Ferns fairy-tale cottage that became a writer’s inspiration
Writer and illustrator PJ Lynch happened by chance on this artisan cottage which soon became the perfect haven for children - and parents too
A view of the sunset from the cottage
As an illustrator of children’s books I thought I had a good idea of what the perfect fairy-tale cottage would look like. I had painted enough of them. My wife, Barbara, and I love old buildings and, one day, when we were visiting the medieval castle at Ferns in Wexford, we drove past an old artisan cottage that looked just like the cottage I had in my imagination… and it had a For Sale sign outside.
We had to see it, and when we got to view the house we found that, sure, it was going to need some tender, loving care, but all the original features, such as sash windows and plank doors, were there, and more importantly for our young children and Ziggy, our Schnauzer, there was a lovely, big garden to play in.
It was the perfect fairy-tale cottage.
We snapped it up, and promptly got to work making the place even more cosy.
Soon we had swings, slides and a trampoline for our kids to exhaust themselves on, and on hot days there was a paddling pool for them to splash around in.
That first autumn we all went blackberry picking, each with a basket or a bucket to fill. We got the self-sufficiency bug in a big way, laying down raised beds to grow our own vegetables. Everyone loved the rocket, lettuces and spinach as well as good old apples and spuds.
Being just about an hour and a quarter from Dublin we had lots of visitors popping down for a night or two, and then all the kids got to stay up late for popcorn and movies projected on the cottage’s back wall.
More often we would relax with a glass of wine watching the sun setting over Mount Leinster and waiting for the kind of glorious star scape that we could never see in Dublin.
As the years passed and our children became teenagers, cross-country hikes and cycling the quiet back roads of Wexford took over from playing in the cottage garden, but eventually parties and discos in the city won out over country life. Then it was just me and Ziggy scooting down to the cottage.
At first I missed the busy fun that we had when the kids were small, but I came to appreciate the cottage’s quiet peacefulness and found that I could concentrate to write and to paint there like nowhere else. Here I completed the first book that I both wrote and illustrated, and I have just finished the illustrations for another.
But it is not too practical having a studio 60 miles from home so now the time has come for a new chapter in the cottage’s story.
We will miss the little house, our dear neighbours and the sights, smells and sounds of the countryside, but now it is time for the next person’s “once upon a time” to begin.
The Old Cottage, Tinashrule is on the market seeking €138,000 through Warren Estates in Gorey.
PJ Lynch is an illustrator, author and former Laureate na nÓg