Saturday, 12 April 2014

Kilmacurragh's Nazi history.

Kilmacurragh's history is authored meticulously in its very soil with its tropical flora, crumbling stone walls and the winding, elderly trees that surround its acres and acres of land. There are stories in the flowers and trees, which were collected and planted by the adventurous and well traveled Actons, who owned the estate for over one hundred years beginning in 1750. There are stories in the walls that were built, now collapsing, of the Acton soldiers who handed down the land from one generation to the next, but none of them contributing as greatly to the land's diverse collection of flora than the keen botanist and adventurer, Thomas Acton.

Kilmacurragh now stands as a botanic garden, a popular area for sight-seeing in Wicklow, my home town, the very garden of Ireland.

The pond once used as a swimming pool by the local children, my grandparents included

The landscape of Kilmacurragh is beautiful and haunting at the same time, areas painted splendidly with exotic flowers wind and bend alongside dusky trails and branched marquees where the sun cannot find its way. I've visited it many times, as I live no more than a mile from the area, but it was only two years ago that I decided to do some reading on this large pasture of local history and lore.

While I've nothing but fondness for Kilmacurragh and have spent many a day wandering around its gardens, hopping over the peeping roots of its old trees and taking photographs of its many oddly shaped features, there is a part of Kilmacurragh's history that is omitted from the brochure you pick up on your way through its rusty gates. Because just as the land tells the story of Thomas Acton and his family, it also tells the story of a neutral Ireland during WWII, and the Nazi party member, Charles Budina, who ran the estate as a hotel from the 30s to the early 50s.

Charles Budina (Right)

Very little has been written about Charles Budina, other than his work with the popular "Kilmacurra Park Hotel", his role as a German voice in neutral Ireland, and the Hitler-Jugend and Nazi party functions that he held at Kilmacurragh. It has also been written that one of Budina's relatives drowned in its famous pool.

When WWII broke out, Charles returned to his homeland to fight, only to return to Kilmacurragh in the early 1950s. However, a dispute over his ownership of the land upon his return eventually led to the downfall of the popular hotel and this is where Kilmacurragh hotel's ruin, as well as Charles Budina's fade into obscurity, begins.

Whatever became of Budina, as of now, is a mystery. My grandparents were small children when Budina lost the hotel, and I imagine that any information on his activities afterwards could only be found on the tongues of the dead, dying or impossibly old. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to learn more about Budina, his involvement with one of Ireland's most beloved hotels of the time, and perhaps even shed some light on the political activities that were held there.

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