Upper Leeson Street Area Residents' Association

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A HISTORY OF KATHLEEN GOODFELLOW AND THE GROVE by Dr Michael Solomons  

"The Grove" is a wooded area at the northern end of the property owned in the past by Kathleen Goodfellow at No.2 and No.4 Morehampton Road. Known to her friends later as "Goodfellow" or "Michael", she was born at No.4 in 1891, the only child of Susan and George Goodfellow, a contractor who built and owned Nos.2,4,6,8,10 and 12. They lived in No.4 and George's brother and business partner, Jack, lived in No.2.

 

Always very close to her parents, as a schoolgirl she went to Alexandra College, later to Trinity, obtaining an Arts degree and developing a keen interest in French. Not having to go out to work, she concentrated on literature, becoming a voracious reader and later writing stories and poems, including translations into French.

 

During the rising in 1916 a chance meeting with another young woman sheltering from snipers' bullets began a lifelong friendship - with my aunt Estella Solomans. Together they enlisted in Cumman na mBan, the auxiliary branch of the Woman Volunteers. They were taught first aid, signalling and drilling, the last of these by Phyllis Ryan, later to become the wife of President Sean T. Kelly. Goodfellow's friendship extended to Seumas O'Sullivan, a successful writer, and actor with the Abbey Theatre, editor, publisher and bibliophile, who was later to marry Estella.

 

With the publication by Seumas in 1923 of "The Dublin Magazine", a quarterly literary outlet for younger and established writers, which appeared continuously until his death in 1958, she played a major part in its success by obtaining subscriptions and advertisements, contributing poems, book reviews, translations from French poets, and providing unrequested but essential financial backing. As in her writing published in other journals she used the pseudonym Michael Scot.

 

From 1926 when Seumas and Estella married and lived in "The Grange", a Victorian house beyond Rathfarnham, Goodfellow was always welcome and frequently joined Sunday afternoons there with other friends for tea. In 1938 damp was found in the house threatening Seumas' valuable collection of over 10,000 books. This coincided with the expiration of the lease of Goodfellows' tenant at No.2 Morehampton Road. She was living in No.4 and offered No.2 to Seumas and Estella at a modest rent. Space existed in the large walled garden for a studio where Estella could continue her painting and engraving, using the adjacent grove of trees as a subject of several canvases - and Goodfellow too, tall, graceful and often portrayed in slacks or tweeds.

 

The trio - Goodfellow a Quaker, Estella Jewish and Seumas a Methodist - were a wellknown and popular part of Dublin's artistic/literary life, with weekend hospitality continuing at No.2 and enjoyed by many contemporaries with similar interests.

 

Unfortunately in 1939 Goodfellow fell while stepping off a tram on the way home and broke her leg. Permanent lameness followed with need for a living-in nurse. While her gardening activity was over, she continued to oversee the care of vegetables, fruit, flowers and shrubs growing at the back of both houses.

 

She was an exceptional person; fastidious, good natured, intellectual and generous, whose donations to charitable organisations and patronage fo the arts were always without publicity. Remaining unmarried did not pervent mutual affection for the children of her friends.

 

Her unobtrusive support for Estella and Seumas continued throughout their lives. "The Dublin Magazine" could not have survived without her. Two other publications - in both of which she was involved and her benign association can be read - are "Portaits of Patriots", a biographical sketch of Estella, and "Retrospect", detailing the work of Estella and Seumas.

 

A later contribution emphasised her love of nature - trees, birds, plants and flowers - when she gave "The Grove" to An Taisce, stipulating that it could never be used for building development. Inscriptions in the pillars which frame the gate facing Leeson Street are an appropriate reminder of her benevolence.

 

She died peacefully on 20th May 1980 and was buried at Mount Jerome in the family grave.

 

I wish to acknowledge with gratitude referral to the several publications listed.

 

References:

'Portraits of Patriots': Hilary Pyle: Allen Figgis & Co. 1966

'Retrospect': edited by Liam Millar: Dolmen Editions 1973

'The Dark Lady of the Dublin Magazine': R Dardis Clarke: Irish Times: 15th February 1981

'James Starkey/Seumas O'Sullivan': Jane Russell: Associated University Presses 1981

 

The Morehampton Road Wildlife Sanctuary, called "The Grove" by Istella Solomons and Kathleen Goodfellow who often painted there, is one of 13 properties held by An Taisce in trust for the people of Ireland. It consists of a triangular piece of land, about half an acre in extent, bordered by Morehampton Road, Wellington Place and the end wall of an apartment development. Formerly part of a much larger garden, it was bequeathed to An Taisce by Kathleen Goodfellow on condition that it would be kept in perpetuity as a place of refuge for wild creatures and plants. Management of the site has always been shared between the Dublin City Association of An Taisce and The Upper Leeson Street Residents Association. It should be stressed that sensitive management is always necessary for any kind of wildlife reserve, as most of the flora and fauna of Ireland has become accustomed over centuries to the predominantly agricultural landscape, and cannot prosper in an overgrown "jungle-style" environment.

 

See more at AnTaisce.ie >>>

Read more about Kathleen Goodfellow below.

The Grove Sanctuary & Kathleen Goodfellow