Magazine article The Spectator

The Most Decorative Honey Pot in Ireland

Magazine article The Spectator

The Most Decorative Honey Pot in Ireland

Article excerpt

Luggala Days: The Story of a Guinness House by Robert O'Byrne, with photographs by James Fennell CICO Books, £35, pp. 255, ISBN 9781908170781 Luggala Lodge was built in Ireland's Wicklow mountains near the end of the 18th century by Peter La Touche, the son of a French Huguenot banking family. It was only ten miles from his house, Bellevue, and abundant game made it an ideal place to indulge a love of field sports. The late Desmond FitzGerald, Knight of Glin, who for years was head of the Irish Georgian Society, wrote of it: 'Somehow, this whitewashed toy pavilion fits into its green-grey setting of old twisted oak trees, beeches, mossy rocks and mountains in the most unnaturally natural way. It carries off its very unlikelihood with a vivid panache.'

Robert O'Byrne is an architectural historian whose narrative provides insight into the building itself, as well as the early history of the valley. While he details the strong attraction the estate has held for its various owners, he paints the house as the star amid the natural wild beauty of its setting. He has made something of an Edwardian scrapbook with illustrations drawn from a variety of sources: music sheets, watercolours, pages from photograph albums and visitors' books.

The childhood of the three Guinness girls, Maureen, Aileen and Oonagh, was spent with their governesses at Luggala, remote from their father Ernest and mother Chloe, who lived in the neighbouring valley.

After her marriage to Lord Oranmore and Browne in 1936, Oonagh wrote in her visitors' book: 'Luggala has now been given to me by my kind father.' Twenty years on, she used it for holidays from her life in Paris:

two weeks at Easter, a month in August, a few weeks over Christmas. She entertained her guests lavishly in what she called 'the most decorative honey pot in Ireland'. The painter Lucian Freud often stayed there following his marriage to her niece, Caroline Blackwood. The film director John Huston settled in Ireland for many years after he visited Luggala for the first time:

Luggala was an oasis of fun in the rather joyless new Irish republic in which I grew up, ruled by President de Valera and the Catholic church. …

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