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A Kilkenny Big House Childhood - Blunden sisters’ birthday memories

Sian Moloughney


Sian Moloughney


An extraordinary life, being well lived, was painted in vibrant words as two special Kilkenny ladies held court to celebrate their combined ‘140th’ birthday, last week.

Twins Jane and Caroline Blunden reached their 70th brithday recently and marked the occassion with a gathering in Rothe House.

In the company of friends old and new, the sisters recounted fascinating, funny, curious and warm tales of growing up in Castle Blunden, just outside Kilkenny city.

Jane and Caroline “have lead an unusual, dramatic and interesting life,” they were introduced by friend Ian Coulter. When memories become history they become more distant, he said, and the two ladies were telling their stories so their memories can be more than history. They also hoped it would inspire people to remember their own pasts.

As Jane and Caroline recounted their tales of life growing up in Castle Blunden in the 1950s they painted a happy picture.
One of their earliest memories was their father teaching them to abseil down the front of the house from their nursery, tied with rope - an important skill to have in the event of needing to escape a fire in the house, they were told!

Caroline said that while the twins may have looked like little cherubs, as small children she and Jane had to separate play pens or they would have killed each other.

Recalling a way of life that has since disappeared, the girls' life revolved around their nursery and nanny Miss McMahon until they went to boarding school in Dublin at the age of 12.
They lived an idyllic childhood in Kilkenny. It was a pre-television world where their imaginations could run wild. They spent their time with their four sisters and the six children who lived on the estate farm.

In the winter the pond at Castle Blunden would freeze and they could iceskate - something they learned to do while pushing a kitchen chair across the ice in front of them.
Castle Blunden had a music all of its own, Caroline said - the noise of the closing shutters, the dripping of the water filter tanks in the basement, the grandfather clock and the gong that called them to meals.

Jane said theirs was a sunny childhood and she acknowledged the generations that went before her that kept the Castle Blunden estate going.
We have to look back to go forward, she said, and there are great lessons to learn from the past if only we would listen.

Jane said that their childhood memories were disappearing like the mist before their eyes but those memories breathe life into the old homes. Houses are more than a pile of stones, they are places that hold memories, she said.
Caroline and Jane finished their celebration evening with music and a birthday prosecco reception.

Good news for the many who enjoyed the talk, and those who weren't able to attend, the sisters say they are writing down all their stories to appear in a book!