One of the three pillars of our GoBoomerLifestyle platform is being “purposeful” in our lives. On a recent trip to Ireland to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, we visited the idyllic Kylemore Abbey on the western coast of this magnificent country and discovered the true spirit of a couple dedicated to being “purposeful” in their life’s pursuits.
In the 1850’s, an Englishman named Mitchell Henry brought his new bride, Margaret Vaughan Henry for their honeymoon to a hunting lodge that stood on this property on Pollacappul and Maladrolaun Lakes. His wife was so enthralled with the area that Henry returned to purchase the 1500-acre estate as a gift to her. Over the years, he built the magnificent Kylemore Abbey castle in her honor, the largest Victorian Walled Garden in Ireland, and later a beautiful Neo-Gothic Church as a memorial chapel when Margaret passed away suddenly from an unexpected illness at age 45.
A Fascinating Journey into the Irish Countryside.
Visiting the Henry’s spectacular estate was a fascinating journey into the lives of two people who dedicated themselves to their love of family and love for the land and surrounding communities.
There were 125 tenants living and working on the Kylemore Abbey property at the time, most still recovering from an outbreak of cholera that swept through the area in 1849, and the Great Irish Famine that took nearly a third of the residents.
Over the years, the Henrys created jobs for over 300 people and paid them handsomely to improve their quality of life. If you can imagine, many of the tenant’s homes had no windows and Mitchell had them updated to add windows for light and ventilation. He built incredible infrastructure including a village water pump, a post office, telegraph office and school for the children who lived on and near the estate.
The Largest Victorian Walled Garden in Ireland.
The incredible 6-acre walled garden had beautifully designed terraces of a wide array of flowers, trees, shrubs and vegetables. There were twenty-one glass houses with the latest technology of the day to bring heat and water to care for the plants. The gardens also employed numerous local residents. The Head Gardner’s house and worker’s quarters have been restored on the property today.
A Story of Great Love and Tragedy.
When Margaret Henry died tragically from dysentery on a trip to Egypt in 1874, Mitchell had her body returned to Kylemore Abbey and both are laid to rest there in a mausoleum behind the chapel. Kylemore Abbey remains a tribute to their lives together and the incredible contributions they made to the Irish community they came to love.
The property has been operated by the Benedictine Nuns since the 1920’s and remains a popular destination for visitors to western Ireland. Touring the property’s castle, church and spectacular walled garden is indeed worth the journey into the Irish countryside.
Mitchell and Margaret Henry were, indeed, committed to leading “purposeful” lives.