Solid foundations: County Limerick woman plastering a trail in the building trade

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Showing how it’s done: Patricia Brouder with her dad, Jim Ahern, and her son Raymond. Plastering runs to a seventh generation in the family Picture: Marie Keating

Showing how it’s done: Patricia Brouder with her dad, Jim Ahern, and her son Raymond. Plastering runs to a seventh generation in the family Picture: Marie Keating

STAND aside Paddy the Plasterer and make way for Patricia the Plasterer who is blazing the way for women plasterers in Limerick and around the country.

Now Patricia Brouder, from Carrigkerry, and her son Raymond have set up what must surely be one of the most unique businesses in Ireland: a mother-and-son plastering team, known as PR Plastering.

But as Jim Ahern, Patricia’s dad, points out with pride: “It’s in the DNA.”

Patricia comes from a long line of plasterers and now with Raymond on the job as well, the tradition has  passed down to a seventh generation. 

Doing what has traditionally been regarded as a man’s job has never posed a problem for Patricia.

“It is unusual to some people. Everybody is saying ‘you have an unusual job for a woman’, but it is normal for me,” she said.  And yet Patricia did acknowledge that wherever she goes on a job, locals are likely to comment and even to stop and take photographs.

Her life with the trowel began as a child. As one of a family of four girls, her dad started her off early.

“When I was small, he used to give me bits of mortar and I would be moulding away on top of a block. On Saturdays then I used to go out with him and I got used to using the hawk and trowel.

“I didn’t take to secondary school,” Patricia admitted. But she was keen to work and develop her skills at plastering.

She had, she explained, a long apprenticeship in that she started so young. But it was not the usual apprenticeship. The Carrigkerry woman is largely self-taught but watched her dad carefully trying to improve herself every day.

“I never looked at books It was just learning on the job. He let me do it, telling me it was right or wrong.”

With more than 22 years in the trade under her belt now, Patricia is not afraid to take on any job, inside or out, and has done the work on her own home. Along the way too, she has worked in almost every county in Munster.

When her dad retired around 2005, Patricia got her own van. But the recession hit her hard. It was difficult for men to get work, she said, and even harder for her.

Last year however, she got back into her stride as her son Raymond took his place in the family plastering tradition. But first, she admitted, she had to get her plastering muscles moving again and back into working mode.

“You would be stiff at times,” is about as much as Patricia will say about the physicality of the job itself. And there are times she has to go to a chiropractor.

But clearly plastering is a job and a way of life that she loves, and, according to her dad with whom she worked until he retired: “She is absolutely brilliant.”

“She is so clean and she comes up with great ideas,” Jim Ahern said.

And, said the man who spent over a half century in the trade, she is better than many a male plasterer. The foundations of this family tradition are secure.