When the former home of a 103-year-old Irish man was opened up for the first time in 12 years, it was described as a ‘time-capsule’.
The tiny cottage in Kealderra, East Clare gives a fascinating insight into the domestic life of the rural Irish community.
It was been put up for sale in 2018 – 12 years after its previous owner Paddy Gleeson moved into a care home at the age of 103.
Shortly before he moved out of the cottage, Paddy let author Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell into his home and gave them an interview.
The interview and photographs appeared in the Vanishing Ireland series of books.
Bunbury wrote: “Paddy Gleeson is one of those remarkable characters who makes the rigid timelines of the past just fall away.”
When the cottage came to be put up for sale in 2018, they had to cut away a thick layer of ivy in order to reach the front door.
Once inside they discovered that the house had been left exactly as it had been when Paddy last set foot in there.
There was an old calendar on the wall, a portrait of Pope Pius, the table and dining condiments were in place and turf and logs were stacked in the corner of the room. Paddy’s cardigan was still draped over the back of his chair by the fireplace.
Paddy was born in 1904 and his mother sadly passed away when he was just seven. His father Bartholomew was a publican and when Paddy was 14, Bartholomew moved the family to the United States, leaving Paddy behind to look after his elderly aunt.
Paddy told Banbury: “She said you should always try and come out the same door you went in. She had no one to care for her so I stopped here. Otherwise I would have gone out to the brothers.”
After Bartholomew sold the pub and moved to New York, he and Paddy never saw each other again.
He lived alone in the cottage after his aunt passed away and aside from adding a connection to electricity, he kept his home much as it had always been.
He had some extraordinary tales to tell included one about a time he saw people protesting about evictions.
He said: “Once, I was coming to school and I met two fellows leading a three-year-old bullock with horns. On his horns was a placard – ‘The Land for the People and the Road for the Bullock’. And beneath the bull, they were dragging a man who was after evicting a poor widow woman from her home.”
He remembered that the woman’s home had been taken but the community got together to help her.
He said: “The local people seen how fast it takes to build a house but they did it faster. She was evicted at 10 in the morning and she was inside a house that night they built for her in the day! Timber and galvanised!”
Paddy was also alive to remember the destruction that occurred when the Black and Tans patrolled Irish communities.
He said: “All around East Clare they were every day out searching for people and burning houses. ‘They were an awful shower. A lot of them were jailbirds. They were sent over here to do the damage.”
Paddy received a Centenarian’s Medal from President McAleese in May 2004. When he passed away in 2010, he was Ireland’s oldest man, aged 106.
His former ‘time-capsule’ home is now on sale €40,000 through Green Valley Properties.
For more information visit the Green Valley Properties website.
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Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling