PARTY FOR THE LATE SIR JACK

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Monaghan County Museum Curator Liam Bradley with Antonia Leslie, Eimear Quinn and Tarka Leslie-King  Pic. Michael Fisher

TRIBUTE TO SIR JACK LESLIE ON WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HIS 100th BIRTHDAY

Michael Fisher   Northern Standard  Thursday 8th December 2016 p.14

It was just what Sir Jack ordered. A party, not a wake, with champagne (prosecco) and orange, tea and coffee, sandwiches and cake. A time to remember this remarkable character who died just eight months short of his 100th birthday, after a colourful life of 36,305 days. He passed away in April aged 99 a few months after he had received France’s highest honour, the Légion d’honneur, for his part in the defence of that country in the Second World War. Four generations of the Leslie family were around him when he passed away peacefully. The magnolia trees were in bloom as the horse-drawn hearse carrying his remains made its way along the driveway at Castle Leslie to his final resting place outside the walls of St Salvator’s church, where Catholic members of the Leslie family are buried.

At Monaghan Museum video footage of the funeral was shown. Mark and Antonia Leslie helped to carry the remains. Tarka King read a message of sympathy from the Brigade of Guards. On Monday night the family members gathered again for what Curator Liam Bradley said was an evening of remembrance and celebration. He described Sir Jack as a very wonderful man and said he had got to know him well in the last few years.

Tuesday 6th December would have been Sir Jack’s 100th birthday. Before he died he had asked for an evening to remember him in a cheerful way and definitely not a sombre mood. His was a life well lived. Liam Bradley then introduced Sir Jack’s niece and two nephews to share their memories of the fourth Baronet of Glaslough and Pettigo. They were followed by former Eurovision Eimear Quinn from Carrickmacross, who sang a medley of songs chosen from different times of the past one hundred years marking different events in Jack’s life.

Tarka Leslie King said his uncle Jack was an example of bravery. From his mother (Anita) he learned that Jack had a really bad start in life when at the age of three he developed an ear mastoid that meant he sometimes screamed with the pain. Anita and Jack became very close. He was younger than her.

Tarka recalled: “When mother died in 1985 he (Jack) was bereft because he had lost his main pillar of support who was always there for him even when he was in the prisoner of war camp (during the Second World War) and they corresponding with letters. Then when she died he was alone in Italy and did not quite know where he was going with himself. He came home and he was given another start and became the Jack the Boyo that we all got to know from the 1990s onwards. He had an inner strength from that really tough start.”

Antonia Leslie said in the last five months of her uncle’s life she had the privilege of being his full time carer. She got to know him as he deteriorated. “Being with him 24/7 over that time as he went downhill he really opened up to me in a way that touched me”, she said. He was great with people telling stories. She went on: “I realised he was a special gorgeous man which he really didn’t know he was. He was one of the sweetest individuals I have ever come across.”

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Mark Leslie with Eimear Quinn and Monaghan County Museum Curator Liam Bradley  Pic. Michael Fisher

Mark Leslie curated the exhibition on ‘Castle Leslie: Between Two Worlds’ which is now at the Castle in Glaslough. He also redesigned the Monaghan Museum displays in 2004. He told the gathering it was a great honour and an opportunity to thank the people of the county for the wonderful role they had played in Jack’s life. “He was bereft when complications meant he had to abandon his wonderful home in Italy. When he returned here his sister who he adored had died.”

He went on: “Everyone in the room has their own personal Jack story. He knew so much about people. But how did he stay so young and keep his mind so clear? The secret was he never did all the things that trammel our brains like a 9-5 job or got married or rear children. He had his whole hard drive clear for people. He just collected them and filed them away and would remember everything about those he met and their genealogy. We always called him Jack-apedia. When he returned to Ireland he had come back to die. He had lost his purpose in life, his sister and his house in Rome. The craic and fun he got out of the people of Monaghan gave him another 25 rip-roaring years, the best years of his life, whether it was at a disco at The Squealing Pig or supporting Glaslough Villa FC. Monaghan people are great craic and they kept him endlessly amused with a whole supply of stories about the past because he would remember your great grandmother or great aunt or whatever. Well done and thank you to the people of Monaghan for making the last 25 years of his life such a laugh.”

