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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 Country House - experience the highest standards of Country House Accommodation and Fine Dining at Marlagh Lodge, Ballymena, Co Antrim - a beautifully restored Country House packed with original period features

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!

He died in 1875 at the young age of 46 - apparently in poverty.

He 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 subsequently sold.

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,

and part of the single storey return at the rear was totally derelict -

we were faced with a mammoth restoration job both inside and out!

We were adamant that the house should be restored

and completely repaired as sympathetically as possible,

and 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 us

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…


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