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History of The Malton

Killarney is the proud birthplace of Irish tourism, with the town celebrating its 250th anniversary as a tourist destination in 2004. The Malton, formerly the Great Southern Hotel Killarney, has been a focal point of this lively and bustling tourist town since 1854. That year saw the grand opening of the first railway line to Killarney from Dublin.
The Great Southern and Western Railway Company decided to build a "Grand Hotel" outside of Dublin, and after considering many locations, they chose Killarney. They would require 40 acres of land at the railhead for a station and hotel, but they wanted it free. The land in question was part of a giant estate owned by Lord Kenmare, including thousands of acres stretching from Killarney back to Kenmare. Although Lord Kenmare recognised the value of signing over the land, the piece the railway wanted was special – it contained a magnificent garden, which he had lovingly developed over many years.
Eventually, a deal was struck, and the project was given the go-ahead.He was more than reluctant to lose the site but the parties eventually agreed that the Great Southern and Western Railway Company could build their new hotel under two conditions:
 
 
  • The Brownes (Lord Kenmare's family) would have free rail travel whenever they wished
  • Should they be delayed in getting to the station, the train in question would hold departure until the Brownes had boarded safely.

Once these conditions were met, the Killarney Railway Junction Company ran a design competition in order to choose an architect for the hotel. For reasons that remain a mystery to this day, the hotel was eventually designed by an architect other than the winner of the competition. The final architect, Mr Frederick Darley, was the official architect to Trinity College, and had also designed Merchant's Hall in Dublin, the Kings Inn Library, and a Magnetic Observatory at Trinity.

Click here to watch of short video of the history of The Malton

1854

The Railway Hotel, Killarney (Now The Malton)

The Railway Hotel, Killarney (now The Malton) opened its doors for the first time. The cost was in the region of £18,000 and was paid by the owners The Great Southern & Western Railway Company. The hotel was the first to be owned by a Railway Company in either Britain or Ireland. The brand initials of The Great Southern Hotel can often be seen on the silverware used in The Garden Room Restaurant.

1861

The Queen Visits

The Queen visits Killarney and stayed at Killarney House and Muckross House and members of the royal household stayed at the Railway Hotel. For more information on her visit click here

1895

Package Tour Programmes

Killarney becomes acquainted with package tour programmes for the first time when Thomas Cook Travel includes the town among its premiere holiday destinations. This was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship.

1900

Hotel Lounge Renovated

The hotel lounge is renovated at a cost of £6,000. The Coffee Room, now the hotels foyer was a large communal area where guests could meet & discuss the issues of the time & flanked on either side by two drawing rooms - one for men & one for ladies, now the Reading & Writing Room

1910

Photographic Dark Room

Following the Edwardian era of 1901 to 1910 A 'Photographic Dark Room' is completed at the hotel for the growing number of hotel guests enjoying this new fashionable hobby. A trained technician, employed by the hotel helped guests develop and print their photographs. The Great Southern was the first hotel in Ireland to provide such a service. The Great Southern & Western Railway Company also built another hotel near the railway station for those who could not afford to stay in The Great Southern which at the time was only for elite guests. This ‘budget’ hotel was occupied during The War of Independence & burnt to the ground. The Garden Cottage & Conference & Banqueting buildings now stand where it used to be.

1912

Senior German Espionage Agent

The hotel experiences a bit of drama when visited by a VIP guest. This guest turned out to be a senior German espionage agent called Lodi. When news reached Scotland Yard of his stay here, two detectives were dispatched armed with an arrest warrant. Lodi, who had been alerted to their presence grabbed a bulky suitcase full of documents and ran to the boiler room in the basement, attempting to throw the documents into the fire. Before he could burn all the documents, the detectives burst into the room and arrested him. He was subsequently charged, convicted and executed as a spy.

1917

Telephone instalation

The Great Southern Hotel installs a telephone in the hotel, being offered the number 'Killarney 26'. Some of the ivy covering the buildings was also planted in that year.

1919

An Elevator Is Installed

An elevator is installed from the downstairs basement kitchen to the Coffee Room and Dining Room. Before this lift was installed, service staff had to carry trays up two flights of 26 steps, having to make such a journey several times a day while serving meals to diners. The Great War broke out which had a catastrophic effect on the Irish Tourist Industry. The Great Southern Hotels close their doors 'owing to special conditions prevailing & the hotel basement was used as a prison. The hotel was occupied by British military until 1922.

1919

1920 To 1924

In 1920 the hotel was suddenly seized and closed for almost four years. The hotel was occupied by the Military and used as a barracks and eventually by the Free State Army. Barbed wire defenses were erected and plush curtains gave way to sand bags. The elegant Coffee Lounge became a general office and bedrooms were packed with army bunks. The IRA used The Great Southern Hotel for bomb making but vacated later in 1922 as the hotel was too public a place for this activity as well as the fact that a large force of Free State Army were on their way to Killarney. The Free State Army was the next non-paying guests at the hotel and like the British used the basement as a prison, the bars can still be seen on the windows.

