New owner pledges to turn 1660s home into 'new Lissadell'
A BUSINESSMAN who paid €670,000 for a former Army barracks has vowed to turn it into "the Lissadell of Donegal".
John Molloy owns a number of dairy and food companies in the North West and won an auction bidding war this week to buy Rockhill House.
The house and its grounds were used as a Defence Forces barracks until its closure five years ago.
The State had hoped to raise just €250,000 from the sale.
Rockhill House was originally built by plantation landlords in 1660, with the current extended house dating from 1824.
Mr Molloy - who runs the Natural Dairy Company in Convoy, Co Donegal - has said he wants to restore every part of the 70-room house and return it to its former glory.
"As a company we have always been about restoration and preservation and this will be no different," he said.
"We want to restore Rockhill House to its former glory and that project will start as soon as we gets the keys to the building.
"We know Rockhill holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Letterkenny and Donegal and we want them to be involved in the project from the outset. We will be setting up a Facebook page and we welcome any contributions or comments or any information which will help allow us to be true to the original house as is possible," he said.
He intends to restore it while adapting it to the needs of "family life in the 21st century".
Mr Molloy, who is from Sligo but who has been resident in Convoy for several years, said he wanted to restore the property in a similar fashion to that of Lissadell House in Sligo which is owned by the Walsh family.
"That would be our plan, that we would firstly restore the building and then schedule tours of the house so the people can see the glory that the house once held," he said.
"We also appreciate the role the army have played in Rockhill and this will be an aspect that will be reflected in our development and preservation."
He has already spoken to retired Lt-Col Declan O'Carroll, who served at the barracks, about retaining some of the military history at the 30-acre site, 3km outside Letterkenny.
"We all know what wonderful craftsmen and women that Donegal has and we will be hoping to resource workers from the local community to help us with the project," said Mr Molloy.