Bill Bonner: I have a dream…

Old house in Ireland
A beautiful dream; a costly reality

…but also a wife, says Bill Bonner. And thankfully she saved him from a very costly mistake.

We have our eye on another beautiful property in Ireland. We tried to convince our wife that we should buy the place. She rolled her eyes. We are presently staying in a cottage on an old estate while our house is undergoing repairs. The main house on the estate is a very impressive and handsome Georgian edifice, built soon after the American Revolution. There is also a ruined sixth-century abbey, founded by a disciple of St. Carthage. Across the river, there are more ruins, a tower and a church. The abbey stands on what was once an island, now connected by dikes and causeways leading along the riverbank in both directions. There are two abandoned gate houses, flanking another entrance to the property, which is largely hidden from view. “It is a magnificent property,” we summarised for Elizabeth.

“Yes, but the last thing we need is another property… and especially one that takes so much attention.”

Later, when we relayed this to our local man-on-the-scene, autodidact philosopher and weekend sidekick, Ronan, he said: “Ah, that’s the problem, the upkeep. It’s all changed in my lifetime. It used to be that these big estates were ways to make money. They had dozens of workers. They raised cattle and sheep. And tenant farmers paid rents. They were what you call on Wall Street ‘performing assets’. Now, they cost you money. The place must cost a fortune to maintain. The owner tries to sell it from time to time, but who can afford it?

“It’s kind of funny for us little, local people, though. There was a time, not too long ago, when the lords of the manor had us waiting on them. We were at their beck and call. We doffed our caps when we saw them on the street and we knew our place. Now, the owners are desperate to earn an income so they can pay the upkeep. The little people are living in their comfortable little houses in the suburbs of Dublin. And the lords and ladies are rattling around in their huge, cold, old houses… with the roofs ready to fall in on them.

“So they take in tour groups… and weddings… and even host concerts and that sort of thing. And now, the lady of the manor greets a group of wage-earners from Waterford or Cork… and she serves them tea! I guess that’s the way the world works. He that did ride so high doth lie so low… What goes around comes around… Or something like that.”

That was enough for us. We gave up our plan of buying the big estate and becoming the Lord of the Manor. As Elizabeth said, “You can pay millions of dollars for the privilege of worrying about how to make this work and lose another couple of hundred thousand a year maintaining it. Or we can pay $150 a night and enjoy it all we want. And they’ll even make the bed.”