WHEN teenager Aoife Lucey fell ill with leukaemia, she and her family faced a gruelling time involving travel, treatment, tests and, of course, great stress all round.
Barretstown was set up in 1994 with the aim to provide therapeutic recreation to sick children and their families.
WHEN the actor, Paul Newman, first set eyes on the fairytale castle on the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains 25 years ago, he knew his search for a children’s paradise in Ireland was over.
“This was where I wanted the first European camp to be,” he said, referring to Barretstown.
The Hollywood legend envisaged a custom-built paradise for children that he would model on his USA Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, giving children with serious illnesses from Ireland, Europe and the USA, the chance to be simply children, and just have fun.
“I imagined a kind of medieval bazaar where children from different countries could ‘raise a little hell’ together,” he said.
The actor started his charity with $2 million of his own money, while the Irish Government gave a generous donation of 500 acres of land in Co. Kildare for his project
“I hope my legacy is not my acting, my racing or my politics” said Newman, who passed away in September, 2008. “I hope it is my camps.”
Culinary legend Darina Allen once had the pleasure of hosting Newman when he stayed at Ballymaloe House 15 years ago, while he was in the country for the 10th anniversary of Barretstown.
“He was fascinated by the cookery school and the gardens,” recalls Darina. “Paul had a tour of the farm and he was really interested in organic farming, with our jersey cows producing milk, butter and yogurt.
“Cooking was Paul’s hobby, and we were all familiar with Newman’s Own, Paul’s brand of pasta sauces and salad dressings.”
Did he and Darina swap notes? “We did, and he was very taken with the Cookery School.”
I bet the students and the staff were very taken with him!
“Yes, indeed!” says Darina. “Those legendary blue eyes caused quite a stir about the place!
“Paul was very friendly and had a word for everyone. There is huge credit due to him, offering sick children a chance to have fun and feel care-free.”