The Earls of Drogheda in the 20th Century
Henry Charles Ponsonby Moore succeeded his father as 10th Earl of Drogheda in 1908, and married Kathleen, youngest daughter of Charles M. Pelham Burn, on 1 March 1909. They were divorced in 1921. After the divorce the Earl had no desire to live in the House and by this time it had become difficult to maintain.
Henry was in turn succeeded by his son Charles Garret in 1957. He later wrote that the sale of Moore Abbey was completed in early 1940 but the Nuns did not move in until after the War in 1946. The Earl claimed it was sold for little more than £5,000 but that this in effect meant a saving of £500 a year for maintenance.
Count John McCormack
The house was leased by Lord Drogheda in 1925 to the famous Irish Tenor, John McCormack who became the new landlord of Moore Abbey. He and his family remained there until early 1937 and a new chapter began for the Great House. McCormack was born in Athlone, County Westmeath. His tenor voice won him praise and fame all over the world. Making his Operatic debut in 1907 in Covent Garden, London he went on to sing at the New York Opera House, Carnegie Hall, and as a member of various American Operatic Companies. However, it was his rendition of Irish folk songs that won him most acclaim. He sang at the Eucharistic Congress, held in the Phoenix Park, Dublin in 1932.
John his wife Lily and their children Cyril and Gwen lived lavishly - entering and leaving by the monumental Kildare Gate so that visitors could admire the views from t he long carriage way to the front entrance. There was much entertaining in the reception room adjoining the library. Countess Lily McCormack in her book 'I hear you calling me' recalls Christmas in the Great Hall, with the family and servants gathered together, happy faces lit by fire and candlelight while John sang and played on the grand piano.
The film 'Song of my Heart' (1930), was the first 'talkie' to be made in Ireland. McCormack sang 'A Fairy Story by the Fire' to a crowd of children in the film which had many of its scenes shot in Moore Abbey. When McCormack gave up his lease of the house in 1938, negotiations for its sale commenced.
Sisters of Charity and Moore Abbey
The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary is a religious institute. It was founded by Fr. Peter Joseph Triest on November 4th 1803, in Lovendegem, in the Diocese of Gent, Belgium. A long cherished dream of a house in Ireland was realised by the Sisters of Charity, when Monsignor Van Recham. Rev. Father General and Rev . Mother Cesaire purchased Moore Abbey House and estate of 300 acres from Henry Charles Ponsonby Moore for the sum of £8,000.(The 11th Earl remembered it as close to £5,000; the year varies, it is mentioned as sold in 1937, 1940 and 1946. The year 1946 seems to have been the year the Nuns actually moved in but the sale had to have been negotiated around 1937 and the deal may have been closed in 1940)
Many repairs were necessary because the premises had been neglected but when the Second World War broke out these came to a standstill. On 15 April 1946, the religious community of Mother Finbarr Brodrick. Srs. Redempta McNamee, Carmel Walsh and Mary Rose Gleeson, arrived in Moore Abbey. On the following day, 16 April, the ceremony of taking possession was held and the old Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary and St. Benedict was re-christened 'Convent of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.' The community had their kitchen, refectory and laundry in the basement while the dormitory and community room were on the first floor.
The chapel on the ground floor was there from Count McCormack's time. In March 1947, a fire broke out and quickly gutted the entire east wing of the building. It took more than a year to repair but on 8 September 1948, the official opening took place. On this first day there were four patients, by the end of the year there were ninety. New buildings were opened in 1973 and the facilities continue to develop.
Mark Bence-Jones in his Irish volume of 'Burke's Guide to Country Houses,' gives us a good description of what the House is like in architectural terms.
Moore Abbey Hall
Moore Abbey, Monasterevin, co Kildare (LOFTUS, V/DEP and sub ELY, M/PB; MOORE, DROGHEDA, E/PB). One of the only 2 surviving examples of rnid-C18 Gothic in major Irish country houses which are not old castles remo delled, the other being the Gothic front of Castleward, co Down (qv). A 1767 Gothic rebuilding, by Field Marshal Sir Charles Moore, 6th Earl and 1st Marquess of Drogheda, of a C17 house built on the site of a medieval abbey acquired in the reign of Elizabeth by the Loftuses, whose heiress married into the Moores 1699; and of which some fragments of carved stonework are built into a wall of the present house.
Principal front consisting of a 7 bay centre block of 3 storeys over a basement, with 4 bay projecting wings of 2 storeys over a basement; all the windows in the centre and wings-including those in the basement-being uniform, with pointed heads and Gothic astragals; those in the 2 principal storeys having Gothic hood mouldings. The roof parapets of the centre and wings are hattlemented. Small C19 projecting porch, with tracery windows; C19 Gothic balustrade on the broad flight of steps leading up to the porch, and along the area.
Large single-storey hall, said to be basically C17and where Adam, Viscount Loftus, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, held his Chancery Court 1641; but now wholly C19 Tudor-Gothic in character; with an elaborately fretted plasterwork ceiling, oak wainscot with trefoil-headed panels, a carved stone chimneypicce and a screen of pointed arc hes. Drawing room and dining room with frieze of delicate C18 Gothic plasterwork, and similar Gothic ornament on the entablatures of the very handsome doorcases. Staircase with balustrade of simple uprights, lit by Perpendicular-style window. Gothic stable court behind house with battlemented tower. Impressive castellated entrance gateway to demesne.
In later C19, Moore Abbey had the name for being a very cold house; once, when 4th Earl of Clonmell, a celebrated character of those times, came to stay, he brought an exceptionally heavy portmanteau with him in his luggage which, as the footmen were struggling to get it up the stairs, burst open and was found to be full of coal. During 1920s, the house was let to Count John McCormack, the singer, who sang Song of any Heart by the River Barrow in the demesne. At the end of Count McCormack's tenancy, 10th Earl of Drogheda sold Moore Abbey to a religious order. It is now a hospital run by the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary.
The text of this section relies h eavily on the work done by Mary Carroll and the Leinster Leader Indexation Project.Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 1933.
Carville, Geraldine, Monasterevin ; a parish and its people on the eve of the millennium, Dublin : Parish of Monasterevin and the Elo Publications, 1999.
Bence-Jones, Mark, Burke's Guide to Country Houses ; Volume I : Ireland, London : Burke's Peerage Ltd., 1978.
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