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George Bernard Shaw and Memories of the Breakfast Room in Coole House

By Peggy Doherty

One of the treasures in the Kiltartan Gregory Museum isn’t on the wall or behind a glass case, but rather on the floor! It’s the carpet from the Breakfast Room in Coole House, which was acquired by the Sisters of Mercy in Kinvara and then graciously donated to the museum.

It has absorbed the footfall of all Lady Gregory’s guests, among them the writers and artists of the Irish Literary Revival of the early 20th century. The antics of one in particular amused Lady Gregory’s granddaughters so much that it is recorded in the book, Me and Nu, Anne Gregory’s account of her childhood at Coole:

“During the war, we used to have either butter or jam on our bread, but not both together, ‘to help the troops’ Grandma told us. G.B.S (George Bernard Shaw) stayed with us one time when we were ‘rationed’ like this. Nu (Catherine, who was Anne’s sister) and I often had tea with the grown-ups in the breakfast room, and we were very horrified one day when we both noticed G.B.S. buttering his slice of bread, and then turning it over and asking us to pass him the jam…’ as I’ve no butter on my bread.’ We pretended not to hear, and when Grandma sharply told us to pass the jam to G.B.S., we tried to signal her with our eyes and grimaces that something awful was going on. She didn’t seem to understand, and of course, we couldn’t say anything out loud.”

Despite his playful disobedience of Lady Gregory’s ‘jam or butter’ rule, George Bernard Shaw was one of her granddaughters’ favourite visitors. And, if ‘G.B.S’ left any crumbs on the carpet, they were long since gone by 1996 when the granddaughters, then in their 80s, were photographed on the very same carpet. Pictured on either side of the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, both Anne and Catherine were proud guests at the Grand Opening of the Kiltartan Gregory Museum in August of that year.

Plans are currently being made to mark the museum’s 25th-anniversary celebrations this summer, so watch this space for more details!

Donations welcome via our Idonate page here

Planning a trip to the Kiltartan Gregory Museum? Call Rena on 086-825 2164 to book your appointment or email for more info!

Sources consulted:

Me & Nu, Childhood at Coole by Anne Gregory.


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