‘YOU GET SO MUCH MORE DONE WHEN THE RAIN STAYS AWAY’
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.