Shane's Room

Shane (born John) was the eldest of four Leslie boys (Norman, Seymour & Lionel). In this room, inspired by views of the lake, and many years before his granddaughter Sammy designed and installed the great gothic bath, Shane wrote many of his best books and poems. His novel about Cambridge `The Cantab' was suppressed by the Home Secretary, by mistake! Today Shane's biographies and works are considered collectors' pieces and are eagerly sought after.

At King’s College, Cambridge, he published the earliest poems of Rupert Brook in a college magazine and unsuccessfully tried to exorcise the college ghost. He also changed his name from John to the Irish Shane, and joined the Catholic Church. He wanted to become a monk until he was involved in a mild car crash with a beautiful American, Marjorie Ide of Vermont. After carrying her, unconscious, from the wreck he was so enamoured that he proposed marriage, and she accepted. He seemed rather puzzled at having children and was never quite sure what to do about them. Once, on meeting little Desmond (aged 4) on the stairs, he asked `Hello, who are you?'

When deafness came in old age, the family presented him with the latest in electric hearing aids. He hurled it away in rage saying `They can hear me. I do not choose to hear them.' He would have made a good politician. He did in fact campaign as Nationalist MP for Londonderry, a seat the Dukes of Abercorn tended to regard as their personal property. The Duke was shocked when Shane lost on a recount by a mere 59 votes. Furthermore Shane became fluent in Irish, and would make his speeches in that lovely tongue. He was also one of the few Anglo-Irish to side with the Irish cause, even compiling a Latin-Irish dictionary, just in case some Ancient Roman should visit the Gaelteach.

All of this was slightly too much for his staid Protestant parents; just as his obsession for inviting droves of elderly clerics to Castle Leslie Estate proved too much for his poor wife when she was trying to hold amusing house parties. He would order the children to entertain the clerics, which also proved too much for them.

Shane loved trees and planted many thousands at Glaslough. He was seldom happier than when working alongside the foresters in the estate woods. He was a member of the commission to persuade the United States to join the Allies in WW1 and became instrumental in saving Eamon de Valera from being shot by the British after the 1916 rising. Shane pointed out that as `Dev' was an American citizen, America would probably not enter the war if he was shot and `Dev' was spared. What would have happened had Ireland been spared? `Dev' is another matter.

Shane was a tremendous walker and could sustain the Red Indian jog trot indefinitely, doubtless due to the Iraquoi Red Indian blood injected by his American mother, Leonie Jerome, sister of Jennie Churchill, into the sleepy Leslies. One night Shane walked the full 60 miles from his estate in Donegal to Castle Leslie Estate, arriving in time for breakfast.

He loved clowning and could be devastatingly funny, often to the embarrassment of his wife, who failed to be amused when he entertained the children during dull Sunday walks through Hyde Park to Mass at the Brampton Oratory, by climbing up lampposts and pretending to be a gorilla.

In World War II, Shane was active in the London Home Guard (Dad's Army), valiantly rescuing valuable first editions from freshly bombed libraries. Some of the books seem to have made their way to Glaslough, which is their permanent refuge.

At one time, he even had safe custody of Parnell's love letters to Kitty O' Shea, which he would show to his children as if vouchsafing a glimpse of the Holy Grail. Following a long active life he died, aged 89, and was laid beside his wife in their garden tomb.

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