THE death took place on Tuesday, January 5th of Lady Melissa Brooke.
Born Lady Melissa Eva Wyndham-Quin in February 1935, she was the first-born child of the then Viscount and Viscountess Adare, later the Earl and Countess of Dunraven.
At the age of five she, along with her sister Caroline, brother Thady and their nanny, sailed to New York where they spent the rest of World War II living with their maternal grandmother. The rest of their childhood was spent happily at Kilgobbin, being interspersed with boarding school in England and summers at Derrynane in Kerry. Riding and hunting played a key role in their daily lives.
In 1959, Lady Melissa married Major Sir George Brooke in St Nicholas’ Church, Adare, their reception attended by almost 1,000 guests. The couple lived in Kildare for four years where Sir George and his mother were joint-masters of the Kildare Hounds.
In 1963, Lady Melissa and her husband purchased Glenbevan, near Croom. They enjoyed hunting, racing and shooting, while in summer Lady Melissa enjoyed showing her hunters.
Lady Melissa was invited to become a master of the Co Limerick foxhounds by Lord Harrington in 1978 and she remained a master until 1997. Her early years as a master coincided with her husband’s illness and Sir George died in December 1982.
Lady Melissa was totally committed to the Limerick hounds, devoting a huge amount of time throughout the year to visiting farmers and landowners to thank them for allowing the hunt to cross their land.
In 1989, Lady Melissa joined the ranks of National Hunt breeders. She purchased three mares, one of whom, Derry Girl, went on to produce Mighty Moss, Bannow Bay and Far From Trouble, all top-class horses. Derry Girl is also the grandam of dual Welsh Grand National winner, Mountainous.
Though she never bred a Cheltenham Festival winner, it took a pair of exceptional champions to deny her the honour. Istabraq beat Mighty Moss by a length in the 1997 RSA Novices’ Hurdle, while Baracouda denied Bannow Bay by a neck in the 2002 Stayers’ Hurdle. She had considerable success in the sale ring, usually selling her foals in November at Fairyhouse.
In 2001, Lady Melissa moved out of Glenbevan and into a newly built house on the farm. She named it Ballymaigue and spent nearly 20 happy years there. Apart from her equine and equestrian pursuits, she loved fishing, particularly on the Helmsdale in Scotland and the Owenduff in Mayo. She was proud of her garden and opened it every year to raise funds for the Samaritans, a charity of which she was a long-time supporter.
Lady Melissa is survived by her son Francis Brooke, daughter Emma Thompson, five grandchildren, sister Caroline, Marchioness of Waterford, the extended family and many friends at home and abroad.