The caretaker who has looked after Killarney House & Gardens since 1986 and knew the McShains personally has thrown his weight behind the Killarney Advertiser’s McShain Campaign, insisting that the generous American couple should have been honoured years ago.
Harry O’Donoghue started working for John and Mary McShain as a 22-year-old in 1986, shortly after the pair permanently relocated to the Killarney holiday home they had owned since 1959. Before that they would spend six months of the year here in Killarney and six months in Arizona.
With regards to the Killarney Advertiser’s campaign, Harry says there was ample opportunity to memorialise the McShains in the past but the council, for whatever reason, failed to act.
“Years ago when the council got the land for Mission Road off the McShains, I pleaded with them to name it the McShain Road,” the popular caretaker explains. “They turned a blind eye to it.
“It’s a real pity that nothing is called after them. It’s shocking, really. There’s only one place in Killarney that I know of that’s named after them: the McShain Suite in the Plaza Hotel.
“It would be nice if the council erected a statue outside on the Mission Road or even at the Golden Gates. All these years later, they still haven’t recognised what the McShains did for them. They got everything for nothing.”
Harry kindly gave me a tour of Killarney House this week and as well as giving me a fascinating insight into the history of the famous Killarney landmark, he was quick to point out how fond John and Mary were of the town, and how fond the town was of them.
“They loved Killarney – they called it a ‘gem’. Peace and quite. That’s what they wanted and that’s what they got. They were very nice people and they were very good to all of us, especially my parents. Everyone locally had good time for them. John would take his pony and trap out around Ross Island and people loved to see him.”
Harry and his family have a long and storied history with Killarney House. He took over the caretaker role from his late father Paddy and his grandfather, Tim, was a valet to the last Earl of Kenmare, Lord Castlerosse. Castlerosse was shot in the trenches during World War I and Tim, who was serving alongside him, saved his life. Thereafter the Anglo-Irish nobleman (real name Valentine Brown) took the O’Donoghue family under his wing and provided them with jobs all over Europe.
The loyal caretaker is just the latest in a string of local people who have voiced their dismay that John and Mary McShain are yet to be appropriately memorialised by the town of Killarney.
Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser last week, Mayor John Sheahan, the Chamber President Paul O’Neill, TD Michael Healy-Rae and the General Manager of Killarney House & Gardens Pat Dawson all backed the idea of recognising the McShains in some way. The people of Killarney also seem to be overwhelmingly in favour of honouring the altruistic couple.
What do you think? Should Mary and John McShain be recognised for what they did for Killarney? What would be the most appropriate way of honouring them? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.