Personalities of the past in Booterstown Parish
How does one choose from the rich store of “characters” (to use an Irish-ism) who have passed across the stage of our parochial scene. Let us take a cross-section and meet first:
James Digges La Touche: who, as previously mentioned was the power behind the original foundation of the Parish in 1821. Dublin banker, philanthropist and traveller, he only lived for 38 years, most of them in Sans Souci, a fine house, since demolished, and replaced by a modern suburban crescent of pleasing aspect. A touch of history – near the gates of Sans Souci, in 1927, Kevin O’Higgins, Ireland’s Minister for Justice was savagely gunned down and died later. The site of the assassination can he seen in the form of a small cross inscribed on the present footpath. But La Touche was a man of peace. Let his memorial in the Nave of Booterstown Church speak for itself – the inscription is paraphrased here:
“Sacred to the memory of James Digges La Touche Esq., of Sans Souci in this Parish. To him ‘to live was Christ and to die was gain’. To the Sunday School Society for Ireland of which he was gratuitous Secretary and Guardian for 18 years he devoted much of his heart, his time, his talents and with joy he beheld it spreading its holy power over this, his beloved country. He entered into Glory December, 13th 1826.”
La Touche is especially remembered in 1984, the 175th Anniversary of the Sunday School Society for Ireland.
Neville Shute Norway: An unfamiliar name? He lived in the Parish – in the large house called South Hill between the present Booterstown and Mount Merrion Avenues – in the pre-1914 era. His father had been appointed by the British Government as Head of the Post Office in Southern Ireland. Let us shorten his name to Neville Shute and the picture becomes clearer. Author of numerous books. Remember “A Town like Alice” (which transported us to Malaya and the horrors of the Japanese occupation of it during the Second World War)? How many copies were sold, millions perhaps, and it has been filmed and serialised on T.V. Or “On the Beach” with its sombre overtones of nuclear holocaust. Or “In the Wet” – set in the Australian outback. Each story with its own curious and unique Shute “twist”.
For a description of his days in Booterstown readers are recommended to seek out his autobiography, “Slide Rule”. He was an engineer by profession and was associated with the building of the airships R100 and R101 – the terrible end of the latter at Beauvais in France in 1930 is described in his autobiography.
On the arcading in St. Philip’s and St. James’s Church, just outside the Vestry door, is recorded the death in action during the First World War of Neville Shute’s brother, Frederick, Lieutenant in the D.C.L.I.
Field Marshal Hugh – Viscount Gough: of St. Helen’s, that Mansion which still gazes out over the Stillorgan Dual-Carriageway between Booterstown and Foster Avenues. Gough was a soldier cast in the classic mould. It is recorded that “he commanded in more general actions that any officer of the age, the Duke of Wellington only excepted” Constantly in action on a world-wide scale; victor of Barosa and Tarifa; at the attack of Puerto Rico in Central America; the storming of Canton and Shanghai. Commander in Chief (India) during the wars of the mid-19th century, he received the thanks of Parliament for his part in the campaigns. Retiring to eventually die in his beloved St. Helen’s he was buried beside his wife (who predeceased him) on 2nd March, 1869. It will be recalled that earlier in this narrative it was noted that no cemetery existed, or was allowed, in our Parish. Thus Viscount and Viscountess Gough lie in a vault adjoining St. Brigid’s Church, Stillorgan. No memorial to the Field Marshal, strangely, exists in our Church though a tablet in the Nave commemorates his wife.
The procession of characters winds its way through the past and one could dwell on so many, if space allowed, but let us return for a while to the present and talk of
ST. ANDREW’S COLLEGE “Ardens Sed Virens”