Historic house breathes new air


STUNNING SETTING Killadangan House is situated about 5km outside Westport on the Louisburgh Road. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Áine Ryan

WITH an elevated view of Clew Bay and restored to exude an ‘unstuffy elegance’, Killadangan House will provide an atmospheric niche tourism experience for visitors to west Mayo and the town of Westport.
A sister project to Clare Island Lighthouse, it is owned by the Fischer family and managed by Ms Roie McCann and coordinator, Rachel Guthrie.
Speaking to The Mayo News after the recent launch, Ms McCann, who worked alongside Goesta Fischer for the meticulous restoration and refurbishment project, said: “We already have a lot of expressed interest from bespoke tourism organisations and small wedding parties. We have created a warm and welcoming ambience merging the old with the new in furnishings and look forward to bringing this new addition to the west Mayo tourism portfolio.”
Indeed, the house’s first guests, a group of Russian executives, whose Irish boss happened to stay at Clare Island Lighthouse, had already christened the newly refurbished facilities earlier in October.
“They had a great week enjoying our locally produced meals and, with such good weather, they climbed the Reek. They also visited Clare Island Lighthouse and had lunch there as well as indulging in our sauna and massage, meditation and music therapy sessions,” Ms McCann continued.

Haunted history
OFFICIATING at the opening of the house, Fine Gael councillor, Tereasa McGuire, quoted Victorian travel writer William Makepeace Thackeray while extolling this new oasis of peace in a busy world. Roie McCann’s brother, Tommy Graham, editor of History Ireland, presented an engaging and humourous narrative of the history of the house and its colourful owners, one of whom was one Mr Louden, a land agent for the notorious, George Bingham, the third Earl of Lucan.
“The only Louden associated with Killadangan for this period I could find (in the Journal of the South Mayo Research Foundation) was John James Louden, a barrister based in Westport and a grazier of 7,000 acres, who also found time to father 17 children,” Tommy Graham said.
Interestingly, though, he added, that Louden was also ‘chairman of the Castlebar Tenants’ Degence Association and collaborated with Michael Davitt in establishing the Land League in 1879. So Louden wasn’t a land agent, he was Land League agent’.
Explaining the rationale of this and how it was large farmers and graziers, and not the small-holders and labourers, who would go on to dominate the rural economy, Graham also revealed that Killadangan House is reputedly haunted by Louden’s daughter who was murdered by her brother.
“With 19 of them in the house there must have been a lot of tension!,” he added.
Informal formalities completed, the reinvigoration of this Victorian house, which was built circa 1850, rang to the music of John and Isabela Basombrio Hoban, and the seanós dancing wizardry of Clare Islander, Jack Pinder.            
With ‘Activity, Health and Learning’ underpinning the philosophy of the meticulously redesigned house, it will host programmes suiting groups from five to eight guests. The packages will include Bed and Breakfast, as well as options for pre-booked lunches and dinners. The house encompasses a magnificent light-filled hallway, a drawing room and dining room with panoramic views of Clew Bay, as well as five bedrooms, an activities room and a large sauna.