Moorock House, Ballycumber: the first Big House burned in Offaly in the 1919–23 period. By Eamon Larkin

Thomas Armstrong, son of Andrew Armstrong and Lucy Charnock, was born on 22nd August 1702 and when he retired from his position as First Director of his Majesty’s Engineers, Chief Engineer of Minorca and Senior Engineer in the service, purchased the estate of Moorock and built a house there. He died in 1747, unmarried and the estate passed to his brother Warneford Armstrong.

On the 9th October 1793, Warneford Armstrong (1699- 1780) made a lease agreement for three lives and thirty one years of the House, Gardens and Land of Moorock to Richard Holmes, a gentleman of an old King’s County family based in nearby Prospect House. The 390 acres had been leased to James and John Reamsbottom. In 1795 Warnesford Armstrong demised the whole estate of Moorock to Richard Holmes of Prospect House for “lives renewable forever”. 

Richard Holmes (1755 – 1822) married Anne Arbuthnot from Rockfleet Castle, Mayo, lived at Moorock House and was succeeded by his son George Arbuthnot Holmes (1788 – 1847). George A. married Jane Moore from Clara. Their daughter Jane Holmes (1803 – 1876), married Cuthbert John Clibborn (1803–1847) from Moate Castle. In 1836 when George Arbuthnot Holmes vacated Moorock and went to live elsewhere,  the house and land were leased twice. Torriano Francis L’ Estrange, an army officer resided  there for a short period and secondly Mr Lundy Dickinson, a retired naval officer remained a tenant until about 1845.     

The remains of Moorock


Cuthbert John Clibborn died in 1847 and as his sons were still young, the estate was managed by the Courts of Chancery. Lt. Col.John Clibborn (1847 – 1938), son of Cuthbert John and Jane Holmes inherited Moorock. He was attached to the Bengal Lancers and married Anne Leoni MacPherson Hamilton in  Naini Tai, Uttaranchal, India in 1881 and their children were born in India, including Cuthbert John Hamilton Clibborn, who was appointed Lieutenant in Royal Horse Artillery in 1902 and progressed to the rank of Captain. He was stationed in India in 1911. He was twice mentioned in Dispatches for acts of bravery in World War1. Killed in action near R.Lys.Armentieres 14th December 1915  aged 32 and is remembered with honour on memorial in Erquinghem-Lys Churchyard Extension, Armentieres, France and Cecil Hamilton Clibborn  youngest and only surviving son of Lieutenant Col. John Clibborn C.I.E., and Anne Hamilton, grandson of G. Butler Hamilton, R.A.M.C. He was born in 1886 in Uttaranchal, India and educated at St Columbs College and Westword House. He entered Woolwich and passed into the Royal Artillery in 1905. He served in the West Indies, Jamaica and India. He transferred to the Indian Army in Burma. He went to Egypt with the Indian Expeditionary Force and was in the Battle of Serapeum and further operations in Egypt. First wounded on the 6th January 1915, he returned to duty in charge of the Machine Gun section. Killed in action on 7th April 1916 aged 29 years and is remembered with honour on Basra Memorial, Iran. A good sportsman and Polo Player, he was also an excellent linguist, speaking many eastern languages including Chinese, Arabic, Persian and  Burmese.

