Plunged into a sudden world of uncertainty, Cong native, Elizabeth Toher turned to the one thing that always grounds her and calms her soul, the exquisite County Mayo village she has called home her entire life.
Like so many others, Elizabeth’s business as a wedding photographer was decimated by Covid and the subsequent lockdowns. Unsure what to do and what direction to take, she found solace in the woods that she played in as a young girl. Rediscovering their beauty as well as the stories and legends that are so deeply ingrained in them. It was here that she found the inspiration for her latest project, a beautiful coffee table book, entitled Cong.
Released on the 7th of November, Cong, is Elizabeth’s love letter to the only place she has ever called home. Elizabeth’s love for Cong is palpable with every turn of the page. A lasting legacy of a talented artist for the place that sets her soul on fire.
At the first turn of the page, the reader is instantly transported into this picturesque and historical village. The history, stories, and legends that fill Cong come alive through Elizabeth’s rich landscapes and intertwine giving the reader that feeling that they have stepped into the narrative. Breaking this incredible village into six chapters, Elizabeth leads you through the village into Cong Woods, then to Ashford Castle and its glorious estate. From Ashford, one leaves the shores of Cong and out into Lough Corrib to discover Inchagoill Island. There is also a chapter dedicated to the legends and mythology of Mystical Cong. In the final chapter, she reveals the magic that encompasses Cong when it is graced with snow.
This visual journey leads the reader through the well-known landmarks of Cong, like Ashford Castle and The Royal Abbey of Cong, as well as some hidden treasures such as Lady Buttery’s Cave and the Giant’s Grave. Those who are unfamiliar with Cong’s rich history will recognize well-known names such as Guinness, Wilde, and Saint Patrick and learn how each left their mark. Perhaps the best introduction to this book one can give is her love letter to the village she loves and has always called home.
In Elizabeth Toher's own words, she wrote:
To be totally and utterly besotted with where you live, must be one of the greatest privileges in life. To know you are walking where Kings once walked is an incredibly humbling experience. I am blessed, utterly blessed to call Cong home. It is where my soul truly belongs. With all of my heart, I believe I was born to live in Cong, to grow up here, learn here, love here, live life here and do my life’s work from here. Fate stepped in a number of years ago and changed the direction in which my life was taking. This intervention of fate set me on my path of documenting Cong, through photographs. Through my lens, I have the honor of sharing Cong’s beauty, its magic, its rich history tucked in every corner, its mystical ties and the stories that bring it to life.
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Cong has been the home to High Kings and Saints, been the backdrop of great love stories and has been immortalized and reached people around the world through Hollywood cinema. With every turn, there are reminders of the memories that this village holds. Memories of those who walked here before. For me I see
the places I played as a little girl, places I sat and dreamed, wished and prayed. It’s here that as a young girl I met and fell in love with my husband. There is a tree where together we carved our initials over thirty years ago, that brings a smile to my face every time I pass it. It is here that I brought each of my children home, watching them get christened and making their first communions in the same church where I was once christened and made my First Holy Communion.
I have watched my children make memories of their own under this magical backdrop. I’ve walked with their tiny hands in mine in the same places, I once walked as a little girl with some of those I loved dearly. Their mark forever left on me and on this special place.
This past year when the world came to a sudden halt, fate again intervened. I have spent hours reacquainting myself with Cong, rediscovering its rich history and stories. In doing so I have fallen deeply and utterly in love all over again with the magical village I am so blessed to call home.
This is not a complete history of Cong. Others have come before me to do that. Captured through my lens and presented to you here is MY Cong. The places that have special meaning to me. The places that speak to my heart. This is my love letter to the place that sets my soul on fire.