Grand, generous lady of the old school

Grace Carroll was a woman whose philanthropic instincts were reminiscent of another age.

Grace Carroll was a woman whose philanthropic instincts were reminiscent of another age.

Her great grandfather founded the Dundalk-based tobacco manufacturers, P J Carroll & Co in 1824. She was born on June 24th, 1919, the only child of James M. Carroll, then chairman of the company, and Helena Hearn, of London.

She grew up in Killineer House, a gracious Regency home, near Drogheda, in Co Louth, where she lived for the rest of her life. Her wealth was to set her somewhat apart. She was educated in Hertfordshire, and she never married.

Although immensely proud of her connection with the family firm - now owned by Rothmans International - and a shareholder, she was never directly involved in the running of it. Instead, she became involved with the Order of Malta, of which her father had been president.


She was the first woman in this country to be appointed Dame Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion, Sovereign Military Hospitaller, Order of Malta. This was in recognition of her work and fundraising for those with disabilities in Drogheda.

A motivator, more latterly, she was instrumental in helping fund The Village, a training centre for those with special needs, built at a cost of £1.3 million, in the former Presentation Convent. She - and her late father - will be depicted in stained-glass windows in the inter-denominational church there.

A devout and conservative Catholic with a private oratory in her home, she travelled to Lourdes every year with the Order, even bringing a mop with her to work in the kitchens. She was a cousin of Dom Colomba Marmion, the Benedictine abbot, who died in 1918, and whose cause for canonisation she actively supported. She was also passionate about gardening. Her fine gardens at Killineer were renowned, and featured last year in Country Life magazine. Laid out in a traditional style, they consist of a series of terraces dropping away from the house and include an ornamental lake as well as a rare laurel lawn.

She was an elegant woman with a tight-knit circle of friends, who enjoyed socialising. She hunted for years with the Louths, had a string of dogs and regularly attended country house sales.

She was a grand lady in the old sense who held herself with some reserve; this was sometimes misinterpreted, and belied a generosity of spirit.

Grace Carroll: born 1919; died November, 1999