The Arbutus – A Family Tree
Every landscape produces and inspires characters whose stature seems to mirror the landscape itself. Tim Buckley was such a character, raised on the borders County Cork and the ‘Kingdom’ of Kerry. Today, Tim is remembered as the founder of the Arbutus, the unique and historic Killarney hotel. Even a glimpse of the path he travelled before establishing the Arbutus will help to explain why it remains a distinct and remarkable place.
The Seeds Are Sown
“For thirty years ‘asthore macree’, Those hills I now feast my eyes on
Ne’er met my vision, save at night,
In memory’s dim horizon,
Even so, ’twas grand and fair they seemed
In the landscape spread before me,
But dreams are dreams, and I would awake
To find American skies still o’er me.”
He knew all eight verses off by heart and would recite them at gatherings for the rest of his life. As well as building up capital, he spent those years developing his vision of what he would do when he bought the Russell Hotel. The time came in 1924 when, unlike today, very few Irish emigrants returned and many never saw their families again. True to his rare strength of character, Tim did return to Kerry. Not only that, but he had arranged a match for himself, corresponding with a Kerry matchmaker from New York. Julia Daly was born on April 10th 1898, the second of two daughters. Her older sister was to inherit the farm, leaving a good marriage her best option for a secure future. Julia was made of strong stuff and was ready for the challenge of marrying the aspiring hotelier. In the year before his return, she had attended Ramsgrange Cookery School in Wexford, getting the necessary skills for hotel catering.
The Arbutus Blooms
Tim Buckley and Julia Daly established the Arbutus Hotel Killarney in 1926. Their style of hospitality merged seamlessly with location, structure and detail to create something special for their guests.
Their son Pat and his wife Norrie Comer, took over in 1960, modernising the hotel whilst maintaining the spirit created by his parents.
Grandson Seán, his wife Carol Dempsey and their 3 children, Emer, Roisin and Ronan continue the promise made over 85 years ago and have maintained the warmth and friendliness that sets the Arbutus apart.
The Arbutus Killarney, there ever…
A Vision For Killarney Hospitality
Contrary to today’s perceptions of arranged matches, Tim and Julia had a strong, loving marriage made of complementary skills and interests. He was the face of the hotel, the negotiator and strategist. As to the actual day- to-day management of meals, housekeeping and staff, she was the boss. Despite his forbidding presence, she could always get her way in the end. As a Cork man, he had a superstition that the colour green was bad luck and wouldn’t allow it in the house. If Julia fancied something green she’d tell him, with a twinkle in her eye, that it wasn’t green, it was ‘duck egg blue’ and it would be allowed, reluctantly into the hotel.
The Beginning Of A Dynasty
“Now fuller and turner the coastline shows
Was there ever a scene more splendid!
I feel the breath of the Munster breeze,
O! Thank God my exile is ended,
Old scenes, old songs, old friends again
There’s the vale, there’s the cot I was born in
O! Ireland from my heart of hearts
I bid you the ‘Top o’ the morning’”