Friends’ letters


Of the many blessings in my life, visits to Killarney House are close to the top of the list. How many people are given the opportunity to revel in the lap of luxury for a week, and because of Polly I enjoyed that experience four times.

After Mr. McShain’s death in 1989, Polly felt that her mother should have company at all times. She herself made four or five visits a year, and in between she worked tirelessly to invite relatives and friends, including Sisters of the Holy Child, and to schedule dates to accommodate them.

In 1991 I made my first visit with Jack Sowney and his daughter, Jackie and, to put it in today’s vernacular, it was awesome! Michael met us at Shannon airport in a Rolls Royce, no less, and drove us to Killarney House, where, after meeting Norrie and Harry we were assigned lovely bedrooms. Mine was the Mauve Suite! Each morning we were served breakfast, then taken sightseeing, during which the tourists ogled the car instead of the scenery, had afternoon tea at the house and cocktails before dinner, followed by a delicious meal. I don’t think I have tasted better consommé or roast beef since. Afterwards, Jimmy would come into the dining room, grinning from ear to ear, savoring the compliments about his cooking.

On my second visit, Jack and I along with my sister and niece, had the pleasure of taking Mrs. McShain to lunch at her favorite place, the Park Hotel. She was so gracious and ordered only soup and a beverage, no doubt to spare us the expense. We, of course, enjoyed the same meal and escaped with a surprisingly modest bill. It was the highlight of our trip.

My last visit to Killarney was after Mrs. McShain’s death, to aid in closing the house. Going from room to room, I kept thinking how fortunate I was, through the kindness and generosity of Polly, to have been given the opportunity to set foot on this historic property. I could not be more grateful to her for the many treasured memories, which surface frequently and will never be forgotten

It is my understanding that the house is being restored, and I pray that in the not too distant future many people will be able to view the gift that Mr. and Mrs. McShain gave to Ireland

Mary Tompkins Sowney

Mary and Jack and cousins

          Joan Sheasley, Mary Tompkins Sowney, Sr. Pauline McShain

                                      Jack Sowney, Bob Sheasley


Christy at Hotel Kenmar

    Park Hotel Kenmare with Mary H. McShain and Christy Ryan



Killarney House May 1994

Upon our arrival at Killarney House, Betsy and I paid a brief visit to Mrs. McShain. Then, we were welcomed by Sr. Catherine FitzPatrick who, though leaving within a few days, joined us on a couple of our sightseeing jaunts. We spent our days doing the touristy things and late afternoons, we joined Mrs. McShain in her room to tell her about our day and show off our latest purchases. Harry and the other staff members took such good care of us. And, with Jimmy in the kitchen every meal was a treat.

One day Christy took us to Blarney, we shopped for quite a long while in the big Blarney Mills. As we lined up to check out, we started talking to people. A young woman looked familiar and we recognized her as a checkout lady at the City Line Acme. She was delightful – so excited to be in Ireland, her first trip abroad, and thrilled to meet someone from home. And then, there was a couple ahead of us. Turns out they were from the Main Line. Our conversation was very pleasant and friendly until they asked where we were from. There was a sudden distinct chill in the air when we said “Overbrook”, and in a flash they were gone. But Betsy and I did have our moment in the sun because as we exited the shop, they were in their car ready to pull out when Christy came and picked us up at the door—in the Rolls. We waved to them so they would be sure to see us.

Killarney House was truly grand and I’m very fortunate to have been able to stay there. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

Connie Bissell Gleeson accompanying Betsy Bracken

Connie Bissell Gleeson’s father, Charles Bissell worked for John McShain, Inc.            1930’s-1950’s

The rolls

                                               The Rolls

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