Castlecove House, Kinsale, Co. Cork Selling Price: €995,000 Agent: Sherry Fitzgerald Country Homes (01) 237 6402; Sheehy Brothers (021) 4772338
HEN Rory Gallagher sold his Kinsale waterfront home to artist Louise McKeon in 1984, leaving behind his cowboy boots and toothbrush.
“I’ve always been a huge Rory fan. I wasn’t told it was his house by the real estate agent until I was looking at it,” says McKeon.
“I spent my college years in Belfast and we used to visit him the whole time. Rory was the only major artist to play in Belfast during the Troubles and Belfast loved him for it. It was great gigs.
Louise McKeon with one of her paintings
“When I bought Castlecove the rooms were painted orange and vermilion. It was very clean and tidy. And the boots and the toothbrush were there when we moved in.”
It was at Castlecove House, overlooking the Bandon Estuary on six acres of wooded waterfront land, that the restless bluesman, singing songs like Tattooed lady, What’s up?, Laundromat and A million miles away seemed to find peace.
“The quiet and stillness is actually why I love it so much,” says McKeon. “It’s an amazing place.”
The view across the Bandon Estuary from the house which is set in two acres of grounds and gardens
Born in Ballyshannon, Gallagher, who sold 30 million albums, is now considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time. His trademark sweat-sensing 1961 Fender Stratocaster, which he paid for in installments from Crowleys in Cork City when he was 15, is now one of the most recognizable guitars in the world.
Gallagher mythology has it that Jimi Hendrix was asked how it felt to be the greatest guitarist alive, only to reply, “I don’t know, ask Rory Gallagher.”
Although this has never been verified, lead guitarists who cite Gallagher as a major influence include Eric Clapton, Brian May, Slash, The Edge, Johnny Marr and James Dean Bradfield. Clapton said it was Gallagher who brought him back to the blues.
Queen guitarist May was particularly taken with The Taste frontman’s modesty:
“We were boys. We were hanging out and hiding when the Marquee (club in London) revealed. And then we kind of sauntered over like we were supposed to be there and said, ‘Hi Mr Gallagher, can we talk to you? I asked, “How do you get that tone?” And he said, “I have this little amp, an AC30 amp, and I have this little treble amp, a Rangemaster treble amp.”
“Of course I drove straight away and got an AC30 amp and the Treble Booster. Rory gave me my sound.
Gallagher’s visceral but technically intense style, featuring stunning slide work, landed him on stage at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, playing to an audience of 600,000 alongside the Doors, The Who, Dylan and Hendrix.
In 1975 he was invited to the Rolling Stones when Mick Taylor left. After being flown to London, Gallagher was unable to get anything out of the comatose Keith Richards and instead went to Japan to tour.
The shy performer was a self-effacing perfectionist who struggled to find peace of mind. “My dream would be to be fit and healthy at 65 and still playing. But that’s really too much to ask of the man up there.” In another interview, he said: “I’d rather get mad on the road than off it. Because it’s one or the other.”
He died in 1995 at the age of 47 from complications of liver failure caused by mixing prescription drugs and alcohol. Today he has four streets (Paris, Dublin, Bedoin (France) and Cork) named after him and statues in Cork and Ballyshannon.
But Gallagher seems to have found peace in his Castlecove years. “My brother-in-law once met his brother in Japan. He told him that Rory was very, very sorry about selling the house,” says Louise McKeon.
Originally from Dublin’s Raheny, McKeon raised her three girls in Castlecove and they are now in their twenties and thirties. “If you want your kids to keep coming home, make your home in Kinsale.
“They always miss the place so much and keep coming back,” she says. “They were always on the water, swimming and boating. They played tennis, GAA, rugby. I like to take a walk.
Castlecove has its own private slipway and 400 meters of walkways with viewing benches dotted around its two acres.
The living room on the ground floor with stove
McKeon is a noted artist and ran a gallery and art school in Castlecove. “The environment is right,” she says. In lockdown, she completed a master’s degree and now plans to focus on children’s books.
When they bought the house it was single storey. So in the late 1990s they added another floor to enhance those incredible views, added a sun room and reconfigured the design so that the main rooms are upstairs and face the estuary.
“You can see everything from that big window upstairs. The seals are always here. Schools of dolphins, otters and fishing boats can be seen a few times a year. As an artist in lockdown, I’ve been blessed to be here. The landscape is constantly changing. At low tide, the water falls right back. At this time of year the sunsets are just amazing.”
The kitchen has water views through a sliding door to the patio. It has black granite worktops, a Belling fridge, a De Dietrich electric oven and a peninsula breakfast bar with a gas hob. There is a living area with a wood stove.
Next is the dining room with its patio door to the garden. There is the conservatory overlooking the gardens.
The large living room upstairs has a huge arched window overlooking the Bandon Estuary and Compass Hill.
The master bedroom has a walk-in closet and en-suite bathroom, as well as patio doors leading to a patio and from there to the water. There are three further bedrooms, a family bathroom, a utility room, a study and a conservatory.
It is a 20 minute walk from picturesque Kinsale with its famous restaurants and bars and half a drive from Cork Airport.
Now Louise is looking for a smaller, more manageable property in Kinsale.
For years after she moved in, Gallagher fans came knocking on the door from all over the world. “They came from Germany and France and Japan and asked if Rory was home.”
His boots are gone too. “I gave them to someone they fit.”
Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes and Sheehy Brothers of Kinsale are asking €995,000 for Castlecove House.