I diverted to County Wicklow this week, for a four mile run. As you do. I hadn`t any pre set plan of where to go. Just literally followed my nose and arrived at The Meeting of the Waters.
This is an old time romantic spot where the River Avonmore (meaning Big River) meets the Avonbeg( yes, Little River) and form the Avoca River (I`ve no idea and I`m too lazy to google).
It was made famous by the nineteenth century poet Thomas Moore. Moore wrote a lot of his poems and songs at this river confluence and penned these words in his song The Meeting of the Waters
There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet,
As the vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet”
I imagine Moore delighted in strolling through the Wicklow countryside. Indeed, it is still a favourite haunt of hill walkers and hikers of all ages and abilities. But I had come here to run and really, having had my share of hills last week, I was seeking a flatter spot. After soaking up the sun and the glorious views, I was back in my car seeking another location.
Meandering along by the River Avoca, I came upon it`s namesake the village of Avoca.
This is a really pretty little village and also look a tad familiar to some of you.
Yes, it`s Ballykissangel. The series of the same name were filmed here between 1996 and 2001 and may still be running on some TV networks.
Have to confess, I never followed the series myself, just happened upon the occasional episode. But this isn`t a criticism of the series. It`s just me and TV. We`re just not the very best of pals.
Anyway, snooping done, it was time to stake out another joint for my four mile run.
I`m afraid all of my heroes are long dead. I have not, I hasten to add, had any influence in their demise. It`s just that I`m a fond of the bit of aul history. Indeed, the Teens think I`m a bit of aul history myself.
Anyway, Charles Stewart Parnell is right up there with being one of my favourite characters in Irish history and my trip to Avondale confirmed why.
But first, I`d to get my run out of the way.
Avondale is set amid five hundred acres of glorious woodland. The Irish state forestry company, Coillte, own it now.
In my naiveté, I thought that mean we, the Irish taxpayers owned it too, but apparently, despite most of my income pouring into the state coffers in one form or another, Coillte charge €5 for the privilege of parking one`s car in Avondale forest. Grrrrr.
But, being Irish, I meekly handed over the dough, anyway.
I also left my big baluba of a camera in the car so I could concentrate on actual running. Time for pics later, when I got to the house itself. I contented myself with a two mile loop through wood and dale, doubling it up to make the required four and back to the car to freshen up.
Mind you, I needn`t have worried too much about the freshening up part. When I got to Avondale, it turned out that I was all alone in the Big House.
This might have had something to do with the fact that the Avondale House people were extracting another €5 for the privilege of a self guided tour of the house.
Sigh. I handed it over.
Just so you don`t have to.
The self guided bit turned out to be a sheet of laminated card with typewritten notes on each room. No, not quite high tech but still, it did the job. And would even have served me better if I were smart enough to take a pic of it for future reference. But yeah, you guessed, I`m a bird brain.
Most of the Parnell furniture has been auctioned off and what you`ll see in most of the rooms are pieces donated by families or the National Museum of Ireland. So, the place looks a tad more Spartan than it originally would have been. And some of the fixtures-especially the lighting-looks distinctly out of place.
Still, it`s always a joy to stand in a Georgian house. I love the space, proportions and light of those places. And, in this regard, Avondale was a thrill.
Samuel Hayes, a barrister, had the house built for himself in 1777. It passed on then to his dear friend Sir John Parnell, Charles Stewart`s great grandfather.
The sideboard is one of the original pieces belonging to the Parnell family. It was built especially to fit this alcove in 1834. Charles Stewart`s father married an American woman, Delia Stewart in 1835 and Charles was born in 1846.
Out through the concealed door then and into…
Closer peek at the Bossi fireplace and on to
I’m sure it had a considerably larger collection of books when Charles Stewart Parnell was in residence. He became a member of the British Parliament and campaigned vigorously for the Irish tenants`rights to land ownership, and also to a form of government in Ireland known as Home Rule.
Then peek around upstairs….
….and into the Lady`s Bedroom. The quilt is an original from the nineteenth century, as is the bed and nightstand. Doubt that`s true for the window treatment though.
And onto Parnell`s bedroom…
…with it`s lovely four poster. And surely that lightshade is from the 1930s? If so, it`s not from the Parnells, as they were long gone by then.
Indeed, it was the bedroom department-though not this particular one-which led to Parnell`s downfall.
Ever one to defy the conventions of his time, Parnell became besotted with a married woman, one Katherine O`Shea. The story has it that she pursued him but he kept turning her down. And then, one day she alighted from her carriage and a rose fell from her bosom and landed at Parnell`s feet.
And the rest, as they say, became adultery.
Yep, Katherine was already married to one Captain O`Shea. Initially, the chap didn`t seem the least perturbed by his wife`s floral excursions. Because money, in the form of a will from Katherine`s aunt, had skewed the Captain`s moral compass somewhat. While he and Katherine were indeed separated, the Captain refused to divorce her as he would then be disinherited.
However, by 1889, he changed his tune. He cited Parnell as the other party in an adulterous relationship with Katherine. At this point, Katherine and Parnell already had three children together. With the cat out of the bag, the press and Catholic tenants turned against Parnell. O`Shea got his divorce, Parnell and Katherine married but four months later. But, at the age of forty six, Charles Stewart Parnell died in his wife`s arms, a broken man.
I was off to Avoca next. The other one – destination shop and café. Yes, all that running, history and tragedy had worked up an appetite.
But I`ll save that trip for another post.