Dip a toe in the Cork market at Carrigaloe’s Meetogue, says Tommy Barker
HOW could you ever be bored, living in a setting like that enjoyed by Meentogue, where a water-borne cross-section of the world passes by your garden wall and at all hours of the day, or the state of the tides?
Dating to the Victorian era, and most likely built in the post-Famine era in the 1850s, this semi-detached harbourside home must have seen the world of change at its water-dipping feet, over its c 170 years of enjoying all that it surveys.
Back in its earlier days, it would have overlooked boatyards, especially the former Royal Victoria Dockyard, cranes and gantries, as well as cargoes coming and going.
It would have seen piers, slipways and launching points for craft of all sizes, plus for a vast part of its long life, the comings and goings of cargo vessels, up and down the water channels of Cork harbour and the River Lee, to Tivoli and the city quays, as well as numerous pleasure craft, Tall Ships, ferries, fishing boats, and all sizes in between.
And, while there’s a continuity in much of that passage of craft, there’s also the sense of being a witness to change. Cork’s Port activity is on the cusp of making its most major ever, singularly significant change, moving port ops downriver from the city and quays and Tivoli, to Ringaskiddy.
Now, for the first time in over 40 years, Meentogue, or No 9 Marino Villas, is up for sale, and new occupants can chart their own sense of change, and of place, aware of the harbour’s rich past, and bright, tourism-driven future.
When the current owners bought here, for example, with English/Irish background but keenly appreciative of Cobh, work was underway scooping out a wooded hillside just upriver at Marino House, which went on to become the ammonia fertiliser factor for IFI, served by both a rail line and a harbour jetty.
That important strategic facility closed down in 2002, and now awaits a new chapter, under the hand of joint owners Port of Cork, who bought jointly with Wexford-based investors.
Awaiting a new direction also is the former Royal Victoria Docks/Haulbowline Industries facility on a prominent bend in the road passing through Passage West.
After its maritime uses declined, it was first earmarked for harbour/urban renewal in the early 2000s when bought from the Hill family by Howard Holdings, who planned a mixed use development with water taxi for Cork harbour, serving over a half a dozen collection points, a modern and fast-craft recreation of 19th century services.
The downturn in 2008 scuttled that plan, and currently on hold is the multi-million euro sale by current owners the Doyle Group to Cork County Council of that so-promising Passage West docks site: Brexit impact on shipping is the cause for that pause.
Since No 9/Meentogue’s owners moved here in the early 1970s, they also saw the decline of ship building in Verolme, and the departure of Irish Steel on Haulbowline, metaphorical rising and falling tides of change, ebbs and flow. One-time traditional heavy industry employment is now being replaced by tourism, from cruise ships coming to Cobh, to the roaring success of Spike Island’s transformation to Alcatraz-like visitor centre, and the renaissance of use of the waterways for pleasure, best exemplified by the likes of the annual Cork Harbour Festival, and the Ocean to City boat race, picking up pace every year since 2005 spanning currachs, rowing boats, kayaks, SUPs and all other arm-powered, welt-rising craft.
This year’s Ocean to City Race is on June 1, so it’s time to up the training, while for the now-trading down owner of Meentogue, it will be her last chance to shout encouragement over the water to the competitors at a tough, half way point in the race.
The immaculate, shipshape order period home is just listed this week with estate agent Johanna Murphy, based in Cobh, and she quotes a guide price for the appealing waterside property at €420,000.
Ms Murphy raves about its many assets, describing it as “ a gem of a property — right on the water — what more could you want? You could have a boat moored outside your house, and the vista of the ships and yachts passing your door. As I always say, the river is a hive of activity during the day, and then it all lights up like a jewel box at night.”
Carrigaloe’s Marino Villas, and No 9/Meentouge (it may have got its name from Meentogues in Kerry? the vendor’s not too sure) has the blessing of facing west, so gets day and evening sun, a point not lost on some residents over the water in Glenbrook and Passage West, whose own homes lose the evening sunlight, whilst watching the evening bask glow from homes such as this.
Location wise, Meentogue is the second waterside house encountered having passed under the rail bridge by Carrigaloe/Marino Point, and there’s ten houses here, mostly in pairs of semis, with a new-build book-ending the western end.
Some of the residents keep boats on moorings just off their properties, and use RIBs to speed out to the wider harbour, to the sea past Roches Point, or to journey upriver, to Cork city and Blackrock village, albeit it’s set on a pretty tidal stretch which turns to mud on the boundaries at lower tide, while there’s shoreline/launching access 200 metres away by the rail bridge intersection.
The house’s next residents may choose to keep a boat (it’s a fair bet they will) and other access options include by road to Cobh and the rest of Great Island, or a drive to Cork city.
There’s also the choice of taking the more ‘sustainable’ option of boarding the regular Cork-Cobh commuter train, with Carrigaloe station just two minutes’ away, and the even more frequent Cross River car ferry linking Carrigaloe on the island side to Glenbrook, between Monkstown and Passage west for alternative access to the city, or to the harbour-based industries around Carrigaline and Ringaskiddy.
The setting is between road and water, more than high enough up though not to have flooding worries, and it has a private gate access from the road, down steps to a neat as a pin side and front garden, which is graced at one corner by a palm tree, for an exotic, ‘on holidays’ feel even before getting in over the threshold.
A side boundary wall to the adjoining house screens a sit-out table and chairs for al fresco snacking and tea taking/weekend wine-downs, and is a total heat-trap and soak on sunny days.
For all other weather conditions, there’s now a lean-to conservatory spanning much of the width of the front of the house, about 18’ by 7’, and that also provides a weather screen for the original front door, and for its gleaming polished brasses, including the original brass bell-pull, along with an original, wide brass footplate on the entrance hearth.
Internally Meentogue has all the feel of a period home, with high ceilings, some plasterwork and there’s an unusual wall curve in the hall, by the stairs.
There are reception rooms left and right, both with (all-important) decent sized windows overlooking the water and passing shipping, while the kitchen’s to the rear of the dining room. And, where once there had been a tiny serving hatch ‘twixt kitchen and dining room, there is now a far larger opening, about the size of a big painting, so that cook in the kitchen won’t miss out on the sociable action in the dining room, or beyond, on the water.
Some neighbours in the row have opened these rooms more fully, for a more family friendly front-to-back casual cooking/eating/family room.
There’s a ground floor bathroom also, and then running across the rear of the house, between the back wall and the wall above by the road, is a lightly-roofed covered multi-purpose room, ideal for games, clothes drying, storage etc.
This back section too, suggests the auctioneer, offers new owners the option of perhaps building more solidly over it, to create a car parking deck or carport, as some of the neighbours along the road at Marino Villas have done.
Back inside, meanwhile, in this c 1,300 sq ft immaculate home are three bedrooms, two of them doubles to the front, while what had been a fourth bedroom is now a large and attractive main bathroom, with large shower, separate bath and and wood-effect floor, done to match the style of planked timber you might see on a luxury yacht.
VERDICT: what a place to drop anchor, and to while away the days.