Meath woman Catherine Kane and her husband Pat are undertaking a restoration project of mammoth proportions in Ardagh, in east Longford as they go about mending and modernising their newly acquired dwelling, known locally as The Yank’s House. Built in the aftermath of the Great Famine some time between 1867 and 1884 by James ‘The Yank’ Kenny and his wife Mary Ward after they returned from America, the Kenny’s raised a family of two girls and six boys.
After James died in 1891 and Mary in 1934, the house was passed on to sons James and John before James decided to sell after his brother’s death in the mid 30s. The building then came under the ownership of Charles and Elizabeth Doyle in 1945 before they left the house to their nephew who then passed the property on to extended family. The land surrounding the building was then sold off in lots before Catherine and Pat made their purchase.
So what attracted Catherine and Pat to the project? “The house was in a terrible state at first when we took it over,” says Catherine. “We found the house five years ago online when we were looking around the midlands for a new place to live.
“I guess I just saw the house and fell in love with it. Some people think we’re mad but now that we can see an end to the building it’s all been worth it.”
The couple visited the home shortly after seeing it on a property website. As Catherine says on her blog: “There it was, looking back at me. Crying out for a bit of love and attention - a bit like a stray at the back door.” The old decrepit building had a lasting effect on her which she couldn’t turn her back to. “God knows I am always a softie for a sad little face.”
Living in Trim in County Meath, the couple, along with a little help from an assortment of friends and family make the weekly pilgrimage to Ardagh to continue with repairs. Almost at the completion stage, the financial burden of carrying out such works as this has taken its toll but Catherine insists it’s all been worth it. “We’re building bit by bit and have to stop when money runs out but we keep coming back for more.
“We’re nearly at the completion stage and we’ve even had some mice moving in which must be good news as far as warmth is concerned!”
Keeping the life and character of the house is essential to the Kanes. As much of the fixtures and fittings of the original house are being preserved, even to the windows and doors are being treated with a view to them being part of the ‘new’ home. Catherine explains: “We want to keep everything original as possible. We are preserving doors and cleaning windows - we’re salvaging everything we can and nothing new is going into the house if possible. Also, we didn’t want to unnecessarily add to the carbon footprint of the property. We want to keep everything authentic.”
You can follow the Kane’s progress via their blog at www.ckrestoration.blogspot.co.uk.