I wanted the solitude of the country

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rich, red, warm irish country living  and kitchen

I’d been living in town and wanted to live in the country.

It took me a week to find this place.  Because it was so isolated, no-one really knew where the road was and the ‘For Sale’ sign  had blown down.  Eventually I found it. I came down the lane – which at that time was just a dirt track –  and got in through a broken window. The house was empty for some time and was full of dead animals, dead birds.  

The lady who lived here had left home to walk to the post office to get her pension, got blown over, was taken to the hospital with a broken hip and never came back. Her housecoat/apron was behind the door in the hook. There was still food in the kitchen, there were sticks at the fire, and the house really was just as she had left it.

I’ve lived here for 37 years.

A few people said to me before I bought it ‘why would you want to live there?’. They just didn’t get it.

I wanted the solitude of the country and a better environment for my children.  I didn’t want them to live near the road and breathing in fumes; I wanted them to be able to go out and play .

When I was child I grew up in a town.  Before moving here I lived in a two-up, two-down terraced house. It was still quite rural then, but they were selling pieces of land for housing and I knew I had to get out of there. Now, there are hundreds of houses there. 

blue bedroom iron bedstead

I just felt as soon as I saw this house I had to live here  – even though it was disaster. When I moved in, I really didn’t have very much money because I sold my house for £12,000 and bought this for £9,000. 

We didn’t have any electricity for months. There had been a supply but it was so bad the Electricity Board wouldn’t put it back on.

On top of that there was only a cold water supply, and the toilet didn’t work  –  because the septic tank, a really old one –   had blocked up.  

For a while we just slummed it and then eventually we did one room at a time.   

I moved here with my now ex husband and two children.  Then when we split up I bought his  share – because there was no way I was going to go anywhere else.

I live here now with N. my partner and two of our children. This is their last year at uni and this time next year it will just be me and N. here. 

large orange sofa in country house with fairly lights in tree

The front room used to be the original house –  which was a ‘room’ with two rooms upstairs. It was built in 1826. When we did some work we found what would have been the original doors. Over the years bits were added on.  The bottom end of the house, where the girls’ bedrooms are now,  that was just a shed for animals. The water was pumped into the house from a well  from a stationary engine into a settlement tank,  which was underneath the house.  

This was actually our Christmas tree this year but we just decided to keep it up. 

country house  period hall furniture

I still have a piece of furniture in the hall that came with the house.  I also have kilner jars/  preserving jars… When I came to the house there was still preserved fruit  in those jars: pears, apples, carrots. I kept the jars, and I still use them.  

period fireplace and fire

This fireplace was here, it came with the house.  It’s probably about ninety years old.  It’s not a range.. but this was the hot plate, this was the oven,  and these would have been used to cook spuds on.  In fact one Christmas, years ago, there was a big storm and the electricity was out and we cooked our dinner on it –  it was a very basic Christmas dinner…   We use the oven part for drying our shoes when they are soaking wet. 

This would have been a poor person’s house, a very modest country house, and it was in the same family all that time.  

Traditionally, in the country I know that they liked to build houses so that the living area was where the sun rose and the sleeping area was where the sun set.  Our front room was the original house and then this part was added later, so the house is really a bit higgledy-piggledy.

Sunrise is over here and then as the day goes around it’s in different areas of the yard.  And then it sets over there, so it’s perfectly positioned. It was like I had built the house for the sun. 

pots on hob beside window - country view

This is my time of year now. (spring) It’s when everything starts again. 

In winter… there are times when we have not been able to get out.  Sometimes we couldn’t get up the lane because of the snow.  Quite a few times we had to walk to the shop, and couldn’t get vehicles out and the kids couldn’t go to school.  But I actually don’t mind that, it’s nice getting stuck in. 

The other disadvantages are: the slightest thing puts the electricity off. And although it doesn’t bother me, our internet is really bad here. Our youngest girls are 22 and they give off. 

Now, because of Google Earth and Sat Nav, it’s easier  for people to find the house. Years ago they used to drive around… and then, of course, there were no mobile phones and they’d have to try and find a phone box – in the country!….And there’s people who’ve never made it!

roaring fire in period fireplace with red rug

At night there is complete darkness. We have lights on inside but it is completely dark outside. We tell visitors about Mr J. who is supposed to be the ghost, to make them more nervous.  You can see it would freak people, because everything is so dark.

When my daughter was leaving here last night it was a beautiful clear night,  and she said: ‘Look at the stars’. She lives in town and can never see the stars. All the family come here and think they’re on their holidays. 

mood lighting in country house, window and lamp

We can’t see anybody, and nobody can see us. We can have parties here and nobody complains.  In the summer we have bonfires all the time.  If we lived anywhere else there’d be people moaning.   But that’s one of our favourite things to do.