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Miniature of Lt John (Jack) Leslie in Irish Guards uniform (courtesy of Mark Leslie)

Eimear Quinn’s Medley consisted of eight songs that reflected different periods in Jack’s life. A beautiful note on which to finish the evening.

1. The West’s Asleep by Thomas Davis

When all beside a vigil keep,

The West’s asleep, the West’s asleep-

Alas! and well may Erin weep,

When Connaught lies in slumber deep.

There lake and plain smile fair and free,

‘Mid rocks-their guardian chivalry-

Sing oh! let man learn liberty

From crashing wind and lashing sea…

And if, when all a vigil keep,

The West’s; asleep, the West’s asleep-

Alas! and well may Erin weep,

That Connaught lies in slumber deep.

But-hark! -some voice like thunder spake:

“The West’s awake, the West’s awake’-

Sing oh! hurra! let England quake,

We’ll watch till death for Erin’s sake!”

2. Rossmore’s Demesne (Dúchas Schools Collection Threemilehouse Vol. 0593 p.358-90)

“As I went a-walking

And for pleasure did rove

Down by Rossmore’s castle

And down by the grove

I s[ied a wee charmer

So neatly stepped she,

On the banks of yon river

Near the weeping ash tree.”

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Eimear Quinn  Pic. Michael Fisher

3. Abide with Me (sung at times of sympathy)

“Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me…

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;

Change and decay in all around I see—

O Thou who changest not, abide with me…

I need Thy presence every passing hour;

What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?

Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?

Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.”

4. Someone to Watch Over Me (Gershwin)

“I’m a little lamb who’s lost in a wood

I know I could always be good

To one who’ll watch over me

Although I/he may not be the man some girls think of

As handsome to my heart

She/he carries the key

Won’t you tell her/him please to put on some speed

Follow my lead, oh how I need

Someone to watch over me.”

5. Lili Marlene (made popular by Vera Lynn during WWII and sung by Eimear against a WWI backdrop from the current exhibition at the Museum)

“Underneath the lantern

By the barrack gate

Darling I remember

The way you used to wait

‘Twas there that you whispered tenderly

That you loved me

You’d always be

My Lili of the lamplight

My own Lili Marlene…

Resting in our billet

Just behind the line

Even though we’re parted

Your lips are close to mine

You wait where that lantern softly gleamed

Your sweet face seems

To haunt my dreams

My Lili of the lamplight

My own Lili Marlene

My Lili of the lamplight

My own Lili Marlene.”

6. Libiamo from La Traviata

“Let’s enjoy the wine and the singing,

the beautiful night, and the laughter.

Let the new day find us in this paradise.”

7. I Feel Love (reflecting Jack;s love of ‘boom-boom’ music)

Ooh it’s so good, it’s so good

It’s so good, it’s so good

It’s so good

Ooh I’m in love, I’m in love,

I’m in love, I’m in love

I’m in love

Ooh I feel love, I feel love

I feel love, I feel love

I feel love.

8. O Holy Night!

“O Holy Night!

The stars are brightly shining

It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees

Oh hear the angel voices

Oh night divine

Oh night when Christ was born

Oh night divine

Oh night divine”.

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Eimear Quinn   Pic. Michael Fisher

SIR JOHN LESLIE Bart born December 6th 1916, died April 8th 2016 (extracts from a Daily Telegraph obituary)

John Norman Ide Leslie, always known as Jack, was born on December 6th 1916 in New York where his father Shane, a writer, diplomat, convert to Rome, and supporter of John Redmond’s moderate nationalist party had gone to counter Irish-Americans trying to keep the United States out of the war. Jack’s mother, born Marjorie Ide, was a well-connected American whose father had been governor general of the Philippines.

Young Jack caught the Spanish Flu in the epidemic of 1918 and was given up for dead when his temperature reached 106. His father, he recalled, asked the nuns next door to pray for him; that night his mother woke with a start to find his temperature had returned to normal. Soon afterwards, however, he developed a mastoid that left him deaf in his left ear.

