Tower House, Portrane

by Fingal Libraries
by Fingal Libraries on September 1, 2016 in Libraries

Tower House in Portrane is the home of Terry Prone and her husband Tom Savage, founders of the Irish company The Communications Clinic. It is a Martello tower which they bought nine years ago and restored beautifully to turn it into their unique home. During Heritage week, Tom and Terry opened their house and invited […]

Tower House in Portrane is the home of Terry Prone and her husband Tom Savage, founders of the Irish company The Communications Clinic. It is a Martello tower which they bought nine years ago and restored beautifully to turn it into their unique home.

During Heritage week, Tom and Terry opened their house and invited people to view it. I went along for what turned out to be a really fun and interesting visit.

Their restoration expert, Bryan, greeted us and brought us inside to meet Terry. Over a mug of freshly made coffee she told us the history of the Martello towers and how they were built along the Irish coastline two centuries ago for fear that Napoleon would invade Ireland. However he didn’t invade Ireland and the towers were considered to be a ridiculous waste of money. The Napoleonic wars ended with the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. For decades after that most of Dublin’s Martello towers were used by the Preventative Water Guard which later became known as the Irish Coast Guard. Smuggling was a big industry in Dublin at the time and the Preventative Water Guard used the towers as part of their anti-smuggling operations.

Bryan brought us around Tower House telling how the restoration project was carried out and telling the amazing facts and features of the tower and the discoveries they made during the process. With enthusiasm and excitement Terry proudly showed us the various rooms in the tower with the beautiful views of Howth, Lambay Island and Rockabill lighthouse.
Her living room is a masterpiece. It is a big cosy circular room with a mezzanine floor and both levels are furnished with bookshelves running the full way around the room and full of books from floor to ceiling. It is a very impressive library of an estimated 8000 books most of which Terry and her husband have read. They group their books in categories and shelve them alphabetically. I asked her if visitors often borrow a book and put it back in the wrong place on the shelf. She said it does happen often but her favourite visitor is Gay Byrne because he always returns the book to its proper place! She was very interested to hear that I work in a library and I was very interested to hear that before Terry and Tom bought Tower House, the tower was owned by the Hughes and Hughes family of booksellers. They used it as their summer home.
Prior to that the tower was owned by the Englishman, Frederick Thorpe. Thorpe was a retired publisher in the 1960s when he got the idea to create large print books for the visually impaired. His idea proved to be very successful and he devoted his time to promoting large print books throughout the English-speaking world. He established the Ulverscroft Foundation which sponsors research into visual impairment. Thorpe farmed land in the parish of Ulverscroft and in this parish there stood an ancient priory. The priory provided shelter and help for the poor and needy from surrounding villages. Therefore, it was fitting to give the company the name of Ulverscroft as a tribute to the Ulverscroft Priory.

Tower House in Portrane is a special place and Terry Prone said herself that she “learned that living in a fortress, touching the old warm stone, scanning the stunning view from the roof, can turn a daft decision into a daily joy.”

By Yvonne Boylan, Garristown Library

Fingal Libraries stocks a wide selection of large print books in all their branch libraries. Check out the Fingal Libraries catalogue if you would like to read more about the Martello Towers of Dublin.