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The man who bought Killarney (and gave it back to us for nothing)

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You might not recognise the man in this picture, but you should. I have to confess my own ignorance here; I didn’t know much about him either until I read an article by local historian Damien Switzer in this year’s edition of Killarney Magazine, which was published a couple of weeks ago.

The man pictured is John McShain, a multimillionaire American philanthropist who was born in Philadelphia in 1898. He took over his family’s construction business in 1919 and went on become one of the most successful builders of his time.

When he was 59, McShain was part of a syndicate that bought Killarney House and Gardens (and later the 8,300-acre Kenmare Estate in Killarney, an area of town that included Killarney House, the Demesne, Ross Castle and Innisfallen from Lady Grosvenor). Two years later he bought out the syndicate, answering the age-old question, “How do you buy Killarney?” in the process.

So how did it come to pass that 8,300 acres of private property – the site of some of the most spectacularly beautiful scenery in the world – found its way back to the people of Killarney? It’s not exactly something you just give up for free out of the goodness of your heart.

Unless you’re John McShain. In 1973 McShain and his wife, Mary, gave Innisfallen and its historic ruins to the nation. A few years later, they handed over their estate for a nominal fee on two conditions. First: they wanted to live in Killarney House for the rest of their lives. And second: they insisted that the land would forever be part of Killarney National Park.

John died in 1989 and Mary in 1998. Killarney House and Gardens, located in the heart of the town, has since been redeveloped and it has quickly become one of the most beloved spots in the entire park.

Killarney is an incredible place and we have a great many people to thank for that. Some of them have been memorialised in place names and roads, such as famed men of enterprise MD O’Shea and Dr Hans Liebherr. Other famous sons, like legendary musician Johnny O’Leary from Gneeveguilla and Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, have had statues erected in their honour.

But what about the man who basically gave Killarney to the people of Killarney? Imagine not having access to Killarney House and its gardens, the Demesne, Ross Castle, the middle and lower lakes, Innisfallen… It’s unthinkable.

Damien Switzer has called for walls of Killarney House and Gardens to be pulled down to make it more accessible to locals and tourists alike and this section of the park to be renamed the John McShain Memorial Park. He would also like to see a statue to erected somewhere prominent in town. After all we have the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park in Muckross. I, for one, agree with him. It seems strange to me that someone who played such a massively positive role in our past should be so absent in our present.

What do you think? Should Killarney House and Gardens be renamed John McShain Memorial Park? Should we erect a McShain statue? Let us know by emailing newsdesk@killarneyadvertiser.ie. 

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Dancing classes set to unite communities

By Michelle Crean There’s no language barrier when it comes to dancing – which is why one local group is organising classes to unite communities. KASI, the Killarney Immigrant Support […]

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By Michelle Crean

There’s no language barrier when it comes to dancing – which is why one local group is organising classes to unite communities.

KASI, the Killarney Immigrant Support Centre, has teamed up with dance instructor John Moriarty to teach both Ukrainians and multiple cultures living in Kerry Irish set dancing steps from next week.

The first class will take place on Tuesday evenings, starting next week (September 27) at St Mary’s Parish Hall at 6.30pm and all are welcome to join.

The idea is to help Ukrainians living in Killarney and Kerry to come and have fun and get to know locals better, KASI coordinator, Marilyn Catapat-Counihan, explained to the Killarney Advertiser.

“We have a women’s group for all ages where we do crochet, sewing and art and crafts, where they can talk which is good. I had the music on and they were dancing. I asked if they would like to do dancing classes so I organised it with John Moriarty who is well known in Killarney.”

She added that the women are very excited to learn set dancing and get to know other people from the area.

“Sometimes when you meet new people the language can be a barrier and when you’re dancing everybody is moving. He will open it to everyone so there’ll be integration, it’s fun as well. They are all very excited.”

To find out more contact John on 086 1579381.

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Multiple Sclerosis Walk celebrates 20 years

By Sean Moriarty The rising cost of fuel is already having a negative effect on charity events with some limiting numbers. On October 9, the annual Multiple Sclerosis South Kerryv Walk […]

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By Sean Moriarty

The rising cost of fuel is already having a negative effect on charity events with some limiting numbers.

On October 9, the annual Multiple Sclerosis South Kerryv Walk takes place over the Old Kenmare Road.

First run in 2002, this year’s event will celebrate 20 years since its foundation but two years were lost as a result of the pandemic.

This year’s walk will be limited to 150 people – three coach loads – so event organisers can cut back on running costs.

It will only be possible to participate in this year’s event if walkers pre-register.

“Walkers must raise at least €40 to make it worthwhile,” organiser John O’Shea told the Killarney Advertiser.

“Spaces are limited, 150 people equals three coaches and we need smaller coaches to get into the start of the Old Kenmare Road as that is just a bog road. We have limited numbers for cost and operational reasons.”

Mr O’Shea thanked event sponsors O’Callaghan Coaches and The Gleneagle Hotel for their support of the event.

Registration forms can be obtained by calling John on 087 2348824.

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