I was delighted to have an excuse to visit Derrynane last weekend. I have been researching the genealogy of one of the O’Connell family for a South African client and he is proving to be a bit elusive. Dr. Geoffrey O’Connell was a kinsman of Daniel O’Connell (The Liberator), who was in Paris at the time of the French Revolution and who luckily escaped from there to make his way back to Cahirciveen in 1798. While Dr. Geoffrey lived at one point in Hillgrove and not in Derrynane, the O’Connells from the sixteenth century had large families, intermarried and travelled extensively both in Ireland and on the European Continent. My visit did not throw up any new pointers but like most genealogy research, the hunt for clues and evidence goes on.
Sunday’s outing coincided with a visit to Derrynane Gardens by the Kerry Archaeological and Historical Society. We had the good luck to be shown around the beautiful gardens by James O’Shea, Head Gardener on a very nice day. Following that I visited the House where the Morpeth Roll is currently on display until the end of the June. The roll itself was unrolled where a number of Killarney and Kerry names were displayed. ‘In September 1841 in Ireland, almost 300,000 people did something very unusual. In just a few weeks, they signed the biggest ‘Bon Voyage’ card in the world; 650 sheets of paper filled with names to say goodbye to the popular Chief Secretary of Ireland, Lord Morpeth, as he returned to England. The Morpeth Roll was a world first and it remains the largest paper collection of original signatures in the world. It was the ‘facebook’ moment of the 19th century. Lord Morpeth carried the pages – glued together, wound around a large wooden bobbin and placed in a wooden box – back to his Castle Howard mansion in Yorkshire and stored it in the cellar. And they stayed there for over 160 years before historians began to examine this historical treasure trove!
I also took a photo of an old picture on the wall of the reception where my father’s name – Daniel J. Moloney T.D., was listed as one of the people who had worked to save the house and grounds which were falling into decay at the time. Today some 120 hectares of the lands of Derrynane, together with Derrynane National Historic Park. Plantations and garden walks were laid out in the 18th and 19th Centuries, principally north and west of the house.