Cork baron's riverside retreat
Glen Mervyn House was designed for entertaining the masses
Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30
Drinking and driving is not at all what it used to be. Time was when you could put away eight or 10 units of alcohol and still hope to get away with piloting the car home, bouncing it off passing traffic along the way.
And if a garda "formed an impression" about you, it was your word against his in court.
On Christmas Day 1954, the Southern Star newspaper reported the case of Sir Richard St John Jefferyes Colthurst, one of the Colthurst baronets of Blarney Castle, who also had an address at Glen Mervyn House in Glanmire.
He was before Cork District Court accused of being drunk in charge of a motor car, which he denied. He denied being drunk at all, even while testifying to having enjoyed an impressive amount of liquid refreshment.
At about 9.15pm, Colthurst was spotted weaving home from the County Club by none other than Garda Sergeant Denis Cleary, who happened to be in the car behind. He saw the defendant narrowly avoid a collision with another car, scatter a group of startled cyclists in all directions and nearly take the paint off a bus.
At length, Cleary stopped the car and arrested the outraged baronet. "How dare you!" he said. "I am Sir Richard Colthurst of Blarney and one-time high Sheriff of Dublin!" At McCurtain Street Garda Station he refused to be examined by a doctor. "Me, drunk?," he exclaimed to the assembled gardaí. "Take me to the County Club and I'll drink you all under the table."
He was not at all inebriated, he told the court. After all, he had only two cocktails before dinner, a half-bottle of wine over his meal and a couple of glasses of port after it.
The judge was not persuaded, though, that sobriety could be in question - he convicted Colthurst and revoked his licence for 12 months. (As it happened, the baronet would die less than two months later at the age of 67.)
He needn't have been out driving at all. Glen Mervyn House, the Glanmire address he gave to the guards, was, and is, a house designed for entertaining at home. At one end is a ballroom, where a baronet could drunkenly waltz away the small hours with the under-butler and the guests in the dining room would be too far away to notice.
In more recent years, a lot of the abundance of space within the walls of Glen Mervyn has been given over to offices, but the selling agents say it should be a fairly simple conversion back to a family home.
If so, you'll have a house-and-a-half at the end of it - more than that, actually, as it's 7,709 sq ft, with the makings of nine bedrooms.
It was built around 1870 on an elevated spot overlooking the Glashaboy River in Glanmire and is reached by passing through an arched entrance gate with twin castellated turrets, and up a precipitous driveway to where the house stands on 1.5ac.
It looks south over the river and those multiple reception rooms are all at the front, taking advantage of both the light and the view, and all are designed to flow into one another.
First, there's the bow-ended kitchen and dining room, formerly just the dining room in the days when servants scurried behind the scenes.
To one side of the kitchen there's a small den or playroom and the opposite wall opens into a living room with an original fireplace. This room used to extend into what's now called a 'show room', although there's now a partition in the way - simple enough to remove.
Some sliding doors there open into the ballroom, which is at the opposite end of the house to the dining room, and also bow-ended. The ballroom measures around 32ft by 25ft and has a fireplace.
The kitchen and living room open into an unusual and inviting verandah at the front of the house, which is some 38ft long and has naturally lovely river views.
Meanwhile, the back of the house - the northern elevation - has a variety of workrooms and offices, including a utility room, kitchenette and several toilets, most of which will have to go if Glen Mervyn is to be a private residence again.
There are two flights of stairs on this side of the house too, leading to the first-floor bedrooms, some of which have also been in use as offices. If all the rooms on the upper floors were to become bedrooms again, the agents suggest there would be nine in total.
But as only two of the bedrooms have ensuites as things stand, it's more likely some of them will become private bathrooms. And there are two more rooms at attic level - former servants' quarters - also with river views.
The grounds include four two-bedroom apartments - there's an option to buy those separately - and there's also a detached garage with planning permission for conversion into two one-bedroom apartments.
Elsewhere, the gardens feature a sandstone patio and a lawn with a sunken water feature.
Glen Mervyn House
Glanmire, Co Cork
Asking price: €1.1m
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Cork (021) 4273041