Ballymaloe Castle Cloyne OS 89:22-1941/2-68
Ballymaloe about 1960
Ballymaloe - front of the house - early days.
Ballymaloe - the view from the keep
The Original Castle
Ballymaloe was a castle of the Imokilly Geraldines. Richard FitzMaurice FitzGerald was a son of the Knight of Kerry, who was appointed as Seneschal, or governor, of the area by the Earl of Desmond in 1440. The original castle was probably built by him shortly after that time. By the time of the Desmond rebellion, the occupant was John FitzEdmund FitzGerald who was known as 'the Queen's John FitzEdmond' to distinguish him from the Seneschal of the same name who was a leader of the Insurrection and owned nearby Castlemartyr.1440 AD
John FitzEdmund of Ballymaloe castle was an illegitimate son of Edmund by Honor Ni Donagh, 'a woman of Muskerry' and was well up in the list of efficient contrivers and gatherers of land of his time. John FitzEdmund appointed himself Sheriff of Cork in 1570 and during the Desmond rising he 'dyd hang his (legitimate) brother James FitzEdmund' in 1582. John refused to join O'Neill in 1599 and his lands were devastated, but he survived to be knighted by Mountjoy at Cloyne for his faithfulness in 1602.1602 AD
The Homeless Friars
Despite their differences, the close ties to the Geraldines were apparent when John FitzEdmund's son, Edmund, was married to Honora, widow of his namesake, the late Seneschal. In 1611 this Edmund died and she was a widow again so old Sir John leased her the lands at a nominal rent before he died the following year aged 85.
A daughter of her rebellious father, she housed the homeless friars at Ballymaloe. her son John moved to Ballymaloe where he died in 1640.1640 AD
The Irish Confederate War
By the time of the Confederate War in 1641, the owner was her grandson, another Edmund and he lost the lands for taking the 'rebel'side. They passed to Broghill, (Roger Boyle, son of the Earl of Cork; newly-created Earl of Orrery, but living on a narrow edge of survival since he had escaped a charge of treason in London. Broghill lived at Ballymaloe after his enforced retirement as President of the court of Munster in 1672 before making his last home at Castlemartyr.1672 AD
By 1700 Colonel William Corker was in residence when in 1720 the property passed to Hugh Lumley. Some additional buildings were added on the northern side of the castle wall.1700 AD
Myrtle & Ivan Allen
By the middle of the 18th Century, the occupier was Abraham Forster, and early in the 19th century, his grandson demolished parts of the old castle. It was he who largely build the house into its present form. Sometime later it passed to the Litchfield's, and in 1924 Simpson, a nephew of the latter family came into possession. Mr. Simpson sold the house and farm to Myrtle and Ivan Allen in 1948 and it remains owned by the Allen family to this day.1948 AD
Ivan & Myrtle Allen
Myrtle and Ivan Allen bought Ballymaloe in 1948 from the Simpson family. The Simpsons were known in the area for their parties and Myrtle and Ivan had, in fact, met at Ballycotton Lifeboat fundraising dinner at Ballymaloe a few years previously. Ivan had wide farming interests, growing tomatoes and cucumbers in glasshouses and mushrooms in dark wooden sheds at nearby Kinoith as well as managing the orchards there.
However, Ivan longed for a mixed farm and when Ballymaloe came up for sale he decided to buy it. Myrtle and Ivan spent the next sixteen years farming and bringing up their children. The farm was a success producing milk, butter, cream, eggs, home raised pork and veal as well as fruit and vegetables. Myrtle became highly knowledgeable about cooking their produce and began writing a cookery column in the Irish Farmers Journal.
Ballymaloe 1964 to present.
In 1964, Myrtle, encouraged by Ivan, decided to open Ballymaloe as a restaurant. The children were growing up and she could see a different future ahead of her:
"On a winter's day I sat by the fire alone and wondered what I would do in this big house when they were all grown up - Then I thought about a restaurant.”
Her aim was to emulate the best Irish Country House cookery. Myrtle and Ivan then placed an advert in the Cork Examiner: Dine in a Historic Country House. Open Tuesday to Saturday. Booking essential. Phone Cloyne 16.
So Myrtle scrubbed down the kitchen table, and with the help of two local women she began. They cooked on an Aga at first and she was helped front of house by Ivan and their daughter Wendy. Their shepherd Joe Cronin ran the bar.
The food was good and the restaurant flourished. They cooked using their own produce- unpasteurised milk and cream, veal, pork, homemade sausages and black puddings, herbs, fruit and vegetables. Ivan went to Ballycotton every day for the fresh catch. Local beef and lamb came from Mr.Cuddigan, the butcher in Cloyne. Myrtle also encouraged local farmers’ wives to bring in their surplus produce and blackberries, elderflowers and watercress were brought in by children for pocket money.
Although times have changed at Ballymaloe, the essential spirit of the place is rooted in these improvised beginnings and in the relationship of the farm to the table which underlies the elegance of Irish Country House cooking.