Clonbrock / Fohenagh

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The place - name Fohenagh is derived from the Irish word fothannan meaning thistle  - the village of the thistles. The Normans described the area as “ all waste and no man inhabited it.’’

Clonbrock and the Dillon family was amongst the first of the Anglo- Norman families to settle in Connaught.

In 1580 Thomas Dillon, Chief Justice of Connaught, purchased 3,000 acres of land   from Teige O Kelly .

At the time of  Griffeths Valuation in 1870 the Clonbrock estate in Ahascragh, Co. Galway amounted to 28,000 acres of land

Clonbrock House, now, in ruin as a result of a fire in 1984, was built by Robert Dillon, afterwards Ist. Lord Clonbrock and completed in 1788. It was designed by William Leeson replacing the old castle which remained intact until 1807 when it was destroyed by fire that resulted from a fireworks display on the estate to celebrate the birth of the 2nd. Lord Clonbrock’s son and heir.

Clonbrock estate was one of the best managed in the country,  largely due to the fact that the Dillons were the most resident of all Irish landlords and were hardly known in London. Fortunately the estate papers were bought by the National Library 1977 and the collection illustrates the very best management practice of any large estate in the nineteenth and twentieth century Ireland.

During Famine times Lord Clonbrock was described as one of the more considerate landlords maintaining a good tenant relations on his estates.

All this was to change however with Lord Clonbrock’s refusal to sell his land under the terms of the Land Act of 1903. The United Irish League started extreme agitation on the estate and forced him to sell. Six years later, and by 1914 most of the lands was in the hands of his tenants.

Robert Dillon died in 1925 without issue and the title became extinct and the mansion passed on to his sister Ethel Dillon. She in turn passed it on to her grand- nephew, Sir Luke Dillon Mahon and he sold the remainder of the estate in the 1970’s.

Photographic studio owned by Luke Gerald Dillon, 4th. Baron of Clonbrock and his wife Augusta who were keen photographers and built a studio and dark room at Clonbrock. They left a lasting legacy containing a collection of portraits of three generations of the Dillon family of  Clonbrock. The collection was acquired by the National Library of Ireland in 1977 and contains a collection of all aspects of life on the estate as well as photographs of the house itself, the servants, tenants and estate workers and community events involving the family.   


Thomas Coen was born in 1779 near Clonbrock House in a place known as the Island and as “ Coen Park’’ He was the very first name on the register of the newly built Maynooth College built for the education of Catholic priests in Ireland. He later became Catholic Bishop of Clonfert and became embroiled in controversy when John Wesley Methodist and the Evangelical Movement targeted Catholic children, setting up a school at Killure, in order to bring about their conversion to Protestantism.