The Stag and the Dragon II

Curraghmore House

As I already said in my previous post, July is a special month to visit the Curraghmore House as it marks the union of the Stag and the Dragon – the marriage of Catherine de la Poer to Sir Marcus Beresford. Sir Marcus was 23 and Lady Catherine 15 at that time, 300 years ago. Despite of different religious upbringing, by the end of the 18th century they produced the most powerful political dynasty in Ireland, raised a large family and rebuilt this beautiful house and gardens. There is a very important lesson to learn from the story about the Stag and the Dragon: we are much better off when we realise that our differences make us strong only when we are united.

During the reign of Catherine and Marcus the best architects and craftsmen were summoned, among them John Roberts ( a very interesting person, worth to look up) who later went to build both the Catholic and the protestant Cathedrals in Waterford. The great courtyard was built, the medieval part of the house was redesigned and restyled. Creative and artistic, Lady Catherine carried out a splendid project. She designed and decorated the Shell House – a small quatrefoil building with curved walls all covered with seashells.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Exotic and rare shells from the distant beaches along with the local clams and cockles adorn the walls creating sophisticated patterns of color and texture. Lady Catherine personally visited the Waterford Harbour and commissioned the captains of ships to collect shells for her. This project took 261 day to complete.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

A fine marble statue of Lady Catherine, commissioned by her loving husband and sculpted by John van Nost, stands in the middle of the house. It shows Catherine holding a shell and a piece of parchment with the inscription: “In two hundred and sixty one day these shells were put up by the proper hands of Catherine Countess of Tyrone, 1754”. Lady Catherine was in her fifties at that time.

Curraghmore House

They died in 1763 and 1769 respectively. There is a large group portrait in the House, painted in 1760, depicting Sir Marcus and Lady Catherine surrounded by their nine adult children. The beautiful monument below was erected in the Clonegam church in their memory. A hundred years later, another beautiful monument was erected at the opposite wall – the one dedicated to Lady Florence.

Let’s take a walk around the gardens.

Curraghmore House

From here, the hunting parties would leave the courtyard.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

The tranquility of this place is surreal – you know that there are people somewhere not far from you, but the sounds feel muted and distant.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

A monstrous gall on the tree trunk has to be photographed πŸ™‚

Curraghmore House

From the other side of the pond we look past the House. Somewhere there on the hill slope Mother Brown is looking back at us.


Someone is looking at us right here too…Β  πŸ˜‰

Curraghmore House

I hope you like the story of the Stag and the Dragon. More about the Curraghmore House and the Beresford family some other time.

www.inesemjphotography.comΒ Have a wonderful week!


  1. Still more to convince me to visit this house. Lady Catherine was obviously a wonderfully creative woman – the Shell House is so beautiful. I particularly love your opening paragraph and couldn’t agree more that our differences can make us stronger. Food for thought for many of us, I think.
    Fabulous house and gardens, amazing photos and a great commentary all add up to another great post. Thank you for sharing it, πŸ˜€

    1. Millie, thank you so much for your kind words. History holds so many lessons for those who listen.
      I will change my schedule and post every second week as I have some health issues and some other commitments too. Have to balance.
      When you go to Ireland next time just let me know. I think I will be available from July. Until then I won’t have much of quality life, unfortunately.

      1. I’m so sorry to hear you have health issues, Inese, and send you love and best wishes for your journey through to July next year. I fully appreciate the need for balance. If we make it over there next year, it will most likely be in early September. Look after yourself! ❀

  2. It looks so lovely. You’re right about the sounds, I was walking in the park earlier and I knew there were people there but I couldn’t hear them. Beautiful photos as always xx

    1. Thank you so much! Isn’t it amazing about the sounds. It might be related to the small elevations and drops. In the forest, on a flat land, you can hear people approach you from a mile away πŸ™‚

  3. Wow! I love that wall of sea shells! Would love to do something similar but need to gather more shells before πŸ˜‰
    Have a lovely holiday season, Inese! Much love! xxxxxxxxxxx

    1. Resa, you just have to go to Ireland some day πŸ™‚ You will LOVE Curraghore. There are many other bloggers of Irish descent, and I have a project in mind for next summer but until then I have to get on my feet and return back to life.

  4. Sorry I couldn’t comment earlier. This is a place where fantasy and reality so hello to each other. The photos are clever, perfect.

  5. Wow! πŸ˜€ Inese, this is a glorious post – fascinating history and wonderful photos to let us join you at Curraghmore House. A joy to read and delight in the house and gardens. Of course, you had to have the stag photo at the end! Perfect!

    1. Thank you Annika! The stag hiding in the park freaked me out to be honest πŸ™‚ I wasn’t sure what to do, to stay and take a photo or to run for my life πŸ™‚

  6. The shell decorated walls look intriguing. They look delicate. For some, they may be too scaly and those may have a bit uneasy feeling to see (I am sort of one of them πŸ™‚ ). The dog fighting statues are so realistic. Like they were frozen in the act. Awesome works.

