Thatching in Ireland; Leinster

The craft, in the Province of Leinster, until c1960

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his page is one of four covering the islands of Ireland. If you have started here kindly go to the Introduction page HERE; as it contains some useful background information, to this and the other three pages...

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einster... Covering the historic counties of Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois (formally Kings), Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly (formally Queens), Westmeath, Wexford & Wicklow.

With no Atlantic coastline, roped thatch was not used in this province; but examples of the other methods and materials, used in Ireland appear in the images below... Bobbin ridges were widespread; in counties Meath, Dublin, Kildare, Offaly, Carlow & Wicklow... As they once were across the Irish sea, in Wales. Water reed makes an appreance in counties Longford, Wexford & Kilkenny. With cereal straw being found throughout, using the Thrusted or Scalloped fixed methods.




County Longford

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The upper and lower right images were taken by Caoimhín Ó Danachair in 1946. The upper depicts a large thatch, near Lough Gowna**. With a slightly worn, scalloped fixed straw thatch. Caoimhín’s other photo was taken from the railway bridge, at Edgeworthstown/ Mostrim**; in the east of the county. Similar work is depicted here with some extensive repairs, to the main coatwork, possibly using the thrusting method... The lower left image is younger, showing a cottage thatched with a new coat of water reed; dating from the early 1960’s.
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County Westmeath
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Thrusting... All three images from this county show examples of the thrusting thatching method; although standard long straw thatch, scalloped fixed, was noted hereabouts. The upper, late 1890’s, rather staged photo; depicts ‘Biddy Grays’ at Crookedwood* captured by Robert French. The cottage has been repaired with some thrusting thatch; being fixed on the ridge with a few scallops.
The two remaining buildings are completly covered using this method. The opposite lay at in Castle Pollard** in Rathgarve Parish and dates to 1937. Scallops being used to fix the rolled gables and eaves.
A larger thatch is found below, seemingly newly coated with thrusted straw. This scene was taken by Caoimhín Ó Danachair, at Clonmoyle** in Lynn parish in 1943.
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County Meath
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Bobbins and tin... All three photos from this county, were taken in 1935 by Albert Eskeröd.
Bobbin ridges feature in the upper, neatly thatched home at Trim.
The cottage on the right was situated ‘beyond Dunboyne’; further down the River Boyne from Trim. Here tin sheets form the ridge, with the coatwork seemingly consisting of thrusted thatch.


The lower image of Larkins public house at Teaguestown, near Trim, depicts another bobbin ridge, atop some fairly worn thatch, again possibly of thrusted thatch, on the lower roof.
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County Louth
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Coastal thatch... The images from this small county, show thatch on or near the coast...
The upper photo** and the opposite view depicts thatch in Drogheda, one of the oldest towns in Ireland. Whose authorities apparently never banned the craft. The work in the upper photo is probably thrusted thatch, partly under a mortar ridge. Photographed by Albert Eskeröd, in the mid 1930’s.



