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Playwright Hugh Leonard leaves €1.5m estate

The playwright Hugh Leonard has left €1. 5 million in his will.

Leonard, who wrote the acclaimed Da and worked extensively on stage, television and as a columnist in the Sunday Independent, died on February 12 last.

At one stage, Leonard lost most of his savings, which were embezzled by his accountant, the late Russell Murphy.

Although it meant he had to resume a heavy workload he saw the irony of the situation -- especially as he had given the eulogy at Murphy's funeral -- not realising that the accountant had plundered his savings to live an extravagant lifestyle.

Adopted shortly after his birth in 1926, Hugh Leonard grew up in Dalkey, Co Dublin, where his father Nicholas Keyes was a gardener to a local family. Dalkey was to remain his home for the rest of his life and the setting for most of his plays and prose.

His mother was a woman called Annie Byrne and, although it is believed that she tried to make contact with him later in life, they never met.

He was married to Paule Jacquet from 1955 to her death and they had one daughter, Danielle.

About a year after Paule's death, he met Kathy Hayes, an American divorcee, on a cruise ship to South Africa. They later surprised friends when they married at a civil ceremony in Dublin.

She later said: "He was alone and just starting to get used to being alone and starting to like it . . . until I came along and changed everything." They married in 2000, seven years after the death of his wife.

"She changed my life very well and I changed hers, but I don't know if it was for the better that I changed hers . . . I think I became a much better person with Kathy. I think she did that much," he told a documentary maker.

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However, in the months before his death Kathy had moved out of his apartment in Pilot View, Dalkey, and returned to the United States.

She said she was going on a holiday -- but after a couple of weeks he noticed that most of her belongings were also gone and when he phoned her she revealed that she did not intend to return.

Hugh Leonard continued writing until weeks before his death, contributed the Curmudgeon column which he had been writing in various guises for the paper for almost 30 years.

He dealt with his frailty with good humour and honesty and was well-known over the years for literary feuds that he conducted in public.

According to documents lodged in the Probate Office last week Hugh Leonard, whose real name was John Joseph Keyes Byrne, left an estate which came to €1,581,050 in total.

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