From East Wall to Leitrim: ‘Kilty’ welcomes new families

Kiltyclogher launched a ‘families wanted’ campaign to save its school – and it worked

New Kiltyclogher residents Tammy Barrett and her children, Aidan and Jessica. Photograph: Brian Farrell.

New Kiltyclogher residents Tammy Barrett and her children, Aidan and Jessica. Photograph: Brian Farrell.

 

It’s a long way from East Wall in Dublin to Kiltyclogher village in Co Leitrim but as they cruised west on the M4 this week, Rachel and Jason Ashe were very clear about why they have packed up and said goodbye to city life.

Their oldest child Daniel (4) started school in the Border village on Friday and given his hearing difficulties, Ms Ashe is confident he will fare much better in a class of four than in the class of 30 junior infants he would have joined in Dublin.

It’s less than five weeks since the people of “Kilty” started a novel online appeal with the simple message – “Families Wanted” – followed by a short video aimed at wooing those “tired of the hustle bustle and expense” of city life.

After just over a month, five families have made the move to the village. A sixth family from Kerry is expected to arrive over the weekend, despite never having set foot in the village.

Ms Ashe said she moved because she was afraid Daniel would be lost at school in Dublin. Her baby Sophie is not yet two. “She’ll probably grow up with a little country accent,” she said.

The five families, who were welcomed at a party in Kiltyclogher community centre on Friday evening, were so eager to be there in time for the first day at school that most of them are staying in the village hostel for a few days while waiting for their homes to be ready.

The sound of hammers and drills could be heard in Kiltyclogher all week as the finishing touches were put to the houses the families will rent for about half what they would pay in Dublin.

Susan Carton is one of the organisers of the “Kilty Live” campaign, designed to save the local primary school which, in a “worse-case scenario”, would have welcomed just eight pupils on Friday.

With 23 pupils enrolling, she says not only is the school safe, but it may yet need a third teacher.

“We got 166 email inquiries and 16 phone inquiries [about the campaign] and I’d say 60 of those were really serious,” said Ms Carton, adding that priority would be given to young families. “We actually have a waiting list.”

When the appeal was announced there were two privately-owned homes available for rent in the village, but the response was such that other property owners started getting houses redecorated in a hurry.

With most rents ranging from €450 to €500 the newcomers are happy. “Our house in East Wall was tiny with no back garden,” said Ms Ashe, who was paying €925 a month in Dublin due to a “kind landlord”. A neighbour was paying €1,400 for a similar house, she said.

Ms Ashe said the welcome she received from the community, even before the actual move, had amazed her. “They have even been texting me, letting me know when jobs come up locally. I don’t even know my neighbour’s name in East Wall.”

The Dubliner had never set foot in Leitrim before she came to check out Kiltyclogher a few weeks ago and she was amused to learn that it was the birthplace of 1916 leader Seán Mac Diarmada. “My parents grew up in the tenements in Sean McDermott street and now I’m moving to his birthplace.”

David and Tammy Barrett do not have a car and made the 360km journey from their previous home in Blarney, Co Cork to Kiltyclogher with their three children by bus.

“I came up last Saturday week to see the place and had my mind made up before I left the next day,” Ms Barrett said. “The journey was spectacular. It’s a beautiful area and the people were so welcoming. My daughter Jessica (8) cried when we left the next day.”

Three of the new families expect to move into their new homes on Monday while Ms Barrett was confident hers would be ready within a fortnight.