Monday, March 19, 2012

Guest Post - Devonshire Day 2012: A Wonderful Mother's Day in Lismore

Yesterday was Mother's Day and it coincided with the 9th Annual Devonshire Day held in Lismore Castle, which is the main fundraiser for the annual Immrama Festival of Travel writing. As this year will be the 10th Immrama Festival it's a very special anniversary - watch this space for updates and programme announcements after the launch on April 19th! I just want to share some of the photos of yesterday with you - and link you to previous posts on Devonshire Day which I've blogged about since 2009 - the first Devonshire Day after I started my personal blog in December 2008. Here's my 2010 and 2011 posts on Devonshire Day.

We were blessed with perfect weather yesterday - and we always say St. Carthage our Patron Saint of Lismore is looking down on his own home town with favour. Well, he came from Co. Offaly but we claim him as our own as his name is synonymous with Lismore, whichever one you want - as the Australian Lismore has a St. Carthage's Cathedral also and is our Twin Town, and we have two St. Carthage's - the Church of Ireland Cathedral and the Catholic Church.

The day is a series of five guided walks through the spring gardens of Lismore Castle with the Head Gardener Chris Tull at the helm, and his love and enthusiasm for the gardens shines through all the way - he never flags even after six hours or more, he displays the same humour and passion with the final group as with the first. I should know, as I accompany each group, tasteful in my garish yellow Hi-Viz jacket and carrying my First-Aid kit, just in case anyone decides to take a tumble or keel over - all in the name of "elf'n'safety"! Luckily no-one has needed my services thus far, although a few years ago in particularly vile weather some of the punters nearly came a cropper on the slippery slopes of the lower garden where the mud had churned up into a veritable mire.

The walks are preceded by the piece de resistance - the Devonshire Cream Tea served by the Butlers of the Duke of Devonshire in the Pugin Room - the Ballroom and former Chapel designed by Pugin, the famous designer of Westminster Houses Of Parliament in London. The tea is served on monogrammed china and with full silver service, and is very posh. As two of our sons worked there for years as butlers when they were students we tend to take it for granted, but it is very other-worldly for the visitors. A taste of how the other half (or more like the 1%) live, if you will. And that's a topic for debate another day!

But I digress - back to the tea. The punters are treated to a series of talks during their tea - on the history of the Castle, Lismore, the Pugin connection and the Pugin Room in particular, and then Chris talks about the gardens and during the walkabout he is a mine of information on Joseph Paxton who built the Glasshouses and designed the gardens initially, and then the contemporary influences of the Cavendish family who inaugurated a Sculpture Garden throughout the gardens, with many contemporary artists having permanent exhibits. Eilis O'Connell has a number of pieces, and Antony Gormley is probably the best known with his Man out of Water piece - a mould of his own body on a cold day as Chris tells it! I leave you to judge. Gormley's signature piece is the Angel of the North in Newcastle in England, and his body figures are dotting the English coastline at Crosby near Liverpool.

The Castle Arts Gallery will be open throughout the summer along with the gardens and the ticket entry includes both. Each year there's a different exhibition usually with guest curators, and it is always avant garde and of international renown but not to everyone's taste. So if you're expecting art a-la the National Galleries, you might be disappointed! This is also the first year there was no Sotheby's Irish Sale Preview in Lismore Castle Arts, which is missed by me as I loved it. But that's the downside of the recession, and we have to put up with it. I'm sure it cost someone a fortune to tour with those artworks worth millions.

I met a lady who was here last year and she had the most amazing Aran outfit, which she designed and knitted herself - I was gobsmacked by her skill and tenacity - she had a beret, mittens, cowl, bag and calf-length coat - all in fabulous intricate Aran patterns. You can see the photo here as I took some to send her, and I hope she likes them as much as I did seeing them and meeting her. She's called Agnes and she comes from Waterford.

We see a lot of the same faces year after year as people come from all over Ireland to enjoy this special Spring Preview of the gardens and the unique opportunity to be served tea by the Duke's Butlers! So I hope you enjoy the photos and the post which I'll also post on my personal blog at Dispatches from the Deise. It's been great being a Guest Blogger on the Lismore Immrama Blog - thanks for asking me!

PS - If you want to see the full gallery of photos of Devonshire Day then visit the Lismore Immrama Facebook Page and Like it! Here's the link.

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