In my last post I wrote about Traditional Irish Homes, however I feel that what alot of people think of as the traditional Irish home is, the Irish thatched cottage. The story of Ireland cannot be told without reference to the humble Irish cottage, fort it has played a significant role in the lives of the people over the past few hundred years. It is the story of the English Landlords, the tenants, the evictions, the poverty, the Great Famine, emigration, survival, and so much more.
My great grandparents, and their parents before them lived in these typical Irish cottages going back over the generations, and I personally have the fondest memories of my Great Grandmother’s cottage, and my Grandmothers cottage. My childhood was made magical by being able to spend time in these houses. It was such a contrast from my life and my home in Dublin.
Irish cottages were arranged into clachans before the famine. They were grouped together, ten to twenty cottages originally occupied by members of the same extended family.
Poverty characterized the cottiers life in pre-Famine Ireland. Their cottages were small, and very basic, built of necessity, in an existence that was both uncertain and impermanent. The houses were made from what was available to impoverished people, timber, rough stones, twigs, rushes, furze, with sods and thatch for the roof, and mud for the floors.
Evictions were common place before, during, and after the Famine.The relationship between cottier and landlord was a tenuous one. Many people who were evicted were forced to go into the Workhouse, the most dreaded and feared placed in Irish society for so many years.
The country was dotted with cottages, and still is today, many have been preserved by both Irish people, and also by returning Irish Americans whose ancestors emigrated from Ireland in Famine times , and for many years after that, right up to the fifties and sixties. Different regions of the country had their own particular style of cottage, but the common denominator was that they were generally all small, with very thick walls, small windows, and the later ones had chimneys.
Travelling around Ireland today one will come upon the most beautiful cottages, most still inhabited by decedents of the original owners, some owned by people from the cities who uses them as holiday homes, and a lot owned by returned Irish Americans.
There was little variety in types of cottages in Ireland. People made their home distinctive by using bright paint colors on doors, gates, windows, and gate posts.
Early, pre-Famine cottages were very primitive, the people often lived in one end of the cottage, and some of their animals in the other end. The were built using sturdy stonework.
Below is a picture of an uncle of mine, now long deceased who lived in his cottage all his life, never drove a car, road a bicycle all his life, and simply refused to move into a modern house, or become part of the modern world all around him! As children we loved to visit him, and play in the fields, collect hens eggs, and marvel at the little cottage. All of the rest of his family lived very different lives to his.
Hope you enjoyed this very brief bit of history of the Irish Cottage, and the pictures.( Photos by Joe Reynolds.)