The Honourable Jane Stuart O'Grady (1823 - 1917)

Rita Curtis

In 1822 a baby girl called Jane, whose family motto was CONSTANTER, was born in Taghmon. Who could have predicted that 179 years later and 84 years after her death she would still be a benefactress of her church and her parish?

This is the story of Jane O'Grady nee Hore who lived for almost a century. She was a 'gentlewoman' so her story is not just about her, her creed, her family, her homes, her relations, her friends, the people with and among whom she lived and those who worked with and for her. Jane's story is a microcosm of the life of the landed gentry in Ireland in the 19th century - particularly the lives of those women of substance whose relationships were closer and whose influence on those around them was infinitely greater and more enduring, eventually, than that of their better known husbands. It is a vignette, which encapsulates the state of Ireland and the enormous changes that took place during Jane's life.

There is probably a portrait and photograph of Jane somewhere in family hands. In her will she bequeathed the family portraits to the Master of Ruthven, her main legatee, so they are probably in Scotland. We do not know what she looked like but we can, by other means, visualise the kind of person she was. This is far more important than her appearance for she seems to have been a remarkable woman.

There is a plaque in St. Munn's Church of Ireland, Taghmon, Co. Wexford in remembrance of the Honourable Jane O'Grady. In 1817 Walter Hore, Esq. Harperstown, Jane's father, was one of a committee of four appointed to see that 'the work of a new church be properly executed'. By 1818 the church was completed. The Hore family was not new to the parish; they had been in the area since the 12th century when two families who were related, the le Hores and the le Harpers, arrived soon after the settlement of Leinster by Strongbow. The le Harpers laid down roots in Aghdare which they re-named Harperstown and the le Hores settled on the east of the river 'The Pill'. The history of the le Hore family is vividly recounted by Richard Roche FRSAI in 'The Story of Harperstown' in Journal No. 1 (1966) of the Taghmon Historical Society and their lineage is well documented in 'Burke's Landed Gentry, Vol. I' published in 1846 (MDCCCXLVI).

In 1336 a William le Hore married Agatha the only child of John le Harper of Harperstown, with whom he received the Harperstown property. For over 500 years their descendants made Harperstown their family seat and were landlords over a vast demesne. They lived in a 'big house' and were well-known and important people. As time passed the le was dropped and the family was known as Hore.


Primogeniture was the right of succession or inheritance belonging to the first born of children of the same parents. The property and title – if there were one – descended to the eldest son, provided there was a son. If there were no sons the eldest daughter could succeed. This did not always happen. The heir remained on the estate but also became involved in the public, legal, political and religious life in his county and frequently in his country. The Hores were no exceptions – they numbered among them high sheriffs, M.P.'s for Taghmon, magistrates and even an Attorney General and one of the Chief Justices of Ireland. The younger sons either endeavoured to marry heiresses who were landowners in their own right or joined the British or Indian army or the Royal Navy. Daughters hoped to marry into the landed gentry or into the church. For many, due to a scarcity of money, which meant a lack of a substantial dowry, living in houses of family members as spinsters was their lot - particularly with sisters this was often quite a pleasant fate.

For these families marriage and property considerations were firmly intertwined. Nearly all their income came from property. Most of the land was let to tenants and provided a regular income. There were good and bad landlords. It is generally accepted that the Hores were good.

Marriages to Gentlewomen

The marriage settlement consisted of a dowry or down payment by the bride's family. Marriage to an heiress was very desirable for an Irish landlord, but to be fair not only for the dowry. From the Pakenham Papers , we read about the 4th Earl of Longford's proposal to Selina Rice-Trevor:

'Will you marry me? I seek in a wife a gentle woman to be by my side throughout the affairs of life – every thought of my heart open to her, no secret from her: – one who will be glad with my joys and know my sorrows:– one who will remind me of my duty towards God and help me in my duties towards my neighbour'.

In Burke's Landed Gentry are recorded the names of the 'gentlewomen' who married into the Hore family down through the centuries. By these alliances the Hores were connected with most of the leading gentry in Wexford and the adjoining counties – among them a daughter of McMorrough Kavanagh, a daughter of Edmond Walsh of Castle Hoey, Co. Kilkenny, Joan Cheevers of Balyhaly, Margaret Isham of Bryanstown, Margaret Keating of Kilcoan, Elinor Turner of Balyraly, Alison Devereux of Balmagir, Jane Russell of Newcastle, Ann Bunbury of Balesker, Catherine Shapland sister in law of Robert Carew of Castleboro, Dorothy Ponsonby of Duncannon, Mary Grogan of Johnstown Castle (who later married Charles Tottenham of Tottenham Green) and Lady Anne Stopford great grandmother of Jane O'Grady. These were the women whose genes Jane O'Grady inherited – an inheritance that she cherished.

The names William and Walter were usually the names of the heirs – the eldest boy in a family being called after his paternal grandfather.

