Episode 1 · Coolatore House, Co. West Meath
is the first of the houses Manchan visits and the programme goes out on TG4 at 10pm Thursday 12th January 2012 and is repeated at 9 pm on Friday the 15th January. According to the precious Táin manuscripts the Ancient Kings of Ireland were the first settlers on the land where Coolatore House now stands.
While the media were accusing him of having a sex change in Paris, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, was living here with his children and recording music. Donal Scanlon, the world’s greatest Spin Doctor, owned and lived in Coolatore House in the 1990’s. He used the front dining room as his office while he master-minded Bill Clinton's defence during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. REM and Shirley Bassey have recorded albums in the stables that have been converted into recording studios. At the magnificent Festival of Fires on the nearby Hill of Uisneach, Manchán discover's why so many have been drawn to this house and these ancient lands.
Episode 2 · Mount Vernon, Co. Clare
On the craggy shores of the Burren in Co. Clare sits the Mount Vernon, built in 1788 by Colonel William Persse and named Mount Vernon to celebrate his friendship with the US president George Washington. Manchán discovers the inspiration its later inhabitants - Lady Gregorgy, Hugh Lane and WB Yeats found on within its walls
Mount Vernon has battled the elements of the Atlantic Ocean on the ragged shores of the Burren in Co. Clare since 1788. It was built by Colonel Persse a friend of the first president of the United States, George Washington. Persse’s grand nephew, Ireland’s greatest art collector, Hugh Lane, lived in the house in 1880. When the Lusitania was torpedoed and sank in 1915, Lane was on board and sank with the ship and his latest collection of Monet, Ruben and Rembrandt paintings. The house was passed onto Lane’s aunt, Lady Augusta Gregory, one of the most pivotal figures in the Irish cultural renaissance. It was in Mount Vernon, Manchán will discover, that she entertained WB Yeats, George Russell, Sean O'Casey, JM Synge and George Bernard Shaw and he’ll find out why Yeat’s dedicated his famous poem to Gregory’s son – Robert Gregory.
Episode 3 · Ballynachinch Castle, Co. Galway
In one of Connemara’s most cherished houses - Ballynachinch Castle – Manchán investigates the story of Ranji the Indian Prince and Humanity Dick the prince Connemara never had and whether or not Wolfe Tone was the true father of Humanity Dick’s daughter Latitia.
Ballynahinch Castle is set in spectacular ancient woodland and on the banks of the richest salmon & trout river in Ireland. This is the story of two princes - the Indian Prince Ranji who owned the Castle in the 1930's and spent lavishly in the area and the Prince Connemara never had ‘Humanity Dick’ – the duellist and founder of the RSPCA in 1822. While delving into the lives of the princes, Manchán will also investigate whether there is any truth behind the rumours that the Irish Rebel, Wolfe Tone was the father to ‘Humanity Dick’s eldest child, Latitia!
Episode 4 · Aughavannagh, Co. Wicklow
Amongst the ancient fairy forts surrounding actor Eamon Morrissey’s cottage in Aughavannagh in Co. Wicklow, Manchán finds stories of the ancient fairy people who once inhabited the land and stories of the Irish rebels that later fought and died for it.
“Aghavannagh is the last place God made” – so goes local Wicklow proverb. Actor and Writer Eamon Morrissey’s charming cottage was built deep in the heart of Wicklow amongst the ancient fairy forts, over two hundred years ago. This mythical area was to become the heartland of Gaelic Ireland, long after other parts of the country had fallen to English rule. The Wicklow Mountains and valleys harboured many Irish rebels and were a maze from the point of view of the English soldiers. Through a major feat of engineering, the English built Military Road straight through this wilderness to quell Irish Rebellions here once and for all. The road stopped at Eamon’s cottage. Manchán is keen to uncover the ancient fairy myths that surround and protect Eamon’s cottage and whether the cottage harboured friend or foe.
Episode 5 · Killruddery House, Co. Wicklow
“The Tudors”, “Camelot”, “Excalibur” and “Far and Away” are all associated with Killruddery House in Bray. For the first time, Lord and Lady Meath have allowed a documentary television crew into their home to tell the fascinating story of their house and family.
