Firville House in the Rebel County on the market for €650k
It was Confederate brother pitted against Yankee brother in the halls of Firville House
IF the sweeping double staircase and the grand, elaborate dining room at Firville House have a look of 'Gone With The Wind' about it, perhaps this has something to do with its best known former resident - Confederate officer, Captain Robert Going Atkins.
This month marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, in which Going Atkins and more than 150,000 other Irish-born soldiers fought, between April 1861 and May 1865 - three quarters of the number who fought on the British side in WWI.
While most were on the Union side, around 20,000, just like Going Atkins, the son of a clergyman from Mallow in the Rebel County, fought for the Confederacy.
The 'Irish in the American Civil War' blog (irishamericancivilwar.com) reveals something of his story, along with those of the many other Irishmen who took part in the conflict.
Atkins was a captain in the famous 'Louisiana Tigers', founded upon the enlistment of large groups of mostly Irish workers. They became Confederacy shock troops and fought in many of the war's landmark battles. They wore a distinctive uniform of a straw, wide-brimmed hat, blue and white pantaloons and scarlet jackets.
While on leave back at his Mallow home in January 1864, Atkins wrote to the Bishop of Kerry, urging him to dissuade the peasantry of the diocese from emigrating to America, where they might be encouraged to swell the Union army ranks.
In his letter, Atkins asserted that the Irish were not joining up "to grant an unsolicited freedom to three millions of 'Africans', who are better clothed, better lodged and, beyond all, better fed then he is himself," but for adventurous spirit, "the distressed condition of his native land," and the simple inducement of $777, which the "Yankee government" paid to those who enlisted. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that many Irish travelled to the US specifically to enlist for the cash.
His missive was published in newspapers here and in the American South. Robert's younger brother, John, was afterwards inspired to join the Confederate fight. He arrived in the South in March 1864, and died in battle that October.
Meanwhile, another of the Going Atkins brothers, Philip, headed to America to take up the Union cause, so Firville House must have seen a share of that civil war at home as well.
Ironically, rebel Robert died in a hunting accident in Dixieland, leaving 'yankee' brother Philip to inherit the Cork property.
In 1914, Firville was sold to one Samuel Sheehan, and a descendant of his, Ursula Lenehan, lives there to this day. Ursula and her husband, Paddy Lenehan, who died last year, acquired the house in 1975 and restored it in the years following, while raising their family there.
Built in 1798, Firville is a Georgian country house on two storeys with a half-basement. It doesn't have much land for a property of its pedigree - it's on only four acres, much of the estate having been sold to configure Mallow Racecourse, which the house overlooks.
Firville faces south, and is approached by a tree-lined avenue, accessed via a set of wrought-iron entrance gates between limestone pillars at Navigation Road. The driveway circles the house, and there are limestone steps up to the front door, which has what the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage describes as an "especially fine fanlight", flanked by limestone columns and ornately glazed sidelights.
Many period features are still in place: elaborate ceiling plasterwork, window shutters, fireplaces and a magnificent double staircase. The roof and chimney stacks have been repaired, and there's oil-fired central heating. Unfortunately, many of the windows have been replaced with PVC.
The entrance hall has a cast iron fireplace and, beyond this, is an inner hall, with the imposing staircase. There are three dual-aspect reception rooms on this floor - a drawing room with a marble fireplace, a living room, and a dining room, where a dumb waiter trundles up and down to the basement.
There's a second staircase too, a spiral one running all the way up through the house for the servants, which might be useful if the dumb waiter started giving trouble. The main kitchen is also on this hall level, as well as a guest toilet.
Four of the five bedrooms are on the first floor, including the master bedroom at the front of the house, which has a walk-in dressing room and an en-suite bathroom with a corner bathtub.
The fifth bedroom is in the basement, and has an en-suite shower room. Also in the basement is a kitchen with a separate pantry, cold room and laundry, a games room described as being big enough for a full-size snooker table, and a darkroom.
The attic has been converted and consists of a den, an office, some storerooms and a toilet. The total internal floor space is some 7,000 sq ft.
The four acres of grounds include a large lawn dotted with mature trees, and a walled garden with apple and plum trees. There's also a full-size tennis court and a double garage.
Firville is close to the centre of Mallow town, where you can catch a train to Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Kerry. By car, it's a little over half an hour from Cork city centre.
Navigation Road Mallow, Co Cork
Asking price: €650,000
Agent: Savills in Cork, (021) 427 1371