The Fair Heiress – 1886

Threatened confiscation of Lisdoonvarna Spa – 1897

Mr. Humphries – 1938

Lisdoonvarna – 1899

Freemans Journal 18th July, 1899 p.6

Lisdoonvarna Wikimedia Commons

To the Editor of the Freeman’s Journal.
Lisdoonvarna, July 16th 1899
As one who has spent most enjoyable holidays in Lisdoonvarna, permit me to give my views to the public with regard to this most picturesque spot as a health resort.  Situated, as Lisdoonvarna is, in the centre of wild mountain scenery, and possessing, as it does, the most salubrious air, and the best mineral waters in the world, it is not surprising that it has been called “The Cheltenham of Ireland.” The air blowing from the Atlantic is genial and bracing, and in my experience of health resorts nowhere have I found the air so invigorating as in Lisdoonvarna and its vicinity. With regard to the medicinal qualities of the waters, Dr. Mapother, a distinguished medical man, in one of his able works says;
“It is not proposed to discuss at any great length the actions of sulphuretted waters or the respective advantage of the various sources in the treatment of cutaneous affections, but merely to call attention to one within twenty hours journey from London.”
Dr. Westropp and Dr. Forster, the resident physicians have given these mineral waters their careful studies for many years, and their experience of its effects on the human system will make their advice valuable for those who follow it. Most enjoyable excursions can be taken from Lisdoonvarna to the cliffs of Moher, to Lahinch Spanish Point, to Kilkee, to Ballyvaughan, either by the sea-coast or more directly by the famous cork-screw hill, to Corcomroe Abbey, interesting ruins in the centre of the romantic Burren hills, and the Lakes of Inchiquin, rich in scenery, are certainly well worth a visit.
For the information of intending visitors I am glad to be able to state that the dispute which existed between the local landowners and the inhabitants has been brought to a final and satisfactory settlement. The whole matter has been peaceably and amicably arranged. A local improvement committee has taken charge of all the wells and baths, and under their management considerable improvements have been already made. The plot of land around the sulphur wells has been neatly planted; the house over the springs has been completely renovated; competent and experienced hands have been employed to distribute the waters; the bath rooms have been put in order so that hot and cold sulphur and spring water baths are available daily from 6a.m to 9 p.m. In conclusion permit me to remind those who have sought in vain to regain health and strengths in English and Continental spas that they will do well to visit Lisdoonvarna, where the waters, baths and pure air are sure to prove more effectual than those already tried.


The Fair Heiress

Globe (Sydney NSW) 13th May 1886 p 6 (abridged)

Lisdoonvarna Photo: The Commons Getty Collection
Photo: The Commons Getty Collection

Lisdoonvarna is a place which, after having slumbered in tranquil obscurity from time immemorial, suddenly awoke one morning to find itself famous. And now, by reason of its wonderful sulphur and iron spas, it is crowded with visitors every summer. Year by year people of all sorts and sizes and ages and conditions resort to its health-giving waters to be healed of their infirmities.

Nevertheless, it would seem that a large proportion of the soi-disant sufferers are not very seriously indisposed. For after the hygienic duties of the day have been performed and a due amount of spa writer has been quaffed, picnics in the afternoon and dances in the evening are organised and arranged with an eagerness which argues unimpaired vitality and suggests to the cynic that pleasure and not health is the object which at least many of the younger members of the community have come to seek.

Be this as it may, however, certain it is that the summer ot 1875 was a particularly gay one at Lisdoonvarna Spa. In the first instance, the little place was so densely crowded that it appeared as if the original designers of it must have succeeded in solving a recondite problem, and discovered the best means of affording the largest amount of accommodation in the smallest possible space and with the least expenditure of material, for the houses in the village are few and tiny, and the hotels are the reverse of spacious. Secondly, there was a larger infusion of the foreign element than usual, and, besides one or two celebrities of the first water, a fair heiress named Angela O’Dowda appeared on the scene. She happened to possess tolerable share of good looks in addition to her golden charms, and naturally attracted considerable attention, creating quite a sensation.

