One of my favourite Irish cities is Kilkenny in our neighbouring county. It’s a great pint-sized city to socialise in and many a Friday evening did I want to get off the bus as I passed through the thronged streets on the way home to Carrick from Dublin. It’s known as the marble city as the black Kilkenny marble was used from the 17th to the 19th century.
But for most Irish people over 50 like me, Co. Kilkenny …as well as being famous for hurling……will be forever tied to that well-loved fictional family from the fictional townland of Leestown in County Kilkenny, the Riordans!!
The Riordans ran from 1965 to 1979 ... so I grew up with it. When we only had the one RTE TV channel … and black & white teles, no one in Ireland wanted to miss The Riordans on a Sunday evening. Men and women made sure any work was done to allow that free hour. It’s hard to believe that it’s 50 years this month that the episode with Benjy marrying Maggie was aired!! (below)
Above photo: The wedding of Benjy Riordan (played by Tom Hickey) and Maggie Nael (played by Biddy White Lennon), from the RTÉ Television drama series 'The Riordans', which was broadcast on 23 September 1973. Chris O'Neill who played Benjy's brother Michael in the series, is on the extreme left of shot.
Now, if you don’t remember it, the main family was made up of middle-aged farming parents, Tom and Mary Riordan, and their oldest son, Benjy, wayward son Michael and flighty daughter Jude. The latter two were considered quite glamorous back in the day while poor Benjy was a bit of a gom.
Other leading characters included the handsome family doctor and his Protestant gentry-born wife (the Howards), the radical Catholic priest (Fr. Sheehy), the local pub owners (Johnny & Julia Mac), an Irish Traveller (Eamon Maher) and the much loved village gossip with her long-suffering husband (Minnie and Battie Brennan. (Yuhoo!! 😂)
It was a fantastic show to get conversations started as it broached many subjects that Ireland as a society was dealing with at the time. Conservative parents (Tom and Mary) struggling with the pace of change and radical offspring (Benjy); Batty Brennan and his wife Minnie Brennan, as the old people in the community, and how they were regarded/disregarded by the young.
Conservatism versus modernism was a running theme: the radical priest Father Sheehy versus his older parishioners; conservative parents Tom and Mary against liberal children Michael and Jude; conservative Catholics Tom and Mary versus their contraception-using daughter-in-law, Maggie Riordan.
The petty snobberies and class-distinction of Ireland at the time were brought into focus: the Riordan family, with their middle-class farming background, against orphan Maggie, wife of Benjy; and Eamon the Traveller; the well-to-do characters like the Church of Ireland upper middle-class doctor's wife, Mrs. Howard, and the middle-class farming Riordans, against farm labourers Batty Brennan and Eamonn Maher. By far, my favourite was Minnie Brennan who proclaimed no interest in gossip at all, but nevertheless was the fountain of all local information on the lives and loves of the community.
The Riordans also dealt with one of the most sensitive issues in rural family life even to this day – the links between property, farm ownership and marriage. Back then Ireland had no legal divorce but succession was a hot topic especially how to get the farms into the hands of the younger generation.
The show also focused on a range of farming issues, from the promotion of new farm technology to safety on farms. In the 1970s, the characters Tom and Benjy featured in a television advertisement urging farmers to have metal-framed cabs put onto their tractors to protect themselves from serious injury should the vehicle overturn.
Other issues were also raised, such as illegitimacy, poverty, the problems of old age, marriage break-up, sexual activity, the dramatic changes in the post-Vatican II Catholic Church, and most famously contraception, when it was revealed that Benjy's wife, Maggie, for medical reasons could not risk having a second pregnancy. The decision of the couple to use contraception (the Pill) caused considerable controversy at the time. It brought many behind-closed-door issues out into the open and held up a mirror at a time of major societal change as well as it itself being a catalyst for that change. Fair play to the writers, particularly Wesley Burrows. ❤️
Above: The Riordans (courtesy of Joe Kirby on YouTube)
Anyway, this discussion on rural Kilkenny is my lead in to our stay in Mount Juliet Estate during September of 2020. Not that the luxury of this stunning hotel in anyway resembles Leestown or Benjy (the man not Charlie’s dog) getting up the yard!! But the real Kilkenny is full of scenery with stunning greenery and friendly people.
Mount Juliet Estate is set in 500 acres of Irish countryside. The historic estate is located in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny and dates back to 1757. On the estate, there are two residences, the historic Georgian Manor House and chic, sophisticated Hunters Yard. Both properties offer luxurious 5-star accommodations. We stayed in Hunter’s Yard and loved our room/bathroom and the gorgeous views.
On the estate, there are two restaurants. The Michelin starred Lady Helen is located in Manor House and offers fine dining. The Hound Restaurant, located in Hunters Yard which offers quality dining in a relaxed setting. We booked dinner in The Hound and it did not disappoint. We had a delicious dinner there. The food was really good in the evening. The service was efficient and friendly.
Above: Ready for Dinner - Mount Juliet Kilkenny 9 Sept 2020
The championship 18 hole golf course is among the world’s finest parkland courses and has played host to numerous unforgettable tournaments including the 2021 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. We chose to let others do the playing, opting instead for relaxing strolls around the fabulous grounds:
Other facilities on the estate include, a playground, walking trails, gardens, tennis courts, table tennis, swimming pool, gym, bike hire, fishing, falconry and archery. There is free WiFi throughout the property. The accommodations offers a 24-hour front desk and room service. All rooms include a desk, a TV and a private bathroom.
Kilkenny is 11 miles north of Mount Juliet Estate, while Waterford is 25 miles from the property. The nearest airport is Waterford Airport, 29 miles away.
Like all the best stories, Mount Juliet Estate is, at heart, a love story. Built on a ridge overlooking the River Nore by the first Earl of Carrick, it is named after his beloved wife, Lady Julianna Butler.
We walked to the stunning Manor House and had drinks outside as it was in the middle of the pandemic.
Next morning, I had the mini-breakfast which hit the spot.
I would return to Co. Kilkenny in general and Mount Juliet Estate in particular in a heart beat. Up the Cats! 🐱🐈⬛🐈
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog 113
Number 59 - Travel - Hotels
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Blog 27 - Scotland
Blog 28 - Barbados
Blog 29 - Canada
Blog 30 - Alaska
Blog 31 - Everglades, Florida
Have you ever been to Co. Kilkenny? Tell me about your experience in the comments section below.
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!