Thatcher’s sadness at Adare cottage fires

The thatcher who reroofed one of the two Adare cottages destroyed in a fire at the weekend spoke yesterday of his sadness and shock at the destruction of his handiwork.

The two buildings were among the last 11 remaining thatched cottages built by Lord Adare between 1835 and 1870 and are a huge tourist draw to the picture postcard heritage village.

James Lee from Ballyorgan reroofed the cottage owned by sisters Jane and Henrietta Benson in August 2012, using about one and a half tonnes of reed harvested from the banks of the Shannon at Coonagh and Bunratty.

“I got a call at around 2pm on Saturday shortly after the fire broke out,” Mr Lee said.

“I couldn’t get to Adare because of the traffic detours due to the fire. When I came over on Sunday, I could not believe the amount of damage. It’s very sad to see your labour of love in thatch work end up like that.

“I remember it was a long job on the Bensons’ cottage, because of the very wet August we had three years ago. But what has happened is far worse for the people who have lost their homes.

“I have come over to help tidy up. It could have been far worse if the fire broke out in the middle of the night as people could have died.”

The late Willie Benson and his wife brought up their eight children in the cottage known as Tír na nÓg which Mr Lee rethatched three years ago.

The scene after Saturday's fire. Pic: Press 2

Mr Lee said whether the cottages could be rethatched would depend on the condition of the walls.

“A structural engineer will have to decide if the walls can remain and re-thatching the cottages as they now stand could be done if the walls are OK,” he said.

The cottage adjoining the Bensons’, which was also destroyed, is owned by an American businessman.

A third cottage owned by Lucy Erridge, who runs a fashion and crafts business, was saved, though it was slightly damaged.

A picture of the scene, from the Adare Heritage facebook page, used with permission.

Local Fine Gael TD Dan Neville said he would be meeting with Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe today to give him an up-to-date report on the damage.

Mr Neville said: “I have already had talks with Limerick City and County Council and their heritage officer, Tom Cassidy.

“The thatch cottages are an integral part of Adare’s unique beauty which makes the village a world tourism attraction.

“The first thing that needs to be done is to ensure the burnt out cottages are not left an eyesore blighting the lovely main street. Then decisions must be taken as soon as possible to restore them if that is possible. The insurance is also something that has to be considered.”

Ms Erridge said: “I hope to reopen as soon as possible. I have been here for over 30 years. The fire service were absolutely fantastic and, with locals, helped to save my cottage and the stock. People forming a human chain moved out all my stuff as the firemen worked on the fire.”

Gardaí have ruled out any malicious cause behind the Adare fire.

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