Kells Archaeological & Historical Society


Oral History


MARY BRADY [née Gurrin]

(born c1955)


Mary grew up on the Headfort Estate, Kells, Co. Meath, where her father (Ned Gurrin) was groom. She is married to Joe Brady and lives at Climber Hall. She works with the Simon Community in Dublin.


Interview with Mary Brady


This is Danny Cusack here on Thursday 2nd March 2011; I’m here at Climber Hall talking to Mary Brady who grew up in Headfort estate in Kells….thanks for agreeing to talk to me Mary …perhaps you would start of by saying what your earliest memories are …about your family and growing up on the Headfort estate. 


MB:        Well I suppose my great grandfather would have been the first of my family who started to work in Headfort estate…..he worked as a coach man I believe I never had the pleasure of meeting him…..then it came to his two sons…by the way his name was Michael Logan no… Con Logan….and then we came to his two sons Michael and James,…James worked in the farm and Michael worked as assistant game keeper….both of them died when I was only a child but have big memories of them.  One of them actually fought in some of the wars out abroad and then came back to Headfort and worked there.  The better history came from my own immediate family…my father was a groom…my uncle Luke was a farmhand my uncle Con was a uncle Michael was assistant game keeper to retirement and my Aunt was Ladies maid to Lady Rose who was the famous Rosie Booth, she was a classical singer…then it came down to myself….all the children of the farmhands would get work in the estate during their summer holidays if they wanted it so at fourteen I helped out in Headfort House with lord Headfort….I found it great fun we had a simple life but yet we lived in a world of our own….we had the woods ….we had the river……we had wildlife…it was brilliant…we had foxes and rabbits and all sorts of things…we had loads of lofts to climb through and play in …….I suppose we have heard it said …my father often said it to,  that the Headforts were great landlords….they were very kind generous landlords because my sister was sick when she was young…..she died as a teenager….. Lord Headfort left a car at our parents disposal night and day for a month whilst she was in hospital…….very, very kind landlords…..they were good to their employees….we would get a can of milk every day and firewood from fallen trees……they would plough up a field to grow our vegetables ….it was a great sort of employment……. as I say my father got a medal for long service from the English Agricultural board…..for long service he had actually served 45 years with the Headforts.


DC:         So really for generations your family had been part and parcel of the whole Headfort estate ingrained in the whole life…..


MB:        Yes, yes when you go back to all the different… only recollection would be Lord Terrance and Lord Michael was the last before that… then my Gran-uncles  was working for Lord Geoffrey who was a great …what would you say botanist…..he collected plants from all over the world and he is the man who was married to Rosie Booth….Michael was married to a lady by the name of Elsie Clarke she was…..her first husband died he was Sir Rupert Clarke……they were Australian


DC:         Ah yes I knew there was some Australian in there somewhere.


MB:        They were Australian, and then Lord Headfort, Lord Michael was married to Elizabeth Nall-Cain (Brockett) from Carton House….then they separated and then he married an aunt of Imelda Marcus from the Philippines …Lord Headfort at one stage…. It’s a funny story like he decided at one stage that he was going to get rid of Harold Wilson….he went over there and of course there was a great ri-raw and they followed them back to Ireland all the reporters from all over the world and at the same time…. the film “The Blue Mouse” was being made, part of it was being made in Headfort …we lived at the front lodge where Sam Holt lives ….my father had to stand guard on the gate with a list of car makes and registrations he was told only to allow in those people…they couldn’t let in the reporters and Lord Headfort was getting out of a bashed up old mini minor on one of the back roads and was waving at them as he was going by….that was one of the funny stories.


DC:         So it was a successful decoy.


MB:        Ah it was a great decoy.


DC:         Was Lord Headfort…I presume he was in the British house of Commons, in the House of Lords


MB:        He was entitled to sit in the House of Lords…he might have once a year gone over to keep it going.


DC:         It was purely symbolic; he didn’t like Harold Wilson politically… and wanted to get rid of him


MB:        He didn’t really like the English monarchy at all…..because the school that is there is really a prep school for Oxford and Cambridge and obviously the union jack…went up on holidays  when you were going on your holidays or coming back whatever……. Lord Headfort went up and took it down of the flag pole and put up the Tri Colour so the Union Jack was never flown after that…..he was really an Irish man at heart.


