In 1970, after a family farm holiday in Somerset, UK, Trevor, only a small boy then, proclaimed to his parents that one day he would have a farm and animals of his own when he grew up.
Over the next decade his love of nature, the countryside, and the desire to keep animals grew. Some of his friends at school would tell him of their summer holidays spent on the small family farm in Ireland. They would help feed cattle; collect eggs and go fishing in crystal clear rivers.
Living in a big industrial town in England, Trevor could only imagine such a place; one where his dream could come true; and at 14 years of age Trevor told his father, not only of his ambition to one day buy a plot of land but, to build his own house too!
Now, his father explained that this was probably not realistic as it was hard enough to earn a living; let alone the cost and effort involved in such an endeavour. “It will be like chasing a rainbow” he said. “However, if you’re going to do it, you had better start saving now! Here’s something to get you started!” and with that, he gave Trevor a penny.
Unsure what career to follow, agriculture; Horticulture; Forestry; or construction? during the next 20 years, Trevor gathered the knowledge and skills necessary to construct a house and grow his own food; with a short spell as a fireman thrown in for good measure!
Although at times his dream of owning a little farm seemed nothing more than a childhood fantasy, after the death of his beloved mother Hazel, Trevor decided that life was too short to waste any more time dreaming.
So, after many hours on the internet and armed with a huge pile of potential places to live, in the autumn of 2000 Trevor, and his father John, travelled to Ireland in search of the elusive “dream plot”. The requirements were: rich soil, somewhere quiet, with a nice view and plenty of open sky! Plus, friendly locals and good beer of course!
The search is on
After many days searching all over Ireland, viewing ruined cottages, building sites, plot after plot of land and sampling many pints of Guinness! They came to Ballyduff.
After a winding drive up a steep hill they found a small ‘for sale’ sign. The men walked the fields, whilst Trevor looked at flora and fauna, gauging soil types and fertility, John turned and said, “wow! look at the view!” he added “it won’t earn you any money, but what at thing to look at when you stop to mop your brow!” Winking at his father, Trevor replied “ it could! if people wanted somewhere quiet, to relax and get away from it all?”
With that it started to rain ‘softly’ and John retreated back down the hill to the warmth of the car. Trevor sat on a huge boulder for one of his notorious ‘thinks’ and he saw the most incredible rainbow; the hairs stood up on the back of his neck!
Somehow, he just knew that his search was over; Just the small matter of selling everything that couldn’t be transported; and leaving behind everything that was familiar!
The big move
In the January of 2001 Trevor arrived in Ireland; with his son, daughter, dog and cat! And only their Land Rover and small caravan for shelter. They spent their first night at the roadside, unable to get the caravan heater working, and awoke on their first morning in Ireland to a neighbouring farmer bellowing “Hello the house! Welcome to Toornageeha!”
Patrick Murphy came in for a cup of tea and told the somewhat cold and weary blow-ins that he reckoned it had been “the coldest, longest winter he had ever known!” And having lived there all his life he should know! Undeterred by small things like mud and frost they soon cleared and ancient gateway and ‘moved in’.
With the water collected from the neighbour’s spring-fed farmyard tap, and only a small generator for electricity, they managed to clear years of neglected undergrowth and carve out a place to live on the beautiful Irish hillside.
Onwards and upwards
With a boreen up to the future dwelling made, and the back breaking task of preparing out a level building site completed, it was time to pour the concrete foundations for the house; Single handed of course!
On the 1st August 2001, Trevor was ready to lay the first foundation block of his dream home. He had asked his father to fly over and be present in order to witness the occasion, but before he did so Trevor explained to his father that it was considered good luck to place a coin under the first block of any new dwelling.
Trevor explained “I’ve kept it all this time to remind me to work hard and never lose sight of my dream”. After an embrace, very unusual for these men, John placed the old penny in the fresh mortar, and Trevor laid the first foundation block.
Back to work
Apart from his children helping to lay the concrete floors; and helping out wherever they could; Trevor spent the coming months single-handedly working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, on the future home.
“It’s a big house for 3 people, don’t you think?” asked people who came to see ‘the Englishman who was building a house on his own’. “I’ll be in for Christmas!” Trevor joked. But like his father had taught him, Trevor knew if you want to get anything in life, you must “have a plan” and Trevor’s plan was to get finished; and one day open to guests.
On Christmas Eve 2001, after months of hard work Trevor slept in his house! Albeit with no heating; no electricity; no running water; no ceilings; no finished floors or walls; Just a mattress on a cold floor! But he slept like a baby!
Love is in the air
Overall, it took Trevor 16 months of single-handed labour to build the house to a comfortable state with modern utilities. “All it needs now is a woman’s touch!” was among the comments heard.
So, with his lifetime ambition fulfilled, after a chance invitation from some local friends, one October Trevor went to the world famous Lisdoonvarna matchmaking festival in co. Clare.
“I’m only going for the craic!” Trevor insisted. But synchronicity intervened, and one evening Trevor heard familiar English accents.
He began talking to two ladies who had gone to the festival ‘for a laugh’ and so he met a lovely lady from England called Lynette.
Over the coming months, text messages turned into emails, emails turned into long phone calls, and they became good friends. They met up again, whilst Trevor visited family in England, and after spending just a week together they knew they had fallen in love.
Not one to shy away from change, soon after, Lynette flew to Ireland, spent the weekend, and decided to take a chance by moving to Ballyduff.
Now the curious thing is, that both Trevor and Lynette were born in the same big town in England; Just a coincidence? Well, it doesn’t stop there; because it turns out that 20 years before, during that short spell when Trevor was a fireman, they also lived nearby in the same street, at the same time! They even realised that they had bought groceries from the same little corner shop!
Facing your fears
You may think that moving to Ireland was a bit scary, but Lynette had faced many of her fears before she met Trevor. Like many, she had been afraid of standing up in front of people, so naturally…she became an air stewardess!?
Having travelled all over the world, including backpacking around Australia and New Zealand, it was Lynette who helped Trevor realise the full calming, and holistic nature of Ard na Ciuin. Even today it reminds her of some of the most spiritually inspiring places she’s visited.
Getting ready to open
With the necessary support and encouragement from Lynette, and assistance from Trevor’s son Adam, now a carpenter and joiner, they all set about upgrading the house to today’s high standards; complete with swimming pool and Hot Tub, and ready for guests.
The couple opened their doors to guests in early 2009, beginning with just bed and breakfast for fishermen coming to Ireland for the wild Atlantic salmon; and a few lost tourists!
But they knew they wanted to run a business that also did more to help inspire people to fulfil their dreams and overcome their fears, and eventually, with fate intervening on a number of occasions again, they came into contact with the experts that facilitate the residential courses they now host.
A final thought
Each year more and more people become aware of the ‘Ard na Ciuin experience’; often they arrive nervous and full of anticipation, but leave having undergone a life enhancing change.
Echoing the words of his now, late father, Trevor is keen to tell them “you must have a plan!” he adds ” Never give up, it’s never too late! and remember, if you have one, always follow your rainbow!”