Best selling author Kate Kerrigan selling historical Mayo home which played host to luminaries like Laurence Olivier and George Best
Best-selling author Kate Kerrigan is selling up in Killala
Published 30/10/2015 | 02:30
Laurence Olivier and his then wife Vivienne Leigh, as well as Matt Busby and George Best, are among the luminaries to have toasted their toes around the hearth at 'The Last House' facing the Atlantic ocean in Killala, Co Mayo - right on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Occupied by a succession of party people since its construction by a GP in 1920, the house is being placed for sale by its current hosts, the best-selling author Morag Prunty (who writes under the name of Kate Kerrigan), and her husband, graphic designer Niall Kerrigan.
On a stormy night in the 1940s Hollywood's glitziest couple arrived in Killala to visit their friend, actress Joyce Redman who lived on Bartragh Island.
However, Bartragh is accessible at low tide only and Olivier and Leigh couldn't get out. They ended up staying here instead. Later in the 1960s and 70s it was owned by a UK couple with connections to Manchester United. Matt Busby attended their legendary parties along with George Best, who arrived by helicopter to land in the field next door.
Since 2012 the front study, with its view over the Atlantic, has been the writing station for Morag, whose global best sellers as Kate Kerrigan include Recipes For A Perfect Marriage and the Ellis Island Trilogy - the story of an Irish woman who emigrates to New York in the early part of the 20th century.
"This house has influenced my writing greatly. I started to set my books in the era that this house was built as soon as we moved in. I can attribute the success of my Ellis Island trilogy to many hours staring out my study window at the Atlantic Ocean!" says Morag.
Then Dublin-based Morag and Niall acquired the double bay fronted seafront dwelling in 2012 and immediately embarked on work to turn it into a home with a difference for themselves and sons Leo (14) and Tommo (6).
"I had been looking for a holiday cottage by the sea to write in. My mother and I made an appointment to see the house, more out of curiosity than anything else, I had no intention of buying. But the minute I walked into the hallway and saw the old tiles on the floor and the 1940s French doors leading from the old doctor's surgery into the main part of the house, I was completely smitten. I had bought and sold a few houses over the years - but this was the first I had ever truly fallen in love with."
The traditional double fronted art deco dwelling was built by the local doctor, funded by what he called 'one-bad flu' which may have been the infamous outbreak of 1918/19. The 1970s owners put an extension on the back which doubled the size of the house, but without compromising its more traditional proportions.
"We completely remodelled the inside - joining the two parts by knocking down connecting walls, bringing in more light and giving it an overall more spacious feel to better suit modern living. We put in new windows throughout, dry lining and insulation on all walls," says Morag. Surprises included the discovery of three covered fireplaces hidden in the walls.
"We were always careful not to lose any character, preserving its art deco features and keeping original floors, including emerald green tiles which would've been the hearth of the original kitchen fireplace and now lead into the new kitchen."
Despite its monicker, The Last House is at the heart of the village and its harbour. "With a tightening in planning, it's probably the last chance saloon for someone to pick a house along this road overlooking the sea," says Morag. It featured in both Image Interiors and Country Living and with Knock Airport 40 minutes away Morag finds it easy to get to London for work.
However, at over 3,000 sq ft, the property has proven to be difficult for the busy couple to manage and they're selling up with a view to building a smaller home on a parcel of the site.
The house has four bedrooms with an en-suite and dressing room off the master chamber, there are two stand-alone claw-foot tubs. The front study overlooks the sea as does the sitting room. There's a drawing room, a play room and traditional kitchen arrayed over two levels downstairs. Its interiors are characterised by mature timber and tiled floors and art deco proportions.
Morag adds: "My favourite thing about living here is the view. Almost every window you look out of, back or front, you have an amazing view. It's wonderful to wake up in the morning to look out across the Atlantic Ocean. Not a day goes by in that house when I don't say to myself 'I have a better view than Bono!'"
For the new owners, the Kerrigan/Prunty's will remain neighbours. Just invite them over to any parties.
The Last House
Quay Road, Killala, Co Mayo
Asking price: €290,000
Agent: Garrett Loftus 096 22466