Hidden Gems – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Mon, 15 Jul 2019 20:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Salt Spring Island: The Land of Fairies https://irishamerica.com/2017/03/salt-spring-island-the-land-of-fairies/ https://irishamerica.com/2017/03/salt-spring-island-the-land-of-fairies/#respond Sun, 12 Mar 2017 06:25:12 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=29100 Read more..]]> British Columbia’s oldest working farm, founded by Irishman Henry Ruckle in 1872, has turned into something of a fairy land.

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Between a visionary immigrant farmer and an unknown planter of “fairy doors,” Salt Spring Island has liberal lashings of Irish magic, and that’s not counting a coastline that would put you in mind of Ireland’s rugged west.

Henry Ruckle, who left Ireland to try his luck in the east and California before lighting here in 1872, set down roots that continue in British Columbia’s oldest working farm and a scenic provincial park his descendants granted to B.C. as a celebration of the farm’s centenary in 1972.

In the meantime, the legacy of fairy doors continues across the island, the largest of British Columbia’s Gulf Islands in the Salish Sea and accessible by ferry from the city of Vancouver and Vancouver Island, carried on by Roger Brunt.

Roger Brunt with an example of one of the fairy doors on Salt Spring Island.

Roger Brunt with an example of one of the fairy doors on Salt Spring Island.

He picked up the whimsical ways of an anonymous island resident who placed the doors at the base of trees and arranged toys in them for children to discover. Brunt, entirely inspired by the “little people,” he insists, has become to middleman between the fairies and visitors, who have left notes in the little post-boxes he fits into the fairy doors that he locates strategically around the island.

“‘Fairy door man’ is a position I take every seriously,” says Brunt. “To fail to honor the little people would be a very serious breach.”

But long before Brunt arrived to breathe some levity into residents’ and tourists’ lives, Irishman Ruckle was doing the heavy lifting to create, for his time, one of the largest farms on Canada’s west coast.

Ruckle Provincial Park.

Ruckle Provincial Park.

The legacy of the 1,300-acre park split off from the farm features 3.3 miles of gorgeous coast and pastoral camping settings and is one reason the New York Times named Salt Spring one of the 52 places to visit in 2016.

Ruckle had tried his hand in Ontario and California before setting eyes on Salt Spring, where he married Ella Christensen and hired Japanese laborers to clear the land, eventually getting more than 1,000 acres into production.

His granddaughter Helen, 91, still lives on Ruckle Heritage Farm, which is run by Mike and Marjorie Lane and looks much as it would have in its early years.

The original Ruckle homestead house in Ruckle Provincial Park.

The original Ruckle homestead house in Ruckle Provincial Park.

“It’s a labour of love, really,” says Mike, who has operated the farm since 1990. “I don’t make any money, Marjorie works and my fishing charter business, Silverspoon Charters, helps.”

The farm’s heritage look is largely thanks to Mike’s industry in taking down the wire fencing and replacing it with split-rail fencing. So looking down from a rise to the shallow bowl of land many of the farm fields occupy, you see Highland cattle, sheep and turkeys ambling about in a setting that could be 1900.

The Lanes get some help through Farmshare, which offers farm stays in exchange for labour.

Henry Ruckle with his wife and children, c. 1878. (Photo: Ruckle Family Photographic Collection / Salt Spring Archives)

Henry Ruckle with his wife and children, c. 1878. (Photo: Ruckle Family Photographic Collection / Salt Spring Archives)

“We get about 100 applications a year and select six to eight people,”explains Mike. “Some people seem to think it’s a cheap vacation, but it is real farm work. We get a lot of people from Germany and Japan or New Zealand and Australia. They live with us in the farmhouse.”

One young woman from Japan toiled for eight months and ended up marrying the Lane’s son.

Visitors can get a view of the farm from the road leading to the provincial park but are asked to not get in the way of activity on the working farm. But they can sample the produce, since the Lanes maintain a roadside stall offering fresh products.

A Ruckle family gathering with friends at the Ruckle homestead, c. 1900. Henry Ruckle is seated left of the post, his wife, Ella Anna, seated to the right. (Photo: Ruckle Family Photographic Collection / Salt Spring Archives)

A Ruckle family gathering with friends at the Ruckle homestead, c. 1900. Henry Ruckle is seated left of the post, his wife, Ella Anna, seated to the right. (Photo: Ruckle Family Photographic Collection / Salt Spring Archives)

A recent visit revealed a fairy door while waiting for a ferry at Vesuvius, one of several lovely villages on the island. The door opened to reveal small toys and, if we had looked harder, a little post-box where letters to the fairies can be left.

Bryant, who offers doors for sale through his website fairydoorman.com, says more than 7,000 cards in reply have gone out across the world over the past four years.

“Cards have gone to Jamaica, Korea, Denmark, and New Zealand. People want to know what the little people eat, what their life is like. I’m just the middleman in this.” The cards are handwritten, he implies, by the fairies.

The Fulford Harbor ferry on Salt Spring Island.

The Fulford Harbor ferry on Salt Spring Island. (Photo: The Beach House)

Bryant arrived on Salt Spring 20 years ago, saw the mysterious doors, and was enchanted.

“I thought this must be where the elves live.”

And so a charming island tradition continues.

Beyond the Irish elements, Salt Spring is a full-time home to retired hippies, making coffee shops and bars look like reunions from Woodstock almost 50 years later. ♦

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This article was published in the April / May 2017 edition of Irish America.

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The Celtic Heart of North America https://irishamerica.com/2015/12/the-celtic-heart-of-north-america/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/12/the-celtic-heart-of-north-america/#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2015 03:22:52 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=24227 Read more..]]> For nine days in October, Cape Breton Island is home to a unique celebration of music and culture, with the finest of storytellers, musicians, and dancers from around the globe taking part in the festivities. John Kernaghan was there, awash in nostalgia.

The estrangement ran for more than 45 years, but when a vagrant Irish heart landed on the shores of Cape Breton, love was restored. The nine-day Celtic Colours International Festival fanned the embers of musical memories born in weekend trips around Ireland to hear traditional music in small towns and villages back in the late 1960s.

And the finest memory was the night, at a Portadown ceilidh, when the late Tommy Makem, of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, toasted my Canadian roots with the folk song, “Four Strong Winds.”

That was always going to be a tough act to follow, perhaps accounting for the near 50 fallow years that followed. It was fiddles, harps, and spoons, fiddle-dee-dee, bring on the Stones and Zeppelin.

Until, that is, the night at Celtic Colours in October when a mass of musicians jammed at the Festival Club at The Gaelic College, the only institution of its kind in North America.

A clutch of fiddles expertly wielded and backed by guitars, pipes, and an organ created a wall of sound that washed across some 700 music fans. If this does not inspire one, one has no pulse.

The tiny dance floor throbbed and heaved as ten-minute jigs and reels thundered through the hall. Be warned, this can be a contact sport at times as whirling bodies careen around the small space.

In sweeter, less aggressive moments, octogenarians danced with teenagers and rural hipsters shared steps with matrons.

It was the distillation of Cape Breton culture, where fretwork is taught on the knees of elders and making music and dancing to it is as natural as talking and walking, in many ways speaking for itself.

Dawn Beaton and Anita MacDonald at the Festival Club.

Dawn Beaton and Anita MacDonald at the Festival Club. (Photo: Pam Martin / Periwinkledragonfly.com)

For Dawn Beaton, artistic director of the festival, it began at age four with step dancing, then again at six when she took up the fiddle. The Beatons are one of several sprawling Cape Breton families who form the backbone of the island’s music culture and industry.

Dawn step danced and played fiddle in the first festival in 1997, when there were 27 performances staged. This year there were 47 and that could expand in 2016 for the 20th anniversary festival.

“That means many more performers, of course, and the number of programs we run year-round has increased from about 50 to more than 160,” she said. But Beaton says the quality has been stellar from the beginning.

“I think we had the Chieftains the first year. The Irish component has always been a big focus, including one year when Irish music and dancing was the main focus.”

Fergus O’Byrne and Jim Payne at the Festival Club.

Fergus O’Byrne and Jim Payne at the Festival Club. (Photo: Pam Martin / Periwinkledragonfly.com)

The island bills itself as the Celtic Heart of North America – hard to dispute as you make your way through a music marathon. More than 20,000 tickets were snapped up at this festival, about 15 percent by American visitors.

Most of the performers are local, playing at a half dozen spots around the island daily. And if you are so lucky to get blue skies and the peak of autumn colors, drives along the Cabot Trail and other rugged routes provide a magical backdrop.

The music, nurtured from roots imported from Ireland, Scotland, and England, endured through the generations simply because of the island’s isolation, says Heather Sparling, Canada research chair in Music Traditions at Cape Breton University.

Separated from the Nova Scotia mainland until a causeway was built, Cape Breton’s music remained pristine and the principal entertainment during harsh winters.

The choir Men of the Deeps, all former miners or people who work in related industries in Sydney Mines on Cape Breton.

The choir Men of the Deeps, all former miners or people who work in related industries in Sydney Mines on Cape Breton. (Photo: Pam Martin / Periwinkledragonfly.com)

Even now, with instant Internet and social media, young people are drawn to “trad music,” as it is called, and the dance steps that accompany it, notes Sparling.

She attributes that to a continued “sense of community and belonging” that extends to folks who had to leave the economically challenged island to find work.

