, planted many of the trees at Coolclogher. Hegarty died aged about 96 about the year 1936. There were three Austrian Pines there, very large. His grandfather put seven horse loads of manure under each of them. The gentry did such things. The Leahys left a dozen or so heavy silver plated dish covers, a heavy butler’s tray in mahogany, and a folding stand for it. I measured the distance from the kitchen door to the dining room and it came to thirty yards. I should say a butler earned his money!’  Muckross Research Library Ref 60.278. Richard M Hilliard (1892-1978) subsequently purchased nearby Boulard, Cahernane, Muckross. He had tried unsuccessfully to purchase Cahernane House (Janet Murphy in conversation with John Richard Frederick Hilliard (son of above) in 2009). Richard Marmaduke Hilliard died on 10 December 1978. His widow, Eleanor Margaret Hilliard, née Dunnell, born 16 July 1899, died on 1 July 1979. They were interred at Killeagy, Muckross. The late John Richard Frederick Hilliard (1930-2021) was employed in the Hilliard shoe business as a travelling salesman in the 1950s, there were some thirty-five shoemakers in Ireland then and in 2009, none. In 1954, he was on honeymoon when Arthur Herbert of Cahernane died and so missed his funeral. John Richard Frederick Hilliard died at Heatherlea Nursing Home, Killarney on 27 January 2021. Tribute, ‘Passing of one of Killarney’s most-prominent business men’ in Killarney Advertiser, 29 January 2021.  In May 1948, William H Palmer Esq instructed in the sale of ‘South-Hill, Killarney, Attractive sale of Suburban Freehold Residence standing on its own grounds of 111/2 acres Formerly ESB property and occupied by their Engineer.’ In 1949, the auction notice of Coolclogher House with 85 acres residential farm, gate lodge, out-offices and gardens appeared. Englishman William H Palmer, a partner in the Hilliard and Palmer shoe factory founded in 1935, is believed to have returned to England. Further reference, Voices from the Great Houses Cork and Kerry (2013) by Jane O’Hea O’Keeffe.  The postcard illustration on the left was the work of ‘Jotter’ - English artist Walter Hayward-Young (1868-1920), author of Short Cuts to Sketching (1913 and 1918).  Máire Smith, daughter of Jack and Ellen Smith, was born at Woodlawn, Killarney. She was educated at Birkdale Convent, Southport, Lancs, and later worked in a London bank as a typist for more than two years. She returned to Ireland in May 1962 and worked as a receptionist in the Towers Hotel, Glenbeigh and in the Hotel Europe, Killarney. In January 1963, Máire was selected as the Killorglin Rose, and the following month, the Kerry County Rose, before a judging panel of three: William A Swanton, manager of Brittains Ltd, Dublin; Heins Schillar, Technical Manager of Liebherr (Ireland) Ltd, Killarney, and Percy Begley, Guinness representative in Kerry. In September, Máire represented the county in the Rose of Tralee final (the winner was Geraldine Fitzgerald, Boston). Máire later married and lived in America and Switzerland before returning to Ireland in the 1990s, and has worked in the travel industry as tour guide for many years.  Correspondence by email, Máire Smith/Janet Murphy 10 May 2021.  Elizabeth Baring was the wife of Sir Valentine Charles, fifth Earl of Kenmare.  Royal Killarney Commemorating the first visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the Republic of Ireland (2011) p19. Mrs Smith later divided the album between family members, in whose possession the paintings remain.  Further reference, Killarney House and its Ghosts (2018) which contains an image of one of the Baring watercolours, and Killarney House The American Connection (2018). Áine Nic Ghabhain of Carraig na Mona, Caragh Lake, passed away on 12 August 2013.  Further reference, Asylum A Record of the Church of Ireland in St Finan’s Hospital, Killarney (2014).  Jack and Ellen Smith moved to Lios na Mona, Caragh Lake, Killorglin. Jack Smith was the son of UK born George Smith (1857-1937), retired army bandsman and Hall Porter/Attendant in the (then) Killarney District Lunatic Asylum. Jack’s father converted from Church of Ireland to Roman Catholicism to marry Maria O’Connor (Gabha) of Kilcummin in 1903. The couple had five children, Alfred John, born in 1905, Ellen, ‘Nellie,’ born in 1907, and John George, ‘Jack,’ born in 1909. Also May and Betty. George Smith died at his residence, Mangerton View, Killarney, on 6 December 1937. He was predeceased by Maria, who died on 5 April 1924 aged 47 years. Jack, a member of Killarney Pipers Band, worked as assistant store keeper in the then Killarney Mental Hospital. He met Ellen Dunning in the 1930s on the farm of Jim Coffey, on which site the Hotel Europe now stands. Máire recalls how the couple met: ‘Mam came from England (of Irish descent), she was born in Liverpool and grew up in Prenton, Birkenhead, Cheshire. Her best friend at boarding school came from Co Waterford, they stayed friends after they left school. On one of mam’s visits to Waterford, her friend suggested they go camping in Killarney. They met ‘the boys’ – dad and Uncle Alfie, and the rest is history.’ The couple married and had issue Seán, Máire and Áine. Jack Smith died on 18 September 1989. Mrs Ellen Smith died on 31 July 1992. They rest in the New Cemetery, Killarney with youngest daughter Áine. Máire recalls her grandfather’s background as follows: ‘Dad was one of five, Uncle Alfie, Auntie Nellie, Jack, Aunty May and Aunty Betty. His father George was born in Holloway, London into a family of organ makers. When the family business broke up, one of his brothers decided to emigrate to Australia but he had to go to Liverpool to board the ship. His brother George went with him to see him off. While in Liverpool, he saw a poster for army recruits and joined the South Lancashire Regiment. He rose to the rank of Sergeant and Band Master. However, he broke his leg and not being able to march, retired from the army. George had visited Killarney with the band and decided to return to the town. He was hired by the District Lunatic Asylum Killarney to teach members of the staff in playing various instruments for a band to entertain the residents and also work as an Attendant. Maria O’Connor was working in the laundry at the hospital ... they met, and as they say, the rest is history.’ Máire’s uncle, Alfred John (1909-1967), otherwise Ailfrid MacGabhann (Smith) married Julia Agnes ‘Una’ Nic Pharthlain (Bartley) of Prospect House, Mountnugent, Co Cavan, sister of Rev Patrick Augustine Bartley, on 16 October 1939. Alfred died in Dublin in February 1967 and was buried in Mulhuddart Cemetery, Dublin. The following obituary was published in the Kerryman, 25 February 1967: ‘The death occurred of Mr Ailfrid Mac Gabhann, a native of Killarney, who resided at Nephin Road, Dublin, and who was one of Ireland’s best known choral conductors and music teachers. He was also a bass singer. He was a National School teacher, and taught for most of his life in the Pro-Cathedral Schools, Rutland Street, Dublin. He was conductor of Cor Naomh Josef, Dublin; the Dublin School of Music Male Voice Choir and Cor na Muinteoiri, Dublin. In 1959 each choir won first prize in competitions at the Cork International Choral Festival. These included an international award, gained by Cor Naomh Josef. The premier award at the Oireachtas, the Trophy for Male Voice Choirs, was won for three years in succession by the same choir some time ago. Mr Mac Gabhann also competed successfully at the Welsh International Singing Festival, the Eisteddfod, about ten years ago. He trained and conducted numerous prize-winning school choirs and quartets in the Dublin Feis Cheoil over the years, and appeared on Radio Telefis Eireann and BBC Television as a conductor and soloist. He was a prominent member of Our Lady’s Choral Society, Dublin, and the Palestrina Choir attached to the Pro-Cathedral. Mr Mac Gabhann began his singing career with St Mary’s Cathedral Choir in Killarney, where he was a teacher, until he went to Dublin in 1946. He then joined Our Lady’s Choral Society and his singing and choral career developed from that stage. He is survived by his wife, Mrs Una Mac Gabhann, sons, George and Enda, Dublin and Alfie, Glasgow; daughters Mrs Thomas Mooney, Glasgow, and Miss Una Mac Gabhann, Dublin; brother, John, Caragh Lake, Killarney, and sister, Nellie, Dublin.’  ‘Six young Killarney men and women left on Monday morning for Germany to be trained as operatives for the new textile industry to be established at Coolclogher, three miles outside the town on the Muckross side by a German manufacturing firm known as Maris (Ireland) Ltd. Some time ago the company purchased the 70 acres farm of Mr and Mrs Jack Smith together with the residence on the lands for a sum not disclosed. Although the residence is large the company does not intend to use it as the factory and plans have been made to build a new structure to house the new industry. The industry will be sited off the beaten track of Killarney’s tourist route. It is expected that the industry will be in production in the autumn of 1963, and although the building of the factory has not yet started, it is expected that ti will be underway in a short time. Material for ladies’ clothing will be produced solely for export and it is expected that at a start 140 hands will be employed, mostly female. It is expected that this figure will expand to 250 when production increases. The six trainees who left Killarney for the parent factory in Haunister, some ninety minutes bus ride from Hamburg, are Brian O’Connor of Countess Road, Killarney, who worked in a local solicitor’s office; Billie Finn, a native of Dunmanway, who worked as a draper’s assistant in a Killarney draper store; Sylvester Grady of Lewis Road, who was also employed and was an outstanding member of the Legion GAA football team; two sisters, Misses Irene and Breda Clifford of New St, one employed as an assistant in a local store, and the other employed at the Mental Hospital, and Miss Mary Lynch of Danesfort, Killarney, who was also employed in Killarney. They will stay until next Christmas in Germany and will be trained as key operatives for the new industry. They flew out from Dublin Airport on Monday to Hamburg and it is understood that four others joined them, one being a Tralee lady. They will be joined later by another 25 to 30 trainees. The Killarney and Tralee trainees were selected during the year at interviews held in Killarney and Tralee Technical schools’ (Kerryman, 27 January 1962). ‘Killarney people learned with surprise this week that the German firm who intended to establish a £40,000 textile factory for the manufacture of ladies’ clothes for export, at Coolclogher, two miles outside the town, have now decided to abandon the scheme. The firm, Maris (Ireland) Limited, which is a subsidiary of the German firm of Hermann Marsian of Newmuenster/Holstein, some 40 miles from Hamburg, last year purchased a 65-acre residential farm at Coolclogher with the intention of erecting the factory and having it in full swing for 1963 … it is now learned in Killarney that the German partners have withdrawn from the project due to internal reasons which would prevent them from supplying the technical and financial assistance required for the Killarney factory … ‘This decision has been a complete surprise to us, and no previous warning was given,’ stated the Irish partners, Messrs K Ticher and T R Ticher of Granby Row, Dublin’ (Irish Examiner, 19 May 1962 and Kerryman, 19 May 1962).  William Lane-Joynt died on 22 March 1989. Mrs Maura Lane-Joynt (née Mc Erlean), later of Birchmount, Mill Lane, Mill Road, Killarney, died on 11 November 2014.  The report of the sale stated, ‘Coolclogher House, which was owned jointly by an overseas and an Irish interest, was used as a private residence prior to the auction and formerly operated as a guesthouse.’ The contents were auctioned later that year.