Once upon a time deep in the heart of the beautiful Ulster countryside in the Parish of Tullylish lived a beautiful happy young girl called Dorothea (Dolly) Monroe. Dolly was the daughter of Henry Monroe, regarded as a minor country gentry who lived in the family home of Roes Hall, County Down.
Molly as she was known had six sisters, Frances, Mary, Ann, Isabella and Louise. She also had an Aunt Frances (sister of her father) who was quite a social climber. Aunt Frances Monroe had married the Earl of Luftus and lived in Rathfarnam Castle, South Side, Dublin. She was seen as the political influencer to Luftus who became High Sheriff of Wexford and held a seat in Irish House of Commons. Unfortunately Aunt Frances had a childless marriage.
Did Dolly’s dad give Aunt Frances the pick of his girls to rear and did she choose Dolly for her beauty and charm?
Dolly was whisked away off to Rathfarnam Castle, South side, Dublin to live and become part of her Aunt’s influential social and political circles. She soon had numerous admirers. Artists loved to paint her; young romantics adored her; noble widowed men pampered to her and newspapers followed her every move. This simple beautiful teenage maiden.
As Dolly grew she became more and more unhappy with this high society lifestyle of Dublin. Used as a political pawn to advance Lord Luftus’s political career was the last straw so she left Dublin and returned to Ulster.
True romance soon blossomed in the rolling hills of County Armagh and Dolly was to meet the love of her life William Richardson of Richhill Castle & Estate, County Armagh. They married in 1775 and settled in the Richardson Castle in the small rural village of Richhill. The people of Richhill were in awe of this beauty and while they admired her every turn Dolly was free to live a romantic gentry lifestyle as the lady of Richhill Castle and wife of the High Sherriff of County Armagh.
The highlight of the week for the villagers was to peek at the beauty of the young Dolly as she and her husband William left the Castle on the hill in a fine horse drawn carriage for Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh City just 6 miles away for church service.
Sadly Dolly’s life in the “Castle on the Hill” was short lived and Dolly took ill and died in the year 1775 aged 39 childless.
Today we can visit the grave of sweet Dolly Monroe in the nearby Kilmore Anglican Church hilltop overlooking the rolling drumlins to the ancient City of Armagh.
Richhill Castle still stands as “the castle on the hill” in the pretty orchard village of Richhill, County Armagh.
Hope you enjoy this bite size piece on life in rural 18th century County Armagh in Ulster. To learn a lot more about the landed gentry and their castles I am planning to run a selection of Armagh Village Walking Tours in 2021 when the time is right - so keep an eye on my website.
Your Local Tour Guide