Monday, 18 July 2011

The Magic Beauty of Luggala, The Eccentric and Honorable Garech and the Tragic Death of his half-brother...

The Hon. Garech Domnagh Browne, born 25 June, 1939, is a member of the titled family of Oranmore and Browne in the West of Ireland and is a wealthy patron of Irish arts, notably traditional Irish music. He is often known by the gaelic designation of his name, Garech de Brún, or alternately Garech a Brún especially in Ireland.
He is the eldest of the three sons of Dominick Browne, the 4th Lord Oranmore and Browne and his second wife, Oonagh Guinness, daughter of Hon. Arthur Ernest Guinness who was the second son of the first Lord Iveagh. Oonagh was therefore a wealthy heiress to the Guinness fortune and the youngest of the three "Golden Guinness Girls". His father had the rare distinction of sitting silently in the House of Lords for 72 years until his death at age 100 in August 2002, without ever having spoken in debate. As both his parents were married three times, he has had two stepmothers and two stepfathers and also has a number of elder half siblings. His only full brother, The Hon. Tara Browne was a young London socialite whose death at age 21 in a car crash in London's West End was immortalised in the song "A Day in the Life" by John Lennon. Garech was educated at Institut Le Rosey, Switzerland, and, though he is a member of the extended Guinness family, he took no active part in its brewing business. In 2008 there was a major theft of silver and rare books from his house 'Luggala' in Co Wicklow.(Irish Mail On Sunday, April 6th 2008, p.20, 'The Count of The Glens Accused of Stealing the Silver')

Traditional Irish music
He has been a leading proponent for the revival and preservation of traditional Irish music, through his record label Claddagh Records which he founded with others in 1959. His former house, Woodtown Manor, near Dublin was for many years a welcoming place for Irish poets, writers and musicians and which was associated with the folk-pop group Clannad, where they made many recordings of their music. When in Ireland, he lives at Luggala set deep in the Wicklow Mountains. The house has been variously described as a castle or hunting lodge of large proportions which he inherited from his mother. It has a fairytale setting and is famous for its hospitality and house parties since the time of his mother's residency. He was interviewed at length for the Grace Notes traditional music programme on RTÉ lyric fm on 18 March 2010.
Garech was partly instrumental in the formation of the world-renowned traditional Irish folk group, The Chieftains. When he asked his friend, the famed uileann piper, Paddy Moloney, in the early sixties to form a group for a one-off album for the Claddagh label, Paddy came up with the first line-up of The Chieftains.
He is instantly recognisable by his famous pony-tail, wispy beard, tweed suit and dapper appearance.

He was married at Bombay in 1981 to the Princess Harshad Purna Devi of Morvi, daughter of His Highness Sri Mahendra Sinhji (of the Jadeja dynasty and the last Maharaja of Morvi) in India, where he spends part of each year.

Luggala Lodge was built in 1787 and extended in 1805 by the La Touche family, Dublin bankers of Huguenot origin.

In 1937 Ernest Guinness bought Luggala and gave it as a wedding present to his daughter, Oonagh, on her marriage to Lord Oranmore and Browne. It famously became the gathering place for Dublin’s intelligentsia as well as artists and musicians from around the world. Luggala passed to their son, Dr The Hon Garech Browne, who continued this tradition.

Luggala is a unique and special place situated in 5,000 acres in the stunning Wicklow Mountains, just 28 miles from Dublin. Luggala is situated between two beautiful lakes Loch Déan and Loch Té (Lough Dan and Lough Tay). The house has lots of history and has played host to many famous people in recent and bygone times.

The estate at Lug a' Lágha (Luggala), was bought in the 1780s by Peter La Touche, the grandson of David Digges La Touche, a Huguenot who fled from France in 1685 after King Louis XIV had revoked the Edict of Nantes. This had promised religious freedom to his Protestant subjects (the Huguenots, as French Protestants were called, were noted weavers, silversmiths and gardeners. The garden which the Right Honourable David la Touche M.P. laid out at his residence Marlay in County Dublin has recently been restored with European funding). David Digges La Touche went to Holland but subsequently followed King William III to Ireland during that Monarch's war with his father-in-law, King James II. After the Stadtholder William's victory, David La Touche stayed on in Ireland and founded a bank that bore his name and became the major financial institution in Ireland.
Luggala offers very comfortable accommodation and enjoys a specactular setting. The house has recently undergone considerable renovations throughout. There will soon be a magnificent indoor swimming pool incoporated into a Georgian wing, which will make this an even more special place to be.

He blew his mind out in a car,
He didn't notice that the lights had changed,
A crowd of people stood and stared,
They'd seen his face before,
Nobody was really sure
If he was from the House of Lords.
"A Day in the Life"

Tara Browne
Browne was the son of Dominick Browne, 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne, a member of the House of Lords since 1927 who later became famous for having served in that house longer than any other peer, finally being evicted during government reforms in 1999; and Oonagh Guinness, heiress to the Guinness fortune and the youngest of the three "Golden Guinness Girls". One of his older brothers was the Hon. Garech Browne, of Luggala, County Wicklow in Ireland, an enthusiast of traditional Irish music and a founding member of The Chieftains, Ireland's leading group of traditional musicians.

Tara Browne was a member of Swinging London's counterculture of the 1960s.

Death On 18 December 1966, Browne was driving with his girlfriend, model Suki Potier, in his Lotus Elan through South Kensington at high speed (some reports suggest in excess of 106 mph/170 km/h). It is not known whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He failed to see a traffic light and proceeded through the junction of Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens, colliding with a parked lorry and died of his injuries the following day. Potier claimed that Browne swerved the car to absorb the impact of the crash to save her life.

