This weekend on Documentary on Newstalk a new programme by producer JJ O'Shea, telling the story of the development of 19th century mansion, Muckross House in “A Gift to The Nation”.
“A Gift to The Nation”, tells the story of the development of Muckross House after it was gifted to the people of Ireland in 1932. Today the house is a museum and one of the most visited attractions in Ireland and in retrospect it may seem this is an obvious destination for its use, but several other possibilities were explored before that decision was reached.
The early proposals for Muckross House included suggestions that the site be used as a centre for An Oige, a civil service training college, a country residence for the President and a research station. Éamon de Valera had been particularly interested in a scheme to develop the grounds of Muckross House into a vineyard and three thousand vines were planted in a propagation experiment. It was also thought that the grounds of Muckross House might act as a market garden for Killarney Town but these schemes were abandoned when they proved to be unviable. But it was the suggestion that Muckross House should be developed as a luxury VIP hotel that proved the catalyst for change. This idea was gaining traction until it was very vocally opposed by the people of Killarney and was abandoned when it was shown to be at variance with the donor’s intentions that the House and Estate should be used as a “people’s playground.” Former Head Gardener Bill Carson, Former Parks Manager Dan Kelliher and Former Parks Superintendent Cormac Foley give first-hand accounts on these developments.
When Muckross House was opened to the public in 1964 it initially presented “glass case” style museum exhibitions before it was decided that the house itself and its history should become the primary exhibit. The story of this development is told by Muckross House Trustees and staff, past and present, including the managers, secretaries, craft workers, guides and gardeners as well as the participants in the ancillary projects initiated by the trustees of Muckross House such as the field-collecting of traditional music and dance in Kerry in the 1980s which resulted in an important archive of traditional music.
A Gift to The Nation is produced and presented by J.J. O`Shea and funded by The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
A Gift to The Nation will air on Sunday April 24th at 7am, repeated on Newstalk on Saturday April 30th at 9pm and will be available as a podcast.