DC:         So despite his background being Anglo Protestant, he was still an Irish Nationalist….that’s a great story I haven’t heard that before.


MB:        Some of the others might have being a bit younger you see my father was involved in a lot of things because he was on the front gate and he was a care taker…..we got lots of information


DC:         Living in the front gate lodge must have been a very….lovely place to live did you feel especially privileged living there …being at the front gate…having access to everything 


MB         We didn’t really it wasn’t until after ….it was years later my friends said “do you know we really envied you”  I said why did you envy me….they said you have so much space to play and you were in a special place in Headfort estate to live there everyone that lived in their sort of lived in a world of their own because we didn’t have to go out to play with anyone else….there was a group of us who played together in their… could go off and get lost in the woods and play for hours upon hours and fished… some of them were more adventurous I’d say the boys were more adventurous than me……I would have been adventurous but I wasn’t allowed to be cause my mother was always afraid….there was a quarry between the farmyard and our place so my mother was afraid to let me go up there in case I would fall in someplace… so I might not have had had as much fun as the boys.


DC:         You were reined in a wee bit!


MB:        I was reined in a wee bit is right…….what else can I tell you about the history of it all?


DC:         Did you mix….the other families were scattered ….some of them were in the farm yard I know and others were scattered in cottages and houses around the estate……did you mix with them much those children who were scattered throughout the estate?


MB:        Most of them were grown up ….my sister would have…..lord have mercy my elder sister would have ……she talked about all the different families on the borders of the estate.  I wouldn’t have because a lot of them had grown up and gone……I would have been mixing with the people in the farmyard mainly…..Billy Thompson, Ann Thompson those people I would have been mixing with….the others were grown up and gone.   They would have been sort of … sister would have been Fred Irelands age group…..cause that age group….there was lots of them….it was a great place cause they were at the parties and all that used to go on.  We used to have great Christmas parties in Headfort… would be in Headfort in the ball room at the main house and goodness me it was a great party… would always be the Sunday before Christmas from 3 O Clock to about seven….Santa would come and the presents were fabulous…..we got things that nobody else would get…great big dolls or games ….that was back in 1965… was fantastic the things we got.  We didn’t have electricity at our lodge…it cost too much for Lord Headfort to get it down there so we had a lamp or a candle or whatever so ………….we always had someone cheiling from somewhere or the story telling or the ghost stories and all the rest of it… was great fun but you would be spooked out!  ……there would be girls in and out of Headfort school there were a lot of girls working there….generally a lot of girls from Cavan that came to work there….housemaids and whatever….they would be going out in the evening time or whatever….Billy Thompson and I one Halloween we got sheets and jumped into the bushes and the poor girl we nearly frightened the heart out of her…….all for fun.   I worked at Headfort house then…there was always great cocktail parties going on there ….all the lords and the ladies…..when you would be serving up the champagne and all the rest of it… would see all these lords….Lord Longford….yes I have met him …I’m just trying to think of some of them…Lord Killallen….Lord Morris the horse trainer… his father he came there…


DC:         Kilbracken…who died recently?


MB:        No Lord Killallen


DC:         Kilbracken is from Leitrim


MB.        I’m just trying to remember… you would hear the names you know.


DC:         Did any of them stand out as being particularly eccentric or characters?


MB:        I think Lord Longford; I’d always remember him for that….he was a bit of an eccentric character I think.


DC:         So really the Headfort estate growing up there was self-sufficient and self-contained almost


MB:        Yeah it was really….we didn’t really have to shop for much cause we would have hens so we supplied ourselves with eggs…we got meat…we had firewood…we could fish down at the river and catch some fish or catch rabbits….then my mother was a great cook…she baked…we would go to Willie Sheridan in the garden ….that was another thing the garden was fabulous….we would get fruit at times that couldn’t be got in Ireland…….nectarines and peaches


DC:         So you were doing well


MB:        We got beautiful tomatoes and nectarines and sure my god we hadn’t heard ….and this came from Lord Geoffrey he would have brought all these things to the walled in garden…


DC:         They are very much an Australian fruit – nectarines and some of the other things you have mentioned.


