Scarlett for you: A Ballina encounter with Vivien Leigh

Family Fortunes: The young lady was extraordinarily attractive, chatty and nice

Vivien Leigh in 1937. Photograph: Sasha/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Vivien Leigh in 1937. Photograph: Sasha/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

 

Ballina, Co Mayo, on the famous river Moy, is often referred to as the salmon capital of Ireland. I would say, as a prejudiced benefactor of the fruits of this river, that the town is not just living on its own merits, it is the compelling recipient of the Moy and people who arrive there as a result of what it has to offer.

I have been fishing this river for more than years now. I remember catching my first trout and my first salmon. This leads up to my experiences of meeting famous people who arrived from near and far to fish.

Dr Hartley, I believe, was a Harley Street specialist. He arrived every year to stay at Mount Falcon Castle, and he among others, including gentry, was hosted by Major Aldridge and his dashing wife, Constance. Mr Hartley was a very special fisherman. In long winter evenings in London, he thought through his plans for his next visit to the Moy and tied his own flies, some of which he gifted to me.

This young lady was extraordinarily attractive, full of chat and a nice person

One year, when I was about 10 or so, he arrived with the usual gifts and after three to four days there I met him for our informal chat. On that morning I remember him informing me and his favourite boatman, Ambrose Grehan, that his daughter was arriving the following morning. He arrived at 10am and his daughter came about 10 minutes later. I was overwhelmed by the car she was driving. A Riley with long bonnet, headlights on the front mudguards and a long runner board connecting to the rear. Absolutely shining black with brown real-leather seating and a high-gloss walnut dash. I thought this was breath-taking, until the lady driver opened the door and alighted. My goodness, I thought: the car was beautiful, but now I was looking at real beauty.

Dad (Dr Hartley) was beaming with admiration for his daughter, and in retrospect I should not have been surprised. This young lady was extraordinarily attractive, full of chat and a nice person. Her black hair and porcelain face set up her absolute beauty. She wore a crisp white blouse with a red kerchief knotted around her neck, black jodphurs and shiny black knee-length boots.

Dr Hartley asked in my direction and asked “Well, Desmond, do you know who my daughter is?” I immediately replied that I did not know her name but I knew who she was. He then asked me who I thought she was and I said “Gone with the Wind”. He said, “You have it in one.” That was my one and only encounter with Vivien Leigh. I don’t wonder that she was selected from a total of 1,400 ladies to play Scarlett O’Hara.

We would love to receive your family memories, anecdotes, traditions, mishaps and triumphs. Email 400 words and a relevant photograph to familyfortunes@irishtimes.com. A fee will be paid

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