Adare earl and disability rights campaigner


LORD DUNRAVEN:THE SEVENTH Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl has died at the age of 71 at his home in Kilgobbin, Co Limerick, and with him die the titles of one of those rare families of true Gaelic origin in the Irish peerage.

His ancestors, the O’Quins, were chiefs of the Clan Hy Ifearnan in Co Clare who were driven from there by the O’Briens. Thady Quin acquired the lands at Adare towards the end of the 17th century.

Thady Dunraven was educated at Ludgrove School in England and at Le Rosey in Switzerland. In the summer of 1956, he was one of the 500 people, mostly children, who contracted polio during the Cork epidemic. By the time the symptoms appeared, he had returned to school in Switzerland so he was able to benefit from the Swiss medical expertise of the disease, but he was in a wheelchair for the rest of this life.

On his return to Ireland, he lived as normal a social life of a young man as possible, but he did notice few other wheelchair users were to be seen at public events.

He was aware he could afford to get what he needed with regard to special equipment and full-time care, but when visiting members of the Polio Fellowship in Limerick, he realised that most people in wheelchairs were looked after by their families who were often elderly parents or were family members who were out at work all day. There was no wheelchair access to public places and no help to get it within the home.

The Wheelchair Association, which Lord Dunraven had joined and became its president in 1971, found from a survey in 1976 that 35 per cent of their wheelchair users were confined to their homes. Once there was a film show for them at Adare Manor and for three members, this was the first film they had ever seen because the families had difficulty physically getting them out of the house and also because the cinemas were inaccessible to them.

As president of the wheelchair association until 1991, he campaigned for more access to public places about which no one had taken much interest. There were no official figures as to the number of handicapped in Ireland or knowledge of their needs.

He articulated to government and local authorities the wants and needs of the association and its members. Partly as a result of his efforts, during his term of office there were enormous changes in society and in legislation in awareness and care of the handicapped.

When his father died in 1965, he inherited the titles and Adare Manor, the remarkable Tudor-revival-style house built by the second earl.

The house contains a 132ft long and 30ft high hall which the wife of the second earl had described: “Even if only one person is seated at the ample fireplace, the room is so comfortable, one would not wish it in any way changed or diminished.” There is an inscription on the house proclaiming: “This goodly house has been built without borrowing, selling or leaving debt.”

This would have been an achievement except that coal had just been found on the Wyndham estates in south Wales. The second earl had married the heiress of the Wyndhams and the Quins had added her name to their own and taken their title Dunraven from her estates.

Thady Dunraven sold Adare Manor in 1984 to an American businessman who has turned it into a five-star hotel where Bill Clinton has stayed.

The family continued to live nearby and have always been deeply involved in Adare and worked with the county council to develop many public facilities in this heritage town.

Lord Dunraven gave, among other things, what is now the public park to the council and one of the very last things he did was to attend the opening of the Village Hall after it had been restored.

He was also life president of the Limerick Coursing Club. For almost a hundred years, the family had provided the running grounds at Cloumanna for the Irish Cup. It was moved to a new venue in 2000, but he continued his interest in the sport and his nomination, Castle Pines, won the Irish Cup in 2005.

In 1969, he married Geraldine, the daughter of Air Cmdr Gerard McAleer. She survives him with their daughter, Ana.

Thady Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin, 7th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl: born September 29th, 1939; died March 25th, 2011