Home Contact |

Rathfarnham - Famous People

Archbishop Adam Loftus (1533 - 1605), Archbishop of Armagh and Dublin

He purchased the estate of Rathfarnham from Barry, Viscount Buttevant in 1589 or 1560, where he built Rathfarnham Castle.

Image of Archbishop Adam Loftus

William Conolly (1662 - 1729), Speaker of the Irish House of Commons

Member of the privy council and ten times a lord justice of Ireland between 1716 & 1729. Bought Rathfarnham Castle form Lord Wharton in 1723 for £62,000. The lands of the castle extended over the Dublin mountains, including Mount Pelier where Conolly built a hunting lodge, known today as The Hell Fire Club.

Image of  William  Conolly

George Grierson (1709 - 1753), King's Printer in Ireland

Among his productions were the first edition published in Ireland, in 1724, of Paradise Lost; Sir William Petty's Maps of Ireland; and other valuable works. His wife, Constantia, was regarded as one of the most learned scholars of her age. Owned Rathfarnham House, now incorporated in the Loreto Abbey buildings.

Image of  George Grierson

John Philpot Curran (1750 - 1817), Lawyer and nationalist

After the 1798 Rebellion he defended the United Irishmen Wolfe Tone and Hamilton Rowan. After the 1803 Rebellion, however, he refused to represent Robert Emmet who had become privately engaged to his daughter, Sarah. He lived at the Priory, Rathfarnham. His daughter Gertrude was buried in the grounds there.

Image of  John Philpot  Curran

Robert Emmet (1778 - 1803), Patriot

United Irishman. Joined the Society of United Irishmen while attending Trinity College. In 1802 he discussed Irish independence with Napoleon and Tallyrand in France. When he returned to Ireland he rented Butterfield House in Rathfarnham and became secretly engaged to Sarah Curran. He was determined to organise a rising and decided to act on 23 July 1803, with planned attacks on Dublin Castle, Pigeon House fort and Islandbridge barracks. The rebellion was disorganised and ineffective, and afterwards Emmet went into hiding in the Dublin mountains. He was eventually arrested at Harold's Cross in August, was tried for treason and found guilty. He was hanged at Thomas Street Church on 20th September 1803.

Image of  Robert Emmet

Anne Devlin (1780 - 1851), Revolutionary

Devoted servant of Robert Emmet. Lived in Rathfarnham where, in 1803, Emmet rented Butterfield House. As well as being Emmet's housekeeper Devlin became an accomplice in his plans for rebellion. After the failed insurrection, Butterfield House was raided and Anne Devlin was arrested and tortured but still refused to give any information about Emmet. She was imprisoned in Kilmainham for high treason and was not released until 1806.

Image of  Anne Devlin

Sarah Curran (1782 - 1808), Friend and lover of Robert Emmet

Youngest daughter of John Philpot Curran. Was secretly engaged to the United Irishman Robert Emmet. Lived at the Priory, Rathfarnham.

Image of  Sarah Curran

Rev. Mother Frances Mary Teresa Ball (1794 - 1861), Religious

Foundress of the Irish Branch of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Sisters of Loreto). In 1814, under the direction of Dr. Daniel Murray, Archbishop of Dublin, Frances entered the novitiate of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There she received her religious training, and made her profession in 1816, taking, in religion, the name of Mary Teresa. Recalled by Archbishop Murray, she returned to Dublin with two novices, in 1821, to establish the Irish Branch of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the instruction of children. In 1822 she opened the first institution of the order in Ireland, in Rathfarnam House, four miles from Dublin. Mother Frances was a woman of great piety and administrative ability. Her energies were devoted to the establishment of schools and to the development of the sisterhood which now has members in many countries

Image of Rev.  Mother Frances Mary Teresa  Ball

William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939), Poet and Dramatist

Greatest poetical figure of his age. Co-founder of the Irish National Theatre. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Lived for some time at Riversdale House, Ballyboden Road, Rathfarnham, which was his last home in Ireland.

Image of  William Butler Yeats

Eoin MacNeill (1867 - 1945), Patriot

A founder member of the Gaelic League in 1893 of which he was vice-president, he founded the Feis Cheoil the following year. He was appointed the first Professor of Early including Medieval Irish History in UCD in 1908, a position he held until 1941.Commander in Chief of the Irish Volunteers, he was unaware of the planning for the Easter Rising and on the Sunday Morning he issued an order countermanding the mobilisation. Arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment, he was released in the general amnesty of 1917. Minister for Education in the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, 1922-25. He was appointed Free State representative on the Boundary Commission on its foundation in 1924. Lived at Woodtown Park in Rathfarnham.

Image of  Eoin MacNeill

Fr. William O'Leary S.J. (1868 - 1939), Jesuit priest, Seismographer and Astronomer

Lived in Rathfarnham Castle. He constructed a seismograph. This machine could detect earth tremors and earthquakes from anywhere in the world and for a time, Rathfarnham Castle became a source of earthquake information for the national media.

Image of Fr. William O'Leary S.J.

