Famine Scars

Trip Start Jun 17, 2014
Trip End Aug 31, 2014

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Flag of Ireland  , Kerry,
Thursday, July 10, 2014

This morning the boys sleep til 830am. We get dressed and plan our day. Today we're taking a circuitous route home around the Dingle Peninsula. This coast was the hardest hit by the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's. Where once over 40,000 people lived and farmed, only 10,000 still inhabited the area after the famine.

The white misty clouds creep over the mountains that still bear the scars of the potato famine in the form of untilled ridged potato fields that saw only rotten potatoes. The weather feels appropriate for such a bleak landscape. It's dreary and overcast. The sun rests above the grey clouds that refuse to part for the rays.

A stark reminder of the famine are the Famine Cottages we stop at. They remain from the 1840's and are furnished in the period. Dirt packed floors, sparse pieces of furniture and a straw bed fill the space. A thatch roof keeps out most of the weather. The homes are a depressing reminder of the devastation that Ireland felt.

We stop and see a sheep herding demonstration. It's fascinating watching the border collie herd the sheep into a pen, listening to the master whistle and command and the dog barking in reply. We drive further on the coast, it's such a beautiful drive.

This land breeds a harsh, rugged climate. Generations of farmers pulled graves of rocks out of the ground and dragged seaweed and sand up from the coves to fertilize the clay and make it fruitful. The stones they plucked from the ground were stacked atop each other to fence in the small fields of potato crops. The steep hillsides are pockmarked with abandoned stone cottages and stone walls that resemble a patchwork quilt.

We find a ruined monastery, Resc Monastery, squat, hand-packed stone walls all that remains. The boys walk across the stone wall while we walk the sight. A Celtic standing stone from pagan times, 500 BCE, stands in the center with a 6th century carving of a Maltese cross above the spiral motif that decorates the bottom.

We pause our drive around the Peninsula again to see the Gallarus Oratory: an 11th century church shaped like an upturned boat. The church is small, and a graveyard rests beside it; covered over by stones because the ground is too shallow and dogs would get "too curious." Standing in this church, you can imagine the peasants gathering in the cramped space to hear the words of a traveling priest, melding their pagan beliefs into the Christian tradition.

Kilmalkedar Church is our next stop. It was built in the middle of the 12th century. The graveyard also dates back to the Middle Ages. The gravestones are small, as they have sunk deep into the Irish clay, some barely protrude from the earth and the writing, if ever there was any, has been completely obliterated by weather and green and white splotches of fungus. We find an ancient gravestone peaking out of the grass, with a small stone cross carved in its center. It's both humbling and awe inspiring standing in a place where people have lived, laughed and loved for a thousand years.

As we make our way back to Dingle and eventually home, we make our final stop at a fairy fort. An ancient circular fort for a clan chieftain, untouched for over a thousand years because the locals believed the ringed forts to be the home of fairies.  We make it back without the guidance of the GPS-score!! We actually get home early, (5:30) and Elizabeth make stuffed jacket potatoes (baked potatoes) with ground beef, grilled onions and bell peppers with a white cheddar béchamel sauce. Genny expressed the desire to have potatoes before she left so Elizabeth figured this would be good timing. We lounge outside looking out at our gorgeous view watching the sun set behind the clouds; a perfect ending to our day.
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Sandy B. on

Love your info/photos w family and scenery!
Thanks for sharing. Continue to celebrate the unique experiences.

Mom Ross on

It is beautiful and with your blog it is as if I am there seeing the sites too thank love you

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