independent

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Landmark New Ross B&B marks 50 years

Bridget Doyle at Inish Ross House bed and breakfast on Mary Street, New Ross last Friday
Bridget Doyle at Inish Ross House bed and breakfast on Mary Street, New Ross last Friday
Inish Ross House bed and breakfast on Mary Street, which has been in business for 50 years
The late Mary Doyle of Inish Ross House bed and breakfast

Inish Ross B&B is 50 years welcoming guests into its historic premises this month.

Mary Doyle moved from Inistioge to Mary Street in 1966 and carried out improvements to the premises which was built in the 1740s and to this day bears features from the period.

She opened it as a superior bed and breakfast establishment with eight bedrooms in mid-November 1966.

The business flourished and when Mary retired, her son Eddie and his wife Bridget (née Whelan), took up the reins and continued to run the business successfully.

When Eddie died suddenly in 2014, Bridget carried on Inish Ross and presently the venture is as successful as ever.

Inish Ross House was originally The Imperial Hotel. In the 1850s Inish Ross was owned by Margaret Murphy as a boarding house. It was 50 years old when it witnessed the carnage of the Battle of Ross. Insurgents would have charged and retreated past its watching windows as they strove to overcome 'Big Bess', a nine pounder cannon gun and carronades (naval swivel guns) at the bottom of Mary Street at the main guard of the British resistance.

Down through the years the dwelling would have marked the passage of King John I, William Marshall, Lord of Leinster, Bishop Patrick Barrett, Bishop of Ferns and Chancellor of Ireland, King of Leinster Art McMurrough, MP of New Ross Charles Gavin Duffy, Charles Stewart Parnell at the inaugural public meeting of the Land League of County Wexford, trade unionist James Connelly in 1912 and Oliver Cromwell.

Ms Doyle said the previous owners Bob Quinn and his wife Mary changed the greengrocers, run by Mary Canning and Denis O'Riordan which operated at the building, into a fish and chip restaurant in the 1950s. In the process the 18th century double bow windows were replaced with the present day laminate stainless steel and rate glass windows.

Previous to Mrs Canning, the premises was run as a grocery by Mrs Bridget Maher who had connections with the La Touche family.

The original building on the site was on property given free to merchant adventurers to start up business and live in New Ross as part of the settlement of the newly formed town.

The sovereign, William Marshall, would have granted it free to these burghers, (hereditary councillors), to secure the area for Norman settlement.

These sites had extensive gardens which are still in evidence.

Ms Doyle, who grew up on Mary Street, said: 'The ancient name for Mary Street was St Saviours because it led up to the parish church of St Mary's Parish which was named St Saviour's.

This later name had connotations with St Abban's Monastery of the 6th Century.'

Now almost 30 years in the business, Ms Doyle previously ran The Hook Inn pub (now Bolg Bui) across the road on Mary Street and Spar.

She said: 'They were fantastic times in New Ross. The Albatros plant employed hundreds of people and the port was busy. Mary got a lot of business from Great Island power plant. You'd also get people travelling to Rosslare for the ferry who would spend the night before a second ferry was introduced. At the time Mary had a team of girls working with her and also served evening meals for guests. It cost £1 a night for B&B back then.'

Bridget and Mary had great relationships with guest house and hotel owners in the town including the Dwyer's, who owned the Phoenix Hotel on John Street, the owners of the Royal Hotel, Ivory House and other B&B's around the town. Today Inish Ross is the last B&B in the town centre, but Bridget and other New Ross B&B owners send guests to each other when the No Vacancy signs are hanging.

Bridget and Edward reared their three sons, Mark, Michael and Edward, at Inish Ross house, eventually taking over the business from Mary as she got on in age.

'We didn't make many changes to her business and to this day it is run the same way it was run when Mary opened it 50 years ago.'

Over the years the traditional bed and breakfast, which is immaculately maintained by Bridget and Mark, and which won a Tripadvisor excellence seal of approval earlier this year, has played host to thousands of people from all over the world, many of whom becoming repeat customers.

'I took to the business like a duck to water. I always loved meeting people and I like to make people happy. I find that when you love something you do everything falls into place.'

Many people who enter the B&B through Bridget's flower-filled corridor, complete with complimentary Roses chocolates, return year after year.

'They come as guests and leave as friends. They come here and they are the ones who keep my doors open and pay my bills and I look after them. It works both ways.'

Twenty five years ago this month an international news story broke inside the walls of this old building.

The drama unfolded after a girl working at the B&B named Josie Lonergan recognised a man on television who was after arriving from England. The man was the subject of an appeal by British police for kidnapping his 6-year-old daughter. 'He was upstairs in his room and I remember it was my son Edward's Christening the following day. I awoke at 5 a.m. to police coming through the house and TV cameras from the BBC. They couldn't come after him until they got a search warrant so he was here all day.'

The man had brought his daughter on the ferry through Rosslare in a hold-all bag. For many years afterwards the girl's mother wrote Christmas cards to Mary at Inish Ross thanking her for her help. Bridget said the secret to her guesthouse's success is its customers. 'They help me along the way and I help them, whether it's making them a hearty breakfast at 6.30 a.m. or them letting guests in when I have to run to the shops. Edward always wanted to be around for the businesses' 50th anniversary but sadly he passed away two years ago. He was my rock and Mary was a huge part of the business also.'

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