Wednesday 9 November 2011

Mark Caldwell - Irish traditional thatched cottages in the rural landscape

These rural cottages are vernacular buildings. This means they are not designed by architecture. This unique form of our built environment was built in the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s. Tradition and folklife are important themes of rurality in Ireland. The clachan was an important pattern of settlement in Donegal as well as many parts of rural Ireland and Scotland. They were built by tenant farmers. Typically they contained one or two rooms leading off a central kitchen and living area. Lime kilns in Donegal the white washed walls for these rural traditional cottages. A clachan can be seen at Lower Feddyglass and the Griffith’s valuation of the 1850s is our historical evidence of a small cluster of perhaps a dozen dwellings along with sheds and byres. The family held land in common land, known as the ‘Rundale System’. The hearth fireplace in the kitchen was one of the main features. Food was prepared and milk was churned in oak churns. Wool was spun in the main road and in the kitchen also. The kitchen also held a bed, possibly hidden behind a curtain or in a loft area above the kitchen. These vernacular cottages were places for social gatherings. People usually went raking (or in Irish ag √°irneail) to other rural homesteads in the locality in the evenings. A storyteller discussed the fairies and ghosts. People informed each other of local news, and traditional music was played. Singing and dancing also took place.

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