Bushy Park House Roscommon
Do you have a special connection with the house you grew up in ? Bushy Park House holds a special place in my heart. My childhood home, my sanctuary, my inspiration. So much more than just a house. This beautiful, old Georgian building was the spark that ignited my creative passion and helped shape me as a person. The building, the furniture, the antiques, each held their own attraction and mystery. Also the gardens with their unique flowers, a throw back to a different era. Plenty of places to find fun or solitude, depending on my mood. Definitely inspirational.
Bushy Park House Roscommon was built around 1720 and had a variety of uses and inhabitants. It was originally a school for the sons of Protestant clergymen, but later became home to several different families. Historical records can be found here:
The ffrench family moved into Bushy Park House in the mid 19th century and later purchased the house and the land , which consisted of about 200 acres. Their family roots lay in Monivea Castle Galway, but they soon settled into farming life in Roscommon. Tom and Mrs. ffrench had two daughters, Noelle and Rosamund. Noelle was the academic, but she never forgot her roots, even after she moved to Wales. Rosamund stayed at home to run the farm and became very active in the Irish Red Cross. Both of these women would have a major impact on my life, especially Rosamund.
From Germany, With Love
After the second World War, many German refugee children were sent to Ireland as part of Operation Shamrock. My mother, Helga, and her brother, Walter, were among them. They spent several months in Glencree , longer than normal, because it was difficult to find foster parents for non-Catholic children at the time. Through her work with the Red Cross, Rosamund heard about their plight and offered to foster them.
The children adored the place and the woman so much that, at the end of the allocated three years, they were loathe to leave ivy clad Bushy Park. You may ask why that was, but remember that they were returning to a war-torn, impoverished Germany and Ireland seemed like Heaven to them. It’s not surprising that their attempts to settle back into German life failed and when Rosamund offered to take them back, they jumped at the chance. This meant leaving behind their German parents and older brother Karl, but the aftermath of war can have devastating effects on family life.
A Farm Romance
Walter was a lively, adventurous character and , as a young adult, he decided that rural Roscommon was not the life for him. While Rosamund tried her best to run the farm herself, she knew that she needed some help and decided to hire a farm manager. My father, Larry, seemed like the ideal candidate. He was skilled, ambitious and smart. At this stage, Helga was in her late teens and studying in Cathal Brugha Street, but she still spent a lot of time in Bushy Park. She was swept off her feet by this handsome, charming man and it wasn’t long before they got married.
As the children came along, Rosamund was always willing to help and so began my attachment to this wonderful woman. You can probably imagine how upset I was when she died, I was just six at the time. After her death, my parents inherited Bushy Park. A bittersweet moment. I’m sure it is a feeling most people can relate to, the end of an era and the start of a new chapter in life.
Picture from NIAH