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Ben (80) takes a stroll down memory lane ... through the city's most beautiful gardens

A RETIRED city gardener counts himself as one of the proudest Irishmen alive having worked under the Guinness family in Farmleigh Estate and as well as five ambassadors in the US embassy.

Ben Caseley (80), from Inchicore, Dublin spent seven years training under the Iveagh family at Farmleigh House, to get his well-earned post as a gardener.

The elderly man decided to share his memories with the Herald, since he's being widely pursued by historians and authors who'd love to tell his story.

"To be a gardener you had to do four years at the garden, and three years at the animals and farming. I started in Farmleigh and I stayed there for 10 years and then I moved on to other places," he said.



Horses

"I found the Guinness family very friendly. Farmleigh had a Victorian garden at that time, and it was all done by spade and shovel and fork. There was no such thing as a motorised mower; if there was a big lawn we got the horses to do it."

Ben went about his work in Farmleigh with pride, as he worked for Ireland's best-known family from 1935 to 1945 -- and he referred to his bosses as 'Lord' and 'Lady'.

"I worked under Lord Iveagh and you'd have to address them by their rank. If you were working for Lord Moyne across the road, you'd get one pint [of Guinness] a day. And if you got that, it would make you work," he joked.

"When they [the Iveagh family] were going to church in Castleknock in a horse and trap or a motorcar, they would always salute you when they saw you."

From 1946, Ben worked in the US embassy where he met American President, Richard Nixon, during his 1970 visit to Ireland.

"I was the assistant head gardener there for 12 years. I served under five ambassadors.

"I was there the time Nixon came to Ireland as a visitor when he was President of America. He came and we were issued with badges which we had to wear as ID. I got a pen off Nixon but I haven't got it anymore. I still have the ID card."



Suspension

He once got punished for taking a plum from the Farmleigh greenhouse, and he was heavily vetted for his post in the embassy along with all other employees.

"I was caught one day getting a plum, because they had big juicy plums in the greenhouse. So the head gardener gave me a suspension for a week. I complained, but I was docked two days' wages out of my pay."

He added: "In the embassy, we had to have a police test every six months to make sure we wouldn't get into any trouble."

Ben was paid around £3 per week for his gardening job in Farmleigh, and apart from the wages, lots more has changed in the estate as well.

"Farmleigh was built as a Victorian garden and we had to cut the trees to represent different species of birds and animal, and that was very hard. I brought my nephews there 60 years after I'd been with the Guinnesses.

"It brought back sad memories because in our time it was different. Now you do things too quick. At that time we took our time but we got things done."

hnews@herald.ie