Gola (Gabhla) Island: A Photo Blog

The Island of Gola was once a prosperous fishing village of two hundred inhabitants. Fishing was not an industry that could be operated year round.

In the off-seasons, most of the able-bodied men, girls, and children left for rural Scotland. For six months they were farmers, domestic workers, and construction workers.

In the twentieth century, people on the island began migrating to rural Scotland and never returned to the island life.

The island comes alive in the Summer. Children play in the area, families bring food for picnics and swim in the pristine waters and beaches. There are no public facilities on the island. A small store provides snacks and drinks during the busy season.

Our group, The Ireland Writing Retreat, went on a four-hour hike around the island. We had lunch with Eddie and his wife, the only inhabitants of the island.

Snack shop

Our transportation to Gola Island

An abandoned church

Many buildings are left abandoned. Most of them are still in their original condition.

Unbaptized Catholic babies cemetery

Unbaptized Catholic babies were not allowed to be buried with other Catholics. They were buried in this cemetery. People leave hand- painted colored stones in remembrance of their souls.

Hand-painted stones left behind by visitors

A white cross in the children’s cemetary

A memorial to two residents who died in 9/11

Grazing sheep

Farmers leave their goats and sheep on the island all year to graze. The blue stripe on the sheep indicates the owner. The sheep lead the life of luxury. They can eat and wander as much as they like. The farmers come to check on them when the weather permits.

Twin Cave

Tourists come on the island for the hiking adventure. A map and marked posts provide the directions. You must be careful. There have been hikers who have fallen over the cliffs.

The island of Gola in the distance

 

 

7 Things to Know About the Ireland Writing Retreat

Less really is more. It’s a tendency of beginning writers to want to prove what they’re talking about by going too far with description. I think you’ve got to keep it short, crisp and clean

Brad Thor

How long have you been writing? This is the first question we must answer on the first day of classes at the Ireland Writing Retreat. My answer “I just started one year ago”. Yes, that’s right. I am an ESL writing teacher and performed this job for forty-two years. I wrote academic papers. I never wrote for travel. Now, I want to write for travel.

How do I become a better travel writer? I attend a writer’s circle once a month, take online classes from various organizations that don’t offer feedback and want you to continue taking their courses so they can make money, and attend local workshops at featured bookstores. I felt I wasn’t geting what I needed.

How about attending writer’s workshops in other countries? Travel and writing! I have never been to Ireland and it was on my list of travels.  I was searching various writing retreats online and stumbled across the Ireland Writing Retreat. I signed up, paid my tuition, and off I went. I didn’t really know what to expect.

I would like to share my experiences with others who might be looking for writing retreats. This is only my experience. Everyone has different experiences.

Venue

The Ireland Writing Retreat is held and organized at Teac Jack.

Teac Jack is a B&B located in Gweedore in Donegal. It has a bar, restaurant, and a beautiful view out the front door.

Breakfast is served every morning from 8:00-10:00.  A full Irish breakfast includes bacon (fried ham), eggs, sausage, mushrooms, and a warm tomato. The eggs can be ordered sunny-side up, boiled, poached, scrambled, and over easy.

Orange juice, milk, apple juice, and coffee are available for drinks. There is a table that includes yogurt, cheerios, rice cereal, and oatmeal.

Bread includes wheat, white, and dark brown. Bread can be toasted in a toaster oven. There are no pancakes or waffles. Scones are not served for breakfast, but you can ask and you shall receive.

 

Disadvantages: Teac Jack is isolated. The only place to walk is to the beach. There are no other shops, bars, or restaurants nearby. I began to get cabin fever.

Activities

The program description includes the following activities.

Boat trips to the island of Gola:

There is one trip to Gola. The island was once inhabited by families. Most of the families moved away. The island is very busy in the summer with people having picnics and swimming. We are greeted by a couple who prepare lunch for us. They are an older couple. She has a job in Donegal and comes to prepare lunch on the island when there are guests. Her husband lives on the island full time. Lunch includes sandwiches, scones, cupcakes, bread, marmalade, tea, and coffee.

Leisurely walks and a tour of Glenveagh National Park and Castle:

The history of the Glenveagh castle is a tragic one. Many of the Irish farmers were forced to leave because Mr. Adair wanted to build his castle and did not wish to look at poor farmers and their animals. They were evicted from the property.  Unfortunately, it is raining. The gardens are beautiful. I can’t get many pictures of the garden because of the dark clouds and mist all around. There is a little café that serves, scones, cakes, tea, and coffee. We stop in to have tea and dry off.

 

Glenveagh Garden

Irish language and dance classes and lively, heart-warming, foot-tapping traditional music concerts:

There are no dance classes. Every Tuesday night Tech Jack hosts the residents and their friends to a Ceili (Kaylee), Irish traditional music event. I attend with some of my classmates. Two of my classmates are Irish and one of them is an avid Ceili dancer.

My new Irish friends and writers, Norma and Jo

Most of the dancers are women. They tell me they leave their husbands at home because they are boors.

The dancing starts at 8:30 and continues until 11:00. Most of these women never stop dancing. These are not young chicks. The ages are from 60-82. I am dragged out to the floor a few times. I don’t know any of the steps. I try to follow and end up stepping on a few toes. I wish I had a few lessons before attending.

Ceili dancing with the locals

There are no traditional music “concerts”. An accordion is the only instrument used. There is a performance by one dancer and a fiddler for about two minutes. A singer sings one Irish song. This is not a concert and should not be promoted as a concert. I was disappointed.

There is one leisurely walk that took us down to the beach. We picked wild raspberries. They were sweet.

A walk with Sean’s dogs

A visit to Teac Mhuiris introduces us to the life that once was in Donegal, Ireland. After the lecture, our host, Maggie, brings out bread, cakes, scones, and tea. A Gaelic teacher teaches us a few Gaelic phrases most commonly used in everyday language. Many people in Donegal speak Gaelic as their native language. The pronunciation is complicated. I am not able to get the words to come out of my mouth in an understandable way.

Afternoon tea

Living room of the traditional home

WIFI

WIFI is available in “Jack’s Bar” and the room where the classes are held.  It is not available in the hotel rooms. This is a disadvantage because we must sit in the bar with our computers to do our work. The heat in the classroom is shut off when we are not using it. The bar is noisy and there isn’t much space to work.

Classes

The writing classes take place from 10:00 am -1:00pm every day.

The information on the site includes the following information:

Hands-on teaching techniques including one-on-one, sentence-by sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, critiques of participant’s own work completed before and during the week-long writing retreat. 

We are given an assignment and it is due within 24 hours. There is no offer of one on one in person critiques. The critiques come in the form of feedback on line. The critiques help me to take care of the basic problems. They are not profound critiques. The critiques are given by Sean Hillen the instructor/author.

Emily DeDakis, a dramaturg, presents a workshop. She has us do various writing activities including putting our ideas into various groups. She gives us an assignment to write about something that we would never tell anyone. I don’t do the assignment. She isn’t going to give any feedback and I don’t understand the purpose. Why should I tell her a secret when I don’t even know her? Laurence McKeown, a play writer. Laurence had a very interesting story about being held in prison for 17 years. He was on a hunger strike for almost seventy days. We found his story fascinating. He gave us intensive feedback on an assignment. The assignment was to write a story that included 50% dialog. It was misunderstood by all the class participants.

Laurence McKeown, a play writer tells us about being held in prison for 17 years and a hunger strike for almost seventy days. We find his story fascinating. He gives us intensive feedback on an assignment. The assignment is to write a story that included 50% dialog. It is misunderstood by all the class participants.

He corrects them in a way that makes them bleed. So much red ink!

Farewell Dinner

The agenda lists the Farewell Dinner as an “evening filled with wine snacks, and lively conversation”.  We have sandwiches that are hastily made and not tasty and lots of wine. The “lively conversation” includes a local guitarist whose voice gives me a headache. He tells us that he doesn’t write music, he just sings from memory. Another local woman tries to sing a traditional Irish song. She has a very bad cold. We have some lively music from one of the participant’s husband who plays country western music and she sings. She has a beautiful voice. The lively conversation switches to Irish politics.

Welcome Dinner

A magical mystery welcome is the title of the welcome dinner.  The owner of Caife Kitty gives a presentation on potatoes and how they can be cooked. She brings a sampling of her mashed potatoes for us to try. Sancho entertaines us with a few Irish fairy tales.

Later in the week we go to Caife Kitty for lunch.

Transportation

There is no public transportation. Cabs are available and expensive. This is a problem if you want to go to another town to go shopping or eat. The cost of transportation by cab to the airport is 25 euros.

Meals

Meals are not included. You could spend between $30-40 for food and drink per day. Breakfast is included. The menu in the bar and restaurant offers a variey of foods.  Don’t forget the fish and chips (fries).

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If These Castle Walls Could Talk

If These Castle Walls Could Talk

John Adair was one of the most hated men in Ireland. Many Donegal natives would consider it a curse to even mention his name in conversation. Adair had a temper and felt a sense of entitlement that most people did not appreciate. He became a very affluent man by traveling to New York in 1850 and working in land speculation. In 1870 he returned to Glenveagh, Donegal. He began to buy up smaller portions of land the locals owned to create his large estate. The local farmers were struggling to keep their families fed and clothed. Adair was not interested in the problems of the people around him. He had no interest in helping them.

Adair began to evict the local families. Some say it was because he wanted to “improve the view from his castle.” Who wants to look at the poor?” The local families lived in homes with thatched roofs made of cereal straw and reed covered with wooden rafters. The walls were double packed with earth. The floors were flagstone or packed earth that didn’t help in keeping the home warm. A hearth was located in the central area of the home. There were neither chimneys nor windows for the smoke to escape. The people would have had to pay more taxes for the windows. The soot-blackened homes were known as “black houses”.

It is also said that the locals became very upset and protested his hunting retreats crossing over their lands. They reported him as trespassing. He became furious and even more determined to get these people off of the land. Adair wanted to use the land as a sheep farm. He had brought his own shepherds who eventually got into a bit of trouble. One of them was accused of murder and having an affair with the dead man’s wife. She became pregnant and was sent off to Scotland.

Eviction of the locals began with Adair acquiring the necessary documents that would allow him to send his “crowbar men” house-to-house evicting families. The first house they came upon was the home of a widow and her seven children. After the family was given the news, their house was destroyed so that they could not come back and live in it. A total of two hundred and forty-four people were homeless including one hundred and fifty-nine children. Half of the people were given passage to Australia provided by Michael O’Grady. O’Grady had also purchased land in Australia for the sole purpose of providing land for the people. Forty-two of the evicted ended up in workhouses in Letterkenny. These evictions were recorded as the most infamous in the history of Ireland.

Castles are pieces of European history. They represent the great divide between the rich and the poor. Who built this grand castle in Glenveagh? There is no mention of the men who carried the massive granite stones one by one up and down the hills. Were these men paid? How much were they paid? Where are the answers?