Marlagh Lodge is first mentioned in the Ordinance Survey map of 1857.
The valuation of c.1859 tells us that it was at that point occupied by
Henry Hutchinson Hamilton O’Hara
and ‘all new and in superior order’. It is probable that Henry,
one of the more colourful characters in the history of Ballymena, built the house.
Marlagh Lodge in the early 20th Century
Henry was a member of the gentry O’Hara family of
Crebilly Castle, one of the few houses in Northern Ireland
to be burnt down during the Troubles of the 1920s. During
his early life, his mother fell ill and Henry engaged the
services of a French maid, Madeleine, to care for her. In
time, Henry married Madeleine and subsequently sent her back
to France to bring her parents to live in London. While she
was away, Henry declared that the marriage, having been conducted
by a Catholic priest (the O’Hara family had converted
to Anglicanism), was null and void. He then married a beautiful
local girl, but she died shortly after.
House Party outside Crebilly House
Crebilly House Garden Front
Henry then sent to London for Madeleine and they lived together for some years. According to local tradition, Madeleine never found out that Henry had married another woman while she was safely out of the way! They had a son, Henry, but the Squire soon became unsettled and again sent Madelaine and their son to stay with her parents in London. He then married for a third time - a Miss Dufferin, daughter of a local footman. After some time, Madeleine, suspicious at the lack of contact from her husband, returned uninvited to Ballymena. She was confronted not only by the new Lady O’Hara, but also by a new son (also called Henry). Henry disowned Madeleine and his first son,
who are reputed to have lived out their days begging.
Henry squandered much of the family fortune.
He earned the
title ‘Fool O’Hara’
because of his incompetent
gambling and love of high living.
Local tradition claims
that his gambling opponents would place him strategically
in front of a mirror in order to spy on his cards!
in 1875 at the young age of 46 - apparently in poverty.
is buried in the churchyard across the road from Marlagh
Lodge and his monument, a marble column, has been deliberately
broken to represent his being ‘decayed gentry’.
For all his shortcomings, however, Henry appears to have
been well liked by his tenants. The local Harryville area
was named after him, but his reputation also lives on in
another way. Tradition tells that he died after being thrown
by his favourite white horse and impaled on the spikes of
the Crebilly Castle gates. There have been many sightings
over the years of a headless man on a white horse, galloping
around the estate on Hallowe’en and just after Christmas,
the anniversary of his death. After his death, Marlagh Lodge passed to his sister and was
Old Marlagh with high wall, copper beeches
and front door on opposite side of porch
Estate workers (?) outside Marlagh
Note Monkey Puzzles(s) and marquee
Marlagh in the 70's after the road was
with copper beeches now outside the wall
Aerial view of Marlagh
in the 60's
before the road was widenened
Marlagh Lodge in 1993
All of the windows were rotten,
the ground floor was suffering from rising damp and rot,
part of the single storey return at the rear was totally derelict
we were faced with a mammoth restoration job both inside
We were adamant that the house should be restored
and completely repaired as sympathetically as possible,
we have tried to ensure that our Marlagh Lodge isn’t
just another modern house in an old shell. We are indebted
to our architects, builders and others who advised and helped
throughout this very stressful 15-month project and hope
that our remedial work will ensure that Marlagh Lodge will
be here to be enjoyed by generations to come.
We hope that
Henry would approve…