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.

385 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,


  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.

      • 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,


  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

    • Many thanks for getting in touch and for the additional information, always invaluable to add to the stock of wisdom in the public domain…

    • Danny Cusack says:

      Hi Robert,
      Last night I took a look at the Irish Aesthete for the first time and the words “D Cusack says:” leapt off the page at me. I couldn’t recall ever having written to the Aesthete, let alone what appeared thereunder. D.Cusack is not after all a common name. Then I got to the end and all was revealed; the author was in fact a Dermot Cusack! I am no relation to the Cusacks of Killeen Castle but I wouldn’t mind getting in touch with Dermot all the same. Is that possible? Many thanks,
      Danny Cusack (Kells-based historian)

  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.

  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.

  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.


    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?

  36. John Phelan says:

    Robert, please throw your grammatical eye over my Poem and if you think it is good enough to be read in your blog, I would be most honoured. If you think it could be improved, please tell.


    Darkness wooed the evening,
    And natures tumult filled the trees,
    The shadows of six young men fled across the fields,
    The house once like a sentinel, now stood ablaze;
    This place it took three hundred years to make,
    Was gone in just three hours.

    Flames in reflection danced upon ten acre lake,
    Now no cane with claret bumble to throw at evening trout;

    No eternal summer with gardened bees and afternoon teas,
    No white muslined dresses blowing in a summer breeze,

    The entrance gates still stand in their solemnity, yet all
    Are dead and gone, In that dark mausoleum they lay,
    Once loved and left bereft, still watching, still waiting,

    Was I not once proud to be called one of you
    They say, and you of I, that long list of names.

    Nearly a hundred years had passed,
    Then one hot summer upon the scorched grass,
    The past exhumed, and the ghost of her walls
    Rose from their earthen tomb;

    And this her soliloquy was;

    Remember me, remember them, for they
    Were the sons and daughters of
    Ireland too, and this,
    Their native soil.

  37. Danny Cusack says:

    Hi Robert,
    Re: Dermot Cusack. Sorry, I should have said it was the 28 July 2018 piece regarding Killeen Castle.
    Danny Cusack

  38. Tony Wilkinson says:

    Hi Robert,
    Wonderful site! I have some further information regarding the 27th May posting “A Tale of Two Parts” (beautiful pictures) which I’d love to share with you, best wishes Tony Wilkinson

  39. What a beautiful diversion on a cold, grey December afternoon

  40. Martin R Clarke says:

    Dear Irish Aesthete
    Somewhere in your amazing collection of essays I came across one featuring Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke, Duc de Feltre etc who claimed, almost certainly correctly, with my Irish immigrants forebears through one William Clarke of Parks Grove in Kilkenny. I have failed to find it again, could you point me to your essay, I would be most grateful. I may have some more details of the Clarke family and other emigrants from Kent to Kilkenny to add, Martin Clarke

    • Thank you for your message. Unfortunately I think you must be confusing my site with that of someone else as I do not believe that I have ever written about the Duc de Feltre, although I am familiar with his life and fascinating career.

  41. Fergal MacCabe says:

    A Happy New Year to the Irish Aesthete whose blog is my first destination on Monday morning and which never fails to enlighten, entertain, educate and delight.

  42. HughieD says:

    Love the site Robert. Fantastic stuff. Recently came to Irleand on a family holiday and your site was an extremely useful font of knowledge to help me get my derelict building fix!

  43. John Phelan says:

    Dear Robert
    After reading your books and your blog it amazes me how you find the time, your output is so prodigious. What I would love to do, is pay you back in some way as you have enriched my life and my knowledge so much. I would like to give you something in return for all you have given us your readers and admirers. How would you feel about collabration on a monthly video to embed in your blog. There will be no cost to you and you will have complete ownership of the content. I have all the equipment necessary from camera to sound to produce a quality end result. Below is a link to give you some idea of what I can do. (Vimeo compresses video so real quality is much higher)

    087 6663749
    051 858039

  44. John Phelan says:

    If you have any questions or reservations about my proposal please do get in touch.

  45. Kieran Campbell says:

    Is there an email address for The Irish Aesthete?

  46. Declan T G Quigley says:

    I am working on a review paper about the only known record of the Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeurleus) which was shot in 1862 in the Bog of Horsestown near Beauparc, Co Meath. The specimen was acquired by Sir John Fox Dillon of Lismullen House, Co Meath, but was lost during an arson attach in April 1923.

    I am looking for either photos or links to paintings of Lismullen House, Co Meath prior to its destruction in 1923.

    • Thank you for getting in touch; there are a couple of photographs of Lismullen from the 19th century in the collection of the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin (you can get in touch with the organisation via iarc.ie)

  47. Ed Kluz says:

    Fascinating blog – I’ve just spent a couple of happy hours reading your posts. Is there a way for a non WordPress user to sign up for blog notifications by email?

    Many thanks


  48. Cathal says:

    Dear Irish aesthete,

    Ive information for your website I would like to give

    Do you’ve email

  49. brendan coffey says:

    What a site. I’ve spent the last day trawling through just my home county Westmeath’s entries. Just the lockdown tonic. Thanks

  50. Vincent Delany says:

    I was looking at a website called Duchas.ie with which you are familiar. they have a picture of a Georgian house (allegedly in Dublin but I think not) with a full portico on the front. I have checked out all such houses that i can find in the 32 counties: Annesbrook, Aras an Uachtaran, Ballyfin, Baronscourt, Castlecoole, Enniskillen, Castleboro, Co Wexford, Colebrook Park, Emo Court, Hillsborough Castle, Kenure Park, Kilboy, Rush, Loughcrew, Co Meath, Mount Pleasant, Mount Shannon, Co. Limerick, Mount Stewart, Seafield, Donabate.
    the house is none of these.
    The picture shows a car in the driveway indicating a photograph possibly c. 1920
    The Duchas picture reference is A061.06.00002.
    The style of the house would appear to be 1790-1840.
    Any Thoughts?
    my email is below.

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