rowing up on Blackberry Lane back in the ’60s and ’70s, it was easy to believe that we lived in our own little universe.
Right at the high, halfway point of this jumped-up dirt track between Delgany and the Willow Grove, there were just two cottages, facing one another.
One belonged to the Hills, the other, the Byrnes, with the latter’s old cowsheds 15 metres further up the hill becoming a home too in the 1970s, thanks to the wily Noel Belton.
Other than that, there was Cherry’s and two other homes on the Willow Grove end of Blackberry Lane, and in the other direction, just the Martins, the Webbs and the St Lawrence clan in Style Bawn House.
By the 1970s, it was just Alec Hill left living in the old family home, happy out in his 60-feet-per-hour horse and cart, whilst on our side, it was a small farm, with generally three cows, four or five pigs and a whole lotta chickens going on.
This was before Blackberry Lane became one of the most desired – and expensive – addresses in Wicklow, when we still got our water from a well, and played cowboys and indians on real horses.
And the odd startled cow.
As time got the better of Alec Hill, we’d often give him a hand with chores he could no longer manage. But only if he spotted us first. We should have realised then that the end was very possibly nigh, for both homes.
Both cottages were built sometime in the 17th century, by hand, using all the latest technology. Namely mud. And stones. And swearing.
Back in August 2010, with Alec long gone from the house, we swung by to capture what remained. The Hill cottage had fallen into serious disrepair, and now sold, it was about to be turned to dust. At the same time, our old family home was suddenly out of our hands, thanks to one of those stereotypical John B. Keane dramas that seems to hit just about every large Irish family with even just a square foot of sod.
The culprit at the centre of this sad little affair is now off rescuing animals, in the hope that it will soothe her troubled soul, but it looked like nothing will bring back our old family home.
These pictures were taken on August 4th of 2010. Returning on the 10th, Alec’s house was now just rubble. A sad sight, and suddenly a building site, with the 18th century Honeybrook Cottage in the heart of the village now also under threat of demolition, you really have to wonder about Wicklow County Council’s cottage-crushing industry.
On a very positive note, happy to report that the baby in the above Byrne family pic, Patrick Jr, managed to save the 350-year-old cottage from being demolished, and plans to have quite a few parties there to celebrate that fact over the next few decades.
And far, far beyond. Full gallery of pics here.