Teenage Life at Lissadell House

The two eldest girls, Constance and Eva, became very close during their childhood. They rambled freely throughout the estate on foot and on horseback getting to know the grounds and the tenants that lived there. The Lissadell estate was quite unique in that the relationship between landlord and tenant was regarded as one of the most liberal, in terms of mutual respect and understanding for this period. From quite an early age the two sisters quite possibly presumed that their lives were simply a microcosm of landed estate life in Ireland.

The children would have heard about the kindness of the grandfather, Sir Robert, during the Great Famine when he mortgaged Lissadell for £50,000. This enabled him to hire ships in order to assist tenants with emigration. He spent a further £34,000 pounds on food such as bread and oatmeal. These acts of charity during such a dark period in Irelands history made a deep impression on the tenants of the Gore-Booth estate.

The two sisters were to see firsthand the effects of famine on the local community during the years 1879 to 1880. Relief committees were quickly set up in every parish in an attempt to counteract the food shortages. ' Sir Henry Gore-Booth of Lissadell kept an open store of food in the courtyard of his spacious and magnificent house, giving out meals etc, to all the starving poor, free to all, and I believe all the members of his family assisted in doing so' [3].

Because of their privileged position in society, Constance and Eva enjoyed their youthful years. As well as gaining an interest in both poetry and art they acquired the etiquette of landed gentry life, parties and hunts gave them a valuable insight into how their class, 'The County Set' should act and behave. W.B. Yeats, during one of his visits to the Gore-Booth home, described them as 'two girls in silk kimonos, both beautiful, one a gazelle' [4]. However both Sisters also interacted with the tenants and locals on a daily basis from their ramblings throughout the estate.

Because of the landlord/tenant relationship that existed, they became emotionally involved in the tenant's lives and their subsequent plight during times of hardship. From their grandfather and father they learned how to be a generous and compassionate member of the landed gentry class and how they might use their position in life wisely. They also learned first-hand the hardship and suffering that the poor people of Ireland had to endure. This unique insight into the tiered levels of society and subsequently politics was to have a very strong influence on the way both sisters viewed Irish society and its shortcomings as a whole.

previousPrevious - Lissadell House
Next - The Sisters' Involvement in Culture and Artsnext

Upload to this page

Upload to this page

Add your photos, text, videos, etc. to this page.

Map Search

Related Libraries

Sligo County Library
Contact this library »


History & Heritage

Popular Sections