This project involves the adaptation of a play for radio. The play is called The Countess and it was written and produced by Gillian Grattan under the Kilkenny County Council Decade of Centenaries fund 2023. The purpose of the adaptation is to archive the work for future research and to broadcast the play to a wider audience on KCLR.
The play looks at Lady Ellen Cuffe, who did so much for Kilkenny over the years. She was however not immune to the wrath of the anti-Treaty IRA, who warned that anybody agreeing to become a member of the Senate would be executed. Lady Ellen accepted membership which resulted in the burning of Desart Court. This piece will look at the life and achievements of Ellen Cuffe and the fire at Desart Court 1923.
Ellen Bischoffsheim was born in London 1857, into the wealthy Bischoffsheim-Goldshmidt family. She married William Cuffe, the fourth Earl of Desart in 1881, setting up at Desart Court, Co. Kilkenny. She became involved with local initiatives including the establishment of the Woollen Mills and the Carnegie Library for which received the Freedom of the City in 1910, the first woman in Ireland to ever receive such an award. Despite all these positives, when invited to become a member of the first Irish Seanad she accepted resulting in Desart Court being burnt out by the IRA in February 1923 and its superlative contents lost. The house was subsequently rebuilt under the supervision of Richard Orpen, but was razed to the ground in 1957.
Please note that the details of events listed above are provided by the relevant Local Authorities.