Saturday, September 19, 2009

Additional Photos of Bantry House and Dunboy Castle

A visit to West Cork

On Saturday, 12th September last, after what was by any criteria, a woefully poor summer, Irish Georgian Society members woke to glorious autumn sunshine that put everyone in good spirits in anticipation of an interesting day ahead. As well as Cork members, a diverse number of other Georgians from differing parts of the country, together with friends, made their way to stunningly beautiful and tranquil West Cork.

St Fachtna's Church of Ireland Cathedral, Rosscarbery, was first on our itinerary. Our appreciation of this venerable building was honed by the majestic descent into Rosscarbery itself, foregrounded by the restful waters of Rosscarbery bay. It was easy to locate our target, as St Fachtna's spire was clearly visible pointing us in the right direction.

On first impression, the building appears secure and self confident surrounded by the headstones and graves of deceased members of its congregation. It is confined by well proportioned walls and two fine sets of gates. Our group was welcomed by the Dean of St Fachtna's, The Very Revd. Christopher Peters in the Narthex of the cathedral. The Narthex dates from the close of the 17th century. This space is principally lit by its west window which dates from a pre-Reformation cruciform cathedral on the same site. The walls of the Narthex are adorned by important family memorials as well as an early 18th century Royal Coat of Arms of George II. Among other points of interest here are the late 19th century five peal bells and stone head, - reputably a representation of St Fachtna. Having been led into the cathedral proper, Dean Peters traced the cathedral's illustrious origins in a lively and compelling fashion, from the arrival of St Fachtna in the late 6th century, right through to the building's most immediately recent restoration. This historic treasure trove was well worth a visit and merits a return trip for anyone who wishes to become better acquainted with this fascinating subject.

The second stage on our itinerary led us further west to the shores of Bantry Bay. A road trip of approximately 50 minutes brought us face to face with the 18th century Bantry House. The house was looking its best at midday, as its Regency windows glinted in the warm sunshine. Everyone was in fine spirits as we assembled in the outer hall of Bantry House. We were warmly welcomed by the chatelaine Brigitte Shelswell-White, wife of the owner of the house, Egerton Shelswell-White. Our gruop met the ancestors of this illustrious family through the many family portraits that graced the outer and inner hallways of the house. Having been built in the 18th century, the house was extended by Richard, the first Earl of Bantry after the failed Wolfe Tone led French Armada invasion off Bantry Bay. Brigitte suggested that we should become better acquainted with the house and its ecclectic furnishings by wandering into the two main reception rooms known as the Rose Room and the Gobelins Room with their wonderful tapestries, Angelica Kaufmann fireplace, Reubens, Waterford and Mison chandeliers. We wandered through the fine library, home to the Leipzig Boudoir grand piano, we learnt that the house was involved with the momentous vents of the 1840s famine relief works and the 1922 hospital works. Then after a brief visit to the first floor bedrooms and having found that these rooms were in very good condition, we then turned our attention to satisfying our own needs and to a well deserved lunch.

For me this was the highlight of our visit. Not so much that it satisfied my natural hunger pangs, but rather that it allowed us to experience a sense of belonging in this wonderful gentle, atmospheric house and desmesne. Members of our group found their way out on to the Loggia to enjoy their soup, sandwich, coffee and dessert and chat amongst friends with a mutual interest. For a brief while, it seemed as we too were part of history in the making. We really did belong, it was a rewarding experience.

The last part of our itinerary brought us further west still! - Yes Cork is a surprisingly extensive county to our visitors. Finally, we arrived on the peninsula of Castletownbere and to Dunboy Castle, in particular. It looked like a Disney castle etched out of rocks with its "Skyline of steep roofs and tall chimneys." The general consensus from our visitors was one of awe and amazement: Awe, at the sheer scale of the project and amazement, at the sheer folly of wasted resources. perhaps the "sensational hall" will never quite be erased from our memory as a spectacular sight of grandeur and fine proportion. At least one member of our group felt the considerable trip was worth it just to experience this building alone. But it left me cold and somehow uncomfortable. However, the warm late afternoon sunshine restored equilibrium and our group repaired to the Mill Cove Gallery to refresh themselves anew to address the business of getting home, well satisfied after a remarkable day with like-minded friends. Roll on the next trip. Many thanks to Kevin Hurley for organising this event.

