Heremon Lindsey Fitzpatrick of Hollymount House

Hollymount House
The Wynne Collection, with permission from Mayo County Library
Rear view of Hollymount House
The Wynne Collection, with permission from Mayo County Library

Miss Mary Lindsey of Hollymount House was eight years old when she inherited 5194 acres of land in the parishes of Kilcommon and Kilmainemore on the death of her father Thomas Spencer Lindsey at the age of forty-six in 1874. Mary, who was the last of the the Lindseys of Hollymount House, was just nineteen when she married Heremon FitzPatrick in 1885. She died ten years later from injuries she sustained in a fall from a horse during a hunt. She left an estate valued at £8,294. The couple had an only child, a son, who died in infancy. Mary’s ancestors had held Hollymount House and its estate since 1758. Heremon FitzPatrick added Lindsey to his name to acknowledge this.

The arrival of Hermon FitzPatrick as the new ‘lord of the manor’ in Hollymount revitalised the place. He took a keen interest in the improvement of the area. He promoted the laying of the Claremorris to Ballinrobe railway which opened in 1892 with its station servicing Hollymount and environs located two miles south of the village.

He established the Hollymount Races over a course at Robeen and an annual Horse, Sheep and Cattle Show held in a show-yard in Lehinch and on the lawn at Hollymount. The show quickly reached such importance that special trains were laid on to convey animals and spectators to and from the event and it soon rivalled the Galway Races as the social event of the year in the west of Ireland. Among the attendees at Hollymount Show in 1895 was Prince Francis of Teck, brother of Queen Mary the wife of King George V. FitzPatrick organised a series of annual competitions for the best kept houses in the village. Prizes were presented for window boxes and the painting and whitewashing of houses. As a result, the village maintained a neat appearance throughout his time in Hollymount.

Following his wife’s tragic death in 1895, Hermon Lindsey Fitzpatrick took a trip to India accompanied by his cousin Major McCalmount M.P. In the same year he imported a stallion called ‘Pajero’ from California to produce high class hunters and harness horses. ‘Pajero’ was at stud in Hollymount until at least 1902 and in time became an ancestor of many of the farm horses kept in south Mayo up to the 1970s. In 1905 a steeplechaser he owned called ‘Bellbrook’ was maliciously killed in its stable at Hollymount. A coachman was charged with the crime but was not found guilty.

Second Wife

Heremon Lindsey FitzPatrick married secondly a widow Grace Malone née Brooke, in 1908. They honeymooned in Harrowgate. In 1909 he donated land for an extension to Robeen graveyard and an acre of land free of charge to Fr. Begley for a new graveyard not far from Hollymount railway station with the hope “that the first internment will be deferred for many a day”. In 1911 his horse ‘Dear Sonny’ won the Galway Plate and to celebrate the victory he threw a big party entertaining around two hundred of his tenants in Hollymount Hall.

When eventually that horse died, a memorial was erected over its grave behind where the goal posts at the western end Hollymount GAA pitch now stand. His other winning horses of that period included ‘Emigrant II’, ‘Frequent’, ‘The Dominee’ and ‘Prince Abercorn’. In March of 1914 he shocked the racing world by announcing he was giving up the breeding, training and racing of horses.

A period of illness followed and when he recovered the First World War had broken out. He and his wife commenced a fund raising campaign for the Red Cross. It involved the holding of concerts, art exhibitions, dances and raffles. They raised huge amounts of money. Many of the fundraising events were held in Ballinrobe Town Hall. It was at a Red Cross concert there that the singing ability of the American-born baritone Walter A. M Nally was discovered. Heremon arranged for him to be professionally trained by the famous Vincent O’Brien in Dublin and McNally went on to become one of the leading singers of his era. The records show that Grace FitzPatrick worked with the Red Cross and Order of St. John during the First World War from April 1915 to August 1918 while Heremon worked from May 1915 to August 1917. At the end of the war they both received medals for their fundraising efforts.

Grace’s nephew Major-General Geoffrey Brookes C.B, D.S.O., M.C. was a member of the British equestrian team in the 1924 Olympic Games. He published several books on the welfare of horses. His wife Dorothy was a founder of the Brooke Hospital for Animals. Geoffrey was a frequent visitor to Mayo. In 1954 he published a book entitled ‘Good Company’ which vividly described his visits to Hollymount. It mentions, among other things, dances in the Hall: “Music would be supplied by an old fiddler in tail coat and breeches, a concertina player and a lady pianist. Strangely enough there was keen competition among the young colleens to dance with the young gentry”. He died in 1966 leaving an estate valued at £15, 421, a considerable sum in those days.

