The destruction of Ballynastragh House, Gorey, March 1923

Ballynastragh House, near Gorey, Co. Wexford was the last of the ‘big houses’ to be burnt down during the Civil War in Wexford. It was home to Sir Thomas Esmonde, a Senator of the new Irish Free State, and his family had been based there since the early 17th century. The house was attacked by armed men on the 9th of March 1923 and it was totally destroyed (it was eventually rebuilt on a much smaller scale in 1937). The account below is taken from the Irish Times newspaper (March 12th, 1923, p. 6).

Ballynastragh house
Ballynastragh House (National Library of Ireland Collections)

‘Ballynestragh, the beautiful residence of Senator Sir Thomas Henry Grattan Esmonde, Bart., about three miles from Gorey, County Wexford, was set on fire on Friday night, and burned to the ground… The only occupants of the house at the time of the outrage were Colonel Laurence Esmonde, his brother, together with five servants. The raiders, of whom there were about 50 in all, forced an entrance through one of the lower windows at about 9.30 pm, and gave the occupants ten minutes to get ready. They were kept under armed guard in an out-building till the house was well alight, the rooms and furniture having been sprayed with petrol.

Ballynastragh house wexford
Ballynastragh House (National Library of Ireland Collections)

With the permission of the man in charge, Colonel Esmonde removed the golden chalice and sets of vestments from the beautiful little chapel in the upper portion of the building before the raiders had commenced their work of destruction. These articles are all that was saved. With the aid of a fairly strong wind, gas bombs being also used, the flames made great headway, huge tongues of fire rising towards the sky. They were seen at least ten miles away. The garrison of National troops at Gorey, attracted by the fire, arrived shortly after 11 o’clock, about half an hour after the raiders had left, but they were too late to save the building. Only the bare walls of it remain’.

Ballynastragh house Civil war
Ballynastragh House (National Library of Ireland Collections)

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