Browne was survived by his wife Noreen (McSherry) and their two sons, Dorian and Julian Browne.

An Irishman's Diary
Ronan McGreevy

Tue, Sep 09, 2008

TARA BROWNE died as he had lived his life: at breakneck speed and in the metaphorical fast lane. There was no fast lane, though, when he drove down Earls Court Road into Redcliffe Crescent in Kensington, west London, just a week before Christmas in 1966.

Browne, as befits a man in a hurry, was driving a Lotus Elan sports car. According to his girlfriend Suki Potier, a woman The Irish Timeswould later coyly call his "girl companion", Browne tried to avoid a car coming straight at him. He swerved to avoid it and crashed into another one. He died the following day. Browne was just 21. He was the son of Dominick Browne, an Anglo-Irish aristocrat who spent 71 years in the House of Lords having succeeded his father who, cruelly, was also killed in a car crash. Tara Browne's mother was Oonagh Guinness, one of the famed Guinness sisters and the owner of the beautiful Luggala estate in Roundwood, Co Wicklow. The word had not been invented at the time, but Eton-educated Browne would be known nowadays as a 'Trustafarian'. According to the newspapers at the time, Browne stood to inherit around £1 million on his 25th birthday. Even at the age of 21, he left £56,069 in his estate, a sum which would have made him a millionaire today. His inquest described him as a man of "independent means". He embraced the swinging sixties as only a young man with wealth and means could do. He was, as the song would later say, "a lucky man who made the grade".His 21st birthday party was a lavish affair and he knew Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Paul McCartney's brother Mike McCartney and John Paul Getty among others. He experimented with LSD. The author and journalist Ferdinand Mount called Browne "a golden child of the sixties". Yet, he was also a married man. At the age of 18 he married Noreen McSherry, the daughter of a County Down farm. The couple had two children, aged three and one, and were already estranged in what was then a very public battle for custody in the High Courts. According to Suki Potier, Browne was not going particularly fast when he drove down Earls Court Road into Redcliffe Gardens, but independent witnesses at the inquest suggested otherwise and their testimony would appear to be borne out by pictures of the crumpled bonnet and torn-off roof of the sports car. Suki Potier escaped unhurt, but her life was dogged by tragedy. She was Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones' girlfriend when he drowned in a swimming pool in 1969 and, having survived the accident that killed Browne, she and her husband were killed in a car-crash in Portugal in 1981. The death of Tara Browne made the front page of The Irish Times, well disposed then to the goings on of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, but he would not have been remembered except by his nearest and dearest had it not been for John Lennon. Lennon read an account of Browne's inquest in the Daily Mailon January 17th, 1967, while he was lazing around and tinkering at the piano. The story of a young aristocrat "who blew his mind out in a car" proved to be irresistible to Lennon who had a passing acquaintanceship with Browne. Lennon's dream-like lyrics complemented the slight piano intro. "He hadn't noticed that the lights had changed/a crowd of people stood and stared/they'd seen his face before/nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords". In the same newspaper, Lennon read a nonsense story about 4,000 potholes in Blackburn, Lancashire. He put the two together. At the same time, Paul McCartney was working on a song of his own. A dreamy sequence about lighting up a cigarette on the bus on the way to school (or was it marijuana?) had a tempo and theme entirely different from Lennon's contribution, but this was the Beatles at the height of that astonishing period of fecundity which stretched from the time when they quit playing live in late 1966 until they split up in 1970. It worked not well, but brilliantly. The two segments meshed together seemlessly and George Martin introduced a full orchestra which was invited to play through the scale finishing on a big E chord, the E chord symbolising heaven. Then there is the infamous dog whistle at the end. Don't try it on Fido at home. There is a school of thought which suggests that A Day in the Life, because of its ambition, its showcasing of the talents of both Lennon and McCartney and because it marks both the end and the culmination of The Beatles' most revered album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Bandstands as the band's finest song, though there is no shortage of contenders or opinions. While A Day in the Lifestands as an unwitting tribute to the memory of Browne, a more personal one will be held next weekend in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. 'A Day In the Life' festival, in memory of Tara Browne, features the German techno pioneers Kraftwerk in their only European gig this year. It was due to be staged at Luggala, which is the current home of Tara's brother Garech, but that concert had to be relocated because of the fearsome flooding of recent weeks. More is the pity because the location, with its heart-stopping views of the Fancy Mountain and Luggala itself, would have out-shone any performer. Promoter John Reynolds, who has developed an eye for new venues with his inspired staging of the Electric Picnic in Stradbally, Co Laois, and the Royal Hospital for the unforgettable series of concerts by Leonard Cohen during the summer, is hoping to resurrect Luggala as a venue next year. In death, as in life, Tara Browne remains surrounded by music.

© 2008 The Irish Times

Suki Poitier was an English model who lived at the center of Swinging 60s London. At age 18 she was the girlfriend of Guinness heir Tara Browne and was a passenger in the December 18, 1966, car crash that killed him. The pair was driving through South Kensington at high speed when Browne ran a traffic light in the intersection between Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens and collided with a parked lorry in order to save Poitier. She was unharmed in the incident that served as the inspiration for the Beatles song “A Day in the Life”. After the accident Suki became close with Rolling Stone Brian Jones and was later devestated by his death as well. She remained friendly with the rest of the band after this and was often seen at music festivals with them. She died in 1981 when she and her husband were involved in another car accident in Portugal. A favorite model of Ossie Clark, Suki’s style embodies the essence of the era in which she rose to fame.

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