Saturday, 9 August 2014

County Clare - Day 1: Ennis & Carrigaholt

Monday 5th May
Why is it that you would never in a million years consider drinking Guinness at home in Australia (because it tastes like ****), yet in Ireland you not only drink it and think nothing of it, but actually enjoy it too?  Anyway, it was to be a fitting end to an amazing first day.

The Rowan Tree Hostel, seemingly growing out of the River Fergus, is an elegant building which was in a former life the Ennis Club.  In the 19th century, the predominantly Protestant landed gentry and professional men of the county, including my ancestors, would have met here to enjoy a drink and a smoke, to discuss matters of import and the state of the county.  Perhaps the 19th century equivalent of the 21st century Mens Shed movement?

Rowan Tree Hostel
In its current life it is a comfortable hostel providing centrally located accommodation to visitors from far and wide, and is my base for the first stage of my Irish adventure.

So, it's from here that I set off on my first morning, headed for Carrigaholt, on the Loop Head Peninsula, by the Shannon River.  My purpose is to take part in the Famine Walk, commemorating the lives of the 41West Clare people who drowned in the Cammoge ferry disaster in December 1849.
The people were famine victims, starving and desperate, and had walked miles from their homes to catch the ferry across Poulnasherry Bay to Kilrush where they sought assistance at the Workhouse.  Unfortunately, they were turned away and with no alternative they were forced to return to their homelands.  Catching the last ferry of the day, they set out on the return journey, but misfortune struck only metres from the opposite shore, when the overcrowded and unseaworthy ferry capsized and sank.  In their poorly clad and emaciated state, they were no match for the harsh winter conditions, and if they didn't immediately drown they would have rapidly succumbed to hypothermia.

The Famine Walk began last year as part of the activities planned when Kilrush hosted the 2013 National Famine Commemoration.  The walk followed in the footsteps of those lost, and a memorial was erected on the shore at Cammoge.  It is anticipated that the walk will become an annual event as part of the Loop Head Walking Festival which takes place over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

We set off from Carrigholt as a group of 12 or so, under the guidance of Michael O'Connell, a fountain of knowledge on the Cammoge incident and on all things local - both historical and contemporary. After completing 11 or 12 kilometres, passing through locations with names familiar to me from family tales, we were compelled to abandon the walk just a kilometre or so  from the endpoint, when we were caught in an absolute deluge of rain.  Help was called for and very soon 3 cars arrived to carry us back to Carrigaholt where we retired to the Long Dock restaurant and warmed up with some delicious food and good company.

Wonderful to meet up with Paddy Waldron too, after an email correspondence of a couple of years.  Paddy is, I am convinced, related or connected to every single person in or from Ireland!

And so, back to Ennis, to meet up with Larry Brennan with whom I collaborated on the Waterpark booklet project, and an enjoyable hour or so spent with him over the afore-mentioned pint.

1 comment:

  1. How I would have loved to be with you, not on the walk unfortunately, but would have done it by car... Haven't found a connection to Paddy yet, surely I can't be the only one left out. :-)