Harry is the man
The window looking
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
It is being hailed as the jewel in the crown of Killarney, and its restoration will bring the Killarney National Park right into the heart of the town and create the biggest urban park in the world.
Killarney House and Gardens, in Killarney National Park, which will reopen to the public this Sunday. Pictures: Valerie O’Sullivan
The official opening on Sunday of the revamped grounds of the State-owned Killarney House is the fruition of years of lobbying and work at local, national, and international level.
A total of €7m has been invested in the restoration of the house and formal gardens reflecting in part the style of 18th century French chateaux, part Capability Brown, much loved by the Victorians, and part 20th- century Edwardian class.
Work is still underway on the house, once home to the earls of Kenmare.
Harry O’Donoghue is the third generation of his family to have worked at the Killarney Estate.
In the 1950s, it was bought by the American McShain family, which, in turn, sold the house and thousands of acres of parklands to the State for a nominal sum to ensure it would forever be enjoyed by the public.
Killarney House came under State ownership in 1998 on the death of Mary McShain. However, in the ensuing years, it became so run down and neglected it was the subject of town council motions. At one stage, Sr Pauline McShain, the only daughter of the late John McShain and Mary, herself intervened to plead its case in the national press.
Now, however, it has not just been saved but magnificently revamped, and the Killarney House project is one of the few such to have been advanced during the economic downturn.
The courtyard of Killarney House.
Its significance for Killarney and for Ireland is underlined by Niall Ó Donnchú, assistant secretary general of the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht: “The uniqueness of Killarney House Gardens is that they open from the centre of town to the stunning panorama of the National Park. This magnificent property is a prologue to some of the most stunning natural scenery in the world.”
A new side entrance, alongside the Monsignor O’Flaherty statue on Mission Rd, will complement the restored Golden Gates on the Muckross Rd; and three centuries of garden styles will be reflected in the restoration.
The project has been overseen by conservation landscape architect Elizabeth Morgan, the much-respected Killarney horticulturalist, plantsman Cormac Foley, and Killarney gardens supervisor Gerry Murphy. Research on the gardens involved archival maps, old photographs, drawings, and diaries from the 1861 visit of Queen Victoria to Killarney to unearth the garden’s various layers.
A view from one of the upstairs windows on the gardens of Killarney House.
The popular Cherry Tree Walk has been replanted and one of the key features will be the 18th century-style raised walk designed to suit ladies in long skirts, along with the cherub statue.
Killarney Chamber of Tourism & Commerce has worked closely with the OPW and the NPWS on the run up to the opening.
“The gardens are just one element of the restoration project, which also involves developing a major National Park visitor centre in Killarney House, restoring some of the formal rooms, and using the house’s exceptional collection of antiques to tell the story of the house and those who lived there,” said Killarney Committee member Declan Mulvany.
The garden is opening at weekends from this Sunday. Planting works will be continuing in the garden for the next few weeks and a full opening will take place once this work is completed.
On Sunday, a fun-packed afternoon is planned for children of all ages between the hours of 2pm and 4pm. Children are invited to get creative between now and Sunday and create colourful Easter Bonnets before parading in the Easter Bonnet Parade on the Long Terrace Walk at 3pm.
The afternoon line-up also features falconry and a historical presentation on Killarney House & Gardens. There will be music from the Killarney Golf Club Choir, Marina Cassidy, Grace Foley, and members of the Killarney School of Music.© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved\
The Irish Examiner April 4, 2016
Back to future at Killarney House and Gardens as it reopens
One of the few multi-million euro restoration projects to have gone ahead during the economic downturn has been unveiled to the public with the limited reopening of Killarney House and Gardens, yesterday.
Reverend Simon Lumby and Christel Nolke, dressed up as Lord and Lady Kenmare. Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan
The €7m restoration of the house and grounds, once home to the earls of Kenmare, and latterly to the American McShain family, got underway after an outcry about its condition since being left to the State in 1998.
The project, which opens the national park to the town centre, got strong support in 2011 from then minister for Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, Minister Jimmy Deenihan.
Almost two years of work have so far gone into restoring the gardens to reflect the house’s diverse gardening history from 18th century French style to 20th century Edwardian.
An additional entrance along with restored avenues provides town centre access to the 10,000 hectare Killarney National Park with immediate glimpses of the woods, parkland, and lakes of Killarney.
