Left Without a Handkerchief

Robert O’Byrne

Regular price €18.00

Lilliput Press, 2022
Paperback, 224 pages

On the afternoon of Wednesday, 10 January 1923, Lulu Bagwell wrote to her mother-in-law Harriet informing her the family house had been destroyed in a blaze earlier that morning. Lulu and the children had been obliged to stand shivering at gunpoint on the lawn watching the conflagration, the raiders responsible for the fire only leaving when it was too late to save Marlfield. Afterwards she discovered her handbag and all the family’s overcoats had been stolen. ‘We hadn’t even a handkerchief,’ she lamented, ‘everything has gone.’

A key source for this story will be under-explored material held by the national archives of both Ireland and Britain. Correspondence back and forth, between claimants and the relevant authorities, reveal the extent of suffering experienced by those whose houses had been burnt, often shock that the local community, of which they had thought themselves part, displayed little concern in the aftermath of their devastation. These official documents will be supplemented by other material: letters, diaries, memoirs, some of it coming directly from descendants of the house owners and not previously shared in public.


Robert O’Byrne, a trustee of the Apollo Foundation and the Artists’ Collecting Society, is author of more than a dozen books. These include The Last Knight: A Tribute to Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin (2013) and Hugh Lane 1875–1915 (2000, 2018). He writes an award-winning blog, ‘The Irish Aesthete’.