Dundrum House, photo Dominic McElroy

It is said that the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, is the place where the veil between worlds is at the thinnest in all of Ireland. Just a few miles away is Dundrum House, with a bloodied and chequered past, that remains very much in the present – the veil lifted and the ghostly remains of curses, insanity and haunting stepping firmly through.

Dundrum House and the Maude Family History

The area around Dundrum was owned by the O’Dwyers of Kilnamanagh. During Cromwellian occupation, Phillip O’Dwyer captured Cashel with his followers in 1641 which led to more retaliation across Munster. After a number of battles Phillip O’Dwyer of Dundrum was sentenced to death. He cheated the gallows however, by dying before he could be executed. His lands were taken from his kin and given to the Maude family.

The first Maude to gain the lands at Dundrum was Sir Anthony Maude, said to be a drummer in Cromwell’s army, although the title suggests a much higher rank. These were clan lands, stolen ancient lands – did this begin the downfall of the Maude bloodline?

Anthony Maude was made High Sheriff of Tipperary and was succeeded by his only son Robert, who was made Baron of Dundrum and Dundrum House Estate was built in 1730. He in turn left the the estate to his eldest son, Sir Thomas Maude, who was born in 1727, and died at the age of 50. As we are soon to discover, his final years were hell on Earth…

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

Thomas Maude

What do we know of Thomas Maude? He maintained a life of nobility grandeur with little time for the normal things in life. So much so, he never married, not even to create an heir.

Such was his holding over the area he even had his own private waiting room at Dundrum station. His wife was power and control was his mistress, stopping at nothing to retain his hold over Tipperary as High Sheriff and to keep the common man down. The worse his deeds, the greater his rewards. In 1768 he became a member of the Privy Council of Ireland, who held executive power. In 1776 he was granted the Baronetcy of Hawarden, with the title of Baron de Montalt, which meant little to the man who was by this stage, almost completely insane.

Thomas Maude died on 17 May 1777, unmarried and with no heirs, so the property passed to his younger brother Cornwallis, and thereafter to his son. The family home in County Tipperary remained until 1909 when it was sold to a religious order. Unsurprisingly, the Maude family spent very little time in their Irish home, preferring the less controversial surroundings of their English estate.

Lady Clementina Maude, Viscountess Hawarden

The last Maude to reside in Dundrum House was Lady Clementina Maude, Viscountess Hawarden, by marriage. During her time in Tipperary, she turned to portrait photography and became a recognised photographer in her own right until her unexpected death in 1864, with works continuing to sell under auction and shown in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Many of her photographs were of her young daughters, taken in Dundrum House. She cleared rooms on the first floor and created various “theatrical sets” posing her daughters and other subjects in various “scenes.”

While her techniques were applauded, critics could see an edge to her work. Professor Carol Mavor, who studied and wrote extensively on Lady Hawarden said “Hawarden’s pictures raise significant issues of gender, motherhood, and sexuality as they relate to photography’s inherent attachments to loss, duplication and replication, illusion, fetish.”

Could it be the curse of Dundrum House and the lingering shade of Thomas Maude were creeping into the very essence of Clementina, touching her with a confusion and darkness of her own?

Interestingly, as we will see shortly, it would appear that the children continue to run around the first floor, full of frivolity in their roles as models for the Victorian photographer.

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey
Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

Dundrum House after the Maude Dynasty

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

After the last of the Maude family left the property, in 1909 Dundrum House was acquired by a religious order of nuns, who later established a school which had a strict ethos and was known as an industrial school, although it carried the more delicate title of Domestic College.

More than one nun was allegedly removed from educational duties due to their less than godly personas and treatment of students. Pupils of the school and their families have come forward and detailed their torment and suffering at the hands of the religious order and many remain in therapy as a result.

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

From here it became a hotel owned by the Crowe family. Those who visited the house in its hotel incarnation, will have noticed the stained glass windows in the cocktail bar. A room of prayer became a location for late nights and spirits of the noon ethereal variety. While the golf resort and restaurant continue to flourish, Dundrum House itself has been closed to the living for several years.

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

Father Nicholas Sheehy

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

Father Nicholas Sheehy was a local priest who was very outspoken against Penal Laws and what was known as the Tithes. These were extortionate taxes taken from the Catholic community and paid to the Protestant Church. What happened to him was in essence, judicial murder and it was all at the blood covered hands of Thomas Maude.

