Kildare Archaeological Society Visits Ardclough (1902)

The annual outing of the County Kildare Archaeological Society visited Ardclough and its hinterland on August 27th 1902, this is an account of the day as reported in the Kildare Observer of September 6th, 1902.

On Wednesday the annual excursion of this society was held to several places of historic interest in the Co Kildare. A large party of members from the city journeyed down by the 10.30 train to Straffan, where they were met by the local ones.

Straffan Station

Straffan Station

The morning, which opened under depressing conditions, assumed a state of promise as the Kingsbridge was left, and by the time Straffan was reached the sun was shining down warmly, and a brisk breeze soon dried up the roads, making the success of the outing, as far as the weather was concerned, of the most hopeful kind.

Walter Fitzgerald

Walter Fitzgerald

A large number of cars from Naas were in waiting, and after the usual introductions the party set out for the first item on the programme, Bishopscourt, the residence of Lord Clonmell. Amongst those present were – Lord Walter Fitzgerald, Hon Gerald Ponsonby, Sir Arthur Vicars, Ulster King at Arms; the Countess of Mayo, Lord and Lady Henry Fitzgerald, the Dean of Kildare, Rev C Ganley, Hon Terence Bourke, Lady Mabel Fitzgerald, Canon and Mrs Sherlock, Mr and Mrs Fitzmaurice, Mr and Mrs Hendrick-Aylmer, Mr and Mrs Vipont Bury, Mr and Mrs Cramer Roberts, Miss Culshaw, Messrs Richard D Walshe, C N Drury, W grove White, N J Synnott, W Kirkpatrick and A A Shortt.

Bishopscourt & O’Connell Duel Site

Bishopscourt in 1900

Bishopscourt in 1900

On the route to Bishopscourt the old ruins of Whitechurch, or “Tullaghtipper”, were passed. After a very pleasant drive of three and a half miles through interesting scenery Bishopscourt, a splendid old-style building, was reached, and here Lord Walter Fitzgerald read an interesting paper relative to the house, upon which the arms of the William Brabazon Ponsonby, into whose possession it came in the 16th century, still remain.

Magazine comment in the aftermath of the duel

Magazine comment in the aftermath of the duel

Previous to and following this person’s time the history of the house was traced down to when it came into the possession of the ancestors of the present owner. Quite adjacent to the house, and easily visible from the door is the place where the famous the famous duel between Daniel O’Connell and D’Esterre took place on the 5th February 1815. Lord Walter Fitzgerald, in describing this event, read a long article from the “Cornhill Magazine” of September 1900, written by Mr Michael McDonagh, which stated that the cause of the duel was a statement by O’Connell with regard to the Corporation of the time on some matter with reference to the treatment of Roman catholics. D’Esterre, who was a provision merchant on Bachelor’s Walk, immediately took up the matter, and, after some time, a duel was arranged with pistols at Bishopscourt.

Woodcut of O'Connell v D'Esterre duel drawn many years after the event

Woodcut of O’Connell v D’Esterre duel drawn many years after the event

D’Esterre was known to be a crack shot, hence very considerable interest was centred in the duel, and on the day of the fight most of the members of the Corporation were present.

The arrangement was that they were to stand ten paces from one another, and at a given signal they could move or fire. D’Esterre fired, but missed. O’Connell also fired, but his bullet took effect on the hip of his adversary, and on the surgeons present making a search for it, it could not be discovered.

He did not appear to be very seriously injured but two days later he succumbed to his wound.

Tommy Christian points out the site of the O'Connell-D'Esterre duel in 2003

Tommy Christian points out the site of the O’Connell-D’Esterre duel in 2003

His widow afterwards became the wife of Sir Arthur Guinness and O’Connell vowed he would never fight another duel, which resolution he faithfully carried out.

Subsequently Lord Walter Fitzgerald pointed out the exact place in the field at which the duel was fought.


The cars were again mounted, and after a pleasant drive of one and a half miles the party reached another beautifully situated site of interest – perhaps the best on the programme from every point of view – Oughterard.

Oughterard in 1874

Oughterard in 1874

The word, which is derived from the Celtic words meaning “height” or “proper hill,” is admirably signified in its Celtic meaning. It is, in fact, a lordly hill, standing about 500 feet above the sea level, and surmounted by a pile of ruins, including a round tower, of which the base remains in a state of excellent preservation, being of the usual style of almost impregnable masonry.

