Theo drove us to a place near Dooega where we met Peti, our local partner. From her perspective as a Dutch designer who arrived about three decades ago, Peti explained what she perceived as the main difference between Holland and Achill: In Holland, the landscape is subject to the people; everything is man-made. On Achill, it’s the other way round. People are subject to the landscape.
We first walked through Dooega – a very quiet village on the coast. The land around the villages used to be commonages; these were owned by the communities. Everybody would be allowed to let their cattle and their sheep graze on the commonages – and building was considered illegal except for very few exceptions. Today, the commonages are often fenced off to meet EU regulations. The EU regulations also had an impact on the number of sheep that were (and still are) grazing everywhere. In the earlier stages, there used to be more sheep, as the EU subsidies were based on the number of sheep – but this had to be changed, as the number of sheep caused heavy overgrazing and contamination of the drinking water.
In the Dooega region it has always been difficult to eke out a living from agriculture. One tradition in the old times was potato picking in Scotland. Potato rigging was done in Ireland. The Irish used Lazy beds: they put potatoes into the soil and earth on top of it. You can still see the typical vertical stripes which marked cultivation. Emigration has a long tradition on Ireland, especially after the Great Famine, when crops failed as a result of the potato blight. At present, things are getting better. People can make some money through tourism. Holiday cottages and hostels have been built; many people still work elsewhere but keep their ties to Achill. Poverty is not as visible as it used to be – which is partly due to Ireland’s EU membership.
At a distance we had a good view of Claire Island. This was the Island, of Grace o’Malley, the Pirate Queen. She was summoned to court by Elisabeth I. What happened there, cannot be resolved completely. Did she courtesy in front of the English Queen? Or did the English Queen courtesy for her? Irish sources say that Elisabeth I curtseyed for the Pirate Queen. There are square towers along the coast. These were the strongholds of the Pirate Queen and the hiding spot for her loot. We also saw the old style of building houses from stone without mortar. This style of houses could be built any time until about 1940. Later on, people started building modern-style houses.
One of the highlights of our trip was our encounter with the Haunted House, where a successful American lawyer of Irish origin had once tried to build an American-style house. Of course she thought that her own ideas were better than those of all the people around her – and so she imported everything that was needed for the building process from the US. But it did not make her very happy. Everything went wrong during the building process – her dogs disappeared, wooden planks went missing, several storms caused damages, the building process was slow and complicated as local partners didn’t know how to work with the imported materials. Eventually she gave up, returned to the US and her house is rotting away. People say that she is still haunting the place.
When we continued our walk along the coast, we saw a spectacular natural
bridge which the water had carved into the rocks. We were all fascinated
by this spot – especially as it was bathed in the evening sunshine.
We also saw a memorial for four fishers who had been lost at sea near
the coast of Achill. Thanks to Peti for this wonderful walk in a wonderful
Jens Andreas Faulstich
Lecture: Advanced Discussion About Stereotypes
Andrea Pohlmann Jochheim
The Tour Around the Island
Today we got to go on a two hour guided tour around the island, so at 1 p.m 20 excited students got on the bus. Since we had not seen too much of the island except for the village Keel (that we live in) before today it, was a well appreciated arrangement.
We drove along the coastline on the so called Atlantic Drive and made a few stops on the way. This is not something for people who are afraid of heights considering that we drove right on the edges of the cliffs. This was an exhilarating experience.
Among the things we saw was Keel Bay where we made a short stop to look at the beautiful scenery and take some photos. We also wrote our names in the sand. Then we continued to the Deserted Village of Slievemore, and saw the ruins of the former houses next to the highest mountain of Achill Island. We also saw the house of Heinrich Böll the famous German Nobel Price winner. On our way back we drove past one of the castles of Grace O’Malley, the great Pirate Queen who met Queen Elizabeth 1.
The roads on Achill Island are really bumpy so everyone got the feeling of being on a rollercoaster; it was both thrilling and scary at times being up on the highest cliffs. All in all this was a very fun and interesting happening. We got to learn a lot about the history of Achill Island and we can now understand why so many people fall in love with this island and choose to come back.
|A Calm Night at the Pub.
We had made appointment at the pub at 10 pm with the local musicians,
and punctual as Germans and Swedes are, we arrived in time…more
than one hour earlier than the locals. After almost one week in Ireland
we should have known that they wouldn’t bee there in time. Well,
when they finally were there they played lovely music, just that kind
that you expect hearing at a pub in Ireland. But then they asked us to
sing something and we sang a Swedish summer song. Unfortunately we couldn’t
sing the songs we wanted to sing because of sour throat and other facts.
page by Magnus Olofsson