    I’ve been enjoying the Stag and the Dragon virtual tour here.

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, I agree with you, they look scaly like dragon skin. I imagined an underwater cave and creatures crawling on the walls πŸ™‚ Would feel uncomfortable if left there on my own.

  7. Perhaps it is the way you have photographed the House of the Stag and the Dragon, or perhaps it is the way you have woven the story of Lady Catherine and Sir Marcus around those images, the mystery and aura and the ‘surreal’ feeling is transmitted directly to the reader.

    1. Thank you so much! I have read about them before but their story didn’t touch my heart because the Fifth Marques and Lady Florence were on my mind. Then I decided to write about them as an opposite to the Fifth Marques tragedy. The day I went to the House I read the morning news about some racial confrontations and when I listened to the guide it suddenly hit me how wise the Beresford couple had been, and how they benefited from their respect to each others beliefs. It is how the Stag and the Dragon idea came to my mind πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you so much! I just imagine all the work that Lady Catherine put in creating this magic. Pity that we got only some 10-15 minutes in the Shellhouse, with all the crowd that made it impossible to take a good image. Next year I will come there off season when the groups are smaller.

    1. Most of the shells are covered with algae which means that they have never been disturbed in the last 250 years. Time is frozen there. The house looks like an underwater cave, a dream with every detail thought through carefully. Yay for Lady Catherine!

  8. I don’t know where to start about his post. Your photographs left my jaw on the deck and filled me with such tranquillity. Your words on stags and dragons are so true. The story of Catherine and Marcus was quite throat tightening and then there was the shells. I personally love shells mosaics on any surface. and being near a beach, I collect enough different sizes and textures to make what I want to make. Brilliant post xxxxxx

    1. Oh it is amazing that you too love the shell mosaics! You should post some pictures of your works in the blog. The Dudes can’t eat the shells, right?
      300 years ago they didn’t have cement and Lady Catherine used some deadly mixture of blood and urine or something like that to keep the shells together. It worked πŸ™‚
      Catherine and Marcus are two remarkable people. A lot to learn from them. xxxxxxxxxxxx

      1. Oh they can eat the shells… Seriously we live five mins walk from the beach here. So am aye picking up shells, driftwood and stones. (Wonder I ain’t been arrested.) I make things with the driftwood too. I even have a driftwood Christmas tree xxx

        1. Is there anything you don’t know how to do? I too love to pick up a shell or a stone, but I never tried to make any art of them. I think it is totally legal to take this stuff home. People in Latvia are picking amber for centuries. It is just your happy find, that’s all. Keep creating, but please share the pictures, especially that magic Christmas Tree πŸ™‚ I hope I visit your blog this week. Cannot sit at computer for too long. Just do the urgent stuff like answering the comments xxxx

        2. I will share the pic in the next blog of the tree and also my driftwood table that sits at our door. Stones, I use in the garden, make stone areas and things xxxx

        3. DOn’t you worry about that Inese when you have enough doing. I so hope that next year will be a wonderful one for you. you so SO deserve it xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        4. Inese, I am so sorry to hear that. You don’t deserve nightmares. You are such a lovely, special and talented lady. I am going to light special Christmas candles for you xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  9. I love seeing your awesome photos of Ireland – the wonderful place from where my grandparents emigrated. You do such an amazing job of capturing the Emerald Isle’s essence, beauty and uniqueness. πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you so much, Kevin! I wish I feel better and visit your ancestor’s land next summer for a photo reportage πŸ™‚ Was it somewhere in South-West?

            1. Wow I was just a few miles away from Kenmare. I planned to go there, but the traffic on the Ring was slower than I expected and I crossed out two destinations from my itinerary because of that. A good reason to go again next June πŸ™‚

  10. It’s wonderful to read about this place. Not only the creativity and beauty of the grounds, but of the love between Marcus and Catherine. Seems rare for some reason. Lovely story about the shells, Inese.

    1. Thank you Diana. The Stag and the Dragon story came to my mind after reading the news. For us to survive as a species the most important thing is to put our differences together and make them work. So far, we prefer to be divided which is really sad.

    1. Thank you so much! This story about two wise people is fascinating. I wish all the humans learned the simple truth that we should embrace each others differences and make them work for our good.

    1. Thank you so much! The Shell House has been preserved in the same state for 250 years and is a little bit overgrown by algae πŸ™‚ I don’t mind since it looks like an underwater cave which is really cool πŸ™‚

  11. Very, very cool pics, Inese! πŸ™‚ Magnificent scenery with super-scary subjects from antiquity! What a treat! Fantastic work! Thank you for sharing!

  12. Intriguing history, beautiful photos πŸ™‚
    After the passing of a punishing tax bill here in the US, we could do with some of the tranquility of the gardens surrounding Curraghmore House.

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