Robert O’Byrne is a writer and lecturer specialising in the fine and decorative arts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, among them Luggala Days: The Story of a Guinness House (Cico Books) and The Last Knight: A Tribute to Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin (Lilliput Press). A former Vice-President of the Irish Georgian Society and trustee of the Alfred Beit Foundation, he is currently a trustee of the Apollo Foundation. Among other work he writes a monthly column for Apollo magazine (http://www.apollo-magazine.com), and also contributes to each issue of the quarterly Irish Arts Review (http://www.irishartsreview.com). All opinions expressed herein on Ireland, her landscape, architecture and artefacts are his own.

144 comments on “About

  1. Karen poff says:

    Having a bit if a domestic. Were you a guest on tonight’s lords and ladles?

  2. Aaron Callan says:

    Hi I was wondering if you plan to visit Limavady sometime? Would love to give you a tour if you’re planning on coming up.

    • Thank you for getting in touch; no plans in the immediate future, but I will let you know if/when I am in your part of the world. We met a couple of years ago you will remember at the Earl-Bishop conference.

      • Aaron Callan says:

        Yes I remember. Hopefully we can have that conference again sometime! Out of that conference the Earl Bishop Heritage Trail was developed and is being launched on 16th July. You might also be interested in the Beresford Obelisk which has recently been restored by the Follies Trust. If you plan on coming up please email me.

  3. Dear Lawrie, please read the following and all will be made clear: http://www.rte.ie/tv/programmes/lordsandladles.html

  4. Douglas Hassall (Dr D.A. Hassall Barrister-at-Law Canberra) says:

    Dear Mr O’Byrne – Much enjoyed your book “Luggala Days” I will treasure my copy and have bought some more as gifts for friends – such a fine evocation of a very special country house.
    So much of interest in the history of the house and its successive owners and its remarkable
    current custodian the Honourable Garech Browne. You have evoked an era and somehow
    have made it a memorial to times both wonderful and sometimes sad. The lovely greens in
    the background to your home page are so very appropriate to your theme. We have nothing
    out here in Australia quite like it – unless it be the homestead house “Panshanger” in Tasmania
    although it is more Greek Revival than Gothic-Romantic.
    With Best Wishes, Douglas Hassall; Canberra Australia.

  5. Diarmuid O'Hegarty says:

    Dear Robert, I have been meaning to email you for ages to say how much I enjoyed your book on the Knight. It was really well done. I have teased Kieran Fitzgerald over the years about putting in a bid to be the next Knight. I now know to stop that. I thought I had an email address for you but hunted high and low with no luck. Jane said to post a comment on your website, which I snoop regularly. It is also really well done. Anyway, hope you’re well. Best wishes Diarmuid

  6. Seol Park says:

    Dear Robert – I recently curated an exhibition of Irish landscape paintings here in NY which sparked my interest in wanting to know more about the art from Ireland, by artists both living and deceased. Through my exhibition, I got to delve a bit into the local history and in some cases displayed paintings alongside period Georgian Irish antiques. Was overall a fantastic experience. (http://www.sparkplusart.com/#!john-kelly-irish-landscapes/cj8b)

    More browsing on the Internet on the topic led me to your blog and I’m loving it. Hope to visit Ireland some day, and see her landscape and architecture, and your blog will be my guide book!

    • Thank you for your email: it was most inreresting to see John Kelly’s work (and I much like the mahogany sideboard visible below the triptych High and Low). And thank you for your kind remarks too about the blog, I am so glad you enjoy it – tell your friends, I am always keen to encourage more interest in Ireland and our heritage! Best wishes from the deepest countryside here.

      • Seol Park says:

        Thank you, Robert! The sideboard is Irish Regency from County Cork, exactly where artist John Kelly is now based in and was painting the views of! A couple Irish pieces throughout the installation views (item details on p.13 of the digital catalogue). Glad you enjoyed the paintings! I’ll let my friends know about your blog. Cheers.

