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The Time of Year to Enjoy the Greenery

March 15, 1987|Zan Thompson

Tuesday is St. Patrick's Day, time again to mark the day of the saint who volunteered to go back to Ireland to civilize the race that was already ancient when Patrick was kidnaped and taken to the Emerald Isle.

It's probably raining in Ireland today, what they call a fine soft day, and the stones in the Yeats tower at Thoor Ballylee on the banks of the small river Cloone are silver in the opalescent light.

At Newport House, Owen has already lighted the fire in the library and handed round a tray of sherry to the people sitting in the bow window. At Longueville House, Kate has just brought someone a plate of hot, fresh scones and a bowl of clotted cream. And she has opened the next to last jar of jam made from the wild strawberries which grow on the river bank and will again as full spring comes around.

It's probably a wild day on the Cliffs of Moher, which raise up out of the savage reach of the Atlantic, rearing like wild horses against the fragile land. At the top of the cliff is O'Brien's Tower, still standing firm and foursquare against winds which can hold a board perpendicular with its wild strength, grown strong from roaring clear across the gray Atlantic.

In County Kerry, there is more than likely mist on the tops of the Caha Mountains, or else the clouds have come down low to have a better look at the snug houses in the valley.

And at Killeen North, on the shores of Bantry Bay, Bonnie Whitehurst has just taken the donkey with the violet leather harness and who wears the name of Gina, into the small stable just her size.

Eighteen miles from Galway City and three miles from the village of Craughwell stands a Georgian mansion called St. Clerans. It takes its name from the nearby old castle of St. Clerans which bears a plaque saying that the property was that of the families founded by Sir Wick of de Burgh in 1308.

In 1985, Richard Rogan, a Los Angeles attorney, and his wife, Mary Goode Rogan, who was a retired judge of the Superior Court, bought St. Clerans. Twenty-five years and 14 trips to Ireland had persuaded them that they wanted to live in Ireland--at least part of the time. With their friends David M. Harney, also an attorney, and his wife, Evelyn, they have refurnished and restored the house. The two wives and the Rogan daughter, Maria, bought the furniture and paintings, carpeting and draperies at auctions and antique shops in Galway, Dublin and the United States.

St. Clerans used to belong to the legendary director and actor John Huston. He spent years there, as did his daughter and son, Anjelica and Tony. Huston maintained a fine stable of hunters. He was master of the hunt with the Galway Blazers. So deep is Huston's love for the green country that he travels on an Irish passport. He kept his illustrious art collection at St. Clerans and when he sold it and came back to America, he brought only his books.

Huston, who is now 80, said recently, "I left Ireland because I couldn't ride the hounds anymore. The first thing I would do is get on the horse's back. In the hunt, you're part of the animal and in another world, taking on obstacles, becoming part of the horse."

The house has a 30-foot drawing room with a Louis XV chandelier and Louis XVI fireplace. Almost all the rooms have antiqued carved marble fireplaces, even some of the bathrooms. But John Huston had an oil-fired central heating system installed for the howling winter nights.

Richard Rogan said, "There are 4,000 daffodils, bluebells, snowdrops, delphinium. A stone bridge crosses a trout stream and leads to the front door. There are 43 acres of fields, streams and forests, some of the trees hundreds of years old.

Adds Rogan: "The Irish do not seem to be in such a rush. They take pride in serving their customers and do not get annoyed when a woman spends an hour or so looking at 100 samples of wallpaper and then buys two rolls for her bathroom."

Of course not. He treasures the conversation of a new friend as much as the profit he will make on the wallpaper.

I wish the Rogans and the Harneys joy of their restored home that must be filled with the theatrical spirits of all the famous artists and actors and world aristocracy who visited when John Huston owned St. Clerans. And surely there will be a misty silver day when the wild cry of a tall bay horse flying by will tell them that the master of the Galway Blazers himself has just gone by.

As Arthur O'Shaughnessy said, "We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams."

Oh, and from me, slainte to all here.

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