Some Cork Chapter Visits 2009



Cork Chapter members headed to Carlow and Kilkenny on 28th March. After lunch at Graiguenamanagh, they travelled to Borris House where Andrew Kavanagh made everyone very welcome. The fine plasterwork, beautiful rooms, fascinating library and attractive church - all in a stunning setting - were much admired. The day ended with the launch of the IGS journal at former Church of Ireland Bishop’s Palace, Kilkenny and currently headquarters of the Heritage Council.

The next outing, on 26th April, took place in the charming setting of Killinardrish House, near Macroom. Members enjoyed viewing ‘The Last September’, a film based on the novel by Elizabeth Bowen. Refreshments were provided by Peter and Belinda Lehrell who kindly hosted the event.

On 6th June Cork Chapter members were welcomed by Mrs. Ursula Leslie to Tarbert House in Kerry, a fine building that has been in the Leslie family since it was built in 1690. Next was Glin Castle where Desmond Fitzgerald, Knight of Glin recounted remarkable history of the house. A splendid lunch was enjoyed in elegant surroundings. Then it was back to Kerry to Churchill House near Tralee. The mid-18th century house has belonged in recent years to American industrialist Fred Krehbeil and his Irish wife Kay who made members very welcome. Superlatives were quickly exhausted as members enthused over the wonderful art collection, the many beautifully designed architectural additions in the grounds, the imaginative development of the gardens and the overall sense of peace, gentility and culture set in beautiful surroundings.

The outing on 12th July was to Bandon, County Cork. At St. Peter’s Church, Clare McCutcheon provided a history of the building, Lady Frances Carter spoke about the memorials to the Earls of Bandon and Annabel Adams gave a short organ recital. It was then a short trip to Castle Bernard, now a large picturesque ruin, but originally the seat of the Earls of Bandon. Lady Frances Carter kindly invited members to view historic Bernard photographs and portraits. Nearby is The Farm, a Gothic villa built by Captain Bernard in the early 19th century. It is now home to Colman and Ann O’Sullivan who welcomed the members to the house with its stunning hallway and interesting architectural details.

Thanks are due to all Cork Chapter committee members who once again ensured a memorable calendar of events.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bandon - A visit to St Peter's Church, Castle Bernard and The Farm

Heavy rain on the day before the Cork Chapter outing to Bandon failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the over fifty people who gathered at St. Peter’s Church on 12th July. Fortunately, the outing took advantage of a break in the bad weather and the day turned out to be remarkably fine.

The group were welcomed to St. Peter’s Church by the rector, Canon Patrick Hewitt. Clare McCutcheon provided a fascinating history of the building which was constructed in 1847 but is on the site of an early 17th church. Lady Frances Carter drew attention to the fine memorials to members of her family, the Earls of Bandon, and IGS member Annabel Adams kindly provided a short recital on the organ. Members enjoyed admiring the building and were also able to view the Bandon Corporation Minute Book and some of the other interesting church items.

It was then a short trip to Castle Bernard, now a large picturesque ruin, but originally the seat of the Bernards, Earls of Bandon. The castle was acquired by the Bernards in the early 17th century and later extended, with a Gothic facade added in the early 19th century. Burnt in 1921, it forms a dramatic ruin beside a lake, fine trees and a golf course. Lady Frances Carter kindly invited members to her new house to view historic Bernard photographs and portraits.

A final short journey brought the group to The Farm, a Gothic villa built by Captain Bernard in the early 19th century. It is now home to Colman and Ann O’Sullivan who welcomed the members to the house with its stunning hallway and interesting architectural details. Refreshments, including strawberries and cream, were enjoyed before Catherine Fitzmaurice provided a short history of the property. Thanks are due to Catherine Fitzmaurice (Cork Chapter Treasurer), for all her work in organising such a successful visit to the Bandon area.