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. This 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.
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 Great Southern & Western Railway Company. The hotel was the first to be owned by a Railway Company in either Britain or Ireland.
In this year, Queen Victoria decided to take a country jaunt, staying with the Herberts at Muckross Park. Although no royals stayed at our hotel, every room was filled (at a premium rate) with members of the Royal Household, visiting dignitaries and a large group of Fleet Street journalists.
Killarney becomes acquainted with package tour programmes for the first time when Thomas Cook Travel decides to include the town among its premiere holiday destinations. This was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship.
The hotel lounge is renovated at a cost of £6,000.
A 'Photographic Dark Room' is completed, 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 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.
The Great Southern installs a telephone in the hotel, being offered the number 'Killarney 26'. Some of the ivy covering the buildings was planted.
A lift is installed from the kitchen to the Coffee Room and Dining Room. Before the lift was installed, waitresses had to carry trays up two flights of 26 steps, having to make such a journey ten times while serving a meal to three tables of diners.
1920 - 1924
In 1920 the hotel was very suddenly seized, and for close to four years the hotel was occupied by the Military as a barracks, and eventually by the Free State Army. Barbed wire defences 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 Great Southern Hotel Killarney was one of first hotels to register with the brand new Irish Tourist Board.
The hotel very proudly celebrates a century in business.
Construction of a new wing 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.
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 graced the halls, along with her friend Mrs. McDonald, of the McDonald's fast-food chain.
The hotel's organic farms were at their peak, with the farm winning "Best Pure Bred Kerry Heifer" at the Kerry Agricultural Show. The whole hotel staff celebrated the award.
The hotel begins a long history of hosting events by opening the first purpose-built conference centre to be found outside of Dublin.
The Great Southern opens "The Malton Room", a popular restaurant. The walls of the Malton Room were hung with a complete set of Malton Prints, depicting 18th Century Dublin buildings and streetscapes. These historic prints are one of only 3 sets in existence; one in the National Gallery, one privately held, and this set, which now adorn the walls of The Punchbowl Bar at The Malton.
The hotel was used as a base for the filming of Ryan's Daughter. The Malton Room 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 hotel is honoured with a visit from the Duchess of York, Sarah "Fergie" Fergusun.
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.
The Great Southern Hotel Killarney celebrates its 150th Birthday. An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was present to unveil a plaque to mark the great occasion.
The hotel changes ownership. The Great Southern Hotel Group decides to sell its hotels, including the beautiful landmark hotels in Killarney, Parknasilla, and Galway.
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.
An early motor coach
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.