MB:        And grapes… oh that was a very very funny storey….there was a grape house a vine house I should say of course it was neglected over the years and falling to pieces but still the old ones were growing there with a bit of glass around it……Billy Thompson and I decided that we were going to get some grapes… anyway we got green ones ….they were probably green cause they weren’t ripe anyway ….we eat them the two of us, I don’t think Ann did but Billy and I did ah sure for Heavens sake we had our mothers up all night we were so sick …we nearly died cause they weren’t ripe.  That was another adventure we had.  Let me see what other pieces we can put together …..Lord Headfort himself had a sister Olivia she is still alive, her aunt and uncle used to come in, Lord William and Lady Millicent; they were Terry’s brother and sister.  (Mary shows Danny a photograph of Lady Olivia’s wedding)  It was a beautiful wedding ….when Lord Headforts first wife Lady Elizabeth Brockett came she was a great lady for the horses. She would go to the RDS to the horse show and all these things …my father would be with her (Mary refers back to the photographs) Lady Elsie who was Michael’s mother had a son and daughter from her first marriage to Sir Rupert Clarke.  That’s Mr. Hancock, that’s Billy Thompsons grandfather he worked with my father with the horses in Headfort as well.


DC:         What was your father’s name?


MB:        Edward or he was known as Ned Gurrin.


DC:         How did your mother become to be on the estate or how did they come to meet?


MB:        My mother was from the far side of Dunshaughlin…my father left Lord Headfort for about ten months they had an argument and he went to work for Captain Fowler at Dunshauglin…that’s where they met.  He came back then to Headfort.  There was a very funny storey about my father and one of the men who worked in Headfort… that time when they would be hunting with the various hunts …the ward unions or the Meath’s or the Ballymacad …the grooms would ride the horses and bring the spare horse  with no weights on its back….. there was no such thing as a horse-box that time….my father and this other man …both of them are dead years now the lord have mercy on them….they were coming by Fairyhouse racecourse ….it could have been Easter Sunday but it could have been Easter Saturday it was the evening time….so the temptation was enormous what would it be like to do the National Course…so the two boys went in and tried the national course and I don’t think it was ever known.


DC:         It didn’t get out.


MB:        They got out and everything else, but every trainer in the country was accused of schooling the horses the night before and it was only two old hunters that were brought around Fairyhouse racecourse….they always had the pleasure of saying that….they did the full course to see what it was like……two old hunters who wouldn’t win nothing  and every trainer in the place was blamed for schooling their horse  the night before in Fairyhouse racecourse….but that is how my parents met…as I said my father worked all them years and then he was sick for seven years before he died…he really was  caretaked for those seven years cause he wasn’t able to work…..when he died then my mother bought this house because it was always customary that you were asked to leave …well somebody else had to come in and do the work……but my mother never went back to the estate she stayed with my sister….she actually looked at this house before my father died and I think she wanted him to live in it……and he said no he wanted to stay in Headfort…..he was only 68 when he died ….he said we could do what we liked after…I was only 17 when he died, we left then after that.


DC:         So the greater part of your life had really been here.


MB:        The greater part was here but the greater love has always been Headfort…as I said all the stories were from there because all my family worked uncle was the last to leave my uncle Luke he was the last to leave the farm…he worked in it up to his pension his sister worked as a young girl as a ladies maid she had great memories cause very famous singers came there ….count John Mc Cormack.


DC:         Did he?


MB:        Oh yes he sang in Headfort with Lady Rose…she was known as Lady Rose.


DC:         Any idea of the time……I can do a search through the Meath Chronicle…..but any idea roughly of the year or even the decade.


MB:        Not a clue… my father would be over a hundred now if he was alive and my aunt would be I suppose would be around ninety if she was alive…..she would have worked there from somewhere in her twenties.


DC:         I can work it from there


MB:        Probably about sixty seventy years ago or more ….you know….probably would have been about seventy years ago …….I can’t think of a whole lot of things.


