Malahide Castle: A Gift From a Friend

Malahide was not on my list of places to see in Ireland. I heard about it from one of the walking tours in Dublin. I was on my fifth day in Dublin and decided to explore the small town by myself.

It is really easy to travel around the Dublin area. I walked everyplace and scoped out the bars and coffee shops. I think there are about as many coffee shops as there are bars.

I took the opportunity to take a train to Malahide and it was worth the experience.

Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle is located in Malahide, Dublin County, Ireland. Take the Irish Rail at the Dublin/Connaly station. The train leaves the station every 25 minutes. The time from Dublin to Malahide is about 30-35 minutes long.

This squirrel is in front of the Irish Rail and the Dublin/Connaly station

When you arrive in the town of Malahide, you can take this train or walk. The train is not free and many times is reserved for groups. The walk is about 20 minutes to the castle.

The train from the station to the castle

The castle grounds include the courtyards, a place to have coffee or a quick lunch, the garden with plants from all over the world, and a playground for young children.

A visual map of the castle and courtyard

Admission to Malahide Castle and the Gardens is $14.97.

Castle admission entrance

Malahide Castle is one of the oldest castles in Ireland. Malahide “Mullach Ide” means the “the hill of Ide” or “Ide’s sandhill” in Gaelic. The Vikings settled in Malahide in 795. King Henry II built the castle and gifted it to his friend Sir Richard Talbot. Sir Talbot provided his support and protected the King during the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The Talbots came to Ireland as a Norman family originally from France. They lived in the castle from 1185-1976. They were considered one of the most prominent and powerful Irish Catholic families in Dublin. When the Battle of the Boyne took place, fourteen members of the Talbot family sat down to have breakfast. They were killed before evening.

The dining room where the fourteen family members were killed

It is said that the little girl’s eyes will follow you all of the way up the stairs

Coat of arms “Hound and Wolf”

Rose Talbot, the last living relative, sold the castle to the State of Ireland to help pay the inheritance taxes.

Study room

Fireplace in Living Room

Remains of the Abbey. It was also used as a cemetary.

Talbot Botanical Gardens

The Talbot Botanical Gardens is a walled garden. It has seven greenhouses and a Victorian Conservatory. Plants from the Southern Hemisphere, Chile, and Australia, grow in the garden.

Victorian Conservatory

 

 

Plants from the Southern Hemisphere

Public areas and picnic grounds 

The City Malahide

Malahide is an affluent coastal suburban town.  One thousand people lived in Malahide in the early 19th century. The local industry was salt harvesting and other commercial operations importing coal and construction materials.

The population increased to 15,846 in 2011. It is now a seaside resort for wealthy Dublin city dwellers.

Malahide neighbourhood home

Mermaid by the sea

Malahide is a small town with a great personality. The people are friendly, the food is fresh, and not inundated with tourists. A car is not necessary to get around. It is easier to walk because there isn’t much parking available.

Malahide might not be on your list of places to visit in Ireland, but it should be.

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Hunger in Ireland “An Gorta Mor” and Kilmainham Goal

Kilmainham Goal located in Dublin, Ireland was built in 1796. A prison for hardened criminals. Murderers and robbers. It was touted as one of the most modern prisons in Ireland. In 1821, two women, 19 and 21 years old, were hung for their crimes. The last public execution was in 1865. The prison closed in 1925. It is now one of the five most visited sites in Dublin. The prison is used in movie scenes and documentaries.

The main floor of Kilmainham Goal

From 1845–1850 the prison filled with men, women, and children charged with begging and stealing. “The Great Famine” referred to by the Irish as “The Great Hunger” began to rise. The jail cells swelled to capacity. The Vagrancy Act of 1847 allowed for anyone found in a public place caught begging or “gathering alms” to be sentenced to hard labor for one month. A man who deserted his wife and children could be sentenced up to three months of hard labor. There was more food in the prisons than at home. Prisoners were not segregated.  Men, women, and children were incarcerated in the same cells.  Five people were confined to a cell measuring twenty-eight square meters. The prison gave everyone a candle. The prisoners needed to make the candle last for at least two weeks.It was their only means of light and heat. Male prisoners slept on iron bed stands. Women and children slept with straw mats on the floor.

