The Shelbourne has named a suite in honour of actress Maureen O’Hara – and you can stay there for €1400 a night. Vickie Maye takes a peek inside.
The Shelbourne already had 19 suites named in honour of celebrity and historic guests: The Princess Grace suite, the room the actress requested whenever she came to Dublin; JFK; Collins; DeValera.
It’s a hotel steeped in history, so much so it warrants a museum in reception, a little treasure trove of black and white photos, crumbling framed letters, reflecting its 194 years. Frequented by generations of writers, actors, statesmen and royalty, history was made here: the Irish Constitution was drafted in the Shelbourne and one of the two original copies are on display in the museum. Princess Grace wasn’t the only Hollywood icon to visit. Another regular guest was Maureen O’Hara. The hotel has decided now to pay its own tribute to her, naming a suite in her honour, the 20th room to be dedicated to a historic guest.
Her grandson Conor Beau Fitzsimons, has been involved, sourcing letters written to her from director John Ford, all on hotel headed paper. These are framed on the walls of the suite, surrounded by stunning mounted photos of some of her most iconic movie roles, The Quiet Man naturally taking centre stage.
Grandmother and grandson would meet here regularly for the Shelbourne’s famous afternoon tea. The hotel was even mentioned in her funeral mass - she would take her drama teacher for dinner there. She was a constant visitor to the Shelbourne throughout her life.
Denis TC O’Brien has been Head Concierge at the Shelbourne for the past 12 years. He had a central role in the RTÉ show that took us behind the scenes at the iconic hotel.
He relishes his job, recounting tales of encounters with US presidents, and celebrities from Pierce Brosnan to Gabriel Byrne.
“The Grand Dame attracts people,” he laughs.
He never personally met Maureen O’Hara but staff that did always spoke highly of her. We are keeping her memory alive,” he says of the decision to name a suite in her honour, “and remembering her association with the hotel.”
Another celebrity his colleagues speak highly of is Princess Grace.
Crowds would turn out to meet her, to watch her leave and enter the hotel, forming groups in the lobby in the hopes of catching a glimpse of her - he’s told she even refused to depart the hotel by the rear exit, choosing instead to meet and greet the public.
“There was no assumption of superiority,” says Denis. “She was lovely to staff.” In fact he finds it the same with every other famous face that enters the Shelbourne.
The days he says of outlandish requests, milk baths and the like, were of their time. Today, most of the requests involve technical issues, or access to a particular international newspaper. These people can spend half the year travelling, Denis explains, so they need a home from home at the Shelbourne. Their head concierge is happy to oblige.
“They are regular ordinary people,” he says. “There are no requests for goats milk from Indonesia!”
The newest celebrity suite is a room that reflects Maureen O’Hara’s celebrity status, with sweeping views overlooking St Stephen’s Green. It stands in the newly renovated heritage area of the landmark hotel. The Shelbourne has recently undergone a multi-million euro refurb - the 194-year-old historic facade has been magnificently restored and as part of that, the iconic Grand Staircase and Heritage rooms were all refitted.
The man behind the look was designer Guy Oliver, famous for his work on Claridge’s, The Connaught and Number 10 Downing Street.
He has managed to create a sense of Irishness without cliche, using colour, art and texture to provide a contemporary feel while still respecting the historic significance of the hotel.
The Maureen O’Hara Suite is all green, for example, the sofas, the carpets, the walls, the curtains, but there are such subtleties and hues, nothing “hits you in the face” as Oliver puts it himself. It’s only when you draw the curtains you see the Celtic embroidery on the edges. Local suppliers have been used too - think Waterford crystal chandeliers in the O’Hara suite. “It’s only fitting,” says Denis, “She was one of the last real movie celebrities.”
The Shelbourne has created a package in honour of its famous guest. Stay at the suite, with a full Irish breakfast, and a hairstyle and manicure at the Shelbourne’s Salon, for €1400