“Most of them come back when they can because there is comfort in the music and culture; it reinforces their sense of identity.”

First-time performers on Cape Breton pick up on that quickly.

“There is such strong support for their own heritage,” noted David Kilgallon of Mec Lir, a Manx band who delighted audiences with their music and banter over several days. “The festival is very community-focused. With little over 150,000 living on Cape Breton Island, it’s easy to see why. We were cooked dinner each day by volunteers and also caught (Canadian) Thanksgiving whilst we were there, so ate a lot of turkey dinners.”

Veteran performer Fergus O’Byrne, a former Dubliner who has made music in Canada for almost 50 years, called Celtic Colours “extraordinary, it’s just huge everywhere in the Celtic world.”

O’Byrne and Jim Payne played several venues over several days, and Payne’s “Waltz Around the Cape” became the unofficial anthem of the visit, even though it was penned about Newfoundland. It was fitting to see them perform it twice on one epic day of music and touring.

The author discovering the rugged shore at Mabou Mines. 

The author discovering the rugged shore at Mabou Mines. (Photo: Pam Martin / Periwinkledragonfly.com)

At noon, it was the quartet Mec Lir, from the Isle of Man, at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, which honors the inventor of the telephone, who resided in Baddeck.

Mec Lir fiddler Tom Callister was also a comedian of stand-up quality, treating music fans to a hysterical take on Manx history, including the tale of the two surviving Manx Gaelic speakers. Due to a 50-year feud, they never talked to one another.

Then it was on the road along the Cabot Trail, the scenic route that traces the rugged coast, for a two-hour drive that could have stretched to four since there were so many majestic vantage points.

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Perfect Pairs concert at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Sydney Mines. (Photo: Pam Martin / Periwinkledragonfly.com)

 

The destination, Keltic Lodge, is a dramatic resort perched on a rock promontory in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It was built by a Bell business associate and offers good food and fine views of the ocean.

After a late lunch, it was back down Cabot Trail in the gloaming, so torturous at times it puts me in mind an Irish cousin’s take on a corner “so tight I could see the back of my neck.”

We were headed to Sydney Mines, a gritty precinct with the loveliest pale blue church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, rising in its midst. There, in a sanctuary featuring a sweeping balcony, O’Byrne and Payne provided another rousing version of “Waltz Around the Cape.”

View along Cabot Trail, the serpentine road that follows the North Shore.

View along Cabot Trail, the serpentine road that follows the North Shore. (Photo: Pam Martin / Periwinkledragonfly.com)

Then it was off to the Festival Club, which opens at 11 p.m. and offers the artists who performed around the island that day jamming in concert until 3 a.m. That meant more welcome Payne and O’Byrne.

The Festival Club is a petri dish for emerging musicians comparing licks with veteran performers.

“There’s a piano in the back room, which led to many impromptu sessions with some world-class musicians,” explained Mec Lir’s Kilgallon.

“Also had plenty of craic. With the help of a nightly cask of local ale, the music and chat went on until at least 6 a.m. We came back broken but gleaming from the whole experience.”

Crab dinner at North Shore fire hall.

Crab dinner at North Shore fire hall. (Photo: Pam Martin / Periwinkledragonfly.com)

Although the festival’s big final act was Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder (something of a controversial choice amongst traditionalists) we wrapped it up with Men of the Deeps, the Cape Breton miners’ choir which enters the darkened hall with headlamps aglow, and another late night at the Festival Club.

A fairly large knot of music marathoners made it through to the 4 a.m. opening of The Gaelic College’s cafeteria for breakfast before boarding buses home.

Bent but reborn, I was among that number. ♦

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John Kernaghan, who writes about the Celtic Colors Festival, is a freelance writer based in Oakville, Ontario. He began his career in journalism as a photographer for The Armagh Guardian and a reporter with The Portadown News. In Canada, he worked as an editor of a community newspaper chain and then as an investigative reporter, sports columnist, restaurant reviewer and travel writer for daily newspapers. He is now an editor on the national desk of Postmedia News.

This article was featured in the December / January 2016 issue of Irish America.

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Valentia Island’s Buried Treasure https://irishamerica.com/2013/09/valentia-islands-buried-treasure/ https://irishamerica.com/2013/09/valentia-islands-buried-treasure/#comments Tue, 10 Sep 2013 21:52:04 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=17446 Read more..]]> Buried treasure on a remote Irish island, the descendants of a 13th-century Knight and a 19th century American entrepreneur – and the birth of the modern communications industry.

It’s not the plot of some barely-believable potboiler, but the real-life back story behind a bid to have the small island of Valentia – off the coast of south west Ireland – recognized formally as one of the wonders of the industrial world.

Valentia is the point at which, in 1866, Europe and the North American continent were linked for the first time via a permanent, fully-functioning telecommunications cable. The underwater wire stretched almost 2,000 miles (3,200k) from Valentia to the delightfully-named Heart’s Content in Newfoundland.

Attempts in 1857 and 1858 to create a communications bridge between Europe and the North American continent had proved costly failures. But the successful laying of the 1866 cable ushered in a world of near-instant communication.

It meant that a message that would have taken ten days to cross the Atlantic by boat, could be received in London or Paris within hours of being transmitted from New York.

The new cable successfully laid by the Great Eastern – the largest ship in the world in 1866 – wasn’t cheap to use, but it was fast, it was reliable and, most importantly, it worked.

Suddenly the world was a smaller, more connected place. Suddenly the instant communication we now consider one of the hallmarks of the modern world was a reality. The old world of Europe and the new world of North America were, effectively, plugged in.

Field’s Atlantic Telegraph Company ultimately opened the way for the development of other networks that further connected the world. Eighteen years later, for example, John William Mackay’s Commercial Cable Company successfully laid a cable from Canso in Nova Scotia to Waterville, also in County Kerry – just 25 miles from where the 1866 cable came ashore.

But it was Field’s Valentia project that established beyond doubt that submarine cable was an achievable goal.

“The world changed in Valentia,” says Professor Al Gillespie, an expert in international heritage sites. “It became a world of telecommunications.”

According to Gillespie, a New Zealand academic and rapporteur for the World Heritage Convention, Valentia’s role in the birth of modern communications marks the island as worthy of recognition as a UNESCO heritage site – alongside world-famous historical landmarks like the Cornwall and Devon Mining Landscape in the U.K., and Canada’s Rideau Canal.

He says Valentia Island is sitting on “buried treasure” – a site of potentially worldwide historical importance.

History and heritage on this scale, as officially designated by UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – guarantees international interest and respect. But it’s a status that’s more than academic. World Heritage Status automatically hoists a location onto the radar of international tourism. And in Ireland, where tourism is one of the country’s most important industries, that’s potentially a very big deal indeed.

It’s one of the reasons why, last June, Valentia Island hosted its first ever Trans Atlantic Communications and Light Gathering, an event designed to celebrate and highlight the island’s historic contribution to the development of modern communications. Ireland’s Minister for Arts and Heritage Jimmy Deenihan, was joined at the official Gathering event by Canadian Ambassador to Ireland Loyola Hearn and U.S. Chargé d’affaires John Hennessy Niland, amongst others. Their presence provided a sense that Valentia’s bid to acquire world heritage status has, notionally at least, a political and governmental thumbs-up.

But the event was marked by a remarkable meeting that was significant in a way far beyond mundane politics or the nitty gritty of acquiring UNESCO recognition. That weekend on Valentia, history did what it isn’t supposed to do – it repeated itself.

In the 1850s and ’60s, Massachusetts-born businessman Cyrus Field had led the attempts to bridge the communications gap between Europe and north America.

It was essentially his vision and ambition that had driven the entire transatlantic cable development.

He didn’t work alone, of course. And as the project progressed on Valentia, it caught the interest of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, the Knight of Kerry – a local landowner and holder of a hereditary knighthood with its origins in the 13th century. The Knight became an early and enthusiastic backer of the cable project and became firm friends with Field.

Fast forward to June 2013. At the Transatlantic Communications and Light Gathering, the Knight of Kerry’s great-great grandson, Sir Adrian Fitzgerald, and Cyrus Field IV, the great-great grandson of the original Cyrus Field, did what their famous ancestors had done a century and a half previously – they meet on Valentia and become firm friends.

“It was a remarkable occasion,” said Cyrus Field IV, a lawyer who lives on Shaw Island, off the coast of Washington state.

“I feel privileged that I was invited to this event on Valentia to walk in the footsteps of Cyrus and celebrate his achievements.

“But to have the opportunity to meet and get to know the man whose life, like my own, is linked through history to the cable and Valentia Island, was a special, unforgettable experience.

“When we met and shook hands – two men whose ancestors were really central to the cable’s success on Valentia – it was an unforgettable experience that will remain forever with both of us,” he said.

Field said the role of Valentia in the development of modern communications is indisputable, and a story that should be recognized worldwide.

“This is my first visit to Ireland and to Valentia Island. My incredible experience here tells me that the island and the story of the transatlantic cable is worth telling around the world. It’s a heritage worth recognizing and acknowledging,” he said.

Meanwhile, at around the time that Cyrus Field IV and the current Knight of Kerry were meeting, Professor Al Gillespie was having what he called his “Indiana Jones day”. It involved a hunt through some of Valentia Island’s beautiful spots in search of buried treasure.

