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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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Killarney co-drivers to the fore at this weekend

Two Killarney-based co-drivers will contest this weekend’s Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, the fourth rounds of the British Rally Championship. The two-day event gets underway tonight (Friday) with one stage set to be run under the cover of darkness. On the startline will be Muckross man Noel O’Sullivan and Aghadoe’s Mikie Galvin. O’Sullivan, co-driver to Welshman Osian […]

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Two Killarney-based co-drivers will contest this weekend’s Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, the fourth rounds of the British Rally Championship.

The two-day event gets underway tonight (Friday) with one stage set to be run under the cover of darkness.
On the startline will be Muckross man Noel O’Sullivan and Aghadoe’s Mikie Galvin.

O’Sullivan, co-driver to Welshman Osian Pryce, is the current leader of the series while Galvin, who reads pacenotes for fellow Killarney and District Motor Club member, West Cork’s Keith Cronin, is eighth after missing the opening round.

“The element of darkness certainly brings an additional challenge to all the crews, especially since most of us will not have done any night stages for some time, the most recent I did was in 2017 on the Ulster Rally,” Cronin noted.

The route layout reads like an extract from the itinerary of the World Championship counting RAC Rally of the 1980s, featuring familiar locations such as Dalby, Gale Rigg and Langdale, and it will be the Dalby Forest test that opens the competition shortly after 8pm tonight.

Meanwhile, Irish rallying returned last Sunday after the pandemic-enforced lay-off with the ‘Munster Car Club’s Cork 20’.

London-based Listry co-driver Shane Buckley was the best of the local entrants, guiding Daniel Cronin, Keith’s brother, to fifth overall.

Ger Conway and his driver Stephen Wright were just two places and 8.9 seconds behind in another Ford Fiesta RC2. It was Conway’s first taste of a RC2 car since he and Rob Duggan finished second overall on the 2018 Donegal International Rally.

“There is a taste of more after this,” said Ger after a trouble-free day.
Damien Fleming came close to making it four local co-drivers in the top 10. He and his driver Stephen McCann were 11th, just 16.6 off the leader board. They said it took a while to get used to the bumpy Irish tar after a recent trip to the Tour of Flanders in Belgium.

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Education Minister officially opens The Mon’s new classrooms

A town primary school – which has a deep connection to Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty – has a whole new look which was officially opened today (Friday) by the Minister for Education. Norma Foley TD officially opened the newly constructed wing to the Presentation Monastery Primary School on New Road which will house two special needs classrooms, a multi-sensory room […]

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A town primary school – which has a deep connection to Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty – has a whole new look which was officially opened today (Friday) by the Minister for Education.

Norma Foley TD officially opened the newly constructed wing to the Presentation Monastery Primary School on New Road which will house two special needs classrooms, a multi-sensory room and a general-purpose hall.

The project, which was funded by Department of Education along with money raised by the school as part of their ‘THE MON-ster Fundraiser’, was just one of three officially opened new additions to the school along with a special dedication of the school’s hall in honour of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, a past pupil of the school from 1909-1914.

Also, The Most Rev. Ray Browne, Bishop of Kerry, officially opened a three-classroom extension at the school’s present site which was opened in 1958 having moved from its College Street location which was opened in 1838 by the Presentation Brothers.

Former Supreme Court Judge Hugh O’Flaherty and Mrs Pearl Dineen the nephew and niece of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty officiated over the dedicating of the school’s new hall to past pupil, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, in recognition of his heroic deeds during WWII.

O’Flaherty, who also taught at the school later, became better known for the role he played in World War II while at the Vatican leading over 6,500 prisoners of war, partisans and Jews to freedom to earn him the title of the ‘Vatican Pimpernel’, leading to the 1983 film ‘The Scarlet and the Black’ with Gregory Peck portraying the role of O’Flaherty.

OUTDOOR CLASSROOM

A special outdoor classroom ‘Dotts Garden’, dedicated to the memory of Dorothy (Dott) Hennggler the 2011 Washington DC Rose who died at the family home in Baltimore from a brain tumour, was officially opened by Anne O’Shea (aunt of the late Dorothy), and Àine McMahon (cousin of the late Dorothy and BOM member). The outdoor classroom was beautifully decorated over the summer by artist Katríona Lynch.

Due to COVID restrictions, the main event took place outdoors with staff joined by a small group of pupils selected from each of the classes representing the student body along with members of the school’s Board of Management.

“Your achievements have been remarkable over the last number of months,” Minister of Education, Norma Foley, said today at the official opening.

“It is my wish going forward that the next year in education will be less complicated, less trying and less difficult one. I think school staff are deserving of that. We can put the COVID atmosphere behind us and we are moving positively along. We hope that in a few months we will talk about living in a post-COVID time. The story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty speaks of the calibre of students produced here, but it also speaks of the courage and bravery and vision that Kerry people can have in the most difficult and trying of times.”

School principal Colm Ó Suilleabháin, who is shortly moving on to St Oliver’s NS in Ballycasheen, was delighted to be in attendance to see the building come to fruition.

“It’s a fantastic culmination of hard work by the staff and the Board of Management, and we are delighted to see the school is fully equipped and resourced for the next generation of pupils from Killarney and beyond,” he said.

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