ByRoute 7.1 Co. Kildare // Co. Tipperary
These pages link the Naas Road / Dual Carriageway / N7 / M7 Exit 8 (Johnstown Interchange) near DUBLIN with Cappamore & Balboa (Co. Limerick) via:
Johnstown (Co. Kildare / East)
Johnstown, now just off the N7, was established on the River Morel by the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem in the C13th, later became an estate village for Palmerstown House, and has more recently become a suburb of Naas / dormitory community for DUBLIN.
Palmerstown House & Demesne
Palmerstown House (Photo – www.johnstownvillage.com)
The Palmerstown Estate supposedly derived its name from a tradition whereby soldiers returning from the Crusades and other foreign wars left a palm leaf on the steps of the local chapel.
The land was acquired by a branch of the aristocratic de Burgo / Bourke family in the late C17th. John Bourke (c.1705 – 1790) was made Baron Naas in 1776, Viscount Mayo in 1781 and Earl of Mayo in 1785. One of his descendants claimed that the family had “cast its lot with the Irish people“; they are locally recalled as good landlords.
Conservative politician Richard Southwell Bourke (1822 – 1872), Lord Naas, was elected MP for Naas in 1847, at the height of the Great Famine, and was said to be “never out of the saddle” in his efforts to arrange relief works etc. He served three terms as Chief Secretary for Ireland, became the 6th Earl of Mayo in 1867 and was appointed Viceroy of India, where he is chiefly remembered as the founder of ”India’s Eton”, Mayo College in Rajasthan. He was assassinated in a convict settlement on the Andaman Islands (by an Afghan prisoner called Sher Ali, subsequently hanged and still widely remembered in some circles as a heroic freedom fighter). His Lordship’s body was reputedly returned home in a barrel of rum, so he is popularly remembered as “The Pickled Earl”.
Palmerstown House was built in 1872 with public subscriptions in memory of the assassinated Viceroy. The first resident was his eldest son Dermot Robert Wyndham Bourke (1851 – 1927), 7th Earl of Mayo, a founder of the County Kildare Archaeological Society in 1891 and a member of the Senate of the Irish Free State from 1922 until his death.
The mansion was burned by vandals during the Civil War,when many family treasures from India, Africa, America and Sardinia were destroyed. The house was rebuilt by the State.
Palmerstown House was run in the 1950s and ’60s by the glamorous Mrs Anne Biddle as a stud farm that produced an extraordinary number of winning racehorses, trained by Tommy Shaw from Newbridge.
Acquired by Jim Mansfield, Celtic Tiger Ireland’s richest entrepreneur, the historic 800-acre demesne became embroiled in various planning controversies with regard to proposals for an aerodrome, a 2,600-seat conference centre, a 278-bedroom hotel, 59 detached houses, a private day hospital, holiday homes and golf resort chalets on the grounds. Now owned by NAMA, the property is currently for sale.
The PGA National Ireland 18-hole golf course occupies much of the estate. The Morrell Restaurant, a highly regarded eatery, is in the opulent clubhouse.
A Standing Stone in a field near the village has an eye-level cylindrical hole aligned with the Summer Solstice sunset.
St John’s church, now in ruins, contains C15th memorials to the Wogan and Flatesbury families. In 1503 Philip Flatesburybegan compiling the Red Book / Chartulary of the Earl of Kildare, now in TCD Library. The churchyard features a Celtic Cross memorial to the 6th Earl of Mayo.
Kerdiffstown House, an C18th residence now run by the St Vincent de Paul Society as an old people’s holiday home, was named for a family from Cardiff that held the land in the C13th. The grounds, heavily quarried during the 1960s, contain a small medieval church ruin and a very eaerly floreate cross burial slab.
The first shots of the 1798 Rebellion were fired on May 23rd of that year when mail coaches were seized at Johnstown and Maynooth. The local insurgents, who wen onto attack Naas Gaol, were led by Michael Reynolds, a member of the United Irishmen whose family operated the mill beside Johnstown House, a rather austere Georgian residence in the centre of the village.
A monument honours John Devoy (1842 – 1928), the locally-born Fenian who became head of the USA fundraising group Clan na Gael. He is credited with arranging the 1876 escape of IRB prisoners from a penal colony in Western Australia on board the whaler Catalpa, and also funded the Irish Volunteers.
Johnstown is close to Furness House on ByRoute 6 and also near Sallins on ByRoute 8.