From curse of the crows in Cork to the louche Happy Val­ley set in Kenya

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE - By Valerie Han­ley

TO un­der­stand the depth of feel­ing among lo­cals op­posed to the State forestry agency sell­ing to a man, who by his own ad­mis­sion is at­tempt­ing to re­assem­ble his fam­ily’s foothold in the area by re­claim­ing his her­itage, it is nec­es­sary to go back to times past.

The Cas­tle Freke Curse of the Crows dates back to more than a hun­dred years ago when Stephen Evans Freke’s grand­uncle John lived in the area.

As the lo­cals tell it, there had been crop af­ter dis­ap­point­ing crop of corn be­cause the crows had got to it be­fore it could be har­vested.

So, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal folk­lore, the erst­while 10th Lord Car­berry, avi­a­tor John Car­berry, hatched a plot with one of the men who worked on the es­tate to out­wit the

Re­nounced ti­tle af­ter quar­rel with his mother

crows. The story goes that the seed for the next crop was soaked in al­co­hol, most likely the il­le­gally dis­tilled poitín.

And so it was when the crows re­turned to feast on the next har­vest, they dropped to the ground, felled by the over­whelm­ing ef­fects of the al­co­hol. There­after the in­ci­dent was re­ferred by lo­cals as the Cas­tle Freke Curse of the Crows.

Soon af­ter a pro­longed dis­pute with his mother, the 10th Lord of Car­berry sold up and headed to Amer­ica. But af­ter one too many boot­leg­ging for­ays, the ad­ven­turelov­ing Nazi sym­pa­thiser was ban­ished for­ever from the United States, ac­com­pa­nied to a cruise liner by spe­cial agents just for good mea­sure.

It was an in­glo­ri­ous exit that would no doubt have spelled the fin­ish of a lesser mor­tal. But for John Car­berry– who re­nounced his ti­tle af­ter fall­ing out with his mother – this em­bar­rass­ing in­ci­dent was merely a foot­note in a colour­ful life that stretched from the fam­ily seat in Rath­barry, West Cork, to Lon­don, Amer­ica and then on to­wards Kenya where he and fel­low aris­to­crats rev­elled in a hard-liv­ing and pro­mis­cu­ous life­style im­mor­talised in the film White Mis­chief.

The movie, based on a book of the same name, told the story of the mur­der of Joss­lyn Hay, the 22nd Earl of Er­roll, who had a pen­chant for pub­licly hu­mil­i­at­ing the cuck­olded hus­bands of his wealthy mar­ried con­quests. Star­ring Charles Dance and Greta Scac­chi, it chron­i­cled how the deca­dent ways of the ‘Happy Val­ley’ set led to their un­do­ing and even­tual down­fall.

In the af­ter­math of the 1941 killing, the fin­ger of sus­pi­cion pointed firmly to­wards an­other mem­ber of the group.

A key wit­ness at the sub­se­quent sen­sa­tional mur­der trial in 1941 was John Car­berry’s teenage daugh­ter Juanita. Her de­ci­sion not to re­veal that the sus­pect had con­fessed to her led to the ac­quit­tal of Sir John Henry Delves Broughton. At the time of the mur­der Sir Delves Broughton’s much younger wife Diana had been hav­ing an af­fair with the 22nd Earl of Er­roll. But few of any of those im­pli­cated in the case ever found last­ing hap­pi­ness.

As for John Car­berry he left a trail of de­struc­tion in his wake and squan­dered much of what he had in­her­ited. He died in 1970.

Por­trait: John Car­berry, left, with mother Mary and his younger brother

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