Monday, November 12, 2012

The Children of Castletown House by Sarah Conolly-Carew

With a foreword by Desmond Guinness and a handsome dust jacket photograph of the fine Castletown House and the four Conolly-Carew children; Diana, Patrick, Sarah and Gerald in tweed caps and jackets we know this book is going to be a splendid insight into the lives of a privileged family.

Starting the story with their great grandfather, born in 1823, Sarah Conolly-Carew takes us through twenty packed chapters covering finding a bride, the Second World War, 1950s estate workers, the IRA, Dublin Horse Show- with a final chapter 'Decision to sell, a failure and Desmond Guinness.'
All the family stories are here.
Their parents arrival at Castletown in 1938 with baby Patrick was reported in The Tatler and they were photographed in hunting gear, dogs at their feet and shooting rifles cocked. As the family grew seaside holidays were taken in Malahide and Blackrock.
Sarah recognises and acknowledges the role played by ,in particular, the O'Neill family, estate workers for nearly four generations and in the house, the nursery routine is recounted as this family lived as one of the last generation of the 'Upstairs/Downstairs' life with a full compliment of staff.

With great pony-club and horse trials stories, with the first ever Pony Club Championship in Ireland being held at Castletown House, the children were all talented prize winning riders, competing at the highest level including the Olympics.
But the upkeep of such a house is expensive and constant repairs became overwhelming and finally the awful decision was taken, in 1963, to sell the house. The original buyers never presented the money, and it stood empty for two years, which is how Desmond Guinness came to be involved. Stepping in, he renovated the house with the help of students and established several international Irish Georgian Society chapters to raise money. Now owned by the State in the Office of Public Works, as Sarah says to close, "The great house is in your hands."
This book would be enjoyed by those who like Irish history and personal memoirs and particularly horse enthusiasts for its great detail about the family's involvement with Ireland's competitive horse-riding history.

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