5 Orwell Park, Rathgar, Dublin 6 Asking price: €2.75m Agent: Sherry Fitzgerald (01) 4907433
Newspaper reports five years ago announced that the missing former banker William MacHutchison of 5 Orwell Park in Dublin 6, had been found at last. William had disappeared 99 years previously.
The last time anyone had seen Lieutenant William Frederick MacHutchison alive, he had just been shot in the head during a battle at Morcourt on March 27, 1918 at the height of the German Spring Offensive on the Western Front.
He was apparently still able to walk and was last observed heading towards a dressing station at nearby Lamotte. William was never seen again by anyone who could identify him.
Six days previously the Germans had launched their last big offensive of the Great War, moving out from St Quentin towards Amiens.
Using artillery to pulverise the Allied front lines, and then pushing their infantry into the resulting bedlam, they advanced almost 40 miles in a week; over the same ground that hosted 1916’s famously bloody Battle of the Somme.
MacHutchison had been among the troops continually smashed and pushed back until they at last regrouped at Villers Bretonneaux and made a stand.
This halted the German advance, wore them down and finally they were driven back. Villers Bretonneaux would be the high tide mark of the German Great War effort and the beginning of its end. The failed offensive would account for a half a million casualties.
And it was in the cemetery at Villers Bretonneaux, where the British and French halted the Germans, that his family found William at last in 2017.
Research by British historian Tom Tulloch Marshall and advances in DNA science identified him in a grave marked “Unknown Dublin Fusilier.”
His descendants flew in from Belfast to a recommemoration service in that year at which the local mayor of the town officiated.
It’s a long way from the elegant family home at affluent Orwell Park in Rathgar and a street that, in many ways, itself has marked the high tide mark of the British Empire in Dublin.
With nationalists already beginning to dominate in the city centre and moving into D3, D4, D7 and D9, the city’s unionists made D6 their neighbourhood of choice in the Edwardian era.
Orwell Park, along with Palmerston Road, were the top addresses then in an area which would elect a Unionist representative until 1930. In Ireland’s last years of Empire, much like Rhodesia in the 1960s and 1970s, there had been an influx of English, Scots and colonials to fill positions in Dublin.
So the roll call of residents in the 1911 census for Orwell Park represented Presbyterians, Church of Ireland, Church of England and Quakers, many born in the colonies. William’s family was Presbyterian.
His father John MacHutchison was a Scottish-born oil merchant and his mother Jane was a Townly from Co Down.
No4 next door had been home to civil servant turned author, Bram Stoker. At No 3 just before the war we find Mary Isabella Trevor, English and born in India.
At No16 is Raj-born Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Ridout (No16) and his British South African-born wife Maude.
There’s civil servant Arthur Quekett (No 13), Quaker laundry entrepreneur Robert Benson (No 11) and Colonel Fred Smerdon (No10), all from England, the latter living here with his Raj-born children Edgar and Nino.
Young William attended St Andrew’s College in Dublin and by 1911 at 17, he is a banker’s clerk with the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC).
In 1915, aged 21 he enlists in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers with many of his friends from the area, joining the 7th battalion in Egypt to fight the Turks. Later he saw action in Salonika, then Malta and the Struma Valley in the Balkans, where he was shot battling Bulgarians and sent home with his wounds.
A year later, in November 1917, he rejoined his battalion in France just before that last big German push. Had he lasted a few more months, he would have survived the war.
Two factors rapidly reduced Rathgar’s then thriving unionist community. The rise of nationalism in earnest from 1916 and the War of Independence caused many to simply leave the country.
But the Great War was also a big factor because it decimated the younger generation. Volunteers from the start, they served longest and therefore sustained inordinately heavy casualties.
Ever hopeful that William would come home, John and Jane MacHutchison would wait three years before finally posting his death notice.
Today he and his lost comrades are commemorated on the roll of honour at Christ Church in Rathgar Village, one of the most beautiful Presbyterian churches in Ireland.
Designed to impress, the houses at Orwell Park have more recently been home to the likes of Bill Whelan (Riverdance) and Michael Colgan (former director of the Gate theatre).
They were designed at the height of Arts and Crafts in Ireland, and would have been ultra-modern in their day. Likely by Carville or Meade, the Arts and Crafts-inspired finish, flourishes and attention to detail make them as sought after then as now.
Recently No5 was spruced up with a view to selling it. The current owners have had it rewired, replumbed (underfloor heating), extended it and redid the roof. It has a C BER rating and could be higher through sealing its open fireplaces.
But the job of showing off its arts and crafts interior to the optimum was handed to local interior and garden designer Cormac Rowell of Rowell Design.
Initially studying economics and architecture, he instead “osmosed interior design” from his mother Bronagh Newell, well known from her Harriet’s House outlets.
“When you’re furnishing a big Victorian or Edwardian house like this, you have to go with warm colours. None of your greys. In this case, in the receptions we used the red period drapes as the reference.
“The scalloped pelmet has a vaguely Indian flavour so we touched these off with oranges, yellows, pinks and some wall mounted Indian inspired tapestry.
“For houses this big, mirrors are great and it’s essential not to repeat all the hackneyed pieces you see elsewhere. Instead of overused navy, we went for Farrow & Ball Inchyra Blue which is a deep Teal. In the garden we have two patios and I used vines, lemon trees and olive trees and the latter two are fruiting right now.”
Accommodation includes two large interlinking receptions, the front with a bay window.
At the heart of the home is a its expansive open plan kitchen, living and dining space which overlooks the garden.
There’s also a utility room, guest WC, a shower room.
Upstairs are four double bedrooms all of which are en suite, the master running the full width of the house. There’s vehicular side access with secure park high standard. Sherry FitzGerald seeks €2.75m.
Meantime, advances in DNA sciences ensure William’s lost comrades continue to ‘come home.’ Only last week, 29-year-old second lieutenant Osmund Wordsworth was recommemorated in France.