The Finlay and Colley families owned the property from the 18th Century until 1959. The house they occupied has gone, but they left behind a rich heritage of mature trees and woodlands, natural water features and gently undulating parkland. The landscape is also a part of the flood plain of the River Camac, which flows through the park. It fed a number of mills in the area which are now in ruins. The adjacent lands contain the ruins of mills which were used for making gunpowder, oil, and various other products.
The former Corkagh House originally started out as a small farmhouse built circa 1650. It was extended between 1702 and 1714 when a large wing was added to the existing building. In its heyday, Corkagh House contained ten bedrooms, a library, a dining room, drawing room, study and anteroom. It provided employment for twenty-five servants, with a further twenty-five employed in the management of the demesne lands. There was a substantial walled garden, a stove house, a number of glass houses, a rose garden, dairy and laundry. A tennis court stood at the front of the house and further out across the front lawn was a ‘ha-ha’, a ditch which prevented livestock from trespassing, while providing an uninterrupted view. The farm outbuildings and barns are still to be seen to the rear of where the house once stood.
Corkagh demesne was owned by the Finlay family, from about the mid eighteenth century. Their ancestor Alexander Finlay moved to Ireland from Scotland in 1568, settling in Co. Cavan. Thomas Finlay (1710-1776) of Corkagh established a bank in Dublin, Thomas Finlay & Co. of Jervis Quay (now Ormonde Quay). Members of the Finlay family were active in the military and politics down through the years. Colonel John Finlay was an MP in the Irish House of Commons from 1776-1783. He was also a leader of the Uppercross Fusiliers. Colonel Finlay’s son, Thomas, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the County Dublin Light Infantry. His grandson Henry Thomas Finlay, born 1847 was a Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 5th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. His three sons followed family tradition by joining the army. Sadly, they were all killed in action, Francis in the South African Wars, and George and Robert in WWI. With the deaths of her three brothers, Henry Finlay’s eldest daughter Edith became the heir to Corkagh. In 1909, she married George Pomeroy Arthur Colley, bringing a new family name to Corkagh.
The Colleys were a distinguished family who arrived in Ireland during the sixteenth century. Edith’s daughter George Pomeroy Colley studied engineering at Trinity College Dublin, which was useful in his hobby, motoring. He was actively involved in the Royal Irish Automobile Club up until his death in 1933. His son, Dudley Colley (1911-1959) shared his father’s passion for motor racing. He also studied engineering at Trinity and was involved in various motoring pranks as a student, including driving across the Ha’penny Bridge in his Baby Austin. When his father died, Dudley took over the farm at Corkagh rather than persuing a career in engineering. His engineering skills were put to good use in setting up a mini hydro-electric scheme which provided electricity for Corkagh House. He also established Corkagh Dairies, including one of the first mechanised bottling plants in Ireland. He did not abandon his racing interests, and in 1946 he became Champion Race Driver of the Year and was the first winner of the Walter Sexton Memorial Trophy.
When Dudley died in 1959, Corkagh estate was put up for auction. The lands of Corkagh Demesne were earmarked for a regional park for the Clondalkin and Tallaght areas in the 1983 Dublin County Development Plan. That year, the lands of Corkagh were acquired by Dublin County Council and the park officially opened in 1986. South Dublin County Council have managed the park since 1994.
For more on Corkagh see Source, particularly The House of Corkagh by Joe Devine and South Dublin County Council’s publication on Corkagh Park. See also the article about Corkagh on Ask About Ireland.