Tommy Barker


Irish Examiner - Property & Interiors - - Property -

THE own­ers and builders of Hunters Crest didn’t ex­actly rush into build­ing their dream home: in fact, they owned the land for over 20 years, be­fore get­ting around to putting a house on it. And, what a prop­erty mix it has all turned out to be. Set on a rise of ground off the less-trav­elled road around Cork Har­bour’s Great Is­land, out past Belvelly Cas­tle (which is cur­rently be­ing re­stored as a pri­vate hol­i­day home,) and out around Belvelly creek, Hunters Crest is a mod­ern, 2003-built 3,000 sq ft fam­ily home, within an old walled or­chard, and on six acres of grounds in all, with sta­bles, pad­docks and much plant­ing.

It has been a labour of love for re­tired pub­li­can Gus Mur­phy, who ran the Ad­mi­ral bar in Cobh for decades, and who even­tu­ally re­tired af­ter 42 years be­hind a bar counter. He re­marks that he en­joyed the first 30 years of the busi­ness(!), and re­calls the boom years when Ir­ish Steel, Verolme and the Navy em­ployed many thou­sand of men in the area, as well as the days when Spike Is­land was a quar­an­tine hold­ing pen for cat­tle be­ing im­ported to Ire­land from France and else­where.

And, the plum ‘Great Is­land’ site he and his wife Teresa se­lected and bought back in 1980 has lo­cal his­tor­i­cal roots go­ing back far fur­ther, to the 19th cen­tury when it formed part of a larger es­tate, where a man­sion home set in wood­land had been the of­fi­cial res­i­dence for at least one US Con­sul.

Given Cobh/queen­stown’s premier role in trans-at­lantic ship­ping, with lines like Cu­nard, White Star, Amer­i­can and United State Line ply­ing their routes, a con­sular post­ing there was quite a big af­fair, and the Amer­i­can pres­ence soared dur­ing the lat­ter years of the first world war, when there was a mil­i­tary base, a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal and even a base for Amer­i­can air­craft around Cork har­bour, and cen­tered at Queen­stown, where Car­rig House served for decades as the con­sulate.

Over those years, some of Great Is­land’s finest homes were lived in by var­i­ous US con­suls, in spots like Up­per Park and Mar­logue, and while the Bri­tish naval pres­ence was by far the largest player in town (leav­ing only in 1938, af­ter an ex­tended stay cour­tesy of the An­glo Ir­ish Treaty) many other coun­tries also had con­suls in Queen­stown, in­clud­ing Hun­gary, Aus­tria, Brazil, Haiti, Chile and In­dia.

The one-time US con­sul’s home at this Belvelly/cobh spot is now de­mol­ished, al­beit with its cel­lars re­main­ing, as well as re­minders like the grand or­chard walls, ring­ing Hunters Crest.

Mr Mur­phy says about two-and-a-half acres were walled, at heights of up to 15’, and he built this home in 2003 to­wards the or­chard’s back bound­ary, where the walls give shel­ter still for the many thou­sands of plants and shrubs he has since planted.

“We used to go to the gar­den cen­tre at Inch, and you might spend €300 on plants, and when you got home and put them in, you’d nearly ask “where are they?”, Gus re­calls, adding that he loved his time out gar­den­ing and cre­at­ing a lush mi­lieu (the Mur­phy fam­ily had pre­vi­ously owned the pe­riod Mount Alto prop­erty over­look­ing Cork har­bour’s splen­dours in the midst of Cobh, and it was ex­tended dur­ing their ten­ure there).

Well, the pas­sage of more than a decade since has seen the hor­ti­cul­tural in­vest­ment pay off at Hunters Crest, as the fivebed, dormer-style house is now sur­rounded by year-round colour and fra­grance, aided and abet­ted most likely by co­pi­ous amounts of lo­cally-pro­duced amounts of horse dung.

The Mur­phy fam­ily (five daugh­ters, five grand-daugh­ters) have had a se­ri­ous pas­sion for horses and horse breed­ing, and this prop­erty plus some ex­tra leased land in­dulged that in­ter­est, and so also built here are eight sta­bles, tack rooms, a store and more.

The main house now is 3,000 sq ft, with two of its five bed­rooms en suite and adapt­able too, as two are at ground level. De­sign was by Car­rigt­wohill-based en­gi­neer Tom Cahill, and it looks out over wa­ter, good farm­land, up to Car­rigt­wohill, Brown Is­land and even glimpsed in the far dis­tance to the west are the lights of Cork city at night.

One spot to sur­vey it all is the clev­erly re-worked and re­tained low base of old stone dwelling in the mid­dle of the or­chard, pos­si­bly an ap­ple house or a hum­ble dwelling of an or­chard keeper, Mr Mur­phy sug­gests.

It has its walls low­ered and lev­elled off, though the old win­dow out­lines can still be dis­cerned, and it’s now used as a sunny gar­den room and sit­ting out/din­ing out spot with panoramic views to be en­joyed, as well as watch­ful prox­im­ity to the sta­bles and horses.

Sell­ing agent for Hunters Crest is Shay Cronin of Cronin Wall in Mi­dle­ton, and he says there’s very lit­tle of this cal­i­bre of home, as well as be­ing horse-friendly with acreage and such roots, in the East Cork area.

“A lot of Cobh’s best homes are pe­riod, but this is a mod­ern build, fin­ished in 2004 and the best of tim­bers and ma­te­ri­als went into it. It’s in very good con­di­tion, and has great pri­vacy; it’s a com­mand­ing house,” he as­serts, and guides at €850,0000.

VER­DICT: The hunt is over?

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