Monday, 4 February 2013

Siamsa, St. Blaise and Kilmorna House and Abbeyfeale Walkway

"I had a Hippopotamus, I kept him in a shed

And fed him upon vitamins and vegetable bread

I made him my companion on many cheery walks

And had his portrait done by a celebrity in chalk."
The last line of this Patrick Barrington poem was running through my head all day on Thursday last.
"Why?" you ask.
Thereby hangs a tale. And here it is.
On Thursday I was in Tralee and I decided to pop into Siamsa Tíre because I had read in the papers about  a walk -in art initiative that they have on at the moment.
People can wander in from the street and have their likeness sketched by the renowned court artist, Mike O'Donnell and the finished works are on display in the gallery in Siamsa.
Let's say I was a challenging subject, as much for my chatty nature, I suspect, as my lack of any colour or definition in my profile, so you will have to wait a while longer to see if he managed to "get" me.  
Everyone should have their Kate Middleton moment.

Mike O'Donnell in Siamsa Gallery

Artist at work


His feast day was yesterday


Green Shoots?

This is the newest addition to the streetscape in Church St.


While browsing through my lately acquired copy of Pres. Secondary School 1988 yearbook, I came across a short essay about  Kilmorna House. I thought it might interest my readers.

Kilmorna House

About 5 miles east of Listowel there once stood the great Kilmorna House. It was owned by the O’Mahoneys Kerry. George O’Mahoney was step brother to Arthur Vicars. Sir Arthur Vicars was in charge of the crown jewels when they were stolen. In 1912.  When George O'Mahoney died. Kilmorna House and grounds passed on to Vicars’ sister. At once she offered Vicars the place, free of charge, for as long as he wished. Little did he know  the tragedy which would follow his stay at Kilmorna  House. Sir Arthur Vickers loved the house. It was everything that could be wanted by a man who adored high society.

It stood on 600 acres of the beautiful countryside in the deep west of Ireland.  Three lodge houses with painted roofs stood by stonewall entrances. These lodges are still standing and are occupied by local people today. Kilmorna House was built of brick, surfaced  with smooth Kerry Stone and, for most of the year, ivy climbed up its high walls. On the west side of the house a walk of  lime trees paraded down to the bank of the river Feale, rich in salmon and trout meandering and flowing through the estate. From the granite terraces to the house, the smooth lawns sloped gently down  through shrubberies and flower beds. The estate stretched from Shanacool Cross to Gortaglanna Cross, to the bridge which divides Duagh parish from Knockanure. From Shanacool to Kilmorna Station there were plantations of beech, oak and yew trees.

At the age of 53, Sir Arthur, to the surprise of many, married Miss Gertrude Wright of Kilurry house near Castleisland.
 There were over 100 local people employed directly or indirectly by Sir Arthur, who paid them wages above the average for this backward area of Ireland. The old people of Kilmorna today still remember the huge party that was organised for the local children by Sir Arthur at Christmas. He loved to ride about the neighbouring farms on horseback. He owned the only car in the district and, once or twice a week, he would drive to Listowel, handing out produce from the Kilmorna gardens and orchards to needy families, Protestant and Catholic alike. His wife  kept tiny Yorkshire terriers and in the event of the death of one of these creatures, a funeral was arranged and the workmen were expected to dress in black and look solemn. 

After the theft of the crown jewels, Sir Arthur, with bitter experience of the unreliability of safes, had built a strong room to house his wife's jewels, Kilmorna’s silver ornaments, valuable books and family paintings when he was away from the house. It was natural that wild stories spread through  the countryside amongst uneducated peasant farmers. Could it be, asked some, that Sir Arthur really stole the crown jewels and had hidden them in Kilmorna’s strong room? It was thought that there may have been guns stored there also. The IRA considered him to be a spy and informer. Despite many warnings he refused to leave his beloved Kilmorna.

On Monday, 14 April 1921, Sir Arthur was still in bed at 10 o'clock when his wife rushed into the room to tell him that there were men with pistols in the house. He ordered  the servants to save as many valuable things as possible. His manager, Michael Murphy, told him the men said that they had only come to burn the house and that no one would be harmed.

By this time the army was on its way from Listowel, alerted by a message from Kilmorna Railway Station. The soldiers wasted precious minutes in a chase that was fruitless. In those minutes, Sir Arthur stood under the guns of the three men from the North Kerry Flying Column, his back pressed against a beech tree. It was there at 10.30 that he was shot three times in the chest and neck and twice in the head. The house had been burnt down as the men had run through it with blankets soaked in petrol.

The army wondered what might remain in the smoking ruins of Kilmorna so they blew open the strong room to find nothing.  It had been empty all the time..

The O’Mahoney’s Of  Kerry called in lawyers to formulate a claim for compensation against the British government, valuing Kilmorna House at around £15,000.  From Listowel, people came to gaze at the great black ruin. Their children played with the dismembered pieces of suits of armour they found lying on the terrace. Some wandered amongst the tiny headstones of Lady Vicars’ canine cemetery but mostly they stood looking silently at the devastation before them.

All that remains today in Kilmorna is Parnell’s tree – an oak tree was planted by Parnell 67 years ago. He said that he hoped that we would have Home Rule in Ireland before the magpies built their nests in the tree.

(By Irene O’Keeffe and Laura Doran)


I subscribe to a lovely blog called
 Foxglove Lane

Do read the latest post. It's very short but it will set you thinking about animals and our relationship with them.


Ballybunion on Saturday last.


If you missed the programme,  Bóithrín na Smaointe  (literally the road of thoughts but usually translated as  reminiscing) about Listowel on TG4 on Thursday night,  the link is here.


On Saturday, 79 walkers turned up for the walk along the old Abbeyfeale railway track. It was a lovely day for walking. The photos are Jessica Hilliard's. There is still a little bit of sorting out to do with local farmers and rights of way but hopefully that will be sorted shortly and we can all enjoy this great amenity.

The old train signal is left as a reminder of the route's former use.

Perfect surface on the new walk/cycleway.

The new Bridge

Saturday's walkers

An old step-down drain beside the track.

1 comment:

  1. Doing some research on family history and very much enjoyed your piece on Kilmorna/Kilmeany House. Thanks from America!