Ireland may not claim to own any grand architectural styles such as Georgian, Tudor or Dutch. However, clinging to the fabric of our rolling hills, rocky shores and shadowed mountains are the skeletons of our history. Ruins of cottages dot the landscape and hark back to a simpler time – before we had television, electricity or even running water. A family of ten or more would be raised in a one bedroom shack no bigger than most modern sitting rooms. The inhabitants worked hard to live off the land and sea, resources were scarce and they had to make do with what nature provided, re-purposing everything from flower sacks to rainwater. Nature herself though, could be a cruel provider, as people often endured unthinkable hardships by our standards at the hands of the elements and the rough landscape – the mere mention of Peig Sayers draws a chill down the back of a certain age group.
Learning from the past
Today we live in a culture of plenty, if we run out of food we restock from the nearest shop, light and heat are available at the touch of a button and water runs clean and plentiful into our homes. The much maligned Celtic Tiger ushered in an era of excess – larger houses, expensive cars, intoxicating holidays, high flying careers and bottomless bank accounts, but at what cost? Our houses are so large that it is quite possible to live under the same roof yet not meet or interact from one end of the day to the other. We have beautiful, expensive cars that we sit in for hours to get to the high flying careers that cause us so much stress that we require frequent expensive holidays to recharge. Holidays are a frenzied effort to cram all our hopes and dreams into four weeks so we can bear the rest of the working year. As for the bottomless bank accounts, most people have discovered the depth of their pockets of late.
Our history is not a glamorous one, there are elements we should learn from but also elements we should rediscover and retain. Cottage dwellers survived most of their hardships through the support of an intricate web of community which formed the material, social and emotional backbone of life. Despite living in closer proximity today, most people hardly know their neighbours. Loneliness in cities is a serious issue while it is becoming more prevalent in country areas as people become too busy to check in with isolated neighbours. The cottage itself provided a sense of community with the hearth owning pride of place at the center of a home around which, people would gather to tell stories, dance and play music. Peoples lives were woven together through the threads of family, friends, experience and laughter to form tightly knit communities that provided support in times of need.
What I would like to achieve
This blog will be a modern source for all things cottage related. It will hopefully encourage more people to renovate, restore and preserve cottages, to turn them into living history. I hope to include many renovation experience stories from veterans of the cause along with information articles to help would-be renovators on their journey. The processes of renovation and restoration are no easy task, there are many pitfalls along the way that exhaust resources and patience but the finished product is a home stamped with the indelible marks of time, dedication and love that no money can buy.
If you have an experience, memory, story, observation or suggestion about cottages – I would be delighted to hear from you. Hopefully this blog will become a community of information and support and a celebration of Irish culture in the same spirit as times gone by.