by ehistoryadmin on June 13, 2015



Miss Maud Wolfe of Forenaughts


Miss Wolfe died peacefully in her residence on 28th April in her 89th year. On her death the ancient and once prominent Wolfe family of County Kildare became extinct.

This family was said to have been of ancient English origin. The first settler in Ireland came in 1658, not as a Cromwellian planter, but from a loyalist family that had suffered much in the Stuart cause, and now one Richard Wolfe crossed the sea in hope of better fortune. In this he and his successors did very well, acquiring numerous estates – some of them left derelict after the wars – stretched across north Kildare from Clane to Ballymore Eustace.

In their heyday the Wolfes produced a number of distinguished men, distinguished both in national and in international history. First comes to mind Wolfe Tone. There has been a strong tradition in the Wolfe family that Wolfe Tone’s true father was Theobald Wolfe of Blackhall and Bodenstown – who was certainly the godfather and helped to set up the Tone family as carriage builders in Dublin and Prosperous. But a study of chronology and certain other evidence suggest that this is not true – not true that is, unless certain dates had been falsified. At the same time, an uncle of the then Wolfe of Forenaughts was Arthur Wolfe, Lord Kilwarden, who made strong efforts as Chief Justice to prevent the execution of his kinsman, Wolfe Tone. He was later killed by the mob, stabbed in twenty places, during the Emmet rising of 1803.

A cousin of the same era was Charles Wolfe, who as a student at Trinity, when probably about twenty years of age, wrote “The Burial of Sir John Moore,” – an unpretentious but perfectly composed poem. He circulated this anonymously and died young, but the poem became world famous.

Finally, there was a kinsman of international renown, James Wolfe, the hero of Quebec. A Major-General at 32, he captured Quebec in 1759. He was killed in the battle but the result secured that the whole Dominion of Canada became thereafter a British, and not a French colony. Had it been otherwise, the issue of the American War of Independence and of the later Napoleonic Wars might have been very different.

Miss Wolfe’s father, Mr. George Wolfe, started life as an army officer, but while still a young man came into three fine properties, one in Yorkshire and two in Kildare. He then retired to live the life of a country gentleman, first at Bishopland, near Ballymore Eustace, and later at Forenaughts. Here he devoted his time to public duties of all sorts, as a Magistrate, Curragh Ranger, Peace Commissioner, President of County Kildare Archaeological Society for 10 years, High Sheriff, County Councillor for 33 years and T.D. for County Kildare 1923-1932.

His only child, Maud, was brought up to the usual social and sporting activities of her time and class, but the early death of her mother, when Miss Wolfe was 18, changed that. She now became the principal companion and support of her father. It was a labour of love for she was devoted to him. For the next thirty years she shared and assisted in his public activities.

When he died, in December 1941 she was in her fiftieth year, and was left to manage the still extensive Forenaughts estate on her own. This was not a role to which women of her generation had been brought up. The times were not propitious and she was not interested in modern methods of estate management. But she continued in the performance of those community services, which were then open to women – Soldiers and Sailors Families, Red Cross Work and the District Nurses Organisation – the latter being most important at a time when there was no state nursing service.

By the time of her death, she had outlasted virtually all of her contemporaries and friends, but nevertheless, a very large congregation attended to pay tribute at her funeral. Even in extreme old age and physical disability, she continued to be highly regarded by all sections of the community. This respect was given to herself, not to her status. People recognised her total integrity of character, her charitable disposition, acumen in judgement and perhaps most important, her freedom from those social and religious prejudices, which used to prevail, and in some sections still do prevail. After her death, people said – “That is the passing of a landmark.” She probably did not think of herself as a landmark or institution, but was certainly conscious that she represented the end of the Wolfe dynasty. At the time of her birth the family book identified nearly fifty born Wolfes of her branch. In the evening of her days, there were none left, save possibly one or two, (if surviving), in South Africa.


And what if she had seen those glories fade,

Those titles vanish and those thoughts decay;

Yet shall some tribute or regret be paid

When her long life has reached its final day.

Men are we and must grieve when even the shad

of that which once was great has passed away.



Re-typed by Mary Murphy

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