7: Hang Loose in Ireland
1991 Golf at Killarney’s Two Courses
July 30-Aug. 11, 1991
Updated July 20, 2009
By LEWIS NOLAN
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Wednesday, Aug. 7, 1991 – (Betty’s account)
Casey got up early in our small rental cottage at Killarney and ran into town and back – approximately six miles. After breakfast, Buzz and I walked from the Lakeland Cottages development with a distant view of a beautiful lake to the tiny village of Muckross. The lady in the Irish Post Office was crabby and very unlike most Irish people we’ve encountered. She had no Irish mailers we had wanted, but we did get some postcard stamps and mailed some cards to friends and family back home in the States.
Along the walk back from Muckross to our cottage, perhaps two miles, I stopped and picked wildflowers to brighten up the cottage. Buzz asked an Irish lady working in her rose garden if he could buy a rose from her. Naturally, she gave us several, including three that looked like our Tropicana’s back in our yard in Memphis. I managed to make three bouquets. I picked some more orange wildflowers that remind me of miniature gladiola. They are really pretty.
The men dropped me off in the middle of the town of Killarney on their way to the golf course. It started out to be a sunny day, but, as usual in Ireland, it began to rain and mist before we made it to town. I popped out the umbrella and worked my way around the main street.
(Outside the Dublin, we’ve noticed, the Irish don’t generally carry umbrellas or wear raincoats. The cool, misty rain that comes most days rarely last long so their wool sweaters (often oiled and heavy instead of the light versions found in America) or heavy coats afford sufficient protection. A little dampness or slightly scruffy appearance doesn’t seem to bother the Irish. In the case of a rare downpour, they duck inside or under a tree until it passes.)
I stopped in tourist shops with the usual Irish souvenirs as well as shops that the local people shop in. They don’t have the large stores we are accustomed to back in the States, just small shops. Some of the shops are collected into small, interior malls in Killarney. They are not noticeable from the street since the entrance is just like a regular shop door. The Irish version of a clothing or variety store is nothing like a Penny’s or even a Dollar Store back home. I’m sure that there are places in Ireland where smart, stylish clothes can be purchased. But I’ve not seen them on this trip, nor on the previous trip that included Dublin.
I wanted to find a lightweight piece of woolen fabric to use as a lap robe, but didn’t find anything in the Kilkenny or Quillen Mills stores. I found a tweed piece made in Connemara, Clifden, which we drove through or near last week, so I’m going to fringe the edges and put a row of stay-stitching on it to hold the fringe together when I get home.
I found a few trinkets and small items. I bought some small bars of soap, which are made in England, Germany and Ireland. They are really good-smelling, little soaps. Just as I was getting ready to walk back from town to our rental cottage, it started to mist. But before I got even halfway back, the mist had stopped. It took me about 50 minutes to walk to the side road that our cottage is on. I chatted with an older, Irish lady about her beautiful roses and gardens adjacent to a building that looked like a row of small apartments or joined hoses. She told me that the dwellings were provided for the workers on the Muckross House and Estate. Her husband obviously had worked there and she got the house after he died. There are four small houses attached to one-another.
The walk back, a total of about three miles, wasn’t bad at all. I had to dodge cars and horse manure due to all the pony carts that carry tourists around the beautiful lake.
Tomorrow we plan to bicycle around the lake. The O’Shea family, who own and manage Lakeland Cottages, will arrange to have rental bikes sent out. I suppose the Nolan men are playing a second round of golf to get it all in since it is 6:30 p.m. and there is no sign of them.
Thursday, Aug. 8, 1991 – (Buzz’s account)
Yesterday yielded a wide range of weather on the very fine Killarney Golf and Fishing club’s two golf courses. Casey and I played the Mahoney’s Point course first, where I managed a 95 despite having muffed most of my drives. The course plays along a scenic lake and is very, very beautiful.
A club brochure tells about one golfer slicing a drive into the lake. The ball hit a salmon which happened to jump out of the water at the wrong time, killing it. The resources of the club and the interests of its members seem to be about equally divided between the Irish twin loves of golf and fishing. The club has its own basin, or inlet on the lake, where several dozen, smallish fishing boats suitable for power by oars or little motors are carefully docked or anchored.
