Killarney House Memories
I’m very grateful to Aunt Mary, Uncle John and Polly for many enjoyable trips to Killarney House. They were all wonderful hosts and, with the staff, provided a kind of “Downton Abbey” experience that my family and I could not have otherwise enjoyed.
The grounds were a treat for the eyes, and the downstairs rooms very grand and historical, but my favorite part with the upstairs with its beautifully color coordinated suites that Aunt Mary had transformed from a long hallway of small dull rooms. Uncle John, being a builder, knew just which walls could be demolished in order to put together suites that each included a bedroom sitting room and bath. Each was very tastefully decorated and even included lots of books. All the rooms and the corridor had deep window sills which were always filled with flowers.
My final trip to Killarney house came after Aunt Mary had died. Polly, Pat Fitzpatrick, Mary Tompkins Sowney, and I went over to pack up all the lovely items in the house that were not going to be donated to the Republic of Ireland. We packed box after box and taped them up tight so we could bring them home with us on the plane. The rooms began to look a bit bare but this didn’t bother me until, one day, the lady who did all the flower arrangements removed every vase of flowers from the windowsills. The effect was startling—it no longer felt like Killarney House and I was ready to go home.
Thank you Polly for sharing this Killarney House experience with Joe, me, and our family.
Patricia Horstmann Vanderslice
Cobb Islalnd, MD
June 1, 2013
Patricia Horstmann Vanderslice, Pat FitzPatrick, Henry FitzPatrick,
Mary Thompkins Sowney, Sr. Polly
Remembrances of Killarney
My overstuffed brain is filled with all kinds of happy memories throughout my life. When I think of all the happy days Fred and I spent as guests of Aunt Mary, Uncle John and of our dear cousin Polly I admit to being overwhelmed with gratitude. A special day for us was on our first visit and after having finished breakfast; Harry came to us to ask if we had any plans for the day. We did not, and he immediately suggested a trip to the Gap of Dunloe. We jumped on the idea and a pony cart was provided for us. Needless to say we were overcome with the beauty of the Gap. Then we were taken down to the water’s edge where a small boat was waiting for us packed with a delicious picnic lunch. The pilot of what seemed like a fancy yacht to me, took us on a lovely tour of the Lake of Killarney and we went back to the house filled with the beauty of Mother Ireland, plus a deep gratitude for our joyous experience.
One more remembrance! When Aunt Mary could no longer come down to dinner it was never quite the same without her there. I believe she was missed by all frequent visitors. Her graciousness and smile will always be remembered as will Polly’s efforts to make sure her loving cousins and friends all were welcomed as guests of the McShain’s lovely Killarney House, County Kerry, Ireland.
GOD BLESS THE IRISH
Deborah McFillin Horstmann
Fred Horstmann and Deborah McFillin Horstmann
One of our favorite memories of Killarney House, that we still talk about to this day, is getting all dressed up for dinner and going down to the library with Aunt Mary, sitting in front of a roaring fire on a damp and cold evening, and having your special cocktail waiting for you. Then, we proceeded to enjoy a magnificent 7course dinner, with the finest china and silver and Aunt Mary’s wonderful company. One evening after dinner, we accompanied Aunt Mary to her room, made sure she was settled for the night. Rick and I went to ” the mauve suite”, quickly changed and found the pub where Gerry, the gardener, was playing with his band traditional Irish tunes. When we walked in, he greeted us so warmly and we spent the rest of the evening singing, dancing and enjoying the wonderful spirit of the Irish people. We’re truly grateful we had the opportunity to experience Killarney House, not once but twice.
Happy Birthday Polly
Rick and Tami Horstmann
Boy, where to begin when reflecting on the magical Killarney House days? Sometimes, it almost feels like a dream being there. Our time in Killarney and Ireland, in general, conjours up feelings of calm and soft rain and green. Itʼs the pungent, warm, toasty and smoky peat fires that sort of permeates the moist air. And of course, the smiling eyes of Harry and Nori and the ready staff at Killarney House always there to greet us first thing; Jimmy the chef and the driver always, always keeping us grinning and entertained with his myriad stories of Ireland.
He wore the map of Ireland, as they say.
If I had to choose one memory of Killarney to elaborate, it would probably be the time we brought our children (all but William who wasnʼt born yet) to Killarney on St. Stephenʼs Day, the 26th of December, 1997. It was such an exciting trip. We arrived on the morning of the 26th, I believe. Of course we were all exhausted when we arrived but we were ushered each to our designated bedrooms and immediately felt nurtured, relaxed comfortable and comforted by the staff. Each bedroom was of course exquisitely prepared for us and I was enthralled by the ironed linens on the beds. To me, this was the ultimate in comfort and elegance.
