Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fort Dunree, Famine Village

Just returned from two nights up in Donegal -- the northernmost
county in the Republic. The photos are from an abandoned barracks
at Fort Dunree -- don't you love the graffiti?!!

We saw so many things yesterday, I lay in bed last night and tried
to recount my day and was bombarded with images. We decided
to spend our day in Inishowen, a peninsula at the northern tip
of the country. It's remote, rugged and rural. (Inishowen is also the
title of one of my favorite Joseph O'Connor novels [brother of
Sinead].) Started with a ferry ride across Lough Swilly --
tiny boat, perhaps could hold 15 vehicles, open air.
Tooled up to Fort Dunree, built in Napleonic times to defend
against French marauders. Spectacular views from the top!
Windy, fiddlehead-fern and heather hillsides, no one but us.

Our next stop was the Famine Village. Our host at the guest house
recommended it to us, but I knew nothing about it. I expected
something much like the Famine Village on Achill Island --
was I in for a surprise! We drove up to a cluster of white huts
with thatched roofs, with doors and window frames painted
in whimsical blues, pinks, red, greens. Upon entering a courtyard
we saw a busload of senior citizens sitting on benches, heard
quaint music being broadcast over the public address system. Hmm.
As we began to wander, our path took us into long, tin-roofed huts
where inside, lifesize scenes from the famine had been re-enacted --
all very spooky and quirky (and dark): peasants digging potatoes,
attending mass at a penal altar, children attending "hedge schools,"
emaciated bodies in an open grave. We learned later that this is a
labor of love by a local man, who apparently is so shy he finds it
difficult to even say "hello" to someone. At the finish of our
self-guided tour, we were served tea and one very small slice
of corn-soda bread with butter and jam.

I was pretty blown away by it all -- initially because I had expected
something else, and then the seeming whimsy of the scene upon
our entrance (famine? what famine?), followed by the not-quite
lifelike dioramas, complete with baby-dolls and skeletons.
When we left, the woman attending the front desk asked up
repeatedly and enthusiastically if we enjoyed it -- we did!


  1. Oh wow, I love this. I love the post and your description. I'd love to see this. Ahh, summer warm in Seattle and your Ireland green looks so much like your Seattle green.

  2. That is a strange and spooky experience.

    I know those nights too, trying to order the day's events, so many, so varied, so close together.

    That's what it's been like with this conference in NO this week.

    Love, C.