MORE O'FERRALL PARK By Guy Williams
The More O'Ferrall association with Kildangan Castle and its 1,000-acre estate began with the marriage of Susan O'Reilly, sole heiress, to Edward More O'Ferrall, her late father's land agent, in 1853.
Kildangan estate, centred round a medieval castle, had been created by Susan's forebears, who purchased the property in 1706. Dominic More O'Ferrall, Susan's father, inherited Kildangan estate from his father in 1816.
Two years later Dominic married Susanna Cruise from Vienna, heiress to over 14,000 acres in Mayo. Their marriage produced three daughters and one son. The latter died in infancy, their eldest daughter died in 1835, as did their middle daughter just two years later. Susanna died in 1839 and six years later the grieving Dominic expired in Malta while travelling with Susan, their only surviving child.
The fates refused to relent, Susan dying in 1854, giving birth to her only child, Dominic More O'Ferrall.
Shy and diffident, Dominic inherited Kildangan on his father's death in 1875. Resisting the fashion of the day to build an impressive residence, Dominic continued to live in the thatched house attached to the old castle, until it was accidentally burned to the ground on 21 May 1880.
Architect William Hopkins was commissioned to build the present house in 1882, completing the commission by 1886. Content to administer his estate, Dominic More O'Ferrall was slow to seek a wife, only taking the plunge in 1898. His bride was handsome, extrovert Nancy McDonnell of Usk in Monmouthshire.
Nancy bore Dominic three sons, Roderic Charles (1903), Ambrose Francis (1904) and Edward Roger (1906). Roderic, Frankie and Rory – as they became known – shared their mother's passion for foxhunting, while being educated at Eton, an unusual choice for an Irish Catholic family. Roderic came down from Oxford University to understudy his father in Kildangan.
At a loose end, Roderic opened his racehorse training stable in Kildangan in 1926, recruiting a veritable Who's Who of hi-society patrons, notably Count John McCormack of Moore Abbey, Monasterevan. When he closed his racing establishment in 1946, converting Kildangan to a fabulously successful stud farm, Roderic did so with 330 winners of 578 races to his credit, including five Irish classics.
While Roderic More O'Ferrall lived in and for Kildangan, expanding its world famous arboretum, Frankie and Rory also proved successful in their chosen careers. Extrovert Frankie co-founded the Anglo-Irish Bloodstock Agency, attracting sorely needed foreign capital into Ireland, not just through bloodstock exports, but by promoting the benefits of Irish racing and breeding to wealthy American clients. Frankie's marriage to Angela produced three daughters, Susie, Tessa and Emma Rose, who laid their father to rest in Kildangan in 1976.
Rory founded the More O'Ferrall outdoor advertising firm, which grew into one of the most successful such concerns in these islands under his shrewd chairmanship. Rory married Lady Elizabeth Elveden, widow of Edward Arthur Guinness. Her son, Benjamin, became a partner in the Kildangan Stud. Rory had no children. Roderic was likewise childless, though married twice, briefly to American heiress Anne Bullitt Biddle of Palmerstown and subsequently to Australian widow and old friend Patricia Richards.
Increasingly concerned about the fate of Kildangan, Roderic initially intended to bequeath it to the Irish State, though specifically as an adjunct to the nearby Irish National Stud, then managed by Michael Osborne. That came to nothing, frustrated by the fall of Charles J. Haughey's government.
Happily, Michael Osborne, having moved to Kentucky and back in the meantime, had no hesitation in recommending Kildangan to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, then in search of a 'flagship' Irish stud farm. The sale was completed in 1985, with Roderic and Patricia retaining right of residence for life.
Roderic More O'Ferrall was duly laid to rest in Kildangan towards the close of 1990, preceded by Lady Elizabeth and followed all too swiftly by Rory, Elizabeth's husband and Roderic's brother. Patricia moved to London.
The More O'Ferrall reign in Kildangan, lasting almost 200 years, had ended. Well, it might have ended, but in name only. The legacy of the founding O'Reillys, nurtured and preserved by the More O'Ferralls, provided a perfect base for what is today one of the showpiece stud farms in the world. It is a magnificent memorial, which we are proud to perpetuate through the name of our GAA grounds.