Monday, July 29, 2019

As back yards go, one would be hard-pressed to find one as awesome and tranquil as Curraghmore Estate. A stretch of its famed wall runs the length of the garden that my siblings and I grew up in outside Portlaw, en route to Clonea Power.

On the other side of the wall, beyond some 30-year-old conifers, the vast, sloping Sheep Walk was, for many happy decades, my Grandad Jimmy’s workplace. For us smaller ones, the seat of the Marquis of Waterford was Narnia.

Grandad tended sheep, bottle-fed lambs and covered every blade of grass in the vast field which flanks the estate wall on one side, and the Clodiagh River on the other. He was as gentle in his manner as he was meticulous in his work.

The place that he and his wife Kit raised my Dad and two Aunts effectively became our home too, such were the levels of time we spent in the Estate as children.

The infusing hint of wild garlic during summer’s opening chapter, the excited squawk of young pheasants amidst the old oaks and mighty spruces and the subdued call of the wood pigeon, are inextricably linked to Curraghmore.

The River Walk, the Japanese Garden, the ‘Enchanted Island’, the Alcove, the Avenue, the Kennel House, the Farmyard, the Sawmill, Tower Hill, Ivy Cottage, the First Gates, the Cradle Well, John’s Bridge, the Shell House, Clonegam, the Court Yard. Just assembling this list brought me out in goosebumps. For me, there’s no place on Earth quite like it and I’ve never lost sight of my good fortune at growing up alongside and, indeed, in Curraghmore.

I was lucky enough to live there with my Granny during my teenage years (where every night included lengthy chat, a poor TV reception and multiple cuppas) and, throughout my adulthood, regularly with a dog for company.

Given the successes of the Waterford Country Fair, the Comeraghs Wild Festival and, in particular, last year’s All Together Now, the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to Curraghmore. As ‘ATN’ organisers openly admitted last year, the surrounds themselves are as enticing as the entertainment they drew to the Estate. To see so many first time visitors rendered slack-jawed by the place didn’t surprise me in the slightest. My own vivid memories of the place now extend to 35 years (gulp!) and each and every time I pass through the gates, something tends to catch my eye in a way it didn’t previously.

This sensation hit me right between the eyes again during the interval of Chapter House Theatre’s finely staged outdoor production of ‘Wuthering Heights’, held as part of this year’s Comeraghs Wild Festival on Sunday, July 14.

Strolling alongside the pond and back on a loop which brought me to the Shell House, with largely no-one for company at the time, I just drank in every shade of green I could glimpse. There was music softly playing in the background while theatregoers enjoyed strawberries and cream and I found myself as enchanted by my surrounds as I did by that afternoon’s performance.

The stoic Seneca wrote: “In all things we should try to make ourselves be as grateful as possible. For gratitude is a good thing for ourselves, in a manner which justice, commonly held to belong to others, is not. Gratitude pays itself back in large measure.”

In those few minutes of solitude, I was overwhelmed with gratitude: to have the health to enjoy that Sunday, to once more savour that unrivalled location and to appreciate the lovely company I otherwise found myself in that afternoon. Curraghmore, my Narnia, will be forever entangled in my circuitry. This is as pleasing to me as it is consoling.

Curraghmore House and Gardens, bedecked in sunshine for the Comeraghs Wild Festival.

Sunset over Curraghmore on Saturday, July 13.

A bumper audience of over 400 people enjoyed the staging of ‘Wuthering Heights’ in the gardens of Curraghmore House on Sunday, July 14.

Curraghmore’s famed Shell House, the brainchild of Catherine, Countess of Tyrone, who completed her interior work in 1754.

 

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