View to 14th century window at Oughterard

View to 14th century window at Oughterard

The top of the tower has, however, been dislodged by some agency, as traces of the solid masonry which composed it can be seen over the surrounding ground.

From the top of the interesting hill an uninterrupted view of the country for many miles can be had, as is borne out by the statement that the Counties of Dublin, Wicklow, Kildare, Meath, Louth, Carlow, and Queen’s are easily discernible.

Lord Walter Fitzgerald explained that the buildings, of which traces remain, marked the spot where a religious institution was established by St Brigid whose name is so prominently associated with Kildare.

Oughterard Co Kildare

Oughterard Co Kildare

In the Book of the Four Masters the Hill of Oughterard is also mentioned, as it is stated that in 1094 it was surrounded by the Danes who were then in Ireland, and burned.

In 1345 it became the property of Sir Eustace Deport, and eventually fell into the hands of the Aylmers of Lyons, whose property it still remains.

The round tower, which is also supposed to be pure Norman, was probably erected as a place of preservation for the sacred books, plates, etc belonging to the religious edifice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANumerous tombstones are also scattered over the summit of the hill, and amongst those a slab in the wall of the adjoining vault lie the remains of Sir Arthur Guinness of St James’s Gate, in the City of Dublin, who died on the 23rd January 1803; also those of his wife, who died March, 1814. In the same vault also lie the remains of Richard Guinness. No date follows the latter name, but it is supposed he was an ancestor of the present family.

In the vaulted basement of the church are the remains of the sons of the ancestors of the well-known firm of brewers, Messrs Watkins, and near the round tower is a granite tombstone erected to the memory of Michael Phipps, one of the insurgent chiefs in the memorable rebellion of 1798. The vault of the Wolfe family of Forenaughts also remains.

Whilst here a very heavy shower came on, delaying the party for some time. Eventually the sky cleared, the sun shone warmly again, and seats were resumed.


Church at Lyons

Church at Lyons

After an interesting drive through excellent wooded scenery the next stop was made at Lyons, the residence of Lord Cloncurry, where the ancient church with its ivy-covered ruins were visited. Inside the wall is a tombstone with the following inscription: – “here lie the remains of Edward, Third Baronet Cloncurry, who died April 3rd 1868, and also his wife Elizabeth, who died 1st May, 1895.” In the wall surrounding the ruins is set in each side of an opening, a heavily sculptured Aylmer and Fleming coat of arms, bearing the date 1548.

Aylmer and Tyrrell marriage stone in Lyons

Aylmer and Fleming marriage stone in Lyons

Here Mr Hans Hendrick Aylmer read an interesting paper on the Aylmer family, who were formerly owners of Lyons, and the originals ancestors of whom came over to Ireland from Cornwall with Fitzstephen in 1169. The various incidents in the lives of these were given down to a very recent date. They were apparently always very loyal to the ruling sovereign, but at the same time Gerald Aylmer devoted a considerable portion of his time during Queen Elizabeth’s reign to the settlement of Roman Catholic grievances. In the churchyard already mentioned the remains of the deceased Aylmers are interred.


Newcastle Church of Ireland

Newcastle Church of Ireland

On joining the cars again a start was made for Newcastle, Lyons, ion the County of Dublin, but only a short distance had been covered when the only exciting incident of the trip occurred. The procession of cars was speedimg merrily along under the leadership of Lord Fitzgerald and Sir Arthur Vicars, when at as cross roads a motor car, “chuff chuffing” loudly, dashed down the road to meet the excursion party.

The first horse, not used to this means of conveyance, immediately stopped, with the result that the complete lot of outsiders were brought to a sudden standstill. With the exception of Mr A Shortt, who did a header of his bicycle, out of which he extricated himself uninjured, no damage results, and everything was ready for a restart when it was discovered that the wrong road had been taken.

Steps were retraced, and after a somewhat longer distance than that catalogued Newcastle Lyons was reached, passing on the way that now neglected blessed well dedicated to St Finian, the patron saint of pre-Norman Newcastle.

Granite cross at Newcastle

Granite cross at Newcastle

At Newcastle, the ancient church with its sculptured cross and ancient plate was visited, and a brief description given by Rev CV P O’Meara, Rector of Newcastle. The situations of three small wells, a moat or rath, and St Finian’s well, were afterwards pointed out and the cars being resumed a drive of three miles brought the party to Celbridge, where tea was served at Thorpe’s Hotel, after which all drove to Hazlehatch to leave by their respective trains evidently well pleased with the day’s interesting outing.

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