There’s high drama every year on Cobh town’s vertiginous West View, or Barrack Hill, home to the so-called Deck of Cards stack of 23 period, 1850s built houses piggy-backing on one another up from the town’s Casement Square.
The steep hill, part of Cobh’s heritage tourism trails, hosts a colourful roller-ball riot of fun, an annual downhill lottery of 6,000 cascading and numbered balls which raises thousand of euros for charity, and four lucky winners get cash prices too.
Pamplona gets a bull run, and Cobh gets a ball roll, locals quip.
And, appropriately, this much-photographed and colourful hill terrace is also where Irish soaps and ex-Fair City actor and drama teacher Rachel Sarah Murphy is now looking to sell up her Cobh pad, as she prepares to open a Cork city branch of her Irish Film Academy business which she started in Dublin years ago.
Rachel Murphy bought No 3 West View by the very top of Barrack Hill after a return to Ireland from Spain, also setting up her Dublin-based drama school specialising in teaching acting for TV and film, all the while acting in RTÉ’s Fair City, playing the Carrigstown character Jo Fahey for the last 16 years.
She exited the soap opera in recent weeks after her character Jo was written out, allowing the opening of her second IFD drama school, in her native Cork.
The Dublin academy has 150 students, aged from 12 years up to 70, and “it’s never too late to start, there’s a shortage of older actors for film and TV,” says Ms Murphy.
Having found and cultivated talent for Irish soaps, from Love/Hate to Red Rock and Ripper Street, working closely with Lousie Kiely Casting, Rachel says she can’t wait to bring on new talent now from across Munster, home place to actors like Cillian Murphy and Michael Fassbinder.
This, at a a time when Irish film appears in the ascendant, with five ‘Irish’ Golden Globes nominations this month.
Courses at the Wellington Road Cork academy start with a six-month ‘Acting for Camera’ course on Jan 6, with a 12 month course, a teen acting course and a digital film making course set to follow later in the year, all sharing teachers with IFA Dublin.
“There’s an abundance of unknown talent we’re about to tap into for casting directors, there’s a lot of big names living in West Cork, and I want to build Cork to be as big as Dublin is for us,” Rachel says, adding that future directions include broadcasting classes online.
Her own acting career started in Cork, in the famed Loft at age 12, she acted in the Everyman and Opera House, and at age 19 won a place at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
While living in Dublin, Rachel did up No 3 West View with a small bit or dramatic flair (there are curtains and drapes of a quality to put many a theatre’s own curtains to shame) and it has been consistently rented out, in short and medium terms lets “and would fly all the time on something like Air B’n’B,” says its proud owner, saying it has earned up to €600 a week in summer, and €1,500 a month in the shoulder seasons as a rental.
“There’s a real shortage of tourist beds in Cobh,” agrees Rachel’s sister, the Cobh-based estate agent Johanna Muphy who, unsurprisingly, has been delegated the task of selling No 3 as Rachel moves to Cork’s fair city, with her four-year old daughter Lolly.
(Lolly has, apparently, a capacity already for taking centre-stage. It’s in the genes: Johanna and Rachel are daughters of South African-born Victoria Murphy, who’s had an antiques, auctioneering and letting presence in Kinsale for 20 years.)
“You could do this place up like a doll’s house,” actor owner Rachel Murphy enthuses of No 3, and its ilk on this steep Cobh town centre hillside; in fact, the bright and breezy West View terrace is probably as photographed by tourists as the town’s St Colman’s Cathedral is, and that cathedral spire is in full view from the back yards of the 23 houses in the aptly-titled Deck of Cards terrace.
Almost collectors’ items, the c 1,100 sq ft three-storey homes here are stacked and racked, and protected by preservation orders, and many have first floor projecting windows, but that’s a Victorian feature missing from a handful of the houses along the length of Barrack Hill, and where asking prices range from €135,000 (No 4) to over €200,000 (No 21).
Gable fronted, painted a strong, dramatic green and crowned with an ornate carved fascia or bargeboard, No 3 has its accommodation over three floors, giving up to three bedrooms, and in Rachel Murphy’s ownership it has been upgraded inside, and turned around to maximise living space.
She put in a new bathroom, with Heritage sanitary ware and a roll-top bath, plus there’s a re-done kitchen, to the front by the window to the street, with plantation-style shutters for a bit of scene-setting, and an arch opens from here to a rear living room, with access then to a walled-in back yard, with high stone walls painted white, a morning sun-trap, with views to the Cathedral beyond.
: House of Cards?