Duke of Westminster: I had wonderful, idyllic childhood in Fermanagh

The Duke of Westminster grew up on an island in Lough Erne
The Duke of Westminster grew up on an island in Lough Erne

The sixth Duke of Westminster spoke at length of his “idyllic” Fermanagh childhood on Desert Island Discs in 1995.

“I had a wonderful childhood in Northern Ireland,” said the duke, who died on Tuesday aged 64.

“I was quite happy and content to have lived there all my life. I knew what I wanted to be – I wanted to farm and take it all rather gently, I thought.”

He added: “I had a wonderful life living on an island in Lough Erne the other side of Enniskillen, 52 miles of lakes, 365 islands, my two sisters, myself, my mother and father and realising for the first 15 years that one was just going to have this idyllic way of life.

“I was brought up in Ulster where you were treated purely on your own merits.

“You were treated because of who you are, and I was called Gerald all my life.

“There was no question of ‘your grace this’ and ‘your grace that’ and ‘Lord this and Lord that’,” which he sometimes found “very embarrassing” in later life.

One of the songs he chose was the theme to ‘Harry’s Game’ by Clannad. He selected it because “it is full of tragedy and it is the only theme that I think encompasses the tragedy of Ireland so brilliantly, and of course the book and film had a tragic ending of great misunderstanding – and that is the story of Ulster”.

The duke was taken to boarding school in England when he was seven where his “broad Ulster accent” was forced out of him by teasing, he said.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Tom Elliott of the UUP met the duke a few times and his father before him – who was the area’s MP in the 1950s.

The family home was Ely Lodge in Fermanagh, which encompassed some 3,000 acres, and their home was on Acres Island, he said, which the family divested itself of in the 1980s.

He also met the duke once at the newly renovated UDR barracks in Enniskillen, which was named after the family – Grosvenor Barracks.

“He had a significant interest in Fermanagh and inquired as to how local business and farming were doing,” Mr Elliott said.

The duke’s mother, Viola Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster, died in a car accident near Dungannon in 1987, aged 74. His daughter Lady Edwina Grosvenor married TV historian Dan Snow in 2010.