Donegal sisters welcome restoration plans for old family home on Energia’s Meenadreen Wind Farm

Renovated cottage to provide stop-off on Leghowney Loop trail

4th December 2023: Two County Donegal sisters who used to live in a cottage in the townland of Straness, which is now part of leading wind farm operator Energia Group’s Meenadreen Wind Farm in South Donegal, have welcomed the news that their old family home is to be partially renovated and become a stop-off point on the Leghowney Loop trail.

Ailish O’Boyle and Mary Dawson, once better known as the Quinn sisters, recently visited the site of their old home to hear about the renovation plans from Energia’s Meenadreen Wind Farm Operations team.  Little remains of the walls but existing stone work is being repaired and a new roof will provide shelter for walkers.  Rebuilding wall sections to outline the original layout of the house, together with the addition of signage about its history and the Quinn family who lived there, will offer visitors a trip back in time.

Seeing the overgrown site now cleared and ready for works to begin, Ailish O’Boyle said it has brought back many memories and emotions.  She said, “I was born in this cottage but the family moved out back in the 1960s when I was still young – years before the wind farm was built here. 

“Our father, John Quinn, always said the townland of Straness would be famous some day and he’d be delighted to see it become a focus of employment and such happiness to all the walkers through the wind farm.

“We’d like to thank the Energia Operations team for taking the time to explain their plans to us and show such an interest in our family home, allowing us to recall our family history by turning the cottage into a living project.”

The renovation project was the idea of Brian Mullen, Head of Energia Renewables Operations, who was driving past the site one day and wondering to himself who used to live there.  He explained, “The Meenadreen Wind Farm Operations team are really excited about the renovations, which will enhance the site for walkers on the Leghowney Loop trail.

“We recently unveiled the impressive steel Walker statue on the stretch of the International Appalachian Trail, which also winds its way through the wind farm, thanks to the Donegal Local Development Company CLG. Once completed, the renovated Quinn family cottage will improve the walking trails through the wind farm, preserving an important link with its history and the local community.

“At a national level, Meenadreen Wind Farm is playing a vital part in Ireland’s transition to a clean energy future and meeting Climate Action targets. Meanwhile, at a local level, we’re keen to see the wind farm bring benefits to the local community.”

Mary Dawson said she and the rest of her siblings, children and grandchildren were delighted to hear that the cottage is being renovated.  She said it was an odd experience seeing the overgrown ruins but, now that the site has been cleared ready for the renovations to begin, her emotional connection to the old family home has been restored.  She added, “The grandchildren are really interested in the technology and in the turbines.  They’re also fascinated with the way things were when Ailish and I were growing up on the mountain.  They ask about how we got to school, how we survived without electricity and how we celebrated Christmas – so many questions.

“Now they’ll be able to come here and sit and enjoy the view from the garden down to the sea, which was one thing that we always enjoyed, even if we didn’t fully appreciate the beauty of where we lived at the time.”

The Energia Renewables team have recorded a podcast interview with Mary and Ailish, who reminisce about growing up on the mountain with tales of post-war food shortages, cross-border smuggling, mountain midwifery and the traditional and modern poitín trade. 

To listen, visit https://youtu.be/1qVtiH68BRE

You can also follow progress on site by visiting the project gallery web page at https://energiagroup.com/renewables/operational-wind-farms/meenadreen-windfarm/meenadreen-gallery/ .