A Man of Some Importance


So here is Castletown, County Kildare, famed as Ireland’s first, largest and grandest Palladian house. Astonishingly in the mid-1960s it was threatened with destruction and only saved through the ceaseless endeavours of the Irish Georgian Society. Among those most closely associated with securing Castletown’s future, both then and now, was Professor Kevin B Nowlan who died earlier this week at the age of 91.
Small of stature, stout of heart Kevin was an indefatigable campaigner on behalf of Ireland’s architectural heritage, member of countless boards and committees – on a number of which I have also sat – and always both passionate and articulate in the cause of conservation. Aside from being intelligent and well-informed and determined, one of his chief merits was a complete lack of self-interest: nobody could ever accuse Kevin of deriving personal benefit from his involvement in any enterprise.
The other great quality he possessed was tirelessness; for over half a century Kevin never grew bored or despondent, even when a campaign met with setback. Interviewed by the Irish Times on the occasion of his 90th birthday, he remarked, ‘As long as you’re in good health and keep your mind active you can’t ask for much more.’ Kevin certainly did remain active. Until just a couple of weeks ago, one was most liable to see him either going to or coming from a meeting. His funeral takes place this morning but I suspect he is not at rest: no doubt right now he is chairing a new group established to ensure a proposal for the reconfiguration of the Pearly Gates will be defeated.


8 comments on “A Man of Some Importance

  1. Again thank you. Kevin was a real trooper in the conservation battles of the 1960s and ’70s. I remember first encountering him when he spoke at a protest march against the destruction of Wood Quay in September 1978; at the time I was an undergraduate. He was inspirationally unflagging to the end.

  2. Mary Heffernan says:

    He is resting now at Mount Venus with a view of his beloved Dublin.

  3. John O'Neill says:

    A very good obituary Robert. I was at Castletown house in recent days taking photographs and it’s great to have background information. There is significant renovation going on in the grounds at the moment so taking a stroll requires forward planning!

  4. fiona clements says:

    I remember travelling with Kevin and my mother up to Mulroy in Donegal sometime in the early 70’s. I was too young to pay too much attention to them but I have no doubt that he was doing some investigative conservation there. I have no doubt he will be missed, such an energetic spirit!

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