The late Harry McDowell
Harry was a kind, generous and civilised man, with wide ranging interests, his friend, Robert Guinness, told the gathering at his funeral service in Christ Church, Celbridge on July 16.
“Richard Henry McDowell, best known as Harry, was a Christian. He lived in an age when you were brought up to look after others before oneself,” he said.
“Harry was a well-respected genealogist of considerable standing among his peers, and had a memory as good as Methuselah.
He had a gift of remembering the best in us, and recounting it in an amusing and conversational manner.
He expected charity in the broadest sense, from his friends, and enjoyed humour even in the gravest of situations.
He loved being with his two daughters, Emily and Marie Louise, and enjoyed the company of his grandson, Freddie. He was always full of fun, with them and with his many friends.
Harry and Joan, his wife, were happily married for over fifty years. They started their lives together whilst living in England.
Harry was of Irish stock, his father had lived and farmed at Heynestown, his property near Dundalk, so a decision was reached to look for a home in Ireland.
Racing was an interest and Harry seldom missed Punchestown Races, he was largely responsible for keeping open the Kildare Street and University Club Hunt, still enjoyed by many members.
But collecting was his real interest and he came to Ireland at the time when so many great paintings, furniture and chattels were on the market.
From friends gathered in London, and by attending Country House auctions, which were sadly prevalent in those days, but much enjoyed nonetheless.
Harry built up a modest but interesting collection of Irish and English art.
This interest led to an obvious question, from where had this variety of wonderful objects come from.
So the five, quarter inch to the mile scale maps of Ireland surveyed by Bartholomew were laid out and many lost demesnes could be seen.
It was not long before picnics were arranged and the enjoyment began of searching and finding these long lost estates marked on the map.
The enjoyment was increased due to the beauty seen in these great houses, now ruinous.
It was interesting to imagine a visitor arriving at such places in an earlier era, and their astonishment at such splendour in the Irish countryside.
A simple and good life, he made his luck, and visited family heritage conferences here and abroad.
With these contacts he advised others on their family records with knowledge absorbed from his extensive genealogical library.
He also contributed to the written word when instigating works from the printing press he had inherited from his uncle, including a fine re-edited edition of 1814 Directory of the Gentlemen’s Seats in Ireland by Ambrose Leet, and not least a colour print folio on Henry O’Neill the artist, written by Peter Harbison RIA.
For many years Harry sat on the board, and was elected chairman, of the Irish Clergy Daughters Charity.
He always made meetings enjoyable and that enjoyment was present during his time as a member and then, as President of the Kildare Archaeological Society, he made opportunities to encourage, with his remarkable knowledge, the younger members.
Harry was a great supporter of the Country House, not least Castletown, but that is another story.
His contribution to the continued safety of the Monument to Speaker Conolly in Tea Lane should not be forgotten.
His love and support for many families, who were now living in a different environment, helped them realise their worth, and he too saw the beauty in the country house that had been created by Irishmen of a bygone age.
He supported this reflection, and encouraged those families to seek a new way forward.
He will be missed by many souls, especially his loving family,” concluded Robert.
At the service, celebrant, Rector Stephen Neill, said he had got to know Harry only relatively recently.
He said he had arrived in Celbridge three years ago and was made very welcome by Harry.
- Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam