Patricia O’Callaghan (b.1943), Emma McKeon (b.1949) and Jacinta Leech (b. 1957)
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Patricia O’Callaghan (b.1943), Emma McKeon (b.1949) and Jacinta Leech (b. 1957)


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The Leech sisters are the daughters of Robert Leech, butler to the Earls of Dunraven for over forty years. He cared for Thady Wyndham-Quin, the 7th Earl of Dunraven, for a further ten years. He came from Newcastle-on-Tyne and had worked as a valet for the Dunravens in Wales from the age of fourteen. He came to Adare to take up his position as butler for Windham Henry Wyndham-Quin, 5th Earl, and his wife Lady Eva. Robert Leech lived in one of the houses in the courtyard at the Manor, beside that of Bill Rose, the gamekeeper. After his marriage he and his wife reared two of their daughters there during their early years, and he also had a room at the Manor. Their third daughter was born while they lived in the Manor. Patricia O’Callaghan is the eldest of the daughters, and she remembers her visits to the Manor to meet her father. She describes his living quarters there. The great many pairs of shoes of the Wyndham-Quin family, which he would polish to a high shine, are remembered. His duties included the polishing of the silver and its arrangement on the mahogany dining table. The kitchen staff included Nora O’Brien and Julia O’Connor, and family meals were brought up to the dining room on a lift from the downstairs kitchen. The domestic staff had their own quarters and would remain out of sight of the family and their guests. The sisters remark that the Dunravens had control over their lives because their positions were dependent upon the family. After the death of Windham Wyndham-Quin, 5th Earl of Dunraven, the Leech family moved from their home in the courtyard into the Manor where they lived on the top floor in their own quarters. As the Manor was not occupied at this time, they lived alone there. The girls felt quite special because their address was Adare Manor and their telephone number was Adare 1, though they explain that this situation also had its negative aspects. The estate wall separated them from the villagers, and they had to walk the long drive to the Manor from the gates which, during the dark months of winter was “no joke”, they remember. The Manor had not been electrified and flash lamps were used for lighting outside. The sisters have clear memories of the wonderful and beautifully kept grounds and gardens at the Manor, and of walking to the local church with their grandmother in the evenings, and taking the long way back. The sisters recall the resourcefulness of their mother, Peg (formerly Lyons), who for much of the time was alone with her daughters. When Robert Leech was appointed by Nancy, Countess of Dunraven to act as carer to her son, the 7th Earl of Dunraven, he would travel abroad with him quite regularly. Peg Leech was the daughter of Patrick and Mary Ellen Lyons, and her mother’s maiden name was Donovan. She was a native of Castletownshend in West Cork. Peg had two brothers and one sister. Her brother John worked on the Dunraven Estate and Dick worked in Kilgobbin, and her sister Elizabeth married a butcher in Adare. Peg’s father was a chauffeur to both the 4th and the 5th Earls of Dunraven, and he lived with his family in a house since demolished to make way for the Adare Golf Course clubhouse. The village in earlier days had its own quiet charm, the sisters remark. If a death occurred locally, a single shutter would be drawn on Vokes’s store window as an indication of the sad occurance. The Mercy Sisters in their habits would walk in line through the village on a Sunday evening. The fountain in the village is recalled as a great meeting place, as is the village hall where many local people met their future spouses. Lady Olein Wyndham-Quin lived in the Garden Cottage on the Estate, and she would organise the staff when family members were to arrive. These included Captain Valentine Wyndham-Quin and his daughter Mollie. A visit to Adare by Edward Kennedy in 1964 is recalled. Patricia’s future husband was on duty that day as a member of An Garda Síochána. The initial opening of the Manor to the public in the 1960s is remembered, and the sisters recall the feeling of intrusion in their lives when people began to come through the doors. Patricia later worked for Cannock’s department store in Limerick, Emma was a singer at Bunratty Castle and Jacinta was a nurse, based at Limerick General Hospital. In conclusion, they explain that their mother died at the family apartment in the Manor in 1982, and after the sale of the Manor two years later, the Dunravens built a house for their father in the village for his use during his lifetime. He continued to work in Kilgobbin and would occasionally stop off at the Dunraven Arms Hotel in Adare on his way home to meet manageress Miss O’Hehir for a drink. He was one of the few locals to enjoy that privilege, his daughters remark with a smile.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The Adare Manor and Village Oral History Collection


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

45.4 MB

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Robert Leech is remembered by his daughters

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore