Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Bogay House

Photo Courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

Bogay House in County Donegal is a property which brings back many happy childhood memories. The above photograph must have been taken circa 1967. Shortly after that the driveway was tarmaced,

The property was owed by a cousin of my father and we visited he and his wife on a very regular basis. The demesne was a veritable adventure ground for a young schoolboy. The rear of the house has a southerly aspect and the lawn immediately below the the house had and presumably still has an Italianate pond. Both this pond and the rather more informal pond adjacent to the northerly turning circle were full of frogspawn every Spring and newts could always be seen amongst the pondweed.

The surrounding woodland provided me with a seemingly limitless playground. I remember visiting Bogay to view a red deer stag that had escaped from Glenveagh and found its way to this little piece of rural tranquility. There were several Spanish Chestnut trees in the woods and I recollect collecting the nuts to eat.

Below the house was the walled garden. Apparently this is one of only nine walled gardens in Co. Donegal. Unfortunately this garden is now unused and overgrown. My dad's cousin kept it in good order, indeed it was a working and productive garden. The lower half of this two acre enclave was planted with apple trees. The remainder of the garden was devoted to soft fruit and vegetables. Uncle Willie, (that's what I called him), operated the garden as a vaguely commercial venture and sold the excess produce. Self sufficiency was definitely something which he approved of. He kept bees and up until the last three or so years of his life he had a couple of dairy cows. Learning how to milk a cow by hand is another memory that remains with me. I wonder if it is one of those skills, like riding a bike, that you don't forget?

He was a nice old buffer. Certainly from another generation. Born in 1890 he was educated at Campbell College, Cambridge and St. Thomas' Hospital. Having qualified as a doctor he served as such in the RAMC during the Great War where he was awarded the MC (For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He personally assisted in getting his wounded away from the dressing station under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire. Previous to this he had gone out from the dressing station on several occasions to tend ....).

Much of his subsequent working life was spent in Palestine as a senior medical officer. He was awarded an OBE in 1936. After he had retired to Co Donegal in 1946 he and his wife, (Dorothy) would travel to East Africa for the winter months, visiting friends and relatives in Kenya, (then pronounced Keen ya, not Ken ya). Not such a bad idea methinks. He was a good source of stamps for my schoolboy collection.

The house contained various artefacts from William's colonial career. I was particularly fascinated by the huge snail shells sitting on top of the bookcases in the large three bay drawing room. He was a keen ornithologist and his notebooks are contained within the manuscript collection in the Natural History Museum in Tring.

Cutting up firewood was another of his pleasures. Unfortunately he was rather too enthusiastic at this task on one occasion and managed to sustain a ten percent reduction in digits. This however did not result in a trip to hospital. He self treated.

Built as a hunting lodge on the Abercorn Estates the Record of Protected Structures for Co Donegal states that the house was constructed in the early to mid eighteenth century. It has five bays and is two storied over a basement and with a dormer attic. There is a single bay basement to the east. A projecting porch was added to the northern aspect circa 1890. In or about 1800 the house was given to the Reverend Thomas Pemberton, rector of Taughboyne for use as a Rectory and it remained as such for in excess of a hundred years. At the time of the 1911 census, Rev A. G. Stewart had the benefit of the glebe and the twenty one room house. The ancillary buildings are listed as being, two stables; coach house ; harness room; calf house; dairy; fowl hose; broiling house; barn; potato house; workshop; shed; laundry and wood house. The census goes on to reveal three other houses on the lands, one of which was vacant and one of which was occupied by a family by the name of Best, whose head of household is described as Land Stewart. For a large part of the nineteenth century Bogay House was the residence of Rev Edward Bowen and his family. His eldest son, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, (1821 -1899) became the ninth Governor of Hong Kong on 30th March 1883, remaining in this post until 21st December 1887.


  1. I was researching my family tree and discovered my grandmother, Mary Payne nee McClintock worked as a maid at Bogay House in the 1920's and 30's. In fact my father was born in the Gate lodge which, sadly, is no longer there. I visited the house yesterday and met Mr Stewart who I would like to thank for his time and help.

  2. My grandparents(Brown) used to rent the coach house in the 70, s , I have some great memories of the holidays we spent here in the woods, fields and the local pub ,

    1. Glad that you also have fond memories of Bogay.

  3. Lovely write up, paints a wonderful picture. Do you have any more photographs?

    1. Thanks Gareth. Unfortunately I don't have any other photos of Bogay.

  4. My cousins David and Margaret Agnew currently live there I believe David Agnew has passed away as well as their only son Samuel