Thursday, September 30, 2010


Ted and Garry Murphy suggested we visit 'Ballinacurra House'. "It's just up the road" they said. This is where their son had recently had his wedding reception and they just couldn't wait for me to see this place.

When we arrived at the gates, true to it's word, it was indeed private with a security button hidden amongst the ivy. We decided Ted could do the honors !
Once inside, the drive up the avenue immediately catapulted me back to my childhood. These familiar plants were growing wild everywhere. Ferns and Fuschias in full bloom. Moss covered rocks lined the avenue given it a wooded feel.

As soon as we emerged from this wooded copse, hearing the gravel crunch beneath the tires, this bright and welcoming Irish Country mansion awaits you.

Oscar awaited us too ! Oscar was the Irish Wolfhound, a mere puppy, but to a small child, perhaps he would seem like a horse !

This prestigious 5-star estate sits on 40 acres of woodland and water. It is simply breathtaking. A mere 2 minutes from Kinsale Town, ideally located if you want to play a round of golf at the World Famous Course. 'The Old Head of Kinsale'

We were greeted by the owners Des & Lisa McGahan. They had lived in the far East for a considerable amount of time, returned to Ireland and painstakingly and lovingly restored this estate which was originally built in 1791. They explained that they were preparing for a group arriving from New York in a few days. The week before, the King Of Norway had been their guest.

What struck me most was that despite the luxurious surroundings, it had a homely feel, not the stifled feeling I have often gleaned from similar properties. Meandering through the house is like a treasure hunt. Truely it is. Each room has been individually designed. Needless to say , I ended up in the kitchen ! My favorite place in any home. The magnificent old dresser that took up the whole wall was filled with delf and I knew instantly that this farmhouse kitchen was well used. Through the kitchen windows, I could see strawberries growing along the rock wall and I couldn't help but feel the desire to work in this kitchen.

Next to the Manor House, is the 4 bedroomed stylish Coach house. If you feel the need to land your helicopter, fear not as there is a helipad nestled away for your convenience. Before I knew , it was time to leave. After thanking Des & Lisa MCgahan for their hospitality, all that remained was to seek out Oscar to bid him farewell......There we found him, on the front lawn , sleeping. After all it's a tough life here in Ballinacurra House for an Irish Wolfhound !

Reluctant to leave, somehow I knew,that I would come day !

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Punctual as ever, Ted Murphy and his wife Gary arrived at my parents house in Rochestown to take me around Cork for the day. Born and raised in this city, I was about to see it again through a different set of eyes. We drove the picturesque twenty minutes to Kinsale. Just parking the car took me back ! We had to park on a steep hill and it reminded me of my driving test, where you had to complete hill starts and stops and parallel parking ! As soon as we began walking, people honked their horns, rolled their windows down and wanted a word with Ted. This man was well known here in Kinsale,but as the day progressed and indeed the week I learned that he was well known everywhere in Ireland. He was loved. They loved what he had done for us. He had shown people another side to the Irish.

We sauntered down the streets to Desmond Castle, or Caislean Dheasumhan as it is known as Gaeilge (in Irish), this is what you do in Kinsale, you saunter. I think if I saw someone run, then the thought running through my mind would have to be emergency or burglary! The castle is located on 'Cork Street' in Kinsale. It was built by the Earl of Desmond , AD 1500 as a Custom House and had quite a history after that. This little castle was occupied by the Spanish in 1601 and was known locally as 'The French Prison' in 1747 after a tragic fire killed 54 French Prisoners.

Now here is something of great interest that I discovered while there. During the American War of Independence, it was used by the British to house captured American Seamen. The conditions were brutal and cruel. These American Seamen were trying to stop the British from crossing the Atlantic and in doing so were taken captive. Forton Gaol near Portsmouth and Mill Gaol between Plymouth and Plymouth Dock were the Principal Prisons in England and the 'French Prison' in Kinsale served as the princiapl prison in Ireland. A Presbyterian minister from Bandon,Co Cork, Rev John Hazlitt (originally from Kent,UK) and Reuben Harvey , Glass merchant from Kinsale were among the men who offered aid to the prisoners.

John Hazlitt moved to Bandon,from Kent for a short time and from here moved to the United States. There were many prominent Irish supporters to the American's cause. Edmund Burke, Henry Grattan, Robert Stewart and Thomas Connolly to name a few. These were all Upper Class gentry. Reuben Harvey was a middle class man.
Born on September 29th 1734 in Youghal, Co Cork. Reuben was a glass merchant and indeed was noted for selling huge volumes of glass to New York.
Reuben was instrumental in offering aid and comfort to these poor unfortunate souls.

Hanging on the wall of this little castle, in the back streets of Kinsale is one of the most marvelous pieces of history. It is quite simply put.......A THANK YOU LETTER.

From President George Washington, Head Quarters, Newbourgh,NewYork
To Mr Reuben Harvey , Merchant in Cork, Kingdom of Ireland, 10/8/1783