Even being snowed in in the winter doesn’t bother me. Honestly, I can’t find any drawbacks at all to living here.  Maybe….. it’s more expensive to live in the country.  Because everything you have to do you’ve got to get into your car and drive somewhere. When the children were small you had to take them everywhere, they couldn’t just walk up the street to the bus. Armagh, Lurgan …Ballynahinch… we had to wait there the whole time for them, because there was no point in coming back.  

Old houses really are quite difficult to keep, there’s always stuff needs to be done.  We would never get anybody in to do it, we do everything ourselves. Maybe it’s not done 100% but it works.

old fireplace with sofa, lamp  in red room, country house

This room is pretty much the same as it was, the tiles and all. We have radiators in it now but the room is basically the same. Someone came to visit whose granny used to live on the road. He said: “I remember coming to see the woman who lived here  … and this is really so similar”. 

Years ago we had a great big pine table in here, now  it’s in the sun room and  when all the kids are home this is where we all eat.   There was never nine  of us living here at same time, there was maybe seven at one time. 

distressed finish drawers, mirror and stripped pine door

I have a shed full of junk because people think you might want that, and I take it anyway. And still I think, sure I’ll take that.  

N. is a carpenter.  He’s retired now. Anything we have we just re-use it, re-purpose it. Nearly everything  we have is made from something else. 

The dresser in the living room we actually bought that off N.’s brother, it originally came from N.’s  family home.  It was there when he was a boy.  I don’t think anything in this house is new everything is second-hand, or else it’s been passed down to us. 

This is a lived-in house where you feel comfy.

colourful kitchen with smeg fridge

Originally there was the kitchen and wee room at the end of it with a door outside that we just knocked it all into one.  The kitchen was basically just a shell with a sink in it… and  didn’t even really have any cupboards.  There was a concrete floor and a table… 

When I eventually did get electricity I had to use my washing machine outside; my twin-tub washing machine. 

In the winter I spend most of the time here,  but in summer outside.  I have a vegetable patch and a polytunnel where I grow my own vegetables.  It’s really hard work but I grow raspberries,  blueberries, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, peas, carrots, peppers chillies. I really should do more….   We also have six hens. 

Nobody else around here grows their own.  People move to the country but they don’t take part in country activities any more. I think I’m the only person in this area who has hens. …. I remember reading an article one time about country people complaining about town people coming out buying up the land and houses, and then living like town people.

There isn’t a community here, there are no get-togethers as such.  I’m probably one of the oldest residents in this road but if you stop your car on the road and asked where I live they probably wouldn’t know.  

old country house modernised interior

This is the original house. We put the stained glass in but they would have been the original windows of the two top bedrooms. There was only a wee ladder up to it, it wasn’t a proper staircase. 

You can see how thick the walls are… the timber roof we put on but those beams  were here from the beginning. 

thick walls old country house and recycled wooden floor

This door was a window, but we took it  away so that we could  go out into the patio, and then we put the sunroom on.  It cost us £1,000 to build. It’s just recycled stuff. This is a recycled the floor that was given to us. It’s probably the cheapest sunroom ever!  

sunroom with big table in black and white

In summer time the sun will be round here at 1.00pm and it’s lovely and warm all day.  We used this over Christmas because it meant the whole family could come.  N. put on an extra bit to the table so we can have more people. 

At Christmas it was amazing because it was dark, but all these lights were on. One of my daughters put it up on Instagram and people were saying: “Where are you? That looks amazing.” And she said: “I’m at home!”.

I see this house every day and just take it for granted. But when you look at it through somebody else’s eyes you think…. oh yeah, that looks really nice.  

We just did that two years ago. Isn’t that amazing?  When we came here the roof was very low so we just took off the whole thing and we had it panelled. Last year I said to N. I hate that, it’s really boring, it was just ordinary wood panelling, let’s paint it bright colours.  And now I love it!

You can see the thickness of the walls there.   It’s nice to be able to see what the building was actually made of.  The stones were from the local quarry. At the time I just thought –  let’s knock this wall down because although we actually did have a big bathroom there were 4 girls and me and N.  and in the morning,  it was mental. 

I just love being here. If I’ve been away..  as soon as I come down that lane, I just think…..  A day out, and all I can think about is –  no matter where I go –  I want to go home. 

As soon as I get to that lane I take my seat belt off… and I’m home. Even if I’ve been away for a day or a week or whatever, and had a really good time, there’s nothing better than coming home. I just love being here.


I’ll be here until I die.   will go out of here in a ‘recycled paper  bag’. There’s a bit  of me worries if N. dies before  me how I will cope.  If I can’t chop my own wood then I’ll have to buy wood, if I can’t cut the grass then I’ll just have to ask somebody to do it for me…

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Nuala Rooney PhD, is a creative professional and award-winning author, currently developing new approaches to design innovation and spatial research through storytelling. With unique skillsets, developed as a design educator in Higher Education institutions in UK and Hong Kong, her interest lies in exploring 'home' as a human centred space.

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