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DAY TWO OF THE QUIET MAN CELEBRATION: I fell in love with the cottage at first sight ..I'll bring the dream alive and put back all that movie magic; WHITE O'MORN OWNER VOWS TO RESTORE IT.

Byline: JILLY BEATTIE

GREGORY Ebbitt lives in the sunshine state of California but his heart is in Maam, Co Mayo, where he owns the tumble-town cottage featured in The Quiet Man.

The American bought the 12 acres of land and the famous White O'Morn cottage overlooking the sea 21 years ago during a two-week movie pilgrimage trip to the area.

But today the 19th century stone-built home is a crumbling wreck, only one gable wall is still intact and the rest is lying in ruins.

Locals have been hard on Gregory claiming he has no love for the heritage of the Quiet Man movie or Ireland where his grandparents lived.

His precious little property has even been the subject of a failed compulsory purchase attempt and he believes he has been vilified in the media.

Today, in his first interview, Gregory reveals his plans for the cottage and explains why he feels so determined to bring the White O'Morn back to life.

The 52-year-old property developer said: "I bought the cottage in 1984 after a visit to see Cong. I just fell in love with the place and told the owner that if he ever wanted to sell, I would give him his price.

"He'd planned to restore the cottage himself with his wife but sadly she died and he decided to sell.

"The property had been for sale for eight months before we came to an agreement but the only interest had been from a few framers who wanted the land for grazing."

Months later Gregory flew to Shannon to start work fixing up the cottage but could not get the people he had hoped to work with and returned to America minus money, enthusiasm and heart for the job.

But now he says he is ready to start again and has been in talks about getting permission to renovate the cottage. Gregory said: "Just last week the gable end of the wall nearest the road started to fall away in the very bad storms.

"We need to get started on this project very soon or there won't be much to save.

"People have been talking about renovating the cottage for a long time, but every effort I've made had been dashed by lack of real interest from contractors or red tape problems.

"I had the money to do the work some years ago and then other financial situations ate up that money while I was waiting for workmen to be available

"Now I'm ready to go again and I just hope that I will get some help. I have ideas of my own about rebuilding the cottage and I know the standards have to be excellent.

"But it's hard sitting here in California to find contractors and workers who you know will do quality work with little supervision and do it for a fair price.

"I want to turn what's left of the cottage now back into the dream cottage of the movie, I want the garden to be landscaped exactly the same, I want to return a bit of that magic and I want to be proud of the finished thing.

"But I would love people to write to me to tell me what they think I should do with it, how they would like to see it, what they would like to see in the 12 acres around it.

"Ideally I would like to allow the real cottage to be used as a holiday rental cottage for some of the year, but it would need to have a museum quality about it that people would respect.

"That would mean sourcing authentic furniture, fixtures and fittings, all complete with the modern day plumbing systems.

"It causes me a lot of distress to see the state the cottage is in today and I want work to get started.

"I know the level of enthusiasm for the cottage and the movie and it would be lovely to be a part of that." Despite fencing around it, Ireland's most famous cottage where John Wayne had his first smouldering kiss with Maureen O'Hara in the 1950s classic film The Quiet Man, has rapidly disappearing as souvenir hunters carry it off stone by stone.

White O'Morn, with its perfect thatched roof, emerald green half-door and gurgling stream, epitomised the quaintness of rural Ireland when it came to life as the old family home of Sean Thornton, the Irish-born American played by Wayne in the film. Now Gregory wants to recreate the atmosphere and is looking for help.

Quiet Man tourists come in their thousands every year to see two replicas of White O'Morn: one in the small village of Cong, Co Mayo, where much of the film was made, and the other in nearby Maam Cross.

But only the most hard-core fanatics visit the original cottage which lies down a muddy track, 10 miles outside Cong without a single signpost to advertise its existence.

Hedgerows are overgrown and the winter's rain and snow have left the land a dangerous quagmire that not even the sheep venture into.

Nettles and weeds grow in what was once the garden where in the film Thornton tended his rose garden and neat lawn. Gregory reckons it will take EUR200,000 to fix up the one-bedroom cottage built in the late 19th century, a bill he cannot meet alone.

He said: "This is a dream I know, everyone I talk to is very enthusiastic about it until it comes to the crunch about money and how much it would take to make the dream a reality.

"The thing is that I feel that this is a feasible project that would earn back the money it would take to get it done.

"Now I'm looking for people or agencies to help me meet the costs and bring the White O'Morn cottage back to life.

"To see a turf fire glowing in the fireplace would be a dream come true."

Paddy Rock, Cong's most enthusiastic Quiet Man fan and tour guide says he is delighted Gregory is finally planning to restore the White O'Morn.

He said: "We have been battling for years to get a project like this off the ground but it just hasn't happened.

"We don't want the cottage to be lost, it is a very important part of our culture now and its time for everyone to act together to make it part of our future."

Gregory can be contacted at info@quietman-cong.com

CAPTION(S):

REPLICA: Tourist hotspot; FALLING DOWN: Hidden from the world, the "White O''Morn" cottage in Maam, Co Mayo; FAMOUS: A local man takes his child to see the cottage during a break in filming in 1951; MOVIE GREATS: John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara
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t.olsen42
Timothy W. Olsen (Member): The Cottage 8/21/2010 7:18 PM
I am Tim Olsen from Connecticut and think this is a good idea.
I have been in Ireland May 2010. It would been nice to see the cottage.
Are you still open to rebuilding
Regards
Timothy W. Olsen
t.olsen42@yahoo.com

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 17, 2005
Words:1122
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