On Saturday, 20th August, fifty-five IGRS members and their friends took part in the Society’s Annual Summer Outing to venues in counties Kildare, Longford and Westmeath.
The coach left at 8am from outside the National Museum in Dublin, heading for our first stop at Castletown House, Co. Kildare, where after coffee and scones we were broken into two groups for a tour of the house. Castletown is a Palladian mansion built in 1722 for William Conolly, the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Conolly was an interesting figure, born about 1662 the son of an Innkeeper from Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. He married well and had a head for business. The house formed the centre piece of an estate that once spread over 550 acres.
Conolly died without issue and the estate was bequeathed to his nephew William, but who also died without issue. The estate was sold to developers in 1965, but the house (with some land) was saved from demolition when it was bought in 1967 and restored by Desmond Guinness. It is now vested between the Castletown Foundation and the Office of Public Works (OPW).
The party then travelled on to the Ballinamuck Heritage Centre. The Centre is housed in a former Royal Irish Constabulary barracks dating from 1846, in the village of Ballinamuck, in the north of Co. Longford. It houses an exhibition detailing the 1798 Rebellion in the Longford area with particular reference to the Battle of Ballinamuck.
After a delicious lunch at the Longford Arms Hotel, the last visit of the day was to Tullynally Castle, near Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath. The house is the home of the Pakenham family, Earls of Longford, and was originally built in the seventeenth century as a plantation house, one which could be defended. It was remodelled in the Gothic style in the nineteenth century and was renamed Pakenham Hall. After partition it once again took its earlier name of Tullynally.
The group was again split in two and one half was lucky enough to be shown around by Eliza Pakenham, daughter of the current, 8th Earl, Thomas Pakenham, who regaled us with tales of the excitement of a child living in the house in the 1960s and 1970s. The difference between the quite sterile museum atmosphere of Castletown and the lived-in family home Tullynally was palpable.
The day ended with afternoon tea at the Conyngham Arms Hotel, Slane, Co. Meath, before returning to Dublin.
Traditionally, the Annual Summer Outing has been held in late June, but this year the Ireland Branch Committee, now chaired by Claire Bradley, decided to move it to later August, and it certainly paid-off with double the number that normally attend. The day may have been drizzly, but everyone enjoyed themselves, with lots of fun and banter along the way! Well done to all who organised the day, particularly Cat Delaney, Bernadette Cass, Aileen Wynne and Claire Bradley.
A set of terrific photos of the day were taken by Ireland Branch Hon. Secretary, Aileen Wynne, who has posted them on her Facebook page.