Irish Georgian – Where are You?

Monday 25th November 2019

At last there was hope – the  visit to Waterford was a start: we lunched in the Bishop’s Palace which is a Georgian mansion. Its museum is guide only, so we didn’t take it. Even though the Gay Mother’s friend had given things. Much talk in the car, driving round Waterford looking at ancestral properties now gone, about all the Generals who were her ancestors. Waterloo, of course, and Corunna. Her General, as it happens, was amongst those who lowered Sir John Moore into the grave. Now, our neighbours in the Far West – their ancestor was one of the others. The Gay Mother remembers the blood-stained sash mixed up with the everyday gloves and scarves on their hall table in the 1950s, before it was whisked away to a museum eventually.

On the final day at last full Irish Georgian was possible. We drove to Russborough in the Wicklow Mountains. Immediate thrill with the Irish Georgian which has fascinated since I took Mount Congreve in the Spring. Incredibly bare and austere with sudden lavish outbursts. This one isn’t flat, but so long it won’t fit in a graph. A main block and two dinky wings connected by curved arcades, none of the individual elements on a grand scale particularly but the whole ensemble of such length, although low. The features in the main facade are in fact not pronounced, appear to be receding and the windows are small, leaving expanses of grey stone. Eccentric and not conforming. Within coved ceilings and much bizarre plaster work of great craftmanship, strong colours. The great thing is the house was owned by the Beits from the 1950s. Sir Alfred Beit – diamonds. So even now lashings of heavenly money and lovely things, as a country house should be, secluded with lovely things and no other dwellings in sight. Twice the Beits were robbed; they were thrown down the stairs by Rose Dugdale and her accomplices, on behalf of the IRA, and their Vermeer removed. They got it back. Their rate of recovery from both burglaries was good. Now bollards have been placed to stop just anybody driving up and removing all the best things. The finest paintings have been taken to the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.

The house was heaven, like a really good fruit cake with royal icing. The Gay Mother grilled the guide about the original builder of the house, one Leeson from Dublin. Was he a good landlord? Did he treat the tenants well and did he drive out alien species?

We drove on over the Wicklow Mountains which were pure mahogany at this time of year. But the Gay Mother wasn’t one hundred per cent behind them, I could tell. I think she was thinking they were like Scotland. Then we got to Glendalough, mainly to see the hotel where we nearly stayed, which I booked and then, having a sudden vision, a bit like that of Mary and Joseph who were told in a dream to go back home the long way, I cancelled. We’re barely got a few feet into Glendalough and the Gay Mother was saying, ‘Oh I’d have hated it here. So low down. All you’d be thinking about would be –  how to get out.’ We chugged on through Glendalough. ‘It’s a place where people go on Sundays,’ she said. Well, it was a Sunday. Such was her aversion to Glendalough that when I said we’d have to turn the car round and go back through it, she said, ‘Oh no!’

Back at our actual hotel, the Gay Mother was much pre-occupied with Rose Dugdale. In the orange drawing room/pub she said loudly, ‘Was she sorry they threw the Beits down the stairs?’ I consulted Wikipedia which said she’d been the guest of honour at some kind of Heroes of the Republic dinner in 2014 in Dublin. So presumably not. Luckily none of the gin and jigs crowd noticed our conversation and there was no subsequent bomb outrage mercifully. We rested in our rooms. The Gay Mother’s book was crumbly, though. It was about India, a paperback, some years old.

For our last night, the Gay Mother chose to sample the third eating option of the hotel; we’d exhausted the possibilities of the orange pub/drawing room. Fine dining was only available on Fridays and Saturdays. We’d had it on the Friday and the Gay Mother had survived all the courses. All that day beforehand she kept saying, ‘Do you think you have to have all six courses?’ In the end we managed to wangle one of the courses on a sharing basis. And some of others weren’t really courses at all but bites.

So the third option was a shed across the car park called ‘The Haggard’. Here you could have an ancient Irish peasant experience in a bare white barn, none too warm, with log fires and no other guests. Jigs playing,  of course. You ordered from the boy then self-collected from the hatch. Half a chicken and chips, burger and chips or fish and chips. I said to the boy, ‘How about a light red wine?’ He had quite a selection of bottles. I could see them on a shelf behind him. He said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t drink wine.’ When we were summoned to the hatch, the essential Irish experience was delivered by two beaming Filipino women, thankful to have any trade at all, I should think.

Being in the Haggard was quite thrilling and we managed to keep warm by huddling up to the log fire.

The last thing of significance in Ireland happened the next morning in the breakfast room where a mournful old Irish tenor poured forth sad old Irish songs from the wall. ‘What are you doing?’ I said to the Gay Mother. ‘That napkin,’ she said, ‘I didn’t like it. Not nicely ironed.’ She’d flipped it away and got hold of another one.

After that, we left Ireland and returned by air to the Far West.

Russborough: Eccentric and Not Conforming

Russborough: Eccentric and Not Conforming

Russborough: So long it Won't Fit in a Graph

Russborough: So long it Won’t Fit in a Graph

The View from Russborough House: As it Should Be

The View from Russborough House: As it Should Be

Russborough: the Dining Room. Weird Fireplaces throughout the House

Russborough: the Dining Room. Weird Fireplaces throughout the House

Russborough: the Dining Room: We've got Silver Like this

Russborough: the Dining Room: We’ve got Silver Like this

Russborough: the Drawing Room

Russborough: the Drawing Room

Russborough: the Library

Russborough: the Library

Russborough: a Cosy Corner: Glorious Woodwork

Russborough: a Cosy Corner: Glorious Woodwork

Painting of the Beits by Derek Hill, friend of James Lees-Milne. Not Awfully Good

Painting of the Beits by Derek Hill, friend of James Lees-Milne. Not Awfully Good

Russborough: the Stairs

Russborough: the Stairs

Can't Remember who This is: Something to do with the Mitfords, I think

Can’t Remember who This is: Something to do with the Mitfords, I think

 

Posted Tuesday, November 26, 2019 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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