A little bit of history

I went to try and find the Cill Rialaig Office. Not and easy task! The sign on the side of the building says Health Centre. However Mary was great, everyone is so friendly here, and gave me a copy of the introduction to Seán Ó Conaill’s Book which is a collection of stories and traditions from Iveragh which is the name of the whole peninsular. It was fascinating. He was a storyteller, who never went to school or learned to read or write or to speak English. Born in 1853, he never left this tiny cluster of buildings clinging to the side of the cliff in 78 years but he remembered every word of every story that anyone told him and the book is a recording of those stories by an Irish academic and now translated into English. The introduction contains a short memoire of Seán’s life and so now I understand more about their way of life. They survived by fishing and growing potatoes, rye for the thatch and oats and keeping cattle and chickens. They tilled the soil by digging it with thin spades. They didn’t use ploughs, the ground was unsuitable for that. Their first houses were on the other side of the road, but abandoned because the wind was too fierce and blew the thatch away. The new ones that they built, now renovated and used as artists’ cottages, are in the lea of the hillside and so more protected from the wind. This place is so remote and the weather is so changeable. It is like nothing I have ever experienced before. The sounds and smells and experiences of the lives that were lived here were absorbed by the crumbling walls.

Now a different drama is being played out. Artists come and work here and their stories are adding new layers of history to these rebuilt walls. Who knows what will happen to these buildings in the future or who will make their mark on them. Artists, here, work with the visual, and like the aural tradition of story telling, their method of communication does not rely on the printed word.

In my drawings, the bruised marks, the broken lines, are beginning to evoke these memories: the touch of cracked surfaces; mappings of stony terrain; sounds of wind and waves; stories told in the lilting cadences of the Irish language.

Pauses between words, pauses between lives, pauses that mark time………


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