Exploring the Deserted Village
The rain we had been expecting did not stop the three-hour walk to the deserted village with our local specialist, Thomas McLoughlan. We learned a lot about the region around Keel.
The construction of house roofs has been adjusted to the conditions of this particular landscape. Sometimes, though not very often, heavy storms occur - and roofs have been damaged in the past. As a result, a number of houses have flat roofs, which cannot be swept away that easily. However, one big disadvantage of them is that it is much more difficult to heat the houses properly - especially if the roofs aren't done correctly.
In the past, houses were often built of uneven stones heaped upon each other. Their façade would normally have a front door and two windows. However, the houses of the deserted village only have a door and no windows (on the eastern side, as the heavy weather normally comes from the west).

The average family would consist of about 14 people. Just imagine how such a number of persons could live in a rather small house - covering a ground area of perhaps 5 x 2 metres! There would also be a cow inside; its dung was collected outside in order to fertilise the potato crops. People slept in the loft. The roof was made of wood and covered with rushes; so they did not need a chimney for the fireplace.
One acre of potatoes was enough to feed a complete family - even including a pig. If the harvest failed, people had nothing to eat and would have to starve.

In order to grow the potatoes, small trenches were dug into the ground to form the ridges where the crops were placed and covered with the material from the trenches. The ridges were directed from the feet of the mountains towards the sea, so that the potatoes would keep dryer. These 'lazy beds' were ideal for the boggy area - and the soft waves on the ground around the village still show their former positions.

It is not recorded why Tur and Tur Riabhach were given up. Most people believe that it was a gradual process; perhaps people moved gradually when the potato crops failed. We can imagine that there were pressures on the tenants when their landlords found that they could not pay the rent.

When we passed the cemetery, we were told about the holy well devoted to St. Coleman, which had existed in pre-Christian times before it was integrated into the new religion. We also heard about one of many sea tragedies which happened on the island. Three shepherds and their dog were found dead on the opposite side of Slievemore. People believe that they were following their sheep through the cliffs; they must have been surprised by water rushing in. They are now buried together.

Thomas McLoughlin also mentioned the legend of St. Brigid. She wanted to build a church in a village, but the local chieftain did not allow her to build it on his ground. She repeated her request again and again. At last the chieftain allowed her to use as much of his ground as she could cover with her cloak St. Brigid spread her cloak out and it grew bigger and bigger until it covered a substantial part of the chieftain's area; and so she built the church. On his deathbed, he called her again. In order to explain the meaning of the cross to him, she wove a cross using rushes. Our whole group learned how to do such a cross, as they are still being made in Ireland on St. Brigid's day in February.
During the walk we watched the singing birds, a fox, the swans on the Keel lake, and, of course, a lot of sheep. Their number is about twice as high as the number of the human inhabitants of Achill Island. Because the soil is very wet, the ground is covered with rushes and yellow blooming bushes with thorns. There is grass wherever the sheep are grazing - and nearly no trees.

We returned in bright sunshine. By lunchtime, our clothes were dry again. We were all overwhelmed by the changing views of the rocks and the clouds hanging in them.

Hadwig Moebius

February 6th, 2001 - Painting O´Donnell
Going out there, passing breathtaking landscapes - Slievemoore Hill. A variety of shades of brown and green - White spots for sheep, scattered around - a huge lake on the left, reflecting the sky - pitch black, the mountain behind it - gloomy clouds.
Look out for red and blue.
Yawl Art Gallery. Joseph o`Dalaigh, here we are. Hello… a warm smile… a look at us ( six different European, American people).
"Do we need a pocket watch today?" Laughing. I never take a watch with me when I paint…it´s useless…forget about time, schedule, etc. when you paint…relax.. be happy !!

"Yepeeh!" - that´s it - the most important thing is to be happy !
Encouragement, acceptance of how and what you are at that moment. Just look at that… Smell….Feel..Yes! Which mood are you in today ? Choose different colours for different moods.
Tea..scones…looking at the landscape..John , the gardener falls in love with Mary from the States who is trying to track down her family lines in Ireland.
Relax..Be happy.
A., M., B., G., B., and G. O´Donnell leave Joseph O´Dalaigh. Relaxed. Happy.

Gesa Lüdemann


<< "This is not what we want to do"
-Sean warning the photo group not to try to be too elaborate...

Jutta and Hans-Hermann
look confused (and we
really were at the time!) >>

Inspired by Sean's landscape
In front of us was a camera but, "Don't let this technical thing be an obstacle between you and your creative imagination" said Sean.. "You should go out with the camera looking for your own perspective and I guess you'll find something to connect to Brian O' Donnell's story. It would be perfect to combine your photos with your words." Then we went out into the beautiful, sunny landscape of Keem Bay to take our photographs that we would make into pictures. We had another friendly and knowledgable guy from Keel with us - the other Sean. On the way back we stopped at the mountain lake where the wonderful water mirrored the sorrounding rocks and brown fields.

Hans-Hermann Groppe

We participated in a guided tour, led by Thomas M., to the deserted village, Toir Reabuach, which is close to Keel.
On the way there we got to see the typical turf-banks dug by the villagers and learned about the spraypaint marking of the sheep that graze around the village.
At the graveyard we say the holy well belonging to St. Coleman, though Tom couldn't tell us exactly what St. Coleman was the patron saint of..
Some of the graves in the old part of the graveyard dated back several thousand years. We also saw the remains of an old church from the early Christianity era, with the typical architectural feature of openings facing east-west.
Then we finally reached the remains of the deserted village. It consists of about 80 houses, some better preserved than others, along the side of Mt. Slievemore. Tom also pointed out the lazy beds used for growing potato, these had created a landscape full of waves. Potatoes were the most important crop for the people at that time. One acre could feed an entire family along with their pigs, chickens and sheep for a whole year.
The village is thought to have consisted of around 1000 people with about 14 people in each family. The houses were quite small but since the people spent most of the day working outside this didn't matter. Most of the year they also kept their cows inside the houses at night , mostly for the warmth that the cows generated.
This village was different from many other villages of that time in that the villagers stayed in the village the whole year round, they didn't move away for the summer with the cattle.
Today nobody is quite certain why all the villagers decided to leave, though there are a few qualified guesses. For example that the famine forced people to leave Toir Reabuach as well as so many other villagers. Or maybe the reason was that people were evicted from their homes when they weren't able to pay rent.

Inger Edlund

Creative writing
Today we had our first creative writing workshop meeting in cottage 3 starting at 10 am. Because of having gone to bed very late last night, I slept too long and missed breakfast. So I was really in a hurry but I was still on time.
As none of our stories so far have included much description of their settings (except for Cologne Cathedral), Alexandra asked us to write some descriptions of settings which we can work into our stories later.
They were quite different. Ulrike described cattle, Henrike gave her impressions of the sea, Malin wrote about the deserted village and I explained my mood when I saw the sky at night and the stars above Achill Island through the eyes of my character.
Later we went on to write not so creative things. We made a short summary of all the stories and put them on a map Alexandra had designed.
Finally, we wrote down one list for each team of all their characters, giving a short description of their connection with Brian O'Donnell.
Now, anybody who wants to know anything about a story or a character can just visit cottage 3 and have a look at the window where we have taped up a poster with all the descriptions.

Simone Klibingat

"Europe goes to school"

This was a busy day for me…Getting up in the morning to make breakfast and doing the shopping for the lunch and then of course there was the preparation of the lunch. In between I managed to join the Gaelic workshop were Thomas was telling us about the Irish history, the Celts and the Gaelic language etc.

I got in touch with the primary school teacher, Irene Patten, to arrange a time and day for us to visit the school. After lunch the weather cleared up and the whole world was warm and lovely…so I took a walk on the beach and thought about what we had been told in the morning.

The second day of the workshop we were placed in one of the cottages with a view over the stormy sea. We were all happy to be indoors because it was pouring with rain (again).

We started off by introducing the other group members to our own country's school systems and found that the differences between the German, Swedish, Portuguese and Colombian systems weren't that big. We also discussed differences and similarities in our social systems and discovered weaknesses, which we think need to be improved. Finally we talked a bit about equality, prejudices and cultural differences in general. Time passed very quickly and suddenly it was time to go back to the hostel to get ready for dinner.

