Idyllic Fermanagh childhood led to lifelong interest in land
The Duke of Westminster who has died at the age of 64, had alway fondly recalled his idyllic childhood in Fermanagh.
His death in the Royal Preston Hospital, Lancashire on Tuesday after becoming ill on his Abbeystead Estate has brought tributes from the people he grew up with in Fermanagh to politicians and leaders.
The Duke of Westminster had many happy memories of his childhood in Fermanagh, where he would have spent a lot of his time on Lough Erne or in the countryside close to the Ely Lodge estate the family owned. His sisters, Lady Leonora and Lady Jane are regular visitors to Fermanagh.
In an interview for The Impartial Reporter a number of years ago, the Duke spoke fondly of his time here and the people with home he regarded as his best friends.
I suppose one s endearing memory was the most perfect childhood one could ever have. It had all the ingredients of the excitement on the lough, living with nature, the outdoor life and a lot of very good friends and living in a close community like that we make good friends and we had a lot of fun together.
He recalled attending Gloucester House before going on to Harrow.
I was going to go to the Regular Army but couldn t because my father was ill and then really started into the running of this(Grosvenor Estates) well before I inherited you see. So I had all the fun and none of the responsibility and then my father died and I had none of the fun and all the responsibility.
His mother, the Dowager, Duchess of Westminster died in 1987 following a car crash.
The Duke of Westminster built up Grosvenor Farms in Cheshire, pioneering a dairy breeding project, Cogent, and also expanded urban property interests to America, Australia, Spain, Hong Kong, Portugal and France as well as retaining those already established in the United Kingdom, mainly London.
He recalled being President or Patron of 150 organisations as well as holding the position of Deputy Commander of the Territorial Army.
One of the people that the Duke knew well locally was Wesley Scott from Monea, who was gamekeeper at Ely Lodge Estate while the Duke was growing up there.
Wesley said; Lady Jane(the Duke s sister) phoned me on Tuesday night to tell me. We are in touch very often. I was gutted when I heard the news.
Recalling his years on the estate, Wesley said: They were a terrific family. From boyhood, he(Duke) was at my tail, shooting and fishing. He was a born sportsman and he was one of the nicest men I ve ever met. I last saw him at the Earl of Erne s memorial service along with his sisters.
The Westminster family had strong links with Devenish Parish Church, Monea.
The Duke of Westminster, regarded as one of the richest people in the UK, is now succeeded by his only son, Hugh, aged 25. He and the Duchess had three daughters, Tamara, Edwina and Viola.
A spokesperson for the family, announcing the news of his death said: His family are all aware and they ask for privacy and understanding at this very difficult time.
No further comment will be made for the time being but further information will follow in due course.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: I can confirm that Her Majesty the Queen is aware of the news about the Duke of Westminster.
A private message of condolence is being sent by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were said to be deeply shocked and greatly saddened by his death.
The First Minister, Arlene Foster, paid tribute to the Duke of Westminster.
She said: I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of Gerald Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster, suddenly in hospital in England. The Grosvenor family had of course very strong links to Fermanagh and the young Duke was brought up at the family home at Ely Lodge, Enniskillen, somewhere he once described as idyllic.
The Duke never lost his attachment for his childhood home and the last time I spoke with him was at the memorial service for the Earl of Erne in Enniskillen Cathedral in May of this year.
The Duke of Westminster may have been a very rich person but he used his fortune for good in many areas of London and beyond. He was above all a man of the country and loved farming, something that is obviously linked back to his upbringing here in rural Fermanagh.
His untimely death at the age of just 64 will of course be felt most keenly by his family, and I send them my deepest condolences, but he will also be mourned in Fermanagh where he will always be remembered with great affection.
Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP, Tom Elliott expressed his sadness at the news.
He commented: I was shocked to learn of the death of the Duke of Westminster at only 64 years of age. Indeed, the Grosvenor family was of great significance to County Fermanagh. The Duke was born in Omagh, and was raised on an island in the middle of Lough Erne. Indeed I received my post primary education at the Duke of Westminster High School in Fermanagh. His father, the 5th Duke of Westminster, Lord Robert Grosvenor was elected as MP twice for Fermanagh and South Tyrone before retiring in 1964. His son, Gerald joined the British Army and became a Major General, just one example of his hard work throughout his life.
He owned vast areas of land across the United Kingdom and was recognised by Forbes Magazine because of this. The Duke of Westminster was a proud Fermanagh man and his loss comes as a great blow to this constituency. I would like to pass on my sympathies to his entire family circle at this difficult time.
Ulster Unionist MLA, Rosemary Barton joined her colleague, Tom Elliott MP in expressing her sadness at the passing of the Duke of Westminster.
Mrs Barton stated: I was saddened to learn of the passing of the Duke of Westminster. He was held in high esteem in Fermanagh where he and his sisters spent their childhood at Ely Lodge a few miles from Enniskillen.
Many people will have vivid memories of the Grosvenor family growing up in the county and playing with the late Duke when he returned home from school for the summer vacation.
Returning to live in England, the Duke of Westminster became one of the most financially successful people in the United Kingdom.
The late Duke still has a large number of family connections in both Fermanagh and Tyrone and I wish to extend my sympathies to the family as they mourn the loss of a great man.