Thatcher Brian Lafferty at the Scutcher's Cottage, Newmills)
Applications have opened again for Donegal County Council’s Thatch Repair Grant Scheme that assists the owners and occupiers of thatched dwellings with their maintenance and repair.
The grant scheme provides advice to owners on the conservation of thatched roofs, allocates funding for small-scale thatch repairs and helps homeowners carry out necessary repairs under conservation supervision.
The scheme is open for applications until 12 noon on Wednesday, April 22.
“This is only the second year of the Thatch Repair Grant Scheme and there was a wonderful response to the introduction of the scheme last year” said Joseph Gallagher, County Donegal Heritage Officer. “We were able to support twelve thatch repair projects across the county in 2019.
“While the funding provided homeowners with support to undertake their thatch projects, we learned a lot from the scheme too.
“We got to know some of the owners and custodians of our vernacular buildings who really are unheralded champions of our built heritage. We heard about the lack of availability of home-grown thatching materials but were also encouraged by the number of people who grew materials to thatch their own buildings.
“We’re very fortunate to have a small number of highly skilled thatchers in the county and some people who practice their thatching skills on a part-time basis.”
“Training and employment opportunities exist in the conservation of traditional buildings but it’s surprising that over a decade after the publication of the All-Ireland Traditional Building Craft Skills report by the National Heritage Training Group that highlighted the dearth in availability of traditional building skills that little has been done to address the traditional building skills shortage.
“We also heard from homeowners about the lack of appropriate and affordable insurance for thatch structures.
“County Donegal is home to one of the largest surviving concentrations of thatch structures in Ireland but if the insurance issue is not addressed, then the decline in the number of thatched structures seen in recent years will continue.
“Donegal County Council recognises the contribution that thatched dwellings and outbuildings make to our cultural landscape, employment, economy and tourism.”
“Donegal County Council considers that the conservation of our traditional buildings constitutes appropriate, sustainable and responsible development,” said Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer, Donegal County Council. “At present, there are over 20 thatched buildings on the Record of Protected Structures for County Donegal and many more are eligible for inclusion.
“The Thatch Repair Grant Scheme addresses several Donegal County Council plans and strategies including the County Donegal Heritage Plan to “Encourage the conservation of thatch and thatching skills and materials in County Donegal as a distinctive aspect of the county’s heritage” and the Culture & Creativity Strategy for County Donegal to “Establish an incentive scheme for the conservation of vernacular buildings” as well as several policies in the Donegal County Development Plan to protect and conserve our traditional buildings.
“Types of small-scale thatch repairs that might be eligible to Donegal County Council’s Thatch Repair Grant Scheme include repairs to the eaves, the ridge, flashings around the chimney, holes, furrows, fixings, ropes, wire netting, the gable and the roof timbers or carpentry.”
Our thatched buildings are one of the most iconic and enduring images of County Donegal. They lend character to our cultural landscapes; they are indicative of our sense of place, our traditional skills and our resourcefulness; they can be sensitively adapted to meet modern family demands; they invoke our diaspora and support our tourism industry.
Despite their importance and potential, the loss of our thatched buildings, especially in recent years, has been considerable.
Traditionally rope thatching was the dominant thatching method in County Donegal although scollop thatching could be found in parts of east Donegal.
Historic thatch materials varied considerably depending on the local vegetation cover and farming practices. Thatching materials used included wheat straw, oat straw, rye straw, flax, marram grass, water reed and even rushes.
Thirty-five applications were received in 2019 under the Thatch Repair Grant Scheme and the scheme supported twelve thatch repair projects including works to residential properties, rented dwellings, outbuildings and a business.
The thatch projects supported under the scheme were in Glencolmcille, Carrick, Killybegs, Altnagapple, Ardara, Maghery, Ballyharry, Ballykeeny, Clonmany, Drumkeen and Convoy.
While Donegal County Council’s Thatch Repair Grant Scheme focuses on small-scale repairs, there are other grant schemes that allow for the thatching and re-thatching of roofs.
These include the Grant for the Renewal or Repair of Thatch Roofs of Houses administered by the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government; the Built Heritage Investment Scheme for Protected Structures by the Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht and even the Irish Georgian Society’s Conservation Grants. Assistance for the repair of thatched outbuildings is also available under the GLAS Traditional Farm Buildings Grant Scheme administered by The Heritage Council.
Advice on all of these grant schemes is available from the County Donegal Heritage Office and the Conservation Office of Donegal County Council and on-line at www.donegalcoco.ie/heritage
Applications forms for the Thatch Repair Grant Scheme are available on-line from the Donegal County Council website or by contacting Joseph Gallagher, Heritage Officer or Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer at (074) 915 3900 or by e-mail at email@example.com
The scheme is open for applications until 12 noon on Wednesday, April 22. The Thatch Repair Grant Scheme is funded by Donegal County Council and the Creative Ireland programme as part of the implementation of the County Donegal Heritage Plan.
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