The streets depicted on the left, were photographed in around 1900; very likely from the town’s Magdalene Tower; looking north. A great many thatched roofs are shown, all in seemingly in good repair, a few with mortar ridges...
The right hand print depicts an even older view, dating to the 1790’s. The engraver here has shown one storey thatched homes, surrounding the castle at Termonfeckin. Only the castle survives from this scene.
The thatch has also now gone from the view below, at Blackrock*. This photo from around 1910, has thatch along the seafront of this resort. These may have been survivors of the thatched fishermen’s homes, noted seventy years before. All the roofs look well coated, with mortar ridges. The three storey hotel survives and Bus Éireann have upgraded their vehicles ...
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County Dublin
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Dublin thatch in the 1870’s...The left image is of Howth, with Dublin Bay in the distance. Ridges of mortar are visible, on some attractive cottages. Along with the local children, from 1877.
To the south of the city lies Clondalkin; the above row of weedy thatch was captured in around 1875.
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The photo above depicts the Post Office at Kilsallaghan**, north of the city. Here a slightly worn thatch, shows extensive repairs under the chimney.
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Capital thatch... This smallish county must have always been dominated by the city of Dublin; which has grown considerably since these photos were taken; some locations becoming suburbs...
In common with many large towns and cities, Dublin was no stranger to fires. In 1301 a serious one occurred, but buildings were restored once more with ‘wattles and thatch’. Thatched buildings still existed inside the city walls, in the mid seventeenth century. In 1801 the county was surveyed; Joseph Archer was dismissive of thatch, but had to admit a stone & slate cottage cost 12-14 pounds to construct; a ‘mud walled cabin with a thatched roof’, only 2-3 pounds....
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The cottage in the above image was situated in the 'north of the county'**it has a large amount of repairs; likely carried out using thrusted thatch. A scene captued by Caoimhín Ó Danachair in 1942.
The upper woodland view was photographed in around 1908; illustrating a rather posed scene at Bride’s Glen, south of the city. The roof is coated with a slightly thin layer of new thatch; probably fixed with the thrusting method...




