The Gathering Ireland 2013 (Part 2)

So if you come visiting Ireland this year – what can you expect? There will be so much for you to enjoy. You will, of course, merrily connect with your cousins, who will give you a tremendously warm Irish welcome. You will observe their features and mannerisms, and it will seem like you already knew them, they look so much like your sister, your uncle – or your cousin May back home. So that’s where you got your nose from, and now you see the genetic pool from where Barack Obama got his ears. Well – have you ever seen a true African with those ears?

You make a trip to see the old homestead – or what’s left of it. There’s no roof, and not a lot left of the tumbling stone walls either. But you walk inside, just to feel what it’s like in there, amongst the nettles. There’s not much to see, no possessions left here – but wait – what’s that bit of broken crockery there wedged between the stones? You pull it out and reflect. Did this once belong to your great, great, great grandmother? Was this a treasured bowl, that took pride of place on the modest kitchen table? Is this what she used for the beautiful homemade bread or scones that she made in the pot oven over the peat fire.  You reflect on the lives and activities of your ancestors here in this very room, their joys and sorrows. You feel the presence of these people, you feel welcome, connected – it’s a wonderful warm feeling.

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Looking through the open door of an old cottage on Great Blasket Island, County Kerry, Ireland.

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View from Castlegregory Golf Club, County Kerry, Ireland

You have a superb choice of entertainment of all kinds – music, dancing, singing, theatre, and countless other events. You learn the meaning of ‘ceol agus craic’ (music and fun). There are many interesting tours. How can you find the time? Your cousins all want to share their knowledge and make suggestions. You are just overwhelmed by the hospitality, the generosity, the fabulous food, the vibrant and talented people, the characters – and that I’ve come home feeling!

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A young couple play hurling on the beach at Couminole, Dunquin, County Kerry.

You experience the rewards of fair and foul Irish weather too!  You discover the beauty in the drama of the deep purple clouds, luminous sunlit fields, ferocious winds, hazy hills, rain, rain and high soaring seas. You are joyful for this opportunity, and euphoric on those beautiful soothing sunny days when you are able to walk up the heathery hills and along the long scenic sandy beaches. You are in raptures as you behold the sights of those breathtakingly brilliant West of Ireland sunsets. Such a privilege! You want to stay here – forever!

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A dramatic view on Curracloe Beach, County Wexford

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Patches of glowing sunlight on the fields of Dunquin, County Kerry

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A beautiful sunset on Banna Beach, County Kerry.

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The Gathering Ireland 2013

In this blog I am making a diversion from my usual theme. I would like to spread the word about something special that is happening this year in Ireland, known as ‘The Gathering’.

The Gathering, is a year long event, or series of events, planned to take place in towns and villages all over Ireland in 2013, to celebrate everything about which Ireland likes to be proud. Ireland hopes to reach out to its huge Diaspora all over the world, and invite them home to discover or re-discover the richness of their Irish Heritage.

Many people may know that Ireland has a very small population – about four million. But not so many will know that the Irish Diaspora, is estimated to be over 70 million. Or as our Taoiseach (Prime Minister) commented recently, Ireland has a population of about 70 million, of whom only four million live at home.

Ireland has had periods of very troubled economic, social and political history, some phases of which resulted in the hemorrhaging of its population. Vast numbers of its people emigrated to USA, Canada, UK and Australia. Now of course there are generations of their descendants who have grown in numbers and who still consider themselves Irish. It’s hoped that many of these people will return to Ireland to share in the celebrations, meet their extended families and connect with their roots. No doubt, for many, this will be an exciting and unforgettable experience.

Of course, in our current distressed economic times, this initiative has arisen from economic necessity, as Ireland is now in the throes of another population outflow, mainly of its young, educated and skilled people. Many of those who live here are suffering; I don’t need to explain the current economic recession. The Gathering, it is hoped, will bring much needed money into the country with its visitors. Some cynics have criticised the idea, describing it as money grabbing. But isn’t every tourist initiative intended to make money? That doesn’t make it bad or greedy.

Here are some links that provide information about The Gathering events this year:

Kerry:

http://www.gokerry.ie/businesses/the-gathering/

http://gokerry.ie/#news_events_tabs

Celebration of the Dingle Dolphin – 30 years in Dingle Harbour – living free:

http://www.thegatheringireland.com/Attend-A-Gathering/individual-gathering.aspx?eid=982&name=Fungie%2030%20Years%20in%20DIngle%20Harbour%20Anniversary#.UWxaNErRVaf

See also Fungie the Wild Dingle Dolphin playing in Dingle harbour with his friends:

http://youtu.be/qEO9m-Xip8I

http://youtu.be/Pj5QQnCrBH4

The Gathering, countrywide:

http://www.thegatheringireland.com/View-Gatherings.aspx#.UWxZGUrRVac

http://www.thegatheringireland.com/Attend-A-Gathering/Individual-Gathering.aspx?eid=3889#.UWxZfUrRVad

Old Stone building, Ventry, Dingle Peninsula

Many of the dwelling houses of the past are now the farm-buildings of today

Ruins of the homes of the people who once lived on Great Blasket Island

Most of the descendants of the people who lived on Great Blasket Island are now living in the Springfield area, Massachusetts, USA.
Oil painting on canvas by Helene Brennan
More Blasket Island paintings on http://helene-brennan.com/c62-blasket-islands-paintings

Northburgh Castle, Greencastle, Inisowen Peninsula, Donegal

If you visit Ireland you can explore the richness of its heritage. This castle was built by Richard de Burgh, the Red Earl of Ulster in 1305 on a prominent rock, close to the shore, in Greencastle, Inisowen Peninsula, County Donegal.
More photos of Donegal on http://helene-brennan.com/c64-county-donegal-photos

McCarthy's Castle

The remains of McCarthy’s Castle at Ballinskelligs, Iveragh Peninsula, South Kerry.
Oil pastels.
More images of McCarthy’s Castle on http://helene-brennan.com/c108-mccarthy-s-castle–ballinskelligs