Longford leader's hideout
General frequented Derryneel when fighting the Tans
Published 02/10/2015 | 02:30
You get a lot more house for your money in Longford which, over the years, has variously featured in tandem with counties Leitrim, Roscommon and Mayo as the cheapest places in Ireland in which to buy a property.
Along with Leitrim, Longford is of course the most sparsely populated county but, also in tandem with Leitrim, is among the most scenic. These ingredients make it particularly popular among those who want to cash in their city property chips and start a new rural life away from it all.
For €485,000 - close to the same price currently being sought for a two-bed apartment in Mount St Anne's in Milltown, Dublin; another in Ladyswell, Galway; a three-bed semi in Rathfarnham, Dublin; and another Douglas in Cork - you can have a fully refurbished and reconstructed 3,500 sq ft period country residence at Derryneel in Ballinalee with an acre of land attached.
Derryneel also comes with some gilt-edged Irish history attached. It was frequented regularly by General Sean McEoin in the War of Independence, who was also leader of the Longford contingent of the IRA. This was renowned as one of the most proactive and effective flying columns in the fight against British forces. Later he was the Irish Army's chief of staff, a TD and a Minister for Justice and Defence.
McEoin was known as the 'Blacksmith of Ballinalee'. Derryneel is located right across the road from the site of the McEoin family forge and the general was in and out as neighbours would be.
On a fateful day during the War of Independence, McEoin related being surprised one day at another home half a mile up the road by a force of 10 soldiers.
He had been sitting writing a letter (wearing a Sam Browne belt and revolver and with two Mills No 4 bombs in his pocket) when they arrived outside and he decided to surprise them.
He stepped out in front of them, shot the first and threw a bomb and got away. Two years ago, Taoiseach Enda Kenny unveiled a statue of the general in the centre of the town.
Things have changed a lot at Derryneel since McEoin hopped out its windows. Back then it was a traditional small dormer cottage, likely to have been not much larger than one room downstairs.
The entrance takes you into the hall, grand and spacious today, but back in the 1920s it comprised most of the entire house. Derryneel has been expanded in all directions over the years, most effectively by its current owners.
While the exterior and interiors would both lead you to believe this is largely a period house, the reality is that one wing was added in the 80s and the most recent, completed in 2002, under what the owners call the "complete rebuild".
The latter was conducted in earnest with the help of the Dublin based architect John Masterson.
Original recycled Bangor slates were deployed on the roof and large sash windows installed in the front of the house to give the property that authentic period look.
The house is also practical - Rationel windows and doors are used at the back of the property.
Inside we have nine-foot-high ceilings and the floors are largely in solid timbers with the exception of the kitchen and sunroom which are in Belgian granite, while some of the receptions are carpeted.
Accommodation includes the entrance hall with its polished timber floor and hand-turned-and-carved ornate staircase, the sitting room, inner hall, a good sized conservatory, a double sized kitchen and breakfast room with a traditional oil fired Aga cooker and granite worktops.
There's a home office, a wine cellar and a study. The ground floor area is almost 2,000 sq ft, or twice the size of the average city family home all on its own.
There are four bedrooms upstairs with an ensuite off the master chamber along with a walk-in wardrobe. The guest room is also ensuite.
The colour scheme inside is a bright and rich palette of rich deep blues, off burgundies and yellows with little black or tan in sight.
The house is accessed from the main road via a tree-lined avenue from electric gates. The grounds were landscaped by a former student of the Botanic Garden College of Horticulture and includes a gravel path past a log cabin and ultimately to steps leading down to the property's spring well.
These days, the route to its end and the fields beyond is always taken at a much more leisurely pace.
Ballinalee, Co Longford
Asking price: €485,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald McGill (043) 3345822