THE last person to be born in Kilkenny Castle returned there for the first time in 84 years on Monday. It was an emotional trip for the daughter of the former chief groom to the Earl of Ossory, a member of the Butler family. Catherine Roast is the daughter of Robert Charles Cooper, who was the head of all the servants in the castle. And the 85 year old got to ring the original bell used by her father, (who always referred to himself as RC), to alert the Butlers that it was time for dinner.
Catherine should have been born across the road in what are now the Kilkenny Design Workshops but because McCreery Auctioneers were holding a huge clearance sale of items in the castle they were moved across the road from their servants quarters.
She walked the corridors where her father worked and visited the room where she was born and the old kitchen where most of the staff tended to congregate when not working and where her father was know to hold court.
She left the castle as an infant shortly before the Butlers left for good, and went to live in London. She had always wondered about her early childhood and the place where she was born.
On what she described as a trip of lifetime, she explained that her granddaughter Lucy Wynn had organised the trip as a Christmas present. Catherine and Lucy were overcome by the warmth of the welcome they received from Ann Teehan of the Castle and other dignitaries including Environment Minister, Phil Hogan who presented her with an aerial photograph of the Castle taken by the Defence forces during a military exercise a few years ago. Mayor David Fitzgerald was also present as was Mr Kilkenny Castle himself, Frank Kavanagh who organised everything and did all the research for it. Mr Kavanagh said it was a wonderful occasion and produced a gold leafed invitation to the Kilkenny Agricultural Society Show attended by the last English monarch to visit the castle, Edward VII. The day of the show - Aril 30, 1904 the same date as Catherine’s visit to the castle The icing and the cake were provided by Kathleen Moran of the Kilkenny Design Workshop.
Also present was Henry Beale. his grandfather, also Henry worked in the castle at the same time as RC and just to complete the association, Fine Gael Borough Council member, Betty Manning explained she was living in the house occupied by the head gardener at the castle during that period, Henry Onsworth.
After leaving the employ of the Butlers, Catherine’s father went to work for Lady Heuston and for Lady Iveagh of the Guinness family. Catherine doesn’t remember any of that but does recall that her father was very loving to her and her siblings. And on leaving the castle there was a tear in her eye as she took a last fleeting look at the place from where she came knowing she would never see it again.