Out of hibernation
March is almost here and over the past few weeks The Argory has been waking up around me. Conservation Assistants, Janet O’Neill and Edith Stafford have been bringing the collection out of hibernation and the house has begun welcoming a steady stream of visitors.
For me, this seasonal uncovering strikes a chord with events of the past. The last generation of the McGeough-Bond family to live at The Argory split their time between the house at Derrycaw and their other properties. Whenever they planned to return here, they conveyed their instructions to the staff at the house to make preparations; principally to take out the mattresses and ensure they were beaten and aired for fear that they might catch a chill by sleeping in damp bedding. Arrangements also had to be made to collect the returning family from the nearby train station and the “necessaries” of bacon, tea and sugar had to be got in.
In addition to this, there are accounts of curtains being sent away for cleaning, furniture being treated for beetles and of a set of engraved glasses being locked away when the house was unoccupied by the family. Correspondence between the servants and the family also reveals that there was a long list of routine maintenance and pest control to be undertaken – most notably for woodworm and moths. The latter were a pet hate of Lady Bond’s and when abroad she frequently requested to be sent Dymuth Moth Killer to combat the unwelcome inhabitants of her wardrobe.
This month also sees The Argory’s annual book fair, which takes place over St Patrick’s weekend. Mr Bond and his mother were both keen readers, and the archive has revealed that their favourite author was Jane Austen, as recounted by Lady Bond in a letter to Tommy in 1941:
“So you are now a Janeite. I believe there is a club for Janeites somewhere in England. I’m not sure whether it was Kipling who first started the idea. He was a confirmed Janeite. So am I. But it’s a long time since I read her books. Is there one called ‘Emma’? I immensely admired one in which the heroine was called by that name […] d’Arcy in ‘Pride & Prejudice’ is priceless. And the young woman quite surprisingly modern. Such spirit!”
Next month will have a foodie flavour as we look at some of the produce of the estate in days gone by.