Monday, May 20, 2024


A TRIP back to the Kingdom of Mourne has led one Australian to have a building named in his honour at his much-loved Hanna’s Close, outside Kilkeel.

Brendan Buck’s affiliation with the area stretches back to 2008 and now with this five-week trip having come to an end, he has a lasting legacy at the uniquely preserved Ulster Scots clachan of cottages, in the townland of Aughnahoory. With the help of many locals, Brendan poured countless hours of effort into ensuring this project, which was initiated in 2021, was completed on his return.

It really was a case of unfinished business for this talented craftsman, who took what started out as an old chicken shed and transformed it into a multi-use space. It started out as a work experience project in May 2021, whilst Brendan and his wife Denise were volunteering with Camphill Community Mourne Grange, also located just outside Kilkeel. Having spent many hours in the wood workshop, Brendan was aware of the skills, strengths and abilities of the long-term residents.

Having previously co-ordinated and worked on the restoration of a Romany caravan for Hanna’s Close, utilising the resources of Hanna’s Close, Mourne Grange and supporters from the wider community was, in Brendan’s eyes, the simple solution. The result was an extremely successful project, giving all those involved the opportunity to develop new skills in a very happy and safe working environment. BARNSTORMING F Celebrating the completion of new multi-use space at Hanna’s Close While this particular project was a lot more challenging, having the support of well-established connections with both Mourne Grange and the broader community of Kilkeel, it quickly became apparent this was an opportunity for Brendan and his team of volunteers to do something very special for the whole community.

But then, after being stranded in Kilkeel for 18 months thanks to Covid lockdown, the Bucks were able to return to Australia, at short notice, at the start of September 2021. Enjoying life back with their family and friends in Western Australia, Brendan still had a desire to return to Mourne, with the goal of finishing the project he initiated two years beforehand. And so they returned in July.

During his absence, contractors had installed power, water, roofing and the gas stove. Once he set about the final stages of the project, tools and other building equipment were quickly gathered, materials ordered and the last stages in the building’s creation got under way. Brendan was told there was no hurry, he was on holidays and to take it easy, however he wanted to get it finished – and the sooner the better. True to form, tasks were set and, when required, helpers requested. Once again, the project went full steam ahead, and when the major tasks were completed the team moved onto the finishing touches. And Brendan was once again proved right – teamwork and hard work always get things done. In this case, Hanna’s Close now has a fantastic asset which will provide a perfect setting for so many community-based events. Built with sliding doors, and with a kitchen too, an extra quality is that due to its frontage the barn has a near-outdoor setting, whilst providing warmth and shelter.

At its official opening on Thursday the 31st of August, Brendan was thrilled to discover the building’s new name, ‘Brendan’s Barn’. Welcoming those in attendance, David Hanna, of the River Valley Development Association, the charity which oversees Hanna’s Close and has, since the late 1990s, been operating the restored cottages at the site for self-catering holidays, said naming the barn in his friend’s honour was “a fitting tribute” and one Brendan “deserved”. Brendan said he was “tickled pink” to have the building named after him. Describing this project as “a good journey, and lots of fun”, he paid tribute to all who worked on the build, from its outset with Mourne Grange to its construction at Hanna’s Close. He also spoke of the many friendships made along the way, adding he is already looking forward to a further return to Mourne. “So many people donated their time and effort to achieve this successful outcome and I would like to extend a big and heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all of you who helped with this mammoth task,” he said. “This part of the world is a gem of a place, and one that’s very special to Denise and me. We see the lifelong friends we have made as extended family.”

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