Powerscourt Estate owner and retired doctor

 

Michael Slazenger:MICHAEL Slazenger, who has died aged 69, was the chairman and chief executive of the Powerscourt Estates Limited and a former anaesthetist. He managed the 4,000 acre estate which his father Ralph purchased in 1961 after selling the Slazenger sports goods company to Dunlop.

Of Silesian origin, Ralph Slazenger took his family to Ireland from England in 1953 to avoid UK wealth taxes, and lived firstly at Durrow Abbey, Co Offaly. After purchasing Powerscourt House, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, he built an airfield on the estate and his wife Gwendoline set about restoring the house and the near derelict gardens. They planned to open the grounds to the public.

Disaster struck in November 1974 when the house was almost completely destroyed by a fire. The east wing was saved but the fire destroyed priceless paintings, furniture and ornaments collected over many generations.

Ralph Slazenger and his wife left Ireland to live in the Isle of Man after they were held up by an armed gang on the grounds of the estate as they returned home from a night out in 1982.

Their children, headed by Michael, took over the day-to-day running of the family enterprise which included a property firm as well as the Powerscourt estate.

Michael Slazenger was born in England in 1941, the eldest of five children, and spent his early years in Buckinghamshire where the family farmed. His 21st birthday party in 1962 was one of the highlights of that year’s Irish social calendar. Three hundred guests, wearing period costumes and masks, and led by the US ambassador Grant Stockdale, gathered at Powerscourt for the five-hour bash.

The Irish Times reported that some of the guests arrived in the six horse-drawn cabs which then served Dublin; another travelled on horseback from Bray. The British bandleader Tommy Kinsman flew in with members of his band to provide the music. Milo O’Shea and magician Albert Le Bas provided additional entertainment.

Michael Slazenger later qualified as a doctor, specialising as an anaesthetist, and became a consultant at St Michael’s Hospital, Dún Laoghaire.

Interested in aviation, he became an instructor at the Dublin Gliding Club. In 1964 he was a member of the first team to represent Ireland at the world gliding championships in England; he represented Ireland again in 1965.

In 1964 he became a naturalised Irish citizen; “love for Ireland” prompted him to apply for citizenship.

At Dublin Circuit Court in 1990 he and his brother John were awarded a total of £6,000 damages against Aer Rianta and an airport police officer, for false arrest, false imprisonment and assault. This followed an incident in 1986 when he and two friends were driven by his brother to Dublin airport to catch a flight.

In 1991 he was party to a settlement in a High Court case when an award of £950,000 was made to a man who was severely brain-damaged and confined to a wheelchair after being hospitalised following a road traffic collision. He was one of two doctors, along with the other driver in the collision, against whom the man’s wife took an action for damages. The settlement was without admission of liability.

For most of the 1990s he was involved in a process of regeneration which began with the re-roofing of Powerscourt House and the restoration of the windows as they were before the fire.

Shops, a terrace café and other visitor facilities are now located in the house which was officially reopened by President Mary Robinson in 1997.

This followed the opening of a golf course in 1996, which hosted the Smurfit Irish PGA Championship in 1998 and the Irish Seniors’ Open in 2001. A second course has since been added.

Michael Slazenger enjoyed playing tennis and golf, and he held an air pilot’s licence. His single-engine two-seater Falco aircraft crashed as it attempted to land at Powerscourt last week, causing his death and that of a passenger, Noel Whitney.

He got married in 1963 to Noreen Smith, who with their daughters Marianne, Sarah and Liz, survives him.


Michael Slazenger: born January 3rd, 1941; died April 12th, 2010