Video: Television producer Bill Hughes’ party pad on the market for €575k
Shanrath East, Castledermot Road, Athy, Co Kildare
Television producer and radio personality, Bill Hughes, and two of his seven brothers, Mel and Paul, are sitting in the enormous, AGA-cosy kitchen of Shanrath East, reminiscing. It’s the end of an era, as their French chateau-style family home is on the market following the death of their mother, Mary (known as “Ma” to everyone, not just her children).
“The house was designed by Liam Hennessy of de Blacam and Meagher and constructed in 1983,” says Bill, who is the “elected mouthpiece” of the family. “Our parents had bought the land years before and finally got around to building it when most of us had left home, so it became a weekend house for us — party central. We’d all come home from college or wherever we were working and hang out here for the weekend. My pal Vincent Hanley used to call it South Fork, because Dallas was all the rage at the time and the house was so lavish compared to anything else that was around.”
Approached via a long avenue edged with Canadian maples, and with its double-height kitchen/dining room, large conservatory, six bedrooms, sauna room, double garage and barbecue terrace, on grounds extending to 6.5 acres, it’s easy to understand the appeal of Shanrath East, which has 325 sqm of living space. As Bill’s late father, Joseph, was wheelchair-bound for much of the time that he lived here, there is disabled access throughout the ground floor where the master bedroom suite and adjoining carer’s bedroom (currently used as a home office) are located.
The brothers have fond memories of Saturday card nights and Sunday dinners in the kitchen, with a roast prepared by Joseph, followed by Ma’s excellent apple tarts.
“Ma was a great baker,” says Bill. “She’d make brown soda in the oven and soda farls on the top of the AGA. The smell would get you out of bed in the morning.”
There are 13 siblings altogether in the Hughes family and until the move to Shanrath East they lived “over the shop” in the centre of Athy at 51 Leinster Street, in a building dating from 1784 that had been the town bakery before being converted into a shop and house.
“The family business was Hughes’ General Drapers,” says Bill. “My parents opened it in 1949. It only closed when my mother retired in 2000. Ma selected all the clothes herself, making the trip to Dublin each Thursday to buy stock for the shop with her money rolled up inside her bra for safety.”
“Ma” Hughes was well-known in Athy for running a tight ship. “She copped on early to the whole notion of people taking a few dresses home to try on, ‘on appro’,” recalls Bill. “If there was a wedding on, she’d be there in the back of the church with her notebook keeping track of who was wearing what. She’d make eye contact and say ‘so glad you decided to take it!’ And if someone came in on a Monday morning to return a dress saying that it wasn’t suitable she’d say: ‘It looked well enough on you in the golf club on Saturday night!’. Her spies were everywhere.”
Shanrath East is crying out to be taken over by another family now. Located within walking distance of Athy, which has a choice of good schools and sports clubs, a new leisure centre with swimming pool, and several supermarkets, the house is close but not too close to the M9, making Newland’s Cross a 40-minute drive away and Dublin Airport less than an hour away.
The 6.5 acres could be put to good use by anyone interested in keeping a few ponies, and the land is surrounded by farmland that will never be built on.
Athy is located where the Grand Canal meets the River Barrow and canoeing and fishing are both popular activities in the area. The town is home to arts, walking and photography clubs. A triathlon held each summer attracts 3,500 entrants including, last year, racing driver Jenson Button.
Bill is something of a celebrity in his own right, thanks to his weekly “Essential Songs” slot on George Hook’s show on Newstalk each Thursday. As well as his broadcasting career, with his colleagues in Mind The Gap Films, Bill is the producer of the popular Lords and Ladles show on RTE, which has just been commissioned for a second series and is being promoted as a format internationally. He is currently in the studio on production of Eureka, a new comedy science panel show for RTE 2 starring Neil Delamere, and will soon be commencing production on a new music production showcasing the anthems of the civil rights era for PBS in America.
Sunday Indo Business