Lay of the Land: The true location of Moore's last rose of summer
Folk often sit on the bench at the top of this town's main street and watch the world go by. One such regular is Paddy Daly, who is tall and lean like an Irish country Clint Eastwood. Especially as he exudes a peaceable aura of life experience, yet with little evidence of ego or attention seeking.
Which is all the more impressive when you consider that this former gardener for more than 40 years at Mount Juliet (back when it was still a 'Big House' and not a five-star hotel) knows the secret whereabouts of the last rose of summer.
Officially, the blooming inspiration behind Thomas Moore's famous melody is in Dublin's Botanic Gardens, where "at one time, they had to put a cage around it, as everyone was trying to rob bits of it", as Paddy says.
This cultivar of the China rose R. chinensis 'Old Blush' was raised from a cutting taken from a rose in Jenkinstown House in Co Kilkenny, where Moore often holidayed as a guest of Major George 'Punch' Bryan.
Yet how dried out like the pressed petals of a dead flower does that description sound, after talking to this man who met the last living link to that legendary rose. For the truth is that several offshoots of this fabled flower are scattered about this island. The last rose of summer even briefly bloomed outside a Kilkenny city pub, until vandalism - not verse - got to it.
Perhaps that was why the guardian of this green- fingered holy grail and great granddaughter of the gardener who tended this bloom that enchanted Moore, entrusted its survival to a kindred spirit.
It seems she contacted Paddy more than a decade ago, when he used to have a gardening show on the radio every Friday. He was talking about roses one night, when this elderly lady rang up and asked him to call into her on his way home. There, she made Paddy promise not to tell anybody, before giving him several cuttings of the immortalised rose.
"I put them in me pocket," Paddy recalls. Five of the cuttings rooted with horticulturist Pat Fitzgerald, who is propagating them. "You need a certain volume," Paddy explains. "It's a slow process."
Two went to Lissadell House. "Constance Cassidy wrote me a lovely letter, in her big handwriting, thanking me." Another two are in pots in Paddy's garden. Seemingly unaware of the irony of his words, he tells me that the last rose of summer doesn't last long. However, the flowers keep repeating. "That's one good thing about them. Some roses have only one bloom."
It even seems possible that the original last rose of summer could last forever, flowering for all seasons, unnoticed, where that old lady used to live.
"I passed there a few years ago and saw this rose in flower. The people who own that cottage probably don't know they have the last rose of summer in their back garden." Paddy pauses. "That's if it hasn't been uprooted, or bulldozed by now."
Let's hope the current residents like taking time out to relax and smell the roses.