DC:         Something has occurred to me… lived out there in the Gate lodge and your life was very self contained ….did you interact much with the town….did you go to school in the town


MB:        Oh yes we went to school in the town


DC:         In Eureka


MB:        Yes I went to the convent first…then Eureka…..The nuns would have permission to walk around Headfort estate every Sunday and of course I knew if I was naughty during the week they would tell my mother what I had done…so I was in trouble again!!….several nuns would come and walk around the estate on Sunday……my father and mother lived in different parts of the estate ….my eldest sister was born at the north lodge….that would have been up that direction ….all of my family was actually born there I was the only one that was born down at the bridge…Lady Elsie who was Michael’s mother was a great one for moving people around at a moments notice……they were in the north lodge that is where the started off… two eldest sisters and my brother were born there


DC:         Was your father a herd at one time


MB:        No, actually the herd at one stage used to live down in the middle… between the north lodge and the garden it was where Terrance lived that was the herd’s house at one stage….. because he was in the middle of all the fields down there…… and when it came to Ned Lynch then… he was put up there ….we were moved then to the stable yard because Lady Elsie decided  she was going to get hens and she wanted my mother to look after the hens……. and she got a couple of hundred hens so my mother was in charge of the hens cause she came from a farming background…… she was in charge of the hens …….then they decided to move them into the main house ….there were two families I cant remember who the other family was who lived in the basement of the main house it was set out into kind of flats.


DC:         I didn’t know that.


MB:        So then they were moved again to what was known as the cottages….that was up on the Headfort road past the lodge that we lived in ….


DC:         Is that the group of six cottages that are now knocked….


MB:        That’s the exact place where Jim Dempsey lived….he would be a man too who would know the history of it…he is a former guard…he lived up there…he wouldn’t have worked in it….he could tell you some bits too maybe ….and then we were moved down to the gatelodge….my father used to say the next move we would get would be out to the road!  My sister used to say they had great fun when they lived in the main house cause it was so big they could hide ….she would have been 12 or 14 years of age and the great fun they had in there… was fantastic in the main house as long as they didn’t go up into the main rooms…..but they had loads of space down in the basement to play…that was great fun…..of course there was a big dairy farm there….my father didn’t have anything to do with the dairying I think my uncle might have….my father as I say always looked after the horses……a hugh dairy herd they had ……I remember one time there was a terrible thunder storm and a hugh amount of cows were killed by lighting they went in under the trees during the storm and they were killed….that would have probably being in the sixties… friends of course used to love to come out my school friends from Kells ….they loved to come out to get around to play it was a real treat to get in there to play so it was…..they had great fun again they didn’t go near the main house …….you had to stay away from there but then as I say it was great fun to work in there cause we got to see all the main rooms…..I remember one night there was a party in the ball room when I had cleared up, Mrs Thompson, she was the main lady in the house that time…she had come up to the kitchen ….she told me to go back and switch off all the lights in the ball room….I switched off all the lights and I must have been missing for an hour I was in the dark and I couldn’t find my way out of it…..I was wandering around up and down corridors ….it was so big …imagine how vast it was …I was lost for so long ….I was frightened so I was …you heard all these ghost stories and everything else I was spooked out …My father used to say during the war years ….my father often said that the Headforts hid priests , when the priest hunters went around that they hid the priests…there was a little what would you say …there was a little nook down at one of the bridges and they hid him there.



DC:         This was probably during the penal times.


MB:        Penal times yes it would go back that far.


DC:         You mentioned living in the basement flat in the big house ….more generally and of course I was told you didn’t go up to Headfort house unless you had a invitation ….was their an enormous cleavage between say you and the Headforts or was there a certain amount of social interaction or did people keep their distance and know their place


MB:        Oh you did you always had that respect for them….so you did ….I suppose Lord Michael would have what would have sort of “thawed out” a bit because he would stand and speak to you and whatever else but you still always had a certain amount of respect for them ….the Lord before that now ….you wouldn’t go to the front of the house ….we always sort of went around a roundabout way … we might have been going to visit Ned Lynch and his wife or something like that ……went up by the back avenue …you didn’t go by the front of the house…… so you didn’t…..I remember my mother telling us the tale ….my sister had a goat she had a pet made out of the goat…my mother came from early mass one Sunday…my Parents while the lived in the stable yard and lived in the basement of the main house….they did have to come by the front of the house….there was no other way for them to get in …..there was no other option they went in by the….they came around by the front and went down by a side path and went down to the basement from there…..but my mother was coming from mass one Sunday morning and there was my sisters goat eating the roses at the front steps and like those roses were treasured ….she had to run for her life and catch the goat…it had broken its tether and had got out…….oh my god she thought they would have been thrown out…….at that time you could be….dismissed over minor things


DC:         So there was that social hierarchy?