Nicholas Sheehy was born in Fethard, County Tipperary and entered the priesthood, completing his education in France and becoming ordained in 1750 where he remained in the parishes surrounding Dundrum.

Father Sheehy became an advocate of the Catholic Community who were being left destitute and marginalised by the Penal Laws, which saw Catholic tenants evicted from their homes and common farmland by Anglo-Irish landlords. He was very outspoken regarding the loss of common land that the poor would grow crops and graze cattle on and the tithes (taxes) that were taken under duress from the already suffering local community, used to bankroll the Protestant Church.

Nicholas became more active in the cause. He raised money to cover legal costs for those arrested for rioting and in particular, for the members of the group known as The Whiteboys. These were a fraternity with sects across the country.

Non denominatory, their aim was to cause civil unrest and claim back the lands taken from the locals. The Whiteboys would destroy fencing and walls to open communal lands back up, however as their notoriety grew, so did their level of violence and fearfulness.

Father Nicholas had become a thorn in the side of the wealthy local landlords and Protestant Church, not only for his assistance and voice for The Whiteboys, but his because of his connections with France and Rome. Those in power were aware of the Continent’s sympathies with the Catholics and the oppression they lived under. They were afraid that those with connections would bring in reinforcements and the balance of power could change. Father Nicholas Sheehy had to go.

Trials and Execution

The Tipperary priest was subjected to three trials in total, in a bid to remove him from his position in the community and weaken the local cause. The first trial in Dublin saw him accused of sedition in conjunction with The Whiteboys, however he was found not guilty.

Straight away, Father Sheehy was accused of being complicit in the murder of a man called John Bridge, which rapidly turned into a charge of High Treason. Nicholas remained in hiding for sometime, including spending nights in the farmhouse of a sympathetic Protestant farmer. He surrendered himself on the condition the trial would once again take place in Dublin, after which he was once again acquitted.

Thomas Maude was outraged. As High Sheriff, he plotted with the Rector of Clogheen and local landlords to bring Nicholas Sheehy down once and for all. In a carefully orchestrated plan, created in the Drawing Room of his home, Maude got the trial transferred to Clonmel, rigged the jury and had witnesses commit perjury on the stand, including Moll, a local prostitute who claimed to have witnessed the murder.

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey


The judge sentenced Father Nicholas Sheehy to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Father Sheehy’s attorney on hearing the sentence of death turned to the jurors and said, “If there is any justice in heaven you will die roaring”.

Nicholas Sheehy said in his final speech, after he was sentenced to death, that he was being put to death for a crime which had never been committed. John Bridge, the man, said to have been murdered, was seen in Cork after the date of the alleged murder, whereupon he emigrated, oblivious to his role in the murder of a priest.

When handing down the sentence, the judge said “You shall be hanged, drawn and quartered and may God have mercy on your soul and grant you sight of the enormity of your crime”

Father Sheehy thanked the judge and hoped for the same, as he was confident of his innocence. Father Sheehy delivered an eloquent and well-reasoned protest against “the shameful injustice, the gross perjury, and the deadly malice of which we are the victims,” and concluded by declaring: “I leave it to God to distinguish between the innocent and the guilty.”

The condemned priest was executed with Ned Meehan of Grange, who allegedly struck the supposed victim over the head with a hook. Father Sheehy’s cousin Buck Sheehy who appeared as a witness, was hanged two months later, along with James Buxton and James Farrell in front of their families for the same murder.

Nicholas was hung on a scaffold in Clonmel opposite St. Peters and Paul’s Church. His head was severed and set on a spike over Clonmel jail as a warning against to others.

His sister Catherine, regularly called over the years, looking for his head which she was eventually given. She took it home in a bag under her arm and had it buried with the rest of his body.

Father Sheehy was very much respected as a local healer. It was said he healed the sick using secret herbal cures, much like the accused witch Biddy Early of County Clare which is fairly ironic as the Catholic Church were responsible for her demise.

To this day Father Sheehy is regarded as a martyr. People visited his grave at Shanrahan cemetery to take the clay that encased him, because it was said to have healing powers. The priest was at peace and revered, his innocence never in doubt.

The same cannot be said of Thomas Maude and those complicit in his heinous crime. It appears that Father Sheehy wasn’t entirely forgiving, and a curse was put on Maude, that he would go insane, slowly being dragged to hell by the wronged priest and as a lunatic, he would grow a tail so he could never sit down. In additions, the other participants would die unnatural and unholy deaths as a punishment for the parts they played.

