Martin Brennan who instructs Aikido,
a form of Japanese martial arts, at Dowth Castle.
By Jacinta O'Brien. April 28, 1978.
A red bricked Victorian mansion looking uncomfortable in its setting among Irish greenery is hardly the place you would look for the merging of Oriental and Occidental cultures - but then, outward appearances never guarantee a reflection of the content.
The mansion in question is Dowth Castle, formerly known as Netterville House, which was built a little over a century ago on the grounds of the original Dowth Castle, a 12th century fortress, supposedly built by Hugh de Lacy in his effort to maintain the Pale as a Saxon domain.
The castle has fallen into disrepair, but is currently being preserved while the house stands in good condition and new finds itself elevated to the status of "castle"
BirthplaceThe original castle is of historic importance not just because if its founding but because it was the birthplace of John Boyle O'Reilly some one hundred years ago. Among the poet's greatest loves was the ancient Irish culture, which has such strong connections with the area around the Boyne.
It was this aspect of Irish culture, embodied by Na Fianna which co-incidentally first attracted the attention of the present part owner of the mansion, Mr. Martin Brennan- At the time, Martin, who was born in Brooklyn of Irish parents, was studying Japanese culture, on location when he met Kitamura an expert on Irish culture who translates Irish works into Japanese.
Kitamura pointed out the similarities in both cultures expressing his opinion that Na Fianna and Cuchulainn in particular were the ideal concepts of the Samuri warrior.
AikidoAlso while in Japan, Martin made further inroads into the study of Aikido, the most advanced and modern of the Japanese martial arts. Its study includes not only hand to hand combat, but also stick and sword fighting and its ultimate aim is to lead to spiritual, mental and physical development.
Returning to America Martin continued his study of Aikido and graphic art design of which he is a teacher and also began studying the works of John Boyle O'Reilly.
Ireland was next on the itinerary and seven years later Martin is still here involved in a venture to open Dowth Castle as a workshop promoting health, happiness, natural living and self development.
PreservationThe castle was bought in September last year and those primarily involved with Martin were Louise and Roger Randolph and Rachel Welch. Work began immediately on the preservation of the old castle which had to be stripped of ivy "at risk to life and limb," and the restoration of the former Netterville Institute whose red bricked walls housed widows and orphans in a former era. The work is being done with the help of neighbours who are interested in the project.
Mrs. Louise Randolph, part owner of Dowth Castle in the kitchen preparing some of the health foods, the preparation of which
forms part of the week-end courses which are held at the castle.
The mansion is now devoted to the study of Aikido, Chinese and health, cooking, yoga-breathing, the union of body and mind and meditation; doing shiatsu self massage for fitness and curing; tai-rin do the way of rejuvenation by sound and body movements, all of which takes care of the Oriental dimension of the mansion.
As for the occident Irish cultural activities will also be catered for, these including language and megalithic studies.
MexicoThe study of the latter is one of keen interest to the many faceted Martin Brennan who is currently writing a book on the subject. Apart from the studies he is undertaking in Ireland, he also spent some time in Mexico gathering material for a forthcoming book.
In between gathering material and continuing the study of John Boyle O'Reilly in his birthplace Martin hopes to open the mansion to the public and to hold week ends promoting healthy living through means of Aikido, yoga etc.
The first of these weekends will be held on May 5 and 7 and costs £20. it is hoped to hold a further week-end introducing Shin Tai Do. The newest form of body motion which has just recently arrived in England on May 20 and 21.
For those who do not wish to participate at week ends classes will be held on Thursday nights at 8p.m. and the fee is £1.
Boyne Valley Private Day ToursPick up and return to your accommodation or cruise ship. Suggested day tour: Newgrange World Heritage site, 10th century High Crosses at Monasterboice, Hill of Tara the seat of the High Kings of Ireland and the Hill of Slane where St. Patrick let a Paschal fire in 433 More ...