A Creative Journey

Bushy Park House Roscommon

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.

History

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 ffrenches

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

8 Comments

  • Mary

    Such an interesting read…… I hope you continue with the rest of it. I’m looking forward to the next installment! Fab idea for a novel xx

  • Vicki Johnson

    Being an American I am fascinated by generational history especially when it is rooted in a certain place. I live on the west coast and the idea of living in a home that is hundreds of years old is exciting. To feel the history in the walls. My father was an Agatha Christie buff as was my grandmother. I loved to read the books and see the series on PBS. My imagination would run wild! You do have a wonderful start to an intriguing story. I hope you continue to write about it.

  • Gerard Fallows

    Hi Bernie,
    I think I may have just sent you a Twitter, but I don’t know if you received it, so forgive me if i’m repeating myself. I have recently come across your web site and was particularly interested in your connection to Bushey Park House. The house and grounds hold some lovely old memories for me and my family.
    During the 50’s and 60’s, my brothers and I holidayed there, first with an elderly aunt of my mother’s and later at some friends further up the lane. We fondly remember riding to Mass in Athleague in a donkey and trap, collecting water in a bucket from the end of the lane, turf fires and wonderful, wonderful soda bread!!!
    In the 50’s we stayed at Aunt Maggie’s cottage, thatched roof, no electricity or running water and although it was austere it was – well, different and we loved it. After Auntie Maggie passed away in 1960, we stayed with another family further up the lane, the Mulhearns.
    Mick, the father, worked on the ffrenchi’s farm, and along with Mary, his wife and son Padraig, they kindly let us stay with them. My Mum was designated to sort out Auntie Maggie’s will which was a slow, laborious task, involving solicitors dealing with Irish and English law, so it took some years to sort it all out, which was ok with us as got more holidays!!
    After Mum’s death, we heard that Mick and Mary had died and Padraig had moved to London and we haven’t been back since.
    I hope you find little piece of interest.
    -Ged Fallows,

  • Fiona Farquharson

    Lovely to read this account, Bernie! I made a personal pilgrimage to Bushy Park in 1987. Your parents were very kind to a stranger from South Africa, who had arrived unexpectedly on their doorstep, even inviting me to spend the night! Mary and I went out to a pub, I seem to recall. My connection with the house is through my grandmother, Eileen. She was born next door, at Kilmore House, was Noelle and Rosamond’s first cousin and spent several happy years riding donkeys in the grounds, walking through the bluebell woods and generally having fun. She also went to finishing school at Bray. Her stories of that time coloured my life – along with her Out of Africa tales of accompanying my grandfather on his surveys around Africa!

    With best wishes to you and your family.

    PS. BTW my oldest daughter Emma, who married in September last year, emigrated with her husband in January and now lives in County Clare.

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