Crinolines and croquet in Co Carlow

Duckett’s Grove house is in ruins but Carlow Tourism and the GAA is reviving it for a day

Life on a country estate a century ago will be recreated in glorious technicolour next weekend when Carlow Tourism and Grange GAA club present "A Day with the Ducketts". The rambling old ruin, which burned down in 1933, will be brought back to life with horse-drawn carriages, stabled horses, ponies and traps and a Rolls-Royce.

In the vaulted basement kitchens, which survived the fire, there will be demonstrations of butter-churning, basket-weaving and bread-making, while a typical labourer’s cottage will depict the living conditions of a large family at a time when possessions were sparse and scarce food supplies were enhanced by poaching. The event will also offer visitors the opportunity to view the estate’s walled gardens, restored and newly planted since its purchase a decade ago by Carlow County Council. There will also be croquet, archery and traditional games.

The Duckett family came to Carlow in 1695. By the mid-1800s, their estate of 12,000 acres was spread across six Leinster counties, producing annual rental in excess of £10,000. As the family fortune flourished, extensive embellishments were carried out on their mansion home.

Legal action

In 1790 William Duckett married Elizabeth Dawson Coates, heiress of the banker and developer John Dawson Coates. who built the Mansion House in Dublin and gave his name to Dawson Street. In 1895 he married again, this time to Maria Georgina Thompson, who came to Duckett's Grove with her daughter Olive, from a previous marriage. When William died in 1908 without an heir, his widow inherited some £200,000 – but left her daughter just a single shilling. Olive Duckett took legal action, had the will overturned and received £30,000. In the 1920s the 1,300-acre demesne was divided among local tenants and labourers by the Land Commission, and the house contents sold.


The organ's beatific tones will play a central role in next weekend's activities

Among the items that came up at auction – as described by the Carlow Nationalist – were "a large number of glowing canvasses of the old masters", "statuary ranging from the Venus de Milo to Diogenes in his tub" and the massive antlers of an elk, "which rumour hath it were the first 'bog-trotter' in Ireland".

‘Ecstatic tone’

Also for sale was William Duckett's 19th-century organ, "whose ecstatic tone", according to the Nationalist, "would raise the soul from the abyss of despair to the very portals of paradise". The parish priest of Graiguecullen wisely snapped up this godly instrument for his new church, St Clare's; its beatific tones will play a central role in next weekend's activities.

The organisers of "A Day with the Ducketts" recorded about 40 minutes of music in the church, which – interspersed with classical music – will be played in the refreshments area on Saturday and Sunday. Tea, coffee and a fast track to paradise. Who could resist?