Wednesday 29 January 2020

Lady Jennifer Bernard

Daughter of the Fifth Earl of Bandon who ran the family estate in Cork and who was described as a wayward child

THE eldest daughter of the last Earl of Bandon, Lady Jennifer Bernard ran the family's 400-acre estate in Co Cork and it is said held excellent parties in the romantic cellars of the ruined Castle Bernard until it became too dangerous to do so.

Lady Jennifer Bernard, who died on June 3 in the Mercy University Hospital, Cork at the age of 75, was a daughter of the Fifth and last Earl of Bandon, a senior commander in the Royal Air Force, and the late Lady Holcroft.

Lord Bandon married Maybel "Betty" Playfair in Kenya in 1933. Lady Jennifer was born in April, 1935, and a second daughter, Lady Frances, born in February, 1943. The couple divorced after 13 years of marriage, and Lord Bandon subsequently remarried.

After a distinguished career in the RAF, where he was a Wing Commander and was awarded a DSO during the Second World War, Lord Bandon held a number of senior posts in the service.

However he managed to get himself in trouble and on one occasion was publicly criticised by Earl Mountbatten for "hijacking" the tiny Indian Ocean island of Gan as an unofficial RAF base. In 1961 he was appointed Commander of Allied Air Forces in Central Europe and he retired in 1964, returning to his estate in Bandon with his wife and daughters.

Bernard Castle, a Gothic ruin, was one of the largest stately homes in Cork and had been burned on June 21, 1921, by an IRA party led by Sean Hales in reprisal for the burning of local houses. The Fourth Lord Bandon and his house party were allowed to take some personal belongings from the castle before it was set ablaze.

Lord Bandon was kidnapped for three weeks by the IRA, and is said to have played cards with his captors like the character in the Sean O'Faolain short story Guests of a Nation. He didn't suffer the same fate, however, and was released after being treated well.

He died in 1924, still distressed, it is said, about the burning of the house.

His granddaughter Lady Jennifer, was a wayward child, being expelled from seven different schools. She said that before she was 21 she had worked as a car washer, dishwasher and dressmaker. She later worked for the prominent London department store John Lewis.

She then returned to Ireland and, on her father's death in 1979, took over the running of the family estates around Bandon, Co Cork. She is survived by her sister Lady Frances Carter, her brother-in-law Paul, and other family and friends.

Sunday Independent

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