Lissadell and the Gore-Booth family
Sir, – Your article about the abortive attempt by the State to purchase Lissadell 30 years ago should be seen against the circumstances prevailing at that time (“State rejected offer to buy Lissadell House for £500,000”, State Papers, December 29th).
I had been granted possession of the estate under an order of the president of the High Court in place of the unhappy period of my uncle Michael’s wardship dating back to the 1940s. He had lived his adult life as a patient in a mental hospital in York and I was pursuing a career in London, but I had accepted the obligation to provide as necessary for his upkeep under the terms of the court order. I had also undertaken to continue to let my own father and aunt live out their days at Lissadell.
Sir Michael died in 1987 and that provided the first opportunity to examine possible future alternatives to the thankless task of maintaining a large, neglected but architecturally and historically important building.
I had always been personally sympathetic to the periodic overtures from Ministers and others, putting out feelers with a view to a purchase by the State, but I had my own family obligations and I found the task of stabilising the structure of Lissadell House and reinstating the demesne over the next 15 years rewarding both in conservation terms and of course, eventually, to my own financial advantage.
The Walsh family has subsequently completed the task of guaranteeing a future for the house and estate, and the taxpayer – if not the Co Sligo ratepayer – has not had to contribute a penny.
Despite all the ups and downs of this saga, I venture to suggest that the final outcome fully justifies the decisions that were made by the State both in 1987 and later, in 2003; and – if I may say so – by me. – Yours, etc,