Have you ever ended up with a bevy of beauties in a hot tub outside Newry at 3am? Across muck and gullion (or at least over the butte of Slieve Muck and below the peak of Slieve Gullion) we stopped by to enjoy the rustic glamour of Primrose Cottage in south County Armagh. Owner Derek Johnston called over, “The two cottages, Primrose and Lavender, were converted from an aul’ barn.” Timber sash windows were inserted into the thick stone walls; slate and metal roofs reinstated. Architectural critic Martin Pawley’s 1981 essay What Does Vernacular Really Mean? concludes, “The vernacular image is much less important than the vernacular reality.” He argues that the vernacular appearance is down to economics – for example salvaged local materials – rather than arranged aesthetics.
In front of the cottages is a paddock filled with swans and pygmy goats. “Farmers are not as diverse about what animals they have as they were when I was growing up so I decided to do something about it,” he smiled. Derek Johnston is also coveniently landlord of Johnny Murphy’s pub a few metres away at the crossroads of Meigh, the local hamlet. So of course, we had to traipse along and support local business. It was a jolly and late and jolly late affair, the merits of vernacular over designed and image versus reality long forgotten. Back at Primrose Cottage, closer to sunrise than sunset, the party continued under the stars. So that’s how we ended up with a bevy of beauties in a hot tub outside Newry at 3am.