By Melanie Ward

Bryan Goold Verschoyle was born in 1912 at Dunkineely, Co. Donegal, the fifth child and youngest son of Hamilton Goold Verschoyle, and his wife Sibyl.

Hamilton, a barrister who often defended locals for free, was a pacifist and Home Rule supporter. Sibyl, like many women of that class, had an interest in mysticism, employing astrologers and holding seances. Both parents encouraged a love of literature, music and the arts in their children and encouraged them to be free thinkers.

Bryan’s childhood was spent at the family home in Dunkineely, bringing in the hay during summer, as well as boating and mackerel fishing.

During the War of Independence the family was connected to both sides – a grandfather was involved with gun-running for the Orangemen, while a cousin, Constance MarKiewicz, set up Fianna Éireann. It is said that when the IRA arrived at the Goold Verschoyle home to commandeer two bicycles, they put away their weapons after Sibyl told them she couldn’t stand the sight of guns.

The children enjoyed visiting a neighbour, Tom Fforde, at Bruckless House. A former sea captain who had become radicalised after witnessing the brutal put down of the Boxer Rebellion in China, Fforde had lived for a year in Soviet Russia and regaled the children with tales of his life at sea – and in Stalin’s Russia.

In 1923, Bryan followed his brother, Denis, to Portora School in Enniskillen. Neil, the eldest son – and heir – was sent to Cheltenham school in England.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own