BY EMMA CONNOLLY
HOLLYWOOD star Jeremy Irons looks set to raise a few eyebrows around Skibbereen with his colourful descriptions of Kilcoe Castle in this month’s Vanity Fair magazine.
Irons, who has just celebrated his 69th birthday, describes the castle which he started restoring in 1998, (completed in 2004), as ‘male and erect: a phallus.’
‘And yet, within, it’s a womb. I’m away from everything. It’s a wonderful feeling.’
Irons also explains how the castle only came to be its controversial pink colour because it looked ‘like a bit like a vibrator’ in its original cream limewash and he dismissed reports of local anger over the chosen shade as ‘nonsense.’
Irons and his actress wife Sinéad Cusack are friends with Lord and Lady Puttnam who live near Skibbereen and bought a cottage, that sits along the river Ilen, in the late 80s. The ruin of Kilcoe, about 10 minutes away, became a farourite picnic spot of theirs.
Around 1997 the actor, who starred in films like The Man in the Iron Mask and The Lion King, became fearful that ‘someone would come along with too much money and mess the place up.’ Inquiries were made and, before the year was out, Kilcoe, which had been unoccupied for 400 years and stands at 65ft tall, was his.
He describes West Cork as the ‘end of the hippie trail’ and says any given time, 30 to 40 people were puttering away on the premises—a mix of personal friends, Irish locals, and itinerant masons, woodworkers, and other craftsmen.
The castle’s showpiece is its double-height main living area, located on the third of the main tower’s four floors and known as the ‘solar’. It’s packed with materials that Irons has collected, magpie-like, on his travels, including a life-size antique wooden horse that cost £14,000 and which had to be lowered into the room with a crane. Overlooking the solar on all four sides is a gallery: on its western side, a library/ office, and, on its eastern side, a den with a grand piano, a woodstove, and a TV nook with a flat-screen hidden behind a slide-up painting of the quarry in nearby Castlehaven, from which much of the stone for Kilcoe’s restoration was sourced.
Renovation work over the six years was so extensive that he bought, rather than rented, equipment like scaffolding, a crane generator and a forklift, and built a blacksmith’s, stonemason’s and carpentry workshop.