The large image below is later, from 1924. Here a large roof is shown near Castleknock**. The thatch appears to have been done in stages over the years, with some parts showing thrusted thatch and the faint remains of a bobbin ridge. Photographed by one Carl von Sydow .
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County Kildare
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Busy times... At the Black Church Hotel*, in around 1890. The picture speaks for itself; but our concern is the very neat, possibly water reed thatch, topped by a rather decorative bobbin ridge. The ridge has extra decoration, in the form of a type of raised bobbin, spaced evenly along the ridge.
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County Bobbin... It’s difficult to find an image of old thatch hereabouts that is not finished with a bobbin ridge...
The upper and lower cottages were photographed by Caoimhín Ó Danachair forty five years apart. The upper, and older, at Mountprospect** dates from 1943. Both roof and ridge are slightly worn; not so the lower image. This shows newer thatch at Robertstown**; which probably consisted of thrusted thatch. The straight white scallops could be of painted wood; as will be seen, this seems to have been locally in vogue, at this time and earlier; especially in neighbouring Wicklow.
In 1777 it was noted that on the Furness estate, thatching a ‘cabbin’ required eight loads of straw, costing two pounds; the thatching itself cost eight shillings. Whether this sum included a bobbin ridge was not recorded...
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County Offaly... 'Kings County'
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Scalloped throughout... The upper and lower photos were taken by Caoimhín Ó Danachair in 1945. They show similar work , consisting of bobbin ridges atop scalloped thatch. In this case we can be pretty sure the thatch was scalloped, as Caoimhín carried out of survey of thatching, in this county, as well as capturing much on film. He found no other method in use; with all thatching fixed to a turf/scraw underlayer. Oat straw being the material mostly used hereabouts. The upper thatched farm was at Ballyfarrell**, in Killoughy parish, the lower cottage lay at Bun**, in Gallen parish.
The centre image was taken a decade earlier at Windmill Cross, near Edenberry**, by Albert Eskeröd . (A very useful guide to the craft here is Barry O’ Reilly’s ‘Living under Thatch’,2004)
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County Laois... 'Queens County'
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Scallop & Thrust... Both thrust and scalloped methods were used in this county; employing both wheat and oat straw, with a preference for the latter.
The two photos above show a scalloped thatch on the left and a seemingly thrust roof on the right. Both were situated at Knockbeg**, right on the border with County Carlow; images taken by Caoimhín Ó Danachair in 1945.
The scene opposite is half a century older, depicting a double storey thatch, in the main square at Rathdowney, in the south west of the county.
And below it looks like ‘last orders’ for the ‘Old Inn’ once found at Morett**; another of Caoimhín’s images from 1947. Only a single, two storey thatched house, seems to have survived to the present day hereabouts...
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County Carlow
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Cottages & a Church.... In Ireland's second smallest county. As with the previous area, the upper and lower images, of two single storey cottages, come courtesy of Caoimhín Ó Danachair, captured on his travels in 1945. It may well be his bicycle propped against the wall in the upper photo... Here he caught the scene at Graiguenaspiddoge** in the Parish of Tullowmagimma. The thatch appears to be a tidy roof of Scalloped long straw. Similar work is shown below, except most of the roof is newer and finished with a bobbin ridge. This thatch lay at Ballytarsna** in the Parish of Nurney.
The late Victorian scene above is titled ‘Dublin Road, Carlow’. The row of thatched homes has long gone and it’s now ‘Old Dublin Road’... The opposite print is a century older and depicts a thatch on the church at Ardglass, in a poor state. A reminder that thatch covered both secular and religious buildings; for a good many years after this image was engraved...
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County Wicklow
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Waterside & Mountainside Bobbins... The upper and very bottom photos show places near the coast; both taken by Albert Eskeröd in 1935. The upper, jolly roof lay at Rathnew**, just north of Wicklow Town. The distinctive lattice decoration, fixing the edge of scalloped long straw thatch; appears in images a good four decades older. As the old postcard, of a cottage near ‘The Scalp’ shows; on the left... The Scalp itself is a spectacular rock formation two miles north of Enniskerry.
The image of the cottage orne depicted opposite, dates from around 1890; located in the dramatic valley of the River Dargle; like The Scalp, part of the Wicklow Mountains. The thatch here is once more neat longstraw, topped with a bobbin ridge. Similar work is found below in Albert Eskeröd’s view of the seaside town of Bray**, in the very north of the county.
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County Wexford
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All shapes and sizes in 1935.... In this year Albert Eskeröd captured some images of thatch, in and around Duncormick; in the south east of this county. They show a greater variation in roof types, than that seen elsewhere...
The upper view is of ‘Mary Kelly’s House’ at Tullycanna**, north of Duncormick. Albert was keen to note the wooden chimney... Sitting crookedly atop a newish thatch, of scalloped long straw, with a repaired gable end. He also photographed Mary, by her open hearth...
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The windmill at Tacumshane**, ceased operating commercially the year after Albert took this photo... Thatch was always a popular capping for windmills; lightweight and easy to fix, to a tightly curved roof. Happily renovated, it’s the oldest working windmill in Ireland.
Below, is ‘The House of Mr Myler’ at Duncormick**. Perhaps the largest to be seen, on this tour of Ireland? The roof is of long straw; neatly repaired under the large chimneys; always a weak spot in any thatch...
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County Kilkenny
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Water reed county... For a county which only just touches the sea, Kilkenny had and still has resources of water reed. These come from the rivers, which form its boundries and also lie within them. The upper photo shows a small cottage, dwarfed by some very long water reed; probably placed there for fun; to be recorded by Caoimhín Ó Danachair in 1963. This scene lay at Ballybrassil** on the River Suir, across from County Waterford. The cottage roof is also of water reed...


The view opposite was found just down the river, at Licketstown**. Once again photographed by Caoimhín; but somewhat earlier, in 1954. Again water reed has been used, to good effect, creating a very neat roof.
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More Water reed... Again at Licketstown**, in 1954. Caoimhín Ó Danachair stated that all was thatched here. His image on the left, seems to back him up.














The Rower, in 1935... The cottage below was ‘Jim Fenelon’s house’ taken by Albert Eskeröd. The Rower** lies between the rivers Nore & Barrow both sources of water reed, but none it seems was used here; the roof consisting of repaired longstraw thatch, with more than enough vegetation...
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** All the images, marked thus, in this and the remaining pages on Ireland are © National Folklore Collection, UCD. Who have generously allowed their archive to appear under a Creative Commons licence.
*Images marked so are © of National Library of Ireland, who have kindly permitted their material to be used under the same conditions. Many thanks to both institutions...
To continue this tour to The Province of Munster, click Here