Wednesday 18 September 2019

Firefighter whose life was changed by 9/11 puts labour of love on market

Eoghan McConnell and Edel O'Connell

A New York firefighter who was on duty during the 9/11 attacks has put a 300-year-old manor house he lovingly restored on the market for €1.3m.

Joe Donovan never intended to live in the 17-bedroom Newcastle House in Ballymahon, Co Longford, but the events of September 11, 2001, changed his perspective entirely.

The firefighter, whose wife is from Co Longford, was restoring and reselling old buildings as a sideline when he came across Newcastle House on the banks of the River Inny.

Steeped in history, the property was formerly the residence of the King-Harmen family and at one point the largest estate in the region.

Mr Donovan happened on the property in the late 1990s while visiting his wife Suzanne's family.

"I was trying to cash in on the Celtic Tiger. I was going to get planning permission for a big hotel and then sell it on for a profit," he said.

"The day the plans (for the hotel) were submitted for planning was September 11, 2001," Mr Donovan said

The firefighter was on duty that day and was fighting the blaze at the north tower when it came down.

"I was lucky I was outside when the tower came down. I have three young children so that pretty much entirely changed my perspective about where I wanted to be," he said.

Another life-changing event occurred soon after when doctors discovered tumours on his lungs.

Mr Donovan was forced to retire at the age of 40. Over four years he restored the property to its former glory, during which time his tumours disappeared.

He admits he is now selling the property at a considerable loss but the family has decided it's time to return to New York.

Irish Independent

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