independent

Friday 23 August 2019

A dream come true for manager Brenda

Staff of Johnstown Castle Estate and Gardens at the entrance to the new visitor centre
Staff of Johnstown Castle Estate and Gardens at the entrance to the new visitor centre

Maria Pepper

The new General manager of Johnstown Castle Estate and Gardens can trace her passionate interest in history all the way back to a school tour to the Wexford castle when she was seven years old.

Gorey woman Brenda Comerford can clearly remember being fascinated by the neo-gothic edifice and peering in the windows wishing she could get in to have a look but it wasn't open to the public at the time.

When she finished school, Brenda studied History and English in Maynooth University followed by a Masters Degree in Anglo-Irish Studies and a post-graduate qualification from UCD in Arts and Museum Management.

After college, she worked with the OPW in the archive department of Kilmainham Jail and was a guide in Dublin Castle but her real interest was in bringing history to life through interpretation.

Her next role was in setting up the GAA Museum in Dublin for which she worked as exhibition designer and curator, travelling the length and breadth of the country collecting memorablia during a 12-month period which she described as 'an amazing experience'.

She returned to the OPW to work at Ireland's only star-shaped fort Charles Fort in Kinsale, followed by her first major management role at Ardgillan Castle and Parkland in Balbriggan, on behalf of the local authority.

Brenda later worked with Newbridge House on behalf of Fingal County Council, and more recently with Powerscourt Estate where she was involved in marketing the new Cool Planet Experience.

'Powerscourt was a massive leap, especially because of the large number of overseas visitors that arrive there,' said Brenda who hopes to use the knowledge and experience she gained for the benefit of Johnstown and the wider Wexford area.

She has always had a desire to work with the Irish Heritage Trust because of the professionalism and focus she feels it brings to projects and when news of the Trust's management of Johnstown Castle was announced, she dared to hope that there would be new career opportunities.

Getting the job of General Manager amid intense competition was 'like a dream come true' for Brenda who has returned to Craanford to live with her husband David.

'I feel so fortunate. We have friends in Kilmore Quay and we would often drive by here on the way to visit them. The friends used to say, wouldn't it be great if you got a job there,' she said.

'The staff and volunteers are fabulous people and it's a privilege to work with them. I'm coming in on top of the wonderful work that has been happening here for 40 years', she said.

Brenda is joined by a new Visitor Service Co-Ordinator Carmel Whitty, formerly of Wells House, a new Head Gardener and over 50 volunteers including people like Eileen Wickham of Ballyhit, Broadway who is studying Culture and Heritage at the Wexford Campus of Carlow IT and Berna Kavanagh, a daughter of the legendary Wexford hurler Nickey Rackard and her husband Ciarán.

Wexford People

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