Killruddery is a story of sword fighting knights, American and Irish Film Stars and the building of the city of Dublin. Killruddery is probably the most filmed location in Ireland ‘Far and Away’, ‘Excalibur’, ‘The Tudors’ and ‘Camelot’ all shot epic scenes in the house and grounds of Killruddery. The Brabazon family (who still live here) can trace their line back as far back as William the Conqueror and his historic invasion of England in 1066. Manchán will follow the trail of the ancient Knights and discover how a fascinating dispute over the Killruddery lands led to King Henry VIII’s historical break with Rome.
Episode 6 · Ó Dálaigh House, Co. Kerry
Ó Dálaigh House, Co. Kerry, Manchán visits a cottage to which the ‘Sí’ reputedly gifted the owners the mystical air Port na bPúcaí, a tune so powerful it can call whales to the surface, and he finds the island may have been inhabited since prehistoric times.
Off the coast of Kerry, lies the Great Blasket Island - it is perhaps the most inspiring and stunning remnant of old Ireland that exists today. In 1910, the highly praised English scholar Robin Flower claimed the Blasket Islanders were the oldest continuing tradition in the British Isles. The Irish government completely evacuated the Island in 1953, so sadly it is now uninhabited and yet the presence of its people remains so strong. Laois Ó Dálaigh invites Manchán to delve into the history of her former family home on the island. In telling their hugely rich heritage and heartbreaking story, Manchán investigates whether the world renowned Irish Waltz ‘Pórt na bPúcaí’ / ‘Music of the Fairies’ was originally composed by Laois’s great great grandfather Martin Ó Dálaigh or whether it was passed down to his family from the ghosts of the neighbouring island Inis Mhic Aoibhleáin!
Episode 7 · Glin Castle
For centuries Glin Castle, nestled at the stunning mouth of the Shannon, has been home to the black knights of Glin, one of the oldest Anglo-Norman families in the country. Featuring the last ever interview with Desmond Fitzgerald, the 29th Knight of Glin, this episode tells a 700 year long tale, revealing how the Black Knights championed Gaelic culture through revolution and patronage. This is a story of battles, beheadings and executions of being hunted like vermin across Ireland for treason and of fostering the Irish language at a time when no one cared for it. The 24th Knight, John FraunceisFitzGerald (1791-1854) was a fluent Irish language speaker and scholar who did much to promote the Irish language long before it became fashionable in the days of the Gaelic revival. However, he was also a known womaniser who went by the nickname, RidirenamBan (Knight of the Women). But he was not insensitive to injustices against women and after the body of the young woman Ellen Hanley was found near Glin Castle in 1819 he did his best to bring her alleged murderer to justice (the incident inspired the famous melodramatic play 'The Colleen Bawn'). Manchán meets the last Knight of Glin – Desmond Fitzgerald in the final interview that was filmed with him before he passed away on the 15th Sept 2011. He discovers that the 29th Knight of Glin was one of the Irish Georgian Societies titans and one of the greatest champions of Irish Art. And his death now marks the end of an era for the knights of Glin as, with no son to inherit the 700-year-old title, the unbroken line of knights who lived at Glin Castle has ended. Níbheidh a leithedíarísann.
Episode 8 · Howth Castle
Manchán visits the stunning home of the St. Lawrence Family - Howth Castle. He discovers how GráinneMhaol forced the owners to leave their gates open, Jonathon Swift was inspired to write some of his most controversial pamphlets and why one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th Century – Bing Crosby came to visit the castle.
Howth Castle - situated a few miles north of Dublin city amid the stunning beauty of the Howth peninsula. The castle has been in the St Lawrence family since 1177 and has never before opened it’s doors to a camera crew. Manchán will uncover the incredible story of the 4,000 strong Irish army who invaded England in the 15th Century – and how the Lord of Howth warned the King of England in advance of the invasion. Then a century later the St Lawrence family fell foul of another monarch of sorts – the great pirate queen, Grace O’Malley who kidnapped the heir of Howth Castle. Manchán is most impressed when he learns of Jonathan Swifts connection with Howth Castle - a man who knew and understood Ireland better than most. And the final surprise is the discovery that the most popular and influential media star of the first half of the 20th century – Bing Crosby – came to Ireland on a special visit in 1966 to shoot a TV special at Howth Castle.