Sunday, July 18, 2010

Muckross House, Killarney

By Claire
We left John and Helena after a late and relaxing breakfast, with John kindly leading us to the main road. Susan eventually took over and we worked our way to Killarney and on a few more miles to Muckross House, a Victorian house built in 1843, just before the Great Potato Famine of 1845-1849.

I’ve just finished reading The Famished Land by Elizabeth Byrd and I have to admit, much as I enjoyed touring this beautiful mansion, it also infuriated me to think of the rich English landlords living in luxury, profiting off the export of their crops to lands with greater buying power, while a third of Ireland’s population starved.

The word was out that Queen Victoria was planning to visit Ireland. The owner of Muckross House at that time, an MP in the House of Parliament, invited her to visit, hoping to be given a title. This would allow him to use this new status to make connections with the rich and famous in order to make quite a lot of money. The queen gave them 6 years notice, letting them know that she would require a ground floor room because of her fear of fires. The MP spent a small fortune getting the house ready for her visit, even installing a ground floor fire escape for her room.

Queen Victoria did visit, bringing her own bed and 100 people, staying only 2 nights. Shortly after the visit, Prince Albert died, she went into a long period of mourning and the MP was forgotten, along with the possibility of becoming titled. The father died and the son made some bad investments forcing them into bankruptcy.

A wealthy American couple paid £60,000 for the house as a wedding gift for their daughter Maud who was marrying an Irishman. They had fallen in love with the house and modeled a house after it in California: Filoli (Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life), which I have visited. It is 30 miles south of San Francisco, in Woodside.

The tour guide was excellent but my real interest was in the traditional farms down the road. We had purchased a combo ticket to see the house and the farms for €10 each. It is a one mile loop road that leads you to each farm house. These six farmhouses demonstrate rural life in the 1930s. Several of the farms had someone inside offering their homemade bread and jam and conversation.

There was even a farmer milking a cow; even though we live in an agricultural area, I have never seen a cow milked before.

The people inside the farms were very friendly and helpful. I was able to understand about half of what they said.

Washing machine

The walk was pleasant and the humidity was high with intermittent rain—this property is part of the Killarney National Park. We enjoyed some of the livestock along the way

Can you find the needle?


Most of the farms were burning peat and were quite small with perhaps one bedroom. One of them though, had several bedrooms and quite a large living room.

I couldn’t resist these two very Irish brothers who agreed to have their picture taken.

We’re in a very nice campground, Fleming’s White Bridge Caravan Park, €29 plus €1 each for showers. It’s just south of Killarney and away from all the massive tourism that town seems to have. It was interesting checking in to this place—the owner could not stop talking once he found out we were from the States. He was very friendly, but barely took a breath. The “conversation” covered everything from banking to careers, to Obama to weather, you name it. I found Chuck with his head back, asleep, when I returned.

For an Irishman, talking is a dance. ~ Deborah Love


Anonymous said...

Aye....I am lovin' this!
Sheila (McCrary) Haddad

Karin said...

Oh, here I go again! :-) Michael and I parked at Torc Falls and took a wonderful long walk from Torc Falls to Muckross House via Muckross Lake, and then the road to the Torc Falls again. It was so beautiful with it's varied flora and fauna and vistas!

When Michael saw the picture of the two red headed boys he said, "I feel I know them"! Impish creatures, to be sure!

Your mention of the peat fires, oh.....(sniff, sniff). When we walked out on the boggy areas we used to pick up some, bring it home, dry it out and build a lovely fire in our fireplace...sometimes a farmer would "pay" us in turf...(as you remember, we owned a small grocery store in Ballydehob) and we received all sorts of barter...even local moonshine: Poitin. Especially at Christmas! (it came with the promise to never tell who it came from). I think it was not because at that time it was illegal, but because no one wanted to be known as having the worst or the best! Ha,ha.

May I make a suggestion? Try to go to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. We did not go for several years because we had this insane idea it was too commercial! Well, it was fantastic! We took the Castle tour (did not do the Medieval dinner, although that might be fun), and spent a lot of time in the Folk park where you walk through a village of different style houses, etc. People in them doing what they did in the "hard times". You will not be sorry! And next to the Castle is Durty Nelly's, a bar/restaurant. We went inside, but can't remember if we ate or not; or if the prices were out of sight. Perhaps we just had a beer. The restaurant, of course is very old and has history. Hey, WHAT in Ireland doesn't?

Love your quotes!

Karin on Paros wishing I was in Ireland!!!!!

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