Daniel O’Connell’s ancestral home stands at the tip of the Iveragh Peninsula in South Kerry and was donated by the O’Connell family to the people of Ireland in 1964. It is now an Irish national monument, museum and part of a 320-acre National Park, writes Anne Keeling

Daniel O’Connell – ‘The Liberator’, as every secondary school history student will tell you – is the legendary Kerryman who championed the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, Jewish rights and who won Emancipation for Irish Catholics in 1829.
The home which was this Irishman’s castle, and to which he happily retreated from the wearying world of politics, is Derrynane House in scenic south Kerry by the Wild Atlantic Way.

Derrynane House was donated by the O’Connell family to the people of Ireland in 1964. Much of the original building was structurally unfit and the house was partially demolished and restored.

It was opened to the public as a museum commemorating O’Connell just over 50 years ago in 1967 by President Éamonn de Valera. It is now under the management of National Historic Properties of the Office of Public Works (OPW).

Under the OPW additions were made, including a reception area, tea rooms, a lift and exhibition equipment (for video display). This phase was launched in August 2015, the 200th anniversary of O’Connell’s birth, by President Carbhall O’Dálaigh. The house is now part of the 300-acre Derrynane National Historic Park.

The name Derrynane means ‘Oak Wood of St Fionán’, St Fionán Cam being a 6th century saint associated with South Kerry. The grounds of Derrynane House contain some beautiful woodland, gardens and the lovely Derrynane Strand.

On their recent visit to Derrynane House in June, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, enjoyed a relaxed moment on Derrynane Strand. Photographs in local press showed a barefoot Duchess strolling on the sandy beach alongside her husband.

The Duke and Duchess were also told about the park’s wildlife and local underwater film-maker Vincent Hyland showed them footage about the Atlantic octopus found offshore in the area. Interestingly, Charles’s great-great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria on her visit to Kerry in 1861 met James O’Connell, Daniel’s brother, at Kenmare House (now the Castlerosse Hotel) in Killarney.

For the Royals one of O’Connell’s many outstanding attributes was his pacifism. This had been instilled in him when, having been sent as a young man to study in France in 1791, he witnessed some of the horrors of the French Revolution (1789-1799). He became both anti-Republican and vehemently opposed to war after that.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own