DESMOND Fitzgerald, the late and last Knight of Glin was remembered at the weekend at a special series of lectures organised to mark his first anniversary and to pay tribute to the contribution he had made during his life to Ireland’s architecture and decorative arts.
The Knight died on September 14 last year, aged 74, and his place in his own community in Glin was marked earlier this year with the naming of a walking trail in his honour.
In the Long Gallery at Castletown House last Friday, the Memorial Lecture Day recalled his scholarly work. The event, which was attended by his widow, Olda and daughters Catherine, Honour and Nesta, was organised by the Castletown Foundation, in conjunction with the Irish Georgian Society and the Office of Public Works and brought together over 160 friends and colleagues of the late Knight.
Prof Kevin B. Nowlan, chairman of the Castletown Foundation, spoke of the great contribution the Knight made to our knowledge of the eighteenth century. Long time friend and Tangiers-based antiques dealer Christopher Gibbs spoke warmly of the Knight, of his life in Glin Castle with his family and of how he had considered it a sacred duty to beautify his ancestral home. He spoke too of his thirst for knowledge, his scholarship, and the extraordinary richness and diversity of his bibliography. Noting how the Knight came from a long line of Knights of Glin, Mr Gibbs contended that he was most likely the best of these and would probably be remembered the longest.
Dr. Edward McParland who delivered the eulogy at the Knight’s funeral service in Glin last year also delivered a lecture. At the service, the Trinity College art historian described his friend, Desmond Fitzgerald, whom he first met in the 1960s, as a patriot and one of the most remarkable people he had known.
“Everything in his life centred on Glin and on his life here,” he said at the time. “It was from Glin that radiated out those passionate commitments that embraced the whole of Ireland. For this most cosmopolitan man, Ireland was the centre of the world and Glin was the centre of Ireland.”
Dr McParland also said that Desmond Fitzgerald was “a truly scholarly Knight” referring to his happy collaboration with so many scholars and his “utterly original research into Irish art”. “He will be forever energetically alive in our memory,” he said.
Last Friday, Dr McParland honoured his long-time friend with his lecture on “Wine, women and song in the life of eighteenth century TCD Provost, Francis Andrews.” James Peill, with whom the Knight collaborated in writing Irish Furniture (2007), also spoke along with Dr Christine Casey of TC and conservation architect David Sheehan. Among the 160 who attended on Friday was President of the Irish Georgian Society, Patrick Guinness.