Blog: A Man, His Dog and Lord Castletown

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It’s funny and if you don’t write, you’ll not understand this- you have to be in the mood to write.  The thoughts have to be with you, the feeling has to be there.

I wrote a bit about this incident on Facebook, just a bit.  The thing is between this meeting and the ten days or so after I have had some fantastic days.  I have met wonderful people.
On 27th August, 2015, I received an email from a man who is working in University College Dublin asking me if I had ever photographed the grave of Lord Castletown.  I checked and replied on the Friday telling him that I had his name in my index but would check my folders on Monday.

On the Sunday, I was driving down the road and slowed down to pass a man who had a dog walking in front of him. Just after I had passed the man, the dog stepped out in the road, turned himself round to face my car and I stopped driving.  The man caught up to me, I rolled down my window, said “Lovely dog” and he laughed and asked me what was wrong with my arm.  I was wearing a brace, so I told him.  We laughed – he asked if I was in a hurry and suggested I could pull over so we could have a chat.  Can’t say why – just in our few words, this man was very interesting.  I pulled over, we chatted.

Oscar

Oscar the dog

Then, he says “Your mother” and I say “but I never gave you my name” – he replies “Your mother was Dr. Lyons” – and so she was.  As our conversation progressed, I told him that I transcribe gravestones and Mam used to tell me I was mad.  He said “You know about the Lord Castletown gravestones then don’t you?” I laughed and said “A man contacted me about them this week” isn’t that a coincidence?

I gave him my phone number and went off where I was on my way to.  Coming back later that evening I was thinking I hadn’t asked him his name – and then – there he was on the road again and I pulled up again.  This time, I got into his jeep and he drove me to the graveyard showed me exactly where the gravestone is, and I finally photographed Lord Castletown’s grave.

In the few weeks that followed, thanks to the meeting of this man and his dog, I was introduced to some information on the Second Baron Castletown (by another man I met in the last few weeks).  I had known nothing about Lord Castletown other than he had lived in this area and I have photographed Granstown Castle which belonged to him.  He was actually a very interesting man. Some of the following comes from an article published(18th–19th – Century History, 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2007), News, Volume 15.)

Lord Castletown kept a 14ft python in his rooms until it nearly killed a chambermaid!  He served as an ambulance worker for the Red Cross society in the Franco German war and working in a Typhus hospital.

The most interesting thing to me, is that he married Ursula Clare Emily St Leger (d. 1927), only child of the fourth Viscount Doneraile, in 1874.  She had an ancestor who was the only Irish Lady Freemason Mrs. Elizabeth Aldworth (nee St. Leger).

Years ago, I had ‘chased’ a box of books at an auction because in that box was a book all about the only lady Freemason!  I did manage to buy the box of books and have to say that while the ‘story’ was very interesting the book was not an antique or old book, it was a reasonably modern booklet.  I had been really very interested in Freemasonry.

Lord Castletown served in the 4th Battalion, Leinster Regiment, as lieutenant-colonel and honorary colonel.  He was decorated for his heroism in the Egyptian campaign and was a vigorous army recruiter for the first world war, for which he was too old to fight in.  He was High Sheriff of Queen’ County (Laois) in 1876, had a good relationship with his tenantry.

A friend of Douglas Hyde he gave financial assistance to the Gaelic League and formed the short-lived Celtic Association to foster Celtic culture.  Conversant with Irish, he learned the language on holidays in Connemara.

He died on the 29th May 1937, aged 88 and is buried in Killermogh, Ballacolla, Co. Laois.

The man who wrote making the enquiry about the gravestone wrote the following to me:
“this description in his autobiography Ego, describing his involvement with the Celtic League:

Mr. Fournier evolved the idea of having a granite stone divided into six nationalities, with the idea that wherever a meeting was held the stone should be put up, and when standing was emblematical of peaceful proceedings. Each piece had the initial letter of the country it belonged to. The stone now stands in front of my house at home, and will, I hope, be placed by my grave in Killermoogh churchyard.”

The ‘stone’ was made up of six blocks, however there are only 5 there now. The six members of the Celtic Association were Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Isle of Man and Cornwall. There is a letter to represent each country on each block and then on the side of each block there is ogham script.

This article while it is about Lord Castletown, it is probably more about the man and the dog because if I had not met that man I would simply have written back to the man who made the enquiry telling him that I did not have a photograph of this gravestone.  I knew nothing about Lord Castletown and the significance of these blocks would not have dawned on me.

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