MB:        There was that hierarchy to that extent … the workers always said your lordship and your Ladyship and all that ….I couldn’t tolerate it, I just could not…it stuck in my throat….to my there was only one Lord and god and that was it and when I started to work in Headfort house I was just wondering how I was going to address them and yet respect them so…there was a lady who worked in the kitchen she cooked…she would say “Good morning Lord Headfort, “good morning Lady Headfort” and that was it for the day ……so I thought that was nice and respectful now ..that suits me ….so that’s what I did ….after three days I was called into the study by Lord Headfort he said you know you must address me as your Lordship and your Lady as your Ladyship…..Lord Bective, Lady Olivia and Lady Roseanna ….they were the son and two daughters…It is alright for Miss Sexton to address me as she does because she isn’t a resident on this estate.


DC:         That was certainly putting you in your place……


MB:        So I turned around and said I won’t call you anything… he stood and looked at me and I looked at him


DC:         You’re very bold


MB:        Yeah I’m a rebel


DC:         Fair play to you


MB:        So I went home and my father said “Oh my god go back and apologise your going to get us thrown out on the road” and my mother said “No she is right” …like my mother was a woman who demanded respect but she never liked this cause my mother….my father was reared like that but my mother wasn’t… mother belonged to a farming family who owned their own farm and their own house and everything she did not bow or genuflect to anybody  …….so she said “no she is right” and my father said “no no she is going to get us thrown out she will”… and I said “I don’t care I’m not apologising” ….so brave old me went back up the next morning to work and I met them and I just said “good morning”……I never said Lord muck lord who or anything else and it went on like that and even after we left the estate Lord Headfort came in here and asked me to go out and cook dinner.


DC:         Did he


MB:        Yeah, I did a couple of dinner parties and various bits and pieces ….when he was stuck he would call in and asked me would I be able to do it and I did……I was even married and he came in here one Sunday and he said I’m really really stuck and we having  a dinner party and the person who was supposed to do it is sick could you take us out of the hobble and I said yeah I will….I never looked back….I could not do it…I always have respect for people but I couldn’t do that genuflecting.


DC:         Fair play to you …….you stood your ground and there was no backlash or no repercussions.


MB:        No.  That particular summer I worked with his first wife she married in England secondly to a Frank Knight they are auctioneers… big auctioneers in London and she came over to take the old house Roundstone in Galway,  And she came over to take the children on holidays …it was the last summer that I worked there because I was 17 it was just before my father died….she asked if she could borrow me for a fortnight and I felt terrible cause I wanted to go and I did go yet I know my father was sick…he said go on and go and enjoy it ……I always remember it she came into the house and actually sat on his bed and chatted to him…….she was very fond of my father and she knew well she wasn’t going to see him again …..she left the house she couldn’t speak to the rest of us she was in tears….she was a lovely lady she is still alive I think…..I didn’t hear anything about her dying…she was a lovely lovely lady and was very very kind to my father.  I used to entertain the children quite a bit Olivia, Roseanna and Christopher …..I always thought it was a great pity that Christopher didn’t inherit the estate because he would go out and work from morning till night on the farm he loved to work on it ……I think it was a great pity that he just wasn’t able to inherit it ….all this tax came and all this money that was owed to the government…..Lord Headfort didn’t have an interest in agriculture..….I think if Christopher had come a generation or so earlier it might have been saved because he would have made a great income from it…. Would have made it pay…. where lord Michael had no interest in it…all he wanted was his aeroplane and flew off here and there and everywhere so he did….he was just wasting money.


DC:         Living the high life…..indulging himself….and then of course you had the two sales of the estate to Kruger and then the next sale was subdivided….


MB:        It was subdivided ……I haven’t really gone back up to it much while Thompson’s were there I did but when it was divided I didn’t……I hadn’t gone back because you don’t know whose land you are walking on now.


DC:         And it’s not the old place that you know so well…..


MB:        No it’s not the old place even the tree at the front ….the big palm tree is gone that was inside the gate …..I mean my god in heaven that must have been a 100 feet high, it was before the big chestnut tree….have you been to the estate.


DC:         I have a couple of times


MB:        That chestnut tree was recorded in some book as been some of the biggest chestnut tree in the world and there was a palm one there in front of it ….it was so tall it must have been 100 feet high Billy Thompson and I used to climb that and we would be fighting about who would get to the top first… mothers heart would be in her mouth in case we would fall out of it and be killed.  Then so many of them are buried on the island.


