Quality Killarney production for McShain tribute

Mary Culloty O’Sullivan performing at Anam

The remarkable life story of the man who built Washington and then went on to buy Killarney was re-enacted in word, music, song and dance for a hugely appreciative audience as part of the Celebration of Irish American Friendship in Killarney.

The life and times of the late entrepreneur and philanthropist John McShain, his wife Mary and their daughter Sr Pauline, featured in an hour-long production at the Anam Arts and Cultural Centre which was packed to capacity for the high quality event which certainly showcased Killarney’s finest talent.

The production in full flow with, from left, Mary Culloty O’Sullivan, Tony O’Flaherty, Miriam O’Sullivan, Noel P O’Sullivan and Fiona Crowley

Co-produced by St Oliver’s National School teacher Noel P O’Sullivan and performing arts school professional Fiona Crowley, with the latter also filling the role of narrator, it featured the magnificent voice of Mary Culloty O’Sullivan, the musical prowess of flautist Miriam O’Sullivan and Tony O’Flaherty on keyboard and the thought-provoking prose of local wordsmith Tim Buckley who composed some stunning pieces of poetry to capture the life of the McShain family.

Narrator Fiona Crowley with, in the background, photographic gems from the Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Delaware

The free performance also featured talented traditional Irish dancer Maria Blennerhassett (10) from the Maureen Hegarty Academy.

It all highlighted the rich talent Killarney has at its disposal and the production was enhanced superbly by previously unseen McShain photographic gems from the Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Delaware.

John, Mary and Pauline McShain

Detailed script research into the life of the McShain family was conducted by Rachel Kavanagh of the NPWS.

The son of emigrant Derry parents, John McShain, who died in September 1989 at the age of 93, was a charismatic building contractor who became known as the man who built Washington.

During his incredible lifetime, the wealthy construction baron, racehorse owner and philanthropist was the main contractor in the $4.25 million reconstruction of the White House during the Truman years from 1949-1952.

He was also responsible for the construction of the Pentagon, the Jefferson Memorial, the Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, the JFK Centre for Performing Arts, Washington National Airport and many other notable US landmarks.

Flautist Miriam O’Sullivan

A close, personal friend of former President of Ireland, Seán T O’Kelly, and a regular visitor to Killarney, in the late 1950s, John McShain one day arrived home to his wife, Mary, and casually announced “I’ve just bought Killarney”.

He acquired Killarney House and its sprawling 25,000 estate and he spent the twilight of his life there until his death.

In 1973, the McShains gifted the priceless Innisfallen Island, Ross Castle and 8,000 acres of parkland, mountains and lake to the State and an agreement was reached that, when Mr and Mrs McShain passed on, Killarney House and Gardens would be given to the Irish Government for a very nominal sum.

When his wife, Mary, died in 1998, their daughter Sr Pauline, carried out her father’s wishes and handed the keys and the deeds of the property to the people.

Sr Pauline, a Philadelphia based member of the Society of the Child Jesus order, passed away in March 2019.

John and Mary McShain are buried side by side in his native Philadelphia but their incredible legacy will always live on in their adopted home of Killarney.


Tim Buckley: A gifted wordsmith pays tribute to the McShain family

I live behind the golden gates
With Mary, my wife that I adore
And down the cherry blossom drive
The two of us explore
The Deenagh gentle ripples
The dipper dancing on a stone
And the shadows that rest inside our hearts
That leave us quite alone
I’ve scaled the heights of business
Built buildings as big as dreams
I’ve even built the Pentagon
For presidential schemes
And now I build a legacy
For those that come after me

The cherry blossom drive at Killarney House

Those people I have grown to love
In my adopted home Killarney
I want the children to enjoy
This place behind
The high walls and gates
These simple gifts of nature
That my soul appreciate
In this life that serves me fortune
Tempered with responsibility
I will gift it to the Irish nation
And the people of Killarney
Cherish it as I have done
Don’t take for granted
My hard-earned generosity

John McShain: The man who bought Killarney

Preserve it and share it
For all the world to see
Think of me on occasions
When the cherry is in bloom
Or when the swallows return
To nest beneath the eaves of room
Or maybe in September
When the apples are like
Jewels that hang from every tree
And the wasps are drunk on cider
In this peaceful reverie

KillarneyToday.com: Read by thousands of people every day: To advertise call 064-6631281 or 087-2229761