Mount St Mary’s

In the late 12th century, the Diocese of Annaghdown came into existence in the area surrounding the city of Galway. In 1324 it was united with Tuam, but the Anglo-Norman families refused to accept direction from Tuam. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII made St Nicholas’ Church a Collegiate Church governed by a warden (not a bishop ) and eight vicars. Edmund ffrench, the last warden, was made Bishop of Kilmacduagh in 1824. On April 27, 1831, the Bull ‘Sedium Episcopalaism’ was issued by Pope Gregory XVI erecting the Diocese of Galway. On October 23, 1831, the first Bishop of the Diocese, George Joseph Plunkett Browne, was consecrated, and in 1844 he was succeeded by Laurence O’Donnell. John McEvilly became Bishop in 1857.

Dr McCormack eventually took over and it was he who bought this house on Taylor’s Hill for £1,500. Thomas Moore Persse had leased the site on which the house stands from Fr Peter Daly on May 18, 1860. He had spent some time in America and was obviously influenced by the architecture of the great houses there. This house was built of rusticated granite with limestone coigns. The rere façade, seen here, has a pair of bows, and there is a long service wing to the west. The roof is punctuated with ornate terracotta chimney pots. All of the wood used in the house came from Virginia, USA, and he called it Mount Vernon, after George Washington’s house there.

Persse was at one time the chairman of the Town Commissioners and during his term of office the waterworks system was put in place. His proudest record was that in the days of his wealth, when a relief committee was one of the public institutions in the town, he was certainly among the most liberal benefactors of the poor. He was a corn merchant and many of those to whom he sold corn went bankrupt, thus putting him into financial difficulties and forcing him to sell this house about 1874. He subsequently died at his residence, Norman Villas, on May 15, 1884.

Redmond Burke bought this house, and in 1882, William Morris Reade paid the High Court the sum of £1,500 for Burke’s estate. Reade’s widow eventually sold it to Dr McCormack and he called it Mount St Mary’s, but it became known to all and sundry as ‘The Bishop’s Palace’. He lived there from 1887 to 1909 and he was followed by Bishop Thomas O’Dea 1909-1923; Bishop Thomas Doherty 1923-1936; Bishop Michael Browne, 1937-1976; Bishop Eamonn Casey, 1976-1992; Bishop James McLoughlin, 1992-2005; Bishop Martin Drennan, 2005-2016; and Bishop Brendan Kelly, 2018-present.

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