And in a development that could be significant in any future bid by the island for UNESCO’s heritage status, he says he found what he was looking for. The treasure – the site at which the first transatlantic cable message was received on Valentia in 1866 – is now buried beneath a site known locally as the Slate Yard. If the island’s bid for heritage status is developed and receives the imprimatur of UNESCO, the site could be transformed into a world-recognized location that would move it far beyond the status of the Slate Yard.

“Valentia is sitting on buried treasure,” Gillespie said. “The treasure is in the Slate Yard. It’s time Valentia, and Ireland, realize the potentially huge resource they have  on their doorstep.

“Most countries would give their eye teeth for a site like this.”

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My Mother the Imposter: A Roots Mystery https://irishamerica.com/2013/01/my-mother-the-imposter-a-roots-mystery/ https://irishamerica.com/2013/01/my-mother-the-imposter-a-roots-mystery/#comments Fri, 18 Jan 2013 10:08:26 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=14555 Read more..]]> A search through Dermot McEvoy’s family history revealed an eye-opening secret. Here’s what he discovered, plus a guide to researching your own Irish ancestors. (This article has been updated since its original publication to reflect the most recent re-location of the General Registry Office.)

Mary Josephine Kavanagh was born in Dublin on March 18, 1907.

She was my mother, or so I thought, until I discovered that Mary Josephine Kavanagh died three months after she was born on June 24, 1907.

Who, exactly, was my mother, the woman using the name Mary Josephine Kavanagh?

She died in 1989 so I couldn’t ask her.

The mystery began when I discovered the Irish Census of 1911 online and found my grandparents, Joseph Kavanagh and Rosanna (née Conway) Kavanagh. My grandparents married in 1900 and the census showed that they had six children, five of whom were alive in 1911. A search for my maternal great-grandmother, Bridget O’Brien Kavanagh, showed that she died in 1898. The  Glasnevin Trust website showed that she was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery – Ireland’s largest, situated on Finglas Road, Dublin. The search also showed that an infant, Mary Josephine Kavanagh, was buried in the same family plot.

I returned to the Census of 1911 and found “Mary,” aged three. According to all official documentation, Mary Josephine, my mother, would have been four in 1911.

Back at the Glasnevin General Research Room Office on Lower Abbey Street in Dublin, I went to the 1908 Births Book and cross-referenced Kavanagh with my grandmother’s maiden name, Conway. The records showed that on May 18, 1908 a girl, “Bridget,” was born to my grandmother at the Rotunda Hospital.

Could this “Bridget” be my mother, known to all as “Mary”?

As best I can discern, my mother, Bridget Kavanagh, known as Mary in the 1911 Census, innocently took on her dead sister’s identity. Losing a child in those years was not uncommon. If my mother knew about Mary Josephine she certainly never mentioned it.

My grandmother died of tuberculosis in 1915 and my mother was put in an orphanage in Sandymount while her younger brother, Dick, was placed in a separate orphanage for boys. My grandfather kept the two older boys, Joseph and Frank, at home. With the advent of the War of Independence my grandfather and his two sons were involved in the IRA, with the two boys going “on the run” in the Dublin Mountains.

One of my mother’s last memories of her father was being taken by him to view the body of the Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins as it lay in state in Dublin’s City Hall in 1922.

My grandfather died in January 1924 from injuries he received at the hands of the Black and Tans, the notorious auxiliary police brought in to suppress the rebellion. Soon afterwards, my mother escaped the orphanage and went to work in a tobacconist shop in Bray, a seaside town not far from Dublin, where she began a lifelong addiction to her beloved cigarettes. Later she worked as a servant for various Anglo-Irish families before settling in the Dublin suburb of Foxrock, as a cook for a Mrs. Darley, whose neighbors were the Becketts – the family of the writer Samuel Beckett.

My mother met and married my father Dermot McEvoy, who was a Land Stewart at a farm in Seapoint, Donabate, Co. Dublin. He immigrated to New York in 1953 and found work as a building superintendent and a plumber in Greenwich Village. My mother and I followed in 1954.  Perhaps it was at this time that my mother applied for her birth certificate and was mistakenly given her dead sister’s. In any case, she became Mary Josephine Kavanagh, born in 1907. A fact that is stated on both her Irish and her American passport.

Scampering around the Internet I found a birth notation for a Bridget Mary Kavanagh of North Dublin in the spring of 1908 on the Mormon website FamilySearch.org. Unfortunately, no parents were listed so it’s impossible to know if this was my mother. But it might show that “Mary” was part of her name from the time of her baptism, making the transition from “Bridget” to “Mary” within the family more natural.

I look forward to finding my mother’s baptismal certificate, and the only place to do that is in person at the National Library in Dublin, where the microfiche should provide the final piece to my family puzzle.

My mother died on May 2, 1989 in New York City. She is buried in the family plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, and her name is recorded on the same headstone as that of her mother, father, and brothers Charlie and Joseph. The inscription reads “Mary Kavanagh: March 18, 1907 – May 2, 1989.”  The headstone was erected by my uncle Dick in 1961, on his only trip back to Ireland. Dick is buried in the Bronx.

I hope one day to add the name Mary Josephine Kavanagh to the headstone as a tribute to the infant sister whose name my mother carried throughout her life.

Irish Genealogy Tools

• Step One: The Census
The National Archives of Ireland provide many important services – all of them free. Foremost among these services are the Censuses of 1901 and 1911, the last surviving censuses administered by the British government. All counties are included.  You can access both censuses at www.census.nationalarchives.ie.

The information provided includes names, addresses, occupations, religion  and literacy (“can read and write”), whether Gaelic (referred to as “Irish” in Ireland) is spoken, and number of children born and number of children living. The form is signed by the head of the household, perhaps giving you a first look at the penmanship of your great-great-grandfather.

• Step Two: Parish Records
Another invaluable service provided by the National Archives is the Parish Records, with free access available at www.irishgenealogy.ie.

Parish records include baptismal information and, to a lesser extent, marriage and death information. Currently available are Carlow (COI), Cork and Ross (RC), Dublin (COI, PRESBY, RC) and Kerry (COI, RC). Updates are ongoing. It is also possible, in certain circumstances, to print out the actual page about the baptism or marriage.

The National Library of Ireland located in Dublin at 2/3 Kildare Street, just down the street from the Shelbourne Hotel, offers microfilm copies of Catholic Parish Registers and the Tithe Applotment Books, online access to Griffiths Primary Valuation of Property and many printed resources such as newspapers and trade directories.

The Genealogy Advisory Service is available free of charge to all personal callers to the Library who wish to research their family history in Ireland. (Check website for seasonal hours and other genealogical services.)

Another excellent, free service, provided by the Mormon Church, is called Family Search (www.familysearch.org), which claims to be  the world’s largest genealogy organization. It is through this service that I found the birth and death dates of many of my relatives, which I later turned into birth/death/marriages certificates in Dublin.

• Step Three: Cemeteries
If you know where your people are buried, cemeteries contain a wealth of family information, specifically, birth and death dates on headstones. More detailed information can often be found in records located in cemetery offices.

In Dublin, the newly built Glasnevin Trust Museum offers a fascinating look at Ireland’s foremost cemetery (take a taxi or the #9 or #83 bus from the city center – a fifteen minute ride – and ask the driver to let you out near the cemetery). Tours commence at 2:30 p.m. daily. Charge is €6 (approximately $8.50). The tour includes entrance into Daniel O’Connell’s tomb (it is considered “lucky” to touch his coffin), a visit to the appropriately named “Republican Plot” where many famous Irish revolutionaries are buried, plus visits to the graves of patriots Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins.

But the biggest service offered by the Glasnevin Trust is its fantastic website (glasnevintrust.ie), which gives access to the names of almost all who have been buried at Glasnevin from 1828 to the present (over a million people). A preliminary search is free and a detailed search of the grave is available for approximately $4.25 – $11.25). This service is invaluable because it provides a list of everyone in a particular grave. Often, names were not recorded on the headstone.

• Step Four: General Register Office Research Room*
The bad news is that GRO Research Room is not Internet friendly (only rudimentary information is available at www.groireland.ie/research.htm). The good news is that if you go there in person they have all the information you’ll ever need.

How to find it: The General Register Office Research Room of the Department of Social and Family Affairs is located in Dublin at Block 7, Irish Life Shopping Mall, 3rd floor, Lower Abbey Street (it can be entered through Northumberland Square). This is at the end of Abbey Street, near the Customs House and about two blocks east of the Abbey Theatre. Finding this place is the most difficult obstacle. Hours are daily, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Once inside, you will have access to all births/deaths/marriages in Ireland from 1864 onward (and non-Catholic marriages from 1845). It is approximately $28 for a day-long search of all the indexes; a particular search is €2. Once you find your relative there is a €4 certificate photocopy fee with a maximum of 5 photocopies per person per day. A day of fruitful research will run you a maximum of $56. The staff is extremely professional and helpful. Instant genealogical gratification!

• Step Five: Irish in the British Military and the Guinness Brewery
Many Dublin Irish joined the military from the 19th century through the Great War. My great-uncle Charlie Conway (my maternal grandmother’s brother) was one of these men. He served twenty years in the British military and he also worked at the Guinness Brewery as a policeman for thirty years, and is a member of Guinness’ Honour Roll of Employees who served in His Majesty’s Naval, Military and Air Forces, 1914 – 1918.

