If you asked someone to make a list of images likely to go viral, chances are “a 200-year-old Irish thatched cottage undergoing renovations” wouldn’t be one of them. (Unless you asked one of the IrishCentral staff, naturally.)
But that’s exactly what happened when Gary Guilfoyle shared photos on image-sharing platform Imgur of the traditional cottage he and his wife are restoring. Since the photos were first posted three days ago, they have been viewed close to 632,000 times, received 800 comments, and even spent a while as the second most popular set of images on the site.
The lovely but dilapidated cottage in Aghnananagh, Co. Offaly (pronounced “Ak-na-na-nack,” as Gary enlightened curious commenters) is 214 years old and was left to his wife by her aunt.
Because of the cottage’s less than move-in-ready condition – the wooden window frames and timber lintels had rotted away, the thatching was in a shambles and also starting to rot in parts – everyone from friends, family and neighbors to strangers just calling in off the street told the Guilfoyles they should demolish the house. “It’s a terrible idea, drafts, cold, fire, damp, etc.”
Their reaction? “F**k the begrudgers, this house had stood for over 200 years, longer than anyone around now[.] We were only the latest guardians, who were we to knock it.”
The first step was to prevent any further water damage by repairing the thatching on the roof. This took seven weeks.
Guilfoyle told The Daily Edge that they hired professionals to complete the thatching and other specialized repairs, and were completing the rest of the renovations themselves, staying true to the house’s original structure and traditional building methods.
This was somewhat complicated by the fact that they had only one photo of the cottage in its liveable condition, from the 1950s. As Guilfoyle explains, “This seems to be the only photo we can find because the woman you can see in the yard went senile in her old age and decided it was a good idea to burn all the pictures she had in the house, completely erasing the visual history.”
Another rather unusual factor was the five-acre forest of Christmas trees a previous owner had planted around the cottage, with the intention of selling them. Those plans never came to fruition, but the trees did, blocking off sunlight and air from the property and hastening the rot in the thatching.
To clear just half an acre of space, they had to cut down 600 of the trees.
They’re also re-building a 1950s extension at the back of the property.
Amazed by the interest in the cottage, Guilfoyle has promised to post more photos as the restoration continues.
Click here to see the full gallery on imgur.
*Originally published March 2015