Jack was almost three when in 1919 he and his elder sister Anita were brought back by their parents to Castle Leslie, to be received by his grandfather, Sir John Leslie, 2nd Bt, and his American wife Leonie, whose sister Jennie was the mother of Winston Churchill. The Leslies had lost their eldest son Norman in the Great War, making Jack the ultimate heir apparent to the title and the vast estates that went with it. But his parents were based in London and, apart from blissful holidays in Ireland, it was there that Jack was brought up.

“My world was populated by lords and ladies,” he recalled, “and naturally I believed that they were the people who ruled England and the enormous British Empire. Although our cousin Winston Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer, I thought the House of Commons was a purely advisory committee.” By this time (aged 15) he was at school at Downside. At Magdalene College, Cambridge, he rowed in the college VIII and joined the officer training corps. On graduation in 1938 he was commissioned in the Irish Guards and enjoyed a short period as a “Deb’s delight” before war intervened.

 Ordered to cross to Boulogne after the German invasion of Holland in May 1940, Leslie’s platoon were rendered helpless when their bullets bounced off the advancing German tanks. They surrendered and were marched across Germany to a prisoner of war camp in Bavaria, Leslie spent the rest of the war in captivity.

On release, he returned to civilian life. His grandparents had died and he found himself the major shareholder in the company that owned Castle Leslie. Having planted thousands of trees on the demesne, he embarked on a peripatetic life in Britain, continental Europe and the United States.

In 1953 Leslie settled in Rome in a 16th century house he had restored in Trastevere. As a connoisseur of art, Leslie found much to enjoy in Rome, and as a devout Catholic he relished its religious life and was a pillar of the Order of Malta. He restored an ancient monastery and was rewarded with a papal knighthood.

He returned in 1994 to live in Castle Leslie, which was by then being run by his niece Sammy. In 2001 he celebrated his 85th birthday by travelling to Ibiza to party at Privilege, then the world’s biggest nightclub. In 2006 at the age of 90 Leslie drew on his great memory to write his autobiography, ‘Never a Dull Moment’. In November last year he was among Irish veterans of the Second World War whom the French government appointed to the Légion d’ honneur at a ceremony at the French embassy in Dublin.

 

 

 

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SIR JACK LESLIE DIES AGED 99

Sir John (Jack) Leslie in Caledon Photo: © Michael Fisher

Sir John (Jack) Leslie in Caledon Photo: © Michael Fisher

Sorry to learn this morning of the death of Sir John (Jack) Leslie eight months before his 100th birthday. He was single. His age did not stop him from dancing his way around various nightclubs in Ibiza and Monaghan! The news was conveyed by the family on social media @Castle_Leslie, adding that he died peacefully at his home.

In November last year (then aged 98) at the residence of the French Ambassador in Dublin, family and friends of Sir Jack joined the celebrations as the World War II veteran was awarded France’s highest distinction. The former Irish Guards officer was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, adding to his formal title of fourth baronet. The distinction was bestowed by the French Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance, M. Jean-Marc Todeschini. Representatives of the British Army and the Irish Defence Forces were present for this important occasion that was another chapter in the historical friendship between Ireland and France. The Bishop of Clogher Dr Liam Mac Daid and Donagh Parish Priest Fr Hubert Martin were also among the guests.

Sir Jack said he wished to accept the award on behalf of all soldiers from the island of Ireland who fought and died in the two great wars. As a second Lieutenant in the Irish Guards, Jack Leslie commanded a unit at Boulogne-sur-Mer in 1940 that took on the advancing Panzers of the German army and held them back for several days allowing thousands of other British soldiers to be evacuated from Dunkerque. He was taken prisoner and spent the rest of the war in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany.

Born on 6th December 1916 he was the eldest son of Sir Shane Leslie, 3rd Bt, and Marjorie Ide. He became the fourth baronet when his father died in 1971. He was educated at Downside School and Magdalene College, Cambridge. During World War II, he served as an officer in the Irish Guards during the Battle of France before being captured at Boulogne-sur-Mer. He then spent five years in POW camps. After the war he moved to New York and later travelled around Europe, settling in Rome. At the age of 78 he returned to his family’s homestead and traveled to Ibiza for his 85th birthday in 2001. He revealed the wedding location of Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills by admitting to reporters it was to take place in Castle Leslie, but that it was “a secret”. In January 2012 he appeared in the TV special “Secrets of the Manor House”, which discussed the Leslie family and Castle Leslie, among other manor homes. In 2015 he featured in the TV series “Tales of Irish Castles”. He was presented with the Legion d’Honneur at the French embassy in Dublin on 9 November 2015.