Jane's Grandparents

On 5 January 1782 William Hore Esq. Harperstown married Eleanor- Catherine, daughter of Sir Simon Bradstreet Bart. and of his wife Anne, sister of the Right Honourable Sir Henry Cavendish. In 1788 Walter was High Sheriff and magistrate for the county. William and Anne had seven children, six sons and one daughter (who married the Rev. John Hunt). The sons followed the usual pattern:
Walter the heir, remained in Harperstown
William joined the army – Major 67th foot
Samuel-Bradstreet, was a Commander in the Royal Navy
James-Stopford was also a Commander in the Royal Navy
Henry Cavendish was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy
Thomas was a Captain and eventually a Major General in the Royal Engineers (he married a Miss Leigh of Rosegarland)

Tragedy struck the family: the father, William Hore was executed on the bridge of Wexford on 20 June 1798 by the rebels during the Insurrection. His execution was a frightening, traumatic experience for his widow, her young family and relations but it was also a sign that no landlord, even a fair one, could continue to feel secure. It mirrored the latent discontent fermenting in the souls of a stressed underprivileged tenant class who had learned from the 1798 rebellion that 'people power' could be harnessed to improve their lot. The Act of Union 1800 began the withdrawal of landlords to England. More and more absentee landlords were represented by an agent – often men of greedy, mean character who were usually unpopular. Agrarian unrest and violence were rampant. Charismatic leaders emerged who hoped to achieve their aims without violence and bloodshed, the impressive Daniel O'Connell seeking Catholic Emancipation and the Repeal of the Union, Michael Davitt, a founder of the Land League hoping to protect tenants from eviction and to win 'the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland' and the Protestant landlord Charles Stewart Parnell whose aim was Home Rule, hoping that by his supporting the Land League its aims would be achieved. The nation would then support his efforts to try to restore Home Rule. The fight for the land culminated in the Land Acts 1881-1903 conceding the three f's, fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale. Landlordism was on the defensive and increasing numbers found it expedient to take advantage of favourable government terms to sell their holdings to their tenants. The hold of the Norman conquerors on the land of Ireland was ebbing to an inevitable close. William Hore's execution may have sown the seeds of the Hore's ambition to eventually depart from Harperstown, which was gradual, but in the end final and total.

Walter Hore (1784 – 1878)

Walter Hore succeeded his father William and he was the last of his family to reside in Harperstown. He was born 6 June 1784 and was just a youth of 14 when his father William was executed. As the eldest son he was the heir and succeeded his father and remained in Harperstown.


On an anniversary of his birthday, 6 June 1806, Walter married Mary Elizabeth-Thornton Ruthven, daughter of Lord Ruthven, Scotland. This alliance was destined to eventually enable the Hore family, before the end of the century, to exit with dignity from an estate that was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Walter and Elizabeth had eleven children, five sons:
  1. William, the heir, joined the British army
  2. Ruthven went to Trinity College, Oxford
  3. Walter joined the Indian army
  4. Leslie – Melville
  5. Cavendish-Bradstreet – Royal Navy
and six daughters:
  1. Mary
  2. Eleanor-Catherine
  3. Anne
  4. Wilhelmina
  5. Jane
  6. Georgina


Almost a century after her death only Jane is still part of Taghmon – through her bequests to the Church of Ireland, the O'Grady Charity and her plaque in the Church of Ireland in Taghmon. Very little is known of Jane's life now. She must have spent her childhood in Harperstown in a house full of siblings and servants and received the education suitable for a gentlewoman. Baptised in St. Munn's, she was a devout member of the Church of Ireland and was particularly interested in its church and school in Taghmon, which she supported generously and constantly long after she left Harperstown. Jane married George O'Grady Esq. of Plattenstown near Arklow on May 1, 1858 . We learn from her will that she had formerly lived in a house in Bray.

Plattenstown House

Today Plattenstown House is a beautifully kept gracious guesthouse situated at the end of a long approach. The house, in a sylvan setting, is approached by a long avenue – though not as long as Harperstown's. The borders of the Plattenstown demesne are also the Wicklow- Wexford boundaries. The house and lands are in Co. Wexford but the postal address is Arklow. George and Jane O'Grady moved into their new home in 1858 and lived there for the rest of their lives. The present lady of the house, Mrs. McDowell, received me graciously when I called and brought me on a tour of her lovely home. I got the impression that this house had had a woman's touch in its design. If houses had gender this one would be immediately classified as feminine, for which Jane O'Grady must get some credit. Mr. & Mrs. McDowell bought the house in 1969 and have ensured by their talents and hard work that to day it is in an excellent state of repair. Mrs. McDowell told me that shortly after her arrival she met an old man who had lived in the area all his life, who told her, that as a 10-year-old boy he distinctly remembered Mrs. O'Grady being driven in her carriage up the avenue. She also told me that locals who remembered previous owners had remarked on the fact that all the couples who lived in the house had been very happy and united. One would like to think that George and Jane were happy there during the 14 years they were together. Sadly George died very suddenly – within four hours – having suffered a severe stroke on 11 November 1872. He was only 54 years of age. Jane and he do not seem to have had children. George was interred in the Church of Ireland cemetery in Inch, Co. Wexford. Jane lived for the next forty-five years as a widow in Plattenstown. She died on 8 October 1917 aged 94 years and was buried by John Harrison and James Clarke on October 11th, with her husband. Her death was registered on 15 October 1917 in Coolgreany by her maid Elizabeth Price, who was present at death. Jane was predeceased by two of her unmarried sisters who also died at Plattenstown. Eleanor died on 27 March 1866 aged 50 years. Margaret Wilkinson registered her death. Georgina died on 29 May 1901 aged 78 years. Had Georgina lived until 1917, as did Jane, she too would have been 94 so perhaps they were twins. Her death was registered by Elizabeth Price who must have been with Jane for many years.

