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Sunday 17 November 2019

Now public make house calls to Dr Reilly's manor

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

WELCOME to the country seat of Dr James Reilly, chief lieutenant of Enda Kenny, Member of Parliament for the County of Fingal, Chief Medic of the Irish Nation, former Knight Commander of the Irish Medical Organisation, GP and 'Lord' of Loughton near Moneygall in the County of Offaly.

As part of Heritage Week, 'Lord' Reilly has thrown open the doors of his 13-bedroomed country mansion, Loughton House, which is set within 150 acres.

Unfortunately, the Health Minister was not at home this weekend (he was returning from state business in China) as curious visitors paid €5 to view the house and gardens, but his son, Conan, and wife, Dorothy, gave tours of the 17th century stately pile.

The Reillys avail of tax breaks which help with the maintenance of the house, and in return they must allow visitors in for three months a year.

Travails

There is usually a visitor every other day, but Heritage Week has drawn crowds, with the fame and travails of Dr Reilly coaxing quite a few of them along.

A steady stream of people trudged up the winding driveway when the Irish Independent arrived for the tour on Saturday.

Mary Ryan, a retired secondary school teacher from Cappamore, Co Limerick, brought a class here 20 years ago because they were interested in the life of Lord Bloomfield, who owned the estate when it was at its peak in the 19th century.

The last time Ms Ryan visited, it was owned by the Atkinson family.

"I didn't realise he had sold the place until I read it in the paper," she said. "A few months ago they showed a picture of the house as belonging to Dr Reilly."

The Reillys bought the house in 2002, two years after it was first put on the market with an initial asking price of around €3.5m.

Only the reception room, living room, library and dining room are open for viewing, because they're the only ones that reflect their original splendour. There's only one rule -- no pictures inside the house.

Nestling among the death masks and swords that were owned by Benjamin Bloomfield are a few hints of the current owners, including a photo of Michael Collins on his release from prison at Christmas 1916.

On the library's bookshelves are pictures of Mrs Reilly, who used to work in RTE and dabbed make-up on Charles Haughey and Garret FitzGerald before an election debate in the 1980s.

There is also a copy of Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf', a pre-war edition that was bought by a previous owner.

Ms Ryan knows much more about Loughton than the Reillys do, which is why she was asked to come back to share some of her knowledge.

"The Bloomfields won it from the Ryder-Peppers in a game of cards," she told Conan Reilly.

The house's main asset is its gardens, which were overgrown until Mrs Reilly set about restoring them.

"It's great to see the place done up," said Ms Ryan, who added that the vines in the walled garden's glasshouse were a wedding gift from Queen Victoria to Lord Bloomfield's son, who married one of the monarch's ladies-in-waiting.

Amazing

The tour ends with tea and cakes in the function room, which is sometimes used for weddings and parties.

"I thought it would be interesting to come and see what they've done, and it's amazing," said Ms Ryan.

In a final history lesson, she said Lord Bloomfield was one of the champions of splitting neighbouring Tipperary into two ridings, which led to it having two county councils today.

Ironic, then, that 'Lord' Reilly is part of a government determined to do reverse the split and merge the pair back into one.

Irish Independent

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