Lady of Stradbally Hall during time of changing fortunes

Sat, Jun 7, 2008, 01:00

Enid Cosby:ENID ELIZABETH Cosby, who has died at the age of 93, lived at Stradbally Hall for 70 years. She was the daughter of Maj Maurice Chetwode and Enid, née Sinclair, Hamilton of Roundwood, an elegant Georgian house on the side of the Slieve Bloom mountains. She married Maj Errod Ashworth Sidney Cosby in 1934.

The Cosbys have lived at Stradbally since Elizabeth 1st granted them the suppressed Franciscan abbey in 1562.

An account written in the early 18th century describes the extravagant landscaping and building that was undertaken by the family. Even a hermitage was included in the improvements. The family lived beyond their means, though, and to economise went to live in Bristol at one point. They returned soon afterwards, however, "not all of us liking England".

The house has been rebuilt on several occasions, the last time by Charles Lanyon in 1860 in an Italianate style with a ballroom. This imposing design must have been somewhat daunting to Enid Cosby when she arrived there as a 19-year-old bride.

During the second World War, Cosby's husband rejoined his regiment and, because of his knowledge of Russian, acted as an interpreter in the Persian Gulf, while Cosby remained in Stradbally with their children.

In the 1950s, Cosby ran a school for girls. They boarded in the house and were taught by three governesses. The pupils were even allowed to bring their ponies to stay with them on the estate.

Stradbally is a large house and the Cosbys have always been generous in allowing various organisations to use it and the estate. The steam rally has been an annual event for many years and there is a course for hunter trials.

Former British prime minister Edward Heath once accepted an invitation to address a conference of young Conservatives there, but cancelled at the last moment.

For many years the Laois hunt ball was held at Stradbally and it was one of the last large public dances to be held in a private house. Cosby, presiding over these occasions, is remembered as a strikingly beautiful figure wearing the family emeralds. There were also wonderful Christmas parties, with a gigantic decorated tree in the galleried central hall.

Cosby, besides being chatelaine, became a notable breeder of Welsh ponies and was also a well-known judge.

During the 1980s and 1990s, it became increasingly difficult financially to maintain Stradbally Hall. When it rained, buckets had to be placed under the leaks in the big reception rooms. Many paintings were sold, as were the emeralds.

It was not until Cosby's grandson, Thomas, took over the estate that the Stradbally fortunes changed with the hosting of the Electric Picnic music festival, which is now in its fourth year.

Maj Cosby had died in 1984 and Stradbally was inherited by his eldest son, Adrian, who farmed the estate before passing it on to Thomas.

Adrian's brother Ivan, an ecclesiastic of the Church of Ireland Traditional Rites Church, which does not recognise woman priests, conducted the funeral service for his mother in the prayer hall, a room off the vestibule that Lanyon had designed to display the collection of Victorian religious art owned by the family. It is now used by the Traditional Rites Church.

Enid Cosby had her own apartment in the house and lived there until her death.

She is survived by her sons Adrian, Ivan, David and Julian, and her daughter Anthea.

Enid Elizabeth Cosby: born May 5th, 1915; died May 11th, 2008