Veronica’s house meant a very long drive into the heart of Ireland.
Don’t ask where… Rebecca never gives addresses. She does not want people to go in and wreck and plunder buildings that are already surrendering to dust and spiders and a slow death.
The neighbour had the key to Veronica’s – a big three-storey house with bay windows and a walled garden. She brought them on a tour.
Rebecca is a kind of Banksy – she posts on Facebook at Abandoned N.I., a site dedicated to her mission to record Ireland’s fading beauty.
On a Sunday morning, when others are nursing a hangover or reaching for the hair of a dog, she is up early and out across the fields.
The light is good at that time, the air is still. When you walk into an old abandoned house, the ghosts whisper in faded rooms. She has the keen eye of an artist and she carries her camera everywhere.
This morning has brought her to a house that “would take too much money to get right as it’s been falling into disrepair even before Veronica passed on”.
“The vandals always find a way in.
“The last occupants of the house were Veronica and Peter. Veronica grew up in the area and worked in the house for Peter and then she later moved in.
“Veronica was a keen gardener and sadly she got some dog dirt in her eye while tending the gardens, which rendered her blind. Peter passed first and with no family and no means to pay, the house started to fall into disrepair,” Rebecca said.
It was all faded grandeur and decay.
“We found pictures, which were amazing to see, but another thing that I did find were little canisters with recordings of Veronica’s voice.
“She set these canisters on tins of food so she could press the button and know one from the other.”
You can hear Veronica naming the objects, such as “spaghetti,” or “beans”.
“To hear this in her house was very emotional,” said Rebecca.
“The building has such a warm atmosphere even to this day, I’m sure she and Peter were very happy here and I left thinking I had actually spoken to her myself.
“On my way out I found an overgrown garage with her Volvo still parked up with only 34.000 miles on the clock, I wonder when was the last day she took it to the shops?”
Rebecca’s photography is a passion. She doesn’t give her full name, because her work must, of necessity, be clandestine at times. She steals only pictures. Hers is a simple motto: “Leave only footprints, take only photographs.”
Her passion was sparked six or seven years ago.
“I used to go on ghost hunts into abandoned houses,” she said. “I was always the one with the camera in my hand. I found that I was more interested in the buildings and the belongings that people left behind.
“A house that is abandoned is like a time capsule.”
There was something about old abandoned places that proved spellbinding. Slowly, she found that the ghosts of the buildings began to haunt her. In greys and browns and sepia shades on Abandoned N. I., she captures the personal.
There is a farmhouse deserted for more than 20 years. An old pair of worn boots rest on a chair and there’s a blue plastic bottle of bleach on a shelf that is wallpapered on the back with a design of roses scrambling up a trellis.
“The clothes still lie slung over the bottom of the bed, along with a jacket hung up on the hook on the wall – even the clock still looks on but it has long since stopped,” she said.
“I found a paper dated December 19th 1936, life has changed from then!
“I only had 30 minutes in this house due to time constraints and I could have spent hours. This was a permission to explore from a very kind farmer whose parents lived in the house and it’s been empty around 20 years.”
Her pictures include one of an abandoned wedding dress and there are old wedding albums too – why would anyone leave them like that, she asked.
Rebecca has to be careful – she does not always get permission to get inside buildings. But, if she comes across the owners, they understand and are generally warm about her work, she said.
The stark photographs of old asylums and hospitals across Ireland tell their own stories.
“Pictures like that speak for themselves,” she said.
The response to her website has been “amazing”, she said. “Everyone is intrigued. They want to know the history of the building.”
But she does not post the names or addresses of the abandoned homes and churches, hotels and petrol stations that she photographs.
It is about preserving them – keeping them and their secrets safe for as long as they remain.
Read more: www.bbc.co.uk