Thousands are set to descend on Dromana House and Gardens, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, this summer to celebrate 8 centuries of the Fitzgerald family.

Dromana 800 takes over the house from July 2-5 in a landmark celebration exactly 800 years since King John of England granted all of Co. Waterford and Co. Cork to Thomas Fitz-Anthony.

Fitzgeralds from across the globe, as well as hundreds more with an interest in Irish history and genealogy, will gather on the banks of the River Blackwater in West Waterford to celebrate the ancient family and their role in Irish history.

Since being awarded Cork and Waterford all those years ago, the Fitzgeralds have led an exciting path through Irish history. Even taking a look at Dromana House alone reveals a riveting insight into the sometimes turbulent family history and their influence in Ireland.

One member of the family is said to have been mistress to an English king, they’ve spawned a celebrated Egyptologist and the very entrance to Dromana house entices visitors onto the grounds with a Hindu-Gothic arch built as a wedding present to a young couple in love and returning from their honeymoon.

The family have seen a string of alliances made and broken, battles, sieges, instances of underage marriage (although we’re not sure what that constitutes as all those years ago), and loss of lands.

Times have not always been easy for the family and some of the glory of Dromana House itself was lost as hard times caused some of the original building, including a grand ballroom, to be demolished to save costs in upkeep.

The no-less majestic estate hangs on a cliff overlooking the River Blackwater as it makes its way to the sea in Youghal. The Villiers-Stuarts and their Fitzgerald and Fitz-Anthony ancestors have occupied the estate for an incredible 26th generations.

Barbara Grubb, a member of this 26th generation and main resident at Dromana, calls on all Fitzgeralds or anybody with an interest in their family roots to join them in celebrating the highs and lows of 800 years.

“Dromana 800 is very much a celebration of people and place,” she says.

“There are few families in Ireland today whose history is so well documented. We want the people of Ireland and the Irish abroad to come along and partake in the exciting events that offer a social and cultural mix with something for everyone.

Not only will the celebration bring together as many far-flung members of the clan as possible but Dromana House sets a riveting background to the weekend, sure to interest any with an interest in Irish history.

“For the culturally curious, we want people to come take a tour of the great houses of the area,” Barbara continues. “Learn why so many houses of historical interest came to be built on the banks of the Blackwater and why one hundred and twenty-six remain, when elsewhere their peers were sacked, looted or deserted.”

The celebration offers a promising line-up including Blackwater cruises with Villierstown Boating Club, a lecture on “The Beauties of the Blackwater” - the phenomenal houses that line the river’s course, a historical walking tour of Youghal, and an exhibition of Villiers Stewart’s Egypt at Waterford County Museum.

Saturday night will also see a concert with internationally renowned performer, Rebecca Storm and the weekend will finish up in Villierstown on Sunday with a Georgian Fete. to celebrate the village’s foundation. The founder, John Villiers will make a personal appearance.

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