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More the half crown than the crown

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When Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, two of her daughters, large retinue and press corps departed Killarney by train on August 29, 1861, “the consensus was the ordinary people were a model of loyalty and allegiance to the crown.”

The lavish visit was recalled again in 2011 in the press clippings ahead of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland. The nobility rode along side Vic’s carriage. Dragoons and equerries and other long forgotten ranks in this republic accompanied her, along with 400 members of the constabulary in dress uniform drawn from Cork, Limerick and Kildare.

The who’s who of Kerry got to meet and greet the Queen during her three-day stay in Killarney. Killarney House, owned by Lord Castlerosse, was the public side of the visit, while her stay at Colonel Herbert’s place at Muckross House was more private.

Hundreds of boats lined the quays as she set out by barge on the lake; thousands lined the lakeshores and streets to cheer on the Queen. She visited Innisfallen. She walked around Muckross Abbey. She took a ride in a landau around Muckross estate.

The late Séamus McConville, former editor of the Kerryman, searched the archives of the 150-year-old Kerry Post in 2011

“The royal carriage was drawn by four dark bays, with outriders and footmen behind. A guard of honour of the 18th Royal Irish were drawn up and presented arms, and the escort was composed of 40 of the 1st Royal Dragoons. Lord Castlerosse and Colonel Herbert as lieutenant of the county rode on either side of the carriage.

“The assemblies on five monster galleries, erected by Lord Castlerosse, joined with the thousands on the road (to Killarney House) in the heartiest of demonstrations of welcome. The Queen seemed greatly impressed and highly pleased with the enthusiasm of the people and bowed repeatedly to the right and to the left, with a marked and gracious manner, to the assembled thousands.”

It seems there was a spontaneous loyalty in Killarney to the Crown. These days of course, it’s not the Crown that is the important issue – it’s the half crown. The visit of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the communication of their visit by a large press corps, will hopefully draw the British loyal tourist in their hordes to Killarney as it did in 1861.

The English Market in Cork - a down at heel, fly-blown place when I lived in the city - has seen a transformation and a surge of visitors since Queen Elizabeth was snapped heartily laughing at the fishmonger by Killarney’s Valerie O’Sullivan and Cork has been put on the tourist map.

Back in the day, Castlerosse, and Herbert to a lesser extent, would have been fully aware of the value of Queen Vic’s visit to local tourism too. Tourism was already thriving in Killarney, drawing poets like Tennyson (The splendour falls on castle walls… Blow, bugle, blow…)

And while Queen Victoria’s visit is often mistakenly said to have started tourism in Killarney, it was a far more pedestrian piece of infrastructure which actually clinched it for the town. Before Victoria, the railway had arrived and it was this 1853 event which more than anything literally drew the tourist - and allowed the Queen to progress to Killarney in just six and a half hours from Dublin.

“The opening of the Dublin to Killarney railway line in 1853 brought this remote region within reach of a host of new visitors,” Killarney’s Donal Horgan of Lewis Road writes in his splendid book on tourism The Victorian Visitor to Ireland, published in 2002.

Killarney, of course, ticked all the right boxes for the Victorian tourist: a romantic lakeside setting, spectacular ruins, day trips, lots of parkland and lots of ways to amuse, and quality accommodation.

A huge industry has been built on the 1861 visit, so much so the town is now almost wholly dependent on tourism. But challenges remain: access is still an issue, a year-round business is still someway off, and we still do not have a third level tourism college which would set proper professional standards across all sectors of the local industry.

Courting the loyal and neighbouring British tourist - particularly in the shoulder and winter season - might just clinch it.

There has, of course, this time been an attempt to spread the Prince around like the proverbial pound of butter so Tralee for instance can reap a tourism benefit. Our own Moira Murrell, the county chief executive who is a very fair-minded person indeed, is credited with swinging it for Tralee .

And the county town, a stronghold of republicanism, which a mere decade ago refused safe haven to the British flagship store Marks and Spencers (who had to seek refuge in Killarney), can’t get over its good fortune.

In his book on tourism, Donal Horgan also notes how the Prince of Wales was so taken by the Gap of Dunloe in 1858 he broke into a rendition of God Save the Queen.

Now, one has to wonder if Martin Ferris, and even the Fianna Fáil Mayor of Killarney, or Tralee, will be so moved by Prince Charles this time, and perhaps even Camilla, there will be a spontaneous embrace of the UK anthem - for the sake of the half crown, of course.

