EXTENSIVE renovations are being carried out at the home of the famous Limerick writer Kate O’Brien, with the new owner expected to announce its future use in the coming months.
Racehorse owner David Maxwell Fitzgerald, who owns a wind farm business, said he bought the property “on a whim” last year for €80,000 and said it is not a decision he regrets.
The property had been on the market for five years, and was purchased after its price fell off from €350,000, a drop of 77% in price.
The former chairman of the local branch of An Taisce, the heritage body, and a long term member of the Georgian Society said he bought the house as he cares about Limerick, and preserving such a building of note for future generations.
“We are not in a hurry to identify its fit for purpose, but it will have a reason to be and we are engaging with some very interesting people on this,” he told the Limerick Chronicle.
“I have an interest in a few period properties in Limerick, and I think it’s an important thing to invest in Limerick city and county, especially during an economic meltdown, just like JP McManus. Now that I bought it I’m delighted to be associated with it,” he said.
Mr Maxwell-Fitzgerald said they embarked on a “massive programme of insulation” for the house, redoing cornicing, replacing doors and windows, and parts of the house which have been damaged by small fires in the years that it fell into disrepair.
“The house was structurally sound and the roof was in a very good condition, so it wasn’t as bad as one would think,” he explained.
He said his father often remarked that O’Brien’s house, known as Boru House on Mulgrave Street, was a “lovely house”, and added that his gran-aunt Ellen Agnes Fitzgerald was friends with the writer for a time while she lived in Spain during Franco’s regime.
The former solicitor from Ballysimon, Co Limerick, who was educated at Trinity College Dublin, left the profession to start his wind-farm business in 1965, Tradewinds Energy.
Speaking about the house in a TV programme in the 60s, the writer herself described it as “ugly”, saying it was the home of a “bourgeois, sheltered and happy childhood.”
The 3000 sq ft property includes seven bedrooms and four additional rooms in the attic. The detached two-storey redbrick building was built by the writer’s grandfather, Thomas O’Brien, in 1880. Her body of work has given rise to the annual Kate O’Brien weekend in Limerick, which runs each Spring, and has attracted notable speakers from Ireland and internationally. Born in Limerick on December 3, 1897, O’Brien died in Canterbury in 1974. Her novels, Mary Lavelle and the The Land of Spices, were banned in Ireland at the time as they dealt with issues of female sexuality.