I recently went on a short break to rural, Gaeltacht Donegal.
I love Donegal and get up as often as I can. The people seem friendlier, the Guinness is nicer, the scenes are beautiful and for some reason I use the language more often.
There is nothing better than coming in from a long journey, lighting the turf fire, putting up your feet and opening a cold bottle of beer.
When in this part of the country all my troubles disappear, busy city life, work, things that seem important but are unnecessary and most importantly technology!. While here we cook together, clean together, we converse, do practical work, play and listen to music, converse, debate, enhance language skills, walk, drink and enjoy life. All the things that seem necessary parts of life in city living become redundant and get put away in a cupboard for a few days….peaceful!
Instead of spending lots of time sending emails, rushing about, watching TV or having my head buried in a phone I can sit for hours on end peacefully reading a good book, something that would take much longer at home.
I went from Glenveagh down to the mouth of Mount Errigal and walked through poison valley into ionad Dunlewey, a community cooperative, where I got a boat out on to the lake. This time of year is lovely to go walking in the crisp cold air, the various colours of the land, the birds singing, the wind howling, the smell of turf and the sun beating of the lake. The amount of different wild life to be seen is fantastic.
Hearing stories of folklore, tradition and history from locals was fascinating. Although I am well aware of the history of evictions by the wealthy landlords and the Brits I couldn’t help but feel angry hearing the stories from the locals. The bastards are still evicting today!! In Glenveagh alone over 240 people had been evicted from the small area in one year in the mid 1800s. Those people were forced to move in with family, go to the workhouses or exiled to Australia.
While on the boat, the driver who was a local told me of the evictions in that small community in the 17th and 1800s. He said that although the land was very poor the Brits sent over a Scotsman to act as a shepherd and landlord and evict the locals to make room for sheep to graze. In return the land was so poor that it was unsustainable, even for the sheep.
He told another story about a large ‘haunted’ house at the edge of the lake, now owned by the Guinness family. Over 200 years ago a woman was evicted from the house and put a curse on the landlord saying that he will “have plenty of company but no children”. It is said that in over 200 years and with several different tenants that none of the occupants have been able to give birth to a child. Apparently the woman haunts the house to this day and is called the ‘woman in green’. I don’t believe in any of that nonsense but as the boat slowly passed the large house on the shore, if I had of seen a woman standing there in green I would of shit myself.
There are some cracking traditional pubs to settle down with a nice pint of Guinness in. They are usually full of great characters, bog men and grafters unloading after a hard days labor. The sessions and atmosphere in these pubs are brilliant and are equivalent to working mens pubs in the cities.
In the more affluent areas such as Dunfanaghy you can find some trendy cafes where the middle classes hang out and free load of the free wi-fi and do work on their laptops while taking up large table space. This isn’t really my scene but I do enjoy good food and drink and it didn’t stop me calling in and getting a cappuccino, somewhat of a luxury for us working class folk.
Unfortunately due to austerity these areas are in decline and therefore the language is in decline in these areas. This is due to the lack of investment, employment opportunities and locals flocking to the bigger cities in search of work. Also these areas are reliant on tourism which has died down post Celtic Tiger. Those who have holiday homes there choose to buy cheaper food in the large supermarkets of the North and eat in their homes rather than contributing to the local economy. When I’m up I make sure that I contribute and use the local businesses. I cant wait for my next venture to Donegal.