Introduction to Laois “Planxty Gandon”

One of the aim of Japan Tour by Irish musicians is to share new Irish music composed by Michael Rooney, “The Spirit of Laois Suite” with new Japanese audiences. “The Spirit of Laois Suite” consists of six pieces and “Planxty Gandon” is the third piece from the Suite. Gandon was a famous architect from England and a major influence on a number of buildings in Laois including Emo Court and Coolbanagher church.

James Gandon (1743-1823) had reached the age of 40 by the time he arrived in Ireland in April 1781 to start work on the Custom House. With the Custom House, the House of Lords extension, the Four Courts and the King’s Inn and Carlisle Bridge, he was to radically alter the centre of Dublin in what was a golden age for architecture in the city.

He had been born in London in 1742 of Huguenot stock. He joined the office of William Chambers where he was an apprentice for seven years. Here he absorbed Chamber’s conservative and academic taste. Like his master he hated the Greeks, admired the Romans, and looked to the French particularly for the discipline of their fastidious masonry.

In 1768 he had been beaten into second place in the competition for the Royal Exchange in Dublin. He had made a number of important Irish contacts in London. John Beresford asked him for drawings for a new Custom House, a building which in time came to be described as ‘the glory of Dublin’. Gandon continued to live in Ireland after his retirement.

James Gandon designed Emo Court  in 1790 for the Earls of Portarlington in County Laois and is a magnificent example of a neo-classical mansion. During the middle of the 20th century it was owned by the Jesuits, it was then acquired and extensively restored by Mr. Cholmeley-Harrison in the 1960s. The house is surrounded by beautiful gardens and parkland which were first laid out in the 18th century and contain formal lawns, a lake and woodland walks with many very fine trees and shrubs. The house and gardens were taken into State ownership in 1994. Emo Court House attracts visitors from all over the country and beyond.

Department of Housing, Planning and Local Goverment
Emo Court


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