  7. Dear Robert O’Byrne. I am finishing an article on James Latham and Joseph Highmore for a forthcoming publication by Irish Academic Press, and refer to the portrait of the duelling Knight of Glin (formerly attributed to Highmore). I wonder whether you can confirm that the current attribution to Herman van der Mijn, as mentioned in your blog, was the judgement of the late Knight of Glin (if not, who?), and, if you refer to the portrait in your book ‘The Last Knight’, I wonder whether you would be kind enough to give me the page reference, as I would like to add the details to an endnote (unfortunately the British Library does not hold a copy). With thanks and very best wishes, Yours sincerely, Dr Jacqueline Riding.

  8. Hi Robert,
    I am developing a TV program about restoration projects on old buildings and would love to have a chat with you about it. Is there a number I could contact you at?
    Many Thanks,

  9. NedzerRusticus says:

    my 3 x great grandfather’s cottage had his name plastered onto one of the gable end walls…..does anybody know if this was common practice in any part of the island of Ireland……none of his neighbors had it on their houses and I am trying to research his origins as he was not native to the townland he lived in during the 18th/19th Centuries.

  10. jtjphelan says:

    Is NAMA the new Land Commission, What will become of Westport House?

    • Thank you for your comment. I am afraid that NAMA is entirely driven by economists and banking boffs, and therefore has little concern with the long-term preservation of the national heritage – its focus being on a short-term return on bank debt. This might be fine with regard to incomplete housing estates and the like, but is extremely damaging when it comes to more important locations such as Westport. But I fear those who run the organisation do not think as do we…

  11. Hello,

    love your work here! I’ve been following for a while, but this is my first time posting, since this seems to be the easiest area to reach you. I’ve been tracking down some ancestral roots lately, and found a lot of information on the Fitzpatricks of Liscannor, Co. Clare. I’ve noticed in some of the records they list their living area as “Ballyrislane,” I’ve tried searching for information about the townland, but to no avail. I saw that it’s mentioned in The Land Law Act of 1881, but don’t have the means to access those papers. I’m making the trip to Dublin for the centennial in a few weeks and plan on going to the RIA to see if I can find anything, but figured I’d ask you if you’d ever heard of the town before? Thank you for everything you do!


    Tyler Fitzpatrick
    Cambridge, MA, USA

    • Thanks for your email. I have been in the US (actually I just flew back from Boston last night) so am only responding now. And I must go away again, so this must be brief. Have you looked at the census reports for 1901 and 1911? They give more information on who was living where throughout the country in those years, which might be of help to you. And there is a site run by Galway University called http://www.landedestates.ie/ Of course this tends to deal with large land owners but it might be of use to you in tracking who was in the area in the 19th century.
      I will see if I can think of anything else for you. Best wishes for now, and I hope you enjoy your forthcoming trip to this country.

  12. oisin roche says:

    Hi Robert My Name is Oisin Roche I am one of the artist’s included in the dictionary of living irish artists, i am just making contact to keep you updated on my work and current CV , i also have a page on facebook showing work that is on view in my studio, the link is https://www.facebook.com/paintingscurrentlyforsale/?ref=bookmarks hopeto keep in touch, my email is oisinroche@hotmail.com

    Oisin Roche

    • Dear Oisin,
      Thank you for getting in touch and very glad to hear that all is well. I am about to go onto your Facebook page and look at the latest work which I am sure is as good as, if not better than, anything I have seen before. Very best wishes.

