[singlepic id=39 w=320 h=240 float=right]Monasterevin by the banks of the river Barrow is a town of unique heritage and history. Since St. Evin’s monastry flourished there in the 800’s many great names have been associated with the south Kildare town such as Sir Robert Devereaux the Earl of Essex, Cahir na gCappal, Count John McCormack, but one name is always spoken by the people of Monasterevin when they tell the tales of their history and speak of the past planner of their present home. The name they invoke is that of Lord Drogheda.
Now what you may ask does a noble bearing the name of a County Meath town have to do with the history of Monasterevin in the County of Kildare. To explain we must look to the 21st day of May in the year of our lord 1714. Charles Moore lies cold on his deathbed survived by his two sons Henry and Edward. Henry became the 4th Earl of Drogheda at fifteen years. The young man like all the Drougheda’s was prone to extravagance and gambling. He incurred debts of £180,000 forcing his mother and grandfather to appeal to parliament to bestow the title and lands on the younger brother Edward.
And so, Edward Moore became the 5th Earl of Drogheda inherited an extensive estate, the second largest in province after the Duke of Leinster consisting of Mellifont outside the town of Drogheda, the centre of the City of Dublin and from his grandfather Lord Loftus the Manor of Monasterevin. However when Edward came to settle his brothers debts he found that he had to sell the house and estates at Mellifont a move south to Kildare and the House of Monasterevin or as it was soon to become known “Moore Abbey”. The 5th Earl had a large family and divided his time between Moore Abbey and his large town house in Dublin on what is now O’Connell Street but was then called Drogheda Street. Other street recall the Drogheda’s today including Henry Street, Mary Street, Moore Street and Mellifont Lane.
While he was away from Moore Abbey he left strict instructions for his servants. At meal times his brewer and baker were to sit at the head of the table and assist the servants until everyone was served They had to ensure that everything was orderly and that there was no wrangling, cursing or swearing and that if anyone offended that he or Lady Drogheda should be informed. The Brewer and baker had to cut the bread which the stable boy would distribute from a large basket.
The 5th Earl had 31 happy years with his wife and children at Moore Abbey but tragically in 1758 while travelling to London with his youngest son who was chaplain to the Irish House of Common were lost in the Irish Sea with the wreak of the Dublin Trader.
With the death of the 5th Earl the title passed to his son Charles. The 6th Earl was young dynamic and amiable. At 28 years old Charles Moore was a “military man” having served as a Cornet in the 12th Dragoons. Growing up in Co. Kildare had predisposed him to the life of a dashing cavalry officer and in 1759 he raised his own regiment of light dragoons later known as the 18th Hussars but nicknamed Lord Drogheda’s Blues due to their handsome blue uniforms.
That same year the regiment dashed to Carrickfergus to defend against a French invasion. In 192 Lord Drogheda lead his regiment in action against White Boys in Co. Tipperary. In 1795 they were fighting in the Maroon War in Jamaica. In 1799 the fought in Holland. Through-out this time many Monasterevin men served in the ranks of Lord Drogheda’s Blues Perhaps this explains why during the Peninsular War the Duke of Wellington, a former officer of the regiment had to ban all promotion in the regiment because of looting. Never the less the 18th Hussars were known as one of the great Irish regiments of that war. In 1815 the fought gallantly at Quatre Bras and the following day they formed Wellington’s reserve on the battlefield of Waterloo.
As well as being Colonel of the 18th Hussars Charles 6th Earl of Drogheda held many other offices including Colonel-in-Chief of the Artillery, Master General of the Ordnance, Lt. General of the Army, Governor of the County Meath, Inpsector of the roads to Naas and the grand sounding Custos Rotulorum of the King’s and Queen’s Counties.
Charles threw himself into many projects to improve the town of Monasterevin. He commissioned surveys of what existed and laid out the elegant grid system of tree lined streets that can be seen today. He helped bring a spur of the Grand Canal to the town and assisted business men such a Cassidy the whiskey distiller to bring wealth and employment to the town. The extent of the mini-celtic tiger nurtured by the Drogheda’s can be seen in the unique Georgian architecture of the town which became known as the “Venice of Ireland”.
He applied the same work ethic to his dealings with Parliament and soon was created Marquis of Drogheda as well as being one of the first Knights of St. Patrick. When George IV visited Ireland, Lord Drogheda, now an old man, watch the pageantry from his O’Connell Street home. The King as he passed looked up and recognized his old friend sitting there with a yellow silk nightcap on his head. The King rose a bowed to Charles a subject who had done him great service.
