Catherine de Burgh
   Hester Catherine Browne, Lady Sligo

The Lady Sligo Letters: Westport House and Ireland's Great Hunger Exhibition

In April 2014, the exhibition, "The Lady Sligo Letters: Westport House and Ireland's Great Hunger" opened to much critical acclaim in both America and Ireland. It was hosted by Ireland's Great Hunger Institute, in partnership with the Arnold Bernhard Library. In March 2015, the exhibition closed, having been visited by over 1,000 people, including several hundred students from Quinnipiac University. 

From the outset though, the curator of the exhibition, Christine Kinealy, professor of history and director of Ireland's Great Hunger Institute, was determined that Lady Sligo should go home to Westport, where her descendants still live. They admitted that they knew nothing about their illustrious, and beautiful, ancestor, until they were informed about the Quinnipiac exhibition. At that point, they knew they wanted Lady Sligo to return home, and return home she did with the opening of a permanent exhibition in Westport House on April 14, 2015. Professor Kinealy and Lynn Bushnell, vice president for public affairs, were present on behalf of Quinnipiac University.

Lady Sheelyn Browne, who manages the Westport Estate, said:

"We are truly honored to have crossed paths with professor Christine Kinealy, without whom the opportunity of this wonderful exhibition making its way all the way to Westport, County Mayo, Ireland from Ireland's Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, would never have happened. This exhibition truly belongs in Westport. It captures a very personal insight into one very privileged generation of the Browne family who unexpectedly landed in 1845 with a huge sense of duty. Thankfully they followed the family motto 'suivez raison' and did do the right thing. They rolled their beautifully ironed linen sleeves up and did their absolute best to ease the desperate situation in their hometown, both practically and financially." 

Coverage of the opening was featured on the local television show, "Mayo Matters." 
View the episode

Although sorry to see her leave, staff and faculty in Ireland's Great Hunger Institute and the Arnold Bernhard Library are delighted to see Lady Sligo return home.

If you are interested in seeing the Lady Sligo exhibit in Wesport, visit their website

Read the remarks from Anne Anderson, ambassador of Ireland to the United States, delivered during her visit to Quinnipiac's campus on April, 30, 2014.

Excerpts from the Lady Sligo letter collection

Back to top