2011 Award Winners GEORGINA CAMPBELL AWARD 2011
Johnny & Lucy Madden - Hilton Park, Clones, Co Monaghan
“Our entry in the Guide sets the scene at Hilton Park, as follows:
‘Once described as a “capsule of social history” because of their collection of family portraits and memorabilia going back 250 years or more, Johnny and Lucy Madden’s wonderful 18th century mansion is set in beautiful countryside, amidst 200 acres of woodland and farmland.
With lakes, Pleasure Grounds and a Lovers’ Walk to set the right tone, the house is magnificent in every sense.
Johnny and Lucy are natural hosts and, as the house and its contents go back for so many generations, there is a strong feeling of being a privileged family guest as you wander through grandly-proportioned, beautifully furnished rooms…”
All of which is true – and should encourage guests to visit this stunning property – but it gives no hint of the great personal contribution that Johnny and Lucy have made to Irish hospitality over more than 30 years.
Operating as a country house in a border area for much of that time has undoubtedly been a challenge, for a start – I remember Johnny explaining at one stage that he had to sell off a part of the property that was in Co Fermanagh because of the difficulty of operating in two jurisdictions – and that was only the tip of the iceberg, as can be imagined.
Attracting leisure guests to such an area was far from easy, yet they not only persisted in getting people to visit this beautiful and (at the time) under-rated part of the country, but also maintained the highest standards of comfort, excellent food – much of it grown in the walled kitchen gardens that are Lucy’s particular domain, now shared wither daughter Laura – caring hospitality, and that special ‘quirkiness’ that comes naturally in such places and has suddenly become de rigeur elsewhere.
They have been outstanding ambassadors for the best of Irish hospitality down through the decades, and in recent years the innovative ideas pursued by them and their family have been nothing short of inspired – the hugely successful Flat Lake Festival (run by son-in-law Kevin Allen and author Pat McCabe) and their Book Club Weekends have earned Hilton Park international recognition as a centre for the arts.
And their own literary talents have been hitting the mark too, through Lucy’s wryly entertaining observations on Irish Hospitality in Hospitality Ireland magazine (and in our own e-zine), which should be required reading for the powers that be.
But perhaps their greatest contribution is to have raised a family that continues their own love and respect for Hilton Park, ensuring the future of this great house – which is now in the very capable hands of their son Fred (the ninth generation Madden at Hilton Park), who has trained as chef and returned with his wife Joanna and their son Danny – allowing Johnny and Lucy to have a little time off at last.”
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