Seen yesterday, a detail of the stair hall at Castletown, County Kildare. Commissioned by Thomas and Lady Louisa Conolly this graceful plasterwork dates from the mid-1760s and is the work of the Swiss-born stuccodore Philip Lafranchini.
More about Castletown before too long.
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.