Clonalis House, County Roscommon
Clonalis House is a 45 roomed mansion on a 700-acre estate near Castlerea, County Roscommon. The house, which was the first concrete house in Ireland, was built by Charles O’Conor Don in 1878. It was designed by the Victorian architect Fredrick Pepys Cocherll and combines Queen Anne and Victorian Italiante styles. The main reception and bedrooms all face southeast, making this a bright and airy home for Pyers O’Conor Nash, his wife Marguerite and their three children Barbara, Richard and Letitia. Letitia, who was born in 1987, was the first O’Conor baby born in Clonalis, since the birth in 1872 of her great grandfather Charles Hugh O’Conor.
Outside the door of Clonalis rests the 300lb limestone O’Conor inauguration stone, removed from the top of Carnfree hill for safe keeping. It is thought to date back to A.D 75 and bears the imprint of a fort, traditionally held to be that of the first King of Ireland, Feredach the Just. Carnfree, between Castlerea and Tulsk the inauguration site of the O’Connor Kings, was a centre of great significance, being used for in excess of 1500 years by the O’Connors.
Beside the avenue at Clonalis rests the ruins of the old Clonalis House, built by Andrew O’Conor Don about the year 1700. This house is interesting because it contained a secret chapel, which was a windowless room constructed between the stables. Here mass was celebrated in secret during the Penal Laws in the 18th Century. The tradition is that there are a number of tunnels leading from the house to the adjoining orchard, so fugitives and priests could make a fast exit.
While Clonalis is the ancestral home of the Royal O’Conor Clan, their built heritage stretches across Ireland from Dublin to Connaught, the province over which the clan ruled as Rings for nearly 1500 years.
It has been said that the history of the O’Connors is a microcosm of the history of Ireland with an unknown noble pedigree that is said to stretch back to the first king. That first king reigned more than 350 years before St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, 700 years before the Viking raids started, and 11 centuries before the Norman’s hit Wexford.
In the Library of Clonalis House, there is a pedigree completed in 1825 by Sir Williams Betham, the Ulster King of Arms, which enumerates 96 generations of O’Connors, starting with Milesium the first king of the Celtsin Ireland. In the 66 generations from this King to the present day, this clan has provided 11 High Kings of Ireland and 26 Kings of Connaught.
Among the names of the kings are Conn, of the 100 Battles who died in 100 A.D. Brian, the great king of Connaught who died 397 A.D, and his nephew Daithi the last pagan king of Ireland. King Brian was the eldest brother of Niall of the nine hostages, who brought the captive Patrick to Ireland. Patrick later converted the Island to Christianity and became Ireland’s Patron Saint.
The present O’Conor Don is Dismount O’Connor, former director of Kleinwont Benson merchant bank, who lives in Rotherfield in England. His cousin, Pyers O’Connor Nash, is the custodian of Clonalis House and lands at Castlerea.
For information on the O’Connor Clan