A presidential pedigree

Ramelton in County Donegal was once a hugely prosperous port town which made a fortune out of the linen trade which exploded here in the 18th Century.

The big money earned by its merchant classes translated into fine buildings and architecture, and the town is known for its grand Georgian houses.

In the early 20th Century it had seven different churches and was known as the ‘Holy City’ in recognition of its religious diversity.

Ramelton was an important trading port in the 18th and 19th centuries, with regular routes from the quayside to New York and Kingston, Jamaica. When the linen industry went, so too did many of its residents. The iconic warehouses may still stand proud today, but the town is best known by tourists as they head out to the Fanad peninsula.

Emigrants from the town included James Buchanan whose son, also James, became president of the United States in 1857, while Ramelton-born Francis Makemie became the founder of American Presbyterianism. To the other side of the world went Dave Gallaher, who became the captain of the first All Blacks team. He left the town with his family in 1878 when he was just five, to move to New Zealand as part of an organised resettlement scheme.

Carmel Ewens, who followed many Donegal-born people who relocated to the USA, was among the more recent diaspora. Wanting to be closer to her family, however, she recently returned to Ireland to live, accompanied by her English-born hubby, Paul.

In 2016, the couple found a new home at one of Ramelton’s neat chocolate box terraces of Victorian workers’ cottages.

In the very centre of the town, overlooking the River Lennon, is No 1 Bank Terrace. The couple immediately fell in love with the old townhouse and spent six months renovating it.

“We tore down an old workshop that was attached to the cottage,” recalls Paul. “It had old blue steel doors and the main frame was constructed from old tree trunks supporting the roof. We replaced this with a two-storey extension. We also added a new porch entrance and rebuilt and extended the kitchen.”

The entire project involved fitting a new roof, damp-proofing, an oil heating system with separate heating zones for upstairs and downstairs, rewiring throughout, triple-glazed windows in the extension, patios out front and back, a retaining wall, fence and deck.

The steps up to the property are well hidden from the road and lead to the fenced garden and welcoming blue gate. The front door opens into a small, tiled hallway, with the original half-and-half door inviting you into the lounge.

The Ewens purposely kept colours neutral to let the house speak for itself. In the lounge is a cream stove set into the old chimney breast, with mosaic tiles from Spain providing a backdrop. To the left of the front door is the dining room with floral wallpaper lit up by antique light fittings. The ceiling slopes and lifts in the extension at the back, giving the kitchen height and light.

The units have been painted in a pale blue with bamboo timber-finish worktops. There is a double electric oven with five-ring gas hob included in the sale. A small utility room to the side of the kitchen houses the washing machine and dryer, and leads out to the rear patio.

The main living room also comes with a wood-burning stove in black gloss with an exposed brick surround. It is plumbed into the heating system so it can heat the radiators and water.

Upstairs are four bedrooms, the master with a walk-in dressing room that is shelved from floor to ceiling, and an en suite bathroom with a claw-footed bath that leads into a separate bathroom with an electric shower. This bathroom in turn interconnects with bedroom three.

Bedroom two may not be as large, but it has great views over the river. The fourth bedroom is currently used as an office.

Outside there is a gravelled garden with a patio area and an elevated deck overlooking the river below. You could spend hours here watching the world go by without anyone knowing you’re there.

Ramelton is 12 minutes drive from Letterkenny in one direction for shopping and 10 minutes from Rathmullen in the other way for scenic beaches.

The Ewens, who are moving to the UK to be closer to Paul’s family this time, say there’s no need to travel when you don’t have to: “There are six pubs in Ramelton that serve all tastes. Conways has Bluegrass music every week, while the Bridge Bar, which is only 50 yards away, has great food as well as live music. There is a big Eurospar, a good butchers, a couple of cafes, hairdressers, barbers and chemist. Everything you need.”

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