The Labourer’s cottage or Bothán Scóir was a small, basic, one roomed cottage. They were typically built on a half acre which was rented to them by the farm owner. The occupant would then work on the farm for a certain number of days as rent – typically about 80 days in the year. The rest of the time they farmed their own patch. They couldn’t afford their own livestock save for a few hens or ducks. Often the wife of the labourer found work in the kitchens of the larger farmhouse.
The floors for were typically constructed of compacted mud. The walls were constructed from stone, mud or even peat in poorer boggy areas. The furnishings of the Bothán where relatively meager and minimalist as space was at a premium. A falling table would be afixed to the wall and folded up at night. The hearth was at floor level with a canopy constructed of wattle and daub. Cubby holes were carved out into the walls as clever, unobrtusive storage for pots. A hanging dresser or clevvy was attached to the walls to hold the cockery and most coveted goods of the famils such as the Child of Prague.
Very few of these cottages are still in existance, they may be reused as farm buildings or incorporated into larger cottages. To the left is a resconstruction located in Bunratty Folk Park, Co. Clare. There is also an original bothán dating back to around 1640 open to the public in Cashel, Co. Clare.
As a result of its size a Bothán is sometimes used to describe something or someone of small stature – ‘He’s a real bothán of a man’.