The restored house and furnishings, along with an interpretative centre for the national park will open later this summer.
The current arrangement will see limited opening for weekends until further garden work is completed.
This weekend, Mr Deenihan said: “I made it one of my main priorities in that particular ministry because of the derelict nature of the house and grounds. And if it had been left in the condition it was in, it would have been almost beyond repair.”
Mr Deenihan who lost his seat in the last election, paid tribute to the collaboration between the then town council, afterwards the local chamber of commerce and tourism , the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the OPW and Failte Ireland.
Funding came from the National Parks and Wildlife Service of his department, as well as the Fáilte Ireland Tourism Development Fund and apart from projects to do with 1916 at the time Killarney House was “the only major national work by the Office of Public Works and the National Parks and Wildlife Service”, during the downturn, he said.
The gardens’ restoration project has been overseen by conservation landscape architect Elizabeth Morgan, along with horticulturalist Cormac Foley and Killarney gardens supervisor Gerry Murphy.
Unearthing the gardens’ history involved archival maps, and old photographs, as well as drawings and diaries from the 1861 visit of Britain’s Queen Victoria.
The Cherry Tree Walk has been replanted and one of the key features will be the 18th century-style raised walk. This walks was originally designed to suit women in long skirts said Kate O’Leary president of Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce.
“Killarney Chamber recognises the opening of Killarney House and Gardens as the most significant development in Killarney for decades,” said Ms O’Leary.
Sister Polly McShain in front of Killarney House.
Anne Lucey – 01 February 2008
The daughter of US philanthropists who gave their historic house and grounds to the State has branded the neglect of the property a disgrace.
John and Mary McShain intended that Killarney House and much of its parkland would be enjoyed and appreciated by thousands of visitors and tourists.
But 10 years after they made the gift, their only daughter, Sister Pauline McShain, based in Philadelphia, said her parents would be “heartbroken” to see how the government has allowed the house to fall apart and be occupied by squatters.
Her father, the man who built the US Pentagon and the builder behind the re-construction of the modern-day White House, had greatly loved the house, she said.
And she has demanded a meeting with Environment Minister John Gormley over the embarrassing neglect, which, she says, has left her “sad and disillusioned” with the Irish Government.
“My parents restored and beautified Killarney House. It is a treasure. It should be the centre of Killarney National Park. But it’s falling into ruin,” she said yesterday.
A spokesman for Mr Gormley said last night he was “very concerned” at the prospect of such a national resource being ruined but claimed he did not have “the millions required” for the renovation.
The minister would, however, look at other sources of funding, including the National Lottery and cash from dormant accounts funds, the spokesman said.
The deterioration of the historic building, part of a French- style house which was home to the Earls of Kenmare, was raised in the Seanad by Fine Gael Senator Paul Coghlan.
Yesterday, he criticised the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of the Environment for refusing to endorse Killarney House “as a tourism project of international standing” — which would allow cash from the National Development Plan.
Last week, the mayor of Killarney, Niall O’Callaghan, confirmed that squatters had taken up residence . He has twice written to Minister Gormley, who has responsibility for funding the historic building.
John McShain was one of the biggest building contractors in the US. He died in Killarney in 1989 and his wife, Mary Horstmann McShain, died there in 1998.
They bought the estate in the 1950s. From the early 1970s, the McShains began gifting many of the priceless gems which now form the Killarney National Park, including two of the lakes and the medieval monastic island of Inisfallen, and the historic Ross Castle.
Later, for a nominal sum, they handed over thousands of acres of woodland and pasture while retaining life tenancy of Killarney House. The last remaining 21 acres were given to the State just two years ago. Yesterday, Sr McShain said her parents would be “heartbroken” to see the house they had loved and restored so neglected.
To see the paint peeling off the walls was a “disgrace”.
The family had been told by the Government the house would be restored. She was “horrified” that squatters were living in it.
“We had hoped it would be opened to the public and to tourists who also could enjoy it as we had for over 40 years,” she said.
A statement from the Department of the Environment and the NPWS said “essential works” were under way in consultation with the Office of Public Works, to avoid any deterioration to the fabric of the building.
Take a look: An article from the Kerryman Newspaper about the house restoration on May 15, 2007.
history it is as important as Muckross House and like the latter it too has great tourism potential.
updated: April 1, 2016