A noble history

The Earls of Carrick, whose family name was Butler, lived at Ballylinch, across the river from where the house, now known as Mount Juliet, stands today, from 1700 to 1897. They were of the same Butler family that owned Kilkenny Castle. The first Earl of Carrick, Somerset Butler, had a son called Somerset Hamilton Butler who married Juliet Boyle, daughter of the Earl of Shannon, in 1750.  Juliet was just 16 years of age and brought with her a dowry of £5,000, the equivalent of several million euros in today’s terms. But, despite being an arranged marriage, all evidence points toward a marriage based on true love.

A great heritage

At first, Somerset and Juliet lived with his parents at Ballylinch Castle which stood across the river from the house of William Walton, a major land owner in the area. In 1755 Walton moved back to England and put his house up for sale. It was the perfect opportunity for the young couple, who used her dowry to purchase the property and expanded it considerably. The works took five years and, when it was completed, they named it in her honour: Mount Juliet.

Somerset and Juliet moved in 1760 and in 1762 they built the only bridge across the Nore on the estate, joining their land to that of Somersetʼs father. On the death of Somerset senior, the two estates were merged into one.  Altogether, ten Earls of Carrick lived on the lands. When the 10th Earlʼs wife died in 1897, the Earl became a recluse and lost interest in the property. His sons, who had lives of their own in the UK, had no wish to live there, so they advised him to lease it or sell it.

It was at this time that Mount Juliet came into the hands of the McCalmont family.  Captain Harry McCalmont died in 1902 leaving a substantial fortune, the main beneficiary of which was his cousin, Dermot McCalmont.  Dermot was born in 1887; his father Sir Hugh McCalmont and his mother Lady Rose (nee Bingham) lived at that time at Abbeylands in County Antrim.   At the time of his inheritance, Dermot was 15 years old; between him and his father, Sir Hugh McCalmont (shown), who was governor of Cork at the time, they decided to acquire an estate in Ireland.  The trustees of Dermot’s legacy took the lease on Mount Juliet.  

After he left school, Dermot joined the British Army.  In 1910, he bought a yearling which he named The Tetrarch.  The Tetrarch was never beaten in seven races as a two-year-old (he was injured and did not run again); he became world-renowned, and was known as “The Spotted Wonder”. He was the foundation of Ballylinch Stud, and is buried in the grounds (the large memorial stone can be seen to this day). In 1912, as a result of a significant crash on the London Stock Market, the Earl of Carrick sold Mount Juliet to Dermot.

 

Dermot served in the 7th Hussars throughout the First World War; he became a major, and was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry.  Major Dermot’s father, Sir Hugh, was in his 60s, and therefore too old to fight in the war.  Lady Rose lived at Mount Juliet during this time and took a lively interest in running the estate.  Sir Hugh died in 1924.

During the First World War Ireland’s Easter Rising of 1916 took place, leading on to the Civil War and a period of significant insecurity for those in the ‘Big Houses’. A great many such houses were burned, along with the priceless contents. What is less often spoken of is the houses that weren’t burned and why they were saved, like Mount Juliet. The truth is that the people of the surrounding area were highly respectful of the McCalmonts, who provided secure employment, healthcare and accommodation for up to one hundred employees.

The locals made it clear to those that might attack the demesne, that the family should be protected. It was a gesture that didn’t go unnoticed. When the dust settled, the McCalmonts built a Community Centre in Thomastown and provided a new stained-glass window for the local Church, both gestures of gratitude to the people of the area.

Major Dermot married Lady Helen Cunningham in 1918; they had one son, Victor, in 1919.
Major Dermot’s enthusiasm for the property, particularly for horses, saw himself and Lady Helen invest a great deal of time and money on both sides of the river. Lady Helen’s principal interest was in show horses, whereas Major Dermot focused on breeding thoroughbreds for flat racing in both Ireland and England. Some of the names that emerged from these early years are still part of flat racing lore, including The Tetrarch’s offspring, Tetratema and Mr. Jinks.
Major Dermot’s other abiding interest was fox-hunting; he gave a home to the Kilkenny Hunt, whose hounds are still kennelled on the estate

Lady Helen died in 1938 aged just 46, leaving her husband and son Victor. Three years later Major Dermot married June Nickalls.  Major Dermot and June had three sons; they all lived at Mount Juliet and Major Dermot and June continued to manage the estate in a similar vein until Major Dermot’s death in 1968.  By this time, their three sons were living in England, and June moved to County Limerick, leaving Mount Juliet in the capable hands of Victor and his wife Beryl Sutton, better known as Bunny.

Victor had served in the Second World War, also becoming a major.  After the war, Major Victor and Bunny bought Rathvinden in County Carlow and had three children, two sons and a daughter.  

Major Victor and Bunny managed the estate just as Major Victor’s parents and his step-mother had done before them. But times were changing. With the recessions of the 1970s and 1980s their finances were bruised and, when it was clear their children had no interest in taking over the estate, they made the difficult decision to sell.
In 1987, approximately 85 years after Major Dermot McCalmont had taken on the property, Mount Juliet was put on the market. It was bought by entrepreneur Tim Mahony, importer of Toyota cars, whose vision it was that turned the estate into the world class hotel and golf resort it is today.

Before Major Victor and Bunny left the area, they went to Kilkenny County Council to arrange housing for the remaining tenants on the estate, providing 50% of the capital cost of rehousing each and every family. An example of why the McCalmont family is still held in high regard in Kilkenny.

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