DRINKING CHAMPAGNE AND MOONSHINE WITH JOHN HURT

RIP John.

I met him in Luggala, the Guinnes ancestoral home of the brewing family in Co Wicklow, Ireland, about 30 miles south of Dublin, where I was sent to interview the owner Garech Browne, the great-great-great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, in the 18th-century lodge on 5,000 acres in the super-picturesque valley beside Lough Tay. Arriving at midday, Garreth ordered his butler to go to the cellar and bring up champagne. On the cork’s pop who should walk in but John Hurt. We laughed and bubbled a few bottles before Garreth suggested lunch. He put his chauffeur in the passenger seat and drove down through the Wicklow hills to Roundwood, where a police road check-point turned their backs when they saw the roller. Lunch was more champagne. I tried to buy a bottle, but the landlord told me I could not afford it, and just sit and enjoy myself. The chauffeur drove us back; more champagne, and then John produced a gift given to him by a local, a bottle of poteen, potato moonshine. We polished that off with more bubbly and then John watched his favourite team, Manchester United, bubbling away. My wife phoned asking where I was. I put John on to her. He spoke so elegantly. When I went back on the phone she wouldn’t believe it was John Hurt, and that I was playing some trick, and she demanded to speak with him again. The poor man was trying to watch Manchester United, while bubbling away, the butler was working overtime, and John was ever so polite to her; such a patient man. My photographer arrived, he snapped as we drank more bubbly and a new bottle of poteen. I departed about midnight … legless…. after a 12 hour interview…. the Sunday newspaper I worked for refused to print my story saying they couldn’t believe it had happened. Later that week I met John and Garret who were both disappointed that the interview / story did not publish, (I had sent them a copy, and they had a great laugh at it) so we commenced drinking to drown our publishing sorrows; corks popped again. John Hurt was a gentleman. God is so lucky to have John back with him. RIP John Hurt.