  13. Brian William Mott says:

    Hello! Fellow Aesthete here (although rather younger, almost 19). Currently at college in Cambridge Massachusetts. While we have some lovely aesthetics here (I’m actually sitting in my favorite spot on campus now, Dunster house library) it’s nothing compared to what you have across the Atlantic. Do you have the desire to ever correct the lighting of a room when it doesn’t fit correctly? That seems to be my strongest pull. I despise the new incandescent light bulbs with a passion. Anyway, to finally get to my questions, have you read Burke’s aesthetics, if so what did you think of it? I think he got the lighting part spot on but i’d love to hear your opinion/recommendation for books on aesthetics. I absurdly actually buy old light bulbs off ebay for my desk-lamp. Any sage advice to pass along to a younger aesthete? Advice or epiphanies are very welcome.

    Brian William Mott

    • Thank you for getting in touch and apologies for not replying sooner: the usual reason, I spend a lot of my time travelling. Hence too the brevity of this response, as I have been out of contact with the wider world in recent days and must now play catch-up. Please therefore excuse me if I do not reply at length other than to say that yes, I read Burke (an Irishman, after all) with pleasure while an undergraduate but he is little appreciated today, certainly not in his native country where perhaps his devotion to the British government and opposition to the French Revolution has tarnished him in the popular mind.

  14. Bruno Marcotti says:

    Dear Mr. Robert O’Byrne, first I apologize because I don’t speak English very well, so i afraid that my expressions will be not too elegant… In every case I want to thank you for this raffinate site full of very suggestive and evocative pictures. I never visited Ireland, but I have heard that is a beautiful place. I hope, within a brief future time, I will can visit your country. Meanwhile I enjoy this virtual journey also if only with my eyes… I like these pages where I can see a lot of the “minor places” that are full of charm in every case. Also in my country that’s rich of great masterworks, often I go looking for enchanted little marvels, where tourists don’t go or just seldom. Your attention to the architecture, often apparently less important, many times in ruins, gives to your glance a raffinate taste, that I appreciated very much. The ruin is an important font of charm; many buildings without great artistic values can appear more suggestive and interesting just because in ruin. Like said Diderot: “il faut ruiner un palais pour en faire un objet d’intérêt” (Salon de 1767).
    Ireland has two stylistic polar tastes: the classic one is like a well known perfume for me (“palladian style”…); while the gothic of castles and churches does more “northern” taste, so more “exotic” for the italian taste. The mix of both, that comes out from your photos, within the contest of the irish green nature, is overall totally attractive. I see in this photos a sense of calm and peace and also a soft melancholy, that comes also from the good ability of the photographer…
    Last (not least) compliments for your accurate texts and the attention at the history of places and buildings.
    Thanks a lot for your attention; a wish for your work that I want follow on this fine site; and dear regards from Italy (Venice and Milan that are my two cities).

    • Dear Mr Marcotti,
      Thank you for all your very kind comments which are enormously appreciated (and your English is infinitely superior to my, very limited, Italian). I am so pleased that someone in your country shows an interest in Ireland’s architectural heritage since sometimes it seems as though too few Irish people do so. And thank you for the quote from Diderot: I have not read his Salon reviews since I was a university student writing my dissertation. I wish you well and send you my very best wishes from what, today, is a very damp and grey Ireland.

  15. Timothy M. Rohan says:

    Dear Mr. O’Byrne,

    Will you be participating in the European Architectural History Network Conference in Dublin later this May? I am attending and looking forward to the tours of 18th century houses in Dublin and around it. I greatly enjoy your blog.
    Best regards,
    Timothy M. Rohan
    University of Massachusetts, Amherst

  16. Dear Mr.O’Byrne,

    Lovely website. We are launching Belmond Grand Hibernian this summer, the first overnight luxury sleeper train in Ireland. I took great pleasure reading through your website.
    Thank you very much.
    Warm regards,
    Wolfgang Eipeldauer

  17. Liam Mansfield says:

    Congratulations on this most informative and beautiful written ‘blog’. I shall follow it closely. I remember overhearing your eloquent conversations at gallery openings in Dublin in the 1980s. The Taylor gallery was special.

