Sunday 17 November 2019

Danielle on roads and the Lyons

Lyons demesne
Lyons demesne
Wild and witty: Cathal Ryan
The pool at Stacumny House
The Roads fragrance collection

Tony Ryan was an extraordinary person - but what was he like as a grandfather? "He was a very sweet grandfather, a very stylish man, very charming. He instilled a great example. More than anything, he was very lovely," Danielle says.

If you are looking for anecdotes about the original self-made man, this grandchild will not provide them. Nor are their any stories about Cathal, her wild and witty father. The stories, it turns out, come in bottled form in the shape of Clockwork, a fragrance she devised as "an ode to the stylish men in my family". It has top notes of nutmeg, black pepper, ground lemon and bergamot peel.

She pages through a covetable Roads brochure. "They were extremely stylish in their fashion, their taste, their interiors. It was almost feminine, their interest. They were very good at that. As much as you'd imagine an Italian man might be."

I wonder what her father might have worn. "Just very clean cut, very subtle, but very elegant. The elegance was there in everything, even in the gentleness, the way they spoke. I was going, how do I create that in a fragrance? I want precision, I want the depth, I want the strength that it came across as. That was what Clockwork was." She flicks to another.

"Cloud 9 I actually did about my kids. It was about this point in my life where family is gentle and everything is not necessarily glamorous, but it's about Sunday mornings and duvets and hugs and gentleness."

The Ryan's estates

In 1996 Tony Ryan paid IR£3.5m to businessman Michael Smurfit for the dilapidated Lyons Demesne near Celbridge, Co. Kildare, and set about restoring a Georgian neoclassical trophy. The house had a long history with its share of controversy - Daniel O'Connell fatally wounded a man in a duel there.

Set on 600 acres of plush forest, lake and formal gardens, for the previous 30 years it had been an outpost of UCD's Agricultural Science faculty, divided into laboratories and left to neglect. Ryan is estimated to have spent IR£80m on the revamp of the 10-bedroomed house, adding a cinema, gymnasium, billiards room, aircraft landing pad and heritage pub. As with his son Cathal's seat at Stacumny a swimming pool was also installed.

Tony Ryan micro-managed the restoration, hiring technical teams, artisans and designers. Mural cycles by the Italian landscape painter Gaspare Gabrielli were saved, and the palace was furnished in a patriotic flurry of Irish-made antique purchases.

He also financed the restoration of the surrounding 18th century cut-stone Village at Lyons, to comprise a cookery school, café, shops, houses and apartments. Richard Corrigan was enlisted as chef at The Mill, a restaurant fit for kings. It closed within two years. Following Tony's death, in 2009 the Ryan family put the house up for sale for €80m - the highest price ever sought for an Irish home. That dropped to €50m and later €30m. Last year a deal with an anonymous Irish buyer fell through and it was withdrawn from sale.

Both Estate and Village are now back on the market, with Knight Frank and Colliers International handling the sale. According to representatives, "there is interest coming from America, Canada, the UK, and a smattering from China." Tony Ryan called Lyons Demesne his "treasure", and wanted it "restored to the people." "Places like this have roots that run deep," he wrote, "Not only into the cultural strata that informed their design and creation over the centuries, but also into the life of the community that continues to enjoy its landscape." Undoubtedly his vision has some way to go.

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