The Old Family Homestead

One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice Of Life Sunday this week is family homestead.

I was immediately struck by an image from my childhood of my Great Grandmother’s house in Ireland. It has quite an interesting history.

This isn’t my Great Grandmother’s actual house. Her house is gone now. It is a house I found on the Irish tourist board website, but it is very close in look to the actual house.

Great Gran Min was born in the 1870s into a family in chaos as a result of the potato famine. Her father had gone to work with his own father in New York as a result of the blight forcing them off the land. Her mother had to stay back home in Ireland with the kids as her own mother was ill and had no one else to care for her. Min, being one of the eldest girls, helped run the house, but it was difficult with very little money and not enough food.

When Min’s father died in an accident in a factory a few years later the family was forced to take in lodgers to make ends meet. Min always referred to that time as ‘ the days of dishpan hands and eating bread-ends for dinner’ as her mother gave the best parts of the loaf to the lodgers. She remembered, even once the famine had ended, the bailiffs coming in and people going bankrupt. Entire villages emigrated to Europe and America and sometimes it was so quiet you could hear the wind whistle up the laneways.

By the turn of the century Min was married with children of her own. Her mother continued to live in the house and was supported by Min and her husband.

The house was made of stone. It had a slate roof and low beams inside. The six foot high open fireplaces warmed up the stone floors so well that windows often had to be opened in the middle of winter. When the land recovered from the blight, a market garden supported the household very well for years.

The house had been built in the early 1800s but the land it stood on had been in the family for over 500 years. Generation upon generation were raised there and at one stage one of the outbuildings housed the local school consisting of 15 students.

I never got to see the house because it the 1940s it burned down. No one knows how it started because no one was living in it at the time but it was razed to the ground. All that remained were a few stone walls standing jagged and lonely, like misplaced standing stones.

The stone walls have crumbled now. The pieces that remain are covered with moss and brambles. There is a air of melancholy surrounding the site. A plaintiveness that is somehow sacred. How many homes have ended up like this? Neglected, forgotten, forlorn; once so full of life and laughter but now gone for good.

The land is still owned by the family. One day I would love to build a house there, to bring a sense of purpose back to the land, to honour the memory of Min. I hope that one day I get the chance.

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21 thoughts on “The Old Family Homestead

  1. i love the look of that house,, it just says homestead doesn’t it??? you have such an interesting family,, you could write a book solely on them …..

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  2. PAISLEY – they are an interesting bunch. The time around the potato famine is incredibly interesting. I have often thought about writing a book about it. Maybe I should before there’s no one left to tell me all the old stories.

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  3. You may remember some time ago, I posted a picture of my Grandma’s house in ‘Pic of the Week’. My uncle, who inherited the farm, built a more modern house nearby, and converted the old farmhouse to holiday apartments.

    But, there’s something about it that could never be taken away … even though the old lady passed on in 1965, it’s still called ‘Grandma’s’

    (I still have an inward chuckle when I wonder it the guests know that the tasteful ‘summer house’ at the end of the garden used to be the ash petty) 😀

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  4. Frankly Selma,

    They just don’t build houses like they used to. I love the old all-brick homes of yesteryear. Is it any wonder many of them have outlived homes only 20 years old?

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  5. Selma,

    I forgot to mention that my girlfriend and I have been watching this eight-part series on John Adams, the second president of the U.S. It took place from 1770-1826. All the homes showed in it looked like your grandmothers.

    I So when I saw her house on this post, it just gave me a real good feeling. Now, I’m just waiting for Luz to come home so I can show it to her.

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  6. TRAVELRAT – I remember that pic. I think the essence of the person and the strength of the memories stays with the house for a long time afterwards. There is definitely something at the site of Min’s old house.

    GLENN – I am very interested in John Adams and that era generally. I must look out for that series on Aussie cable TV. So glad you liked the post.

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  7. PS: Selma, Off topic (and do delete this if you like) but how did you manage to keep your avatar photo? WP has ‘spirited’ mine away to avatar-land it appears. I can’t even re-download my previous photo, the space restriction of the window doesnt include the whole photo anymore. I have been reduced to being an avatar quilt square.

    WP why are you making these crazy changes???? G

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  8. GERALDINE – your comments always make me feel really good. Thank you. I have no idea about the Avatar. I did nothing to keep it the way it was. Perhaps in the next few minutes I will be a quilt square too. Please let it be a purple one. Oh, please. LOL.

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  9. Hi Selma, I chose to have the homestead prompt this week for people just like you – those who cherish and honor the memory of the place they call home. Thank you for sharing this family treasure.

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  10. CRICKET – I am really enjoying the Slice Of Life Sunday. I hope you keep it going for a long time to come.

    NAT – I have one of those imaginary cottages too. You never know, maybe one day we’ll both be in a position where we can have a real cottage by the sea. Now that would be fab!

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  11. We’re living in the house where I grew up. It isn’t in a lovely romantic setting of country side, in fact, the street out front is very busy and the yard is a bit out of control, but it’s home. Has been for many years. Unfortunately, my mother’s mental illness has tainted much of the house and there are times I find it difficult to avoid those vibes.

    Still, there is a place, somewhere, that I can truly call home. I’ll know it when I see it.

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  12. KAREN – it must be lovely to live in the house you grew up in yet I can understand how your mother’s illness must have affected the vibe. I know my real ‘home’ is out there too. I’m sure that one day both of us will find it.

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  13. I am back with my beloved Mitzi in avatar-land but who knows, perhaps I will be a photo of a scone. WP has really gone wonky, since they started these ‘upgrades’. I was a red quilt square but no longer. Perhaps your time as a purple quilt square may still come Selma LOL!!! Personally, I think these new generic squares from WP look tres goofey!!! G

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  14. GERALDINE – I’m so glad you and Mitzi are back. Much better than a quilt square. However, I think it’s only fair that I have a turn at being a square too. Come on WordPress, bring it on! But please, make it purple. 😀

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  15. I love the stories of the old family homes. Our family doesn’t have one. None of us ever stayed in the same place long enough. My parents probably came about as close as any by staying in the same home for nearly 40 years. But theirs was a small two-bedroom in what was not a ‘desirable’ neighborhood.

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  16. ADAMSWIFE – I know what you mean. So few people have that sense of history that used to be gained from the family home. Since moving to Australia I have lost the feeling I once had. One of my aims is to get a family home so my son in 20 or 30 years can get that sense of ‘home.’ Thank you so much for visiting!

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  17. I love your stories about the old country Selma and who knows maybe one day you will reclaim that little bit of history.

    I’m sure like me, you have seen old tumbling down homes in Australian country areas in particular, sometimes with trees growing through what was once a roof. I always wonder about the families that once lived there and i always feel the air of melancholy they have about them.

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  18. GYPSY – those old tumbling down homes break my heart. A friend of mine lives in rural Victoria and so many of the old farmhouses have been abandoned. It’s quite upsetting. The drought has hit hard. I wonder about the stories too. It would be an interesting doco, don’t you think?

    Hail to the purple quilt. Awarded only to the chosen few !!!!

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