Plattenstown House - about 1970. Courtesy of Mrs McDowell.

The O'Grady tomestone at Inch, Church of Ireland cemetery (Note: Re-error - On tombstone William Hore should be read Walter Hore).

Harperstown 1860

From the middle of the 19th century Harperstown House was beginning to deteriorate. There doesn't seem to have been either the money or the interest to restore it.


In 1860 Walter's brother-in-law, Lord Ruthven died. Walter's wife inherited the Ruthven estates in Scotland and Ruthven was added to the name Hore. Mrs. Hore became a Baroness and the heir apparent took the title Master of Ruthven. The heir of a Scottish lord was entitled to be called Master while the other sons and daughters could use the courtesy title Honourable, an honour that the Hores embraced with enthusiasm and pride. At this time most of the family may have moved to Scotland or England. In 1865 Walter Hore returned to Harperstown on a visit. He received a warm reception from the tenants whom he in turn entertained hospitably. There is a line in a poem by a native bard, which suggests that Walter was popular with his tenants: 'He is a model to the landlords of the county all around'.

Walter Ruthven died on April 16th 1878 aged 95. The registration of his death in the Taghmon register was cancelled without explanation so perhaps he did not die in the Taghmon area. He may or may not have been interred in Taghmon. There are five tombstones in the Hore Enclosure in St. Munn's Cemetery in Taghmon. Walter Hore's is by far the most impressive. Only his name is engraved on the tombstone. There is no record there of the death of his wife or of any of his eleven children.

Harperstown House was described by a visitor in 1889 as a 'pile of ruins' – its days of glory were over, never to return. John Betjamin poignantly expresses the passing of the landlords in his poem 'The Small Towns of Ireland' –

'But where is his Lordship who once in a phaeton
Drove out through the lodges and into the town?
Of his tragic misfortunes I will not dilate on
His mansions a ruin, his woods are cut down'.

Jane O'Grady, when drawing up her will, must not have realised that although the porch and other distinctive features were intact, her home in Harperstown had become derelict and beyond repair while at the same time the estate was being denuded of its fine woods. She left £3,000 for 'the restoration of the house at Harperstown'. Advancing in years and with the house vacant there was no reason for her to 'go home' so she was spared the agony of seeing that once stately, beloved home in ruins. In 1920 the land was sold in three lots and bought by:

  1. Mary Daly, Waddingtown
  2. Nick Sinnott, Aughfad
  3. Peter Kelly – Ballyconnick (The part of the demesne bought by Peter Kelly included the ruined manor. This part in turn was bought by the O'Keeffes of Harveystown and Laurence Roche of Little Johnstown.)

We learn most about Jane from this her last will signed with a distinctive signature on 3 August 1914, three years before her death. We read of her cousins, her friends, her faithful maid Elizabeth Price, her concern for Harperstown House the place of her birth, the inhabitants of the Harperstown Estate and her interest in the Church of Ireland church and school in Taghmon village. Her greatest concern and affection were for the Master of Ruthven, her principal legatee. Jane's nephew, Lord Ruthven, had succeeded her father Walter as owner of Harperstown. He was declared a bankrupt in 1881 so the family would not have been well to do at that time, though they seemed to have recovered later. Jane's legacy must have been a blessing. Note the codicil where she changed the legacy to Lord Ruthven from five hundred pounds to four thousand pounds with her love. Jane O'Grady's last will and testament is an excellent example of the care, thought and precision that people of means and property of that period gave to the wording of their wills - a model that even today would help avoid confusion, delays and unnecessary expenses when probate is being sought.

Jane died a wealthy woman. The value of her personal estate amounted to £30,956. 6. 6 for the purpose of estate Duty. This would be valued as £1,097,459 today. Estate Duty paid was £1,865:0:3 (£66,118)

