Being a Dubliner you grew up with Guinness, in fact you spent your youth inhaling it. Crossing over O’Connell Bridge in the city centre you inhaled the scent of roasted barley from the huge St. James’s Gate Brewery upstream on the River Liffey. It is the roasting of barley which makes gives Guinness its dark colour and the bitter aftertaste. Guinness is a popular dry stout beer that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James’s Gate, Dublin. It is based on the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide. Guinness was all pervasive in Dublin even after in the 1930’s it changed its legal domicile to London to list on the Stock Exchange.
Despite this we Dubliner’s still looked upon it as Irish as the St James’s Gate Brewery continued to be a major part of Dublin life. Many worked in the brewery but it was only in the 1960’s that management roles were opened up to Catholics. The Brewery had its own narrow gauge railway, its own power station and its own branch and basin on the Grand Canal and barges carrying Guinness barrels were a familiar site on Ireland’s inland waterways. Barges also went on the River Liffey through the centre of Dublin until the early 60’s and a fleet of three tanker ships carried the “black stuff” over the seas to England. They were named after female members of the Guinness family, The Lady Gwendolyn, The Lady Patricia and the MV. Miranda Guinness. Unfortunately the fleet was disbanded in 1993 and with it went part of the colour of Dublin City.
Now Dublin has lost one of its last tangible connections with the Guinness family with the death on the 30th December 2010 of the person one of the ships was named after, Miranda Guinness, Countess of Iveagh. She was married to Benjamin Guinness, who died in 1992, and who was the last family member to be chairman of the company. Towards the end of his life Benjamin was prone to depression and at times drink took hold and I’m not too sure how much he was in touch at times. His Chairmanship coincided with the Guinness Scandal. This involved an attempt to manipulate the stock market on a massive scale to inflate the price of Guinness shares and thereby assist a £2.7 billion take-over bid for the larger Scottish drinks company Distillers. At the height of this scandal a letter appeared in the Irish Times from Ben Guinness asking if anybody had information on a church window in Castleknock (near to his Dublin home) where it was said a candle could stay lit in a gale!
Farmleigh, the Earl of Iveagh’s family home in the Phoenix Park, which now belongs to the Irish State, is a vast country mansion on the edge of the city. The government bought the house and grounds in 1999 from the Guinness family, as a state guesthouse fit for the lodging of plenipotentiaries, premiers, presidents and princes. A landmark clock tower rises to some thirty-seven meters in height. The tower contains an 8,183-litre water tank. A weir was constructed on the Liffey at Strawberry Beds and a mile-long millrace channeled water to turn a turbine, which pumped water to the tower and generated electricity for the house. The lines were taken across the Liffey on an iron bridge specially erected for the task.
The third Earl of Iveagh, Benjamin Guinness, died of cancer in 1992. He was only 55 years of age, and held a unique distinction of having been a member of the Oireachtas, appointed a Senator by Liam Cosgrave, and a member of the House of Lords in Britain. Miranda and Benjamin married in 1963, he was 26 and she was 23, a golden couple to all intents and purposes, with the world at their feet. The Guinness family, however, throughout their different branches, have suffered a lot of tragedies. Indeed, Ben Guinness’s father was killed by a V2 rocket in 1944 while on active service in Belgium when Ben was just seven years old. He inherited the title of 3rd Earl of Iveagh on the death of his grandfather in 1967. Miranda and Benjamin had four children: Edward, now 4th Earl of Iveagh; the Hon Rory Guinness; Lady Emma Guinness Barnard; and Lady Louisa Guinness Ulroth. Miranda and Benjamin divorced in 1984 but remained on good terms; in fact he died in Kensington having returned to her house in London when he became ill.
Lady Miranda was a sensationally beautiful woman with a string of lovers to her bow including a duke, a marquis, an airline tycoon, a racing driver, and a well-known Irish TV personality. She was well known and had close connections in Ireland. Members of Dublin’s most famous brewing dynasty turned out in the capital just last August to celebrate Lady Miranda’s 70th birthday, when she was already ill. Speaking on that occasion, Lady Miranda said: “I have to admit, it’s been a privilege to be part of this family. I’m very much at home in Dublin.” Fittingly the birthday party was held in the Guinness Hop Store in St. James’s Gate Brewery.
The family still have roots and connections in Ireland. Desmond Guinness, who lives in the wonderful Leixlip Castle outside Dublin, is the founder of the Irish Georgian Society and a bulwark against the philistinism in the 60’s and 70’s which tried to destroy Ireland’s Georgian Heritage. Indeed he bought Ireland’s greatest Palladian Mansion, Castletown House at Celbridge, which incredibly was about to be demolished by a builder who (wait for it!) was about to build an estate of mock Georgian semis on the site. Some were built to the left of the entrance gate to serve as a warning of the horrors crass builders and gombeen developers have visited on the Fair Isle. I confess to a small stake in Castletown house for as a 17 year old volunteer I helped mix concrete for the basement floor. One of the other helper’s was Des’s son Patrick who through his mother Mariga is a claimant to the thrones of Lithuania, Monaco and the Kingdom of Jerusalem! He is also the father of the model Jasmine Guinness and more mundanely has followed his father as Sotheby’s representative in Ireland. At the end of the day in Castletown’s (then) dank basement we were both equally covered in grey cement dust.
