Willie J Coonan, veteran Kildare auctioneer, dies aged 76

Renowned deal-maker handled sale of over 60 stud farms in the course of 58-year career

Willie J Coonan
July 1943 - April 2020

Had the death of Willie Coonan been announced at any time other than the extraordinary time we are living in right now, there’s little doubt that the attendance at his funeral would have been counted in the hundreds with family, friends and those with whom he had done business over the course of his 58 years as an auctioneer and property agent coming together to pay their respects.

Well known and hugely respected across the commercial and residential real estate sectors, Coonan joined the family business in 1961. Aged just 18 and having just completed the Leaving Certificate at Castleknock College, he served his apprenticeship working for his late mother, Eileen. She herself had taken over the running of the firm in 1948 following the early passing of Willie’s father, Billy. The Coonan practice was by that stage already synonymous with the sale of agricultural lands in Maynooth and its surrounding hinterland, having been established by Willie’s grandfather, Edward A Coonan in 1892.

Lengthy career

Willie Coonan took the helm in 1978 and worked hard, establishing a reputation as an expert in the area of stud farm valuations and sales. Over the course of his lengthy career, he was directly involved in the sale of over 60 stud farms and prestigious properties. While Willie’s son, Will, has headed the company in recent years with business partner Philip Byrne. Willie remained very much involved on a day-to-day basis as a consultant right up until his sudden death at home last week.


Described by those who knew him as a “workaholic” and a “consummate deal-maker”, he was the first agent to achieve in excess of a then-considerable one million pounds for the sale of a farm in the late 1970s. When asked for comment on the sale price afterwards, Willie paraphrased Mark Twain and quipped: “It’s only money, but we are giving you land and they stopped making the stuff a long time ago.”

The rest, as they say, is history, and Coonan for his part, made quite a lot of it when it came to his involvement in the sale of numerous Kildare and Ireland’s most sought-after stud and equestrian properties. Among the many deals in which he was involved were the sales of: Carton House Hotel, Maynooth; Humewood Castle, Wicklow; Greenmount, Limerick (now Limerick Race Course); Ballymacol Stud, Dunboyne; Dollys Grove, Dunboyne; Castlesize, Sallins; Ballymaglassan Stud, Batterstown; Ballysheehan Stud, Cashel; Baroda Stud, Newbridge; Derrinstown Stud, Maynooth; Oldtown Demesne, Naas; Blackhall Stud, Clane; Corbally Stud, Maynooth; Ferrans Stud, Kilcock; Grangecon, Dunlavin; Newtown Stud, Naas, and Leinster Stud, Maynooth.

Willie is survived by his wife Mary and their children Will, Sally and Lisa, sons-in-law Keith and Sam, daughter-in-law Helen, seven grandchildren, his sister Marie, and brother Eddie. While private family funeral arrangements have been made in conjunction with the Government’s Covid-19 lockdown rulings, a more public celebration of his life will be announced when the crisis has ended.

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan is Property Editor of The Irish Times