Published Date: 30 July 2008
By Staff Reporter
The death occurred recently of Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley-Harrison, the man who left Emo Court to the nation.
A London stockbroker by profession, his remains will be interred at Emo on September 9, which would have been the date of his 100th birthday.
Born in Kent, Cholmeley-Harrison was educated in the classics, from where he graduated in 1931. He became a member of the London Stock Exchange in 1938, where he continued to earn a living until the seventies. He also served as a major in the Royal Marines during the second World War.
In 1931, he married Barbara Mary Corisande, a daughter of Lord Bellew of Co Meath. The couple had three daughters, but divorced in 1948. In 1945, at the end of the war, he moved to Ireland on purchasing Woodstown House in Waterford.
The Kennedy family would play a role in his moving to Laois. In the summer of 1967 he rented Woodstown to Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of President John F. Kennedy, and her family. The level of intrusion into his privacy was such that he decided to leave the house and acquired Emo Court from the Jesuit Order.
Mr Cholmeley-Harrison was renowned for his sympathetic restoration of the house. Emo Court was designed by the great Georgian architect James Gandon and was built in the "monumental style" of the Custom House in Dublin, beginning in 1790 for the first Earl of Portarlington who was instrumental in bringing Gandon to Ireland.
Cholmeley-Harrison completed some of the work originally planned by Gandon. He spent years and a fortune restoring the property under the supervision of Sir Albert Richardson and Partners of London. When the house was finished, he then restored the magnificent gardens and lakes.
It is with deep regret that Dr Martin Mansergh, T.D. Minster of State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works and the Arts, said that he heard of the passing of Mr Cholmeley-Harrison.
"In an act of great generosity, he donated Emo Court and Park to the people of Ireland in 1994," Deputy Mansergh said. The site is currently managed and presented by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the State. He had purchased the Emo Estate in 1969 and embarked on a full restoration and conservation programme. The Minister stated that Emo Court is the jewel in the crown of the Midlands' architectural heritage and that it will serve as a permanent living memorial to his generosity and to his memory.
Leinster Express 30 July 2008