Casey wasn’t ready to call it a day after 18 holes. So we took advantage of the special price offered visiting players for a second round on the same day. It was 12 pounds rather than the normal 20 pounds fee (with 1 Irish pound being worth about $1.50 U.S.). So we played another 10 or 11 holes of Killarney’s Killeen Course. It is a more challenging but very interesting course that was the site of this year’s Irish Open Tournament. I stood with a score of 48 after 9 holes. That wasn’t a bad score for a course of that difficulty I’d never played before. But I was very tired after all the walking and pulling a “caddy cart.” That’s the Irish term for the wheeled contraptions that hold the golf bags of players. Interestingly, power carts are generally absent from most Irish courses we’ve visited since the native golfers believe in walking. Besides, we found, human caddies to carry the bag are always available for less than the price of a cart in the U.S.
We saw deer on the course and had snacks and drinks in the elegant clubhouse between rounds. Some of the members teed off the first hole as late as 7 p.m., a tribute to their determination to play and also to the lateness of the sunset so far north. We had a fine dinner with Betty later at the Whaler Restaurant in Killarney.
Thursday, Aug. 8, 1991 (Casey’s account)
Yesterday I played the most enjoyable round of golf ever, despite the intermittent rain at Killarney. The first 18 holes were played on the Mahoney’s Point Course. My score was rather high, even though this course was easy. My score rose rapidly after taking an 11 on the Par 3 No. 18, which my father managed to par after a lucky drive onto the green with a four iron.
Next we decided to play the Killeen Course, where the 1991 Irish Open was played. We only played 10 holes because my father was tired. I found it interesting that some guys were teeing off at 7 p.m.
Today we bicycled from our cottage around the smallest of the two lakes at Muckross. We visited the ruins of an ancient abbey, some waterfalls and a house with a nice garden. Tomorrow we are going to drive the Ring of Kerry and play golf at Waterville.
Thursday, Aug. 8, 1991 (Buzz’s account)
The cycling was most enjoyable as we took a seven-mile loop around Muckross Lake, dodging the leavings of the horses pulling pony carts. The rental bikes only cost 6 pounds each (about $9.50) for the day. We toured the fabulous estate and grounds, built in 1843 (the year my great-grandfather John Nolan left Ireland for America). The great house and grounds were purchased by a California gold baron as a wedding present for his daughter and her new husband. The family later gave it to the people of Ireland and today it is maintained like a public park with monument.
The estate and grounds form the keystone of Killarney National Park. Of course I applaud the gift, which brings much pleasure to many thousands of citizens and tourists every year. It is similar in everything but size to our Great Smoky Mountains National Park in our home state of Tennessee, where the Rockefeller family’s gift of land formed the core of the heavily visited, enormous park that straddles two states. To my thinking, that is what great wealth should do. Since the people who amass fortunes often have extraordinary talents, with these properly comes extraordinary responsibilities. I was fortune to personally know the late Abe Plough, a founder of the company where I work. I saw first hand what a great man he was, whose philanthropies of many millions of dollars mainly donated anonymously to countless charities and schools, have favorably touched uncountable lives.
Sadly, too few by far walk that rich and rewarding path of service to fellow man. It bothers me to see the very wealthy spend their huge fortunes on private jets, expensive yachts and lifestyles so far above most people that it stretches respectful envy to the point of disgust.
Thursday, Aug. 8, 1991 (Betty’s account)
We slept later than usual. The Nolan men were tired from 27-plus holes of golf at Killarney. We had asked Mr. O’Shea – proprietor of the Lakeland Cottages where we were staying – to get us bikes for the day so we could cycle around the smaller of the two lakes. We had breakfast in our rental cottage and then rode off on the rental bikes to the Killarney National Park. We went down a wrong trail at first, but finally got on the paved path where we were supposed to be. The worst part of the ride was all the horse manure in the middle of the path from all the pony or jaunting carts. Tourists who don’t want to walk or ride but still see the beauty of this part of Ireland hire them.
