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The Crocodile by the Door

The story of a house a farm and a family
Selina Guinness
Penguin Ireland

Pulling on his Wellingtons for the walk down the Lawn, our front field, Liam tells me he is a country boy. 'How's lambing going?' he asks, and I answer him easily, as if we've been farm­ing for years.

We stroll down past the lime tree towards the thicket of gorse at the end of the Lawn. It is a dear, cold, windy day, and the sun picks out the various structures sticking up like pegs in front of Lambay Island: the Dundrum Luas bridge, the Belfield water tower, RTE's television mast, and the candy-striped chimneys at the Pigeon House, a grey plume of smoke scud­ding out towards the bay.

'I can see why you'd want to preserve that view,' Liam says, stopping to admire it as his colleagues have done before him. 'They knew how to site a house in those days.'

It's true. The whites and darks of the city stipple the mid­dle distance. In the foreground, beyond the gorse, are the St Thomas fields, which Liam's boss, the property developer Bernard McNamara, bought two years ago from our neigh­bour Major McDowell. My uncle Charles had sold those fields to pay rates in 1976; until then, the St Thomas lands had served as a sister farm to Tibradden. Chris Keogh's cattle graze below us in the long field beside the River Glin. The banks are densely wooded with silver firs, larches, sweet chest­nuts and oaks, all planted by my great-great-grandfather, Thomas Hosea Guinness.