It was a bit spooky seeing John Lennon's handwriting, talking about Tara Browne. 'He blew his mind out in a car'. Tara was the younger brother of The Honourable Garech Browne, one of the Guinness heirs and the owner of Luggala,a magical hideaway in the Wicklow Mountains. Garech was one of my father's closest friends and has, in recent years, become a close friend of mine too. I go to Luggala as often as I can when I'm in Ireland, for lunches and dinners. I finally got to spend the night there a few times last year, which meant I got to sign the famous guest book. It's filled with signatures, poems, photos and mementos of all the people, a lot of them very well known, who have stayed at Luggala over the last maybe 30 years.
|Garech in front of Luggala (courtesy of The Telegraph)|
When I drive down the steep hill to the house, I always pass the monument to Tara Browne. It makes me sad every time because I know how much it still affects Garech to this day. The loss of his brother was probably the worst thing that has happened to him. A sensitive, highly intelligent man, he opens his heart to those he loves and I feel treasured when I am there. I also know how much he loved my father.
When my father died in 1992, Garech invited all of us to Luggala on the Sunday after the funeral. At Luggala, we all signed a whole 2 pages of the famous guest book, writing poems and messages about our father for Garech.
After that,we all had lunch together in The Roundwood Inn, with Ronan Browne (no relation)playing the Uilleann pipes for us and lots of laughter, tears and reminiscing. We didn't know we were supposed to be at John Boorman's house that afternoon too and ended up arriving very late. John wasn't too happy with Garech, whose sense of time can disappear as the drinks start to flow! I remember well coming into the kitchen and meeting Marianne Faithful who told me that she had fancied my father in a big way, even when he was old and sick with cancer. I know he had that effect on people. His charisma was extraordinary. He had a deep voice and told wonderful stories, keeping people gripped to the wee hours of the morning.
Now, a portrait of my father hangs in the master bedroom at Luggala, painted by Anthony Palliser. In it, he looks rather ravaged. What none of us knew at that point was that he had lung cancer, brought on by 60 years of smoking.
I met Anthony recently at Luggala and he told me that my father had been one of his favourite people. It was nice to hear that, after almost 20 years, he is still so well remembered.
|Gerald Hanley by Anthony Palliser|
Another weekend, I discovered that this master bedroom had been the room that Michael Jackson slept in while he hid away in Ireland with his children. It made me laugh, thinking about my father looking down on Michael Jackson as he slept! A ghostly degree of separation.
Tara Browne's children were very small when he died. I met his son, Julian, recently. He lives in Hawaii now. A long way away from inevitable complications of a distinguished and complex family.
I hope that the sale of this original piece of writing by John Lennon doesn't make Garech too sad. I hate to see him sad. He's a luminous and sensitive man. I don't think he knows how much he is loved by his friends.