Kilmoyle House was once Limerick’s most prestigious address. It stood a humbled edifice yesterday. Its burnt-out shell exhaled wisps of smoke following a suspected arson attack on Thursday night.
A fire, which broke out at 11.30pm on Thursday, gutted much of the three-storey sandstone building which had lain idle for more than 10 years. In recent times people occasionally gathered there for cider parties.
Since it was built in the 1830s, Kilmoyle, better known as the Bishop’s Palace, was home to a succession of Catholic leaders of the diocese of Limerick.
The last bishop to inherit the residence, Donal Murray, decided it was not suitable as a home and moved out in 2005.
At the height of the Celtic Tiger in 2007 the property, which stood on more than six acres, was sold to young tycoon Aidan Brooks for a reported €26m.
As Mr Brooks moved most of his property portfolio abroad after the crash, he disposed of Kilmoyle for €1.1m to Gerry McManus, brother of billionaire JP McManus. Last year, Mr McManus placed a planning notice indicating he intended to apply to carry out seven works on the site.
These included proposals to alter and modify the main house and construct a gate lodge, courtyard buildings, and an underground garage.
The fire may have been started by people living rough, who had come for a drinks and drugs party.
The last full-time resident at Kilmoyle was the late Bishop Jeremiah Newman. He built up one of the country’s finest private collections of books and manuscripts which were shelved in a magnificent library.
Newman played host to academics and historians who came to marvel at the collection and enjoy his hospitality.
His guests often included political foes whom Newman clashed with in his sometimes controversial sermons. However, at Kilmoyle the cudgels were set aside and wounds soothed with the help of an exquisite wine cellar.
As darkness fell over Kilmoyle last night, the smell from the burnt out ruin still lingered. It seemed like a ghostly reminder of nights when Limerick’s grand residence saw guests smoke fine cigars accompanied by a good claret to soothe and lubricate lofty conversation.
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