Last Will and Testament of the Honourable Jane Stuart O'Grady

This is the Last Will and Testament of me the Honourable Jane Stuart O'Grady of Plattenstown in the County of Wexford Widow.
  1. I revoke all Wills codicils and Testamentary dispositions at any time heretofore made by me.
  2. I appoint my cousin John Francis William Deacon of 20 Birchin Lane London, Banker and Randle Fynes Wilson Holme of 34 Old Jewry London Solicitor Executors and trustees of this my Will and I give to each of them if they shall prove this my Will the sum of One hundred pounds.
  3. I give the following pecuniary legacies:
    To the present Lord Ruthven Four thousand pounds with my love.
    To my cousin Keith Helen Erskine Three hundred pounds.
    To my cousin Colonel John Hore Two hundred pounds.
    To my God-daughter Ethel Hore Two hundred pounds.
    To George Meldon Two hundred pounds.
    To my cousin Mrs. Ross One hundred pounds.
    To each of the three daughters of my said cousin Mrs Ross One hundred pounds.
    To my niece Mrs. Griffith One hundred pounds with my love.
    To my niece Anne O'Grady Fifty pounds.
    To my dear friend Lady Charlotte E. Stopford Fifty pounds with my best love so that she may choose for herself some small remembrance of me.
    To Miss Pursell of the Ladies Irish Association Forty pounds in grateful remembrance and with earnest best wishes for all blessing on her continued good work.
    To my dear friend Miss Wilson of 8 Adelaide Street Kingstown Thirty Pounds with my love as a very small remembrance.
    To my maid Elizabeth Price Three hundred pounds.
    To Thomas Price and his wife Fifty pounds each.
  4. I give the following specific legacies:- To the said Thomas Price and his wife and the said Elizabeth Price equally between the sum invested in and accumulating in India Three and half per cent stock which stands in the names of myself and the said John Francis William Deacon on my behalf together with all dividends and accumulations thereof down to the date of my death such sum representing the proceeds of the sale of the furniture of the house at Bray formerly occupied by me. To the present master of Ruthven all my plate and plated articles and family portraits and all other my pictures and my gilt chairs and Indian Cabinet.
    To the said Elizabeth Price and Harriet Price the following effects at Plattenstown the Hall Stand and a sofa and a table in my room and the wooden press in the passage and the Bed and bedding in the dressing room all which were brought there from my house at Bray.
    To the Misses Beauman of Hyde Park Inch and their nieces Ethel Hore and Mabel Hore in equal shares all other my furniture, jewellery chattels and personal effects and articles of personal or domestic use in my house at Plattenstown and in the event of their being unable to agree to a distribution my Executors shall decide and distribute such articles amongst them and the decision of my Executors shall be final
  5. I bequeath to the present Master of Ruthven the sum of Three thousand pounds to be applied by him in his discretion towards the restoration of the house at Harperstown
  6. I also bequeath to the present master of Ruthven the sum of One thousand pounds to be applied by him in his discretion in aid of improvements in the village of Taghmon or for the benefit of its inhabitants or elsewhere for the benefit of the Harperstown Estate or its tenants.
  7. I direct my Executors to invest the further sums of Three thousand pounds and One Thousand Pounds in some one or more of the Securities permitted to Trustees in the names of the Rector and Churchwardens (or if there be no church wardens then in the name of Rector alone) for the time being of the Parish of Taghmon County Wexford who shall stand possessed of such funds (but so that they shall have power to vary any of the Securities for others of a permitted nature) upon trust to apply the dividends or income arising from the said fund of Three thousand pounds between the Sustentation fund and the Protestant School or Schools in the said Parish of Taghmon in such manner and shares in all respects as they in their unfettered discretion shall deem desirable and to apply the dividends or income from the said fund of One thousand pounds in their unfettered discretion in or towards the maintaining the Parish Church of Taghmon And I further direct that the Rector and Churchwardens of the parish of Taghmon for the time being (or the said Rector if there shall be no Churchwardens) shall from time to time be the Trustees or Trustee of such funds respectively and that the cost of transfers of the same from the names of the Trustees or Trustee into the names of other Trustees or Trustee shall from time to time be paid out of the dividends of the said funds respectively.
  8. As to the charges on the Harperstown Estate I hereby release the same to the intent that they may merge in and return to the Harperstown Estate to the intent that the owner of that Estate may enjoy it freed absolutely from all such charges
  9. I give devise bequeath release and appoint all the rest and residue of my property whatsoever and wheresoever whether real or personal and whether in possession or in expectancy including all property over which I may have a general testamentary power of appointment unto and to the use of the present Master of Ruthven absolutely subject to the payment thereout of my just debts and funeral and testamentary expenses and the legacies and the duty on the legacies bequeathed by this my Will
  10. I direct that all legacies bequeathed by this my Will shall be free of all death duties
  11. I declare that my Executors and Trustees may employ and pay a Solicitor or any other Agent to transact all business of the trusts of my Will and that the said Randle Fynes Wilson Holme or any other Trustee thereof being a Solicitor or other agent shall be entitled to receive all usual professional charges and emoluments notwithstanding his acting as one of my Executors and Trustees

IN WITNESS whereof I have hereunto set my hand this third day of August One thousand nine hundred and fourteen _______ Jane S. O'Grady __________ Signed by the said Jane Stuart O'Grady the Testatrix as and for her last Will and Testament in the presence of us both being present at the same time who at her request in her presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as Witnesses the words on the first page and the twelfth line 'To the present Lord Ruthven Five hundred Pounds with my love' being first struck out and the words 'To the present Lord Ruthven Four thousand pounds with my love' written over them and initialled by the said Testatrix and us Richard C. Hallowes Ballyraine Arklow rector and Canon Mary E. Hallowes of same place wife of Canon Hallowes. (who also signed the Will)


This is a codicil of the Will of me Jane Stuart O'Grady of Plattenstown in the County of Wexford Widow which Will bears date the third August One thousand nine hundred and fourteen
  1. I give to the present Master of Ruthven a legacy of Four thousand pounds and if he shall predecease me I BEQUEATH the same to his wife and if she shall predecease me I bequeath the same unto and equally between his children who shall be living at his death and I declare that the said legacy shall be payable in priority to any other pecuniary legacy bequeathed by my said Will or any codicil thereto.
  2. Whereas by my said Will I have bequeathed all my residuary estate to the present Master of Ruthven absolutely now I hereby declare that if he shall predecease me I give devise bequeath release and appoint the same unto and to the use of his Wife absolutely or if she shall predecease me unto and to the use of any children or child of his who shall be living at his death absolutely and if more than one equally between them.
  3. I declare that the reference in my said Will and in this codicil to the present Master of Ruthven is intended to mean the Master of Ruthven at the date of my said Will.
  4. In all other respects I confirm my said WILL IN WITNESS whereof I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of August One Thousand nine hundred and fourteen ---- Jane S. O'Grady ------- Signed by the said Jane Stuart O'Grady the Testatrix and for a codicil to her last Will and Testament in the presence of us both present at the same time who at her request in her presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as Witnesses the Signature 'Jane S. O'Grady' being first struck out Jane S. O'Grady written over same ----- Richard C. Hallowes Ballyraine Arklow, Rector of Arklow ---Mary E. Hallowes of same place.



    BE IT KNOWN that on the 12th day of January 1918 the last Will with codicil a copy of which signed by the Registrar is hereunto annexed of the Hon. Jane Stuart O'Grady late of Plattenstown Co. Wexford Widow deceased who died on or about the 8th day of October 1917 at same place was proved and registered in the Principal Registry of said Division and that the administration of the personal estate of the said deceased was granted by the aforesaid Court to John Francis William Deacon of 20 Birchin Lane Banker and Randle Fynes Wilson Holme of 34 Old Jewry both London the Executors named in the said Will they having been first sworn faithfully to administer the same AND IT IS HEREBY certified that an Affidavit for Inland Revenue has been delivered wherein it is shown that the gross value of the personal estate of the said deceased within the United Kingdom (exclusive of what the deceased may have been possessed of or entitled to as a trustee and not beneficially) amounts to £30956:6:6 for the purpose of Estate Duty And that it appears by a receipt signed by an Inland Revenue Officer on the said Affidavit that £1865:0:3 for Estate Duty and Interest thereon has been paid the duty being charged thereon at the rate of £6:0:0 per cent

    Jacob T. Geoghegan
    Asst. Registrar
    Extracted by D & T. Fitzgerald Solicitors.

    The Honourable Jane O'Grady's last will and testament is indicative of a careful testatrix's thoughtful administration of her legal and equitable estate. Precise and extensive instructions were clearly conveyed by the testatrix to her legal advisors D. J. Fitzgerald, Solicitors, an admirable achievement, not only in the extent of the legal estate, but particularly when one considers that this testatrix was a nonagenarian when giving these concise instructions. Jane O'Grady died 8 October 1917. A Grant of Probate of her estate was extracted by her executors and trustees from the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in Ireland on 12 day of January 1918 just three months following her demise. The efficiency with which the Grant of Probate issued is testament to Jane O'Grady's astute and intelligent handling of her legal and personal estate during her lifetime, thus ensuring proper devolution of her title.

    O'Grady Charity Taghmon 1921 - 2001 (Bequest No. 6.)

    Mrs. O'Grady bequeathed 'to the present Master of Ruthven the sum of one thousand pounds to be applied by him in his discretion in aid of Improvements in the village of Taghmon, or for the benefit of its inhabitants, or elsewhere for the benefit of the Harperstown Estate or its tenants'.

    This bequest was going to prove initially quite difficult to administer. Lord Ruthven lodged the money with the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland and accordingly was discharged from his obligation as Trustee.

    A group met in Taghmon to discuss how the £1,000 could be distributed so that as many as possible would derive benefit from it.

    There were many suggestions as to what uses the money should be put and many meetings and discussions took place. Early on, the building of a public hall was suggested but 'not considered for the present'. A Committee was formed of which Canon Fortune was one. Mr. M. J. O'Connor, Solicitor of 2 George's Street, Wexford was asked to act for Canon Fortune in dealings with the Commissioners. On 10 May, 1921 a letter was sent by Mr. O'Connor to the Commissioners in the following terms:
    'The Committee are thinking of putting up a ball alley in Taghmon. This was in contemplation when the late Canon Furlong was Parish Priest of Taghmon. Of course, there is not much amusement in the district, and the ball alley, which would cost about £300, would be a great matter for the place'. A further letter from Fr. Fortune dated 13 May, 1921 was received by the Commissioners wherein he advised that 'the prominent traders in the village attended an informal meeting here yesterday and decided to ask the Commissioners to retain the principal and to forward the interest every year to be distributed by a local Committee amongst the poor of Taghmon village'. 'The men who attended the meeting did not seem inclined to undertake the responsibility of using the bequest for starting an industry, but possibly in the course of time when peace is established in our country, such a project might be feasible, provided the Commissioners give their sanction'.

