The former owner of Dublin’s Polo Restaurant celebrity haunt was once a prominent figure in the Sunday newspaper gossip columns
Oliver Caffrey, whose funeral takes place in the south of France today, was a socialite, polo player and one-time owner of the Furness Hall stately home near Naas, Co Kildare.
He was best known as a stylish and elegant “man about town” in the 1990s, when he owned the restaurant Polo One, off Molesworth Street in Dublin city centre.
It was the haunt of celebrities and bon vivants enthralled by Mr Caffrey’s larger-than-life personality.
Surrounded by this high-living group of friends, he was also a patron of the Horseshoe Bar in the Shelbourne Hotel and a prominent figure in the Sunday newspaper gossip columns.
“He had a great personality, he was always elegantly tailored in that polo image long before it was popular,” one friend said. “He was a great entertainer and knew his fine wines.”
As a polo player he was a mainstay of the Polo Club in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, and through his contacts he combined his love of the equine sport with a flair for attracting other businessmen and socialites.
In his restaurant or on a Sunday afternoon in the Polo Club, the writer Jilly Cooper, author of Riders, and ‘Bubbles’ Rothermere would mix with the likes of Craig McKinney, Michael Herbst and Larry O’Mahony and the Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland.
He also entertained lavishly at the opulently furnished Furness Hall, regarded as one of Ireland’s best minor stately homes, which had been in the Neville family for generations before he acquired it.
Born in the Curragh, Co Kildare, in 1944, he died at his home in Eze-sur-Mer in the south of France at the age of 78, his family announced.
He has been described as “an Irish legend” and was “best known for the lavish and bountiful Sunday lunch get-togethers that he hosted with his wife Yona”, wrote one commentator.
As with many of his social engagements, lunch often lasted until dinner and then long into the night with talk, music and entertainment.
He is survived by his wife Yona, an accomplished artist, and children Aaron, Daniel, James, Edward and Antonia.
His funeral takes place in the village of Beaulieu-sur-Mer today. Mr Caffrey had a home on the coast outside Nice for many years and the area is a haunt of wealthy Irish families, members of U2 and their entourages, and motor racing guru Eddie Jordan among others.
When he held his 50th birthday party there, guests included members of the polo set, Bono, financier Derek Quinlan, businessman Gerry Purcell, concert promoter Denis Desmond and his wife Caroline.
In the late 1990s Mr Caffrey sold Polo One and Furness Hall, which was bought by a property developer for £3.65m, with the house changing hands for only the third time in its 280-year-old history. It was later acquired by a Guinness trust.
In many ways it was the end of an era, as the social whirl associated with life in Dublin and events such as the Horse Show and the Polo Club were coming to an end, as were the colourful cast of characters that had attended the gatherings.
After selling his business interests and home he moved permanently to France.