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Bunnyconnellan - The Real Story PDF Print E-mail
Article courtesy of myrtleville.com

Mrs Mary Porteous and her late husband Neill (Jock) were the previous owners of Bunnyconnellan. Together they ran the hotel for thirty years. These are her memories.

“My grandfather built Bellvue, the house where Benny Neff lives. There’s a bit of fretwork up over the door, which says it was built in 1910. I used to stay there during the holidays. In those days you just went down to the beach and had your swim, you had your paper chases and your little plays. That was it. There was nothing else to do. It was good though. Myrtleville was good then. Its changed so much, maybe it was having a hotel down here that brought all sorts of people.

When I was young down here, there was a platform in Fountainstown on the edge of the beach near where the shop is now. There were dances there at night. We were never allowed to go there. We never went into Crosshaven except on special treats to the merries. There were dances in the Crosshaven hotel. When we were older we’d go down and they’d be hopping in the Crosshaven hotel for about 4 pence! ridiculous, and then Mr Dunphy had the ‘La Scala’ and you could go there to dance, and the merries were terrific at that time. It was a great treat to get to the merries. If you had a shilling to go to the merries it was marvellous. The locals when I was young were the Longs, Connie Hayes, the Daunts (Bolsters at the time). Vera Bolster married Willie Daunt afterwards, but at that time there were Goods in Myrtleville House and of course there was Mr Murphy in the schoolhouse. We used to go up to the school to Mass on Sunday. The older generation, my aunts, used to play cards but the younger crowd – off down to the merries to spot form and we’d walk home then up through Hayes wood. Nowadays young people wouldn’t dream of walking up through the wood, but for us if you didn’t go up through the wood, you didn’t go.

Then I met Neill and we got married. We lived in Pine Lodge (It was originally called Bunnyconnellan). It was built by my great grandfather John Sisk for a man called Ignatius Samuel Kelly who was a bank manager in Cork and had a salary of £2000 a year which at that time - the turn of the century, was enormous.

My mother always told me when I was growing up that it was called after four children – Bunny, Con. Nell and Ann, but I could never prove that. It was called after Bunnyconnellan in Co Mayo. Samuel Kelly’s mother was an O’Dowd from Co Mayo.
We were living above in that house which is now called Pine Lodge, and things were going all wrong down here. Neill’s father asked us if we would like to have this place and he bought it for us. Just before we moved down I remember going to Mass one Saturday night and Fr. O’Toole said to me ‘Is it true Mary that you have bought that place? I wouldn’t touch it if I were you’ he said ‘ It has a terrible name. If I were you now don’t touch it.’ I said to myself what are we going to do? We had it bought at this stage. We decided to put a notice in the paper saying we had purchased ‘Mirmar’ (Its previous name) and from now on it would be called Bunnyconnellan. That’s how it got its name. Sir Nicholas Trant built it and I have a book called ‘The Journal of Clarissa Trant’ who was his daughter. It was first called ‘The Cottage on the Rocks’ then ‘Mirmar’ and is now ‘Bunnyconnellan’.

Several people of interest have stayed there. Sir Hugh Lane is reputed to have been a guest. Mr Naulder who was one of the previous owners said in his brochure that Victor Hugo stayed there for a time and Neill copied his brochure when we moved down there. The next thing the Hugenot society rang up from Dublin and said ‘you have no authority to put that on your brochure. We don’t know that Victor Hugo ever stayed there.’ Neill said to them ‘If you can prove that Victor Hugo never stayed here Ill take it off the brochure. He was supposed to have written one of his books here. Several people told me that and I believe that one of his books or a section of one of his books is set in Ireland. How true that story is I don’t know.

We were in Bunnyconnellan for thirty years and it was a tough life, I can tell you.
My one fear was that one of my children would go into this business. It was tough because you were your busiest when everyone else were enjoying themselves. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction to be had out of it, but I wouldn’t advise it unless you are really dedicated or have been brought up to it like the Kelly’s of Ross, but it’s a tough existence. We had our moments and we had interesting people who came and the sing – songs were terrific. I enjoyed the weddings we had, especially the buffet weddings. You could use your imagination in the savouries and the other things we dished up.

