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A History of Bruckless House

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Photo above: Clive Evans and Bruckless Eoin at Bruckess House, 2002. Built in the mid-18th century by the Nesbitts, a Scottish family planted in Donegal, Bruckless House passed into the hands of the Cassidy family in 1795.

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Built during the Georgian period and lived in by the Cassidy family

The Cassidys were an Irish family of tanners and merchants. Samuel Cassidy paid £700.00 to Rev. George Nesbitt, Woodhill, Ardara (1732-1826) and was subject to an annual rent of £5.00 in perpetuity. In so doing, Samuel Cassidy established a 100-year dynasty in the House. The Cassidy family were prominent in local public affairs being wardens in the Church of Ireland and members of the Boards that strived for better lives and times during the Famine. Fortunes waned in the northwest throughout the nineteenth century via the Great Famine and economic depressions. The head of the Cassidy clan sent his eldest son, Andrew, to Australia in 1889: a frequent solution in times of family decline. Andrew became well-to-do but never returned to Ireland although he inherited the house on the death of his father in 1902.

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Thomas Fforde: Soviet Nationalism and Irish Republicanism

Photo above: Frank Launder and Desmond Mackey, 1950s.

The house was sold to the wealthy Thomas Kelly Grene who in turn passed it to his nephew Arthur Warren Darley, a well known cellist who developed a nationwide reputation for collecting and recording Irish folk music. Darley supported the nationalist cause in the War of Independence and Bruckless House provided shelter for republican leaders.

Darley sold the House to Thomas Roderick Fforde, a retired Royal Navy Commander who had the distinction of being a member of the Soviet Communist Party. He influenced two sons of the local landlord family, the Goold-Verschoyles, who became deeply involved in Soviet communism in England and in Moscow. One of the sons was sent by the Comintern to help the republican side in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Tragically, this young man, Brian Goold-Verschoyle fell foul of his Soviet masters and ended in a gulag in the USSR where he died. His story, and that of his brother Niall, is told vividly in the book by Barry McLoughlin Left to the Wolves and also told in the novel by Dermot Bolger The Family on Paradise Pier. Both books reflect the influence of Fforde and of Bruckless House on the Goold-Verschoyle family.

The House was involved with Irish republican politics again in the 1930s when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) flirted with Ireland becoming a socialist state and courted support from the Soviet Union. Fforde communicated with this movement through Geoffrey Coulter, a prominent figure in the IRA and one of its leading propagandists. Coulter and his family stayed here periodically with Fforde during this period.

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The Evans Family and Agri-tourism

The House remained with Fforde into the 1950s and then passed through various hands in the course of subsequent years, even becoming a country hotel for a short time. It had developed into a first-class guest house by the 1960s but was transformed back into a family home by the Evans family, who bought it in 1973.

Since 1984 the house has welcomed visitors who enjoy the peace and tranquility of this traditional home. It is now an established stud farm for Connemara ponies and has an extensive informal Robinsonian garden which is listed in reputable guides to Irish gardens at a national level. At Bruckless, with the waters of Donegal Bay lapping its shoreline, the spectacular wild coast and warm welcome from the people that live here, the House is a haven of beauty and repose for the discerning traveller. The record of the long history of the region is visible in stone and ancient circles throughout this parish, linking the present with a continuous and intriguing past. The House, now designated a Protected Building, is a part of it all.

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