Emo Court, County Laois was under Jesuit ownership from 1930 until 1969. Now in the hands of the Office of Public Works, the history of Emo dates back to the Earls of Portarlington in the eighteenth century. The first earl, John Dawson, commissioned the building of Emo Court in 1790; it is one of only a few private houses designed by the architect James Gandon. The Portarlington’s sold Emo in 1920 to the Land Commission and the Jesuits purchased the property in 1930, to be used as a novitiate (house of first formation). The Jesuits found Emo in a dilapidated state, with grass growing up through the floorboards. They made significant structural changes in order for it to function as a novitiate rather than as a family home. Many items were removed however they were stored in the basement (fireplace wrapped in blankets). Renowned photographer, Fr Frank Browne SJ, was one of the first Jesuits to take up residence there and he took many photographs of Emo Court.
In 1969, the Jesuits sold Emo to Major Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley-Harrison. He restored the house, sparing no expense, and donated it to the Irish State in 1995.
In 2012 the Office of Public Works opened a permanent exhibition on Fr Frank Browne SJ at Emo Court.
Archival History ↴
Material collected by the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: Irish Jesuits ↴
The papers of St. Mary’s, Emo concern the management of the Emo estate (1900-1995), establishment of the Jesuit community (1928-1930), maintenance, upkeep and expenditure (1931-1970), forestry and the sale of Emo (1969-1970; 1995). There is some material on the Jesuit community (1934-1962) and novitiate (1930-1969) however there is very little in the way of information on individual novices. Material is in the form of handwritten letters, ledgers, architectural plans, maps and photographs.
Appraisal Destruction ↴
All items retained permanently.
No further accruals expected.
Material catalogued in 1999, with some additions in 2012 and
Conditions of Access & Use
The Irish Jesuit Archives are open only to bona fide researchers. Access by advance appointment. Further details: www.jesuitarchives.ie
Conditions Governing Reproduction
No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the Archivist. Copyright restrictions apply. Photocopying is not available. Digital photography is at the discretion of the Archivist.
Grimley, Liam. ‘A Jesuit Novitiate’, Jesuit Year Book, pp44-53, 1959.
Kilfeather, T. P. ‘Life in the Jesuit novitiate’, Jesuit Year Book, pp48-58, 1956.
Kiely, Benedict. 'There was an Ancient House', Methusen and Co Ltd, London, 1955.
King SJ, Fr Henry. ‘The new novitiate’, Irish Jesuit Directory and Year Book, pp195-197, 1931.
O'Donnell SJ, Fr Eddie. 'Father Browne’s Laois'. Messenger Publications, 2012.
O'Sullivan SJ, Fr Donal. “Me a Jesuit?” Well, why not?, Jesuit Year Book, pp128-135, 1954.
O'Sullivan SJ, Fr Donal. ‘Inside the noviceship’, Jesuit Year Book, pp20-28, 1955.
O'Sullivan SJ, Fr Donal. ‘Have I a Vocation?,’ Jesuit Year Book, pp26-37, 1958.
Symondson SJ, Fr Anthony. ‘A Miraculous Survival: Emo Court’, Irish Arts Review, 1996.
Laois education Centre. Booklet on Emo Court
Descriptive Control Area
Damien Burke, 1999, 2012 and
IGAD: Irish Guidelines for Archival Description. Dublin: Society of Archivists, Ireland, 2009.
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottowa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997. Irish Guidelines for Indexing Archives. Dublin: Archives and Records Association, Ireland, 2013