Munster. Cork. East Cork. Killeagh. Main St. It’s here you’ll find me. In an old RIC Barracks now known as Greywood Arts Centre. Charged with having won a poetry competition, sentenced to a week as Writer in Residence. I resolve to commit acts of such poetry more often. Not that I plan on making a future treading in the footsteps of long gone Imperial forces, but staying in a place as ripe with history and stories as Greywood, has been wonderful.
I made the journey down on Saturday with a boot full of clothes, books and Pot Noodles. It turns out I haven’t brought enough clothes or noodles to see me through the week, but I’m good for books. And besides, there’s a library downstairs. If librophilia reaches beyond that, there’s also a selection of dusty old tomes scattered here and there in every room. They add to the historic ambience you pick up on as soon as you are welcomed inside the door. You’ll first notice the original floor tiles and the stripped back stone walls. They set the tone of a place that has been restored with care, gently nudged back to a form of its past elegance. Broad naked floorboards in every room, give a real sense of character, but for me, the piece de resistènce is the collection of period furniture you’ll see around the rooms. Old desks that have been written on for more than a hundred years. Old lampshades that may outdate the civil war. A silver tray that was inscribed in the late 1800s. A hurley from 1932, made by a hurley maker in his workshop right behind Greywood. Christy Ring’s hurley maker I might add. Need I say any more? In. My. Element.
The bedroom I’m staying in has an old chest of drawers with what you can only construe as a peculiarly paranoid feature. They have locks on every drawer, even the teeny ones that you’d probably keep your sewing needles in, if you were that way inclined. Either the RIC were anal about the preservation of their sock drawers, or they used the most unconventional of furniture, replete with inset mirror, to store their confidential files on unruly nationalists. Either way, it’s nice to know my smalls are safe while I snooze.
The hosts, Jessica and Hughie have been painstakingly restoring the huge old building for three years, and are now running it as a wonderful arts centre and retreat for artists. You can’t help but think when you meet them and hear the enthusiasm with which they are embracing the scale of this project, that the locals here in Killeagh are lucky to have them. They have brought an otherwise grey and derelict old building on Main Street back to life. More than that, they have injected a new vein of visitors into the local economy, with regular events and residencies and AirBnB tourists choosing to flock to Greywood, and by extension, to Killeagh’s local establishments and shops. It must be said that one of said establishments stands out above the rest for service to thirsty artists. In P. Kennedy’s pub, they know how to pull a pint and it’s there you’ll find a creamy Guinness.
The undertaking at Greywood was massive. It’s still a work in progress and the plans for the project are expanding into an even more exciting venture. You can’t but wish them the very best of luck with it, but at this point they deserve great credit for the brilliant work they have done to date. The bedrooms and communal spaces for artists – the library, writer’s den and movement studios are vibrant and conducive to so much creativity. The writer’s den in particular, because I am biased, also because I am sitting in it as I write this, is a stunning space.
Original sash windows, a hangover from the original building back in the 1800s, afford the gorgeous view of the Dissour waters flowing past outside. The window cills are about two foot deep and will make you want to curl up in them and write to your heart’s content. An old stone gable wall painted plain white, provides a perfect frame for these two beautiful windows. As writing spaces go, this is up there with the best of them. It kicks the perfect ‘Insta desk pic’ brigade right up the hole, with its honesty, and its downright integrity. It’s a space filled with history and silent whispers of voices long gone. It’s a room filled with the soft sound of the river flowing by. A room that begs you stop, and think, and be. Arcadian. Unpretentious. It’s simply beautiful.
At the moment, there are two visiting residents from the States here, and Jessica herself is American. Throw in Hughie’s Wicklowness and my being a Dub and it makes for a peculiar lilt and texture to the conversations that take place. On the odd occasion that we bump into each other in the house, that is. It really is a big three floored building, with the residents based on the first floor and working studios laid out on high on the third. For hermits like me, it’s really handy to go from dawn till dusk with no actual human contact.
We hosted a public reading here on Tuesday, after which the five of us had wine and good chats. Stories were told and experiences shared. The visiting Americans are now versed in hurling lore from Joe Canning, Joe Deane to the Cats. They are looking forward to watching the final on Sunday. Their first game. We’ve converted them, though I suppose with such a majestic game, it’s not really a hard sell. Hearing Jessica and Hughie recount the history of the house through the ages was fascinating. It makes you feel that you are in a living museum of sorts. I could listen to them all day. It was a lovely communal evening and the company of the three Americans and the man from the Garden County was wonderful. As was the wine.
So I’m anchored beside these sash windows with just a couple more days to go. I have so much more to write and am bursting with ideas. I’ll be returning to Dublin with lots of work done and the fondest of Greywood memories.