The Estate

In 1906 Hermon Lindsey FitzPatrick offered to sell 3,000 acres of his estate to the Estates Commissioners but he was not offered the price he expected. In 1908 the felling of timber on the estate commenced. Thousands of tons of timber were railed from Hollymount Station. The woodland around Hollymount was disappearing at such a rate that the matter was raised by William Redmond M.P. in the Westminster parliament. Agitation for the breaking up of the Hollymount estate increased from then on. In 1915 his tenants refused to pay their rents until they knew what was happening with the sale and it brought the matter to a head. Apart from some lands around the house and yard, the estate was sold to the Congested Districts Board that year.

Heremon and Grace returned to Hollymount at the end of the war and advertised for a groom, coachman, car driver and gatehouse keeper. Hermon resumed the training of a few horses and entered some in the Ballinrobe Races in August 1919. He acted as steward at the point-to-point races in Roundfort in April 1920 and took a prize for a five year old hunter at the Dublin Horse Show later that year. The couple were away during the Civil War and in September 1922 the house was raided by the anti-Treaty IRA and all the blankets and overcoats in the house were taken. In June 1923 the Free State Army took over the house. Two months later the contents of the house and yard including farm implements, harness and tools were auctioned off. Hermon and Grace moved to Dublin.

He died suddenly of a heart attack on New Year’s Day 1929 aged 69 years in Jammets’
Restaurant in Nassau Street, Dublin while dining with the baritone Walter McNally whose career he had helped establish. He left an estate valued at £6245 in Ireland and £1003 in England. Grace died in 1937 aged 75. They are buried in Castleknock cemetery. The were generally considered to be kind and hospitable to their tenants.

Heremon’s Relatives

Heremon FitzPatrick was a Church of Ireland rector’s son. He had a brother Oliver, known as Toby, who was small in stature. Toby emigrated to California where he lived the live of an aristocrat he died in 1928. Heremon also had two sisters Edwina and Mary. Edwina died in Wiltshire in 1919. She was the first wife of Lieut. Col. Guy Wyndham (1865 – 1941) who served for a period as British military attaché in Russia. Guy Wyndham’s brother George was the man who brought in the “Wyndham Land Act” into law in 1903. Under that Act three quarters of the tenant farmers of Ireland became freeholders in a period of just ten years. It heralded the end of the landed gentry in Ireland.

Heremon’s other sister was Mary but she was better known as Patsy FitzPatrick. She was
particularly good looking and quickly became a leading socialite in Edwardian London. Despite her religious upbringing, she along with the actress Lillie Langtry were mistresses of the Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VII). Patsy was just sixteen when she first met the future king. When their affair was discovered she was hastily married off to avoid scandal, to William Cornwallis-West, a man twice her age. Years later, in 1917, Patsy had another affair with a Patrick Barrett, a shell-shocked soldier on leave from the war in France. Patsy attempted to have him promoted in the army and this caused a major scandal in London society. William Cornwallis-West died in 1917 and Patsy passed away three years later.

William and Patsy Cornwallis-West had three children each of whom led remarkable lives:       (1) Daisy, (2) George and (3) Constance.

(1) In 1891 Daisy, a noted beauty like her mother, married Prince Hans Heinrich XV a member of one of Europe’s wealthiest families and took the title Princess of Pless. They owned coalmines in Silesia (now part of Poland). She was friends with both William II, the German emperor and his cousin King Edward VII. She tried to bring peace between them travelling often from Silesia to Berlin and to London and back with messages. During the First World War she worked as a nurse. She and her husband divorced in 1925. After Poland was invaded by Germany in 1939 the palace in which she had once lived was taken over by the Nazis and was in the course of being converted into a residence for Adolf Hitler when the war turned against him. Daisy had four children and she died in Silesia in relative poverty in 1943.

(2) George, who was a major in the Scots Guards, married twice. His first wife was Jennie Jerome the widow of Lord Randolph Churchill and mother of Winston Churchill who went on to become prime minister. George and Jennie divorced in 1914 and she stopped using the Cornwallis-West surname. George’s second wife was the actress Stella Campbell for whom George Bernard Shaw specially wrote the part of Eliza Doolittle in his play ‘Pygmalion’. George died in London in 1951.

(3) Constance married the Duke of Westminster, one of the wealthiest men in England, in 1901. She participated in all sorts of sport. The year before her marriage Constance visited Hollymount and hunted throughout the parish and beyond with the Mayo Hunt. She took part in sailing events in the 1908 Olympic Games and was an avid fan of motor racing and rally driving. During the First World War she sponsored a hospital in Le Touquet in France for which she was awarded and OBE. She divorced the Duke in 1919 and was awarded alimony of £13,000 a year which was a record in British legal history at the time. The Duke married three more times. Constance secretly married her private secretary and agent James FitzPatrick Lewes in 1920. She first met him while he was being treated in her hospital in Le Touquet. He died in 1965 aged 80. She died in 1970 aged 94.

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