History of Burgage
The house at Burgage was built about 1770 by the Rev Edward Vigors (1747–97) who was Curate of the local Old Leighlin Cathedral. He descended from a family that came to Cork in 1615 from Holloden in North Devon. The Vigors family, being Huguenot, had previously been forced from their estate near Caen in Normandy. The property at Burgage remained in the Vigors ownership until 1978 when it was sold to the present family. The generations of Vigors families were well respected and fair landowners whose members also pursued careers in the Church, the Army, and the Colonial Service.
In 1880 and 1881 two sisters were born at Burgage. The first, Kathleen Mary Vigors (1880–1973) was later mother of Sir Wilfred Thesiger (1910–2003). He was both a remarkable and unusual individual but undoubtably a passionate advocate against the wrongs in a rapidly changing Western world culture and all it stood for. Thesiger was an original environmentalist and a fierce anti–globalist. Sadly, much of what he prophesized has come to pass. He was renowned for his travel writing and photography that took him to some of the most inaccessible places on earth. He wrote with impeccable prose and described the places and events with great clarity. His first travel book “Arabian Sands “(1959) was an immense and immediate success. David Attenborough reflected that Thesiger was “one of the very few people who in our time could be put on the pedestal of the great explorers of the 18th and 19th centuries”. Thesiger was unmarried and died on August 24th, 2003.
The other sister Eileen Esmee Vigors (1881–1955) became mother of Stephen Ward (1912–1963). He trained and practiced as an osteopath. Ward’s polished manners and charming personality attracted a wide clientele from the worlds of politics, society and show business. Ward was a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair that rocked the Conservative government of Harold McMillian and led to its defeat a year later. It made John Profumo and Christine Keeler household names. It was perhaps the biggest scandal of British political history, and which led to Stephen Ward committing suicide by overdosing the night before the last day of his trail at the Old Bailey. Fortunately, Ward’s mother did not have to endure this public shame having died in 1955. Sir Wilfred Thesiger and Stephen Ward were first cousins that could hardly have been more contrasting in their virtues.
Terence ‘Tel’ Vigors (1919–1998) inherited Burgage following the sudden death of his uncle Edward (1878–1945) on the lawn at Burgage. Terence Vigors father Ludlow Ashmead (1884– 1968) and Edward were brothers of aforementioned sisters Kathleen and Eileen, and all were born at Burgage. The boys had attended Eton and Edward was an exceptionally brilliant academic. He became Principal Clerk to the House of Lords. Edward lived at Burgage and commuted via mailboat to Liverpool and train to London. He died without issue. Terence Vigors father was brought up in Leicestershire, fought in World War 1, became partner in a London stockbroking firm. As a result of his success on the stock market he purchased a property named Tullemaine Castle in Co.Tipperary in the 1930’s.
Terence Vigors served with distinction in the Royal Air Force during WW2. At the end of hostilities, he returned to Ireland and took up his inheritance at Burgage which he established as a successful stud farm. Vigors was a member of the Turf Club and National Hunt Committee and was Senior Steward of both (Turf Club 1966). He was a leading figure in Irish racing circles. He hunted the Carlow Hounds for six seasons during the Mastership of Mrs. Hall (“the Missus”) who had this pack for forty odd years, one of the longest Masterships in Ireland. Terence Vigors returned to England following the sale of Burgage and purchased Kingwood Stud near Lambourn. His son Nicky (former Flat trainer and later Jockey Club Official) is father of Charlie Vigors of Hillwood Stud, and his daughter Gillian is mother of NH trainer Tom George. Terence Vigors and his wife died peacefully on the same day, June 23rd, 1998.
Tim Vigors (1921–2003) was a younger brother to Terence. Born in Hatfield, Hertfordshire but brought up at Tullemaine Castle and was a keen follower of the hunt. He joined the RAF in 1939 and was quickly trained to fly Spitfires. Tim Vigors was one of the many young and brave fighter pilots that defended Britain against the large–scale attacks and the might of the Luftwaffe Messerschmitt 109’s for the Battle of Britain (1940). Between June 20th and November 2nd, 1940, Vigors was instrumental in destroying or damaging 16 German aircraft and had won a DFC. He was only 19 years old. His autobiography “Life’s Too Short to Cry” recounts his life as a Spitfire fighter pilot and how “extreme fear” was “quickly replaced by an overwhelming desire for self–preservation” when faced with the enemy. The book is a lively read and testifies to his zest for life in the fast lane.
After the war Tim Vigors set up a photographic agency, then joined bloodstock auctioneers Goffs. In 1951 he established Tim Vigors Bloodstock agency with Tom Cooper. This company later developed into the BBA Ireland. Vigors was a leading bloodstock agent in the 1960’s and was one of the early pioneers of sourcing American–bred yearlings in Kentucky to race in Europe. He quickly recognized the sport’s international possibilities. Vigors had considerable flair and energy whilst developing a reputation for flamboyance. In 1968 he inherited Coolmore near Fethard which his late father had purchased in 1945 and where hehad trained racehorses and stood stallions. Tim Vigors rapidly started to build Coolmore into an important public stud through the acquisition of high–profile stallion prospects such as the Arc winner Rheingold. The trainer Vincent O’Brien was an old acquaintance, and they formed a partnership. By 1975 Vigors had sold the farm outright to the nascent alliance of Sangster/O’Brien/Magnier. Vigors retired to Spain but returned to work in the bloodstock world. He managed the hugely successful stallion Indian Ridge and was racing adviser to Cartier. Consistent with his sense of adventure, Vigors was married four times and lived his life to the full. He died on November 14th, 2003.
On November 28th,1978 Burgage was sold and thus ended the Vigors association with this property. The reason I have written this piece is that even though I have no relationship with the Vigors family, we live in the same house that several generations of the Vigors family were born in, lived their lives in, and ended their days in. We occupy the same rooms, use the same solid doors, tread the very staircases, and admire the surrounding grounds. They enjoyed the same view of Mount Leinster and the pastoral setting that we do now. The same River Barrow flows powerfully yet silently past and many of the same majestic trees still come to life each Spring before showing off their Autumnal glory as they await Winter. Nothing has changed.