In 1960, she and her late husband, John McShain, acquired the Killarney Estate, which had been owned by the Earls of Kenmare since the 16th century. Most of that property has since been turned over to the State.
John McShain was at one time the largest general contractor in the US. He was responsible for the reconstruction of the White House, the building of Jefferson Memorial, the Pentagon, the John F. Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts, in Washington DC, and many other buildings in America.
Mary McShain shared with her husband the administration of the family’s charitable foundation. They are survived by their daughter, Sr Pauline McShain, of the Society of the Child Jesus.
Born Mary J. Horstmann, in Philadelphia, on March 27, 1907, she was one of a family of six children. During her youth, Mary attended St. Leonard’s Academy and then enrolled at Rosemont College, where she graduated in 1925. She married John McShain, in 1927. A Lady of the Grand Cross of the Holy Sepulchre and a Dame of Malta, she was the recipient, in 1976, of the highest honour the Vatican can bestow on a laywoman, the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross. In 1977, she was given honorary doctorates from three universities. Mary and John McShain collaborated in many ventures.
In 1952, they established the Barclay Stable in the US, and in 1955 extended it to Ireland, firstly engaging Vincent O’Brien as trainer, and later John Oxx. Their famous filly, Gladness, took the Goodwood Cup, the Ebor Handicap and the Ascot Gold Cup. They had an Irish Derby, St Leger and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner in Ballymoss which became Champion of Europe in 1958.
Mr McShain became a member of a syndicate of wealthy businessmen which had purchased in the late fifties the estate, which covers about 25,000 acres. It included the Middle and Lower Lakes and other priceless, scenic property.
So that there would be no undesirable developments, he soon acquired the shares of all the other members.
According to Sr Pauline, her parents, from their earliest days in Killarney, considered the future of the lakes and lands they held in stewardship.
In 1973, they made a gift to the nation of Innisfallen Island and the ruins of its historic abbey. They also gave Ross Castle to the guardianship of the State. Realising that the Killarney Estate was the property most desired by the Government, the McShains decided, in 1979, to turn over the estate for a nominal sum on the understanding they would retain a life tenancy of the house and some acreage.
Before signing the agreement, they insisted on the condition that the lands would be incorporated into Killarney National Park in perpetuity.