About

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.

283 comments on “About

  1. Hoof Hearted says:

    I can report he is now firmly anchored in the correct place and, I can see, has already been active; prodigiously posting comments. I am in no doubt that these will provide abundant material for debate at our next soiree!

  2. Hoof Hearted says:

    I note from the Irish Times that a pair of spectacles belonging to W B Yeats have sold for an eye popping 10,000 EURO. We were wondering if the Irish Aesthete has acquired these as he has a tendency to be found sporting such delightful round frames?

    • If only (sadly the budget doesn’t stretch to a pince nez of that price…)

      • Hoof Hearted says:

        Understood. However 10K for Yeats’ old specs seems a paltry sum compared to other frenzied sale room activity this week. The absurd sum paid for Salvator Mundi (contrast it with the thirty pieces of silver) leaves me at once astounded and perplexed- I thought there was little market for Christian art. I need to de-code Da Vinci.

  3. Hi there, is it possible to sign up for alerts whenever there’s a new post? I’ve only discovered this site today and have just spent the last two hours trawling through your archives!

    • Thank you for getting in touch. There ought to be a ‘Follow’ button on the opening page of the site and if you use that, you will be informed of new posts automatically. I hope this works and thank you for your interest…

  4. Dear Mr O’ Byrne,

    We are currently involved in a conservation led restoration of one of 6 of O’ Dochartaigh connected Castles in Uslter – O’ Doherty’s Keep which is located at Tullyarvan, Buncrana, County Donegal. May I ask if you have ever covered O’ Doherty’s Keep and it’s history in your writings or if not could you direct me to useful sources of such historical material?

    Best regards,
    Ronan O’ Doherty.

    • Thank you for getting in touch. Although I know of O’Doherty’s Keep I have not visited the site, nor written about it.
      A good first port of call for you would be the Irish Architectural Archive, which is likely to have useful material for you.
      Next time I am in Donegal I shall try to make a point of visiting the keep…

      • Dear Mr O’ Byrne,

        Thank you very much for your reply snd information which I will certainly follow up on. Please let us know if you happen to visit the Keep at any time.

        Yours sincerely,

        Ronan O’ Doherty.

  5. jane OKEEFFE says:

    Robert, thank you for referencing Voices from the Great Houses Cork and Kerry in your fine piece on Dromore Castle. It was a pleasure to meet and record Jane Waller on her family history

  6. John Cowperthwaite says:

    I apologize, Robert. Did I miss a recent article on Dromore Castle(the Pery Castle, that is.)?

  7. Scott Hayes says:

    Dear Robert, Any idea where I might purchase a copy of “After a Fashion ….” The Little Museum stock has been devoured?

  8. Hello Robert,

    I contact you in relation to an exhibition on Sybil Connolly we are working on at The Hunt Museum. This is due to open on April 19th. I am developing the public programming around the exhibition. Might it be possible to speak to you about this?

    Many thanks,

    Maria

  9. Denise Botting says:

    What a wonderful website this is!! Thank you so much. I have just spent a long time looking through the Meath pages and I am speechless. Wonderful work. May I ask if you could look at a photo of a Tower house in Meath and see if you have ever come across it? I could send it to you by email. Thank you.

    • Thank you for getting in touch, and for your kind comments which are much appreciated. I see you are now following me on Facebook, so you ought to be able to send me the image that way? Please let me know if this is possible…

      • John Cowperthwaite says:

        Robert: I, also, wish to add my comments to your comments about the Antiquities of Ireland. I am across the Pond, in Maine, and was introduced to your Blog in preparation for my family genealogy work back in 2013. I picked your brain, and files on Dromore (Limerick).
        Your posts are fascinating and each is consumed by not myself but also my Interior decorator wife. You, sir, are an inspiration to save for another plane ticket. Many thanks.
        John

      • Thank you for getting in touch, and for the kind comments – very glad both you and your wife enjoy what you find here: please spread the word, always delighted to find more readers…

  10. Benedict says:

    Dear Robert,

    My name is Benedict. I love your work and your wonderful blog! I would very much like to ask you for help, could you share your email? Please don’t ignore it.

