Friday 29 July 2011

23 - 'Listooder, 'fort of the tanner''

Listooder Fort - fort of the tanner - Co. Down
August 12, 2010

Well, I've just had another hectic sorta week.  My daughter, Kelly, just got married to Padraic - so she's now Kelly Fitzpatrick.  The weddin' went great, actually - the preparations, the ceremony, photographs, the reception - but bein' the 'father of the bride' ye can't really relax properly until ye've got yer speech over ye.  

I didn't write out a whole big long shpiel - I did make a few notes on a wee bit a' paper, though!  It felt a wee bit like doin' this show, actually - except yer getting instant feedback from a captive audience.  Someone even said that I should have gone on for longer - but ye know what they say, 'Always leave 'em wantin' more!'  Anyway, judgin' by the response at the time - and the comments afterwards - most people seemed to enjoy it.

Anyway, I've just been doin' my accounts for this year - not my favourite job, I can tell ya!  Once I hand them over I can get back to workin' at my cottage-building project.  I think I mentioned this before - it's in the heart of Co. Down, near the village of Crossgar, in a wee hamlet known as Listooder, which means 'fort of the tanner.'  That's because there's a hill just behind us to the west, with an ancient Celtic fort on the top - Listooder Fort.  Our stone building is at the crossroads, and there are green hills in every direction around us - but Listooder Hill is the tallest and if you walk up to the top of it to the fort, you can see for miles in every direction.

Hundreds of years ago, when the fort would have been someone's house, there would have been a wooden stockade around the inside, probably with thatched wooden buildings inside it.  This was surrounded by a moat of water, with a single entrance and another earth bank around the outside - probably with more wooden fencing around it.  Cattle would have been brought inside at any sign of danger.  You can still see the earth embankments and most of the moat is still there, though a bit silted up nowadays.  It's known as a 'motte and bailey' structure.

Down below it is the Ballynahinch River, which used to power seven different mills built along the river.  The corn mill and flax mill just below the hill are now completely gone - with only the millpond and it's outlet still to be seen.  But just a little bit downstream Rademon Cornmill is still standing, a five storey stone structure, though it's no longer in use as a mill.  It once had a weir and an eel fishery and was pretty much the hub of the area, where local farmers would bring their corn to be milled.

The hamlet of Listooder used to be known as the 'Cock Corner', named after the building next to ours, which used to be a shop and pub, known as The Cock.  Less than a mile away was another small pub, which was known as The Hen, but it is now completely gone.  The shop and pub next door was still in operation less than a hundred years ago - I have an old photograph of the shopkeeper standing outside the shop window, wearing a hat and waistcoat, and with a Manitoba maize bag for an apron!  The shop sold things like farm tools, brushes, Babbitt's biscuits (from New York) and so forth - a bit of everything, probably!

Our place in Listooder is a stone building built about 150 years ago and it was once a shop as well - though it now looks more like a garage!  The last man who ran the shop, strangely enough, was a bachelor called John McCullough and he used to sleep in a tiny room at the back of the shop. The building has also been used as a temporary Mission Hall, a forge and a farm workshop and store - so there's a bit a' history there.  It's built mostly on solid rock, which is why I've spent so long rock-breaking and removing it from the site - 235 tonnes, so far!

We have a well at the back which has been cut down about 20 feet into the rock and normally has about 14 feet depth of water in it.  I don't think we'll be stuck for water, anyway!  Mostly what I've been doing so far - apart from digging and rock breaking - is re-building the stone boundary wall at the back, which is hundreds of years old, building around the well shaft at the back and some new walls at the front.  I've also taken the old farm gate at the side, chopped it into two thirds and one third and re-made it as two gates, which are a copy of the original gate in a photograph from a hundred years ago.

The building itself is pretty much the same as when we bought it - except for the ground level being lowered all around it.  We can't do any work on it until we have planning approval for Change of Use, to become a dwelling.  We should have that fairly soon, meanwhile there is still plenty of work to be done around the building - which is certainly helping to keep me fit and healthy.  When you've been working away at a computer for days, it's very therapeutic to go down there and work with yer hands for a bit.  Not to mention the peace and quiet of the countryside - especially in the evenings.

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