Saturday 17 March 2018

Woman who once 'owned 70 Georgian houses in Dublin' leaves €8m in will

Marie-Therese Underwood
Marie-Therese Underwood
An example of a Georgian building Photo: Damien Eagers Newsdesk Newsdesk

The bohemian property owner Marie-Therese Underwood, who, along with her husband Ivor, reputedly owned 70 Georgian houses in Dublin's inner city back in the 1990s, has left €7,893,281 in her will.

The elegant Ms Underwood, who wore a distinctive turban, was rumoured to have been a former dancer with The Royalettes troupe at Dublin's old Theatre Royal.

She lived in Glengariffe House in Dalkey, Co Dublin, and drove a 1950s cream and maroon vintage Wolseley well into the present century. When her husband died in 2006, he left an estate in Ireland and England valued at €69m, but when duties and taxes were paid, the net value came to €33,952,852. His estate included a castle in England, €7m in shares and property in Dublin valued at €27m.

Southampton-born Ivor Basil Underwood left his entire fortune to Marie-Therese, but she "disclaimed and renounced" it in favour of their only child, Lise.

The couple were members of the Irish Georgian Society in the 1960s, a time when whole sections of the old red-bricked streetscape was being torn down by developers. The couple bought run-down Georgian houses all over the north city, including large and neglected properties in Henrietta Street, North Great Georges Street, Eccles Street, Mountjoy Square and in Kildare Street and Baggot Street in the south inner city. Nobody else (apart from developers) wanted them and many were bought cheaply. But the portfolio was huge and required major remedial works that the couple didn't have to resources to complete.

That led to friction with the Georgian Society, the City Council and adjoining householders like Senator David Norris.

They tended to rent cheaply, often to artists, writers and eccentrics in search of inexpensive accommodation where they were also expected to fulfil a caretaker's role. It was an ad hoc arrangement that proved quite dysfunctional. The couple were habitues of Dublin's jazz scene and tended to guard their privacy.

However, it was recognised by some that in buying this portfolio they saved many Georgian houses from demolition and could be said to have contributed much to the architectural preservation of the city at a time when it was neither popular nor profitable.

Ms Underwood died on March 12 and is survived by her daughter, two sisters and a brother.

Sunday Independent

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