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Monday 22 September 2014

Our iconic cottages are being lost to time

Greg Harkin

Published 26/08/2014 | 02:30

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Francis Cannon and his son Kevin rope thatching a cottage in Straboy, Glencolmcille.
The cover of Traditional Cottages of County Donegal book by Joseph Gallagher and Greg Stevenson.

IRELAND'S traditional cottages and buildings are under threat from a lack on interest from the Government and the public, experts have warned.

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Heritage campaigners Dr Greg Stevenson and Dr Joseph Gallagher have spent years carefully chronicling the traditional cottages of Donegal.

They warned that despite the heritage of traditional cottages in Donegal, just 300 of them survive.

"These traditional cottages evoke a sense of place, and demonstrate the understanding and connection that people had with the landscape," said Dr Stevenson, an architecture consultant and lecturer at the University of Wales.

But he said opportunities have not been seized to boost tourism and employ skilled craftsmen to work on the cottages.

Dr Gallagher, heritage officer with Donegal County Council, says the lack of similar study throughout the rest of the country could mean many historic buildings are lost.

Grants and help to preserve buildings are available from several government departments.

"Despite these efforts, vernacular buildings continue to be lost," said Dr Gallagher.

"The Environment & Heritage Service in the North estimated that thatched cottages there declined from 40,000 in 1950 to just 150 by 2005 and there is little reason to believe that decline is 
well under way in Co Donegal and other rural areas."

Dr Stevenson, an expert on traditional buildings in Wales, warned the landscape of Ireland could change forever unless urgent action is taken.

The Traditional Cottages of County Donegal by Dr Gallagher and Dr Stevenson was launched at the Donegal County Museum in Letterkenny last night as part of Heritage Week.

Irish Independent

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