By Carleton Varney- Special To The Palm Beach Daily News
It certainly was a night to remember. A short time ago, we spent the evening in Ireland at Glin Castle in County Limerick, home of the late Knight of Glin Desmond FitzGerald, a friend who for many years headed the Irish Georgian Society.
The Irish weather had been delightful those last three weeks of our holiday, so the visit at Glin Castle took place on a warm evening under an almost-full moon hanging over the River Shannon estuary.
The occasion was the Glin Foundation’s presentation, under a white marquee tent, of an evening of music by The Adare Holy Trinity Abbey Choir directed by Tracey Fitzgerald. We enjoyed a masterful 45 minutes of pieces written by Irish composers with beautiful orchestration. The program even included one piece by the great Enya.
But the evening’s pièce de résistance was a presentation of a poignant dramatic play, “The Colleen Bawn,” narrated by the actor Dominic West. This handsome charismatic actor, whom I last saw in the film “Colette” with Keira Knightley, mesmerized the packed audience of 350.
Set in 1819, the play tells the story of a young local girl, Ellen Hanley, who found love in the arms of the wealthy despot John Scanlan and from there fell into tragedy, with her demise coming at the hands of the despot and an accomplice. Justice, however, rules in the end, thanks to the Knight of Glin, who was played by West. It was so fitting to stage the play on the 200th anniversary of the heroine’s death at Glin Castle.
At the event I was seated beside Madam Olda FitzGerald, the wife of the late Knight Desmond, and I couldn’t help thinking about the decorations in the castle, the ancestral home of the FitzGerald family. The interiors have a very layered look, with paintings of previous generations all hanging on brightly colored walls. Some rooms are decorated in burgundy red, others in Delft blues and others in tones of greens.
Walls are covered — and I mean seriously covered — with family heirlooms, including mounted stag heads, platters, brackets, equestrian paintings and Irish landscapes. The rooms have evolved over many years to reflect the personal interests of a family that prizes artistic culture. On view are lovely floral arrangements and special tokens, all reflecting the tastes of the occupants.
Madam Olda spends much of the year in residence, visited often by her three daughters: Catherine, who is married to Dominic West; Nesta; and Honor, the youngest. Their mother obviously has a busy life, meeting and working with the Glin Foundation to enrich the tourist market for the village and the castle.
If you are planning a trip to Ireland, I hope your itinerary will include a visit to the town of Glin when the castle is open to visitors. You’ll also enjoy the surrounding grounds and gardens. Check online at Glin-Castle.com for a schedule.