Hellfire Club

The Hellfire Club is a place in the Dublin Mountains that I have kept meaning to go to, and up until today, had 100% failed to do. However, that has now changed. It is about a 2.5Km walk up Montpelier Hill to get to the ruins of what is known as the Hellfire Club. The building is a hunting lodge built which was built in 1725 by William Connolly, who was Speaker of the Irish Parliament. Originally there was a cairn with a prehistoric passage grave on the summit of the hill, which was destroyed, so that the stone could be used to help build the Lodge. In the past this is not something that some people would have been to happy about and when the roof blew off the building during a storm shortly after it was finished, some local people attributed the loss of the roof to the Devil as he was displeased with the interference with the cairn. Ever since then, the building has been associated with many paranormal events. The Irish Hell Fire Club was a Society that used this building as a club house from from 1735 to 1741. The building has developed a reputation for stories of wild behaviour, debauchery, occult practices, hauntings and general oddness over the years. When William Connolly died four years after the completion of the Lodge, Richard Parsons, First Earl of Rosse and Founder of Ireland’s Hellfire Club bought the building (1730s). The Hellfire Club was originally an exclusive club for high spirited upper-class young men with too much time on their hands. The Society started off innocently enough, the Members enjoyed practical jokes, women, drinking and gambling. However, there were stories that suggested that the members may have regularly drank scaltheen (whiskey and hot butter) and toasted the Devil, allegedly, they left a chair vacant for him in case he should ever decide to join in their fun and games, some people believe he did. The story goes that one stormy night when a stranger knocked on the door of the lodge. The members invited their guest in, where he joined in their drunken antics and card games. It was only when one of the members dropped a card on the floor and went to pick it up that he noticed their visitor’s cloven hooves. There are a lot of other stories too, involving priests exorcising demons and human sacrifice, these stories are clearly myths, however, there are some horrible true stories linked with the site too. One of these is that of Henry, the fourth Baron Barry of Santry, who was one of the younger members of the club and, apparently, an angry drunk. It is believed, that he once burned a servant to death in his bed after drenching the sick man with brandy and setting him on fire. Up until this incident, Henry had been successful in paying people to look the other way. However, eventually Henry was brought to trial and successfully convicted over the stabbing death of another servant., during another incident. Even though his powerful friends protected him, they were also fed up with him and wanted him gone, so he spent the rest of his days alone in exile in England. The fallout of this Trial was that everyone started to look into the activities of the Hellfire Club, and shortly after Henrys Trial, several other members died in the Battle of Fontenoy (1745). The Hellfire Club was only around for six years, but the legend lives on. Like everything else connected to this building, what happened to it next is slightly unclear. Some of the claims made are that the remaining members of the club, set fire to the lodge when the Connolly family refused to renew their lease. Another suggestion is that a careless footman spilled a drink on one of the members, who retaliated by soaking him in brandy and setting him on fire; the fire spread, burning and killing as it went. The final and most mundane possibility is that the damage was done when the lodge was stripped for building materials that were then used for the construction of another building nearby. The end of the Hellfire Club was not the end of the use of the Lodge by other Societies. The next group to use the building between 1771 and the turn of the century, was one called ‘The Holy Fathers’. This group seemed to follow in the dark footsteps of their predecessors. Apparently,  The Holy Fathers were responsible for the murder of a nearby farmer’s daughter, who they then ate! We will never know the entire truth about what happened at this location, but, it is safe to say that the legend of the Hellfire Club will live on for many more years to come. A lot of people like to go up to the Hellfire Club around Halloween to see if they can experience anything strange and there are stories of people having odd experiences when playing with ouija boards in the Lodge.

If you want more information on the Hellfire Club, I have included a link below:

http://www.coillte.ie/site/hell-fire-club/

 

 

 

Killiney Hill

On a glorious Summers evening, a friend of mine and myself went to Killiney Hill with the intention of chasing the evening light. We were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset and equally beautiful light earlier in the evening. I have always liked Killiney Hill as the views over the bay and city are spectacular. We were among a lot of relaxed people enjoying the atmosphere of the hill that evening as well as happy dogs snuffling round their owners and new friends.

