Turtle Bunbury

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More O'Ferrall of Kildangan, Co. Kildare


Major Ambrose O’Ferrall’s youngest son, Charles Edward More O Ferrall, was born on 17th May 1805. As a boy he was one of the first students to enroll at Clongowes Wood College, the boarding school outside Naas founded by the Jesuits in 1814. He later went to the Jesuit College of St Acheul near Amiens in France. On 29th November 1849, Charles married 23-year-old Susan O’Reilly, heiress to the Kildangan Castle estates outside Monasterevin, Co. Kildare. Five years later, on October 18th 1854, Susan died giving birth to their only child, Dominick. Charles served as High Sheriff of Co. Kildare during the Crimean War (1856) and passed away on 2nd November 1875.[1]

Upon Charles’s death in 1875, 21-year-old Dominick More O'Ferrall succeeded to Kildangan. He was subsequently DL and JP for County Kildare. In 1879, a year of much political unrest in the Irish countryside, he served as High Sheriff of Kildare. In 1880, a fire destroyed the single-storey thatched house at Kildangan, built by the O’Reillys a hundred years earlier. Two years later, Dominick dynamited the old Geraldine castle and used the stones to build a Victorian Jacobean style house to the design of WJ Hopkins of Worcester. The new house, which cost £18,570, came with its own state-of-the-art heating system, something of a novelty for Irish houses at this time. Electric lights were added in 1910. During his lifetime Dominick also considerably extended the Kildangan estate, with the advice of the eminent British landscape gardener John Sutherland, who laid out the celebrated gardens. He married Annie, daughter of Colonel Francis MacDonnell, CB, of Plas Newydd, Monmouthshire. Dominick died in February 1942.

Dominick and Anne’s eldest son Roderic was known internationally as a successful breeder and trainer of bloodstock. He was born in 1903 and educated at Eton and Worcester College, Oxford. He married Anne Biddle, only daughter of William Christian Bullitt of Washington DC, former US Ambassador to France. Mrs. Biddle was a famous figure on the Irish horseracing circuit during the 1950s and 1960s. During her marriage to Roderic, shed horses trained by Paddy Prendergast at Rossmore Lodge on The Curragh. After the marriage broke up, her horses were trained by Michael Dawson. It was with Dawson that she achieved her most important success as an owner when Sindon won the Irish Derby in 1958. She then moved her horses to her farm at Palmerstown, outside Naas, with Tommy Shaw as her private trainer. [2] She then made history by becoming the first woman trainer to be licensed by the Turf Club. By this time she was “Mrs DB Brewster”. She also had jumpers trained at Grangecon by Paddy Sleator. The best of these was Knight Errant one of only two horses to have won both the Galway Plate and the Galway Hurdle. In the legal battle that followed her separation from Roderic, Mrs. Biddle caused a sensation by accusing her husband of being "a fairy". Apparently the term was virtually unknown in Ireland at the time - when a journalist for the Irish Press quoted it in a report the news editor called him to his office to explain it. Shortly before his death, Roderic was married again to Patricia Richards, the Australian born ex-wife of the 9th Earl of Jersey.[3] Roderic’s extensive connections included Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, who personally redecorated the dining room at Kildangan. He was president of the Bloodstock Breeders Association. Roderic based his equine activities at Kildangan Stud in County Kildare. Four years before his death in 1990, Roderic sold the farm to Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. Kildangan continues to be a world famous stud farm to this day.

Roderic’s brother Francis, who died in 1976, married Mary Mather Jackson and was a chairman of the Anglo-Irish Bloodstock Agency in London. The youngest brother Rory was founder (1936) and chairman of the advertising firm of More O Ferrall. [4] The company became part of the Clear Channel media company in 2002. In September 1947 he married Lady Elizabeth Hare, sister of the 4th Earl of Listowel, and the wealthy widow of the Guinness heir, Viscount Elveden.


[1] Originally a FitzGerald castle, Kildangan was purchased by the merchant brothers Edward and Edmund Reilly in 1705.

[2] Palmerstown was subsequently purchased by the former truck driver turned millionaire Jim Mansfield, architect of the City West business park and Weston Airport. He is not to be confused with the Mansfields of Morristown Latten.

[3] The 9th Earl’s second wife Virginia Cherrill went on to become the wife of Hollywood star Cary Grant.

[4] In 1936 Lady Elizabeth married Major Arthur Guinness, Viscount Elveden, who was killed in action in Holland in February 1945. Her grandson Edward is the present and 4th Earl of Iveagh. Her brother Lord John Hare was an influential Conservative statesman in the 1950s and 1960s. Another brother Lord Richard was a highly regarded academic specializing in Russian literature and social thought. Her eldest brother, the 5th Earl of Listowel, was prominent in the Colonial Office, serving as Secretary of State for India and Burma in 1947