Lough Eske resident Niamh Coughlan’s curiosity was sparked when she heard a story from a neighbour about a beautiful and mysterious lady who had lived in the area some sixty or seventy years ago.
Intrigued, Niamh set about researching this lady and her time in Donegal on the shores of Lough Eske. This is what she discovered:
There`s an unusual story about a resident of the townland of Greenan in Lough Eske, a mysterious Russian born lady who lived here on and off in the late 1940s and into the 1950s.
Her name was Mary (Mara) Losseff and she was born into a well to do family on March 13 1907 in Vladivostock, Russia. However, with the onset of Russian Revolution her family fled for Japan initially and then settled in Berlin.
Almost nothing is known of her life in Germany except that she had an illegitimate son called Dmitri in 1927. He was sent off to boarding school at a very young age and Mary concentrated on her stage career.
By 1929 she had debuted for Rudolf Nelson, a German composer of hit songs, film music, operetta and vaudeville, and the founder/director of the Nelson Revue, a significant cabaret troupe on the 1930s Berlin nightlife scene. She sang the song ‘Peter Peter’ which became much more well known later when sung by Marlene Dietrich.
The successful and well known Austrian tenor Richard Tauber was in the audience that night and fell instantly in love with the beautiful and vivacious Mary and her singing. He wrote a special operetta for her voice and through his influence she gained a number of high profile roles to much critical acclaim.
They often performed duets together and were immensely popular. She also appeared in a number of movies in Germany during this time.
Together with Richard she appeared in the early ‘talkie’ Das Land des Lachens. It was well known that Mary and Richard were lovers and it was expected that they would marry.
In 1933 Richard Tauber fled Germany, hounded by the Nazis because his father was Jewish. Mary left with him and they first went to Vienna, then London. Mary took part in some London productions but never seemed to quite reach the popularity with British audiences that she had enjoyed in Germany, though she did make several movies in English during this time.
She began to drink heavily, which affected her performances and her career suffered. Tauber hated alcohol and by 1936 their relationship was over. Mary was devastated when he left her and married the actress Diana Napier and she sank even further into alcoholism. Despite this, she married the notable actor Brian Buchel in 1938 but the marriage did not last.
After this time Mary more or less disappeared from public performances apart from an occasional show - her last documented concert was in Bournemouth in 1950.
Even though they were no longer together, Richard Tauber stayed loyal to Mary for the rest of his life. He sent her a weekly allowance and extra amounts of money when needed. He wrote to her regularly and poignantly his letters often used the refrain ‘I wish that everything could have been different.’
During the 1940s Mary lived in various different locations around London and appears to have drifted from relationship to relationship. In 1948 when Richard was diagnosed with lung cancer and was dying in Guys Hospital in London, she was by his bedside.
It was during this time that Mary and her now adult son Dmitri bought the small farm in Donegal. They named it Holiday Farm and enjoyed the simple life there with a few livestock and a flock of chickens. Perhaps for Mary it was an escape from her problems and the temptations of city life. Elderly locals, many themselves now deceased remember a still attractive but somewhat aloof woman, always beautifully dressed. There was much speculation about her glamourous and colourful past - that she had been a primadonna ballerina or even a Russian spy! Her son is remembered as tall and handsome, usually seen on his bicycle.
Mysteriously they simply disappeared one day around 1956, leaving the livestock and chickens to fend for themselves. It transpired that Mary was in quite dire financial circumstances after Richard Tauber`s death. The farm had been sold and a new owner took up residence. After the death of that owner, the house fell into the lonely and overgrown ruin that exists today.
Mary returned to London, living first in Acton and then Ealing, again drifting in and out of relationships. In 1959 she met Vassia Myronovsky and went to live with him in his home in Hammersmith. She descended further into ill health caused by her alcoholism which also made her become very difficult. Once again, her relationship broke down but she remained at Vassia`s home. She died there in 1972 from lung cancer. She was cremated in Sutton in Surry and her ashes are interred there.
Her son Dimitri was a part of her life until the end though he was unable to forgive her for with-holding information on his father. Dimitri died in 1992.
If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Now editorial team. Between 9am and 5pm Monday to Sunday please call 074 9112712. Between 5pm and midnight please call or text 086 792 2103. Or you can email [email protected] at any time.