The staff took such a nurturing attitude to our children. That touched me most of all. It wasnʼt that they were just accommodating and kind but they were genuinely nurturing and it felt, loving to the kids, almost as though they were family as well. Iʼll never forget that. I would imagine that if I were a child, I would feel like a princess visiting Killarney.
The kids would be asked each evening what they would like for breakfast the next morning, as would we, and Naish would always say, “Sausage please”. He loved sausage madly and the opportunity to have his beloved bangers daily was just too good to be true. They each loved this luxury of being asked what they would like for breakfast! I remember loving that too with the beautiful breakfast table set each morning for us with the coffee in the silver pot, the sugar bowls, the china and above all else, the porridge and the toast points served in the delicate silver toast servers.
We were privileged to experience the elegant daily routine of Killarney House as guests. The evening regime of sherry in the parlor at 5:30 was particularly memorable. It was really just so elegant and lovely. We would always dress for dinner and meet beforehand in the parlor where the peat fire was glowing. And as we enjoyed that, the dining room was being readied for us. Each night we enjoyed a 3 or 4 course feast, served to us in the exquisite dining room by Harry and the others. Anytime I tried to convey how it was to those who would never be there, I know I always came up short because there is really no way to properly describe the experience. How lucky we were.
Meanwhile, the children would be enjoying a kid friendly meal lovingly prepared in the kitchen. Everything was done to make us all very happy and comfortable.
The invitation to come to Killarney House was also very kindly extended to my mother who had been fairly recently widowed. She was picked up and driven to Killarney House. We were able to enjoy a great visit with her as well. Unfortunately, she got sick while there and Dr. OʼSullivan successor took her into his care. She was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia. Before she got sick however, we had a beautiful visit to the Gap of Dunloe and the town of Killarney. The care given to her by Dr. OʼSullivanʼs successor was kind, thorough and generous.
Whenever I think of Killarney, I feel a longing but also a great deal of gratitude for having had the chance to be one of the fortunate guests there and for my family to have had this happy chance. There was always a sense of belonging at Killarney which is to me maybe the greatest test of true hospitality.
Megan and Stephen Horstmann
Jimmy Sugrue and Norrie O’Donoughe
As I said many times to Anne and Katie as we walked around the Killarney Estate and admired the beauty surrounding us, “The real beauty is that Aunt Mary, Uncle John, and Polly shared their blessings with so many family members and friends.” What a gift they gave that brought such joy to so many.The memories of shared time with Aunt Mary, Polly, Holy Child Sisters, Rosemary’s parents and Killarney staffs will be always with myself, Rosemary and our children.
For me the real beauty of Ireland is its people. The staff at Killarney were family to all of us and those are the stories I remember.
One summer, while visiting in Killarney, there was the official dedication of Ross Castle, after some 15 years of restoration. Government officials from Dublin had arrived in their black Mercedes Benz for the ceremony. Polly asked us to represent the family at the event. We were given instructions to dress appropriately and that Michael Downing would chauffeur us in the Rolls Royce following lunch at Killarney House. We arrived in the public parking lot and could see the Irish government officials up near the podium in front of the Castle with the black Mercedes parked along side. Michael aimed the Rolls toward the podium but a police officer raised his hand to stop and with a wave of his hand directed Michael over to the public parking area. Michael, always the guardian and protector of the McShain/Horstmann family, would have none of that. He politely pointed with his finger, through the windshield, that he intended to take his passengers directly ahead to the podium. Once again the officer waved Michael over to the public parking area. With that Michael once again pointed straight ahead to where he intended to drop us off. With that as the police officer approached the car, Michael rolled down his window, pointed to the government officials and said to the officer, “They never owned the place!” With that line, what could the officer do but wave us ahead, where Michael deposited us with the visiting dignitaries. Following the dedication, there was an official tour of the Castle and a photo opportunity for the government officials. The following morning, whose picture appeared in the Irish papers but none other than Anne and Katie on either side of the Irish Secretary!
We all loved Michael Downing and our daily travels with him. I remember at one stop, above the Lakes of Killarney, he asked Anne and Katie, “How do you see a leprechaun?” The girls shrugged their shoulders and said they didn’t know. Michael told them, “You close one eye and shut the other!” With this Anne and Katie ran around closing one eye and shutting the other looking for leprechauns!Michael’s own grandchildren became playmates and friends of Anne and Katie and they all looked forward to seeing one another during our visits to Killarney.
