Margaret Gallagher has a beaming smile, a twinkle in her eye and a love of talking…she lives a simple life and couldn’t be happier.
Margaret is 74 and lives in Belcoo in Co Fermanagh in a small cottage that has barely changed in over 280 years. It was there before the 1798 Rebellion and has remained intact through the union with Britain, the Easter Rising, War of Independence and the Civil War.
It’s even survived the development craze and rising house prices of the Celtic Tiger days…so much so that the cottage still has no electricity, TV or even running water.
These are all things that Margaret sees as having a positive rather than negative impact on her life. She is self-sufficient and keeps out the cold with a roaring log fire, on which she also cooks some of her meals.
She’s proud of her Irish heritage and the fact that she, like her ancestors, is steeped in the Fermanagh landscape. For her, genealogy is not a subject for research, it’s there in her cottage and surrounding land.
She told the Belfast Telegraph: “There never was a time for transition to something more modern. I was born into this house on January 26, 1942, at five past nine on a Monday morning. My mother died when I was 10, my father died in 1980. His father bought this house in 1887, and my take on it is if it was good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me.”
She said her family never had much money, but they had love and warmth and kept an open door for visitors. “By God, there was a welcome. There was no intrusion of a television, not that there is anything wrong with a television. I have a wind-up radio which I listen to in the mornings to get the time, the day, the date and the news headlines. The problem with televisions and everything else, there doesn’t seem to be an off button ever used.”
Margaret’s day begins with lighting her fire to bake bread and cakes. She gets her fresh water from a nearby stream. Fuel consists of turf that’s found nearby. “I tell you, I carry some turf, I also carry some water. I was born under Aquarius, but nobody carries more water than I do.
“People come to look at me as if I am an endangered species. That’s grand, I am very endangered. But it’s for real. I am not here to please an American tourist who is ooh’ing and aah’ing, looking at me, saying: ‘I thought people in this lifestyle would have a long black skirt on them’. I say: ‘Possibly, but if you see the path I have down to the well, a long black skirt would need a washing’.”
Margaret’s only concession to modern life is a wind-up radio but for entertainment, she prefers to read. When the weather turns cold she gets in plenty of turf for the fire and bunkers down in warmth and safety.
“I have a wireless radio and listen to the news headlines on that. I brought in plenty of logs and turf and carried in plenty of water, so I was well equipped for it. I have enough water now I could bathe the country for a small charge.
“I had to get up very early the other morning to knock the snow off the roof with a pole. If you don’t do that it can damage the roof. It came down with a crash.
“With a house like this you have to prepare for what’s coming.
“This house makes a statement, it sits very comfortably on the landscape, even though I am surrounded by beautiful new homes. It says that you can’t forget about your past, you bring it with you proudly into the future.”
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