Ancestral Home of Lord Rathdonnell Rathvilly Co. Carlow

The Felling of the Big House – Lisnavagh, 1952 By Turtle Bunbury.

 Reducing the size of Lisnavagh House by Turtle Bunbury


The west face of Lisnavagh House, in the midst of the seismic operation that reduced the house in size by nearly two thirds. The man in the trilby is the 4th Baron Rathdonnell (my grandfather), standing with my late aunt Rosebud. The four men pictured are presumed to be Jack Halpin with either Matt Brien of Ouragh [sic]; Tom Neill of Station Road; Mick Byrne of Newcestown; Brian McCutcheon of Templeowen and / or Mick Gorman of Parc Mhuire. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Halpin and Tony Roche).

William Robert McClintock Bunbury, my grandfather, was born in 1914. Educated at Cambridge, Bill – as his friends called him – was married in 1937 to Pamela Drew, a fun-loving artist from the Lake District whose ancestry combined banking and printing. Just weeks before their marriage Bill’s father died and he succeeded as 4th Baron Rathdonnell at the age of 23. During the Second World War, Bill served with the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars, commanding a team that helped round up several of the senior Nazi leaders, including Hitler’s successor Admiral Doenitz in June 1945.

Lisnavagh House was not yet a century old by the time Bill returned from the war. The first stone of the massive mansion was laid by his great-grandmother on 23 January 1847.  Much of the main house had been  boarded up during the war. A combination of exorbitant roof rates, dry rot and lack of cash compelled Bill and Pamela to take the dramatic decision to completely redesign Lisnavagh House by pulling down two thirds of the original Victorian structure, leaving behind the servants quarters and children’s wing.