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The night of the Big Wind

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

It is the 8th December 2021 and we are in the midst of storm 'Barra' in Ireland.

There are high winds, heavy rain and floods particularly in the South and west of the country.

No lives lost so far thankfully but thousands are without electricty and damage to property and farms.

 
#oldbedroom #oldironbed #irishcottagebedroom
The cosy 'womb like' bedroom in Trohanny cottage. Even with a storm raging outside you can hardly hear a noise!

I was preparing the cottage earlier today for guests due to arrive on Friday.

With one eye on the stormy weather out the half door i got to thinking about how safe and secure i felt in this small stone building with no foundations and a roof of straw and scraw above me.


I marvelled yet again at how strong and durable these old vernacular buildings are, to stand the test of time in all weathers,

but it seems that wasn't always the case..

 

There is a story that i have heard ever since i moved to this area in 2000, about 'The night of the big wind'.


It seems there was an even older building called 'Maio house' (early 1800's) that originally stood behind higher up from where Trohanny Cottage stands today!


It is believed that around 1839 this former building was destroyed in a very bad storm that became known as the 'Night of the big wind'.

We will never known what happened exactly, whether it was a gable or roof or more that was blown away but within the same year (1839c) a new house was built further down the hill in a more sheltered area.


It has fascinated me since and i have tried to find out as much as i can about it.

Unfortunately there are no written facts but there is a strong oral history from locals who parents/grandparents spoke of it to me and have validated it.

 

The family that lived in the original 'Mayo/Maio' house in the early part of the 20th century were called Rountree.

John McMahon then took over the tenancy of the original Maio farmstead circa 1830 and together with his (presumed) nephew William and his younger brother John they re-built the cottage standing today.

William Mc Mahon eventually took over the farmstead and raised his family in Trohanny.

The McMahons of Trohanny by Patrick and Eugene McMahon

Map of Maio house and farmstead (1840 c) where it says 'hay and turf barn' North of the cottage is where the original house is believed to have been situated

Williams' great grandsons Eugene and Patrick McMahon published a book called 'The McMahons of Trohanny' and in this they also talk about The night of the big wind.


It must have been a major storm to cause such destruction and i can only imagine the chaos and panic that would have ensued that night and the stories that were told afterwards for generations to come.

 

When myself and Joe restored the cottage 2000-2005 we used stone, hand picked by us from the surrounding fields.

Most of those stones we found in the field North of the cottage which we later realised were probably remnants of the original building.

*At least two of these were 'spud stones' which are shaped stones with a hole to hold the side of an iron gate and are still in use for the original gates at Trohanny Cottage *

The view through the tiny window to the back of Trohanny cottage overlooking the site of the original Maio house

I look out the tiny framed back window of the cottage now and i am looking out at exactly the spot where this older building would have sat (see photo/video)


Though i would love to go back in time for a moment to see what that original building looked like,

in a strange way i am grateful to that storm as it drove John & William to build a stronger, safer more durable building that is still standing strong almost 200 years later.


Without realising it you could say we have built part of the original Maio house inside the later version now known as Trohanny Cottage..


What a beautiful full circle 💫💚


An example of some of the beautiful stonework inside all hand collected from the rubble of the older building

*Cover photo painting by Patricia Gellon 'Thatched cottage in Harvest' *

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