Mignon, Clancy Strand, Limerick Asking price: €590,000 Agent: Murphy O’Connor (061) 279 300
he same trauma and anxiety experienced by residents of Ukrainian towns retaken in the recent counter offensive was visited on the citizens of Limerick a century ago as the Free State army attempted to wrest the city from the anti-treaty IRA.
In July 1922 having being ejected from Dublin, the irregulars were consolidating in Munster in what would become the second phase of the Civil War. The IRA under Liam Forde’s Mid-Limerick Brigade, held four military barracks and most of the town.
At the same time the Free State forces under Michael Brennan and Donncadh O’Hannigan held the customs house, the jail, the courthouse, Williams Street RIC Barracks, and Cruises Hotel.
Strand Barracks at Clancy Strand on the northern bank of the Shannon was occupied by an anti-Treaty contingent under Cornelius McNamara (Connie Mackey). The residents of adjoining houses like Mignon, a four-bedroom, red-brick terraced house, two doors from the barracks, must have dreaded the inevitable eruption of hostilities.
It came on July 15 when the barracks came under sustained fire from the Free State Army positioned across the river and using the belfry of St Mary’s Cathedral as a vantage.
On July 17 General Eoin O’Duffy arrived with 1,500 more Free State soldiers and an 18-pounder field gun, the sights of which were soon trained on Strand Barracks. Mignon, the late Victorian red brick house beside the barracks avoided the shells but was repeatedly raked with small arms fire during the five-day battle that followed and which eventually resulted in the surrender of the barracks and the abandoning of Limerick by the Anti-Treaty forces on July 20.
Today the house still carries the scars of that battle on its brickwork which is peppered with more than a dozen bullet holes on both floors.
Standing in the front garden of Mignon owner Eithne Murphy points across the river to the belfry of St Mary’s Cathedral and then to the various bullet holes in her brick, made from a distance of half a kilometre. One shot shattered a corner brick, such was its impact.
“A previous occupant sued the Free State government for the cost of the damage to his brickwork. He got £500, which would be the equivalent of €39,000 today,” she says. That occupant obviously found something else to do with the money and left the historic bullet holes untouched.
While the impact of the Civil War on the house is obvious, less clear is the origin of the French connection, as evidenced in the name, ‘Mignon’ and in ‘Bien venue’ spelled out in mosaic on the floor of the entrance porch. The house next door, Les Charmilles, also has strong French influences with its mansard dormer roof. “The name, along with the welcome message in the porch, has led to suggestions that Mignon was once the property of a French architect,” says Murphy.
Mignon survived the Battle of Limerick and what’s more, the four-bedroom, terraced house overlooking the Shannon still has many of its original Victorian features still intact. It’s just been placed on the market with a guide price of €590,000.
Born into the rag trade, Murphy’s family owned Eve’s, a well-known fashion boutique in Roche’s Street. Loving horses, she went to Kildare to serve her time with the famous Iris Kellett who had trained some of the stars of Irish showjumping like Eddie Macken and Paul Darragh. She returned to Limerick to lease a small stud farm from Shannon Development at Smithstown in Co Clare. Later she joined the family business and has since turned her hand to teaching English to foreign students.
“My cousins lived here and whenever they were away, I used to mind the house and mind ‘Quilty’, their cat. I fell in love with the place and asked them to give me first refusal if ever they decided to sell. They did and sold it to me in 1999. It was like destiny. There was only one little proviso, I had to keep Quilty, which wasn’t a problem.”
A ‘service’ door or servant’s entrance to the right of the front door is testament to the stratified society that existed at the time it was built in the 1890s. The room behind the service door is now a utility. Through the main door proper and to the left is the sitting room with a bay window and an ornate tiled fireplace. The next room to the left was originally the dining room but is now a bedroom. It also has an ornate tiled fireplace.
To the rear is a bright kitchen/dining area with sash and Velux windows in a space extended from the original house. French doors lead to a small back garden while upstairs there are four bedrooms and a family bathroom. Original features include tiled fireplaces, high ceilings, ornate cornicing and coving, a tiled footpath and cast-iron railings in the front garden. Improvements undertaken by Eithne who is now selling up, include new windows and a new roof. “I decided to leave the bullet holes as they are,” she says, “they’re part of the character of the place.” O’Connor Murphy is seeking €590,000.