    The Commissioners agreed to this course of action subject to their being provided with full information as to how it was proposed to appoint the trustees and a guarantee from them that they will apply the money for the benefit of the poor.

    The Commissioners then went on to suggest that the trustees could possibly consist of the local Parish Priest, the local Rector and the local Doctor. Fr. Fortune replied saying that he agreed with this course of action and suggested that the Trustees could also consist of Rev. Mike Murphy C. C., Messrs E. Brennan, James Cullen and Stephen Cleary. Jeremiah B. Ryan was the name of the local Doctor who was subsequently appointed a Trustee. Stephen Cleary did not attend the first official meeting of the Trustees. He was later recorded as being present at meetings.

    Minutes from the first meeting of the Trustees

    The first meeting was held in St. Fintan's Hall on 29 July 1921. The following were present:- Canon Fortune, Rev. Mr. Lowe, Dr. J. R. Ryan, Mr. Edward Brennan, Mr. James Cullen and Rev. M. Murphy C.C. Prior to this meeting the village of Taghmon – which practically belonged to the Harperstown Estate – had been sold to two of the Trustees, Messrs James Cullen and Edward Brennan who were residents of the village - they in their turn to give each householder an opportunity of buying out on the same terms from them. This had been done. Later the tenants appealed to the Committee to distribute the money amongst them to enable them to pay their purchase money. Some of them would be satisfied with any little help, while others were claiming the whole £1,000. The Commissioners decided that it would not be equitable to apply any portion of the capital to assist the tenants of Taghmon, and that the corpus of the charity should be retained intact, remitting the income to the trustees for distribution, the money to be applied 'for the benefit of the poor'.

    A cheque from the Commissioners of £133:7:8 on the Bank of Ireland had been received. This was the income from the £1,000 for 3 years and had been lodged in the Bank of Ireland, as no decision had been made on how to dispose of it.

    Rev. Mr. Lowe proposed and Mr. E. Brennan seconded the motion that 'Mr. M. J. O'Connor should be thanked for his care and trouble in procuring this money' and that 'we would like to know to what extent we are in his debt for same'.

    Both Canon Fortune and Rev. Mr. Lowe who were on the Cullimore Charity Committee, had good experience and knew how the committee should proceed. Fr. M. Murphy was appointed Hon. Secretary and directed to provide a minute book and an indexed account book. A good start had been made at last. The expectations of people were high, as their incomes were minimal.

    At the second meeting, 14 October 1921, it was decided that a beginning should be made by giving weekly allowances to deserving cases for the present and that each member of the committee receive applications and bring them to the next meeting. A book of tickets was to be procured for the purpose of this weekly allowance. It was considered more advisable for the present not to give money for the repair of houses and not to build a hall.

    At the third meeting, 22 November 1921, the applicants' names were considered and those deemed most in need chosen. A rule was made that anyone in receipt of the old age pension would not be eligible. As Rev. Mr. Lowe had left Taghmon it was decided to acquaint his successor, Rev. Mr. Mollen, of his place on the committee.

    At the 4th meeting, 14 December 1921, the hon. secretary was directed to write to the Commissioners to ask for discretionary power to help deserving cases even outside the village or the estate. (A reply stated 'that they had no power to make any variations from the terms of the will').

    Some people who had applied for a weekly grant were given fifteen shillings (75p) each as a Christmas gift and it was decided to give an addition of 50% increase to each one on our relief list for Christmas only'.

    As time passed a pattern emerged. Depending on the amount of income received and the applicants' particular conditions, weekly allowances were paid during certain months of the year. Everyone did not receive similar amounts. It is interesting to read that the majority who received the allowances were women: for example in 1924, 19 women and 2 men received 2/6 (12½ p) each per week beginning on the 26 February and ending on 22 April, nine weeks in all. Five different women received 2 shillings (10p) per week during the summer months beginning 29 April. At the 4th meeting Canon Fortune had asked the members to observe the strictest secrecy outside the meeting of any business transacted by the committee – a stricture honourably adhered to down through the years. In deference to those who worked so diligently to ensure that those receiving help should preserve their dignity, the recipients' names should not now be disclosed. The amounts paid seem paltry nowadays but it must be remembered that (2/6) a half a crown would purchase sufficient food for a week. As the years passed Social Welfare payments improved while the income from the charity, due to inflation, had not the same buying power.

    Bi-annual payments from the Commissioners were passed on to recipients and later the money was distributed just once a year. On an average, 15 to 20 people annually were in receipt of allowances, which, over the years, made a huge difference to the quality of life for hundreds of people.

