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“The Window Crisis” and “The Miracle of the Porch”

This article first appeared in the 2014 edition of the “Banagher Review”

Babser Hynes House, the L'estrange townhouse, our former home in Banagher in Ireland
Babser Hynes House, the L’estrange townhouse, our former home in Banagher in Ireland, featuring the infamous windows and porch as written about in the article! Picture taken during the successful 2015 Banagher Horse Fair by yours truly!

Dad was a handyman in his spare time… handy to get as handy to do a job, though I gather most of what he built is still standing, which is more than can be said for a lot of what was built during the Celtic Tiger years!

His battles with conservationists were the stuff of legend. It was not a listed building, but was a townhouse of the L’Estrange family, and used to be terraced to three other houses that stood where the National School does today, which is why there is a high gable on the downtown side of the house. It was a butchers we gather with a family of Egans in the 1920’s or 1930’s before Babser Hynes had it…

As I said, it was not a listed building, but the locals into “keeping things as they are” tried to do that. During the 1980’s things was tough, and being sites beside three schools, one idea Dad had to get ahead was to open a chipper… and thats when the craic started!

First up was the windows: a local man who dad was good friends with but clashed with regular on such issues and shall remain nameless, put in an official complaint to the County Council, who then turned it down for planning. Wouldnt suit the house or something was the official reason, as the windows would be changed… but this chap, he had his facts wrong, and dad brought him in to show it, but by them with all the hassle, Mam had but a brake to the chipper idea, telling Dad he’d have to make his millions through hard work like everybody else… and so the international chain of Cartys Chippers never got off the ground!

OK, it was to be only one Chipper, but thats how McDonalds started out!

Back to the windows… when taking off the old plaster to replaster the inside walls, dad found the original brickwork. Instead of one big milti pane window, there was two narrow side by side windows, with round tops, semi Romanesque style.

Our historical enthusiast friend was lured to the house somehow – possibly telling him he was right and did he want to see the original brickwork it was of note!!! – given some Longford hospitality before being shown said window, and then given a piece of Longford diplomacy! The former anyone would want – visitors never left ours hungry – the latter no one would need, especially if allergic to swear words!

They remained friends however, if a bit strained for a while!

The next project on Dads list of improvements was the porch… but he knew the opposition there would be to it… So Dad saught solace and wisdom – as you do if you were Dad! – in the most logical location… the pub!

The porch, to spite Dads best efforts and replacement of all the lead, leaked something shocking. It was a lovely semi octoagonal design and looked ancient and suited the house, but it had to go. What Dad replaced it with had its beauty in his eyes, though others may have preferred the original.

Knowing this, dad went to the pub to do research for how to get around the dratted planning laws and those historical fanatics that broke his heart over the windows!

And in the pubs with friends, politicians, short cut takers and general shake down artists, none had a way around it, until he met the late Brave Dolan. The Brave told him of a clause in planning he had heard about (in another pub???) that said a structure could be taken down if its replacement was already standing when the existing structure was taken down… or wording to that effect.

Otherwise, if an objection such as the windows was put in, the original faithful to its detail would have to be reconstructed, plus fines paid to the county council.

Dad genuinely was scarred by the experience of dealing with the council the last time, was was adamant that he’d get around the system, and in a Eureka moment, hatched a plan.

It took him some years to get up the courage. Or more accurately, to talk ma into agreeing to it… but he got there in the end…

Now, outside our house, the school busses picked up the kids from the three schools. They all congregated outside our porch, with the smokers and the lovers indulging in a bit of both in our alley, the other kids keeping lookout!

So, when we went in home after school, some kids got a glance through, and saw a SECOND front door right behind the first one, to our massive embarrassment in school.

Being country folk, the parents were very private, and didn’t take in many visitors or visit others much. Those who were regulars know the score and to keep schtum. The others, were understandably very baffled indeed, including our neighbors the Ryans from whom Dad was evasive all of a sudden!

Something was afoot…

What dad had done in compliance with the quote of the council that the Brave had sold him, was come in a foot from the walls of the porch, and about two or three from the front door, and built a block porch, with a flat roof just under the original semi octagonal designed roof that was leaking so bad.

And then one sunny morning – I will never forget the divilment in his face as we went to school – he went outside and sat on the wall. With some quote of the temple being torn down and rebuilt in three days, Dad told the Ryans and I think the Kellys too, and anyone that would listen… that he would better that miracle, and tear down and rebuild the porch in a day!

Always one for the cryptic, usually with a gag at the end of it, all smiled and dared him. With great ceremony, he went INSIDE, and beat the walls from the inside out… and so forth until he demolished the old porch, with the new one standing already, to the mirth of all watching!

Mission accomplished, miracle displayed… and the better got of the council using their alleged wording, which he died without ever knowing or caring was it true or not!

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