November 30th 1985 – Last Date on Castleisland Cattle Breeding Station Stamp

Glebe House in 1982, intact and providing a glimpse into its past and better days. ©Photograph: John Reidy 30-10-1982.
The station stamp frozen in time on its final day of use.

It must be over three decades ago since I found an old office stamp, quite literally, on the grounds of the former Castleisland Cattle Breeding Station or Glebe House.

I was up there on a conker collecting mission and I actually stood on the round handle of the stamp and thought it was another nut for our collection.

For reasons best known to itself, the stamp reached the end of its natural working life on November 30 1985.

After finding it I brought it home and put it away for safe keeping and hadn’t seen it until I was looking for something else yesterday.

Last Set in November 1985

Clearly, someone in the office at that time set the day’s date on the stamp and never used it on that day or any other.

Was it that the station went all computerised on that day as the date line set on the stamp was never pressed into an ink-pad as it was clean and white when I found it. And and AI offices continued there up to the winter of 2008.

In an article on the restoration of St. Stephen’s Churchyard, which I did for The Kerryman in early 1999, I mentioned Glebe House and the circuit which is known locally as The Parsons Walk.

Worked at Glebe House

A couple of weeks later I got a very informative letter from a Florida-based Castleisland native, Michael Griffin — who knew and worked with the last parson to live at Glebe House.

In the course of his letter Mr Griffin related how one of his sisters worked as a housekeeper for the Rev. Henry Packham and how he used to bring the family pony and cart to work with the parson at odd jobs around the house.

He also painted a picture of a quaint way of life long gone — of harvest parties and offerings of food of all kinds being delivered to the house.

Born in Tullig in 1929

Mr. Griffin was born in Tullig in 1929 in the big house at the junction of Cordal Road with the Black Road and left for America in 1947 — coincidentally in the same year as Glebe House finally closed as a parsonage.

“One of my sisters was their cook/housekeeper for a time and the Rev. Packham used to hire me with our pony to do odd jobs at the rectory. He and I did a lot of work in the lovely garden by the house and we spent many an hour cutting down trees and cutting them up for firewood with a cross-cut saw,” Michael remembered.

Collecting His Dues

‘One year,” he continued, “I travelled out the countryside with Rev. Packham when he was collecting his dues. I sat in and guarded his car while he called on his parishioners. If I recall correctly he had a brother who was also a parson. His wife was a lovely lady and they had two young children — both boys,” Mr Griffin recalled.

He may well be correct in his recollections as the Rev. Packham and his wife Sylvia had three children and the oldest two were boys, Neville Henry and John Winston.

Left Castleisland in 1947

The couple, who left Castleisland in the fall of 1947 for Ballybunion, also had a daughter, Elizabeth Regina — according to the researchers for the 1999 version of Divane’s calendar which was widely regarded here as the bible of local history.

However, a serious dent appeared in the historical fabric of the locality in September 2009 with the burning down of the by then deserted Glebe House at Kilbanivane.

Although the fire was confined to the relatively new wing of the imposing building it robbed the area of one of its fine old houses.

Beech and Chestnut Trees

Set behind and to the northwest of an avenue of impressive beech and chestnut trees, the house had been used up to the winter of 2008 by the Kerry Group as an office for its cattle breeding or AI operation.

Glebe House was well known to generations of local leisure walkers and it marked a focal point in a circuit which joined the Brosna Road to the Churchtown/ College Road areas via The Parsons Walk.

It was well known too to generations of youngsters who swore by the power of the conkers shed by the many chestnut trees there.

Lovers, too, cut their initials into the smooth bark of the fine beech trees which lined the avenue. Many of these carvings are gone so skyward now that they’re near indecipherable from the ground and from the ever curing bark — perhaps just like those to whom they belonged.

Under a Fine Scope

That 1999 issue of Divane’s Calendar put the life, ambience and furnishings of the house and its surroundings under a fine scope:

Glebe House at Kilbanivane was built in 1818 by aid of a gift of £100 and a loan of £1,200 from the Board of First Fruits.

Castleisland parish in 1837 comprised 32,577 statute acres as updated under the tithe Act. The Glebe lands, comprising 32 acres, were valued at £48 per annum.

Glebe House was the residence of the parson and his curate, serving the parishes of: Castleisland, Ballincuslane, Dysart and Kileentierna with their four churches.

A Lovely old Georgian House

The Glebe is a lovely old Georgian house in a secluded woodland setting, a short distance from the ancient cemetery of old Kilbanivane. Entrance is through a porch, leading to the main staircase hall and a number of reception rooms. In the study were housed the parish records.

The domestic quarters were three steps down and consisted of a pantry, kitchen and dairy room.

Upstairs consisted of the Blue Room and the Gold Room for visitors and the master bedroom for the rector and his wife. A corridor led to two more bedrooms, a dressing room and large bathroom.

Magnificent marble fireplaces and beautiful rugs were featured throughout the house and the splendid timber staircase was a most impressive sight.

High Plasterwork Ceilings

All the reception rooms and the staircase hall have beautiful, high plaster-work ceilings. It remained a rectory for 129 years from 1818 to 1947.

The last parson to reside at The Glebe was the Rev Henry Packham. With his wife, Sylvia, and their three children, Neville Henry, John Winston and Elizabeth Regina, he left for Ballybunion in November 1947.

Celebration days at The Glebe were the Harvest Festival Days in the fall of the year.

Receptions at the Rectory

There was a service held in the Church of St Stephen* which was decorated with the produce of the land.

The service was followed by a reception at the rectory for the parishioners. Other special occasions were the visits of Bishop Hodgeson — who finally oversaw the closure of the parsonage in 1947.

*Now the Ivy Leaf Art Centre.

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