by rsheridan on December 12, 2009

Leinster Leader February 3rd, 1923
At 9.30 on Monday night Palmerstown, the Irish residence of Senator the Earl of Mayo and the Countess of Mayo, was entered by armed men who set the massive building on fire, destroying it and its contents.
Lord and Lady Mayo had finished dinner, and there were in the house with them at the time two male and six female servants. Two young fellows knocked at the front door, which was opened by the butler. They demanded money, and he shut the door speedily without answering them. Some minutes later a knock came to the servants’ entrance, and the hall boy inquiring who was there, was answered, “An orderly officer of the Irish Republican Army”.
He opened the door and three men entered, armed with revolvers. They left, and returned in a few moments with petrol tins. They were met by Lord Mayo, who asked what they wanted. They said they had come to burn the house “as a reprisal for the execution of six men at the Curragh”. They proceeded through the house, and sprinkled the main hall, dining room and drawing room with petrol. They allowed the servants a quarter of an hour to remove their personal belongings. Lord Mayo asked if they would give him time to remove his best pictures and his plate, and they consented. The plate and some valuable pictures were removed, also the contents of the study, kitchen, scullery and housekeeper’s room. In all about half an hour was allowed. Then matches were set to the saturated rooms and in a few moments the place was a roaring mass of flame.
The raiders left, having stated they could not wait and wanted to get back to Dublin. Military from Naas and the military fire brigade from the Curragh arrived on the scene, but nothing could be done to save the fine mansion, which was completely gutted. The offices and servant’s quarters adjoining were saved.
A Stately Edifice
The house is situated on a splendid demesne about two miles from Naas on the Dublin road. It was erected as a memorial house to Richard, 6th Earl of Mayo and Viceroy of India in 1872 after the assassination of that nobleman, father of the present Earl. The house, perhaps the finest edifice of its kind in County Kildare, which boasts of some many splendid residences, was built by Wyatt, the architect, of Liverpool Exchange and Hyde Park Barracks, London. The house is situated on the top of a hill overlooking the surrounding country. It contained family records, all of which were destroyed and relics from Africa, India, America and Sardinia, including many gifts to the 6th Earl when he was Viceroy of India. A tablet over the front entrance bears the inscription: “This house was built in honoured memory of Richard, sixth Earl of Mayo, K.P., G.M.S.I., Viceroy and Governor-General of India, by his friends and countrymen, A.D. 1872.
Today nothing remains of the once magnificent structure but the gaping, blackened walls.
Prior to the Raid
Prior to the raid on the house, armed men called at the farmyard and demanded arms which they alleged were on the premises, but they were told there were none there.
A military patrol from Naas barracks was at Sallins about a mile away, about 11.45 and, seeing the flames, proceeded to the spot, but there was no trace of the incendiaries at this time.
It is believed there were at least 7 men engaged in the attack, five of whom entered the house, One of these accompanied Lady Mayo to release some fowl from a house, and they were challenged by a sentry posted outside. The raiders were courteous. Lady Mayo has gone to stay with some friends in the neighbourhood, but Lord Mayo has decided to occupy a gamekeeper’s cottage on his estate. It is stated that the male residents in the vicinity were warned that they would be shot if they gave any assistance to put out the fire.
Priceless Treasures
The Earl of Mayo is probably one of the greatest living authorities on old English and French furniture. He is president of the Irish Arts and Crafts Society and organised more than one notable exhibition in Dublin when superb collections of Chippendale and Sheraton and Louis XIV and Louis XV furniture were exhibited. His own specimens were of almost priceless description.
The Mayo family have always been identified with the hunting and racing traditions of the “Killing Kildares”, and the present Earl is the historian of the Kildare Hunt. The family have always been prominent in fostering, developing and maintaining the famous Punchestown Races, and at Palmerstown there was a rare collection of racing and hunting prints. It may be assumed that these also have been sent to destruction.
The present Earl was in his earlier days, connected with the British Embassy at Paris and is a recognized authority on French politics and modern French literature.
The family of the Earl of Mayo, which derives its decent from the famous line of MacWilliam-Oughter of Connacht, first settled in Kildare about 1660.


The court case for compensation involving Palmerstown House is also available on EHistory – entitled ‘The Burning of Palmerstown House.’

Leinster Leader article on the destruction of Palmerstown House during the Civil War. The court case for compensation involving Palmerstown House is also available on EHistory – entitled ‘The Burning of Palmerstown House.’

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