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Kerry rowing clubs flock to Killarney for the start of the coastal season

There was a fantastic spectacle of colour and rowing on Lough Leane last Sunday (June 16th) with the coastal rowing clubs of Kerry participating in the first ‘Head of the […]

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There was a fantastic spectacle of colour and rowing on Lough Leane last Sunday (June 16th) with the coastal rowing clubs of Kerry participating in the first ‘Head of the Lake’ time-trial for coastal one-design boats.

The event, hosted by the local Flesk Valley Rowing Club, signalled the start of the summer season for clubs rowing the coastal ‘one-design’ boats.

It was fitting that on the weekend that the Killarney National Park celebrated the 60th anniversary of the opening of Muckross House to the public, that hundreds of people also flocked to the Flesk Valley shore to appreciate and enjoy the splendour of the park.

Speaking after the event, Flesk Valley chairman, John Fleming thanked all the Kerry clubs who supported this new event and congratulated all the first-time rowers taking to the water in a competitive event for the first time.
“We were delighted to welcome our neighbouring clubs Workmens’ and Fossa, and look forward to renewing rivalries with them again at the Killarney Regatta at the end of this month,” he said.

“We would also like to thank Mary B. Teahan, Andrew Wharton, Johanna King and the Kerry Coastal Rowing Association for all their support and encouragement, and Denis O’Leary for coordinating safety on the water.”
Flesk Valley would also like to thank the Killarney National Park, Leanes Tool Hire, Hegartys Shop and Muckross Rowing Club for their support.

“This was a great start to the coastal rowing season, and augurs well for the months ahead as clubs build towards the All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships to be held in Dingle at the end of August,” added the chairman.

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NPWS announces nature scholarships to mark ‘Muckross 60’

Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Niall O’ Donnchú, this week announced the inaugural ‘Muckross 60’ nature scholarships to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the opening of […]

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Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Niall O’ Donnchú, this week announced the inaugural ‘Muckross 60’ nature scholarships to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the opening of Muckross House and Gardens to the public. The scholarships will be funded and managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Niall O Donnchú said, “Killarney and Muckross have a very special place in Ireland’s heritage legacy, and  such beautiful gems need constant care, nurturing and indeed protecting by future generations. In supporting these third level scholarships, the NPWS is building the knowledge base of the future to assist those generations in continuing to realise the full beauty and nature value of the very unique Muckross House and Gardens and Killarney National Park.”

Mr O Donnchú added: “Killarney has a long history of scholarship, research and frontier work on nature and that continues to this day in the management of Killarney National Park and Muckross House and Gardens. The endowment of these annual scholarships is a very clear attestation that this crucial work continues to be undertaken across our national park system and especially here in Killarney and Muckross. This work has been pioneering in respect of wildlife and nature research and indeed the reintroduction of endangered species and the discovery, even this year, of more.”

Minister for Education and Kerry T.D. Norma Foley also welcomed new scholarships to mark the 60th anniversary of Muckross House.

“Muckross House is one of the jewels in the crown of Kerry tourism and received almost one million visitors last year. These scholarships will further add to our understanding of this outstanding part of our national heritage,” she said.

Muckross House was built by the Herbert family, who were local landlords. They became very wealthy during the 18th century due to the working of the copper mines on the Muckross Peninsula. They commenced the building of the present Muckross House in 1839. It was completed in 1843 at cost of £30,000, just two years prior to the Great Irish Famine. The Herbert family hosted the visit of Queen Victoria to Muckross House in 1861 but later got into financial difficulties and lost the house in 1897.

It was then bought by Lord Ardilaun, a member of the Guinness family. He in turn sold it in 1911 to William Bowers Bourn, a wealthy Californian gold miner. Bowers Bourn gave it to his daughter Maud as a wedding gift when she married Arthur Rose Vincent, an Irish barrister who later became a Senator.

After Maude died from pneumonia in 1929, Arthur Rose Vincent decided to donate Muckross house to the Irish nation as a memorial to his wife. Muckross House was transferred to the state in 1932 with its 11,000 acre estate and became Ireland’s first National Park in 1933.

The park and gardens were opened to the public but the house remained closed until 1964 when it was reopened as a folk museum on June 14, 1964 following a campaign by people in Killarney.

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