The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association (www.greatwar.ie) is a valuable resource service run by Seán Connolly on the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The British Army WWI regiment was one of the five Irish regiments disbanded by the British following the signing of the treaty in December 1921, which created the Irish Free State.

Another source of information is the Guinness Archive. If you had a relative who was an employee of Guinness it is possible to make an appointment to view their employment record. (I found that my great Uncle Charlie won first prize for keeping his uniform in good order during 1904. On the other hand, on June 10, 1910 he was “found asleep when on duty at the basement stairs of Market Street Storehouse,” and “severely reprimanded by Mr. Phillips.”) The Guinness Archives are located at the Guinness Storehouse – which, ironically, was Uncle Charlie’s beat – off James’ Street, the same building where the Guinness tour is conducted.

Dermot McEvoy is the author of several books. He is currently working on The 13th Apostle: A Novel of a Dublin Family (Skyhorse Publishing), which is loosely based on his mother’s family.

*UPDATE: The General Registry Office has moved from Lower Abbey Street. It is now in Werburgh Street, near Christ Church Cathedral. It is hidden down an alley. Here is how to find it:

Across from Christ Church, at the corner of Werburgh Street, is the Lord Edward pub/restaurant. Next to the Lord Edward is Leo Burdock’s Fish & Chips. Cross the street here and you are in front of St. Werburgh’s Church of Ireland, where Lord Edward Fitzgerald is buried. To the right of the Church is the Parish Office. To the right of the Parish Office is an alley. At the end of the alley is a sign declaring “Oifig an And-Chlaraitheora”–the General Registry Office. Congratulations, you have found it!

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Seamus Heaney Donates Papers to Library of Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/seamus-heaney-donates-papers-to-library-of-ireland/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/seamus-heaney-donates-papers-to-library-of-ireland/#respond Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:27:25 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=5596 Read more..]]> The National Library of Ireland has become the new home to Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney’s collection of literary papers.

“I’m overwhelmed at the number of people that the library has brought in to celebrate this moment and I’m deeply indebted and deeply honoured,” said Heaney at a reception held in the reading room of the National Library on December 21.

Among  those who attended the event was Taoiseach Enda Kenny who said it was a privilege for the Irish nation to receive the archives of  “one of the world’s foremost word sculptors.”

The collection includes at least 12 boxes of manuscripts and notebooks containing drafts of Heaney’s poems, essays and dramas spanning his entire literary career. Scholars regard the collection as a treasure trove worth a fortune, yet Heaney gave his collection to the National Library free of charge.

“I had no qualms about it,” he said, joking that it freed his house of clutter.

“It’s a happiness to feel no regrets at the removal of the stuff from the house, but to feel a cause for gratitude and pride,” said Heaney, now 72.

Fiona Ross, the director of the library, said,  “we look forward to making this collection available to scholars and researchers from all over the world.”

Heaney has always had a close relationship with the library. Some of his poems were actually written in the library reading room.

Heaney also said that he was proud to be “joining the great writers of the past and present who have also contributed,” and referenced his most recent collection of poetry, Human Chain (2010). “It is all part of a chain.  A written, human chain.”

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Puck Fair: Ireland’sOldest Festival https://irishamerica.com/2011/10/puck-fair-irelands-oldest-festival/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/10/puck-fair-irelands-oldest-festival/#comments Sat, 01 Oct 2011 09:55:38 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=925 Read more..]]> Every August since 1613 (or possibly earlier) the County Kerry town of Killorglin has given itself over to the idiosyncratic joys and celebration of the Puck Fair Festival, and this year was no exception. From August 10 – 12, Killorglin residents and visitors were granted the “Freedom of the Town” by the young Queen of Puck Fair and her goat companion, King Puck, and reveled in three days of entertainment, music, pageantry and unusual traditions.

The precise origins of the Puck Fair are unknown, but an August fair is said to have taken place in pre-Christian times to spur on a bountiful harvest. A favored version of the fair’s history claims that when Oliver Cromwell and his men were ravaging the area, a goat that had been separated from his herd found his way to Killorglin and his distressed presence alerted the townspeople that the Roundheads were close, giving them valuable time to prepare. In recognition, the festival always selects a wild male mountain goat from the surrounding Kerry mountains and crowns him King Puck.

On the first day of the festival, Gathering Day, a traditional horse fair, is held in the early morning hours. Then King Puck is paraded through the town in a lively procession to the main square where he meets his queen. The Queen of Puck Fair is a local school girl, selected for the role based on a short essay submitted about the fair. The 2011 Queen was Muireann Arthurs from Caragh Lake, Killorglin. On Gathering Day, she read the Puck Fair Proclamation in Irish, English, French and German, and the gathered crowd hailed its new king.

For many years, the local pubs were open all day and night for the duration of the festival. Though that is no longer the case, they do remain open until 3:00 a.m., so no festival-goer misses the chance to toast The Puck, as the goat king is also called.

The second day, Fair Day, is the heart of the festival. This year, as in other years, it drew vendors selling everything from jewelry to Jack Russell puppies. Other events included the annual Bonny Baby competition, an Irish storytelling workshop, and a chance to meet King Puck himself.

King Puck is relieved of his duties on the third day, Scattering Day. On the evening of August 12, the crowd gathered once again in the main square to salute the Queen and King, who paraded back through the streets. As always, the goat who was king was released back into the mountains, but the celebrations continued late into the night.

The fair attracts visitors and performers from all over Ireland and the world. This year, the acts included the Franzini Brothers, a pair of Irish Italian brothers from Kerry who performed their daring Cannonball Circus; the Joshua Tree, a U2 tribute band; and Fanfare Piston, a brass marching band from France.

This year, Puck Fair celebrates its 405th anniversary, and the festivities are sure to be epic. ♦

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A Glimpse of Ireland Past https://irishamerica.com/2011/04/a-glimpse-of-ireland-past/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/04/a-glimpse-of-ireland-past/#comments Sun, 17 Apr 2011 01:28:42 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=3446 Read more..]]> Sharon Ni Choncuir discovers that ‘Romantic Ireland’ is still alive.

‘Romantic Ireland is dead and gone.  
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.’

This was Yeats’ lament in the Ireland of 1914 and it was often repeated during the Celtic Tiger years. In our frantic quest for materialistic modernity, Ireland and its people were said to have forsaken the traditions of the past. But how true was this assertion? Did those age-old traditions really die away?

I’ve spoken to individuals who are living proof this is not so. These people have kept alive some of the most interesting and unique aspects of life in old, romantic Ireland. When asked to imagine Ireland, people often picture green countryside dotted with whitewashed cottages and thatched roofs.  What they don’t realize is how close the skill of thatching came to being lost.

For centuries, thatch – made from reeds, straw or whatever material grew abundantly in the local area – was the roofing material of choice in Irish homes. It was freely available and provided excellent insulation throughout the tempestuous Irish year. What’s more, there were skilled thatchers. They could be called upon to repair or replace the thatch as needed.  These men trained their sons in the craft and so the skills were passed down the generations.

As Irish society began to change, the young no longer automatically followed in their fathers’ footsteps. This meant thatchers were no longer replaced and the craft appeared to be dying. Brian Simpson met his first thatcher in the early 1990s.  He had just moved to Skerries in Dublin and the encounter was to change his life.

“This man was a fourth-generation thatcher and the last surviving thatcher in the area,” says Brian. “He taught me many traditional skills.”
Inspired by this man, Brian set up his own thatching business in 1998. Since then, he has worked all over the east coast, mostly using the native slice or sketch style of thatching to restore old thatched cottages and build new ones.

In 2004, he was asked to join a committee charged with training a new generation of thatchers. “There was a skills shortage,” explains Brian. “People weren’t passing on the old traditions so we were asked to devise a training course.”

This year-long course was held for the first time in 2006. Twelve trainees enrolled and one of these was Eoin Murphy from County Louth.

Initially, he wasn’t that enthusiastic about thatching. “I was 20 and out of work,” he remembers. “I saw an ad for a thatcher’s apprentice and I liked the idea of working outdoors so I went for it.”

Five years later, he is as passionate as Brian. “There are all sorts of different ways of thatching and materials to work with,” says Eoin. “It makes it very enjoyable. In my area, we work with long wheaten straw and use it in old houses and new homes.”

There has been a decrease in demand for thatchers since the recession started.  However, both Brian and Eoin believe the craft will live on. “Thatching is a sustainable roofing material that looks great,” believes Brian.  “People will always be interested in it.”

“And now there are plenty of young thatchers trained in the skill, there’s no chance of it dying out,” adds Eoin.

Eighteen-year-old Raymond Ryan from Bandon, Co. Cork isn’t as optimistic about road bowling, a sport he loves.

“There aren’t many people my age who play as much as I do,” says the current Under-18 Irish Road Bowling Champion. “There will be very few left in a few years’ time.”

So, what is road bowling? Bowlers (pronounced to rhyme with howl) throw an 800g (28oz) ball, made from iron and steel and the size of a tennis ball, along a narrow country road. The aim is to finish the course/road with the fewest throws.

This sport can be traced back to the seventeenth century and was once played all over Ireland. Today, it can only be found in Counties Cork and Armagh where road bowling events attract large crowds and result in road closures.

“What happens is that people bet on you to win,” says Raymond. “Then follow you along the road, giving you advice on the best way to throw the ball.”

They aren’t the only ones helping him either. The bowler works with a partner who stands ahead with his feet apart to indicate the best target for the throw.

