About The Estate > History

Above you can see Sillahertane Lodge at the height of its luxury during the early part of the 20th century. Today the lodge ruins are occupied by bats, including the rare Lesser Horseshoe (Rhinolophus hipposideros). The sound you should hear is an example of the echolocation system of the Lesser Horseshoe Bat. For More


An in depth history of the Estate was written by Dr. R. Sommerville Woodward with additional editing by Fiona Fitzsimons; produced by Eneclann, 2003.


Historical Background

Sillahertane House around 1960. This view is now hidden from the road by treesSillahertane (Saileachartan) describes a place abounding in sallies or willows. The area was once known as Garaghaire, which is a compound word made up of the Irish words garbh and gara. The first syllable means rough, pungent, fierce and the second syllable means garth, enclosure, precinct or garden.


The Estate has become smaller over the years, as it has been sold and resold. During the 1870's the property was owned by John Warren and comprised of 645 ha (compared to the present area of c. 572 ha).


The following article gives a short account of the available history of the Estate. The owner at that time Simon Armstrong died soon after this article was published and his cousin George Armstrong sold most of the property to the present owners Amanda and Morgan Roche. My thanks to Eamon and Joan Reynolds who kindly permitted the photographs seen here to be copied and published on this site.



Sillahertane Lodge

by Dermot Twomey[From The Kilgarvan Observer, 1994]

Half way between Morley's Bridge and the Top of Coom lies the ruins of one of Kilgarvan's lesser known big houses. It is the former hunting lodge of one of England's larger whiskey blending families, the Lowes.


This conservatory was added to Lowe's Lodge during the early 1900'sThey marketed their own brand known as Wyse Whiskey: I don't know if the brand is still available or not. Should you travel the road in late springtime, you cannot fail to notice the riot of colour emanating from the many different varieties of rhododendron that flourish there. Paudie Casey, who is an authority on that particular species, has identified several hybrids growing there that are very rare and almost impossible to propagate elsewhere. Indeed former jockey turned songwriter, Jimmy McCarthy, was inspired by the view to write his popular song "As I Leave Behind Nedeen", as he passed the way one Spring evening to Cuil Aodha. The song has since been recorded by Mary Black and has become a standard.


Apart from their seventeen hundred acres in Sillahertane, the Lowes had extensive property interests in Ireland. Francis W. Lowe also had an estate in Kilshane, Bansha, Co. Tipperary. The Lowes were relative newcomers to Kilgarvan; they were not part of the wave of English landgrabbers that took over the parish after the Desmond Uprising. They bought the land in the last quarter of the last century from a John Burluce Warren, who was by all accounts, a very unpopular landlord. Local poet, Patsy Cronin, author of the famous "Ganlea" has several verses extirpating his severity. All that remains today is the bar shell of the lodge and the overgrown remnants of extensive gardens.


The Lowes employed several gardeners and labourers to keep the place in good order. The gamekeepers bred grouse and woodcock and large parties used to arrive from England and Tipperary during the open season. There is a story told about a local man named Powell who worked for the Lowes. Powell was not his real name, the district was notorious for nicknames. He is also mentioned in a song published in the tenth issue of this magazine. One evening the master of the house approached Powell and said to him: "Kennel the dogs." Powell whose command of English was less than satisfactory immediately retired to the duckhouse and began to kill all the ducks.


The looted Lodge with the caretakers family.Sillahertane Lodge was at the time the last word in luxury. The photographs that accompany this feature may help give the reader some idea of its opulence. We are very grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds of Killafada for providing the photographs. The house boasted an extensive domestic staff, all who were recruited locally. The owners did not live permanently there. The women folk came for a few months every year and the menfolk came only for the hunting season. However such an idyll was not meant to last and during the mayhem that resulted from the breakdown of law and order during the Civil War of 1922/23. the looter did not distinguish between bad and innocent English and Sillahertane was extensively looted. An official report of the time issued by a Free State Government spokesman on the 15th September 1922 states:


"The most noticeable feature of the operations during the last ten days has been the offensive spirit shown by the Irregulars who have successfully attacked Abbeyfeale, Kenmare and Tarbert and have made heavy, but unsuccessful attacks on Newmarket and Macroom.... By far the most dangerous and important concentration is in the south-west slopes of the Denynasagart mountains. Here are the two villages of Ballyvoumey and Ballymakeera and five or six hundred irregulars and many of the most prominent leaders. Here a few days ago Mr. DeValera signed his name in the visitor's book in the Irish College; here is published a daily broadsheet of Irregular propaganda styled a southern edition of Poblacht na heireann. Here was initiated the attack on Macroom. and from here started the troops which took Kenmare."


While some may object to the partisan tone of the above quotation, there can be no denying that the Lodge was a victim of geography and that over a period of weeks, the house was stripped of its fittings, furnishings and roof. It is said that three hundred loads of loot were removed during this period. The place unlike Ardtully, which suffered a similar fate, was never burned because nothing was left to burn.


This photograph of Lowes Lodge taken before the conservatory was added

Because of the looting the days of gala hunting parties were at an end and all the domestic and gardening staff were given notice of termination of employment. The ratepayers of County Kerry ended up paying for the damage to the property under the malicious damage clause of the Poor Law Valuation Act. The Lowes understandably decided not to reinstate the property and they reluctantly held on as owners for another fifteen years. Mary Louisa Lowe, who may very well be the girl with the camera in the photograph accompanying this feature, went on to publish a book entitled "Happy Days In The Kingdom Of Kerry" recounting her memories of life in Sillahertane.


Lowes Lodge as it looks todayFor many years their agent Jack McCarthy of Roughty Bridge tried to dispose of the remaining one thousand acres to local farmers but to no avail. Agricultural prices were at an all time low in the mid 1930's and while the land was practically useless for farming it bore a high local taxation valuation and drew a very high rates bill. Eventually it was disposed of for ten pence an acre to a Church of Ireland clergyman in 1938. Mr. Armstrong did not come to live there until his retirement from the ministry. Renovating the Lodge would have been prohibitively expensive so instead he refurbished a disused police station about a mile from the lodge. His son Simon Armstrong lives there today [1994].