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Garech Browne (1939 – 2018)

Monday, 12 March, 2018

Garech Browne, the Guinness scion who died in London on Saturday, was one of the most important patrons of traditional and modern Irish art. His spectrum of taste can be summed up in his friendships, which ranged from the piper Paddy Moloney to the painter Francis Bacon. And in the middle of this charmed world stood Luggala, the exquisite 18th-century house located on 5,000 mountainous acres in County Wicklow, which acted as a magnet for the local and the global, from Dublin poets and East Clare fiddle players to Hollywood film directors.

Luggala played a decisive role in the fortunes of the Cockburn family in the mid-1950s as 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 John Huston 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.”

Note: Garech Browne’s father was Dominick Browne, the Fourth Lord Oranmore and husband of Oonagh Guinness, daughter of Honorable Arthur Ernest Guinness, the second son of the first Lord Iveagh. Dominick Browne had the rare distinction of sitting in the House of Lords for 72 years until his death at age 100 in August 2002, without ever having spoken in debate. May they all Rest in Peace.

Luggala


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