The journey to The Killian Homeplace began in the fifth-floor apartment at 85 Bronx River Road in Yonkers where founder, Joan Killian Gallagher, lived for the first nine years of her life with her parents and two brothers. Her maternal grandparents, Katie Killian and Denis O’Shea, lived on the third floor and were very much part of the everyday life of the Gallagher family.
It was the stories that her grandfather shared about growing up in the townland of Glenbreda, just outside of Borrisoleigh in County Tipperary that brought Ireland to life in her imagination. He was so careful in describing each detail of the farm, the personalities of his brothers and sisters and the life in rural Ireland in the late 1800’s. She knew then that Ireland would be an important part of her life. When she stood at the top of the hill looking down through the fields at the derelict O’Shea Homeplace in 1977, it felt as though she had been there a hundred times before. At that moment the dream of one day having a stone cottage was born.
Twenty-one years later, Joan was the winning bidder on a 24-acre farm with derelict cottage in County Longford. It was one half of The Killian Homeplace, birthplace of her great grandfather Laurence Killian. In a truly full circle moment, it was exactly one hundred years since her grandmother Katie Killian left Ireland to work in New York. And like her great, great grandmother who bought the farm in 1893, she was a widow determined to preserve her family’s legacy for her only child, Caroline.
The second half of the farm was purchased two years later and the third cottage in 2006. The restoration process was complicated by the long distance and the Celtic Tiger. No one wanted to restore the old structures. It is believed that the original Killian Homeplace cottage was most probably part of Fermoyle House, the “big house”. The landed gentry were the Clarkes, Roman Catholics. In the corner of the Killian Homeplace property is the single remaining wall of the Roman Catholic chapel, shown on the Ordinance Survey of 1837. It was fitting that the first event at The Killian Homeplace was Mass, offered by neighbour and Marist priest, the late Father Tadhg Kenny.
In 2002 Joan married widower, Christopher Clark, and a new chapter began. Restoration efforts on the first two cottages kicked into gear. In order to maintain the original blueprint of the ancestral homeplace, it was decided that the family home would be the cottage of Rita Shea Connolly, just across the road from TKH. Rita was a very important person in the life of so many people. Her wisdom, faith, love for children and steadfast loyalty endeared her to every person with whom she came in contact. Rita was singlehandedly responsible for Joan’s purchase of the second half of the homeplace farm. Preserving the Shea Homeplace and fields became the last piece of the puzzle.