On this date a century ago, April 24th 1921, Camp Lodge, as it was known at the time, was set alight and burned to the ground by the black and tans. April 24th 1921 fell on a Sunday.
During that turbulent period of Irish history the house, on the Camp Road which links Tralee and Killarney roads, was in the possession of the O’Connor family and remained so until the final member of the family Thady Connie O’Connor died on December 14th 1980.
Brutal Campaign of Reprisals
The burning of one of Kerry’s leading houses was part of the brutal campaign of reprisals by the tans for the raid on the mail train on the Gortatlea to Castleisland line.
The line ran from 1875 to 1977 between the two stations mentioned and linked into the Tralee to Killarney line at Gortatlea.
The railway was a vital supply line for the occupying British forces in the Castleisland area and was a regular target for the local volunteers.
An ambush on a train carrying British military on the same line on Tuesday, April 19th 1921 brought savage and swift reprisals.
As a tactic of war, the tans would carry out a policy of blanket destruction in the neighbourhood of an attack on their reviled presence and fire was a central and destructive element in their modus operandi
On the attack on Camp Lodge on Sunday, April 24th 1921, the tans took their brutality to a new level.
Calves Burned Alive
Local lore has it that they tied the resident farmer to a tree at the front of the house and they drove his calves into the house and locked them in before setting it alight.
They then cut and shot the udders of the cows and left them to bleed to death in the fields.
In spite of all that, and as a testament to the spirit of the people of the time, the house was rebuilt and reoccupied by the O’Connor family by1924.
Since Thady Connie’s death in 1980 the house had fallen into dereliction and had become a playground for the children of the area.
Jennifer and Jimmy Bought the House
One of those Camp Road children, Jennifer O’Connor and her Currow native husband, Jimmy O’Sullivan bought the house in 2018.
“Unfortunately it was in too bad a condition to do it up so we had to knock it in 2019 but we built the exact same house again and used the original stone in the building.
Stone Plaque Over the Door
“There was also a stone plaque over the front door which marked the rebuilding in 1924 which we got cleaned up and we included that also,” said Jennifer of the historic house.
Before the old shell of the 1924 rebuilt house was knocked, two stakes were driven into the ground at either side of the front wall and a line run between them to ensure the exact alignment of the new house with the old – and every other possible aspect of the new building stayed true to its seriously historic origins.
Moving Closer To Occupation
Now moving ever closer to occupation, Jennifer and Jimmy have paid the house and its history the ultimate compliment by keeping it all as it was.
Keeping it all on Camp Road too they enlisted the services of local stone-mason, John Reidy – no relation.
John did his ancient and noble trade proud as he set about building the new house from the heap of stones from the old.
“It’s done in the old dry stone wall style and I got great help from Jennifer’s father Tom who picked out the cut corner stones as the old building was being knocked,” said John.
Contractor for the project was James and Ivan Long Construction from Killorglin.
In Valerie Bary’s Book
Camp Lodge and its chequered history also came to the attention of Valerie Bary in her 1994 published book Houses of Kerry.
Ms. Barry documented the Camp Lodge associated families as follows: Twiss; Hussey; Hewson and O’Connor. Townland: Camp, Castleisland. Location: Map 39.
She also provided a description: “The entrance is from a side road north-west from the Castleisland – Farranfore road, c. 2.5km from Castleisland.
Trees and Beautiful Gardens
“Present condition: House standing, but becoming derelict. Demesne: Farmland, Some mature trees.
Features: In 1840, Camp was a small cottage of one storey, Later, it was noted for its trees and beautiful gardens.
“Today, the small house is of two storeys and three bays, gable-ended with a chimney at each end and having a small door, with a rectangular fanlight. It has a curved avenue with big, old beech trees.
Origins in 18th Century
“History: No year is given for the building of Camp Lodge, but it probably dates to the eighteenth century.
“In 1814, Francis Twiss was here and he may have built it. By 1840, John Hussey was in residence. The demesne was known for its beauty during the time of Mr. Hewson, around the turn of the twentieth century.
“In 1930, Mr. Con O’Connor owned to property and it remains in the hands of the O’Connor family.”
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