Kinsale hall is the reel deal

Tommy Barker profiles a property mixing a historical past with a location in the heart of a cosmopolitan town.

YOU'VE heard of a fisherman's haul - but welcome in this Kinsale case to the Fisherman's Hall.

This place taps straight into the heart of history-steeped Kinsale, after all the town was always a thriving fishing community.

Built around 1870, at the junction where Higher Fisher Street (now O'Connell Street) and Lower Fisher Street meet in the town under the Ramparts, it was conceived of as a place where the saving of souls, not sole, was to the fore, where English and Manx fishermen could worship, and "where the Kinsale fishermen sons of Huguenots and the fisher lads will have a sound scriptural and secular education given them" (Cork Examiner, March 15, 1871).

Cornish fishermen in search of herring also found the hall a place of spiritual sanctuary, and in later years it was a focal point for St Multose church's community.

Adding to the richness of its history, services conducted in this hall are recalled in playwright Lennox Robinson's memoir 'Three Homes' - after all his father was a local minister.

A preceding owner was sculptor David Gillespie, who drew up plans for conversion of this building to an art gallery, but it never happened, and it was bought instead in the early 1990s by Declan and Margaret Corrigan for conversion to family home as seen here.

When they started renovations, they were lucky enough to find, keep and now give pride of place to a wooden memorial plaque commemorating the hall's opening.

The plaque, now in pride of place on the hall's staircase, notes: 'Fisherman's Hall. This hall was erected by the exertions of the Rev. John Duncan Craig D.D., Vicar of the Parish from 1864 to 1872; To the Glory of God, and in furtherance of His work amongst the fishing fleet.' "They that go down to the sea in ships, they do business in great waters: These see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep."

After more than a decade in the service of the musically, artistically and literary-talented Corrigan family with four boys, The Fisherman's Hall is back up for sale - the vendors are making a move to the country.

Converted over a decade ago, with two ground floor interconnecting bedrooms and four overhead bedrooms, it is a place that is homely and spacious, with over 2,700 sq ft of living space over two levels, including double height hall portion with overhead gallery off the master bedroom.

Rooms include a 500 sq ft main room with double height space and overhead curved gallery, family room, kitchen/dining room, sunny study area off the hall with a side entrance, up to six bedrooms with two en suites, two other bathrooms, porch, and a very private rear yard, packed with colourful planting.

It is still steeped in character, and the conversion work is done simply in keeping with its feel: the staircase was, for example, salvaged from the old Aeneas Lane's shop in Cobh.

To the front of the 60' long by 24' wide hall, the main room kept its full height, soaring up to about 25' into the roof's pitch. The original window here has just recently been replaced with a finely-crafted lofty sectioned wooden sash window, costing about €9,000. Fortunately for Margaret and Declan, a heritage grant paid about two-thirds of this cost, and the finished work is further enhanced by newly inserted stained glass panels, done by Margaret herself.

Her stained glass handiwork adorns many parts of the house, in the hall door panel, in the bathrooms, kitchen and other surprising spots.

Because the hall is tucked into a tight site under the cliff-face of the Ramparts, getting natural light into its core was a problem, and this has been addressed by the smart use of some internal windows between linking rooms.

The design was done in co-operation with local architect Richard Rainey as one of his first Kinsale renovation jobs, and as Declan is an engineer by trade there was a good professional working relationship which carried through into the conversion work, much of it done by direct labour.

"We have done other old houses when we lived abroad in Canada and Australia, we never bought a new house," the couple, originally from Louth, say as they prepare to move outside the town to a place with more land for growing boys.

Price guide for the Fisherman's Hall is €650,000, with inquiries though Michael Enright and Co solicitors (086 3974454), and it is likely that a number of the viewers planning to make this rare and historic building their catch will have their eye on putting the place to work with a more commercial bent, as gallery/restaurant/guest accommodation, given it central location in an old part of the town and its sheer sense of history.

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