    All good wishes,

    B.

  11. Dominic Owen says:

    Good morning Robert

    Staying in an hotel in Christchurch and tuned in to see you on a programme about Irish Castles. Hope all is well. Regards Dominic Owen

  12. Karen Rochford Tinsley says:

    Greetings, I wonder if you have any information about Cork House, the Dublin mansion of Lord Cork c. 1652. I understand he rebuilt the NW tower and the mansion was contiguous to it. Looking at several old maps and artistic representations, I’m a little confused: Cork Tower was supposedly named for Boyle’s contributions to the rebuilding of the tower, but it seems Castle Street is closer to the NW tower location, and Cork Hill curves in front of the NE tower (Storehouse?). I am working on a historical piece, and would like to be as accurate as possible how Cork House was situated relative to the Castle. If there are any descriptions of Cork House to be had, I would be forever grateful.

  13. Marie Broderick says:

    I am wondering if you have any information about 13 Merrion Square?

    This building was sold two years ago and I can’t find any information about it online.

    I understand that at one time it was a solicitors firm. I have a signed document here to that effect. I think the date on the form is August 1988

    Do you have any information about the ownership of this building in the late 1980s…?

    Kind Regards

    Marie Broderick

  14. D Cusack says:

    Hi Robert, apologies for first name terms, I came across your excellent site yesterday when looking for more information on Killeen Castle, and made comment under ‘Killeen with Kindness’. I was delighted to see the Lady Emma Frances Plunkett (1826-66) paintings of the original castle, which I hadn’t seen before. I was invited to visit the castle (the ‘stone’ castle was built by Geoffrey de Cusack in 1181 and the church beside it (a National Monument) built by Lady Joan de Cusack (1441) and her husband Sir Christopher Plunkett. The interesting thing is that the over 250 years when Killeen Castle was the seat of the Cusacks, is never mentioned ! For those of your readers who are interested in Meath and it’s past you are welcome to have a look at my scribblings on Wiki CUSACK.
    Regards Dermot

  15. Belinda Spruce says:

    I’ve just stumbled across an article “Making the most of our own”. We bought, renovated and poured everything in to one of these large Georgian farmhouses, part of the Wrixon Becher Estate. Your article shone quite some light.

  16. Brian C Phelan says:

    As a Tipp exile living in Cobh I enjoy your blog very much, especially
    since you are partial to Tipp. Have you any info on a quaint building, The Teapot Church at Ballymacarbery Co Waterford

    • Thanks for getting in touch (and your kind comments). I don’t have information on that church, but will try to see what can be discovered. It has been added to the (ever-growing) list of places to explore further…

    • sopwell says:

      The Teapot Church was built in 1847 under the vicarage of Rev. Charles Fry. The architect was William Tinsley of Clonmel, who subsequently emigrated to the mid west of the United States in 1851. The church could accommodate only about 30 people, an indication of the very small Protestant population in the area. The Protestant staff and the gamekeepers of the nearby Glenahiry Estate, then owned by the Earl of Stradbroke, attended the services there.

      In 1876 my great great grandfather the 2nd Lord Ashtown bought the 9,500 acre sporting estate. I have seen figures of between £65,000 and £150,000 as its purchase price. In 1880 the estate was inherited by his grandson, the 3rd Lord Ashtown, at the age of 12. This Lord Ashtown, shall we say, was a controversial figure and in 1907 a bomb exploded at Glenahiry Lodge, which did not cause excessive damage. This incident became known as the “Glenahiry Outrage” and received extensive press coverage. In 1920 the IRA burnt down the lodge and following the 1923 Land Act the estate was gradually broken up over the following twenty years. All that remains to this day are some fishing rights on the River Suir and the Nire.

  17. Brett Fitzgerald says:

    Hi Robert, you seem to be hitting quite a mark on my family history back to Ireland. I have just ordered your Sir Hugh Lane book, as he is a distant cousin (3rd) via my Persse / Newenham lineage. (You have written of these families in your blogs). Look forward to reading the book.
    Brett.

  18. spanrz says:

    Hi Robert, you seem to be hitting quite a mark on my family history back to Ireland. I have just ordered your Sir Hugh Lane book, as he is a distant cousin (3rd) via my Persse / Newenham lineage. (You have written of these families in your blogs). Look forward to reading the book.
    Brett.

  19. Richard Synge says:

    Dear Robert, I’ve been a fan of your website for a couple of years now and am amazed now to discover that you were the first curator of the restored Damer House in Roscrea. Congratulations! I was there last week and found that an ancestor, protestant Bishop Nicholas Synge of Killaloe, was one of the 18th century tenants of the house. Now I would like to see if anyone has more detail of that period, but haven’t made headway with the Roscrea Heritage Society. Can you suggest another line of inquiry? Many thanks in advance, Richard Synge

    • Thank you for your email and kind comments. I am not familiar with Nicholas Synge, altho’ Edward (Bishop of Elphin) of course one knows – presumably a kinsman? Let me think about what might be discovered: unfortunately I do recall that the history of the house in the 18th century is rather poorly documented…

      • Richard Synge says:

        Thanks, Robert, for the quick response. Nicholas was younger brother of Edward of Elphin and also progenitor of most of the other so-called Irish Synges, including the playwright.
        It was indeed Nicholas’ son Edward who built Syngefield in Birr, not too far from Roscrea.
        Thanks for the remark about documentation — perhaps there are still clues somewhere — and any further thoughts will be very welcome! Regards, Richard

      • sopwell says:

        I may be able to help Richard Synge a bit as I have a portrait of Nicholas Synge (in the attic!) as well as one of his wife Elizabeth Trench. I am a Trench.

  20. sopwell says:

    Dear Robert (if I may). I have only started following you yesterday and there is so much of interest for me to go through. I notice that you have mentioned mausolea on several occasions and wondered if you have ever visited the one that still belongs to me and I had restored with the help of the Heritage Council as well as Galway County Council in about 2001. It does appear in Maurice Craig’s book Mausolea Hibernica, although some of the information there is not correct. He does however state that it is the largest mausoleum (in area) in Ireland. It is the Ashtown Mausoleum located on what was part of the Woodlawn demesne. I know that you have been nearby to a mausoleum in Aughrim as well as visiting my friend George G at Ballinderry. Regards Roderick Ashtown.

  21. Justin Bari says:

    Dear Robert, I am doing a presentation in a poetry class on Mary Tighe in Powerpoint presentation. I wanted to make sure to give proper credit where appropriate. Is it possible for me to use the picture of the inscription of Mary Tighe’s grave in my presentation that I found on your blog? I didn’t want to do so without knowing the terms of use. Thank you.

  22. Richard Synge says:

    Dear Robert, can I take you up on that offer to contact Roderick Ashtown so that I can keep trying to track down that elusive ancestor? Thanks and best regards, Richard

  23. Richard Synge says:

    Thank you Robert: contact successfully established…

  24. Richard Synge says:

    Robert, I highly commend your description and photos of the small but stately St Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe (19 November) and was very pleased you included the memorial to Simon Purdon of Tinneranna; as a result I’ve now finally been able to understand the family connections mentioned there.

    • Thanks, glad you liked – and that you have been in touch with Roderick Ashtown. Look out for more on the Synges next Monday (but less happily, I’m afraid…)

      • Richard Synge says:

        Again you have done a great job in reporting on Syngefield — highlighting the shamefully overambitious early-2000s attempt to put it together as a fantasy version of its former state, and the collapse of the project before completion. Looking back, I frankly think it was better as a crumbling ruin. As of now, total demolition seems almost inevitable.

        Your account of the family connections contains a number of significant inaccuracies. Please write to me directly if you want the full picture. Best regards, Richard

  25. Richard Synge says:

    Your revised version seems fine!

  26. Bob says:

    How does one privately contact you? I cannot find an email address?

  27. Caivs says:

    May I inquire about the equipment used to produce such pleasantly framed pictures, bearing very little perspective distortion?

  28. I’ve learnt that the secret of the photographer’s art is a steady hand…

  29. Chris West says:

    I really enjoy reading your site. I have written a short blog about the buildings of Richard Cassels pointing out that many of the ladies who commissioned his buildings were related. I don’t know whether this has been recognised previously.

    https://chriswestancestryblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/07/richard-cassels-and-the-ladies-who-commissioned-him/

    All the best and keep up the good work!

