Having no luck getting wooden sash windows in Ireland, I turned to Poland for help

Doolough Diaries: A builder told me companies likely don’t want to make such windows due to their intricate assemblage

Windows are without doubt one of the most important elements of a building, greatly influencing its character. If their style or proportion are out, no matter what you do it’s all silk purse and a sow’s ear from there on in.

Georgian architecture is designed according to the proportions of the golden ratio, and this is what makes buildings of that era so pleasing to the eye. This is also known as the Fibonacci sequence, and is commonly found in nature in everything from pineapples to the solar system. It was such an important ratio to the ancient Greeks that mathematician Euclid mentions it in Elements, considered to be one of most important books ever written, as it set a standard for deductive reasoning.

In windows, it all boils down to the relationship between the height and width of the bars – even panes of glass in Georgian windows reflect the golden ratio.

My relationship with windows has been put to the test over the past couple of months. A builder had given estimates based on size, but as they will have to be proper wooden sash windows to match what was originally on Doolough Lodge back when it was first built, I have spent the past 3½ months trying to get actual quotations. In vain, I might add.


It has proved an impossible exercise and there appears to be a collective amnesia among window companies in providing quotations for these type of sash windows – despite assurances from websites and salesmen that they deal in them.

Deciding to shop local, six companies based in the west were asked to provide quotations, by phone and email, and one in person. Only two replied.

A salesman for the first company arrived on December 6th to measure, and despite three calls from me in January, there hasn’t been a peep since. Each time the excuse was: “We have to look at the numbers.”

I’m now of the opinion there’s an abacus involved, because after three months of waiting for said numbers to be added, I have given up.

The second company came to measure six weeks ago, and not a dicky bird since. An email and call to the rep of a national window supplier in early January has also amounted to nothing.

Beginning to tear my hair out, I was told by a builder friend that these companies more than likely do not want to make sash windows, due to their intricate assemblage compared with regular windows. I’m sure the relative isolation of the house up here more than likely puts them off too.

Frustration led me to look at a Polish company that had been recommended to me a few years ago. They ship to Ireland, have been in business for 29 years, have a heritage section on their website, and have installed in heritage buildings in the UK.

Within three emails, they’d recommended the use of Meranti wood – as they use it on Baltic coastal houses – and had given me a price, which was well less than half of what had been estimated by Irish companies. I will need an installer, but as the house has PVC windows in situ, it’s a matter of pushing out the old and slotting in the new; an easy task for a good carpenter.

Colours are chosen from a RAL colour-matching system, but the company also says it can produce windows using Farrow & Ball and Little Greene colours. So there’s a bit of wood on its way from Poland for inspection. I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

Mermaids’ purses

From windows into another world: Purse Search Ireland, a fisheries conservation project, is asking the public to get involved in a nationwide search for mermaids’ purses, which are the egg cases of sharks, rays and skates. Knowing their locations provides valuable insight into the nursery areas of these creatures, which is crucial for conservation management and protection of vulnerable species.

Mermaids’ purses (egg cases) regularly wash up on our shores, often an indication that there’s a nursery nearby. They are laid by adult females on the seafloor, where embryos develop for up to 15 months – depending on the species. The baby shark, skate or ray then hatches and swims off, and the cases get washed ashore, normally getting tangled in seaweed.

So if you’re out having a stroll on the beach, have a peek around the seaweed and rocks. If you find a mermaid’s purse, take a photo and record the size and location on marinedimensions.ie. You can also rehydrate them to see their original size.

Over a two-year period, more than 2,127 purses from 10 species have been reported from 109 Irish beaches. It is estimated that Irish waters have about 40 species of shark, including the largest fish in the North Atlantic, the gentle giant that is the basking shark, which was hunted almost to extinction for the precious oil in their liver. The first sighting of a basking shark in 2024 was on February 19th off Cleggan in Co Galway.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables