In Search of the Donegal Vernacular Cottage

Extended Farmstead, near Malin:
‘Upper Room’, Crolly: Rope-thatched farmhouse
Rope Thatching, Rinnakill, Teelin:
In Search of the Donegal Vernacular Cottage
13th November - January 2018

County Donegal is home to one of the largest surviving concentrations
of vernacular cottages in Ireland. ‘In Search of the Donegal Vernacular
Cottage’ celebrates the traditional dwellings of County Donegal that help
define our cultural landscape, refine our sense of place and reinforce
our sense of identity. Through photographs, illustrations and drawings
from local and national collections, the distinctive forms and features of
the Donegal vernacular cottage are highlighted. Vernacular architecture
has been described as an ‘architecture without architects’ alluding to
the fact that these dwellings were not based on blueprints or measured
drawings but on collective folk memory that was passed down from one
generation to the next. The intimate relationship between ‘form and
function’ is reflected in the use of space and local materials that root
these cottages in their physical and cultural landscape. 


Photo 1 Extended Farmstead, near Malin: This rope-thatched extended farmstead is indicative of the traditional practice of extending the dwelling house along its long axis by adding additional rooms or outbuildings. The thatch covers the dwelling while corrugated iron (tin) is the roof covering for the adjoining outbuilding.
© Joseph Gallagher.

Photo 2 ‘Upper Room’, Crolly: Rope-thatched farmhouse with adjoining byre and accommodation above (accessible by means of a ladder from the lower end of the kitchen). The dresser set against the back wall of the kitchen is visible inside the front door. An ‘Upper Room’ with a Welsh-slate roof is visible behind the main hearth. This image taken by Robert John Welch in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century forms part of his collection housed in the Ulster Museum.
© National Museums NI – Collection Ulster Museum

Photo 3 Rope Thatching, Rinnakill, Teelin: Seamus Ó hEochaidh thatching the roof of a cottage in Rinnakill, Teelin in the late 1930s. The intricate network of ropes (or fishing nets in some coastal locations) used to secure the thatch were tied to projecting stones (bacán) at the eaves and on the gables. This image is taken from Patrick O’Neill’s thesis entitled ‘A Social & Cultural Study of Crofter Life on the West Donegal Seaboard’ (1940).
Courtesy of Donegal County Archives, Donegal County Council


In Search of the Donegal Vernacular Cottage’ exhibition was prepared by the County Donegal Heritage Office, Donegal County Museum, Donegal County Archives and Regional Cultural Centre, Donegal County Council as part of the ‘Creative Ireland’ programme and the implementation of the County Donegal Heritage Plan.