A bit­ter rift at the Bog Ho­tel

Patsy Bro­gan left home as a bare­foot teenager to make his for­tune, re­turn­ing to run a Done­gal she­been. Af­ter two re­la­tion­ships and a li­ai­son with a woman 43 years his ju­nior, his death won’t heal the fam­ily feud

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT - By Va­lerie Han­ley va­lerie.han­[email protected]­sun­day.ie

Even in death it seems for­mer ‘bog ho­tel’ pro­pri­etor Patsy Bro­gan is still mak­ing his pres­ence felt. De­spite hav­ing been laid to rest al­most three weeks ago, many of his rel­a­tives and friends are con­vinced, the fa­ther of eight will at least at­tempt to cre­ate havoc one last time.

This time around it will be from be­yond the grave. And at the cen­tre of any dis­pute or­ches­trated by the con­tro­ver­sial she­been owner will be whether he ever took the time to make a last will and tes­ta­ment.

Through­out the more re­cent years of his long and colour­ful life Patsy – whose de­ter­mi­na­tion to run an il­licit drink­ing spot called the ‘The Bog Ho­tel’ on a re­mote Done­gal hill­side with a woman al­most half a cen­tury younger than him made in­ter­na­tional head­lines – of­ten spoke about leav­ing all his worldly pos­ses­sions to his much younger paramour.

But no-one knows for cer­tain whether he ever fol­lowed through with this threat. Or whether he opted in­stead to die with­out mak­ing a will so his near­est and dear­est would have to fight it out among them­selves as to who would get what.

Then again there’s also the pos­si­bil­ity that maybe, just for once, Patsy, who spent much of his life in­volved in le­gal bat­tles against those in au­thor­ity as well as those closer to home, de­cided to leave his af­fairs in or­der.

Ei­ther way, for the time be­ing it’s a guess­ing game. And as his rel­a­tives and girl­friend – Pol­ish wait­ress Daria Weiske – wait to see if Patsy left a last will and tes­ta­ment, they must surely be hop­ing that what­ever the out­come, they will not have to re­live and en­dure the ugly scenes sur­round­ing his funeral.

For it was a funeral un­like any other. And one that al­most never hap­pened when Patsy’s ag­grieved one-and-only brother in­ter­vened threat­en­ing to ‘pull his brother’ out of the fam­ily burial plot if the 82year-old was laid to rest along­side his par­ents and grand­fa­ther. In the end, a new plot was pur­chased.

An ex­tra­or­di­nary turn of events. But one that was not en­tirely un­ex­pected given the death no­tice which ap­peared shortly af­ter the pen­sioner drew his last breath at Done­gal Com­mu­nity Hos­pi­tal last month.

It cer­tainly hinted at pos­si­ble fam­ily ten­sions. But, nev­er­the­less, few read­ing the an­nounce­ment would ever have guessed the an­tipa­thy the for­mer she­been owner pro­voked in oth­ers al­most led to his own funeral be­ing called off.

The first clue as to what was about to un­fold was the brevity of the death no­tice for a man who had made head­lines around the world. It failed to men­tion the pen­sioner would be mourned by any liv­ing rel­a­tives – all the odder con­sid­er­ing he is sur­vived by an adult son and daugh­ter, aged in their for­ties and fifties from his mar­riage to a woman from Gal­way called Mau­reen; that he was pre­de­ceased by a daugh­ter killed in a hit-and-run ac­ci­dent and a son who died by sui­cide; four younger chil­dren from a sec­ond long-term re­la­tion­ship with a lo­cal woman from Done­gal; grand­chil­dren; a brother who was his neigh­bour on the fam­ily home­stead out­side Frosses vil­lage for 30 years; as well as nieces and neph­ews.

And then of course the 43-yearsy­ounger Pol­ish woman he once vowed to marry but never put a wed­ding ring on her fin­ger.

In­deed, the only men­tion that Patsy was part of a fam­ily, or ever had a fam­ily or fam­i­lies of his own, is in­cluded in the last line of the death no­tice which sim­ply reads: ‘Fam­ily flow­ers only, do­na­tions in lieu to Done­gal Com­mu­nity Hos­pi­tal c/o any fam­ily mem­ber or John McGowan Funeral Di­rec­tors.’

A friend ex­plained: ‘Patsy was one of a fam­ily of four. He had two sis­ters and one brother called Tom.

‘But he and Tom never got on. They were al­ways row­ing and, as far as Tom would be con­cerned, Patsy made his life hell. The pair of them lived in two sep­a­rate houses on the fam­ily farm and over the years the guards were called to the prop­erty on many an oc­ca­sion. They even ended up in court at one stage.

‘They were row­ing long be­fore the Bog Ho­tel was ever opened as a she­been but af­ter it opened, things just seemed to go from bad to worse be­tween them.’

It seems that at the heart of the dis­pute be­tween the brothers was the house where they were reared with their two sis­ters. Perched on a hill in the mid­dle of the fam­ily farm, the for­mer three-roomed thatched cot­tage has stun­ning views of the Blue Stack moun­tains and over­looks two lakes.

But it has been ex­ten­sively ren­o­vated by Tom and his wife Pam since they moved back to Ire­land from Eng­land many years ago.

