John Huston, Irishman
John Huston in County Galway
John Huston visited Ireland several times and living for short periods in various places from Wicklow to Connemara. He was passionate about horses and hunting and while out with the Galway Blazers Hunt, in the late 1950s, he came across St. Clerans, a Georgian Manor House, near Athenry and fell in love with it. After buying the lovely country house, on 100 acres, he spared no money in its renovation. Between 1960 and 1971 he served as Master of Fox Hounds (MFH) of the County Galway Hunt, enjoyed the sport the Galway country offered and was very popular with the community. He wined and dined many Hollywood actors, directors and celebrities!
This documentary, one of the first made by TG4 in 1996, gives us an insight into Huston’s colourful life in Ireland.
An extract from Willie Henry’s Book – “St Clerans – History of a Manor house” –
“John Huston first came to Ireland in 1951, shortly before starting work on the film, The African Queen. He was invited to Ireland by Lady Oonagh Oranmore and Browne. On the occasion of his visit, there was a hunt ball in the Gresham Hotel, Dublin, which he attended. The Galway Blazers had organized this particular event. Huston said afterwards that he fully expected someone to be killed before the night was over. As the evening wore on, the music became faster and spirits ran higher. The young men started a game of ‘follow the leader’. They used one of the large tables in the centre of the room as a jump. A waiter tried to stop them by swinging a champagne bucket at each participant, but this action only added a new dimension to the game, making it more attractive so that more of them joined in the fun. Needless to say, Mr. Huston really enjoyed himself at the ball. In 1953, Huston returned to Ireland, this time he brought with him his fourth wife, Enrica Soma, and also their children, Walter Anthony and Anjelica. Huston loved the hunting scene in Ireland, and in particular, Galway. He believed that the Irish horsemen were the best in the world, with the possible exception of the Afghans. It was while taking part in a Galway hunt, that Huston first saw St. Clerans. While riding across a field, he saw the manor house and old ruined castle in the distance and inquired about the place. Some months later, Huston and Enrica attended the Galway Races, which is one of the biggest racing festivals in Ireland. While in Galway, Enrica went to stay with some friends. When Enrica returned to meet Huston, she told him that she had seen a beautiful old house named St. Clerans, which was vacant and for sale. He went immediately to view the manor house and estate. Although the roof leaked and some of the flooring was missing, his interest was apparent. Looking up at the old Georgian Manor House, Huston fell in love with the place instantly and decided to buy it. The estate consisted of one hundred Irish acres, in an extraordinary setting. There was a great walled tree garden, full of exotic species of trees from all over the world. It seems that Irish sea captains would sometimes bring back trees from various places around the world to plant at St. Clerans. There was also an enormous vegetable garden. The estate was in two sections, with the manor house to the fore. To access the other section one walked down a gravel path through the trees and across the trout stream. The grooms’ quarters, stables and a stewards cottage, were situated close to the old tower house.”
Written by Finbarr O'Regan
Published here 06 Feb 2022 and originally published 1996