Safe house: Rosscarbery's €350k Olde Post Office is  steeped in history but needs new stamp of approval 

West Cork village property has three front doors, two stairs, 13 bedrooms and Irish revolutionary history in abundance, 
Safe house: Rosscarbery's €350k Olde Post Office is  steeped in history but needs new stamp of approval 

Steeped in history: The Olde Post Office., on Chapel Street,  Rosscarbery is guided at €350,000 by agent Henry O'Leary

Rosscarbery, West Cork

€350,000

Size

457 sq m (4,900 sq ft)

Bedrooms

13

Bathrooms

6

BER

N/A

 A MICROSOSM of West Cork village life and social circles, and an eye witness to history with strong links to Ireland's  War of Independence, the tall Olde Post Office in Rosscarbery has tall and true tales to tell but, it doesn’t need its walls to talk to tell them.

The National Monument in the square in Rosscarbery, Co Cork at the 2015 O’Donovan Rossa Commemoration. The Olde Poste Office has links to Michael Collins via his brother John (Shafter Collins!) Gen Tom Barry and  O'Donovan Rossa. Picture Dan Linehan
The National Monument in the square in Rosscarbery, Co Cork at the 2015 O’Donovan Rossa Commemoration. The Olde Poste Office has links to Michael Collins via his brother John (Shafter Collins!) Gen Tom Barry and  O'Donovan Rossa. Picture Dan Linehan

Now up for sale, this is one of the postcard-pretty seaside village’s largest commercial buildings, with links to tumultuous events of a century ago, in stirring revolutionary times,  recounted on its front wall.

Here, a simple stone plaque on its rendered façade recalls the fact that the famous General Tom Barry, freedom fighter and author of his accounts Guerilla Days in Ireland, lived in this property from 1907 to 1914 before he enlisted in the British Army.

Before Tom Barry, Fenian O’Donovan Rossa had a family tenancy for a period around 1840 is this early 1800s-built property when it also served as a department store called The Arcade.

Counter ...insurgence? There's a safe behind the screen 
Counter ...insurgence? There's a safe behind the screen 

And, in 1921s, one of the first local courts of the fledgling Irish Free State was conducted in a first-floor living room of this proud building, presided over by none other than Johnny (Shafter) Collins, a brother of Michael Collins and whose family roots were a few.

That first session saw a few locals charged with being drunk and disorderly, at a time when Rosscarbery had up to a dozen bars…..a plaque in the square (pic, above,) recalls the trio's links to  Rosscarbery, and coincidentlly to this premises. 

After World War One had ended, General Tom Barry the Commander of the West Cork Flying Column, applied both his military nous and his local Rosscarbery knowledge leading an attack on Rosscarbery’s RIC barracks, across the road from what’s now called The Olde Post Office. It was blown up in  March  1921, with the death of two RIC men in the process.

In its long and more tranquil, civilian years of service, this c 4,900 sq ft, sturdy village centre commercial property on Chapel Hill and backing to Fair Lane served its time as a drapery; a bakery; as a bar (The Independent); housed a coach-building business in its back yard, and also – in an early example of Amazon-like home deliveries – had a mobile drapery service, operated by horse and cart around the highways and byways of West Cork.

The Olde Post Office is at the heart of  Rosscarbery
The Olde Post Office is at the heart of  Rosscarbery

It took another twist in 1945 when a Mrs Sheila Horrigan was appointed postmistress for Rosscarbery, with the ‘new’ Post Office beginning service on Jan 1 1946, at the end of another war era.

She ran the service for a decade and then her daughters Rose and Maeve took over, running the post office and the area’s fledgling telephone exchange…the service had just ten subscribers by the early 1950s.

Sisters Rose and Maeve Horrigan not only ran the post office for a service-changing 46 years, until 2002,  when communications were being upended by the internet, they also operate a seasonal guesthouse upstairs, not surprisingly given there were up to 13 bedrooms at any one time over its two upper floors and rear self-contained annex.

Reception room
Reception room

They employed locals and extended family: a niece who came each summer from Dublin as a teenager recalls that her aunts used the services of a local handyman to put up and take down partitions, and the internal layout seems to have changed from year to year, almost on a whim.

She recalls  now how they’d admonish her as she chatted with guests saying “you’re being paid to work, not to talk!” 

Much talk and chat and news have passed over the Post Office’s counter too: now the talk is “what will happen here now?”

Following the passing of the sisters Rose and Maeve Horrigan, that niece is now a beneficiary of their estate, and though her own family still have strong local Rosscarbery roots, The Old Post Office is simply too big to leave idle: it needs to work its passage, as its last diligent owners made sure that it did.

After a full year of removing historical and family items, letters, War of Independence correspondence and memorabilia, books, and religious artifacts (several priests and religious in the extended family also) it’s now for sale with estate agent Henry O’Leary, who’s as intrigued as anyone to know what its next chapter brings.

He prices it quite modestly, at €350,000 as he knows it’s going to need further spending and repurposing, and describes it as high, wide, and handsome.

High, wide and handsome: The Olde Post Office Rosscarbery
High, wide and handsome: The Olde Post Office Rosscarbery

But, there’s solace to  buyers in knowing that it’s been fairly recently reroofed, has its lofty gables and chimneys replastered, and so is weathertight once more, ready for service.

It’s sort of a cross between a blank canvas and a warren, with two staircases, several landings, nearly too many bedrooms, tucked-away bathrooms, and some quite fine formals reception rooms, with a virtual pattern board of mid-1900s wallpapers, bedspreads, statues and pictures within.

VERDICT: The Olde Post Office is worth its price, plus stamp duty.

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