We had all sorts of interesting people who came from time to time.
Sir Fredric Sayers used to come every month at first He was over 80 years of age and he lived in Graystones. He used to come with Lady Sara, then when she died he came on his own. He drove him self down and stayed here for the mouth. He told me when he was a young man, there was a Brother,I don’t know if it was a Christian Brother or a Presentation Brother, and he used to train young men for the Indian police. He’d only take about ten students. Sir Fredric Sayers was one of them. He came from Tipperary originally as a student. He was in digs somewhere and he went to school to this Brother and then joined the Indian police. As a student he played rugby at Turners Cross. He showed me a scar on his hand where he cut it on a bottle.

Sir Fransis Chichester was sailing around the world and came into Crosshaven. I got a phone call to know would we give him lunch. He was a nice man, he was suffering from cancer I think he but he still completed his voyage.

 

My husband Neill was a Scotsman. H always wore a kilt and he had a knife in his stocking a ‘Scian Dubh’, he always wore it for weddings and everything else. I remember taking him to Sion Hill, where I was at school, and the knife had a little channel down the side of it. One of the nuns asked him ‘ What’s that for?’
‘That’s for the blood to run down ‘ he said ‘when you slit their throats’. She was horrified.

 

He used to go fishing a lot and when Jim was over in Trobolgan he used to go right across over there, and every Christmas he went out in a boat with crackers and what ever else he could grab from the kitchen and bring it over to the men out in the Light ship on Daunts rock. It was an expedition. He'd get a few pals and they’d all go out there and have a few drinks. After the swim on Christmas day people would come up to Bunnys for a hot whiskey, but that was all, it wasn’t an open day.

 

We used to have great parties on New Years Eve. Neill wanted Scottish haggis. I had never seen haggis before but I looked up Mrs Beeton and got the tongue, liver and the heart of a sheep and minced it, added oatmeal, onions and spices and made bags out of the lining of the stomach with the tripe side in. Then every year there was a fancy dress in the Yacht club, They’d all come here to dinner in their fancy dress. The pipers from Carrigaline pipe band would play the bagpipes outside, walking up and down for a while before coming inside. It was a great night, nobody minded if the service was slow. They all sang between the courses. One year Neill went off to pick up the pipers, he was going to the fancy dress as Carmen Miranda, he had a headgear with apples, oranges and bananas. Off he went anyway. They were gone for so long and I said ‘ What’s keeping him so long has he gone to the pub or something?’ They finally arrived, I saw him coming into the dining room, the apples and bananas over one ear. Twas a great night always. It got out of hand then, if people wanted to book in the summer for New Year Eve, you’d have to say sorry we’re booked out. When people left on New Years Eve they’d ask us to book them in for the next year again. The yacht club stopped the fancy dress the same year we stopped the dining room.

 

 

 Sylvia Simms and Noel Purcell at Bunnys

One year during the Cork Film Festival we hosted a reception given by Carlsberg Lager Ltd.. A large group of film stars, pressmen and delegates arrived following a coach tour one afternoon. They took photographs and television footage in the grounds and hotel, met our pet minah bird, who greeted them with ‘Shut the bloody door!’ and they relaxed and enjoyed themselves. Among them were, Trevor Howard, Julia Foster, Sylvia Simms, Noel Purcell and Germans, Marianne Koch and Margot Trooger.

 

 

This was followed by a newspaper article titled ‘Film Stars “Take Over” Co Cork Hotel’.

The electricity didn’t come here till 1950 We had our own generator down in Bunnys. All we had off it was light, so we just had to cope. There was a little stream at the back were we’d put the jellies to set. We had an old wooden fridge, you put a block of ice into the top. When I look back I wonder how did we manage. We also had a generator up at the other house and that went on fire. Mrs Long (Dermot’s mother) came up to me and brought all her lamps, she took them from the lodgers because she thought I needed them more. Mrs Long was a great neighbour.

When we first got married we lost the key to the front door, it was never locked day or night. You couldn’t do that now, we never had a key, it was missing for ages.