We stopped and took pictures along the way and had a snack at a tea shop in Denis Cottage, on Denis Island at what is called the Meeting of the Waters, a narrow strip of land where the two lakes come together.
We also stopped at Muckross House and Torc Falls during our ride. The falls were more of a cascade, but very pretty. The rushing stream, rocky hills and heavy green foliage made it seem as though we were back in Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains. The trail followed a stream below the falls with moss-covered stones and rhododendron all over the area. I’m sure it is a beautiful sight when it blooms.
Muckross House and Gardens were stunning. The house was built in1843 and was later bought by a Californian rich from his gold mine. His descendants gave it to Ireland in the mid1900s and many people are able to enjoy it.
The manor house overlooks Muckross Lake in the Killarney National Park. Practically every room has a great view of the sparkling clear lake, which we were told is rich with game fish, including salmon. The parlor, game room and library all have windows with the kind of shutters that fold into a wall to allow a clean, full view. The formal garden outside and the lawn were also splendid.
I would not have wanted to be a maid in Muckross House. There must have been 30 bells in the back part of the house in the servants’ area, with each room having a separate bell to summon the help. If you ever watching “Upstairs, Downstairs” on PBS television, you’d appreciate and understand how the bell system worked.
The kitchen was large, but relatively primitive in comparison to a modern-day kitchen in America. One has to realize that the land barons and the rich had many servants to empty their commodes, chamber pots and wash basins – I might add that the basins were the prettiest ones I’d ever seen – and to wait on the every need of the owners. There was definitely a class system in operation when this house was a residence.
When we finished looking at Muckross House and its crafts exhibits, we had lunch at the adjacent restaurant. It was a sunny, pretty day so we ate out in the courtyard, sitting at a table with an Irish family from Dublin. They had a six-year-old boy and a daughter, age two or three. The lady was a teacher in the National School or Primary (elementary) School. The six-year-old had been to school for two years already.
The man was a bank employee. Both the husband and wife are golfers and he was an officer in their club. His wife complained that women in Ireland are only able to hold associate memberships. However, they only pay one-half the yearly fees of about 200-to-250 pounds (roughly $300-to-$375), with no charges for anything else. That seems to be quite cheap by U.S. country club standards (later, Buzz paid that much a month for membership in Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss., which has one of the top-100 rated courses in the U.S.).
However, the women associate members can’t play any time they want since full membership gives priority to the men on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I sensed a bit of resentment within the lady since women in their club can’t vote or hold office.
After we left Muckross House, we rode the bikes into Killarney to buy some food for dinner I would cook at the cottage. We had thought about taking a pony cart ride, but decided against it since we had seen the standard views and much more from our bikes.
(The cottage we rented was a small, one-story structure built in the usual Irish fashion – concrete blocks covered with a stucco-like material painted bright white. It had a slate shingle roof. The interior was also freshly painted and adequately equipped, but just barely, with a small, electric stove, tiny refrigerator, a few utensils and some plain tableware. It had two small bedrooms and a bath and a half. The living room was comfortable, with a fireplace and a small color television, which picked up the two Irish stations. The O’Sheas had built the cottage, one of about a dozen offered for rent to tourists, on the edge of their sheep and dairy farm with a distant view of the lake, hence Lakeland Cottages.
(The price was reasonable, about $550 for the week. The privacy and breathing room it allowed the three of us, plus the convenience of our own food and beverage preparation, made the accommodations superior to any hotel room, no matter how fancy.)
We built a peat fire early, about 4 p.m., to take the chill out of the cottage. I scrounged some wood chips and sticks from the ground to help get the fire going. Pressed peat is much like pressed sawdust logs at home, both hard to start and hard to keep going.
I decided to do laundry again since we had more time and were going into town to eat. Since we had to leave Saturday (Irish vacation cottages customarily rent from Saturday to Saturday, with no extra days allowed), I knew I’d not have another chance to wash or dry clothes. Washing is an experience with the programmed German Miele machine, which takes about one hour per load. A woman from Chicago and I swapped complaints about the laundry facilities since the Irish here seem to turn what is a simple task in America into an all-day chore.
Tomorrow we go to Waterville on the ocean and drive the Ring of Kerry.