1939

The Irish Tourist Board

The Great Southern Hotel Killarney was one of first hotels in Ireland to register with the Irish Tourist Board.

1945

Grand Old Lady Of Killarney

The Great Southern Hotel saw the transition of the hotel into state ownership. 90 years old and became known as the Grand Old Lady of Killarney

1950

The Great Southern & Western Railway Company

The Great Southern & Western Railway Company experienced major financial difficulties in this decade. Following 96 years of private ownership The Great Southern Hotel becomes property of the government of the recently created Republic of Ireland.

1952

Grand Old Lady Of Killarney

Queen Salote of Tonga who reigned from 1918 to 1965 visited Killarney & stayed at The Great Southern Hotel in the early 1950's. She also visited London in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

1954

100 Years

The hotel very proudly celebrates a century in business.

1959

New Wing Constructed

In 1959 a new wing was constructed with 37 en-suite bedrooms. Until this time, few rooms were en-suite, and guests bathed in one of 17 bathrooms. Hygiene was excellent, with each bathroom being cleaned and completely disinfected after each use.

1960s

Steady Stream Of Celebrities Including Jackie Kennedy

A steady stream of celebrities and dignitaries stayed as guests, including Princess Grace of Monaco, Pat Nixon, The Queen of Tonga, Charlie Chaplin, and Tyrone Power. Even Jackie Kennedy & her children also graced the halls, along with her friend Mrs McDonald & her children, of the McDonald's fast-food chain. Along with her entourage of secret service men she took up an entire floor of the hotel. Everyone among hotel staff fell in love with her warmth & grace. Our presidential suite is named after her - The Kennedy Suite. In early 1960's during the days following the tragic assassination of President John F.Kennedy, the head waiter of The Great Southern Hotel at the time Jimmy Cullinane was moved to write a poem. The poem expressed the despair felt by so many around the world & captured the hearts of the Kennedy family. Letters of gratitude were sent to Jimmy from the Kennedys & article with his poem was put in The New York Times.

1968

Conference Centre Comes To Killarney

In 1968 the hotel begins a long history of hosting events by opening the first purpose-built conference centre to be found outside of Dublin.

1970

Ryans Daughter

The Malton was also used as a base for the filming/production of the famous 1970 film Ryan's Daughter which was directed by David Leen. This controversial film of it's time was set in 1916, tells the story of a married Irish woman who has an affair with a British officer during World War I, despite opposition from her nationalist neighbours. The Malton Rooms (where The Killarney Wine Rooms are now )was booked for two years and turned into a cinema, complete with tip-up seats and silver screen. During this time The Malton became a popular place for celebrity spotting. The film stars Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, John Mills, Christopher Jones, Trevor Howard and Leo McKern.

1970

One Of The Great Irish Artists

James Malton (1761–1803) is one of the great Irish Artists (engraver and water colourist) of the 18th Century & is best know for his Picturesque and Descriptive View of the City of Dublin. He created a series of twenty-five 18th century engravings between 1792 and 1799. There are 3 sets of these historic prints in existence & The Malton houses one set which now adorns the walls of it's Punchbowl Bar. The other set is in the National Gallery and the other is privately held. In 2007 the hotel came under private ownership and its name changed from the Great Southern Hotel Killarney to The Malton, derived from this set of historic & valuable prints. There is also a famous trail in Dublin city called The Malton Trail whereby tourists can view/learn about these historic buildings.

1970s

The Malton Room

Jack Lynch was the Taoiseach of Ireland, serving two terms in office; from 1966 to 1973 and 1977 to 1979. He stayed at The Great Southern Hotel in the late 1960's/early 1970's while attending the IMI conference.The Great Southern opens "The Malton Room", a very popular French style cuisine restaurant. The complete set of Malton Prints were hung on the walls of the Malton Room, which now adorn the walls of The Punchbowl Bar.

1990s

Royal Visit

The hotel is honoured with a visit from the Duchess of York, Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson.

2002

New Conference Centre And Leisure Facility

In 2002 the hotel lobby was renovated. Slightly more expensive than the refurbishment in 1900, the hotel re-opens after spending €14 million on a lavish refurbishment programme. The highlight of the refurbishment is the new Conference Centre and leisure facility.

2004

150 Years

The Great Southern Hotel Killarney celebrates its 150th Birthday. An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was present to unveil a plaque to mark the great occasion.

2006

Landmark Hotels

The hotel changes ownership. The Great Southern Hotel Group decides to sell its hotels, including the beautiful landmark hotels in Killarney, Parknasilla, and Galway.

2007

The Malton

Local businessmen come together to buy the hotel. The name changes from the Great Southern Hotel Killarney to The Malton, named after the rare set of Malton Prints contained within the hotel. The lobby area is refurbished to its original gleaming splendour. Now the future of this 'Grand Old Lady of Killarney' is in safe hands. Much of the history of this hotel has been beautifully documented in a book A Star Reborn by journalist Frank Corr. The history on this page consists mainly of excerpts from this fascinating and historically accurate book. If you would like to read more, we've stocked our guest library with copies of this book for your enjoyment.

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