We were all very pleased with the progress we have made in our workshop and the Monday evening had a very nice end to it…

Hanna Björkstrand

Gaelic meets Runic
We met in cottage five at 10 a.m. By considering parallels between different cultures, we reached an understanding of how different languages are connected to each other. Tom Johnston introduced us to the Gaelic language with a very interesting story of how people from different parts of Europe came to Ireland at various times and how that affected the development of the Gaelic language.
After that I introduced everyone to the runic alphabet and the meaning of the signs. We draw parallels between Gaelic and runes, since a lot of Vikings travelled to Ireland, and even today there are a lot of signs of Vikings settlement here. Even some words in Gaelic, Swedish and German are quite similar.
As a finale to the day's workshop, Tom gave us a ride in his car and we visited the deserted village and the IT Centre. We got a lot of information about both places and what they meant to the inhabitants of Achill Island.

Jenny Pettersson

Instrumental Music Workshop
We are sitting in a nice and warm cottage on Achill Island. Just now, the floor is covered with our musical scores, candles are burning around us, chocolate and tea are on the table for our visitors. Luckily we met five young musicians from Achill Island at our get-together yesterday evening. They are Maria, Sarah and some members of the younger generation, whom we are really proud of: Shuna (14), Bill (12) and Richard (10). They all brought their instruments along so that we can start to play immediately.
First Maria and Sarah tell us about the traditional Irish instruments they usually play and then both perform a few pieces for us. The sureness and brilliance with which they play the tin whistle, the concertina and the banjo are impressive (I think it is worth mentioning that Sarah´s concertina is approximately 7 years old!!) It is interesting to hear such a mixture of traditional instruments.
Then we encouraged our young people to play the fiddle, tin whistle and the concert flute. They play brilliantly, too. This way we get to know that even the youngest inhabitants of Achill Island know a lot of Irish Music and we get the impression that everyone on the island is born with traditional music in their blood.
We enjoyed our afternoon to such an extent that we all completely lost track of time. Sadly enough the afternoon had to end but we are really looking forward to meeting them again on Tuesday afternoon.

by Silvia Klewer

Melting Pot

Monday night spontaneously became pub night, probably mainly because of the mood that was set by the presentations after dinner. While the mood was high the crowd headed for the "Village Inn". The teams mixed, people joked with each other while Ireland's national drink was sampled. As the groups became more relaxed "intercultural exchange" increased, so did the celebratory mood and the noise level. Pool games were won and lost, and people exchanged phrases and songs in their native languages with their newfound friends from other countries.
All in all, the evening was a good investment in togetherness and we went to bed with a good feeling.

Benjamin, Magnus and Ralph

Man and the Sea
A master of the sea entered the room when we were brainstorming about our sessions for the whole week. Without much ado, he started scribbling and sketching on the board. Our eyes were glued to his drawings and our ears were widely opened listening to his stories, experiences and skills. Getting to know the techniques and how it developed through times made us realized how man´s skills and nature worked together. Catching lobsters, salmon and sharks needs a lot of efforts and clever techniques but once you get to learn it, it will be easy later on.
Aside from that, the present problems of the island in fishing were also discussed. It was a wonderful start for all of us who signed up for the Your sea- Our sea Workshop. As the session came to its end, the sun came out from the clouds which encouraged us to go out for a walk along the seashore.

It is true what he said:

"There´s a great freedom in the open water"
-John Gallagher-

written by Ces

The Our Sea/Your Sea workshop started on Monday morning 10.00 a.m. All the participants were full of enthusiasm, energy and ideas. There were discussions about everything - the agenda, assignment of tasks, the Friday presentation. Then John Gallagher came, and told us stories about the fishing of lobsters, sharks and salmon. He drew on the blackboard the different fish, explaining the difference between them.He shared with us his knowledge about the various ships and about the history of Achill Island, and Ireland as a whole. Unfortunately, he had to leave after one and a half hours, after answering some of our questions. He also told us that he can only be away from the sea for a few hours! Afterwards we all decided to walk to the sea and to look at the thing we had been talking about the whole morning. The view of the sea and the cliffs around was unforgettable.


Singing Workshop

We met in Cottage 3 with cookies and tea and started planning our program for Friday night's grand finale! We tried out different songs from our collection and found that sadly some didn't match our voices. We then looked into the Achill Songbook especially collected for this trip by the music group and found some other suitable songs. We decided on two a-capella pieces. For three or four other songs we would need the help of the music workshop people. We decided to contact them on Tuesday.

We then started writing new lyrics for old songs, thus adapting them to the landscape and the people of Achill Island.

Some of the members of our singing group even gave a small performance in the local pub that night.


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