Town owes family a huge debt of gratitude

Born in Philadelphia in 1898, the late John McShain was the most successful and dynamic general contractor in the US

THERE has been a call for a section of Mission Road in Killarney to be dedicated to the memory of the family who gifted Killarney House and Gardens to the State, can reveal.

Cllr Michael Gleson is to propose the eastern stretch of the road, running from the Golden Gates to the turn-off for Beech Road, should be named after the late John McShain and his family.

He said it would acknowledge the huge debt of gratitude due to the McShains for the generous transfer of Killarney House and adjacent lands to the Irish nation.

The Golden Gates at the entrance to Killarney House and Gardens

In 1960 wealthy American entrepreneur John McShain and his wife, Mary, acquired the town centre Killarney Estate which had been owned by the Earls of Kenmare since the 16th century.

In the years that followed, the bulk of the priceless 25,000-acre property passed into the hands of the State and, following the death of Mrs McShain in 1998, at the age of 91, Killarney House also came into public possession.

Proposal: Cllr Michael Gleeson

In 1973, the McShains gifted Innisfallen Island and the ruins of its historic abbey to the people of Killarney and they also ensured that Ross Castle passed into the guardianship of the State.

In 1979 they turned over the estate to the government, for what was described as a nominal sum, on the understanding that they would retain a life tenancy of the house and some acreage. That deal expired on the death of Mrs McShain in December 1998.

Born in Philadelphia in 1898, the late John McShain was the most successful and dynamic general contractor in the US and his building credits included the reconstruction of the White House (1949-52), the Jefferson Memorial (1939-41) and the John F Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts in Washington DC (1971).

He also built the Pentagon in 1941 and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1959.

His wife, Mary, a native of Philadelphia, was a Lady of the Grand Cross of the Holy Sepulchre and a Dame of Malta. In 1976 she was the recipient of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, the highest honour the Vatican can bestow on a laywoman.

The couple’s only daughter Sr Pauline McShain, who was a member of the Society of the Holy Christ Jesus Order, passed away in the US in March of last year.

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