The family of the sixth Duke of Westminster has paid tribute to a Co Fermanagh gamekeeper’s “deep friendship” with him during the young aristocrat’s formative years.
The Duke, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, died on Tuesday afternoon, after taking ill on his Abbeystead Estate before being airlifted to the Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire.
The 68th richest person in the world - he was worth some £9bn - and the third richest in the UK, he spoke warmly of his “idyllic” childhood on the shores of Lough Erne, where his father was MP in the 1950s.
But when his father was away on business during his early childhood, the family web site obituary says: “Gerald was taken under the wing of the estate gamekeeper, Wesley Scott, with whom a deep friendship grew and this countryman’s earthy wisdom and knowledge was imparted to Gerald at an early age.”
Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, Mr Scott was surprised to have been singled out for such praise.
“Gerald was always told by his father to hire the best local poacher for his gamekeeper,” laughed Wesley, who worked for the family in that capacity for 30 years from the mid-1960s.
“He was a wee small fella. He and I bonded from the word go. He went out with me every day from he was about five, rearing pheasants.”
The young man went to the Collegiate Nursery and Portora Royal, then Harrow.
“He was a man’s man. He grew up a good fella. He was modest and would never seek out the limelight. He loved a bit of sport and was a great mixer with all the locals.”
The gamekeeper saw less of him from his mid-teens, but he returned to Fermanagh on holidays and spent much time fishing.
“Gerald attended all the shoots on the estate, Ely Lodge. It was a magical place to live. There was always something going on.”
It was not officially open to the public but nobody was ever stopped from visiting. On one occasion the previous duke missed two regular fisherman and asked them to come back and fish, he said.
“Young Gerald was a faithful friend of mine. He never lost touch to this day. His sister Lady Jane would always call in when she was in Northern Ireland.”
When the family was moving out of Fermanagh, Gerald invited Wesley to buy a “small outside farm” of 80 acres
“I said I had not that sort of money - but he made it possible. We now live on it, looking down on Ely Lodge. I will never forget how they were more than good to me.”
The three siblings still retain three islands in Fermanagh; Gerald had a 70 acre isle, Lady Leonora’s was 50 acres and Lady Jane owns Little Paris, which is 15.
The Duke of Westminster died of a heart attack, it has been confirmed.
Preston coroner’s office said an inquest into his death will not take place because he died of natural causes. The duke, who was 64 and a close friend of the Royal Family, died on Tuesday.
The coroner’s office confirmed the cause of death was myocardial infarction. Funeral details have yet to be confirmed.