Once upon a time in Ireland all cottages had ‘keeping holes’ or little alcoves built into the wall beside the fire, for storing dry condiments like tea, salt, flour and sugar.
These nooks measured about 2 x 1 foot and had wooden surrounds and perhaps a shelf. Essential for dry storage & because of cramped conditions where cooking was done upon the open fire.
Since the bed itself was also tucked by the fireside, we find traditionally two smaller nooks – his and hers – for keeping personal items such as a comb or a pipe.
A stone dresser (below)
shows how slabs were used to make an ample storage unit – this one has survived for over two hundred years, despite mature trees rooted within the cottage rooms.
A mountainy man remembers these keeping holes being called ‘boles’ – perhaps a clue as to the irish name (unknown to me) for these nooks.
He also showed me an unremarkable old byre in the Bluestacks.
It contains a special stone, the origin of which is a mystery, as many fine stones have witnessed multiple lives, recycled and embedded into newer buildings over centuries. Certainly not a keeping hole – but handsomely crafted for a higher purpose. It’s a guess – but it may have been a font, possibly baptismal, from penal days when worship was secret in the mountains.