Methods of Thatching

In Ireland there are three methods of securing thatch to the roof and each method is traditionally associated with a well defined area.

Roped Thatch

With this method the thatch is not secured directly to the roof underneath. Instead it is laid over the roof and held down in position by a network of ropes fastened to the tops of the walls, or to weights at the eaves. Sometimes a network of ropes runs lengthwise from gable to gable as well. This method is confined to the area on the Atlantic coast. With this method there is always a sod layer underneath. When a house is being rethatched the ropes are removed and a new layer of the thatching material is laid starting at the eaves and working upwards overlapping all the time for rain water to run off. A loose layer of straw is then spread along the ridge and over the rest of the roof to prevent the ropes from cutting into the thatch. Then the roping is completed. This method of thatching is only seen on houses with gable roofs.

Pinned Thatch

This is the most popular method of securing thatch. For a large area of the country it is the only method used except in south-east Ulster, north-east Leinster, south Carlow, south Wexford and small areas of the west coast. In this method the thatch is pinned to the roof underneath with slender rods called scollops.

Work is started at the right hand side working towards the left and completing a strip about 60 cms wide from eave to ridge. The strips are continued until each side is completed, including the ends in the case of hipped houses. A small bundle of straw is prepared and laid at the eave. This is then fastened by placing over it a scollop and securing this with two or three other scollops bent into staples. The next portion of straw is placed a little higher up so that it covers the scollop and work continues in this way to the ridge. In many areas the ridge is decoratively finished with rows of bobbins. These are wisps of straw shaped around a rod fitted along the ridges and the free ends of the wisps are pinned down on each side with scollops.

Thrust Thatch

This is the method used in most of Leinster and in parts of east Ulster. Firstly a layer of thatch is stitched to the roof timbers directly or over a sod layer according to the tradition of the locality. Then the thatcher takes a handful of straw, twists the ear end into a knot and thrusts it tightly into the straw layer already on the roof. He brings a strip about 60 cms from eave to ridge and continues until the roof is completed. Unlike the other methods the straw must be well damped and beaten down until it lies flat. The ridge may be finished with bobbins or ridge-board, usually embellished in an artistic manner

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