Since this article was published, Beaulieu House and Gardens are now owned by Cara Konig. A range of activities and events are listed on the official website beaulieuhouse.ie.
Lavender’s Blue is as ever the brilliant violet coated edition of a universal fact and, as such, it rivets mankind, bringing nice and pretty events. At once, venerable member of the landed gentry, 10th generation descendent of Sir Henry Tichborne, Gabriel de Freitas, châtelaine of Beaulieu House north of Dublin (a precious 17th century artisan mannerist gem in stone). Better known as the vivacious racing car driver Gabriel Konig, she talks cars, cares, careers and country houses.
“I’m Sidney Waddington’s daughter and inherited this house in 1997. Our family has lived here since 1650 and we now run the house for visitors and events throughout the year. But the tourist season is the only time that we’re actually open to the public. It was my mother’s house. It was my mother’s family house, not my father’s, and she ran it with my help really from 1990 when my father died. Then when she died six years later I came back here to live because you cannot run this place from elsewhere. You have to be here and you have to, you know, be part of it.
The house appears to be a great attraction from the tourist industry point of view. So much of its charm is the fact that it’s a lived in home. It’s not a museum. And that is frightfully important. It’s one of the things that practically everybody remarks on but most especially visitors from abroad. The Americans particularly. They love that. They know it’s not a mausoleum.
We have wonderful rooms, reception rooms, which we can use for events today so we are actually very fortunate. So many houses don’t have the rooms that we have that we can encompass so many people to seat for dinner or lunch and, eh, the hall will take two or three hundred, you know, if it’s cleared for a party.
It is hard work. We love it. I love it. And my partner loves it too. And I think what we like about it is we do so many different things. We’re not just stuck doing one job. You go from one thing to another thing to another thing.
I also in my earlier life raced cars. Not a normal, not a usual occupation for a woman but there are a few who have raced very successfully and I had a wonderful few years when I raced all over the world and in later years I raced what are called historic cars for fun. My Blydenstein Vauxhall HC Viva with a unique Lotus engine is now in Beaulieu Car Museum in the former stables next to the house. That was a helluva car.
I didn’t race in Ireland at all actually because we all had to leave. There wasn’t any racing here. Mondello hadn’t been built. So there were only the road races which weren’t that many and I think Kirkistown was probably going and Bishopscourt in the North. But again they weren’t, you know, fully developed and Bishopscourt was then still being used as a back up air base too.
So we all had to go to England and I never had the right car to come here until I had the Camaro and I brought it over for the Phoenix Park in 1972 and then as I was over here I went to Kirkistown. And the car was very quick. It was ideal on the fast circuits, particularly the ones in the North. It was quick enough at Mondello too.
We hope that we will be able to get the house to survive and still be able to live in it. It’s a very happy home and I think people feel that. Yeah.”
Beaulieu and cars clearly go together. Such evocation. Nearby is the coastal village of Termonfeckin. Only in Ireland. Family names include Nesbit (her father); Joceline (her aunt); Penderel (her sister); Patience (her grandmother). And then there’s the angelic Gabriel. A short while after this interview, she passed away peacefully in her sleep, aged 71. Gabriel is survived by her partner Malcolm Clark (another great racer in his day), her daughter Cara, and her grandchildren Rollo and Sidney. Her funeral was held at the heavenly little church looked down upon by the tall sashes of Beaulieu House staring out below burnt orange brick bands, whispering walls, history calls, high above the green banks of the Boyne.