Monday, March 19, 2012

Devonshire Day 2012 - Another Perfect Mothers' Day

The Upper Gardens Lismore Castle
Yesterday was the 9th Annual Devonshire Day held in Lismore Castle as the main fundraiser for the annual Immrama Festival of Travel writing and this year will  be the 10th Immrama Festival so it's a very special anniversary - watch this space for updates and programme announcements after the launch on April 19th! I just want to share some of the photos of yesterday with you - and link you to previous posts on Devonshire Day which I've blogged about since 2009 - the first Devonshire Day after I started the blog in December 2008. Here are the links to the 2010 and 2011 posts.

We were blessed with perfect weather yesterday - and we always say St. Carthage our Patron Saint of Lismore is looking down on his own home town with favour. Well, he came from Rahan in Co. Offaly but we claim him as our own as his name is synonymous with Lismore, whichever one you want - as the Australian Lismore has a St. Carthage's Cathedral also and is our Twin Town, and we have two St. Carthage's - the Church of Ireland Cathedral and the Catholic Church.

The Joseph Paxton Greenhouse/Vinery and raised beds
The Lower Gardens of Lismore Castle
The day is a series of five guided walks through the spring gardens of Lismore Castle with the Head Gardener Chris Tull at the helm, and his love and enthusiasm for the gardens shines through all the way - he never flags even after six hours or more,  he displays the same humour and passion with the final group as with the first. I should know, as I accompany each group, tasteful in my garish yellow Hi-Viz jacket and carrying my First-Aid kit, just in case anyone decides to take a tumble or keel over - all in the name of "elf'n'safety"! Luckily no-one has thus far, although a few years ago in particularly vile weather some of the punters nearly came a cropper on the slippery slopes of the lower garden where the mud had churned up into a veritable mire. At least this year the mild winter meant the gardens were in magnificent bloom and some of the magnolias were a little early while others were late having not fully recovered from the Arctic winter of 2010/11.

Chris and Antony Gormley's Man Out Of Water
The walks are preceded by the piece de resistance - the Devonshire Cream Tea served by the Butlers of the Duke of Devonshire in the Pugin Room - the Ballroom and former Chapel designed by Pugin, the famous designer of Westminster Houses Of Parliament in London. The tea is served on monogrammed china and with full silver service, and is very posh. As two of our sons worked there for years as butlers when they were students we tend to take it for granted, but it is very other-worldly for the visitors. A taste of how the other half (or more like the 1%) live, if you will. And that's a topic for debate another day!

Devonshire Cream Tea in the Pugin Room
But I digress - back to the tea. The punters are treated to a series of talks during their tea - on the history of the Castle, Lismore, the Pugin connection and the Pugin Room in particular, and then Chris talks about the gardens and during the walkabout he is a mine of information on Joseph Paxton who built the Glasshouses and designed the gardens initially, and then the contemporary influences of the Cavendish family who inaugurated a Sculpture Garden throughout the gardens, with many contemporary artists having permanent exhibits. Eilis O'Connell has a couple of pieces, and Antony Gormley is probably the best known with his "Learning to be I" man figure - a mould of his own body on a cold day as Chris tells it! I leave you to judge. Gormley's signature piece is the Angel of the North in Newcastle in England, and 100 of his body figures are dotting the English coastline at Crosby near Liverpool.

Over the Inches at sunset from the Castle Dining Room
The Castle Arts Gallery will be open throughout the summer along with the gardens and the ticket entry includes both. Each year there's a different  exhibition usually with guest curators, and it is always avant garde and of international renown but not to everyone's taste. So if you're expecting art a-la the National Galleries, you might be disappointed! This is also the first year there was no Sotheby's Irish Sale Preview in Lismore Castle Arts, which is missed by me as I loved it. But that's the downside of the recession, and we have to put up with it. I'm sure it cost someone a fortune to tour with those artworks worth millions.

Knitter extraordinaire Agnes, with Kevin 
So I  hope you enjoy the photos  and the post - I met a lady who was here last year and she had the most amazing Aran outfit, which she designed and knitted herself - I was gobsmacked by her skill and tenacity - she had a beret, mittens, cowl, bag and calf-length coat - all in fabulous intricate Aran patterns. You can see the photo here as I took some to send her, and I hope she likes them as much as I did seeing them and meeting her. She's called Agnes and she comes from Waterford.

Chris Tull stands on the Ice-House talking to the crowd
I've been asked to do a Guest Post over on the Immrama Blog that hubby Jan moderates in his role as the Immrama Festival Administrator and coordinator of Devonshire Day, and it's a nice family collaboration. Hope you enjoy browsing the blog which is linked to the Immrama Website. 

You can see the full gallery of photos from yesterday over on the Immrama Facebook page here and do click Like when you visit!

Dates for your Diary: 

  • April 19th for the Launch of Immrama 2012 - the Tenth Immrama which will be very special! 
  • Immrama 2012 will take place in Lismore from 7th-10th June 2012. Save the weekend! 


Stephanie V said...

My jaw is also on the ground over that wonderful Aran outfit! Imagine the hours and hours of work. Oh, my!

Your tour looks so interesting an full of beauty. I am jealous of the magnolias blooming already :(

And that sculpture in the first photo reminds me of herons courting. What is it really?

Catherine said...

Hi Stephanie It's pretty amazing her Aran outfit, isn't it? I have shown it to the others in my knitting circle and they couldn't believe it. She used 3 strands of wool to make the bag and it's so sturdy it's not even lined! So that's creativity. She is a lovely woman, I met her last year too.
The magnolias died last year from the harsh winter, no flowers at all. This year some are late but they make a lovely spring garden.
The Heronlike sculpture is actually a quirky garden seat! I agree from a distance it looks birdlike! I will find out more about its provenance, it's part of the permanent installations in the gardens. Along with the Antony Gormley and Eilis O'Connell pieces.
Thanks for commenting! Catherine xxx