Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

A bastion of auld decency

Once the home of the legendary huntswoman and hostess Lady Molly Cusack Smith, this 211ac Co Galway estate has much potential

The entrance avenue to Bermingham House
The entrance avenue to Bermingham House
Bermingham House was built in 1783 and retains much of its character
Lady Molly Cusack Smith's annual hunt balls were described by one guest as the 'last clarion call of the stranded gentry'
Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

Bermingham House near Tuam in Co Galway was the home of the late and legendary Lady Molly Cusack Smith also known as Molly O'Rorke.

The house and lands are for sale by private treaty with a guide of between €1.5m and €2m. At the height of the boom an offer of approximately €4m failed to buy the place.

Situated 3km from Tuam and 40km from Galway city the house is synonymous with the world of horses and hunting and a way of life revelled in by the late Lady Molly.

One of the most colourful characters to stride the Irish equestrian scene in the latter part of the 20th Century she was master of the Galway Blazers. In her younger years, she was a practitioner of haute couture who trained in Paris, a renowned chef and a legendary hostess whose quick wit and caustic tongue brought many to book.

Born in 1905 in Portobello Dublin into the ancient O'Rorke of Breffni Clan, Mary Adele O'Rorke was always proud of her ancient Gaelic heritage and resisted being described as 'Anglo Irish'.

After a row with her father as a young woman she ran away to Paris to study opera but instead entered the world of haute couture. She also became a Cordon Bleu chef and moved to London in the 1940s.

It was there she met her husband, Lord Dermot Cusack Smith, and described their relationship as a suitable match: "He was extremely rich and had a title," she said. The couple had one child and the marriage ended in divorce.

Molly returned to Ireland and from the family pile, Bermingham House near Tuam, she carved out a legendary place in equestrian circles. She was the first woman Master of the Galway Blazers and established her own pack, the Bermingham and North Galway Hunt.

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Lady Molly became a local and a national celebrity with people travelling from all over the world to attend her annual hunt balls at Bermingham House.

The house also hosted the celebrities of the swinging 60s with Mick Jagger and his then wife, Marianne Faithfull, among its guests.

Her ladyship was as famous for her quick wit and acerbic tongue as she was for her equestrian skills.

She took exception to being described as 'Anglo-Irish' an claimed she was equally adept at swearing in both Irish and English.

The renowned Cordon Bleu cook often liked to surprise her guests with plain fare such as boiled eggs when they were expecting haute cuisine. Lady Molly died in February 1998.

Bermingham House in its distinctive pink rose is approached by a tree-lined avenue.

The seven-bedroom house was built in 1738 and added to over the years. Along with the seven bedrooms the house has a spacious entrance hall, three large reception rooms with original features, a huge kitchen and an elegant staircase.

According to selling agent Michael Mannion of Sherry FitzGerald Mannion, Tuam, the building is in need of considerable refurbishment and modernisation however, the house has beautiful plasterwork throughout and with a magnificent finish to much of the woodwork.


The spaces are generous and elegant and with a bit of investment and respect for its provenance Bermingham House could be one of the most elegant 18th century country houses in the state.

The residential portion of the property also includes a self-contained apartment as well as a two-bedroom house.

Adjacent to the house is a traditional yard with a wide range of old stone outbuildings in traditional courtyard formation. The buildings include 21 stables, fodder storage, machinery storage and some stock handling facilities.

The land, which has plenty of road frontage, was mainly used for horses and sheep over the years.

Extending to 211ac it includes about 100ac of good to decent grazing ground, some more low-lying ground and land that needs attention.

Like many estates of its vintage it has great stands of specimen trees throughout.

Bermingham Estate is one of the larger blocks of land to come for sale in the West of Ireland and will be of interest for its farming, equestrian and tourism potential.

In terms of exploiting its tourism potential the property surely has a head start if the new owner can capitalise on its association with one of the most colourful characters to brighten the western landscape since the legendary Grace O'Malley.

Indo Farming