Johnny Paddy’s

The recreation of a family home in Ireland

November 12th – Building blocks

November 12th, 2010

John came down with a terrible cold on Wednesday and spent most of the day in bed.  On Thursday, the whole west coast was being buffeted by storm-force winds and torrential rain.  Local school children were sent home due to an electricity blackout. We barely set foot out of doors and couldn’t, for a moment, imagine that any work would be done.  On Friday, the sun came out again and we went to have another look at the site.

First blocksIn fact, Pat’s men had turned up for work on Thursday morning, but there was little they could achieve.  They laid out some corner blocks and went home. But, by mid-morning on Friday, the first layer of blocks had started to be laid around the outside walls of the new house and, at the far end, a double skin had been almost finished to floor level. We marveled at the speed of the work, until Marie explained that the men get paid per block!Floor level

The concrete foundation had been laid in steps to take account of the stability and level of the rocky ground underneath.  Remember that there was a 4′ 6″ fall between the old entrance gate and the chicken shed? In order to have level floors, it was necessary to compensate with three extra layers of blocks at the far end. In this picture, the top of the inside layer of blocks will be about 6″ below floor level by the time the foundations are filled with stone and a radon gas barrier and concrete skin added.

Height difference

We were amazed at the apparent difference in height.  It was difficult to see with the naked eye that the foundations would be level so, to reassure us a bit, Pat demonstrated with a laser theodolite.  Then, just for fun, he showed us the difference in height against the original farmhouse.  Look at where Pat is holding the laser pointer.  That is where the floor level of the new house will be. Water supply

Pat’s men weren’t the only people that were busy over the last day or two.  The Water Board had been to install our supply at the roadside.

November 9th – Concrete foundations

November 9th, 2010

We got back from the UK on Thursday.  Or was it?  I’m now getting so confused that I have to check our travel arrangements in the diary.  No, I discover that it was actually Wednesday when we caught the ferry. But then, of course, we stayed overnight in Dublin so that we would be in time to ask the saintly Nodlaig (prounounced Nolig) to let us into our Ennis storage unit to collect some essentials.  By the time we had picked up the keys to our rental house and Eamon had given us a quick run-down on the Stanley range, it was dark, so our first site visit had to wait till the following day.

Foundations dugIt had been raining heavily and there was no one around.  However, it was evident that work was still progressing.  The chicken shed had gone and the ground was dug ready for laying the foundations.  We could now clearly see the outline and position of the new house.  The footprint had been moved a few feet further away from the ruin, presumably to allow better access for vehicles.

A storm was forecast for Sunday, so we moved our furniture on Saturday and spent the rest of the weekend making ourselves at home.  We agreed to meet up with Pat on Tuesday morning, the day the concrete was due to be delivered for the foundations.

It duly poured with rain for most of Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, and we imagined the site would be a swamp by Tuesday.  However, when we got there at about 11.30am, the steel reinforcements were in place and the concrete mixer was en route.  The place slightly resembled some sort of Roman excavation. Roman excavation?

You will notice that the front wall and part of the gable end of the old house has now been demolished.  This was done in order to allow the lorries access without disturbing the foundation work.  We could now see the level of the old floor, though Pat assured us that the flagstones had not been disturbed.  We still don’t know what condition they might be in after all these years, but it will be a week or two before we need to decide on materials for our new flooring, so they are safer left where they are for the moment.

Road drainageIt was chilly, so we didn’t hang around and wait for the concrete.  Pat needed to discuss the drainage at the road entrance.  The Road Supervisor had initially asked for a pipe to be installed to allow rain water to drain freely into a ditch that runs along the perimeter of a neighbour’s field.  Unfortunately, the heavy rain over the weekend demonstrated that a more sophisticated solution might be required.

We left Pat to his work and went for a cup of tea with Bridie … who presented us with a heap of junk mail!  Our planning approval had not gone unnoticed in the local press and mail started to be delivered to a cousin of the same name a little further down the road.

October 24th – What a difference 10 days make

October 24th, 2010

 We didn’t even make it in through the pub door last night, when Tom Quealy, a local undertaker, greeted us with the words, “I see ye have the work started.”

Old farmhouse now clearly visibleWe had been to France and back with one load of furniture, dodging the fuel shortages, and had now arrived in Ireland with a 7.5 tonne truck containing the rest. In the meantime, Pat had been busy.  The calf cabin and cart shed was now gone and the stones used to level up the site.  The reek of turf from in front of the Chicken shed showing fall of landplot had also been moved and, with the rest of the useable topsoil, had been piled in a mountain behind the chicken shed.  Now that the the grass, brambles and rushes had gone, it was easier to see the outline of the old house.

The chicken shed would soon go too. But, for the moment, it was providing a useful reference point.  Using his tape and some spare blocks, Pat mapMapping out the new houseped out the outline of our new bungalow. Look back at the previous entry on 13th October.  It is hard to believe that this is the same site.  And, when you look at the quantity of stone involved in leveling it, it is equally hard to believe that most came from just two buildings. We can truly say that the new house will be built on the foundations of the old one. Imaginary footprint

Once Pat and John had positioned all the blocks to indicate where the various corners of the building would be, I took a photo and “joined the dots” to create a rough footprint showing the positioning of the house.

October 13th – Site meeting

October 13th, 2010

First things first.  The old house had a traditional layout consisting of a large central room in which all cooking and entertaining took place, with one large bedroom at one end and two smaller bedrooms at the other (one of which, John remembers, was used to store salt pork, and whole sides of bacon hung from the ceiling).  The old house can be seen behind John, Pat (our builder) and Tom (the architect).  Only one gable end and the back wall remain. The other gable end was deliberately pushed in shortly after the fire at a neighbour’s request, and the other stone walls gradually succumbed to the wind and the weather.

View of the ruined farmThe other buildings in this picture are the old cart shed and chicken shed, the latter of which got nicknamed “Brigid’s folly” after I suggested that, being the only building with a roof, we might turn it into some sort of studio.

Notice how overgrown the whole site is.  In this second picture, you can see Overgrown farmhousethe three men standing on top of or inside the ruined front wall and you get an idea of the size of the old farmhouse. It was “tidy” by today’s standards.

One of the first problems facing Pat was the slope of the land.  Using a long tape measure (expertly held in place by Pat’s daughter, Ciara) as a guide, he effectively demonstrated that the difference in level between the entrance gate and the wall of the chicken shed was a full 4′ 6″. Clearly he would need to level the land before we could agree where the new house should be sited. Also, there was the slight issue surrounding the legal boundary between our land and the forestry.  From the available copy of the John, Kiara, Pat and TomLand Registry map, it appeared that the boundary ran from the back wall of the calf cabin (not shown) to the far corner of the chicken shed.  However, this was unlikely to be entirely accurate as the original map had been reduced to A4 and the boundary had been drawn by hand with a thick pen. For our purposes today, it would have to do.

There were forms to fill and a commencement fee to pay before Pat could start building, but he said he would make a start clearing the land while we made a flying visit to France to exchange some furniture.