A keen angler and shot he travelled much of Ireland to fulfil his sport (not too easy in those days), and during the course of a visit to the West of Ireland decided to prospect for copper. This he found along the Hill of Doon Road. At much the same time he discovered lead on the other side of Oughterard. So encouraged was he that he moved to Galway and bought Merlin Park (then a large house on the Eastern outskirts of Galway, now a Hospital) from the Blake family and commenced mining.
As Galway was some distance from the mining activities he wanted a house closer to Oughterard. Currarevagh (not the present house, but an early 18th century house about 100m from the present house) was then owned by the O’Flaherties – the largest clan in Connaught – and, though no proof can be found, we believe that he purchased it from the O’Flaherties. However a more romantic story says he won it and 28,000 acres in a game of cards. The estate spread beyond Maam Cross in the heart of Connemara, and to beyond Maam Bridge in the North of Connemara.
As the mining developed so the need for transportation of the ore became increasingly difficult until eventually two steamers (“the Lioness” and “the Tigress”) were bought. These, the first on Corrib, delivered the ore to Galway and returned with goods and passengers stopping at the piers of various villages on the way.
All apparently went very well. The present house was built in 1842, suggesting a renewed wealth and success. No sooner however was present Currarevagh completed, then the 1850’s saw disaster. A combination of British export law changes, and vast seems of copper ore discovered in Spain and South America, heralded the end of mining activity in Ireland.
The family, who were fairly substantial land owners at this stage, got involved in various projects, from fish farming to turf production – inventing the briquette in the process. Certainly Currarevagh was been run as a sporting lodge for paying guests by 1890 by my great grandfather; indeed we have a brochure dated 1900 with instructions from London Euston Railway Station. This we believe makes it the oldest in Ireland; certainly the oldest in continuous ownership.
After the Irish Civil War of the 1920’s the Free State was formed and many of the larger Estates were broken up for distribution amongst tenants. This included Currarevagh, even though they were not absentee landlords and had bought all their land in the first place. Landlords were assured they would be paid 5 shillings (approx 25c) an acre, however this redemption was never honoured, and effectively 10’s of thousands of acres were confiscated by the new state, leaving Currarevagh with no income, apart from the rare intrepid paying guest. At one stage a non local cell of the Free Staters (an early version of the IRA) tried to blow up Currarevagh, planting explosive under what is currently the dining room. However the plan was discovered before hand, and the explosive made safe. From then on a member of the local IRA cell remained at the gates of Currarevagh to warn off any of the marauding out of towners, saying Currarevagh was not to be touched. Evidently they were well integrated into the community, and indeed during the famine years it seems they did as much as they could to help alleviate local suffering. Indeed there is a famine graveyard on our estate; this was because the local people became too weak to bring the dead to Oughterard. It is also one of the few burial grounds to contain a Protestant consecrated section.
Having got through the 1920’s and 30’s, Currarevagh again got in financial trouble during the second world war: although paying guests did come to Ireland (mainly as rationing was not so strict here), the original house was put up for sale. It did not sell, and eventually was pulled down in 1946, leaving just Currarevagh House as it stands today. In 1947 it was the first country house to open as a restaurant to no staying guests; still, of course, the situation today.