Social and Literary Associations
Cloonee House was used as a hunting lodge by Lord Altamont until 1810 when it was further extended with the addition of two fine wings including a ballroom. The house then passed into the ownership of the Blake family (the Blakes who were Catholic, are honoured among the tribes of Galway). There were a number of other big houses in the Lough Carra and Lough Measc area during the 18th and 19th centuries including Moorehall, the home of John Moore, MP and 'First King of Connaught', and George Augustus Moore (1852-1933).
Novelist, artist and founder of the Abbey Theatre, George Augustus Moore, was born on the other side of Lough Carra in Moorehall, and although spending much of his adult life in Paris and London frequently returned for extended sojourns. George Moore met his future wife Mary Blake at a function in the ballroom of Cloonee House, her family home. Moore's famous novel 'The Lake' is set at Lough Carra and refers to Cloonee House as a 'haven for birds and tranquillity'.
The owners of Cloonee House (The Blakes) and of Moorehall (The Moores) and other such Irish families of the area including the Wildes of Moytura House (near Lough Measc), socialised and entertained each other in their lakeside houses regularly. There are many contemporary accounts of the summer ball season and garden parties by the lake at Cloonee House.
Guests would travel between functions by boat as well as by carriage. In those days the winters were more severe. Lough Carra would often freeze over and social visits between the big houses in winter could be facilitated by ice-skates and ice-sleds! Oscar Wilde was at school between 1864 and 1871 at Portura Royal School in Enniskillen, spending the summer months at Moytura House. According to various biographies, the Wilde brothers played with the young George Moore at Moorehall and at Cloonee House during the summer holidays.
Lady Augusta Gregory, patron of WB Yeats and a founder of the Abbey Theatre, was a member of the Persse family of Roxborough House. She was related through marriage to the Blake family of Cloonee and was a frequent visitor to Cloonee House. The other founder of the Abbey Theatre, Edward Martyn of Tulira Castle near Loughrea, was a regular guest of George and Mary Moore at Moorehall and at Cloonee House.
The Moore, Blake and Wilde families, their descendents, relatives through marriage, friends and associates were part of the major social, cultural and political history of Ireland, not least the Irish cultural and literary revival.
It is known that DH Lawrence spent some months at Cloonee House in 1919 as a guest and availed of its peace and tranquillity to write part of his novel 'Women in Love'.
A more recent owner, Major Ruttledge, wrote the definitive ornithological text 'Birds of Ireland' while living there. The grounds of the house are a natural wildlife and bird sanctuary and Ruttledge was a familiar sight to locals scouting the lakeshore with his binoculars and notebook.