AT Patrick Scott's elegant Baggot Lane mews, the champagne flowed and the applause rang out as the artist and his partner Eric Pearce, 57, celebrated their civil union amongst a small group of family and friends.
Both men wore suits and corsage for the occasion. "It was an incredible day," Pearce told the Sunday Independent last week.
"We got dressed and went down and got married. We had some lemon drizzle cake and champagne with some friends. It wasn't a large party. Pat is 92 now – large parties aren't his thing."
Pearce, a renowned furniture-maker, and Scott, one of the nation's best-known artists, have known each other for more than three decades. They met at a party in Dublin when Pearce was 20. At that point Scott, a product of the faded Cork gentry, was one of the country's best-known modernist artists, having worked with the architect Michael Scott (no relation) on Busaras. His paintings were held in collections around the world, including in the Guggenheim museum in New York.
For the young Eric Pearce he was fascinating. "I saw him across this crowded room," he remembers. "I just went up and talked to him and it went on from there. He became a mentor, a friend and a companion."
The Irish Examiner reported last week that Scott and Pearce have been an item for 37 years. However, for most of Scott's adult life he lived with another artist, the late Pat McLarnon – a man who was once described by theatre owner Michael Mac Liammoir as the best-looking man he had ever seen. In an interview with the Sunday Independent in 2005, Scott described McLarnon as the love of his life and a painting of McLarnon's cat, Mrs Mouse, looked down on guests as they celebrated the civil union this week.
"I knew Pat (McLarnon) very well," Pearce told me. "Pat and Pat – the two Pats we called them – met when they were in their early 20s. They were partners. I was very much part of their life. Pat McLarnon had 10 years of ill health before he died and I was very present there during that. Pat McLarnon is not going to be airbrushed out of Pat's history."
Patrick Scott's mentoring of Eric Pearce paid off and soon the younger man earned renown as a craftsman in his own right. In the early Nineties he was commissioned to design and carve out sycamore furniture for Government Buildings. "It only happened to be under Charles Haughey's reign," Pearce recalled. "The suite I designed is in the Taoiseach's meeting room and there is another dining table in the Taoiseach's department also.
"I asked Pat to fill the hole in the middle of the table and he worked on a piece for that. We've worked on many projects where his pieces and my pieces come together."
Pearce was also married and has three daughters by his wife, whom he divorced in the mid-Nineties. He described his wife and children as "very relaxed and open minded" and although they did not attend the civil union, they will be at another party to commemorate the union in England next month.
The two men are currently working on a major retrospective of Pat's work, which will take place in February of next year at the Visual Centre for contemporary Art in Carlow and the Irish Museum Of Modern Art in Dublin.
Six years ago, Scott was made a Saoi of Aosdana, the highest honour that the body can bestow on an artist.
Civil unions may be a well-accepted part of Irish society but to some there is still a whiff of stigma around May-December relationships. Perhaps this is why there were some eyebrows raised about the three-and-a-half decade age gap between Eric and Pat. "How you view it depends on how broadminded you are," Eric said. "Does age matter when there's a meeting of minds? Our relationship has been intensely private for many years. We wanted to just mark it and there is a great sense of completeness about it. There never was a gap in terms of frame of reference between myself and Pat."
For now the couple are focused on their one-day honeymoon at Pat's cottage in Wicklow and on the upcoming collaborations. And to those who would cast aspersions on their unconventional matrimony Eric has a simple message: "F**k the begrudgers!"