Part 4…Irish history…Connemara Heritage and History Centre…Remaining photos from Dan O’Hara’s home

This is the tiny house Dan O’Hara, his wife, and seven children lived until they were forced to vacate when they couldn’t pay the rent during the potato famine.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
“Any person who is born on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is considered to be very lucky.”

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The story of Dan O’Hara and his family is heartbreaking and yet so typical of other farms families in Ireland during the time of the potato famine.  As we learned of he and his family living in a simple cottage with seven children we’re reminded of how grateful people of his day were for what that had, not what they could have had.

Tom had to duck his head to enter the house.

But, the sorrow of the times due to famine and subsequent loss of life in the mid-1800s brought most people living in Connemara and other parts of Ireland to their knees.  More than one million people died between 1846 and 1851 as a result of the Potato Famine. Many of these died from starvation. Many more died from diseases that preyed on people weakened by the loss of food.

There was a fire in the fireplace which the staff must start each day but it didn’t smell well ventilated.

They tried to escape Ireland by embarking on long and dangerous Atlantic Ocean crossings with little to no food, no money, often leaving most of their belongings behind to what they assumed was the land of plenty, the US.  

This twin-size daybed is located in the main living area, although there is a bedroom as shown in the photo below.

Many escaped to other countries such as England, Canada, and Australia as was the case for some of Tom’s ancestors.  Irish descendants may be found all over the world, often in surprising locations.

The one bedroom in the house was most likely where Dan and his wife slept.

Here is the story of Dan O’Hara and his wife and seven children from this site:

“‘Dan O’Hara’s homestead is built on the original site of the home of Dan from Connemara renowned in the popular ballad all over the world. Dan O Hara lived with his wife and seven children in a cottage shadowed by the Twelve Bens. The family were self-sufficient on 8 acres of land and lived a simple but happy lifestyle. The main part of the farm was given over to the potato crop and they kept a variety of animals on the farm.

Spinning wheel in a corner of the bedroom.

The turf for the fire was cut in the local bog and kept the family warm and cozy through the winter months. Dan O’ Hara’s was a visiting house and many a romance began in the flickering firelight of the hearth. Social gatherings such as storytelling and céilis kept the Irish language and traditions alive.

The Dutch door to the barn next to the house.

Most of Dan O’Hara’s land was given over to the potato crop. Its advantage was that it grew in the poorest conditions and an acre and a half would sustain five or six people for six months. Some of the crops were used to feed a pig. Potatoes along with buttermilk ensured that the population of Connemara at the time was robust and healthy although poor.

Note the small size of the barn.

Like most people in Connemara at the time Dan O’Hara did not own the house he lived in or the land. He paid rent to the local landlord. His simple but happy lifestyle came abruptly to an end when he was evicted for non-payment of his rent. He had decided to increase the size of the windows in his house and this led to increased rent payments. 


He was evicted from his home and forced to emigrate. He arrived in New York, a broken man. His wife and three of his children died on the harsh sea journey and penniless and destitute he had to put the remaining children into care. He ended his days selling matches on the street far from his beloved Connemara.”

Many wealthy individuals, companies, and organizations have donated trees for the grounds.

We were both in contemplative thought upon leaving Dan O’Hara’s homestead located on the grounds of the Connemara Heritage and History Centre and didn’t say a word until we made the steep walk back to the car and began our 40-minute drive back to our holiday home.


We were both touched and saddened by what we’d learned.  No doubt, for Tom this was particularly heartwrenching when he knew many of his ancestors suffered this same fate.

This breed of white horses is indigenous to Connemara.

But, most of us, were we become aware of the strife experienced by our ancestors, we’d often find that they too suffered greatly.  It reminds us how grateful we should be for the times in which we live our lives in this modern day and age.  

View of the landscape from Dan O’Hara homestead, located up a steep hill from the car park.

For most of us, we have a roof over our heads, food in the refrigerator and cupboards and the benefit of using machines and technology that has been a part of our lives since the day we were born.


However, like all things, everything is relative.  We experience our daily struggles and challenges and rarely dismiss them to realize just how lucky we are to live in these times.

A shed used to store peat moss which may often be used for heating as well as: “Gardeners use peat moss mainly as a soil amendment or ingredient in potting soil. It has an acid pH, so it’s ideal for acid-loving plants, such as blueberries and camellias. For plants that with more alkaline soil, compost may be a better choice.”