DC:         Yes that’s right Fred Ireland was explaining that.


MB:        Yeah that’s the burial ground.


DC:         And then you got the Mausoleum as well.


MB:        Michael is the only one that hasn’t come back to be buried…….they reckon that he was cremated and that he will be brought back…… there must be something about…… that he would stay with her …..That’s what I gather from……


DC:         This is in the Philippines now.



MB:        Because I said it to a certain person …it’s a great pity that…….and this is somebody that would be in the know…a great pity that he’s not brought back to the resting place of the Headforts and he said …Well when she goes it will be different so…   It would be a great pity cause he is the only one of them that is missing …they are all buried there.


DC:         There are different families on the estate there would have been Protestants and Catholics I suppose amongst the families on the estate…..did everyone mix in well…there was no sort of sectarian undertone  ……..



MB:        No we all got on very well together …..


DC:         That wasn’t an: issue. 


MB:        No, religion didn’t come into it.


DC:         Obviously the Headforts employed both Protestants and Catholics.


MB:        Yes.


DC:         It wasn’t an issue for them either in that sense.


MB:        You see the Headforts were always Catholics and married protestants for whatever reason …it was always a mixed marriage until Michael married the second time his second wife is catholic…they used to have their seat in the church with cushions.


DC:         So I believe…


MB:        No all the families mixed well….all the families on the farm …Hartens were in it ….there was Larkins ….Tommy Harten was a gardener with Willie Sheridan ….then Thompsons were in the main house in the corner that was know as the Stewarts house …there were people there by the name of Larkin ….Joe Larkin was the herds man he was from Kerry…none of them around now the majority of that family went to England….there were Kirwan’s they lived in ….I don’t know the name of that house ….I think it used to be the old herds house  off out in the fields…they were a long distance away from us ….my sister would have been friendly with some of them, there was none of them my age….Mr Kirwan worked in the school he didn’t work for Lord Headfort he worked for the school...he was the caretaker for the school…..Michael Reilly and Joe Horan they were shared…they worked part of the time in the school….which ever place they were needed by the school or Lord Headfort ….Eddie Hand was the herd …..Ed Lynch was the herd when I was a child….there is some of them still around …


DC:         Mary Lynch that’s married to Tom Moran is a relation of mine so I hear different stories from Mary she grew up there


MB:        Yea she is older than me.  Mary would have fell in between me and my sisters…..yeah they lived in that lodge and then Billy Hand came along to live in it then….his wife is still up there


DC:         So I believe


MB         Rosie…


DC:         Billy Thompson mentioned that…


MB:        Ah he was a fantastic herd man… god you would look at him with his two collies rounding up the sheep ….one would hold the sheep and then he would tell the other one to gather up the next lot ….and he would count the sheep and check them out ……by the time you would get into the next paddock …..the other one would have them……they were fantastic dogs…..fantastic dogs…..there was one time they had poultry and pigs as well…..where the front apartments are now at the farm yard….that was known as the poultry yard ….the poultry and pig yard….it was a very self-sufficient estate cause my mother could go back to a time I never saw it……but my sister did when they made the butter and all ….you could have butter and you could have eggs so it was very self-sufficient … couldn’t pull flowers you weren’t meant to take any flowers  or touch the rhododendrons or  get a Christmas tree we were always dying to get a tree…..a little Christmas tree…..we weren’t supposed to cut any of these things down we weren’t meant to take any of the rhododendrons and there were very rare daffodils, snowdrops, beautiful things ….I actually… mother brought some of the snow drops because we had them growing at our house and I never never saw ones like it before or since….they were like an umbrella I have them in my garden still….the daffodils died out over the years ….again their were some daffodils there and narcissi that I never saw before or since……very rare flowers and it’s a great pity because Lord Michael cleared some of the land …just got a bulldozer and bulldozed them into the ditches….beautiful flowers and everything.


DC:         No appreciation…


MB:        No he didn’t care ….he was an awful man he didn’t care…he was nice…… he was a nice man ….he was a very nice man…….he just didn’t have a clue ….he got rid of beautiful trees and beautiful flowers for to make more agricultural land and then he wasn’t really interested in agriculture either ……that was a fad as well ….that was thrown there as well know……he has no interest whatsoever in horses…..none…it was his first wife who had the interest in horses.

