Monday, September 15, 2014

Cnoc Suain

Thatched cottage at Cnoc Suain
Everywhere I went during my stay in Ireland I met lively, vibrant people proud of their culture and anxious to share it with me. Our group spent a morning here at Cnoc Suain for a brief immersion into traditional Irish culture. Cnoc Suain is a hill-top village in Connemara that dates from the 17th century. The 200-acre site was purchased by our hosts, Dearbhaill Standun and her husband, Charlie Troy with a vision to make it a residential/day center to introduce visitors to traditional Irish life.
Our visit began in this thatched cottage with Dearbhaill who explained what life was like for Irish families. Cottages like this one might be home to a family with up to 20 children! Hard to believe, huh?
 She showed us how the mother would cook on the small hearth, we tasted a seaweed 'snack,' and after singing a beautiful Irish song in Gaelic, she whipped up a beautiful loaf of Irish soda bread literally in the blink of an eye...
Irish soda bread
I was very touched by the stories she told us of young girls...15 or 16 years old....whose parents would tell them it was time for them to emigrate. With such large families, there were just not the resources to keep them at home. So, off they'd sail to places like Boston or New York or Philadelphia to become maids or laundresses. Eventually they formed an Irish diaspora, but they still longed for home and Connemara. They would send money and boxes of cast-off clothes home for their little brothers and sisters, but rarely were they able to come home themselves. Dearbhaill said she remembered even when she was in school that when boxes from America would arrive, her classmates would show up to school in their new American finery usually worn on top of their old Irish clothes.

After spending time with Charlie learning about how peat is formed, cut and dried for fuel and what Bog Bodies are all about, we gathered in the music room where we heard traditional Irish music, learned how to do Irish 'lilting' and also learned a country dance much like an American square dance.
Life was harsh and lonely on the west coast of Ireland, but there was joy to be found in music, dancing and singing!

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