National Famine Monument at Murrisk, Co. Mayo, Ireland
Hard to let this day go by without a mention. Another motivation, not that I needed one, was an article in today’s New York Times, by Peter Behrens, author and resident of Maine: It’s About Immigrants, not Irishness.
It is about Irishness, but in America and Canada and Australia, it’s also very much about immigration. And that’s the point Behrens is making. The Irish National Famine Memorial (above) by John Behan, a moving sculpture of the infamous “coffin ships,” immortalizes the experience of many immigrants during the Great Hunger – the “potato famine” of the mid 19th century.
This was when my great-grandfather came to America, a sixteen year old laborer at the tail end of the calamity. It’s remarkable that he got here at all. Continue reading →
“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” ~ Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
An Irish judge recently fined a Kerry farmer 25,000 euro for destroying a protected ancient ringfort and souterrain on property he had purchased two months prior. The earthen ringfort, estimated to be 1,000 years old, was identified on the register of national monuments of historic importance. This was the first ruling of its kind to be brought in Ireland based on the 1994 National Monuments Act. It is hailed as a major victory for preservationists.
Did the excesses in building during the Celtic Tiger years, and subsequent loss of landscape integrity in the countryside play a part in the decision of this ruling, and the seriousness in which it was taken? Perhaps. And yet…there was also a recent proposal to de-list any post-1700s buildings nationally due to budgetary constraints. So what to keep and what’s expendable remains an ongoing conversation.
One of the many things I loved from the first moment setting foot in Ireland was the comfort level of people living alongside and sometimes directly within physical references to the past. Fields with signs inviting you to climb over a fence to walk among the ruins of abbeys, farmers with beehive huts, passage tombs, ogham stones, and yes, ringforts in their fields, who left out a small bowl or box with a handwritten sign asking a euro for the trouble of allowing you a closer look, but often just inviting you in. Ancient monuments in the landscape with no fence surrounding them (as Stonehenge has sadly needed), no seeming worry about graffiti or destruction. Continue reading →