    Examples of amounts issued:

    Year Amount each person received Total
    £. s. d
    1944 1 – 42/6 per ½ year
    9 – 27/6 per ½ year
    7 – 12/6 per ½ year
    1951 8 - £1:10:0
    3 - £1
    4 – 12:6
    1955 15 - £2:2:0 £31:10:0
    1957 20 - £2:0:0 £40:0:0
    1958 21 - £2:2:0 £44:2:0
    1965 – 1966 19 - £3:0:0 £57:0:0
    1951: It was decided that a sum of £10 be placed at the disposal of Rev. J. Anglim to be expended by him in charity in Taghmon during the coming twelve months at his own discretion. This precedent led to a further decision later.
    1955: The committee decided that in future all recipients should receive an equal amount.

    As time passed the money was placed at the disposal of the Parish Priest alone, he being in a position more than most, of knowing when people have special financial needs, when a modest payment would be very helpful. The present balance in the Charity is 1,314 Units, which has a capital value of approximately £6,000 and which at present yields an annual income averaging £160 – £170. This is paid bi-annually, one moiety in February and one later in the year.

    It is now 80 years since help was first given to people in need in Taghmon by funds from Jane O'Grady's bequest and this is continuing into the 21st century.

    Of all the money bequeathed in her will it is probable that this £1,000 has been more enduring and been a source of joy and solace to hundreds more than all the other bequests put together. It brought 'good news to the poor' of Taghmon at a time when people were deprived and trying to cope with grinding poverty. The committee spent time and effort in conscientiously endeavouring to fulfil Mrs. O'Grady's wishes to the best of their ability.

    The Hores have left the area, the house has crumbled, the lands have been divided and the woods have been cut down – but the generosity of a daughter of Harperstown House, whose atavistic loyalty to Taghmon also motivated the trustees of her bequest to be worthy and conscientious guardians of her legacy, still lingers.

    'There's no holly nor hazel nor ash here,
    But pastures of rock and stone,
    The crown of the forest is withered
    And the last of the game is gone'

    (Frank O'Connor's, Kings, Lords and Commons)

    Church of Ireland connection

    Mrs O'Grady left Harperstown at least 60 years before her death but she continued for the rest of her life to support the Protestant Church and school in Taghmon. Her father's tomb lies in the shadow of the chancel window of the church. Unfortunately many of the Church Registers were destroyed in the Four Courts in 1922 but the Vestry Minute book is intact. There we get a glimpse of the extent and constancy of Mrs. O'Grady's generosity as a benefactor – for example in 1914, the year she made her will, 29 members of the church contributed £41:12:6 to the church fund. Mrs. O'Grady's contribution at the head of the list was £14, which would be the equivalent of £500 approximately today.

    Three years later Mrs. O'Grady died and remembered and bequeathed a generous legacy to the Church of Ireland.

    Bequest No.7 (see will for full bequest)

    The Executors were directed to invest the sum of Three thousand pounds and one thousand pounds in some or more of the Securities invested permitted to Trustees…. To apply the dividends or income towards maintaining the Parish Church of Taghmon and the Protestant Schools or School. The Vestrymen felt that this legacy could not have come at a more opportune time.

    Vestry Minutes Taghmon, 15 May, 1915

    In 1915 a meeting was called by the Bishop's direction to consider the amalgamation of Taghmon and Horetown parishes– an amalgamation not desirable to either parish. The reasons for the suggested Union were in part because of finances being scarce.
    April 1, 1918
    Mrs. O'Grady's bequest altered the financial circumstances of the Parish for the better and a motion passed stated that 'the resolution passed by the Diocesan Synod for the union of Taghmon and Horetown parishes should be rescinded.' There was a vote of gratitude to the late Mrs. O'Grady for her loving care while alive and for the generous provision for the future. However, the parishes were eventually amalgamated in 1922.
    April 1, 1918

    A motion proposed by Mr. Ward and seconded by Mr. Stannard was passed – 'that a memorial tablet be erected in memory of the late Mrs. O'Grady and that a subscription list be opened.'
    July 2, 1918

    A draft of the wording to be inscribed on the memorial tablet to the late Mrs. O'Grady was submitted and passed. The tablet was duly erected.
    October 27, 1919

    The purchase of a new paten and new Communion linen was suggested by the Rector and met with the approval of all present – probably an offshoot of Mrs. O'Grady's legacy.
    March 28, 1921

    A vote of sympathy was passed with the Master of Ruthven (Mrs. O'Grady's principal legatee) on the death of his father.

    April 22, 1924
    The ceiling was cleaned and whitened and the inside walls re-coloured – to be paid for from the fund left by Mrs. O'Grady for the maintenance of the church.

    In the church on another memorial tablet is the name Ruthven Stannard, suggesting either a relationship, or admiration, or possibly both, for the Hore Ruthven family.

    The memorial tablet was a spontaneous mark of gratitude from a grateful congregation and ensures that Jane O'Grady, nee Hore, is not forgotten.

    She still contributes through her bequest. Bi-annual dividends are paid and are a valuable donation and dependable. Her spirit probably hovers over the graves of her relatives and wanders through the church and graveyard and drifts out to Harperstown – a trip down memory lane to the places she loved so well in life and remembered so generously in death.



