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Saturday 3 December 2016

Hunting horn sounds lament for horse-loving countess

Published 27/11/2016 | 02:30

Marchioness Conyngham, far right, with relatives at the funeral of Eileen, Countess of Mount Charles at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Trim Photo: Tony Gavin
Marchioness Conyngham, far right, with relatives at the funeral of Eileen, Countess of Mount Charles at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Trim Photo: Tony Gavin

The shrill notes of a hunting horn echoed through the porch of St Patrick's Cathedral, Trim, yesterday when the unadorned coffin of Eileen, Countess of Mount Charles, was borne from the church.

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She was carried by her two sons, Lord Simon and Lord Patrick Conyngham, with their elder brother, the 8th Marquess Conyngham, better known as Henry Mount Charles, following.

Eileen was the daughter of Captain Charles Wren Newsam better known as 'Con' and Eileen Ussher. The Wren part of the name comes from Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St Paul's Cathedral, London, from whom the Newsams descended.

She grew up in Beau Park, across the river from Slane Castle. According to her nephew Nicholas Nicholson, 'Baby' as she was nicknamed, was a tomboy who developed a lifelong love of horses and dogs. The first pet she bought was a donkey - named Henry.

Her father was the founder and managing director of Navan Carpets.

Eileen spent the war years in London as a nurse and later joined the Army Catering Corps and made her way to Berlin at the end of the war where a photograph was taken of her standing in the smouldering ruins of the Reichstag.

Back home she learned of "this interesting man across the river" (Boyne) and in April, 1950 became the first of the Seventh Marquess's four wives, moving to Slane Castle and bearing him three sons, Henry, Simon and Patrick. The Marquess, who succeeded to his Irish estates in 1974, left Ireland to live in the Isle of Man because of the Coalition government's wealth tax. Her nephew told the congregation that "she never really got over the break-up of her marriage", but found consolation in farming and on the hunting field. The couple divorced in 1970.

One of her claims to fame was appearing in Captain Lightfoot filmed in Ireland in 1955, starring Rock Hudson.

While out on the hunting field one day in 1970, she spotted Galtrim House between Summerhill and Dunsany described as "the finest of Francis Johnston's small houses". She bought it on the spot and lived there for the rest of her life.

Eileen had a keen eye for horses and bred Last Suspect, owned by Anne Duchess of Westminster, which won the Aintree Grand National in 1985 at 50/1. She died aged 92 at Knightsbridge Nursing Home, near Trim, and was buried across the field from her home in Galtrim cemetery.

Sunday Independent

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