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The Crocodile by the Door: The Story of a House, a Farm and a Family

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Share on:. Selina Guinness lived at Tibradden as a child and in she and her husband-to-be, Colin Graham, moved back to the house when her elderly uncle Charles became frail.

The surname might lead you to suspect that there were brewery millions in the background but this wasn't the case. The couple were young academics and doing what needed to be done at Tibradden would need to be done in addition to full-time jobs. The house was on the outskirts of Dublin - 'derelict fields' if you were a property developer or the last defence against the encroaching city if you were not.

It would be easy to class this book as 'biography' but it is far more than that. Guinness has an academic's ability to see a situation from both sides. She's emotionally tied to Tibradden - and becomes more so as she delves into the complexities of farming the property - but she knows that holding on to all the land is going to be financially impractical. Selling part of it for a golf course seems like a reasonable compromise, but she's wary of the motives of the potential purchaser.

How long before the 'golf course' becomes a housing estate, with all the problems that will bring to their farm? They do need the money though.

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The fabric of Tibradden has been allowed to deteriorate over the years and repairs as well as upgrading are necessary if the house is to be a family home. There's a further complication too. Tibradden has a gatehouse where the farm's stewards have lived - the present steward is now elderly but she was born in the property. Her husband does as much as he can around the farm - probably more than should be done by a man in his seventies - but where would they go if they could no longer live at the gatehouse?

What too would become of their son - a man with severe learning disabilities? The Kirwans are reluctant to let anyone see the interior of the gatehouse and with good cause. They' live in squalor and are frightened to ask for help.


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And any work on the gatehouse is going to be slow and expensive as it's a listed building.