Whether the priest, his legal counsel, his sister or The Whiteboys invoked a curse, there is no doubt one was cast, as all those responsible began to fall one by one…

John Bagwell, became senile, incapable of speech and rational thought. For years before his death he imagined that he saw the headless Sheehy at his elbow.

William Bagnell shot himself, while Mathew Jacob died from a violent epileptic fit. William Barker dropped dead on the street and Shaw choked to death.

Ferris, a draper of Clonmel, went completely insane. John Dunville was kicked to death by his horse and Alexander Hoops drowned in a stream after a manic episode.

Minchin, died a destitute beggar, ridden with disease. Osborn Tothall of Clonmel, cut his own throat, his family prevented from burying him in the graveyard by locals.

Jonathan Willington died in agony on the toilet. Witness for the prosecution Moll Dunlea, a prostitute, fell down into a cellar and cracked her skull.

Other prosecution witnesses died in agony of various diseases including leprosy. After Father Sheey’s beheading, loyal parishioners dipped their hands in his blood and used it to make the sign of the cross on the door of the Protestant Church House. The hangman Darby Brahan was some time later stoned to death by an outraged crowd in county Kilkenny.

Thomas Maude himself slowly spiralled into madness over ten years, as predicted and his staff said he did indeed, produce a tail. He was convinced Sheehy was pulling him slowly into the flames of Hades and eventually died in his bedroom, alone. It was said that once in his coffin and loaded onto the hearse, the horses refused to move their evil load. His corpse was instead said to have been bricked up in a closet in his chamber, his coffin filled with stones. A tad exaggerated perhaps, as no skeleton was ever recovered, but his room was indeed sealed off…

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

Bird Omens and Dundrum House

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

One of the accounts associated with Dundrum House involves birds as omens, harbingers of death and doom. And strangely, on an earlier walk around the property as we were conducting a paranormal investigation, a crow kept stopping to make sure we were following it right to the entrance of the old hotel, at which point our K2 meter (which had earlier been dormant as there was no electrical source here) lit up continuously until the bird flew away.

When Father Sheehy was sent for execution at the hand of Thomas Maude of Dundrum House, part of the curse was that no bird would fly over Dundrum until Maude was dead. It is also said that for all the time the severed head of Father Sheehy remained on a spike outside Clonmel Gaol, no bird would go near it, while other heads were picked apart by crows and ravens.

Crows and Ravens have long been emblematic of death, made all the more foreboding by their predisposition to feed on carrion, the decaying flesh of animals, as well as their black plumage.

These birds were purported to be chaperones, guiding the souls of the departed into the next world as well as conduits between this world and the spirit plain.

In Ireland there are references going back to ancient times and in Celtic folklore, The goddess Morrigan is symbolised by a crow. She is a goddess of battle, strife and sovereignty and a harbinger of doom for those men who dare cross her path.

No corporeal weapons were needed in order for the Morrigan to take her prey. She relied solely on magic and her ability to shapeshift at will and is known primarily for appearing as a crow to those at death’s door.

The belief has continued over the centuries that when a single raven or crow has appeared at a house, tapping on the window, a death within was looming. Thrushes flying in the window and settling and white owls seen during the day are also signs of impending doom.


Ghosts of Dundrum House

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

Thomas Maude’s ghost is said to sit on a tree in the estate, watching, beady eyed, a maniacal, crazed expression on his face. Moll Dunlea, the prostitute who was bribed to bear false witness against Father Sheehy remains forever tied to the Estate. She lingers on the road bridge over the river adjacent to Dundrum House, hence its name Black Bridge. She she is said to revisit over and over again, unable to change the fate she made for herself.

That’s outside, but what remains inside Dundrum House?

One wonders if the darkness and madness that seep into the stonework affected the nuns within, a battle of good versus evil. Did this impact the behaviour of the women who treated the children in their care with cruelty and brutality?

Once Dundrum House became a hotel, accounts of supernatural experiences became rife. Thomas Maude’s room had to be unblocked, and a worker felt he was enveloped in an icy chill and did not feel himself thereafter, to this day believing something not of this world was released.

A guest was checking out of the main old building of Dundrum House and told the receptionist she felt sorry for the woman who had the children running up and down the hall all night long. The female guest had been the only person staying in the main house. The daughters of Clementina Maude perhaps?