We were all saddened by Michael’s death. It was a loss for all of us. But wouldn’t you know, who came along but a real live leprechaun named Christopher Ryan. Christy was a retired Irish Army soldier, who had a thirst for knowledge and a gift for conversation. He was always interested in the latest American political stories and world news. On our daily jaunts, Christy would always salute you when you approached him. One day we were talking about the Catholic faith and Christy said something that I will always remember. He told me that, “Your faith is your anchor”. When times are tough in one’s life, you need a stabilizing force or anchor, that is your faith, to get you through times of trouble. Sister Madelyn, and Irish SHCJ, we stayed with in Killarney, told me about her niece, who left the church. She was a good person, spiritual but not religious, and Sister Madelyn worried that her niece, would not receive the grace from receiving the Eucharist. To me, those two stories, are the essence of our faith.
I once asked Christy, “What is your favorite spot in Ireland?”. He looked at me and said, “Now let me think. Where would I want to bring me dog and a flask of tea.” He told me Torc waterfall outside Killarney. When I told Fred Horstmann that story, and he said, “I think there is something other than tea in that flask!”
Vince and Mary Marg Sherry were visiting in Killarney one year, and Vince asked Christy if he would drive him to his Irish relatives one day for a visit. Christy was happy to oblige and escorted Vince to the door. When the door opened, Cvince’s relative looks at Christy and shouts, “Who’s this?” Without hesitation, Vince replied “He’s family.” With that Christy and Vince entered the house. Christy beamed as he told that story and it emphasized the point that the staff at Killarney were family to us and valuable lesson to always make people feel welcomed and included.
Jimmy Sugrue, the chef at Killarney House, was a man that I loved. Jimmy had his troubles with the drink and every day must have been a struggle for him but he loved cooking at Killarney House, bantering with Michael Downing and the other staff, and delighting the guests with his culinary skills. We often would visit the week of Katie’s birthday and Jimmy would always spoil her with a beautiful cake adorned with ribbons and flowers.Fred Horstman told me that Jimmy asked him to attend an AA meeting in Killarney, which he did, and told his story. Jimmy was so grateful to Fred for doing that but Fred was the kind of guy who would do anything for you.
One January, Polly asked Rosemary and me to stay with Aunt Mary for a week. When we arrived at Killarney House, Norrie opened the door, and I’ll never forget her greeting, “Welcome home, Sir.” She told us that she had turned on the electric blankets on our beds. We crawled in under the warm covers, took our naps, and woke refreshed for a visit with Aunt Mary and our lunch.
Harry O’Donoughe, the butler, was a wonderful young man with a beautiful family. Harry could not do enough for you, whether serving meals or planning schedules. Harry was into a number of ventures, whether it was horse racing (He owned a granddaughter of Ballymoss) or raising beef cattle on the McShain Estate. This always led to a lot of good natured bantering and teasing by the staff.
These are just some of the stories made possible through the generosity of the McShains’, without them, none of this would be possible We will be forever grateful for your kindness and that of your parents, Polly. As I would say to Anne and Katie, “Kindness begets kindness.” And Killarney was the living proof of that.
Thank you Polly and God bless you on your 85th Birthday.
Joe, Rosemary Horstmann
Ann Horstmann, Rosemary Andries Horstmann, Joe Horstmann, and
It has been over 20 years since we last visited Killarney House and Aunt Mary. The memories are still very vivid in my mind. Aunt Mary was still very active and Pam and I were able to take her out and tour the countryside several times.
We traveled to Ireland with our two children Sarah age 4 and Catherine age 6 months. One of my fondest memories of the trip was walking through the Gap of Dunloe with Pam. Our Catherine was on my back. While the tour information that we read stated the walk was only 6 kilometers long, we thought it would be an easy hike. With Catherine on my back walking up a mountain I thought I had hiked a marathon. We made it to the end and found the long boats. Michael was waiting for us at the castle. When we got to the car we asked Michael if he could take us to a local pub. W had been in Ireland for 4 days and had not had a pint of Guinness. Of course we had to drag Michael kicking and screaming to the pub across the street from Killarney House. And a true Irishman cannot just drink just one pint.
Catherine was still with us and we were able to take a picture of her tasting her first Guinness. The picture was priceless. Well after 2 pints (I know Michael was just getting started) we called it a day since we still had to make cocktail hour with Aunt Mary. The time with Aunt Mary was spent talking about Francis (my Father) and trying to figure out which side of the family our children look liked.
We had a wonderful time and know why Aunt Mary and Uncle John loved to be there.
Thank you, Polly for inviting our family to Killarney House and allowing us time with your mother.
Best wishes on you special day.
A picture of Michael and the Rolls if I can find one.