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21 May 2022

Third-generation Kildare thatcher works to save old tradition

Senan Hogan reports that Suncroft native John Brereton is keeping the ancient skill alive

Third-generation Kildare thatcher works to save old tradition

John Brereton at work

A third generation Kildare thatcher has spoken the ancient but declining tradition of thatching.

John Brereton, who is aged in his late 60s, is a grandson of thatcher William Brereton who began the family tradition in the mid-1800s by building and thatching stone and mud houses.

And John is looking for a young apprentice to whom to pass on his skills.

John, who is currently working on a thatched property at Drehid near Carbury, works with oaten straw rather than the English style of reeds.

Thatching keeps him busy 12 months of the year and he can be found on roofs most days, unless the weather is too windy.

‘You need fierce patience’

He said: “Each roof is different. It’s so tedious. You need fierce patience. Each roof needs about 7,000 handfuls of straw so that’s about 10 weeks or two months for each job.

“You’d only do about four or five hours a day as you’d nearly go half blind from staring at the colour of the straw!”

However John, who lives in a thatched house himself in Suncroft, said straw is a unique material to work with as it is water proof and fire proof.

He added: “You'll see me up a ladder in all weathers except very windy conditions as the straw would be blown around. ”

Kildare County Council currently runs an annual Thatching Grand Scheme for thatched properties that require essential repairs and will be permanently occupied afterwards.

Projects usually need to be completed by September in order to qualify for funding but John believes the grants should be available all year round to accommodate more jobs.

The council’s website has advice leaflets and contacts for various grant schemes to assist with thatching.

For more information, email: conservation@ kildarecoco.ie.

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