I bumped into the family vicariously again in the unlikely setting of Al Hamra, the Red City of Marrakech, Morocco. Our guide around the Medina, the walled city, was called Feta, (call me Feta, same as the cheese!) who was very knowledgeable about the area, history and culture and a really interesting personality. I would certainly recommend a guide the first time you go through the Souks and to give you the background to the city and culture. Feta mentioned that he had previously brought this Irish guy called “Ivy” around and he kept sending him his friends who needed a Marrakech guide and he was coming there in 2007 for a family celebration. When he showed me the number, in his mobile, the penny dropped that it was Edward Guinness, The Earl of Iveagh! Feta I hasten to add is a good Muslim and not a Guinness drinker as to believers (Sura 37:47) it is haram or forbidden even though the word “alcohol” comes from the Arabic, al-kuḥl!
Read; Marrakech, The Red City on a Budget
Edward Guinness, the 4th Earl of Iveagh, lives on Britain’s largest arable estate at Elveden in Suffolk though he doesn’t live in the 70-bedroom Elveden Hall but in a more modest house next door, along with his wife, Clare, and two young sons, the eldest of whom, like all first-born Guinness-family males, was named Arthur. Over the past decade Lord Iveagh has helped turn the 22,486-acre estate into the largest working farm in Britain, concentrating on root vegetables but with plenty of ancillary projects, including, fittingly, a micro-brewery in the potting shed, which produces his own Elveden Stout – strangely he can’t label it with the family name!
The Guinness family bought Elveden from the family of Prince Duleep Singh the last Sikh ruler of the Punjab, the land of the five rivers and the bread basket of India. The Maharajah, who was exiled from India, bought the house in 1863 and commissioned John Norton to redesign it in the style of Indian palaces such as those at Lahore or Delhi. After the annexation of the Punjab to British territories, the young 16 year old Duleep Singh was bought to England in 1854. Duleep Singh was a noted sportsman and crack shot and handed over the Koh-I-Noor diamond to Queen Victoria. Maharaja Duleep Singh was the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who was known as the Lion of The Punjab and he succeeded his father aged five. Queen Victoria showered affection upon the turbaned Maharajah, as did the Prince Consort, and he was granted an enormous income of £50,000 pounds a year. The unlikely of alliances saw the start of a relationship of love, loyalty and later hostility. The Maharajah was looked upon as an adopted son of Her Majesty, encouraged mingling with the Royal household, playing with the younger Princes and holiday with them at Osborne House.
However he was still an exile deported to Britain and after being bought to England, Duleep Singh was forced to leave his faith, his Empire, the Golden Throne, the Kohinoor Diamond and to be a spectator to the events that led to the fall of the Sarkar-e-Khalsa (The Sikh Raj). Duleep Singh died in Paris in 1893 but his body was brought back to Elveden and he is buried in the churchyard in a Christian ceremony. He was the first Sikh to settle in Britain and today many Sikhs make a pilgrimage to Elveden or to visit his statue in nearby Thetford, so expect to hear the dulcet tones of Wolverhampton in Suffolk!
There is more evidence of the omnipresence of the Guinness family in an exotic Indian connection and a connection to the Beatle’s famous song “A Day in the Life”, the first tract on their ground breaking “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The first verse was written about the death of Tara Browne, the 21-year-old heir to the Guinness fortune and close friend of Lennon and McCartney, who had crashed his Lotus Élan on 18 December 1966 when he apparently went through a red light at high speed (possibly drunk or using drugs) and hit a truck in his path in Redcliffe Gardens, Earls Court.
See; A Day inthe Life of Abbey Road
Tara was the younger brother of Garech Browne (An t’Onoarch Garech de Brún) who has done much for Irish Music with his Claddagh Records label which he founded. Garech was instantly recognisable around Dublin by his famous pony-tail, wispy beard, tweed suit and dapper appearance and his wonderful old Bentley parked on the pavement outside Peter’s Pub in South William Street.
He would disappear every winter and in the spring invariably arrive “in town” with a new eastern beauty on his arm. He was married in 1981 to the Princess Purna 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. 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 is a wonderful gingerbread gothic building and has a wonderful private setting on its own lake, Lough Tay. Garech has put white sand around his black lake so that it resembles a glass of Guinness! Tara Browne is buried in the grounds.
So with the passing of Miranda Iveagh a real and tangible connection of the Guinness family to Dublin and Ireland has been lost. In better times when Guinness was Irish, the Guinness family amply reciprocated the generosity of Dubliners contributing to Irish institutions and culture and to public welfare through the Iveagh Trust, now the Guinness Trust. In Dublin’s South City Centre you can find many examples of the family’s munificence including Dublin’s best known and finest Victorian public park, St Stephen’s Green, and overlooking it are two fine Georgian Mansions both donated by the Guinness family. One is the world renowned College of Surgeon’s (RCSI) and the other Iveagh House is a splendid urban palazzo housing the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, Iveagh House. Behind Iveagh House is another gift from the family, a “secret garden” the Iveagh Gardens.
A Tale of two Parks
Dublin’s Fair City has undoubtedly given much to the descendants of Arthur Guinness whose St James Gate Brewery gives a distinctive waft of roasted barley to the banks of the River Liffey. Due to the machinations of Ernest Saunders (the only person to be cured from irreversible senile dementia!) in the “Guinness Scandal” in the 1980’s the family connection with the firm is largely a thing of the past and the company has developed into a multi-national alcohol conglomerate named Diageo. However, with its well known Gift of Prophecy (q.v. Czar of Russia), The Skibbereen Eagle foresees a future campaign to repatriate this part of our National Patrimony to Ireland! So let us start the campaign to return Guinness to its roots, to the only place where it makes sense, let’s truly bring home the Guinness!