Ireland Shirley Meeting and Visit, May 1989
By Betty Shirley
I had the opportunity to go to Ireland for four days and meet a few of the Shirleys I had been in correspondence with over the years. It was my first visit to Ireland. What hospitality and what a great time I had!
Ivan, Susan and Sophie (Ivan's sister) Shirley picked me up at the Dublin airport and drove me to the home of their parents (Mr. and Mrs. John Shirley) for a lovely lunch prepared by Mrs. John Shirley. It was a full house as many of their family had come to join us on this occasion.
Following lunch we left immediately so we could arrive on time in Kilkenny where we held the Ireland Shirley meeting. Several had arrived early. I dashed around getting my display set up. When that was done, I began chatting with those who were already there. Soon it was time to give the meeting. As most of you know, we always give time for each to stand and tell us where they are from and who was the earliest Shirley ancestor they know of. This is one of the highlights of our Shirley gatherings! There were cousins there who did not know one another and what fun it was to be involved in the introductions to other families who were related to one another also. The meeting for the Shirleys of Ireland was a great success. We had expected about 35 and more than 60 people came to the meeting.
I stayed on in Kilkenny and that night we had a horrible thunder storm. The next morning the rain was gone and it was overcast. I took this opportunity to go walking alone through the town and then back to the hotel for breakfast. Soon I was picked up by some Shirleys who had attended the meeting also. Now, we were heading to places nearby where their Shirleys had lived, etc. That afternoon Ivan and his wife, Susan, and his sister Sophie met up with us at a church and we continued to visit the area of his ancestors.
We had dinner back at Mr. and Mrs. John Shirleys (Ivan and Sophie's parents). That night we left for Dublin and I stayed at the home of Ivan and Susan Shirley.
The next morning Ivan took me to the bus and I rode an hour to Carrickmacross. Here I was met by Judith Shirley, wife of Major John Shirley who are the present owners of Ettington Park. She drove me to the Ireland Shirley estate, Lough Fea where I was a guest for the next couple of days.
We entered thru a gate in a long rock wall that fences off the property from the road. The driveway goes back about a mile to the house and is a combo of dirt and rock. Beautiful trees, shrubs and greenery line the drive as far as you can see. It is site to behold, at least in the summer.
I can't describe the feeling of driving up to the front door of Lough Fea. It was like a dream. Judith took me up to my room and invited me to come down for tea after I freshened up and caught my breathe. Major John at that moment was out working with some of his employees on the farm. Judith and I had a nice talk about the estate and it's past and the Shirleys. In a little while, John came in to greet me. After a chat, he told me to make myself at home. I asked about taking some pictures and he said I could take as many as I wished and look at anything I would like to look at. Feel free to go wherever you want to explore.
I asked how many rooms were in the house. They said they did not know as they never had counted them. I thought... I will do this as I browse around. I was not able to count them. It was a bigger task than I thought.
I understand 950 acres make up Lough Fea. The main street on one side in Carrickmacross is Shirley property, the other side was inherited by the Essex family many generations ago. The businesses on main street on the Shirley side pay rent to the Shirleys.
Judith took me for a walk back behind the house. Several hundred yards away is a tall cross built to the memory of one of the the Shirleys a few generations back. We went thru an iron gate and fence to get to it. The gate had the Shirley coat of arms on the top. We walked across a field in another direction and came upon a herd of about 60 deer. We sat for awhile under a tree a distance from the house, looking at the view before walking back to the house. That evening Judith prepared a meal and guests were invited. After dinner we sat in the library talking about many things. Something I learned while we were chatting was the ceiling in the library (the room we were sitting in), had originally come from Wiston is Sussex England. That was most interesting. I also learned John and Judith had lived at Lough Fea for about 20 years and this is where they raised their children.
On day two, we had breakfast in the kitchen and prepared to leave for a days outing and picnic. We left for a place called Flagstaff. It is a hill that sits high overlooking a river that comes in from the ocean. We watched a ship pulling in to dock and had our picnic. What a view. We drove on to Newry and across the border and circled our way back to Lough Fea. Ireland is a land of beauty. That evening John and Judith took me to their country club in Carrickmacross where we met some friends.
The next morning I strolled the grounds alone and took pictures. I found the old Shirley Chapel and everything was covered with dust. There were big books, small books, Shirley Coat of Arms on everything including labels in the books. I saw old Shirley furniture no longer usable and sitting in cobwebs. It was a Shirley paradise and a Shirley moment! An experience I shall never forget!
Here is a link to learn more about Lough Fea. http://www.shirleyassociation.com/NewShirleySite/NonMembers/Ireland/loughfea.html
All Rights Reserved