Folly to Get New Lease of Life After Funding Grant

The late Mariga Guinness, a co-founder of the Irish Georgian Society, once claimed that “Ireland has more follies to the acre than anywhere else in the world”.

Now a “unique” architectural folly in the Kilkenny countryside is to be restored with the assistance of Government funding. The Department of Heritage has granted €12,000 for conservation and repair works to the 18th century Stroan Fountain on the former Kilfane Demesne near Thomastown.

“follies are joyful little buildings which aim to please”

The project has received additional funding of €6,000, jointly contributed by the local authority and the Belfast-based Follies Trust, a charity devoted “to encouraging the appreciation and conservation of Irish follies”.

Richard Cody of the Tullaherin Heritage Society said the fountain was built in 1766 by “public subscription” on the estate of Colonel Gervase Bushe, as a water source for the tenant peasantry, and was still in use “right up to the 1960s”.

The design of the limestone structure, with a domed base supporting an obelisk, was “a mystery” and he hoped that readers of The Irish Times might be “able to shed some light on its meaning”.

The fountain, already listed as a protected structure by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, is on Kilkenny County Council-owned land adjoining the N9 national route and is accessible to the public.

Ivor McElveen, the project’s consultant engineer, who advised the post-communist Czech government on the restoration of Prague churches, said restoring the “unique” folly was not a “frivolous” undertaking. He claimed that “despite the doom and gloom” it was worthwhile and “the country would be in a better state if we took more pleasure from simple things”.

The Northern Ireland-based Follies Trust, formed by volunteers in 2006, is devoted to the preservation and conservation of unusual structures “of particular beauty or historic, environmental, architectural or industrial significance” throughout the island of Ireland.

According to the trust, “follies are joyful little buildings which aim to please”, which occasionally “serve no obvious useful purpose” but are charming because they defy architectural categorisation.

The Follies Trust has already supported the conservation of two architecturally significant mausoleums in Belfast’s Knockbreda graveyard and is also trying to conserve Lord Limerick’s follies at Bryansford Co Down (a hexagonal tower and cylindrical gate pillars) and an “amazing” cast-iron mausoleum at Clonbern, Co Galway.

(source: Irish Times)