7 months ago

One Man’s Passion


I’m currently reading Paul Howard’s excellent biography I Read The News Today, Oh Boy – about the short life of Tara Browne, who inspired The Beatles song after which the book is named. It’s a fascinating insight into his extended family and a gilded world, straddling the Swinging Sixties in London and a bohemian and sometimes bacchanalian lifestyle in Co Mayo and Co Wicklow. Tara was the second son of Lord Oranmore and Browne and his wife Oonagh Guinness. His older brother was Garech Browne, who died last March, and lived in Luggala, Roundwood, Co Wicklow, the fairytale estate he inherited from his mother.

In keeping with his eccentric childhood and upbringing (neither he nor Tara attended school in their teenage years), Browne continued his mother’s love of lavish entertaining at Luggala, curating a mix of artists, musicians and writers including Mick Jagger, Edna O’Brien and U2.  Browne, of course, was a champion of Irish art, poetry and music, actively promoting them against a tide of modernism in the late 1950s and 1960s. In 1959, with his friend Dr Ivor Browne, Browne began the process of creating his own record label, Claddagh records, which underpinned his passion for traditional Irish music and the spoken word.

Following his death last year, the 5,000 acre estate was sold to an overseas buyer, thought to be Italian, and with the sale the myth and legends of Luggala have also dispersed. I can’t help thinking Luggala is the Irish equivalent of Camelot – the so-called name of the Kennedy’s brief illusory golden age.

Now contents from Luggala, “The Garech Browne Collection” forms part of the “Royal & Noble” auction which takes place on January 21 at Sotheby’s London. The Lots offered are a reflection of Browne’s collecting taste and character. These include several 18th century Irish rosaries, decorated decanters and silver wine coasters which have survived the legendary parties; a fragment of trim from Queen Victoria’s state coach a nod to Browne’s preferred mode of transport as a younger man.

An important Irish Regency Rosewood banded mahogany seven pedestal dining table Attributed to Mack, Williams and Gibton, circa 1815 Estimate £80,000-£120,000.

This is arguably the most important Irish dining table of the period, having been commissioned for the celebrated Regency dining-room created around 1815 by the architect Richard Morrison at Carton House, where it has remained until recently. The mahogany table has exotic cross-bandings and all hallmarks of the pre-eminent Irish Regency cabinet-makers.

The Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick, a jewelled breast star Estimate £7,000-9,000

Founded by George III in 1783, during the American War of Independence, The Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick rewarded the loyalty of Irish peers. Appointed on 3 June 1918, Geoffrey Henry Browne, 3rd Baron Oranmore and Browne, and father of the late Garech Browne, became one of the last three non-royal Knights of the Order of St Patrick. Following the partition of Ireland in 1922 the only new appointees have been members of the Royal Family and, since the death of the last surviving Knight in 1974, the Order has become dormant.

Collection of Claddagh Rings Estimates ranging from £1500 – £4,000

The Claddagh ring, a crowned heart held between two hands, represents love, loyalty and friendship. The collection includes some of the finest examples of such rings, and the work of Galway goldsmiths from the late-18th century onwards.

Cameo with a young woman, thought to be Mary Queen of Scots Likely Italian, 16th century Estimate £4,000-£6,000

The costume worn by the young lady in this cameo portrait is similar to that seen on a bust attributed to Domenico Poggini (1520-1590) and said to represent Lucrezia Pucci Ridolfi (1540-1568) in the Bargello in Florence. The identification of the sitter as Mary Queen of Scots is not impossible but is difficult to prove.  

Need to Know: The Garech Browne Collection is part of the Royal & Noble auction, which takes place on January 21 from 1pm at Sotheby’s London and also includes property from the Irish house Killadoon. The full catalogue can be viewed on www.sothebys.com.


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