Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Roofers Wanted

The tourists will be disappointed if the thatching industry continues to decline. All across Ireland, the population of thatched roof buildings is sinking, giving way to depressingly dull roofing materials that just don't say "Ireland" to the tourists. Have you ever considered relocating?

No one wants to be a thatcher any more, and the craft is struggling to survive. At Bunratty castle, the master thatcher is getting ready to retire, but there's no one to take his place. Visitors flock to the castle, to enjoy the restored ambiance of a time long gone, but without thatchers the scenery around the castle could become radically changed, no longer reflecting the typical roof structure of the past. But the past is exactly what people pay money to see.

In an interview in the Irish Times, Ger Tracy mourned the loss of the skill. He's tried to take on Irish lads as apprentices, but none of them seem to stick it out. The problem is, they go in dreaming of the old days and ways, only to discover that they are not preserving their ancient culture. They are doing heavy work on a roof, exposed to the elements, and there's no glamour in the trade. So, like every other job that goes begging, the Irish thatchers are turning to immigrant labor to fill the empty slots.

Around Munster, the master thatcher there has taken Polish lads under his reedy wing and begun to train them in a craft that is wholly unfamiliar to them. Work is work when you've come from a poor country with high unemployment, and it could be that the trade will become associated with the Polish. It's a sure sign that Ireland has finally met up with the rest of the developed world.

In these parts, you'll not see a non-Mexican taping drywall. There's an art to it, the need of a sharp eye to know when the mud has been sanded evenly so that the seams don't show. Drive by any roofing project and it's Tejano on the radio and Spanish on the tongue. For those wealthy enough to afford a lawn service, it's the same thing. Certain jobs have come to be associated with the Mexican worker, and now Ireland is about to undergo the same transformation.

But if you don't mind hard work and you'd like to live abroad, there's government grants and training available. Not an easy job by any means, but to be able to list 'thatcher' on your resume...how could a literary agent cast aside your query letter without asking about that?


kitty said...

I linked this post, and I'd trackback but I see you don't do that.

O hAnnrachainn said...

I'm technologically impaired. Trackback? Is that anything like a fullback or cornerback?

I understand the links bit, though, and thanks for the link.

kitty said...

I'm not certain if blogspot does trackbacks or not. When I started blogging ('03), blogspot didn't offer commenting or trackbacking, so most of us used haloscan.com.

I loved this post as I love most things Irish, and I have a meager collection of little thatched roof cottages.

I almost forgot THE LINK!


Martin Slattery said...

Hi am interested in learning the craft of thatching and i noticed in your article that the master thatcher at bunratty castle is retiring soon is there any possibility of contacting him in person as there seems to be little information on the subject in ireland.My email. address is Mini-slattery@Hotmail.com.Look forward to hearing from you on the matter thanks. Martin

O hAnnrachainn said...

You could phone Bunratty Castle directly and ask them -- I'm sure Ger Tracy, the master thatcher, would like to hear from you.