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Killarney’s links with Washington celebrated at Killarney House summer school




A CAPACITY audience gathered at Killarney House on Sunday morning to hear presentations from five speakers on aspects of the life and connections of the McShain family during their occupation of the house from the 1950s to the 1990s, as well as insights into the work of John McShain and others on The White House in Washington DC.

The event was organised by the James Hoban Societies of the US and Ireland, which researches and promotes the life and times of Kilkenny-born James Hoban, the original architect and builder of the presidential mansion, in conjunction with the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Programme director Denis Bergin introduced the session by summarising the contribution of James Hoban and other Irish pioneers to the early development of Washington. Killarney local historian Conor Doolan reported on his research among the many former employees and friends of the McShain family, to give a snapshot of their lives as residents and benefactors of Killarney.

New York author Robert Klara, who has written a book on John McShain's massive reconstruction of the White House in the years 1948-52, reported on his extensive interviews with Sr. Pauline McShain, including her memories of driving with President Franklin Roosevelt in his specially adapted car during a family visit to his New York estate.

Historian Vincent Carmody told of the career of his Listowel-born relative Kathy Buckley, who served three US Presidents as a cook in the White House, and who brought back many mementoes of her time there when she retired to her native place in the 1950s.

Architect Brian O'Connell traced the origins of the American Constitution to documents produced at the Confederation of Kilkenny in 1642, and noted how democratic principles had shaped the spaces used by parliaments from Robert Shee's house in Kilkenny to the former Irish parliament house (now the Bank of Ireland) in College Green and the U.S. Capitol in DC.

Killarney House manager Pat Dawson expressed himself very satisfied with the session, which followed the official opening of the restored reception rooms at Killarney House on July 3, and hoped that the local connection to the McShains and America could be developed as the theme of an annual event.

Photographed at the Hoban-McShain Mini-Summer School session at Killarney House on Sunday morning are: Harry O'Donoghue, caretaker, Killarney House; Conor Doolan, local historian and speaker (Killarney); Vincent Carmody, local historian and speaker (Listowel); Denis Bergin, programme director; Robert Klara, author and speaker (New York); Brian O'Connell, architect and speaker; and Pat Dawson, manager, Killarney House.



Carols by Candlelight

    St. Mary’s Cathedral, will be filled with music and glowing candles, as choirs from all over Killarney Parish gather for a community of voices together to celebrate Christmas […]






St. Mary’s Cathedral, will be filled with music and glowing candles, as choirs from all over Killarney Parish gather for a community of voices together to celebrate Christmas 2023, December17, at 7.00pm. Admission is free.

Ten Choirs from Killarney parish will join together and sing some of the world’s most beloved Christmas carols.
The carol service is directed by accomplished Musician and Choral Director, Paula Gleeson. Originally from Cork, her family have been involved in all aspects of choral and church music for 50 years.

“This is the best experience as director, working with Fr. Kieran O’Brien, and St. Mary’s Cathedral Choir, I get to work with so many talented people in Killarney. The commitment of Teachers, Principals, and the hundreds of students from the Primary and Secondary Schools is inspiring. The generosity of our sponsors, who were so willing to contribute has helped to make this night a reality. We are all so truly grateful,” she said.

Choirs include:
St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish Choir, organist Anita Lakner
Holy Cross Mercy School Choir
St. Oliver’s Primary School Choir
St. Brigid’s Secondary School Choir
St. Brendan’s Secondary School Choir
Killarney Harmonisers
Killarney Community College School Choir
Lissivigeen National School Choir
Gaelscoil Faithleann School Choir
Presentation Monastery School Choir

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The same but different – A tribute to three great Irish musicians



Driving home from work last Friday, tributes for Shane McGowan were pouring out across the radio stations and while listening in, I got a strong sense of déjà vu.

It was only a few months earlier that we got the sad news that the talented Aslan front man Christy Dingham had passed away, and a short few weeks after that – Sinéad O’Connor.  The loss of three iconic Irish musicians that left music fans across the country reeling.

When I think about each artist individually, their personalities couldn’t be more different. Yet, for days after the passing of the Pogues frontman, I found myself wondering why I was so drawn to all three.

And then, over the weekend I stumbled across a completely unrelated article which led with a headline:

“In a year dominated by artificial intelligence, deepfakes, and disingenuity, “authentic” has somehow emerged as Merriam-Webster’s word for 2023.”

And there was my answer. The one characteristic that embodied all three of these great Irish musicians.

It was my mother that first introduced me to Aslan’s music. She grew up during their peak and loved all sorts of rock music. I regularly watch their Vicar Street performances back on YouTube and still get mesmerised by Christy’s intense stage presence. Using elaborate hand gestures to evoke a greater meaning behind the words, he always looked like he was away in his own world. Off stage, and particularly later in his career, I admired him for his honesty when talking about his struggles with addiction and mental health. He was talking openly about these issues long before it was the norm.

Sinéad O’Connor was another original soul who, because of her talent, was catapulted into a music industry consumed by artificiality; she was almost too pure for it all. I always admired her unwavering commitment to her beliefs. Her authenticity was evident in every aspect of her artistry. The way she unapologetically embraced her shaved head and boy-ish style, she challenged conventional opinions around beauty. Her music reflected her personal struggles and she never shied away from addressing issues of social injustice, religion, and gender equality. Her stances often drew criticism and controversy, but she always remained true to herself.

Shane MacGowan will always be remembered for his unfiltered nature, and while the lyrics of many songs were dark and gritty, there was also an element of empathy and compassion in what he wrote. Like Christy, he too struggled with addiction and mental health issues throughout his career. While his demons sometimes spilled over into the public eye, his honesty and vulnerability just endeared him even more to us Irish.

So isn’t it apt in a year we lost three great musicians, the word of 2023 happens to be the one undeniable trait that they all shared. Thank you Christy, Sinead and Shane for showing us that authenticity is not just about being different to everyone else; but also about possessing the courage to challenge the established, to question the norms, and to keep going, even when the going gets tough.


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