“A Sea Grey House – The History of Renvyle House”

Revised edition of the history of Renvyle House by Dr. J.A. Lidwill The launch of ‘A Sea Grey House – A History of Renvyle House’ by J.A. Lidwill took place […]

A Sea Grey House by Jerry A. Lidwill

Revised edition of the history of Renvyle House by Dr. J.A. Lidwill

The launch of ‘A Sea Grey House – A History of Renvyle House’ by J.A. Lidwill took place at Kenny’s Bookshop and Gallery in Galway on Friday 6th October and was warmly received by all.

Renvyle House Hotel celebrated 70 years of the hotel under the ownership of the Coyle family last year. The hotel was bought by the late Dr. Donny Coyle with two friends in 1952 and has been under the stewardship of his son John D. Coyle since the early 1990’s. After all this time it was thought new chapters should be added to “A Sea Grey House”, a history of Renvyle House was first written by Jerry A. Lidwill in 1985 and traces its history back to the 12th century. The book was later updated by Oliver St. John Gogarty’s grandson Guy St. John Williams in his edition in 1995.

Over a period of 12 months John Coyle met with Joe Boske of Little Gull Publishing, author Jerry A. Lidwill and graphic designer Paul Callanan and set the wheels in motion to update the story. The seed was planted and the fruits of their collaboration has resulted in a beautiful publication.

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins in the introduction writes “This beautiful publication speaks of a place of shelter and security, of a home and a refuge…it unearths the many stories hidden in the walls and foundations of a remarkable place that has been rebuilt, reimagined, restored, and revived; constantly reinventing itself whilst remaining authentic to the spirit and history in which it is rooted”.

It is available for sale at: Kennys Books Galway, Clifden Bookshop, Books at One Letterfrack, Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop Galway and at Renvyle House Hotel
RRP €30.00

A Synopsis of the Book by author Dr. Jerry A. Lidwill
A Sea-grey House” recounts the history of Renvyle House from its origins as an O’Flaherty dwelling in the late 17th century to its present-day status as a modern country-house hotel. After an introductory chapter outlining the long history of the House and its role in the historical events in which it played a part, the story of the House is told through the lives of its owners and the recollections of its often-famous visitors. A chapter is given to each of the four families who have owned Renvyle House.

The house was built originally by a member of the O’Flaherty clan, who had ruled the area since the 14th century, but after losing their lands in the Cromwellian confiscation leased the Renvyle lands from their new owners, the Blake family. In the early 19th century, Henry Blake enlarged the house into a “Gentleman’s Residence” and the Blakes continued to occupy Renvyle as a private house until 1883, when financial pressures obliged Caroline Blake to take in paying guests and Renvyle House Hotel opened its doors for the first time. Initially very successful, the First World War and growing unrest in Ireland brought a decline in business, and the Blakes sold Renvyle in 1917.

The new owner, Dublin poet and surgeon Oliver St. John Gogarty, restored it as a private house, and Renvyle became a meeting-place for the poets and artists who would help to create the new Irish Free State. When Gogarty became a target of the Republican faction during the Civil War, Renvyle House was burnt to the ground in 1923. It was rebuilt by Gogarty, and reopened, once more as a hotel, in 1930. After an initial period of success, the Second World War brought another decline in business.

In 1952 the house was sold again. For the last seventy years Renvyle House has been owned by the Coyle family, who have made it the successful hotel it is today, skilfully blending modernity and tradition to create the unique atmosphere that the hotel enjoys today. This book records Renvyle’s journey through 400 years of Irish history, politics and culture, all of which are carefully preserved and celebrated in “A sea-grey house, whereby the blackbird sings”.

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