Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley-Harrison

(Click here to see his family tree)


Family Background

Mr Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley-Harrison was born on 9th September 1908 in Kent. His father was Col Cholmeley Edward Carl Branfill Harrison CMG CBE from Bearsted in Kent, who was in the British army, and his mother was Mary Evelyn Bazley-White. Col Cholmeley Harrison was related to the Dering family and the Earls of Strathmore (or Bowes-Lyon family) through his mother, and through this link Mr Cholmeley-Harrison can claim relationship with the royal family in England.


In 1971 he was granted Irish citizenship, and in 1975 assumed by deed poll the additional surname of Cholmeley.




Cholmeley Harrison attended school at Stowe in Buckinghamshire. The school is housed in a very beautiful neo-classical building surrounded by famous landscaped gardens. This may have been an influence in the purchase and restoration of Emo Court. J F Roxburgh, the first headmaster of Stowe who was well-known for his enlightened attitudes towards public schooling, became a good friend for later years. At Stowe also Mr Cholmeley-Harrison’s life-long interest in cricket was initiated.



University and Subsequent Life

He continued to Cambridge, where he read Classics at Trinity College, graduating in 1931. He became a member of the London Stock Exchange in 1938, only relinquishing this in 1970. He served in the Royal Marines during the Second World War, attaining the rank of Major.


Marriage and Woodstown House

In 1936 he married the adopted daughter of Lord Bellew, Barbara Mary Corisande, and for five years they resided in Barmeath Castle in Co Louth. When that castle became part of the inheritance of Lord Bellew’s brother, Cholmeley Harrison bought Woodstown House in Co Waterford. The couple lived there with their three daughters, Caroline, Sarah and Charlotte. They were divorced in 1947.


Woodstown House Co Waterford


A second marriage, to Mary Elizabeth Roberts, took place in 1948. They continued to live at Woodstown House, and it was only in the 1960s that Cholmeley Harrison considered moving elsewhere. An invitation to Jackie Kennedy - the wife of the late John F Kennedy, President of the United States – to visit at Woodstown was followed by the intrusive presence of media and tourists who wished to see where she had stayed, and it became difficult to have privacy at Woodstown.


Emo Court

Mr Cholmeley-Harrison himself tells the story that he saw a sale advertisement for Emo Court in a newspaper on his way to the Irish Derby at The Curragh in 1969.  He diverted to see it, and fell in love with the place. A friend who was with him said, “Only a lunatic would buy it!” but the idea of purchase did not go away and in time he was able to acquire the property from the Jesuits for around £40,000.





The Jesuits had extensively altered Emo Court to suit their purposes. Marble columns, mantlepieces and statues had been removed and stored. The library and the rotunda were converted into a chapel, knocking down a wall in between, and dormitories and showers installed. Mr Cholmeley-Harrison immediately initiated a multi-million pound restoration project with the help of the English architectural firm of Sir Albert Richardson. Over the years, the house was restored to more than its former glory, and the gardens were tamed through the planting of specimen trees and shrubs such as davidia, azaleas and rhododendrons. Mr Cholmeley-Harrison commented: “It was lovely work. I enjoyed it enormously.” He and his third wife Cynthia (whom he had married in 1972 following divorce from Mary Elizabeth Roberts) enjoyed living at Emo and frequently entertained guests in the beautifully redecorated and refurnished rooms. However, there was also sadness – Sarah, his middle daughter, died in 1987.


Gift to the State

In 1995 Emo Court came into State ownership. Mr Cholmeley-Harrison explained why he made the decision to hand over the house and estate: “I have no son and my daughters and their children have other hopes and homes. They would never come here so I thought it would be better to give it while I am still compos mentis. The place takes quite a lot of running, one way or the other. The future of the house is safer this way. It can’t be sold or turned into a country club.”


Mr Cholmeley-Harrison continued to live at Emo Court until his death in July 2008. On 9th September 2008 (which would have been his 100th birthday) a Memorial Service was held in Coolbanagher Church, during which his ashes were interred in one of the urns that he had donated to the church. A cherry tree was planted at Emo Court in his memory.