From time to time and now as we explore Ireland and other countries, we’ve become entrenched in the facts of the hardships our ancestors suffered in times past and hope we continue to learn from their experiences.

View of the creek running through the history centre’s grounds.

Today, we’ll stay in on yet another rainy and cool day.   We’ve begun to research where we’d like to go after we’re done in the US at the end of this year.  We have some cruises booked in the next few years but we have plenty of times in between to search for future adventures.


Have a fulfilling and meaningful day.
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Photo from one year ago today, May 29, 2018:

Each night I practice taking photos in the dark once the bushbabies arrive.  For more photos please click here.

Part 3…Irish history…Connemara Heritage and History Centre…Finally, photos of us…

Tom has been wearing the flannel shirt he purchased in Penguin, Tasmania in 2016/2017.  It comes in handy in cooler weather in Ireland.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
Poet Carl Sandburg‘s home of 22 years in Flat Rock, North Carolina, which is now a national monument, is named after the Connemara region.”

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Today, we continue with photos from the Connemara Heritage and History Centre.  Although this area is rich in history, customs, and culture, there are a few museums and historical facilities in the general area.



Far from the big cities of Dublin (1,173,179), Cork (208,669), Limerick (94,192) and Galway (79,934) are the four most populated cities in the country, the Republic of Ireland, all of which have numerous tourist venues.  For more information on population numbers in cities throughout Ireland, please click this link.

Tom stands in the doorway of an old building located on the grounds of the centre.


The tourist business in Connemara appears to be a result of travelers visiting Galway and driving to see the gorgeous scenery including the ocean, lakes, rivers, streams, and variety of bogs, typical in the area.  Based on our drive from Galway when we arrived on May 12th, it’s approximately a one hour drive, not too far a drive for most tourists.

It’s easy to see how tiny this lamb is standing next to Tom.

There are roughly 30 hotels and bed and breakfasts in Connemara and a number of holiday homes such as this lovely house we’ve rented for 90 days.  There certainly are sufficient accommodations to attract tourists to spend their holiday time in this historic and charming area.  

Me, in the doorway of the old fieldstone building on the ground of the centre.

However, when we’re out and about, we don’t get a feeling of there being as many tourists as we’ve seen in many other areas throughout the world.  Today, while in Clifden to grocery shop I stopped at a clothing store to buy a few white tee shirts.  The prices on most items were outrageous.  

Pretty flowers blooming on the shore of the lake in the garden.  Thanks to reader Laurie for identifying these flowers as rhododendron!

When I didn’t find what I was looking for a kindly salesperson disappeared to a back room and returned with two white tee shirts that were perfect to wear under other shirts to add to the warmth.  


Since these two very-stretchy tee shirts were large in children’s sizes, she assured me there would be no sales tax charged for the items.  There’s no sales tax on children’s clothing in Ireland.  Fortunately, they both fit and the total was Euro 27.98, US $31.28.  In a GAP or Old Navy store in the US, these two very basic tees would have been half this price.  

There was one little lamb in the facility’s garden who seemed very interested in us.  Wish we’d had some pellets!

It’s expensive here, especially coming from South Africa, where everything is half as much as many other countries.  I suppose we were spoiled in our 15 months in Marloth Park and must continue to brace ourselves as we visit other countries upcoming in the near future.
  
Our next stop is Amsterdam for two days.  No doubt prices could be even higher than they are here in Ireland.  Prices may be a deterrent to many travelers when the costs of food, dining out, hotels and rental cars are at the top end.

Note the little horns growing on this lamb.  Too cute!


While dining out last Saturday, we didn’t see what appeared to be tourists with only a few appearing to be local residents.  When we shopped in Clifden each week, the next closest town, there’s a presence of some gift and trinket shops that mainly appeal to tourists.  


Today’s visit to a clothing store reminded us of tourist pricing, we’ve seen in bigger cities throughout the world – a captive audience.  The store was packed with what most likely were tourists looking to purchase an Irish sweater, fleece jacket, am Irish-made woolen scarf or some Irish trinkets, all of which appeared to be of high quality.

Pansies at the Connemara Heritage and History Centre appear to have little faces.

Perhaps, I’m being a bit more of a “tightwad” than usual when we’re still having to pay incoming hospital and doctor’s bills as we struggle with our insurance company who’s refusing to pay, claiming I had a pre-existing condition which I did not.  