John Millington Synge (1871 - 1909), Playwright

Born at 2 Newtown Villas, Rathfarnham. Literary advisor and director of the Abbey Theatre, along with W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory. His comedy The Playboy of the Western World is now a classic of the Irish Theatre, but it caused a riot on its first production in the Abbey in 1907. His other plays include Riders to the Sea and In the Shadow of the Glen.

Image of  John Millington Synge

Thomas MacDonagh (1878 - 1916BC), Patriot and Teacher

Thomas MacDonagh was born at Cloughjordan in County Tipperary. A teacher, his interest in the Irish language prompted him to join the Gaelic League. During a trip to the Aran Islands he met Patrick Pearse and the two became friends. MacDonagh later became the first teacher on the staff at Pearse's school, St. Enda's. He continued his studies at UCD, where he was awarded a Master of Arts degree and was appointed to the English department. He published several volumes of poetry and his play When Dawn is Come, was produced at the Abbey Theatre. MacDonagh joined the Irish Volunteers when they were formed in November 1913 by his UCD colleague Eoin MacNeill. He joined the IRB in 1915 but was only drafted onto the military council a few weeks before the Easter Rising. He was in command of the Jacob's biscuit factory on Bishop Street during Easter week. He was executed on May 3rd 1916.

Image of  Thomas MacDonagh

Patrick Pearse (1879 - 1916), Teacher, writer and patriot.

Patrick Pearse was born in Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street in his honour) in Dublin. His father, a Catholic convert, was from a Cornish family and was an artisan and stonemason, and his mother was from County Meath. Patrick was educated at the Christian Brothers school on Westland Row and subsequently attended the Royal University (a fore-runner of UCD) where he studied arts and law. He had a deep interest in the Irish language and in 1896, at the age of just sixteen, he joined the Gaelic League. In 1903 at the age of 23, he became editor of its newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis. For him and other language revivalists, saving the Irish language from extinction was a cultural priority of the utmost importance. The key to saving the language, he felt, would be a sympathetic education system. In order to advance this goal and his ideal of an Ireland "not free merely but Gaelic as well", in 1908 Pearse established St. Enda's School (Scoil Éanna) in Ranelagh, and later Rathfarnham. The school was intended as a model for a new Irish education stytem, with the pupils taught in Irish and a strong emphasis placed on nationalism.
Pearse wrote stories, essays and poems in Irish and English and became an exponent of the notion of 'blood sacrifice' in order to redeem Ireland's freedom. He joined the IRB in 1913 and was co-opted onto its supreme council. He was also elected to the provisional committee of the Volunteers. In 1915 he gave a famous speech at the funeral of the Fenian O'Donovan Rossa in Glasnevin Cemetery. Pearse delived the historic oration which ended with the resounding phrase "Ireland unfree shall never be at peace". In 1916 he was the commander-in-chief of the insurgents and was regarded as the president of the Provisional Republic. After a week of fighting he agreed to surrender unconditionally to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens. Pearse was subsequently held at Kilmainham Gaol and executed on 16th May 1916.

Image of  Patrick Pearse

Padraic Colum (1881 - 1972), Poet

Padraic Colum was born in Longford. He played a major role in the shaping of Irish theatre. He was a member of the National Theatre Society and wrote three of the Abbey's earliest plays. He taught at St. Enda's, Patrick Pearse's school in Rathfarnham.

Image of  Padraic Colum

Bulmer Hobson (1883 - 1969), Revolutionary and Writer

Lived at Mill House Whitechurch Road. After the establishment of the Free State in 1922, he was appointed chief of the revenue Commissioners Stamp Department. On retiring in 1948, he went to live in Roundstone, Co. Galway and later in Limerick. Among his publications were The Life of Wolfe Tone (1919), A National Forestry Policy (1923), and Ireland Yesterday and Tomorrow (1968).

Photograph detail courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Image of  Bulmer Hobson

Sean Keating (1889 - 1977), Painter

Elected to the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1923 and was president from 1949-1962. In 1939 he painted a large canvas which was exhibited at the New York World's Fair. In 1961 he was commissioned by the government to paint a mural for the main hall of the International Labour Office in Geneva. He lived in Ballyboden, where he had a house built on the site of Millbrook Mills in 1935. Pictured is one of his most iconic works, "Men of the South", which depicts an IRA Flying Column poised ready to attack.

Image from the Crawford Art Gallery collection. Reproduced by kind permission.

Image of  Sean Keating

Evie Hone (1894 - 1955), Artist

Outstanding painter of religious subjects. Became interested in stained glass windows. One of her windows My Four Green Fields (1938-39) was commissioned by the Irish government and was exhibited in the Irish Pavilion at the World’s Fair in New York. Considered to be one of her most important works, it is now to be seen in Government Buildings on Upper Merrion Street in Dublin. She lived at the Dower House in Rathfarnham and is buried in St. Maelruain's Churchyard in Tallaght.

Image of  Evie Hone

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910 - 1997), Nun and foundress of the Missionaries of Charity

Resided at Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham while starting out to become a Loreto Sister.

photo: Wikimedia-Commons User Túrelio, Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0-d

Image of Mother Teresa  of Calcutta