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The acme of extravagance in Wicklow

Tuesday, 31 January, 2017

As we read here yesterday, Luggala, the exquisite 18th-century Irish house located on 5,000 mountainous acres in County Wicklow, is now for sale and the lot can be yours for $29 million says Sotheby’s International Realty. Luggala played a decisive role in the fortunes of the Cockburn family in the mid-1950s as the late journalist Alexander Cockburn recounted in Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies & the Reagan Era. His father, Claud, author of the novel Beat the Devil, had found temporary refuge from his creditors at the estate and then Hollywood arrived:

“Quite apart from the simple comfort of not having water on the floor, and bailiffs at the gate, Luggala was a wonderful place to go in the mid-1950s. Writers and artists from Dublin, London Paris and New York drank and sang through the long hectic meals with a similarly dissolute throng of politicians and members-in-good-standing of the café society of the time. And during this particular Horse Show week Luggala was further dignified by the presence of the film director John Huston and his wife of those years, Ricky. My father was a friend of Huston — from his stint in New York in the late 1920s perhaps, or maybe from Spanish Civil War days — and quite apart from the pleasure of reunion there was Beat the Devil, ready and waiting to be converted into a film by the director of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

My father spoke urgently to Huston of the virtues of Beat the Devil, but he found he had given, beneath fulsome dedications, his last two copies to our hostess and to a fellow guest, Terry Gilmartin. These copies were snatched back and thrown into Huston’s departing taxi. A week later, Huston was in Dublin again, shouting the novel’s praises. He and Humphrey Bogart had just completed The African Queen and were awaiting the outcome of that enormous gamble. I can remember Huston calling Bogart in Hollywood and reading substantial portions of the novel to him down the phone — a deed which stayed with me for years as the acme of extravagance.”

Tomorrow, here, Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre, Jennifer Jones and Robert Morley join the party as it moves from Luggala to Cork.

Luggala


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