When Desmond FitzGerald died in September 2011, obituaries paid tribute to his involvement with organizations such as the Irish Georgian Society and the Irish Architectural Archive. But over the previous decades, Desmond had achieved much more than has yet been realized. Not only did he battle to save his own ancestral home, Glin Castle, from destitution but he also helped to ensure the survival of many other historic houses in Ireland, raising large sums of money at home and overseas for this cause. Without his passion and commitment Ireland’s architectural and artistic heritage today would be much the poorer.
Desmond was a pioneer in the field of Irish cultural studies, awarded a post-graduate scholarship to Harvard where he wrote a thesis on 18th century Irish architecture. At the time little was known about the subject even in Ireland and Desmond’s research has since proven invaluable in making the public aware of the quality of Irish design. The range of his interests and the consistently high quality of his published material across the entire spectrum of Irish architecture, art, furniture and decoration meant he paved the way for all subsequent writers on these subjects. The Last Knight of Glin is a celebration of the enormous amount that Desmond managed to do before his death, but it is also an assessment of the man. Robert O’Byrne has spoken to a wide range of family, friends and colleagues from Desmond’s schooldays onwards, and had access o his extenisive private archive, letters and papers,creating a portrait of a very distinctive Irish patriot, that will be of immense interest to his admirers and acquaintances.
ROBERT O’BYRNE is one of Ireland’s best-known writers on architecture, fine art and design. A former journalist with The Irish Times, he has written extensively on the country’s historic houses and their decoration. His previous books with Lilliput are Desmond Leslie, The Biography of an Irish Gentleman (2010), Mind Your Manners: A Guide to Good Behaviour (2004) and Hugh Lane, 1875-1915 (2000).