The entrance to Derrynane, County Kerry, ancestral home to Daniel O’Connell. It is interesting to read in Emer Crooke’s recently-published book on how country houses fared during the first decades after Independence* that when O’Connell’s descendants first offered the property to the state in 1945, this was declined. A letter from the Department of Finance written in October of that year argued that ‘in view of the uncertainty as to the purchase price, the capital expenditure involved in putting the house to rights and the large recurring expenditure entailed in maintenance the minister does not favour state acquisition.’ Responsibility for Derrynane was shortly after taken on by a private trust but it soon ran into difficulty and began appealing to the government for funds. When these were not forthcoming, the house was placed on the market but in 1963, after no buyer had been found, the state took on Derrynane which has ever since been managed by the Office of Public Works.
The extraordinary ‘Triumphal Chariot’ created for Daniel O’Connell in 1844. At the start of that year, he and a number of other men had been found guilty of conspiracy against the government and sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment. This verdict was overturned by the House of Lords at the beginning of September and O’Connell duly released from Richmond House of Correction (now Griffith College, the original building was designed by Francis Johnston in 1813). In a subsequent, carefully choreographed event he was brought from that place to his residence in Merrion Square in this chariot which measures almost ten feet high and near 15 feet long. Inspired by chariots used in processions in ancient Rome, the vehicle was drawn by six grey horses and accommodated not just the hero of the hour but also a costumed ‘ancient harper.’ Three years later the empty vehicle would lead the funeral cortege to Glasnevin Cemetery following O’Connell’s death. Now restored and in an outbuilding at Derrynane, County Kerry the chariot’s decoration includes a number of painted panels including this one showing Hibernia complete with harp, Irish Wolfhound and, in the distance, a ruined monastery and round tower.