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'Kinoith' - Ballymaloe Cookery School

Kinoith, now the family home of Tim & Darina Allen, once belonged to a Quaker family called the Strangmans who came from Waterford in 1830 (having sold their interest in Cherry's Brewery in Waterford in respect of the Quaker temperance laws) and purchased the farm from the Penn Gaskell estate on the outskirts of Shanagarry. At that time, it was a modest farmhouse and collection of outbuildings (now The Cottages student accommodation of the cookery school), and the Strangmans subsequently built the grander Regency home that Kinoith is today. Kinoith (or Ciun Ait in Gaelic) means "quiet or friendly place".

The Strangmans son, Thomas Wilson, later married Sarah Louisa Pike, the daughter of a wealthy Cork businessman. When they made their home at Kinoith, they took a special interest in developing the gardens surrounding the house, and one of their daughters Lydia took particular pleasure from gardening with her mother. Lydia's Garden is one of the most charming of the Ballymaloe Cookery School Gardens to this day with its pretty herbaceous borders, Summer House and pond. 

Violets flourished in the gardens of Kinoith, and eventually became a thriving business for the Strangmans. Grown in a seperate area known as The Violet Farm, they were bunched together in attractive posies and sold in the fashionable London markets of the time. 

In 1933, Ivan Allen came to Kinoith to run the farm for the aging Wilson Strangman. He was principally responsible for a commercial orchard which produced a number of traditional apple varieties  - Brambley Seedlings, Irish Peach, Gladstone and Newtown Wonder - and decided to travel to England to research how larger apple farms were being operated over there. He returned full of new ideas for modernising the farm at Shanagarry, including a new plan to produce tomatoes and cucumbers in the first phase of what was then a 4-acre glasshouse complex. He also began to cultivate mushrooms for export to the British market and was very successful for many years. When Wilson Strangman passed away in 1966, Ivan Allen inherited Kinoith and the surrounding farm.

When Tim Allen married Darina O'Connell in 1970, they were gifted Kinoith and the farm as a wedding present from Ivan and Myrtle Allen. However, by the mid 1970s, the finances of the farm had become tenuous and it was difficult at the time to continue making money from apple-farming with the price of oil sky-rocketing not to mention rising inflation and attendant bank interest rates. They began to look at other ways to make a sustainable living from the wonderful resource they had around them. 

One of the better investments made in achieving that goal was a present made by Tim to Darina in 1980 of a trip to Tuscany to attend the Marcella Hazan cookery school. While she was there, Darina would regularly visit the fresh fish markets and she immediately envisioned all the possibilities for having the same back in Ireland. She realised that the quality of Irish produce was just as good as what she was experiencing in Europe and returned to Ballymaloe brimming with ideas. 

The Farm Shop was a key milestone in the history of the farm. It was the transition from farming to selling their produce on a larger scale and led to the foundation of Ballymaloe Cookery School one year later. 

And so begins The Story of Ballymaloe Cookery School.