I can’t think of anything more really.



DC:         You have done well really ….you have given me a good sense of what it was like to grow up there … cause it is all a by-gone era now….its all finished


MB:        It’s sad really ….its sad….its good in one sense because we all have progressed onto the one level really...


DC:         Of course it’s all egalitarian and democratic and all the rest of it 


MB:        Yes we all have progressed onto the one level and then it was a simpler life so it was ….we all had great fun together ….if there was a wedding or parties or birthdays …you know a big birthday a 21st or something like that ….you would have great crack with all the people on the estate ….a simple life…a simple life ….but we didn’t need to go outside the estate for entertainment there was so much to do ….there was always pet lambs on the go that was another one…..we would have our dogs although we weren’t meant to dogs either….there  were pheasants that were  reared there…  so we would be in trouble if our dogs wandered off or got into trouble…..they reared a

huge lot of pheasants…and Joe Reilly he would be going around and Bill Ireland and the two of them would be going around for weeks before hand to incubate the eggs  …that time they would be going around to all the farmers or whatever to get hens that weren’t hatching and they had little wooden coops and they put the eggs in under the hens that hatch out the pheasants ….there was no such thing as an incubator that time…of course then they would be staying up at night the biggest threat that time wasn’t the fox it was the badger ….because of course the hen and the chicks were in the coops…  their could have been 50 wooden coops and the hens would be in there with the

chicks and be closed in at night ……but they weren’t a solid floor, they were sitting on the grass ….but the badger would come along and push with his head….he would be like the pig…..he would be routing and he would push it over and of course he would kill the hen and chicks….so somebody would be staying  up for weeks they would take turns so some of the gamekeepers would stay up at night to make sure that the chicks survived …so then you had the shoots all over the estate that was one thing now that I was terrified of….and to this day I’m terrified of guns…….I never liked it, my mother would have to make sure to have all the fire was in ….sticks and water, turf whatever briquettes….while the shooting was going on at the house….I would lose my life if she went outside the door…..I was terrified of the guns so I was absolutely terrified .  It was a good life ….a good life.  All around Kells….there was a huge amount of Landlords all around Kells.


DC:         There was Nicholson’s, Rothwells ….and they go back centuries too


MB:        And then you had Miss Mc Cormack at Williamstown…my uncle lived there …she was of the Ted Cassell- McCormack’s …she was in a beautiful big house and to see it falling down is very sad ….my sisters were with Brady’s of Blackwater ….but the Nicholson’s and the Rothwells were very hard to work for .


DC:         Yes they didn’t have the best reputation in the world…


MB:        No they were very hard, anyone that could help it wouldn’t go there….if they were there they only waiting the chance to get in to the likes of Headfort ……everyone was always waiting and if they got into Headfort they didn’t leave…like as I say they stayed on for generations ….Mrs Thompson remembered been in Nicholson’s when she was young ….I think they came there cause her father is English and I remember an old lady here in the town telling me her parents worked for the Rothwells …the same lady died when she was …she must have been nearly ninety….she had beautiful hair ….beautifully curly hair ….and she said she will always remember as a child on a Saturday night her mother would  rag her hair to have the ringlets for Sunday morning ….the Rothwells were very Protestant….this lady was protestant too …..Lady Rothwell came down to her mother and asked her to cut her hair…..not asked her…..told her to cut her daughters hair because she was prettier than her daughter ……and she had to do it…now isn’t that something and then you see one of the Rothwells married a Nicholson …no they weren’t nice to work for ….I worked one summer holidays for the Nicholson’s and……



DC:         Different kettle of fish altogether.


MB:        They weren’t a bit nice …they weren’t a bit nice now ….we were living her and I was just looking for a summer holidays job from school and I got a job in Nicholson’s but ah no ….they weren’t nice at all so they weren’t….that was a huge house ….a lot of that was knocked during the war …but the basement is still in it…


DC          Is it?


