Goodbye to the full house - acting clan's Brighton Square home could be yours for €900,000
Three generations of Brennan actors bid farewell to No 18
Published 18/03/2016 | 02:30
It's a sad stage that all of us must address at least once, and usually twice, in our lives: when parents and grandparents die and subsequently the family home must be put up for sale.
Not only do we lose the spiritual anchors of our clan but also the central seat of the extended family network - its Sunday gatherings, cross generation meals, the garden games of young cousins and a sense of place for all concerned.
When the matriarch of the Brennan stage dynasty - the actress Daphne Carroll - passed away last year, aged 91, it became time to sell 18 Brighton Square where four different generations of the Brennan family have lived, visited and played over 56 years.
This was where Daphne and her late husband, the actor Denis Brennan, raised five for the stage - Stephen, Barbara, Cathryn, Jane and Paul.
In latter years, the siblings have been joined in their profession by a third generation of Brennan actors, which includes Barbara's daughter Eva Bartley (The Clinic, On Home Ground, Merchant Of Venice) and Stephen's children Sarah (The Life Of Galileo, The Drunkard), Johnny (King Arthur, Tara Road), Kate (Dollhouse and currently The Plough And The Stars at the Abbey). Finally, comes Stephen's son Dylan who, at eight years old, is a radio voiceover artist.
Daphne joined the Abbey, worked with the Gate Theatre and had well-received screen roles (Mrs Bradshaw in Strumpet City). But she will be best remembered for enthralling the nation daily as Mrs Doyle, shrew of the lunchtime soap opera Harbour Hotel. Her stage career underwent a revival late in life, including a Broadway run of Beckett's Endgame in 1995.
Her late husband, Denis, was in Radio Eireann Players and at the Gate and the Abbey. On screen, he featured in Tolka Row and John Ford's 1957 film The Rising Of The Moon.
In an interview some years ago, Stephen (Eat The Peach, The Tudors, The Clinic, The Gate) said: "We're all a combination of the two of them. They were a quare pair - my father was a cigarette-smoking whiskey-drinking freelance actor and my mother was a permanently-employed teetotal non-smoking mother-of-five.
"She was a rock and permanently employed for most of our growing-up years. That's how we all learned to look after ourselves and do a bit of cooking."
Denis and Daphne began renting the 1868 built house in 1960 with four children and one on the way. Daphne bought out the property on her radio earnings in the 1980s. The two-storey over ground-level red-brick has its period features intact, including cornicing work, centre-pieces, an antique kitchen range and two marble fireplaces in accommodation spanning 1,800 sq ft. At entrance level it includes the two main interlinking receptions - the drawing room and the living room as well as a shower room. Upstairs, it has two double bedrooms and a family bathroom, while at ground floor level, there's the kitchen with a huge vintage range as its centre-piece, a third reception room and a utility room. The garden is 150ft long with a lane-accessed garage. Brighton Square residents get access to the central park, which includes three tennis courts. That's the house, but what about the home where the Brennan clan gathered every Sunday and Christmas Day?
Stephen says: "As I hear the birds sing about spring and new beginnings, the garden reminds me of the adventures we had out there in the heavy undergrowth as children; of cricket with Dad and tea with Mum; and the precious generations of tiny sunbathers who spilt lemonade, abused the cat, thrilled to the joys of the garden hose, and swatted honey bees that had foolishly strayed from the roses and the fuchsia."
Barbara (The Tudors, Macbeth, The Clinic, Veronica Guerin) says: "I recall waking up in the mornings, years and years ago, and looking out over legions of trees - the backs of houses on Garville Avenue in the distance. Far away the Church Of The Three Patrons in Rathgar."
Brother Paul, who has acted and directed (I Do Not Like Thee Dr Fell) says: "As children, we staged an adaptation of a 'Toots' story from the Bunty girl's comic, and I performed in a ballet choreographed by Barbara. These took place in the dining room, while the audience (Mum and Dad), sat patiently in the living room. The double doors between the two rooms really came into their own as a stage curtain on these occasions.
"The garden made an excellent showjumping ground and jumps were set up intermittently down the length of the green sward of planks and old bicycle wheels and disused prams. We were both horse and rider as we attempted to emulate the great Tommy Wade on Dundrum, or Seamus Hayes on Goodbye."
For Kate, the best memories are also of childhood garden games. "We played cricket, tennis, hockey and football, but it was where we entered a world of imagination, where we were lost to reality and time that engender the most affection in my imagination."
Her aunt Jane (Brooklyn, Intermission, The Tudors, Fair City, recently A Bog Of Cats at the Abbey) says: "Brighton Square was a wonderful house for children, for sliding down banisters and hide and go seek.
"I remember being put to bed by Mum one night, we had our ritual: we said our prayers and then she read to me, checked under the bed for monsters and then, after she'd gone downstairs, I continued reading the book aloud as usual. Next thing I heard a knock from INSIDE the wardrobe. I froze. There was another one a bit louder, and then another. Screaming hysterically, I jumped out of bed and legged it towards the door.
"As I did so, my brother Stephen burst out of the wardrobe like an avenging demon. He'd been recording me on the cassette recorder he'd got for Christmas. I was apoplectic and mortified, but I must have forgiven him because we subsequently recorded Cinderella in a homemade studio behind the curtains in the dining room on the same little machine.
"It's extremely hard to say goodbye to the house you've grown up in, the place that, no matter where you've lived, you still regard as home." With its unique 56 year pedigree of Irish stage history, No 18 is available for €900,000. Meantime, Stephen has been seeking funding for a production of Inis wth a Brennan-only cast - a new stage beckons.
See the slideshow of the property on www.independent.ie/life/home-garden
18 Brighton Square
Rathgar, Dublin 6
Asking price: €900,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald (01) 4907433