Rental sweet rental: how a Cork couple found sanctuary in a cosy cottage
Daragh Pheasey and Morwena Maclean had been renting with friends but once they got engaged it was time to start on the next adventure - living together
Morwena Maclean and Daragh Pheasey in their home in St Luke’s, Cork city. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/ Provision
Up on one of those steep hills that sweep up to surround Cork city and must keep residents mighty fit, lies a bijoux, one-bedroom cottage that is the shared home of a young couple who got engaged in January.
Daragh Pheasey and Morwena Maclean are a 24-year-old pair of quintessential love-birds, who are relishing the adventure of making a first home together. Theirs is an attractive house that has an intimacy and sense of shared-making. It’s in the St Luke’s area, a sought-after neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city. They’ve been living here for five months, as Maclean explains.
“We had both lived in Cork for the past few years. I grew up in Tipperary but went to school in Waterford. Daragh’s from Waterford and that’s where we met. We came to Cork to go to college. I studied music, Daragh did social work. We had lived in each other’s houses on occasion for a few weeks at a time before this, but this is the first time we’ve actually lived together and had our own gorgeous little house that we could do up together.”
The front door of the house opens from the street into a warmly lit hallway with original floor tiles. Off the hall to the left is a cosy sitting room which features an original fireplace. Downstairs, there is also a roomy kitchen which leads out to a walled yard.
“It’s a lovely kitchen. Everything is wooden and green in it. Which actually probably doesn’t sound very nice,” says Maclean.
“Look at it though,” Pheasey intervenes. “It is nice. It’s like going to your granny’s. The layout is lovely These are some of the oldest houses in Cork. They were the old merchants’ cottages.”
The old merchant cottages sit comfortably in the eclectic architectural mix of St Luke’s. Like other neighbourhoods in Cork city and environs, St Luke’s has, to a large degree, bucked national trends that have seen some urban centres throughout the country lose much of their charm and character to the sprawl of modernity imposed in the Celtic Tiger and subsequent years. St Luke’s maintains a village feel, with a scattering of shops. There’s a busy pub that opens out on to the crossroads at the heart of the village, with a music venue and tasteful deli within a stone’s throw of each other. The area is atmospheric with a vibrancy to the neighbourhood.
“It really is a proper neighbourhood and we have the perfect house within that,” says Maclean. “I mean look at this . . . on some of the doors you still have these ancient dainty doorknobs. It’s a little thing, but they’re real. Authentic. It just couldn’t be more us.”
Before moving here, both were in house shares with groups of other young people. Pheasey lived in an eight-bedroom house in Sundays Well. He enjoyed it, but is more happy with the recent move.
“I just wanted a sanctuary that we could call our own. We’re renting, but it feels like home.”
We’re renting, but it feels like home
“We couldn’t believe we managed to get the place,” says Maclean. “Daragh had been keeping an eye out for the past year. He was a bit obsessed with looking at property websites and whatever. This place was advertised last year and he noticed it, but he wasn’t ready. He was a bit slow to make the move to us living together. He got there eventually and when it came back up for rent we went to see it. We loved it, but there were loads of others looking. We didn’t think we stood a chance.”
“I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner,” says Pheasey. “I was very resistant to thinking it would be a good idea. It took me about a year to come around to it.”
“Even after he proposed to me,” says Maclean. “We were together for 3½ and four days when we got engaged. He was still too scared to move in with me, but he was happy to spend his life with me!”
“I just wanted things to be right. Not just for us, but for it to be the right place. I know where my life, our life, is going. I knew what I wanted. We were at that stage. Morwena was working. I had studied applied social studies and then worked full time for two years in a challenging behaviour unit before I went back to college to do a masters in social work so that I could live the life I wanted to live, with Morwena. With the wage that I was earning, I wouldn’t have been able to support a child, or support the lifestyle that we were interested in and aspired to have. I did know that I wanted to be with Morwena though.”
“So he proposed!” says Maclean. “But he’s very, very bad at keeping secrets. At Christmas he kept saying , ‘I got you a present, Morwena. It’s another, bigger present, but I can’t give it to you yet.’ He told our friends he was going to ask me to marry him. Thankfully I said yes because he told literally every single person we know.”
Moving into the house after their engagement was the first step of the couple’s quite definite plans for the future. Morwena plays the harp at events, but also works full time as a receptionist at a fertility clinic in Cork which has a branch in Waterford where she’d like to work in a few years. For now though, there’s no rush to move.
With Cork following the national trend, the price and availability of quality property is becoming more challenging for renters.
It’s a 10-15 minute stroll from town. Well, probably a 20-minute walk for me
“We appreciate how lucky we are,” says Maclean. “It’s a 10-15 minute stroll from town. Well, probably a 20-minute walk for me.”
“You usually get the bus,” Pheasey reminds her, explaining that, in fairness, Maclean has back problems, largely caused by her hauling about her full-sized harp. The pair break into easy laughter. Maclean leans back into a rocking chair beside the petite, pretty fireplace in their sitting room. She points to the grate.
“Unfortunately it’s not usable any more, but it looks nice with the candles, which we light in there at night. It makes a lovely atmosphere. But the whole house has a nice atmosphere. I love it. This house and this area. I really like my job too, but we’re hoping to start having kids at around age 28 and we’d really like to be close to grandparents in Waterford for that. That’s ages away though. We’re planning to get married in summer 2020 and we’ll see what happens then, but for now we’re just enjoying being here in Cork together.”