A Glimpse of Ireland Past
Sharon Ni Chonchuir discovers that 'Romantic Ireland' is still alive
It’s been quite a journey getting here. At one stage, Beth’s loom was in her bedroom, next to her child’s cot. At another, she shared tips with the only remaining old lady on the island to still have a spinning wheel.
“I was also lucky local people knew about natural dyes,” she says. “They showed me this lichen that grows on the rocks and gives a wonderful rusty red color. I love using it to this day.”
Beth now passes this hard-won knowledge on to others in regular workshops on the island. “People come from all over,” she says. “It seems there will always be people interested in the old traditional ways.”
In fact, she thinks the current economic crisis is making people reassess the value of traditional crafts. “People are returning to the old ways and rediscovering the value of things,” she says. “Weaving offers a way of making an income and it’s an enjoyable skill to master. In some ways, I think the recession may just enhance the craft industry.”
If I’ve reached any conclusion from my conversations with weavers, performers, road bowlers, bone players and thatchers, it’s this: Mr Yeats, you appear to have been mistaken. Romantic Ireland and her traditions live on. Make a little effort and you’ll soon find them.
Following the Tradition
You too can travel the country and see some of these old traditions in practice.
For those of you interested in thatching, Ballina Heritage Day – which takes place on the 13th of July – will celebrate a wide variety of crafts, including thatching, that are indigenous to County Mayo. More information is available at www.ballinasalmonfestival.ie.
Alternatively, you could visit Skerries on the 12th of April. On this day, the Skerries Historical Society is using the 1911 census to recreate life in the North County Dublin fishing village of that era. A series of talks and demonstrations (including one on thatching) will be given. See www.oldskerries.ie for more details.
A demonstration may not be enough for some of you. You may want to experience the romance of staying in a thatched cottage in the Irish countryside. You’ll find just what you are looking for at www.hogansirishcottages.com, www.irishcottageholidays.com and www.rentacottage.ie.
Having read about Raymond Ryan’s passion for road bowling, some of you may be eager to witness the sport for yourselves. All Ireland Finals Dunmanway, Co. Cork: July 9-10, 2011 and in Armagh, July 30-31, 2011. You’ll find details about upcoming fixtures at www.irishroadbowling.ie.
There are three organized leagues in the United States, and the sport is gaining rapid popularity throughout the country. Contact the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association for more information. Tel. 202 387-1680. Web: www.wvirishroadbowling.com.
Others among you may want to hear the bones being played. If so, the Limerick town of Abbeyfeale hosts the annual Fleadh by the Feale from April 28 to May 2. The All Ireland Bone Playing Championship is one of the highlights of this music festival and attracts bone players from all over Ireland and beyond. See www.fleadhbythefeale.com.
If you’d like to catch a performance by the dancers, musicians and singers of Siamsa Tíre, you can find information about their upcoming shows at www.siamsatire.com. Or telephone: 353 (0)66 7123055
And finally, if you want to follow in Beth Moran’s footsteps and learn the traditional crafts of spinning, dying and weaving, she gives classes from her home on Clare Island. Find out more at www.clareisland.info/loom.
The Weavers’ Guild of Ireland also organizes regular workshops and courses. For information, visit www.weavers.ie.
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