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Russborough's Haunted History

Who doesn't love a good ghost story? Through the years, from below stairs to the opulence of the Saloon, the darker tales of Russborough's history have been passed on and retold for enjoyable chills and scares to captive audiences.

In the three centuries that Russborough has stood overlooking the West Wicklow landscape, ghostly legends have grown.

Can visitors expect an ectoplasmic encounter around every corner in the Big House? Probably not. But is there more to the strange stories and eerie sightings than we like to think?

The Countess of Milltown.

Is Russborough haunted by the ghost of Lady Geraldine Evelyn Leeson, Countess of Milltown, and widow of the 6th Earl of Milltown who died on Jan 5th 1914? Staff say that they have heard unexplained noises in her bedroom as well as objects mysteriously moving from one day to the next. There have also been reports of apparitions of the face of an elderly woman reflected in the glass of pictures hanging in the room.

The Kildare Observer devoted more than a column to the details of the inquest heldthe day after the Countess’s death.

“Twilight was closing in as the hour for the inquest arrived and the scene around the great house of Russborough seemed in keeping with the sombre circumstances of the passing away of the last bearer of the Milltown title … the deceased lady, whose remains lay in a stately bedroom upstairs, being the widow of the sixth and last earl, and dying without issue.”.

The first witness was Miss Ellen Ryan, housemaid, who said that on the previous day she had entered the Countess’s bedroom along with Miss Kelly the housekeeper. Throughout the morning Lady Geraldine’s breathing was laboured and she was unable to speak. They sent for Dr Morrissey but before he came her breathing seemed to get long and she sank as if going to a sleep and died at about 12 noon.

Geraldine Milltown spent twenty-four years in widowhood following the premature death of her beloved husband Edward Nugent Leeson in 1890. Aware that the Milltown title would die with her, she made what was to be a disastrous attempt to recreate Russborough at the National Gallery of Ireland in memory of her husband.

In 1902 she donated almost the entire contents of the house to the Gallery. Years of painful negotiations and legal wrangling ensued, lasting right up until her death. Her dream that the collection would be kept together, and displayed in full in the newly built Milltown wing were not to be.

Perhaps she can’t leave Russborough with unfinished business….

The soldier

Many people, including visitors, have complained about an uncomfortable mood in Bedroom 9, with one insisting she had seen the ghost of a young man with red hair in military uniform.

Throughout its’ history Russborough has been host to many soldiers. Some lived here and went to war, others, as was the case after the 1798 rebellion and during the twentieth century revolutionary period, were uninvited guests, both rebel and army forces, who occupied the house on numerous occasions.