This has been a huge source of frustration emotionally and financially, especially while trying to focus on a full recovery.  Subsequently, we’re watching our budget more than ever with this upsetting imbalance and inequity.  We’ll report back what transpires as we continue to fight this battle.

These two buildings were homes at one time.

Otherwise, we’re good, generally cheerful.  I’m now at a point where I don’t have to ask Tom to help me so much.  I am working hard at doing things for myself. The more I do, the stronger I get. 


I’ve even taken over the process of making my own protein smoothie each day which he’d done for months with no complaint.  I cook the majority of each meal, make the bed, do most of the laundry and tidy up around the house.  

Bridge across the lake to an old home.

He continues to do all the dishes, put everything away, help prepare dinner, does some laundry and does all of the heavy lifting.  When we grocery shopped this morning, I packed the bags we’d brought along while he loaded them into the car and later in the house, emptying all the bags.  I put everything away since storage space is limited and don’t get frustrated figuring it out.


The bottom line… We’re tourists.  As much as we’d like to believe we’re unique and fit right in, the fact remains “we are visitors in a strange land.”  If we don’t like the prices, don’t buy the quality of the products we enjoy and go the budget route instead.  Don’t purchase a few bottles of red wine at twice the cost as in South Africa.  Don’t go out to dinner.  Don’t shop for items of clothing.

Anyone know the name of these flowers?   We’ve seen them often here in Ireland.

But, the fact remains, we choose this life we love and we’ll take the good and bad with it.  Many have asked us over these years, the following question:  “What will you do if the worst thing happens, short of passing away or being kidnapped?”


It happened.  We had a major medical crisis, one of the worst we could imagine and we made it through to the other side.  We can whine all we want about tourist traffic, prices on products, budgetary concerns, and inconveniences. But the reality remains… We’re alive, recovering and the journey continues on.


Be well.  Be happy.
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Photo from one year ago today, May 28, 2018:

We moved the bird feeder further from the veranda which without our looming presence has attracted birds at last.  Our prize of the day was this hornbill who stopped by for some seeds who later became familiar with us to come very close on the veranda.  For more photos, please click here.


Part 2…Irish history…Connemara Heritage and History Centre…Marconi and the first telegraph station…

From this site: “In 1896, Marconi, just 21, left Italy for England, where he hoped to drum up interest in a contraption he had invented: a box that could send Morse code signals across a room without any connecting wires. This was, quite simply, the first transmission of information by radio waves. Marconi called it “wireless telegraphy” — an improvement on the dominant technology of the day, the telegraph.”

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
“Irish
weddings are elegant and large celebrations. Grooms dress in kilts that signify
their family’s clan, while brides dress in white to signify their purity.
Family members travel far and wide to attend weddings, and the receptions are
always massive celebrations involving beer and music.”

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Today, we’ve included a number of photos of historical items we discovered at the Connemara Heritage and History Centre.  The rich history of Ireland will continue during our remaining time on the island.  Yes, Ireland is an island.  At times we can imagine it is connected to other European countries: “Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic with Just under 4.8 million living in the Republic of Ireland and just over 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland.

The small theatre at the Connemara Heritage and History Centre where we watched a movie about Connemara.

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are two distinct countries:  “Ireland or the Republic of Ireland as it is officially named is now a completely separate country and has no longer any formal bond to the UK. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, is still a part of the UK (the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), together with England, Scotland and Wales.”

Items used in distilling.

Ireland became part of the United Kingdom in 1801. … The British government was forced to partition the six most north-eastern counties of the new Irish state to form Northern Ireland, in fear that Protestant civil unrest in Ulster would otherwise turn into a civil war against the new state.

These two glass cases contained a variety of items used in daily life in Ireland, many from centuries ago.

Ninety years ago Ireland was split in two after people living there went to war against their British rulers. The south became a separate state, now called the Republic of Ireland. But the break-up led to decades of unrest and violence in Northern Ireland, which remained part of the UK.


We are currently living in the Republic of Ireland, not Northern Ireland as shown in the map below:

Map of Ireland
I must admit I was ignorant of some of these facts.  Having no Irish heritage I paid little attention to its history, battles, and lifestyle.  Now, living here I’ve taken an interest in learning as much as I can, as often is the case as we travel from country to country.
Ireland has quite a history of uprisings beginning in 1534 as listed at this link.
Tom, on the other hand, is a wealth of information based on his interests in history and Irish ancestry.  After taking a DNA test a few years ago, it was determined he was nearly 100% Irish which is more than many who’ve lived their lives on the island.

