Saturday, 1 March 2014

Family memories and portraits
at Finnstown House in Lucan

Trees and early spring lights in the summer house at Finnstown House, Lucan, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

We were back in Finnstown House, the country house hotel outside Lucan, as a large family group. Following a funeral in Inchicore and Palmerstown, four or five generations gathered together to pay tribute to a very fine mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt and mother-in-law.

It has been a long week for all involved, and it was a long today. But families are not something given, something we have to accept uncritically. We make families, and the people we count in make us part of our families today.

And today was a day to celebrate families, extended families and friendships that are as close as family ties.

Finnstown House has been a venue for family celebrations over the decades, and so it was an appropriate place today for memories, commemorations and rekindling.

Today, Finnstown is a luxury country house hotel, and it is also marketed as a wedding venue. It is a place for memories as well as meals and celebrations.

As I looked around at the paintings and portraits on the walls in the lobby, the bars and the dining rooms, I wondered how many wedding albums are going to end up with photographs that have in their backgrounds paintings of far-off, unknown or forgotten places, or the portraits of ancestors of other families but long forgotten by their descendants.

Family portraits on the walls in Finnstown House … but which families do they belong to? (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

The portraits hanging on the walls of Finnstown House must have belonged to some other families in the past, perhaps even families that lived in Finnstown House.

Although they are not mine, Finnstown House was once the home of my Great Uncle Con and Great-Aunt Hannah. Cornelius D. Crowley (1879-1972), of Finnstown House, Lucan, Co Dublin, and Roscrea, Co Tipperary, was originally from Millstreet, Co Cork. He was one of my great-uncles, a brother of my grandmother, Maria (Crowley) Murphy (1882-1953) of Millstreet, Co Cork.

For many years, Con Crowley was a director of the Roscrea Meat Company with his brother Jeremiah D. Crowley of Wallstown Castle, Castltownroche, Co Cork – the other directors included Robert Briscoe TD and G Fasenfeld. After World War II, Con Crowley bought Finnstown House, an 18th century manor house outside Lucan that is said to incorporate parts of the older Finnstown Castle.

The Italian-style fountain on the front lawn at Finnstown House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

This afternoon, I was part of a very different family at Finnstown House, where as small boy 45 or 50 years ago I ran freely through the fields, and fell in a bed of nettles.

When we combine the stings and love of the people around us, we constantly create and re-create families.

Looking back into the past or looking forward to the future? A mirror in the dining room in Finnstown House, Lucan, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)