Obituary: The Earl of Iveagh

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The Independent Online
HIS FATHER's death at Arnhem in 1945 sealed the fate of Benjamin Iveagh, who was six years old at the time, writes Simon Boyd.

He inherited directly from his grandfather, who was born in 1874, not only a lot of money and other possessions, but a senior position in industry and the headship of the large Guinness clan of millionaires. He got no pleasure from either of these last two but, conditioned throughout his childhood to see performing them as his duty, he went through the motions. The process of preparing him for his inheritance started early: his tutor at Eton wrote that it was regrettable that family pressure required him to do biology when he was much more suited to history.

With hindsight and in 1992 it seems cruel to have put such pressures on him, but it is at least understandable that the older members of his family should have sought to preserve a 200-year-old tradition of a family-led business, despite the tragedy at Arnhem. In his attempt to do what was required of him Iveagh at times seemed to be modelling himself on his grandfather.

He was always a shy and unsociable man whose main pleasures were his children and his book collection. But racing also brought him pleasure and no little success. He helped finance the Kildangan stud run by his step-uncle, Roderic More O'Ferrall, and also owned several winning horses. It seems that he took advantage of the good advice that was readily available to him, exercised good judgement himself and enjoyed in his racehorses a measure of that good luck which so often seemed to desert him in other areas of his life. It was typical of the man that although his horses won famous races all over the world he was probably happiest at an obscure meeting in Ireland, certainly he was happier there than he was in the paddock at Royal Ascot.

Ill-health dogged him for much of his life.

His main home for 25 years was Farmleigh, a large Victorian house which was always kept in an agreeably old-fashioned way. Gleaming inkstands adorned numerous spare bedrooms. It was in Ireland and with Irish people that he was happiest, though even there the public role with which he was constantly saddled was a burden to him. Farmleigh at one time saw gatherings of a cross-section of Dubliners, including politicians of both political parties, with the host unobtrusive but always genial.

His farms were one of his main interests and he spent time, up to the last week of his life, inspecting the land and the work on it. He was respected by, perhaps because he was respectful of, those who worked his land. One of the advantages he inherited from his grandfather was a natural humility.

He dearly loved his four children and they were a great support to him, especially in his last few months. Although his marriage had ended in 1984 his wife cared for him during his last illness in her house with wonderful kindness.