Tour of the Grounds
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“… at the Hermitage, Edward Hudson had made himself a beautiful home, adding a portico and new wing to the solemn old granite house that is now Scoil Éanna, and dotting his woods and fields with the picturesque bridges and arches and grottoes on which eighteenth century proprietors spent the money that their descendants (if they had it) would spend on motorcars.”
– Patrick Pearse, ‘By way of Comment’ from An Macaomh, Christmas 1910.
St Enda’s Park contains a remarkable collection of eighteenth and early nineteenth-century monuments, or “follies” as they are also known. These unusual buildings were placed around the park to add drama and interest to the landscape. They were built by Edward Hudson and his son, William Elliot Hudson in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century. Edward Hudson named the house and grounds “The Hermitage” and saw it as a place to escape to from the city and enjoy its beautiful natural surroundings. Both he and his son were very interested in Irish history and many of the follies in the park are based on ruins of ancient Irish buildings and monuments.
The follies were designed to inspire the imagination of visitors to the park as they wondered about who had built them and what they had been used for. They could make up all kinds of mysterious and romantic stories to explain the origins of these curious buildings. However in the early years of the nineteenth century a real-life story full of romance and tragedy unfolded in the park. The young revolutionary Robert Emmet fell in love with a woman called Sarah Curran. She lived across the road from the park in a house called The Priory. Her father, John Philpot Curran, did not approve of Robert Emmet so they had meet here in secret. Robert Emmet was executed following the failure of his rebellion in July 1803. After his death the path on the eastern side of the park became known as ‘Emmet’s Walk’ while the gate lodge at the north-eastern corner began to be referred to as ‘Emmet’s Fort’. It was these associations with the story of Robert Emmet which led Patrick Pearse to visit this area and move his school here in 1910. He felt the history of Emmet and the beautiful and dramatic setting would inspire the boys under his care. Within the park the boys could run free and get to explore and discover the natural world. As he said himself, St Enda’s had the highest aim in education, “it must have the finest home”
Gate Lodge and Entrance
Tucked in behind the main entrance to the park is quaint gate lodge. Traditionally a member of staff and their family would have lived here. In Patrick Pearse’s time it was the home of his gardener, Mícheál Mac Ruaidhrí. He was a native Irish-speaker and prize-winning storyteller. As well as looking after the gardens he taught the boys gardening. Each boy was allowed to have his own little plot of land to look after and grow plants in.
Hermit’s Cave and Dolmen
A hermit is someone who decides to live on their own so they can pray and think without being distracted by other people. The man who laid out the park and built the house, Edward Hudson, named it “The Hermitage” to suggest a peaceful place far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This hermit’s cave allowed visitors to imagine that a real hermit had once lived in the park and had sat in the secluded stone seat, deep in thought. In front of the cave is an enormous boulder which looks similar to one of the ancient dolmens which can be found all around Ireland.
Arches and Niche
These pointed arches and niche were built to suggest the ruins of a religious building associated with a religious hermit of the early church. They were deliberately placed to “frame” views of the landscape.
Emmet’s walk leads appropriately to Emmet’s Fort. This building is miniature version of a five-pointed military star-shaped fort. These forts became popular in the 15th century and continued to be built up until the mid-1800s. This building was actually a gate lodge and Patrick Pearse’s half-sister, Mary Emily McGloughlin and her daughter, Margaret McGarvey, lived here for many years.
Ogham is the earliest form of writing used in Ireland and dates from the early medieval period. Most surviving examples of it appear on ‘Ogham Stones’ which were particularly popular in the southern counties of Ireland. This example dates from over a thousand years after, from the eighteenth century. Edward Hudson displayed his antiquarian knowledge by creating his own ogham stone in the grounds of his new home. It may well have been intended to be a joke for other scholars who were able to translate the ancient script as the words of the inscription are not from ancient Ireland but come instead come from the Epistles of Horace, the Roman poet. Hudson was also poking fun at himself and all the works he had carried out on the parkland of The Hermitage as the line translates as:
‘The neighbours just smile as I shift my turf and stones.’
Epistles of Horace, I. xiv., line 39.
The bridges across the Whitechurch Stream and the other follies provided a dramatic backdrop to open air performances of plays and pageants which Pearse wrote for his pupils.
The first obelisks were built by the ancient Egyptians but were also used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to commemorate important people and events. Many people, including Patrick Pearse, believed that this obelisk was built to make the grave of Sarah Curran’s horse, it is more likely that it was built by Major Richard Doyne who purchased the house and grounds in 1859. He was a verteran of the Crimean War and this monument is said to commemorate a horse which he had ridden in battle. Originally it was much taller with four ornate pillars on the base supporting the obelisk.
Stair Tower or Temple
Visitors would use the stairs by this tower to move from the upper to the lower path. They would also have been able to use the roof of the tower to view the surrounding parkland and it also included a small room where they could sit or have a picnic. The outside of the tower is decorated with many unusually shaped stones and shiny black volcanic glass.
Many big houses in the past would have had a walled garden where they would have grown fruit and vegetables. Originally there were glass houses along the south-facing wall and you cans still see that it is partly built from brick. Brick was much better at absorbing the heat of the sun and when Pearse visited the house for the first time there was a grapevine growing here. All the boys who attended the school were taught about gardening and horticulture and had the opportunity to have a patch of ground where they could grow their own plants.
The walled garden includes the most modern sculpture in St. Enda’s, a wood carving by the sculptor Liam O’Neill. It was created out of the wood from a sequoia tree which once grew in the garden. The tree had one root but two trunks and Liam O’Neill called the piece Deartháireacha in memory of the Pearse Brothers.