Jim FitzPatrick, the artist best known for bringing us our Celtic myths in vivid colour, bought his Victorian house by the Burrow Beach in Sutton “by accident” at auction – and with no money in his bank account.
“I was living off the Burrow Beach in an apartment which was also my studio, and my friend, the auctioneer John Molloy, was selling this big house on the road. So I went down to the auction to help him out, to help fill the room basically. That was 1991 and the market had stalled.
“There was an offer made and on the spur of the moment I put my hand up. John was shaking his head. I suddenly decided I needed some more space in which to live and to paint. So I had gone down there to help him out and now I had just bought this great big house.
“The problem was that I had no money at all in the bank. So I wrote a cheque for the deposit. I think that was a Friday. So first thing on Monday morning I was waiting outside the bank for it to open. The manager, who knew me – he knew everyone in the area – said ‘come on in and don’t worry’. He knew it was a good house and it would hold its value and he knew I’d be good for it. So I got the loan. That was back in the day when the banks did their best to help you rather than to screw you.”
Ironically by then FitzPatrick had created an image that was as universally recognisable as the Coca-Cola logo, Mickey Mouse or the CND anti-nuclear motif. His iconic interpretation of Che Guevara from the classic photo by the Cuban photographer Korda, was created after meeting the man himself in a hotel in Co Clare in 1961.
It has since gone on to adorn the walls or the button badges of every radical-thinking young person since the Sixties. Because the artist circulated the image licence-free, he intentionally never made a penny from it. Recently the State made it into a commemorative postage stamp.
The image was inspired by a bright day in 1961 when Ernesto Che Guevara Lynch walked into the bar of the Marine Hotel in Kilkee with two Cuban companions. En route from Moscow to Havana, he had stopped over at Shannon for two days. He asked the 16-year-old FitzPatrick (the barman, who recognised him) to recommend a drink. FitzPatrick suggested rum, but Che, then the Cuban Finance Minister, wanted an Irish drink. So the artist suggested an Irish whiskey with either ginger ale or water. The revolutionary opted for water. He discussed his Irish roots (his father’s people were originally from Cork or Galway, the iconic rebel had decided).
The period home at Burrow Road where the artist has been based since 1991 was once part of St Fintan’s School and it was the home of the Christian Brothers who taught there and are fondly remembered by their former students. The school moved to another site in the area and its buildings were knocked down for development, leaving the house untouched.
Constructed in 1891, the Old School House is one of the oldest homes on the road. Although it’s not protected or listed, Jim hopes the new owners will mind it. “The best thing about it is the light and of course the location. You walk to the end of the garden and you’re on the beach – one of Dublin’s best beaches and a Blue Flag beach at that.
“I started coming out this way to visit my friend, Phil Lynott. We used to play football on the beach.” The lanky artist played every single Saturday until he hit 68 and had to fight off a bout of cancer. “You know yourself, you start slowing down.”
With FitzPatrick’s children having flown the nest, the Old School House is too large for his needs and it has been placed on the market seeking a new owner. It needs modernisation.
With 1,970 sq ft, the accommodation includes a reception hall with under-stairs storage, a lounge with an open fireplace, a living room to the front with a wide bay window, and a kitchen and breakfast room.
Upstairs is a substantial landing and there are four bedrooms, one of which the artist has used as a studio, as well as a bathroom.
Walk down to the end of the garden and out the end and you’re on the beach, which runs for over a kilometre of finest sand.
Meantime Jim FitzPatrick is regrouping at his original apartment home down the road where he’s working on a new set of paintings, this time on the subject of ancient Irish queens of the pre-Celtic era.
The Old School House
19 Burrow Road
Asking price: €995,000
Agent: Gallagher Quigley (01) 8183000