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Sunday 18 August 2019

Rich pickings for the well-heeled after estate heir has spring clean

Shane Hickey

?2.6m garage sale of goodies proves that all 'clutter' is not equal

IT was probably the most expensive jumble sale in history.

A total of ?2.6m for a load of old "clutter" isn't a bad day's work. And there's still more to come.

Deep in the Wicklow Mountains yesterday, the Bentleys and BMWs queued for a spot on the front lawn as Guinness heir, Garech Browne, auctioned off what he memorably described as "clutter" in the run-up to the sale of items from his lavish Gothic pile on Luggala Estate.

"There was just too much stuff here, some of it too large, and I was living with the contents of two houses, here and Woodtown," Mr Browne (66) had told inquirers over the weekend.

Woodtown was sold in 1996, and the contents had been kept in storage until now. "I just had too much furniture," he said.

What he didn't mention was the fact that his self-proclaimed clutter was worth a fortune - ?2.6m, to be precise, after the auctioneer's hammer finally fell silent yesterday.


The Wombles of Wimbledon Common would have had a field day, but then again they couldn't have afforded anything.

The gates of the Guinness estate were opened by Mr Browne for the sale of 400 items of wonderful art and antiques.

These included works by renowned painter, Louis le Brocquy, and an early Georgian long-case clock, which was made for the Speaker in the House of Commons of the old Irish Parliament.

The misty, worsening weather did nothing to stop groups of art and antique fans filling the makeshift car park outside the Luggala estate at the bottom of the Wicklow valley.

Three specially erected tents, complete with gold chandeliers, played host to the crowd of about 80 people who turned up for what was dubbed one of the most important auctions this year.

And while most decided to cover up in wool and tweed, there were some who defied the muddied ground and the lashing rain, and decided heels and furs were the only way to go.

It was the first time an auction had been held at the estate, which has become synonymous as an artistic retreat. Sales to the floor and the constant telephone customers topped ?2.6m by day's end.

But this is likely to go even higher as two of the major prizes, the historic clock and le Brocquy's painting 'Heads and Hands', were withdrawn after failing to meet their reserve.

The biggest sale of the 400 lots was an 18th Century hardwood cabinet on a stand which went for ?200,000. This was followed by an Irish mahogany side table which sold for ?180,000. Four drawings of Dublin by Joseph Tudor, dating from 1753, went for ?100,000.

However, the item which everyone was looking at - the long case clock - was withdrawn at ?420,000 after failing to hit the reserve price, despite aggressive initial bidding from the floor.

The master of Slane, Lord Henry Mountcharles, stood at the back for most of the auction, holding his cards close to his chest as to what he was going to bid on. "Interesting" was all he offered to describe Garech's gilded goodies.

But Lord Henry's plans all became clear when he sprung to the front and started waving his right hand in pursuit of a watercolour of Slane Castle.

And, indeed, the deal was done after a short bidding battle, with the happy lord leaving with the painting by George Barret Jnr after parting with ?12,000.

He was one of the few identifiable bidders at the auction rooms, with phone bids making up a large number of the offers.

Other notable items which were sold on the day were a mahogany library bookcase (?70,000), a pair of fossilised antlers of an Irish deer (?22,000) and an 18th Century architect's table for ?72,000.

A portable commode went for ?1,100. "You never know when you might need one of these," remarked auctioneer George Mealy.

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