Final member of McShain family, who gifted Killarney House to the state, has died

A book of condolence has opened in the State-owned Killarney House for the last member of the McShain family, who donated the house and grounds to the people of Ireland.

Final member of McShain family, who gifted Killarney House to the state, has died

A book of condolence has opened in the State-owned Killarney House for the last member of the McShain family, who donated the house and grounds to the people of Ireland.

Sr Pauline McShain who died at the weekend in Philadelphia in the USA, aged 91, was the only child of John McShain and his wife Mary.

The McShains' priceless gift of Ross castle, 8,000 acres of parkland, mountain and lakes forms the heartland of the Killarney National Park.

The McShains were devout Catholics and Sr Pauline entered the progressive order of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in 1946. She went on to hold a BA in English and a Masters degree in Education.

Killarney House remained their home until the death of Mary McShain in 1998, when by agreement it was taken over by the State and incorporated into the Killarney National Park. John McShain had died nine years earlier.

However within a decade, the house had become derelict.

A public campaign in 2008 was led by then local councillor, Niall O’Callaghan, during which Sr Pauline publicly expressed her dismay, and appealed directly to the minister in charge of the national park at the time, John Gormley, to invest in its upkeep.

Sr Pauline McShain book of condolence in Killarney House opened
Sr Pauline McShain book of condolence in Killarney House opened

The house was eventually saved after a drive by north Kerry TD Jimmy Deenihan who took a direct interest in the matter when he became Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht from 2011 to 2014.

Killarney House’s buildings and grounds were restored at a cost of €10 million.

It opened to the public in 2017 and is one of the most visited parks and gardens in the southwest, used by local and tourist alike.

Sr Pauline kept in constant touch, according to Killarney House historical guide Margaret O’Regan.

The late Sr. Pauline McShain with her mother Mary at her father John's funeral in Killarney House in 1998. Sr Pauline was the only daughter of John McShain who presented Kilalrney House and the islands on the Lakes of Killarney to the state. Photo: Don MacMonagle
The late Sr. Pauline McShain with her mother Mary at her father John's funeral in Killarney House in 1998. Sr Pauline was the only daughter of John McShain who presented Kilalrney House and the islands on the Lakes of Killarney to the state. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Pat Dawson, the manager of Killarney House said it was "the end of an era for the McShain family both here in the USA and in Killarney".

"The Irish people and especially the people of the town of Killarney are indebted to John, Mary and Sr Pauline McShain for the wonderful gift of Killarney House & Gardens, Ross Castle, Innisfallen Island and the Middle and Lower Lakes of Killarney," he said.

A second book of condolence has opened at Killarney Town Hall.

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