The Blue Master Room
Stay: The Castle
The Blue Room acquired its marvellous deep blue colour from Lady Leonie Leslie, before she later moved into the Mauve Room. Subsequently it was transformed to an ‘Odeon cinema’ style TV room, with suitably hideous colours and plastic seats, for Sammy Leslie and her little sister, Camilla. Upon it’s restoration as a guest room, Sammy faithfully reinstated and replicated the blue colour in the bedroom and also the bathroom, which was once a dressing room.
The walls in the Blue Room are adorned by sketches and paintings and there are panoramic views of the beautiful Glaslough Lake and landscaped gardens. The Lady in White is a fine pastel portrait of the lovely American aunt to the Leslie children, Anne Cockran, as is the smaller sketch beside it. Her sister Lady Marjorie Leslie appears in the second sketch, and in the small oil painting. The larger oil is of Lady Mary Crawshay, and was painted by her father, Sir John Leslie, 1st Bt. The older lady is Mrs. Henry Clay Ide, who died at a young age, leaving three daughters, Adelaide, Anne and little Marjorie.
Their father was Henry Clay Ide, Chief Justice of Samoa, where the Ides and the acclaimed author Robert Louis Stevenson, were the only white people living on the paradise island which inspired Stevenson’s famous Treasure Island. When not busy writing, Stevenson improvised stories for the Ide children and even legally gifted his birthday, 13 November, to Anne, who had suffered the great misfortune of having been born on Christmas day and thus been denied the ‘consolation and profit of a proper birthday!’
Marjorie often said that once you’ve lived among the kind happy Polynesian Samoans, whose language contained no word for ‘sin’, you were spoiled forever living among the white race again. Samoa was, until white men spoiled it, a true Garden of Eden where the idea of wrong or evil did not exist. All went well until missionaries arrived, forced the natives to wear clothes, read pious books and introduced them to guilt.
The Ide sisters had many adventures and survived countless earthquakes (24 on one terrifying Christmas day), tropical typhoons, and even volcanic eruptions. They sailed through boiling seas in the aftermath of mighty eruptions on the Samoan island of Savai’i, narrowly escaped a 600-foot tidal wave that followed the disaster.
Marjorie dearly loved animals, and was involved in the formation of the Philippine Islands Society for the Protection of Animals. But she had a fatal attraction for wild animals. She joked that whenever a tiger escaped from a zoo, it would inevitably find its way to her. In Singapore she spent a night, unknowingly, with a man-eating tiger who’d taken refuge under the billiards table in Raffles Hotel.
The Ides left Samoa, regretfully, when Mr. Ide was appointed Presidential Commissioner and later Governor General of the Philippines, then under American rule, in the early 1900s. They had their diplomatic residence at the Malacanan Palace in Manila.
From Manila, Marjorie and Anne paid a state visit to the old Empress Dowager of China in Peking, as ladies-in-waiting to Alice Roosevelt who was officially representing the United States. Their visit took place at a time when no Europeans were allowed into `The Forbidden City’, and the Empress generously presented each with a jade bracelet and ring.
Anne and Marjorie were great friends of Alice, the daughter of President `Teddy’ Roosevelt, who shocked Washington with her outlandish pranks. When Congress complained, the President replied, “I can run the United States of America, or I can run my daughter. I cannot run both!”
From the Philippines, Mr. Ide was relocated to Madrid to become US Ambassador to Spain in 1909. By this time, daughter Anne had already married Senator William Bourke Cockran. Churchill credited Cockran as his first political mentor and the chief role model for his own success as an orator, teaching Winston Churchill the art of public speaking. Marjorie accompanied her father to the Madrid embassy and assumed the role as his official hostess.
She found the rigidity of Spanish court life under King Alfonso XIII very dull. There was nothing for a young woman to do but visit Madrid’s incomparable Prado and other museums, chaperoned by a strict “duenna”. This gave her an eye for genuine articles. She bought a number of fine pieces including the elaborately carved chest standing by the piano in the Drawing Room. She and Queen Ena were the only tall blonde ladies being chauffeured around Madrid. They had identical limousines with armorial bearings on the doors, so Marjorie was obliged to acknowledge graciously the many sweeping bows and curtseys from passing `grandees’ or terrible offence would have been taken against the poor Queen. It was certainly a different experience than running a Castle hotel in Ireland!
Marjorie ran Castle Leslie Estate, one of the foremost hotels in Monaghan, all through the second World War. She found it very dull that the nearest she could get to the action was through her bedside radio. Not immune to the family writing bug, she did find the time to compose her memoirs, Girlhood in the Pacific in the early 1940s, recalling the exciting adventures of her childhood and young adult life, dedicating the book to her dear son Jack, at the time held captive in a German POW camp. She continued to run the Estate until her death in 1951. She is buried in the little garden cemetery she built on the Castle hotel grounds, just outside the main walls of St. Salvator’s.
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The Castle at Castle Leslie Estate exudes old world grandeur and offers complete respite from the world.