Poet Seán Ó Tuama’s family home is literally a literary gem on the hill

Tommy Barker scans the late poet Seán Ó Tuama’s family home on the outskirts of Cork city, mixing country living with city convenience, views of the Lee Fields, and a unique place in Irish literary history

POEMS, plays and dramas were written, and often performed, in this lofty Leeside bungalow at Hollymount. This was the hummingly-busy home, for over a half century, to poet and professor Seán Ó Tuama, his wife Beití, and their fist-full of family, five sons, given free-range on the edge of Cork city above the Lee Road.

“It was always fun, and mirth, and drama at Hollymount,” recalls one of the younger of the five boys of clann Ó Tuama, Eoin, a recently-retired school principal at Coláiste An Phiarsaigh in Glanmire.

Now selling the house their parents had bought new around 1949, which was the Ó Tuamas sole family home ever since, and after the death of Beití last year, 11 years after Seán, he and his siblings recall a feeling of growing up in the country, yet within a walk of the city, here on the shouldering hill running west from Cork’s suburban fringe, overlooking the River Lee and the Lee Fields. “The view has hardly changed ever since, so little has been built in front since, thanks to the greenbelt,” observes Eoin Ó Tuama today.

It was from here that UCC’s esteemed Professor of Irish Literature, the academic, poet, dramatist and critic Séan O’Tuama, ventured out on foot for the short stroll down along the Lee to the college campus. Later in his career he travelled from Cork to visiting professorships in Harvard, Oxford and Toronto, and was also a chairman of Bord na Gaelige, a Governor of UCC, and a member of the Arts Council.

It was to Hollymount too, here on the Lee Road hillside that the cream of 20th century Irish language poets (and many English language writers too) came to call, including the likes of Gabriel Rosenstock and Michael Davitt.

The visiting literary company was always engaging and stimulating, and the family of boys was reared through Irish, attending the Modh Scoil Chorcaí on Anglesea Street. And, the Lee Road’s Hollymount was in its own way a mini-gaeltacht, as another family, the O’Mahony, hailed from Blarney Street (the same as the North Mon-educated Seán Ó Tuama) and were also Irish language speakers.

In 2008, UCC named a campus hostel for Irish language speaking students, the 27-bed Áras Uí Thuama in his honour.

Going to market this side of Christmas, auctioneer James Cogan of ERA Downey McCarthy avoids the temptation to pin the house-name ‘An Radharc’ on this detached 1,600 sq ft four-bed build, on a sunny, upwardly sloping and tiered, elevated south-facing site of over half an acre, with garage at its lower corner.

ERA’s Mr Cogan guides the four-bed property at €320,000, and given its age and the very long time (almost 70 years) in the one appreciative family’s hands, he says it needs TLC to bring it to modern day standards, but accepts the site is exceptional, with potential for development/extension.

It’s among a row of about nine similar era bungalows in a cul de sac, and another cul sac off the Lee Road in the other direction leads to the original Hollymount period house, a one-time home of a city sheriff and now subdivided into several private homes.

It has two reception rooms to the front for the views, a hatch from one to a kitchen, and has four bedrooms, study and three bathrooms.

VERDICT: go hÁlainn.

Lee Road, Cork


Size: 150 sq m (1,605 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 2

BER: Pending

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