Friday 22 November 2019

Ralph Riegel: Baron finds repose in his spiritual rural home

The funeral of the 11th Baron Carbery was reminiscent of the heyday of the Anglo-Irish gentry, writes Ralph Riegel

IT has been said that members of the Anglo-Irish gentry are only truly at home on a ferry halfway across the Irish Sea -- loving both countries deeply, but feeling fully part of neither.

However, the 11th Baron Carbery, Peter Ralfe Harrington Evans-Freke, 92, had no such qualms and always regarded Ireland, and particularly his beloved west Cork, as his spiritual home.

Some months ago, when the 92-year-old was in failing health in the UK, he asked one of his sons when was he going back home to Castlefreke, where his family's crypt is maintained.

The 11th Baron was laid to rest last Tuesday in Castlefreke Chapel -- not far from his family's Rathbarry Castle seat -- in a ceremony that turned the clock back almost

'In a family of remarkably colourful characters, the 11th Baron stood out'

200 years to the heyday of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy.

His coffin was born from Rathbarry to Castlefreke Chapel on a glass-panelled hearse drawn by two black, dressed horses. The funeral attendants wore top hats and black frock coats.

The Baron was given a Tridentine Latin Requiem Mass, sung by monks from both Ireland and the UK.

All three of his sons -- Steven, Michael and John -- delivered readings at the funeral Mass.

The funeral attendance of over 200 people included a remarkable gathering of more than 30 members of the Evans-Freke family from across Ireland, the UK, Spain, China and the United States.

In a family of remarkably colourful characters, the 11th Baron stood out.

A quintessential Anglo-Irish gentleman, he told friends he only truly felt at home in west Cork -- and had friends in virtually all parts of the sprawling old Carbery barony.

His son, John Evans-Freke, said that while his father was devoted to restoring the family to its 19th Century status, he never lost his love for people. "He was kind to everyone. He had time for everyone. He enjoyed life to the full. He enjoyed a good story and he was an incurable romantic.

"His huge infectious laugh will always be remembered. He was enormously talented, gifted with an inquiring mind," he said.

The 11th Baron was always concerned for his family's legacy -- and, his son John added, always wished he could have done more of it. The restoration of Rathbarry was one of his major achievements. His son Steven has taken on that ambition with a zeal that was his father's pride and joy.

Baron Carbery -- a decorated World War II veteran -- died at the Twickenham home in London where he had lived for the past decade.

However, he had specifically asked to be buried in Castlefreke Chapel in his family's 300-year-old crypt.

The 92-year-old was brought up in west Cork in what was described as "an unconventional" childhood -- and remained an ardent supporter of agricultural shows, historical and cultural exhibitions as well as industrial heritage in the area.

He had a lifelong fascination with Clonakilty's old barite mine at Ladyswell which was opened in the early 19th Century.

He was also an ardent admirer of historical writing -- and had devoted himself to family research.

The Baron -- whose title now passes to his eldest son, Michael Peter Evans-Freke -- was interred beside his first wife, Joyzelle Carbery, who died in 2006.

Her funeral, from Rathbarry Church to Castlefreke Chapel, was the first involving the family crypt for 154 years.

In 2007, Baron Carbery remarried at the age of 86. The mourners were led last week by his second wife, Lady Elisabeth Carbery.

The Carbery title was created in 1715 after the 1st Baron had backed King William and Queen Mary in the power struggle with King James which ended at the Battle of the Boyne.

The Freke element of the family had moved to Cork in the 1500s from the Hampshire area of England.

In the 1820s, the 6th Baron Carbery owned almost 14,000 acres of land in Cork and the family were at the peak of their considerable powers.

Since then, the Evans-Freke family have remained amongst the highest-profile members of the old Irish aristocracy.

The late Baron's father, Josh 'JC' Evans-Freke, was one of the pioneers of Irish aviation. He was famed for taking his aircraft, a Morane parasol monoplane, around agricultural shows in the years before World War I.

In 1914 he performed the first 'loop the loop' aerobatic display in Ireland at Clonakilty Show -- thereafter being dubbed "The Flying Lord Carbery". He later moved to Africa to run a coffee plantation.

The first Baron Carbery served in the House of Commons and from 1824 to 1894 members of the family sat in the House of Lords.

Another ancestor, Percy Evans-Freke, was a noted soldier and and military historian. He rose to become a Lieutenant-Colonel in Britain's Grenadier Guards Regiment.

Peter Ralfe Harrington Evans-Freke was interred in the family crypt at Castlefreke Chapel last Tuesday after laying in repose at the 17th Century Rathbarry Castle.

He is survived by his second wife, Lady Elisabeth Carbery, his three sons and two daughters, 14 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

Sunday Independent

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