Jack Leslie survived his older sister, the author Anita Leslie (Anita King d.1985) and his younger brother, Desmond Leslie (d.2001). In the immediate line of succession for the baronetcy are nephew Shaun and nephew Mark. His father was a first cousin of the former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. His paternal grandmother, Leonie Jerome, and Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill (born Jennie Jerome), were sisters – the daughters of American financier Leonard Jerome. His mother, Marjorie Ide, was the daughter of Henry Clay Ide, a former Governor-General of the Philippines.

A repeat of my article in 2014:

Among the family stories examined in a current World War One exhibition at the National Library in Dublin was that of the Leslies of Castle Leslie, Glaslough, County Monaghan. Sir John was a veteran of the Second World War and was there to help with the opening of the exhibition. It was attended by the British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys TD, from County Monaghan.

I reported in 2014 how the display will run for four years and features letters, diaries, newspapers, leaflets and photographs from the library’s archives and aims to depict the various aspects of the Irish experience of the war, and Ireland’s response to the conflict. It is supported by the British Embassy and is part of the National Library’s programme for the Decade of Commemorations.

Nikki Ralston, exhibition curator for the NLI, said: “Irish people had very diverse and complex reactions to World War I. This exhibition captures those sentiments, and also recounts the tense domestic situation in the Ireland of 1914. We felt one of the best ways to illustrate how Ireland experienced the war was to explore a range of themes through real-life stories. We have chosen to focus on four people who had very different experiences, and we have featured their writings – including personal diaries and letters– in this exhibition. These primary sources are complemented by audio, video and touchscreen installations to create a multi-layered, multimedia experience for all visitors.”

Among the four real-life stories featured in the new exhibition focus on:

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Sir John (Jack) Leslie at Monaghan County Museum Photo: © Michael Fisher

**Captain Norman Leslie, 28 Rifle Brigade, second son of the well-known Leslie family from Castle Leslie, had become heir to the family estate when his elder brother, Shane, converted to Catholicism and became a supporter of Irish Home Rule. An experienced soldier when the war broke out, Norman was shot and killed in October 1914, while charging a German machine gun armed only with a sword (it was considered ungentlemanly for officers to carry guns). He is buried in France at Chapelle d’Armentieres Old Military Cemetery. The sword he was carrying when he died was eventually returned to the Leslie family, and now hangs in the gallery of Castle Leslie. It was carried by Jack, his nephew, for the opening of the exhibition.

Jack’s nephew, Mark Leslie; and Mark’s son, Luke were also present at the launch of the exhibition. The family spoke of how Norman’s memory is kept alive at Castle Leslie, where his sporting trophies adorn the entrance hall and his sword – considered a symbol of good luck – is used to cut all wedding cakes at the Castle.

Launching the exhibition at the time, Minister Heather Humphreys said: “This exhibition in the National Library allows us to understand the sheer magnitude of the First World War through very personal stories. By choosing to focus on four people and their different experiences, the Library has brought to life the real-life challenges and dilemmas which they faced 100 years ago. We can walk in their shoes, hear their words and see their hand-written letters. I was interested to see the Leslie family from Co Monaghan featuring in the exhibition. The story of the tragic death of Norman Leslie in 1914 gives us just one of example of the brutal way in which tens of thousands of Irish men lost their lives during the War. This fascinating exhibition is part of the Library’s programme for the Decade of Commemorations, and I would encourage as many people as possible to check it out.”

Addressing the launch, British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott said: “The British government are very pleased to be supporting the National Library of Ireland’s excellent work of commemorating the events of 100 years ago. The National Library’s archive of First World War documents is a rich one; and our understanding of the Great War and the Irish experience of it benefits hugely from this collection. The part of this exhibition that the British government helped to fund is the ‘listening post’, where you can hear period songs and readings of poetry and letters. The generation that went to war was a highly literary one. They wrote huge numbers of letters as well as much poetry and many books and diaries recording their experiences at the Front. We are fortunate in having so much material to explore.”

More details of the exhibition can be found here.