*Colm Liddy in Newmarket-on-Fergus. Photograph: John Mangan
DROMOLAND CASTLE’s rich history has been brought back to life in a new book.
Colm Liddy published ‘Long Ago in Newmarket-on-Fergus’ this April and he has followed that up with the release of ‘Long Ago in Dromoland’ chronicling over 1000 years of history, it was published in September but launched earlier this month in the Castle.
A huge cast of fascinating characters feature in the book which goes into detail on the O’Brien family whom Colm felt were “key players in Irish history, that hasn’t been fully appreciated”. He acknowledged the importance it has played in the locality providing “a massive boom in employment” for residents of Newmarket-on-Fergus and surrounding parishes.
He said of Dromoland, “from the outside it’s a handsome castle but there’s far more to it than that. The people who dwelt inside, the O’Brien family, lived lives of uncommon variety. They were good, they were bad, they were everything except boring. And across 1000 years, through every twist and turn of Irish history, there was usually an O’Brien involved, in some way big or small”.
Dromoland was owned by the O’Brien family from 1642 to 1968 beginning with Sir Donat and ending with Sir Donough, they had roots in Clare stretching back over a thousand years. Eight of the O’Brien family are covered in the 164 pages of Colm’s book.
Their eras ranged from becoming a dominant force in Irish horse-racing, friendships with Arthur Guinness, involvement in the construction of the Grand Canal, a political rivalry with Daniel O’Connell not to mention a World War or two.
“I have got so interested in this place and the family that lived here,” the Trinity College graduate admitted. The author of two books published by Penguin, Colm has focused on local history in recent years which has been embraced by followers of the Long Ago in Newmarket-on-Fergus social media pages.
Among the high-profile individuals to have visited Dromoland Castle since it became a five-star hotel after it was acquired by US citizen Bernard McDonagh from the O’Brien clan for £66,000 in 1963 are Nelson Mandela, Johnny Cash, Richard Nixon and Teddy Kenndy, “John F Kennedy intended to,” Colm revealed.
During the height of Beatlemania, George Harrison and John Lennon accompanied by Harrison’s then girlfriend Pattie Boyd, a Vogue model and Lennon’s wife Cynthia spent five nights in the newly opened Dromoland Castle Hotel in March 1964. They booked one double room and two singles in the name ‘Boyd’ and arrived from Heathrow in disguise. “At the height of Beatlemania, they made Dromoland their playground,” Colm stated.
Initially their stay was idyllic but word of their rumoured presence began to spread and cameras began appearing, George and John agreed to do a photo shoot with the Daily Mirror, the results of which appear in the book.
When fans began to surround the hotel, the duo whisked away to the Cliffs of Moher, unconfirmed reports of a trip to Wall’s to purchase a pair of shoes or attending a music session at McHugh’s in Liscannor where they were told to quieten down are recalled.
Then it was time to leave Dromoland and a plan was needed to get Pattie and Cynthia off the grounds, to avoid the scrums they had to dress up as chambermaids. “While John and George left through the front door, the girls wheeled a large laundry basket down to the service exit, then jumped inside. The lid was closed and the basket hoisted into a waiting van. They remained inside it, tangled up and shaken about as it sped away to Shannon Airport,” Colm detailed.
Trading at €30, Long Ago In Dromoland can be purchased at Halpin’s Garage, Varden’s Pharmacy and at Newmarket-on-Fergus Family Butchers. Further enquires can be made to email@example.com.
He is hopeful of releasing a second volume to Long Ago in Newmarket-on-Fergus in the coming months.