Raymond started at age 14. “I’d seen people playing in the Bandon area and started practicing on my own,” he recalls. “I got help from a few players in their 20s and 40s and got good.” The skill of the game is what first attracted Raymond. “It’s all about your stride, speed and straightness,” he says.  “You can improve these all the time.” He also likes the competitive side of the game. “I usually play every weekend,” he says. “I go all over the country. If they phone me to ask me, I’ll go.”

His neighbors in Bandon follow him at these competitions. Many put money on him to win. “I bet on myself too,” Raymond admits. “And when I win, the people who bet on me give me some of their winnings.”

Despite his passion for the sport, he is pessimistic about its future. “People say it’s dying,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of young people going into it and that’s a pity. I’ll have no one to play it with in another couple of years.”

I’m in a farmhouse near Abbeyfeale in County Limerick, holding the ribs of a heifer in my right hand. Don’t panic.  This isn’t a macabre Irish ritual. I’m actually being given a crash course in playing the bones.

“Hold them like this,” instructs David Murphy as he places the ribs on either side of my middle finger so they curve away from each other. He then tells me to click the bones together in time to the jig playing on the stereo.

Awkwardly, I try to do as I’m told but the sound that emerges is neither rhythmic nor musical. “Don’t worry,” David reassures me. “Everyone finds it difficult at the beginning.”

He then takes the bones and starts to play. He clicks in time to each note and soon the rhythmic clicks are echoing off the kitchen walls and I can’t help but tap my feet.

I’ve only recently heard of bone playing, an ancient Irish tradition now only to be found in small pockets of North Kerry and West Limerick. Here, bone players join music sessions in the pubs and compete in the annual All Ireland Bone Playing Championship in Abbeyfeale.

David Murphy first became interested in the bones when he was twelve. “A friend of mine invited me to a session in Abbeyfeale where I saw Patrick Sport Murphy playing the bones,” he says. “He’s a local man whom I still consider to be the best player I’ve ever heard. We were both so impressed we got our own bones the following day.”

David was determined to master the bones and spent every spare moment practicing. When Patrick – who lived down the road – heard of his enthusiasm, he offered to give him lessons.

“There’s a lot you can figure out for yourself but it’s good to be shown some techniques,” says David. “Patrick had wonderful moves and shapes when playing.  I was lucky to learn from him.”
David eventually improved so much that he went on to win the All Ireland Championship in 2007 and 2009, just as Patrick had done before him. These days, he no longer has as much time to practice. “I work.  I farm part time and I’ve got two children,” he says. “It’s hard to find time for the bones.”

He has started to teach his young children to play. He hopes they will continue the tradition but is doubtful.

“It’s not cool as it was when I was young,” he says. “But if I teach them to play now, they might come back to it in the future.”

Irish dance, music, songs and stories are popular with audiences all over the world. With the success of Riverdance and The Chieftains, it’s hard to imagine there once was a time when people feared they might be lost forever.

In the early 1970s, Fr. Pat Ahern founded Siamsa Tíre (pronounced She-am-sa Tee-ra), the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, with the aim of keeping Irish performing arts alive and bringing them to new audiences.

“He wanted children to be immersed in the old traditions,” says Jonathan Kelliher, the current Artistic Director of Siamsa Tíre. “He wanted to ensure the traditions carried on into the future.”

To make this happen, he set up two training centers in tradition-rich parts of rural County Kerry. Jonathan grew up four miles away from the centre in North Kerry. “My brother and sister went there to learn music, song and dance, and when I was seven, I started to go there too,” he recalls. “I spent the next three years attending classes there once a week.”

That was more than 30 years ago and children still attend the centers today. Auditions are held annually to spot children with talent, and approximately 20 children join each center each year. They are then taught music, song and dance on a weekly basis for the next three years.

Those students who show significant promise then graduate to advanced classes in Tralee, where they work with Siamsa Tíre’s permanent performance troupe.

This is what Jonathan did. “I trained with Siamsa Tíre to the end of my teens and developed a huge interest in traditional performing arts, especially in dance,” he says. “I became a professional performer and continued performing with Siamsa Tíre until I became Artistic Director four years ago.”

Siamsa Tíre employs five professional performers and they are kept very busy.  Not only do they teach youngsters coming up through the ranks but they also create shows which run at the theater and others which tour nationally and internationally.

The shows are popular. “There’s a huge interest from audiences,” says Jonathan.  “Last summer, tourism numbers were down in Ireland overall but ours were up.  We had 122 performances with more than 85 percent occupancy.”

The young people of Kerry seem to be just as interested in learning traditional music, song and dance too, although their focus often changes.

“Five years ago, the success of Riverdance meant there was a renewed interest in dancing,” says Jonathan. “It’s music that’s popular at the moment. It really varies with trends and fashions.”
Whatever the changing fashion, Siamsa Tíre will continue to celebrate the richness of Irish dance, music and song.

“We want to bring our old traditions to new audiences in fresh ways,” says Jonathan. “We’ll never let them become stale.”

Massachusetts-born Beth Moran is not someone you’d expect to be a flag bearer for traditional Irish weavers. But since arriving in Ireland 29 years ago, this is what she has become.

“I was a photographer then,” she says.  “I came to the west taking pictures and as soon as I set foot on Clare Island off the coast of Mayo, I knew I would never leave.” This decision caused her to abandon her photography. “There wasn’t any water or electricity where I was staying so photography was impossible,” says Beth, laughing. She decided to try weaving instead. “It seemed obvious,” she says. “There were sheep whose wool I could spin. There were natural dyes. And when a woman came from the mainland to teach the locals how to weave, I grabbed my chance.”

Almost three decades later, Beth is married to one of the island’s sheep farmers.  She has raised a family. And she has her own cottage industry – The Ballytoughey Loom – creating natural woven products which she spins, dyes and weaves by hand.

It’s been quite a journey getting here.  At one stage, Beth’s loom was in her bedroom, next to her child’s cot. At another, she shared tips with the only remaining old lady on the island to still have a spinning wheel.

“I was also lucky local people knew about natural dyes,” she says. “They showed me this lichen that grows on the rocks and gives a wonderful rusty red color. I love using it to this day.”

Beth now passes this hard-won knowledge on to others in regular workshops on the island. “People come from all over,” she says. “It seems there will always be people interested in the old traditional ways.”

In fact, she thinks the current economic crisis is making people reassess the value of traditional crafts. “People are returning to the old ways and rediscovering the value of things,” she says. “Weaving offers a way of making an income and it’s an enjoyable skill to master. In some ways, I think the recession may just enhance the craft industry.”

If I’ve reached any conclusion from my conversations with weavers, performers, road bowlers, bone players and thatchers, it’s this: Mr Yeats, you appear to have been mistaken. Romantic Ireland and her traditions live on. Make a little effort and you’ll soon find them.
Following the Tradition
You too can travel the country and see some of these old traditions in practice.

For those of you interested in thatching, Ballina Heritage Day – which takes place on the 13th of July – will celebrate a wide variety of crafts, including thatching, that are indigenous to County Mayo. More information is available at www.ballinasalmonfestival.ie.

Alternatively, you could visit Skerries on the 12th of April. On this day, the Skerries Historical Society is using the 1911 census to recreate life in the North County Dublin fishing village of that era. A series of talks and demonstrations (including one on thatching) will be given. See www.oldskerries.ie for more details.

A demonstration may not be enough for some of you. You may want to experience the romance of staying in a thatched cottage in the Irish countryside. You’ll find just what you are looking for at www.hogansirishcottages.com, www.irishcottageholidays.com and www.rentacottage.ie.

Having read about Raymond Ryan’s passion for road bowling, some of you may be eager to witness the sport for yourselves. All Ireland Finals Dunmanway, Co. Cork: July 9-10, 2011 and in Armagh, July 30-31, 2011. You’ll find details about upcoming fixtures at www.irishroadbowling.ie.

There are three organized leagues in the United States, and the sport is gaining rapid popularity throughout the country. Contact the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association for more information. Tel. 202 387-1680. Web: www.wvirishroadbowling.com.

Others among you may want to hear the bones being played. If so, the Limerick town of Abbeyfeale hosts the annual Fleadh by the Feale from April 28 to May 2. The All Ireland Bone Playing Championship is one of the highlights of this music festival and attracts bone players from all over Ireland and beyond. See www.fleadhbythefeale.com.

If you’d like to catch a performance by the dancers, musicians and singers of Siamsa Tíre, you can find information about their upcoming shows at www.siamsatire.com. Or telephone: 353 (0)66 7123055

And finally, if you want to follow in Beth Moran’s footsteps and learn the traditional crafts of spinning, dying and weaving, she gives classes from her home on Clare Island. Find out more at www.clareisland.info/loom.

The Weavers’ Guild of Ireland also organizes regular workshops and courses.  For information, visit www.weavers.ie.

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Tory Island: Rugged Beauty, Pirate Past https://irishamerica.com/2011/02/tory-island-rugged-beauty-pirate-past/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/02/tory-island-rugged-beauty-pirate-past/#comments Thu, 17 Feb 2011 01:27:41 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=8773 Read more..]]> “…like it or not, we are, all of us, Tory Islanders under the skin.” – Marius O’hEarcain

The remotest of Ireland’s inhabited islands, Tory has Neolithic and Bronze Age roots and a fascinating mythology all its own. But for the past several decades the Island has been feeling its way into the Big World, venturing into new, uncharted waters: it’s become a tourist destination and home to an indigenous artist colony. Year-round ferries from Bunbeg and Magheroarty in Donegal carry tourists and islanders to and fro, barring occasional interruptions from “perfect” and imperfect storms. A helicopter from Falcarragh sets down on a makeshift Island pad every other week. Tory is still Irish speaking – natives there speak a dialectal variant of Ulster Irish – but the island is not just another Gaeltacht gem, it’s a rich repository of Irish culture, an archaeological and anthropological treasure.