Fortunately, I can readily ask him questions that arise in our day-to-day lives and gather more detailed information through online research.  We both share our curiosity and desire to learn something new each day we are here.
A variety of pots, trunks, and utensils used in Irelands over the centuries. 
With only 76 days remaining in our time here, we hope to get out more and more as I continue to heal.  Several of our devoted readers, including loyal reader Adele, whom we met with her husband, Wally in May 21013 at a hotel in Barcelona as we all waited for an upcoming cruise to the Middle East, wrote to me last night inquiring as to how I am doing.
Connemara marble is described as follows from this site: “Connemara is bounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean and encompasses a wide variety of natural and semi-natural habitats, reflecting its great geomorphologic and geological complexity. It also has diverse economic resources. Among the more unusual are extensive deposits of soapstone and veins of green marble and vivid white quartz. In Neolithic times, the green marble was traded as far away as Lough Gur, County Limerick, and possibly to the Boyne Valley. ‘Connemara Marble’ is a serpentine-rich rock, popular since ancient times as a decorative facing stone. With its ‘forty shades of green’ and its wild patterns, it represents perfectly the landscapes of the Emerald Isle. Connemara Marble inspired artists, architects, and artisans throughout the world. Jewelry and other small objects such as key rings, coasters, and crosses are also made with this unique stone.”
I hadn’t mentioned anything for several days assuming our readers were tired of reading about my health.  I’m tired of my health as well! For an update…we continue to treat the remaining open wound on my left leg every two days.  It is healing albeit slowly.  As mentioned earlier, it could be a few months until it fully heals.
The first commercial telegraph station was in Ireland.
In the interim, I am feeling relatively well, continuing to walk daily but have yet to reach my goal of 10,000 steps in one day.  A few days ago, I made it to 9500 steps but the next day, my legs felt heavy and weak.
Various tools used in fishing and farming.
When we visited the Connemara Heritage and History Centre, we ended up walking up a few steep hills.  I paid dearly for that, not with my heart racing which handled it fine but with my legs.  After all, it was only 56 days ago, I had the second surgery on both of my legs.  

Generally, one is expected to be ambulatory after any surgery within eight weeks.  I hope by continuing improving by walking which will aid in escalating the healing process.
An old sewing machine and statue of an Irish woman.
Many have commented I’m pushing it too hard this early on.  But, forcing oneself to exercise regularly requires discipline and determination and pushing ahead, works best for me.  I’m not hurting anything in doing so, just occasionally having to step it back a little.

I am now able to cook and perform most household tasks.  I no longer have to rely on Tom to do everything for me other than help with the continuing treatment on my left leg every other day.  
Note the date of this poster, June 15, 1728, offering a reward for the capture of two “highwaymen,” robbers who stole from travelers.
Tom carries items upstairs to leave my hands free to maneuver the steep spiral staircase when going up and down.  Of course, he helps with meals, does all the dishes and participates in a variety of household tasks.

Hopefully, soon we’ll get out more often.  For now, I am pacing myself as I continue to recover.

Thanks, Adele and all of our other readers who’ve inquired and continue to read my endless descriptions of this difficult and challenging healing process. We’ll stay in today.  The wind is blowing fiercely and its raining. 

Have a fantastic day and above all, be well. 

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Photo from one year ago today, May 27, 2018:

Frank and Mrs. Frank had been busy working at building a nest in the bush in our yard.  But, they never had a single chick while we were there.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…Irish history…Connemara Heritage and History Centre…

The entrance to the Connemara Heritage and History Centre located near Clifden.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
When
children are little, each birthday it is traditional to pick up the child, turn
them over and bump their head gently on their birthday cake. The child’s head
is bumped once for each year they have lived. It is believed that partaking in
this tradition brings good luck and good fortune to the child.”

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Yesterday, upon arrival at the Connemara Heritage and History Centre, we took photos of the exterior.  It was a rainy and misty day prompting up to visit an indoor venue but we weren’t disappointed when we entered the gardens which we had no idea were so lovely and worthy of photos, rain or shine.

Beautiful flowers lined the parking area.


