Recession hitting grandest of houses
The 'big' houses of Ireland are under renewed threat because of the recession, according to Desmond Fitzgerald, the Knight of Glin.
Speaking at the launch of The Irish Country House at Birr Castle on Friday night, he said the recession had hit the grand houses as much as everyone else.
He pointed out that the gardens at Annesgrove, near Mallow, Co Cork, were due to be taken over by the Irish Heritage Trust but this project was scrapped at the end of 2008 "when the true state of Ireland's finances became horribly apparent"; and that Carriglass Manor in Co Longford remains gaunt and empty after a golf club development failed.
The book, written with James Peill and accompanied by James Fennell photography, unveils the many colourful and eccentric characters that have lived in the ascendancy houses of Ireland.
The launch took place in one of the loveliest rooms in Ireland, the early 19th-century great Gothic music room in Birr Castle, and among the guests were writer Valerie Pakenham from Tullynally Castle, Co Westmeath, Hugh and Grainne Weir, who are connected with the O'Briens of Clare and Dromoland Castle, and Marina Guinness and her family from Leixlip Castle in Co Kildare. Also present were Leslie Fennell, a well-known artist and the mother of the book's photographer, and acclaimed botanical artist Wendy Walsh.
Local men Denis Shiels, chairman of Birr Town Council, and John Joyce, president of Birr Georgian Society, also attended. Lord Rosse, Brendan Parsons and his wife Alison hosted the event.
"The Irish Country House looks at 10 houses which are all still owned and lived in by the descendants of the people who built them. This in itself is a major achievement given Ireland's turbulent history and the rise and fall of its precarious economy," said Mr Fitzgerald.