A jail cell

The prison was built with the Victorian belief that architecture was crucial to reform the minds of the prisoners. The prisoners were separated from their families and not allowed to communicate with each other.  They were supposed to use their time reading the Bible, contemplating their sins, and repenting their crimes. How can you repent a crime that you committed to help feed your family?

The prison chapel 

A painting done by a woman confined to this cell

How did the famine begin? Was it the fault of the Irish? The English accused the Irish of two things: overpopulation and laziness. Irish families were big Catholic units. Many of the Irish produced children to help on their farms. The women didn’t practice birth control. The Irish culture is laid back. They like to have fun drinking, dancing, and singing. The English looked at this lifestyle as wasteful.

The exit gate of the prison. Men were given fifteen minutes each day to clear the rocks and stones.

The English dominated the Irish. In 1801 The Act of Union brought the country of Ireland under the control of England. The English created “Penal Laws”. The Catholic Church was outlawed. Their native language, Gaelic, was banned. The English forbade any export trade. These new laws destroyed Irish commerce and industry. The Irish could pretend not to be Catholics or leave the church completely. Some of the Irish were forced to practice their religion in secrecy.

In 1600 Protestants owned 10% of Irish land. In 1778 they owned 95%. The Penal laws prevented Catholics from buying land, getting an education, entering a profession, holding political office, and living within five miles of town. They were not allowed to fish or hunt.The only employment left for the Catholics was farming. They were allowed to have small plots owned by landlords. They had to pay rent. The landlords were absent. They spent most of their time in England. Many of the tenant farmers had poor living standards. There was no money for medicine, clothes, nor adequate shelter. Landlords were not required to make improvements on their dwellings. The potato was the only crop to produce a sufficient yield on limited acreage. In 1840, 50% of Ireland was dependent on the potato.

In 1835, 75% of Irish workers were without regular work and turned to begging and stealing. Irish farmers became desperate. They were not getting the help they needed. Without work or money, some of them decided to enter workhouses. Workhouses provided shelter and food for hard labor. The Irish farmer who had more than 1/4 of an acre was forced to give up his land before acceptance into a workhouse. This meant that their wives and children would have no food or shelter. It was the workhouse or prison.

The Great Potato Famine has been debated for years. Was it the fault of the Irish or the English? Was the potato the root of the problem?

In 1846 the Prime Minister of England, Charles Trevelyan, banned all food distribution to Ireland. The English exported grain-based alcohol, wool, flax, wheat, oats, barley, butter, eggs, and beef from Ireland to England. These were products being produced in Ireland but not available to the Irish citizen. Did the English create the Famine? Food was being taken out of Ireland away from the poor Irish citizens.

The solution for many of the Irish was to get out of Ireland. With the help of some sympathetic landlords, the Irish were sent to other countries by boat. Some of them went to England. The English didn’t want them because the Irish immigrants were being paid lower salaries and undercutting theirs. They were sent to the USA and Canada. Many of them arriving with various diseases and dying before they hit land. Canada and the USA were being inundated with Irishmen. The Irish were farmers and didn’t know how to operate the equipment to work in factories. Irish Catholic Charities helped to make them more comfortable and ease them into a new lifestyle.

There are now more Irish living in the city of Boston than in Ireland. Irish descendants living around the world can now become Irish citizens if they obtain the birth certificate of their Irish ancestors. This will allow you to have an Irish passport and a US passport. You will be able to buy a house in Ireland. Only those who have Irish passports can buy land in Ireland.

I would like to conclude with my final thoughts. No one should have to go to prison for lack of food. Famine is not brought on by the people, but by governments who control the food and goods going in and out of the country. Could The Great Hunger of Ireland have been avoided? Can this happen again? I leave you with these questions.

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?