I had begun to suspect the romance of Ireland to be more imagined than actual, in the way people have created the East as a concept. We had only visited once before, sailing along the south coast as far as Baltimore when more hours were spent at sea than on shore. Possible to detect a disenchantment with sailing here, but I suppose, calling in at small fishing harbours or marinas and eating on board gives a limited view. We did, now I come to think, encounter some characters and stay a while at an excellent bluegrass festival near Cork.
So it was a delight this last visit, flight to Shannon and hire car, to find what I had imagined was real.
We went to County Clare and Connemara with a dual purpose. Research for a novel, thankfully now finished. (It has been a monumental though not unpleasurable task and all that remains is to find a publisher so as yet there is nothing to say it will ever see the light of day, but I’m ever hopeful.)
And to look for the home that had belonged to my grandfather’s family, see the place whence his name, the last of a long list of children on a census circa 1870, came . There were plenty of old homes, but none we could be sure of. Ruins are a fairly common sight in County Clare, so too regeneration.
The contrast of the two cottages photographed give pause for thought. All life is here if you look.
Both tell a tale and prompt questions, especially the abandoned house with the tin roof staved in. Did the occupants die? All the sons gone abroad to seek their fortune and send money home, never to return, leaving the old farmstead to its own devices. Or simply move down the lane and build themselves something bigger, something grander?
The ruin is what I expected an archetypal abandoned home testament to the sadness of all that has gone before, but I think I am in danger of falling into the construct of Ireland. Isn’t the re-roofed house also typical and testament to regeneration and the flourishing of old skills.