Meryl Gaisford-St Lawrence (b. 1933)
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Meryl Gaisford-St Lawrence (b. 1933)


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Track 1: Meryl Gaisford-St Lawrence (née Guinness) discusses her family’s home in Warwickshire near Stratford, which was destroyed by fire on VE Day. She describes the circumstances surrounding the requisition of the house during WWII and the various uses to which it had been put. She explains that her father, Richard Guinness, was a manufacturer and the inventor of the foot-flushing WC for railways, and she describes his various manufacturing ventures, including submersible pumps. His training with the Royal Naval Division during WWI is discussed, as is his part in the campaign at Gallipoli. He was injured and invalided to Sister Agnes’ hospital, and convalesced in London. She recalls that her father did not talk about his war experiences until the end of his life and explains that few of his friends survived. She describes him as a man of a diffident and humble character and says that he was happy to return to Ireland after the war. She talks about his childhood in Fitzwilliam Place in Dublin. Track 2: The history of the Guinness Mahon bank is discussed. Meryl says that her great-grandfather opened the Cornhill branch in London, which transformed the business. As she recalls, her marriage to Christopher Gaisford-St Lawrence was not the first occasion on which a Guinness had married into her husband’s family. Lady Henrietta St Lawrence married Benjamin Lee Guinness of St Annes in 1881. Maryl remembers the Mahons of Galway, and her privileged and sheltered upbringing, which contrasted with the poverty of the time in Dublin, is recalled as she talks about how little she knew about the lives of others. Her father Richard Guinness’s deeply religious nature is considered. She tells the story about Richard’s grandmother, Maria Smyth (née Coote), who was accidentally shot by a Fenian activist. The target for the shooting was her brother-in-law, William Barlow Lyster-Smythe who was in the carriage with her, driving back from church on Easter Sunday 1882. Meryl feels that this was probably one of the reasons why the family left Ireland. Track 3: Meryl talks about her father’s work following his injury during WWI. He was employed as an Admiralty Messenger, carrying the lead code books. She also mentions a curious job involving the delivery of the royal rabbits to Balmoral! She explains that Richard told her about being in Dublin around the time of the Easter Rising. Track 4: Meryl remembers that her father was not subjected to any animosity during his life in Ireland, and that he insisted on being called simply Richard Guinness. Although she was brought up in England, the family always considered themselves to be Irish. She remembers coming to Ireland in 1948 and being excited by the food and the lights in the evenings, and she recalls wartime rationing in England. The numbers of men who went to war at the outbreak of WWI are remembered, and to her mind, the effect of English schooling on recruitment has to be considered. She mentions the effects of the declaration of the Irish Republic in 1948 and the pressure from English relatives to leave the country. She considers also the effect of the introduction of Wealth Tax in the 1970s. The philanthropy of the Guinness family in Ireland and England is mentioned.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The Irish Country House and the Great War


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

17.31 MB, 9.79 MB, 13.99 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



Richard Guinness’ service in WWI

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore