Sunday 18 August 2019

Family and former staff to gather to share memories

BELLEWSTOWN Heritage Group is delighted to present a history of the Boylan family and Hilltown House in its Heritage Week Exhibition, which takes place on August 27th and 28th in Bellewstown Hall.

The exhibition recalls the former days of glory of Hilltown and its owners; follows the fortunes of the Boylan family; recounts the successes of the Hilltown farm; shares the memories of family members and former workers and gathers together for the first time dispersed photographs of Hilltown House, the Boylan family and the Hilltown workers.

Hilltown House and estate were situated in Bellewstown and owned by the Boylan family, a catholic family, believed to have come into the locality from Co Cavan at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

The Boylans expanded their holdings until the estate covered around 3000 acres in the late nineteenth century, stretching across not only the local area but also in small pockets across to the west of Ireland.

They were innovative farmers, building up pedigree herds of sheep and cattle, breeding successful horses, establishing a state-of-the art dairy in the nineteen thirties, while also finding time to take part in local sports such as fox-hunting, beagling and polo. The estate employed numerous Bellewstown people over the years, with practically every local family having at least one family member employed there at some stage and many families working in Hilltown for generations.

The Boylan family were benevolent landlords and employers and played an active role in the community. They were instrumental in getting the local church and school built, held annual parties and treats for local school-children, invited workers and their families to annual Christmas-Day get-togethers and were held in high esteem by the local community.

On a more practical level they supplied free milk to their workers, planted fields of potatoes for them and initiated the building of the estate wall in famine times.

Members of the Boylan family at various stages worked tirelessly for Repeal of the Union alongside Daniel O'Connell, served as Justices of the Peace, distinguished themselves in the two world wars, were actively involved with the RDS and the Turf Club and were internationally acclaimed horsemen.

A changing Irish agricultural economy, combined with crippling death-duties, led to the decline of the estate in the late nineteen-sixties and early seventies and it was finally wound up in 1975, with the remaining family members now mostly living abroad. The house became uninhabitable and was finally demolished in 1982, although the façade was carefully taken down, numbered and stored. In recent years the house has been rebuilt on the original footprint by the new owners of Hilltown, Mr and Mrs Robert Gogan.

Besides numerous photographs ranging from 1895 onwards, the exhibition will also have a museum section, displaying, among many interesting items of memorabilia, the silver salver presented to Nicholas Boylan by Daniel O'Connell and 1100 Repealers in 1843, which is being loaned from the National Museum, Collins Barracks for the exhibition and also an illuminated address presented to Thomas Boylan in 1886 on the occasion of his coming-ofage.

Sr Doreen Boylan will open the exhibition on the 27 th and launch the book, written by members of Bellewstown Heritage Group, on the history of Hilltown and the Boylan family.

The exhibition runs in Bellewstown Hall on Saturday, August 27th from 6.30 to 9pm and on Sunday 28th from 10am to 5pm. Admission is free.