Duke following in footsteps of Mugabe to Grange
When Simon Coveney as Minister for Agriculture officially opened the new animal bioscience building at Teagasc Grange in Dunsany, he could hardly expected that eight years later, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, he would bring the future King of England and his wife, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka Prince William and Kate Middleton, there.
Regarded as a centre of excellence in Irish agriculture, researchers there work on molecular and computational biology, animal metabolism and immunology.
It's not the first time the Kiltale centre has been the focus of an international visit. In 1983, when the then Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe arrived to visit, the Meath Chronicle reported that it “was the first occasion that Mr Mugabe was able to shake off the considerable media interest in his visit. Both the BBC and ITN television crews, who had been pursuing an evidently harassed prime minister over the re-arrest of air force officers, left Mr Mugabe to himself as he set out across the fields at Grange to see the progress of the cattle research centre.”
Tight security was placed around the quiet farmlands of Dunsany prior to the visit, and the prime minister saw virtually every operation at the centre, including experiments in automatic dosing and the quick weight gain methods.
“Indeed, it was the latter particularly which interested Mr Mugabe, who declared afterwards, while sipping a quick cup of tea in the administrative block, that his country would be pleased to adopt Irish methods of beef production,” the Chronicle continued.
“Evidently, glad to relax in the quiet, rural setting of Dunsany, the normally reticent and undemonstrative Mr Mugabe even signed a few autographs for local children who had gathered at Grange.”
Grange was originally a monastic farm, and in 1654 was owned by Christopher Plunkett, of the neighbouring Killeen and Dunsany families.
On 18th January 1927, the death occurred at Grange of Lady Mary Murphy, a sister of the Earl of Fingal. Her sister in law, Elizabeth, Countess of Fingall (Daisy), was a friend of King Edward VII.
Kitty Baggallay (nee Murphy), a famed horsewoman inherited after Lady Mary's death, and lived there until her death in a motor accident in France in April 1955. Her son, Captain Denis Baggallay, succeeded her, and lived in Grange. He was several times leading amateur jockey in Ireland, later becoming a steward of the Hunt Club.
Baggallays sold Grange to the Agricultural Institute in the 1950s, and a few years later, the Dublin District Milk Board took over the AI Service, and Grange became solely a research farm, as well as a major source of employment around Kiltale.
During John Bruton's period as taoiseach, Ireland was chosen as the headquarters of the European headquarters of the Office of Veterinary and Plant Health Control, and a site on the Grange farm was chosen for the building which is now known as the European Union Food and Veterinary Office, responsible for ensuring that Community legislation on food safety, animal health, plant health and animal welfare is properly implemented and enforced. However, following the Brexit from the EU, the Royal couple may just look across the hedge at this.