I never minded getting up early in the morning and working till late at night. There were times when I had to get up very early when we had people staying from Pfizers in latter years. They had breakfast very early in the morning. You had to have the right temperament to do food because there was great tension in the kitchen when you were dishing up. If you had residents it made it easier with food. You can use it up more. If you’re just serving it in a restaurant I think there is a terrible waste.

Some people from this area had colourful lives.
There was a family living up Goats cross, the Meade’s, Lena Meade was the head housemaid in Buckingham palace. I had her sister Molly working here. Now Molly was a bit scatty. George the sixth opened the servant’s ball with Lena one year. Molly was quite interesting about the royal family. When she retired, Lena still went back to the Queen Mother to help out at functions or anything like that.

Birdie Brennan also came from this area. Her father was a sergeant and she was at school with Alice, Sheila and myself who all worked at Bunny’s. Birdie Brennan was a nurse and she went to look after the Queen Mother’s brother, The Earl of Stratmore and she married him. Her portrait is hanging in Glamis castle. She died suddenly in mysterious circumstances. Pat O’Neill is writing her life story.

When we were younger Jane Mc Donald had the Post Office, Madge worked for her, she was more of a friend then an employee. When Jane died she left the tenancy of the house ‘Ivy Wood’ to Madge. Madge had an extraordinary history. To look at her you’d never think she never moved from over the road. When she was a young girl she worked as a nurse-maid for the British Ambassador of Greece’s baby daughter. She went out to Greece and married a Greek and had a baby. She came back here to Cork with the baby and never went back to Greece. That’s when she got the job at the Post Office here at Myrtleville. We all knew her as Madge (she was Madge Middleton when she was young). We’d go in to Madge for various things, they had the Post Office and a telephone. Her daughter was called Zera Zubyangamus. We all new Zera she was a lovely looking girl. She became engaged to a chap from Dublin who had relatives in San Francisco and she went off out there. In the meantime Madge died.

Mother Mary Cudmore was the landlady of Madge’s house. She rang me one day ‘I’m very upset’ she said ‘I see Madge died, I read it off the paper, and my daughter said ‘That’s the name of the woman that a man asked me about in Greece.’’

What happened was her daughter went to Corfu on holiday and she had an English speaking taxi driver who drove her around the island. She told him she was from Myrtleville in Ireland. He told her he knew a person from Myrtleville - his wife. ‘She went home to Ireland and I haven’t heard from her since. I tried to contact her but never could. We had a daughter’. Mrs Cudmore told me this on the phone and I said I don’t think she’d have been terribly upset because I knew she didn’t want to hear from her husband. I knew this from her daughter. When she got letters from him she just wrote on the letter ‘Not known’. He couldn’t trace her at all.
When her daughter came home from San Francisco the next time I told her the story. She wrote to her father and she went to Greece to meet him and met relative’s she never knew she had.

It was a funny story and it was all coincidence.

I have very happy memories of Bunnys and of wonderful sing-songs. It was great fun. Richard Dimblely, father of television star Jonathan Dimblely played the piano for a sing-song down ay Bunny’s once and joined in with everyone else There was great talent. People would come and play the piano. There was no such thing as organising a pianist, there was always someone who could play. People now- the young generation wouldn’t be bothered with that, tis all disco dancing. I don’t call it music any more. Sometimes Id say ‘how do you stick that noise’ Its just different, music was fantastic then. On Sundays afternoons Joe Hayes and Harry Connoly and others would all come together and have a wonderful sing-song.

Times change. Everything moves on.

I remember the last few years when we were in Bunny’s there were chaps on motorbikes. That was difficult because we used to bar them from coming in. They were all right as long as they behaved but if they misbehaved they were out. But Neill used to say ‘the people I want to serve haven’t the money, and the people who have the money I don’t want to serve’. Mrs Maxwell from the spastic clinic asked him would he put up a collection box. He did, but one night it was stolen. All the money was taken.

Every time I go down I say thank God I’m not here anymore. And yet I loved the situation and Neill did so much to the garden. I remember the days he used to have the budgies and all the different birds.

Now sometimes people say to me ‘do you miss it’ and I don’t.”

Article courtesy of myrtleville.com
 

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