Tyrone House and the Fall of the St. Georges
15th June 2013
The road where I live, in Kilcolgan, south Co. Galway, is like something out of Little House on the Prairie. There aren’t many trees, the wind has an unfair advantage and makes the most of it, making its presence felt all the time. People are always arriving at our house and saying, “It’s really windy here! It’s not windy anywhere else!” Yes, thanks, we know.
There’s a field between our house and the Kilcolgan River. It’s an estuary, and rises and falls with the tide. It is full of oysters and trout, the former of which I have partaken regularly, and the latter of which I have seen leaping but have never eaten.
In winter, the wind tears all the heat from your hands. The landscape loses most of its colour, and everything sinks back into muted shades of purple, olive green and blue greys. There are days when just getting to the car leaves you traumatised, not to mention soaked. Trees have given up trying to grow straight, and storms make you fear for your home when you are lying in bed at night.
Then comes May, and you remember why it’s the most beautiful place in Ireland. The sky is a vast canvas of blue and white, the fields are the brightest green and everywhere you look there are carpets of dandelions (nodding in the wind). By June, the hedgerows are bursting with wildflowers of every description, the grass is four foot high and it’s heaven, even when the drizzle returns.
You don’t have to walk far from my home to get to Tyrone House. It’s a ruin now, having been burnt out during the War of Independence in 1921 by the local chapter of the IRA. They had heard that the hated Black and Tans were going to use it as an infirmary, and they decided to put the house beyond use. It had been abandoned some years earlier, and the only remaining resident was an elderly caretaker. He was the great-grandfather of my neighbour James Martin. “They had to carry him out, Róisín,” James told me. “It broke his heart to see the house that he’d looked after up in flames.” The IRA carried him, bed and all, into an outhouse before destroying the house.
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