Diary Dec 1984 - Richard Ryan, Social Climbing,
Our Man in London
RICHARD RYAN HAD A book of poems published when he was an undergraaduate in UCD. At least this was the rumour going around in the early 1970s when your correspondent was a student there and Richard Ryan hung around the Anglo-Irish Deepartment doing what was known as "post-graduate work". ("Post-graduate work" meant, in general, that the graduate was eagerly awaiting a call into the civil service which had not yet come and was reading the odd book in the meantime.) Ryan was one of . those fellows from that part of Dublin between Ballssbridge and Bray, now serviced by DART. He spoke with a Dartland accent like the rest of them, a cross between Mike Murphy and Gay Byrne and pro bably would have gone into RTE if he'd had the looks.
But people whispered that he was destined for greater things. Not alone poetry. (Although that as well.) No, diplomacy, this was going to -be historte. Readers may remember that in the early 1970s the only job worth having was in the Departtment of Foreign Affairs and the exams for the position were treated with the utmost seriousness by the denizens of Dartland and their offfspring. The travel, the recepptions at the Em bassy, Ireland's reputation abroad, the job in Brussels, becoming a First Secretary, going on a trip with Garret: the world was the oyster of the Third Seccretary.
Over the next five or six years your correspondent must have read ten or maybe twelve articles in the Irish Times about Richard Ryan. From these we learned of the great tradition he was in: the :;: oer/dip 10m at, just like Val
Ironmonger or Denis Devlin, bringing honour and glory to his country, pen in one hand and what ever Third Secreetaries use in the other. During this period Ryan published a second book of poetry and was posted to Japan. More articles in the Irish· Times. During this period as well Ryan became a friend of Garech Browne, one of the Guinness heirs, and was often seen about the place with him. There were no more books of poetry.
So when the Anglo-Irish Department of Foreign Afffairs, headed by one Michael Lillis, wanted someone to go over to London to look after the Tory party, go huntin' shootin' and fishin' with them, drink sherry with them, discuss the state of the nation with them, why, who better than our friend Richard Ryan. It was a great day for Darttland.
The Department rented a huge house in exclusive Monttpelier Square and installed Ryan and his family therein. The rent is believed to be in the region of £20,000 per year. According to some who have been there the furniture looks rented as well but there is no hard evidence for this. Some of Ryan's books on the bookshelf date from his stuudent days and look odd, it is reported. Paperback ediitions of Steinbeck, that sort of thing.
So Montpelier Square is where it's all at. This is where the Tory party is wined and dined, this is where Irish civil servants and British policyymakers win friends and innfluence people. When Ireland finally takes her place as a nation once again, there will be a plaque on Montpelier Square telling the world that this was the spot where the best laid plans were made.
The Montpelier Square Talks. The Montpelier Set. Free drink in Montpelier Square.
The only problem is that the Tory party have homes to go to. None of them, it seems, has the slightest interest in Montpelier Square. They just don't go. Despite the best efforts of conscientious Richard, observers note that the Tory most often seen in Montpelier is a certain downnat-heel Lord whose only inncome is the attendance money he gets from the House of Lords. This lively fellow has spread the word around, as a result of which Montpelier Square is these days crawling with destitute Lords pretennding to have some influence in the Tory party. There the Irish tax-payer feeds them all drink for a while and then they all wander off someew here else to discuss old times. These fellows have no influence of any sort; they don't speak in the House and even if they did no one would listen.
Montpelier Square should not be dismissed out of hand, however. It has proved to be a great boost to some of Richard Ryan's friends who stay there when they're in London. Indeed, last summer one well-known RTE persoonality took the house over for a week when Ryan was on holiday and gave many parties where he entertained his many friends in London. When he came back to Dublin he talked about the value of having a town house in Lonndon and how much fun. it was. A pity it was only for a week, but Richard Ryan was only away for two weeks and Michael Lillis was going to take it for the other week.
As unem ployrnent increases in this country young people are more and more going to London to try and find some work and some hope for the future. Many become destiitute and there is no proper agency to assist them. Perrhaps the best hope for those who are really stuck would be to phone the posh house which Foreign Affairs has rented to impress the Tory party. The number is 58442365.
THE MESSAGE WAS LOUD and clear: Ring Maureen Cairnduff. The eyes of your correspondent lit up, as they say, and he raced to the teleephone and dialled the num ber; here it was on a plate after all these years. An invitation to the home of Ireland's most talked-about hostess, an oppportunity to mingle with Freddie Forsyth, a chance to exchange pleasantries with Bobby and Betty Ballagh, to nod at the wisdom of Charlie Haughey, to bare one's soul to Frank Feely, to whisper into the ear of Maurice Mannning, to discuss the piano with John O'Conor. A look at the calendar added to the excitement: it was getting near a First Friday and Maureen Cairn duff always had her parties on First
'1 Fridays. Down in Enniscorthy they wen t to Mass on First Fridays and this reporter grinned to himself at how far he had come and how all the effort had been worth it.