Isolated on the Celtic fringe for centuries, Tory offers unique insights into Old Ireland and early Irish society. It preserves traditions and remnants of traditions: storytelling and song long gone from the mainland, rundale farming, naming systems, kinship patterns, marriage customs, bi-lateral inheritance, and more.

Tory Islanders, like islanders elsewhere, are resilient and fiercely independent. Patsy Dan Rodgers is the current King of Tory, a position that may, in fact, be a latter-day holdover from the age of the Gaelic chieftains and brehons. (The office is not hereditary it’s kingship by consensus). In addition to being island spokesman, Patsy Dan is an affable “man for all seasons”: painter, musician, storyteller, fisherman, and guide. He welcomes visitors to his island, referring to mainland Ireland as “the country.” “Always a pleasure to welcome people from the country here,” he says.

Islanders heading to the mainland for the day, talk of “going to Ireland,” and Maire Clar McMahon, an Island teacher, tells of a youngster who when asked to describe Ireland wrote, “Ireland’s a large island off the coast of Tory.” And, in a way, that’s how Tory people see themselves.

Nearly three miles long and a little over a half-mile wide, Tory has a population of about two hundred, depending on the season or who is asked. In pre-Famine times there were perhaps as many as four-to-five hundred living in three or four clachans, distinctly Irish cottage clusters appropriately named East Town, West Town, Middle Town, and New Town. By 2002, population had declined and was concentrated in An Baile Thiar (West Town) and An Baile Thoir (East Town).

In ancient times West of Ireland islanders, and Tory Islanders in particular, were typecast as wicked Formorian pirates, as smugglers and thieves living by stealth and the law of wrack. Though the island likely takes its name from the high torrs at its Northeast corner or from tor ri, “the king’s tower,” in Irish, the word toraigh means “robber” or “bandit.”

Not only that, but T.W. Rolleston, in his once popular Myths and Legends of the Celts, tells us: “The stronghold of Formorian power was Tory Island, which uplifts its wild cliffs and precipices in the Atlantic off the coast of Donegal – a fit home for this race of misery and horror.” The text goes on to describe Islanders as “huge, misshapen, violent and cruel.” But that is, of course, pure fiction – legend and invention.

The reality is that, going back more than four thousand years, Tory Islanders have been farmer-fishermen, monks, currach-builders, poitin-distillers, kelp gatherers, spinners and weavers, warring occasionally with aggressive interlopers and an unpredictable, tempestuous sea. Braving sometimes forty-foot waves, force-nine gales and sub-zero temperatures, men and women of “Toraigh na dTonn,” the Tory Island ferry, have carried on.

A Rich Mythology and a Modern Day Saint.

The island’s landscape is steeped in mythology and folklore. It is said that Balor of the Evil Eye, a mythical Cyclopsean giant and demon deity of darkness, made Tory his island and Tor Mor, a tower on Tory, his fortress. That mythological tale, preserved as it is in living folklore, has many variations, and Islanders have been  known to regale visitors with Balor stories and tales from the Celtic myth-cycle, pausing dramatically to gesture towards Tor Mor or Balor’s Fort or stone effigies of Balor’s soldiers in nearby rock formations.

Those telling the story may sometimes even suggest that the old gods may not be dead, just napping. Storytelling is, after all, high art on Tory.

Since Old Balor’s day, a lot has happened on the island. It’s said Colmcille himself established the mid-sixth-century monastery that dominated Tory life for more than a millennium and served as an important house in the Columban church. There’s little physical evidence of the monastic foundation now, other than the ruin of a sixth or seventh-century bell tower, outlines of chapels and oratories, and the symbolic twelfth-century Tau Cross.

In spite of the very few references in the Irish Annals, it’s difficult to imagine, especially given its isolated geographic location, that Norse raiders didn’t pay frequent plundering visits to the Tory monks or didn’t enslave them, as they did those on Iona. However, there’s but a single story of an attack by “Danes” (Norse) in Tory folk memory.

In 1595, the island was, we know, overrun by English army despoilers who pillaged and destroyed more than a thousand years of monastic continuity. There are, of course, other memorable events associated with Tory history: the vicious slaughter of O’Doherty and O’Donnell forces on the island in 1608; the final naval encounter of the 1798 Rebellion, fought within sight of Tory; and the wreck of “HMS Wasp,” a British gunboat on an eviction and tax-collecting mission in 1884. The Islanders credited the power of prayer and their “Cursing Stone” for the taxmen’s “terrible misfortune.”

Tory Island has also escaped more recent calamities, like the Irish government’s evacuation and relocation scheme. In 1974, after a nearly eight-week storm mercilessly pounded the island, cutting off food supplies and communication, it appeared Tory’s fate was sealed. Off-shores, like Inishturbot and Inishbofin, were doomed, but Tory simply would not die.

Enter Diarmuid O’Peicin, feisty Jesuit and parish priest of Tory, to champion the Islanders’ cause.  On arrival in 1980, Fr. O’Peicin vowed to go down fighting. Highlighting the plight of the Islanders, taking their cause to the European Parliament and the hallowed halls of the U.S. Congress, the determined priest called attention to the Irish government’s “benign neglect,” and raised funding to help underwrite ferry services and an electric power station. Cottage industries and an Island Co-op added to Tory’s fiscal stability.

Nonetheless, offers of government housing on the mainland and memories of the ravages of “the Great Storm” drove some island families to relocate, many to nearby Falcarragh. Frank Dolan, writing in The Irish Post, called the unfortunate affair “a mighty battle against all the odds.” It was, in fact, a Pyrrhic culture-shattering victory, but, in the end, the Islanders would persevere.

Of Art,  Artisans and Artists

The island has had its share of talented artists – accomplished musicians, sean-nos singers, dancers, and storytellers – though, in more recent years, the traditional arts have been eclipsed by “mainland arts.”

It’s said that when the English artist Derek Hill came to Tory in1956 and set up his easel to sketch the landscape, he was confronted by Jimmy Dixon, an unimpressed local who informed Hill that he (Jimmy) could do better. And, on Hill’s successive returns to the island, he found others who said they could do 
better still.

With the most rudimentary art supplies, Jimmy Dixon and others worked and reworked canvases, using ordinary house paints to produce startling visual representations of Island life. Hill was astounded at the raw talent shared among the islanders, he must have thought Tory a place that bred artists. His own portraits of the Islanders have been judged among his finest works.

A second generation of painters – Patsy Dan Rodgers, Ruiari Rodgers, Michael Finbar Rodgers, Anton Meenan – followed in the 1970s and 80s, establishing the now well-regarded Tory School. Their paintings capture a sometimes romantic, mystical Tory, as well as a Tory that’s bleak and threatening. Works by these and other Tory artists have been exhibited in European galleries and are found in major private collections. The Dixon Gallery on the Island also houses many of the Islanders’ best pieces.

The Traditional Arts

Song, dance, and storytelling are, it seems, ingrained in Tory life. Singers and dancers, renowned for renditions of “An Maidrin Rua” and other Island favorites, are fondly remembered. At the fireside in the Ostan Torai, the island’s only hotel, the Doohans, inn-keepers whose families go back centuries on Tory, make mental notes as a local historian recounts a litany of shipwrecks that brought the Islanders occasional “gifts” of wood, coal, cloth, and foodstuffs  . . . and of the landlords – good, bad, and indifferent – who attempted reforms of a rundale farming system that cut deep into the fabric of Tory life.

A folklorist from Dublin collects folk remedies and cures and learns of the power of blessed Tory clay and poitin in banishing spirits and of the curse of red-haired women on fishermen. She shows special interest in Colmcille’s holy well.

Though they represent strong Tory traditions, there’s little fishing and lobstering, and even less farming on Tory today: currachs have been retired, West Town and Port Doon piers rebuilt, and shallow harbors dredged. The once self-sufficient economy of the place has changed. Islanders no longer look for seasonal work in Derry or Scotland or far-off England. With improved transport and the technology revolution, they can, at last, have a life on Tory.

Apart from shipwrecks and stray fishing boats, no one “accidentally happens” on Tory Island. Yet, Tory is a place well worth happening on. More than the Arans and other Gaeltacht showcases, it preserves genuine customs and beliefs. Tory is not a mere remnant of an Ireland that’s fast disappearing, it’s living testament to a vibrant language and culture, to a way of life.

The island has, for decades, fascinated anthropologists, archaeologists, folklorists, genealogists, linguists, musicologists, ornithologists, writers and poets. It offers scholars, curiosity seekers and visitors alike not only spectacular vistas and a grand day away from it all, but “the full Irish-Irish experience.” In that, Tory is unique.

Moreover, the Islanders are friendly, hospitable and welcoming; and, if the island is enjoying a kind of cultural renaissance, it is a renaissance now dependent on tourism and art.
Is it a matter of time until tourism fades and Tory artists find more distant subjects? The craic in the hotel bar on any given night – there’s only the one hotel – or in the social club denies that. Tradition lives on in language, music, dance, and in great wonder-tales.

