Copyright 2004 Financial Times Information
Global News Wire - Europe Intelligence Wire
Copyright 2004 Irish Independent
May 3, 2004
HEADLINE: INSIDE DOLLY'S PLAYHOUSE
pool table? Lyrics of 'Zombie' in stained glass? Country house expert Marianne
Heron visits Dolores O'Riordan's mansion, on the market for
Euro 3m, to see the changing face of rural style
Whether it's a Becksian bling palace or an old-fashioned landed gentry
pile, the same rule applies: the bigger the mansion the louder it talks.
When it comes to embellishing their palatial pads,
however, Ireland's newly wealthy dosome things rather differently than their
musty, tweedy predecessors. Take down those old masters and hang an Andy Warhol
on the wall instead. Clear the deer park and bringin a few Vietnamese
"It is a truth universally
acknowledged that a gentleman in possession of a fortune mustbe in want of a
wife," wrote Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice . Today her observation could be
amended to: "A star in possession of a fortune must be in want ofan estate."
Pride still features in the new plot. Just as Mr Darcy's
reputation was enhanced by the magnificence of Pemberly, so stars buy fine
properties as status symbols and, as theascendancy once did, they put their own
distinctive stamp on them.
And as for prejudice, well,
it's no longer a question of class but something far more divisive. Taste.
Hoofer Michael Flatley, who ostentatiously splashed out
Euro 30 million on listed statelymansion Castle Hyde, is a gleaming, freshly
oiled example of the new-moneycashocracy.
singer Dolores O'Riordan and husband Don Burton are another.
Theyavoided the planning pitfalls Flatley tapdanced into, but still bought a
stableload of status when they acquired Riversfield Stud five years ago.
Situated just a few miles from where Dolores grew up, in
the limestone-rich area where the horse is king, the property counts as its
neighbours JP McManus's prestigious Martinstown Stud and Mount Coote Stud, to
which Colin Powell traces his ancestral roots.
Riversfield, which boasts 150 acres of fine pasture, a gallop, an
orchard, a stableyardwith 18 loose boxes, minus thoroughbreds, and the
Ballyhoura Mountains as a gorgeousbackdrop, is now on the market for Euro 3
Dolores and Don want to live nearer to Dublin
so they can jet off to his native Canada that bit quicker.
The brochure from joint agents HOK and Knight Frank informs us that
"the property has been the subject of a major refurbishment by present owners,
being thoughtfully designedfor modern day living, allowing for excellent
Plus ca change. Tullynally Castle was
remodelled by successive generations ofPackenhams until it became the largest
castellated mansion in Ireland, changing fromcastle to mansion and then back to
Gothicised castle again.
The fact that Riversfield's
original house was run down gave Dolly and Don carte blancheto remodel the
property on a scale that would have made a gout-stricken 18th centurygrandee
convulse with glee.
There is a crucial difference,
though, in spending priorities. Two centuries ago the budgetmight have been
blown on plasterwork and parkland. At Chez Dollydon, however, there was major
spending on entertainment and technology. In fact the whole house is geared to
entertainment, both for adults and children.
bars, for instance, three in all. Nestling beside the dining room is a
well-stockedcurvilinear bar in Canadian oak. It has a stained glass pelmet
adorned with images of a grizzly bear and leaping salmon.
The second bar is in the pizza room, beside the large, specially cooled
wine cellar with its well-filled racks and cigar cabinet. The third is an
outdoor bar, circular and thatched and situated in the entertainment area, which
also features a barbequeue, a bandstand and a play castle for the children.
Some aspects of the property, such as the panelled library
with an eclectic collection ofbooks ranging from Dorling Kindersley to bound
volumes of a guide to English law(ahem!), haven't changed ... at least not too
The billiard room, which would have been regarded
as an essential entertainmentaccessory for a typical Edwardian gentleman, is
still there -- although not in any form saidEdwardian gent would have
Curiously, the walls are painted baize
green, yet the baize covering the pool table is a shocking pink. A pint-sized
Harley Davidson sits in a corner, as though awaiting apint-sized Gay Byrne to
mount it, while yet more Canadian animals cavort in the stained glass
The stained glass window in the staircase
hall, once a favourite device for displaying the family crest or depicting some
act of heroism (at Kilruddery, for example, a Brabazon ancestor is depicted as
William the Conqueror's standard bearer), has survived.