    • Thank you, that was most interesting: of course Ireland was a much smaller place then (and the number of families who could commission work from Castle even smaller), so it was almost inevitable that many of them were related to one another…

      • Chris West says:

        Thanks for having a look at my blog. You make a good point, but the Uptons, Clotworthys and Langfords (of whom Hercules Rowley’s wife was the last) had intermarried so often that they weren’t related to many other families. They were just about the only Anglo-Irish Presbyterian gentry so until they started conforming in the 18th Century they kept themselves quite separate. So to me it’s striking that all Cassels’ commissions came from this close-knit group.

      • Chris West says:

        Sorry, the last of the Langfords was Hercules Rowley’s mother, not his wife.

  30. Brian Terry says:

    Robert, I immensely enjoy your insightful work here. It leaves this American eagerly awaiting the next article! Have you ever done any story or research on Harmony Hall in Co Westmeath? I believe it may have familial connection to Waterstown House not terribly far away from Harmony if I am not mistaken. Might make for an interesting blog entry! Thanks for all you do!

  31. Richard Synge says:

    Hello again Robert. I loved the description of Moneyveg Tower, a landmark I’ve failed to notice in innumerable drives around Co Louth, but from your telling it serves as a beautiful viewing point for one of Ireland’s most gorgeously expansive landscapes — displaying the Cooleys and the Mournes in one amazing sweep. But from what I can deduce from your account, the Tower must overlook only Dundalk Bay rather than Carlingford as well — that’s a spectacle only visible between the Cooleys and Mournes themselves, from spots like Greenore, O’Meath, Rostrevor etc. Forgive this nitpicking point, because I always continue to be highly impressed by all your remarkable work! Richard

  32. Irene Gilbert Research says:

    Hi Robert, researching a building on Mount Street, turns out it was the home of Irene Gilbert in 1946. Love to make contact re; your research on her work, as I am documenting the buildings history and various stories of its many colourful occupants.

    Many thanks

  33. Gerald barnes says:

    I was more than interested in Castle Bernard as I was brought up in Bandon.. My father, who was involved with the Bandon Angler’s Association met Lord Bandon many times as, if I remember, the River Bandon probably ran through his land. However, on a much different note, considering the multitude of buildings you list in your amazing blog, and in connection with the Heritage Council’s recent involvement in saving industrial buildings, I would like to know is there a stage in a buildings life where it can be definitively calculated that the structure is beyond saving? In the Case of Castle Bernard for instance, to the uneducated eye the structure seems that it could be saved – ie, saved from further deterioration , not necessarily partially or fully restored. It sounds awful, but could/should our building heritage be classified on some kind of death list indicating “son many years left to death”, ie total destruction beyond saving, of a building.? Why why can’t we get some of the many new Irish millionaires involved in rescuing and saving our heritage.

    PS As you’re in the Bandon area there was the remains of a tower house on the river Bandon just before Innishannon if I remember but I’ve never read it’s history. In my time there were just two sides standing. On the other side of the river, in the woods there is the remains of a tower, probably Victorian. Maybe a folly? The things we discovered as kids when exploring.! Miss Ireland so much.

    Thanks again for your amazing blog!
    Jerry Barnes, Sacramento, California.

    • Thank you for your comments. There really is no point at which a building need necessarily be deemed unrecoverable: there’s a house in Killeagh, County Cork called Dromdiah (I have written about it a couple of times here) which is just outer walls and yet new owners plan to restore it as their home. What’s needed always is imagination, a certain amount of time – and money – and above all faith. Support from the relevant authorities would also be beneficial, but unlikely in this state I fear…

  34. Hattie Induni says:

    Hi Robert
    Your blog is wonderful. I’m writing a PhD on ruins in Ireland and Irish literature, and I was wondering if I could use your images in my introduction (credited of course). Would this be ok?

  35. Lee On says:

    Hi Robert,

    I have some photos you might be interested in. Have you an email address I can send them on to?

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