Steeped in History, the course now sits on the site of the 12th Century Castle Demesne.
Lady Olivia Ardilaun, a descendant of the McCarthy chiefs, and the widow of Lord Ardilaun, sold the castle demesne in 1924 to a group of local businessmen, to be held in trust for the people of the town.
(Incidentally Lord Ardilaun was also known as Sir Arthur Guinness and his great-grandfather’s stout can be sampled in the bar!)
Founded in 1925 as a nine hole course within the demesne of Macroom Castle (Home of Lady Ardilaun and one time home of William Penn, (founder of the state of Pennsylvania) was bought for the princely sum of £1,500! 1993 was a new beginning for Macroom Golf Club, with the addition of an extra nine holes and plans for a new clubhouse which was completed in 1997.
Lady Olivia Ardilaun
(Founder of Pennsylvania)
As a result of a specially convened meeting of the Macroom Castle Demesne Committee, the following statement was made by the Chairman, Mr R C Williams on the 16th October 1925. This is the statement as reported in the Cork Examiner of the day.
Gentlemen, in accordance with the wishes of several members of our Committee, I propose to make a statement setting forth in detail the manner in which the Castle Demesne was acquired, and how it came to be vested in the present Committee.
Towards the end of 1923 or the beginning of 1924, some residents of the town approached me and asked me to write to Mr Ellis, Lady Ardilaun’s agent, asking if he would rent the Castle grounds for a golf links, and at what rent. At that time the Castle had been burned and the demesne was, to a great extent, derelict, while no little amount of destruction was being done, and no revenue was being obtained from the lands.
Mr Ellis wrote back offering the demesne for the purposes of a golf links at £80 a year. A further letter was written to Mr Ellis pointing out that the laying out of a links would involve big expenditure, and a club would be slow to take the risk of that without a lease of say 20 or 30 year. Mr Ellis informed us that such a lease would be agreed to. It then came to our knowledge that Lady Ardilaun had no intention of rebuilding the castle, and in the circumstances, we thought it possible that she might sell the demesne at a fair price. The few who were behind the movement saw what a tremendous asset it would be from every point of view for the town. They desired to write to Mr Ellis asking if her Ladyship would entertain any proposal for the sale of the property. In answer to that, Mr Stephens, Lady Ardilaun’s legal representative in Dublin wrote stating that Lady Ardilaun would be willing to meet us at a date of be fixed to discuss the matter.
An interview having been arranged, myself and Mr Jerh. O’Leary went to Dublin to endeavour to effect a purchase if possible. As we approached the house of Lady Ardilaun in Stepen’s Green, Mr O’Leary suggested it would be better that I should interview her Ladyship alone, since it would give me a freer hand, I said “just as you like” and I went alone, I met her Ladyship and Mr Stephens, and after she had made enquiries about all the old residents she knew and remembered, the matter of the estate was mentioned.
(Great Grandson of
Sir Arthur Guinness)
Sir Arthur Guinness
(Great Grandfather of
Mr Stephens asked me what we would be prepared to offer for the demesne. I said it was always the custom for the seller to mention the price. “Well, Mr Williams” said he “if you want to know we expect £4,000 for the property” I said “that settled the matter, because our people could not go into the bank and raise such a sum. The payment of interest on that sum would impose a burden on them, which they could not meet annually, and they would much prefer to revert to the letting arrangement”. “But, Mr Williams” said Lady Ardilaun “I understand you came to discuss a sale” I said “Yes your Ladyship, but I could not entertain the idea of such a figure. Well she said “what do you really think the place is worth to you?” I said “Your Ladyship, it would be our intention to have it taken over by a committee of the leading residents of the town, men with a deep sense of civic responsibility, who would be conscious of its beauty and historic associations, who would lay themselves out to preserve its natural attractions and enhance its beauty in every possible way; and taking these obligations on themselves, they though £1,500 would be a reasonable sum for the property.”
Her Ladyship was undoubtedly impressed by this promise. Lady Ardilaun said “You can consider the Demesne as yours, on the conditions and the price you have mentioned.” That concluded the matter. I appraised Mr O’Leary of the result, and when we came home our first step was to select sixteen or eighteen men from amongst the residents of the town who would, if necessary, put £100 each into the enterprise, not with a view to securing monetary advantage from it, but rather to exploit it in the interest of the trade and business of the town. The following gentlemen, as you are aware, agreed to accept the responsibility and act on the committee to manage the place:- Merrs Cros O’Leary, Dr P O’Donoghue, T Lucey, solr, Jerh O’Leary, p.c.; John O’Shea, Denis Lynch, who was then Chairman of the Urban Council, T J Twomey, Ml Purcell, solr, T M Cronin, John M Fitzgerald, Patrick Crowley, Dr Kelleher, Ml McSweeney, Henry Murphy, P O’Keeffe, p.c., and myself. An anticipatory balance sheet was laid before them, and from this it appeared that if the amount were raised in the bank it would be difficult to meet the annual expenditure, including interest. Various suggestions for making sufficient revenue were discussed, one of them being the holding of an annual sports meeting.
Statue of William Penn
(Under the old oak tree)
We took steps immediately to organise a sports meeting, but were obstructed by local clubs, who had priority of right to the permit, even though we promised them a generous subscription. In these circumstances some of our members made up their minds that they would not put their hands in their pockets to finance the purchase, as it was a thankless job, and felt they were doing a good thing in offering names as guarantors for the amount of the purchase money in the bank.
Later, Mr O’Leary and myself were, by resolution, appointed trustees to take over the conveyance of the property for, and on behalf of, the committee aforementioned, whose names submitted to Lady Ardilaun’s representatives. This is the history of the transaction as far as the purchase is concerned, but later on, while we were considering the ways and means of making ends meet, the proposal of a sale of the western portion of the demesne to Mr Twomey, Rockboro, at £1,500 was introduced, and after discussion, the offer was accepted, since it would leave the committee practically free of indebtedness to the bank, while they would still be in possession of the portion covered by the golf links including the lawn etc., which they could exploit in the interest of the town in many ways.
The sale was carried through, and the committee proceeded to manage the residue of the estate to the best possible advantage. We were denied the permit to hold a sports meeting, but we undertook the financial risk of promoting an Agricultural Show in connection with the Shorthorn Breeders Society. The Golf Club were charged a rent of £40 per year, and the Tennis Club £15. We invited the G.A.A. locally to make an offer for the renting of the football pitch annually, throwing out the suggested idea that, in order that turf should be in proper order for important engagements, it should be played upon only on Sundays, and the Town Park used for practices during the week. Our committee realised the advantages to be derived from periodical football and hurling matches from the point of view of business, quite part from the question of encouraging sport, and we hoped to receive their co-operation in a manner which would be to our mutual benefit and to the benefit of the town. Unfortunately, their only answer was to enter the castle grounds without authority and play there indiscriminately. Recently they had adopted the practice of arranging and holding matches in the grounds without permission from the committee and charging an entrance fee at the castle gates. In this matter a serious legal responsibility has been incurred by the representatives of the football club and I hope they will realise the position.
R C Williams
16th October 1925
Macroom GAA Pitch
(Located inside the Castle Grounds)