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Howstrake
Molly Carrooin's Cottage

 

Going down The Butt, or Church Road, from Main Road, a cottage on the left, known as Molly Carrooin's cottage, is the oldest existing structure in Howstrake, or for that matter, in Onchan Village. The precise date of its erection is not recorded but it certainly goes back into the eighteenth century, possibly as early as around 1740.

For many years it, and a larger adjoining cottage known as The Cashey, which has since been demolished, were owned by the Crow family. The cottage which still remains at The Butt was referred to in some old title deeds as The Loom House and in all probability it was used as a weaving shed. This supposition is supported by the fact that the cottage originally had no chimney stack and thus could not have been used as a dwelling. That the present chimney stack is a later addition can be deduced from the fact that it was erected onto the gable wall, rather than being built within the thickness of the wall, as was the local style of construction, and that part of the gable wall was rebuilt to incorporate it. At some time also, the gables and the front and rear walls were raised by up to about two feet and the floor level was built up.

The earliest photograph of the cottage dates from around 1860 and shows the cottage with a thatched roof and the chimney stack. Mr Crow and his wife are standing in front of the cottage and it is evident that, at that period, it was in use as a dwelling and not as a weaving shed.

Just prior to the turn of the century the cottage's thatched roof was replaced by slate and at about that time it was tenanted by a Molly Carrooin and her sister. These two ladies were washerwomen and took in the laundry of the village which, after being washed, was spread out to dry on the nearby bushes. This feature of their work may be seen on postcards of the period. The recollections of the village's older residents are on record and these reveal that whilst one sister attended to the fire to heat the washing water, the other went up to The Manx Arms for a jug of ale. For the next wash, they reversed these roles. A news snippet in the Examiner in February 1913 recorded that Anne Carrooin, who was a widow in her seventies, lived in Church Road but whether she was the mother of the two sisters, or if she also lived in this tiny cottage is not known. Eventually the cottage became uninhabitable. By the early 1930s the sisters had moved to St. Catherines Terrace. Although one was in poor health the other still took in washing.

In 1934 the cottage was acquired by Joseph H. Skillicorn and from him it passed to Florence Skillicorn who in 1969 presented it to the Village Commissioners to be restored and preserved as a typical Manx cottage. For a number of years the cottage lay derelict until it was leased to Shearwater Press as a temporary bookshop. In the Heritage Year of 1986 and at the instigation of the Onchan Heritage Committee, the cottage was at last given over to the use which Miss Skillicorn intended. In the Summer months it is opened to the public and is furnished as it would have been in the previous century.

An elder-tree survives in the little garden. This is known as the tramman in Manx and it was customary to plant a tree of this species near a dwelling to provide a place in which the fairies could take up residence.

The name of Molly's sister appears not to have been recorded, but Molly herself is commemorated in the name by which the cottage is still known. The Molly's Kitchen Restaurant, in what was formerly the Howstrake Hotel, has appropriated her name and a fanciful but amusing yarn concerning the entirely imaginery culinary skills of this humble washerwoman has been created.