I first laid eyes on you in February 1971 when I arrived in Ireland accompanied by my husband Brian and one year old daughter. We had travelled from Melbourne to catch up with my parents and some of my brothers whilst Brian was employed as a teacher in a nearby county.
My parents had bought a rundown classical Georgian house at Annamult i n 1964/5. The house, originally built in the 1700s and updated in 1825, was situated at the junction of your two rivers, the Nore and the King. Surrounded by 26 acres, it was an ideal family house for six of my brothers.
Upriver from our house on the King river were the remains of your once famous Merino Mills. Set up in the eighteenth century, they fell into disuse in the 1940s. These ruins could be accessed via a woodland path, although the location of the mill was just outside the boundary of the house grounds.
We were lucky enough to spend all of 1971 and half of 1972 at Annamult, so it was more a case of a developing love affair than "love at first sight". Living in Annamult and getting to know the locals was a voyage of discovery. Whilst my husband worked, I learned the secrets to baking Irish soda bread listening to a neighbour with a beautiful Irish accent who took us under her wing. We collected our milk from another neighbour, whilst our eggs were collected from a neighbour known as 'Mrs. Egg McGrath' to distinguish her from other members of her family.
In February 1972, our second daughter was born in the nearby city of Kilkenny, thus strengthening our bond with you.
I have made several trips back to Ireland in the intervening years, sometimes alone, sometimes with Brian and once with our four children. I always spent the greater portion of my time in the area. Regardless of the changes to the Irish economy due to entry into the European Economic Community, you have managed to retain the peace and serenity I always associate with you.
In July 2004, my father passed away and I returned to spend time with my mother. This was to be my last stay as the house was sold shortly after. I have made a few trips ·since then, always managing to find my way back to see you, even if for only a fleeting visit.
The house was destroyed by fire in 2009. The new owners were required to rebuild it, so the house I knew and loved is no longer there. However, I still visit and admire its location.
Annamult, my last visit to see you was in 2018. I had hoped to visit again in 2020, but COVID intervened. Who knows if I’ll return? If I can’t, you will always remain in my memory.
I do hope your people and the area are remaining safe,coping with lock-down and surviving the pandemic.