September 7th 2020
In today’s issue:
Last Meeting’s Speaker Helen on visiting 80 Rotary Clubs
The Peace Pipe Initiative What is it?
Russborough House – an account of the Club visit
Today Tony Conn and Yogi Reppmann present on the Peace Pipe Initiative.
Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Sept 14th Michael Heney on the Arms Trial of 1970. (Michael has recently published a book on this trial).
Sept 28th Representative of the Scottish Government in Dublin.
Oct 19th Speaker from the United Nations (details to follow).
Oct 12th Barbara Walsh, Chair of the Board of the Glencree Reconciliation Centre.
Alan Harrison gave the invocation last Monday.
Rotary Rangers Walks
Sept 8th. Hill of Howth
Sept 15th. Clara Vale, via Lara
Sept 22nd Bray to Greystones
Sept 29th Lough Ouler, Military Road
Social distancing rules will apply. More details are available from PP Brian George.
Hon Sec Tony McCourt gave apologies for non-attendance from Rana Aldamin and David Horkan.
At last week’s virtual meeting there were 26 attendees. Tom O’Neill welcomed our visitors Helen Perkins who is our guest speaker and Simon Braun.
President Alan expressed his enjoyment in visiting Russborough House on Wednesday of the previous week. Alan plans to organise a number of other such outings for the club. Mount Usher is one possible venue for us to visit.
Members wishing to speak
Delma reminded club members that the Duck Race will be held on Sunday in aid of PolioPlus and reminded the members to place their bets.
Last Week’s Speaker
Tom O’Neill introduced last week’s speaker welcoming her back as she had visited our club eight years ago. She began her engagement with Rotary through Roteract and is now a member of the Rotary Club of Wednesfield. She is a Paul Harris Fellow and a lawyer working for Human Rights. She is currently working in the UK Foreign Office. Tom congratulated Helen on her MBE.
Helen reminded us that ours was the first club she and her friend Jenny visited when they started their challenge to visit 80 Rotary Clubs in 80 countries. Pamela and Mark hosted their visit to the Dublin Number One club. Their learning from visiting our club was “Don’t try to outdrink the Irish when you are making a presentation the following day”.
Helen and Jenny were interested in how clubs could collaborate to help communities. Paying their own way and taking leave from work they set about meeting Rotary members in clubs throughout the world. They travelled to Beirut in 2011 where they got a warm welcome. Beirut was a thriving cosmopolitan city then and they got to visit places that tourists never see. They visited 6 clubs in Romania and Moldova. They delivered shoeboxes to vulnerable children with the members of the Moldovan club. On returning to their club they held a cinema night and raised €2,700. With a Rotary matching grant, they funded a sensory room for children in the Terry Hawkes Centre in Moldova for children with disabilities. The lesson they learned in Moldova was that “If a hotel is too cheap to be true there is something wrong.” When they arrived at their hotel, they found that there was a list of services and prices at reception.
They were deported home on arriving in Bangladesh. Border officers were suspicious of them because they were foreign lawyers who may be contributing to a major Bangladeshi conference on immigration.
In 2013 they visited the Wall Street Club in New York where they worked with volunteers delivering food packages to homeless people. Helen commented that there are 50 thousand homeless people on the streets of New York.
In 2014 Jenny was diagnosed with cancer but urged Helen to carry on with a return trip to Beirut and a visit to a Palestinians refugee camp for vulnerable children. Generations of families had grown up in this camp which was in existence since 1946.
In September 2014, having finished therapy, Jenny travelled with Helen on 6 different trains back to Moldova and the Tony Hawkes Centre. They asked the staff the question: “If money was no object what would they do for the centre?” The answer they got was that they “would build an outside theatre”. With the help of her club Helen raised the funds to build a theatre as a legacy to Jenny who sadly died. Helen has visited the Tony Hawkes Centre since then and found that attending children have won many prizes at dance festivals because of their theatre training.
Helen and Jenny visited 46 clubs in total. Helen told us that Jenny believed that life should not be a slow careful journey to the grave but a glorious progress arriving at death screaming “Yahoo, I’ve arrived ….and on the way I gave a little back and did some good.”
Pamela gave a vote of thanks.
On Wednesday 16th August, a tour of Russborough House took place, organised by our President Alan. 16 members of our club broke into two groups, enjoyed a tour of the house separately, with social distancing measures. Tour guides met us in the different rooms and highlighted various aspects of the décor, paintings and historical context. The cinema in the basement, showing the collection of perceptive 3D photographs taken by Sir Alfred Beit, interested us in how they illustrate the life of the Beits and their friends. At the conclusion of the tour, members of our group went on to explore the walled garden or take refreshment and lunch in the café.
Our fellow club member David Horkan is a member of the Board of Russborough. In the article below he sets out the history and architectural features of the house, tells us of the contribution the owners of this home have made to the Irish State art collection and summarises developments in recent years.
Russborough is located near Blessington in County Wicklow, and was built in the 1740s by Joseph Leeson, a wealthy Dublin brewer, to designs by Richard Castle. As Castle’s masterpiece it represents one of the most architecturally significant neo-Palladian buildings in Ireland. It took about ten years to complete the house and grounds. Leeson, commissioned and acquired Florentine paintings, classical statuary, and splendid rococo gilt furniture, all to adorn the house and complement its decoration by the great Swiss-Italian stuccadores the Lafranchini brothers. The Leesons/ Milltowns remained at Russborough until the early 20th century when the last countess donated its contents to the National Gallery of Ireland. The house was bought in 1952 by Sir Alfred and Lady Beit. They installed the family’s internationally acclaimed art collection, comprising works by artists such as Murillo, Vermeer and Velázquez. Several well publicized robberies did not deter the Beits from two extraordinary acts of generosity to the benefit of the Irish people. Major works of art were donated to the National Gallery of Ireland, while the house and its important collection were passed to the Alfred Beit Foundation.(ABF)
ABF Established in 1976, ABF owns and operates Russborough House and Demesne of over 200 acres The object of ABF is to promote and further the advancement of education in the fine arts in Ireland, also to enrich the cultural life of the nation by promoting art, craft and music. Russborough was opened to the public in 1978. ABF, is chaired by Judy Woodworth, Eric Blatchford is CEO.
The following is summary of developments during recent years
Visitor numbers to the Demesne were in excess of 130,000 including circa 25,000 for the guided tour of the house. Revenue generation reached record levels in 2018 & 2019 in many areas of the business and this was through very intensive work of all employees (16) and the CEO. ABF received international awards of excellence for guided house tours from CIE Tours for three years (2016, 2015, and 2012). There is a shop and restaurant (run by private contract). Kaleidoscope, an Electric Picnic for families was held in 2019. There is a children’s playground, a Maze, and a wonderful Birds of Prey centre, as well as various craft workers. The new Greenway around the Blessington Reservoir will have Russborough as its first calling point and attract many more visitors.
In 2016 some additional paintings were purchased from ABF & the buyers donated them to the NGI ensuring they stay in Ireland. Sale proceeds were put into a ring-fenced Endowment Fund. (€7.7 million 31st December 2016). The Fund income will ensure the long-term future of Russborough House
It takes about one million euro to run the estate. 2020 will be a very difficult year as visitors’ numbers and income are significantly reduced. It is a wonderful place to bring visitors with something for everyone. Annual membership is also the perfect gift for all occasions, Christmas, birthdays etc. There is also wonderful book, coffee table type which would also make a lovely present (€50).
The Business & Finance Committee holds regular meetings to review the actual business performance against budget. A major mechanical and electrical & fire proofing project (costing circa €1.5 ml, over a three-year period) commenced in Autumn 2016. Two Government grants for this project were received in 2017/2018. Financing the upkeep of an historic house such as Russborough is an ongoing and major task. Finding a couple of millionaires would help.
Do hope you enjoyed your visit.
The Peace Pipe Initiative
This Monday the presenters are Tony Conn and Yogi Reppmann who tell us the story of the 504 Peace Pipe typewritten letters sent by Jewett Fulton, of the Rotary Club of Keokuk to all the first clubs in each country in 1934. While visiting the Rotary World Convention in Vienna in 1931, Fulton sensed that something dangerous was brewing among the nations He was concerned by the rise of nationalism