Rivalries and ghosts haunt Ireland's mansions
on 21/03/2013 00:00:00
Tarquin Blake will take to the podium at the Waterford Medieval Museum on Saturday to speak about and show images of the Waterford ruins which have formed the basis for his work.
"Scattered throughout Ireland are the derelict remains of hundreds of mansions and castles, once home to the wealthy landed aristocracy of Ireland," he says.
The author will provide an insight into the 18th and 19th century heydays of the Irish country house, then the rapid fall from grace as the Famine, land wars, Land Acts, and the house burnings of the Troubles led to the widespread destruction of the Big House.
The talk is one of many taking place throughout the writers' weekend in Waterford, which runs from Thursday to Sunday, and also includes workshops, seminars and children's events.
Mr Blake will focus on the histories of houses in Co Waterford including Ballysaggartmore House, near Lismore, which was home to the infamous Arthur Kiely.
When Kiely's brother started on a massive rebuilding and extension of Strancally Castle, the rival siblings went into competition, with Kiely adding an enormous gothic gateway and bridge to Ballysaggartmore.
His fanciful plans for the rest of his estate, however, came to nothing when the money ran out but today the unique gothic gateway and bridge stand in the middle of a forest.
According to Mr Blake, Ardogina House near Ardmore was reputed to be one of the most haunted houses in Ireland. One of the owners, the young Richard Costen, apparently met his death in a riding accident at the cliff tops near the house. His ghost is one of the numerous spectres that still reputedly haunt the house.
"The next owner, a tyrannical landlord, murdered and buried one of his servants under the dining room floor, while a more recent owner apparently could never get some loose steps on one of the staircases to stay fastened down," says Mr Blake. "This led to the gruesome discovery of a child's body found beneath them. Eventually the house was abandoned to its ghosts."
In all, 32 authors, journalists and bloggers will host readings, writing workshops, debates and discussions for avid readers, novice writers, children and anyone with an interest in books.