According to the 1911 census, 73 people, excluding Lord and Lady Barrymore, are listed as residents at Fota House. This number of servants gives some idea of how many people it took to keep the house, garden and farm running. Nowadays, a team of volunteers, working with the Irish Heritage Trust Staff at Fota maintain the house and the frameyard.
The term “volunteer” comes from the French noun voluntaire, which means “one who offers himself for military service”. But while there isn’t an army of servants any more, our dedicated platoon of volunteers work as house-guides, on the cleaning and care of the house and contents, in the Frameyard and generally answering the call to duty to help when various events take place. All seems quiet now that the house is closed for winter, but behind the scenes…
Once the gate of the Frameyard closes to the public, the volunteers, under the guidance of Bernard, our Gardener, begin work on planning for the following year. This means cleaning, tidying, putting the potted plants away for the winter. Much time is spent taking cuttings and labelling the new plants.
At Halloween, it’s a case of all Zombies on deck! Volunteers get made up and take their positions, behind bushes or in coffins, ready to bring fear and fun to the visitors.
Christmas Fair preparations
Now we’re working hard at making crafts for our Christmas Craft Fair on December 4th. Plants, wreaths, decorations, decorated ware,art-work, chutney and even reindeer food will be sold at the fair. All the items on sale will be hand-made by the volunteers who bring their many creative talents to the event.
Volunteers and I.H.T. staff will soon begin to decorate the house for the Magic of Santa at Fota House.
So behind the closed doors of off season Fota House, work continues…….
*Feature photo of succulants by Jackie E.