J.P. Donleavy lived in Balsoon House and gives his reminisences:
The following interview excerpt first appeared The Sunday Times, May 14, 2006.
"Time & Place: The donkey hitched a lift"
An author, playwright and artist, JP Donleavy, 80, has published 11 novels, including The Ginger Man and The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar b. Born in New York, he served in the US Navy during the second world war. He is now an Irish citizen and lives in Co Westmeath.
From an interview by Alanna Gallagher:
"I moved into Balsoon House in Bective, Co Meath, when I returned to Ireland from England in 1969. It was a three-storey Georgian dower house, originally part of the nearby Bellinter House estate.
"I had been trying to buy my mother’s house in the Burnaby in Greystones, but it sold for a sum beyond my means at auction. Next day I saw an advertisement for Balsoon in the paper and bought it after one viewing.
"It had been beautifully renovated by a young English couple. I went to my bank, showed the teller a picture of the place and told him how much money I needed to buy it.
"After much toing and froing, he returned with a cheque, remarking that the house looked like it was well worth the money. It was. Balsoon House was classically proportioned, with four rooms on each of its three floors. It stood on a steep hill overlooking the River Boyne and Bective abbey, flanked by large trees.
"To the rear lay the ruins of a castle. There was also a stables and a graveyard with an atmospheric ruined chapel.
"The house had beautiful walled gardens and my gardener took his job very seriously, taking the temperature of the water before showering it over the plants and vegetables. He was adamant that plants were more sensitive than we believed. The results were indeed astonishing, especially his vegetables. The gardener was also devoutly religious and constructed the 14 Stations of the Cross around the garden walls so he could say his prayers at work.
"I commandeered the right corner bedroom as my writing room and during my time there finished The Onion Eaters. There are overtones of life in the big house in the book. Labour was still reasonable and I had five or six staff keeping the house and its grounds. There are also echoes of that way of life in the Darcy Dancer trilogy.
"I wrote daily from about 10.30am until early in the afternoon. I also painted and sketched, often scenes that struck me in the gardens. I wasn’t much of an art collector, instead decorating the walls with anything that caught my interest, from old signs to newspaper cuttings.
"I partially restored the crypt-like basement and the manager of Gilbey’s wine shop came out and stocked it with thousands of bottles, all of course gone now.
"The pub in Bective was a constant source of colour. My favourite story concerns two of my staff, who after a long day in the pub stagger out to find a car passing by with a donkey sitting in the back looking out. Both presume they’ve had too much to drink and say nothing until the same car pulls up outside Balsoon. It turned out that the stable manager had no other way of transporting the recently purchased animal home from the market.
"I lived at Balsoon with my second wife, who loved to entertain. I was never a great partygoer, preferring to make a brief appearance before disappearing into one of the small sitting rooms.
"I lived in Balsoon for about three years until an issue arose over a right of way. I had experienced a similar problem in the first house I owned and knew it could drag on bitterly for years. So I said my goodbyes and, reluctantly, moved on.”
Navan and District Historical Society has copied this article for genuine and bona fide information dissemination purposes and acknowledges that the source of the information is http://www.jpdonleavycompendium.org/JPD-on-Balsoon-House&Donkey.html