We arrived at our apartment in Killarney and were immediately swept up in the whirlwind that is this little city of 13,000. When we booked this place three months ago we knew there’d be a marathon ending at the main building on these grounds (called Gleneagle) but we did not know there would also be the biggest Gaelic football game of this season on our second night here. This place is absolutely hopping.
Last night, we headed in to downtown Killarney for dinner. Every pub was packed to the gills and the streets were bubbling over with runners carbing up for their race, and fans of Gaelic football getting their drink on. We did get a late seat for dinner at The Laurels, a highly recommended restaurant, and had a lovely meal, after which we walked around the streets singing along with every street performer within earshot. I had no idea I knew Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” by heart – but if I hadn’t before, I certainly would by now.
As we walked, the five of us talked incessantly about a man we’d met earlier in the day, a character called Robert Cagney, who drives a jaunting car (a traditional horse and carriage) in Killarney National Park, round trip to the Muckross House. We were able to convince the kids to walk in…a total of 3.2 miles, but not out again, so we hired Mr. Cagney to get us back to our apartment. What a treat!
Mr. Cagney has been doing his work for 48 years, knows every tree on the 12 acre span of gorgeous land that is the Muckross House, and the story behind the entire place. Through his very thick accent (and lack of teeth) I gleaned the house was built by a man with the name Herbert, who gave it to his wife, who later died. Improvements made to the place when Queen Victoria visited in 1861 caused the Herberts financial distress. Unable to afford it any longer, it was sold, first to a Guinness heir, and then to a wealthy family from California who owned it until 1930 when it was gifted to the city of Killarney and made part of Killarney National Park. Mr. Cagney’s father worked in the gardens at the house and so it is through the house he and his family have had their livelihood for two generations. He talks about it like the child he raised to be king.
What a unique way to make a living, and a beautiful space in which to make a life. Mr. Cagney is someone we will remember years from now as a man who enhanced our experience during our 48 hour stay in Killarney. I can only imagine how many others have been equally impressed by his kindness and his embracing welcome.