Lisdoonvarna Photo: The Commons Getty Collection
Photo: The Commons Getty Collection

Miss O’Dowda’s uncle, it was said, had been a rich banker, who at his death had bequeathed her a large fortune. As soon as this fact noised abroad it may readily be conceived that the name of her admirers became legion. Indeed, though the ladies in the place looked rather coldly on her, and declared that she supplemented nature by art, and was made up as well as stuck up, there was not a man at the Spa under seventy who was not her devoted slave, and who did not appear to be at least financially fond of her. But the only one whom she favoured was a certain Count Mataxi a rich and distinguished foreigner with a somewhat sinister expression in his black eyes, and an uncommonly yellow skin, but who, notwithstanding these disqualifications, contrived by means of his ardent and unremitting attentions, to render himself so very acceptable and agreeable to the heiress that the spectators soon began to talk. Ere long it became evident to all whom it did not concern that the enamoured pair were sliding swiftly and smoothly down that easy incline which leads to the Avernus of matrimony. In short, they were so constantly together for three weeks that when at the end of that time it transpired that he had proposed and been accepted, no surprise was occasioned.

But much disappointment was experienced when one morning, about a fortnight afterwards, it was found that the happy couple had stolen a march upon the community, and, while the spa drinkers were quaffing their matutinal draught, had gone off to a solitary little church some two miles distant, where, having mutually agreed to dispense with settlements they had quietly, and almost secretly, breathed the vows which made them one for life.
“Well, they’re very fairly matched!” said one of the rejected suitors magnanimously. “He is deuced yellow, and she is rather long in the teeth but money makes amends for all defects.”
“Ah, yes,” said another, dejectedly, “golden cement makes the most perfect union.” And he sighed as he spoke at the thought of all he had lost in losing the fair O’Dowda.

Ballyvaughan Photo: The Commons Getty Collection
Photo: The Commons Getty Collection

Meanwhile the objects of these remarks were speeding along towards a secluded, romantically situated little hotel near Ballyvaughan, which seemed made for lovers and lovers only, and in which, having secured the best rooms in the house, they spent some truly delightful days. Of course the first was passed in gazing into each others eyes. A thriftless occupation, perhaps, but infinitely sweet when the honeymoon is at its full. On the second afternoon they went down to the beach, and sat there hand in hand watching the violet shadows and silver gleams playing upon the waters and listening to the pleasant messages which the wild waves seemed to convey as they broke in music at their feet. On the third and several succeeding days they took long and interesting drives, for the surrounding neighbourhood is full of beauty; and in this way time sped along with such viewless wings that one evening they were much surprised when they suddenly and almost simultaneously made the discovery that they had been actually a whole week married.

“Well, we have been very happy, my sweet, haven’t we?” said the count, trying to achieve a tender glance, but only succeeding in accomplishing a bad imitation of one. His features did not lend themselves readily to the expression of soft emotions.
“I really had no idea married life could be so pleasant.”
“I wonder you never tried it before,” returned the blushing bride, as she laid her flaxen head on his ample breast.
“Never saw any woman whom I could fancy until I met you,” returned the bride groom, gallantly.
“And you I am your first love, too. am I not P”
“Oh, the very first,” was the reassuring rejoinder.
“And, indeed, sir,” added Angela, playfully,
“You have reason to feel proud of your conquest, and of having vanquished so many competitors. I assure you I received no less than twenty-three offers during the six weeks that I have spent at Lisdoonvarna.”
The count winced. “Ah, yes,” he said hurriedly.
“You see there were a lot of mercenary beasts there this season, and without caring in the least for your sweet self they were all anxious to secure your fortune.”.
“My fortune!” laughed the bride.

