'Gentleman' auctioneer and company director known as the king of country house sales
Published 29/05/2011 | 05:00
Hugh Willoughby Hamilton who died on May 14 was the former chairman of the Dublin auctioneering firm of Hamilton & Hamilton, the "last of the gentleman estate agents" according to colleagues.
Born in Dublin in August, 1937 he contracted polio as a boy and always walked with a slight limp afterwards, but he never spoke about it or let it bother him, even though it did trouble him in later life.
Educated at the Catholic public school Downside in England he returned to Ireland to join the Molesworth Street auctioneering firm founded by his father Willoughby 'The Rat' Hamilton.
The firm was the established leader in 'country house' sales and Hugh Hamilton continued the tradition, specialising in selling country estates and their contents. The firm also specialised in the sale of fine art and antiques.
"Hugh was in his element in the garden of a great house with the gavel in his hand, 'knocking' everything from very valuable paintings to the bric-a-brac contents of the cellars and the attic" said one of his colleagues. His interest and knowledge of fine art was emphasised at the eulogy given at his funeral Mass.
He was very much the driving force of the firm and as the king of the country house sales he handled the sale of great Irish houses such as Abbey Leix for Viscount de Vesci, Luttrellestown for the Plunkett family, Humewood Castle in Co Wicklow, Staffan House (K Club) which he sold to both Patrick Gallagher and Michael Smurfit, Stackallen in Co Meath and many more.
His last major coup was the sale of Farmleigh, the Dublin residence of the Earl of Iveagh, to the Irish Government for €29.2m in 1999.
Hugh Hamilton lived in a fine house on Leopardstown Road, Foxrock, Co Dublin, with his wife Clare, sons Rupert and David and daughters Linda and Vanessa.
His firm Hamilton & Hamilton later merged with Osborne King & Megran, which was based across Molesworth Street and became Hamilton Osborne King or HOK (now Savills).
Hugh Hamilton was a larger-than-life character in the colourful auctioneering business and could be "heard coming from 50 yards" say friends. He retired from the firm in 1999.
Hugh Hamilton was also a director of Independent Newspapers and Clark Delahunt & Co for many years and numbered many of Dublin's best-known businessmen among his friends and clients.
Socially he enjoyed golf and tennis and was convivial company. His funeral Mass took place in the Church of the Assumption, Booterstown Avenue, on Wednesday, May 18. He was buried privately afterwards.