    'I am indeed a Hore of Harperstown'
    Lord (Grey) Gowrie, 29 January 2001

    In reply to a letter and information about the Taghmon Historical Society and its journal and data about the Hore family handed in to Lord Gowrie's office in London by Andy O'Brien, we received a reply from Lord Gowrie, whose father was Patrick Hore Ruthven. In the letter he states: I am indeed a Hore of Harperstown. I was myself born and brought up in Ireland in Co. Kildare and Co. Donegal. Until 1983 my home was in Ireland. I was however, educated in England and my career has been in the United States and in England with the exception of a spell as a minister in the Northern Ireland office.

    Lord Gowrie was sorry that he could not give any help with our queries about his ancestor Jane O'Grady, but expressed an interest in hearing more about his family from our journal.

    Previous to this on Saturday January 20, 2001 there was a two page interview by Graham Turner in 'The Daily Telegraph' which outlined the story of Lord Gowrie's ten year illness and his wait for a heart transplant in Harefield Hospital and subsequent recovery. His was the only Hore Ruthven name of which I was aware, because of his spell as a minister in Mrs. Thatcher's Cabinet in the Northern Ireland Office. The interview and the photographs were interesting and informative. Lord Gowrie is portrayed as a person of whom Jane O'Grady would have been proud to call a descendant. From the interview I found many similarities between Lord Gowrie and his ancestors – a good education, involvement in public life and later in business, a devout Anglican and the good fortune to have met and married a remarkable woman from a well known family of German aristocrats, the von der Schulenbergs. Lady Gowrie's grandfather was the Kaiser's chief of staff during the 1914 – 1918 war. Her father, known as the Red Count, was one of the leading conspirators in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler and paid the price. His daughter was only three at the time and has no memory of him. Patrick Hore Ruthven, Lord Gowrie's father, was an officer in the Special Air Service Regiment and was killed in a raid in the Western Desert in 1942. His little son Grey was nine months old. This may partly explain his lack of knowledge about his family history, of which he is an integral part.

    As a former chairman of the Arts Council with a deep interest in and knowledge of art and culture and a lover of poetry, we get the impression that this is an interesting, articulate, sensitive and caring person.

    Harperstown House is just a lovely ruin. Jane O'Grady's name is only associated as having 'some connection with a charity' and the tombstones in the graveyard have no recent names on them, but this does not mean that the family died out. Lord Gowrie is a link between the past and the present. Had history been different this man might be living in Harperstown and writing articles for this journal. But looking at his photographs and reading about him help us to visualise and maybe understand what his ancestors may have been like as we struggle to glean a glimpse of the past and to form images of its people before the present mist obliterates all traces. The death of the oral tradition heralds an impenetrable deadly fog. The rest is silence.


    I would like to acknowledge the help of the following without which I could not have produced this article.
    Rev. Denis Brennan P.P. Taghmon
    Eleanor Curtis
    Grace Curtis
    Mrs. Ann Denard, Shankill
    Ms. Orla Bary, Solicitor (Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland, 12 Clare Street, Dublin ).
    Brendan Hamilton
    Ann Marie Lemass (for her patience in typing this article)
    Mrs. McDowell, Plattenstown
    Peter Meany, H.E.O. (Central Statistics Office)
    Andy O'Brien (for his diligent and untiring research in London)
    Richard Roche (for his guidance and encouragement)
    Rev. Norman Ruddock, Rector, Taghmon and Wexford area
    Rev. Nigel J. W. Sherwood, Rector
    Rev. Baden Stanley, Rector, Bray
    The Story of Harperstown by Richard Roche, FRSAI, Taghmon Historical Journal No. 1. 1996
    Last Will and Testament (a) National Archives, Dublin (b) Parochial Records, St. Fintan's, Taghmon
    Vestry Minutes. St. Munn's, Church of Ireland, Taghmon. R.C.B. Library, Dublin
    Records of Commissioners of Charitable Donations of Bequests of Ireland.
    The Big House in Ireland – Valerie Pakenham
    The Daily Telegraph January 20, 2001

    1. The Big House in Ireland by Valerie Packenham
    2. Robin Leigh, Rosegarland
    3. Lodge's Peerage, 1907 (my thanks to Brendan Hamilton)
    4. Coolgreany Death Register (Wexford County Clinic, Grogan's Rd., Wexford)
    5. Burial Register, Church of Ireland, Inch, Co. Wexford and Coolgreany Death Register (Wexford Office)
    6. Brendan Hamilton and Richard Roche
    7. National Archives, Dublin and O'Grady Charity Records, Parochial House, Taghmon
    8. Peter Meany, H.E.O. , Central Statistics Office, Cork
    9. An assessment of the will by Grace Curtis, Solicitor
    10. Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland, 12 Clare Street, Dublin
    11. Parochial records, St. Fintan's, Taghmon
    12. Rev. D. Brennan, P.P. Taghmon and Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland
    13. R.C.B Library, Dublin
    14. Rev. N. Ruddock, Rector (Wexford area including Taghmon)