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.
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.
'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.
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 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:
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)
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)
Jacob T. Geoghegan
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.
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.
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.
|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
|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|
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.
Three years later Mrs. O'Grady died and remembered and bequeathed a generous legacy to the Church of Ireland.
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.
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.