As the phone rang all the past appeared in front of your correspondent's mind as though he were drowning. ln particular there was that night at the Russian Embassy party when he approached Maureen Cairnduff, famous for the party she held in her house on the First Friday in every month, and ogled her, grinned at her, paid her compliments, admired her hair. Anything for an invitaation, my kingdom for an invitation, please Maureen invite me to one of your First Fridays.
So, even though it was months later, your reporter was sure that he had won the day. An invitation lay at the other end of the phone. Please Mrs Cairnduff, answer the phone.
The phone rang for a while longer.
Eventually it was answered and the voice was the voice of Mrs Cairn duff. What a nice day it was, wonderful summer all told, how are you, glad to hear that, and all belonging to you? Since the day Bell invented the telephone there has never been a more pleasant conversation.
But it was all in vain.
There was no invitation forthhcoming to even a Second Friday in Mrs Cairnduff's house, let alone a First Friday. Mrs Cairn duff was merely compiling a Who's Who and wanted to know where the present writer was in school. It was an anti-elimax. It was a sore disappointment. It was a sad day. Your corresponndent sat in his little office making plans to drink himself into an early grave, all hope of social advancement gone down the drain. Effort wassted. All that trouble for nothing. Needn't have bothhered. Life's not fair. Emigraation. The boat. Paddy workking on the railways.
The Man Who Couldn't Get An Invitation To Maureen Caimduff's.
But soft, as they say in Shakespeare. What is this? It came in an envelope a few weeks ago. Here it was in writing. Maureen, come home all is forgiven. I repent. I take back all the things I said about you in pubs all over Dublin in the five minutes before closing time.
It was, dear reader, an invitation.
On Friday November 23 1984 your correspondent put on his good red tie, put a slight bit of polish on his shoes, took that smirk off his face and ordered a taxi to take him to the home of Mrs Maureen Cairn duff, glitttering hostess, a woman who gives free drink to the rich and powerful on the First Friday of every month.
This wasn't a First Friday; it was a Fourth Friday; but it was a start; from such beginnings many have made millions.
At the door stood John Kelly TD. That's posh. Things seemed promising. Ian Cairnnduff, Maureen's hard-working husband answered the door. This reporter smiled politely and stepped in behind John Kelly.
Not long afterwards, the first sight of the salon could be had; several children wanndered around offering chammpagne; the Russian am bassaador talked to the editor of the Sunday Press (the man who tells it like it is). Gemma
Hussey, a fellow who calls himself Baron Breffni (funny name that), Edward de Bono (What!), Mike Burns, Ollie Campbell mingled. It was like something out of one's wildest dreams. Cocktail sausages, sandwiches, bits of quiche.
But the dream, as they say, was soon shattered and it became clear that the majority of those in the room were plain ordinary hacks. At the launching of a book, this was no soiree, this was a bunch of grubby newspaper people looking for a story, journaalists from the Sundays who would be looking for all things bright and beautiful to woo their readers, lists of the rich and the powerful who were at Maureen Cairnnduff's last Friday. This was going to be no fun.
The Man Who Couldn't Get A Proper Invitation to Maureen Caimduff's.
All along the mantlepiece were invitations to parties which had been received by
Mrs Cairnduff. Hundreds of them and behind those hunndreds of others. All colours all shapes and sizes. What a great time Mrs Cairn duff has! How nice it would be to be her! Loads of state receptions as well! The sun shines bright on Mrs Cairnduff!
On closer inspection these invitations turned out not to be for events in the future but events in the past. The opening of ROSC, state recepptions.In September, October and November. They were all over and it was hard to know why Mrs Cairnduff was still displaying invitations to them on her mantlepiece.
Down in the toilet there were loads of photos of Mrs Cairnduff. It was the sort of toilet where there's nothing else except a bowl and if you sat down on the bowl and veered your head to the right you would have your nose stuck up against the certificates which assured innterested parties that Mr Cairnnduff was an accountant.
There were all sorts of paintings in the front room: some of them were very good (Camile Souter, Patrick Colllins, Charlie Brady); others were woeful. Funny woman, Mrs Cairn duff.
Just as the champagne was running out most people had gone but Michael Lillis, of the Department of Foreign Affairs turned up. (Gets around a lot, that fellow). Mrs Cairnduff was delighted with her book, all the hard work was worth it and it was a good night for the press. But compared with this, what could her First Fridays be like? Watch this space.