The Burren and beyond Photo: EO'D
The Burren and beyond
Photo: EO’D

“That’s a good idea! I should like to know where it is and what it consists of.”
“What do you mean?” asked the count sharply, and with a sudden and most unpleasant revulsion of feeling.”
“Just what I said,” returned the partner of his joys.
“I never had much, and the little I had was spent long ago. I have nothing left to tempt any fortune-hunter now.”
“Nothing left!” echoed the wretched count, starting to his feet as if he had been shot.
“Am I awake or dreaming?” As he spoke he put his hands to his head with a wild gesture and clasped his forehead tightly, as if he were glad to touch something solid and substantial.
Presently, however, he pulled himself together with a great effort and said in a different tone.
“No, it’s all nonsense, you’re only trying to frighten me. It is your little joke. You regard twenty thousand pounds as a mere nothing though others consider it a __ “
“Twenty thousand pounds!” said the bride, derisively.
“Why, I haven’t twenty thousand pence in the world. Look here!” she added. As she uttered the words she took from her pocket and held up before him a purse which looked almost as empty as an exhausted receiver.
“Then if you are not an heiress and have got no money, in the devil’s name who and what are you?” cried the count, now livid with rage, and in the excitement of the moment losing all control over his tongue and temper.
“I have the proud distinction of being your wife, the Countess Mataxi, very much at your service,” was the unperturbed reply.

As the miserable man realised the full import of her words, and reflected how thoroughly he had been duped he, the cool, clear-headed Mataxi, who so prided himself on his sharpness – felt so humiliated it seemed to him as if his six feet of stature had all at once dwindled down to the dimensions of a mathematical point, as if he had suddenly become the smallest thing in creation. He looked up, helpless and hopeless, and fancied that the very stars were twinkling at him facetiously – even the moon was smiling down in derision at his defeat and discomfiture. But the next minute he was recalled to actualities by his “bitter-half” as he would have called her – who, in the same smooth, level tones in which she had spoken all through, said sweetly,
“I am sorry to see you so disturbed love. But why should you be so? Though I have the misfortune to be penniless, you have enough for both. And with your fine estate and large fortune.”
“Fine estate! Large fortune! Ten thousand furies!” cried the count, whose knowledge of British expletives was so limited that he could not curse fluently or comfortably in English.
“Who said I had a fine estate and a large fortune?”

Across the hills Photo: EO'D
Across the hills
Photo: EO’D

“Everybody, and yourself among the number, as I was informed. But if it were not true, and if you have neither,” added the bride, “Perhaps I in my turn may be permitted to inquire what and who you are ?”
“Your husband, madame,” retorted the count, with a low bow, “
A gambler by profession and practice; but, I regret to say, a most unsuccessful one, who does not happen to have a pound to his name in the world at the present moment.” And as muttered these words he darted from the balcony in which they had been sitting,and, rushing into the house, at once. sought an interview with the proprietor, between whom and himself the following colloquy took place:
“At what hour does the mail-car start to-night?” asked the count. “Eleven, sir,” answered the proprietor.
“Well, then, reserve a seat for me on it, and have me called ten minutes before the time, as I am going to lie down between this and then,” said the count
“I am obliged to go up to Dublin to-night to see my brother, who is very ill,” he added.
“But my wife will remain here until to-morrow, and she will settle the account.”

“Will she, indeed?” said that astute lady, who had crept noiselessly after her husband, and was now hiding behind a door close by, from which point of vantage she could hear all that he was saying.
“We shall see,” she added, with so much significance that it was evident her mind was fully made up regarding the line of conduct she meant to adopt. And in pursuance of it, while the unconscious count slumbered and slept, for he had gone immediately to his bedroom and shut himself up in it, she remained wide awake. When the time appointed came round, and she saw the waiter approaching, she prevented him from knocking by saying that the count had changed his mind, and was not leaving until morning, but that she was going up to town that night in his stead, and would take his seat on the mail-car.

This she accordingly did. And the result was that, when the luckless count, who had fallen into a deep sleep, at length awoke of his own accord, he found that it was morning instead of night, and that a new day had begun. When he inquired for his bonnie and canny bride his feelings may be better imagined than described on finding that she had decamped, taking all his valuable presents with her, and leaving him to settle the account after all – Whitehall Review.


