garinish island – once regarded as Heaven

Garinish IslandBernard Harrington remembers in ‘A History of Glengarriff’*:

I have been led to believe that Glengarriff, Killarney and Bundoran are the three oldest tourist resorts in Ireland. From the day when business people, retired people and honeymooners used to come and stay for a week, there have been some enormous changes in patterns of holidaying. …

When I was a boy, the traditional family run Hotel was the heart and soul of the Tourist Industry. Some of our hotels were known and respected for their food and hospitality all over the British Isles, the Continent and the ‘States. They were at their peak in the late ’40s and early ’50s – remember “Rationing was still enforced in England but you got plenty of food in Glengarriff” was the saying. …

The Eccles was owned by the McDonnell family and some very famous people stayed there. The story goes that George Bernard Shaw stayed there in 1923 and he used to go daily to visit Garnish Island, where apparently he got inspiration for writing his famous play “St. Joan”. On the day he was leaving Garnish, Lady Bryce came to the slip way to say goodbye. “Goodbye Shaw” she said “I hope me meet in Heaven”. He looked at her and said “Madam, are we not already?”

The old postcard shows George Bernard Shaw posing between Homer and the young Garinish IslandNero at the Sunken Garden (‘Italian Garden’) on Garinish Island – or rather Ilnacullin as Violet Bryce wanted her Heaven to be named. Shaw was probably inspired by the Bryce’s daughter Marjory, who led a procession on horseback dressed as Joan of Arc at the Women’s Coronation Procession in London in the year 1911. She led some fourty thousand women from almost thirty suffrage organisations whose members celebrated Joan as a perfect symbol to lead women in their appeal for formal admission into the councils of the nation. Marjory’s father Annan Bryce was strongly against suffrage.
*In the Bantry Anthology “It Might Have Been But Yesterday” by GP Denis Cotter

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violet bryce loved glengarriff

Garinish Island Glengarriff

The Rev. T. Harrington at the Agric. Show in Glengarriff on Aug 15th 1910:

“I need not say I refer to Mrs. Bryce, and I say that because it was on her fertile brain and sympathetic heart that industrial movement had its origin. It is so owing to her influence … that Glengariff has been blessed with the presence for the past six months of such a competent official as Mr. Cunneen – the result of whose instructions is that there are at present in the parish 60 holdings in which various kinds of vegetables are cultivated, in some cases, on plots on which nothing ever grew before, but weeds and rushes …”

summer talk about murdo mackenzie

Garinish Island GlengarriffThe last summer talk was held by the very sympathetic and engaged Dorothy Scott, niece of the late Murdo Mackenzie. She came all the way from Scotland to tell the history of Garinish Island through the eyes of her passionate head gardener uncle. She had spent many a holiday on the island when she was a young girl. Unfortunately she got no permission to enter the house which was the home for her uncle for many decades. Violet and Roland Bryce had lived in this ‘Gardener’s Cottage’ before, as the family’s plans of building a huge Florentine style mansion failed. It was built around 1912 – the same time like the gazebos at three corners of the Walled Garden.

early buildings

Garinish Island GlengarriffAt the Summer Talk Evening yesterday evening we could see and hear news not only about the creative architect Harold Peto, who designed the main features of Garnish Island. Angela Rolfe and Liz Morgan from the OPW presented the first drafts for the conversion of the ‘Gardener’s Cottage’ (the place which is inaccessible for tourists and Glengarriff people alike) into an island museum. Building works might be started by 2013 and might be ready by 2014. On an extremely blurred photographic collage from about 1913, placed in an article about Garnish Island in the Southern Star from 1987 there was a house-like structure to be seen in the background (red circle). Apparently the cottage which became Violet Bryce’s home some 10 years later was one of the first buildings erected in a very early stage of the development of the garden island.

talk series about garinish island

Garinish Island GlengarriffAs a nice introduction to the upcoming “The Garinish Island – Centenary Talk Series” starting on June 24th we had the opportunity to listen to a Midsummer Miscellany: excerpts from well known texts as well as poetry, both international
and home produced, together with musical interludes and slide-show. Well done readers!