Moorock from the bog map of c. 1810

 In 1846 Moorock House was leased to Daniel Bailey, a gentleman of good social standing from Cappaloughan House, Castlebrack, Queens County. Daniel Bailey married Jane Mary Reamsbottom, daughter of William J. Reamsbottom and Maria Louisa Charters, from Moorock Lodge in Liss Church  on 13th January 1847. Daniel was a land agent and was listed in Thoms Irish Almanac as  Deputy Lieutenant and Magistrate. Jane and Daniel had a large family and after Daniel died on  14th March 1874, the family moved to Twickenham House.Their son Henry Ward Bailey born 5th October 1866, worked in Ceylon as Manager of Ekolsund  and Belair Tea Plantation and was a Board member of a number of Rubber Companies including the Vallambrosa Rubber Company, Emerald Rubber and Coconut Company, Caledonian [Selengor] Rubber Company, Glasgow Rubber Estates, Heawood Tin and Rubber Estate and Ulu Caledonian. He married Ida Ellen Amy Hall Andrews from Cloughjordan, Tipperary in Dublin on 2nd May 1907.  Their daughter Blanche Judy was born in Twickenham House in 1910, they also had two sons Eric Wellington Ward and Henry Daniel. Henry Ward Bailey died on 7th February 1936 in Glewstone Rise, Ross, Herefordshire. His funeral was held at Bridstow Church. He left effects valued at £82,586 -13s -6d to his wife in his will. William Wellington Bailey, born 16th January 1853, worked in Ceylon and Malay as a Coffee planter, and made a fortune from the Rubber industry. He returned to Ireland and bought a Stud Farm in Rathbane, Limerick, he later bought Plassey House in Limerick. He married Blanche Twining from Clifden, Galway in St Mary’s Church, Hampton, England on 21st January 1907. He died in Dublin on 15th October 1910 and is buried in Liss Cemetery.    Plassey House was sold in 1932 to Patrick Keating. When he died in 1961 the estate was bought  by the Rehabilitation Institute of Ireland. In 1970 the house and land were bought by the  National Institute for Higher Education.  It is now the location of the National University of Limerick. Their brothers Daniel died in Ceylon, Robert in Port Arthur, Canada and Christopher and Alfred in Moorock. Their sister Jane Mary  (Aunt Dotie) born on 7th July 1851, married Thomas Brabazon  in Liss Church  on 16th June 1875. Thomas died in 1884 and on the 23rd March 1889 she married William Bailie Seton in St Pauls, Ceylon and had one son Hope, who died aged three years. Jane Mary died in Kilmacshane, near Ballinasloe on 2nd July 1915. William Bailie Seton died in  South Dublin in September 1917.  Her sister  Louisa Young [Aunt Louis] born 28th June 1871, married George Seton, son of Alexander Seton, Preston, Scotland and Ekolsund, Sweden and brother of   William Bailie Seton, husband of her sister Jane Mary in Liss Church on 12th February 1907.  Louisa died 1950 in Pembrokeshire, Wales and George died in Argentina in 1937.    Eleanor Mary born 15th March 1850, married Thomas Ripton Crompton from Killucan, Westmeath in Christ Church  on 18th May 1888 They lived in Griffinstown and had one son Cecil. Thomas  died in 1889 and Eleanor died in Upper Leeson Street, Dublin on 22nd August 1922. Annie Georgina born 21st October 1855, married William Levinge from Enniscoffey, Mullingar in Liss Church on 19th April 1876. Annie died 1908 in Roscommon. Henrietta Sarah, born 17th April 1860.  Married George Warburton Marsh, son of Rev. Peter Marsh and Louisa Isabella Lloyd in Christ Church on 28th January 1886 and lived in Marshbrook   Manor,Ballinamenton, Tubber.  Henrietta died aged 29 in 1889 leaving a son George and daughter Gladys. George died on 8th May 1924. Margaret Marion [Aunt Maggie] , born 14th June 1864. Married Harry Edward Graham Mills  in Madras, India on 16th December 1891, he died in India in 1903 and on 29th November 1905 she married Alfred Percival Symonds in St Bartholemew Church, Dublin. Margaret died in Hatfield, Hertfordshire aged 92 on 5th December 1956. Thomasina Frances born 17th April 1860 died 1907 in Twickenham House, Ballycumber. Annette Hannah born 12th November 1868, married Thomas Wyatt Hale, Brig. General in the  Wiltshire Regiment on the Ordinance Staff in Christ Church on 20th April 1892, she died in   Newtown Hall, Chester, England 25th April 1918. Isabella Helena born 21st March 1873, married George Cox Scott on 28th November 1905 in  St Pauls Church, Kandy, Ceylon. She died in Devonshire on 10th January 1950.  Maria Isabella born in 1848 died aged 22 from TB.   Maria Isabella[2] died in 1871 at birth.

Jane Mary Reamsbottom Bailey died in Twickenham on 26th May 1916 and is buried in the family vault in Liss Cemetery. Her death completed the family connections between three Great Houses, Moorock Lodge,  Moorock House and Twickenham House. The 1901 Census of Ireland shows Moorock House with walls, roof, six doors and seventeen windows   occupied by Col. Arthur H. Harrington and his family. Because of the death of John Clibborn’s  sons Cecil Hamilton Clibborn and his brother Cuthbert John in World War 1 and as their sisters, Leoni Ann Clibborn Quarry, was living in India and Violet Louise, who married Richard Eyre from Prospect House and emigrated to Kenya when he returned from WW1, their cousin Muriel Overy, daughter of Dr Cuthbert John Clibborn, Kiltegan, Wicklow, cousin of Lt. Col. Clibborn, was involved in the administration Moorock Estate.

Moorock House was sold to Thomas Moylette from Tuam in 1919 and on the 23rd May 1920 the three story mansion was the first Big House in Offaly to be burned during the War of Independence, because a rumour had been circulated that troops were to be housed there. The house was unoccupied at the time. The subsequent investigation established that the fire was started deliberately. It is believed locally the burning of the house was carried out by an IRA Column  from outside the locality, possibly from South Roscommon, but, with the cooperation of the local organisation

Mr Moylette applied for £16,000 compensation for malicious damage at the Tullamore  Quarter Sessions. Caretaker Owen McGuinness gave evidence of having visited the house on  the evening before the fire and found everything in order. A decree on the county at large was given for £9,200. Moorock House was accessed by a long avenue from the Ballycumber to Moate Road,  with a Walled Garden on the right before turning left towards the Court Yard and front entrance  of the House.The house has remained in ruin to date.

A Dail question in 1928 by Patrick Boland T.D to the Minister for Lands and Fisheries received  a reply that the 375 acres in the possession of Mrs B Bleahan,  (daughter of Thomas Moylette) had been inspected and their acquisition by the Land Commission was under review. The 238 acres of Moorock and Cransallagh held by the reps of Richard Ayre had been purchased   under the Land Purchase Acts.

Moorock Turret

The 1654/59 Down Survey and the 1778 Taylor and Skinner Atlas show the location of a Turret near Moorock House. An 1809 map clearly depicts the Turret located in the well established garden near of the house. It appears as a stepped structure with approximately four diminishing courses.