Architecture Design People

Lavender’s Blue + Mizen Head West Cork

Sweetie Darling

Charles Haughey, thrice Taoiseach, and his lover girl Terry Keane were well known patrons of the arts in the closing years of the 20th century. Rather more obscurely, Charlie was once shipwrecked in heavy fog off Mizen Head. “We were sailing our former boat Taurima back to Howth at the end of September 1985 after she had spent most of the summer around the Blaskets. As night fell, a thick dense fog came down reducing visibility to zero. Due to a malfunction of our radar system, Taurima went on to the rocks at Mizen Head… She went down very quickly – in about five minutes – but we had time to send out a May Day and launch the life raft and small dinghy which was kept aboard.”

Things went from the their worst to not so bad. “Our May Day was picked up by the Shannon Marine Rescue and Coordination Centre, Valentia Radio and the lightkeepers in the Mizen Lighthouse. The rescue services went into operation immediately and both the Valentia and Baltimore Lifeboats were launched… I shall always remember the warm friendly atmosphere aboard the lifeboat; her crew were just marvellous. Listening to their good natured banter, repartee and wit, it was difficult to remember that they all have their services voluntarily and had been dragged from their homes or their socialising in the early hours of Sunday morning and put to sea.”

This story is recorded in a 1994 framed copy of the Sunday Independent on the wall of the meteorological lodge at Mizen Head. On the edge of the world, followers of the Shipping Forecast will know Mizen Head falls under Fastnet. The other sea areas around Ireland in an anticlockwise fashion are Shannon, Rockall, Malin and Irish Sea. Frank Keohane opens his 2020 epic book The Buildings of Ireland: Cork City and County, “Cork is the southernmost and largest county in Ireland…” This is the Very Wild Atlantic Way. Marine mammal spotting – for those strong enough to hold onto binoculars in the ever prevailing winds – includes Risso’s Dolphins (March to May), Minke Whales (March to November), Basking Sharks (April to June), Common Dolphins (April to December), Humpback Whales (May to December), Atlantic Sunfish (June to August) and Fin Whales (June to December). Stormzy. Stormby. Stormy.

Sharon Townshend, châtelaine of The Castle at Castletownshend, a few kilometres west of Mizen Head, describes it well, “At Ireland’s most southwesterly point, cross the iconic Mizen Bridge to the signal station and enjoy the spectacular sea views out to the Fastnet Lighthouse. The Mizen Head visitor centre with a café and gift shop is positioned hight on a cliff and exhibits all sorts of maritime paraphernalia, the station keeper’s living quarters as well as an amazing photographic collage of the wildlife and underwater life.”

Architecture People Town Houses

Origin Gallery Dublin + Noelle Campbell-Sharp

Change of Art

Quite simply there’s nothing as mad as a well spent afternoon in Dublin before or during or after The Races. Sometimes one brings the madness; the party will always follow. Several of her famous original racy set including a former Taoiseach and his sweetie lover have long since kicked their proverbial buckets but Noelle Campbell-Sharp is well and truly alive and very much kicking ass. The Charlie Haughey era is now banked, vaulted and sealed history. Today, Noelle captures the essential present face of a hugely successful Dublin art gallery and wildly far flung County Kerry artists’ retreat. Her face is exquisitely framed by sharp green glasses and fiery red hair complete with a yellow flame curl. Aged 77 now, she would still pass for Vivienne Westwood’s hotter more fun sister. Not many people, back in the day blonde, could outshine Jerry Hall. “I remember that was quite a  party!” She’s getting ready for the latest private view in her relocated Origin Gallery. “The key is attracting some of the brightest artists in the world.” Like its forerunner the gallery is behind a Georgian façade in the Irish capital. That’s where the similarity ends. Abruptly. Her new gallery is… drummer boy roll for understatement… calmer. Wedgwood blue ceiling, deep navy carpets, virginal white walls.

As for the original original Origin… oh yes, time to talk about Noelle’s very steamy love affair with Napoleon. Perched above the piano nobile gallery, her just below the nursery floor eaves library was once a full blown homage to the homme. His heraldic birds and heroic bees were sewn into the carpet and painted onto the shutters while spreadeagled eagles boldly crouched on the bookcase columns, spreading their wings ever wider in an ever increasing ever encroaching clockwise span swooping over easy prey… “pray tell us more!”. A double barrelled stripy fabric billowed across the ceiling like the last sails of the French General’s ship. Among the miscellanea on display was an original drawing of the Imperial Arms of France. “What any French museum would give to get their hands on all this!” envied Karl Lagerfeld when he clapped eyes on her loot. A jib door in the trompe l’oeil wall slid through to a very sweet en suite decorated with the naughtiest mural in Dublin if not Ireland. It was enough to make sailors blush, although seemingly not the Napoleonic soldiers engaged in lots of action.

“I’ve totally fallen out with Napoleon. When I was a child I discovered tea chests in an attic brimming with his letters, jewels and toy soldiers. They sparked off my obsession. Actually I still sleep in an attic! I like to surround myself with antiquarian books. I can’t pass them by. William Butler Yeats, Empire Period, Irish folklore … alright maybe I am still just a bit in love…” Noelle is soldiering on with her autobiography. Five chapters completed so far. She counts Karl, Yves Saint Laurent and David Bailey among the many entries in her not so little black book; Robert Maxwell definitely doesn’t appear: he owed her £10 million before he toppled over portside; and with rock band manager, press baroness, socialite, conservationist, arts patron and gallerist filling her résumé, presumably there’s enough material for at least five more chapters?

Noelle’s forever dashing. An ostrich feathered fully plumed hat and sapphire laden museum quality choker necklace was once her fashion du jour. Tomorrow she’s off to Cill Rialaig, the abandoned rural village she transformed into an artists’ retreat with the help of celebrated architect Alfred Cochrane. “It’s on the last road in Ireland. New York is caviar compared to escaping to Kerry!” That doesn’t stop artists coming from far and wide – Argentina, Italy, Russia and so on. “There’s a selection process, but really it’s down to whoever spins the best yarn.” The Emerald Isle’s most recognisable Rolls pulls up on the street outside Origin Gallery. Ms Campbell-Sharp has left the building. Somewhere, across the city, a mad party is about to begin before or during or after The Races.