Enjoying Our Doneraile Park May 10th by Seán Ó Callanáin
Visiting places of high regard is often coloured by the reports of those who have gone before. Poet Pat O Kelly’s review of his 1808 visit was less than five star praise:-
“Alas how dismal is my tale,
I lost my watch in Doneraile ___
May curses wholesale and retail
Pour with full force on Doneraile “
Thankfully the 30 plus RTAI walkers who visited Doneraile Park, came open-minded. Our visit was rewarded with a memorable walk, sunny weather and the best of company. All praise to Mary Fitzgerald for organising our outing and sourcing our guide —Michael O Sullivan. He wore his depth of knowledge lightly as he opened our eyes to an attraction that half a million visitors enjoyed last year.Like a latter day shepherd— staff in hand— he joined for us dots of today’s Doneraile, to its elaborate mini – Versailles past.The ambition shown in diverting the river, creating a waterfall and terracing the main view from the house ,showed a flight of imagination and investment that is perhaps beyond todays best efforts.
The preparation for a visit by King George IV were well beyond a “ a lick of paint” proportions and must have lightened the pockets of the St. Leger family. That he failed to arrive must have tempted them to republicanism. The Kings “ Gabh mo leithscéal” note was nowhere in sight. Our guide had the happy knack of leading us to viewing spots that coupled with his words, illuminated the estates past and ambitious future. With Government support and local enthusiasm, we the people of Ireland-have a treasure in Doneraile of great worth.
The uplift of the outing ensured sharpened appetite to which the “ Tea Rooms” ensured a happy ending. The soup, light meals and desserts were top class and worthy of many stars.
As we left we felt rather like poet Pat O Reilly when the Lady of the Big House presented him with a new watch.
“May all from Belfast to Kinsale ,be half as good as Doneraile —-
May every wish and prayer avail, to crown the peace of Doneraile “