They are the Caradynes, who for over 200 years have bred and trained horses of the finest caliber on Coernanagh. But all is not idyllic at hearth and home. Catriona, the youngest child, longs to ride her family's big jumpers and show horses. Her father Michael, recognizes her gift, but her mother hates the very idea. All is in a stalemate until Lady Selina Healy enters their lives, and provides for Catriona and her father a stunning example of how the reins of power can be held by a glorious, fearless woman.From the Paperback edition.
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Follow the coast road to Greystones, turn right at Blacklion, and watch
out for the traffic haring up from the town -- some of the drivers buy
their licenses at the post office. Stay on that upper road past the
Orchard Pub and continue straight through the crossroads at
Killincarrig. The right-hand road leads to Delgany, and the left turns
back down to the sea. At Pretty Bush turn right and up the hill -- mind
the children who play in the road -- and continue on past Kilquade's
cemetery. There's a grand view from there of the sea and the convent and
the mountains, not yet greening with spring but with twisted pines
marching on the hill crests, outlined against the bright sky. Just past
the cemetery, on the left, is the beginning of Cornanagh, property of
the Carradyne family, landowners since the first Carradyne did service
for the Crown in the eighteenth century.
Cornanagh means "hill of the beast" in the Irish, though many wonder
that the Carradynes, Anglo-Irish and for generations loyal to the Crown,
have retained the name. Except that the Carradynes insist that the
"beast" is a horse and they have always been notable horsemen and -women
and breed some of the finest hunters and hurdlers in the country. In
that they have become more Irish than English and, even during the lean
years and bad harvests of the previous century, made profit from the
production of colts and fillies.
If you drive into Cornanagh through the main gate and past the old
gatekeeper's lodge, the way is lined by massive sycamores and beeches,
which legend has it were planted by the first Carradyne. The house,
enlarged from an original farm manor of the late 1600s, faces east to
the sea, with a gracious prospect of the undulating main fields and
pastures of the estate. Past the house on the right are the extensive
stables and then the huge walled garden, established in the
mid-eighteenth century to amuse and delight the ladies of Cornanagh,
sheltered from wind and storm, watered by the little stream that flows
down from the hills and into the sea at Kilcoole. Old fig trees cling to
its walls; pear, apple, and cherry trees flourish; and raspberry,
gooseberry, and quince bear blossom and fruit in their time.
But to find the heart of Cornanagh, continue on the Kilcoole road past
the formal entrance, past the high wall that girds the menage -- the
outdoor exercising ring -- and to the strap-iron gates set between the
old coach house and the stable block. Turn into the courtyard, past cow
byrnes and right into the yard, its cobbled surface neatly swept on this
* * *
Lights, set high on the stable walls, illuminated the quadrangle. The
horses all had their heads over their open upper doors, ears pricked,
intent on the side that contained the foaling box.
A man of short stature, bundled with scarf, thick jumpers, and an
ancient duffle coat against the chill, sharp wind, made his way across
the courtyard to the stable block, absently whistling an old tune. He
tugged his flat cap to secure it as the wind suddenly smacked against
him and shrugged his broad shoulders into the warmth of his old jacket.
The horses nickered softly at his passing and Tory; the black and white
Wicklow collie, twitched his ears at the familiar step. The man stopped
whistling and walked as quietly on the cobbles as he could in heavy
leather work boots. He paused at the entrance to the stable, listening.