Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum has closed in U.S

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

It is desperately sad and disappointing to hear of the closure of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum in Quinnipiac in the U.S , which houses the world’s greatest collection of Great Irish Famine related art and artefacts and sculptures reflecting on the greatest tragedy in Ireland’s history.

Only three years ago that ‘Coming Home’- Art and the Great Hunger’ a part of this important collection, on loan from the Great Hunger Museum and Quinnipiac University, was exhibited in Ireland.

From March 2018-to March 2019, the ‘Coming Home’ exhibition visited Dublin Castle, Skibbereen and Derry. It attracted huge crowds who crowds flocked to see this amazing collection, moved by the memorable and inspirational works interpreting our history

I was involved in a few events as part of the exhibition and was often asked why this collection was in America and why we in Ireland did not have our own Great Irish Famine collection!

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum’s valuable collection was first created by the vision and generosity of Murray Lender and his brother Marvin and Quinnipiac’s former University President, the innovative John Lahey.  As the collection has grown and been added to over the years, Irelands’ Great Hunger Museum was opened to house and display it. However now with changes in the University’s management unfortunately The Great Hunger Museum‘s doors have finally been shut.

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The danger is that this collection will be broken up and sold, dispersed and scattered between other universities, galleries, museums and private collectors both in the U.S and across the world. A campaign to save Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum and the collection is under way.

My hope is that The Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Tourism and the Irish Government   will have the good sense and offer a permanent home to Ireland’s Great Hunger Collection here in Ireland.  This historic collection could if necessary be rotated and shared between the US and Ireland.

 If not it is high time Ireland and her people began to gather a lasting Great Irish Famine collection of our own for all ages to visit.

Yeat’s Country

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Rosses Point

I am just back from a lovely visit to Yeat’s Country in Sligo, a part of Ireland that I had only visited briefly before. This time I was staying in Rosses Point, a place where poet William Butler Yeats and his artist brother Jack and family spent many happy holidays when they were younger. Part of the Wild Atlantic Way the views of sea, sky and mountains are absolutely breath taking and you can immediately recognise their influence on these two artists and their work.

‘ Elsinore’, the fine house where they stayed with their mother’s relations  is only a ruin now but sits overlooking the  expanse of water with  its lighthouse and Metal Man, a  place where tides and time seem to blend, only a minute or two from two golden beaches. There is a beautiful walk that takes you along the path that the Yeat’s family must have passed so often.

In Sligo itself I visited the wonderful Yeat’s Society Building , right near the river, which has a really interesting display about William Butler Yeats and his life and family and work and their links with Sligo.  For anyone with an interest in the poet… a definite must. It also has small display of some of his brother’s art work too.

Sculpture of W. B. Yeats  and Yeats Society, Sligo

We then headed out to Drumcliff, the place where Yeats wanted to be buried in the graveyard of St Columba’s, the church where his Great grandfather had been a rector.  It is such a peaceful and spiritual spot, and the poet and his wife’s grave rests under the shadow of Ben Bulben which was his express wish. He wanted no fuss and for his body to be brought home a year after he died in France for burial in Sligo but unfortunately World War 11 intervened.It would be a few years later in 1948 before Sean Mac Bride, the son of Maud Gonne, helped to make the arrangements for the return of the much loved poet’s remains to his final resting place in Sligo.

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Ben Bulben Mountain is so much a part of Sligo that no matter which direction you seem to travel in you are conscious of its gentle presence just as with Table Mountain in Capetown.

As you travel round Sligo, you soon realize just how much Yeat’s words capture the very nature, spirit and beauty of this very magical place.

                          Fairies come take me out of this dull world,

                          for I would ride with you upon the wind .

                         Run on top of the disheveled tide.

                        and dance upon the mountains like a flame.

The Land of Heart’s Desire- W.B. Yeats

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Yeats resting place in the shadow of Ben Bulben

 

                 

 

 

 

National Famine Commemoration 2020

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National Famine Commemoration 2020

This year’s National Famine Commemoration was held in a very peaceful St Stephen’s Green in Dublin instead of the planned much larger scale commemoration in Donegal. Like so many other special events across the country with Covid 19 constrictions the annual commemoration had to be changed and instead took place in Dublin.

However watching Josepha Madigan T.D., Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee speak in front of sculptor Edward Delaney’s famine figures, she perfectly captured the resonance between past and present during this public health emergency.

This was a quiet and dignified commemoration and I found it a moving reminder of famine times.  Just as all funerals are currently limited to only a few mourners, only a small handful of people attended the commemoration.

The Minister spoke of those who in trying times both now and then have come to the aid of their fellow man. The unselfish care provided by nurses and doctors to those stricken with fever during the Great Famine, with the same unwavering qualities of care and commitment to others being shown by healthcare staff today as they help the sick.

I was really pleased as talking about Famine Heroes she gave a great mention to Doctor Dan Donovan of Skibbereen, a man who is very much one of my heroes and played such an important part in my new  book

The Minister quoted from Ireland’s great female poet, Eavan Boland’s poem ‘Quarantine’, which is set during Ireland’s Great Hunger, where a man lifts his weak and dying wife onto his back and carries her. The recently deceased poets’ words speaking of man’s ability to help those in need of lifting during troubled times.

In 2021 the National Famine Commemoration will take place in Buncrana in Donegal.

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 Edward Delaney’s Famine Memorial – 1967,  St Stephens Green, Dublin