I dialled the number and waited:
– Hello? -said the man’s voice eventually
– Hi, my name is Anna and I’m just browsing here through the Irish National Heritage Week booklet and read about Currahgmore House, is it? – and gardens and the Shell House… – I could hear the terrible disappointment in the heavy sigh on the other end of the line
– It says here you’re open this Sunday? – I went on regardless
– I tell you; I’m on holiday, alright?
– Oh, I’m sorry… – I said, for what else could you say, if they’re on holiday on an early Friday afternoon in August and you’ve just disturbed them?
– Bye! – they said and hung up
I followed the puzzling telephone conversation above with an email and a very polite reply came back from the tour guide Basil next morning and so – came Sunday we took the trip.
Curraghmore House in Portlaw, Co. Waterford has been in the hands of the same family for over 800 years. And yet it seems like it’s another best kept secret – like so many others I stumled upon in this county. It wasn’t even marked on the tourist info board in Portlaw and we had to ask the locals for directions. Past Centra you go straight, and further along that road you drive through the white gate on the left. You enter the estate grounds. You have to slow down and admire the pheasants. Thay are the survivers of the last year’s hunting season.
The House is still inhabited by Lord and Lady Waterford but the aristocrats were away the day the visitors gathered in the courtyard.
First we were shown into the Shell House. Hidden gem of the garden – interior of this tiny structure is clad floor to ceiling with shells gathered by Waterford sailors from all over the world. Lady Catherine, amazingly brave woman is credited with design and decorating in 1754.
Entering the mansion I felt transferred in time. Once you come to terms with elephants’ feet and trunk serving as golf clubs storage, the tusks decorating the walls, you are invited further in. And you stop in awe of the fabulous georgian plasterwork by James Wyatt, incredibly light and elegant staircase which sustained a rider on the horse one time.
I found the 3 bottom black and white photographs of the Curraghmore interiors on the Waterford Museum website as visitors were requested not to take pictures inside, it being someone’s private home. In one of the photos, taken between 1900-1910 you can see the ceiling of the drawing room, original Chinese Chippandale cabinet, Marie Antoinette’s screen and beautiful paintings. The first of the 3 historc images shows the guests present at the hunting ball of 1939. First winter of the World War II.
I couldn’t get over so much history in one place! The good looking ladies and gentlemen looking out from the many family portraits and between the ancient ornaments – contemporary photographs scattered of the youngest generation – enjoying themselves on the boat, propped against a cushion as a baby.
Maintaining the lifestyle of hunting and partying in this day and age seemed unreal, enchanting to me. I thought of the film ‘Peter’s Friends’ – about the contemporary English lord and his commoner friends visiting over Christmas.
The everyday objects such as cuttlery and china serve thier purpose for generations, the tablecloth on the dining table dated from 1867 and even though I thought the two lampshades in the drawing room could do nicely with Kimono Lamps updates made of white Japanese wedding silk, they will probably need to wait another 100 years for their turn.