ASPECTS TO CELEBRATE ‘REMARKABLE’ LADY DUFFERIN

CELEBRATING the extraordinary life of ‘The Last Marchioness’ of Bangor’s picturesque Clandeboye Estate is at the heart of a fascinating Aspects Festival event.

Lady Dufferin, who passed away back in October 2020 aged 79, was a painter, an award winning yogurt maker and the entrepreneurial power-house of Clandeboye, who held a deep passion for conservation. 

Harry Mount, the god-son of Lady Dufferin, has edited a moving book with tributes from her Clandeboye family as well as well known names from the art and music worlds including one of Britain’s greatest artists David Hockney and homegrown singer songwriter Van Morrison.

Born into the Guinness family, Lindy Duffern enjoyed a somewhat glittering childhood, with famous American professional golfer Ben Hogan teaching her to play golf, and she enjoyed learning to scuba dive thanks to French filmmaker, author and naval officer Jacque Cousteau.

However all that glitters is not gold and hers became a fractured youth following her parents’ divorce. Harry explained the life of the 17 year-old ‘slightly lost girl’ was to change forever when she struck up a friendship with Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant who showed her how painting could be a way of life.

For the next six decades she would exhibit across the world in Cubist and abstract styles, drawing from the English and Irish Romantic traditions of landscape painting.

However, it was her passion for reinvigorating Clandeboye Estate following the death of her husband, Sheridan Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, that saw her held in such high esteem by local people across the borough.

Explaining his inspiration for bringing the book to life, Harry said he admired her so much.

“When she died in 2020 I just thought she was so terrific. She  was so unusual and so remarkable. There were so many stories when you talk about her, so I thought it would be great to get as many people as I could to talk about her.

“She got on with all generations of people and I just thought she should be captured in some way. Immediately after she died, many people had already sent me some tributes, and I thought I should put together a book.

“So I asked lots of people to contribute who knew her, from the people who worked at Clandeboye or in London. There are also some well known people such as David Hockney and Van Morrison. I tried to get as varied an amount of people as possible to reflect the fact that she was an extraordinary woman on so many different levels.”

Fondly recalling his god-mother and her glamorous connections, Harry said: “She never showed off about these things, you had to ask her. I played golf with her quite a lot and she had this fantastic, elegant, slow swing and I like to think it was taught to her by Ben Hogan.”

However he explained she may not have had the happiest of childhoods. “Sometimes I asked her about her glamorous life and she said that it wasn’t a particularly happy childhood as her parents divorced and she shuttled between Britain and Florida where her dad was.

“So it may have seemed glamorous but she wasn’t that happy. I think she reacted against this and was always very determined to do useful things.”

It was after her husband’s death, that Harry said Lady Dufferin’s determination came to the fore. “When her husband sadly died in 1989 he was only aged 49 and he had talked to her about Clandeboye. He said he would quite understand if she wanted to sell it but he would love it if she stayed on.

“With all due respect to him she completed revolutionised it (Clandeboye), set up the yoghurt factory, much increased the prizewinning herd of cows, added several gardens and got the Conservation Volunteers into the Walled Garden. Her mind was extraordinary.”

Harry said that his god-mother discovered her love of art thanks to the interest shown in her by artist Duncan Grant. “She was a slightly lost 17 year-old and she was at a bonfire night party and started chatting to a man who turned out to be Duncan Grant. They struck up a great friendship as well as him teaching her painting. He was an instrumental figure in her life and they went on many painting trips.”

During the difficult days of the Covid-19 health crisis, he said Lady Dufferin embraced her art in her happiest of places, Clandeboye Estate.

“If you stayed at Clandeboye she would be doing lots of work but she always carved out time to go painting,” said Harry. “By the time of her death, in the first year of lockdown, she had done 150 paintings, she was prolific. When she could have gone to London she chose to stay in Clandeboye, she really was at her happiest there.”

He was delighted to be able to include tributes to his god-mother from her well known friends David Hockney and Van Morrision amongst many others. “It was great to get David Hockney’s insight into her and how she understood what he was doing as an artist,” said Harry.

“Van Morrison showed great affection to her and came to the banqueting hall (at Clandeboye) and rehearsed and had several birthday parties.”

He said Lady Dufferin was never intimidated by anyone’s celebrity status. “I would have been in awe,” said Harry, “but she wouldn’t have felt that. She would have been on the level with anyone of any age of any background and would have been very perceptive.”

Harry is now looking forward to celebrating the life of Lady Dufferin at the Aspects event saying: “I hope that we can celebrate her completely unusual self, she was extremely good at making people have a good time.”