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Fond nights of lavish lawn parties at Luggala

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Garech a Brun in his home at Luggala, Co Wicklow, once the scene of parties for poets, musicians, cerebral types and politicians. The house has been put up for sale for €28m. Photo: David Conachy

Garech a Brun in his home at Luggala, Co Wicklow, once the scene of parties for poets, musicians, cerebral types and politicians. The house has been put up for sale for €28m. Photo: David Conachy

Garech a Brun in his home at Luggala, Co Wicklow, once the scene of parties for poets, musicians, cerebral types and politicians. The house has been put up for sale for €28m. Photo: David Conachy

Last week, one of Wicklow's most distinguished residents put his home up for sale and a small part of whimsical, romantic Ireland died.

Luggala, the pearl in Wicklow's oyster and just 40km south of Dublin, will be sold to anyone with €28m to spare.

Its colourful custodian, the ponytailed Hon Garech a Brun, a Guinness heir who has lived in Luggala all his life, is moving out and taking his three-piece tweed suits and memories with him.

For those who haven't had the pleasure, the 77-year-old dapper co-founder of Claddagh Records (which he started with psychiatrist Ivor Browne) is to Luggala what a soft creamy head is to a pint of the black stuff his great-great-great grandfather Arthur Guinness created.

"I just get on with people," he said when I visited him in Luggala before he decided to sell up.

As he walked me around the seven-bedroomed Gothic-inspired 18th-century castelet on the shores of Lough Tay, then drinking "some bitters" before lunch while I drank a bottle of champagne, I looked at the photographs lining the beflowered walls and wished I had been there for one of the legendary parties, which have become the stuff of lore.

Garech's mother, the beautiful and mischievous Oonagh Guinness (1910-1995), was gifted the dwelling, which sits on 5,000 acres, by her father Ernest Guinness in 1937. Oonagh was once described as having "a heart like a hotel" and for decades, hosted a coterie of poets, cerebral types, politicians, locals and anyone with a propensity for partying. She allegedly entertained in her dressing gown and furs on the lawn as Luggala was engulfed in flames in 1956.

When the estate was handed to Garech in 1970, he successfully took over the reins as a most generous host.

Both Garech, who prefers to be referred to as Garech a Brun rather than Browne, and his mother Oonagh weren't exclusive, and anyone was welcome, so long as they were funny and free-spirited, regardless of colour or creed.

The Beatles took acid there, Anjelica Huston lived next door, Kofi Annan went for walks, my ordinary citizen auntie was there, and Bono called Luggala his 'inspiration'.

Lucian Freud, Brendan Behan and Seamus Heaney all enjoyed Luggala's extravagant hospitality.

A friend who visited as a child in the 1970s spoke of seeing naked bodies pressed up against the downstairs windows in the middle of the day and bowls of white powder around the place. Another friend said he saw a ghost wandering the corridors.

"I don't really remember," Garech said of the hedonistic days as he walked me to his brother Tara's childhood room. "I'm not good with things like that."

Tara, a glamorous, precocious socialite, died in 1966 at the wheel of his Lotus sports car in Chelsea, London, just months after his 21st birthday party in Luggala, for which 200 people, including John Paul Getty and members of the Beatles, were flown in.

John Lennon, a friend of Tara's, read about the accident in the Daily Mail and based the opening lyrics of A Day In The Life on him.

Garech, who also lost a sister when she was only 14, is quoted as saying: "Nothing has made up for Tara's death".

Many years later, a festival called 'A Day In The Life' was meant to take place at Luggala in 2008, but it was cancelled last minute. "It rained for two days. I've never seen so much water. What could I do?" he said. "But then it cleared up and we could have had the concert," he added with a shrug.

"They were perfectly lovely people when they came to visit afterwards though," he said of the German electronic music band Kraftwerk, who, like Garech, live under the radar.

Speaking of Michael Jackson, who stayed for six weeks in 2006, the dapper Guinness heir said Jackson "couldn't have been more charming".

"Though he f***ed up his face, I felt like I was talking to a mask and couldn't see the person inside. We got an SOS that he needed somewhere to live, so I felt sorry for him," he said.

But rather than bang on about celebrity visits, Garech was more interested in talking about the great talents of Frederick May, an Irish composer with terrible hearing difficulties, with whom he recorded.

A champion of Irish culture and language, Garech was integral to the founding of The Chieftains in the early 1960s amongst other bands.

I tried to contact him but he is currently on his travels. He spends most of his time in India as he is married to Princess Harshad Purna Devi of Morvi.

Garech doesn't do phones or computers, so getting hold of him would be like trying to dial the past.

Whoever buys Luggala will have a difficult task to try to bring the same magic to it as did Garech and his family.

It wouldn't suit the modern celebrity, because you go back in time, to when people conversed, made music and encouraged each other's exuberance away from the digital world.

It's a very special place, and anyone who visited will carry a piece of Luggala in their hearts forever.

Sunday Independent