A sunny day would have ideal for many of the photos we’ll share here over the next few days. But, we decided we won’t keep the weather from preventing us from getting out and about unless it’s raining heavily.  The narrow winding roads are dangerous enough on sunny days.

A tractor pulling a trolley car is used for tours to the centre.


Once we paid the senior discounted entrance fee of Euro 7.5, US $8.40, and walked through the shops we were escorted to a small movie theatre where we watched a 20-minute video on the history of Connemara including the sorrowful story of Dan O’Hara, a local man, and his family who’s life story is heartbreaking.

There are numerous streams running through the scenic grounds of the centre.


Many farmers and families enjoyed a good life, although not easy, in Connemara up until the Great Famine as described below from this site:


“The Great Famine, or the Great Hunger, was a period in Ireland between 1845 and 1849 of mass starvation, disease, and emigration. Wikipedia

Start date: September 13, 1845

End date1849

Impact on demographics: Population fell by 20–25% due to mortality and emigration

Did you know: Great Irish Famine is the second-deadliest disaster in Great Britain and Ireland by death toll (1,000,000 to 1,500,000).”
Overlooking a stream.

In part, the video we watched focused on the Dan O’Hara family, the history of which must have been passed down over the generations.  The Connemara Heritage and History Centre dedicated the facility to his and his family’s memory with grace and dignity.


The centre is located within a 20-minute uphill walk on a rocky road to the remainder of the homestead and barn of Dan O’Hara.  Fortunately, we were able to drive to the historic home and grounds.

Once indoors, we paid the entrance fee of Euro 7.5, US $8.40, the senior rate.


Over the years private and well-known public figures from around the world have dedicated the planting of a tree to the grounds as stated here from the centre’s website:


“Plant Your Roots in Ireland

Dan O’ Hara’s Homestead, the award-winning Connemara Heritage & History Centre has been welcoming visitors from all over the world for many years. Situated in the Gaeltacht and dedicated to the memory of the immortalized Dan O’ Hara who along with his wife and seven children was evicted from this homestead by his landlord in 1845. Along with so many more people from Connemara and Ireland during this era, he was forced to immigrate on the coffin ships to the US.”
The restaurant was quiet at 10:30 am.  Surely during tours, this facility would have been busy.

“Unfortunately, his wife and 3 of his children did not survive the journey and needless to say he arrived in New York a very broken man. Dan O’ Hara’s homestead offers a very unique insight into the life and times of Connemara during the 19th Century along with the history of the region not to mention a verse of the renowned Ballad Dan O’ Hara.


As part of our commitment to the continued and sensitive development of the Connemara Heritage & History Centre and to Dan O’ Hara’s memory and those of the many Irish who were forced to leave their homesteads for America we have developed “A Roots from Ireland Park.”

The Irish wear sweaters, flannel shirts, and fleece-lined jackets to stay warm in the cool summer months and snowy winters.  We have sufficient warm clothing with us and didn’t make a purchase.

“Here we will plant indigenous Irish Trees, Ash, Alder, Hawthorn and Sycamore Trees which can be dedicated to your ancestors, a family member or a good friend. A personalized plaque at the foot of the tree will accompany each tree planted and the person for whom it is chosen will receive a Certificate of Ownership for their home or office wall.”


Ironically, the above-mentioned song, Dan O’Hara, was sung by Finbar Furey at the Minnesota Irish Fair on August 8th, 2015.  The link for the song may be found here at this link.

More in the gift shop, filled with Irish memorabilia and trinkets of high quality.

Both of us were touched by this sad story and when we left the centre’s main building and gardens to visit Dan O’Hara’s home and grounds, it all had a special meaning, especially to Tom.  


As we’ve mentioned in the past, Tom’s ancestors are from Ireland, many from nearby counties and many who immigrated to the US from the 1830s to the 1850s as they escaped the devastating famine and sailed across the sea after considerable loss of loved ones and a life of hard work on the land.

These 30 breeds of sheep may be found in Ireland.  We’ve already encountered several.


Tomorrow, we’ll return with more photos and history of the life of the people of Connemara.  It is indeed special to learn about the island of Ireland and its rich history and determined people.


For our loved ones and friends in the USA, have a safe and meaningful Memorial Day weekend.  For our friends throughout the world enjoy the weekend and holidays in your countries at this time.

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Photo from one year ago today, May 25, 2018:

A face of a cape buffalo only a mother could love spotted in Kruger National Park.  For more photos, please click here.