Tributes have poured in following the death at age 75 of Lord Jeremy Browne Altamont, owner of Westport House, who pioneered tourism on the western seaboard and set a template for how historic mansions can flourish in the modern era.
Lord Altamont was the 11th Marquess of Sligo and a direct descendant of Grace O’Malley, a famous chieftain also known as the Pirate Queen of Connaught.
Minister of State for Tourism Michael Ring T.D. said Lord Altamont had been a driving force in the promotion of the area as a tourist destination and praised his dedication to Westport town.
Westport House was built on the site of one of O’Malley’s castles in the 18th century. Lord Altamont opened the mansion to the public in 1960 in an attempt to pay inheritance taxes.
The mansion quickly grew in popularity and prestige and has been visited by more than four million people since opening. It is now regarded as one of the finest heritage sites in Ireland and attractions include a zoo, restaurant, bar and wedding facilities.
Lord Altamont also helped change inheritence laws in Ireland, which up until 1993 stated that the Westport estate must pass down to a male heir. As he had five daughters and no son, Lord Altamont introduced a private member’s bill in Seanad Éireann that would allow the estate to pass onto female lineage.
The bill passed, though the title of Marquess of Sligo, a British peerage not under Irish control, will be passed over to a cousin in Australia rather than his daughters.
Just recently, the estate hosted the two day Westport Festival of Music and Food headlined by Sinead O’Connor and Kool and the Gang, amongst others.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.