Raising the Carrolls

Building was in Willie Carroll's blood and one of his first projects as an architect was to redesign the family home at Ballybeg. His great-grandnephew, Eric Shaw, traces the career of the Clarecastle man.

William R Carroll was born at Abbeyview, Ballybeg, on May 18, 1850. His father was William Carroll, builder and timber merchant. His mother was Catherine Ryan of 10, The Mall, Ennis. There were seven children in the family, four of whom survived into adulthood. their father planted an apple tree at Abbeyview on the birth of each child and that little orchard, often raided by the children of Clarecastle, remained there until 1976 when the house was sold out of the family.

Carroll Senior was connected with the construction of many public buildings in Ennis. The O'Connell Monument, the spire of Ennis Cathedral, Carrolls' Bridge, the first Franciscan church, the metal bridge on the Quin Road, Ennis Railway Station and the chapel and classrooms for the Sisters of Mercy - now the County Museum - where some of the works he undertook. He also built Ballyea Church and some of the buildings associated with Ennis Workhouse.

Willie Carroll qualified as an architect and followed his father into the family business. One of his early projects was to redesign the family home at Ballybeg. This was a single-storey thatched farmhouse dating back to about 1840. he converted it into a two storey, three bay, gabled-ended house with wallhead dormers and an unusual window design.

His best known building in Ennis is the present Franciscan church. The church that had been built by his father in the 1850s had become too small.

In 1879, Fr James White became superior of the order in Ennis and conceived the idea of building a new church. Fundraising started with trips to America and it became necessary to buy additional land to gain access to the Causeway.

The Clare Journal of December 1, 1884, announced that William Carroll Junior had designed the new church.

The plans had been placed for viewing by the public and Carroll had designed the building on the gothic mixed with some distinctly Irish features in white limestone. The first Mass was celebrated in the new church in May, 1886, and the Carroll family donated a number of stained glass windows in memory of family members.

Willie Carroll married Kathleen Perry, daughter of William Perry, in 1891. Kathleen had been born in Barrow in England in 1870 but grew up in Ennis where he sister, Josephine, was to become Mother Xavier of the Sisters of Mercy.

Willie's sister, Mary, had married George Perry of Fomerla in 1884, thus doubling the connection with the Perry family.

The Carrolls moved to live at Bruges in Belgium where Willie carried on his practic as an architect. But he kept up his connection with Clare, coming to Lahinch each year for his holidays and to visit his Carroll and Perry relatives. He was a founder member of Lahinch Golf Club.

The Clare Journal of 11 April, 1910, made the following announcement: “With unfeigned regret, we have to announce today the death of Mr William R Carroll, CE and architect, son of the late Mr William Carroll, Ballybeg, Ennis, which occurred on Friday from pneumonia, after a brief illness, in Brussels.
The news of his early demise will come as a shock to his very many friends in his native county, for it was wholly unexpected, the sad news following fast on the first intimation of his illness.

“Mr Carroll was associated, after he had completed his apprenticeship, with his father in many works, in this and other counties, and of those the best known is the handsome Franciscan church of this town, which was built under his supervision, and from his plans. He left Ennis to reside in the Continent some years ago, but paid occasional visits to Clare, with his family.

“Mr Carroll's kindly, genial temperament made him popular with all classes. Upright and straightforward in character, one had but to know him to realise and full appreciate his personal worth. He was a sterling friend and, in many circles, the news of his passing away will be heard with genuine sorrow. We tender our sincerest sympathy to his bereaved widow and family in their great affliction.”

The couple had two children, Louis and Yvonne. Following Willie's death, Kathleen moved to London with the children. Louis qualified as a doctor but died at the age of 28 during an influenza epidemic.

Yvonne went into banking with Westminster Bank and retired in October, 1949. She continued to have business interests in Ennis and was annual visitor to the town, staying at the old Ground Hotel until the early 1970s. She died in Tonbridge Wells in November, 1984. She was the last of the Carroll name.

Courtesy of the Clare Champion
May 2003