Stop here at Katie's Cottage, on your right.
This an example of a traditional Irish cottage and typical of the cottages constructed in the Claddagh. By 1812 there were over 468 thatched cottages here in the Claddagh, with over 500 families, 250 boats, and 2,500 people working in the industry here. It wasn’t until 1937 that work began on demolishing the buildings in this area on the grounds of public health. In fact, such is the importance of the Claddagh in feeding the city that a bye-law was enacted in 1596 to allow for the people to have the means to concentrate solely on fishing. The unique character of the Claddagh attracted artists in the 19th century such as Francis Topham and Alfred Dowling Fripp and Fredrick Goddall, all keen to capture the living conditions and habits of the folk. They leave a valuable insight into life at this time as you can view on your screen now.
The first color photographs taken in Ireland were of local ladies here in the Claddagh and are now part of the Albert Khan collection in Paris. Khan was a rich industrialist who at the turn of the 20th century sought to capture images of people all over the world, believing traditional ways were fast being lost due to industrialization.
The Irish cottage as you see it here was constructed continuously between the 1860s and 1960s when they became unfashionable with the advent to central heating which allowed for more windows and light. The classic structure measured 10 meters long by 4 meters wide, with three windows to the front and the door off-center. The cottage was constructed by Meithal, a traditional community workgroup and when several were built together, it was known as a Clachan.
West of the Shannon there was no porch and you entered straight into the kitchen. The back door or doras na gaoithe, the draughty door, was parallel with the front door and had a half door with hinges on either side, so it could be hung to protect from the prevailing wind. The central focus of this room was the hearth where all the cooking was done. There was a hierarchy as to who sat closest to the fire, the man and the woman of the house sat on the right- and left-hand side respectively.
The bedroom was accessed from the main room and there was a loft space opening or shelf to the kitchen where the children slept. During this time a dowery was paid in the event of the marriage of a daughter, the prospect of not being married gave rise to the term to be left on the shelf!
One of the most important pieces of furniture was the settle, which was a deep wooden seat with a high back. This was where visitors sat, and it could be opened up to double as a playpen for children or animals. Important traditions were upheld too in the building of a cottage, sometimes an animal was stabled in the house before the family moved in, if the animal was healthy after a period then it was safe for the family too. The first fire was traditionally lit from the embers removed from the parents’ house.
Please feel free to look around. When you're ready, continue along the street towards Whitestrand and the Salthill Promenade.