We were back to Irish weather today. Cool and rainy. No problem, we were ready for it. It is very interesting how Odysseys Unlimited combines bathroom breaks with something to do. Connemara Marble Visitor Center is strategically located on a lonely stretch of road, so we got a bathroom, an explanation of the marble, and a chance to shop. Connemara Marble is a rare form of marble found in the Connemara region which is typically green-ish in color. It is said to be one of the rarest forms of marble in the world due to its limited supply and dates back over 600 million years. While the color is predominately green, there are often shades of grey, pink and brown seen throughout.
We made a couple of stops along the way to our true destination Kylemore Abbey. The second picture shows a statue that shows the Irish humor. It basically says that absolutely nothing happened here. Our guide of course helped with the joke by telling us we all had to get out (in the rain) to read the inscription since it was very moving.
The next 12 pictures are from Kylemore Abbey. Kylemore Castle was built as a wedding gift for his wife by Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor from London whose family was involved in textile manufacturing in Manchester, England. He moved to Ireland when he and his wife Margaret purchased the land around the Abbey. The construction of the castle began in 1867, and took the total of one hundred men and four years to complete. Mr. Henry employed Irish Catholics, giving them a fair wage, when it was very hard for them to find work. There were 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room and various offices and domestic staff residences for the butler, cook, housekeeper and other servants. The estate also included a large walled Victorian Garden.
Unfortunately, Margaret Henry died of dysentery in 1875. Mitchell was devastated and spent little time at Kylemore after that. He had a Gothic Cathedral built as a memorial to her. The 12th picture shows the detail of the decorations that were done in the different shades of Connemara marble.
The Abbey remained in Henry’s estate after he returned to England. The castle was sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1909, who resided there for several years before being forced to sell the house and grounds because of gambling debts. In 1920, the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the Abbey castle and lands after they were forced to flee Ypres, Belgium during World War I. The nuns, who had been based in Ypres for several hundred years, had been bombed out of their Abbey during World War I. The nuns continued to offer education to Catholic girls, opening an international boarding school and establishing a day school for girls from the locality.
Tonight we had a traditional Irish music and dance show after dinner. It was a very good program with interesting information. Probably the most interesting fact was that for the first half of the 20th century, there were no instruments in Ireland because all of the musicians had immigrated during and after the famine (most to the U.S.). To keep the music alive, people would sing the instrument parts (which is called lilting). In the second half of the century, the recordings of the Irish music from the Eastern U.S., as well as family members that lived in the U.S. sending instruments back to family members in Ireland, started a revival of Irish music in Ireland. Leslie volunteered to learn one of the simple Irish dances. It is a shame videos cannot be posted on this blog (depending on your point of view).