Tag Archives: Ireland

Irish: A Story on Immigration

Lush green fields dotted with sheep, mountain high cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and waves lapping at the foot of the cliffs. Scenic views that call those with a bit of Irish blood from around the world to come and visit. It’s a peaceful place. A place to sit on one of the hills and listen to the splashing water, meditate, and wonder how life used to be in this idyllic situation.

The windowless hallway leads the way; steel doors sealed shut with padlocks. I bump into someone, a member of my tour. We are in prison, but at the end of the tour, we will be out of prison. Unlike the men, women, and children who spent days, months, and years in this prison for stealing food because they were starving.

Ireland experienced a very dark time in its history. Men could not make the payments on the rents of their homes owned by English landlords who lived not in Ireland but England. The Great Famine also referred to as the Great Hunger began in 1845 with a pest infecting the potatoes. Potatoes turned black and the farmers lost their only source of income.

The English grabbed healthy potatoes and sent them to England. The Irish had only the rotten potatoes to feed their families. Irish men had only a few choices left for supporting their families. They worked in pensions owned by the English. They gave up their land and possessions to gain admittance to the pensions which paid little.  Irish women had to seek food and shelter for their children. They became desperate and began to steal to provide food for their families.

The families were left destitute and ended up in prison.

This was a time when families collected money from their relatives and took out loans to send their children to North America to find jobs because there were none in Ireland. Tourists who visit Ireland go to the Guinness beer museum, hike in the lush grass, and eat at the numerous bars and restaurants. Not many people venture into the dark history of Ireland’s past, something that should not be forgotten.

Early immigration began with the Irish seeking a better life. No different than those traveling now to the US seeking a better experience. No one wanted the Irish when they first arrived to the US. They were dirty and known for drinking and being lazy. The same view people have of the recent asylum seekers to the U.S. They are criminals, lazy, and must be feared. These people are no different from the Irish. They are fleeing poverty, political problems, and crime. 

Tourists go to Ireland because they want to drink and have fun. Some go to look for their roots, grandparents, cousins, uncles, and aunts. Visits to cemeteries and small villages give them a small window to look into and get a glimpse of what life may have been.

I saw people with freckles and red hair, and I found people who were darker in color. Immigrants from Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Arab.  East Indians owned the local hotel where I stayed.

The US government has caused a severe problem. Keeping people from crossing the border is no different than keeping the Irish immigrants on their ships and refusing them permission to embark on American soil. They were said to have diseases. Some of them died on the boat before they were able to get much needed medical help.

Now, we celebrate the Irish. We have big parades on St Patrick’s day. We turn many lakes and rivers green. Every one declares they are Irish even if they aren’t. The US has more Irish living here than in the country of Ireland. Some of these recent immigrants are returning to Ireland. Life in the US is not what they want. Ireland has become more prosperous and can offer high tech jobs.

The immigrants coming to the U.S. are of color. Our current government wants to keep them out. This is sad and neglectful. We have no right to discriminate against those who are not white.

Let’s not forget why Irish parents were willing to send their teenage sons and daughter on a ship so far away. For the same reasons, people do it today: better opportunities in education and employment. They want their children to do better than what they can do in their own countries because of corruption, crime, and poverty.

Think about that when you go to Ireland and drink glass after glass of Guinness beer.

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.

Admission to Malahide Castle and the Gardens is $14.97.

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.

girl

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

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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.

fireplace

Fireplace in Living Room

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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.

conservatory

Victorian Conservatory

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.

mermaid

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.

If These Castle Walls Could Talk

Today is a perfect day to visit a castle in Ireland. Grey, misty, damp, and a bit of mystery in the air. Castles are mysterious, secretive and overwhelming.

Ireland never had any kings. They were under the kingdom and power of England. The Normans came to Ireland in the Medieval times and built castles that didn’t last long. They were trying to conquer Ireland. Many of the castles became ruins or were destroyed. Irish castles were built by foreigners trying to overtake and control the Irish people.

My four classmates, a married couple from New Jersey, two Irish women, and I pile into an old blue Ford van. Members of the Ireland Writing Retreat on Donegal held up in the inn for almost four hours because of the continuous rain.  It does that a lot in Ireland. The land looks desolated. There are a few farmhouses, some goats roaming around and eating grass, and a lot of green. It is green everywhere. At home in Arizona, I see the desert. Cactus, snakes, coyotes, and bobcats. It is exciting to experience a different climate.

 Glenveagh Castle is located in Churchill, Letterkenny, Ireland. It is pouring. We jiggle the door latch to open the door. The door slides open and out we jump. My umbrella refuses to open. Norma, one of my Irish classmate attempts to share hers with me. Norma is an author. She has written two books. She is a very happy woman in her 80s and we have become friends. Her daughter is the same age as mine and we both lost our husbands about three years ago. She has become my hiking buddy. There is only one minor problem with the umbrella situation. She is much shorter than I. I slowly slip the umbrella out of her hands and hold it over both of our heads. We share a laugh. We head straight to the information center. The room is very small. The receptionist is behind the information desk. There are at least eight other people squeezed into the space. A family with two young boys is sitting on the bench. The older boy keeps asking his father “Do we have to see another castle? Can I wait in the car?” This kid is castled out. We get our tickets and have to wait for about twenty minutes. I am not waiting in this crowded office. I go outside and take pictures.