Dolores, however, has opted to emblazon her window with the lyrics of
her song 'Zombie' ... "It's the same old theme since 1916. In your head, in your
head they'restill fighting, With their tanks and their bombs, And their bombs
and their guns..."
William the Conquerer would have run
a mile from that.
Once a upon a time, if you wanted to
exhibit your taste, you simply had to have one or the other of the following: an
art collection, such as the one housed in the purpose-builtdrawing room at
Newbridge House, Donabate, or a folly, like the extraordinary sham-ruin 'The
Jealous Wall', built by Lord Belfield at Belvedere, Co Westmeath.
But who needs art or follies when you can have your own
purpose-built recording studiowith roll-up doors, an office and kitchens?
And surely a display of Cranberries gold discs is more
dazzling to behold than the spoilsof the Grand Tour, no?
In centuries past, stables, like the magnificent ones designed by James
Gandon atCarrigglas Manor, fulfilled the same purpose as garages full of flash
cars do today.
At Riversfield there is a garage
courtyard with three double garages. Mind you, there isn'ta jeep to be seen,
other than the brightly coloured kiddie models.
thing aspiring upwardly mobile ancestors did not have was technology (unless
youcount the convenience of prototype central heating and telegraph systems
installed at Tullynally Castle for the Packenhams by inventor Richard Lovell
The technology at Riversfield is
impressive; 16 security cameras (one of them located in the nursery) with a
control centre have taken the place of watchful eyes at the gate lodge. There is
a massive water filtration system for both mains and well water (we wouldn't
want dirty water soiling those vocal chords).
large plant room to house the commercial-sized De Dietrich boiler. The
entirehouse is wired for sound, with a control centre straight out of Star Wars
and ducting cleverly hidden inside hollowed-out beams in the music room.
Bears are a recurring theme. There's another one in the
music room - a stuffed polar bear that gazes down upon a polar bear rug.
Once-living animals from the Canadian wilderness seem to
rule the roost. A moosehead surveys the collection of Waterford Glass in a
cabinet built into the gleaming Canadian Oak panelling of the dining room.
If hunting and shooting once kept gentry fit, then the
contemporary equivalent is a gym and swim regime. Both are available on site at
Riversfield. Two rooms filled with exercisemachines are housed in a special
complex with dressing room attached, and a heatedindoor pool with solarium and
Today's cashocracy have a couple of
opportunities to spend their money on things that their forerunners didn't.
Bathrooms didn't feature at all until the 1870s and who cared what the kitchen
was like when the servants did the cooking?
Riversfield, the showpiece tailor-made kitchen with black marble floor,
graniteworktops, cherry wood cabinets and top of the range Gaggenau appliances
and glass dolphins etched in the windows probably cost as much as your average
The en suite master bedroom has something
of the eclat excited by the Earl of Belmore's extravagant Regency entrance hall
at Castle Coole near Enniskillen, complete with classical peat-burning
With marble floors, a jacuzzi with a fireplace
above it, a Hollywood-style dressing table and a huge walk-in closet, the master
offers deluxe pampering.
If there's anything here that
could be described as a collection, it's Dolores's clothes,which take up a
bedroom of their very own. By the standards of today's Princesses ofBling, this
is hardly an over-the-top indulgence - and nothing compared to theacquisitive
habits of Lord Berehaven, the original shopaholic, who sent home European
artefacts by the shipload and enlarged Bantry House to accommodate them.
Historically, children were seen but not heard. You'd be
hard pressed to hear Dolly and Don's kids, for they seem to have a mini-world to
A community of soft toys resides under
their beds; their bathroom has a kid-sized loo anda corner jacuzzi, and their
pets include ponies, a wolfhound and an old English sheepdog.
The children's playhouse is a converted stable ... something that would
surely havefrightened the horses in the old days.