Victoria ‘alarmed’ by rain during Killarney visit

She ought to have known better, but Queen Victoria was “alarmed’’ when, surprise, surprise, it rained during her visit to Killarney.

Like countless thousands of other tourists before and since, she took a boat trip on the famous lakes during her stay in Aug 1861. She was rowed first around Innisfallen and then some way up Lough Léin.

She wrote afterwards in her diary: “The view was magnificent. We had a slight shower, which alarmed us all, from the mist which overhung the mountains; but it suddenly cleared away and became very fine and very hot.’’

Rain aside, Queen Victoria was depicting a scene that has not changed in the intervening 150 years — and her impressions are contained in a splendid new book which captures life in Kerry during the second half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th, in words and pictures.

We see barefoot schoolchildren at Blackwater, near Kenmare; the ascendancy in their opulent mansions, farmers toiling in the fields and dark-suited men with heads bared, kneeling outside crowded churches on Sunday mornings.

The 228-page Kerry People and Places 1860-1960 gives insights into the lives of the landed gentry, including the Herbert family, original owners of Muckross House in Killarney.

And, it seems romance was not the only thing on the mind of Major Henry Arthur Herbert in 1866, when he proposed to Emily Julia Charlotte Keane, who had family connections with Cappoquin House in Co Waterford.

Writing to a friend with news of his upcoming nuptials, Herbert said of his fiancée: “She is very pretty and may have some day a large fortune, being the only child of a large family of brothers.’’

On a more mundane level, we read that the pig, the cow and the donkey were once “the props of the Irish countryside”.

There are delightful photographs of impish lads riding donkeys bareback, asses going to the creamery and others lined up for sale at Puck Fair in Killorglin.

Accounts are also given of the so-called Railway Age, from the time the first train steamed into Kerry from Mallow on May 16, 1853.

Because of the unfinished state of the line, the train did not proceed beyond Rathmore and passengers took the remainder of the journey to Killarney by road. Two months later, the completed Killarney Junction Railway Line opened for business.

A panoramic view of the Lispole viaduct, on the Tralee-Dingle line, stands out and there are photographs of many stations in Kerry which have long since closed, including Kenmare, Headford, Ardfert and Loo Bridge to name just a few.

The high quality publication, by Patricia O’Hare of Muckross House Library, is a collaboration with Killarney Printing, which is this year celebrating its centenary.

Launched by Arts and Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan, it gives enthralling glimpses of a vanished, less hurried world.


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