Monday 19 November 2018

Earl of Courtown pays visit to family's ancestral home


Fintan LAMBE

THE EARL of Courtown and members of the Stopford family returned to their North Wexford roots last weekend for a family reunion, and to unveil a plaque to the memory of James Montagu Borgoyne Stopford, 8th Earl of Courtown, who died in 1975.

His five children, including Patrick, the current Earl of Courtown; brother Jeremy; and sisters Elizabeth, Mary and Felicity, brought many of their family members over for the unveiling of the plaque at Kiltennel, the ancestral family church.

The Church was built by the family in 1770 and its walls bear the names of previous Earls and other family members.

Picturesque Kiltennel, which overlooks the sea, was the Stopford family church when they lived at Courtown House. This house, one of several on the Courtown estate, was pulled down in 1962, having been sold to the Irish Tourist Board in 1948. After World War II, the income from the amount of land left in the estate was not enough to keep Courtown House going and it had to be sold.

Most of the family now live in the UK, but they still have fond memories of their holidays in North Wexford.

During their visit last weekend, they stayed at Marlfield House, which was a Dower House on the Courtown estate, and dates back to the 1840s.

'We've got this feeling of belonging to the area,' said Patrick, who still holds the title of Earl of Courtown. He admitted to initially being 'confused a great deal' by the Gorey Bypass, but he soon found his bearings and recognised some familiar landmarks when he got onto the local roads.

'It's very different in many ways, but off the beaten track it hasn't changed. I noticed some of the trees have gotten larger around the church here. I also recognised some old farms,' he added.

'Our roots are here for many generations going back to the 18th Century,' added Jeremy Stopford. He added that they still maintain an interest in the area, and have several friends who keep them up to date on developments.

The 8th Earl had spent a lot his childhood in Courtown. He went on to serve in North Africa and Italy in World War II. He was a regular visitor for the next thirty years, and it was always his plan to spend more time here in his later years, but he died relatively young.

The family were delighted to use the opportunity of the plaque unveiling to hold a family reunion at their ancestral home. 'It's not often we come together – I think the last time was for my mother's funeral,' said the Earl. He added that they had enjoyed their visit. 'We visited Courtown, and Kiltennel beach, and reacquainted ourselves with fond memories we have with the area.'