Threatened confiscation of Lisdoonvarna Spa
New Zealand Tablet 16th July 1897 p 9

CLARE.— Threatened Confiscation of the Famous Spa at Lisdoonvarna Public Meeting of Protest

On Sunday, May 9th an important meeting was held in Lisdoonvarna to protest against the action of the Representative Church Body of Ireland in their endeavour to grab the Lisdoonvarna sulphur springs, the use of which has been free to the public for a number of years. The people of the far-famed watering place have determined to resist by every legal means the threatened invasion of the public rights, and to fight out to the end the pretensions raised by the Representative Church Body. On the facts as disclosed the action of that body cannot be described other than as most unjustifiable.

Something like the same claim endeavoured to be sustained now was put forward thirty years ago by Captain Stackpoole, the former landlord of the district. He built a well house on the site of the principal Spa which was walled in, the people being denied the access that up to that time they had freely enjoyed. The indignation felt by the people manifested itself in a practical manner. The gates set up by the landlord were blown up and the house damaged

A claim for compensation by Captain Stackpoole was opposed, and the judgment of the late Chief Baron Pigott was that the putting up of the gates constituted an infringement of the public rights. For the injury to the house some slight compensation was allowed, and there the matter rested until, some years after practically the same decision was delivered by Judge O’Brien

Subsequently the estate went into Chancery, and a local improvement committee having been formed, a lease of the house, grounds and wall was obtained at a rent of £15 a year. Since then the committee by the aid of voluntary subscriptions have improved and beautfied the Spa for the benefit of visitors. The house has been enlarged, modern pumps have been bought, new baths have been erected out of the funds collected by the committee. Now it appears that the Church Representative Body, who were the largest incumbrancers on the estate have bought out the other interests having claims upon the property, and as a consequence of their ownership the court lease given to the committee lapses. One of the first acts of the new landlords, regardless of the monies spent by the committee, has been to advertise the letting of the Spa, and even though the Improvement Committee made an offer to rent what is virtually the property of their own creation it has been rejected, it is said, in favour of a syndicate proposal to take over the springs and baths at £300 a year. These tactics demonstrate pretty clearly the injustice of the proceeding contemplated by the Church Representative Body, and it is to be hoped that the people of Lisdoonvarna will succeed in defeating such an aggressive and unwarrantable interference with public rights.


Mr Humphries

Irish Examiner 13th September, 1938 p.2

Mr Rd. Humphries of Cork, who recently exported ten tons of stone from Blarney for the purposes of the organisers of the World Fair at San Francisco, America, was on a visit to Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, during the weekend.  In an interview, he stated that an additional ten tons would be exported in November next.
Asked exactly what the stone would be used for, Mr. Humphries said he did not really know, but he did know that the organisers of the Fair or Exhibition may be interested in other Irish exhibits.
The Treaty Stone at Limerick was suggested to Mr. Humphries, and he said it was extremely improbable that the Treaty Stone would ever be allowed to be removed from its present site.  The American organisers would not be so much interested in the Treaty Stone as in the material from which it was composed.
“Would your friends be interested in a stone replica of the famous Cliffs of Moher,” asked the interviewer.
“They may be,” replied Mr. Humphries, with a smile


2 thoughts on “Lisdoonvarna

  1. Hi my names cathal I hagan I am a great great great great great great great grandson of Maire Rua mc Mahon of lemenagh castle I know there is a common story of Maire Ruas death but I’m sorry to say it’s mixed up by locals. The very very old locals well before these locals always knew The true story of her death which is that in her last luxturies days in Dromoland Castle she and other Dromoland Gentry rode from Dromoland to cratloe woods for a hunt with hunting dogs. Maura Rua in her old age was still fierce and rode on ahed In The forest following the hunting dogs until she was gone out of sight unfortunately she didn’t see a big forked branch sticking out and choked painfully to death while horse rode on the Gentry has awful work getting her big body down from the tree with long ladders and ropes

    She had a fight with the rev and couldn’t be buried anywhere so her body was sealed in the very tree she was killed

    On behalf of the family we’d like the real death published thanks


    1. Hi Cathal,
      My apologies for the delay in replying to your email. Thank you for your account of the passing of Maire Rua McMahon. I was not aware of this version. Could I post your email on theburrenandbeyond as clarification of the true cause of her death?
      Best wishes,


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