Coole Gate Lodge situated at the entrance to Coole Park near Gort is the last remaining gate lodge of the Coole Estate, formally the home of Lady Isabella Augusta Gregory (1852 – 1932). Over 200 years old, the gate lodge dates back to the late 1700’s when Robert Gregory purchased Coole Estate on 18th June 1768 from Oliver Martyn of Tullira Castle. With the division of estates by the Land Commission, Mr Laurence Joe Dooley (1879 – 1958) acquired the gate lodge & some land in 1934. Joe Dooley son of Laurence was the last of the Dooley family to live at the gate lodge. Joe Dooley was a farmer and also an expert watch & clock craftsman & watch mender. Joe’s grandfather Michael Dooley was Lady Gregory’s land steward. Irish language teaching classes were held at this gate lodge for local people when Norma Borthwick was teaching Lady Gregory the Irish language. Norma Bothwick was a member of the Gaelic League and secretary of the Oireachtas in 1898.
In 1839, Coole House was reached either by the by-road near this gate lodge or by the Galway Avenue stretching from Kiltartan National School. Years later the by-road by the gate lodge was replaced by the present road connecting with the ilex avenue which was planted in 1860.
On March 27th 1980, the gate lodge and lands were sold at a public auction held at Glynn’s Hotel Gort by auctioneer Joseph J. McInerney for £37,000 to local businessman Sean Duffy. Preservationists at the time were worried that the historic gate lodge would be bulldozed and knocked and hoped that it would be preserved and restored as it was the last cogent link with Lady Gregory’s Coole. Instead the gate lodge remained but over the subsequent years fell into a dilapidated state and proved to be an ugly sight for the passing tourists going into Coole Park.
On April 12th 1980, a highly important clearance auction was held at Coole to sell the contents of the gate lodge after the death of its owner Joe Dooley. This auction consisted of oil paintings by Robert Gregory, antique wall clock from Coole House, mantel clocks, watches, papers, books and furniture. Robert Gregory (1881 – 1918) an accomplished artist painted a portrait of Joe Dooley’s grandfather Michael Dooley in 1897.
In the early 1990’s, Sean Duffy sold the gate lodge and nine acres of adjoining land to local businessman Robin Marcus of Lough Cutra, Gort. At the time he was told that he was mad to have ever purchased the gate lodge & lands as it would prove to be a white elephant and that he would be forced to knock this historic building to the ground. However, not to be discouraged by anyone Robin Marcus set upon restoring the historic gate lodge and against all odds he overcame many obstacles to achieve his goal. Coole House was knocked to the ground in 1941, in what might well be described in today’s terms as “an act of architectural vandalism” and when Robin Marcus purchased this gate lodge it was destined for the same fate. In fact, the gate lodge was listed on the derelict site register to be knocked & destroyed when Robin acquired ownership in the early 1990’s but with the help of some local public representatives he managed to get a stay of execution until restoration work could begin.
Restoration work proved to be a mammoth task. The ruin had crumbling walls, no windows or doors, a tree growing through a hole in the roof or what was left of the roof and the area surrounding the gate lodge covered in overgrowth. This along with the threat of being forced to knock the gate lodge was a big challenge to take on by the new owner. Expert local craftsmen from the area were hired to start work on the project. The roof was stripped down completely and reconstructed. When the plaster was hacked of the walls, the beautiful original cut stonework was revealed and this was sandblasted and repointed. All the stonework and stone walls were restored by expert stonemasons. The electricity and telephone cables are all installed underground.
When the garden area was being cleaned up surrounding the lodge, the original flagstones were unearthed, some rare antique items from the gate lodge were found and also an original iron gate uncovered from beneath several inches of soil. The gate was restored and placed beside the lodge while the original flagstones were used for a pathway and a flower bed around the gate lodge. An old climbing rose at the front of the gate lodge which was there since bygone times was carefully nurtured back to all its glory. Inside the lodge was reconstructed. All the timber work was done by hand by an expert carpenter who helped in the restoration of nearby Lough Cutra Castle in the 1960’s for its owner Sir Humphrey Wakefield.
The gate lodge is decorated with many antique artefacts some of which were discovered during restoration, paintings to reflect the Lady Gregory era at Coole & paintings by local artists Fran McCann and Aladdin adorn the walls. Over the stone fireplace hangs a lady’s hunting rifle, customised for a left handed person that was once owned by the family of Lord Gough of Lough Cutra Castle. A small reference library contains some interesting and rare books relating to Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats and Coole Estate. Inside the door hang a portrait of Lady Gregory by a renowned artist and also a picture of the gate lodge last occupier Joe Dooley. Pictures of all the great literary figures adorn the walls. These include J.M. Synge, W.B. Yeats, J. Swift, B. Behan, O. Goldsmith, S. Beckett, J. Joyce, P. Kavanagh, F. O’Brien, S. O’Casey, O. Wilde and G.B. Shaw and rare bronze sculptures of Behan, O’ Casey, Synge and Joyce.
Initially it took about five years to complete the restoration and there has been further works carried out in the last few years to maintain the gate lodge to an exceptional high standard. The end result is very much faithful to the original structure and all the original stonework was already there. In the restoration of the historic gate lodge a careful balance has been achieved between providing modern amenities and preserving old world charm. Displayed on the wall inside the front door is a letter of commendation from Galway County Council endorsing the restoration work on the gate lodge and declaring that it has been official removed from the derelict site register.
After the gate lodge was painstakingly restored, there were many enquiries from people in the United States, Britain and Australia and after some thought it was decided to market the historic gate lodge on a limited basis as a unique self-catering home for those wishing to visit the historic sites in the South Galway area and savour the atmosphere surrounding Lady Gregory’s Coole. Our visitors book contains the names of many guests from all over the world that have stayed at Coole Gate Lodge including renowned antiques expert Sir Humphrey Wakefield owner of Chillingham Castle which is one of the most haunted castles in the U.K. Interestingly Sir Humphrey Wakefield was previously the owner of nearby Lough Cutra Castle in the 1960’s which was once the home of the Goughs whom Lady Gregory would often visit. Also some of the expert craftsmen involved in the restoration of Coole Gate Lodge including current owner Robin Marcus worked for Sir Humphrey Wakefield in restoring Lough Cutra Castle decades ago.
Mr.W.M. Quinn, Church Street, Gort wrote a piece on the gate lodge last occupier Joe Dooley that appeared in The Guaire Magazine Issue 6 1979. In it he wrote “The Big House, demolished in 1941 even today brings sighs of regret. Let this not be the fate of the quaint lodge with its angular porch and white washed walls and olde world atmosphere that cannot be replaced. May it live on as a symbol of a great lady (Lady Augusta Gregory) and a great family – the Dooley’s of Coole”.
Thanks to the efforts of owner Robin Marcus who recognised the gate lodge as an important part of the heritage of Gort and Coole, saved it from a demolition order and with the help of expert craftsmen has returned it to the remarkable historic building that it is today.
The restoration of Coole Gate Lodge was funded entirely by Robin Marcus. He was unable to obtain any funding to help with the restoration work of this historic building because he was told there was no funding available at the time. The Marcus family are glad to have saved Coole Gate Lodge which is the last remaining one of the former Coole Estate. It is the only remaining habitable building of the former Coole Estate and importantly the last remaining link to Lady Gregory. Its significance to the history of Coole and Lady Gregory is unquestionable. Coole Gate Lodge is listed under the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage Buildings of Ireland.