MB:        Because the immediate part that is under the house has electricity but if you wander away from that you could get lost …because I have to go down into it to get old silver trays and I actually wandered off the beaten track and I was down there for a while somebody had to come get me…I forget what happened to me…it was a spooky house it was a horrible place I didn’t like it at all I only worked for the summer holidays and that was it .I’d never go back near it, it was spooky it was a horrible place didn’t like it at all There was great wealth in Meath, good land that is probably why Landlords came to Meath….they used to gave great lots of silver and brass and you would be cleaning….that was one of my jobs in Headfort house was to do the brass…..and the main stairs had brass rods that was one of the things I was very sad about when I went back to see it ….it was an open day or something and my self and my sister went back ….it nearly made us cry …we sat down and felt a lump in our throat because she worked in it as well as my self as I said the employees families got jobs for the summer ..big velvet drapes and everything were covered in dust they were in bits …they weren’t looked after …the stairs I remember cleaning the brass rods and I cant even remember how many brass rods but it was for three stories… that huge mahogany stairs going from the ground floor to the top…..we brassod all those rods ….the carpet was nearly worn away ,.,it was terrible sad and the brass rods …you couldn’t even see the brass….you see nobody would do that these days …..I like to see things like that …the furniture there was no such think as a spray polish…you used beeswax….the funny thing was I was at a auction in Oliver Ushers I was having a look at furniture in there….I was looking at a particular item…….I brought the ? over to see a chest of drawers ….there was a beautiful chest of drawers I could actually smell the beeswax from the wood and there wasn’t a scratch from it…..that was furniture that was well made…..well made……then at night we used to have to go around and turn down their beds that was the job before we went to bed to make sure their beds were warm and turned down a certain way….then I got moved on to ironing ….I had to iron the table cloths and the napkins and everything they would be perfect and the same with the shirts  we would have to do them like they came out of a shop and hang them on a hanger like the came out of a shop…….then all the different wine glasses and lots of cutlery….talking about silver service and everything today I learned every bit of it and every bit of cutlery and all the different wine glasses and everything else……you could be there until 11 o clock or 12 O clock…..that’s one thing if they were entertaining they never thought about the staff…you were on call and you stayed there so you did till whatever time it was that they finished ……and then you had to wash up and there was no dishwasher that time….wash up and go home then…….



DC:         No industrial no overtime or triple-time and no trade union either


MB:        No I remember my father worked a six day week…you were always off on a Sunday ….a Sunday was a day of rest and then I remember he got a half day on a Saturday …..he used to think he was great being finished at one o clock…….he never actually got to the five day week ….at time you didn’t go off to your pension till you were seventy… he actually never got a chance to get to his pension either


DC:         So it really was your life ….a day and a half off a week…you really didn’t have much time to go anywhere else.


MB:        No well my father was the only one of his family who lived on the estate and I don’t know I d say his grandfather probably did live on the estate but my gran uncles didn’t and they left it to go ….they were in the British foreign legions  or something like that …..they went away my two gran uncles ……and then my uncle and aunt they were the youngest and the second youngest of the family ….they lived in Carlanstown….they have their own house over at Carlanstown…Dad’s eldest brother would have been…he was actually one of the first police men in Ireland ……the Freestate ….they actually carried a gun that time ……and he left that and he worked in the Botanical gardens for a short while and then he came back to Headfort to work with Bill Ireland as assistant gamekeeper ….but he didn’t live in the estate either ….he lived out in Miss Mc Cormack’s…that’s how I know so much about Miss Mc Cormacks….so that was my uncle Connie I didn’t know he died when I was about two, again he lived with the other brother and sister….yeah he lived with them and he died I think I was only about two….he worked in the garden.  My father was the only one to live on the estate….so he was my grandfather on my fathers side didn’t …..the funny thing was my grandparents didn’t work on the estate….that’s a history I’m going to have to dig up ……I have to go to that history someplace cause I don’t know where my Grandfather came from with that name ……they say its either French or German name “Gurrin”…..I must go and dig up the history of it sometime…..he didn’t work on the estate he died when my father was young.  They had their own house out at Normanstown and then my fathers two youngest brother and sister inherited that house cause my grandfather died when my father was only thirteen…….my sister remembers seeing our grandmother alright…….I didn’t see her …..there was a great age gap between my eldest sister and my second eldest …….there would have been about ten years between my brother and my self……so they were a different era


DC          A different era…..ten years makes a hell of a difference …….but even when you’re young


MB         It seems like a lifetime…


The End.


Oral History