Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - AGENDA -

KYRAN O’GRADY Thatcher, Co Wick­low

The Ir­ish thatched cot­tage holds a spe­cial place in our col­lec­tive con­scious­ness. It’s seen as part of the past, a sign of our agrar­ian his­tory and one that used to pop­u­late all those colourised John Hinde post­cards. But for Kyran O’Grady, thatched roofs are very much about the present.

He has been work­ing as a thatcher since the early 1980s and adores a job that al­lows him to work out­doors all-day long. “Sunny weather cer­tainly makes the job eas­ier,” he says. “You can get so much more done when the rain stays away.” And in re­cent weeks, he has been es­pe­cially pro­duc­tive; there’s been no need to cover his work with a tar­pau­lin when a down­pour oc­curs.

O’Grady says he was al­ways in­trigued by thatched houses and it was dur­ing his stu­dent years at UCD that he learned that AnCO (the pre­cur­sor to FÁS and So­las) was run­ning a course in thatch­ing. He took leave of his B-Comm de­gree and was im­me­di­ately hooked by the an­cient art of mak­ing roofs from reeds, and his train­ing took him from Done­gal to Eng­land and on to the Nether­lands.

“Peo­ple might have the idea that thatched roofs are some­thing from the past, but there are lots of new build­ings us­ing thatch, such as pubs,” he says. “Most of my work would be in these new roofs rather than the older ones.”

At the time he be­came a thatcher there were con­cerns that the craft was dy­ing out, but he says it’s in a healthy state to­day and notes, hap­pily, that sev­eral young peo­ple have en­tered the sec­tor. “It’s hard work, but it’s re­ward­ing work and it’s some­thing you can get great sat­is­fac­tion from.”

And get­ting to thatch roofs in glo­ri­ous sun­shine makes it all the more worth­while, he says.

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