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The Stonemason's Mark


Joe Gabriel Bergin my late husband is the reason that Trohanny cottage still stands to this day.. He breathed life back into an old building that may have been left to decay or worse been levelled to the ground.

Gabriel Joseph Bergin (Joe), my late husband, is the reason Trohanny Cottage is still standing today.

Joe was apart from many other things a gifted stonemason and had a natural flair and creativity.


He had a particular appreciation for old Irish buildings and history, stemming from not only his travels around the world but a big influence from his older brother and sister in law who had bought a thatched cottage in Monasterboice and restored it beautifully on their return to Ireland from abroad.


We had similar ideas after our own travels, but we; as they say 'hadn't a pot to piss in' so would spend our time after work scouring the under 50k property section in 'Done Deals' which was a (yellow?!) newspaper for selling anything in Ireland..the Google Ads of its day!!

One particular day in 2000 there happened to be an ad for a stone cottage in a place called Moynalty near Kells Co.Meath and it was in the correct section.. my heart was racing as we checked our circle..


The 'circle' was what we had drawn to limit ourselves to not considering anything further than one hours drive a

way from where we were renting and from where our jobs were..

And it was lying just on the circle boundary exactly one hour away!


It was worth a look..


It took us 3 goes to finally get there. We tried aimlessly to find the place ourselves first and failed miserably, in fairness it's not the easiest place to find! The second time we rang the owners to get directions but got lost hopelessly (pre google maps days!)


The 3rd time was indeed lucky as the owners brother came to meet us in the beautiful historic little village of Moynalty and we followed him out along the narrow roads with grass growing in the middle.


It was love at first sight for both of us.


It was mid summer, the grass was long and dark green there were buttercups everywhere, the foliage was in full bloom and it was wild unculvivated and overgrown, it was perfection.

My eyes drank in the views of the countryside, with the yellow of the whin bushes on a hilly outcrop and the fairy tree in the middle of an undulating sea of green but It was the moment Joe set eyes on the cottage that he was truly lit up.


It was nestled behind the overgrown garden, a small 3 roomed stone cottage with a red rusted iron roof, little sash windows (or what was left of them)bits of whitewash clinging on to the walls and a lean-to shed on one side.


It looked dishevelled, unkept, decayed and crumbling in parts but i still remember us pulling that makeshift door across and the feeling of excitement as we walked through the rooms.

This place had stolen our hearts but it was not only a tough battle to save what little we had towards a bank loan but a long journey to make it habitable.


In 2001 we signed our names on the deeds and by about 2002 we 'moved in'.

Now to most people when they say they are moving into a home you would expect a certain standard of basic things but not in this case!


Lucky for us we had backpacked around S.East Asia so sleeping in an old cottage with no proper door, broken windows and no heating on a bed made of boards supported by concrete blocks and with a corrugated iron roof half blowing off in the breeze while the local mice had a party was not the end of the world for us.. we had been through worse!


We both worked day jobs then came back and worked on the cottage. I was also studying for exams and Joe was trying to start out on his own business as a freelance stonemason. There were evenings he wouldn't get back till 8 or 9 after working alone all day and he'd have a bit of dinner and then start pointing the walls or making a door or putting a roof beam up on his own and i never ever heard him complain. It was a labour of love. The cottage was ours and though he was broke and exhausted he had purpose and it drove him on.


I have never known a harder worker than he was. He was physically strong but also mentally and he was always in a hurry to get a job done but by God it was always done right. No cut corners and no half measures and he had a thing about cleaning up afterwards. He always said leaving a mess after a job looked sloppy and was a sign of a sloppy worker. That amongst hundreds of other things has stuck with me.


You always hear good things about people after they die but Joe was one of those that people spoke highly of while he lived. He lifted energy in a room the moment he walked in.

He laughed and hugged as hard as he worked and he was loved dearly by so many.

Joe continued working on the cottage for 3 years until his untimely death and turned it into something beyond special.


His spirit lives on through everyone that loved him, but i know a big part of him watches over Trohanny cottage and his legacy is in every nook and cranny of these whitewash walls.

Trohanny cottage has a long history spanning almost 200 years but to me the most important history was made in those few years the stonemason left his mark.


Joe was killed in an road traffic accident on the morning of Wednesday 14th December 2005. He was 30 years old


Joe working on the renovation of Trohanny cottage in 2001

The Stonemasons mark Joe left on the granite fireplace surround he built in 2003/4 and the photo above of him playing his mandolin sitting by the same fireside before renovation in 2001


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All the previous comments express my emotions about this amazing happy and sad story.

Im hoping someday I will be able to stay there or at least visit . This is a very touching love story both for your love of restoring history and your Joe was indeed a remarkable man and no doubt still

with you and guiding you.😘

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Reading all your stories. You seem like a beautiful person but when I read this I see why. Cant believe your husband died so young. What a talent he had. If it helps I seen a butterfly in the bedroom and was convinced it was a spirit of someone happy and watching over the place. Now I read this I feel that it is true💞

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Άγνωστο μέλος
28 Ιουλ 2021
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I think your feeling was spot on 😉🦋 Thank you so much your very kind 💚

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Aine my beautiful friend. They way you tell it we can all imagine being there as its happening. Joe is uber proud of you and the person you have become and is always nudging you in the right direction. When I first went into that cottage I was speechless (and that's hard for me 😂) you can feel how special and safe the cottage is and it is a great healing home. You breathe and ooze love and goodness in you and I love you so much for it. You are a special friend that I will always treasure. I am also so proud of this journey that you are taking and I can't wait to see where it brings…

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Sonja Aylward
Sonja Aylward
03 Ιουν 2020

just bawling, Aine. when I think back on you guys and the primitive life you had during the restoration...very tough at the time but what great memories for you <3 do you remember we lent you a very basic, battered 2 ring cooker with grill, the state of it! we still have it, don't have the heart to throw it out :-D Joe would be so proud that your labour of love is getting a new lease on life and that all the hard work you two put into Trohanny Cottage can be admired and appreciated by people from far and wide <3

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This was so beautiful to read that it gave me butterflies. Trohanny Cottage is without doubt the most special, tranquil place I have ever stayed. I felt such a connection to the cottage, and had the deepest, most peaceful sleep there. Joe passed away just 5 days before my Anya was born. It's tough to process the parallel whirlwind of emotions we would both have been feeling, although I knew the first time I ever met you that a deep wound connected us. The kindest, most beautiful soul, and now my dear friend, Aine - you are like the stone mason in our world, selflessly breathing life back into tired, slightly broken souls.

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