 

 

 

National Bird of Prey Centre

A visit to Russborough House in Wicklow is always enjoyable, this time, we chose to go to the National Bord of Prey Centre located there, and saw some of the over forty birds housed in the Centre. We got to see the end of one of the regular flight displays that the Centres Falconers demonstrate in the grounds of the House. Then we attended the incredibly informative Tour of the Centre and got to meet and hold some of the characters who live in the Falconry. On this occassion we got to a three year old Tawny Owl named Albert (bottom left), and we stroked a Little Owl named Gizmo (bottom right). The chap in the middle is six weeks old and we were not told what his/her name was. The National Bird of Prey Centre has been opened for just over a year now, and is worth visiting. Russborough House has something for everyone including, a Playground, Maze, Fairy Walk, House Tours, Walled Garden, Artisan Workshops, Cafe and a Shop.

If you are looking for something to do in Wicklow, I highly recommend a trip to Russborough House.

 

National Gallery of Ireland

The National Gallery of Ireland recently re-opened, so I had to visit it, as it has been a very long time since I was there last. The massive refurbishment that has taken place in the Gallery is fantastic. The place looks great. It was just a short visit, so I need to go back to explore further. I did get to see some pieces that I have always liked. I missed the Caravaggio Exhibition that was held in the Gallery a couple of months ago. At the moment there is a Vermeer Exhibition on display.

Emo Court

Another day, another place to visit, this time it was Emo Court in Laois. I have been to Emo Court a few times in the past and it is always worth a visit. Today, we took the house tour, stopped for tea and Lemon Cake and then walked around the lake. The water levels in the lake was very low, die to the good weather and lack of rain that we have had for the last number of months. We watched the swans, ducks and moorhens swimming around on the lake and eating the bread they were been fed by the visitors to the Estate. The house has an interesting history and presently is hosting an Exhibition of Fr Frank Browne’s Photography, which is fascinating on it’s own merits. I have attached photos from the interior and exterior of the House, as well images of Fr Browne’s camera and a chest full of his negatives.

 

Carrickbrennan Graveyard

As part of the Summer of Heritage, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown have opened up Carrickbrennan Graveyard for tours every Tuesday and Thursday. I joined one of the tours last week, and it was fascinating. I have passed the gate that leads to this location many, many times in the past without realising what it led to. I am glad that the mystery is solved. This is a small graveyard started by the Cistercian Monks in the 6th Century, that is packed with history and amazing stories. The line of Irish Yews leads you down through the centre of the graveyard. This site includes the ruins of a church and has a building that was used as a guardhouse for the security men that were hired by families of the descendants to watch for bodysnatchers for a few days after the deceased had been buried. I know, yuck! Grave robbing was a very profitable business at the time, and the proximity of Monkstown to the port of Dun Laoghaire meant that bodies could be easily and quickly shipped to England. There is a number of people buried here who died in maritime disasters, which include many of the 267 souls lost in the sinking of the ‘Rochdale’ and the 120 Soldiers that were lost on the ‘Prince of Wales’, both sinking occurred on the 19th of November 1807, as well as the crew of five from the ‘Ajax’, who were all swept out to sea with their Captain (John McNeil Boyd, buried in St. Patricks Cathedral, Dublin) on the 9th of February 1861. Roger Casement’s sister is also resting here, she died at the age of four, a few months before Roger was born. Another character who is located in this graveyard is Joseph Holt, who was a leader of the United Irishmen, he took part in the 1798 Rebellion in Wicklow. I am constantly fascinated by the history we pass by on a daily basis without realising it. The Cistercian Monks were also involved in Monkstown Castle, which will be the subject of a separate post.\

Thank you for reading my post.

 

Saltee Islands

I visited the Saltee Islands in Wexford, which is a bird sanctuary 5km offshore, so that I could take photos of Puffins. I wanted to focus on Puffins during this trip. This is one of my favourite places in Ireland, I love how peaceful it is, and how close you can get to the birds. The photos below, also include a photo of a Razorbill, which are another bird that I like. The Saltees has an interesting history, involving hidden Rebels, Pirates, Smugglers, Hermits, and Monks. The Islands are in private ownership, ‘Prince’ Michael the second presently co-owns the Island with his brothers. ‘Prince’ Michael the first was a self appointed ‘Prince’, you can see their family home on the Island, as well as their throne. There were people living on the Islands as far back as 3,500 – 2,000 BC. The Island also has a breeding colony of Grey Seals. The name Saltee is believed to be a derivation of a Norse name, it is believed that the name comes from Salt Island, as in the Winter a salty spray covers the Island. The ferry trip from Kilmore Quay to the Island takes less than 30 minutes and is a fun activity in it’s own right. You take a ferry to a certain point and then due to the depth of the water on the shore of the Island, you need to take a Rib in the final short distance to shore. If you happen to be in the vicinity of Kilmore Quay during the Summer months, I would recommend a trip across to the Saltees.

The Saltee Islands