Be It Ever So Humble, There's No Place Like Home

I took this photograph in Galway around 1982. 

The two, twin, cozy cottages always caught my eye, when I was headed out after university to thumb a lift home. I always imagined the dressers shielded by blue delph plates and hung with colourful china cups, the huge iron pots of spuds and the heavy old kettles simmering away, hanging from the soot-blacked cranes over the open hearths, the sweet scent of peat, hearkening back to the name of the townland these houses stood in, the rituals of repairing the thatch roofs every 10 or 15 years, like giving the cottage a new haircut, but never done together, one always had newer, or older thatch than the other, the regular lime-washing of the walls, perhaps for the stations, only one used too much rickets blue and the other let the ivy grow, eliminating the need for whitewashing, the half-doors, sometimes half-open or half-closed, again in tandem and out of step with the thatch, either one or the other, airing or locking the house, never in collusion, always out of kilter with one another, like an old married couple, joined at the hip, but still pulling separate ways when they could, and the old folks who lived there, all their lives I supposed, side by side for an eternity, each couple, or half of each couple, being born there in the cottages, raised there, playing in the shared street, going to school, meeting their future partners there, burying their parents in the nearby new cemetery, marrying their sweethearts, having children, repeating the circle of life, growing old, beside each other, wondering wistfully about their children, now scattered to the four winds by emigration, an opportunity, or marriage, would any of them stay at home and mind them in their old age, the couples I mean, and then the relicts, and then no one did, stay at home, and no one minded the two little cottages.

They are both gone now, the two couples, dead, buried with their grandparents, the two houses, dead, knocked down to make way for progress, and replaced by . . . well, no one and by nothing actually, just a vacant site, must be derelict 20 years or more now. What a pity, such a beautiful pair of vernacular thatched dwellings, dating back probably 200 years, gone in a flash, but in my mind's eye, they are still there, still watching over the busy Moneenageesha crossroads, a wisp of blue turf smoke from the shared chimney, and the promise of a cup of tea and a chat.

So, now it's your turn. How many other thatched dwellings still remain within the city limits today? Can you tell their story? Galway Memories

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Tags: Folklore, Preservation


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