The vision of the Irish Georgian Society is to conserve, protect and foster a keen interest and a respect for Ireland’s architectural heritage and decorative arts. These aims are achieved through its scholarly and conservation education programmes, through its support of conservation projects and planning issues, and vitally, through its members and their activities.

Kingdom of Skills exhibition launched by Minister Noonan


Posted by IGS

Malcolm Noonan, TD, Minister for State for Heritage launches Kingdom of Skills: traditional building skills demonstrations & conservation talks at Kery’s Muckross Traditional Farms, Saturday 30th September 2023.

Last Saturday 30th September Minister Noonan launched the Kingdom of Skills exhibition at Muckross Traditional Farms to an engaged and appreciative gathering of skilled traditional building practitioners, conservation professionals, and owners and guardians of traditionally built buildings. Minster Noonan was welcomed to the county by Kerry County Council's Leas-Chathaoirleach, John O’Donoghue and thanked by Irish Georgian Society Executive Director, Donough Cahill.

The Kingdom of Skills exhibition, which was an action of the Irish Georgian Society's Conservation Education Programme, represented a successful partnership between the Society, Kerry County Council and the Trustees of Muckross House. The exhibition formed part of the Architecture Kerry festival overseen by Kerry County Council’s dynamic Architectural Conservation & Heritage Officer, Victoria McCarthy. Critical to successful delivery of the Kingdom of Skills exhibition was the partnering with the Trustees of Muckross House, who provided the most fitting of venues, Muckross Traditional Farms, where the Society was generously hosted by its manager, Toddy Doyle and his team.

For the two-days of the Kingdom of Skills exhibition, Muckross Traditional Farms become a one-stop destination for old buildings owners in need of accurate, impartial and free advice on their care and repair.

The Society wishes to extend a huge thank you to all the craftspeople who actively demonstrated key traditional building skills needed for the conservation and maintenance of old building:

The exhibition was further greatly enhanced by information stands presented by the below organisations:

At this year's traditional building skills exhibition there was an emphasis placed on generating an awareness of opportunities for training and avenues for careers in the traditional building skills sector. The Society was delighted that Kerry College of Further Education mounted two demonstrations showcasing the courses they offer in stone masonry and carving (tutor: Tom Little) and traditional stone wall construction (tutor: Donal Corcoran).

Additionally, the Office of Public Works’ National MonumentsMuckross depot mounted a demonstration of stonecutting and stonemasonry at the exhibition with OPW District Inspector Maurice FitzGerald emphasising traditional skills apprenticeships opportunities.

This was further complemented by The Prince’s Foundation – All-Ireland Heritage Skills Programme stand manned by its programme coordinator, Hugh Kavanagh. Now embarking on its third year, the programme, which is supported by the Heritage Council and the Historic Environment Division, NI, provides a yearlong fulltime course aimed at those with experience in craft areas (such as stonemasonry, carpentry and joinery, bricklaying, blacksmithing, plastering, thatching, roofing) wishing to develop their craft with a focus towards heritage and traditional methods. Successful applicants are provided with a generous bursary, and benefit from both practical work placements and study modules in both Ireland and the UK.

Complementary to the training and apprenticeships showcased at the Kingdom of Skills exhibition was the presence of the CIF’s Register of Heritage Contractors where their manager Gillian Ross was on hand throughout the weekend to inform those with requisite traditional building skills of the benefits of joining this accredited register.

In tandem with the demonstrations there were two full days of free hourly talks delivered by conservation experts which celebrated Kerry’s built heritage and provide advice on best practice repair, restoration or retrofitting. We wish to thank all the speakers who gave presentations on the following topics :

  • Carl Raftery, Architectural Conservation Advisor, Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage, Improving Energy Efficiency in Traditional Buildings Guidance.
  • Tríona Byrne, Architecture Officer, The Heritage Council, A Greener Legacy: navigating the intersection of sustainability & old buildings.
  • Frank Keohane, Chartered Historic Building Surveyor, The Importance of Preventative Maintenance & Dealing with Damp in your Traditionally Built House.
  • Jacqui Donnelly, Senior Architect, Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage, My Building is a Protected Structure: What does that mean? understanding built heritage policy and legislation. (*delivered by colleague Carl Raftery)
  • Dr Nessa Roche, Senior Architectural Advisor, Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage Historic Windows: their significance, history & conservation. (*delivered by colleague, Nicola Matthews, Senior Architect, Dept.HLGH)
  • Kevin Blackwood, RIAI Conservation Architect Grade I, Principal of Blackwood Associates Architects and member of RIAI Historic Buildings Committee, Muckross Demesne: case studies of best architectural conservation practice demonstrated & biodiversity considered.
  • Tom McGimpsey, RIAI Conservation Architect Grade I, Principal, MESH Architects and committee member of the Building Limes Forum Ireland, The Importance of Using Lime in Historic Buildings.
  • David Skinner, wallpaper maker, conservator and researcher and author, Wallpaper in Irish Rural Houses: transience and memory.
  • Dr Barry O'Reilly, Architectural Conservation Advisor, National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage, Understanding and Minding Kerry’s Vernacular Buildings.
  • Dr Claudia Kinmonth, Member of the Royal Irish Academy, furniture & art historian, Understanding & Conserving Authentic Furniture and Interiors in Kerry's Farmhouses.
  • Mary Sheehan, District Conservation Officer for Killarney National Park (NPWS) Making Sense of Place – the complementary linkages of our cultural, built and natural heritage in Killarney National Park.
  • Dr Fidelma Mullane, cultural geographer specialising in the study and conservation of vernacular architecture, President of ICOMOS Ireland, Irish Thatched Houses: Kerry’s regional styles & materials.
  • Ken Curran, dry stone waller and stone mason, committee member of Dry Stone Wall Association Ireland, Dry Stone Narratives of County Kerry & the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Dry Stone Construction.

In addition to wishing to thank all those who lent their expertise by demonstrating, manning information stands and delivering talks, the Society wishes to thank our partners and funders, Kerry County Council and the Trustees of Muckross House, as well as acknowledged the vital support of grant aid received from The Heritage Council, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and Creative Ireland.

Top image: Malcolm Noonan, TD, Minister for Heritage, at the forge of master blacksmith Tom Allison at the launch of the Kingdom of Skills, Muckross Traditional Farms. Photo by Valerie O'Sullivan.