    • Thank you for your kind remarks (altho’ slightly terrifying to think you were overhearing my ‘eloquent’ (for which likely translate pretentious) conversations decades ago: I have grown more intelligent, and reserved, in the interim…
      But thank you again – and spread the word – the Irish Aesthete loves followers.

      • liam mansfield says:

        It was not the volume of your conversatione but rather the clarity of expression. Overhearing others is an unconscious facility. Await my memoirs, they will be amicable and infused with dublin, Parisian andvenetian summer sunshine. Wit, Proust and bellinis.
        Best wishes liam

  18. francis gough says:

    Dear Mr O’Byrne

    Just finished reading your piece on Patrick Hennessy. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Would you consider writing a book on Hennessy?

  19. Dear Mr. O’Byrne: I am new to your site and what a find you are!. While I Live in the US, my family traces back to the Perys of County Limerick. I had the privilege of joining my parents for a tour of Dromore Castle in 1952. She had all her roofs at that time. Needless to say I was but 13 years of age and had little why I was there.
    My wife and I had a typically wonderful trip back but a few years ago to view Dromore in her sad state of repair.
    Reading your various articles inspires me to research further. First, Is there any known reason why I am unable to print from The Irish Aesthete. Additionally, is the Architectural firm of Goodwin and Crisp still active. I would cherish the opportunity to contact them and obtain drawings both the exterior and the interior rooms

    • Thank you for getting in touch – and for your kind remarks, which are much appreciated.
      As for your queries, I don’t know why you shouldn’t be able to print from the Irish Aesthete: you might like to ask wordpress (the server I use) if there is an explanation. Alternatively, you could just copy and paste the text (but perhaps you want the pictures also?).
      As for Godwin, his firm has long since vanished. I think the Victoria & Albert Museum in London might have some material, or you could also try the Royal Institute of Architects in London (www.architecture.com) as it would be a useful source of reference.
      I am sorry not to be of more assistance, but hope this proves a useful starting point…

  20. Roger Green says:

    Dear Robert, Rockenham Court, Ferrybank, Waterford was divided into 6 apartments some years ago and as owner of one of the apartments, I was intrigued recently when a photograph of the house (I would guess from the 1870s or 80s) was discovered. What is curious is that it appears to have two front doors … if indeed this was the front of the house. Is that unusual?

    • Thank you for your query. It’s difficult to judge without seeing the picture: it may be the back of the house, or the front. On the other hand, Tourin (also in County Waterford) which dates from c.1840 has flanking front doors at either end of the façade, so perhaps something similar was installed in your house?

  21. Deborah T. Sena says:

    Saw this article in the Westmeath Examiner, http://www.westmeathexaminer.ie/news/roundup/articles/2016/09/27/4127230-councillors-anger-as-council-rules-out-barracks-takeover/
    and made me think about your comments on what little ‘protected structures’ actually means. Apparently it can become a deterrent for anyone considering reusing the building? They say there are 16 in the complex.
    Love your columns, particularly as I have Westmeath ancestors and everyone in Ireland (particularly tour packages) seem to ignore the area. Deborah Sena, Toms River NJ USA

    • Thank you for getting in touch, and for passing on that information about the barracks in Mullingar, which are already in a poor state of repair, so one fears things will only get worse rather than better. Listing a building as a protected structure can and does act as a deterrent, altho’ goodness knows there is little enforcement here of the relevant legislation (if there were, then the state would be one of the culprits being prosecuted). It is an unfortunate, and long-standing, state of affairs but one carries on…

  22. Eoghan says:

    Hello Robert,
    Just wondering if you would consider featuring Woodbrook in Roscommon or Hollybrook House County Sligo?

    • Thanks for yours. I did try to see Woodbrook a couple of years ago as I love the book dearly. However, it was not possible to get near the house, which looked in somewhat poor condition (the little wings were long demolished) and the gate lodge was in a ruinous state. All too sad.
      Hollybrook I should like to see, just a matter of finding the time to get over to Sligo but one of these days…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s