When he died in 1821 aged 94 he was the oldest field marshal in the Army. He had however suffered from many of the same faults as his uncle. He had been a member of the notorious Hellfire club and lost more often than he won at cards. A large amount of his Moore Abbey estate went to meet his debts. Among his more noble claims to fame he has also achieved lasting fame in the lines of the poem Whalley Embarkation, which goes:
As you this bet will win no doubt,
I’ll shew you how to lay it out;
And Moore, that dirty whelp,
I’m sure will lend a help;
With box and dice, my buck,
We’ll all have charming luck
The 6th Earl and 1st Marquis of Drogheda had left two sons the eldest of which became, Edward Moore 2nd Marquis and 7th Earl of Drogheda. Having lived abroad and served as MP for Oxford Edward began to show signs of mental illness as was placed in the care of a Dr. Willis. Edward’s nephew Henry Francis Seymour Moore succeeded him as the 3rd Marquis and 8th Earl at the age of just twelve. When he came of age in 1846 he threw himself into all aspects of his Moore Abbey estate and the Monasterevin community.
Like his ancestor he accumulated a host of titles such as Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of County Kildare, Vice Administrator of Leinster, Honorary Colonel of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and Ranger of the Curragh. In Monasterevin he paid for a new Protestant Primary School. He laid out the long, horse chestnut shadowed, Drogheda Street. He added another bridge to the Venetian landscape of canals and rivers, the High Bridge. He was also able to attract industry and employment to the town. In 1846 he made extensive improvements to the house of Moore Abbey adding an imposing portico and steps as well as laying out its fashionable sunken gardens.
These improvements to the 16th century mansion however could not rid it of the reputation of being one of the coldest great houses of Ireland. One servants’ tale recounts how when one great lord came to stay for the weekend the staff struggled to take his luggage upstairs. A they heaved the trunk upstairs it split open and out spilled coal!. As the coal and soot collected around the feet of the visiting lord he explained to his hosts that the secret supply was to protect him from the chill.
Henry Moore was also a sports man. He was Commodore of the Royal St George Yacht Club and once suffered a ship wreck on the west coast of Ireland. In 1859 another tragedy occurred when George Fortescue fell from the mast of Lord Drogheda’s yacht. Fortescue’s death inspired his friend Baron de Tabley to become a poet.
As well as yachting the 3rd Marquis was involved in Irish hare coursing. He planted a special coursing arena in Boherbaun in the parish of Monasterevin. The Boherbaun Cup became one of the most coveted prizes in Irish coursing up until 1903.
The Marquis of Drogheda’s greatest legacy however is to Irish horse racing. Henry Moore was one of the keenest and most influential supporters of horse racing in Ireland and England during the mid-1800’s. As master of the Emo hunt he encouraged race meeting on the Great Heath in Co. Laois, donating a silver cup for the winner. He was a steward at many of the great race courses of the age. To his eternal credit in the county of Kildare he founded the meeting at Punchestown which today attracts thousands upon thousands to the racecourse. At each running of the race he presented to each jockey a white saddlecloth with red numerals.
Henry Francis Seymour Moore, 8th Earl and 3rd Marquis of Drogheda made one further contribution which has touched upon thousands of lives in Kildare and across Ireland in founding a hospital for sick and injured jockeys at the edge of the Curragh. Today the “Jockey Hospital” or more correctly the Drogheda Memorial Hospital is a hospice caring on a tradition of care and compassion.
The 3rd Marquis died without issue in 1892 and the Marquisate of Drogheda ceased to exist. The Earldom of Drogheda passed to another branch of the family the Ponsonby Moores. The 9th and 10th and 11th Earls continued to visit Moore Abbey and remained involved with the life of Monasterevin sometimes in unusual ways. During “The Emergency” period known to the belligerent nations as World War 2 the major industrial concern in Monasterevin was Samuel E. Holmes Ltd. Engineers. Due the war it was sometimes difficult for Mr. Holmes to get raw material needed for Irish defence projects. However when some material appeared “impossible” to get he would make a phone call to his friends in London. These friends were Henry Charles Ponsonby Moore the 10th Earl and his son Garret later the 11th Earl of Drogheda who were Director General of the Ministry of Economic Warfare and Staff Officer of the Ministry of Production respectively. If the material was not absolutely vital to the British war effort it would arrive next day in Monasterevin.
During these years the Drogheda’s did not live in Moore Abbey and they let it to Count John McCormac the famous Irish tenor. After the Second World War the finally sold Moore Abbey to the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary who establish a hospital in the grounds.
The impact of the Drogheda’s on the history of Monasterevin and of County Kidare is very great. Their monuments of stone and brick stand alongside the monuments of their graves. Their signatures adorn hundreds of documents alongside the names of their tenants and servants names that survive in Monasterevin families today. The memory and heritage of the Earls and Marquises of Drogheda over three hundred years have insured that the name Lord Drogheda is spoken with fondness.