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Dermot in awe of amazing space

Star architect Bannon’s new TV series showcases, impressive and lovingly restored Kilrush project this Sunday

HOLIDAY accommodation with a difference in West Clare will feature in a new television series with Dermot Bannon this weekend.
On Sunday at 9.30pm Dermot Bannon’s Super Small Spaces on RTÉ One will showcase The Merchant’s House and Store overlooking the Market Square in Kilrush.
The property provides two unique heritage holiday homes in the heart of Kilrush having been lovingly restored to preserve their heritage, while also offering 21st century comforts.
Paul Gleeson of The Merchant’s House and Store told The Champion that the well-known architect isn’t the only famous face to have stepped inside the historic building.
In 1963 The Dubliners performed in the back bar when the building was in the hands of the McDermott family.
“Taking part in the show was a good experience and everyone was excited to meet him.
“When Dermot came here he said it was like he had stepped back in time, he was amazed. But he’s not the only famous person who has been in our house, you can’t get any more famous than Luke Kelly.”
The refurbishment of the building was a project “decades in the making” after Paul’s father purchased the property in 1989.
“I’m very interested in encouraging people to give buildings second and third chances, finding new uses for them and reinventing them for a new era,” he said.
The history of the house goes back to 1811 when it was built and leased from John Ormsby Vandeleur by milling merchant Bartholomew Glynn.
The name ‘Merchant’s House’ is an homage to the Glynn family, Paul explained.
In the 1890s the house was rebuilt and ‘Victorianised’ with a bar and grocery store installed on the ground floor and leased to the Clancy family.
This was followed by the Ryans who were there until 1939. Among some of the items Paul has gathered during his refurbishment is a photograph of the Ryan family pictured outside of the property.
“Tommy Ryan’s daughter was an opera singer and in the 1920s she came back to Kilrush and they would open the drawing room windows upstairs, and she would perform mini concerts. And no doubt they provided refreshments downstairs,” said Paul.
The property then moved into the hands of Tom and Ann McDermott, whose son Joe became a professional golfer in America.
After 79 years serving the public the bar and grocery were closed in 1968. The house was sold a number of times before the Gleeson family acquired it.
The transformation of the property took place over two stages, the first from 2010 to 2012 when they restored the upper two floors of the Merchant’s House.
Then in 2015 they began work on the ground floor, the Merchant’s Store, which features on Bannon’s show. They opened for guests in 2017, and have been doing so ever since.
Paul told The Champion, “When you step into the Merchant’s Store, the converted bar on the ground floor, it is like you were taken back 100 years.
“The counter is there, the snug, the original front doors are all there. And the property is full of memorabilia that I’ve collected and that have been with the family for generations.”
The original bar is now a kitchen and what would have been the back bar is now a living room, with exposed brick walls a stove and antique furniture.
The original kitchen has been transformed into a bedroom and bathroom, once again decorated in items Paul has managed to salvage over the years.
The main bedroom, or the parlour bedroom, would have been the original sitting room and at the back there is a small cobblestone courtyard surrounded by stone walls where guests can relax.
Paul recalled that filming for the show took place back in March and the crew were there for four hours.
“Apparently four hours translates to about four minutes of television,” he laughed.
Speaking about Dermot Bannon, he said, “He was amazed at what we had done and the fact that we had saved a piece of our vernacular heritage.”
The family are all looking forward to watching the show, and it seems they aren’t the only ones.
“When the trailer went out last Friday I was travelling in my car and when I got back there were ten messages from people asking was it our house,” he said.
By taking part in the show Paul is hoping that others might be inspired to carry out their own restoration projects.
“I’d be happy if people looked at the show and said, ‘Oh God, you know that bar we have downstairs we could do something with that’, or find a use for that building we don’t use. It might spark somebody to take on a project.”
After months of closure due to Covid-19, the first guests of the season will be arriving this Friday, and according to Paul they are “pretty much booked” all the way through until the end of August.
Covid has brought some positives, with more Irish people realising what places like Kilrush have to offer.
“This summer and last summer we welcomed Irish people pretty much exclusively, before that it was people from the UK, Germany and America.
“This summer and last it’s all Irish and a lot of them ended up coming to us because they couldn’t get something in Kerry or Connemara.
“They were really amazed at this really beautiful part of the country, it’s a hidden gem and they had overlooked it before.”
For more on the building, check www.gleesonskilrush.ie.

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