Tuesday 21 May 2019

Historical tome recounts history of one of Wexford's most famous houses

Simon Bourke

An historic building located in the village of Rathnure is the subject of a new book written by a renowned Australian scholar.

Published by Four Courts Press and available to purchase now in bookstores and online, 'Monksgrange: Portrait of an Irish House and Family 1769-1969' documents the life and times of Monksgrange House and its occupants during a tumultuous period in Irish history.

Author of the book, Philip Bull, explains why he chose to recount the building's history.

'So many interesting people inhabited the house over six generations, doing important and sometimes unlikely things, and the house and its occupants survived many changes and challenges. It seemed too good a story not to write a book about.'

Following eight years of painstaking research, which saw him organise and catalogue an archive of papers which had lain unknown and undiscovered at Monksgrange, the Professor of History at La Torbe University in Melbourne began writing the book in 2015, finally completing it last year.

Although he has no direct links to Wexford, Philip is a personal friend of Jeremy and Rosemary Hill, current owners of Monksgrange. And it was this friendship which inspired him to dig a little deeper into the house's history, a process which saw him unearth details of, among others, a person by the name of Edward Moore Richards.

The son of the the property's landlord, Edward moved to America to pursue a career in engineering in the mid-nineteenth century. While there he became embroiled in the war to abolish slavery, volunteering to join the local militia in a Kansas commnunity under Confederate attack. Eventually, following the death of his older brother, Edward moved back to Wexford to oversee Monksgrange, returning with his sole remaining family member, daughter Adela.

Adela herself later became a significant writer, publishing three novels, and her son, Edward Richards-Orpen, made a notable contribution to the politics of the independent Irish state, through his involvement in the establishment of Fine Gael, as an advocate for agricultural reform, and as a member of Seanad Éireann.

As well as a complete history of the house and its occupants, the book also contains 76 illustrations; most of these are drawings, paintings or photos of people connected with the house, but there are also reproductions of other artworks or photographs of the house and gardens at various times in its history.

Later this year, on August 24 and 25, a celebration of Monksgrange's 250th anniversary will take place on the building's grounds.

Gorey Guardian