I have my trusty raincoat with a hood that I bought on Amazon one week before the trip. Thanks to the quick delivery provided by my Amazon Prime membership, it arrived two days before my flight. I am sure I will be protected. It is raining much harder now. My curiosity will not go away rain or not. I take out my camera. Cover the lens to the best of my ability and start snapping away. I am in the garden. The garden is walled and was planted and taken care of by the wife of John Adair, the original owner of the castle. Unlike her husband, Cornelia was a kind landlady and very generous to the poor. The garden was modeled after Italian gardens. There is a total of eleven hectares of informal gardens with a different theme. I wish I could see the flowers without the rain. The smell of the rain and the flowers are powerful for someone like me who sees rain twice a year. Yellow dahlias, pink and white roses, Japanese cherry blossoms, yellow osterglocken (daffodil) from Wales, white orchids from Panama (Holy Spirit Flower), and the pink Scottish Bluebell (national flower of Scotland). It is September and many of the flowers have reached their peak season.

yellowflowers

I find a small bench and sit for a while protected from the torrential rain falling around me. I look around me and the mist has fallen and taken over the beautiful scenery of the garden.  I find my mind wandering off and thinking what life would be in a castle. I look at my watch and realize our tour will begin in five minutes. I navigate my way to the entrance. I feel like I am walking in heaven. The rain makes me happy and gives me energy. It adds mystery to the castle.

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 on 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 had a dream. He wanted to build a castle that would be much bigger than Balmoral, Queen Victoria’s Scottish Retreat. In 1870 he built the castle on 16,958 hectares of mountains, bogs, lakes, and woods. Glenveagh Castle is four stories tall, rectangular, and made from granite. The walls are 11/2 meters thick. The castle includes turrets, a round tower, and fortified battlement ramparts to keep out the enemies. Adair didn’t have any enemies to keep out. He wanted to keep out the Irish farmers. They were no threat to him. Just a nuisance.

Our tour begins in the entryway. The walls are off-white and four pairs of deer busts with their antlers adorn the hallway. Two of them mounted on the wall and two on small pedestals. John Adair was an avid hunter. He replaced the poor Irish people with deer.  How could a man be so cruel. We enter the music room. It is small, a blue ceramic fireplace is in the corner, blue/green plaid wallpaper on the walls (reminds me of my school uniform), an antler chandelier hangs in the center of the room, and a big window opens to the lake below.

Our guide tells us this is where the men hung out, smoked their cigars, and shared hunting stories. We visited the oval bedroom. The guests slept here. If they needed anything, they had a little bell that would summon the servants. There were twelve indoor staff and eight gardeners.

One of the bigger rooms in the castle is the Drawing Room where the women would meet. They gossiped, worshiped themselves in their mirrors and worried that their makeup would melt because the room was so warm. They didn’t want to “lose face”.  The women talked about their husbands, boyfriends, and children. They didn’t have any household duties. If they needed someone to attend to them, they rang the bell and someone would be at their beck and call.

I wanted to find out how the castle was built. Who were the laborers who carried the stones from the lake and painstakingly built the walls? Were they paid for their work? Were they the poor Irish farmers living on the land of John Adair? The guide didn’t give us this information. Another mystery.

The first thing Adair did was 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”.

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 a 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. Michael O’Grady paid for half of the people to move to Australia. O’Grady had purchased land in Australia for the sole purpose of providing land for the displaced farmers. Forty-two of the evicted ended up in workhouses in Letterkenny. These evictions were the most infamous in the history of Ireland.

John Adair passed away in 1885. His wife lived until 1921 and was remembered as being kind-hearted. Glenveagh was bought by a Harvard professor, Arthur Kinsley Porter. He led a very lavish lifestyle. Frequent dinner parties, deer stalking, fishing, and kept a wonderful garden. He disappeared from nearby Inishbofin Island in 1933. His death is a mystery.

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? I can only guess that some of the farmers left behind built the castle with no pay. They were slave laborers. There is no plaque or description of the builders. Could it be something that people just want to forget? It is important to remember history and to honor those who put so much sweat into this great castle.

I left the castle with these questions.  We stopped at the restaurant in the visitor center. There were pies, cookies, chocolates, tea, and coffee. I ordered coffee and a piece of cheesecake. I asked my group if they knew who built the castle. No one had the answer. The information desk wouldn’t give me an answer. Is it a secret? I want to know.

The van arrives. The rain slows to an annoying drizzle. I am disappointed. I would like to spend more time at the castle. We drive down the road and I can’t resist turning around and looking at the castle tower. It is so tall and profound. I can imagine what the life of the people outside of the castle and inside the castle was like. Two completely different groups occupying the same land.

The road we travel back is the same road that so many of the Irish walked to arrive at their ships taking them out of their country into a far and distant place. Places such as the USA and Australia, no longer in charge of their destiny.

bridge

This bridge was crossed by the evicted farmers and their families.

stone

A message carved in Gaelic wishing everyone safe travels and mourning the loss of those who never returned

I look out into the vast green farmland. It is quiet and has an eerie feeling. There are no people in the fields, driving cars, or walking around. Was it always like this? It looks so lonely. No one talks as we make our way back to the Tec.

countryside

The countryside as it is today

Prison for Food

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.

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. There was no segregation of prisoners. Men, women, and children were incarcerated in the same cells. There were up to five people in a cell measuring twenty-eight square meters. Everyone was given a candle. This candle was to last for 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.

jailcells

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 are laid back. They like to have fun drinking, dancing, and singing. The English looked at this style of life as wasteful.

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.

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 did not want them because they were being paid lower salaries and were 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. Most of the Irish were farmers and didn’t know how to operate the equipment to work in factories. 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 can now become Irish citizens if they can obtain the birth certificate of their Irish ancestors. This will allow you to have an Irish passport and a US passport. This helps if you want 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 The Great Hunger of Ireland have been avoided? Can this happen again? I leave you with these questions.