Two historic thatched cottages in Adare, County Limerick, were destroyed in a fire last week.
The dwellings were among the last 11 remaining thatched cottages built by Lord Adare between 1835 and 1870 and are a huge tourist draw.
In August 2012, James Lee from Ballyorgan reroofed the cottage owned by Jane and Henrietta Benson using about one and a half tonnes of reed harvested from the banks of the Shannon at Coonagh and Bunratty. He spoke about his sadness and shock at the destruction.
“I got a call at around 2pm on Saturday shortly after the fire broke out,” Mr Lee said.
“I couldn’t get to Adare because of the traffic detours due to the fire. When I came over on Sunday, I could not believe the amount of damage. It’s very sad to see your labour of love in thatch work end up like that.
“I remember it was a long job on the Bensons’ cottage, because of the very wet August we had three years ago. But what has happened is far worse for the people who have lost their homes.
“I have come over to help tidy up. It could have been far worse if the fire broke out in the middle of the night as people could have died.”
“A structural engineer will have to decide if the walls can remain and re-thatching the cottages as they now stand could be done if the walls are OK,” he said.
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The cottage next to the Bensons, which is owned by an American businessman, was also destroyed.
A third cottage owned by Lucy Erridge, who runs a fashion and crafts business, was saved, but was slightly damaged.
“I hope to reopen as soon as possible. I have been here for over 30 years. The fire service were absolutely fantastic and, with locals, helped to save my cottage and the stock. People forming a human chain moved out all my stuff as the firemen worked on the fire,” said Erridge.
Local Fine Gael TD Dan Neville said he would meet with Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe to give him a report on the damage.
“I have already had talks with Limerick City and County Council and their heritage officer, Tom Cassidy.
“The thatch cottages are an integral part of Adare’s unique beauty which makes the village a world tourism attraction.
“The first thing that needs to be done is to ensure the burnt out cottages are not left an eyesore blighting the lovely main street. Then decisions must be taken as soon as possible to restore them if that is possible. The insurance is also something that has to be considered.”
Police have ruled out any malicious cause behind the fire.