As long as there are fish in the sea and a king with charisma and pride of place, like Patsy Dan Rodgers, the Island will beckon visitors and émigrés to return. And return they will.
The people of Tory have a will to survive – it’s in the genes. There have been dramatic changes since the seventies and eighties – Tory has a modern school, a new community center, a fine hotel, art gallery, and supermarket. Population rises and falls, and adversities come and go, but as long as the Island has a school and children in it, and men and women passionate about life and about their way of living it, there will be a Tory.

More photos of Tory Island:

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Restoring Lisadell https://irishamerica.com/2009/02/restoring-lisadell/ https://irishamerica.com/2009/02/restoring-lisadell/#comments Sun, 01 Feb 2009 11:55:47 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=8603 Read more..]]> A mansion in Sligo steeped in history lay in ruin, until one couple decided to revitalize this jewel of the western landscape of Ireland. 

The old lady held her hands up to the flickering fire as she contemplated the decline of her aristocratic family.  All around her, shadows danced on the walls of the drawing room that once hosted celebrated artists and illustrious politicians.

It was cold, but hers was the only room in that mansion of more than 70 rooms to be heated on that winter’s night.  The rest of Lissadell House lay in darkness while outside what were once world-renowned gardens grew choked with weeds.

What had reduced the Gore Booth family, which for generations had been at the center of Irish cultural and political life, to this sorry state? What had caused Lissadell House in County Sligo – home to poets, patriots and philanthropists – to become so dilapidated and decayed?

These would have been your thoughts had you visited in the 1990s, but visit today and you’ll witness a revival. The Gore Booths no longer live at Lissadell but their story lives on thanks to the dedication of husband and wife Eddie Walsh and Constance Cassidy.

In the five years since they bought the estate, they have reversed its decline.  Lissadell once again houses a family: Eddie, Constance, their seven children and Constance’s sister Isobel.  It has also been restored to its former grandeur and opened to the public who are eager to rediscover Lissadell’s rich history.

This is what I decided to do one sunny day in August.  Arriving at Lissadell, I was welcomed by Isobel who was unstintingly enthusiastic about her job as manager of the estate.

“It’s become a labor of love,” she said.  “Just look at the coach houses where Caroline Gore Booth set up a soup kitchen during the famine.  It was damaged by fire but we’ve restored it and it now houses the Countess Markievicz exhibition, the tea rooms and the gift shop.  Over there are the newly-restored kitchen gardens where we grow fruit for our jams.  Then there are the Alpine gardens…”

Isobel soon realized she was overwhelming me with information and sent me off on a tour of the house.  During the next hour, I learned all about the Gore Booth family.

Sir Robert Gore Booth built the house in 1833.  A member of the English aristocracy, he commissioned Francis Goodwin, a leading architect of the time, to design the house for his Irish estate, which then totaled more than 30,000 acres.

He spent the modern equivalent of 100 million euros and ended up with an austere Georgian mansion set on an estate that at the time was said to be one of the finest in all of Great Britain and Ireland.

Sir Robert’s great wealth was matched by his compassion. My tour guide recounted how he was known as one of the only landlords in Ireland not to evict tenants during the famine.  An older gentleman who joined me on the tour corrected him by saying that Sir Robert practiced “gentle” evictions.

“Ah yes,” said the tour guide.  “He had an ‘assisted emigration program.’  He offered tenants who were unable to pay rent the price of a ticket to America along with a ‘landing fee’ – some money to start new lives abroad. A lot of people emigrated thanks to Sir Robert.”

Meanwhile, his wife Caroline ran a soup kitchen from their coach house – often serving up to 200 gallons of soup a day.

This concern for the poor passed down through the generations of the Gore Booth family.  Sir Robert’s son Henry inherited Lissadell. He was an Arctic explorer and keen hunter. There are still testaments to his hunting prowess in Lissadell House – a stuffed and snarling bear is just one of them.

Of Henry’s four children, three were remarkable.  Constance was the eldest.  She was presented to Queen Victoria’s court in 1887, but soon after marrying Ukrainian Count Markievicz, she embarked on a life as a painter and a patriot.

Having studied at Slade in London and at the Académie Julian in Paris, Constance’s artistic work was accomplished.  Much of it is on display at Lissadell today.

Art, however, was not her vocation in life: politics was.  Politically, she was at odds with her Unionist father. She embraced Irish nationalism and was one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising.  Later, she became the first female minister in the world, sitting in the first Dáil. She was also a founding member of Fianna Fáil.

Constance’s political stature was recognized at her funeral in 1927.  Thousands of people lined the streets of Dublin as her cortege passed by, and Éamon de Valera gave her funeral oration.

She is still remembered fondly in Ireland today. Indeed, Constance Cassidy who now owns Lissadell with her husband Eddie Walsh was christened in her memory.  “Her name was a large factor in their decision to buy Lissadell,” said her sister, Isobel.

The original Constance had two sisters, Mabel and Eva.  Eva gained recognition as a poet and as an outspoken suffragette.

And finally, there was Constance’s brother Josslyn. He was heir to Lissadell.  He did not have his sisters’ political fervor, preferring instead to develop enterprises on his estate.
He set up one of the finest horticultural businesses in Europe, exporting seeds all over the world.  Under his stewardship, the estate supported more than 200 people.

However, Josslyn did inherit his family’s compassion.  Under the Wyndham Land Act of 1903, he sold 28,000 acres to his tenants on favorable terms.

As they grew up between England and Sligo, these remarkable young people made friendships with prominent Irish personalities who were to become frequent visitors to Lissadell.

Among the 1,000 visitors who dined in the house every year were W.B. Yeats, his artist brother Jack and Maud Gonne.

Yeats, who as a young man had made friends with the Gore Booth sisters, was a frequent visitor and is said to have had his own bedroom on the first-floor landing. He remembered the happy times, when he “wandered by the sands of Lissadell” in the celebrated verse:

Many a time I think to seek
    One or the other out and speak  
    Of that old Georgian mansion, mix    
    Pictures of the mind, recall      
    That table and the talk of youth,      
    Two girls in silk kimonos, both      
    Beautiful, one a gazelle.

Their generation was a golden era for the Gore Booths.  The next – Josslyn’s four sons and four daughters – were to witness the decline of this grand house and great family. The problems started when Josslyn’s eldest son, Michael, developed mental instability.  Josslyn decided that Michael should not inherit the estate outright.  Instead, his brother Hugh would help him run it.

Tragically, Hugh and another brother, Adrian, were killed in WWII.  Josslyn died of grief shortly afterwards.  With Michael unable to manage the estate, Lissadell passed into the hands of the Office of the Wards of Court.

Three siblings – Gabrielle, Aideen and Angus – remained in the house. They tried to collaborate with the government officials and to continue with the various horticultural businesses being run from Lissadell.

However, the relationship between the Gore Booths and the officials grew strained.  It eventually deteriorated to the point where the enterprises were closed and the estate fell into disarray.

The elegant avenue leading to the house filled with potholes.  Weeds strangled plants in the gardens.  And with no significant source of income, the Gore Booths retreated to three small bedrooms and a cramped kitchen in the mansion.

So it continued until plans were proposed to sell the estate in the late 1990s.  Hopes were high that the Irish government would purchase it, but this never materialized. Instead, in 2003, two Dublin barristers undertook the challenge of a lifetime.

“They wanted to restore Lissadell’s authentic character,” explained Isobel.  “They wanted to return the house to being a family home and to its former self – a house with history and with gardens that work as enterprises and as an amenity for the local community.”

Thanks to their hard work, Lissadell House has come back to life.  Surrounded by woodland, with Ben Bulben rising majestically behind it and the sandy beaches of Sligo Bay running alongside it, the 400-acre estate is once again humming with activity.

The house itself is a marvel.  I started my tour in the Billiards Room, a room full of photos and memorabilia of bygone times.  There are pictures of Sir Henry and Constance hunting in the nearby hills and first editions of works by the likes of George Russell lining the bookshelves.

The gallery, a formal oval-shaped room with a grand piano and organ, evokes the memories of many musical performances.  The Bow Room was one of W.B. Yeats’ favorite rooms.  With its bay windows, open fire and comfortable window seats, it’s not difficult to understand why.

The dining room is decorated with portraits by Count Markievicz, Constance’s husband.  He painted them during a long winter spent at Lissadell and they feature some of the many characters who inhabited the estate, including the game keeper, the woodsman and even Sir Henry’s dog, Flip.

Downstairs, the servants’ quarters tells the story of the 40 members of staff who ran this house in its heyday.  The kitchen still has its long pine table, some parts worn away by over-arduous application of elbow grease.  There are dumb waiters linking the kitchen to the upstairs dining room and a bell system for summoning the staff.

There’s the servants’ hall where they held a weekly dance.  There are the pantries, the wine cellars and the sleeping quarters – all the different aspects that made up the life of a servant.

But there are signs of new life at Lissadell too. Color photographs of Constance and Eddie’s children are displayed alongside the valuable books, and as our guide shows us around, a teenager with an iPod plugged into his ears runs up the grand staircase to the floor where his family now live.

Works of art decorate the walls throughout the house.  Some are by Jack Yeats; others are by Constance and Eva Booth.  Sill more are by other artists from the Gore Booth family’s time, and even more are by contemporary artists.