Mean­while, Patsy lived in a nearby bun­ga­low and close by is the win­dow­less barn which be­came the il­licit late-night drink­ing spot known the world over as the ‘Bog Ho­tel’. The only re­main­ing clue that it once was a drink­ing den is a red Coke sign at­tached to the side of the old shed.

A few hun­dred yards away – be­yond sev­eral aban­doned cars and un­sightly heaps of rub­bish – is the house where Tom and Patsy’s par­ents lived out their last years. And like the place Patsy called home, this sim­ple one-storey dwelling has be­come a ruin beaten down by the el­e­ments and years of ne­glect.

This piti­ful scene was the back­drop for joy, sad­ness, tragedy, heartache and the un­re­solved row that marked Patsy Bro­gan’s life.

It was from this hill­side en­clave that he left for Eng­land to seek his fame and for­tune. Ac­cord­ing to fam­ily leg­end, the then 13-year-old walked away bare-footed with only one of his fa­ther’s ‘bor­rowed’ cows in tow, and not a penny in his pocket.

It’s claimed the beast was later sold at a mart and with the pro­ceeds the canny Done­gal lad made his way by boat to Eng­land.

He first set­tled in Manch­ester and then later moved to Birm­ing­ham with his young wife and their two sons and two daugh­ters. Dur­ing these years he es­tab­lished him­self as an en­tre­pre­neur, set­ting up a de­mo­li­tion and a haulage busi­ness. But along the way, it seems, he crossed paths with some un­savoury char­ac­ters, and this re­sulted in him serv­ing a nine-month sen­tence for a gre­vi­ous-bod­ily-harm as­sault.

How­ever, Patsy pros­pered. By the time he and his wife de­cided to re­turn to live in Ire­land dur­ing the eight­ies, he had al­ready be­come ac­cus­tomed to en­joy­ing the trap­pings of wealth.

By then he had ac­quired a pilot’s li­cence, had bought some aero­planes, had even flown his fam­ily

‘Patsy and Tom never got on. They were al­ways row­ing’

on their hol­i­days to Jer­sey is­land and his car of choice was a ma­roon Rolls Royce, com­plete with gold trim and sheep­skin up­hol­stery.

He also cut quite a dash with his En­gel­bert Humperdinck-style frilly shirts, ac­ces­sorised with lay­ers of chunky gold jew­ellery. But it was his lux­u­ri­ous bouf­fant hair style and thick side­burns that were his pride and joy.

For they con­cealed his deep­est then se­cret... that he had been bald as a snooker ball since his early twen­ties.

A source re­vealed: ‘Patsy spent a for­tune buy­ing wigs be­cause he lost all his hair when he was still only in his early twen­ties. He would only wear shirts that were dry cleaned, and he wore so much gold jew­ellery that when he went to Amer­ica for his daugh­ter’s wed­ding a po­lice of­fi­cer told him to take it off oth­er­wise he would be mugged.

‘He came back to Done­gal in the eight­ies… I think it was his kind of early re­tire­ment.

‘But within a year he was a dif­fer­ent man en­tirely. He went from only wear­ing shirts that were dry cleaned to wear­ing shirts that were lucky to get a wash. I never saw such a change in a man.

‘His wife Mau­reen came back with him but they went their sep­a­rate ways and she re­mar­ried.’

Patsy also moved on too. He be­came ro­man­ti­cally in­volved with a lo­cal woman many years his ju­nior and the cou­ple went onto have four chil­dren to­gether.

But the re­la­tion­ship fal­tered and shortly af­ter the mother of his younger chil­dren left the fam­ily home, the cou­ple’s two daugh­ters and two sons were taken into care. Af­ter a decade or so apart they were only fi­nally re­united as they gath­ered around their fa­ther’s deathbed.

But the bit­ter rift be­tween Patsy and his brother Tom con­tin­ues. And not even death has helped re­solve their dif­fer­ences.

Af­ter years of ac­ri­mony be­tween them, Patsy’s only brother could not bring him­self to go to his sib­ling’s funeral. And even sad­der still is the fact that – even though his brother is dead and buried – Tom re­mains con­vinced Patsy de­voted the last 30 years to tor­ment­ing him and his wife.

The only com­ment the 76-year-old would say to the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day was against his brother.

‘For 30 years I was liv­ing un­der an um­brella of tor­ment. I am look­ing for­ward to hav­ing a nice din­ner on my ta­ble and hav­ing a bit of peace for Christ­mas.

‘We were liv­ing un­der thug­gery. We went through the mill. It’s sad, of course it’s sad. All we needed was to have a bit of re­spect. It’s shame­ful.’

Mean­while, it re­mains to be seen whether Patsy made a will. Some of those who knew him well be­lieve he has one last ‘trick’ to pull, whereas oth­ers who felt the wrath of the darker side of his per­son­al­ity have a less be­nign view.

‘He’d love to be at the cen­tre of it all. He never left any­thing to any­body. There’s no way he left a will… sure he’d love to have them all fight­ing with each other.’

2008

bar­man: The di­lap­i­dated fam­ily house and barn. Above, Patsy in the Bog Ho­tel NOW

high roller:Patsy’s ma­roon Rolls Royce. Above, sport­ing side­burns and lux­u­ri­ous locks in 1980

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