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

Another guest had telephoned his girlfriend in terror begging her to come and get him. Apparently no calls he made from his room would go through to reception and the hotel room door just would not open. His girlfriend called the hotel, who entered the room to find the man huddled in a corner, crying and shaking.

A fire broke out in the hotel kitchen a few years ago, forcing the closure of the hotel building, however this did not stop the activity.

Richard, the manager of Dundrum House, was escorting a few people from Head Office around the property. While doing so, he playfully pressed on the ring for service button by the fireplace in the drawing room, four times – a futile gesture, as the power was disconnected throughout the house. When they reached the reception, they all distinctly heard four rings in sequence from the drawing room, too terrified to turn around and see who, or what required their assistance…

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

The restaurant and self catering premises as well as the golf course remain successful, yet staff will not enter the main house itself out of fear. With my team, Irish Paranormal Investigations, we decided to investigate Dundrum House over a few visits, determined to find out why.

A couple of hours in and it was turning out to be one of the creepiest locations we have ever investigated. Temperature drops, moaning, footsteps, doors banging, and this was just the beginning! As Thomas Maude lived out his final days here descending into madness, cursed by a priest he had executed, damned to hell – it’s not surprising there was more to come.

The drawing room was full of activity – Thomas Maude seemed to be present and not pleased to have the subject of Father Sheehy raised under his roof, particularly as this was the place his horrors had begun. Despite knowing the layout of the three connecting ground floor rooms well, it took us three times to get out, each time unnerving us further, as if Maude was trying to show us how he felt descending into madness. Suddenly, the spell was broken and we could leave, a weight lifting from our shoulders and the air around us. The picture of Dundrum was a big trigger for activity too, the speaking of the name itself drawing a reaction on multiple occasions.

Dundrum House, photo FLIR Thermal Imaging Camera from HiTechniques Ireland.

Our investigation saw us chasing hotspots on the thermal imaging camera, only for us to reach the location and be subjected to haunting groans. Our motion sensor seemed to be active when asking questions directly to Thomas Maude about his destruction of Father Sheehy – validated as our FLIR thermal imagining camera showed the device lighting up like a firework!

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

As we heard footsteps above us, we headed for the stairs and the FLIR showed an image of an arm or outstretched hand on the banister, a usual sight for an investigator, as one would see our images reflected in windows and mirrors – except for the fact we hadn’t reached the staircase before this point and no one had grabbed that handrail for months, if not years…

Dundrum House, photo FLIR Thermal Imaging Camera from HiTechniques Ireland.

So there we were, sensors on the counter in the cocktail bar, a bit of daylight still creeping in. The last light of dusk poking through thr stained glass windows, shadows stretching and dancing across the floor, a sharp contrast to the dark of the former mortuary room beside it.

Dundrum House, Photo Ann Massey

All was quiet until we mentioned to whoever could hear, that when Thomas Maude died, it was said the horses would not take his coffin from the grounds and his corpse was returned to the house. This tale did not go down well it seems, as our sensor was lighting up in alarm for some time…

In the attic rooms, Dominic was feeling sick and a fight or flight instinct kicked in, something that has never happened before or since. We heard strange sounds, smelled nasty, unidentifiable odours and there was a really heavy, ominous presence, in the dark of night and even in the failing light of day.

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

The cellar we had been told, was the subject of many a creepy encounter for staff and patrons over the years. For the first time ever, I had a physical reaction in a location. Dizziness, stomach pains and weakness, all of which disappeared the second I left the room. We had equipment not working properly but fully operational when used after leaving the cellar.

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey
Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey

We had so much more happen besides and it is quite frankly, one of the strangest places we have investigated. My personal feeling is that Thomas Maude very much remains, still as insane and paranoid as he was when he passed away. The curse of Father Sheehy on the Maude family seems to have transcended death and firmly remains within the walls of Dundrum House.

Our thanks to the staff and management of Dundrum House for their hospitality and stories. Our thanks to HiTechniques Ireland for the loan of the FLIR E60 Thermal Imaging Camera. See a bit more of our investigation on YouTube at Dundrum House Irish Paranormal Investigations

Follow Irish Paranormal Investigations on Facebook for more of our amazing locations and exploits athttps://www.facebook.com/Irishparanormalinvestigations/

Dundrum House, photo Ann Massey