The sorry tale of an aristocrat on his uppers

BUNHILL

THE impoverished aristocrat is a bit of a cliche - and a suspicious cliche, too. If you are a lord, you just have to turn up at the House for a day to claim your pounds 132 allowance.

Unless, that is, you are an Irish lord, as John de Courcy, Lord Kingsale, is. His pedigree is impeccable: the 35th Baron Kingsale is descended from another John de Courcy, who conquered Ulster and was Governor of Ireland from 1185 to 1200. John is Premier Baron of Ireland and has a page and a half in Debrett's to prove it.

By the time he was born, in 1941, the family had gone through a "long downhill struggle", he says. The castle near Cork was 15 inches high at its tallest point, and the only money came from an oils-distilling company his father had sensibly married into. John went to Stowe and on to the Irish Guards, before trying his hand at business. Now he is living in a council flat in Somerset without a telephone.

What went wrong? Well, like one of the less successful PG Wodehouse characters (Ukridge comes to mind), he did a bit of this and a bit of that, and each time ended up with a bit less. It did not help that the factory went bust in the 1960s. But the real villain is his public school education. "It's no training for making a living," he says.

He did a bit of publishing, joining up with his cousin Kenneth de Courcy, Duc de Grantmesnil (who is worth a few Bunhills on his own). Through Kenneth, he is still director of d'Olier Grantmesnil and Courcy Acquisitions and the Marquis de Verneuil Trust. He is also director of the rather less exotic off-licence chain Bin Ends.

In Australia in the late 1980s he started a dating agency called Banaid (because you had to have an Aids test to get on the list). Then he he put his money into property on islands off Brisbane; then he got bored. "I do things for as long as I need them."

None of these produced much bunce. Sadly, another of his schemes produced too much. He invented the concept of the White Hunter at Woburn Abbey and sold the idea to the Duke of Bedford."We paid him pounds 1,000 and made pounds 2,000 on the first bank holiday," he says. "He bought the contract in- house."

He is now, he says, "failing to make a living as occasional journalist," but has some hope that his Irish estate - almost two acres with the 15- inch high castle - will be bought by the developer of an adjoining golf course.

He is about to start writing a column for a new computerised service called UK Online, which has its headquarters near his flat. He admits his best act is to play the impoverished aristocrat: the trouble is, it isn't an act.

I SPOTTED the following item in Design magazine. John Towers, the excellent chief executive of Rover, admits: "I have dark suits, light suits, grey suits, blue suits, but I always wear the same colour of red tie. I don't know why . . ." This is the strangest thing I have learnt about anyone for a long time. What can it mean? Perhaps a psychologist can let me know?

Wider throw of dice

IF YOU are a regular Perudo player, you are either a member of an exclusive media set that wafts around the Groucho Club in Soho, or you have bought a set from WH Smith. But you probably do not live far from London, because few copies of the Aztec dice game have been sold outside the capital.

That changes from next week when Hasbro, the enormous American company, relaunches the game. It has bought the licence from Cosmo Fry, scion of the Turkish Delight family, who discovered it in Peru (where it is called Dudo) while travelling with his chum Alfredo Ferandini. The enigmatic Alfredo owns 2 Brydges Place, a cosy club near Charing Cross; Perudo became a cult there and within a year its fame had spread several hundred yards north and west.

Hasbro hopes the game could be the next Trivial Pursuit. Parents should purse their lips: you win Perudo only if you are a terrific liar.

I NOTE that Wagamama, a "Japanese-style noodle bar" in Bloomsbury, London, has successfully stopped City Centre Restaurants calling a new chain Rajamama. This is good - I would take action against anyone called themselves Tubhill, Cobhill or even Breadhill or Bunmountain. But what the judge should really have banned, surely, is the food that CCR proposes to assault us with at the chain-that-is-not-Rajamama. This is described as "American-influenced curry". What can it be? Onion bhaji and ketchup? Pumpkin pie tandoori? Chicken tikka massala with large fries? My mind is still boggling.

Top of the tycoons

I ASKED you last week to come up with names for pop groups run by tycoons. Lots of you did (thank you), though most stuck to the three I suggested: Brown, Branson and Greenbury. Thus Cedric Brown's backing groups included the Perkettes, the Gas Cats and the Greeds. Richard Branson had the Virgin Queens, the Vestals and the Picklejars. Sir Richard Greenbury did quite well with Big Richard and the Options (or variations on same).

I liked the idea of the Governor of the Bank of England fantasising about higher interest rates with Eddie and the Dreamers and an inspired (and splendidly irrelevant) suggestion for three politicians from the early 1980s: Ian Gilmour, Francis Pym and Norman St John Stevas in Wet, Wet, Wet.

But the winner of Bunhill's fizziest must be Katie Stallard of Huddersfield, who launched a stream of consciousness with: "I saw Harvey-Jones and the Troubleshooters recently; their version of 'Tie a Multicoloured Ribbon Round the Old Man's Neck' was incredible . . ." She goes on to recall the reformed Gerry and the Crapmakers, Greenbury and the Share Option Schizos, and points out that Benetton and the Advertisers have had their famous single Picture This re-released many times with mixed success. "Cedric Brown and his combo 'The Minimal Wage' had been going along steadily until a bust-up at their latest gig in London," she reports, and ends: "Well, it's time to go and watch Murdoch the Media Mogul and his Million Minions."

QUITE soon British Airways will announce its staff are being given a more casual look. Market research, I am told, shows that BA people are regarded as stuffy when compared with Virgin's lot (who all have goatee beards).

I'm not sure this is wise. I liked it when BA's "personality girls" had rouged cheeks and were deliberately unreal - a bit like the royal family.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sales?Do you have a keen interes...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Adviser - OTE £30,000

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy