Lissadell House and Gardens, Sligo, Ireland
Henry Gore Booth
Henry Gore Booth, fifth Baronet of Sligo, has two claims to distinction: his children and his enthusiasm for sailing.
His eldest child, Constance is commemorated as a patriot and champion of the underprivileged; his daughter Eva is remembered as a suffragist and poet, and his son Josslyn (the sixth baronet) was a philanthropist and innovator, and created one of the finest horticultural enterprises in Europe at Lissadell in his lifetime.
The social conscience displayed by his children was inherited both from Henry, and from his father, Sir Robert Gore Booth. During the famine years of 1878 - 1880, Henry provided personal assistance to the starving by distributing food to the hungry in the covered Riding Arena at Lissadell, carrying on his father's tradition of hands-on assistance to the needy.
Sir Henry Gore Booth and his wife distributing food to the needy in the Riding Arena at Lissadell
In the good times, there was much fun and merriment, as shown by this ditty, preserved in the Lissadell Papers in PRONI, about "Big Moll of Lissadell" who was suspected of being a man under her rough coat::
Rough and brown was the man's coat she wore
And a jug of potheen in her hand she bore
But oh! from her short black pipe the smoke
was worse by far than the brown man's coat
"Oh Molly, do you not fear to stray
so lone and tattered along this bleak way?
Are Carney's sons for virture so ripe
As to be tempted by potheen or pipe?"
"Augh Paddy! I feel not the least alarm
No Connaughtman born will offer me harm
For tho' they love potheen and pipe, do ye' see
Musha, bad scram to the drop 'ot they'll get from me!"
On she went, and her brazen face
has lighted her in safety thro' the wild place
and blesd for ever be she who relied
on that fist of her own that swung by her side!
Big Moll of Lissadell
Sailing summers cruising off Norway with a friend gave Henry a taste for Arctic adventures. He built his own boat, the 46-ton yacht Kara, and in 1882 mounted an expedition to rescue the explorer Leigh Smith, who presented him with photographs of the expedition in gratitude.
Henry made several voyages in Kara, to Norway for salmon fishing, to Spitzbergen Island, to Zembla, and to northern Greenland over a period of 20 years. He was keen to see a whale harpooned, and asked that he be called as soon as one was sighted. The entry for his log on 27th May 1884 records “the report of the gun awoke me. The noise of the line running out fetched me out of my berth, and the watch yelling out ‘A fall! A fall!’ caught me with one leg only in my trousers ..”.
Henry’s library of books from the Kara is on display, together with a stuffed bear he brought home from the Arctic and a 19th century model of a rigged yacht.
Sir Henry's Diary, 1864
"The first visit to Pasvig in Mr Kavanagh's Yacht the Era"
"We were making a beeline for the camp ..when there was revealed the fresh track of a bear...
I put in Lassie and she took up the trail briskly. Thomas [Kilgallon] carried the cartridges and telescope.Of a sudden I observed Lassie at the foot of a hillock....when the bear without any warning appeared at the top of the hill.
I delivered a bore from the express rifle ...the bear subsided on his tail with a growl. We had tracked the bear three miles and had been obliged to run most of the way.
The bear which we skinned where he lay turned out to be an unusually large one and appeared to be a great age".
The stuffed bear which Sir Henry brought home from the Arctic, and which is now on display in the Dining Room at Lissadell
The Leigh Smith Expedition photographs
The data on Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zembla gathered by Sir Henry and Leigh Smith were helpful to later shipping, and were minuted by the Royal Geographical Society in London in respect of access to these coastlines.