On my trip to Ireland I went to many wonderful places. I truly felt like i reconnected to a feeling that had been lost, a feeling that was slumbering for a long time. On Beltane I went to the Aran Islands, a place that felt as ancient as a place can feel. The next day I went for a walk and little did I know what I was about to experience.
Mutton Light Memorial is a place everyone who is an Irish American should go to. It is at the end of a walkway that stretches from downtown Galway out about three miles down the coast. When you reach the memorial, three pillars stand with the names of ship that were lost during one of the hardest times in Irish history
For most people the Potato famine is something that may be taught in school, but it tends to be a footnote to talk about Irish immigration to the USA. Even growing up as a kid North of Boston we did not learn much of it in school. Like most of Irish history it had been lost to many people of Irish heritage the importance of what happened. The Potato famine is why if you were to make the capital of Ireland to be where the most people of Irish heritage were, you would need to make Boston,Ma the capital of Ireland. More people of Irish heritage live in the Greater Boston Metro Area than in Dublin.
Lets talk about Potatoes. These ground dwelling crops that give us such things as French fries and mash are a columbian trade crop. This means that they are native to South America. The Inca cultivated potatoes because they would easily grow in their rocky cold soil. Someone realized “hey there are places in Europe with rocky and cold soil” and imported the hearty crop to Ireland. Potatoes, a crop so ingrained in the food of Ireland are not in any way native to Ireland. Why does this all matter? When you plant crops that are not native to your island things happen. The Irish realized “we can grow potatoes and make it through the winter”, which works great when potatoes will grow. A blight struck the island and wiped out the potato crop in the 1850s. The crown gave as little as support to the Irish people as possible and people starved. The crown required Irish farmers to export wool and other staple crops during the famine, this left people in Ireland with nothing to eat. The conversion of farm land into grazing land also contributed to the reduction in sustainability. Sheep take up a large amount of land for grazing, and the land they graze on cannot be used for farming. The lack of farms, the crown mandating wool production, and the blight made for a famine of devastating consequences.
The young of Ireland who could leave emigrated from the Éire. They left behind their families, they left behind their homes, and they sailed for the United States. When they got here they were second class citizens relegated to the slums of the cities that would allow them. They left the moderate weather of Southern Ireland, for the freezing climate of New England.Mutton Light was the last thing the people on the ships could see before they left their homeland forever. Many of the ships that left for the East Coast never made it there, and those that did had large amounts of people who died along the way.
Ireland’s population never recovered from the famine. There were 8.5 million people on the Emerald Isle in the 1840s, today only 4.7 million live there. The Irish diaspora made it so more Irish people live outside Ireland than on the island. Today the Irish in the US have assimilated into US culture. As someone who grew up In Massachusetts many people grow up and still don’t understand their history. They don’t know the wonderful ancient history that makes up the story of Ireland and her people. It is this somber realization that made me start blogging.
Standing out at Last Light and looking out at the Atlantic I was overcome realizing what my ancestors in the 1800s went through to make it so I could sit here and write about it. The feeling of desolation and massive loss hits you like a strong wave on the ocean. This is a powerful place, but also a place that is hard to stand around in too long. It is also a place everyone who are a product of Irish emigrates should go to.
This place is also not a tourist destination I was there roughly 30 minutes on a decent Thursday afternoon and only saw five other people. People don’t know why that place is so powerful unless they know the history. I did not realize the scope of what happened until I stood there. If you are in Galway go for a walk and go to this place.
Thank you for reading,
Go With The Winds.
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