Ireland has many beautiful ruins tucked away in the countryside. Many of these were country houses of the English that were burned during the Irish Revolution of 1919-23. A total of 275 “big houses” were destroyed between 1920 and 1923.
The ruins of Moore Hall stand near the shore of Lough Carra in County Mayo, Ireland. The grounds and exterior of the house are open to the public but the gutted interior is locked behind iron gates for safety reasons. There is little left of the interior anyway.
Some sources say that George Moore was warned that the area around Muckloon Hill was unlucky. Local legend has it that King of Connaught’s druid, Drithliu, was killed near here in 400 AD. Whether George really knew about this legend is unclear but he decided that the hill with its view of Lough Carra was the perfect spot to build his estate.
The architect John Roberts designed the house and construction was started in 1792 and completed in 1795. The house would have originally had three floors and a raised basement. The house had 30 rooms (7 main bedrooms). In 1809, the library contained 2,000 volumes.
If you are driving from the Castlebar direction, you will first pass the main gate of Moore Hall. This is locked. Continue driving toward Lough Carra and you will find a car park. It is a short and pleasant walk to the house from here.
The inscription near the roof is almost impossible to read now but it is Fortis cadere cedere non potest, which translates to something like “A brave man may fall but cannot yield”.
In the middle of the tunnel pictured above, is a doorway leading to a back courtyard of the house. This was the servant’s entrance. I have read that the short tunnel itself was created to allow horses to be brought from the stable to the gallops (the training grounds/track) without destroying the back lawn. The tunnel and courtyard can be very muddy so wear old shoes if you want to go inside.
This courtyard would have housed the turf shed and there is a brew house marked on the plans I saw as well.
There are two other doors back here, locked with iron gates. The photo below shows as much as I could see with the flash of my camera.
The doorway in the photo above would have led to the servant’s quarters and kitchen.
If you are looking at the back of the house, in the far right corner there is a small opening in the wall. I am not certain what this was and I did not have a light with me to be able to look inside. On the plans for the building, this area is the scullery next to the kitchen. It is likely that this small opening led to some kind of food storage room. Crawl inside if you want but keep in mind that Ireland is home to some surprisingly large spiders and the basement of Moore Hall is now the home of a colony of Lesser Horsehoe bats, a protected species.
There are extensive grounds, including a couple of ruined outbuildings and a large overgrown garden. There was some talk back in 2006 about restoring more of the grounds but it came to nothing and there is no money in Ireland to do such a thing at the moment.
The map showed a ráth (ringfort) farther down the path but the sun was setting and we decided to head home.
The Burning of Moore Hall
By most accounts, the burning of Moore Hall was senseless, vengeful destruction. The Moore family had also treated their tenants well unlike many of the old landlords in Ireland. In his book Remembering the Year of the French: Irish Folk History and Social Memory, Guy Beiner gives the following explanation for the destruction.
“In January 1923 Moore Hall by Lough Carra in Ballyglass (southwest county Mayo), the nonresidential family home of Colonel Maurice Moore (1854-1939)—a founder of the Irish Volunteers and an Irish Free State senator—was burned down during a series of attacks on houses of senators authorized by Liam Lynch (1893—1923), the chief-of-staff of the Anti-Treaty IRA forces. Untypical of landed families, the Moores were Catholic, and Maurice Moore’s father, George Henry Moore (1810—70), had been a nationalist member of parliament. Various rumors have speculated on the reasons behind the house’s destruction, suggesting that it had been disgracefully looted and also that neighboring farmers wished to possess land on the estate. The outrage was committed despite the fact that this was the ancestral home of John Moore, who in 1798 was proclaimed president of the Republic of Connaught, a heritage claim that should have been respected by devotees of nationalist-republican traditions. Evidently, folk history could also be conveniently forgotten and disregarded in times of conﬂict.”
Some of you may be wondering why so many of these beautiful houses were destroyed. I found an excellent article that explains the history and reasoning behind the burnings: The Big House and the Irish Revolution