“Eddie collects art,” explained Isobel.  “He wants to maintain a living link with the local community, artistic and otherwise, just as the Gore Booth family did when they lived here.”
The community have responded in kind. Many remember a time when the Gore Booths would open the estate to the public or have heard stories of the family’s many characters.  They have come to visit, bringing personal stories and photographs to add to the growing exhibitions.

When they come, they see that it’s not only the house that has been restored: the entire estate has been transformed.  The kitchen garden is bursting with vegetables, salads, herbs and soft summer fruits.  These supply restaurants in Sligo town and are also used to make Lissadell’s own-brand jams and chutneys.

The Alpine garden is no longer overgrown.  Its rose gardens, stepped ponds and rockeries would make Josslyn proud.

Then, there are the coach houses.  They are now home to tea houses, a Countess Markievicz exhibition and an impressive gift shop. “We’ve got other plans too,” said Isobel. “By this time next year, we’ll have an art gallery showing work by local artists, a Yeats museum and a garden museum.  We’ll also open up more public walks through the woods and fields.  We’ll start a pet farm and we’ll renovate the gardener’s house.”

The aim is to make Lissadell as self- sufficient as it once was and to do so in a way that allows it to retain its unique character.  Having already spent more than 8 million euros on purchasing and restoring the house and grounds, Eddie and Constance still have a way to go in making it self-sufficient.  However, with 30 employees, a growing range of homemade produce and plans to introduce more museums and exhibition spaces, that time can’t be too far off.

In the meantime, they can be proud of what they have done to restore its character. Their children, who range in age from 4 to 15, can often be seen helping out on the estate.  Locals frequently come to visit, walking on the grounds or catching up with the latest conservation project, just as involved with Lissadell as they were in the past. “We see ourselves as custodians or caretakers,” explained Isobel.  Having reversed the decline of the past 70 years, Eddie Walsh and Constance and Isobel Cassidy have restored one of Ireland’s cultural gems to its rightful glory.  Lissadell lives on.

Note: At the time of writing, Lissadell House has entered yet another unexpected  chapter in its already rich history.  Following a disagreement with Sligo County Council, the owners of Lissadell have decided to close their home to the public.

This follows a decision by Sligo County Council to preserve public rights of way along routes through the estate. Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy maintain that there are no public rights of way over the property.  They claim to have verified this prior to purchasing Lissadell in 2003.

They have also stated that it would be impossible to continue to operate the house as a tourist destination or as a private home if such public access were to be allowed.

“No property whatsoever, let alone a large tourist facility, could be operated on the basis of unregulated, uncontrolled and unfettered access,” they said. Sligo County Council has agreed to enter into discussions with Edward, Constance and local people in an effort to have the matter resolved as soon as possible. We will keep readers updated on all developments in upcoming issues.

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Into the West & Far East https://irishamerica.com/2002/10/into-the-west-far-east/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/10/into-the-west-far-east/#respond Tue, 01 Oct 2002 07:40:13 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=44164 Read more..]]> On a drizzly morning in early summer — what the Irish refer to as a “soft day” — I’m doing something that has become rather commonplace during my numerous travels to Ireland. I’m talking about local history with two men who live in County Mayo and work at the Delphi Mountain Lodge and Spa. We stand at the entrance to a business that was constructed with the entrepreneurial idea that what the Celtic Tiger needed — after a decade of scrambling to increase its productivity, efficiency and therefore its living standard — was a good pampering of the body and spirit. We are a few feet from a wonderful turf fire burning in a round stone fire-place, tucked at the foot of the Mweelrea Mountains, some of the most beautiful and ragged geography in the west of Ireland. We are poring over events that took place over a century ago but which are expressed with an enthusiasm that makes it seem like they happened yesterday.

A middle-aged woman from Dublin walks through the lobby in a white terrycloth robe heading for a facial or bodywrap as Eddie Nee, the maintenance supervisor at the Delphi Lodge, talks passionately about his long-term project of collecting the memories and stories of the “old ones” of the area before they pass on. Nee needs to act fast, fearing that the wonderful oral tradition of Ireland, the passing of family and social narrative on from one generation to another, will soon disappear.

Ireland deserves a little R and R. Dublin and other large cities have become no less congested, stressful and aggravating than any other populated urban center in Britain or on the European continent. The Ireland of John Ford’s Quiet Man, with its misty rosy colored portrayal of a quaint Emerald Isle, may not be completely gone, but it is surely fraying around the edges. There is increasing fear among Irish academics, journalists and even psychologists that the price that Ireland is paying for its “progress” — several years of the highest economic growth rates in Europe — may be too steep. Has a coarsening of the soul taken place, they ask, as the standard of living has increased?

Michael O’Driscoll, the general manager of the lodge, sees the paradox of Ireland’s advance clearly. He is a soft-spoken man who has been in County Mayo for three years, stopping in the area because it “just felt right.” “Irish people have come to stress and wealth later than most,” he says philosophically. “Now both partners have to work and the way work is organized has dramatically shifted. That affects every aspect of our being.” At Delphi, every aspect of one’s being is attended to — mind, body, and spirit — with a treatment regimen that includes various massage therapies, stress management, hydrotherapy and mud wraps. There is even an “adventure center” that offers hiking, surfing and dramatic pontoon boat trips up the Killary Harbour towards the open sea.

O’Driscoll also recognizes that sacred quality of the surroundings where the lodge is located, an hour-and-a-half north of Galway near Leenane. He worked closely with the owners and architects before the hotel and spa was built, to make sure that the building itself both fit into the geographic landscape and reflected the ancient Celtic soul that seems to bathe the local terrain in a special atmosphere. “The Irish spirit comes to you through the subconscious,” he suggests, pointing to the rock garden at the entrance to the front door subtly arranged to resemble Newgrange, the 5,000-year-old passage tomb located north of Dublin.

Delphi Mountain Lodge Spa.

Mircea Eliade, a historian of religion, defines sacred space as a kind of permeable boundary between the prosaic world of everyday life and the ethereal world of the transcendent. It serves as a spiritual axis around which “religious” people orient themselves, a fixed point of reference. Architect Frank Ennis, who had experience designing other hotels and spas, looked for ways to add an historical and spiritual touch to the craftsmanship and design details of Delphi, with an eye towards Eliade’s concept of sacred places. “It was a special project for me,” Ennis recalled from his office in Dublin. “Every decision, from the wood we used to the stones and the shape of the walls, was informed and nurtured by a sense of obligation to the beauty of the surroundings and with an eye to the significance of the area’s past.”

All the timber is storm-felled, meaning that no farmed trees were used in construction. And the ubiquitous stones are from the surrounding area, creating the feeling that the building was simply built around them. There are rounded doors, circular meandering corridors and pervasive spiral and concentric circle designs on the tiles, also reminiscent of the etchings on the megalithic (from the Greek megos, large, and lithos, stone) rocks at Newgrange. There is a great deal of conjecture among historians about their meaning and purpose, with some scholars believing that the swirling designs are evocative of the sun, the moon or even an abstract depiction of the human face.

The wood used in building was particularly significant for Ennis, serving as both a literal and spiritual foundation for the lodge. “The ancient Irish placed a great deal of significance in trees in terms of their mythical qualities,” Ennis said. “They were venerated and invested with the qualities of wisdom and stability which is the ethos of the spa as well.”

What is offered at Delphi is emblematic of a changing Ireland — a shift in income altering and expanding the choices for the use of leisure time. But it is also symbolic of the reach of globalism, the integration of Far Eastern therapeutic and meditative practices into a culture which not too many decades ago was considered “insular.” A shiatsu massage at Delphi involves a geographic journey into the west of Ireland and a mental journey to the Far East of Japan. According to Steve Mullen, the health fitness manager who grew up in Mayo and talks like ancient Druids could have trained him, the power of the surrounding mountains provides an unexpected ameliorative power. “The energy is so strong and positive it overwhelms any negativity.”

The “negativity” Mullen refers to is of course the historic legacy of the Irish famine of the mid-19th century, which devastated County Mayo. If “silence is our truest language,” as historian Terence Brown wrote, referring to one of the famine’s psychological consequences, there is the silence of willful forgetting, a kind of social amnesia, and the quiet of solemn contemplation. At Delphi, O’Driscoll knows that for healing to take place, remembering and restoration are essential. “People try to forget the past, but what’s the point? It happened.”

Lie back, relax and enjoy the stunning views of the Mweelrea Mountains from the warmth of the spa.

The Delphi Mountain Lodge is the newest location of a burgeoning spa industry in Ireland. Forty minutes north of Delphi in Wesport is the Rosmoney Day spa, and the Powerscourt Spa in Wicklow caters to Dublin’s growing professional class. And for a completely different feel, there is Kilcullen’s Seaweed Baths in Enniscrone, County Sligo, which was built in 1912 and still retains its Edwardian ambience, complete with large porcelain bathtubs and cedar steam closets operated by a wooden lever that controls the release of steam.

The events of September 11th have damaged the tourist industry world-wide, including Ireland. The Delphi Lodge has so far mainly attracted people from throughout Ireland but the owners and managers have their eyes set on the American market. “We are very impressed with what the Americans have done in their leisure industry,” owner Patrick Shaughnessy observed. “We have a rich Irish heritage that is special and shapes the way we approach our free time. We want Americans to experience it.” ♦

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