A Furbo, Co., Galway man takes new stonemasonry business direction. He turned his back on a jet-setting lifestyle working on film sets, is to the forefront of a mini-revolution sweeping the construction sector.
Gabriel Hesnan worked on the construction of the sets for blockbusters Braveheart and Michael Collins, and was offered the chance to travel the world in the glamour industry.
“I even worked on a film in Hollywood,” says Gabriel, “but it was Hollywood, Co. Wicklow, where we built some of the set for Michael Collins. I rubbed shoulders with Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson, but, to be honest, we just did our own thing building the set, rather than bothering the stars.
“I was invited to take up a full-time position in the film industry. But it would have meant uprooting and travelling all over the world, which wouldn’t have suited me as I am a married man with children.
“I often wonder what might have been, particularly with the way things have gone in Ireland over the last two years.”
But, despite the downturn in the building industry, Gabriel is one tradesman who remains optimistic about the future – and it’s all thanks to a new thin stone product that offers home-owners dramatic savings.
“A Westport, Co. Mayo, company called ThinStone Ireland brought this product into Ireland three years ago. Thinner, lighter-weight stone is very popular in the United States of America, and that was where the idea came to bring it into Ireland.
“It is regular sandstone and limestone, but cut into thinner sections to reduce the weight and cost.”
ThinStone has caught on with home-owners, who are attracted to the prospect of having real stone on their homes without having to use the more expensive and heavier traditional stone.
“What really surprises people is when they realise we are producing actual stone. It is ¾ to one-inch in thickness, and at that thickness they seem to expect it to be a manufactured stone,” explains Gabriel.
“But once they touch and feel it, they know it is 100 per cent stone. It is a great option for houses, both inside and outside. Walls, entrances and stone facing of porches and extensions are our regular type of work.
“Other growing parts of our business are fireplaces and stone patios. People like real stone, and we give them that, in either limestone or sandstone– at a more affordable cost.
“We also have a wide variety of finishes, so people can select the look they want for their home.”
Gabriel has worked in the construction industry in Ireland and England. In Ireland, he has worked for Envirocare Kingspan, while in England, he ran a successful business of his own.
ThinStone’s range of products can be viewed on www.thinstoneireland.ie, or in a special display at McDonagh’s Trade Home & DIY, Ballybane, Galway.