Friday, 6th December, 2013
Our story begins over 400 years ago when Balyna Estate was granted in 1574 by Queen Elizabeth I to Callough (Charles) O’More of the O’More clan as compensation for land his father Rory O’More had lost in Co. Laois whilst defending the crown.
James O’More was the last descendant of the line and he transferred ownership of Balyna to his son in law Richard O’ Ferrall, son of Major Ambrose O’ Ferrall. Richard married Letitia O’More in 1796 and it is from this marriage that the More O’Ferralls are descended.
Richard More O’Ferrall was born in 1797. The Rt Hon Richard More O’ Ferrall was elected M.P for Co. Kildare from 1830 - 1847 and again from 1859 - 65. He also held several high ranking offices in the British Civil Service culminating in his appointment as the Governor of Malta from 1847 - 57 and he is reputed for having been responsible for the erection of the Celtic cross which now stands to the rear of the house.
It is said (although this cannot be verified) that this Cross, along with another was transported from Europe, the two being encased in wooden crates and towed behind the ship on a barge. Legend has it that one was lost at sea, but its twin survives to this day.
The first real record of any house dates was from 1815 when Ambrose built a large mansion. That Georgian house was burned down and replaced by the present Italianate mansion which was completed in 1890.
It is likely that several Irish and European military campaigns were discussed and argued over at Balyna, as apart from the fierce-some O’More’s and the well documented Irish battles in which they took part, several later generations saw service in European armies. All three sons of Richard and Letitia O’Ferrall saw service abroad. The eldest, Ambrose, and his youngest brother, Charles, rose to the rank of Major in the Royal Sardinian Army, while the middle brother, James attained the rank of Major General in the Austrian Hohenzollern Army.
As a digression, it is worth noting that Rory O’ More’s eldest daughter, Anne, married Patrick Sarsfield, 1 st Earl of Lucan and famous military leader. His father in law was the man behind the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
King James had adopted the policy of remodelling the Irish army so as to turn it from a Protestant-led force to a Roman Catholic led one, and Sarsfield, whose family were Roman Catholics, was selected to assist in this reorganisation. Colonel Sarsfield went to Ireland with Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell , who was appointed commander-in-chief by the king.
Throughout these troubled times, Rory O’More’s family remained loyal to the Catholic faith and during penal times Balyna estate was a refuge for bishops and priests for centuries. Dr. Forstall, Bishop of Kildare, ordained priests here in the years 1678 - 1680. For this loyalty to the Catholic Church, the family was granted Papal permission to build a private Chapel on the estate (located to the rear of the house) and up to approximately 1914 Sunday Mass was offered. It was only used intermittently after that, with the last occasion being in the summer of 1959.
During his term of office, Irish President Douglas Hyde, was a frequent guest at shooting parties, as was the late well-known historian Eoin "Pope" O’Mahony.
Balyna finally passed from More O’Ferrall hands in March 1961 after a period of 387 years. Legend has it that in a wood at the back was a very old Scots Pine tree known as "Rory O’More’s Walking Stick". It was said that Rory, while in hiding in the woods after 1941 Rebellion, and being surprised by some soldiers who were searching for him, stuck his stick into the ground before making off. It took root and grew into a tree. According to the legend as long as it stood the family would remain at Balyna. However, after many batterings over the centuries it eventually succumbed in a storm in the Winter of 1957/58 and within 3 years the "prophesy" came true.
In May 1961 Balyna Estate was sold to the Bewley family (of Café fame). The wonderful milk and cream in the Cafes came from the pedigree Jersey herd at Balyna, In 1984 the estate was sold to the famous TD Justin Keating; it was sold again in 1990-1991. It was finally sold to the present owners, the Jackson family, in June 1996 after residing at Balyna Estate for 10 years developed it into the world class Moyvalley Hotel&Golf Resort we know today.
Combining the seclusion and tradition of the past with the luxury and comfort of the 21st Century.