Sir John Boorman CBE

‘As I step out of the conservatory facing North, supported by my pusher, the first that
catches my eye is the dying Sycamore which escapes death every year by producing a
healthy crop of leaves, but it looks so decrepit that surely it can’t pull that trick yet again.’
– Extract from Nature Diary (2020) by John Boorman

Imagine working at John Boorman’s writing desk. Who knows what scripts once
rested on its scuffed leather top? Maybe the legendary film director read the script
for Excalibur (1981), sitting at this very desk, in amid the leafy peacefulness of his
County Wicklow home. But there’s no way of knowing. That desk is keeping its
secrets. Maybe some of his genius will rub off on its new owner. In physical terms,
it’s a George III mahogany writing desk (80 cm high; 147 cm wide; 107 cm deep) with
three drawers on either side. The desk is in what’s known as ‘country house
condition’. This translates as loved and lived-in but by no means perfect. It’s for sale
(Lot 853: est. €500 to €800) as part of Sheppard’s 3-day sale – Sir John Boorman,
CBE & Other Important Clients from Tuesday 28 February to Thursday 2 March.
In 2022, Boorman left the elegant Georgian rectory – The Glebe, Annamoe – where
he’d lived for more than fifty years. Now aged 90, he’s moved to England to be closer
to the family. ‘We met briefly at the end of last summer when we went to catalogue
the things he wanted to sell,’ says Philip Sheppard. ‘I remember the long driveway
that follows the Annamoe River, which flows past the house. It was like being
transported to another world. He was there, with all his things around him, in a big
lump of a beautiful Regency House surrounded by extraordinary trees.’

Many of the trees were planted in the early 1900s when Rev Samuel Synge — brother of the
playwright JM Synge — who lived at The Glebe. Boorman wrote about them in his
Nature Diary, written in his eighty-eighth year. ‘There’s a literary DNA in that
house!’ Sheppard says. He describes the house itself as warm and homely. ‘It was a
proper country house. A dogs-on-the-sofa sort of country house. We met John
Boorman and then we were taken down to the kitchen for homemade apple tart and
tea,’ The kitchen contained another low key gem: a nineteenth-century pine dresser
(Lot 893: est. €300 to €500). At more than 2 metres high, it would need a spacious
Rather than film memorabilia, the sale includes items that Boorman lived with and
used, any one of which would be an excellent talking point for film buffs. The most
direct connection is a pen-and-ink portrait of Boorman by Anthony Palliser (Lot 345:
est. €300 to €500) dated 2009. The rest is mostly furniture. Some is elegant: a
nineteenth-century giltwood mirror (Lot 13: est. €1,200 to €1,800); a Venetian
chandelier with coloured glass ball pendants hanging from multiple arms (Lot 154:
est. €1,000 to €1,500); and a Cork Regency mahogany side table (Lot 473: est.
€2,000 to €5,000). Fine pieces, all of them, and made richer by their association.
Similarly, a Donegal Design carpet (380 x 280 cm) showing a tree of life on a many-
coloured background with Celtic scroll decoration (Lot 327: est. €2,000 to €3,000).
All of the above were made for, and would look best in, a big house but the final day
of the sale includes some less hefty items: an eighteenth century Irish games table made in red walnut with a top that opens to reveal an interior lined with baize (Lot 1221: est. €1,500 to €2,500); a pair of George III mahogany and inlaid tea tables (Lot 1224: est. €800 to €1,200); and a very fancy pair of eighteenth-century carved giltwood wall brackets (Lot 1315: est. €200 to €300).