Observations by Jack Fitzsimons

A few other brief observations may be interesting enough to record. All the old thatched houses had earthen floors, some of them more uneven than others. I asked one old lady why a particular kitchen floor had a rise in the centre and she said it was caused by feeding the hens inside. She explained that the reason for this practice was because if they were fed outside the neighbours' hens would help themselves to the food!

I recounted this story to a man who lived most of his life in a thatched house and he had not taken any particular notice of the incline in the kitchen floors. But having brought it to his attention, he remembered that in one house that he had frequented in earlier years anyone who had occasion to go to the dresser would need a breeching coming back from it! (A breeching is that part of a harness which passes behind a horse in order to hold back an attached vehicle when moving down a slope.) Because of uneven floors it was usual for stools and chairs to have legs with small differences in length and by moving them slightly in position they would "find their own level." Three-legged pots and stools were easy to place on such floors.

Thatched houses with a front and back door opposite each other were not unknown in county Meath. It is said that in a house of this type it was found convenient to draw in big logs to back the fire by driving a horse through the kitchen. Wooden chimneys were a common feature of thatched houses. Hipped roofs were not possible where the fireplace was located in the gable wall. Houses with straight gables were suitable for attached buildings. Extensions were also straightforward.

Surface water was nearly always a problem with thatched houses. Any other type of roof incorporates gutters to collect the roof water. In the case of thatched houses the adjoining yard became very wet after periods of rain and farmyard fowl as well as human activity about the place resulted in mucky conditions.

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